The Memekin Begins
Using Starfall as the single target spender was first experimented with after the 7.1.5 changes that significantly buffed Starfall, taking Boomkin from one of the worst sustained AOE specs in the game to one of the best. It went under the name “Memekin” because it utilized talents that up until that patch had been completely useless. At the time the single target Starfall build was still significantly behind the standard Starsurge build on most encounters but due to the extremely high movement on Helya the Starfall build managed to pull ahead. You can see it in action in my first Helya kill after the patch:
The Nighthold and Tomb of Sargeras
The Nighthold had no encounters with the same absurd amount of movement so using Starfall single target did not see much play up until Antorus. The exception to that was a short time during 7.2.5, when Wax and Wane was introduced, where the best single target build consisted of keeping Starfall up while spamming Moonfire, whichs direct damage at the time benefitted from Stellar Empowerment. Luckily this was fixed after only a few days by making the direct damage no longer scale with Stellar Empowerment.
Antorus, the Burning Throne
In Antorus the single target Starfall build has been popularized under the name “Dadspec” because of its ease of play. It has become a viable option for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the spec has always been easier to play since it can cast its full rotation on the move. Secondly our tier 21 4-piece increases our dot damage, and since our dots does roughly 3 times the damage when empowered by Stellar Empowerment it heavily favours Starfall. Thirdly, the most prominent single target encounter, Varimathras, has a kill time so short that Impeccable Fel Essence no longer allows for any extra Incarnation uses, reducing the value of both the legendary and the talent. Finally, and this is primarily guesswork from my side, due to Balance Druids being consistently the worst performing single target spec throughout Antorus, a raid with a heavy focus on single target dps, a lot of Balance Druids has simply started messing around with alternative talents because they could not compete with the other DPS in their raid anyway.
Starfall Single Target in Battle for Azeroth
A lot of Balance Druids found the Starfall single target rotation enjoyable, and personally I tend to agree. It is awesome to have an alternative viable spec that plays significantly different from the standard build. My hope is that this option will also be supported in Battle for Azeroth. It does pose some challenges, however. Most significantly, it currently relies on multiple talents and legendaries to be viable, leaving very little room for customization on the players side. This is primarily due to talents like Starlord, Soul of the Forest and Stellar Drift significantly buffing only Starsurge or Starfall, throwing off the balance between the two builds. My proposed solution to the issue is to avoid having any talents (or azerite traits or similar) that increases only the damage of one of our two spenders except for the talent row that lets us decide which spender we want to cast on single target. Note that something like Echoing Stars, that increases the damage of Starfall in AOE scenarios without affecting its single target output could still exist.
We also have to address the fact that this talent should not increase our AOE DPS significantly; the talent tier should be a choice about how you want to play with a single target. Soul of the Forest’s current effect is therefore not desirable. My suggested solution to that can be found in a nearby talent instead: Stellar Flare. Stellar Flare would increase the value of Starfall on single target, without increasing its AOE damage output. Stellar Flare would be stronger in multidot scenarios with 2-3 targets, something I personally would not mind, but if we have to stay true to a pure single target talent row, we could simply limit Stellar Flare to one target. This would give us an excellent tuning knot for balancing the two play styles without affecting our AOE. Another talent that would fit well in a single target oriented talent row is The Emerald Dreamcatcher.
As for Soul of the Forest, Stellar Drift and Starlord, they would need a redesign. Soul of the Forest’s cost reduction on Starfall would likely need to become baseline in order for it to be possible to maintain it on a single target. Stellar Drift should in my opinion have the damage amplifier stripped, and be moved to a utility row where the cast while moving is a better fit. It just so happens that we lost Displacer Beast on the alpha, and the replacement in Tiger’s Dash looks incredibly weak for Balance Druid. I reckon this would be a great spot to put Stellar Drift. Starlord is a rather boring talent that could either be made baseline or removed completely, I am indifferent. Alternatively it could be placed in the same talent tier as Stellar Flare as the easy and passive option of the tier, although completely passive options is not something I particularly like.