So, the druid class’ biggest concern seems to be about how the healing model will work in Cataclysm.
Here is what I’ve been able to gather about resto druids’ HOT Topics:
- Why Blizzard wants all healing specs to have the same 3 heals (some homogenization isn’t evil)
So, Blizzard’s plan is to have mana be a problem for classes in Cataclysm. The easiest way for Blizzard to do that was to have efficient and not efficient heals. In their process of trying to do this, they realized that having 3 equivalent spells across the healing classes would make it better for them to be able to balance the other unique & signature heals around a solid base.
These 3 heals ended up being: A short cast, inefficient “flash” heal; a long-cast, mana expensive big nuke-heal; and a low mana long-cast heal that doesn’t hit as hard as the inefficient big nuke-heal.
Equal starting points gave Blizzard more flexibility for designing encounters and “bring the player not the class”. The biggest problem through all of WoW’s history is that healers never has equal starting points, and so we were never, ever balanced. Just because all melee classes have a chunk of their damage come from auto-attacks doesn’t mean that all melee classes are the same. The 3 single-target equivalent heals still leave open a lot of room for differences in how the classes heal.
- I’m feeling Hot Hot Hot (what makes resto druids special in Cata)
While everyone wants to cry “OMG homogenization”, having equal starting points for our main-tank direct healing doesn’t mean that all healing is going to be exactly the same. We all still have our unique tools & flavor. They didn’t homogenize raid healing, and they left some unique tank healing tools, as well. Our HOTs are still going to be meaningful (Nourish still retains it’s interaction with HOTs, making HOTs important tank healing tools for our efficient heal to actually heal enough to be worthwhile).
Only being able to maintain lifebloom on one target is fine, since HOTs are going to have less overheal in a world where everyone isn’t always topped off. Triage-style healing doesn’t work when you have one class that sucks at triage healing… you need everyone capable of filling a triage-style healing role, and then “flavor” comes from having enough unique tools to have their own style of how they use their whole toolset.
- The AOE healing problem – why resto druids’ AOE healing tools could be either insufficient or totally overpowered.
The biggest problem for druids in Cataclysm is not having good raid multi-target heals. In a world where triage-healing is the rule, we don’t have the direct healing multi-target spells. Instead, we have to still do preemptive raid healing, which could be seriously problematic if we run ourselves OOM trying to HOT a raid. In a world where tank healing is equal, it may be raid healing abilities where classes are judged.
However, in a world where HOTs overheal less often (because people aren’t instantly topped off), HOT AOE healing could potentially come out as a strong contender, since people will have lots of time for the HOTs to tick away before the person would die. So, the changes to health pools and raid/healing mechanics could either be very good for resto healers or very bad. Hopefully, our unexplored mastery (increased HOT healing on low targets) will fill that much needed strength in raid healing. If things don’t work out with HOT AOE healing, I wouldn’t be surprised if we got a chain-heal type ability in 4.1.
- Why tree got the axe – and why the cooldown version is better for the class
Blizzard ran into the problem where they had to strip a lot of passive bonuses from the talent trees. When I first saw the new version of moonkin form (where we get basically nothing from the talent it’s self, and have to invest in a lot of other talents to get useful bonuses), I can see why tree form got the axe – because it was going to be a totally wasted talent point that didn’t fit in their “healers can do damage, too” philosophy. Either tree form was purely cosemtic, or it had to get changed to something new & different.
At this point, tree form is always going to be a cooldown for Cataclysm. However, this is good, since our starting point out of tree form is going to be balanced with other classes, and our tree shift gets to be super powerful ontop of that. It’s actually a buff in terms of the balance of resto druids versus other classes – because we’re going to be balanced out of tree form and we were going to lose all those secondary bonuses anyway.
So, my focus at this point is making the “sometimes shift” more worthwhile. First, the speed debuff needs to go (or be significantly reduced). In addition, the secondary effects need to be re-evaluated (ie. the lifebloom one sucks because adding another lifebloom application won’t help if we’re already maintaining a 3 rolling stack, and should be something more useful now that you can only have lifebloom on one target).
- Conclusions (or why the sky isn’t falling)
So, while things look bad now, we still have a lot of time for changes and improvements that are going to help druid healing for the better. Focusing on things that won’t change (such as tree form becoming a cooldown, having 3 standardized nuke heals) is really not going to be helpful at this point in testing. Instead, focus on things that are likely to change (such as trying to make tree form’s cooldown more useful, improving our AOE healing toolset to stay AOE healing viable). If we focus on things we CAN change over things we can’t change, then resto druids have a much more hopeful outlook in Cataclysm.
Keep in mind that right now, HOTs are mostly overheal (stomped on by other heals). Under the Cataclysm healing model, everyone won’t necessarily sit at full health all the time – instead, Cataclysm is potentially a world with less overhealing, and that could be really awesome for our HOTs to shine.