Cata: Seeing the forest for the trees

Resto druids on the forums seem to be having problems looking at the bigger picture of how restoration healing will work in Cataclysm. Most of that is because resto druids have such HUGE changes coming that it is hard to really put together what the bigger picture will be for resto druids in Cataclysm, and this is something I’m still struggling with.

So, lets take a moment to step back and look at the bigger picture of resto PvE healing in Cataclysm. It is still early in Beta, but I can still talk about how things are shaping up now (based on the data we have as of build 12694). However, a lot depends on what happens over the next several months, so it’s too early to let our weaknesses get us down.

What are PvE Resto druids in Cataclysm?

Some druids are worried about losing our HOTs, but Blizzard still has their focus set on them. Here is the description you see when choosing talent trees:

Uses heal-over-time Nature spells to keep allies alive, taking on the form of a tree when the need is most urgent.

So, our focus is still on our HOTs. However, rejuvenation & lifebloom won’t be the only buttons we push in Cataclysm. So, lets look at the tools we have:

Tank Healing as a druid in Cataclysm PvE:

The tank healing role has the most clear set of tools and comes together really well for druids.

  • We have Lifebloom, which we will keep rolling on a single tank, since LB can only be on one target now.
  • Rejuvenation will go on all tanks, since putting HOTs on multiple tanks is part of what druids do.
  • Regrowth will be the fast flash-heal on tanks, in addition to being a HOT we should keep up on multiple tanks. Regrowth will be used when we need a fast heal and as a HOT. In this way, it serves a dual purpose role in our tank healing toolset.
  • Nourish is a long cast, mana efficient heal. This is going to be our go-to spell to make sure we don’t run out of mana. It will also refresh the duration of lifebloom, so that you won’t have to cast lifebloom as often (though you will still have to refresh it directly some, since Nourish’s cast time is so long).
  • Healing Touch has made it back into our healing toolset, since sometimes we will need a healing spell that hits harder than Nourish. HT is going to be a long cast, mana expensive tool, where we will need it when we need to heal up a big chunk of our tank’s health pool.
  • Swiftmend is our instant-cast, short cooldown spell that requires a regrowth or rejuv to be on a tank (which is why our HOTs should be on all tanks at all times when tank healing).

So, tank healing will still be: keep HOTs on tanks, cast direct heals between HOT refreshes. I think this toolset will work great, and that we will be using a large variety of spells as tank healers in Cataclysm, and this will be a lot of fun.

Raid/AOE healing confusion:

While we have a very clear tank healing toolset, our way of being able to deal with raid damage done to targets has not really changed in Cataclysm.

  • Wild Growth is a mana expensive, 10 second cooldown spell, that we won’t be able to use every 10 seconds due to mana costs.
  • Rejuv will still be one of our primary AOE healing spells, although it’s a single-target spell. We’ll still have to use it proactively to have HOTs on targets to be able to swiftmend, and it will have an instant heal component when we put it on someone already taking damage
  • Regrowth is going to be a raid healing tool, where we will gain an AOE HOT from an Effloresence proc when regrowth crits. We have a talent that increases the crit chance for regrowth on targets at low health, so Regrowth will be our go-to spell as a reactive HOT on people who are close to dieing.
  • Swiftmend will be what we use after a rejuv or regrowth if we need more healing on the target
  • Due to mana concerns, we’ll still have to sometimes cast Nourish, but hopefully we’d only cast nourish on tanks when we’re having mana issues and need to take a break from raid healing
  • The best thing happening is that Tranquility is being changed, so that it will be more viable in Cataclysm. However, tranquility is still an 8 minute cooldown, meaning that we won’t get to use it very often.

The only change for druids in terms of raid healing is that we get to introduce Regrowth into the Rejuv/WG spam. So, now we have Rejuv/Regrowth/WG spam. This is the area of healing where we still fall short. Since our current style of Pre-HOT for raid healing isn’t supposed to be what we do in Cataclysm, I’m still not sure how this is going to come together, so raid healing is where I have gone on a crusade to save druids.

So, in conclusion, we have a great tank healing toolset, but we don’t have a good raid healing toolset. We have a ton of choice, flexibility, and fun in our single-target healing toolset, and we really don’t have a good multi-target healing toolset. We’ll have to see how this shapes up, but I could easily see druids going back to WG/Rejuv pre-HOTs around the raid just for lack of a better thing to do in Cataclysm, and that would make me sad.

But what about tree form?!?

Tree form is going to be a cooldown in Cataclysm. What the tree form cooldown needs is:

  • The slow needs to be changed to be about 20%, rather than 50%.  We’re supposed to use tree form when the healing gets tough, but the healing is always the toughest during times where we need to be moving.
  • Instant-cast regrowths becomes incompatible with a 50% slow that requires us to stand still, and thus tree form’s limitation prevents us from being able to benefit from the things designed to allow us to cast on the run.
  • In addition, the limitation of lifebloom to one target (and nourish refreshing it) prevents the lifebloom bonus (applies 2 LB’s on a target instead of 1) from being useful, based on how it is worded. If it allowed us to keep LB on 2 targets instead of one, that would be more helpful for PvP, but that seems to be unlikely how the wording is intended.
  • Maybe tree form could help us not run out of mana. A mana cost reduction would allow us to spam regrowth & wild growth (the only worthwhile healing spell boosts we get from the talent). Right now, tree form seems to be designed to make us run OOM faster.
  • My focus right now is on making the tree form cooldown better, rather than fighting it’s becoming a cooldown. Right now, the cooldown isn’t quite right, but it’s close. My hope is that by the time Cataclysm comes out, they’ll have a nice tree form that we’ll want to use, rather than the currently somewhat confused tree form design.

Seeing the forest through the trees:

  • Druids have a great interaction between HOTs and direct heals in Cataclysm for tank healing.
  • Druids don’t have a good AOE healing toolset, and this is a particularly troublesome area of weakness that needs work.
  • Tree form as a cooldown may be great when Cata comes out, but we aren’t there yet, and there is still a lot of work to do.
  • The Beta is being patched every week, and so it’s too early to freak out or abandon the class. Instead, we need to focus on how to fix the things that are coming up short.
  • We still do have a strength in HOT healing, and it’s a strength that Blizzard wants us to have. We’re going to be good healers in Cataclysm, but we still have a long way to go.

14 Comments

  1. Verdus
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    If pre-HoTting isn’t supposed to be effective, then HoTs fall down as a raid healing tool. It’s that simple. They’re great as buffer on targets that you know will be taking damage, but tanks are typically the only ones who fit that bill. When you’re forced to reactively HoT in response to raid damage, the only way to prevent sniping is strict separation of raid healing assignments and jealously enforcing those boundaries. Frankly, I’m not interested in being “that guy” who has to yell at his raidmates because they wasted my mana by healing one of my assignments.

    • Lissanna
      Posted August 10, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      Which is why I’ve put in so much time talking about druid AOE/Raid healing at a stage where Blizzard doesn’t care about raids.

    • Huga
      Posted August 10, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      I think you can still pre-hot in cases where you know there’s going to be a lot of incoming raid damage – like a decimate or something. And reactive hotting isn’t completely ineffective – it works well enough in many cases now (especially with RR) so with increased raid damage in cata it should work well there.

      I’m more concerned that despite the increased emphasis on tank healing we still don’t have a “oh shit” tank saving CD, or any way to decrease the amount of damage the tank takes.

  2. Wharep
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    @Verdus: But then again, if mana will matter more, people will have to uphold those assignments, otherwise they will be running oom. But unless we’re given something else than WG/Reju to raidheal, I don’t think druids will be assigned to that in Cata, since the instant healing from shamans and priests are safer than hots slowly ticking.

    I’ll agree with Lissanna that our tanking tools sounds good. Especially because I like the way our spells interact with eachother (Reju/RG & SM, LB & Nourish, and hopefully something like the Nourish and RG glyphs again). I’ll probably miss the fast Nourish though, as I liked this small but fast heal, that were boosted by my hots.

    But as you quite clearly say, it’s in AE healing situations that druids are currently limited. With their current philosophy regarding hots and smartheals, I don’t really see them bringing back WG as an I-WIN button for ae healing. Smartheals are smart, but they aren’t really fun or challenging imo, and they shouldn’t be all we had to do, to keep a group of people alive.

    So, if WG isn’t the answer, we are currenly left with our single target spells (ignoring TranQ due to the long cd), but if we have to use our single target heals on the raid, that should by design be rather expensive, as they are ment mostly for tanks or a single person getting low.
    So, to keep us from running oom too fast, we may need something a little cheaper. There’s the possibility of introducing some spell interaction like it’s the case with our tank healing. Perhaps casting Nourish or RG on a target affected by WG, should do some extra ae healing, although that means WG would actually have to cheaper, as it’s then been reduced to a buffer spell mostly.
    Reworking TranQ a bit could help as well, reducing everything and putting it on a 30s cd or so. For me, the appealing part of this is, that we’ll have to make sure the tank is hotted up, before channeling TranQ.
    Otherwse, making efflorescence reliable somehow could be fun. I like the idea, that if someone drops below 25%, we’re almost sure to proc efflorescence if we cast a RG on them, but that shouldn’t be the way to ae heal.

    You did make the Healing Schrooms suggestion last week, which is an idea I still like, as it has more to it that just pressing a button. Currently I’m a bit jealous on the paladins because their 2 new ae healing spells requires thinking – and same goes for shamans Healing Rain.

  3. Tralia
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Its going to be interesting to see what direction they go with this thing when they do start working on it. We haven’t heard anything lately about the direction there heading so who knows.

    I know they haven’t really even started working on us yet, but part of me is still afraid there aren’t gonna be near the changes some of us think there should be.

    I personally hope when they look at the ToL CD they realize how bad the snare idea is. There is a reason they removed it in the first place, just because we hit a new expansion doesn’t mean those reasons went away. Being slowed down is frustrating, even more so when your choosing to do it.

    Huga is also agree with you, after going through vanilla and now two expansions we need some way to mitigate damage. I’m not asking to be like a Disc Priest, but something that isn’t just more healing would be nice. I know GC mentioned something about Druids possibly getting the “Renewed Hope” buff that Disc Priests have, but who knows what it is tied to.

    All in all though I don’t guess were in that bad of shape for a class that hasn’t been touched. If they add a medium range AOE heal and overhaul ToL were sitting decent tools wise. Would like an active way to reduce mana consumption as well.

  4. Posted August 10, 2010 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    There isn’t much more to be said on the subject – until we see changes: Hots won’t stack up, ToL won’t be used, and Druids won’t be competitive against other healers who bring more to the table.

    “Early in beta” is not cutting it. They didn’t listen in Wrath beta either and look where we wound up – spamming 2 buttons and being sat for the hardest encounter in the game.

  5. ith
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Well…so far healing as a restoration druid will be tough.
    Now I know blizzard wants us to heal using HOTs…maby we will be effective, maby we won’t.
    Blizzard also stated that they plan to make shaman the best raid healer for cataclysm…so i’m afraid resto druids will be stuck in mediocrity between tank and raid healing.

    But then again…they plan to change the whole healing philosophy and maby healers will consider overhealing less. (cause if the healing style remains the same, that’s what will kill us)

  6. Posted August 10, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    I just dread seeing the first few weeks of raiding under the new paradigm. As raids wipe as the melee and ranged don’t bother to mitigate damage and the healers go out of mana across the boards.

    Lets face it the reason healers have near infinite mana now is because we all go sick of the whining from the DPS as they die because we have to watch our mana.

    I also hope encounter wise we have more short duration but intense fights than the 1812 style that is Putracide, Sindragosa and others where it is slow to start and you have 5 minutes of line dancing fallowed bye the 30 second rush Rave at the end and wipe and have to repeat the 5-8 minute slow hell again.

    Also plot is nice but after the 3rd attempt 30-45 seconds of speech before the encounter starts is annoying as hell.

    • Tralia
      Posted August 10, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      God I agree. I am so tired of fighting Sindy for 5 minutes to get to the real fight only to wipe and need to do it again.

      I can understand the need to do basic easy mode phases, but god do they need to last forever and do bosses really need to do the same speech everytime you engage them? >.<

  7. Huga
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    I forgot to comment on ToL: given its current implementation, it seems like the only reason we would want to shift into it is when we’re bored and want to dps the boss. I can see the point when running heroics that you outgear significantly and you just want the run to go faster, but in progression content? The “additional spell effects” that blizzard were talking up in the class preview are lackluster, and given the snare (even a 20% snare would be too much in many fights) I don’t see when I would ever want to use it.

  8. Svartalf
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Any sort of self-snare on ToL is going to make it’s use hard to justify on boss encounters, assuming the new encounters are anything like the current content.

    Movement is _such_ a large part of the boss encounters lately; looking at Ulduar, ToC, and ICC, its hard to find an encounter where “stand in one spot and spam healing spells” won’t either get you killed or wipe the raid. Self snare on Lich King ? Raid wipe. Self-snare on Sindragosa ? Dead tree. Self-snare on Dreamwalker ? (guess either you’re not going into the portals or you’re really, really sure that was the final portal phase) Self-snare on Blood Queen ? Dead tree or raid wipe, depending on which spell BQ casts on you that require you to run away.

    And so on.

    ToC and Ulduar have nearly as many movement fights. Naxx had the most recent fight I can recall off the top of my head where “stand there and heal the tank” was a workable strategy.

    Being ready to click off the ToL isn’t really the answer; no other class seems to be getting such a barbed class defining talent. (no other class seems to be getting a self-inflicted movement debuff either).

    In its current design I don’t expect to ever cast the ToL CD, unless the boss fights change a lot.

  9. Wharep
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    I actually doubt that the ToL will make it into live in it’s current implementation. First, the slow will be annoying both in a PvE and PvP environment, especially with the current encounter design, as mentioned by Svartalf.

    Second, it seem like a general lackluster. The changes to thorns, wrath and roots can probably be an interesting addition in PvP, but in PvE those are hardly worth the talent point, so we are down to the 3 healing spells being affected.
    Here, instant RG can certainly have it’s use, to safe the day with some focussed healing or raid healing if TranQ should be on cd. I have a hard time seeing the cool improvement to LB, due to the restrictions – unless it means you can have i stacked to 4 instead of 3 on the tank.
    WG could be handy in raids, but for full utilization we’d have to cast it 4 times doing our ToL cd and that’ll be hard on our mana, given the current price.

    The problem with this is probably the lack of ‘wauw’. Usually, when something is actually good or cool, you don’t have second thoughts about it. I actually can’t see what makes this so super awesome. It can safe the day, sure. But if the want us to use it as an emergency spell, they should reduce cd and duration, so it wouldn’t be a “once pr encounter” ability, but rather one to use when something is going wrong.

  10. Chezza
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 3:49 am | Permalink

    “I have a hard time seeing the cool improvement to LB, due to the restrictions – unless it means you can have i stacked to 4 instead of 3 on the tank.”

    “Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and…
    Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?
    Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.
    Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it’s louder? Is it any louder?
    Nigel Tufnel: Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You’re on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?
    Marty DiBergi: I don’t know.
    Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
    Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.
    Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
    Marty DiBergi: Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
    Nigel Tufnel: [pause] These go to eleven. ”
    -Spinal Tap

    Is that what the new Treeform is supposed to work like?
    http://xkcd.com/670/
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0wm3JwXbLs

    I turn into a smartass at this hour of the night, sorry :P

  11. Neyuna
    Posted August 13, 2010 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    A lengthy reply from Ghostcrawler to your forum post of this topic!