So, sometimes it is helpful to take a step back and regain a sense of perspective. Someone posted up a link to very old talent trees from way back when I was a baby druid just learning how to play the game, and inspired me to post a little bit about what resto druids used to be. So, we interrupt your regularly scheduled Cataclysm posting to go back into the history of what druids used to be long before a lot of my readers even played this game (and is a nostalgia trip for those of you who are old-school druids like me).
So, lets take a look at the original release talent trees for resto druids. I’m assigning points in talents mostly so you can easily see in the pictures what the talent point costs of the spells were, along with approximate “cookie cutter” PvE healing-oriented talent builds. I can’t remember the exact talent builds, so I’m just going to mostly estimate as I go along.
An early (1.1) healing resto build may have looked something like this:
Highlights: Innervate was our 31 point talent. Omen of clarity was a balance talent, where you had to hit something with your staff to proc the free mana (it wouldn’t even proc in bear/cat form because it was a weapon proc buff, and weapon procs didn’t work in feral forms). You could also pick up a build that didn’t have OOC, but went for feral charge (11 point feral talent). Those 5-point resto talents didn’t actually do much (lowered mana cost of one spell, reduced threat, reduced spell pushback, etc). They were actually huge dumps of points for little return.
Healing Style: At the beginning of the game, you leveled up as resto and you were probably only healing 5-mans (raiding wasn’t open yet). Your main spells were regrowth (with a 50% crit rate), healing touch (super long cast time), and rejuvenation (a HOT). When you were really in need of AOE healing, you got to pop tranquility about once every 10 minutes. When you did start raiding, you mostly cast healing touch (rank 4 or 11) on tanks. Only one druid could put a HOT on the target, so the druid with the most spell power could put a HOT on their targets (otherwise, you got an error message “a more powerful spell is active” or yelled at). You mostly came along to cast innervate on priests, or because your raid really needed healers and had no other choice.
While we got some changes in 1.8, the largest healing style difference didn’t come until 1.11, with the implementation of swiftmend:
Highlights: Here, we have the biggest change: swiftmend replaces innervate, and innervate becomes baseline for all druids (patch 1.11). In patches 1.8 to 1.11, there were several other additions: Improved healing touch reduced HT’s cast time by 0.5 secs, insect swarm was added as a resto talent, some of the feral talents were removed/combined, and gift of nature was increased to 5 talent points for a 10% increase to healing.
Healing Style: A druid could have a rejuv HOT on the tank, so you would keep up rejuv to be able to swiftmend it, and then you’d otherwise mostly spam healing touch on the tank. If you had extra mana, you could put an instect swarm on the boss, too. At this point, druids healed with: rejuv, swiftmend, Healing Touch (rank 4 or rank 11), and sometimes regrowth. You still mostly got brought so you could innervate the other healers, but now feral or balance druids (who started being able to raid sometimes if they were lucky) could also bring innervate, too.
Highlights: Burning crusade added another healing spell, Lifebloom. They finally let more than 1 druid have a HOT on the same target at the same time. We also got tree form (but that tree form had a movement speed penalty, so it was more situational). We were still tank healers, but we became more HOT-focused, and people tried to convince us not to use healing touch anymore. In addition, you started to get “restokin” builds, that invested more heavily in the balance tree, splitting points between balance & resto (mostly for PvP), which was the talent build style that this blog was named after. Very little changed between 2.0 and WotLK’s release in terms of talent changes for resto druids.
Healing Style: Roll 3x lifeblooms on 2 to 3 tanks. Don’t let lifebloom fall off the tanks. You may even cast rejuv on the tanks if you have time (so that you could swiftmend in a pinch), especially if you only had 1 or 2 tanks to heal. You were unlikely to be able to heal many people besides the tank. Here’s the “how to heal” picture for Burning Crusade druid healing (make sure you zoom in to read it). Trust me, if you haven’t seen the Burning Crusade “how to LB spam” comic/picture, it really is worth your time. You got in trouble for using Healing Touch, because you couldn’t actually even cast Healing Touch in tree form (and ever since HT stopped being a spell we could use in tree form, it has never regained the status it once had in the original WoW). You probably only wanted 1 resto druid per raid group, since you only really needed 1 set of HOTs per raid, but sometimes raids brought more than one for extra HOT stacking.
I think a lot of the newer resto druids forget that we used to basically only be tank healers for most of the game’s existence. Rejuv/WG spam on the raid is a super new healing style (and wild growth was a spell we didn’t even have until the 3.0 WotLK patch). If you tried rejuv spam on the raid in Vanilla or BC as your primary healing strategy, you probably got kicked out of your raid/guild. So, there’s nothing at all saying that rejuv spam is a healing style we’d get to keep, and there’s no indication of whether or not we’ll be able to AOE/raid heal with the Cataclysm healing style changes (especially since we didn’t get an AOE spell to replace Rejuv/WG spam).
What is definitely true is that we’ve never really healed in previous expansions in a way where we used a wide spell selection (healing in raids has mostly consisted of focusing on 1 button and sometimes hitting other buttons for the whole time I’ve been healing, with very few exceptions). So, trying to get us to use more of our heals all the time is definitely a goal that will be hard for Blizzard to achieve. However, WotLK tank healing had a much wider spell selection than we’d normally heal with (rejuv, lifebloom, regrowth, swiftmend, & nourish).
When evaluating the healing changes over the next few weeks, the resto druid community is going to have a really hard time adjusting to a totally new healing paradigm. However, these growing pains are something we’ve experienced every expansion. So, keeping a sense of perspective is the only way we’re going to survive yet another huge change in healing. It’s a little bit of history repeating, but hopefully it will all work out for the best.