So, during Beta, I found a huge & obvious problem with the restoration druid design in Cata – namely that HOTs don’t make good triage tools on their own, and that druids completely lack direct multi-target heals. I posted multiple times about druids’ weakness in terms of their AOE healing toolset. However, there WAS a lot of progress (in the form of 2 steps forward, 1 step back) since my inital posting around August. We started raid healing in Beta with a good toolset for normal-mode raids (where we could spam rejuv, Wildgrowth, & swiftmend/efforescence – with effloresence not being target-limited). By the time Cata went live, Rejuv & efflorescence had been reduced in efficiency/effectiveness, and thus swung us back into the “danger zone” at the high end of raiding in Cataclysm (ie. heroic-level raids where everyone is in T11 gear).
Fortunately for single-target healing, druids have a few single-target direct heals, and an overall good toolset for single-target healing (except for regrowth’s healing numbers being low). Our single-target healing toolset makes a nice healing design for tank healing where you can have single-target direct heals heals blended with HOTs. Unfortunately, we still get outshined in tank healing by paladins’ beacon of light, since it allows paladins to heal more than one tank at a time (and we can’t LB-roll on 2 tanks anymore). In 10 and 25-man raids, the value of a healer comes down to how well they can heal multiple people at a time, which is something that is really hit-or-miss for druids. This is NOT a problem with healing 5-man heroics – at the lower gear levels, druids are at least equivalent to other healers in terms of being able to heal 5-mans (especially since we take an early lead in mana efficiency/regen). There also doesn’t seem to be a problem with intro-level normal-mode raids
There was a point where Blizzard had buffed druid’s mana regen and had reduced rejuv’s mana cost (along with Efflorscence being crazy powerful) that we looked like we would come out okay for raiding. However, BOTH our regen & efflorescence’s healing have been nerfed since my initial raid testing, and the current Live raiding is showing that the AOE weakness I originally predicted has started to come true today. As Xaar of Paragon points out, at the higher end of cutting-edge, heroic-level, raiding in Cataclysm: “The raid healing issue is mainly a problem of available tools,” which is exactly what I predicted back in August (before even starting raid testing in the first place). I’ve been tracking druid development for so long that I’m absolutely not shocked by Xaar of Paragon’s forum post about druid raid healing for Heroic 10/25 content in Cata.
The problem with druid Heroic 10/25 Raid healing: Druids lack a full AOE healing toolset, and Blizzard didn’t care enough about balancing AOE healing toolsets for Cataclysm.
I thought it was time to return to this subject since, as Jarre of Rank 4 Healing Touch points out with math to support it, since we run a high risk of not being as desirable for high-end Heroic-level 10/25-man raids where BURST AOE healing is more desirable than HOT AOE healing. The reason R4HT and Xaar are concerned is really because we have NO tools to deal with the spiky large burst AOE that is happening in Heroic-level raid encounters (which is a problem that only druids in guilds like Paragon are having to deal with now, but unless Blizzard does something, this is going to become a bigger problem with time).
Efflorescence, Wild Growth & rejuv are all HOTs that can’t handle spike “triage”-style damage in the new Cataclysm healing paradigm. It seems to not be as bad for normal-mode raid dungeons at the current tier (where druid healing still shines), but Blizzard’s reluctance to give resto druids a direct AOE healing tool (and not wanting us to rejuv/WG spam) pretty much leaves us without a real AOE healing toolset, and we’ve been on a really brutal roller-coaster ride through all of WotLK & the beta for Cataclysm where they nerf our HOTs and then have to re-buff them so we’ll stay effective, and then nerf them in hopes we will find a different strategy than our HOT spam (HINT: there is no alternative to HOT spam for AOE healing because we never got tools to do otherwise).
While we can look good on paper in terms of HPS, and can “top meters” sometimes – we lack the tools to actually prevent deaths. If two people are low on health and about to die, then a shaman or priest healer will likely save them both, and a druid healer will cause one to die. So, the choice then becomes obvious to leave the druid behind if their numbers don’t keep up with the direct AOE healers. Add a lack of mitigation cooldowns, or other tools to sweeten the deal, and being the HOT AOE healer ends up being a crappy & expendable job.
The problem is NOT about being able to look good on HPS meters. The problem is with actually having tools to prevent deaths. HOTs look good on meters, but HOTs don’t save lives – they just top people off or provide a bumper so that someone else can come around to actually do real healing to the target.
How to fix the AOE healing problem: While Xaar suggested reducing the cooldown on Wild Growth, I’d argue that making WG more spam-able isn’t a fix to the problem – since WG is still a HOT. This is basically extending the first option I presented Blizzard with in August (which was reducing WG & rejuv’s mana cost, along with making Efflorescence not be tied to regrowth – which they did). So, just making WG better doesn’t fix the problem alone. In the end, Blizzard doesn’t want resto druids to heal by just spamming around WG & Rejuv. So, they need to give us an actual AOE healing tool to add to the rotation (and Swiftmend/Efflorescence isn’t enough now that they’ve re-balanced down Efflorescence’s healing by so much, combined with swiftmend’s moderately high cooldown that prevents spamming it). It’s past the time for “easy” fixes, and time to go with actually fixing resto druids to be viable AOE healers in Cataclysm the RIGHT way – by giving us the tools we need to be successful in Cataclysm. Druids aren’t good when HOTs aren’t good, and right now – HOTs aren’t good for AOE healing in heroic-level raids, and this problem is likely going to get worse & worse as we progress to future tiers of raiding.
What we need is a direct AOE healing tool, and I offered a great solution to that problem months ago:
“The most fun solution, however, would be to make a talent in the restoration tree that allowed our new Wild Mushroom spells to heal the people standing in that 10 yard radius when the Mushrooms are Detonated.”
So, Blizzard, I’m going to settle on… I told you so, and it’s time for Healing Shrooms (OR give us a real direct AOE heal ability). You could make healing shrooms a talent by removing Malfurion’s Gift from our talent tree and replacing it with an effect that reduced/removed Shroom’s damage done and replaced that damage with a heal of whatever value seems balanced. They could also make Efflorescence actually give our heals the buff from our mastery ability, so that our HOT & direct heal AOEs had better interplay for making mastery a worthwhile stat for us.
A talented healing shrooms in place of Malfurion’s Gift would solve 3 problems with a single change:
- A) removing Malfurion’s Gift fixes the problem GC brought up about OOC possibly saving resto druids too much mana,
- B) adding in healing shrooms fixes the problem of druids’ lack of AOE healing tools (without having to introduce a “smart” AOE heal or give us a whole new spell), and
- C) “healing” shrooms makes our wild mushrooms more desirable and the spell would be used more often (even if it’s not by moonkin).