Repost: Resto druids in 4.3: It’s a utility problem

So, my poll measuring how people feel about druid healing (for patch 4.3 dragonsoul) has ended at this point. I wanted to briefly go over some good news and some bad news as it relates to the data I’ve collected through the poll.

For the below poll results, I’m going to exclude the data for the people who don’t raid each raid size when reporting percentages of participants. The total number of people responding to my poll who had raided the content sizes are: LFR (454), 10-man Normal (365), 25-man Normal (152), 10-man heroic (130), 25-man Heroic (57).

As you can see, the LFR raid size is the most popular raid size, with 10-man normal coming in second. The other three raid sizes have much fewer participants. I likely got a pretty representative sample of players here, as fewer people usually raid heroics or 25-mans. The LFR is going to be run by people participating in all the other raid sizes in addition to people who don’t raid the other raid sizes, since people could vote in more than one poll.

Results for LFR & normal-mode raids

The good news is that the most common response for LFR and 10-man normal-mode raiders was largely that we were fine (48% and 38% respectively). However, by the time we hit 25-man normal, perspectives have started shifting such that only 27% of respondents think we’re fine.

For people who thought we had a problem, the overwhelming response was largely one of having a utility problem, with our healing being fine (25% to 30% of responses across the three polls). Only around 10% of people from each poll said that our utility was fine but our healing was lacking. The rest of the people are largely detecting that we are having both healing & utility problems for normal-mode raids. The 25-man normal-mode raids are much more likely than 10-man normal-mode raids to say we have a healing and utility problem.

Results for the Heroic-mode raids

These heroic-mode polls are harder to interpret upon inspection because the vast majority of people haven’t raided that content size. So, lets see the numbers when excluding non-raiders, and collapsing across raid size, since my sample of 25-man HM raiders is so low. This gives us a total of 187 votes (keeping in mind that a handful of people may have voted in each of the 2 polls).

  • Utility only lacking: 64 responses (34%)
  • Both Healing & Utility lacking: 58 (31%)
  • We’re fine: 31 (17%)
  • Benched or rerolled: 23 (12%)
  • Healing only lacking: 11 (6%)

So, for heroic modes, only 17% of responses say that we are doing okay, which is a large jump down from the look we got from LFR and 10-man normal-mode raiding. The vast majority of responses indicate that our utility is lacking for heroic-modes, with or without having a healing output issue for this raid content difficulty. There is definitely an indication that healing output could also be a problem for some healers in heroic-mode content.

Putting it together: It’s a utility problem, especially for HM raids

I did each of the polls separately because I expected to see that larger raid sizes and harder content would end up showing our weaknesses more than just looking at how we’re doing overall. I also knew that we couldn’t measure utility problems just by looking at WoL, since WoL doesn’t have a utility meter and doesn’t measure damage prevention cooldowns.

This poll is confirming WoL reports of our healing output being fine across most of the raid content sizes. The polls indicate that healing difficulties are happening in 25-man normal and both heroic raid sizes, which is likely due to not having good enough burst AOE healing. For 25-man healing, our HOT-blanketing doesn’t usually cover enough of the raid and we don’t have much in the way of burst healing to get people back up after they take a big hit. The other problem is that paladin healing output with HR spam still hasn’t been toned down to bring them in line with other healers, so they are out-shining druids. A nerf to paladin HR spam would probably help take care of the healing weakness resto druids are feeling in Heroic Modes compared to other healers.

Across all the raid sizes, the results also point to a problem with our Utility that we bring to the raid for pretty much every raid size (even LFR).

What does this raid utility problem mean?

For pretty much all of Cataclysm, when we have talked about our utility issues, we have talked about the lack of ability to reduce the amount of damage other people are taking. Bringing people’s health bars back up is fine, except when the hits they are taking are so big that your target dies before you can heal them.

With a lack of damage reduction tools, all we can do is rely on other people to throw out the damage reduction cooldowns, absorption effects, or death prevention cooldowns of some sort  (that all other healers have) and hope for the best. Especially in heroic-modes for Dragonsoul in 4.3, the damage reduction cooldowns are things that are being heavily relied upon, which leaves resto druids in a really awkward position of feeling like we lack important tools that everyone else brings to the table even when we come out fine on healing output meters.

MoP will fix it: We know that we are getting Ironbark (a damage reduction cooldown usable on other people) in Mists of Pandaria. We also know that we are getting a burst AOE healing ability (wild mushrooms). We also know we are getting other new tools through the new talent system. So, we know they already have a long-term solution to our major problems. Thus, the good news is that resto druids are going to be really awesome in Mists of Pandaria when we finally have a complete toolset for the first time.

However, the developers need to take a long, hard look at resto druids and decide if we need to be fixed before Mists of Pandaria. Also, it’s not enough to just look at healing output done, but to think about how the resto druid toolset is interacting with encounter design in Dragonsoul. In particular, we need to be looking at utility problems that don’t show up in any of the tracking tools we currently have for looking at healing output, since the problem is NOT just about HPS. It’s too soon to write off Cataclysm completely and Dragonsoul doesn’t seem to be that druid-friendly at the moment, especially for Heroic Mode raiders. Class balance still needs to be a concern in the tail end of Cataclysm, especially as more and more raiders complete normal-modes and start to hit Heroic-Mode content.

Disclaimer: To the resto druids -With the future outlook being good in MoP, it’s worth hanging in there for now, especially if we see more balancing fix patches in 4.3. Don’t panic!