Resto druid updates for Draenor

With the release of Warlords of Draenor just a few months away, I have started to receive a lot of questions about the state of druids, and especially resto druids. For people wondering about the current state of moonkin, you can read Cyous’ post on the Sentry Totem website. Cyous also has a post on the basics of how the new sine-wave Eclipse  works. For resto druid updates, the Sometimes a Tree blog has had fairly regular content updates recently.

I will likely still be maintaining my resto and leveling guides for Warlords of Draenor, but those are unlikely to be written until close to the release of the 6.0 patch, since Blizzard always changes things at the last minute.

What does the Resto Druid Toolset look like?

Overall, resto druid healing won’t realistically change all that much in Warlords of Draenor. So, if you enjoy resto druid healing now, you should enjoy it in Draenor. Resto druids are still primarily HOT healers, with some supporting direct heals. Our AOE healing toolset remains relatively unchanged. You will use tranquility, wild growth, rejuv, and shrooms as your main AOE spells. Our single-target toolset consists of lifebloom, healing touch, regrowth, and swiftmend.

A recap of the spells with major changes:

  • You will keep lifebloom on a tank. It now only has one stack, which means you don’t have to maintain the three stack anymore. Letting it fall off for the bloom may sometimes be worthwhile, since it doesn’t have the same ramp-up to maintain it.
  • Wild Growth now has a cast-time, instead of being instant. This does not, however, benefit from omen of clarity.
  • Wild Mushroom now only applies the Efflorescence ground effect, and no longer has a direct healing component. This expires after 30 seconds, and has a 30 second cooldown. We can no longer move or bloom the wild mushroom.
  • Tranquility‘s effect has been simplified. It does the main set of ticks without any additional HOT component. It should heal everyone in the raid.

Major stat changes:

  • Multi-strike causes your spell to have a chance to do additional damage or healing to your target. Our direct heals and HOTs can multi-strike, so resto druids can benefit from this stat. However, efflorescence won’t multi-strike.
  • You will still care more about mastery and haste than multi-strike or crit.
  • There are no more haste break-points for HOTs.
  • Versatility is a stat that provides a smaller benefit to multiple stats. This ends up being the worst of the resto druid stats.
  • Restoration druids get a 5% bonus to haste, as part of the new “attunement” bonuses.

Level 100 talents:

  • The level 100 talents are largely lackluster now, but Germination in particular is pretty good. I would suggest Germination as the best new player option of the three (extends rejuv’s duration by 3 seconds, and allows 2 rejuvs per person instead of 1).
  • I would avoid Rampant Growth, as this makes swiftmend consume your HOTs (and in most situations, this is almost always counterproductive). The trade-off of having no cooldown on swiftmend doesn’t seem a large enough benefit given that trying to maximize use of this talent will likely drain your mana. There may be specific situations where this is helpful, but that would likely be fight-specific.
  • Moment of Clarity allows more than one spell to benefit from the mana reduction of OOC, but only has a duration of 5 seconds (and starts from when the buff occurs, not when you first cast a relevant spell). This means that omen of clarity can sometimes fall off before you use it if it randomly procs at the wrong time in your healing rotation (omen of clarity traditionally only lets one spell benefit, but has a decently long time period for you to use that one spell). I have found it difficult to get off more than one spell that benefits from OOC when playing with this talent, so it will likely only be beneficial at high levels of haste for people who are good at maximizing the benefits. So, this may work as an advanced talent for players, but is likely to be more of a penalty than a help for newer resto druids.

Warlords of Draenor November Release

Yesterday, Blizzard announced that the Warlords of Draenor expansion will be released on Thursday November 13th, 2014. The opening cinematic primarily features the orcs. This seems to be inspired by the Warcraft 3 story, evoking nostalgia for people who played the earlier RTS games. The cinematic, however, doesn’t tell the whole story of the expansion. It’s just a teaser that shows one of the many plots.

The opening cinematic is good, but it doesn’t tell the whole story of the expansion, and it doesn’t tell us what the game will feel like when we play it. None of the other opening cinematic videos really have either.

For the Alliance!

In playing the beta for the expansion, I am overall pretty happy with the direction of questing for the alliance. The opening Shadowmoon Valley is shaping up to be a great zone that largely features  the Draenei. The alliance storyline carries through several of the zones I have quested in. Later in leveling, the battle for Shattrath is one of the most heart-wrenching quests I’ve ever done – and that’s before they even put in the cinematic videos for the quest and we’re left to using our own imaginations during <insert epic video here>. The alliance has a great story coming in Warlords of Draenor. It may just require us to actually read quest text as we level.

The video that actually shows the diversity of environments and story plots is actually the gameplay “Warlords of Draenor in action” video that people largely overlooked when waiting for the opening cinematic reveal. This shows much more of the environments you will encounter in the game. Even if the cinematic doesn’t inspire you to want more, the gameplay shots should be more intriguing. There are some great stories in store for us as we level. Uncovering these stories is part of the fun.

Why do druids hate the merging of travel form?

When the developers decided to merge all of the druids’ travel form buttons into a single button, this theoretically made sense. If you are in water, the most efficient form is swimming in your aquatic form. In places you can fly, the most efficient form is flight form. In place where you aren’t in water and you can’t fly, stag form becomes the only usable form. So, the concept of merging them all into one button (where the game chooses the most efficient form for you) seemed like a great idea.

So, why do people so adamantly oppose the merging of these seemingly redundant forms? Why is this something so terrible there are four posts on the Beta forums, even after Blizzard thought they addressed all our concerns? Why are druid shapeshift forms a problem rivaled only by arms warriors for the contest of most class complaints?  To answer this question, we need to talk about what shapeshifting means to druids.

What shapeshift forms mean to druids

For some context, shapeshifting is one of the key things that druids do. Many people chose the druid class because they like shapeshifting. In fact, our forms are so popular that 8 of our 13 minor glyphs in the Warlords of Draneor build are tied directly to our forms.

In addition, the aesthetics of druid forms are so important to the druid class that my most popular guide on this blog is NOT either the leveling guide, or the healing guide. The charts I made mapping the bear/cat hair colors to worgen and troll forms rival my actual real guides for viewer counts. In fact, I’m actually embarrassed that I didn’t invest more time into making them “pretty” when I originally threw them together – two expansions later, they still draw the most consistent blog hits via google searches. In fact, in the last month, the two color charts for worgen and troll druids have had more than double the number of page views as my healing guide. Our shapeshift graphics are so important that we will need to make new mappings once the race changes are complete so that we have up to date color mappings between our hair and our forms.

We (druids) like to party

We interrupt this post to give you random druid parties across Azeroth:

Actually, wait, there’s more druid parties, and stag stacking!

In fact, I could actually post dozens of pictures I’ve taken at various druid parties over the many years I have been playing the game, but I think people would believe me when I say that partying in your forms, even a form that might not be the most efficient form, is probably one of the biggest features of the druid class. Sometimes, druids just want to have fun. This fun factor, however, is one of the hardest things to explain to people who aren’t druids. Why would people actually care about being able to swim in stag form when aquatic form is objectively more efficient? The answer really is just that druids sometimes prefer aesthetics over efficiency, and like having control over their forms. While everything else in the game, and the problem of “button bloat” was all about increasing efficiency, when it comes to our forms, flexibility and fun is what we care about the most. My balance druid on live actually glyphed for tree form just to have access to all the shapeshift forms on one character. It’s not rational, it’s just pure fun.

Forgetting the past?

Lets also not forget what happened when they tried to take away the original grumpy tree form and turn it into a big beefy cooldown tree. That’s why it got added back as a cosmetic glyph – because druids really liked having that button on their button bar and the ability to use an outdated form (even after they complained that it was ugly and needed a graphical update in the first place). Even the generic cheetah form couldn’t go away completely, and had to stick around as a PVP glyph. Druids really don’t like having their forms taken away, and the happiest you can make druids is to introduce new colors or form variety.

A possible glyph solution?

While the developers still didn’t quite understand our fascination with our forms, they changed glyph of the stag to have the following effect: Your ground form is the rideable stag that can carry a party member. Then, your flight form becomes a new button, seperated from the other shapeshift form. However, this has one very fatal flaw for all your friends. When you have someone on your stag’s back and you go into the water, you still shift into aquatic form, leaving your friends behind in the water to drown. So, at the very least, this glyph needs to be changed to have all three forms back on their own buttons so you can’t risk drowning your friends on accident by having them fall off your back when you go into a puddle that is too deep.

In addition, earlier I said that 8 of our 12 minor glyphs are all cosmetic. To be able to take this glyph, you can’t take the cheetah glyph, or the Travel glyph (that increases your mount speed). You also can’t take the cheetah glyph with the speed boost travel glyph either (likely a purposeful PVP nerf).

In the words of the almighty Alamo, “DURIDS IS 4 haf FUN TIME WIT FRENS”

Do we need a change at all?

For people that wanted the functionality of combining all our travel forms to one button, it was always possible to find a macro for shapeshifting. Thus, it’s not necessarily apparent that taking away druid form buttons actually helped with reducing button bloat in any significant way. The main thing that the change did was it took away choice and control, and that seems to be something druids care about more than efficiency or our number of buttons. I’m happy to have one more button for some cosmetic form I’ll never fight in. Thus, while this idea seems neat (and works better now that many of the bigger bugs are fixed), it’s still insanely unpopular. This remains unpopular even after they glyphed it to split off flight form from the rideable stag.

Is this change something we could learn to accept and live with? Maybe. In some of the questing, auto-shifting from travel to aquatic form seemed to be kinda helpful. However, it’s still a problem of whether druids prefer the efficiency of auto-shifting to the control of having separate buttons. I’m not sure that merging the forms is a change for the better, or if it’s just a change for the sake of change. In the end, this may be a problem where druids just want to have fun.

A draenor you can believe in

I have a confession to make. I really love parts of the Warlords of Draenor opening quest content, for both the Horde and Alliance. I’ve been very critical of Blizzard in the last few months, particularly since Blizzcon’s announcement of Warlords of Draenor. I haven’t just been critical, I’ve been outright mad at several points along the way. In particular, I’ve criticized Blizzard’s male-focused marketing. In particular, rather than highlighting all the great women in Blizzard’s games, they either didn’t highlight them at all, or the only information we had portrayed women in a negative light. My feeling about the marketing flaws is unchanged, but I feel differently about some parts of the early questing experience.

There are some really great attempts at having interesting and diverse characters – even if those characters aren’t important enough to put in the marketing material. However, there are still areas of weakness in the story development that reflect some of the same processes that went into the biased marketing materials. So, in this case, I love a game that is still problematic in some ways. However, there are some really great women in Draenor, and so it seems like Blizzard was listening at least a little bit about what everyone wanted. I’ll explain several examples below.

SPOILER WARNING! This post contains lore spoilers of importance to Warlords of Draenor. You have been warned about SPOILERS.

Draka

We meet Draka early in the Horde starting zone. I was somewhat disappointed originally when Durotan ran off and left Draka behind to guard their home area. However, we do have some nice quests in the home area and Draka is involved in some of the quests. In some ways, it bugged me that Draka didn’t fight to stay by her husband’s side. However, splitting them up allows some space for Draka to have her own story pieces, rather than running the risk of being portrayed as a sidekick. At the very least, she is present and accounted for in the Horde starting area.

Draka’s Sister

In the Horde starting area, we are introduced to a new female character: Draka’s Sister, Lokra. She has a really well developed escort quest. This flips the traditional “save the princess” quest on its head, where we escort a female character to rescue a male character. This includes saying “…The Iron Wolf claims our attachments make us weak… that love makes us vulnerable. He is wrong”. This quest chain overall shows a lot of depth of the character as you work together. However, even then, I dislike the phrasing of the way that Durotan reacts once you return from the escort quest. So, in some ways, Durotan turned a great quest into a mediocre quest by being kindof a jerk (in this case, the wowpedia quest “Description” is Lokra’s text, and the “completion” is Durotan pissing on her seemingly unnecessarily if you want to read for yourself). Inspite of Durotan ruining the end of the quest, Lokra’s actual character development across the quest is really well done. I think it’s really Durotan himself who doesn’t live up to my expectations in his interactions within the Horde starting zone.

Yrel’s early quests

The part of Yrel’s story that I criticized in an earlier post seems to come later in the storyline than what I’ve been able to complete thus far in Shadowmoon. We find her in the opening area, kicking ass. Along with Velen, we serve as Yrel’s mentor for a large portion of the questing in the alliance  Shadowmoon valley starting area. As of this point, Yrel and Maraad aren’t in a romantic relationship. However, some of the early released scripts referred to events that happened late in the SMV starting area – suggesting that Yrel’s story development may extend long into the expansion (and it’s unclear whether or not Yrel and Maraad will have a relationship – as they didn’t seem to know each other very well in the starting quests). At the very least, if they do develop a relationship, it will be long after we have been introduced to her as a character. At the very least, the current quests are different than what people described in some of the early demos of that starting area. Yrel suffers a great deal of loss in the starting area quests, and they have (so far) done a pretty good job of developing her character. I’m slightly more optimistic about this character now, though there’s plenty of room for Blizzard to mess it up later. Update: Dave Kosak did confirm she’s not in a relationship with maraad.

Rulkan

There are other notable women in the quest chains of the starting zones. One of the notable figures was Rulkan, who was the wife of Ner’Zul (the “big bad” you have to defeat in the SMV starting area). Rulkan helps you find him, and shows you the history of how she refused to follow him to join the Iron Horde. While Rulkan was originally a member of the ‘dead wives club’ in the original storyline, she is alive and has a position of leadership in the WOD alternative timeline, and provides hope that other notable women may play a more prominent role in the new content. These little hidden gems of questlines make the world feel populated by a variety of characters with interesting stories and histories.

Conclusion

While Blizzcon and the subsequent marketing left a bad taste in a lot of our mouthes, the actual quest designers working on the starting area have done a decent job of trying to have diversity in the quest NPCs we encounter. They do this with more or less success in some areas, but the game that I played in Beta is substantially better than the one that was advertised to meat Blizzcon. The developers may not always get things right, but at least it looks like someone is trying. My previous concerns still remain – that video games have a problematic culture that needs to be addressed (see, for example, the recent IeSF e-sports debacle).  However, I believe that some people at Blizzard may be working to make their Draenor a world you can believe in. For that much, I’m grateful that our voices have been heard. We may even see Aggra head out to Draenor at some point. I hope that the development of Warlords of Draenor keeps holding up these ideals, and that future promotions can feature some of these great women of Draenor more prominently so that everyone can see them. In the end, diversity of characters makes for a better game.