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Mists: State of Resto beta (build 15762)

So, in the midst of trying to finish up my dissertation, I did manage to hit level 90 and heal a few instances last weekend. I was planning to get more beta time this weekend, but the game has decided not to let me log in today. The main topic I’ll be covering in the state of beta update is about not having enough GCDs to manage all the things while still being able to focus on keeping people alive, along with the problems with the current Healing Shrooms implementation that add to this problem.

Manage all the GCDs!

So, resto druids have lots of things to keep track of:

  • 3 stacks of lifebloom (3x LB with a 10 sec duration). Need to time direct single-target heals for refreshing or use LB to refresh LB directly. Making the wrong decision here means it takes 3 GCDs to get your LB stacked back up.
  • Harmony Mastery (a 10 second buff) – Right now, our mastery requires more active maintenance and attention than any of the other healers’ mastery abilities. It only  procs off one of your three single-target direct heals or swiftmend (and the cooldown on swiftmend is longer than the buff duration of Harmony).
  • Rejuv (12 second duration) - You want to keep this up on tanks and sometimes other raid members (3 people to get the cast time reduction on Nourish for tank healing)
  • Wild growth (8 to 10 second cooldown) – You want to cast this whenever it comes off cooldown
  • Swiftmend (15 second cooldown) – You want to cast this whenever it comes off cooldown.
  • Omen of Clarity procs need to be used on a Healing Touch or Regrowth, even in an AOE healing situation, otherwise the proc gets lost.
  • the new Wild Mushrooms (10 second cooldown). It takes 3 GCDs to set down all the shrooms plus a detonate button and this requires a lot of attention & management. While I never anticipated this being used more than once every 30 seconds, the fact of the matter is that in heavy AOE situations requiring burst healing, this actually could require the druid to spend 3 GCDs every 10 seconds on setting up shrooms, leaving only 7 GCDs to do everything else (and if your lifebloom falls off while you are setting up shrooms, there goes a huge chunk of that time).
  • Nature’s Cure now on an 8 second cooldown making cleansing more about CD management, too, since sometimes the debuffs happen faster than you can cleanse them.

This above list doesn’t include tranquility (where you have to restart all the above processes by the time you finish channeling), barkskin/ironbark, and all the new talented spells & abilities (where every time you try to do some Utility thing, all the above buffs/procs/cooldowns fall behind and you have to start re-stacking things again). You still have to maintain lifebloom even when no one is taking damage, which is a drain on mana resources, and you need to then cast a direct heal to get Harmony back up and get all your other spells set up. So, even when nothing is going on, you are still spending mana to manage things so that you don’t fall behind when people start taking damage again.

This management problem was pretty bad before we got wild mushrooms, and has only gotten worse since then, since WM hasn’t been integrated at all into our toolset – it just got tacked on with zero interaction with our existing spells.

Maintaining Harmony and Lifebloom are probably the biggest headaches in a resto druid situation. You don’t benefit at all from your mastery if you don’t have harmony up, and Lifebloom in a PvE situation should almost never fall off your tank. The 10 second timers on both of these things means that you either always have to use a direct healing spell to refresh your lifebloom (which can take away a lot of time from all the other things you need to do), or you use swiftmend to refresh harmony and then directly refresh your LB that time. Either way, maintaining LB and harmony have nothing to do with actually healing your raid/party. They are just awkward management jobs. Even then, we make very few decisions about keeping people alive and way more time tracking and managing buffs/debuffs/cooldowns/procs. For as much as I like healing shrooms, they add more management on top of an already management-heavy job.

Possible solutions to free up Resto GCDs to actually spend more time healing & less time managing our tools:

  • Healing Shrooms absolutely have to activate the Harmony mastery. They need to be the alternative to having to cast a single-target heal just to activate the Harmony mastery. Shrooms do direct healing, and harmony needs to proc off ALL direct heals, not just single-target direct heals.
  • Harmony could last longer. Originally, the 10 second duration was likely so that we couldn’t just swiftmend every 15 seconds and always have it up. However, managing harmony isn’t really interesting, and in MOP it is actually distracting from being able to do our job. Having a “rotation” for a healer class to manage all the things isn’t really appropriate. You should just always expect for a good healing playstyle to automatically end up with Harmony being up most of the time. So, extending Harmony to a 15 or 20 second buff duration would mean we wouldn’t have to stress over managing it all the time because just using swiftmend for Efflo procs would pretty much guarantee we wouldn’t need to worry about it. The truth is that a short duration Harmony is just creating quality of life problems in MOP, and even a small duration extension would make a huge difference.
  • Lifebloom’s duration should probably be longer. This may be the more controversial of my recommendations. However, having to refresh both LB and Harmony every 10 seconds is too much management and distracts too much from actually healing targets that need the healing. Extending Lifebloom’s duration would also provide a really helpful quality of life change for allowing us to do more than just manage lifebloom all day and would free up GCDs to be able to fit healing shrooms into our healing playstyle.

Fixing some of the Healing Shroom problems would also help with resto druid management issues:

  • Healing shrooms need to be better integrated into the resto toolset & interact with other abilities & the Harmony mastery. Repeating myself again here: healing shrooms need to activate the Harmony mastery. However, there could also be other ways they interact with our spells (ie. refreshing lifebloom. Maybe efflorescence could be tied to Healing Shrooms instead of swiftmend, to let swiftmend be a single-target tank saver again instead of just another AOE healing tool). Just turning a damage spell into a healing spell, without integrating it into the resto toolset, leaves resto druids with a toolset that feels really disconnected and awkward.
  • Living Seed should also proc from healing shrooms. Living seed was something I never expected would actually make it to MOP because it was one of the more terrible talents in our talent tree, and nothing has been done to improve living seed. Having living seed & shrooms interact would be another good way to reinforce the fact that healing shrooms are resto druids’ new AOE direct heal. At Blizzcon, you guys said you were hesitant about direct heals for resto druids because the single-target direct heals were so awkward to try and use in our AOE healing play style. However, if you actually make healing shrooms integrated into the play style for resto druids (rather than having them be an after tought), the resto druid playerbase can grow to appreciate them.
  • The graphic for healing shrooms (at least the targeting circle) needs to give you a visual idea of whether or not your party/raid are actually standing in the healing circle. Your party members tend to run away from the shrooms because they just don’t even see that you are putting them down. For the damage version, your party members never really needed to worry about this because people tend to group up when you are doing AOE damage. However, when people are taking damage, sometimes they move unpredictably and don’t notice that they need to stand still 2 more seconds for you to finish putting down your shrooms & heal them, or that moving 2 yards to the left just put them out of the healing shrooms range so they should move closer. There’s a reason why the graphic for healing rain isn’t a rain fountain in the middle of the radius with no other graphical indicator – it’s a giant circular puddle that people know they need to stand in to get healing.
  • From the healer’s end, it’s also impossible to know if your shrooms are going down in the right place. Last time I played with these, the targeting circle was only 2 yards when the effect is 12 yards. It’s pretty much impossible to guess whether or not your targets are within 12 yards of where you drop your shrooms, and if you guess wrong, then you wasted 4 button presses for nothing. It doesn’t take art development time to make the targeting reticule for healing shrooms bigger when you are setting them down, so this at the very least would be a trivially easy quality of life change to help make shroom management less stressful.

In conclusion, resto druids have a relatively good set of tools for MOP. However, all of our spells are involved in managing buffs/debuffs/cooldowns, and that distracts from being able to focus on our actual job of using the right tool  at the right time to keep people alive. We need some quality of life changes to reduce the amount of time spent managing harmony & lifebloom, as well as having healing shrooms better integrated into our toolset. I don’t think these changes would make healing as a druid easy, as it didn’t reduce the number of things you had to manage – it just gives us an appropriate amount of time for managing all of them.

Posted in Beta Feedback, Mists of Pandaria, Restoration Healing Trees, Written By Lissanna

MoP pet battle: Moonkin training

Hi everyone, I’m in the middle of crunch time for my dissertation (I’m less than a month from my defense date now!), so I haven’t weighed in on this blog about recent moonkin  issues, including the blue posts about insect swarm and Astral Communion “fast forward” for managing Eclipse. I’d recommend reading Graylo’s recent posts about Astral Communion and Insect Swarm.  You should also follow the MOP beta forum post containing recent blue posts here, though there hasn’t been much activity in recent days. Once I get my dissertation sent off to my committee in early June, my posting frequency should increase. Until then, I am working with a couple people to get guest posts out periodically. Besides, everyone is off playing Diablo 3 and not WOW anyway, right? :)

Today, while taking a little bit of a writing break, I wanted to bring you a couple shots of the MOP pet battle system, where I’ve been training my adopted moonkin  the ways of battle. The pet battle system isn’t officially open yet, as far as I know. However, I was able to train pet battles at an earlier stage of beta and they work well enough at this point to get a good idea of what the battle UI currently looks like:

One problem that I have with the system is that the cooldown for reviving/healing the pets is on a 10 minute cooldown. However, since the system isn’t actually ready for testing yet, I don’t want to comment too much on the actual mechanics (since they’re all subject to change).

It’s a really rewarding feeling to have your baby moonkin level up. Lissachu hit level 3! You can see your character when you are battling pets out in the world, so I think it’s a lot of fun to run around as a big moonkin training a little moonkin in the ways of battle. My moonkin keeps running up and punching the other person, though. I need to figure out how to teach my baby moonkin how to moonfire spam all the things!

Posted in Beta Feedback, Mists of Pandaria, Written By Lissanna

MoP: Happy druid news

Okay, after weeks (months?) of things being pretty depressing around here, we finally got some good news!

We’re not yet happy with the druid level 90 row. We still like the theme of it playing into the druid’s hybrid nature and we want to reassure you (which I think most of you already know) that druids won’t do lower damage or healing compared to other classes just because some other class has an unambiguous throughput increasing talent at level 90. Classes are balanced around their whole package.

Nonetheless, we want the bottom row of talents to be exciting. In the next (hopefully) build, you’ll see a few changes.

  • Disentanglement — no longer a talent. Shapeshifting for all druids just breaks roots.
  • Dream of Cenarius — increases damage spells by 70% (up from 30%).
  • Heart of the Wild — now also grants 6% passive Agility and Intellect.
  • Nature’s Vigil — replaces Disentanglement. Increases all damage and healing done by 30% for 30 sec, with a 3 min cooldown. While active, all healing spells also damage a nearby target for 50% of healing done, and all damage spells and abilities also heal a nearby friendly target for 50% of the damage done.

Let us know how they feel once you get a chance to try them.

This is some great news! Nature’s Vigil is going to be a nice utility tool that will be a good option for people who want to specialize in their main role while still bringing some utility. Being able to break roots baseline is a much better idea than having to spend a level 90 talent to have it back. The heal from disentanglement won’t be baseline, but we have enough self-healing options available that it will likely still be okay.

I guess that means I need to get back to leveling my druid on beta! This is definitely some great news for druids. I’m really happy to see some improvements here!

NOTE: the new level 90 talents are hitting beta in today’s patch. Keep in mind that the ability to shift out of “movement impairing effects” will include shifting out of both roots & slows.

Posted in Beta Feedback, Mists of Pandaria, Written By Lissanna

MoP news: mounting in moonkin form

Right now on beta, Moonkin form can mount! We’ve known all of beta that mounting in the astral glyph form has been working. However, moonkin was bugged until this latest patch where you had to shift out of moonkin form to be able to get on a mount. Sunfyre noticed today that we were able to mount in moonkin form (something people have been wanting for a long, long time). I’m fairly sure that the ability to mount from moonkin form will go live, since astral form would be overpowered if it could mount and moonkin couldn’t. Here are a few shots of me in the MoP beta. Please let us keep this!

This took a while to figure out since we were bugged and had no mounts at all in  the latest beta build due to the new UI feature not working all that well.

Posted in Beta Feedback, Mists of Pandaria, Moonkin Balance DPS, Written By Lissanna

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