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WOD alpha summary for resto druids

So, we finally got a first look at alpha patch notes for Warlords of Draenor. Much of the information we already knew from previous info releases. However, we have a better idea of what the system changes and spell details look like thus far. Keep in mind that the early Alpha patch undergoes significant class revisions, so what it looks like now isn’t necessarily what it will look like 3 to 6 months from now. Below is a summary of major changes, but isn’t inclusive of every change to the class.

Overall healing style changes:

  • As discussed before, we are having the anticipated stat squish. Health pools are increased relative to the size of the heals (post-squish).
  • Smart heals will be less smart: They will target any injured player (and still prioritize people over pets), but wont’ specifically target the most injured person.
  • They want people to use more single-target heals, instead of just spamming AOE heals, so single target heals should be more efficient when you need to heal 1 to 2 people for a large amount.
  • Based on the desire to make single-target heals more meaningful, Nourish is gone, leaving us with Regrowth and Healing Touch. HT and regrowth should heal for about the same amount, except that regrowth is faster and is less mana efficient.
  • Symbiosis is also removed, meaning that we can’t use tranquility on the move by putting symbiosis on a shaman anymore.
  • My Commentary: Keep in mind that they’ve always wanted us to use single-target heals in high-end raids, but the amount of AOE damage done to the raid since Wrath of the Lich King has largely made single-target healing less desirable in raids. So, the desire to increase single target spells hasn’t always worked out in raiding situations. The raid design will determine how much single-target versus AOE spells versus rejuv blanketing you actually do.

Mana Management:

  • There will be less spirit on gear, so we’ll be better balanced in terms of throughput at various gear levels. Gaining more spirit as we leveled meant that we had more room to use low efficiency spells at later raid tiers. The goal is to make managing your mana matter both at the first raid tier and the last raid tier.
  • On this same note of mana management, Innervate (and some other mana increasing spells for other classes) have been removed.
  • With these changes, the starting mana regen rate will be higher in WOD compared to Wrath or MOP. Thus, the mana regen growth curve across the expansion won’t be as steep, but mana issues shouldn’t be so great as to prevent your progress in the game. The goal is just to force players to make real deliberate decisions, instead of mindlessly mashing buttons.
  • They reduced the mana cost of resurrection spells so that mana won’t be as much of a limiting factor in recovery after wipes.
  • My commentary: Healing gets boring when you basically have a static rotation and don’t make decisions about who to heal. In this respect, encounter design actually matters just as much (or more) than the base toolkit design. The original “trinity” of single-target spells introduced in an earlier expansion was quickly made meaningless when single target spells couldn’t keep up with the damage done in raids. So, encounters will have to be designed around the mana and healing spell changes for any of this to be particularly meaningful.

Overall spell changes:

  • The list of removed abilities for resto druids includes Innervate, Nourish, Symbiosis.
  • Wild Growth now has a 1.5 second cast time.
  • Efflorescence is now permanently tied to shrooms.
  • Survival instincts is available to all specs, to make up for the loss of symbiosis: “Survival Instincts now reduces damage taken by 70% (up from 50%) with a 2-minute cooldown (down from 3)” for resto druids.
  • They changed how tranquility works a little bit, to make it less confusing: “Tranquility now heals every Party and Raid member within range every 2 seconds for 8 seconds. It no longer places a periodic effect on each target.”
  • Swift rejuvenation was removed, making it such that it’s no longer starting at the GCD haste-cap (making haste more valuable to resto druids). One of the perks you gain leveling up from 90 to 100 is extending rejuv’s duration by 3 seconds (back up to 15 seconds), meaning that the removal of swift rejuv is probably a wash in terms of total blanket coverage.
  • Other leveling perks in addition to rejuv include: Increased healing to Healing Touch & Regrowth by 30%. Increased crit rate of Healing Touch on targets effected by Lifebloom. Increased HOT healing on targets effected by Ironbark. Increased living seed heal size by 20%.
  • Some glyphs are going to be automatically learned as you level up, instead of having to buy the glyphs. Here’s some of the more relevant ones: Rebirth (increased baseline health level), Rejuvenation (now that we don’t have nourish, I’m not sure if it will impact healing touch instead?), Healing Touch (reduces Nature’s Swiftness cooldown), Master Shapeshifter (reduces mana cost of shifting).

Talent changes: You can see the full level 100 talent tree on Wowhead (based on the data available to WOWhead at this time). Note that the talents change by specialization, so to see the resto talents and level 90 to 100 perks, make sure you choose the resto specialization. Some highlights below:

  • The current changes to resto talents relevant to raiding include primarily the level 90 and 100 talents.
  • They made changes to the level 90 talent design. Heart of the Wild won’t increase your int, and they’ve toned down main role bonuses for DOC and Nature’s Vigil.
  • My level 90 talent commentary: Based on the numbers I can see without doing math, Nature’s Vigil is still probably a net healing bonus to resto druids, whereas heart of the wild is probably something you would skip entirely for progression raiding. Dream of Cenarius is going to be a better damage talent than Heart of the Wild since it will still provide some healing benefit. These talents are still likely to undergo revisions when every resto druid just defaults to Nature’s Vigil.
  • The level 100 talents are new and provide different functionality to existing abilities, such as extending omen of clarity’s mana benefit, allowing 2 rejuvenations on the same target, or dramatically changing how swiftmend functions (e.g., munching your own HOTs with no cooldown on swiftmend).
  • My level 100 talent commentary: I’m not sure which level 100 talent will work out best until after we see what the WOD healing content is like. I don’t really like the swiftmend talent all that much, since eating our HOTs was never a part of swiftmend we liked at all (and Efflorescence isn’t attached to swiftmend anymore, making it not have AOE functionality).

In general, there may be fairly drastic changes to how healing works coming in WOD. We won’t really know how all the puzzle pieces come together until after we get a chance to play with the changes in 5-mans and raids in the actual beta client. Resto druid healing should overall still be pretty fun in WOD. We still have a lot of work to do!

Posted in Beta Feedback, Restoration Healing Trees, Warlords of Draenor, Written By Lissanna

MOP Druid leveling guide preview: Talents

With the new talent system being released with the 5.0 MOP pre-patch, I have started working on the newest version of my leveling guide. With the talent changes, I am doing one talent section that covers info for all four specs, since there is a lot of info that would have been redundant if I did one for each of the four specs. Since I spent all day working on the guide, I thought I’d release the talent section early. Please note that it’s subject to change if Blizzard changes talents. Also, keep in mind that the leveling guide is targeting people level 1 to 89, and when you hit 90, you should be looking at end-game guides for talent advice. I’ll have end-game talent suggestions for moonkin & resto druids closer to MOP’s patch day.

Druid Leveling Talents in Mists of Pandaria (patch 5.0):

There is a new talent system which has a set of talents that is shared across all four druid specializations. Choosing your specialization now gives you a bunch of abilities as you level up. Then, you get to choose 6 additional abilities from the talent set. Here, I will briefly explain the sets of options you have and how useful they are to each spec for leveling (your max-level choices may be different). The purpose of these talents is to allow for choice, so I will spend more time explaining what they do than telling you which one to choose.

Level 15: All specializations choose either feline swiftness or wild charge.

  • Feline Swiftness: Increases your movement speed by 15% at all times. This is pretty useful for all four specializations.
  • Displacer beast: Teleports you 20 yards away and shifts you into cat form. This talent isn’t useful for anyone because it is too easy to break you out of stealth. Bad for all specs.
  • Wild charge: Gives you a different movement teleport effect depending on your specialization. In caster form, you teleport to the location of your targeted ally.  Moonkin bound backwards 20 yards. Travel form leaps forward 20 yards. Swim form goes faster. Cats jump behind your targeted enemy. Bears charge at their enemy and imobilize them for 4 seconds. Good for everyone except resto druids for leveling.

Level 30:  Resto: choose Nature’s Swiftness or Cenarion Ward. All other specs: Choose nature’s swiftness or Renewal.

  • Nature’s Swiftness: makes your next healing spell, roots, rebirth, or cyclone instant-cast and usable in all forms. This is useful for all specializations.
  • Renewal: Instant cast that heals yourself for 30% of your health. Useful for DPS and tank druids for keeping yourself alive. Less helpful for resto druids where the other options can be used on either yourself or others.
  • Cenarion Ward: A buff you put on your target that will apply a HOT to tick down after they get hit. This could be useful for resto druids, but I’d recommend other specs to pick up one of the more burst heals. In addition, this may not heal very much at lower levels, so one of the other talents could be a better healing talent for leveling.

Level 45: Overall, I prefer typhoon. However, for leveling, your choice of crowd control here doesn’t matter much.

  • Faerie Swarm: Your faerie fire spell slows your target’s movement speed. Situationally useful.
  • Mass Entanglement: Will root multiple targets in place for a short time. Situationally useful.
  • Typhoon: Knocks back your target and dazes (slows) them for a short period of time. Situationally useful.

Level 60: Varies by spec (see below). All of these are designed to help your main role, so any choice ends up being potentially helpful for leveling. Each talent does something different for each specialization.

  • Soul of the forest: Gives balance more solar or lunar energy when you exit Eclipse (good option because it gets you back into an Eclipse faster). Gives feral more energy when you use finishing moves (not as helpful for leveling if things die fast). For Guardian, mangle generates more rage (helpful for leveling as a tank). For resto, using swiftmend makes your next cast spell faster (not as helpful for leveling as resto). The nice part of this is that your bonus is passive so you don’t have to remember to cast it.
  • Incarnation: For balance, increases your damage while Eclipse is active (probably better for grouping than solo). For feral, this gives you a couple different bonuses (probably better for grouping or max level than solo leveling). Guardian: Reduces the cooldown on abilities (good for leveling in instances). Resto: increases your healing done and gives you several nice bonuses (good for leveling in instances).
  • Force of Nature: Summons treants to fight for you. For balance, treants cast wrath & roots (helpful for leveling). For feral, treants do melee damage and can stun the target (helpful for leveling). For guardian, treants taunt (not as helpful for leveling). Resto treants cast Healing Touch (helpful for leveling).

Level 75: Another crowd control tier where it doesn’t matter what talent you choose.

  • Disorienting roar: Disorients all enemies within 10 yards (your targets won’t attack for the duration of the effect, but any damage you do will break the disorient).
  • Ursol’s Vortex: Will slow the movement speed of enemies in the vortex.
  • Mighty bash: A 5 second stun that requires being in melee range.

Level 90: See end-game guides for recommendations once they’ve been released. Heart of the wild‘s passive bonuses are useful for everyone (though the “utility” benefit is less useful), so you can start out with Heart of the Wild and choose your talent based on the end-game content you want to do. The other two talents are more situational.

Posted in Beta Feedback, Druid - General, Leveling, Mists of Pandaria, Written By Lissanna

Resto MOP update

Following up on my post from this weekend, I wanted to highlight two blue posts that popped up on the Beta Class Theorycrafting thread:

Q: Is Bloom intended to be used in AoE healing rotations? How will it affect Harmony?

It isn’t intended to be used rotationally, and may be too good at the moment. It is fine for it to affect Harmony as long as it doesn’t become a vehicle to keep Harmony up. If we can make it a small little bonus, that’s fine.

Q: Spending a lot of our day trying to keep both Harmony and Lifebloom up (while trying to take advantage of all the new toys we got in MOP) is just too overwhelming even in MOP 5-mans.

Yes, we agree. Both of those durations could increase without much risk.

What this pair of posts mean:

  • We shouldn’t be using healing shrooms every 10 seconds. If shrooms are too overpowering in our rotation, I’d personally suggest that the cooldown be increased slightly so that we can’t use it as often (rather than having the mana cost raised or the healing amount nerfed) if the tool is just better than the other tools we have. It would be a shame for our new toy to become unusable, so having a good spell that we can’t use often may be a better compromise if we’re too dependent on the spell for AOE healing. However, there isn’t any announced change to shrooms at the moment. I would really expect to see changes to shrooms as we progress through raid testing in beta (“soon”).
  • Harmony and/or lifebloom could be getting increased durations in a future beta build. This means that they seem to have heard the feedback coming from Alison Robert, me, and lots of other resto druids about our current rotation woes.

So, this is definitely good news. You guys just have to live through the bad news posts so that we can get fixes. Don’t give up hope yet, my tree friends!

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

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

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