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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!

Posted in Druid - General, Written By Lissanna

Repost: How symbiosis (MoP level 87 ability) likely works

Since it’s always my job to take what Blizzard writes and translate it into things that you guys can understand, I’m writing a quick post to talk about Symbiosis (the new MoP level 87 ability).

The new ability says:

Creates a symbiotic link which grants the druid one ability belonging to the target’s class, varying by the druid’s specialization. In exchange, grants the target  one druid ability based on their class and combat role. Lasts 1 hour and persists through death”

My interpretation of how this will work: You get something cool from them, and they get something cool from you. You both keep your ability and they just get a copy of your spell. So, it’s not actually stealing their ability. It’s borrowing a copy of their ability, it’s just funnier to say “stealin” in the above picture for comedic value.

TOTALLY FAKE/MADE-UP examples:

  • Example 1: Moonkin casts symbiosis on mage. Moonkin gets mirror image and keeps starfall. Mage gets starfall & keeps mirror image.
  • Example 2: Resto druid casts symbiosis on disc priest. Rdruid gets Prayer of Mending & keeps innervate. Disc priest gets innervate & keeps PoM.

Further notes & explanations:

Symbiosis can’t give random abilities from ability lists, as that would make the talent too unpredictable and you would have to “fish” for a useful ability by casting it over & over dozens of times until you got what you wanted. Instead, it has to be fixed (so, in the above examples, a moonkin would always get mirror image from the mage). It also has to give you something you would actually want in your spell list, otherwise there is no point in having it at all (so, it can’t give you remove curse from mages as a moonkin, since moonkin can already remove curses).

No cooldown is listed, so it looks like in a raid, you could keep up Symbiosis on the same person through the whole raid if you wanted, or you could symbiosis with a different raid member on each boss to pick up the best boss-specific abilities.

That should clear up some of the questions I’ve seen about Symbiosis. I’ll get to other spells/abilities from the list as I have time, but I thought this was too important to wait, and I wanted to get this out early to help with the amount of confusion I’ve seen.

Posted in Blizzcon, Druid - General, Written By Lissanna

Repost: Lets talk about Healing Shrooms (5.0 speculation)

So, Blizzard has started talking about what new toys druids will get in 5.0 with mists of pandaria.

While I have to sometimes post about the bad things (like trying to explain why melee damage isn’t appropriate utility for moonkin druids), I also get to talk about the good things!

One good thing coming for resto druids in Mists of Pandaria is a Healing version of Wild Mushrooms. I’ve seen a lot of speculation and in some cases confusion about how they’d work or why we need them. So, I feel that it is my duty to help show why a healing Shroom spell is good, what it may look like, and realistically how it would fit into our healing arsenal.

How the DPS version of Wild Mushrooms works right now:

 Wild Mushroom is a balance druid spell that uses a targeting recticule to drop one mushroom at a time on the ground (up to 3 mushrooms), and then there is a separate detonate spell that you use to trigger the mushrooms to do AOE damage to anything standing near the mushrooms. An original version of the spell was supposed to be more “trap” triggered, but that was scrapped in favor of the detonate that allows you to choose when to force them to go off. The Wild Mushrooms themselves don’t have a cooldown (so you can place all three of them one after the other). However, there is a 10 second cooldown on the detonate.

How I think Healing Shrooms might work in MoP:

The Healing version of Wild Mushrooms will be a specialization ability for restoration druids in Mists of Pandaria. We have not yet seen a preview of how they will work, but I can make some guesses about their mechanics, based on what I know about how the moonkin version currently works.

  • Wild Mushrooms will have a direct healing component when you detonate them. They may also have some sort of HOT component attached, but would be particularly useless if all they provided was a HOT without any burst healing, since setting them up is a significant time-commitment.
  • With healing shrooms, you will be able to place one shroom on the ground & detonate it if you want a quick but small burst heal.  Moonkin don’t usually just detonate one shroom, since we require all 3 for DPS purposes, but it should be perfectly viable for healers to be able to choose whether to use 1, 2, or 3 depending on the situation. If you are worried about 3 doing too much overhealing, you can choose to just drop & explode a single shroom. This allows our one tool to have a lot of versatility in how we use it.
  • You will be able to place 3 shrooms in different parts of the room, or on the same “stackup point” of the room to prepare for a giant burst damage attack. This allows you to choose between blanketing the room more (ie. one on melee group, and one on each of 2 ranged groups), or getting a large concentrated amount of healing in one place.
  • If wild mushrooms are a direct healing spell, they should activate our mastery bonus when we detonate them (so that we don’t have to rely as much on single-target direct heals to activate mastery in AOE healing situations).
  • Wild mushrooms will be a “sometimes food”. I highly doubt that any restoration druid will have 3 GCDs to drop shrooms every 10 seconds, since we do have so many other spells to manage (and the mechanic is clunky enough that it would get frustrating if all you ever did was set up & detonate shrooms). I’m thinking that it may be something that gets heavy use on some fights and likely little to no use on others. It also may end up being better to have a 20 second cooldown on our healing shroom detonate so we don’t feel pressured into using it all the time (since they will be a different spell than the moonkin one, they can have different cooldowns). The use of wild mushrooms should also be  situational, and it’s possible that for some fights, you’ll set the shrooms on the stack up point before the fight starts and only explode them once on the stack up phase (they will sit there for up to 3 minutes waiting to be detonated). In other fights, you may be dropping and popping them more often than others.

Why do we need another healing spell?

As healing in 4.3 will show you, we really have huge weaknesses in our toolset. Getting a targetable barkskin will help with one of the problems (lack of a mitigation cooldown useable on others), but we still have a problem of not having a good tool to provide burst AOE healing.

  • First, While having an overpowered Wild Growth spell (and a cooldown reduction on tranquility) covered up that problem most of this expansion, getting a huge nerf to Wild Growth’s effectiveness exposes the weakness of resto druids. First, resto druids are only good for AOE fights where the AOE damage is frequent small ticks on a large number of people (and don’t have tools really designed to handle burst AOE damage). While an overpowered Wild Growth and really druid-friendly mechanics in Firelands disguised this weakness, it has still been there, festering all this time.
  • Second, Resto druids are very much dependent on having an overpowered Wild Growth that we just mindlessly mash when it comes off cooldown and makes it hard to tell the difference between good & bad resto druids. There is really only one way for restoration druids to AOE heal right now and it’s pretty hard to get wrong. Having to feel like you have to win at meters to be viable is also a really ridiculous place to be for our class right now, and just further exposes our toolset weaknesses. I’m pretty sure that by the end of 4.3, you will be eagerly awaiting having more buttons to be able to hit, based on how healing has felt on the 4.3 PTR thus far.

Does Healing Shrooms fill that gap in our toolset?

Yes and no. We needed more than just Healing Shrooms to keep up with all the new things healers in 5.0 are likely getting, which is why we also get targetable barkskin and other utility tools through our talents.

The criticisms and concern I’ve heard about Healing Shrooms at this point is that people are largely concerned about them being more difficult to use. However, I believe that this is both a feature and a drawback to the spell. You won’t really want to spend 3 GCDs every 10 seconds setting up and detonating shrooms. I really believe that would be a huge problem if the shrooms became so OP that we had to waste all our time deploying them. You also won’t use shrooms as much when you are tank healing, since they require a lot of set-up time that would take you away from your tank (in which case, WG & SM/efflorescence may be what you rely more upon in that role).

However, healing shrooms should give us something we didn’t have before: a bursty AOE healing spell we can use to mix in with the other tools that we have. In some situations, you may rely more upon rejuv for movement-heavy fights that favor HOT blanketing. In more static fights with heavy burst damage, you may pop more shrooms.

Having to choose what spell to use & when to use it will add some much needed decision making into our healing design. Most of the other healer specs already have ground-targeting AOE heals, and while they gnashed their teeth at the idea of having to do ground-targeting heals, it doesn’t seem like they had too hard of a time adjusting to the new mechanic. I’m looking forward to having to plan out how to use wild mushrooms on each encounter, and I’ll probably write up a number of ‘how to shroom’ guides along the way to help druids figure out how to integrate shrooms into their healing.

I believe that Wild Mushrooms are a good choice for filling the Direct AOE healing role for resto druids because it’s a spell the class already has that can easily be re-purposed to healing, and it’s also different from what other healers have in important ways. I’m happy Blizzard isn’t just giving us prayer of healing – it’s giving us something unique to the druid class that mechanically functions different than other ground-targeted AOE tools other healers have.

Conclusions

I hope in this post that I have been able to explain why Wild Mushrooms are a healing tool that resto druids should be looking forward to in Mists of Pandaria. There may be some mechanics issues to work out with fitting it into how resto druids heal now, but I believe that they’ll become an important part of our toolset that will grow on you after a while. ;)

Posted in Blizzcon, Druid - General, Written By Lissanna

Repost: Druids – A true hybrid

Druids – A true hybrid

via Restokin by Garnaph on 10/10/11

 

I’ve been pondering making this post for a while now. In fact, it was one of my post ideas alongside my original latency post. Lissanna asked me to do the latency post instead, so this one has been gathering dust until now.

The number one thing about druids in my mind is that they are the only class that can perform all 4 roles in raids : tanking, melee, ranged, healing. Paladins and Shamans are a close 2nd with 3/4, and honestly I feel Enh Shamans should have a tanking subtree like ferals, but that’s a topic for another day. I remember when I first started playing wow, I couldn’t decide what role I wanted to play, so I was advised to roll a Druid. Best. Advice. Ever.

Making the Most of Hybrid Dual-Specs

The problem is that we only have two specs that we can have ready at a time. You can also share 2 sets of gear between those 4 specs (Agi = Cat/Bear, Int = Resto/Boomkin). Paladins require 3 sets of gear, by comparison. So ideally, if you take yourself seriously as a true hybrid, at any given point you should have one feral spec, and one caster spec, as this will make it possible to be two mouse clicks away from a switch. At the same time you will have two sets of gear on your character, perfectly optimised for the two specs you currently have. This sets you up to be able to switch from one to the other with just two mouse clicks. For most of Cata so far I’ve been Bear/Resto, with occasional trips into Bear/Boomkin.

OK, so now, say you are Cat/Resto specced, and suddenly want to be Cat/Boomkin. How long does it take to change setups? Well, it requires 4 things :
1 – Change Spec + Glyphs
2 – Change Reforges
3 – Change Meta
4 – Change Bars

  • 1 : Changing Spec + Glyphs: This can be easily done from memory, talent editor bookmarks in your browser or even better, using a mod like talented. Sadly, this mod seems to have been abandoned – if anyone knows of a working mod that does something similar, let me know please. Make sure you have enough Dust of Disappearance to switch your glyphs!
  • 2 : Changing Reforges: ReforgeSaver is your friend here. One click and it’s done for the small price of 300G.
  • 3 : Changing Meta-gems: Keep a few of each cut meta close by, so you don’t have to cut or buy one when you need them.
  • 4 : Changing Spell/ability bars: This can be the tricky part. What I’d recommend is have your boomkin stance bar setup for boomkin, and your “humanoid” bar for resto (the same works for bear and cat). You might need to drop spec specific talented abilities onto the bar after a respec (swiftmend, starsurge, starfall, etc), but the majority should be in place.

You should also have your power auras setup in a way that the correct set activates. E.g. Resto = not in bear/cat/boomkin form, Boomkin Auras in Boomkin form. This is the one part that is completely seamless if setup correctly. For details on how this is done, look at my power auras post series.

A hybrid druid is a raid leader’s best friend

Once you’ve had some practice, you’ll become your raid leader’s best friend. Assume you’re in raid setup as kitty/boomkin. Did your tank or healer’s line die and they need to be replaced in a hurry? Tell your raid leader “give me 5 minutes and I can be resto/bear ready – have a warlock ready to summon” and they can go hunt down another dps to take your place. As a raid leader myself, I can’t fully express how useful hybrids are when it comes to keeping raids going through unexpected subbing.

Other druid Role-swapping  advice

One thing worth noting is that it’s much easier to switch between Resto and Boomkin, than it is between Cat and Bear. If you look at the best gems and enchants for the two feral specs, there isn’t much overlap other than Agility.

  • Blue sockets (20+ agi socket bonus) : Bear likes Stam, Cat wants Hit.
  • Yellow sockets (20+ agi socket bonus) : Bear likes Dodge, Cat wants Mastery.
  • Bear uses armor on Cloak and Gloves. Cat uses Greater Mastery on Gloves and Agi on Back.
  • Bear uses Agi+Stam on legs. Cat uses Crit+Ap.

Compare to Resto/Boomkin. Both want Int, Spirit (Hit for boomkin), and Haste. They use the same leg patch. They also perfectly overlap with best enchants. So all it takes to change between them is a Reforge, Respec/Reglyph, and changing your Meta. Much faster and cheaper than a Feral Respec.

For this reason, I suggest picking a Feral spec you want to use, and then having Resto/Boomkin as your “switchable” spec. I suggest going Bear, as you’re then two mouse clicks away from all 3 roles (Tank/Heal/DPS). If you ever need to go Cat, have a plan. Do you want to Gem + Enchant for the best Min/Max stats for both, or are you willing to have a hybrid gear setup and take a small hit to performance in Bear? If you want to go down the Feral hybrid route, the Cat enchants and gems work just fine for both (Mastery, Hit, etc).

In conclusion, having one caster spec and one tanking spec gives you the most flexibility and ease in switching between three different roles with the same character.

Posted in Druid - General, Written By Garnaph

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