Living Seed No change, although three points in this are now required for the new Efflorescence talent (ugh). I'd been wondering if HoT crits would eventually be affected by this, but Cataclysm's seeming emphasis on a return to more direct healing renders that a superfluous concern.
Revitalize Revitalize is all but unrecognizable. While it retains its original directive as a resource-returning talent: a.) it's now yoked to Lifebloom and Regrowth critical hits, and b.) fully talented, it will restore 3% base mana only to you and not to anyone else. Ouch, baby. There goes one of the more unheralded contributions to melee DPS; this was one of the few ways to affect energy and runic power regeneration for kitties/rogues/death knights (and, amusingly enough, the abomination on Professor Putricide). I'm guessing it will be a required talent, however, given the huge hit that mana regeneration's taking.
Tree of Life Oh, I think we all know what's happening to the Tree. The talent is still there and provides another shapeshift form with increased healing and armor -- and, unhappily, the 30% speed penalty that BC druids loved having to deal with -- but it's now at the cost of one mother of a cooldown. As of now, you get the Tree for 45 seconds every five minutes (before Improved Tree of Life, see below). It's been mentioned that they're planning on making the Tree graphic similar to the night elves' Ancients, and it's more than a little ironic that Blizzard's finally upgrading the damn form at the exact moment that we won't get to see it most of the time.
I still go back and forth over whether the change is ultimately a good one. The damage cooldown most analogous to the tree change, Metamorphosis, doesn't go to waste as long as the warlock's not dumb enough to pop it with the boss a few seconds from death. Barring raid mechanics that CC a player or require them to move, the warlock is in total control of how much damage she can dish out with it popped, and a smart player will time it to coincide with trinket procs and damage buffs like Heroism/Bloodlust. You can design and plan a rotation and boss fight around getting the most out of a big DPS cooldown.
The Cataclysm tree cooldown feels like it's trying to do something similar, but healing doesn't work the same way. You can't heal anybody past 100%, so there's necessarily a hard cap -- reached significantly faster on a player than a boss -- on exactly how effective a cooldown like this is going to be. As a result, Tree has a chance of being almost completely wasted subject to the competence of your heal team, the nature of the encounter, the experience of the raid and the quality of your tank's gear.
Healer cooldowns like Pain Suppression or Guardian Spirit have a very clearly defined purpose in a raid environment full of Level 5 Death To Tank attacks. By contrast, the Tree of Life cooldown seems to lack a clear vision for what it's intended to accomplish, apart from the vague definition of "healing more and faster." How much damage you can do with Metamorphosis isn't affected by the mage next to you popping his own cooldowns and going for broke. How much healing you can do with the Tree of Life is affected by your shaman buddy getting monster crits with Healing Wave, rendering your expensive cooldown useless.
In its current form, the tree would seem to be the most useful during burn phases like phase 3 Putricide, which sees an increasing amount of raid damage occurring over a relatively short period of time. For stuff like that, the question over when you'll get the most benefit from the cooldown has an easy answer: Pop it with the boss around 10-15% and you're gold.
On other fights, I've inwardly thought -- "OK, the tree would have helped for those five seconds when a healer got Bone Spike or whatever ... and then for the next 40, it would've been utterly pointless."
Improved Tree of Life This will decrease the Tree cooldown by up to 90 seconds, and -- oddly -- provides a 15% damage increase in the form as well. Obviously the latter will make more of a difference to PvP, but it's an implicit acknowledgment that the new Tree form won't restrict you to healing spells only.
Improved Barkskin The damage reduction component is unchanged, but the 70% dispel immunity has been removed.
Gift of the Earthmother Wow -- another talent that's all but unrecognizable. The haste has vanished, and replacing it is a series of boosts to Tranquility (healing 20% more on targets below 25% health), Lifebloom (healing 10% more on the "bloom") and Rejuvenation (an instant heal for 15% of the total spell upon application). The latter will be familiar to anyone who had the four-piece tier 8 bonus, and it's a welcome sight. As for the other two, they're pretty situational. Unless Lifebloom's mana cost gets reduced, it's going to be too expensive to use outside of rolling on a tank with the help of Nourish (see Empowered Touch, above), and you try to keep "blooms" to a minimum in those situations. My guess is it's another PvP-oriented addition. Tranquility is still going to be a prohibitively long cooldown; you're not realistically going to see the benefit of this more than once on a fight. But the Rejuvenation portion is made of nothing but win.
Wild Growth I'm not sure how else to describe it apart from this -- it's been gutted. The truck that hit Lifebloom back in patch 3.1 is now back with a vengeance. Wild Growth's going from a six-second to 10-second cooldown, healing for less than half what it does now, and the mana cost's been jacked up to 37% base mana from the current 23%. Bottom line? Don't plan on using it much.
Every week, Shifting Perspectives treks across Azeroth in pursuit of truth, beauty and insight concerning the druid class. Sometimes it finds the latter, or something good enough for government work. Whether you're a bear, cat, moonkin, tree or stuck in caster form, we've got the skinny on druid changes in patch 3.3, a look at the disappearance of the bear tank, and thoughts on why you should be playing the class (or why not).