Beta build 12759 dropped early Saturday morning, and with it the introduction of mastery and quite a few changes to the feral and restoration specs. I think Blizzard may even have fixed some of the issues with feral damage, but the newest bug on the block is making that a little difficult to tell. The default scrolling combat text is now broken -- you can't see how much damage or healing you're doing to hostile mobs or friendly players, respectively -- so at best, you're confined to guesses based on how much health the mob's losing when you hit it. For me, this requires squinting at a very small portion of a laptop screen with my nose two inches from the monitor, and I'll be damned if I'll wind up financing the purchase of another Maserati for my ophthalmologist.
Due to the extreme annoyance of assessing cat DPS under the circumstances, further examination of how our feral brethren are faring is on hold, and we'll be discussing restoration this week. My experience healing in the beta has been a mixed bag, consequence of variable tank quality, the group's collective experience with the Cataclysm dungeons (or, more commonly, the lack thereof) and beta build progression. You've heard a lot by now about Blizzard's intent to keep players in a wounded state more frequently, which they've engineered by increasing player health and decreasing healing efficiency.
Healing on the beta feels like you're trying to fill a very large, mostly empty jug (the tank) while restricted to the use of a teaspoon (Nourish), a shot glass (Healing Touch), a ceiling leak on a rainy day (Rejuvenation) and a beautiful glass bottle of expensive mineral water (Efflorescence). And then you see the a developer in the distance with a mean little eye clamped on your mineral water and a large, tempting hammer nearby. You grasp your teaspoon with shaking hands. Doom treads nearer. At night, the ice weasels come.*
All the numbers in this article were taken from a level 83 restoration druid with the following unbuffed stats. I've included her unbuffed stats on the beta at level 80 for comparison.
HP: 46,985 (31,987 at 80)
Mana: 42,877 (28,896 at 80)
Healing: 3,734 (3,364 at 80)
Crit: 10.38% (15.73% at 80)
Haste: 794 (10.69% haste at level 83; 873 haste at 80)
Mana regen: 1464 mp5 out of combat, 979 while casting (894 and 456 respectively at 80)
Armor: 19,092 armor in caster (46.76% DR) (19,603 at 80 with 55.58% DR)
Mastery: 8.63 (I don't currently have a lot of Mastery gear, and I've wondered how much of a role that's playing in my bumpier 5-man runs)
And yes, that's the same character who hit the beta with these stats.
Cast time with 794 haste and 3/3 Naturalist: 2.26 seconds
Glyph of Nourish?: Yes.
Mana cost: 667
Average hit with no HoT: 6,956
Average crit with no HoT: 10,682
Average hit with one HoT: 8,737
Average crit with one HoT: 13,328
Average hit with two HoTs: 9,284
Average crit with two HoTs: 13,965
Average hit with three HoTs: 9,757
Average crit with three HoTs: 14,961
I have to admit I'm not wildly enthusiastic about the direction Nourish has gone. Right now, it's the exact same speed as Healing Touch, which makes it horribly slow; until this last build landed and a version of Naturalist was reintroduced into the restoration tree, it was a 3-second cast before haste. But Naturalist is, I think, bugged -- my Nourish cast time was just as long then as it is now with the talent. Anyway, while Nourish still has the scaling from HoTs that HT lacks and it should eventually refresh the duration of Lifebloom on your target (by way of Empowered Touch, which is also bugged), Nourish has lost its inherent status as a flash heal, and that absence hurts. Regrowth (see below) seems poised to regain that.
So why would you use Nourish? What it really has going for it right now is that it's extremely cheap. It's less than a fifth of HT's cost, and it's really designed as a maintenance heal on a target where you've already got a bunch of HoTs running (read: tank). But even using it for that purpose, I was disappointed at how little even a glyphed Nourish was hitting for while healing Cataclysm 5-mans. The tanks I've healed so far have ranged from 52k to 79k health, and what Nourish hits for has felt like a sick joke while they're still taking damage, to the point where I wonder if there's another bug there that I don't know about, or if I'm just too used to Nourish being a beefy heal on the smaller health pools of Wrath. Then again, HoT durations seem wonky too (see Rejuvenation, next page) and the odds of Lifebloom or Rejuvenation falling off while you're dealing with damage elsewhere in the group are pretty high. Naturally that has an effect on how good Nourish will be, and between the long cast time and how little it hits for if something falls off, there's a high irritation value to the spell at present.
This is a subject that I think will have to be revisited in later builds because it's not something I think is really close to finished right now, and I'm also pretty sure that the worst of my experiences was more a reflection of pre-12759 realities than what Nourish is actually intended to do. Stay tuned.
Cast time with 794 haste and 3/3 Naturalist: 2.26 seconds
Glyph of Healing Touch?: No.
Mana cost: 3,625
Average hit: 17,112
Average crit: 24,953
Healing Touch is actually really useful; due to player health increases, it's the best spell in your arsenal to get a player topped off if he's not in immediate danger and you don't care about blowing through a stupid amount of mana. Generally, I don't; there's something a lot more psychologically reassuring about having a player above 90 percent than faffing about with two or even three Nourish casts to do the same amount of healing. While this is behavior that I will likely have to train myself out of before I start raiding at 85, I'm not sure it's entirely bad behavior given the burst damage that still exists in spades in Cataclysm dungeons. Yes, damage overall is much less "spiky" than you'll be used to if you currently heal Icecrown Citadel, but you'll still see hits in the range of 30K even in Blackrock Caverns -- and you can expect much worse than that if the group isn't watching various debuffs or the tank is iffy. I'll grant that this is a total crapshoot on the beta, because I've run into my fair share of ungemmed, unenchanted premade tanks played by people who seem to be hitting buttons at random for the pleasure of seeing what they'll do.
I confess to a bit of nostalgia for my beloved, albeit somewhat unorthodox, Glyph of Healing Touch. You need Healing Touch as a big heal too often -- Nourish hits like a limp noodle, even with full HoTs on your target -- but I badly miss my reliable 0.7 second butt-saver.
Mana cost: 5,248
Cooldown: 10 seconds.
Average hits: 1100 (start) -- 714 (end)
Total healing done: 7,239
Still at the 10-second cooldown and not exactly the first thing you should reach for in the event that the group is lightly damaged. Actually, this is one of the things that feels a bit miserable about the current restoration tree -- you simply do not have an efficient option for addressing light raid damage. Nourish is your least mana-intensive heal right now but takes a buttload of time to spread around a group, Lifebloom is for one target only, and WG, Regrowth, and Rejuvenation are all expensive as hell.
Cast time with 794 haste: 1.81 seconds
Mana cost: 3,339
Glyph of Regrowth?: No.
Duration: 22 seconds
Average hit: 7,437
Average crit: 11,107
Average HoT tick: 749
Average Crit HoT tick: 1,123 (very rare, clocked in at around a 4% proc rate compared to my 10.38% unbuffed crit rate; wondering if this is bugged as well or if I just got unlucky)
Average amount healed per full Regrowth: 13,429 (assuming no crit HoT ticks)
Blizzard is really pushing Regrowth as a main-line heal -- it gets a huge chunk of love in the new resto tree -- and it has indeed become my go-to spell of choice for a lot of damage. This is not least because it's currently the fastest direct heal in our arsenal, though if Naturalist is indeed bugged, then Nourish and HT should surpass it. I've run into a lot of situations where speed is still what you need. With a poor group, you will find yourself using Regrowth a lot to cover incidental damage. But it's still problematic as a flash heal; if the HoT ticks at an inconvenient time between mob packs while your tank's making the next pull, plan on getting unwanted attention. Events with spawning mobs like the last boss of Throne of the Tides and the first boss of Stonecore pose the exact same problem.
Regrowth is yoked to Revitalize now (as is Lifebloom), not Rejuvenation. It's also yoked to Living Seed, the currently overpowered Efflorescence, Nature's Bounty, and is instant cast with the Tree of Life cooldown. Plan on using it a lot for just about every purpose you can name, because that's where so many of the good bonuses in the restoration tree have gone.
Mana cost: 954
Cooldown: 15 seconds.
Average hit: 12,464
Average crit: 18,696
Swiftmend is its same awesome self, now more awesome with Improved Rejuvenation. In a poor group, you will probably be blowing this on cooldown, because you'd otherwise be Regrowthing everyone's ass and praying for an Efflorescence proc. In a good group, it's likely to be an occasional-to-regular deal for the tank.