Certain people are very good at this "life" thing. For example, a relative of mine phoned the other night to let us know that she's thinking about buying a beach property in Costa Rica and that in order to supplement her six-figure commodity broker's salary, she'll probably rent it out whenever she isn't there to surf and drink mojitos herself. "Gotta go," she said. "I think the Mercedes dealership is trying to call me back."
Now, this is a fairly soul-destroying thing to hear, and not just because you had to interrupt your dinner, a "freelancer's special" consisting of tomato packets mixed with water. But let's be fair: Nobody gets that lucky by accident. Does it involve hard work? Yep. But it also involves the unerring ability to zero in on a path in life that pays out like a broken slot machine, and then tireless effort to keep your boxcar hitched to the gravy train. Let's not blame the folks who are simply more astute than we are at picking one of life's better roads.
After a little more than a week in the Mists of Pandaria beta, something has become horribly obvious: If this relative ever picked up WoW, she'd be playing a resto druid.
Let me explain. I will start with the two questions I asked shortly after getting onto the beta.
"What the hell happened to ______?"
New to the beta? You'll find yourself lacking a number of the class' traditional mainstays. I doubt this is a comprehensive list, but this is what I've noticed so far:
- Starfire Balance only.
- Insect Swarm Can't find it anywhere.
- Pulverize Completely gone.
- Challenging Roar Completely gone.
- Bash Completely gone.
- Feral Charge Now replaced by the talent Wild Charge, which forces you to pick between it and Feline Swiftness. (I have yet to see anyone who's taken Displacer Beast.) I'm sorry, but for tanks especially, this isn't an "interesting" choice -- it's a sadistic one.
- Demoralizing Roar Completely gone. The damage reduction's been baked into Thrash.
- Rip Feral only.
- Ravage Feral only.
- Lifebloom Restoration only.
- Regrowth Restoration only.
- Nourish Restoration only.
- Replenishment Not technically an ability, but you can kiss it goodbye anyway. It's been replaced (sort of) by a new, restoration-only passive skill, Revitalize.
- Tree of Life You'll have to pick up the talent Incarnation in order to get this back. On the plus side, the new version of Glyph of the Treant now lets you shapeshift into the old version of Tree Form whenever you want.
- Everything else Like I said, I doubt this is a comprehensive list, especially because there are balance and feral skills that I don't think I've used in years.
Which leads us to the second question I asked on the beta: How did trees make out like bandits when bears are in such shambles?
Trees, bandits and bears
Actually, this is a bit misleading. First off, understand that I'm approaching this issue from the perspective of both a guardian and a restoration player and that I am terrified that the guardian playstyle has devolved into nothing more than
IF [rage=60], THEN [Savage Defense].
Because that pretty much sums up the only thing that a bear player cares about, and I don't think that's a good thing for the spec.
By contrast, resto has survived the transition to Mists of Pandaria largely unscathed with respect to present abilities and cooldowns. Basically, if you play resto, only play resto, and don't give a crap about the other specs, you can expect a bunch of cool new toys in your arsenal with no catastrophic omission from the present approach to play (unless you had a deep emotional attachment to, say, Ravage in Cat Form ... but somehow, I don't think you did).
Yes, this is a natural consequence of trees' really not caring very much about most of the abilities from the feral side of the class and only caring about balance to the extent that it gives us something to do when we don't have anything to heal. But transferring a resto druid over to the beta realms is largely an exercise in seeing how much our action bars don't have to change and how much we're getting for free as passive abilities now.
An equally sobering point is that the new druid talent tree doesn't really force resto players into any particularly difficult decisions. The Wild Charge/Feline Swiftness problem I described earlier just doesn't exist for us. The most difficult talent tier is likely the level 30 one where you have to pick and choose between Nature's Swiftness, Renewal, and Cenarion Ward. There's a situational argument to be made for all three, although most players are probably going to consider it a matter to be decided between Nature's Swiftness and Cenarion Ward, subject to how good CW actually turns out to be in groups and raids. Otherwise, what you pick at each level is either pretty obvious or (more commonly) not going to affect how you play in any serious fashion.
Granted, PvP players will probably think differently after not doing so well for the length of Cataclysm. The tree contains a number of situational or personal survival-oriented talents that seem like a better fit for Arena than raids.
The bad side of good
Now you can turn this around and point out that the lack of any truly difficult decisions in the talent tree and no serious changes to the skill set isn't actually a good thing, because it means that the spec's existing issues aren't really being addressed by the expansion. There's a large grain of truth to this, particularly because resto still lacks the kind of ass-saving raid cooldown that every other healer has. (Ironbark helps, and it's all puppies and win, but discipline priests are not going to trade Power Word: Barrier for it.) Symbiosis also doesn't fix this, at least not as of the latest information on the skills to which we'll have access.
But right now, all I know is that resto's relative lack of change is a reassuring fixed point in a universe where everything else is unstable. Resto feels all about how much you're getting in Mists, whereas guardian feels all about how much you're losing.
Shifting Perspectives: Bear and Resto Edition takes a peek at healer balance in Dragon Soul, discovers why bears and PvP gear are a pretty good mix, lends advice on gearing up to hit the Raid Finder, and helps you level a druid in the Cataclysm era.