I'm not much of a PvP player. I enjoy random battlegrounds, particularly when I'm healbotting someone who cares whether I live or die, but I lack a certain something when it comes to better performance. I think that something is called talent, or perhaps just luck. We might even call it gear. Regardless, I'm not a great PvPer, so I usually sit on the sidelines and observe while the people who are great PvPers argue about arena team composition and rated battleground strategy. These people have not been enthusiastic about restoration druids in Cataclysm.
That's not normal. Resto has been a strong PvP spec since season two of The Burning Crusade (although we need to make an exception for the dismal season five at the beginning of Wrath of the Lich King), so it was a surprise to see such widespread ambivalence among the PvP population. However, there does seem to be a broad consensus about why resto has so many problems in PvP, and people are cautiously optimistic that Mists of Pandaria will be better.
Note: As stated, I'm far from an expert PvP player. I consider this an observational piece, and if you have personal experience with resto's performance during Cataclysm, I'd love to hear from you in the comments.
What are resto's problems in PvP?
Whenever resto's stumbled over the years, a few pretty consistent themes tend to emerge while players discuss the problems, but Cataclysm added a few unique issues to the mix:
- Limited capacity to address burst damage Swiftmend and a Nature's Swiftness/Healing Touch combo were your options when a player had taken massive damage in a short period of time. Once these were on cooldown, you were stuck with the expensive Regrowth or the druid's historically mediocre single-target heals.
- Difficulty responding to target swaps Target-swapping is a common tactic to apply pressure to an enemy player, and druids -- with their ramp-up time on Lifebloom and, again, mediocre single-target heals -- have always been weak to it.
- Loss of multi-target Lifebloom This hit resto very hard, particularly in 5v5, which was already a problematic bracket for the spec. Getting it "back" with the Tree of Life cooldown was valuable, but it didn't change resto's problems once the cooldown was over.
- Lack of cooldowns for other players The lack of damage-reduction cooldowns for resto has been a perennial sore point. Without any ability to prevent or ameliorate damage, druids were on the hook for healing through everything, which just exacerbated existing problems with burst.
- The first season or two of an expansion is always tough Even with the adoption of the three-heal model for all healers, resto's mainline spell is, and probably always will be, Rejuvenation. HOTs are a great match for players with a lot of resilience, but a gradual healing spell for players who aren't taking damage so gradually is bad.
- Active mastery that promoted global cooldown lock Druids are the only healer witout passive benefit from the mastery stat. In order to get any benefit from mastery at all, druids had to use a direct-healing spell or Swiftmend once every 10 seconds. In PvE, you typically did this by slapping a direct heal on your tank to address both the Harmony and Lifebloom timers. In PvP, the 10-second timer was just too short given the unpredictability of other players' strategy and damage. Crowd control chains, interrupts, and silences meant that druids routinely lost all benefit from mastery. Even under normal circumstances, keeping Harmony running at arena's frenetic pace was a pain in the ass or (by way of Regrowth) expensive.
- Susceptibility to purges This has always been an issue for resto players. As Ynx at Arena Junkies observed, it wasn't fun to land a Nourish cast on a target who'd already had two of three Lifebloom stacks purged. Purging HOTs off players was also an easy way to make Nourish, the druid's efficient heal, a lot weaker.
Looking ahead to Mists of Pandaria
Players seem to be cautiously optimistic about Mists of Pandaria, because Blizzard's taken careful aim at a number of the spec's most dogged weaknesses. As a short gloss, Ironbark gives us the means to reduce damage on other players, and two glyphs -- Glyph of Lifebloom and Glyph of Blooming -- are tailor-made to address present resto concerns. However, I'm tempted to say that more liberal Lifebloom and Harmony timers are probably going to have the most significant impact on the spec's effectiveness; it feels like play has relaxed overall, and you can afford to pay attention to other things on the battlefield without being punished by timers anymore. Being able to place Wild Mushrooms in your team's fall-back spot won't hurt either.
However, this is arm-waving (at best) from a battleground diletantte. PvP druids, are you optimistic about MoP, or is there something here I'm not seeing that's still cause for concern?
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.