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Cataclysm Class Changes: Resto druid analysis

Allison Robert

Yeah, I realize the irony of using this particular picture in any article concerning the recently-announced changes for the restoration druid in Cataclysm. Before we do anything else, I will state right now that I've moved the portion of this article discussing the Tree of Life change to tomorrow's Shifting Perspectives, because the topic deserves a feature of its own. Eerily enough, it's coming just around a year after we devoted another Shifting to that very subject.

It would be fair to say that the only truly new thing we're likely to see is a talent named Efflour Eflorr Effloress something that starts with E. Suffice it to say that this didn't go down well with a lot of druids, but perhaps more interesting was what Blizzard didn't say or glossed over. One of the commenters on Elitist Jerks observed with a touch of pique that the resto druid announcements could be summarized as, "No new spells, but your old spells will work differently," without any real information on that last bit. And, well, there's a grain of truth to that.

Restoration druids will have a new talent called Efflorescence, which causes a bed of healing flora to sprout beneath targets that are critically healed by Regrowth.

The one truly new thing we're getting sounds intriguing, making it potentially worth switching to Regrowth healing for melee DPS and certainly tanks. I'm loathe to say much else at this point, because we don't know how much it will heal for, how large the effect is or whether it's triggered only by a crit on Regrowth's direct heal or one of the HoT ticks. Hopefully it'll be both.

Chance of this reusing the Lifeblood or Path of Cenarius animation
: Very high.

Chance of absolutely no one being able to spell this talent correctly
: Also very high.

All heal-over-time spells (HoTs) will benefit from crit and haste innately in Cataclysm. Hasted HoTs do not reduce their duration, but instead add additional HoT ticks. Haste will also benefit Energy generation while in cat form.

Anticipating this buff was pretty much a no-brainer, given the changes being made to other classes' DoT and HoT effects. One of the more pressing questions is exactly how it'll be implemented if +haste doesn't affect spell duration (i.e., the way that Glyph of Rapid Rejuvenation does now, with occasionally problematic results). "Additional HoT ticks" is a bit vague. Are there going to be specific +haste thresholds that each add another full tick once passed (e.g., you reach +100 haste and add another tick, +200 haste and add two ticks, and so on and so forth)? Or, more likely (and one of the ideas being floated around various forums), that that HoTs will tick more frequently but for less each tick? We don't know. I don't think it's something that Blizzard's clarified yet, and it's possible they haven't come to a decision on how it will work. Realistically, haste could become way too good under this model, and that worries me.

Crit's a little more straightforward since we've seen it in action on the tier 9 four-piece bonus. Giving all HoTs the ability to crit could go one of two ways. If mana regeneration is really gutted, healers struggle to avoid going OOM before the end of an encounter, and most of the raid really does spend the majority of encounters wounded rather than topped off. I can absolutely see +crit becoming a stat that we don't groan at seeing all over our gear. However, pending information on exactly how the +haste change will happen, it's impossible to make a call on how good crit will be relative to haste.

A lot will depend a lot on the nature of Cataclysm raid encounters. Lots of fights like Blood Princes? Yay, crit. Lots of fights like Saurfang, with raid damage minimal to nonexistent, competing against paladins who will almost certainly still be the kings of single-target throughput and shamans who can get multiple raiders to full before a HoT does anything? An ocean of irritating overheal. We'll see.

Unlike the other healers, Restoration druids will not be receiving any new spells. They have plenty to work with already, and our challenge instead is to make sure all of them have a well-defined niche. A druid should be able to tank-heal with stacks of Lifebloom, spot-heal a group with Nourish and Regrowth, and top off lightly wounded targets with Rejuvenation.

This announcement was not received well by many druids, although I think criticism of the decision is overblown. While it always sucks to hear you're not getting anything new, Blizzard's correct that restoration has a good spell kit. It's hard to argue we need something else when the real problem is that the array of spells we've already got run a very distant second to the throughput and efficiency of the Rejuvenation/Wild Growth rotation.

I will admit to a touch of irritation at the snark over "two-button spam." We can't compete with the Gatling gun tank-spam of a paladin (have fun on heroic Saurfang without them), Lifebloom was gutted for PvE purposes in 3.1, and spot-healing with Nourish is an exercise in futility (assuming your shaman can remember where her Chain Heal button is). Tranquility is on one long-ass cooldown, and you have to glyph and spec into Healing Touch to make the spell worth a damn on content that matters. Absent any damage-reduction cooldowns like Guardian Spirit or buffs like Inspiration/Ancestral Fortitude, our contribution to the survivability of the raid is accomplished entirely by way of healing throughput. Given this, it should not have been a surprise that the overwhelming portion of a tree's healing in 25-man content would wind up being Rejuvenation and Wild Growth spam, which is precisely what maximizes that throughput.

We just don't have enough reason to use the other stuff, but we do know how Blizzard dealt with this on another class. The restoration shaman's toolkit was "diversified" in the transition between Burning Crusade and Wrath with the addition of the Tidal Waves buff. While Riptide admittedly played a role in this, the goal was to get shamans to stop relying on Chain Heal for every conceivable situation. Blizzard did this, not by nerfing Chain Heal, but by giving shamans more reasons to cast Lesser Healing Wave and Healing Wave.

Because Blizzard didn't really elaborate on changes to existing spells, a few possibly harebrained guesses:
  • Lifebloom will get better. Our tank-healing standby is basically worthless in most of today's content. Assuming tanks spend more time wounded, a per-second HoT goes back to being a big deal rather than pointless and expensive overheal. The spell itself will probably get some tinkering too, because right now it's way too expensive for the amount of healing it does if you "roll" it on a tank.
  • We'll get a Tidal Wavesque talent that affects direct heals and/or Regrowth. We need a reason to use Nourish and Healing Touch that does not involve reglyphing, respeccing or yoking the latter to Nature's Swiftness. Regrowth may or may not get toyed with, depending on how good Efflor-wotsit is (see above).
  • The Tree of Life cooldown really has to be good. But we'll talk about this more tomorrow. In a nutshell, it can't just be, "You'll heal more, lawl."
Druids will lose Abolish Poison with the dispel mechanics change, but Restoration druids will gain Dispel Magic (on friendly targets) as a talent. All druids can still remove poisons with Cure Poison and remove curses with Remove Curse.

This change had already been announced. Blizzard wants dispelling to be more of a choice. Unfortunately, right now that choice is: as I sit here being stunlocked from 100 to 0%, would it theoretically have been worth my time to dispel Wound Poison before trying to heal, or better to try for a Rejuvenation + Swiftmend combo? Of course, the issue's entirely academic while you're running back from the graveyard. God, I hate rogues.

I dearly wish dispel decisions involved players having to make a choice over whether to apply debuffs as well. For many classes, it's absurdly easy -- brainless, even -- to apply debuffs that are talented/baked into automatic weapon swings or abilities. It is not fun worrying about spending a global on a dispel when your opponent doesn't have to devote thought or resources to reapplying a debuff. Otherwise, dispels in Cataclysm are pretty much going to be business as usual, barring the ability to dispel magic (yay!) and the inability to fire-and-forget an Abolish Poison for 12 seconds (boo!).

HoT Scale Healing: HoTs will do increased healing on more wounded targets. The mechanic is similar to that of the Restoration shaman, but with HoTs instead of direct heals. In Cataclysm, we anticipate druids using a greater variety of their spells so there is a distinction between healing and HoT healing.

This is one of the mastery bonuses for restoration, and it's kind of a free, all-purpose version of Glyph of Rejuvenation ... which, it bears mentioning, does not see much use in PvE content. I think it was a commenter on Restokin's article examining the changes who pointed out that a wounded player becomes a high-priority target for direct healers, so the extent to which the mastery bonus is going to be useful depends an awful lot on the heal team's collective discipline not to snipe targets who have HoTs running on them. Failing that (and, let's be honest, it will fail), the threat of running OOM has to be very real to prevent healers from overriding another healer's targets.

Again, I'll see you folks back here tomorrow for a Shifting Perspectives on the Tree of Life change.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will destroy Azeroth as we know it. Nothing will be the same. In's Guide to Cataclysm you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion. From goblins and worgens to mastery and guild changes, it's all there for your cataclysmic enjoyment.

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