Every week, Shifting Perspectives explores issues affecting feral/restoration druids and those who group with them. This week, we eschew the future in favor of the present, and are also delighted to discover that the Mac video capture bug appears to have been fixed on the beta.
Many thanks to Raylis of Wyrmrest Accord for putting together a guide to troll form associations and allowing me to use it. We'll have a worgen version up once the barbershop starts cooperating!
Resto's picked up a lot of interesting stuff recently. Whether these changes survive to patch 4.0.1 intact is anyone's guess, but today's column is a comprehensive look at all restoration talents as of build 13066 on a level 85 premade druid (average ilevel 335). Because the subject matter's on the dry side unless you're a healer, I've also included:
Some notes concerning Cataclysm questing
Why Anduin Wrynn is awesome
Video of male worgen interrogation techniques (now that my video capture is actually working, you'll see more videos popping up soon)
Video of said male worgen casting most of our heals with the user interface active to give you a sense of the numbers and efficiency you'll see at level 85 with pre-heroic blues
Odds and ends
Prince Anduin Wrynn is a pretty neat character and will accompany Alliance players on a little breadcrumb series around Stormwind that sends you to the Twilight Highlands. The little bugger even has his own gryphon and can follow you around if you take off. It's also nice for a change to have an escorted character who has a brain in his head and can drive the plot without being annoying about it. Also, he has a hearthstone and can cast Power Word: Shield. I find this hilarious.
Horde has a similar set of breadcrumb quests, but no major lore figures are involved outside of the beginning and the end. The Alliance quest series is much better, although the Horde's actual travel to the Twilight Highlands at the end sort of makes up for it if your tolerance for Garrosh's stupidity hasn't yet reached critical mass.
As of the latest build (or was it the build before? I think it was 13066, though) city quartermasters are offering tabards to anyone in their respective faction for a nominal fee, and level 40 cloaks to anyone exalted with them. Each of the quartermasters I've found so far has been either next or close to the city's flight master. I guess this means you won't have to keep grinding Champion's Seals at the Argent Tournament if you want tabards. Suffice it to say that I immediately picked up a Darnassus tabard for my worgen (I can't find the Gilnean quartermaster for the life of me, although his goblin counterpart is next to the Orgrimmar flight master) and a Thunder Bluff tabard for my tauren.
The worgen's transform animation can proc Clearcasting. The Running Wild animation is not yet in the game, although the white model I showed you last week is out.
Getting down to business
As you've probably guessed if you've read the site at all over the last few weeks, our editors have asked us to write a column or two on what to expect for patch 4.0.1. I've postponed the restoration version because the spec still feels shaky in comparison to its feral counterpart, and I'd like a little more group experience before I give an opinion on how things have shaped up. Right now it's tough to get an accurate sense of whether dungeon and heroic difficulty is the result of a flaw with the spec or (more likely) collective inexperience with the content.
That's not to say that the resto druid is an incapable healer on the beta -- healing is miles better than it used to be -- but there's lot of bloat in the talent tree that's resulted in some messy spec choices and the inability to pick up what would otherwise be required talents in balance. Nor is it the sort of bloat that Ghostcrawler (lead systems designer) once described as attractive in the sense that you're trying to make choices among genuinely compelling talents. It's the sort of bloat generated by a lot of talents having a small or situational effect on our healing -- but you have to get them anyway to reach the stuff that's truly helpful. Consequently, I'm hesitant to write a big guide on the 4.0.1 playstyle just yet, because the developers are still tinkering. The most recent beta build had a lot of really neat changes that we'll discuss here.
These are level 85 premade stats, outfitted in pre-heroic blues with an average ilevel of 335 (blues dropped in heroics are ilevel 346 for comparison):
Blessing of the Grove Not among the more exciting talents in the tree, but you'll wind up picking it up anyway, as Rejuvenation is still a primary (if expensive) heal.
Natural Shapeshifter For PvE purposes, this is a functionally useless talent, and even in PvP I'm not sure how much good it will do with relatively small shifting costs across the board. The two-point commitment to reach Master Shapeshifter is a real problem and representative of the current issues with the tree.
As a note, these are shapeshifting costs with Natural Shapeshifter:
Bear 744 mana
Cat 744 mana
Aquatic 1,192 mana
Travel 1,192 mana
Tree of Life 894 mana
Flight Form 1,192 mana
And shapeshifting costs without Natural Shapeshifter:
Bear 931 mana
Cat 931 mana
Aquatic 1,490 mana
Travel 1,490 mana
Tree of Life 1,118 mana
Flight Form 1,490 mana
This is out of an unbuffed mana pool of 58,510 without talents; 63,040 once talented; and 83,779 with talents and Mark of the Wild.
Naturalist Mandatory, though half the talent's benefit goes to a spell that will wreck your mana if you use it more than a few times (Healing Touch).
Heart of the Wild Really intended for ferals but attractive to resto for obvious reasons.
Perseverance This is a talent I would actually love to pick up in a restoration build. Player survival in 5-mans and raids will, I think, be prejudiced toward classes with self-healing capabilities or survivability/immunity cooldowns, because it's very expensive for healers to keep everyone topped off regularly. This can be dangerous in heroics, and I can only assume it will be equally dangerous on at least a few future raid encounters (and this is true to the point where I wonder whether the feral's Leader of the Pack is going to survive unscathed). Barkskin helps, but I would happily squeeze any drop of passive damage mitigation I could from the tree. Unfortunately, Perseverance isn't an easily affordable talent at the moment, though perhaps it's not meant to be.
Master Shapeshifter A passive and useful increase to our healing in both caster and tree form, but it comes at the cost of having two points in a functionally useless Natural Shapeshifter.
Improved Rejuvenation Very useful, but I wonder if it's possible to move the Blessing of the Grove bonus here as well. We really don't need two talents in the tree that are simply passive increases to Rejuvenation. The Swiftmend component has become more valuable now that it's been yoked to Efflorescence (which I think was a very good decision -- more on this later).
Living Seed The developers seem like they're trying to push resto in the direction of tank healing over raid healing, which is not a role that we've typically had since The Burning Crusade. In the absence of any group healing ability unrestricted by cooldowns (e.g., Wild Growth, Tranquility), we're not quite as well placed to compete with a holy priest or resto shaman unless the raid's sufficiently wounded for Rejuvenation to be a worthy alternative.
That may sound reasonable, but consider this: That's more or less the situation we've already got with the Wrath of the Lich King model that Blizzard (with good reason) is trying to leave behind. Our raid-healing supremacy in Wrath is, I would argue, mostly the result of constant damage auras that don't penalize HoTs. Rejuvenation and Wild Growth almost never go to waste on a target taking damage each second. By contrast, whether they're helpful or simply overheal on encounters with more limited raid damage is entirely a function of what the other healers in your raid are doing -- and I don't think that Blizzard will make widespread use of damage auras in Cataclysm, or at least not in tier 11. It can't realistically design content around healing efficiency that no longer exists.
In any event, Living Seed is still yoked to the increasingly useful Efflorescence, so you'll have to pick it up no matter what. And with Replenishment and the druid tier 11 bonus contingent on keeping Lifebloom rolling at all times, I would count on doing some limited tank healing, even if your assignment is elsewhere. Otherwise, our historically weak crit rates with anything other than the now-expensive Regrowth make Living Seed a pretty occasional bonus unless you're willing to blow through a ton of mana to use it constantly.
Revitalize Mandatory, mandatory, mandatory. I was surprised when Blizzard gave us Replenishment in 12984, but this was Ghostcrawler's reasoning:
Ghostcrawler - Replenishment to resto druids
We gave Replenishment to Restoration because we took it away from Survival hunters. It didn't make a lot of sense for a non-mana class to offer mana. We want to make sure Replenishment is easily available, though to be fair it is about half as effective as it was in Lich King.
Makes sense, and it's a semi-unique addition to a spec that doesn't bring the damage reduction or cooldowns that other healers bring to a raid. How helpful it will be is, of course, subject to how many DPSers with Replenishment you've already got hanging around, but it's already had a noticeable impact on my 5-mans. I wonder it it wouldn't make more sense to give Replenishment to all healers -- unless Blizzard is still counting on it to shore up the desirability of less-conventional raid DPS specs. That said, I'm not sure I'm comfortable being the only healer with the Replenishment advantage in 5-mans and heroics.
The next page has the rest of our talents plus video of spells/talents in action.