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Shifting Perspectives: Do restoration druids need a cooldown?

Allison Robert

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Shifting Perspectives for cat, bear, restoration, and balance druids. This Tuesday, we equivocate on whether a point made in Shifting Perspectives: Healers, selfishness, and trouble ahead was prescient or just another beneficiary of Allie's usual dumb luck.

The title of today's Shifting column is maybe a little misleading. Strictly speaking, restoration already has a cooldown -- the still-controversial Disco Soul Patch Groovy Tree that has wildly gesticulated its way into all our hearts (well, some peoples' hearts) -- but now the developers are considering other possibilities in light of some data from tier 11 raids.

Not that we have access to said data (or anything to go on besides our usual rampant speculation), but a few trends have emerged from tier 11 that make the possibility of getting a big cooldown a bit more likely.

Recent announcements

This was announced this past week in a thread devoted mostly to priest and shaman tweaks, so I've included only the pertinent section:

We agree with the sentiment among some players that Restoration druids and Restoration shaman are lacking in the healing cooldown department. The shaman buff and Power Word: Shield adjustment above should bring all healers reasonably close in terms of throughput. The decision on who to bring then might end up being dictated by the strong cooldowns offered by paladins or priests. This isn't the kind of thing we can address via a hotfix, but it is something we are looking at for the next major content patch.

As always, we appreciate your continued constructive feedback and will do our best to keep you informed of ongoing developments.

There are two stand-out points here:
  • Blizzard isn't concerned about healer throughput once these changes have gone into effect. I'm a little ambivalent on this. Druid throughput in comparison to paladins and priests was at shocking lows for a significant portion of tier 11, a consequence of raid design and (Blizzard posited) an overly-expensive Rejuvenation and Wild Growth pre-4.0.6. I can only assume that the developers are looking at numbers we don't have, so let's concede the point and assume that healer throughput has reached acceptable equivalency these days. If a skilled player can pump out roughly the same numbers on any healing class, the question over which you'd take then hinges on the next point.
  • Healer cooldowns have an impact on class desirability. This isn't the sort of observation requiring a rocket scientist to make. Druids and shaman simply cannot compete with paladins and priests on this count; Guardian Spirit, Pain Suppression, and Hand of Sacrifice exercise too great an impact on tank survivability in raid content.
A point that I haven't often seen made concerning the issue is that Blizzard has largely standardized tanks' cooldowns in order to protect class desirability but has curiously avoided doing so for healers. While this is just a guess, I've been wondering if the overwhelming popularity of 10-man raids in comparison to their 25-man counterparts could be what's driving this, given that Blizzard has typically been very resistant to homogenizing healer cooldowns. A 10-man raid with druid and shaman healers can't respond as effectively to big damage spikes on tanks, and it's possible that the developers are seeing a higher than average failure rate in raids without access to paladin and priest cooldowns.

While the druid still excels at maximizing throughput even in stressful, high-movement environments (Valiona and Theralion say hello!), that's not a substitute for the ability to prevent huge chunks of damage. And as anyone who slogged through the early Wrath version of Sartharion-25 with three drakes up can tell you, it's also not a substitute for the ability to chain cooldowns in tandem with a skilled tank to weather the most dangerous portion of a fight.

The popular "Barkskin option"

A targetable Barkskin has been a very frequent suggestion on the druid boards, but I have to admit it leaves me cold. A 20% damage reduction for any target on a 1-minute cooldown is much too powerful a bonus in PvP for Blizzard to realistically implement, even allowing for the fact that Barkskin can be dispelled. In PvE, it's the equivalent of handing a tank's standard short-duration cooldown to anyone in the raid, and that feels pretty overpowered as well. Verdus, commenting on Restokin's excellent post concerning the issue, made a point that will be all too familiar to experienced WoW players: The choice over using a desirable cooldown for yourself or the tank isn't really much of a choice. Being able to slap it on a tank, particularly in heroic raid content, amounts to kissing any personal use of the cooldown goodbye.

I tend to agree with Lissanna's observation that simply making Barkskin castable on other players would create more problems than it would actually solve. Moonkin and cats would be obligated to use the spell on cooldown to protect tanks or vulnerable raid members, and that's both a distraction and damage loss that other DPS are rarely asked to shoulder. Moreover, not tying it to resto druids specifically would all but invalidate Blizzard's efforts to address the desirability of druid healers in relation to paladins and priests. All druids' getting the bonus doesn't change the spec's situation versus healers with access to more powerful cooldowns, and -- although this could just be the bear druid in me that's still smarting and angry over the loss of root breaks from shapeshifting as of 4.0.6 -- I'm getting intensely weary of one spec's issues overflowing into everyone else's.

Make no mistake; the potential cooldown is one meant to equal existing cooldowns that overwhelmingly save tanks in high-pressure situations in raid content. While I agree that this cooldown should happen, the most obvious option is problematic, and I think more discussion is warranted.

What race should you choose for your druid? What happened to Tree of Life? How can you get started as a bear or cat in Cataclysm? Shifting Perspectives has the answers!

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