Friday, May 7, 2010

Trees can Moonfire, wha?: Resto Druid Talents in the Cataclysm Alpha

So, a Turkey is still a Turkey, except for the dizziness from the nerf-bat and the fact that we can throw mushrooms and summon lasers from the sky.

But a Tree is no longer a Tree, at least in the 'traditional' sense.

The Resto talents that have been presented with the Alpha leak are quite interesting and my analysis is presented for you to, er, analyze.

Please bear in mind that all of this information is subject to change between now and release!

The talent changes presented via the leaked information can be found here.

New Talents

  • Blessing of the Grove: Providing small buffs to a key ability for each spec (alright, feral gets two), this talent will likely be taken by everyone, just as IGotW was, on the way to that lovely Clearcasting talent.
  • Perserverance: The 6% spell damage reduction taken from Balance of Power in the Balance tree has been moved here, but now for 10% over 5 points. It's a low-tier talent but with three points needed for Natural Shapeshifter as a pre-req for Master Shapeshifter, I'm not certain there are more than two points to spend on it. Edit: Actually, after looking through it further, I lied; since I'm still not sold on the new usefulness of Tranquility you could easily place all five points into here in order to reach Tier 6.
  • Fury of Stormrage: Blessing of the Grove hinted at a dual-nature for Resto druids; this slaps us in the face with it. Nourish one person and get a nuke, free! Except that the 'free nuke' will likely trigger the GCD which, as a healer, I might be using to heal someone else. With the Moonfire->Starfire portion, this really feels better placed in the Balance tree where it would likely be overpowered.
  • Efflorescence: God, trying to type that out is a pita. I expect it to be called 'Eff' or 'Flower Patch'. Have you seen the patch of flowers that sprout under the feet of someone who uses the Herbalism HoT Lifeblood? I expect this looks a lot like that, except with maybe more flowers. 15 yards is a reasonable distance (the same as Lifebloom) but this HoT is uncontrolled; your party members are going to have to run to it themselves. Highly useful in fights where people are clustered and this extra HoT will of course heal the person you originally healed unless they move. Overall expect lots of overhealing and grumbling because you finally critted on that lone guy over there and not on the cluster of six you've been healing for the last two minutes. Also, the spell doesn't say what part of the healing done by Regrowth is transferred; healing from an entire Regrowth or only from the direct heal? This talent is 'broken' and displays as Living Spirit's tooltip for Rank 2 and Rank 3.



Old Stuff that's Really New
  • Empowered Touch: If we're seeing HP values dip that low... I'm excited and worried all at the same time. The Nourish->Lifebloom synergy implies that the devs really do expect us to use our entire bag of tricks now.
  • Revitalize: I am not a fan of the Lich King fight. Trees are not strong on this fight; in fact, I'd say overall we're pretty weak for raid-healing here because we cannot directly battle Infest. What we still bring to the fight, however, is Revitalize which ups DPS overall and at least helps us kill Arthas more quickly. Blizzard says there will be no more of that! It makes sense, else many druids would continue in a 5x1 rotation just to keep Revitalize on everyone. Now we're going a complete 180, to the spells that are used very little currently. Another sign that crit is coming.
  • Tree of Life: This is the biggest change to the entire tree in the eyes of most Resto druids. We're no longer trees while healing--at least most of the time. The druid community is split on this matter; I personally am excited from a PvP standpoint. However, we didn't just use a cosmetic effect. Not only do they remove the 20% mana reduction to healing spells, it looks like we're back to being slow. If they don't provide a glyph to remove the movement decrease, I probably won't use it except on Patchwerk-style fights. AoE and other fight mechanics that require movement are too dangerous to have a speed decrease; hell, they're too dangerous at normal speed, which is why a huge majority of raiders currently use Tuskarr's Vitality on their feet. Some information on what the 'temporary enhancements' might be will help with determining just how useful this will be, but don't expect that info for some time. At the moment, I'd say this should be a useful cooldown for a raid-wide damage phase, such as during BQL's Bloodbolt Whirl, but there's too little information to really say what good it will do. The slow, however, pisses me off. Notice the removal of spell restrictions, which leads us to...
  • Improved Tree of Life: Doesn't have Tree of Life as a pre-req, heh. 5:00 to 3:30 is not terrible; in a 10-minute fight, you'll be able to use it 3 times instead of 2. 15% damage increase, though? They've removed the 'healing and buffs-only' restriction of Tree of Life form but since when do healers get to DPS? Since Cataclysm, it seems.
  • Gift of the Earthmother: Goodbye haste and a CD reduction to a spell we really didn't use much (pretty sure no one ever took the talent for the Lifebloom CD reduction), hello buffs! Again the talent is a little-here-little-there to a few different spells but, with all that it's bringing, I can certainly see why this talent is Tier 10. The Tranq buff is, of course, situational. The LB bloom will be useful if LB becomes useful (the devs certainly seem to think it will) and since Rejuv will still be used a lot while people kick the 5x1 habit, the immediate heal will be of use overall.



Old Stuff with New Changes
  • Naturalist: Moved from Tier 2 to Tier 3; replaces Intensity as the pre-req for Nature's Swiftness.
  • Improved Rejuvenation: Bonus now affects Swiftmend as well.
  • Nature's Swiftness: Naturalist replaces Intensity as its pre-req.
  • Improved Tranquility: This one is a little odd. The first point switches a cooldown reduction of 30% for a 25% damage reduction while channeling the spell. The second point goes back to the original talent of 60% cooldown reduction. Assuming the change is the first, 50% damage reduction will be amazing, but Tranquility is still a spell that I'm uncertain about and I'd rather have the cooldown reduction.
  • Living Seed: Moved from Tier 9 to Tier 6 and is now the pre-req for the new Efflorescence talent.
  • Nature's Bounty: Now the pre-req for Swiftmend, it looks like crit will be added to our plates once again.
  • Swiftmend: Nature's Bounty is now a pre-req. Cost decreased from 16% of base to 12% of base.
  • Natural Perfection: Removed the crit chance and moved from Tier 7 to Tier 8. Still a PvP talent if you ask me, just a less useful one with the crit removal. So, why did this go up a Tier?
  • Empowered Rejuvenation: Now affects Swiftmend.
  • Improved Barkskin: No longer reduces the chance for Barkskin to be dispelled. PvPers everywhere are mourning.
  • Wild Growth: I almost put this one under 'unchanged', but the mana cost has: up to 37% from 23%. Combined with the promise of 'mana problems' during a fight, devs certainly don't want this one spammed on cooldown.



Old Stuff that's Gone Missing
  • Improved Gift of the Wild: Blizzard is removing all 'improved' versions of buffs; bye-bye super-paw.
  • Intensity: Here's the first hint of Resto mana conservation. Naturalist is now the pre-req for Nature's Swiftness.
  • Gift of Nature: Swiftmend's new pre-req is Nature's Bounty.
  • Living Spirit: Most trees were beginning to drop this, anyhow.



Nothing's Changed... Yet
  • Nature's Focus
  • Furor
  • Subtlety
  • Natural Shapeshifter
  • Omen of Clarity
  • Master Shapeshifter
  • Tranquil Spirit



My thoughts? It's not that unheard-of for a DPS to switch to healing in the middle of a fight to cover some slack while a battle-rez happens or during a nasty transition. But for a healer to go DPS? No, usually you want your healers watching for that next big damage spike or constantly spamming their big heals with /stopcasting macros built in. Aside from BQL after 16 bites when folks are self-healing enough that Moonfire from healers is alright or during Arthas' last 10%, healers don't DPS while raiding as a healer.

Blizzard seems to have other ideas.

I HATE the slowdown in tree form. Without knowing how some spells will be specifically affected by being in Tree of Life form, there's not much to say at the moment other than if we get to look like the Ancients in Darnassus, hell yeah, and I want it to be permanent! The speed thing is going to be a sticking point with me, however.

Blizzard has removed just about all of the appeal of the 5x1 rotation: the insane mana regen and cost reductions are out the window, the increased cost of Wild Growth, the changes to Revitalize--they've attacked 5x1 from all sides. Most of the talents now look like a hodge-podge of synergistic "if this then that" thought processes that will just require nice, new mods that tell us what we should be doing (see feral's Bad Kitty mod). Sure, haste will be useful with HoTs affected as well as cast times, but with so much emphasis on criticals to trigger other abilities as well as the permanent implementation of 4T9's crit for HoT ticks, I think we'll be trading in our current haste-stacked gear for new crit-stacked gear come Cataclysm.

Tranquility is another matter. As it is now, I use Tranquility to heal my group to full after a wipe, that's about it. It's already been said that Tranquility will now be raid-wide which ups its usefulness significantly. Two Resto druids popping this after a Precious/Stinky Devestate would be quite sick to see. It could also potentially give you some fast, over-time healing that gives you a moment longer to survey the battlefield and figure out who needs to be fixed up next--or to heal while scrounging the mini-map for where the silly hunter died so you can brez. I'd still want to see it in action before I pass judgment, but something so situational and on such a long cooldown probably won't cause me to spend Talents on it.

Keep in mind that the above is from a raiding perspective; PvP and 5-mans are a different story. I DPS while healing quite often in 5-mans because otherwise I would fall asleep at the keyboard. Assuming we ever get to the point that the healer can go AFK for the whole run and everything be alright in a random heroic Cataclysm dungeon, the changes won't be so bad.

As with the Balance tree, however, the PvP side seems to be getting better. Since our heals outside of Tree of Life form in Cataclysm should be in roughly the same ballpark as they are inside of Tree of Life form currently, being a Resto Druid in PvP has become more viable. Sure, we could just heal like crazy and keep ourselves and our allies alive, but having to drop from tree form to cast Cyclone or Entangling Roots is annoying--and don't get me started on the Hurricane bug a few weeks back. I spent most of my time in BGs in caster-form with gimped heals but with more options available to me and without the huge 'kill me!' sign over my head that Tree of Life form is.

All in all, I'm interested in knowing how this will play out.

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