Friday, 7 January 2011

Patch 4.0.6 PTR: Upcoming Changes for Druids

First off, a Happy New Year to everyone! I hope everyone's had a good start to the new year.

What better way to start than with the announcement of a new patch finally on the horizon! Patch 4.0.6 has been deployed on the PTR, along with a lot of updates and changes pretty much across the board. I think they were waiting on a patch until after the holidays, but this should update and fix a lot of things, as well as apply many client-side things that were hotfixed but not fully updated (mainly things like tooltips, quest texts, etc). There may also be several new things broken in the new patch, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

There are a lot of druid changes coming up which seem to comprise a mix of buffs and nerfs. Full patch notes can be seen here.

Let's start with Resto changes.


Nourish / Healing Touch: Healing Touch is now trained at level 78 (up from level 3), Nourish is now trained at level 8 (down from level 78).
This is a nice little buff for levelling druids. Healing Touch seemed to be too expensive of a heal at low levels, so this swap should ease mana concerns some for levelling Resto druids.

Omen of Clarity: OoC can no longer trigger from helpful spells (aka heals) unless the Restoration talent Malfurion's Gift is chosen.
This is an interesting change which seems to be their solution to prevent OoC from accounting for too much mana savings. This basically means Malfurion's Gift will be a must-have for Resto druids. I'm not positive whether OoC will only have a chance to proc from Lifebloom (as MG right now causes Lifebloom to increase the proc chance) or whether it will change so that all healing spells have a chance to proc it when talented. I'll have to check that on the PTR or closer to/on live release date. If anyone has seen it on PTR already and knows with more certainty, do let me know.

Rejuvenation: Rejuvenation is now trained at level 3 (down from level 8) and its mana cost has been reduced from 26% to 16%.
This is a pretty big change and one I'm very glad to see. The high mana cost on Rejuvs at the moment is really mana intensive and can really limit druid heals, particularly on the raid. I realise they have been hoping to get away from the Wrath era of Rejuv spam, but such a high mana cost really took it a bit too far and was more limiting than anything. Hopefully this is a step in the right direction towards fixing that, and should also help druid raid heals more but also hopefully help make it easier for us to benefit from our mastery.

Regrowth: Empowered Touch now also affects Regrowth, and the Glyph of Regrowth now causes the HoT effect to refresh itself on targets below 50% health (up from 25% health).
This is a somewhat interesting change, clearly trying to push druids to resume using Regrowth, as many (including myself) have found it to be much less valuable, especially considering the high mana cost and low healing punch. Honestly, I'll likely continue using Regrowth primarily as I do now, which is largely on OoC procs during Tree of Life for the instant free Regrowths. This change will actually be quite nice for that - casting the Regrowth on a target with a LB during ToL will refresh it now, so you don't risk losing some of your LB stacks out on the raid during ToL.
While the buff to the glyph is nice, I still don't see that glyph as being particularly useful. The only fight I really see any potential value for it is Chimaeron, when the entire raid spends so much of the fight below 50% or less health. Even then, it's such an expensive heal in an already mana-intensive fight, that apart frm ToL OoC procs I again don't see it as more valuable than other glyph choices.
The Regrowth changes do make it at least a bit more interesting though and perhaps it will come into play a little more. This also leads us into our next change,

Nature's Bounty: Nature's Bounty no longer affects Swiftmend, but now has a new effect in addition to the increased Regrowth chance. When the druid has Rejuvenation out on 3 or more targets, the cast time of Nourish is reduced by 10/20/30%.
This is an interesting change to the talent Nature's Bounty and actually has me in a bit of a spec dilemma when this goes live. Currently I don't have any points in Nature's Bounty as I just don't feel it's useful enough, as Regrowth doesn't pack enough punch to make the increased crit chance worth it, especially with the high mana cost. The reduced cast time on Nourish is a very nice change, though, and should hopefully boost our raid healing a bit more. Assuming we have 3+ Rejuvs out on raid or party members, the reduced Nourish cast time allows for some quicker heals, which will likely be benefiting from those Rejuvs boosting both the Nourish and our Mastery. Combined with the reduced Rejuv mana cost, this should theoretically help our raid healing some. How this ends up in practice, though, is less certain. Certainly still our raid heals are in serious need of a boost, and though this might help, it's not a full fix. But more on that later.


Rake / Rip: Rake and Rip damage has been reduced by 10%.
Pretty straightforward reduction here on our bleed DoTs. I've heard some of these reductions have been for some additional PvP balance, which may be the case.

Shred / Mangle: Shred weapon damage percent (at level 80+) has been increased to 450% (up from 350%) and Mangle weapon damage percent (at level 80+) has been increased to 460% (up from 360%).
In contrast to the Rake/Rip nerfs, we have a decent buff to Shred and Mangle, so hopefully overall these changes will balance out.

Berserk: Berserk no longer breaks Fear or makes the druid immune to fear.
This was a pretty straight PvP adjustment, which is quite disappointing for PvE I feel. I can understand it for PvP balance, but there are definitely PvE encounters both when DPSing and tanking that the fear immunity/clearance is a great help. It would have been nice if it simply didn't work against player-cast fears, but that may have been more difficult to implement. Either way, we're stuck with it now!


-Barkskin is no longer dispellable.
-Mount Up guild perk now applies correctly to Flight Form and Swift Flight Form.
-Wild Mushroom is now instant cast and the radius of detonation has been increased by 6 yards and damage done increased by 15%.
-Night Elf racial trait Shadowmeld and the Tauren racial trait War Stomp can be used while shapeshifted.

There have also been some changes for our Bears (mostly decreased Mangle (Bear), Maul, and Lacerate damage) and Moonkins (Shooting Stars buff duration has been increased).

Overall, some decent changes so far. From what I've heard (hearsay from friends and guildies) this patch will likely go live around the 25th of January, but I haven't seen any official dates yet (if any have been posted, I've completely missed them). That also means that there's still time for some of these things to change. With that in mind, I won't be updating the guides until these changes go live. The feral nerfs and buffs will hopefully balance out so there's not an overall net loss to our PvE damage.

Resto Changes and PvE Healing Imbalance

The Resto changes are a step in the right direction, but I think there's still a ways to go in that area. While healers are seeming decently balanced in the 5 man dungeons and heroics, the four healing classes are definitely not balanced when it comes to raids, particularly 25 mans and 25 man heroics.

There was an excellent post by Xaar, a Resto druid from Paragon, on the EU WoW healing forums, which I really hope the Blizz devs have looked over. You can see the full post here: The state of 25-man raid healing.

In short, he discusses the imbalances that many of us are seeing and feeling in raids amongst the healing classes. Both druids and shamans are fairing poorly in raids, particularly when compared with paladin and priest (holy) healers. Shamans are a bit fortunate in that they provide Mana Tide totem, which can grab them a spot in raids, but many are finding they feel like mana-batteries for the priests and pallies. Druids unfortunately do not have such luck (and innervates are easily supplied by feral and balance druids) and, particularly in high progression guilds, are having a hard time being valuable to raids. While our tank healing tools were greatly improved, we lack the external cooldowns in damage reduction on tanks or increased healing that pallies have, so pallies will likely always be the preferential tank healers. The high mana cost to Rejuv and longer cooldown on Wild Growth is hitting our raid heals and holy priests are pulling ahead on raid heals. Although Disc priests are a bit below standard at the moment (they will be getting buffed in 4.0.6), Atonement discs have their place in certain fights and priests still provide external cooldowns in both specs (Pain Suppression and Guardian Spirit).

What we'll likely see happening is raids will begin stacking priests and pallies, especially for heroic modes, and both druids and shaman will likely get the bench. Shaman may still get in to provide a Mana Tide, but, as Xaar also mentions, as players attain more gear and mana conservation becomes less difficult, they too may end up by the wayside. Overall it ends up as very low balance in PvE healing, and both druids and shaman are in dire need of buffs. There are several paladin and priest buffs also slated in this upcoming patch (the priest buffs seem to be in reaction to PvP imbalance, where they were lacking), so there will likely be even more catching up to do for shaman and druids.

I'm really also in favour of some additional changes to druid healing. While Tree of Life now gives us that boost to healing cooldown, we're still lacking in what special things we can really bring to the raid to validate that raid spot. In the very least, especially as our tank-healing tools have been boosted, we need some sort of damage reduction ability. This could be in a similar vein to Shaman's Ancestral Healing and Priest's Inspiration, damage on the target is reduced by 10% for 15 seconds after a critical heal lands. In the very least this would be helpful, as we currently have no ability that reduces damage taken, which really knocks our tank-healing strengths. Living Seed is arguably a similar ability, but a damage reduction would be much more valuable in terms of aiding tank survivability. In fact, Living Seed would be the perfect talent to adjust to either include or change to a damage reduction ability.

Another option would be, as many have mentioned, to provide a deep Restoration talent which would allow Barkskin to be cast on another target, ie to be used as an additional external cooldown for a tank in the same vein as Pain Suppression. I certainly see this as being a very valid option and, if there are concerns about balance with such an ability, it seems there's automatic balance in keeping Barkskin on the one cooldown - the resto druid would only be able to cast it on one target, so they couldn't throw it on a tank and also use it on themself, they'd have to choose one or the other.

So, there's definitely a ways to go on druid healing, though hopefully the Rejuv changes and potentially the Regrowth changes will be a step in the right direction for us. We'll have to see how it plays out and, as more data and feedback comes in, especially as more players and guilds are able to get in and experience the new raid content, hopefully there'll be more changes in store. Certainly at the moment it's feeling like Lich King Heroic all over again - stack priests and pallies, maybe a shaman for mana tide if you're lucky, but druids are by the wayside.


Ihrayeep said...

We've been crying for an external damage mitigation tool forEVER...but I really really like that idea about being able to cast barkskin on someone else. My only concern is that if they implemented it the CD would probably go up...1 minute seems awfully quick for a SAVE THE TANK OH SHI>>> button.

It would basically be like an on-demand Inspiration...I haven't played my priest in a while so I don't remember -- is there an ICD on inspiration proccing off again?

Regardless...something, I agree, is definitely needed. And anything they give me to help keep my squishy mage 2s partner up would be heartily appreciated from this corner :)

Beruthiel said...

I'm actually really curious to hear what you would consider dropping to obtain Nature's Bounty if it ends up being valuable enough to pick back up. I'm really very torn - as I feel I'm already so strapped on talents in the resto tree.

Honestly, I'd love to see them delink the lackluster living seed from effloressence. I think I'd probably ditch living seed in a heartbeat if they did that. Of course, that's probably why we won't ever see that happen.

Feral Tree said...

Hhm yeah the cooldown on it might be tricky. Perhaps talenting it could make just a slightly different barkskin then that's on a 5 min cooldown like other externals, and just separate it from personal Barkskin altogether.

I'm not certain on the ICD of Inspiration/Ancestral Healing, I don't think there is one though as I've seen those refresh on targets on my priest/shaman on crit heals.

But yes, something is definitely needed, as druids really aren't doing anything atm. The only thing I could see is bringing back the ToL aura that increases healing taken by 10% (perhaps when picking up ToL talent it'll just be up 24/7 in caster form), though even that wasn't enough to bring druids in some raids, so perhaps not.

I'm in quite a bind as well as I'm not certain what I'd like to drop. For 25s I will most likely drop Nature's Cure, as the dispel isn't needed when other classes can handle it. That takes care of 1 point for NB. Nature's Swiftness is one I know many have dropped, I personally like having it though for emergencies - it won't max heal someone like it did in Wrath, but it can still buy extra seconds. If you're one who doesn't need or like NS, though, that's a potential point to drop. The other points I could theoretically see moving are -maybe- Swift Rejuv (though, a la my earlier post on SR, I'd prefer to keep that, esp with the mana cost of Rejuv coming down).

Maybe a point or two out of Gift of the Earthmother if rarely allowing Lifebloom to bloom, though that too I like to have to boost LB blooms (30k+ crits) as well as boosting Rejuv's front-load. Efflorescence is one a point or two could perhaps be dropped from as it isn't really healing for too much at the moment following its nerfs from 4.0/beta, but I wouldn't drop it entirely.

If Living Seed weren't connected to Efflo, that might have been one, though that's the closest tank-healing tool we have to Inspiration/Ancestral Healing, so if you're doing a lot of tank healing it may not be as helpful.

TL;DR, it's definitely going to be a tricky decision. I think it may come down more to how many points are worth investing in Nature's Bounty - I'll likely be playing with 1, 2, and 3 points in there to see just how useful the changes are. It's possible the changes may be more useful for certain things as well, ie 5 mans vs 25 mans vs PvP, etc.

Perhaps deserving of its own post, really! I need to get myself back on the PTR to test some of these things out. I wonder how much it will change (if at all) on actual patch release too.

Saeadame said...

Hm the Barkskin thing sounds good - and they could frankly just make it exactly like the pain suppression talent (40% less damage for 8 sec every 3 minutes) or they could keep the cooldown the same and just make it 1/3 as effective as PS (ie, 10% less damage for, say, 12 sec every 1 minute). That would make it useful as a small cooldown, but not so powerful that you want to "save" it like you might PS.

My jury's still out on the GoRegrowth change. I think it might be more useful in 5 mans where you have total control over the healing than in raids, where you don't. I can see it being very useful in fights like 1st boss SFK, when you can just leave DPS below 50% health (I usually do anyway) and have a self-refreshing HoT up to help keep them from dying to Pain and Suffering.

Feral Tree said...

Hm yeah keeping it at a low damage reduction with a low cooldown is a good idea. Maybe around 15% (since self cast it's 20%), perhaps that could be a balancing 'penalty' of sorts. Hopefully they'll give us something, though, or in the least boost our actual heals some.

Hm yeah the SFK boss would be a great one for that glyph. I could see it as useful on Chimaeron as well, though Regrowth's so expensive mana-wise that maybe only really useful on 10s. Regrowth in general just doesn't seem that great atm, even with the upcoming changes. :\

Ihrayeep said...

I thought the old ToL aura [to other people] was 6%, with talents in Master Shapeshifter (I think?) that increased healing *done* by you by 4%. So 10% overall if you're the only healer being considered, but the aura itself I swear used to be only 6.

@Beru -- I don't think they'll ever decouple it. They're attached to it like they were to lightwell for priests in the cata beta, forcing people to take something they didn't really want in order to get to something they needed. Blizz has a Thing for Living Seed, they think it's the Best Thing Evah and won't listen to contrary player input :-\.

@Saeadame -- something that occurs to me on reading your comment is that maybe they could glyph it similar to the old Guardian Spirit glyph. That one said, if the effect expired without the person dying, the CD was "reset" to one minute. I would be fine with something like, BS has a 3 minute CD, but you could glyph it so that if you self-applied it the CD was "reset" to a minute similar to how that glyph used to work.

Although if they did that they'd have to remove the current BS glyph, whose incarnation I'm rather attached to...

Ihrayeep said...

...and then I get so absorbed in the comment discussion that I forget the whole reason I came here, which was to mention that despite being heavily intimidated by your raiding resume, I have added you to my blogroll :-).

Anonymous said...

As a Feral pvper/tank I find the feral changes ok... nothing to be happy about, but clearly nothing to be extremely disappointed about. I honestly felt that the bleeds were a little op in pvp. As soon as I saw the mastery bleed I stacked mastery, and open with the combo -Pounce - mangle - rake - shred - rip. Then is is either a game of running away and switching to bear(against melees, or attacking constantly until they die. I guess I'll have to use a little skill when pvping now... ...but there is nothing wrong with that.

Feral Tree said...

Hhm yes you've got that right, 6% sounds like the right number. Shows how quickly I forget these things! >.> Or perhaps it's just wishful thinking on my part

I do love the current lightwell, our priests use it all the time and I love it on mine. Our raiders are pretty good about using them now (and at certain times in fights we'll actually say 'be clicking lightwells now' on hard healing points etc). The problem is when people don't click them... Nothing makes my priest sadder than seeing an unused lightwell in my daily random :(

Hhm BS glyph might be interesting, though I'd be hard pressed to want to replace a glyph, so less keen on it from that perspective >.>

And thanks, I'll add you back! :D

Yeah, I don't do too much pvping, but the word from our guildie pvpers was that Feral was just destroying everything in pvp atm! So yea,h as you say, probably not too bad a change overall. Getting to use skill while playing is always good :P

Ihrayeep said...

Well I don't think something like that would qualify for a prime glyph slot as not it would come in under a major glyph, where we have a little more leeway to swap one out anyway.

But as I had outlined it, you wouldn't *need* the glyph anyway. The glyph would just be a way to keep that 1-minute CD if you self-applied. Without the glyph it would just be a standard PS-style 3 minute CD...but still incredibly useful, obviously :-)

Anonymous said...

The problem with the glyph idea, is that it would effect all druids. That would mean the I (feral- pvp/tank) would need and extra glyph to keep my 1 min cool down. I use BS about once a per minute during pvp, and about the same as a tank. We ferals also don't want to give up any glyph spots... (ok maybe ff for my tank). I love healers, but maybe they could give you a different mitigation talent, or a spell for mitigation that is on a 3 min CD and can only be cast on other players. "Gift of Barkskin" or they could rename BS to "Bearskin" and make it only usable when shapeshifted, and make barkskin a 3 min cool down castable on other player only usable when not shapeshifted and "Bearskin" is on a shared cooldown... Just a couple thoughts

Ihrayeep said...

Or you could reverse it; make it a 1-minute CD by default, and make the glyph do something like

"Barkskin may now be cast on any target, but the CD is increased to 3 minutes" optionally adding "...if cast on someone other than yourself". The optional might be too hard to implement, but I could live with a glyph that did that.

You're absolutely right of course, and I was thinking solely from a tree standpoint and not thinking about mah bruddas over in the other trees. I'm guessing resto could probably sacrifice the major glyph slot easier than a tanky feral though, so maybe that would work out?

I don't like the only while shapeshifted idea...that cripples its useability for resto, who blizz in their infinite wisdom forced into being in caster form most of the time (SOZ WE CAN LOOK AT THE PURDY ARMOR).

I would also of course take a completely separate ability on a 3-minute CD...I was just running with an idea for extending the usage of tools we already have :-).