The patch has been out for almost two weeks now, which seemed to be a decent amount of time to get a feel of all the new changes and get some raids in with them. We've also made it past the first major wave of hotfixes and the second minor patch (4.0.6a), though for the most part we weren't too affected (well, trees and cats, apart from some fixes; moonkins had several adjustments for damage and for some bugs I think).
There was also some very interesting news for druids in a recent blue post on Incoming Healer Changes:
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.
They are listening to us! Much of the forums are now abuzz with ideas for what a cooldown we could have would be. I think most people (including myself in the past) tend to jump to the idea of 'casting barkskin on someone else' largely because it feels like the easiest solution, which I think gets suggested in the hopes that because it's arguably simple and not requiring a brand new idea, it might be implemented. As many have also said, though, it would be extremely disappointing if we couldn't use Barkskin ourselves (definitely a crucial survivability cooldown for ourselves), so I would NOT want to sacrifice that ability.
Really, the only cooldown that will really measure up to the ones offered by Paladins and Priests would be some sort of Raid Wall - i.e. something like Aura Mastery or Power Word: Barrier, as those two cooldowns are the primary reasons for stacking paladins and priests at the moment.
I excitedly posted the blue post up on my guild's forums and one of our healers had an interesting thought, though: He felt that it would actually be better to simply nerf the Paladin and Priest cooldowns (AM/PW:B) rather than give druids and shamans new ones. His thoughts were that encounters would eventually have to be designed around having these cooldowns, and could lead to more issues of stacking classes / sitting classes on progression encounters due to issues like, 'this big AE is nature damage, Aura Mastery won't help, sit the pallies,' or 'you can't stack people up for PW:B, forget the priests', etc like that, and that there would likely be similar mechanics issues with any new druid or shaman cooldowns. An interesting perspective, certainly, and one that's certainly not off the table - the blue post did NOT say they were giving us a cooldown, it said they would be looking to address the issue. So keep any hopes within reason!
Largely I think it comes down to keeping some sort of balance, whether that be giving shamans and druids some useful raidwide cooldown or perhaps simply eliminating or nerfing existing cooldowns. As ever, balance is extremely difficult to achieve, especially while trying to keep unique flavours to each class. Time for some brainstorming of druid cooldown ideas! A raidwide cooldown is definitely the way to go in my opinion if they give us something - again, that's largely the reason for stacking pallies and priests at the moment.
I quite like my idea of a druid raidwall from my Healing post of 'Nature's Guardian...the druid calls upon the forces of nature to surround his allies with roots and leaves, reducing their damage taken by x% for y seconds'. Pretty simple, but would be a great cooldown I think. The language is really just for druid flavour hehe.
Thoughts for our actual 4.0.6 changes are primarily Resto-focussed as I've had the most experience gauging the changes for Resto in raids these past two weeks.
Healing output has definitely improved with the buffs, particularly our raid heals. The Wild Growth changes (30% healing buff plus a shorter cooldown) were very helpful. I'm a little wary of any reactions to data leading to a new nerf on WG - the buffs will of course lead to an increase in use of WG, and it and Rejuv will still be a substantial portion of healing done in the very least due to the nature of the heal (multiple ticks on multiple targets), but other spells are most definitely still being used. Combined with the new Rejuv mana cost (20%), both Rejuv and WG feel like they're in a good place - if you try to spam it you'll run yourself OoM, but if you use them well they are very effective, which is a pretty decent balance.
If you aren't saving your ToL cooldown for a specific time in the fight (i.e. specials on Conclave), it can be good to time the cooldown for times of AE damage in conjunction with a mana management strategy. Spreading Lifebloom over the raid in ToL can be incredibly mana efficient for getting additional HoTs around the raid as it's one of our cheapest spells. I've begun doing this in fights like Valiona and Theralion heroic, where damage around the entire raid can be pretty constant, so alternating between spreading LB around the raid in ToL and spreading Rejuvs outside of ToL (both instances using WG as well) helps work into my mana management over the course of the fight.
The patch also saw a buff to our healing mastery, which should be helped additionally by mastery coming into play more due to the shorter WG cooldown and reduced Rejuv cost. There's a nice addon on WoWInterface.com called Druid Mastery which tracks how much of your heals are affected by your mastery. I haven't tried it yet as I hadn't gotten around to installing it, but I've heard good things and it should be a good help to see just how much of your healing is benefiting from your mastery.
Regrowth had some decent buffs in benefitting from Empowered Touch this patch. I've found myself using Regrowth a bit more than I used to, the 10% boost to its healing from ET and it refreshing LB stacks was definitely a nice improvement. I haven't really bothered with the new Nature's Bounty though, I've only placed one point in it. In 25 mans at least, particularly when focussing on the raid, I'm simply not spot-healing with Nourish enough to really need the reduced cast time. I do think it may find more success in 5 and 10 mans where it may be more feasible to actually use Nourish frequently on raid/party members.
Overall, though, the patch was pretty positive for Resto, we're definitely on the right track. There are still some issues, particularly with talent bloat and the lack of a cooldown, but the cooldown issues are at least on the table to be addressed, and hopefully some talent adjustments may be on the horizon too.