So far on the Patch 4.1 PTR we've seen adjustments on healer cooldowns, most notably a reduction in PW:B (30% to 25%) and a 3 min cooldown and the new Shaman Spirit Link Totem. After much discussion on the Resto Druid and Shaman imbalance due to the Priest and Paladin raid cooldowns, I was excited when it was announced that these issues were being looked into for patch 4.1.
PTR Resto druids have seen Tranquility drop to a 3 min cooldown. While this is a nice ability for Resto druids, myself and others in the druid community are concerned that this will be the Resto druid 'raid cooldown'. Once again, Tranquility can be provided by any druid. Perhaps not quite as strong and now on a longer cooldown than a Resto druid, but a boomkin Tranq is still solid and a feral tranq, even if not too powerful, can buy healers precious seconds to recover. A shorter Tranq cooldown in no way makes Resto druids unique and does not increase their desirability in a raid comp as a healer.
The biggest concern with a 3min Tranquility is it’s another healing rather than damage mitigation/reduction ability, which has been the primary reason for stacking priests and pallies currently (PW:B and AM). Before the 4.0.6 buffs to Disc (when Disc was still behind in throughput) I was brought into a Heroic 25m on my priest alt literally just to provide a PW:B, despite the toon having significantly less gear and less healing ability, and not to mention less practice than my Druid main. With Shammies now getting a damage reduction-type cooldown, Druids are looking set to truly be out in the cold.
As Keeva of TreeBarkJacket eloquently said in her recent post on 4.1 and Resto Druid desirability, 'Healing after spikes is very important, but reducing the impact is better and more attractive to raid leaders. Preventing damage is better than recovering from it; a healer combo that can reduce damage that the raid takes is simply more desirable than a healer combo that revolves around recovery only.'
I can already see Resto Druids being dropped again without having an equivalent damage mitigation cooldown of some sort, especially as paladins, priests, and now shaman all have raid damage mitigation abilities (and shaman even more so as they can also provide mana tide).
I realise there's a desire to avoid homogenization, but there needs to be balance among the healing classes. Unfortunately now that these abilities are in the game, Resto Druids are at a large disadvantage to the other three healing classes without an equivalent in a damage reduction ability.
If I may play devil's advocate - Perhaps a solution for balance may lie in simply removing abilities like PW:B, AM, etc, if not nerfing them. Raid abilities like these are extremely powerful tools, but they are quite literally game changers. Some current raid encounters, especially on heroic, are near impossible to realistically attempt without a PW:B available.
With such powerful abilities available, encounters will inevitably need to be designed around the abilities being available in order to continue to challenge raids. There will need to be a point in a fight where there's some big AE damage that hits the entire raid, and so requires one of these big cooldowns to handle it. Consequently, any class which cannot provide that ability will be dropped in favour of stacking classes which can handle it, further defeating the ‘bring the player, not the class’ ethos which is trying to be developed.
It is also arguably simpler to only need to retune damage output in encounters to adjust for these changes, rather than having to design encounters around these cooldowns being available.
I realise it's early still in the PTR, so I'm hoping that a 3 min Tranq isn't the Resto cooldown.
On a related note, I know many have suggested making Barkskin castable on others as a Resto Druid PainSupp-esque cooldown, however, if such an ability would force the Druid to sacrifice their own Barkskin, I would highly discourage such an idea. Barkskin is an invaluable personal survivability tool for all druids, and Restos should not be forced to sacrifice their own survivability as the only way to get any sort of single-target cooldown.
ETA: Beru of Falling Leaves and Wings has an interesting post on this as well: I'm Growing Nervous About Tranquility.