Wednesday, 28 September 2011

4.3 PTR Resto Changes - TO THE GROUND!

The 4.3 PTR is finally up and rolling, which means lots and lots of news, changes, more changes, and even more changes!

Resto druids everywhere did a double take with this first round of 4.3 PTR patch notes which included the following:
-Wild Growth healing has been reduced by 20%.
-Glyph of Wild Growth now also increases the cooldown by 2 seconds.

This is a pretty substantial nerf and is a really perplexing one. This is essentially nerfing Wild Growth back to its state at Cata Launch - significantly less healing done and a 10 second cooldown. This is boggling because WG was a huge issue in 4.0, Resto druids simply were substantially behind other healers. They needed a boost to simple raw output so badly that in patch 4.0.6, Wild Growth got a 30% buff to its healing done and its cooldown reverted back down to 8 seconds. Now 4.3 wants to... bring back the old WG output and CD and bring us back to those output issues of 4.0?

There's an attempt at smoothing over the glyph change by describing it as a means to give Resto druids 'more choice' in which glyphs to use. This neglects the fact that there are really only 4 decent glyphs for Resto druids to choose from to begin with. Wild Growth, Healing Touch, Innervate, Rebirth. Usually the Healing Touch and Innervate glyphs are the two people swap between. Even moreso, for those druids that opt not to pick up Nature's Swiftness, the Healing Touch glyph is useless for them so they really only have 3 choices. So, there's no choice component in this at all.

It's a straight attempt to strongly nerf Wild Growth. And with this component now as well, we basically have to choose whether to sacrifice 1/6 of the output (chopping WG down from hitting 6 targets back down to 5), or to gain an extra 2 seconds on the cd. I imagine many will simply be dropping the glyph. And from our great choice selection, I guess we can run... the Innervate glyph. Hooray. I can now get a little more of my Innervate on the rare occasions I cast it on someone else following the Innervate nerf.

I can certainly understand wanting to nerf Wild Growth, as it's usually in the top end for heals used in Resto druid's healing (with exceptions being in fights like Shannox, where tank damage and healing is the primary component, bringing Lifebloom and Healing Touch towards the top of heals used per fight). But a nerf this substantial that brings it back to its 4.0 state is ridiculous, as it's likely going to bring back the same issues that caused it to be buffed in 4.0.6. Druids still have no mitigation abilities, Holy Priests will now be getting a boost to Divine Hymn to give them their Tranq-like raid cooldown, and, despite having good direct heals, druids will still not be preferred tank healers over Paladins (and possibly now Shamans, with the 4.3 shaman changes). It's the same issues for druids all over again.

If a nerf is even necessary, a more reasonable nerf to Wild Growth would be a lot better - even a 10% nerf to the healing done by WG wouldn't be as bad as the current 20% nerf. The increased cooldown from the Glyph is really too much and seems a terribly poor decision. While similar to the change listed for the Priest Circle of Healing glyph (the glyph has the same effect as WG; its 4.3 change also increases the mana cost by 20%), an increased mana cost is a lot less costly than an increased cooldown.

There are also concerns that the Tranquility cooldown changes have faded in people's memories some - Ghostcrawler did acknowledge around early 4.2 that Resto druids often 'win' at meters due to the inflation caused by Tranquility. With this acknowledgement was the hope that they would keep this in mind for future healing adjustments so that druids didn't receive unnecessary nerfs due to the HPS inflation caused by Tranq. WG numbers are always high for druids but the strength of WG was definitely something that was needed because druids didn't have the output of other healers pre-4.0.6 when WG was buffed.

I sincerely hope the WG glyph change will be reverted and that the nerfs in general to WG will be reduced.

I'd hope for some other improvements for Resto druids as well in 4.3. Our talent tree still needs work. Living Seed, Blessing of the Grove, and Nature's Bounty all remain lackluster talents. Nature's Grace still should be swapped with Genesis in their tiers in the Balance tree as well.

Having to spec Nature's Cure for a magic dispel seems a frustrating choice (for Shaman and Paladin healers as well - all three classes have to spec to pick up Magic Dispel). Magic Dispel I think should simply go along the route of Holy/Disc priests, who gain the ability to dispel friendly targets when specialising in either tree. Healers are the only ones with an ability to magic dispel friendly targets currently anyway, it seems a waste of a talent point as the dispel is often required in everything from 5 mans to 25 man heroic raids. Even if there aren't that many things which need to be dispelled, the few things that can be dispelled are powerful enough spells that they simply must be dispelled.

This is still just the first round of the PTR and the very first release of the 4.3 PTR. Hopefully there'll be many more adjustments and changes to come, and hopefully they'll reevaluate this Wild Growth nerf. There are a lot of changes for the other healing classes; an interesting one is Holy Priests will now get their raid cooldown with a talented Divine Hymn that has its healing increased and its cooldown cut down to 3 minutes. First glance at the DH change seems to put it about in line with Tranquility (keeping in mind DH is a direct cast only, while Tranquility applies a HoT). The main difference is DH also applies an Increased Healing buff, which is hopefully accounted for in DH's actual heals as well. It will certainly be a potent cooldown for Holy priests, and hopefully will be kept in line with Tranq.

They've also started previous PTRs with very large nerfs which they've later scaled back some, so hopefully we'll see this nerf scaled back and toned down in the coming weeks. The Resto community will hopefully have their concerns heard (and we can certainly see through the alleged 'glyph choices' idea to the actual blatant nerf it's attempting to gloss over).

Here's hoping for better news to come.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Healing and Battling the Firelord, Heroic Ragnaros!

417 pulls later, the Firelord has been vanquished! Last Wednesday we finally killed Heroic Ragnaros! A big congratulations to all my fellow guildies in Drow, it was 7 long weeks of hard work but we pulled through and got him down! A bit unfortunately, the inevitable nerfbat hit the night before we killed it, which was rather disappointing. We had been getting deep into phase 4 the week before and were on our way to a pre-nerf kill, so it felt a little like the rug had been pulled from under us there. But, life goes on, and all the work we put in up to that week was certainly a big deal! We were very happy to get our kill, and we finished up with a US 11th 25man kill, which was a great achievement for the guild. Now, we prep for 4.3 and Deathwing!
Reesi of The Inconspicuous Bear put together a great video of our kill, featuring the PoVs of one of our DPS warriors and one of our Boomkins. I’ll share that with you all below, then I thought I’d talk a bit about the fight and healing it!

Hands down this was one of the most challenging fights I’ve ever encountered, and quite likely the most challenging encounter ever placed in the game so far. There were a lot of mechanics to learn, abilities to dodge, adds to control... on and on! all while meeting tight DPS checks. 
Like much of this tier, the high DPS requirements for the fight required running fewer healers. Some of the first Heroic kills used only three healers, though for our work and comp we settled on using four healers. We did do a night of work three healing late on (when one of our healers was out for the night), which was a fun additional challenge, but our kill used four. We used a resto druid (me), two paladins, and a holy priest.
The fight has a lot of phases and is very long (our kill was around 13 minutes), with damage varying from light to heavy throughout the fight. Mana management and careful planning of cooldowns and heals used is crucial on this fight to ensure you’re maximising your healing done, your mana saved, and your cooldown usage.
Because of the importance of mana in this long of a fight, it’s important to ensure you’re making the most of all your heals and not wasting any. Careful thought of when and where to place abilities like Efflorescence, Wild Growth, Tranqs, etc, go a long way in this fight. While there’ll definitely be times where someone way out of group absolutely needs a Swiftmend, and should get one, as much as possible Efflos are good on groups to max the healing done. Similarly with a spell like Wild Growth, times when a misplaced cast hits someone who’s off on their own so no one else gets ticks can be costly.
The first phase is fairly light healing wise - you have to heal up raid members after Wrath and Hand of Ragnaros and after each Magma Trap explosion, but you have a fair bit of time between each of these abilities, so you can generally afford to use more mana efficient heals to top people up. Tanks do take a lot of damage in this phase though. Popping Tranquility after the first Magma Trap explosion is actually a nice time to use the cooldown - it will heal up raid members very efficiently, and the cooldown will be available in later phases should you need it.
The two Intermission phases are quite interesting to heal, and how I decided to handle them actually prompted me to change my spec. I save my Tree of Life cooldown for the two Intermission phases - the entire raid is getting wrecked and is usually quite spread out at first due to stunning and killing the Sons of Flame. So quick heals, good raid coverage, and mobility are all extremely helpful in these phases. Mana efficiency is also huge, especially before Phase 2 and eventually Phase 4, where raid damage is quite intense. Bring in Tree of Life! 
Popping tree form in the Intermissions allows me to cover the raid with Lifeblooms to help manage raid healing, free instant Regrowths on all the Omen of Clarity procs (and without OoC when necessary) to top off raid members who dip very low, and of course Wild Growths and any Rejuvs or Swiftmends as needed. The raid gets hit very hard in the Intermissions and, especially when running few healers, it’s crucial the raid is getting healed up. ToL is great to pop in these phases on normal mode as well! Covering the raid in this way with ToL is great for mana efficiency and allowed me to go into our phase 2 and phase 3 and 4 with a good amount of mana ready for the heavy raid damage incoming.
I changed my spec slightly largely due to the Intermissions and any quick top-ups I was doing with Regrowth on OoC procs in the other phases. Normally I like running 3/3 in Living Seed, however, I found myself using Regrowth a lot more than usual while healing the raid, especially in those Intermission phases in Tree of Life form. I decided to change my spec and pick up 2/3 in Nature’s Bounty for the increased Regrowth crit chance. I opted not to go 3/3 as I preferred to keep Nature’s Cure for the magic dispel (Lava Waves aren’t necessarily deadly, but the dot is, so having a dispel ready for any raid member who accidentally got clipped was very helpful). I also kept points in Moonglow and Furor to maximise my mana pool and savings. My spec looked like this (8/2/31):

I must admit I enjoyed the reduced Nourish cast time from Nature’s Bounty as well. This ability feels much more like a nice tool for when we’re focussed on raid healing - as we spread Rejuvs, it makes it easier for us to cast a quick but mana efficient heal in the form of the hasted Nourish. We can either use that Nourish to perhaps small top up a raid member, top up a tank, refresh Lifebloom on a tank, or simply ensure our Harmony mastery buff remains up. This talent really doesn’t seem great for dedicated tank healing, though, as spreading 3 Rejuvs just to gain the hasted Nourish seems like a waste of globals and mana.
I generally ended up using my second Tranq on the second intermission phase - I could have used it during the Molten Seeds in phase 2, however, as everyone was stacked up for portions of it, topping the raid up wasn’t usually too difficult. The second intermission phase, though, there’s additional heavy damage on the tanks, who are picking up the Scions. This can make balancing healing the tanks and raid challenging, and it ended up being more helpful having the Tranq ready for the raid in this phase to catch raid healing back up in between the large hits on the tanks.
Phase 2 is an interesting phase. There are various strategies for dealing with the Molten Seeds, ours involved essentially a stack and run method for each wave. This was a fairly challenging phase to heal as well, mostly as there is heavy raid damage and a fair bit of movement. The seed explosions (and any remaining magma trap explosions) cause heavy raid damage which needs to be topped up fairly quickly. There’s also potential damage from World in Flames - while this damage is 100% avoidable, there are always instances when people take a tick, whether due to lag, getting into an awkward spot, etc. Generally it’s best to ensure people are topped off as the flames start to go off to give that leeway in case someone eats a tick by mistake. Tanks are also getting hit during these phases, particularly when on the run from the Seeds. I usually tried to save either my Swiftmends or a Nature’s Swiftness with Healing Touch for these times - they made some crucial saves on the move!
Phase 3 is primarily a DPS burn with a lot of avoidable damage. You basically must beat the third meteor spawn - the third spawn drops two meteors, and having four meteors up in phase 4 is just... a guaranteed wipe pretty much! This phase has World in Flames again but it’s easily avoidable, so the majority of the damage is just on the tanks in this phase. Because the DPS is so tight, I actually get to chill by the tanks and be on meteor knockback duty along with helping on the tanks. 
Phase 4 is a mix of heavy damage on the tanks and alternating heavy and light damage on the raid. There’s a bit of time before the first Frost Breadth spawn when Superheated starts stacking up on the raid, so the overall raid damage ramps up quite quickly. Once the raid is settled in the Breadth, though, damage drops dramatically (at least until you have to move to a new Breadth). Tank damage remains high and you have to keep an eye on any raid members who might have to kite a meteor out of the breadth spawn. Keep it together, though, and you’ll get him down!
One frustrating thing I found over the course of this fight was keeping my Lifebloomx3 stack on the tank. There are quick tank swaps in this fight due to the stacking dot Ragnaros places on the tank. This makes for a bit of an awkward decision - do I spend 3 globals applying a stack to the taunting tank, or leave it on the previous tank while healing the new one? The non-tanking tank will still take some damage from the dot, so it’s not necessarily a waste, but it is frustrating. I know our Pallies stopped switching beacons on every tank swap as they found it inefficient. 
I ended up mostly planning my Lifebloom stacks in advance some. For example, in the seeds phase in Phase 2, the tank during the stage in which we had to run from the seed spawn would take a lot of damage from Rag while we were on the move, so I’d stack my LB on her to help increase the healing on her. Meanwhile the tank who taunted after the movement piece didn’t get hit as hard, due to Ragnaros stopping melees briefly while casting World in Flames. Going into the second intermission phase I placed LB on the tank I was healing for the Scion spawns. In phase 3 I kept my LB primarily on our warrior tank as he tanked the majority of p3 - a combination of avoidance and World in Flames casts meant the dot generally didn’t get too high on him, which also allowed our bear (Reesi!) to go cat form and add in some more damage.
This does highlight the bit of frustration with fights such as this though, as swapping our Lifebloom stacks between tanks in quick tank swap fights can be very inefficient and frustrating. I commented on this the other day in the Druid Class Feedback Blizzard had posted the other day (you can see links to the post and also my feedback in my post yesterday, viewable here: Resto Class Feedback).
Another good thing this fight especially highlights is Barkskin is your best friend! Every druid should really have this on their bars if they don’t have it already, as it’s such an amazing damage mitigation cooldown. I actually ended up planning out a lot of its use as well on this fight to maximise its effectiveness - I was generally able to use it every Magma Trap explosion, every Seed Explosion, and have it up for emergencies in World in Flames phases. It’s such a great ability both for this fight an others!
Overall impressions: It was a very long haul but it certainly feels like an accomplishment, especially working with 24+ other people to execute all the coordination to down this boss. It was undoubtedly a team effort and I can’t praise my guildies enough for all the hard work put in. 
Healing the fight was a lot of fun, especially planning when I wanted to use cooldowns, managing my mana throughout the fight, and even planning which heals I preferred to use and when to ensure I was getting the most out of my heals and keeping my mastery buff up.
Druids especially shine on this fight I think, as our hots and raid healing abilities are extremely helpful for some of the movement portions of the fight, particularly when it coincides with heavy raid damage. We also can do an excellent job on tank healing - certainly a strong portion of my healing was on tanks as well as raid, but in particular I always feel Resto druids fit a nice niche of tank healing/support while being able to maintain good coverage on the raid. Paladin’s Hand of Sacrifice was of course very helpful on the tanks, which is a bit unfortunate that Druid’s cannot match that ability. Shaman get a bit of the short end of the stick with all the movement in this fight, however they can perform very well if focussing on tanks. Priests of both specs seem to perform well - Holy’s Lightwells are extremely useful (provided your raid uses them of course!) and Guardian Spirit can be great for tanks on the move in Phase 2 and for the heavy damage in Phase 4. Discipline can also do well, though Power Word: barrier seems more useful for reducing trap or seed explosions in phase 2 and potentially in phase 4 when the raid is actually stacked up.
Now to prepare for patch 4.3 and the battles with Deathwing! I have a bunch of ideas for other posts too so now with some extra free time as we get back to a farm schedule, I'll try to get some more posts up soon. 

Happy raiding!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Resto Class Feedback

The blues have requested some class feedback, and we are happy to oblige! I left some feedback for Resto, which you can see at this link here: Resto Class Feedback. Many 'Likes' are appreciated as it will hopefully help it get looked at by the blues! You can also find some good Bear feedback posts by Reesi and Arielle of The Inconspicuous Bear which I'm sure they'd appreciate you hitting 'Like' as well! Click for: Reesi's feedback and click for: Arielle's Feedback. As Reesi noted on her forums, If you agree with any of the ideas for notable posts, don't just say you agree and nothing else - Respond with the same answer. The only way we'll get attention to any feedback is if it's repeated again and again.

More (proper) posts are in the work so stay tuned! :D

ETA: Including my feedback:

PVE Heroic Progression Raiding Content; primarily Resto.

What are your biggest quality-of-life issues?
Target swapping for Lifebloomx3 stacks on quick-taunt Tank fights (Ragnaros heroic and normal a perfect example) can be frustrating - I can either maintain the 3stack on the non-tanking tank in anticipation of the upcoming tank swap, or I have to spend 3 globals simply reapplying my Lifebloom stack to the new tank. If there was some way to move the 3 stack as a whole between tanks, that would be great. Perhaps LB may need to be reevaluated some, perhaps making the 3stack amount (or even 2 stack) the set amount for just a single application, as it can now only be on one target (then in tree form it would be spreadable over many people as usual). Ideas!

As others suggested earlier, a cosmetic perma tree of life would be nice (affected also by treant glyph or no glyph), perhaps only usable out of combat or something to negate confusion in pvp but allow for some fun /dancing and such around town.

What makes playing your class more fun?
I love everything about druids and especially healing. I feel like we’re in a great spot right now - our throughput is competitive (all of the classes throughput is relatively even by this point in the xpac), our Tranq is now a nice raid cooldown (even if it not a damage reduction one), and we have to make good use of all our spells and it feels like all of our spells are valuable. 

Mana management is fun and, despite misconceptions, still a challenge (when not drastically overgearing content) to do well. I really love the importance of Int to our mana management and being able to make careful choices about secondary stats and managing cooldowns and mana throughout a fight to manage our mana well. 

The Tree of Life cooldown has ended up being a lot of fun and useful, even if I do still miss being able to hop around as a tree in my downtime. It's really fun being able to pop it as a healing cooldown or even as a DPS cooldown on certain fights (alysra burnout, sinestra eggs, etc) or as a sort of mana cd when covering the raid with LB to conserve mana instead of rejuvs.

What makes playing your class less fun?
I still wish we had some damage reduction component. While we’re strong both in tank and raid healing now, for tanks at least we’re very behind in not having any sort of damage reduction. We don’t have an Inspiration reduced damage type talent and no damage reduction type cooldown (such as Hand of Sacrifice or Pain Suppression). Our healing output is strong and the ToL cooldown is really excellent and fun, it just feels like our only option is always to just heal harder, rather than being able to ever mitigate damage in some way.

I also feel our talent tree is a little bloated still, and talents like Living Seed, Blessing of the Grove, and Nature’s Bounty are all a bit lackluster atm. They’re not hugely strong talents in themselves (tho the unlinking from Efflo was a good change) and taking points in any of them doesn’t feel hugely valuable. The reduced nourish cast of NB is alright, though if primarily spreading Rejuvs just to reduce the cast for nourish spam is wasteful of mana and GCDs. It seems more like a 'good, I'm raid healing, and as I'm doing that I can also go to do a quick top up and LB refresh on my tank with the quick Nourish'; which is useful, but if the goal was to help more direct Nourish use it seems a bit roundabout to try to achieve that.

The Nature’s Cure talent I think should be looked at as well - as healers are the only role who can dispel magic off of friendly targets, I think this ability should be granted by choosing the Resto tree (and same for resto/holy for sham/pally) like the priest’s holy and disc specs. It seems a bit of a waste of a talent point for druids pallies and shaman to have to spec to get the magic dispel. While it’s not always necessary, there are several crucial fights where it’s extremely important to pick it up, and even 5man heroics pretty much require dispels.

How do you feel about your “rotation”? 
I think the current healing model for druids is really excellent. We can and should use all our spells, and they’re all valuable. Good druids especially will use all their direct and hot heals and maintain their Harmony proc.

What’s on your wish list for your class?
(see above answers, but quick list below:
-Easier LBx3 swaps for quick tank swap situations.
-A damage reduction talent (a la Inspiration) or cooldown (a la hand of sac) would be great.
-Improvement/revamp of lackluster talents Living Seed, BotG, Nature's Bounty.
-Genesis swapped with Nature's Grace in the Balance tree would be a nice change to pick that up, as it's often dropped for mana saving talents.
-Magic dispel part of Resto specialisation (untalented).
-Cosmetic tree of life/treant, perhaps while out of combat only.

What spells do you use the least?
Think I use all my spells ^.^