Sunday, 23 October 2011

New Druid Talent Trees in Mists of Pandaria (WoW 5.0)

Another Blizzcon has come and gone! I didn’t get to go in person but I watched the stream again this year. It was a lot of fun! The Q&As were pretty good as were the panels (I really enjoyed the art panel again this year), I even checked out some of the SC2 matches (hopefully I can learn something and try to get a bit better at it!). The Foo Fighters put on an awesome concert closing night! All in all a good time.
The next WoW expansion was announced, Mists of Pandaria, however I’m not going to go into that today as it would certainly take up an entire post! 
One thing that was definitely interesting was the new talent tree system! The new system sounds cool and potentially a lot more fun. One of the primary goals behind the revamp was to try to make talent trees more fun and customizable, which was the original intent behind the current format of them, however lead to the ‘cookie cutter’ builds which the devs aren’t too fond of. I’m sure even with the new system there’ll be setups that are more optimal for certain things, whether PVE, PVP, or certain encounters. It seems like  the abilities themselves will be a bit more fun though and a bit more mixed, so I think there will be some flexibility still there.
As is my understanding, the new talent trees will work as follows. You still select your specialisation (for Druids it would be Restoration, Balance, Feral (cat), and Feral (Guardian) - they officially split the bear and cat specs for 5.0). Choosing a specialisation will give you access to specific spells in addition to the core spells across all specs. They didn’t give too many examples of this sort of thing, but they did mention with the new cat and bear specs, a bear will not be able to use Shred or Rip, and a cat won’t be able to use Survival Instincts or Frenzied Regen. Based on this we can gather that certain abilities will only be available to certain specialisations. 
Talents, on the other hand, will be available to all specs. This is where you can customize now, and is potentially quite fun as it can give you access to abilities that before were only available to specific specs. You get a talent point every 15 levels, six in total, and you choose each tier from three options/abilities. If I remember right, you can’t do more than two in a row down one tree, so it encourages more mixing rather than just going straight down. 
It was suggested as well that changing talents will be easier to do than it is now and that you will be able to do so ‘out in the field’. If I’m understanding this correctly, you should be able to swap your talents while out in the world (out of combat, of course) without having to go back to your trainer, and it will be similar to the ease of swapping glyphs. It seems you still have to go back to your trainer if you want to do a full respec (to wipe your talents and specialisation if you were, say, changing from Feral to Balance). 
Enough preamble, let’s take a look at the proposed Druid talent tree! Keep in mind this may change a lot between now and 5.0 release. Thanks to MMO-Champion for the screenshots of the talents.

Tier 1: Feral Swiftness - Displacer Beast - Tireless Pursuit
This first set of talents is clearly about mobility. Displacer Beast is an interesting one, it’s kind of like a mix of Blink, Cloak of Shadows, and Vanish. The random direction aspect is a bit odd, and I wonder if that will stay in. It’s a pretty powerful ability, so the random direction may be to help downtune that a bit perhaps. My only concern would be, in a raiding context, the potential hazards of that - displacing into lava, a trap, a cleave, who knows! Tireless Pursuit sounds nice for escaping snares and roots, particularly with the speed boost to help you get farther away. Feline Swiftness is a nice straightforward speed boost, which I quite like.

Tier 2: Nature’s Swiftness - Renewal - Cenarion Ward
This tier is focussed more on healing abilities. Nature’s Swiftness is almost the same as its current implementation for Resto. In this version the spell cast is cost-free, which is nice. The most interesting change there though is popping NS makes the spell castable in any form. This could be a very nice talent for bears and cats, as using NS to battle rez someone would allow them to stay in form. This would be especially useful for bears as it can be so difficult to use a bear battle rez in PVE encounters. For cats and moonkin it will likely reduce the hit to their DPS from shifting forms to rez someone. 

Renewal is a straightforward talent, it’s exactly like the current Desperate Prayer for priests. 
Cenarion Ward is a bit odd. When I first glimpsed it I thought it was a shield of sorts, but that’s not what it is. Basically it seems a way of pre-HoTing - imagine placing this on the tank pre-pull, when he takes the first hit from the boss it will start healing as a 6 second HoT. Kind of underwhelming.

Nature’s Swiftness would probably be my pick in that set, especially for healing. CW doesn’t seem too great a healing ability. Renewal is a nice survivability talent, I’m not sure whether bears might prefer that or NS. NS would allow them to throw a Healing Touch or Regrowth on themself - Renewal would be a bigger heal but NS would let them cast BRs while tanking. 

Tier 3: Faerie Swarm - Mass Entanglement - Typhoon
Faerie Swarm is essentially an upgrade of Faerie Fire (which it appears we will still get, as this talent would replace FF if chosen). Pretty much just adds in a movement speed debuff. Mass Entanglement could be interesting for mass CC. Typhoon though I find the most fun out of the tree as it makes Typhoon available for all specs and usable in all forms.  As much as I dislike knockbacks (especially when I’m tanking), this seems like a fun thing to get. Admittedly I’m already planning on ways to annoy my tank friends by tree-phooning them while healing runs! It will be nice though for fights that require knockbacks for any druid to be able to pick it up instead of requiring they all go Moonkin.

Tier 4: Wild Charge - Incarnation - Force of Nature
Wild Charge gives a movement ability of some sort to each spec/form. Bear form is basically like current bear form, a charge which immobilizes the target and grants the bear 30% haste. Moonkin gets a sort of Disengage effect, allowing them to leap backward and gain Solar or Lunar energy. Caster form lets you fly to an ally’s position and the next healing spell cast costs no mana. 

Force of Nature seems like it could be fun - based on the tooltip, it seems you summon some treants to come help you deal damage or heal (and perhaps protect you while tanking?). I’ve always thought the idea of Resto summoning more treants to help them heal would be tremendously fun. I don’t think this talent will be feasible for Resto, though, which is sad. This is due to the last talent option:

Incarnation is both interesting and odd at the same time, and makes me wonder what their plans are for Resto. Essentially, Incarnation activates a sort of ‘super shapeshift form’. The two examples they gave were Feral, granting you use of abilities which normally require stealth, and Resto, granting the current Tree of Life cooldown abilities. This is what’s a bit odd. Based on the Wild Charge tooltip (non-shapeshifted Wild Charge giving a free healing spell), it seems as though they will continue to keep Resto as caster form rather than any return of Tree form. Basically Resto is required to take this talent, as the Tree of Life cooldown is such a significant cooldown for Resto. It certainly goes against the devs saying they want to provide more choice as, for Resto at least, there’s not much choice there. The other two talents do not seem anywhere near as valuable for healing as ToL (I’ve been working on a post that discusses all the valuable uses for the ToL cooldown). Gaining an extra Wild Growth target, being able to spread Lifebloom to multiple targets, and instant Regrowth casts are too important to bypass this talent. It’s an absolute must-have for Resto. 
Honestly I also find it a bit sad that, judging by the rest of the talent tree, a Resto druid may not get any tree form at all if, for whatever reason, they decide not to pick up that talent.

Tier 5: Demoralizing Roar - Ursol’s Vortex - Bear Hug
This is a new version of Demo Roar, as the current implementations of Demo Roar and Demo Shout will be gone in 5.0. Ursol’s Vortex seems fun, essentially an AE deathgrip. Bear Hug is mostly amusing for the name, should have some uses, likely more in PVP. 

Tier 6: Heart of the Wild - Master Shapeshifter - Disentanglement
The level 90 tier for the druid feels pretty lackluster. A lot of the other class level 90 talents were very interesting - Warriors could choose to get Bladestorm, Shockwave, or a new ability called Avatar. Rogues could pick up Shadowdance, Killing Spree, or Vendetta. Priests even had one called Void Shift that allows them to swap their health %age with a friendly target. Those all seem much more fun and interesting than the druid ones. 
The talents are focussed around shapeshifting and I suppose with emphasizing Hybrid roles. HotW cooldown would grant, for example, moonkins to generate Lunar or Solar power from healing spells, and would gain 50% of Intellect as Agility, etc. I suppose this may have use in PVP particularly for the druid really performing several roles (especially in, say, Arena, where they might have to off-heal, etc). I don’t see this being particularly useful in PVE though. It might be occasionally helpful perhaps in an emergency if, say, healers are down and a Boomkin needs to help heal some. It really doesn’t seem too exciting though.

Master Shapeshifter essentially gives you a stacking buff whenever you shapeshift which increases your melee or spell damage. Again, I don’t really see this being particularly useful, particularly in a PVE context. I can’t see many cats or boomkins shifting forms to throw out a random Moonfire/Rake/whatever.

Disentanglement seems a bit useful mostly for the heal. Removing roots is always nice but doesn’t seem particularly amazing (and is a bit disappointing that, not only will all specs have to talent that ability, it’s our level 90 ability). 

Overall though the 90 talents seem lackluster and, while perhaps trying to be ‘druid-y’ and ‘hybrid’, don’t really seem exciting or that useful.
There was also mention of a new druid healing spell that is basically a Resto version of Wild Mushrooms, where the Mushrooms heal instead of deal damage. Not too sure how I feel about that. I can see occasions where it might be useful, but it’s not particularly exciting, and will likely be pretty situational. Also assuming you have to plant the three mushrooms like Boomkins do, that’s another three globals spent not healing. It’s fine to plant pre-pull on a fight, but it’s just like the current Lifebloom 3stack tank-swapping issues at the moment. Three globals just to set up some healing, which obviously prevents you from doing any healing in those three globals. It seems like it will be clunky and inelegant and ultimately not too fun to use.

I’ll close with a sample talent tree which, in the above implementation of the talent tree, I would likely use for Resto. The talent tree is from Wowhead's sample MoP Talent Calculator.

Feline Swiftness for the general speed boost, which is always useful (and will likely allow a straight stat enchant to boots rather than requiring one with a speed increase). Nature’s Swiftness for the free instant spells, which I feel wins out for Resto - I’ve found NS to be way too valuable for me to really want to drop it, and Cenarion Ward seems lackluster as a simple HoT activated on damage as opposed to a normal HoT. Renewal would be nice for survivability, but I feel NS wins out for the Resto toolset.
Typhoon is mostly for the fun of grabbing it and useful for any additional fights which require knockbacks. Incarnation, as I mentioned above, is a must-have for Resto. Ursol’s Vortex I mostly grabbed for the fun of an AE deathgrip, though I don’t really see much use for any of those three talents for Resto in PVE. Lastly I grabbed Disentanglement, as the others don’t seem particularly useful for Resto (though also the tooltips shared by Blizz don’t describe much of the Resto benefits). Shapeshifting to get out of roots is useful and the heal when shapeshifting is nice for survivability.
Anyhow, I’ll wrap up there for now. Obviously this will likely undergo several changes before 5.0, hopefully it will be a lot more refined and improved by then. I look forward to playing with all of these in the Beta though! What are your impressions of the new talents? 

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Harmony, Lifebloom, and You! (with logs!)

My doodle of how I imagine my tree healing :D
Inspired by the ever funny Allie Brosh from Hyperbole & a Half

I wanted to devote a post to Harmony (our Mastery) and Lifebloom as I’ve found many druids (whether mains, offspecs, or alts) were not realising the value of these things, not maintaining good uptime on them, or both. These two things are extremely important to druid healing. Lifebloom especially is crucial to our mana regen (from Revitalise procs), to our clearcasting (as, for Resto druids, Lifebloom is our only ability which grants Omen of Clarity for our healing spells), and to our groups, as Lifebloom provides Replenishment for our party or raid.
For anyone wondering what I mean by uptime - uptime is referring to how much the ability or buff is active throughout a fight. So, for a quick example, if you maintain Lifebloom up perfectly through an entire fight, the uptime would be 100%. If you only had it up for half the fight, it would be 50%. 
Ideally, both Lifebloom and Harmony will have an uptime of 100%. In actuality, it will vary a little bit; for example, on the Alysrazor encounter, when Alysrazor crash lands there is no damage going out until she takes off again. Healers in this period are all DPSing both to help damage her and also for the mana return from DPSing her in this phase. During that period you won’t be maintaining Lifebloom or Harmony as you’ll be busy DPSing. The end uptime percentage on these abilities for that fight will be below 100% as it simply isn’t in the mechanics of the fight. Now, compare that fight to, say, Baleroc, where the primary healing is all big direct heals on the tanks and Shards of Torment soakers. This is a fight where it’s pretty easy to get 98%+ uptime on both Lifebloom and Harmony.
Keeping context of the specific fights in mind, a practical uptime for both Lifebloom and Harmony should be between 80% and 100%. You should always aim to be as close to 100% as possible.
Harmony, the Resto Mastery: Your direct healing is increased by an additional x% and casting your direct healing spells grants you an additional x% bonus to your periodic healing for 10 seconds.
Your direct healing spells (Nourish, Healing Touch, Regrowth, and Swiftmend) proc a buff called Harmony - this buff lasts for 10 seconds and boosts your HoTs by x% (based on how much mastery you have).
This is extremely important to maintain as it strengthens your HoTs. This is especially important while raid healing - many druids simply fall into the Rejuv, Rejuv, Rejuv, Wild Growth! spam while raid healing and forget about their direct heals entirely, or just think that because they’re on raid they shouldn’t use any other spells. Unfortunately this results in you gimping your own HoTs (as well as wasting an arsenal of useful healing spells). If that buff isn’t active, your HoTs have no benefit from your Mastery (and yes, that buff needs to be active before you cast the HoTs). Harmony needs to be active for your HoTs to be as strong as possible.
As I mentioned above, fights like Baleroc or Shannox with a lot of single-target healing focus are a bit easier to maintain good Harmony uptime. Fights with heavier raid damage such as Beth’tilac or Lord Rhyolith tend to be more difficult to maintain good uptimes for as you have to balance weaving in your direct heals with your raid healing.
Swiftmend counts as a direct heal and will proc Harmony, so if you’re really pressed to maintain the buff you can use Swiftmends to help activate the buff and, while SM is still on cooldown, through in a quick Nourish, Healing Touch, or Regrowth to keep Harmony active until SM is ready to use again.
5 man dungeons are probably the easiest place to maintain good Harmony (and Lifebloom) uptimes, as there’s plenty of direct healing to do on the tank (and sometimes on the DPS as well!). You can easily keep it active even when the tank isn’t taking much (or any) damage - simply toss a Nourish on him; it will refresh your Lifebloom stack and activate Harmony for next to no mana cost.
Using Nourish to activate Harmony and refresh Lifebloom is also a great thing to do pre-pull, whether in 5 mans or in raids. The mana cost is negligible and both the Replenishment and Revitalize procs from your Lifebloom will restore the mana quickly. It ensures you go into the start of the fight with Harmony active (which is especially helpful if AoE damage starts right away, so you can spread some HoTs immediately). 
Lifebloom! Lifebloom is one of our most important spells. It is crucial to keep Lifebloom up whether you’re healing a 5 man dungeon, a 10 or 25 man raid, a heroic raid, or PvP.
Lifebloom in Cataclysm plays a central role in our mana regen and management as well as being a healing tool.

Lifebloom procs Revitalize, which grants us mana. 
Lifebloom also is the ONLY way to get Omen of Clarity procs for healing. None of our other healing spells will proc OoC/Clearcasting. We have to spec into Malfurion’s Gift in order to enable our Lifeblooms to provide OoC. If your Lifebloom uptime is low, you won’t have as many clearcasting procs from Omen of Clarity, which means you won’t be able to cast spells with no mana cost. This will seriously hamper your mana over the course of a fight!
Lifebloom also supplies Replenishment for you and your party or raid - Replenishment grants up to 10 party or raid members mana regeneration equal to 1% of their maximum mana per 10 seconds. This is important both for you and your group! Replenishment helps your fellow healers and your casters. This also makes maintaining Lifebloom even more important in 10 and 25 man raids if you only have a few classes in your group who can provide Replenishment. if you are the only person in your 10 man group who can provide Replenishment and your Lifebloom uptime (and hence, Replenishment procs) is low, you are severely limiting Replenishment for your fellow raiders. Similarly in a 25 man group, if there are only a few of you providing Replenishment, you can be preventing your fellow raiders from having Replenishment, as each class’ replenishment only affects up to 10 people. So a Resto druid could provide Replen for an entire 10 man raid but you would need 2 or 3 Replen providers to cover a 25 man raid (possibly only 2 as your non-mana users won’t need it).
Lifebloom tends to be a bit easier for people to maintain than Harmony, as most seem secure with having to maintain a stack of 3 on their tank. It can also be refreshed quickly if needed by simply recasting it on the tank, though it’s best to refresh it with at least a Nourish (if not Regrowth or Healing Touch) when you can while raid healing so that you activate Harmony as well.
It’s also good to get into the habit of always having Lifebloom up, and 5 mans is a great place to practice it - always keep it up, even through all the trash! Some may be surprised to hear me suggest that, but I’ve seen many druids in 5 mans only putting Lifebloom on their tank on boss fights. Keeping Lifebloom up and maintaining it, even just with lots of Nourish casts when your tank is taking little to no damage, will go a long way in helping ingrain the habit of keeping it up. It will also keep your tank topped off, especially with the Nourish casts in between heavier damage portions (and will keep Harmony active!). The Replen and Revitalize procs will also help restore your mana between trash pulls and bosses, so less time spent drinking!
Again, as suggested in the Harmony section, it’s good to get your 3 stack of Lifebloom up pre-pull, and just refresh it into the pull with Nourish to proc Harmony. Also, if you’re lucky enough to get Dark Intent, your warlock will love you as all the Lifebloom ticks will give him a full 3-stack of his Dark Intent buff pre-pull! 
I should also note: Maintaining Lifebloom is absolutely crucial as I’ve mentioned. There are times, however, when you may be unable to stack Lifebloom on your tank - you may be positioned out of range, for example. In cases like this, stack Lifebloom either on yourself or on another suitable target (if you’re focussing a specific DPS, perhaps a broodling soaker on Beth’tilac, you could stack Lifebloom on them). You can always move the stack back to the tanks when you’re back in range. You absolutely must keep Lifebloom up at all times though.
Analyzing Logs: Harmony and Lifebloom
Logs are the best place to see how you’re doing in terms of maintaining good Lifebloom and Harmony uptime. Whether you’re looking to improve on your own healing, evaluating a new app for your guild, or helping a friend, Logs are extremely helpful all around for analysing your healing.
World of Logs is where tons of Logs are uploaded by guilds for analysis. It can be a bit confusing at first if you’re not familiar with it, so here’s how to navigate to the information we’re looking for. With pictures! You may have to click the screenshots to get a better view.
Here’s a log for one of our nights last week. This is the Dashboard page, where you’ll be brought to first when selecting a night’s logs. To look at a specific player, use the drop-down menus: Here I’ve gone to Players > Druid > Derwent.

For looking at Lifebloom and Harmony uptimes in particular, you should really look only at Boss fights during raids. Looking at the full report can really skew the data - the person you’re looking at might have been AFK or outside the instance during some of the trash mobs, or they might have been DPSing for some of the fights, or perhaps were swapped out for another raid member for some fights. It’s best to look either at Bosses (to include all of them) or to go to specific bosses and look at them one by one. The time in parenthesis by each boss name is the length of the kill, and an arrow off of any bosses will show multiple attempts/wipes on that boss if it wasn’t killed the first time.
Here I’ve gone to Full Report > Bosses > Ragnaros 25H.

Once you’ve gotten to a specific player and a specific boss, you can then go through the tabs to get more information. For Harmony and Lifebloom in particular, it’s best to look at Buffs Cast. This will bring up the following screen:

On the left are the Buffs I cast throughout the fight. You can see Mark of the Wild up at the top at 100% uptime - a static buff of course on the entire raid throughout the fight. Next up is Lifebloom, up at 87.2%, and Harmony at 82.6%. Could be higher, particularly my Harmony which I’ve maintained higher in our other kills, but still good and realistic given some of my other duties in the fight (I do meteor knockbacks in phase 3, Stampeding Roar in phase 2, plus the brief RP time before phase 4). Context is of course important, but you’re still always shooting for that ideal of 100% uptime.
For interest’s sake, we can scan down the rest of the Buffs there. My Power Torrent procced 16 times throughout the fight, giving it a 25.5% uptime. I had 27 Clearcasting procs throughout the fight from my good Lifebloom uptime. I used Tree of Life 3 times, Barkskin 8 times, Innervated myself 4 times. I used Cat Form 3 times along with 3 Nature’s Swiftness casts, and I even Shadowmelded once! (It tends to help me avoid aggro from the scion spawn in the second intermission).
Moving to the right, you can see my Debuffs cast - Exhaustion from Heroism, I cast Moonfires on the Meteors I was knocking back, and Concentration from a Concentration Pot.
Moving to the right once more, you can see Power Gains - this is the mana I gained throughout the fight. Reviltalize and Innervate gave me back the most mana. Heartfire is the Resto t12 2-piece bonus, which is a pretty good mana return throughout the course of a fight. Replenishment there is how much my Replenishment provided to the raid - to see how much you yourself gained from Replenishment, simply click the Buffs Gained tab, shown below, in which you can see the mana gained from Replen (and also from a Concentration pot). 

That all is also looking at a fight which was 12 minutes long - some numbers will be lower for shorter fights.
Some Examples
Here are just a few more examples of some logs looking at Harmony and Lifebloom uptimes.
The following log is one from a Baleroc kill. As I mentioned earlier, because of all the 
direct healing required in this fight, this is a much easier fight to maintain near-perfect Lifebloom and Harmony uptime. You can see there’s a 98% uptime for Lifebloom and 96.6% uptime for Harmony.

I also found the following two logs from kills of Lord Rhyolith - both kills were about 4:40 in length. This is a good comparison of the same encounter, the same length of time, and the effects of high and low Lifebloom uptime in particular.
If you look at this first log, you can see Harmony uptime is up at 92.2% and Lifebloom uptime is up at 87.1%, good. If you look just below that you can see Clearcasting (Omen of Clarity) procs: 21! If you look over to the right for Power Gains, you can see Revitalize restored 66,639 mana.

If we compare that with the following log, you can see Harmony uptime in this log is low at 49.5%, and Lifebloom is only at 31.4% uptime. This also resulted in significantly lower Clearcasting procs - only 8! That can really add up over the course of a fight. If you look to the right, you can see their Revitalize only provided 49,874 mana. While that’s not too low (Rejuvenation also procs Revitalize, which helps there, and the size of each druid's mana pool does factor in as well), that’s still a disparity of 16,765 mana. 

So as you can see, good Lifebloom uptime is really important for mana as well as healing!
I’ve certainly rattled on enough, so I think I'll wrap it up here. Remember, good Harmony and Lifebloom uptime is important and, as ever, practice makes perfect! Don't be discouraged if you're a bit low to start with - just keep working at it and it will improve.

A good tracker for Harmony and Lifebloom can also go a long way! I have some useful Power Auras for keeping an eye on those (full details in my My User Interface / Addons post!) which may be of help to you - the Harmony one in particular displays when the buff is active and has a timer to show you how long is left on it. Many of you likely have some means of watching your HoTs on targets to keep an eye on your Lifebloom, but if you like you can also use the little power aura to show you when your Lifebloom is active as well (this aura does NOT show stacks or timer for Lifebloom, though).

Harmony Power Aura:
Version:4.22; b:0.0549; g:0.4863; icon:Spell_Nature_HealingWay; buffname:Harmony; r:0.1843; x:-85; customname:Harmony; texture:23; alpha:1; inVehicle:0; wowtex:true; combat:true; size:0.25; y:-160; texmode:1; ismounted:0; timer.b:0.9294; timer.h:2; timer.Texture:WhiteRabbit; timer.enabled:true; timer.r:0.9882; timer.cents:false; timer.Relative:CENTER; timer.UseOwnColor:true

Lifebloom Power Aura:
Version:4.22; icon:INV_Misc_Herb_Felblossom; buffname:Lifebloom; x:-45; customname:Lifebloom; alpha:1; mine:true; inVehicle:0; groupOrSelf:true; customtex:true; combat:true; size:0.1; y:-115; ismounted:0

Simply copy, open up Power Auras, hit 'Import' and paste the code into the import bar!
Happy healing!