Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The Many Uses for the Tree of Life Cooldown! An Illustrated Guide

I've been meaning to write this post for a while and I've finally finished the drawings for it! I've been having fun recently doing some lighthearted doodles for guildies (inspired by one of our boomkins who also likes to make doodles). I love drawing tree form, and what better way to do a post about the many wonderful uses of our Tree of Life cooldown than by doing a bunch of doodles for it! Let's dive in.

Tree of Life: Shapeshift into the tree of life, increasing healing done by 15% and increasing your armour by 120%. Also protects the caster from Polymorph effects. In addition, some of your spells are temporarily enhanced while shapeshifted (Lifebloom, Wild Growth, Regrowth, Entangling Roots, Wrath).

Heal Moar!!!!
Throughput Boost!
This is the most straightforward use for the Tree of Life cooldown - it increases our healing done by 15%. This is a great and simple use for ToL - is the tank getting absolutely wrecked? Pop ToL and heal to victory! A period of raid-wide damage? Pop ToL and heal heal heal! (More tricks on raid healing with ToL below!) Want to boost your Tranquility even more? Pop ToL, activate Harmony and Tranq away! You can plan to use it in advance if you know a period of heavy damage is coming, or pop it in an emergency when you need that extra boost.

Raid Healing with ToL!
This is one of my favourite uses for Tree of Life. I often save ToL for specific points in fights with heavy raid-wide damage. I pop ToL and spread Lifebloom all over the raid - single stacks, multiple stacks, whatever's needed. This gets tons of Omen of Clarity procs, which I can use to throw out instant free Regrowths to top up anyone who needs a bigger heal. I work in Wild Growths as well (which hits an extra target in ToL), and Swiftmend as needed. You could throw out a couple of Rejuvs as well, but all the free Regrowths going out will set up Swiftmendable targets, so while ToL is active I wouldn't use too many Rejuvs.

This strategy will give you a tremendous amount of raid coverage at an incredibly low mana cost. Lifebloom is an extremely cheap spell, so you can spread it over as many people as you can and barely see your mana dip at all. All of the Omen of Clarity procs will let you throw out the free Regrowths as well, so you'll have tons of big instant heals going out at zero mana cost as well. Wild Growths will still cost mana of course, but should absolutely still be going out, as well as Swiftmends as needed.

Lifebloom does a good amount of healing, so don't discount spreading it around the raid! Don't forget - it stacks and it blooms. All druids should be running with 3/3 Gift of the Earthmother in their spec regardless, and this talent increases the bloom from Lifebloom by 15%.

This strategy also gives you more mobility in phases of heavy raid damage, the instant Regrowths let you pop off some bigger heals while on the move instead of having to stop to cast.

Don't be afraid to use Regrowths without OoC if you need to! It will cost more mana of course (so be careful not to spam it!), but if it's a choice of someone living or dying, you should use it.

Some examples!
5-Mans: This is a great trick to use on the Panther boss in Zul-Gurub (especially if your tank got a few too many cats!). The entire group is getting wrecked - you can easily cover all five people in the group with 2-3 stacks of Lifebloom. All of the OoC procs will let you get instant free Regrowths for bigger heals on party members or the tank, and you can layer on Wild Growths on cooldown as well. You might want to keep a Rejuv on your tank so you can Swiftmend him if necessary in case he didn't have a Regrowth thrown on him.

Raids: Obviously you can cover more raid members with Lifebloom in a 10man than in a 25man, but it is still an extremely useful strategy. Two examples!

Beth'tilac: I use this strategy all the time on Beth'tilac when I go up top to heal and in the final phase. It is especially useful up top as I can cover myself, the tank, and the DPS up there with LB, get quick top-ups on me and the DPS with the free Regrowths, cover everyone with Wild Growth, Swiftmend when needed, and continue my direct heals (Healing Touch and Regrowths as needed) on the tank.
It is also a mana efficient way to cover the raid during the final burn phase and will help you manage your mana in what is a very intense healing and mana phase without reducing your healing done.

Ragnaros: I love using Tree of Life on the two Intermissions phases. The entire raid is taking lots of damage from the Lava Bolts during these phases, and in the second Intermission phase your tanks are also taking a beating from the Lava Scions. Using ToL here allows you to be mobile when your raid is very spread out and to quickly and efficiently heal and top-up raid members. An instant Regrowth on someone whose health is low can save them from being killed by another Lava Bolt! It will also help conserve your mana for later phases, especially the Molten Seeds phases which have a significant amount of raid damage.

Tree of Life can be great as a DPS cooldown! ToL reduces your Wrath cast-time by half, so you'll end up with about a 1 second cast time (possibly less if you have Nature's Grace procced or Heroism). This can be really wonderful in fights where there's a significant DPS burn needed during a period of low or no raid damage, and also it's just extremely fun to do! Not to mention a treant casting Wrath looks amazing! A great example is the Alysrazor fight in Firelands - when she crash-lands, she takes additional damage, attacks restore your mana, and no damage is going out until she starts to take off again. So, pop treeform, and pew pew pew!!

Also, if you do any BGs or Arenas, it can be a fun little way to finish off an opponent. They won't be too happy with you though!

Annoying Rogues (and PVP fun in general)!
Speaking of BGs and Arenas... I don't PVP too often, so when I do I like to have a bit of fun. I don't profess to be an expert at PVP though!

ToL is of course a great cooldown to use in general in PVP, I find especially in BGs if someone (or many) decide to beat on me for a while. If a melee comes to hit me, the instant heals are amazing for surviving (especially when they pop their cooldowns) as you can lay on the HoTs and do larger top-ups with Swiftmends and instant Regrowths without worrying about getting interrupted. The more-skilled PVPers out there will probably have interrupt-juking down to an art form, but I still have some ways to go with that!

ToL also increases your armour, makes you immune to Polymorph, and allows you to cast Entangling Roots instantly, so you can root people and flee if your Nature's Grasp is on cooldown. Don't forget to cast Thorns on yourself! (ToL doesn't boost Thorns, but it's still good to cast if a melee is poking at you!) It can also help you live a bit longer as you try to either flee, CC, or just wait for a peel or some DPS back-up.

If you want to have a bit of fun with your would-be assassin, you can also throw out a classic /dance or /cheer or /wave while in treeform. Prepare to have them harass you for the rest of the BG though! Just greet them with a /smile when you see them again.

One of my favourite things about Tree of Life form (and why I miss the perma-tree form so much) is the sheer light-heartedness and goofiness of the form and all the fun emotes and play you could have with people. Though I prefer the old Treant form, the new tree form can have a lot of fun as well (its flailing is even goofier than the treant flails!).

I most sorely miss the light-hearted fun I would have constantly with my permanent tree form. I'd jump around, run into walls, /dance, /cheer (my favourite), back when I was an engineer I'd rocket boot and parachute off the steps in VoA or random cliffs (a tree floating down on a parachute was amazing). A treant running around looks hilarious - they always look very busy, as if they're rushing about yelling 'NO TIME TO STOP!! MUST GO HEAL THINGS!!' Not to mention the fun had with guildies threatening to chop me down/set me on fire/etc while I shed leaves on them. All these poor Worgen, they finally got to come play and they lost all the trees they could have peed on!

I absolutely love the cooldown ability, don't get me wrong, but I'm still disappointed that I had to lose my permanent tree form just to get it. I wish we could get some option to turn on the form (perhaps out of combat) just to have some fun without a duration!

Nods here to the ever funny Allie Brosh from Hyperbole and a Half 
That about wraps it up! Do you have any uses for Tree of Life that you've found particularly useful or fun? Share in the comments!

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!

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!