Phaelia has and probably always will be my main character. I first created her in the open beta (albeit with blue-green hair and a different hairstyle) and recreated her on the first day of release. From level 10, she’s been specced Restoration. Because my husband was levelling a Retribution-specced Paladin at the time, it was no issue for me to remain healing-specced for the journey to level 60. Sure, I used Cat Form when jumping from high places, but Bear Form didn’t even have a cute dance yet so it saw little use. Of course, before the release of the Burning Crusade, itemization and scaling issues made the two Druid offspecs much less viable than the classes they were intended to emulate. Many, many Druids found themselves respeccing into Restoration at the end game, especially if they had any desire to raid.
Burning Crusade brought a host of very positive changes for the Druid class, not the least of which was an overall improvement of itemization for our Feral tree (Moonkin still rely primarily upon cloth drops, unfortunately). New abilities such as Mangle made us more competitive with Warriors and Rogues (too competitive, unfortunately, as Bear damage was nerfed due to Warrior complaints). With these changes, many Druids who were previously pigeonholed into Restoration found themselves free to spec how they pleased. Feral tanks were suddenly very much in demand, while Restoration Druids had trouble finding a place in 5-mans due to out of combat Ressurection woes. Moonkin still struggle because of weak (some would argue nonexistent) crowd control, but overall, the relative damage output of the spec became more competitive with that of Mages.
The end result of all of these changes is that, once the vast majority, the population of Restoration Druids has shrunk dramatically. Many former Trees respecced to Bear and Cat as they had long yearned to do while others found they’d enjoyed levelling Balance-specced and remained laser chickens. Restoration Druids are a rare breed now, and — with the viability of the Dreamstate spec — it’s even more rare to find a Tree-specced Druid. Perhaps this is the reason that so many guild recruitment posts list Restoration Druids as a High Priority these days. Because while our mana efficiency may not compare to that of Shamans or Paladins, the power of stacked heals over time cannot be denied.
According to statistics compiled by The Build Mine, of 76371 Druids analyzed, Druids by spec broke down as follows:
- Feral Combat: 58.74% (31+), 57.48% (41+)
- Restoration: 26.74% (31+), 23.48% (41+)
- Balance: 14.47% (31+), 12.27% (41+)
Those numbers are pretty significant when considering that Restoration Druids probably made up 75% or more of all Druids before the Burning Crusade. So if speccing Feral is so much more rewarding today, why stay Restoration? I can’t answer for everyone, but I see several reasons to remain Restoration-specced:
- A good healer can help compensate for poor tanking or crowd control.
Throw enough heals at a problem (in an intelligent, efficient manner), and you can make up for a lot of typical group deficiencies.
- Everyone can DPS, but not everyone can heal.
Every class has at least one talent tree dedicated to DPS. Even those classes that were considered “main healers” at the outset of the game have the option to spec into something other than healing. Someone who specs for healing has made the conscious choice to sacrifice soloability to provide better support to her comrades. Many enjoy the feeling they get from making such a sacrifice (self-martyrdom).
- Restoration is currently the most viable spec for competitive PvP.
This is unfortunate given the general propensity of Feral-specced Druids to want to Maul faces. A host of issues stemming from Blizzard’s philosophy that “hybrids should perform at X% of the capacity of the classes they emulate” make Restoration our most viable option and even then, Paladins often outperform Druids with less effort.
- Role competition is more interesting.
Unlike the competition among DPS classes (where there basically exists an infinite amount of damage that can be dealt), there exists only a finite amount of healing that can be performed. This means that reaction time plays a larger role in the performance of healers than it often does for DPS classes. Any healer can put up large amounts of healing, but much of that might be ineffective healing of a target already at full life. Of course, this is less and less a measure of a good healer due to Druids’ increased reliance upon heals over time (which tick away ineffectually should the recipient be topped off by another).
- Multiple healers can back each other up.
Unlike tanking where generally 1-2 players are responsible for the entirety of the role, a raid often includes 3 or more healers who help back each other up, lightening the responsibility borne by any individual. This scenario often leads to camraderie among healers (although I’m sure the same could be said for DPSers or tanks and offtanks).
- Less loot competition.
This is particularly true of 5-man instances where it’s rare to have more than one healer present. As the size of the group increases, however, the percentage of healers also increases (from 20% to 30% or more), but luckily healers come in all shapes and sizes (cloth, leather, mail, and plate) and are often encouraged to focus on different stats so even then, loot competition is often less dramatic than that faced by DPS classes.
- Healing items often tend toward a more feminine appearance.
This was especially true before the additions of the Malorne and Nordrassil armor sets which homogenized the appearance of our specs (when in caster form). To many this might seem a superficial concern, but as a female player, I admit a certain preference toward more feminine attire. Healing robes such as Primal Mooncloth and the Masquerade Gown flatter my avatar and make her more enjoyable to look at and, in turn, play.
These are just a few of the reasons that I am and will probably always be “Resto4Life.” For those of you who also find yourself specced to heal, what are the reasons? And for those of you who are not, what made you choose your spec instead?
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