Spells and Talents
In December of last year, Community Manager Eyonix requested feedback about potential changes to the Druid class for the upcoming Wrath of the Lich King expansion. I took the opportunity to share my own thoughts, reprinted below for reference:
Primary Talents: Restoration
Content Pursued: Raiding, Heroic PvE, Arena PvP
Areas Needing Improvement:
- Raid stacking: Presently Restoration Druids bring very little that is unique to the table that cannot better be contributed by a Feral or Balance Druid. It is sometimes more desirable to have Feral or Balance because of their superior auras and, in the case of Ferals, willingness and ability to give their Innervate to someone else. Paladins and Shamans are almost always a better addition to a raid given what they can bring to the table (Blessings and Totems).
- Viability as a group healer. Druids need a standard resurrection spell available to them to be viable 5-man healers. Being forced to look for a Shaman, Paladin, or Priest to bring along to instances is an unfair restriction imposed on no other healer.
- Itemization: If WotLK continues to emphasize Spell Haste as an item stat, Druids will continue to have points wasted on a stat which affords us little benefit. Either make HoTs benefit from spell haste in some way, provide alternative drops which do not include this stat, or do not itemize in this way.
- Aesthetic Customization: Unlike players of other classes, Druids do not progress aesthetically as their gear improves due to our frequent use of forms. This problem is especially pronounced for Feral and Balance Druids but does effect Druids who make frequent use of ToL. It would be more enjoyable if the appearance of our forms changed as certain stats considered “core” to those forms increased.
Spells and Abilities Needing Change:
- Tree of Life Aura: This aura is often discarded in favor of another aura benefitting the tank more. It is nowhere on par with the benefits afforded by a Feral or Balance Druid to her respective groups. Change the aura back to the way it was at inception (benefitting all healers within a group) and prevent it from stacking. As it is, Tree of Life is a very limiting form providing only its mana reduction benefit when it can actually be used.
- Mark of the Wild is widely regarded as a worthless buff that provides very little to a raid as a whole. A rework of this buff (and it’s corresponding Tier 1 5/5 talent, Improved Mark of the Wild) would help make Restoration more desired by raids. At the very least, the resistances provided by this buff should be made to stack with the other, more powerful auras.
- Innervate: A core ability of our class and essential in longer Arena matches, it is extremely vulnerable to dispel by other classes (Priest, Shaman, Warlock, Hunter) and almost invariably worth the mana it costs to take it from a Druid. This ability should be made more difficult or not possible to dispel.
- Lifebloom: As it is, there is no penalty for dispelling the first or second stack of Lifebloom if a Druid has 3 stacks running. Any stack that is dispelled should be changed to bloom in the same way as the last, ensuring that this HoT performs the function that seems to be intended (dispel protection for a class whose usefulness as a healer is tied to its ability to keep one or more HoTs running on groupmates).
Interestingly, Blizzard has already made improvements in several of the areas described above. Spell Haste was made to be a more viable stat for Restoration Druids with the change that made it capable of reducing the Global Cooldown, giving us greater flexibility in terms of spell rotations. The mana cost changes to Regrowth combined with the increased value of Spell Haste helped increase our ability to respond to splash damage via direct heals rather than HoTs that are more likely to get overwritten. Large improvements to our Spirit- and Intellect-based mana regeneration made giving away our Innervate more plausible, increasing our stacking value. Any PvP-changes to Lifebloom being dispelled proved to be … unnecessary.
A wealth of information from the Family and Friends Alpha was leaked and released today, including full alpha-stage talent trees for the Druid class (also here)! While I am incredibly excited for all the titillating information I’ve come across, I am too timid to reprint it here, for fear of NDA violation. Be sure to note everything you might want to know from the reconstructed talent tree because there’s a good chance Blizzard will ask that it be removed. Without reprinting word-for-word tooltips, here are a few of the best parts:
- Bloat Reduction
The first few tiers of the Restoration tree are being reworked to reduce bloat and give more viable options when making selections. Improved Mark of the Wild has been changed to require only two points instead of five, and the actual improvement has been increased from 35% to 40%. Nature’s Focus has been changed from a 5-point to a 3-point talent and moved into Tier 1 of the Restoration tree, allowing newly minted Restos to see an immediate improvement to their healing effectiveness. Similarly, Subtlety has been reduced from five points to three and is now available from Tier 2 of the Restoration tree, making it much more accessible to Balance-specced Druids. All of these changes taken together makes Natural Shapeshifter a more feasible choice which is good because it is now required to unlock a new, 2-point talent that increases healing done while in Tree of Life by 4%.
- Improvements to the Tree of Life Aura
Several major changes to the Tree of Life are mentioned including the talented 4% boost to healing mentioned above, a talented 360% armor increase, and a new effect called Bark’s Blessing. Bark’s Blessing is a blessing conferred on any target you’ve healed within the last eight seconds while in ToL that increases the +Healing from healing spells applied to them by 25% of your total Spirit (30% when talented). This means that Druids will no longer be relegated to the typically caster unfriendly tank group! Interestingly, the armor increase may make the form more viable in PvP but at the expense of all mobility.
- Additional Improvements to Existing Talents
In addition to the bloat-reduction, Resto Druids can look forward to a 5-minute cooldown on Tranquility thanks to the new Improved Tranquility talent which retains its threat-reducing component and also reduces its cooldown by 50%.
- Increased Emphasis on Spell Crit
We may find ourselves with a new focus on gear with spell crit rating as several new synergistic talents and abilities have been mentioned including Living Seed, a new 5-point, Tier 10 talent that reads: “When you gain a critical effect from your Swiftmend, Regrowth, Nourish or Healing Touch spell you have a 100% chance to plant a Living Seed on the target for ?% of the amount healed. The Living Seed will bloom when the target is next attacked. Lasts 15 sec.
Spark of Nature, a new Tier 8, 3-point talent increases the crit chance of Swiftmend and Nourish by 15%.(removed) In combination with the additional 50% spell crit from 5/5 Improved Regrowth, Druids can expect to see (and enjoy) many more spell crits.
- Nourish a “True” Flash Heal
The description for the new, untalented Druid Healing spell Flourish reads “Heals a friendly target for 1550 to 1800. Heals for an additional 387.5 to 450 if Rejuvenation is on the target.” The size of this heal brings it in line with the Paladin’s Flash Heal without the HoT component of Regrowth and with added “punch” when cast upon a tank (who is more likely to have a Rejuvenation effect on him at any given time). Thanks to reader Sheshonk for the heads up!
- Druids to Regenerate Mana, Rage, Energy
Falling in line with the idea of Druids as the regenerative healers, Restoration Druids can now elect to pick up the 3-point talent, Replenish which gives each tick of Rejuvenation a chance to to restore 10 Energy, 4 Rage, 10 Runic Power, 2% mana. Now we get to turn people down for Innervate and Rejuvenation!
- Flourish as a Counter to Overhealed HoTs
Our penultimate, Tier 11 talent Flourish “Heals friendly party or raid members within 10 yards of the target for 665 over 7 sec. The healing is applied quickly at first, and slows down as the Flourish reaches its full duration.” It’s essentially a HoT-based version of the Priest Circle of Healing that is essentially front-loaded so that the majority of its healing will be effective and less likely to be overwritten by spells like Prayer of Mending and Chain Heal.
Please remember that the above changes should not be considered as anywhere close to what we’re likely to see with the release of the expansion. However, they go leaps and bounds toward correcting many of the issues mentioned by players on the class/spec feedback thread in December (lackluster ToL aura, talent tree bloat, lack of a unique raiding niche). If we see even half of the changes outlined above, I will certainly be foregoing earlier, insiduous plans to spec for Lunar Guidance, Moonglow, and Swiftmend simultaneously. I’ll take Goddess-mode, Elune-form instead, thanks!
For Runycat’s take on the leaked alpha notes, see her article WotLK Talent Speculation. Graylo shares a Balance-d perspective (heehee) over at his blog, Gray Matter. And also be sure to check out everyone’s favorite big-bottomed ursine’s commentary on the new Feral talents.
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