Analysis, Spells and Talents
Lately there’s been a great deal of hubbub about the lack of endgame viability for the Restoration Druid relative to that of our healing counterparts, the Paladin, Priest, and Shaman. One of the primary complaints is that our class-specific buff, Mark of the Wild, scales so poorly in comparison to those brought to the table by other healers. The description of the group version, Gift of the Wild reads as follows:
While the spell’s description may sound lackluster, it’s only by comparing Mark to the spells, blessings, and totems that can be brought to the table by other healing classes that the gross imbalance is demonstrated.
Priests: Prayer of Fortitude and Divine Spirit
While it is true that — unlike Prayer of Fortitude — Mark grants a benefit to all stats, most classes benefit only from a few specific stats, usually no more than three. Casters generally rely upon Intellect and Spirit, while melees focus on some combination of Strength and Agility. Common among the two groups is Stamina which benefits all classes. Gift of the Wild grants a total of 14 Stamina. Compare this to Prayer of Fortitude which grants a total of 79. Untalented, Mark grants 140 hit points, Fortitude 790. Are 650 hit points really countered by either 210 mana and whatever benefits can be derived from 14 Spirt (widely subject to the class in question) or 14 more Strength (28 AP for warriors, 14 for rogues) and 14 more Agility (14 more AP for rogues and a negligible amount of dodge)?
Also worth noting: any Priest who has made healing her focus is likely to have picked up Divine Spirit, a buff which grants 50 additional Spirit, further widening the buff gap between Priests and Druids. And, while it costs Restoration druids 5 talent points to grant an additional +4 to all stats, Priests have only to spend 2 talent points to gain the same 35% improvement — a 35% improvement to a spell that’s already much more desirable.
Hands down, Prayer of Fortitude is a vastly superior buff to the Druid counterpart, Gift of the Wild.
Here’s where Druids are hurt the most. Paladins bring a whole host of available buffs, and despite the hefty upkeep necessary to maintain them, they can afford a myriad of tremendous benefits to a raid group:
- Blessing of Kings: Increases total stats by 10% for 15 min.
Although this ability requires an eleven point investment in the Protection tree, it effectively affords more than double the benefit of Mark of the Wild. And it scales. As raid members improve their core stats by upgrading their gear, this buff keeps pace by granting them additional stat points at the same rate as before.
- Blessing of Wisdom: Restores 41 mana every 5 seconds for 15 min.
Untalented, this Blessing affords casters 41 mana per 5. It can easily make the difference between loss and success for a given boss encounter by tremendously increasing healer longevity. And a Holy-specced Paladin will have picked up the talents to improve this blessing (20% for two talent points), increasing its return to nearly 50 mp5.
- Blessing of Might: Increases attack power by 220 for 15 min.
Compare this to the maximum of 28 AP granted by Mark of the Wild.
- Blessing of Salvation: Reduces the amount of all threat generated by 30% for 15 min.
This buff can theoretically increase the total DPS output of your raid by an incredible 30% since it effectively raises the aggro ceiling that must be exceeded by the raid’s main tank.
Best of all, Paladins stack incredibly well. Adding another Paladin healer means one more of the amazing buffs listed above to be given out to raid members. Like the dilemma faced by Holy Priests, adding another Druid affords no additional benefit to the raid group.
Shamans: Totems, Totems, Totems!
I admit only passing familiarity with the Shaman class. However, take a look at some of the buffs that can be granted to a Shaman’s group in the form of one or more immobile totems:
- Windfury Totem: Enchants all party members main-hand weapons with wind, if they are within 20 yards. Each hit has a 20% chance of granting the attacker 1 extra attack with 445 extra attack power.
- Grace of Air Totem: Increases the agility of party members within 20 yards by 77
- Mana Spring Totem: Restores 12 mana every 2 seconds to group members within 20 yards.
- Mana Tide Totem: Restores 6% of total mana every 3 seconds to group members within 20 yards.
Any of the above buffs is inarguably superior to Mark of the Wild, and in some cases, more than one can be made available to a Shaman’s party. And — like Paladins — it’s almost always advantageous to bring as many Shamans to a raid as there are groups. They stack almost as well.
“Buffing Our Buff”
What can be done to bring the quality of our class buff more in line with those of other healers? One or more of the following changes would be helpful:
- Change the stats granted by Mark to take into account the fact that all classes do not benefit from an increase to all six of their stats. Improve the power of this buff accordingly (perhaps a 25 to all stats).
- Reduce the cost of the Improved Mark of the Wild talent from 5 points to 3 points, in line with the point cost paid by Priests. This would also help reduce the bloat of the Restoration talent tree.
- Add 40 Resilience to this buff. This would improve Druids’ PvP desirability without tremendously affecting PvE balance. At level 70, 40 Resilience reduces the chance to be crit by 1%.
- Allow the resistances granted by Mark to stack with those granted by other classes’ auras (which are inevitably superior and almost invariably available).
At one point hailed as “the best buff in the game,” Mark quite simply can no longer compete. It is outshone in every way by buffs which grant greater and/or more universally useful stat bonuses. This combined with the fact that Druids stack no better than Priests but have fewer, feebler buffs to bring to the table (Mark of the Wild and Thorns versus Prayer of Fortitude and Divine Spirit) make us a far less attractive addition to a raid group than any of the classes with which we compete for a limited number of slots. Without regard to any of the other issues which plague healing-focused Druids, addressing the disparity between our class-specific buff and those brought to the table by Shamans, Priests, and Paladins would go a long way toward improving our viability as valued raid contributors.