Evaluating New Resto Druids in Cataclysm

The other day, I was approached by a couple on my server looking for druid advice. One of them was an up-and-coming resto druid still making the transition from Wrath to Cataclysm and felt she wasn’t quite where she needed to be with mana control. I offered to help get her up to speed, which eventually culminated in doing Grim Batol on normal difficulty. During the run, I realized I hadn’t seen much information on evaluating healing druids who were still getting geared up and used to Cataclysm mechanics. Below are a few things you can do to evaluate those druids who are still getting up to speed with the newer systems.

The Basics: Gear and Itemization

This has been beaten to death by about every druid resource out there, but it’s still just as important. I won’t go over the nitty-gritty of druid itemization here; these are just some general things to look for. If you’re not already familiar with the basics, don’t be afraid to ask your guild’s druid class lead or use resources like Elitist Jerks.

Make sure the druid is itemizing properly for stats like intellect and spirit, and check that they are gemming and enchanting appropriately based on what they feel they are having issues with (e.g. more spirit gems if they feel they have mana issues.) Also, make sure that the druid is wearing all leather gear. A single piece of cloth gear will keep a druid from a free 5% intellect bonus. I have seen more than a few druids get caught in the trap of wearing a couple pieces of cloth quest gear.

Talents and Glyphs

Talent setup and glyphs are just as important as itemization (you can’t be a healing druid if you’re not specced into resto!) While there are a number of different ways healing druids can spend their points, there are quite a  few talents that are necessary to keep up with the pack. Check to make sure they have the iconic healing talents, such as Wild Growth, Tree of Life, Nature’s Cure, and Efflorescence. Any direct boosts to their healing spells, like Improved Rejuvenation, should also be taken. Talents that add additional benefit in an indirect way, like Malfurion’s Gift and Nature’s Bounty, can also be useful.

Depending on the druid’s goals, they may have Nature’s Ward, Fury of Stormrage, or Perseverance. These talents are fine, so long as the druid plans to do PvP, solo, or small group content; these talents take up vital points that could be used elsewhere if your druid plans on raiding.

Glyphs are equally as important, adding many very nice perks to restoration’s already-potent healing arsenal. Be sure to ask what prime glyphs the druid has; if they are using the Rejuvenation, Lifebloom, and Swiftmend prime glyphs, they are in good shape. Glyph of Regrowth, while it sounds cool, isn’t as practical as one might think. Compared to the other three, it’s fairly lacking.

As for major and minor glyphs, the only one you should worry about the druid having (and this is only if they plan to raid) is Glyph of Wild Growth. Other than that, any glyph is fine, so long as it will benefit them while healing (I don’t think you’ll see a resto druid casting Typhoon or Feral Charge any time soon).

Technique: Theory and Practice

This is where it gets a bit harder to evaluate a player. That said, there are a few tricks you can use to check for where their technique could use some polishing. Ask them how they deal with different situations while healing, such as burst group damage or massive tank spikes. Set up theoretical boss fights and ask how they would manage healing in such a situation. Finding where they may be spending too much mana or have not enough healing throughput can be an immense help in improving a player’s healing. Make sure they know to keep a stack of three Lifeblooms up on a target as much as possible to take advantage of Malfurion’s Gift, and that they know to use Clearcasting procs on the expensive spells.  Also, be sure the druid is aware of who will be hit with Wild Growth or where their Efflorescence circle will land (Efflorescence is dropped at the feet of a Swiftmend target.)

Once you’ve gotten the theoretical stuff out of the way, it’s best to test the druid’s ability to use that knowledge. Undoubtedly the best way to improve anyone’s play is through practice; healing is no exception. Take your druid through a regular dungeon run (don’t jump into heroics until you’ve gotten them comfortable with regular difficulty) and put that player on your focus frame. Watch to see what spells they cast and what buffs they take advantage of (combat log addons help immensely for this.) If they are having mana issues, they might be over-casting Healing Touch or Regrowth, or forgetting to use cheap spells like Nourish and Swiftmend. If group members’ health is dropping dangerously low, they might be relying too much on using HoTs alone or are too focused on healing one or two people (including themselves.) Let them know if you see an issue in their healing technique; if they use that advice during the run, you can both see if it made an improvement.

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