Here I am, drowning my sorrows in a glass of Miracle-Gro at my favorite Dalaran tavern. Why all the tragic tree tears?
For those of you who have been under a rock for the last week, the news from the developers is that Lifebloom is about to get a heavy nerf to its healing per mana (HPM). In 3.1, Lifebloom will cost twice what it does at current and return 50% of its cost when it blooms, adjusted for the number of stacks on the target.
What does this mean, you might ask?
Ghostcrawler tells us that the intent is to end the practice of rolling Lifebloom–efficiently–on two or more tanks. Unfortunately, the nerf hits a “good” practice just as hard–rolling Lifebloom on just one tank.
I’ve been following Elitist Jerks and the official Healing Class Role forums, and amid the insane drivel and endless whining, I’ve been able to discern a few things.
What Druids Want
#1: Overwhelmingly, druids want a Lifebloom we can use.
Lifebloom has come to be a spec-defining ability, and its rolling mechanism makes it unique. My own worry, and that of many raiding druids, is that the practice of using Lifebloom as a rolling buffer on one tank will be over. We want reassurance from the developers that Lifebloom will continue to work for us.
#2: Druids want consistency in the way we time the spell.
Most druids agree on one thing: the new bloom mechanism is awkward. A reward for blooming and a punishment for refreshing contradict the mechanics we’ve grown up with. In this topsy-turvy Lifebloom world, what’s good now will soon be bad–you’ll want your Lifebloom to fall off whenever you can afford it.
#3: Druids want a raid role, and we want it to be consistent with what it has been in the past.
Every player, of course, wants to be useful. After all, we want to play the game, and rerolling isn’t a realistic option for most of us. I’ve seen priest and shaman and paladin threads about their raid role as well, and now druids are feeling that anxiety. I’ve also seen the devs reply to these anxieties in dismissive and condescending ways. They always say that they conceive of raid roles differently than the community does. To that, I’ll reply that perceptions matter. Raid invites are based on them, after all.
Druids overwhelmingly believe that their raid role is to add a buffer, a bit of insurance against disaster. Our HoTs are like the priest’s Power Word Shield or the Shaman’s Earth Shield: useless when the content is easy, but essential when the content is hard. If cushioning the MT goes the way of the dodo, many druids may start to feel like the poor man’s paladin. I think Blizzard needs to pay attention to the druid’s historical raid role and make sure it remains intact. In order for a buffer to work, it needs to stay up. Rolling LB will always be the best thing–for the tank. And that’s what we want to think about, right?
#4: Druids want to be less dependent on timers
Druid healing is already very rigid. Unlike other healers, we have a true rotation, and it’s every bit as ugly as an Affliction warlock’s. We have four different HoTs, each of which has a different duration, and one of which stacks. We’re already tied to 3rd-party mods to manage these spells, particularly Lifebloom. Right now, though, all we have to do is roll, and the penalty for refreshing early is slight. However, in a mana-constrained environment, with Lifebloom being our most expensive HoT, we absolutely will not be able to refresh early. The penalty will be huge. In addition, we’ll be having to make a decision about whether to let Lifebloom bloom every 9 seconds or so. That’s a lot of mental bandwidth dedicated to timing one spell. Many druids would rather drop Lifebloom altogether than micromanage the bloom. As it stands now, it looks like we will be more dependent on timers post 3.1 than we are now, and that’s a scary thought.
Everyone has their pet fix for the Lifebloom problem or their favorite way to mitigate the impact of the nerf. I’m going to repeat here a couple of my favorites. I’ve seen each of these ideas posted several times by different posters in slightly different iterations, but here’s my take.
#1. Buff Lifebloom’s HoT slightly and reduce the bloom. A gain in HPS on the part of the spell that’s most useful in PvE would cushion the impact of the nerf somewhat.
#2. Limit the number of active Lifeblooms to 6 per druid. I personally love this solution, and I’d even like it if the limit were three. This would keep multiple stacks of Lifebloom from dominating the healing meters, and even though a raid could ostensibly stack druids, most probably wouldn’t. After all, Lifebloom works best as a sort of damage cushion on the main tank. This is the use of rolling Lifebloom that I’d like to protect.
#3. Remove the stacking mechanism. I’m also in favor of this solution for simplicity’s sake. Lifebloom causes a ton of problems because of its stacks. Why not buff the value for a single Lifebloom and remove the stacking capability? It’s the stacking that causes such rigidity in a druid’s rotation. I doubt many druids will be brave enough to single stack it in 3.1, but that’s looking like a mana efficient way to go. Why not make the decision for us?
I’m interested in knowing what readers think about this problem. As for me, I think I understand why Lifebloom is a target right now, and it’s not a pretty thought. I think that–correctly or no–the developers believe that the 40% nerf to OOFSR regen won’t hurt the druid enough. Right or wrong, it’s seen as a nerf that will hurt the priest more. As such, they’ve changed both the cost and the mechanics of druids’ signature spell in order to force us to run empty. My feeling from reading the comments of PTR testers is that the change is too dramatic. Combined with the new, underwhelming Innervate, the expensive rolled Lifebloom may just not be sustainable even on one target. I’m not looking forward to standing idly by mid-fight with an empty mana bar. Far better than that would be to do without Lifebloom, but I sure would miss it.