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.

Healing Icecrown from a Druid’s Perspective – Part 2

Healing Icecrown from a Druid’s Perspective – Part 2

This is a guest post by Epiphanize, a Resto Druid, and co-host of Raid Warning.

Now that we got all that out of the way, it is time to get down to business. You didn’t really show up just to listen to me go on about glyphs, did you? No, you came to heal your branches off! One quick thing: Be sure to check out the comments in my previous article; there were some good suggestions for alternative point distribution.

Lord Marrowgar

So here we are, Lord Marrowgar, a very interesting challenge for healers. However, it does give Druids a chance to show off their ability to heal on the run. This can be a relatively hectic fight, so regardless of whether you are tank or raid healing, you will need to be tossing HoTs at some points during the fight.

Tank Healing

This is the easier of two roles against Marrowgar.  During his initial phase and all the ones where he is not spinning all over the place, it is essentially a one tank fight. Since the nerf, Marrowgar does quit a bit less melee damage. So the damage your meat shield will be taking will be fairly minimal. This is pretty manageable for Trees, as we can keep the tank pretty well topped off with our HoTs.

One ability you need to be prepared for though is Saber Lash.  Saber Lash is an ability similar to Koralon’s Meteor Fists, in which two tanks will need to stack in order to distribute the damage. Your healing priority will be the Main Tank followed by the Off-Tank after a Saber Lash. As a tree, you have the added benefit of hitting both with Wild Growth before topping off the Main Tank. Other than dodging the occasional slow-motion blue flames, there is not much to deal with during this phase.

Raid Healing

As stated above, this fight can be quite hectic for a raid healer. During the first phase you will have quite a bit to manage. In 10-player, one random player will be Bone Spiked. DPS will be turning to focus on getting the player down as quickly as possible. This presents two things for you as a raid healer. You obviously will need to be focusing on healing the spiked player. I’ve managed to safely keep them up with Rejuvenation and Swiftmend, though this can also be accomplished with a few Nourishes as well. The other thing is people taking Coldflame damage, as they will often be ignoring the flames to get the person off the spike. Again this is usually handled by tossing some Rejuvenations and Wild Growth, saving Swiftmend for anyone who stands in the fire just a bit too long.

The last thing you will be concerned with during the pre-Bone Storm phases is the aforementioned Coldflame. As the raid healer, you will be responsible for topping off anyone who doesn’t get out of the way of the flames quick enough. The damage it does is not too horrible as long as no one just stands there. Its actually more of a nuisance avoiding it yourself, as you will often need to decide between standing their long enough to finish casting a heal, or cutting it short to avoid taking too much damage yourself.

Bone Storm

This phase is pretty similar for Druids regardless of your role. Marrowgar will become untauntable and spin around the room doing relatively minor AOE damage. It is still good to avoid him if possible, as it makes life a bit easier on all the healers. The big thing you will be dealing with is blue flames (of ice?) again. Only this time he drops 4 at a time. This phase is all about survival. Since you will be on the move during this, Druids will be arguably the best healer for this phase. This is where glyphs like Rapid Rejuvenation and Wild Growth start to shine in ICC. Just keep HoTs on everyone and toss Wild Growth on cooldown and you should be fine. Make sure to keep Swiftmend and your NS-HT macro at the ready in case anyone gets into trouble.

One last thing that the Tank Healer needs to consider is the position of the tanks during all chaos. The tanks will be sticking close to Marrowgar during Bone Storm in order to pick him up at the end of the phase. Not only will the tanks be taking a bit extra damage, but you will want to be nearby to keep the Main Tank healed up while everyone gets back to some semblance of order.

Lady Deathwhisper

The next boss in The Citadel is quite a bit easier on the healers than Marrowgar. If your group is good about staying out of Death and Decay and interrupting Frost Bolts, you won’t have to mash the keyboard nearly as much. For Druids, this fight is all about situational awareness and keeping in range of the players taking damage.

Phase 1

The key to Lady Deathwhisper is getting through her first phase. During this phase she will be behind a mana shield that DPS will need to burn through in between dealing with adds that spawn from either side of the room. After that, the fight is pretty much tank and spank. In my experience, this is the fight where you are most likely to only use 2 healers.

The mechanics of the adds are pretty complicated at times, so it is good to familiarize yourself with them. There will be times the tank and raid will be taking increased damage based on these mechanics. There is a lot of movement involved, so there will often be times you will have to drag your stump across the room to toss a heal or two.

There are a few other considerations during this phase. First,  Adherents will place Curse of Torpor on random raid members that increases the cooldown of their abilities, so you will want to make sure you are decursing as often as possible. There will be a bit of randomness from the Death and Decay and Shadow Bolts, so be on the look out. Again, there is going to be some bouncing back and forth because of adds, so communicate with the other healer(s) to make sure you have all your bases covered.

Phase 2

Congratulations, you have made it through the hard part. After her shield is down she becomes tauntable, only has 3 million hit points, and the adds stop spawning. Since this is often 2-healed, you will more than likely be both on raid duty and tank duty. While this phase is pretty much tank and spank, there are some things going on that affect the healers.

The tanks will be swapping as Deathwhisper places a stacking debuff on the tank that reduces their threat. So you will want to keep an ear out for who is tanking her and focus your healing accordingly. She will still be dropping Death and Decay, as well as random frost bolts that should be interrupted. Finally, she will summon on non-targetable Vengeful Shade that will follow a player around and explode if it catches them. You will need to do your best to avoid them if they follow you, and be prepared to heal someone if they get caught (if they don’t get one-shotted).  It’s a pretty quick phase though, and you will be on your way up the elevator in no time.

Gunship Battle

This is a gimmick fight through and through and is a lot of fun. There aren’t really a lot of important mechanics here for healers. Your gunship has two guns that you use to attack the enemy’s gunship.  Occasionally, the opposing ship will summon a mage/sorcerer that will freeze your guns. You will then need to send some raid members over to kill it in order free up your cannons. Back on your own ship, mobs will appear through a portal that will need to be killed, while avoiding incoming rockets and axe-throwers.

Defenders

This is the easier of the two healing roles. Usually one tank and some ranged DPS will stay behind to deal with the enemy boarding party.  The portal will spawn a Sergeant and some Marines. The Sergeant is the only one that really poses any threat, as he has pretty nasty Bladestorm and Wounding Strike abilities. Most of your healing will be focused on the tank, especially if you only have ranged DPS defending. Just be prepared to work a bit extra to overcome the -25% healing debuff.

Two other items of note: First, stay out of shinnies! Rockets will be coming over to your side and the big shiny circle on the ground is an indicator your in the path of said rocket. Be prepared to heal anyone who has yet to learn this golden rule of Warcraft. Second, keep an eye on your boarding party tank. They will be taking damage as they fly back over to your ship, and not every healer is as equipped to heal in the air as us Trees. I have seen quite a few tanks bite it on their way back over as they still have the aggro from the ranged mobs on the enemy ship. A well timed heal from you can be the thing that saves them.

Boarding Party

As the boarding party healer you got the short end of the branch (no, the bad tree jokes will not stop). You will be heading over to the enemy ship with most of the DPS and a Tank to take down the mage/sorcerer while fending off the general and adds. On your way over it will be a good idea to HoT up the tank, as things will be a bit chaotic when you first get over there.

The tank will be keeping the enemy commander busy why DPS take down the mage/sorcerer. Keep an eye out because the longer you are over there the stronger the enemy gets. This will cause everyone to take quite a bit of damage. As mentioned earlier, you will need to keep some heals on the tank as he will take some damage on his way back over. Probably a good idea to leave a Rejuvenation in case you need to toss an emergency Swiftmend on the return flight. Again, a fairly straightforward fight for healers.

Deathbringer Saurfang

Phew, here we are, the final encounter of the entrance to the Citadel. This is probably the most interesting fight so far. A lot of what you need to do as a healer will be determined by your groups strategy, but Druids have a few things to keep in mind both as a tank or raid healer, regardless of how you handle Mark of the Fallen Champion.

Raid Healing

First, you do not have any way to stop the damage people will be taking like priests do. So your main role will be to heal up the damage that does get through. There are three mechanics that will be causing you trouble: Boiling Blood, Blood Nova and Mark of the Fallen Champion.

The first ability, Boiling Blood, will be case on a random raid target. If you have a Priest, they will mitigate a lot of the damage to avoid Saurfang building Blood Power. Its still a good idea, whether you have a Priest or not, to toss Rejuvenation on the Boiling Blood target to keep them topped off. The damage isn’t too bad, and one HoT should be enough to keep them safe.

Blood Nova can be more troublesome depending on how much melee you have. If this gets cast on one, a good amount of people will be taking damage. The player that get Blood Nova should run out of the raid to minimize damage and blood power gain. However, if they don’t get out in time, be prepared to throw out Wild Growth and a couple single target heals.

Finally, there is Mark of the Fallen Champion. How you handle this (if at all) is going to depend on your raid strategy. A lot of guilds, mine included, will just let that player die. This minimizes the buildup of blood power and puts a lot less stress on the healers. If you do decide to keep that person alive you will want to give them full HoTs. Yes, you may have to dust off Lifebloom for this one. I usually put up Rejuvenation and Regrowth, with a Swiftmend if needed.

Tank Healing

There is not nearly as much to deal with as a tank healer. The tanks will be switching when they gain the Rune of Blood debuff, so as per most two tank fights you will need to be paying attention. You will also need to be concerned if a player gets Blood Nova near the tank, which could cause a nasty damage spike. Your final obstacle is at 30%, where Saurfang will Frenzy. This means you need to get your stump in gear and heal faster! Other than that, he is business as usual for a tank healer.

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And that’s it! You’ve Stormed the Citadel. Just in time for the Plague Works to open. Thus is the life of a WoW player. In the next installment we will be covering healing Rotface, Festergut, and Putricide, all while avoiding getting any goo on your leaves.