Oculus Gets a Facelift

Oculus Gets a Facelift

OCULUS

Image credited to Blizzard Entertainment

Since the days of Burning Crusade, we’ve seen the rise of the Heroic.  Five brave heroes banding together to take on our favorite dungeons, but the foes are much more formidable.  The badges/emblems, the epic loot, the reputation, the Nether/Orb, and the Heroic Daily.  These have become staples of our WoW community.

My personal favorite?  In BC, I loved Shadow Labs.  People whined about it taking too long, but I loved it.  In WotLK, it’s hard to choose a favorite.  Nexus, Utgarde Pinnacle, and Halls of Lightning certainly rank among my favorites.

However, as a WoW player from any walk of life, you’ve probably been a part of this conversation:

“Hey, does anyone wanna do the daily?”

“Sure, I’ll go!  I still need emblems for my heirloom piece.”

“Yeah, me too!”

“Has anyone checked what the daily is?”

“Lemme check.”

(Pause for dramatic effect)

“Oculus.”

“….F*** that.”

“Yeah, forget it.”

Oculus is the second dungeon in Coldarra, the subregion in northwest Borean Tundra.  There it sits, laughing at all of us.  It touts itself as the most hated heroic we’ve ever set foot in.  Even Heroic Shattered Halls was manageable once you got geared enough.

Trouble usually comes from coordination and orientation.  Being the first 5-man to introduce flying mounts, I’m grateful that I can’t lose my driver’s license by the horrible flying I do in Oculus.  And trying to get a PUG, or even a late-night group of post-raid guildies, into a focused mindset to handle the rotation needed to down Eregos is a chore unto itself.

Combined with a slew of other issues we’ve all come to hate, Oculus has become the least-run Heroic in the game.  People loathe it.  Forums and blogs feed the hatred.  I have yet to complete Proof of Demise, simply because I can’t stomach the thought of doing Oculus.  Even in my guild last night, I heard someone say, “I’ll run any Heroic but Oculus.”

A Brand New Day

Thankfully, Patch 3.3 is going to bring us some treats to ease our anger.  It was just announced in the patch notes that Oculus is getting nerfed.  **Pause for roaring applause**

  • Many bosses and creatures have had their total health reduced.
  • Several bosses and creatures have had cooldowns on specific abilities increased, effect durations reduced, and damage on some of these abilities reduced.
  • Ring-Lord Conjurers and Sorceresses now hang out in packs of 4 instead of packs of 5.
  • Vehicle scaling on the drakes based on the rider’s item level has been increased to make them more powerful.

Perhaps Blizzard has finally noticed the dust collecting below the portal of this monstrosity.

Oculus was by no means impossible, but it definitely was a bit too challenging for its level.  Especially now with the Emblem grind going full force, this shift puts Oculus into the mix of “Chain Heroics”.

I’m looking forward to trying out the new Oculus to see if I can heal through it without wanting to pull my hair out.  I also look forward to trying my hand at some fancy achievements that I never got to try before, such as Amber Void, Ruby Void, and Emerald Void!  Another step toward my goal: Glory of the Hero.

Do you agree with the negative stigma surrounding Oculus?  Are you looking forward to its facelift in Patch 3.3??

ThespiusSig

Email me: elder.thespius@gmail.com  |  Tweet me: @Thespius

Ulduar Nerfs and Bugs

Looks like there were some undocumented changes made to Ulduar.

Check out this post on Main Tankadin. (Thanks Honors).

Here’s a quick summary from various sources (Forums, direct observations, things I heard second hand).

Flame Leviathan

  • Seems to be bugged. Doing FL with 2 towers is fine and dandy. But FL still has the 3rd tower buff on him even though there’s only 2 towers up.
  • Vehicle targeting reticule looks really good.
  • Gnomes have been busy. Enhanced the handling of vehicles. They turn much better.
  • Choppers can pick up Pyrite and drop them wherever they like.

XT Deconstructor

  • Deconstructor seems to spawn a bajillion ads. Look at the main tankadin post above for a screenshot.
  • Now throws Light and Gravity bombs during tantrums.

Thorim

  • Chain Lightning only blows up 2 targets.

Freya

  • Iron roots: You can trinket out of them. You can blink out of them. Hand of freedom. Bring a Shaman with Earthen Power and call it a day. Shapeshifting works. Anything that can get you out of snares will work.
  • Sunbeam visual effect seems to be missing. But the debuff on players is still there.

Mimiron

  • Phase 3: Don’t have to place the mines. The player loots it, uses it, and the head will automatically drop down. Mimiron has upgraded to smarter magnets.

General Vezax

  • Vezax’s health reduced by 10 million.
  • Saronite Animus health reduced by 2.5 million.
  • Animus spawns after 6 clouds instead of 8.

Check the comments for other nerfs. I’ll try to update this post with extra information.

Further Thoughts on Lifebloom Changes

Further Thoughts on Lifebloom Changes

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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.

Alternate Solutions

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.

Lifebloom nerf for 3.1: WTF?

Lifebloom nerf for 3.1: WTF?

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I thought I was having a nice Friday afternoon, and so I said to myself, “Self, why don’t we read a little Elitist Jerks forums before we leave work?” Good idea, right? Not so much. Here’s a little jewel, quoted from the European forums of all places, for your reading pleasure:

• Lifebloom: Mana cost of all ranks doubled. When Lifebloom blooms or is dispelled, it now refunds half the base mana cost of the spell per application of Lifebloom, and the heal effect is multiplied by the number of applications.

Fortunately, my leafy friends have already been at work, and GC has made some responses. Here is the discussion–it’s actually quite instructive and I feel like I learned a little bit after reading the whole thing. The surprise, actually, is how constructive the community is being–sucking up, I guess, versus Ghostcrawler’s uncharacteristically snarky attitude. GC seems to think we have all been triumphing over an OP Lifebloom and just waiting on a nerf. In my experience, that’s just not the case.

Why Oh Why Did this Happen to Us?

The stated reason for the efficiency nerf to Lifebloom is, quite simply, to de-incentivize stacking the spell on multiple tanks. Unfortunately, the nerf targets single tank stacking as well. From the math, it becomes horribly inefficient to refresh Lifebloom after the initial triple stack. In the future–especially in a mana-scarce environment–we will need to manage both the bloom and the roll, instead of now just worrying about the roll.

Most posters believe that the bloom of Lifebloom will be mostly overheal. I concur. There are many situations where my Lifebloom blooms. Sometimes I refresh too early, but sometimes, well, I’m too late. The “too late” problem is exponentially more likely to occur in busy fights with lots of movement or sources of damage. Yes, I know, I’m a bad druid. I use Grid to display my current Hots, but I’m not running a big splashy HoT timer like I used to in BC. I can tell you that the bloom of my Lifeblooms tends to wash out at around 1% of my effective heal in any given fight.

Who’s Facerolling Lifebloom Now?

This nerf really puzzles me. Are any of you, dear readers, topping healing meters by rolling on multiple tanks? That used to be me–back in Hyjal. Most of the current fights are either one-tank only, see me raid healing, or require so much movement (Sarth 3D) that facerolling LB gets to be impossible. I used to love stacking LB on 4 tanks–it felt dynamic, and the contribution of the heals was large enough in proportion to the tanks’ health that I felt like I was doing something. Now, not so much. The proportion of the tank’s total health that a triple-stacked LB is able to heal has decreased, such that Lifebloom looks like it’s not doing anything. I’ve spent some time looking at my WWS v. my guildies, especially when another druid outperforms me on the same assignment. It looks like right now Lifebloom is doing a decent job raid healing, but it’s usually not triple-stacked or rolled. It’s doing a lot of healing on tanks, but Regrowth is doing even more.

Maybe Ulduar is Hyjal 2.0 with four tanks in play. That’s the only setup I can imagine where this change would be absolutely necessary in order to keep resto druids from having a distinct advantage over other healers. That’s bad–a lot of guilds choose their number of tanks based on content, and right now you need a maximum of three. I wonder where everyone’s going to find their fourth?

Goodbye, Lifebloom?

The saddest thing about this change is that it adds yet another thing for druids to time perfectly. I’m in the fair category at perfect timing–I’m more into using my HoTs as a set-it-and-forget-it type heal. As such, Rejuvenation is my favorite spell, and if there’s a silver lining here, it’s that I’m about to actually be rewarded for casting it instead of kicking for using it. Right now, Rejuvenation is a poor bet–it’s going to get overhealed, and in the current environment, the numbers show a single Lifebloom to be more effective as a raid heal due to its faster tick. Presumably, the change to mana regen will be enough to tone down the endless sniping and spamming that goes on now. Right now, it’s very easy to pad the meters by ignoring your healing assignment in favor of whoever’s lowest or taking damage, but in the future I look for tighter assignments to be the norm.

However, my head already hurts contemplating what I believe will be the new use of Lifebloom: stacking on the MT to three and letting it bloom, and then immediately stacking again. It could be all-Loatheb, all the time–we’ll have to refresh our 3-stack selectively in order to time the bloom of Lifebloom to a point where the burst will be needed, or at least we’ll feel compelled to try.

Sure, the best restos will do that. Others will simply start to play sloppy. My healing, worst case scenario, could go something like this: I’ll cast whatever number of Lifeblooms from 1-3 that I feel like on the MT and then go do other stuff. Sometime later, I’ll get back to my target and say hey! Why don’t I stack on you again, using up a lot of GCDs in the process? Because I didn’t pay attention to timing, my blooms will be 100% overheal, and because the tank didn’t always have 3X Lifebloom as a buffer, he came close to dying a couple of times. And at the end of the fight, there I’ll be, hanging down at the bottom of the meters, standing alone, like the cheese in the Farmer in the Dell song. I’ll end fights wondering if I did anything worthwhile at all, besides, of course, the obligatory Wild Growth cast every time it’s up. Man, I wish I had started working on my shaman like I intended to six weeks ago!

It might be easiest just to take Lifebloom off the bar. After all, there are druids who stopped using it after the last round of nerfs. It might take down my potential effective healing, but it might be worth it just to have a little more breathing room. After all, I decided not to play my Affliction warlock at all in the expansion because her expanded DoT rotation got to be too much to handle. They’ve just made her easier to play by eliminating Siphon Life–now why would they do something to a HoT class that has an opposite effect? However, if I, as a tank healer, take Lifebloom out of my rotation, I miss out on the full bonus to glyphed Nourish, which is shaping up to be 3.1′s prize pig. What’s a poor weepy willow to do?

On Change

I usually like change, but this time it’s a little different. I had to relearn my class for Wrath, and I have to say, I preferred the TBC Lifebloom-heavy healing model. I felt important, and what I did for the tanks seemed dynamic and useful. I learned to work with the limitations on my rotation and my movement–I was good at that. Now that I can do anything, I’m less likely to know what to do! I’m overburdened by choice already. Adding one more thing to manage–and at that, a burst heal that happens 8 to 10 seconds after the original cast and requires three more GCDs to be spent after it–in an already full rotation–just seems daunting.

Thoughts on Rapture and Mana Regen

Thoughts on Rapture and Mana Regen

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I wanted to put some thoughts together on the post 3.1 Rapture ability and our overall mana regen. A lot of players have contacted me and wondered why I thought it was a buff and asked what it meant for their mana regeneration. Why am I so optimistic about something that’s going to tank our regeneration?

Two key concepts

Mana regen is but one important piece to the whole puzzle. But here are two important concepts:

  • Regen: Your ability to grain the resources you need to perform your skills.
  • Obstacles: This is stuff that makes you use your skills and drains your resources.

We have access to half the puzzle right now. We sort of know what our mana regeneration mechanics are going to be like (in theory).

But we presently don’t know is under what conditions they’ll be stressed. We don’t know what our opposition is like yet. We don’t know how combat’s going to be in Ulduar. We don’t know the fights, we don’t know bosses, we really don’t know anything.

Calm down.

This is the public test realm. Players on there are supposed to provide honest feedback about what they feel works and what doesn’t. I’m not complaining about any of the changes yet because I haven’t been able to test them in combat. I don’t have any healing dummies, unfortunately.

Here’s the new Rapture:

Rapture ( Tier 8 ) revamped. Now a 3 point talent. When your Power Word: Shield is completely absorbed or dispelled you are instantly energized with 1.5% of your total mana, and you have a 33% chance to energize your shielded target with 2% total mana, 8 rage, 16 energy or 32 runic power. This effect cannot occur once every 12 seconds.

Fully talented, the 1.5% of total mana becomes 2.5% of total mana and the 33% chance becomes a 100% chance to energize. I’m not sure if the second effect applies to Priests who cast it on themselves. I think the 12 second limitation effect is for the latter component not the Priest’s mana energized component. So if you’re shielding 3 tanks and they wear off one after the other, that would be 3 separate activations of the mana return. Only one of your tanks would get the benefit from the 8 rage.

I just can’t test that theory out right now.

Anyway, it’s a buff in the sense that the players we Shield will gain a return of some sort to their power. Warriors will no longer have a reason to cry and request zero shields on themselves. You are getting bubbled whether you like it or not.

With extra gravy.

We are now glorified battery chargers.

On the other hand, you could always click it off.

I’m okay with nerfs

They can nerf our regen if it’s proven that we (as Priests) don’t need it. Decently geared players don’t have to watch their mana as much. I’m not potting, I’m not hitting my Hymn of Hope, I’m not asking for Innervates and I’m not breaking out the Shadowfiend because they aren’t necessary right now.

When does it become a problem?

If our nerfs our active and we’re hitting all of our consumables and mana regen abilities and we’re still running out of gas? That’s when it becomes a problem.

Holy changes

Serendipity has lost its mana gaining flare. This is supposed to be counteracted by the revised Holy Concentration.

Holy Concentration (Tier 7) changed to: Your mana regeneration is increased by 16/32/50% for 8 sec after you critically heal with Flash Heal, Greater Heal, Binding Heal or Renew. (Previously had a chance to grant clearcasting effect)

Beneficence started a thread on Plusheal regarding the new 3.1 mana regen mechanics. Be wary as it is numbers heavy. The bottom line from Bene:

The HC change itself strikes me as about even with it’s current iteration, by itself. Once you factor in the oo5sr changes that can result from that, it looks like a light nerf. The loss of serendipity’s mana restoring mechanic though, can be a pretty noticeable loss, even if you are relatively efficient.

Why so optimistic?

In my line of work, I kind of have to be. I have a fun job where I get to write about a game and a class I truly enjoy playing. Every buff, every nerf, every change I view as fascinating! It’s just another step in the evolution of the Priest. If all I did was zero in on nothing but nerfs, I’d end up being just a shell. I’m being optimistic because my sanity depends on it.

Ever watch or read the news lately?

There’s always a shooting. There’s always a homicide. Someone gets robbed. Someone gets sexually assaulted. Even in newspapers, you read about corruption and what’s wrong with our society today. Good news is lucky if it even makes it on to the side bars.

It’s depressing.

Now imagine what kind of blogger I would be if I approached every change negatively. If I said our class was getting wrecked left and right. If I told you to all reroll Paladin (heaven forbid). If I told you I was quitting the game. I’m sorry, but that’s not who I am. My glass is not half empty. It’s going to be completely full.

In the sense of the Priest, some parts of us are getting hit with nerfs. Other parts are getting buffs. We’re getting non stop changes.

A majority of us have yet to try out the changes in the situations where it matters: On the field.

And once I do, you’ll get an honest, zero BS assessment. I won’t bore you with numbers. It will be a straight up yes-or-no answer to the important question we’re all dying to know: Are we running out of mana in combat?

Besides, we’re apparently missing a few talents in the Disc tree.

For another point of view about Rapture, try this:

Ghostcrawler Provides Specifics on the 3.1 Mana Regen Nerf

Ghostcrawler Provides Specifics on the 3.1 Mana Regen Nerf

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Phew! Priests and druids can breathe again as, today, Ghostcrawler explained the specific nature of the upcoming revision to out-of-casting mana regeneration. I’ll let the crab’s words speak for themselves, but you can read the whole interesting discussion here.

The goal is to have mana last about the same for all healers. We don’t think many players would be that interested in a style where you heal crazy good for a short period and then run OOM. How classes manage their mana varies a lot, and we are making tweaks to it for 3.1 to try and keep them in line. For example, the shadow fiend needs to be more reliable.

I am still not following the logic that Int now trumps Spirit by even more. It may have been a better stat already, but these changes shouldn’t affect it that much unless you A) skip Meditation and Intensity, or B) relied a whole lot more on OOFSR regen than the average raid healer of reasonable skill.

I will break from our normal practice and go ahead and provide the numbers, just to make sure nobody is guessing about the details when doing their estimates:

The amount of base mana regen granted has been reduced 40%. We called this “Spirit” in the notes, since most players associate OOFSR regen with Spirit, but in reality Int factors into the equation as well and we only lowered the constant, not the relative contributions of Int or Spirit. In retrospect, this probably caused more confusion than it alleviated, but mana regeneration is a fairly technical concept.

– The effects of talents that provide mana regen while casting have been increased by 67%. This includes: Arcane Meditation, Improved Spirit Tap, Intensity, Mage Armor, Meditation, Pyromaniac, and Spirit Tap. For example, Intensity and Meditation are now 17/33/50% mana regen while casting (up from 10/20/30%). For most dps classes who never got much mana from OOFSR in the first place, the results should not be noticeable. Boomkin may be a possible exception because of Innervate, and we’ll take a look at that.

This should leave mana regeneration while casting (even the contribution of Spirit) relatively unchanged, but reduce mana regeneration while not casting by 40%.

– Since paladins don’t rely on any of those abilities for mana regeneration, we lowered the healing penalty of Divine Plea to -50%. We are also likely to make Spiritual Attunement provide less mana for non-tanking paladins. We are not touching Illumination for the moment. Nor are we lowering the effects of Replenishment (though as I have suggested, it would be our likely next target if we aren’t happy with the results of these changes).

What’s the Difference?

Previously, accounts of the proposed nerf to mana regeneration were misleading. The net result is the same in either case–a reduction in the number you’ll see for regen outside of the 5-second rule–but the method is different. Blue poster Bornakk originally described the change as an adjustment to the contribution of Spirit: “To make this change, we are reducing mana regeneration granted by Spirit across the board.” Considering that statement, it’s no wonder that so many priests and druids panicked. Ghostcrawler amends this statement to the more reasonable proposition of decreasing the amount of O5SR regen we get by 40%, which is no insignificant amount, but his comment directly declares that the relative contribution of Intellect and Spirit will remain the same.

Why Does the Method Matter?

Blizzard could in fact have achieved their goal of reducing O5SR regen by reducing the contribution of spirit. At current, mana regeneration is arrived at by an equation that takes into account level, Spirit, and Intellect. For more information on this particular formula, I’ll direct you to some of Phaelia’s work on the subject–here I am in over my head. However, I can summarize. Spirit, at current, contributes more to mana regeneration than Intellect, but the formula uses them both. It has been theorized that, right now, the best mana regeneration occurs when a character has a Spirit to Intellect ratio of approximately 1:1, or perhaps 1.1:1 at higher gear levels. If the relative contribution of Spirit had been reduced, Intellect would have become, consequently, a more important factor in the equation.

But That’s Not All!

A directed nerf to Spirit would have caused other complications. After all, we don’t pick up Spirit and Intellect just for their contribution to the mana regen formula. For Priests and Druids, Spirit can affect our Spellpower and certain talents like Meditation and Intensity (which increase in-five-second-rule regen). Druids have the most reason to bet on Spirit in the Spirit-Intellect horse race. The following talents and abilities depend on Spirit: Intensity, Living Spirit, Improved Tree of Life, and Innervate. There’s a very good reason that most leather Spellpower gear prefers Spirit over mp5, which is a regen stat that does nothing but regen. Intellect, on the other hand, has become the new most-coveted stat in the healing game. It increases the size of one’s mana pool as it has always done, and it plays the same role in the regen formula that it has since patch 2.4. However, the size of the mana pool used to matter less than it does currently. Replenishment returns mana based on a percentage of total intellect–thus, we now have a way to refill those giant mana pools. Most healers believe that Replenishment made its way into the game to facilitate caster dps, and I agree, but without it, healer regen would be somewhat less than extraordinary. In my opinion, the devs made an excellent choice when they decided to keep Spirit and Intellect’s relative contributions the same as they are now–otherwise, Intellect would have gained popularity just like a runaway train on a downward slope gains speed.

Do I have to Re-Gear and Re-Gem?

The jury is still out on this one. If the nerf had been directly to Spirit, you certainly would have. You might have even had to throw away your Spirit trinkets–the Spirit-World Glass and the Majestic Dragon Figurine–which would have been a shame. All the Naxx Spirit gear might have suddenly seemed like an unwise purchase. It is true that Intellect is probably already the stronger stat. As such, as mana regen becomes tougher, and you become faced with needing to add more Intellect or more Spirit, you might choose Intellect–if you have a choice. For example, I might still pick the Darkmoon Card Greatness: Intellect over the Spirit version. I’ll also be heading to the PTR with a stack of pure Intellect gems in order to get a sense of whether re-gemming is in order. It does not seem, however, that mp5 will be gaining much status. It’s already the downtrodden healer stat of Wrath, and I expect it to make only slight gains now. You won’t throw away your Spirit gems for mp5, after all, though you probably won’t turn down a necklace or ring with mp5 instead of Spirit once 3.1 hits.

Conspiracy Theories

How is it that two such very different accounts of the nerf have appeared? In my mind, one of two things must have happened.

1. The devs think we’re really stupid. This is the cause that GC hints at in his post. They might not realize that the community, as a whole, is very educated about their game and how it works. I’ve known that Intellect plays a part in my regen ever since 2.4 hit. If this is the case, I’d like to express my disappointment. To use an analogy from my own life, I get better results in my college classes when I treat my students like adults, capable of grappling with complex issues, than when I treat them like children who can only absorb one simple idea at a time. I’d never tell my students that Columbus “discovered” America. That’s an hour lecture on who encountered what and what it means to “explore” new lands that are already full of people.

2. They changed their mind. The devs might have realized that the current spirit-heavy druid and priest gear would become irrelevant. Rather than having to revisit all of those items which play up Spirit, it seemed far easier in the end to keep Spirit and Intellect in balance. It would probably have made people really angry to have to try extreme methods–like using the wrong armor type, or regemming for straight +Intellect regardless of bonuses–to get a competent level of regen with the gear currently available. If so, congrats to them. If they never admit to a change in thinking, I wouldn’t be surprised. All it means is that someone on that team has a few brain cells to rub together. I’ve never been one to think the devs are stupid–they’re just sometimes slow to anticipate the community’s reaction. Being a part of the WoW community, I’m much closer to that reaction and can guess it pretty accurately. If they changed their method of attack on the OFSR regen, they just made a really smart call.

In any case, I am one relieved druid as of today.

A Druid’s Response to the Upcoming Change in Mana Regeneration

A Druid’s Response to the Upcoming Change in Mana Regeneration

tree

It has been a hard week to be a druid, dear friends. Not only did restoration druids miss out on any significant buffs in the most recently announced draft of class changes, but we’ve also been faced with an upcoming nerf to mana regeneration that stands to affect us more than any other class. As such, druid bloggers have taken notice; both Phaelia and Keeva have their own takes on the 3.1 changes. In this article I am going to take a look at the specifics of the changes to mana regeneration and speculate on possible ways to play around them. In case you missed the big blue letters, I’ll quote the substance of the change to mana regeneration below:

Regeneration while not casting (outside of the “five second rule”) will be decreased. We think that (1) the ability to cast heal over time spells and then sit back and (2) benefitting from a clearcasting proc that also gets you out of the five second rule both provide too much mana regeneration, even over short time periods.
To make this change, we are reducing mana regeneration granted by Spirit across the board. However we are also boosting the effects of talents such as Meditation that increase regeneration while casting. The net result should be that your regeneration while casting will stay about the same, but your not-casting regeneration will be reduced. This change will have little impact on dps casters, since they are basically always casting.
The specific talents and abilities being boosted are: Arcane Meditation, Improved Spirit Tap, Intensity, Mage Armor, Meditation, Pyromaniac and Spirit Tap. Yes this makes these “mandatory” talents even more mandatory, if such a thing is possible.

Since paladins rely less on Spirit as a mana-regeneration stat, we have to address them in other ways. We don’t want to change Illumination or Replenishment. However, we are going to increase the healing penalty on Divine Plea from 20% to 50%. Divine Plea was originally intended to help Protection and Retribution paladins stay full on mana. It should be a decision for Holy paladins, not something that is automatically used every cooldown.
In addition, we are also changing the way Spiritual Attunement works. In situations with a large amount of outgoing raid damage, as well as in PvP, this passive ability was responsible for more mana regeneration than we would like. We want to keep the necessary benefit it grants to tanking Protection paladins, while making it less powerful for Holy paladins in PvP or raid encounters with a lot of group damage.

We are also taking a close look at clearcasting procs themselves. One likely outcome is to change them to an Innervate-like surge of mana so that the net benefit is the same, but healers won’t shift to out-of-casting regeneration so often.

We balance around the assumption that even 10-player groups have someone offering Replenishment. To make this even easier on players we are likely to offer this ability to additional classes, as well as make sure that existing sources of Replenishment are more equitable.

These changes are ultimately being done to bring the different healing classes more in line with each other as well as to give the encounter team more leeway when designing encounters, who can balance with these new mana regeneration numbers in mind. In a world with infinite healer mana, the only way to challenge healers is with increasingly insane amount of raid damage, so that global cooldowns become the limiting factor since mana fails to be. An example is the Eredar Twins in late Sunwell. We weren’t necessarily happy with that model, and this change hopefully allows us to move towards giving healing a more deliberate and thoughtful pace rather than frenetic spam.

So, What Does All This Mean?

For those of you who may be puzzled by Blizzard’s language, I will sum up by saying that our mana regeration, which is admittedly too high at the moment, is going to be reduced by a number of combinatory factors, including both an across-the-board nerf to Spirit and tweaks to individual spells and abilities. This is the worst kind of nerf to receive, because it will be pretty difficult to tell how each of these points affects the others without extensive testing. Here’s hoping that enough people get on the PTR to avoid major bug fixes or crippled classes. I know that I’m planning to do some PTR raiding myself to test this out. Some posters on the WoW forums and on PlusHeal are predicting that nothing will change for them, or that they won’t “feel” the changes–that’s wishful thinking, or keeping one’s head in the sand. We’re going to notice. In terms of magnitude, my guess is that this one outpaces even the great nerf to Lifebloom in patch 3.0. And we’re going to notice out of combat. Questing as a healer is about to become very, very expensive as we’ll have to sit to drink much more than formerly. As many forum posters suggested, they’re going to need to put in some bigger, faster waters.

Why So Severe?

Bornakk’s post offers some justification for the changes. He says, “When mana regeneration is trivial then certain parts of the game break down – classes that offer Replenishment are devalued, stats that offer mana regeneration are devalued, and spells that are efficient are neglected in preference to spells with high throughput.” I am sympathetic to this point. I see druids stacking Spirit over Mp5, because it’s been widely believed throughout Wrath that Mp5 is too expensive a stat in terms of item budget. I’ll also note that there’s comparatively little of it available, at least compared to the ubiquitous Spirit. More and more healers are stacking Intellect as well. There’s every reason to believe that this practice will continue, and in fact become more common. I’ve also seen many raiders glyphing Healing Touch, preferring a very fast, but not very efficient spell over the slower Nourish, which when supported by 4pc T7 becomes our most efficient tank heal. And guess what? They’ve been beating me on the meters. Evaluating spells by HPM has become a practice for theorycrafters and not players. So yes, I agree that some changes are in order. I just don’t like the direction they’ve taken.

Why Should Druids Worry?

More so even than priests, the healing druid’s fate is tied to that of Spirit. I remember when the initial changes to Spirit were put in place for 2.3. Before that time, one resto druid in each raiding guild would stack Spirit in order to sit in the tank group and give a passive buff to tanks. Like all other buff-givers in BC (ahem, shadow priests), a Spirit-stacking druid traded some of her individual power for the buff. A Spirit-stacker had to sacrifice healing throughput (+heal) and efficiency (Mp5) as a tradeoff for a high amount of Spirit. It’s hard to tell without testing it out myself on the PTR, which I certainly intend to do, but my guess is that we’re about to return to pre-2.3 regen values for Spirit–or else come very close to that number. Druids have a number of abilities and talents that depend on Spirit, most notably Innervate, Living Spirit, and Improved Tree of Life. I would also argue that Intensity is greatly dependent on Spirit. As a consequence, druid gear weights Spirit very heavily. Up until now, it has been projected that at high levels of gear, a player should strive to keep their Spirit to Intellect ratio at 1.1 to 1. This has been very easy for resto druids–in fact, we’ve risked having too much Spirit–just through picking up our tier pieces and emblem items. It is not going to be easy for us to de-emphasize Spirit. We’re going to get stuck with a certain amount of it.

If Spirit is Junk, What Can We Do?

At a certain point, we are limited by the gear available to us. Because one of our cherished techniques–rolling HoTs and then pausing to regen–is about to go the way of the dodo, we’re not going to have a lot that we can actively do during a fight to counter the nerf. The overall advice is going to be “heal less.” There’s no two ways around it–we’re not going to be able to maintain current levels of throughput or coverage in the raid. I can already run myself out of mana, and I’m usually doing so to try to be competitive on the meters. I have a good sense of how long inside the FSR spam casting can last, and even with my current mana regen, it’s only a very few minutes, possibly 6-8, but not 10. In terms of technique, we are going to be swapping glyphed Healing Touch for Nourish. We are also going to be keeping to tighter healing assignments. As S13 put it last night, “Tank healers will stay on tanks and just that.” Sniping heals will no longer be common practice, as we won’t be able to afford it. As for Innervate, which isn’t on the list for a buff and stands to be very greatly affected by the change, I’m expecting that it will still do at least a little something for us–half a mana bar maybe, as it might if you were now in greens with little to no spirit. We’ll probably be glyphing it and using it on ourselves only.

Gear and Gems

In terms of gearing and gemming, we can actually mitigate how much this nerf will hurt us. Despite the laments of many healers, Replenishment seems to be here to stay. The most persuasive argument I’ve seen for preferring this new regen mechanic to the traditional Spirit-based regen is its predictability. It’s admittedly much tidier than giving all dps casters their own native regen mechanics like healers have. To take advantage of Replenishment, we need Intellect and Intellect alone. I don’t expect healers to suddenly be able to roll on gear earmarked for DPS casters, so we will have to be creative to get around our gearing. I expect that, like Innervate, the Spirit World Glass and the Majestic Dragon Figurine will continue to have some use for regen, but the best trinkets in the new order will become, respectively, Je’Tze’s Bell and the Darkmoon Card: Greatness, Intellect version. Malygos’s heretofore lackluster Living Ice Crystals will also be worth equipping. We’ll also be putting yellow intellect gems in our gear where possible. The smartest thing to do would be to buy them now, when they might be selling low, and replace our Spirit and Spellpower gems later. As for a meta gem, we have two choices: Insightful Earthsiege Diamond and Ember Skyflare Diamond. I think the former will be more useful, but it really depends on the levels of Intellect a player is able to attain. As far as enchants go, in some cases we’re stuck with Spirit. There’s not an Intellect or Spellpower option for everything. However, I fully expect to use the Spellpower weapon enchant and Tuskarr’s Vitality for extra speed on my boots. If Spirit is giving a poor return, let’s make the tree go faster. That’s always good for hard content anyway.

Are There Good Effects to the Nerf?

I can think of one consequence of the nerf that will, in the end, favor healers. I know it seems that healing–and healing difficulty–is being made the balance point of encounters in 3.1. However, I am going to forward the radical idea that the difficulty that raiding healers currently experience will not change at all. Over time, guilds tend to take less and less healers to the same encounters. Our sphere of responsibility gets larger as the guild gets “better.” Encounters go faster with more dps, and guilds typically sit out more dps than healers on progression content. These dps want in for the farm content, and the overall load on the healers in the raid becomes greater. In fact, even in an era of enrage timers, one of the best ways to guarantee an easier time at a new encounter is to take one healer more than the most hardcore strategies suggest. I can feel the difference between 5 healer Naxx and 7 healer Naxx, both of which Conquest has done based on the players who happened to show up. I’m predicting that Ulduar is going to feel like the 5-healer Naxx–except that there will be 7-8 healers sharing this load. This change will allow a few new healers to get raid spots. Of course, the shaman (predictably) comes out looking the rosiest after the nerfs–and yes, I’m a little jealous. I’m sure that resto shamans will have many opportunities to join top-notch raiding outfits. Many guilds of all types will be looking to add a new healer to their rosters, and guilds like ours, who are actually carrying extra healers, will be able to dip into their bench. Each one of us can only do so much. We will continue, as now, to do our utmost, and no more can be asked at that point. I expect the standard number of healers for Ulduar encounters to vary between 7 and 9, as it did for most guilds in Black Temple. If Dual Specs come in, there may even be some 10 healer encounters in the future.

A Word of Encouragement

Dear friends, we have all faced the nerf bat before this moment. This current danger to our mana regeneration is in truth no greater evil than the changes to Lifebloom, which we all suffered and survived, though our tanks have taken more spike damage ever since. Some day, we will look back and remember this mana regeneration nerf, as even now we look back on the nerf to Lifebloom. Let us continue on, then, healing faithfully in raids as we always have before.

Making the Switch: Holy to Disc

This is a guest post from Seriah, a PlusHeal community member

Priests are the main healing class in WoW, the official site even says so.  But to some people on the outside looking in they might not know that there are different mechanics in the individual Priest trees.  Having leveled and raided as Shadow and Holy I recently made the change to Discipline – it always looked like a fun tree and the new changes in LK sealed the deal for me. I’ve had experience in all forms of Priesting, but by no means am I claiming to be an expert on the class – just well experienced.

The intent here is to share my experience as a new Discipline Priest with everyone, especially anyone considering the switch be it because they think it looks like a fun change of pace or if you just hate the CoH nerf that much. I’ll attempt to walk you through what would happen if you dropped the Holy hat and picked up the Disc one – starting with your talent points.

Like with any spec there are those talents that you simply have to have, nothing fills that category better than the 3 P’s for Disc talents:

  • Power Infusion
  • Pain Suppression
  • Penance

Penance is absolutely the best healing spell I’ve ever had experience with – yes, more than CoH.  PI and PS are great too, especially since there are so many bosses that frenzy now when they’re at 20%.  How to spend your talents is a different article in itself, this is a brief overview of what you can expect from a cast sequence and mechanics point of view.

Hopefully you have a decent about of crit, be it by talents or gear, because once you start to see Divine Aegis (DA) in action you’ll love it.  Before a pull you’ll still want to do the usual PoM on the tank, but now you’ll also want to pop Power Word: Shield (PW:S) on him so the weakened soul debuff will show up – yes this is a good thing because you should be talented into Renewed Hope. 

When the pull starts, PoM will bounce with a crit (if you’re lucky) wrapping a DA bubble around the tank and giving you time to hit renew with no sense of urgency at all.  As long as incoming damage is minimal, you can stick to Flashes, Renews, and PoMs and be fine. The fun starts when the damage spikes.

On those big pulls where no one likes to CC anymore or on bosses that can hit like a whole fleet of trucks is where you’ll see those damage mitigation abilities of Disc healing really shine.  Keeping a full stack of Grace on the tank helps, and since they’re probably getting beat on a good bit that shouldn’t be too terribly hard.  PoM every time it’s up and say a little prayer so that it crits for a DA proc. 

Watch the cooldown on Penance. It hits 3 times during your channel and if you’re really on a roll with the luck and it crits all 3 times you can easily see 12k healing in less than 1.5 sec. there’s no one that can touch your HPS on hastened Penance.

That’s all fine well and good, but what if you get pushed to raid healing? 

First of all, if that happens you probably want to have a chat with your raid leader about the setup, if they still want you on raid duty then you can’t go wrong with shields and flashes, penance if they really need it.  Pain Suppression also works nicely here, if you have an overzealous DPS that can’t seem to watch Omen to save their lives, literally. It’ll reduce their threat, usually enough to let a tank get above them again, and if that doesn’t work then at least they shouldn’t die from the Iron Fist that giant is about to drop on them so the tank can then taunt.

If you’re doing heroics, and at this point most of us are, then you’re going to have to deal with group damage. The best way to do so is with Divine Hymn if you’re not in a fight where damage is constantly coming in.  If it’s a constant high damage fight you can shield yourself for the haste and to avoid interruption and pop off a Prayer of Healing.  Yeah, it’s 1800 mana, but it beats casting flash heal 5 times.  Of course if you’re on the move there’s always Holy Nova as well – which I’ve learned to not hate now.

So there you have it, a basic analysis of what you can expect as a Discipline Priest.

In short remember the 5 P’s of Priesting:

  • Power Word: Shield
  • Power Infusion
  • Pain Suppression
  • Penance
  • Prayer of Mending
A Druid’s Reaction to the Wild Growth / Circle of Healing Nerf

A Druid’s Reaction to the Wild Growth / Circle of Healing Nerf

wild-growth

Those of you who keep up with upcoming patch notes and blue posts on the official WoW forums have probably known for quite some time–ever since before Wrath’s release in fact–that both Wild Growth and Circle of Healing were living in the shadow of the nerf bat. A 6-second cooldown has been threatened for both spells since beta testing proved their strength.

Now that the nerf has gone to PTRs, a new wave of complaints has swept over most healing websites. If the comments on Matticus’s recent WoWInsider article are any indication, the nerf to AoE insta-heals draws a passionate response from almost all players, whether they belong to one of the affected classes or not. In fact, what surprises me about the whole discussion is the sheer number of vehement, “L2P nub, don’t spam AoE heals” type retorts. A lot of discipline priests, in particular, seem to feel vindicated by the nerf. On the other side are those that passionately argue against nerfs to any class. I sympathize with this point–such an adjustment to two classes makes us all weaker. When there are less available tools in the toolkit, the game becomes both more difficult and less fun to play.

That said, I find myself having very little personal reaction at this point. Perhaps that’s because I’ve known that Wild Growth spam isn’t a long-term tactic for months now? This is not to say that I’m in support of putting in a 6 second cooldown on Wild Growth and Circle of Healing, just that by now I’ve become accustomed to the idea.

From a certain perspective, this nerf seems necessary. The following series of musings is my attempt to take what I’ve observed through Naxx 10 and 25, Sartharion 10 and 25, and Malygos 25 and try to explain why, from the developers’ perspective, it’s druids’ and priests’ turn to cry.

The State of Healing in Wrath

1. Right now, the risk of dps death during raids is minimal. Healing is relatively strong overall, and three out of the four healing classes have capable raid-healing tools.

2. Right now, the risk of tank death during raids is minimal. Healers can keep up with incoming damage, and tank healers often have time to cast spells on other targets.

3. Most encounters are designed with at least some AoE damage. This kind of damage will always be at least a little challenging for healers because they have to deal with the Interface Boss in order to get heals on multiple targets. However, there is no new Gurtogg Bloodboil yet–AoE damage has not been taken to the kind of extremes we saw in BC.

4. Wrath encounters typically require less healers than BC bosses did. For most guilds, I would take the number that they ran with in BC and subtract one to get their perfect number of healers for a 25-person raid.

5. Smart heals like Chain Heal, Circle of Healing, and Wild Growth are really, really effective. It turns out that (surprise, surprise) a computer is better than a human being at calculating who needs a heal.

6. Mana management is less challenging than most bloggers–including me–thought it would be. It turns out that the level 80 epic gear does a pretty good job of getting people the regen they need, even though some of the old familiar tools (mana oil and chain-potting) are history.

The Behavior of Healers in the Wrath environment

Intelligent players respond to the conditions given them, and the top WoW players will always use a play style that the numbers support. Now, there may be individual differences and preferences, but given free choice, almost all players of the same class and spec will, at the top end of the ability spectrum, make the same decisions. Here’s how raiders are reacting to our current capabilities and to the demands of the current content.

1. Healers are using Wild Growth and Circle of Healing to the utmost. And why not? These two heals do, in fact, make the content much easier. If AoE damage is the challenge (and Blizzard seems determined that it should be), these two spells are the antidote of the moment.

2. Healing has become a competition between healers instead of a mad race to keep people alive. No one is going to die anyway–the content is too easy for that. The best healers are trying to sneak in effective heals against their fellows. Spells like Wild Growth, Circle of Healing, and even the high-HPS glyphed Healing Touch shine in an atmosphere of heavy competition.

3. Healers are not focusing on mana efficiency. When the content is easy and the team can kill a boss quickly, mana efficiency is less relevant. There are no prizes awarded for ending an encounter with 40% mana. The only prize available is for healing output. As such, many players end up healing too much too early and needing someone else’s innervate. This has happened to me a few times, and I’ve been trying to watch it.

4. Druids and priests are, in fact, leaving paladins and shamans behind on the meters. This has only one good effect–that shamans aren’t as necessary any more. I’ve recruited for two different guilds, and the hardest position to hire is that of alliance resto shaman. There just aren’t many out there.

What the Developers Hope the Nerf Will Accomplish

Here is where I really get speculative. The following is my best guess about exactly what kind of “fix” the new 6-second cooldown will be.

1. The nerf will retroactively add difficulty to encounters that guilds have already cleared. Some guilds may even find themselves unable to beat a “farm status” boss. As a result, guilds may stay in the current tier of content longer than they otherwise would. This is good for developers, because it stresses them less to release the next tier in a timely manner.

2. The healing meters will shake out a little differently. The conspiracy-loving part of my brain thinks that it’s “best” for Blizzard if people go back to complaining about resto shamans. After all, they’re far less numerous than priests and druids, at least on alliance side. While most guilds could fill their entire healing roster with priests and druids, I doubt anyone could fill theirs entirely with shamans. It’s a safer class to have at the top of the chart.

3. The management of another cooldown will add back some of the difficulty of playing a druid or priest. The developers want playing a healer to be difficult. If healing is difficult, a guild takes longer to go through a tier of content. For example, let’s take the healing druid. In the good old days of managing 7 second Lifebloom stacks on multiple targets, timing used to be everything. With stacking de-incentivized, I often have only one 9 second triple stack to manage, giving me a lot of freedom. I have a feeling though that now I will be casting Wild Growth every time it’s up. There will be a bit of a return to a fixed spell rotation. I hear many healers threatening to give up their AoE spells entirely, maybe even going as far to spec out of them. I tend to agree with Matticus in thinking that, paradoxically, Circle of Healing and Wild Growth will become more important. We’ll need to actively manage those cooldowns, and the effect of that adjustment period will be to slow progress down.

4. There might be room for an extra healer in a healing team. Circle of Healing and Wild Growth have been such workhorses that the old numbers for a healthy healing squad didn’t make sense any more. This might give a few out of work raid healers something to do. It’s not good for Blizzard if lots of players lose their raid spots.

Am I in Favor of the Nerf?

Personally, no I’m not. And yet, I’m not up in arms about it either. I realize that it hits druids less hard than priests, but I’m not worried about either class’s raid spots. Wild Growth and Circle of Healing are still good spells. Comparatively, I’d say that the Lifebloom nerf of a few months ago was much more devastating than this one.

The addition of a 6 sec cooldown to my best-designed spell is not a happy prospect, and it’s not the kind of thing that makes healing “more fun.” In fact, managing an extra cooldown, especially for druids, who are already managing Lifebloom and Swiftmend, is pretty much anti-fun. I’ve never believed developers’ claims that they want to make healing “more fun.” I don’t think that’s really in their advantage–to really make healing more fun would probably “trivialize” the content as well, forcing them to come out with more content patches on an accelerated timeline. What they might actually do is change our interface to be more “interactive”–and also a ton more difficult to use. I dread this prospect a lot more than any nerf to Wild Growth! Think about the new vehicle interfaces and imagine if you had to heal and target with that! What if all healing were like Malygos Phase 3 or the final boss of the Oculus? As it is, I think the developers recognize that healing, more so than tanking or dps, requires players to modify their interface. I hope they just leave us alone with that and let Grid do what their standard frames can or will not.

Is Lifebloom Obsolete? Another Look at Resto Druids in 3.0

Is Lifebloom Obsolete? Another Look at Resto Druids in 3.0

Restoration druids have been through the wringer of late, and many otherwise content stalks of broccoli, me included, have even thought of rerolling in the face of severe nerfs to Lifebloom and Flourish. However, the developers have, as it were, turned over a new leaf (yuk yuk yuk) and have modified both Wild Growth (the new Flourish) and Nourish to make them more attractive to the Restos of Wrath. This article takes a look at healing druids now, as of October 2, and speculates about our future as competitive PvE raiders.

First, the Nerfs

What was wrong with druids, you ask? After being strong early in Beta and getting one of the things we’ve always wanted, an AoE heal, Restoration druids got hit up one branch and down the other with a big, nasty nerf bat. Both Wild Growth and Lifebloom, two spells that druids had planned to put in heavy rotation for the expansion, received reductions to their healing done and had their mana cost raised. We were, however, left with a strong Regrowth, and a particularly overpowered glyph which increased the effectiveness of the initial burst heal by 50% if the Regrowth HoT effect were still on the target. The Regrowth glyph has, incidentally, been nerfed as predicted to a 20% bonus, and to add insult to injury, build 9194 also included a nerf to Nature’s Splendor, reducing the duration of a talented Lifebloom to 9 sec. instead of 10. For another perspective on the druid nerfs and buffs, take a look at Phaelia’s post on Resto4Life–as always, Phae has an interesting–and beautifully illustrated–take on things.

The nerfs brought out many high-quality posters to the Beta forums, many of whom posted hard numbers from raid encounters in Beta. I even joined in the pleas to Ghostcrawler to re-evaluate the druid class for effectiveness in end-game raiding. GC reassured forum posters time and time again that druids would be fine for 5-mans or entry level raids, but I remained worried. My focus has never been entry-level or casual content. I want to be competitive in 25-man raiding, and I want to remain strong as my guild progresses through tiers of content. I’m not the best druid healer out there (in my opinion, that’s Bonkers, CD’s other tree and my personal hero), but I do have the skills to handle a 5-man or a heroic even if my class is not optimized for it. I don’t need any new talents for 5-mans–I’d like those abilities to help me in the more difficult raid environment. As the healing lead of a raiding guild, I always want to see my team make smart choices in terms of play and rostering. I have to admit, I did think about rerolling, and I took a serious look at shamans, pallies, and priests in Beta. For what it’s worth, priest is looking very good to me at the moment, as are shamans, despite the mana issues. I would–and I still will–change mains if it turns out that taking a restoration druid or two to endgame raids handicaps the group. I do have a paladin at 70 now, and so that might be a more realistic option for me than for others.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

However, before I could log into my 20-something baby shammy and take her for a spin in Ashenvale, Ghostcrawler made another series of posts. First, on October 1, there was hope:

We are going to “run the numbers” again on Wild Growth and Nourish. What I mean by that is we’ll do some tests and compare them to similar heals and to other druid spells.

Wild Growth was nerfed pretty hard and I have some confidence that we can bring it up, though probably not as high as it was before. We’ll have to see about Nourish.

We don’t want to mess with Regrowth much more since it is now a button that seems worth pushing. We’re standing by our Lifebloom changes for now. It just felt like the solution to every healing situation that druids encountered. I suspect druids will still use it in its current form, but we’ll see.

Sorry I can’t offer anything more concrete than that. Making promises until I actually see the changes made can be pretty dangerous and just ends up frustrating the community in those situations where we can’t deliver.

And then, yesterday, a promise:

Here are the changes we’re making next patch. See how they feel.

Wild Growth: Coefficient and healing increased. Mana cost decreased. Cost should be about the same as Circle of Healing. It doesn’t heal instantly, but will heal for about double what CoH does over its duration.

Nourish: Reduced mana cost by somewhere between 15 and 20%. This is supposed to be your Flash Heal, but we recognize that it doesn’t have the same versatility — you can’t just drop one on a wounded rogue or something since you need the hot up first. Hence the lower price.

Druids have quite an arsenal of healing spells now, and it can be tricky to find niches for all of them. :)

I was very happy to hear this news, and I was particularly pleased that it came from Ghostcrawler. It has long been my opinion that this particular blue poster is a class act. She’s been fairly attentive to restoration druids, even while assuring us–up until last night–that our healing was just fine, even strong, while the numbers clearly said otherwise. I don’t think the devs are out to get us, by any means–I just think that misdirection and even a little truth-obscuring is part of the jobs. “Class balance” is mysterious, and the game company naturally has different priorities from the players. In any case, here’s my reactions to the promised changes to Wild Growth and Nourish.

1. Relief

I do think druids will be more effective now. If the change is significant, a Wild Growth build will become more attractive than a Dreamstate build at 80. This is a good thing, because I really didn’t want to have to dip that far into Balance. I like keeping the feel of my character consistent, and I’ve been 61 resto for several months. As for Nourish, well, I can see a use for an improved Nourish as a tank heal. If I am maintaining a now cripplingly expensive Lifebloom stack on the tank, I may choose Nourish over Regrowth in a situation where I need the extra half second in order to be able to refresh Lifebloom on time.

2. Puzzlement

Ghostcrawler stated that Blizzard stands by the nerf to Lifebloom, although her language leaves the possibility of future revision open. The post seems to recognize that the nerf was severe. “I suspect that druids will still use [Lifebloom] in its current form” is a very different statement from “You will need to use Lifebloom” or even “You will still cast Lifebloom.” Nuance is very key here. For myself, I am waiting for theorycrafters–and my own experience in raids–to tell me whether Lifebloom is now worth the cost. Most Beta forum posters agree that even triple-stacked, it heals for paltry amounts compared to max-level tanks’ health pools. And this is early in the raiding game–I’m waiting to see how the numbers work out when we get beyond entry-level raids.

Does Lifebloom Have a Future?

This is the question on my mind as I ponder my post 3.0 spell rotation. Lifebloom has defined the life of a druid in BC. At lower levels of +heal it was quite weak, and I know I certainly relied on Healing Touch back when I was in blues and running Heroic Mech almost every night so Briolante could get his Sun-Eater (it took 14 runs, by the way). However, in Karazhan and beyond, I’ve had to tune my whole playstyle around casting and recasting this one spell. Because of the nature of the stacks, I have learned to time seven seconds in my head with stunning accuracy. I can feel the seven-second interval as it passes, just as I can feel the 1.5 second GCD (and yes, haste messes with my internal timing and as such, gets on my left nerve). No other healer is on quite this strict a clock.

The numbers from Beta testers indicate that for Lifebloom to retain any value, we will need to stack it on less players (perhaps just the main tank) and refresh it with precision timing, i.e. after it has gone through its maximum number of ticks. This spell is much easier to use with a little slop permitted in the timing. Right now, there are no severe mana penalties for refreshing a stack early, and even post 3.0, early will still be better than late. However, druid healers are going to have to get much, much better at timing their refreshes. Right now, we’ve got bigger fish to fry, and little things like moving out of the way of AoE’s deserve more of our attention than precise timing on Lifebloom refreshes. So yes, if druids persist in using Lifebloom, a little L2P will be in effect. We will have a particularly difficult time at 70 if we choose Wild Growth over Nature’s Splendor. That’s not bad in itself, but it’s not exactly “fun” either. In fact, Blizzard is designing away from precision timing for tanks, who have had it pretty bad in BC where that’s concerned (Shear, anyone?). I am puzzled, then, as to why they would want to restrict their healers’ spell choices more? I’m not sure that it’s all healers though–somehow I think it’s just the Vegetables.

So, Are They Going to Buff Lifebloom?

I’m going to disagree with Phaelia here and say no. I think they’re pretty determined to marginalize Lifebloom, or else, to make a Lifebloom stack the balancing point for a druid’s mana. Regardless of what’s said by Ghostcrawler and others, Lifebloom has only been problematic in PvP. In PvE, it was our bread-and-butter spell only because it had to be recast so often. That seems to have been an intentional part of the design. Now, I’m guessing that Blizzard regrets putting in the stacking mechanism. If I were the devs, I might strengthen Lifebloom considerably and stop it from stacking or blooming–I would make it an instant-tick Rejuvenation and nothing more. No shenanigans when you dispel it either! If you want to free your trees to cast other things while still using Lifebloom, this is the way to do it. Take us off the dreaded seven-second timer! (Hear, hear)

If a Tree Falls in the Forest . . .

I will say that I am glad that Resto is getting a little attention from Ghostcrawler. I believe that Blizzard has the best intentions as far as game balance is concerned, except that they might be overly stubborn about keeping mechanics for PvE and PvP the same. However, my experience from BC tells me that sometimes broken specs stay broken for months and years. Up until the Wrath Alpha, for instance, blue posters insisted that druids did not need an out of combat rez, even though it would certainly not factor into game balance. The only thing an out of combat rez does is make it easier for players to find groups and for healers to care for those groups. Boss fights are not affected at all, and the effects on pvp are marginal at best. The devs defended an aspect of design that was, in fact, just a punishment for hybrids. Moreover, as someone who’s played both Moonkin and Retribution Paladin, I know what it’s like to play an underdog character. There’s a very good reason I raised my warlock to max level–it’s nice to have a character in the lineup that gets a lot of development love. She’s my backup plan, just in case both Resto druids and Holy pallies become unplayable. I had, up until this point, though that Blizzard rather liked Resto druids. At least now, even with the nerfs, we are receiving some attention. However, I urge the Beta community to post, post, post, and to back up their complaints and suggestions with numbers when they can. Of course, that suggestion comes with the caveat that posters should always be respectful to the blue posters whose attention they covet and avoid out and out panicking or QQ. There is evidence that we have Ghostcrawler’s ear–so keep that constructive feedback rolling in.