This article is a follow-up to my previous discussion of the most workable pure healing talent builds for druids once patch 3.0.something hits live servers. There’s been some speculation in my guild that the big day will be Tuesday, but I would personally be surprised–I don’t think the classes are in balance yet.
Today I’m going to speculate about the future of Dreamstate builds, and I’m writing particularly in response to Bonkers’s question about Dreamstate in the comments for my last article. Bonkers is actually my co-resto druid in Collateral Damage, and he’s usually right about all things druidic.
The Dreamstate build takes its name from one particularly great talent in the Balance, not Restoration, talent tree, but it is nonetheless a healing build. Yet, in its BC form, the build did not include Tree of Life, which most have come to think of by now as a spec-defining talent. In the early days of Burning Crusade, Dreamstate builds had a solid advantage over Tree of Life builds. In fact, Syd’s original talent build for 5-mans in BC was a Dreamstate-plus build that dipped all the way down to Moonkin form before picking up the early talents in Restoration. Dreamstate, however, was strong early on mostly because Tree of Life Builds were weak. The reason was that Lifebloom in its original state did not stack properly–only the first application received a bonus from + heal. The Dreamstate druid did in fact use Lifebloom, generally a single stack, but most of her healing was done with Healing Touch, alternating Rank 4 and max rank.
A Dreamstate druid healed like a holy priest, constantly casting and canceling that big heal and weaving it in with hots. Besides the mana regen and the access to healing touch, the other attraction to a Dreamstate build for BC was increased mobility. The tree of life 20% snare was and is a big pain in the bark for certain fights. “Move out of the bad stuff,” in fact, is the most often-heard raid instruction for Tier 6 content. I don’t know Sunwell encounters first-hand, but from what I’ve read, being at the right place at the right time continues to be key. Tree form waddles rather than runs, and with weaker Lifebloom in early BC, this was a deadly combination. In the current state of Lifebloom–strong, and properly stacking–druids do fine moving around. My Lifebloom is strong enough so that I don’t have to worry so much about AoE–I just stack it on myself and move at my pace. I probably take a tick or so of damage from AoE effects in a fight like Illidari Council, but I survive it very well. Right now, the only fight that I do out of tree form is Archimonde, and that is mostly because I’m assigned to decurse.
For Wrath, and for the upcoming patch 3.0 Dreamstate and Tree of Life will be greatly different from what we’ve used to. Tree of Life has essentially been updated to include some of the advantages a Dreamstate healer used to have. A tree gains access to most of her useful spells, including Healing Touch and Remove Curse, and the snare will go away. The tree bonus now is all about efficiency and power–with the new, expensive Lifebloom, the reduction from Tree Form becomes quite significant, and the Master Shapeshifter talent adds to the healing power of the tree as well.
My assumption, initially, was that Dreamstate had gone the way of the Dodo and that the new must-have talent in Balance was Nature’s Splendor. However, trusting Bonkers to be on the right track, I took a Dreamstate build in beta last night on Syddera, my level 70 clone on Northrend. I took her through about half a level, running around with my favorite warrior, newly fury-specced, and alternately healed and dpsed. And let me tell you, we were a leveling machine–there was no stopping, no eating, no drinking–only killing things very very fast. I’m convinced that Dreamstate is the right leveling build now.
Dreamstate at 70 (28/0/33)
This is quite different from the old Dreamstate builds, mostly because Dreamstate has moved to a lower tier of the Balance tree, and Balance has been altered to include many more resto-friendly talents at the top. Despite such a significant investment in Balance, this really is mostly a healing build. I only picked up DPS talents when I had to to get to the next tier. With this build, I’m planning on healing instances as well as questing with a buddy. For solo questing with instance possibilities, I might choose Starlight Wrath instead of Genesis in Tier 1.
As a side bonus, this build picks up Insect Swarm, which has always been quite useful, and which has now moved so far down the tree that healing trees won’t have it. I don’t use this talent much for leveling–Briolante, my afore-mentioned warrior leveling partner, kills things too fast for it to matter. However, Insect Swarm shines in raids and instances.
Notice also that in Restoration, I DID NOT pick up Natural Shapeshifter> or Master Shapeshifter. This build, at 70, stays in caster form the entire time (which for me is a huge bonus). Dreamstate is meant to offset the greater efficiency of the tree for healing, and in any case, you don’t even HAVE Tree of Life form until you get to 80.
Dreamstate at 80 (28/0/43)
I also played around with a prospective Wild Growth-Nature’s Splendor build yesterday on my level 80 premade druid, a hunka hunka manly night elf I’ve named Sydd (creative, I know). After I got rid of his horrible hairstyle and shaved off his scraggly beard, I went with Briolante to the forest below Dalaran and we found an enormous elite–a big robot-looking dude, like something straight out of a Miyazaki film. We spent 5 minutes or so slowly killing him so that I could test my mana regen. It’s bad news folks. A triple-stack Lifebloom and a Rejuvenation will drain your mana bar slowly but surely. In live, I cast something every GCD and use less mana. I didn’t notice mana problems on Syd at 70 in beta either for damage or healing, but even in gear with 600 or so spirit, my premade druid has issues. In fact, we had to try the elite twice–I simply wasn’t able to stay in mana if I remained in caster form and helped dps. On live, Brio and I have taken down many elites that way, and I was disappointed at my performance in beta. To kill that elite, I had to stay in tree, use a minimal cast rotation, and use my Innervate. Guess what folks? Innervate only filled half the mana bar with that level of gear. I realize that my mana regen will be much better than the premade druid’s–at 70, Beta Syd’s regen is already higher than Premade Sydd’s. However, most people will probably start out raiding with stats equal to–or even weaker than–the premade characters.’ My guess is that druids are really, really going to have to watch their mana for Wrath raiding.
As a consequence, I think Dreamstate builds will be a viable alternative at 80. Many of the talents in the highest tiers of the Resto tree are looking comparatively underpowered, and with the more generic gear of Wrath, we’ll always have huge amounts of intellect to make Dreamstate work properly. We might see a repeat situation of early BC, where Dreamstate seems strong only because deep Resto is weak.
For my level-80 Dreamstate build, I’ve chosen to get Tree of Life. I was impressed with the mana efficiency difference at 80 between using tree and not. I figure the armor bonus is so minor as to not be worth noticing from Improved Tree of Life, so what you’re missing out on is really just a portion of the spirit-based bonus to your spellpower. Notice also that you will have to respec at level 80–you can’t just continue down the Dreamstate path you’ve started at 70. A Dreamstate druid at 80 really NEEDS Natural Shapeshifter–you will still be shifting out to caster from time to time if Insect Swarm is important for the fight. It’s ironic that at 80, the only healing druid who shifts mid-fight will be a Dreamstate build. I have also set up my Balance talents a little differently for level 80 to be more raid-friendly.
My recommendation for level 80 is as follows. For 25-man guilds with two Restoration druids, one should take Dreamstate and the other a Nature’s Splendor/Wild Growth build. Okay Bonkers, so you can take Dreamstate and use your Innervate on me . . . kidding. From what I’ve observed in the past, diversity of skills strengthens large raid groups. For 10-man guilds, I would take the Dreamstate build for best mana management, even though it does not contain Living Seed or full points in Improved Tree of Life. I think that at the lower gear levels, Dreamstate will give you a little leeway with mana. Heck, we may all take Dreamstate builds to get a gentler adjustment to the strict mana management conditions of Wrath.