07 October 2008

WotLK: new resto druid talents

Yesterday I looked at the new resto abilities, including Wild Growth, the new 51-point talented spell. Today I wanted to look at the other talents, and how they will affect the way we heal. I'm going to focus mostly on PvE, since that's what I know best.

In BC, PvE Resto talent builds were pretty easy: take just about everything in the Resto tree. There are 68 possible talent points in Resto. With 61 points to spend, you'd think you'd have some choice, but not so. Nine of those points are found in Furor, Natural Shapeshifter, and Omen of Clarity, which have almost no relevance to healing. So you could take 59 points in Resto, have all the healing-related talents, and have two points left over to spend wherever. (Natural Shapeshifter was the usual best bet, in case you had to shift out of tree form to cast a Healing Touch.)

That's... kind of boring, really. I would sometimes take 11 points in Balance to get Insect Swarm, to help mitigate incoming tank damage. But the other 10 points in Balance had zero relevance to healing, so really a 61-point resto build was the only worthy option.

That's going to change in Wrath of the Lich King. First, the basic math. You have 71 points to spend, with 78 points in the tree. Similar to BC, except there are a few more options now. First, the new talent Master Shapeshifter has benefits for healing: with two points, it adds 4% to your healing power in Tree form. Not shabby, but you'll have to invest 3 points into Natural Shapeshifter as a prerequisite. I think that most pure PvE builds will skip this, but it's at least viable; 4% additional healing isn't too horrible for 5 talent points.

The other big change is that you'll really debate putting points into the Balance tree. In the first 3 tiers, there are 14 points that improve your healing ability:

  • Genesis (5 points): This adds up to 5% to your periodic abilities — in other words, your HoTs. Pure added healing power.

  • Moonglow (3 points): A 9% reduction in the mana cost of several spells, including Healing Touch, Rejuvenation, and Regrowth. That's a reasonable mana cost reduction.

  • Nature's Majesty (2 points): Adds 4% to the crit chance of Nourish and Healing Touch. That's mediocre, but at least it adds to healing. But this gets you to 10 points in Balance, which opens up...

  • Nature's Grace (3 points): Formerly a 21-point talent, this is now accessible as an 11-12-13 point talent, ultimately giving you a 100% chance on spell crit to cut your next cast time by half a second. Doesn't help your staple Lifeblooms or Rejuvs, but it really helps with HT and especially Regrowth. When you factor in the added 50% crit chance for a fully-talented Regrowth, you're looking at a lot of Nature's Grace procs. That can make for some interesting Regrowth-focused builds. And there's one other useful talent in early Balance...

  • Nature's Splendor (1 point): This adds duration to your HoTs — Rejuv gets 3 seconds, Lifebloom gets 2, and Regrowth gets 6. That's one extra tick for Rejuv and two for Lifebloom and Regrowth. You can count this two ways. If you figure a fire-and-forget HoT, like you might drop on a damaged DPS, you'll get a simple increase in healing done of 20% for Rejuv, and 28% on the HoT portion of Lifebloom and Regrowth. Or if you're keeping the spells active on a tank — casting a new one when the old expires — you'll instead get a comparable mana cost reduction because you cast the spell less often. It's not a simple percentage increase; you don't get the benefit if your HoTs are overhealing, if you Swiftmend them away, or if you overwrite them before they're done. But this talent has the potential to really add to your healing power in a subtle and interesting way.
So that's the Balance tree. With those talents, there will be some Resto builds that take up to 14 points in Balance, which means more choice on the Resto side. But what do those choices entail? Here are some of the new or changed talents that are worth considering.
  • Omen of Clarity (1 point): This used to be the bastard stepchild of Resto: great for Feral builds but useless for healing. No longer! It now has a chance to proc on spells as well as melee attacks, making your next spell free. It's gone from a must-skip to a must-have.

  • Improved Tranquility (2 points): In addition to its old effect, this now reduces the cooldown on Tranq down to 4 minutes. I think this is a big difference, because you'll be able to count on Tranq a lot more.

  • Living Seed (3 points): I'll just quote the text:
    When you critically heal your target with Swiftmend, Regrowth, Nourish or Healing Touch spell you have a 100% chance to plant a Living Seed on the target for 30% of the amount healed. The Living Seed will bloom when the target is next attacked. Lasts 15 sec.
    I think this can be really powerful, but it will be very situational. If you're just using Lifebloom/Rejuv on a tank, you'll never see it. If you top off a DPS-er who's no longer under attack, the seed will expire with no effect. But if you're madly healing a tank with everything you've got, or if you're racing to heal widespread and ongoing raid damage, this is going to get you a 30% extra heal on a regular basis. It's the kind of talent that won't help unless you're really in trouble — but then, it could save your bacon.

  • Replenish (3 points): I used to be excited about this, but now I'm not. Again, to quote:
    Your Rejuvenation spell has a 15% chance to restore 8 Energy, 4 Rage, 1% Mana or 16 Runic Power per tick.
    The problem is that it's a low chance to work and a low amount returned. Normal Rejuv gets 5 ticks. That means, on average, your targets will get 6 Energy, 3 Rage, .75% Mana, or 12 Runic Power from a full-duration Rejuv. (Increase that by another 1/5 if you take Nature's Splendor.) That's almost nothing — it won't even be noticed. If this isn't boosted, I think it'll be skipped in most builds.

  • Improved Tree of Life (3 points): This has two effects. For one, it doubles your armor when you're in Tree form. Nice; it makes Tree very useful in PvP which is cool. But more importantly, it increases your healing power by 15% of your Spirit.

    In some ways, this covers the nerf to Tree form that came with raid buff equalization. Formerly, Tree gave your party members a bonus to healing received of 25% of your spirit. Now the Tree aura covers the whole raid... but it's limited to a flat 6% healing bonus. The improved Tree talent gives you a reason to like Spirit again, and really adds to the power of Tree form.

    I'd like to do the math to compare the two. But you start getting into the Healing to Spell Power conversion, spell coefficients, average spell rotation... in short, it's complicated. That may be a post on its own.

  • Gift of the Earthmother (5 points): This is deceptively simple: it cuts the GCD on Rejuv, Wild Growth, and Lifebloom by 20%. With no Haste gear, that cuts the GCD on these spells from 1.5 sec to 1.2 sec. That will basically get you one more spell stuffed into your Lifebloom maintenance, which is pretty cool. You can't get the GCD beneath 1 sec, so if you're really stacking haste gear, this might become redundant. I don't know whether that will be realistic given the WotLK gear that's available.

  • Wild Growth is the new 51-point Resto talent, but I talked about that yesterday.
So that's it — the big changes in our talent tree. I think the new talents have the potential to change druid healing in WotLK by a fair bit. If you grab Nature's Grace or Omen of Clarity, you'll be watching for procs and adjusting your casts accordingly. Improved Tranquility might lead you to cast Tranq more often. And Gift of the Earthmother could give you time to do more between refreshing stacks of Lifebloom.

More importantly, those interesting Balance talents will lead to more diversity in Resto builds. The default 0/0/71 build will be viable, but so will anything from 5/0/66 to 14/0/57. I think there's some good possibilities for healing builds that go deep Balance too — new Restokin builds and others. More to come on that!

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