31 March 2009

Offspec Gear

(The UI post is coming along. I'll try to keep it from getting too out of control...)

Over the weekend we ran a heroic Utgarde Keep and the [Sharp-Barbed Leather Belt] dropped. Mattoo (our Bear tank) already had it (or better, I forget) and nobody else could wear it, so they offered it to me for my tanking offset.

Back at the bank, that led to Mattoo and me discussing my tanking gear set. He was interested to see if I could tank sometime, more for the novelty than anything. That's when I mentioned that had a pretty good tanking weapon: the [Staff of the Plague Beast]. That's one of the best Druid tanking weapons in the game. And, as it turns out, it's far better than what Mattoo has. Hm, jealous much? :)

I don't remember the details, but it was a PuG (10-man) and there was nobody around who wanted it. It's the kind of thing that I would never have considered, but the loot master sort of shoved it in my direction. Better than sharding it, at any rate.

The major irony is that it's far better than my current healing weapon. I'm currently rocking the [Gavel of the Brewing Storm]. Now, for a blue rep reward, it's an excellent mace, and I've paired it with the [Handbook of Obscure Remedies] which is darn good too. Still, there are a decent number of drops that are better; I've just not been lucky enough to get them. I haven't seen that many drops to be honest, and I've just lost rolls on those I have seen. At some point, I'll buy the [Titansteel Guardian] if nothing else drops, but for now I'll continue to hope.

But the irony continues. The next night, Mattoo was running a Naxx PuG and whispered that he'd receieved [Noth's Curse] as an offset drop. Well, of course that beats what I'm using; my [Battlemap Hide Helm] isn't bad but it's long overdue for an upgrade. So the irony returns; my tanking staff is better than the tank's, but his healing helm is better than mine.

That's life when you're PuGging raids. Progression is very much at the whim of whatever group you're in at the time. If Mattoo and I were running the same raids together, those pieces would go to the 'right' players. The good news is that I'm not feeling too limited by the gaps in my gear. Overall my stuff is solid, and for the most part I'm able to heal anything I go into. Better gear would help in challenging situations — clueless raids, poorly geared tanks, and so forth — but most of the time it's not an issue.

Still, I'll keep dreaming for a good drop. You know, dreaming [The Impossible Dream]...

23 March 2009

Tree changes in 3.1, as of 23 March

There's lots of changes coming up for Resto Druids in 3.1. It feels like we've been discussing this forever — the base ideas go back 6 weeks or more — while there are new changes coming out all the time. I fully expect more changes (and changes to the changes) before 3.1 goes live. But I wanted to provide a highlight of the changes you'll see.

Affects mana (cost or regen)
Affects healing (throughput, spellpower, debuffs, etc.)

All info is taken from Test Realm Patch Notes unless otherwise noted. The spell links are to the new (PTR/3.1) versions of the spells.

Base changes

Mana regen change: (This applies to all classes.) Spirit: The amount of mana regeneration granted by this stat has been reduced by 40%.

This affects both Innervate and baseline mana regen outside the Five Second Rule (O5SR). The main effect is that both Innervate and pauses in casting will return a lot less mana than they used to. It also raises the relative value of Replenishment — and of Intellect (vs. Spirit) — as a result.

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.

This is the biggest direct Druid change. In short, the mana cost of LB is doubled. On the other side, letting it bloom will now refund mana, and both the healing and mana refund of the bloom will stack. So maintaining a LB stack costs lot more but the bloom looks better for both healing and mana efficiency. This will be both a nerf and a significant change to habitual Druid healing techniques, but I don't yet expect to give up on Lifebloom stacks. We'll be discussing this a lot more.

Abolish Poison: Now ticks every 3 seconds, up from every 2. Now lasts 12 seconds, up from 8.

So you have the same number of ticks, spread over a longer time. It'll vary whether this is a buff or a nerf. You'll have longer poison protection, but it will take longer for poisons (especially stacks of poison) to be removed.

Innervate: This spell no longer costs mana.

On live today it costs around 100 mana. This is a trivial buff in any situation except where you're completely OOM.


Because of all the talent changes — and the dual spec implementation — all players will get a full talent refund. Don't forget to respec!
Tree of Life:Now receives 240% increased armor. You can now use Nature's Grasp and Thorns while within this form. Mana cost reduced to match the cost of Travel Form. Also, may change ToL talent to say reduces the mana cost of all your hots and also lets you go into tree form, which grants bonus healing.(source)

A whole slew of changes to ToL form. The latter clause was discussed on the forums but has not yet been implemented on the PTR. Assuming that change makes it too, then TOL changes as follows:
  • The mana saving on HoTs applies whether or not you're in tree form
  • Can now cast Nature's Grasp and Thorns as a tree
  • Lower mana cost to switch into tree form
  • Improved ToL goes from 100% to 240% bonus armor
These are mostly buffs to tree form in PvP. However, there are times in PvE when it's useful to heal outside of tree form, and this will help with that. Ultimately some decent stuff, but nothing groundshaking.

Improved Regrowth: This talent is renamed Nature’s Bounty. Increases the critical effect chance of your Regrowth and Nourish spells by 5/10/15/20/25%.

This is a big change. It halves the crit chance for Regrowth but buffs the crit chance for Nourish instead. The left hand giveth etc. It was always difficult to make a case for Nourish, mostly because Regrowth was so awesome. So at least this change buffs Nourish while also nerfing Regrowth. It's difficult to plan around healing crits, and there's a good chance that this will contribute to your overhealing. That I believe is the root of the next change.

Living Seed: This talent now accounts for total healing including overhealing.

This should buff Living Seed. I don't yet know how much of a practical buff it will be. Regrowth will crit less often; Nourish will crit more. I suspect that we will be using Nourish in particular a lot more, so this may make Living Seed more worthwhile. Today it does somewhere around 2% of my healing, so that's not quite breakeven for 3 talent points.

Intensity: Now grants 17/33/50% of mana regeneration while casting.

That's a buff in the percentage from the 10/20/30% on live today, but keep in mind that the 30->50% is on base mana regen that's been nerfed by 40%. So in the end it's about where you are today.

Nature's Grace: Redesigned: All spell critical strikes have a 33/66/100% chance to grace you with a Blessing of Nature, increasing your spell casting speed by 20% for 3 seconds. (Note: this is a Balance talent, but it's taken in many Resto builds.)

On Live today, NG will reduce the casting time of your next spell by .5 sec. That is a 33% cast time improvement for Nourish, 25% for Regrowth, or 20%/17% for Healing Touch (depending on talents). This gets somewhat better as you get more Haste. Nourish however suffers because the resulting 1sec cast time will likely be faster than your GCD, so you'll have to wait to cast your next spell anyway. The difference is that you get the buff for 3 seconds, so you can cast multiple spells with it (two Nourishes, for example). The downside is that you're unlikely to react instantly to a NG proc, so you may well miss the first second or two. Ultimately I think this probably works out as a slight buff, but the complexity of the mechanism will make this talent very difficult to employ effectively.

Improved Mark of the Wild: Now also increases all of your total attributes by 1/2%.

A straight buff, though the 2% increase goes only to you and not everyone who receives your MotW. It definitely helps MotW scale as you get more stats from gear. The effect isn't huge, but most Resto druids will take this talent anyway, so it's easy to accept.

Replenish: This talent is now re-named Revitalize and also works with Wild Growth.

This is a buff to Replenish, but is it now worthwhile? The good news is that you'll cast a lot of Wild Growth, so more toons might get the Revitalize buff. The ticks, however, are still both random and rather small. I'd much rather see the random element removed, even if that means making the ticks even smaller.

Improved Barkskin:(New Talent) Increases the damage reduction granted by your Barkskin spell by 5/10%, and increases your resistance to Dispel mechanics by an additional 30/60% while under the effect of Barkskin.

This change is purely for PvP; I can think of very few situations when it will apply in PvE, other than loose adds beating on the healer (which rarely ends well in any case). As a 2-point talent in the 10th tier, it is designed to give Druids some additional incentives to go deep Resto for PvP.


Glyph of Nourish: Your Nourish heals an additional 6% for each of your heal-over-time effects present on the target.

A nice little boost to Nourish, further suggesting that it will be a much stronger heal in 3.1, particularly for tank healing. With 3 HoTs up on the target, that's an additional 18% bonus to Nourish. Add in the increased crit chance, and you'll see some whopping big heals from our "Flash Heal" equivalent.

Glyph of Wild Growth Wild Growth now affects up to 6 targets.

A simple change, but one that could add an additional 20% to the healing capacity of Wild Growth. The only problem now is how many worthwhile glyphs we have available. I'm unlikely to take this — I'll probably go with Swiftmend, Lifebloom, and maybe Nourish. But if you do a lot of raid healing, this could be a major buff.

OK; I think that's the lot for now. I really should do a post on the Balance changes, if I can get to it. Those are a bit less extreme but still significant.

20 March 2009

Intro to Druid Healing 3: Raid Healing

This is Part 3 of my Intro to Druid Healing series. The five parts are:

Raid healing at its base level is pretty simple: keep the healers and DPS from dying. Because a lot of raid damage is avoidable, you'll often see the newest or least-geared healers given the raid healing role. But even more than tank healing, your raid healing can really benefit from skill, organization, and insight. This article is designed to get you started with building all three.

My apologies; this article is really long! (Took a long time to write, too.) I hope you'll find the information useful. I welcome feedback in comments.

Sections on raid healing:


So, you'll be healing in a raid today. There are a few basic factors that you'll want to know before you get started. First, what is your assignment? In 10-man raids the assignments can be fairly blurry, and there's a good chance you'll be both tank healing and raid healing. In a 25-man you're more likely to have a specific role, even possibly to healing a specific group or role (e.g. melee DPS) in the raid. Even tank healers may need to do some raid healing from time to time, but if you have dedicated raid healers, you'll generally let them deal first with damage.

Related to healing assignments is heal sniping: the practice of people stepping outside their healing assignments. This can be a problem for a couple reasons. First, you don't want people to lose focus on their main job. If the tank dies while her healer is messing about with raid heals, that's pretty bad. Second, you lose time and mana when two healers heal the same raid member. Healing assignments are designed to help prevent this.

That said, heal sniping isn't all that big a deal in most situations, and in some it's crucial. (I talked about this last week.) If the encounter is easy and healers are bored, they're going to find other things to do. And if things are getting really tough, healers need to help each other out. That goes both ways: tank healers can help out on bad raid damage, while raid healers can lend a hand when the tank is getting creamed.

I think heal sniping gets blown out of proportion because people worry too much about the healing meters. Frankly, they're an OK tool, but they don't tell you a lot. The real measure of success is whether you beat the fight. If your raid leaders are judging healers by ranks on the healing meter... well, they need to understand a lot more about how healing works. I think I'll write more about healing meters in the Special Considerations post.

Beyond your healing assignment, don't forget to remove debuffs — curses and poisons, for a Druid.

Understanding your raid

It's crucial to know about your raid. One dimension of that is understanding the fights you'll be taking on. How much raid damage will you see? Is it avoidable or not? Will there be burst damage or does it come at a steady pace? This obviously will vary from boss to boss and between different kinds of trash mobs.

An important piece of that is understanding the debuffs you'll face. Sometimes they're just annoying, but other times they're critical, like the Necrotic Poison cast by Maexxna or the Curse of the Plaguebringer cast by Noth.

The other dimension is understanding the members of your raid. That starts with knowing your other healers. That starts with understanding the classes (and specs; Holy and Discipline priests are very different). Knowing the key spells of your partners helps you understand what they're doing. Beyond classes, know the players. Are they aggressive or slow to react? Do they suffer from lag or get disconnected? Do they stick solely to their assignments or help out? Are they good at removing poisons and curses? (And diseases — Druids can't remove them, but you might have to heal through the damage if your partners miss it.)

Finally, know your players in general. Are they quick to move out of the fire, or away from the bosses' Whirlwind? Do they use health stones and healing potions? Are the offtanks good at quickly picking up adds? Is the hunter quick to Feign Death when she pulls aggro? Does the warlock Life Tap a little too aggressively? Who's higher on DPS (and needed to beat the enrage timer)?

Knowing the other players you run with can be a huge factor. It's the biggest reason why PUGs are so hard. So if you're running with a guild or regular group, pay a lot of attention to your players, and you'll get a big advantage from it. And if you're in a PUG, learn as much as you can as you go along. (Hint: your damage meter is a better tool for healing a PUG than your healing meter.)

Types of raid damage

So you just saw one or more health bars drop, and you need to do some healing. It's good to be aware of both what just happened and what's happening next. In the end it's all just damage, but knowing the story helps you choose the right spells to use. The variation is huge but there are a few differentiators you can consider.

Who got hit are hit? Sometimes it's just one, say, due to a random mob attack or someone who stood in the fire. If it's just one toon then you can focus on fixing the single problem. But if a lot of toons are hit, you'll need to either spread out your heals, or (in desperate situations) prioritize who gets the heals.

How much damage is there? If someone is hit hard, you're going to need to tee up some bigger heals to deal with it. You'll also have to heal quicker in order to keep the toon alive. On the other hand, if it's less damage, you can afford to use slower-working, more efficient HoTs.

Is the damage one-time or ongoing? If the toon isn't going to get another hit soon, you can afford to let a HoT tick to heal them. But if they're going to get hit again soon, you might have to do something more direct. A special case of this is when a DPS or healer has pulled aggro. Hopefully this is not from a boss (!) but it's fairly common with trash (especially AoE trash) or adds that arrive during a fight. Here it's crucial to watch when the toon loses aggro.

What to cast

This is what you really want to hear, isn't it? What should I be casting? Well, let's make a few assumptions first. Let's assume that you're healing within your assignment, so you can't expect someone else to jump in. (This is the target of my stomping heals post from last week.)

As of today — before the 3.1 patch — you should really read my raid heals post. It describes some initial details about how much each spell can heal and when they're best used. It provides a good bit of analysis that I'm not going to address here. (I will eventually write a new post when the effects of 3.1 are set in stone, or at least curing concrete.)

OK, are you back? Here's the upshot of all that analysis.

Spam Wild Growth. You'll be using Wild Growth for a huge chunk of your raid healing. The only reasons not to use it are when only one toon has taken damage, or when someone is so gravely wounded that you need a big heal Right Now.

You can do some things to get the most out of Wild Growth. Keep in mind that it's a smart heal. So when you cast it on a toon, WG will hit the 5 toons within its range that need it most. (Note, this might not include the person you cast it on!) This is where knowing the nature of the damage helps. If it's geographically localized — say, the melee are hit by a Whirlwind — make sure you cast it on someone from that group. In extreme cases when the raid is highly spread out, you might not even be able to hit 5 toons with the same WG.

It's also worth noting that WG doesn't know about healing assignments. So maybe you're assigned to Group 4 or whatever, but WG will hit anyone. That's true of a lot of other spells too, so don't fret over it too much. Try to make sure however that you're at least hitting part of your assigned coverage.

So use WG when you can. But sometimes it's not enough, and even when it's good you'll have it on cooldown a lot. What do you do then?

Light raid damage: If the toons aren't hurt too badly (and if you're not using WG) your best bet is to use HoTs, most probably Rejuvenation. The other alternative is Lifebloom. Rejuv does more healing and also sets up a Swiftmend if necessary. On the other hand, LB delivers its initial healing faster (Rejuv doesn't tick for 3 seconds) and (before the 3.1 patch) has a slightly lower mana cost. Either one is pretty good if the toon doesn't have a ton of damage and can wait for his heals to add up. You can also spread around a combination of Rejuvs and LBs (plus WG of course) to top off a slightly bigger chunk of damage.

Heavier damage: This is the situation when someone's taken a bit hit and needs an urgent heal. Your goal is to get their health bar up quickly — maybe not to 100%, but at least enough so they won't be killed on the next hit.

The first choice here in many situations is the combination of Rejuv followed by Swiftmend. This sends a big heal within one GCD, and (if glyphed) leaves a Rejuv behind to top off the toon. Many Druid healers don't use Swiftmend enough — I know I don't! It's great for this kind of thing.

So Swiftmend is great, but often it's on cooldown. It's amazing how long 15 sec can be, especially if the whole raid is getting hit fairly hard. If the toon is badly wounded, probably your next option is to cast Regrowth. It gives you both a big direct heal as well as a useful HoT.

Nourish is your other option. Today (as of 3.0.9), I think Regrowth should usually be your first direct heal. Use Nourish as your first step in two cases. For one, if you already have another HoT on the toon, then Nourish will get the 20% boost that makes it more useful. The other situation is when the toon is gravely wounded (say, down to 5% or less health) and/or is taking damage rapidly. Then you might spam Nourish to get some very quick health back onto the toon.

The other big use for Nourish is as an additional spammable heal to get a toon back to full health. With the Regrowth HoT active, Nourish gets a 20% boost, and it's faster to cast than Regrowth. So if you still need to heal after your first Regrowth, consider switching to Nourish.

Nourish is really going to change in 3.1, so I expect this evaluation to shift. I don't have a full analysis now, but I'll provide more (and update this article) when we've learned more (and when 3.1 is in a more stable state). In short, however, Nourish will probably be better and Regrowth a little worse, so you'll want to use Nourish some more.

Finally, I want to mention the Nature's Swiftness + Healing Touch combo, especially if you have a macro to put them together. It will arrive faster and heal more than any other heal. The problem is the 3 minute cooldown; often you will either have it unavailable, or you'll be saving it for a 'real' emergency. Don't be afraid to use it; 3 minutes isn't that bad, and you might well get a couple uses from it within a single boss fight. Just be ready when it's not available.


Sometimes, you'll have more raid damage than you can deal with. This is where my earlier discussion of triage comes in. You have to know who to heal first, and who to ignore.

The toughest question is when to give up (on a toon, not the whole raid!). Sometimes the damage is too high for you to heal through. This is most common when a toon pulls boss aggro. If the toon is likely to die even with your heals, you don't want to waste the time and mana spent healing him. This is rarely an option for the tanks, but it's a common consideration for DPS and sometimes healers.

If you're forced to choose between two injured toons, it helps to know who does more for the raid. Many boss fights with enrage timers will test your DPS; if two toons are close to death, you'll want to save the one with higher DPS. You'll often have to prioritize healers above DPS, but in some cases the DPS is more important; this will depend on the fight. Class can matter here too; save the Moonkin, and maybe she can use her Rebirth. On the other hand, maybe that Shaman can use Reincarnation to rez himself if he dies. (Or maybe it's on cooldown — don't assume that Shaman will be happy if you let him die!)

However, you should almost always make sure to heal yourself. This comes from the principle that you can't do any healing when you're dead! The only exception is a desperate attempt to keep the tank alive. Also, if someone else is designated to heal you, you may have to trust them to take care of you. In general though, you need to be aware of your own health and the damage you're taking.


OK, wow. That's a lot of stuff! Really this is all designed to help you make good choices. Knowing that stuff will help you do much better raid healing. But if you're in doubt, a good outline of raid healing looks like this:
  • Know your assignment and make sure you cover it. But help out others if you can.
  • Use Wild Growth a lot.
  • Use Rejuvenation and Lifebloom to heal mildly wounded toons.
  • Use Rejuv + Swiftmend if someone's hurt badly.
  • After that, use Regrowth and/or Nourish to save the gravely wounded.
  • Remember Nature's Swiftness + Healing Touch for real emergencies.
And a final note: this is my own personal guide to raid healing. I think you can use this and it will serve you well. But there are many other techniques that players use, most of them quite effective. Options like a glyphed/talented Healing Touch can radically change your playstyle, and I don't mean to rule that out. But if you're looking for a good place to start, hopefully this will help you out.

Two more pieces on Intro to Druid Healing are still to come. Now that this is out of the way, I think the others should be relatively easy. Knock wood!

16 March 2009

3.1 Professions: The value of spoilers

I've been playing my rogue a lot lately. I like rogues and she's fun to play. But I've also kept her around as an enchanter, specifically to disenchant all the greens that I get in the course of play. She had been stuck at level 40 during BC — which allowed her to DE the greens and blues I would get. I've had a similar goal to get her leveled in WotLK so that she could DE the current greens.

Yesterday she dinged 58 and traveled through the Dark Portal to upgrade her professions. Safely back in Ironforge, I promptly leveled her enchanting to 300, at the cost of about 120 x [Illusion Dust], including about 40 that she had already and another 80 from the AH.

Today, I read the following on MMO-Champion:

Enchanting: Several recipes in the 250-300 skill range have been rebalanced, and the reagent requirements have been reduced.
D'oh! I spent about 200G at the AH on mats for leveling, and used another 100G worth of mats that I had in stock. As mistakes go, I guess that's not too bad, and I doubt that I'd wait until 3.1 drops to level up anyway. Even so, I wish I had known about the change in advance so I could make a decision rather than rationalize it away.

So to that end, what are some of the other relevant profession changes coming up? What might influence your buying or selling decisions? I'm going to look specifically at the pieces that might help you decide, say, to sell or buy mats, as opposed new recipes or questions like "is leatherworking worth it?", which is a different kind of question. Here is a list of the current profession changes. What stands out as AH-worthy changes?

First, there are some nice changes to Blacksmithing, Tailoring, and Leatherworking. Lower-level items for all three professions "have received major changes to make them more appealing." I read that to say that these items will now be very useful as leveling gear for newer toons. That in turn may make it worthwhile to make and sell this gear; at the least, I hope that any gear you make while leveling your profession will be viable to sell at auction.

There are a ton of new recipes coming, including some (presumably excellent) recipe drops from Ulduar. The recipes will be BoE, but I don't know yet whether the items they create are BoE or BoP. During Burning Crusade there were a good number of BoE recpies that created BoP gear, but my guess is that the trend of skipping BoP gear will continue. If so — if the new gear is BoE — you'll see price drops for the current high-end crafted gear in the same slot. Keep watching to see what specific recipes are available, and sell the corresponding gear soon.

There's an important twink-relevant change for Enchanting: "Some enchants now have level restrictions. Note: the enchant is never removed from the item to which it's applied, however, the player no longer receives its benefit until they reach the required level. Any enchants modified in this way have had their tooltips updated." So this will nerf twinks, reduces enchanter's income from selling these twink enchants, and may invalidate some enchants on your lower-level toons.

I need to research this Leatherworking change: "Added a recipe for combining Borean Leather Scraps into Borean Leather. You can still use Borean Scraps from your inventory to combine them." If they do the exact same thing, it's trivial/silly, but it might be in to help people who forget how to combine scraps. (I've been guilty of this myself.) My hope is that leatherworkers will actually get more leather out of scraps than other players, which would be kind of nice. If the latter, you should maybe hold on to your scraps until 3.1. I'll research more and find out.

There are a couple Jewelcrafting notes. The first: "Added a new recipe to cut black diamonds." Don't know how good the recipe is yet, but it might be worthwhile to stock up on ultracheap diamonds now — or at least hold on to the ones you have. The second: "Added a recipe for Shifting Twilight Opal to the daily jewelcrafting vendor." This is a +agi/+stam gem, which should be fairly useful.

Herbalism sees a simple change that may have major effects: "Northrend herbs now yield more herbs on average." That could drive down Northrend herb prices. On the other hand, a new, challenging raid will probably increase demand for flasks and elixirs, and a ton of new glyphs will also add to the demand for herbs. So I bet in the end that prices will not drop drastically — at least, I won't place any bets one way or the other.

Cooking sees some interesting changes. If you're leveling Cooking, you should know: "You no longer need to learn cooking from books. The trainers have finally done their reading and are able to teach you the same thing." That's probably not a big deal if you track down the vendors yourself, but it will end the sometimes-lucrative trade in reselling these books on the AH.

Another big Cooking change: "A new recipe has been added to cooking trainers for making Black Jelly, using several Borean Man 'O War as ingredients. While it looks disgusting, it restores more health and mana than the highest level food." Currently these fish don't have any use, so they're often vendored or just ignored. I'll be watching the AH to see if any come available though, because they should be really cheap.

Fishing sees some major improvements, including new daily quests (yesyesyesYES!) some big changes to leveling, and even a chance to fish up a mount. As noted under cooking, you're going to want to hang on to those Borean Man 'O War now. There are also new fishing options in Wintergrasp, including: "A new clam, the Giant Darkwater Clam, can be obtained by fishing in Wintergrasp. This mighty clam has a greatly increased chance to drop pearls, and yields up to five times the regular amount of clam meat." So you will likely see price drops on both clam meat and pearls.

That's the quick summary of auction-house-relevant changes. I'll probably look at some of the other profession changes in more detail, especially for Leatherworking, Cooking, and Fishing.

13 March 2009

T8 set bonuses

I know Lifebloom, regen changes, and dual specs have occupied my attention with patch 3.1. But there's a ton of other stuff going on and some is very interesting. I saw the T8 set bonuses today on MMO-Champion and they're pretty sweet.

DISCLAIMER: All subject to change of course! So don't assume this stuff will really happen. But it's cool enough to think about anyway.

Tier 8 of course will be the new sets that come from Heroic Ulduar. They have an iLvl of 226, compared to 213 for heroic Naxx/OS and normal Ulduar, or 200 for normal Naxx/OS. But the set bonuses are exciting:

T8 Feral Druid

2 pieces: The periodic damage dealt by your Rake, Rip, and Lacerate abilites has a chance to cause you to enter a Clearcasting state.
4 pieces: Increases the duration of Savage Roar and Survival Instinct by 8 sec.
I don't know feral well enough to give a full analysis here. But the Clearcasting proc seems like it could be fairly powerful, depending on how often it procs. Free abilities are pretty cool. The 4pc duration increase isn't sexy but it has punch. For Savage Roar, it depends on how long a combo point cycle takes. If it allows you one more 5-pt finishing move before you have to reapply Savage Roar, that will be a sizeable buff for cats. For bears, adding 40% duration to Survival Instinct sounds like a big enhancement for a major panic button.

T8 Balance Druid
2 pieces: Increases the bonus granted by Eclipse for Starfire and Wrath by 6%.
4 pieces: Each time your Insect Swarm deals damage, you have a chance to make your next Starfire cast within until cancelled instant.
As of WotLK, a big question for Moonkin is how to manage your Eclipse procs. Do it well, and your DPS goes way up. The 2pc bonus really rewards skilled Moonkin with a 6% buff to the talent, which is great. The 4pc bonus could really multiply that even further, depending on the proc chance. If you get a few instant-cast Starfires in your rotation, that's huge. If you can work in 1-2 extra instant Starfires while under Eclipse, that's immense. It also sounds like a fun mechanic to work with. I hope it has a distinctive sound and/or a nice visual effect when it procs.

T8 Restoration Druid
2 pieces: Increases the healing done by your Swiftmend spell by 10%.
4 pieces: Your Rejuvenation spell also instantly heals your target for its periodic healing amount.
The 2pc bonus here is both boring and useful. I have to admit that I'm not great at using Swiftmend, and I need to do more to work it into my rotation. But it's a great spell, and buffing it by a straight 10% is fairly big. Now, the 4pc bonus is slightly vague to me, but it really sounds like it gives Rejuv an instant heal in addition to its HoT component. Really? Because that would be amazing! If Rejuv becomes an instant-cast mini-Regrowth, then you've got a damn powerful tool at your hands. It could be useful for tank healing, but it would make Rejuv the hands-down best option for raid healing, no question.

Edit: Tree Bark Jacket confirms this as an instant heal for a single tick of Rejuv. That makes a lot of sense but not a "mini-Regrowth". That's still a fairly powerful ability however; Rejuv ticks are sizeable and usually the first one is 3s away.

The only thing depressing about these set bonuses is how difficult they'll be to acquire. I haven't looked yet but it's clear that some tokens are going to drop from some difficult bosses. So, getting to your 4 piece bonus won't be trivial. Of course you want great gear to be hard to get, there's nothing wrong with that. But some of these bonuses — Resto, in particular — can really change the way you play. It seems odd to give game-changing abilities to such a small percentage of Druids.

11 March 2009

First Lifebloom thoughts: thanks Keeva!

Only time for a quick post today — my apologies!

I've been giving a lot of thought to Lifebloom and the potential changes. I haven't come to any conclusions yet, though I'm closing in on them. However I wanted to quickly call your attention to a great Lifebloom thoughts post at Tree Bark Jacket. She's thinking in the same direction as me.

In a nutshell, I'm fairly confident that I'll still be rolling LB on at least one tank. I'm not sure about two, and three is probably out except for special circumstances. But I think that has the potential to make healing assignments easier.

Today (in 3.0.9) a significant Druid role is to roll HoTs on multiple tanks.* In 3.1 I can imagine that we'll focus more on single-tank healing. We'll limit ourselves to a single Lifebloom stack, but our newly-buffed Nourish will be used regularly to fill the gaps that our HoTs leave behind. Plus, if we're focused on one tank, we can reliably decide to let LB bloom when it's useful. And we should have the same capacity for raid heals as we've had before; potentially more, if you're able to effectively use Lifebloom for raid heals.

The only mild disagreement I have with Keeva is her description of our role as support healers. I know what she's trying to say, and there's truth to it. But I disagree with the implication that other healers are primary and that we're there to help them out. You could just as easily say that our HoTs, for tank healing, are the foundation. They certainly do a big chunk of the effective healing! Another healer working on the same tank is more likely to support us than the other way around.

That's just a quibble however, and I very much support what Keeva says overall. Thanks for a great post!

*There's lots of ways for Druids to heal, and I know many don't use Lifebloom much even today. More so than most specs, Druid healers have multiple viable approaches to healing. But I think multiple LB stacks is still one of the most common techniques.

10 March 2009

Stomping on each other's heals

Raid healing. That post is coming Soon. No really!

Before I take that topic on, though, I want to explain one common raid healing issue that I'm not going to discuss. That's the issue of different healers sending heals to the same raid target — and specifically, which heals are better at stopping it.

Heal crowding like this is something you don't want. Most raid damage is low enough that one heal can take care of it. When two or three healers are healing the same (non-tank) toon, it wastes both mana and time. I know that mana in particular is rarely a concern now, but all evidence says that this will change with 3.1. Better to learn good habits now.

Heal crowding is a particular problem for Druids. Healers all react to a low health bar. If every healer sees the same bar, they'll instinctively want to deal with it. Most druid heals are instant cast HoTs, right? So a Druid can react quickly, but his heals won't be effective for several seconds. Meanwhile, a Priest or Paladin will start up a short cast time heal, which will arrive after the HoT but before it ticks much. Group heal spells like Wild Growth, Circle of Healing, and Chain Heal also contribute to the problem, especially because the caster can't predetermine who they will hit.

Now, truth is, many healers are having an easy enough time at this point that it's not worth the effort, and we just stomp on each others' heals without thinking too much about it. It's also part of the alternative game "who can top the healing meters?" But if (when) you find yourself tackling some challenging encounter, you'll have better chances of success if you're cooperating with other healers, rather than competing.

It's a legitimate issue and one that raids should work to avoid. But what I don't want to get into is analyzing Druid heals based on which ones are most likely to avoid the problem. Because, in a nutshell, the problem isn't the heals, it's the healers. If your raid heals are getting stomped on, the answer isn't to change what you're casting, it's to work with your healers to coordinate better.

I've read a lot of analysis of raid heals that comes down to, for instance, "Regrowth is better than Rejuvenation because other healers will heal over my Rejuv, which wastes it." For me, that analysis is both true and misleading. Sure, a direct heal may be more obvious to other healers (the toon's health bar goes up). But the HoT is probably both more efficient and faster to cast. Or, possibly, the other healer's spell is more appropriate to the situation.

There are a few things you can do to avoid the problem. First, work out healing assignments and know who's supposed to be doing what. Second, know your other healers — both the classes and the people playing them. Know what they're good at, what spells they cast, how they'll react (and how fast). And then hold back on that HoT if someone else will be healing the same toon.

Doing that won't help you win the healing meters. But it will help you beat the encounters.

09 March 2009

Emblems and Badges

I've struggled some with posting, mostly because I'm still not sure how to react to the Lifebloom nerf. It's pretty clear that it will be a major change to Druid healing in raids, if it goes through. On one hand, we've had a well-defined niche for a long time now, so I'm not sure how it will land to move to something different. On the other hand, rolling 3+ sets of Lifebloom gets to be both stressful and boring. Lag in particular starts to be a real pain in the butt, and forces earlier LB refreshing.

On the gripping hand, 3.1 is still on the PTR and subject to a lot of change. So no point in worrying about it a lot yet. I think I'll go ahead with the Raid Heals chapter anyway, since that's not going to be a Lifebloom-centric thing anyway.

As we contemplate this (on the Tree of Woe), we can consider some other changes that are incoming. One that I wanted to mention a bit is the upcoming addition of the [Emblem of Conquest]. Basically this adds a new tier to the boss emblem system, as follows:

  • Emblem of Heroism: heroic 5-man dungeons and normal (10-man) Naxx/OS/Arch/EoE; gives iLvl 200 items
  • Emblem of Valor: heroic (25-man) Naxx/OS/Arch/EoE and normal (10-man) Ulduar; gives iLvl 213 items
  • Emblem of Conquest: heroic (25-man) Ulduar; gives iLvl 226 items
The Emblem of Conquest approach is consistent with the method taken by Blizz with the first WotLK emblems. However, I have a good deal of concern, mostly centered around heroic 5-man dungeons.

In short, I think this change is going to render them obsolete. There will be little desire to run heroics any more. Even the daily Heroic is a lot of work for the gold reward involved; the only advantage it really provides extra badges.

In Burning Crusade, there was a lot of desire to run heroic 5-mans, because you could get some great gear with Badges of Justice. Gear started out at iLvl 110 and kept adding up to iLvl 146. There were almost 250 different items you could buy for your badges. The [Grovewalker's Leggings] I eventually bought cost 100 badges, and were close to the best healing Druid legs in the game.

The result was a lot of incentive to run heroic 5-man instances. Raiders would do this in their off time, while more casual players had incentive to keep going back too. Even the most maxxed-out raider would still get value from a few badges; if nothing else, more high-quality badge gear would show up with the next patch.

This led to mixing players in some good ways. It provided rewards for the raiders who helped out others. You could PUG a heroic and find high-level raiders mixed with newer or more casual players. It gave raiders some variety too. Meanwhile, casual players could gear up well enough to prepare for raiding, if they wanted to, through running 5-man content. If nothing else, they knew they always had more and better gear to get to at some point.

In WotLK, it's different. The tier system means that the gear available for any given badge is limited. I already don't have much that I can get with EoH that's useful, except for PvP gear, and I'm not all that dedicated. What's more, with this system, I'll never get better gear for those EoH. They're going to stagnate, just like the few leftover BoJ I still have.

That's me. What about casual players? They'll soon lose any motivation to play 5-man content too. Why bother? They can't get any better gear. The best chance to upgrade will be to run daily quests and build up gold, with the hope of buying high-level Bind on Equip gear that the raiders — eventually — put up for auction.

I firmly believe that the 5-man game is key for a majority of players. It's vastly easier to get 5 players together together than 10, let alone 25. Start with you and a friend, and you're 40% of the way to a 5-man group. Try that for 10-mans and you'll still need 8 more players, including at least a tank and/or a couple healers. Besides that, there are 12 5-man instances available in WotLK. That's a lot of good content, and it would be nice to have some reason for running it.

I worry that this direction is going to turn off a lot of more casual players, and open wider gaps between the 'casuals' and 'hardcore'. And I throw those quotes in for a reason. Many of those 'casual' players are quite skilled and very good at what they do; they just don't have the time or inclination to work at raiding, either because of the time commitment, the detailed organization involved, or the drama that can come with high-pressure content.

There's nothing wrong with giving better gear to the raiders; that's as it should be. But there's nothing wrong with helping the more casual players move along that same path, even if it's at a reduced pace. In the end, they also need to have something to look forward to.

02 March 2009

Phaelia's Retirement, and some small 3.1 news

Can't I leave you people alone for a week? I go on vacation, and look what happens...

The biggest news of course is both happy and sad. I'm referring of course to Phaelia's upcoming blogtirement. She has great news, with an upcoming noob gnome baby on the way. Understandably this will cut into her blogging time, so she's scaling back. While that's great news for her and Mr. Phae, it's of course a loss to the Druid community and for WoW blogs in general.

I wanted to take some time to give Phaelia her props. She's been the single best resource for me about all things Resto, and I owe my rare instances of doing things right to her tutelage above all else. Druids all throughout the world (of Warcraft) have learned from Phae. She's done that with a blog that's been both informative and entertaining; Resto4Life can serve as a role model for any WoW blogger. Beyond that, Resto4Life is probably the best-designed and most functional WoW blog. We'll carry on, and other bloggers will sprout up in her place. But her tree will still cast a mighty shadow long after it's stopped bearing fruit.

Phaelia should stand proud; she's done a tremendous service for Druids everywhere. She's earned her retirement many times over and I hope her blog 401K has treated her well. I just hope Phaelia finds herself blogging again soon — whether or not the topic is WoW or MMORPGs. She's got a talent for it and she'll be missed.

Thanks, Phaelia! Congrats on your imminent parenthood, and best wishes in all your future works!

3.1 on the PTR

Oh yeah, there was some WoW-news too, as the 3.1 patch has arrived on the test realm. Not to be coy; there are big changes afoot for Resto Druids. 3.1 will be a serious change for us; in some ways, even bigger than WotLK itself. I will have to update my Tank Healing guide for sure, and I'm going to have to decide how to target my Raid Healing guide.

The first change is to Regrowth, and yeah, it's a nerf. On live, Improved Regrowth grants you a 10/20/30/40/50% added crit chance to Regrowth. On the PTR, this talent is changed to Nature's Bounty. The bad is that it's cut in half, with a 5/10/15/20/25% added crit chance. The good – such as it is – is that it now affects Nourish as well as Regrowth. Clearly this is designed to dial back Regrowth while helping Nourish. The latter has always struggled to find its niche, and this should bring it forward — especially now that mana efficiency will be a bigger concern.

Lifebloom has seen big changes too. The changes are a big nerf to rolling stacks of LB, but we have a couple small carrots to go with the big stick. Here's how it shakes out:
  • Lifebloom's mana cost is doubled (!)
  • The bloom heal now stacks too (so a 3x LB stack gives 3x the bloom effect)
  • When it blooms, you also get a mana refund of 50% per application
The mana cost change is the big nerf, hitting the HPM of Lifebloom stacks right in the gut. Put simply, you probably won't roll more than one stack in most situations.

The buff component will require some adjustment. Today, if you're rolling a Lifebloom stack, you hate to see it bloom. I mean hate. The good news with this change is that the mana refund can be useful, and you have a potentially huge heal with a 3x bloom. Today, a bloom (in PvE) is usually accidental, and is a wasted heal more often than not. With this change, we're going to have to be more mindful of whether the bloom will be useful or not.

There are other changes too (Revitalize, Intensity, and of course mana regen), so there will be a lot to talk about. I've transferred Alamein to the PTR, so I should be able to try out some of the new stuff. And I expect further changes. That's why it's the "Test Realm," after all! The numbers I mention above (especially on Lifebloom) are very likely to see at least a bit of change.

I'll post deeper thoughts and updates as I experiment a bit, and as we learn more. One thing I promise: I won't go emo on you. I fully expect trees to be powerful healers through 3.1 and beyond. We'll have nerfs and (scary!) changes, but we'll get through them. Hang in there!