16 April 2009

3.1 First Impressions

We've had two days of 3.1 and I've only had a small chance to test it out. Part of that of course is the result of server instabilities. I know, it sucks. But it's got to be better than the alternative. Do we really want Blizzard to be less ambitious and slower to patch? It should be better within a week or so.

I of course got kicked out a few times due to "world server down" errors. I also had some weird talent bugs. When I first specced after the patch, I somehow ended up with a 11/0/61 spec — equivalent to a level 81 toon. Interesting! But I couldn't buy my dual spec option at that point, so I paid to respec as one attempt to clean up the mess. Then when I logged in yesterday, I saw I'd had my talent points returned again anyway, so all that was somewhat wasted. 45g lost! Crisis!

Addons of course are a big hassle too. I have maybe 40 addons installed so working through that is a pain. I use the Curse updater which has helped immensely. Most of my key addons had updates and so much has gone well. Grid has been the biggest challenge, but I eventually tracked down an interim fix that seems to be working OK. I did have to spend a good chunk of time tracking down errors in my less-crucial addons, in an attempt to figure out what I can keep running and what I can live without. It's not rocket science:

  1. Observe an error
  2. Log out
  3. Turn off one or two likely offender addons
  4. Log in and see if the error is still there
  5. If it is, log out again
  6. Turn on the addons you turned off before, and turn off a couple more candidates
  7. Repeat until things are working again.
I worked on that for a few hours both Tuesday and Wednesday until I was functional again. It seems that TourGuide is a likely problem candidate, so I hope Tekkub has time to get that updated. The whole process is painful, but it's also a good opportunity to get rid of unused or redundant addons, and to reconfigure anything that needs some attention.

What about the patch? I stayed out of raids, partly because I didn't have time, and partly because stability of the instance servers was an obvious problem. Our guild spent a bit of time in Ulduar and at least got Flame Leviathan down, so that's good. I also haven't tried Wintergrasp yet, mostly due to being online at the wrong times.

I did spend some time with the Argent Tournament and had fun with it. I think it's going to be more fun than the Sunwell dailies, with some better rewards too. The fishing dailies have been enjoyable too, and I'm hopeful that I'll get some good money from that as well. (One annoyance however: I don't know why they felt compelled to add the glow worm as a new +100 lure. We had fish hooks in BC, so why add a new item to stack and save up?)

I did however love being able to switch to Boomkin for the daily quests. It's easier and a whole lot more fun. If you prefer kitty, I'm sure that will work too, but either way it's nice to have some alternatives to being a tree.

It's too early to judge the patch as a whole yet. In particular we need the world servers and instance servers to stabilize. And I'm eager to get into Ulduar! The unfortunate timing though is that I'll be on vacation next week. I might play (and post) a little bit but I won't be around much for a week or so. So have fun, ask Elune for some stable realms, and try not to get your HOTs in my DOTs, OK?

14 April 2009

3.1 Today - What's First?

It seems 3.1 will drop today, at least by what Zarhym says. Realms are down for extended maintenance, and the devs have communicated on clean-up details like why Equipment Manager won't make 3.1. At this point, it's safe to assume that 3.1 will arrive unless they run into unexpected problems.

Hats off to the guys pushing the build out; I've seen that kind of thing in action and I know it's a lot of work. Here's hoping all goes well.

Assuming it does arrive and all goes well, we'll go through the normal patch dance this afternoon. Log in and start downloading the patch; update as many addons as possible; maybe wait in a queue for the higher-pop realms. Once you're through all that, though, what should you do next?

Manage your specs.

The first thing to do is respec. All your talent points are wiped for this expansion, so you'll need to respec even if you're not taking the dual-spec feature. My recommendation is to build your first spec before buying the dual spec feature. The reason is to make sure you get the right glyphs on the right spec. I logged out as Resto, with full Resto glyphs. So if I messed up and specced Balance first, I'd have to replace those glyphs with Balance glyphs, then buy new Resto glyphs for my other spec.

So, make sure your spec and your glyphs match. Once you've handled that, then you can buy your dual spec if you're so inclined. You'll also of course want to buy glyphs for that spec. I did some shopping last night before I logged out, so I have at least my major glyphs ready to go.

Oh, and if you're curious, I wrote a post about the specs I'm starting with for 3.1.

Fishing Dailies

Once I'm all set with my specs, I plan to begin working my fishing dailies. Unlike the cooking dailies — but like the fishing dailies from Burning Crusade — these will take some travel, so plan for a bit of time because of that. You pick up the quests from Marcia Chase, by the fountain. If you want more details, check out El's Extreme Anglin', which is always your go-to source for fishing information.


When a Wintergrasp battle is close, I plan to get involved with that. The changes to Wintergrasp aren't that extreme, but they should make it just a bit better. My hope is that a few more players will spend time attacking (and defending) the south towers. Remember, you can now capture the south workshops. So if the offense ignores the south as they usually do, you can probably easily capture a workshop, build a vehicle, and start tearing stuff up.

Before or after the fight, I plan to do some Wintergrasp fishing. That will get me more Fish Feast materials, which I always need. It should be easy to find a quiet place to fish; we'll see whether PvPers seek out fisherman.

Argent Tournament

When I'm done with my fishing daily (and Wintergrasp), I'll head to the Argent Tournament. I suspect this will be the go-to place for running dailies and making money. Plus, it has cool rewards.

Take a gryphon to the Argent Vanguard, then fly north and just a bit west. The Argent Tournament is north of Sindragosa's Fall. You can read a great preview of the Argent Tournament at Banana Shoulders.

So there you go: some good stuff to get started on. Wait, wasn't there some kind of new raid instance too? Hm. That might be worth checking out as well...

13 April 2009

Intro to Druid Healing 4: User Interface

This is Part 4 of my Intro to Druid Healing series. The five parts are:

One of the toughest things to learn about healing is how to set up your user interface. Blizzard more or less acknowledges that the default UI is not very good for raid healing, so you're probably going to bring in one or more addons to help you heal. But with that comes the burden of selecting and configuring the tools. It can be a challenging task, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts on how to go about that.

Sections on raid healing:

Good UI Design

Healing an intensive fight can put some real stress on the player. Healers have to react to events more than any other role, and (unless you're dedicated to healing a single tank) you'll be watching multiple toons to see what happens — sometimes a full 25. That's in addition to watching the mob's health, in-game events, adds, void zones and all the other things that everyone has to manage.

Watching so many things at once means you're relying heavily on your user interface. It provides you information and enables you to act. A good UI can make that as easy and natural as possible, but a bad UI can slow you down and make it difficult to heal well.

You will be adjusting your UI. The default Blizzard UI fails for healing raids. Out of the box, you'll only ever see the health of your own group. You can configure it to be a bit better, by dragging the raid health frames into the field, or maybe by turning on the health bars above characters' heads. So you're changing things from the start. Almost every healer ends up making further changes, either through macros or addons.

But before we talk about that, how would we want our UI to work? There's a concept that the US military uses, called the OODA Loop. OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. I believe they use it for strategic thinking, but it applies even to the extremely tactical work of healing.

First you have to observe: what are the mobs doing? Who's taking damage? What are the other healers doing? Orient in this case is about all the background information that informs your healing. What's your role — main tank heals or raid heals? Who's most important to save? What is the boss going to do next? Based on that, you decide what to do: who are you going to heal, and what are you going to cast? (Or maybe you need to move out of that void zone instead!) Finally you act by casting your spells, whether it's a click or a key press. And then? Observe what happens and do it again.

This all happens in tiny loops, of course — as fast as every 1 to 1.5 seconds when healing is intense. But it's good to realize all these components of the process, because your UI can fail you at any one of them. The default UI fails at Observe, because it's difficult to arrange and isn't good at showing you heals, buffs, and debuffs. It also fails at Act, because you have to click on a toon and then either click or keypress to cast a spell. These two actions have to happen sequentially; it doesn't seem like a long time. But you can easily cast 200 spells in a 5 minute boss fight; those fractions of a second can really add up.


Observing is all about setting up your unit frames so that you have all the information you need. You have to watch a lot of information during a fight:
  • Health and health deficits of all toons, and maybe pets too
  • Who's taking damage
  • Who's got aggro
  • Who's being healed
  • What HOTs do you have running, and how much time do they have
  • Who is cursed or poisoned (or diseased, for non-Druid healers)
  • Who's dead or out of range
Your UI will have to show you all this information, in a way that's clear to understand but also not too complicated. Remember those 1.5 second loops? You don't have time to read hover-text on debuff icons, or to click on a bunch of toons to see who's cursed. Oh, and you'll need to watch the fight, too; you need to know if a Flame Wall is coming or if you're standing in a void zone.

Let me show you what Alamein's UI looks like. I don't claim this is the best way to do it — or even that it's all that great! But it works well for me. (I'll talk later about the addons I use to set this up, but in short, it's Pitbull for the player/target/focus frames, and Grid for the raid frames.)

Here's my full screen UI:

I've moved all my raid frames to the center-bottom of the screen. I could never keep track of my health when it was in the upper-left; this way it's very visible. The down side is that it obscures some parts of the screen.

Here's a closer look at my raid frames:

The goal here is first to get a quick look at the raid: who's hurt? (After Gluth does a Decimate, the answer is: everyone!) You can also see here that Firegrin and Zaha are out of range; that tells me instantly if I need to move to heal them. One thing you don't see here is my aggro indicator; anyone who draws aggro will have a red border around their unit. That way I know who's getting beat on, for instance if the tanks need to trade off each other. Similarly, I'll see an icon and a colored border around any toon that's either poisoned or cursed.

And what about tracking heals? Here's the details of what all those numbers mean:

It's very dense, but it gives me a lot of information in a compact package. I track most HOTs in the corners. The top left shows me the total HOT count, including everyone's HOTs; this way I can see if another healer has left something behind. The other corners count down the time on Wild Growth, Rejuv, and Regrowth (bottom left). Lifebloom, meanwhile, is in the middle; that way I have a clear indicator of when to refresh the stack. (I'm just going to wait and see whether I want to keep this setup after 3.1 lands. Sigh.) I've also able to see incoming heals, so I know whether someone else is healing up a toon.

It's a lot of information in a small space, but it's less confusing than you'd expect. It's very easy, with three corner indicators, to see where your HOTs are. That's especially useful for Wild Growth. Lifebloom is front and center, for now, because I will usually maintain 2 or 3 LB stacks for my tanks. (Soon to end, alas, alas.) And it's all close to the center of my view area; that means my eyes don't have to move much to see the larger environment. Those are all goals to strive for, no matter what addons you use.

Casting Spells

So what about casting spells? There's two pieces to this: who are you casting on, and what are you casting? (If you want to slice it fine, you could split that into Decide and Act.) In the default UI, you select a toon by either clicking on it or on its unit frame. You can use the F1-F5 keys for your party, but that doesn't extend to the whole raid.

You then cast spells either by clicking buttons on your action bar, or by mapping those buttons to keys. There's a lot of ridicule for "clickers", which has some basis behind it; it take a good bit of time to pull your cursor across the screen and get it targeted to a fairly small button. Still, there's a reason that so many players do it; it's simple and direct. With keys, you always have to remember which key maps to which ability. Also, you usually don't have time to look at what key you're pressing, so you have to go by touch. These are skills that you should work to build, because you'll probably find them faster in the long run. Don't be afraid to accept a short-term setback, if it will make things better in the long run.

So what comes after select-and-cast? There are two main styles that you can use: click-cast and mouseover-cast. These are both ways to reduce two separate actions into one smooth motion. They'll both be quicker than select-and-cast. How do they work?

Mouseover-cast removes the click action from the process. Basically, you set up macros for your spells so that they will be cast on whatever target is underneath your cursor. So you just point at what you want to heal and then press the key with the right macro on it.

Click-cast removes the separate key press from the process. It's almost like select-and-cast, but not quite. It uses a combination of mouse clicks and modifier keys to cast spells, choosing the spell based on the modifier key and casting the spell when you click on a toon.

There are advantages and disadvantages to either style, but I think they're both equally viable. I prefer click-cast because it feels most natural to me, and I can combine it with select-and-cast for less common spells. Some people feel that mouseover is more natural, because it relies more on your normal action bars, and it can be done without using any addons. (I don't believe that's true for click-cast.)

Here is the click-cast setup I use:
  • Alt-left click: Lifebloom
  • Ctrl-left click: Rejuvenation
  • Shift-left click: Regrowth
  • Alt+Shift-left click: Wild Growth
  • Shift+Ctrl-left click: Nourish
  • Alt+Ctrl-left click: Swiftmend
  • Alt+Ctrl+Shift-left click: Healing Touch
  • Alt+right click: Remove Curse
  • Ctrl+right click: Abolish Poison
The beauty of this, for me, is that I can cast these 9 spells without moving my hands on the keyboard. I keep three fingers on the modifier keys, so I never have to worry about moving that hand. Then I can cast spells as fast as I can click. I worried it would take a bit of time to learn, but I was surprised how quickly I picked it up. (A single 5-man Heroic run requires hundreds of healing spell casts, which drives learning through massive repetition.)

So that works well for me. I know however that many healers prefer using the mouseover-cast technique; it wouldn't surprise me if it's more popular than click-cast. The biggest advantage is in setup; you can do it all through macros on the standard UI. I suggest you try whichever option sounds more natural to you; try it for a couple weeks, and see how it's working. If it feels awkward, try the other approach.

Choosing Tools

This has been a long debate in the community. What are the best healing tools? I honestly don't think there's a clear winner; the short answer is, the tool that you like is best. I'm not going to spend much time on the analysis, because there's a lot of good stuff already written about it. But here's the short(er) version.

If you want to try mouseover-cast healing, you can do that without addons. You'll start by creating mouseover macros for your healing and cleansing spells. Sydera at World of Matticus has written a great mouseover macro guide that can help you out. You can start out doing that with the vanilla raid frames (or whatever you're currently using) and see how you like it.

I think probably the most common solution is to use Healbot. It provides unit frames, along with a click-cast interface. You could of course turn off the click-cast and use mouseover macros if you prefer. Keeva at Tree Bark Jacket has an excellent review of Healbot that you should check out.

I'm not a Healbot user, so I can't make its case well. I know that a lot of people use it, and the common wisdom seems to be that it's the easiest addon to set up. Personally I didn't find it that simple when I tried it, but your mileage may vary.

The other major raid frame competitor is Grid. It gives you the unit frames, but doesn't have the casting options that Healbot has. (Here's another great Keeva review.) Grid also allows/requires additional addons for specific tasks, such as GridStatusHots, GridStatusLifebloom, and GridIndicatorCornerText. That's even more stuff to set up, but provides for some powerful capabilities.

You can of course use Grid with mouseover macros, but if you prefer click-casting, I recommend Clique as the addon to use. It adds a tab to your spellbook that enables the setup of click-cast mappings.

The most common knock against Grid+Clique is that there are two addons you have to manage instead of one. I see that as a strength; each addon is focused on a specific task. You can read a long and very informed debate about the two approaches on Elitist Jerks in the Resto UI Discussion. My best advice is to try something, see if you're happy, and if not, switch.

At some point I should write up the details of how I configured my UI. In short however I used the techniques described in this EJ post from the Resto UI thread. You should see most of the elements described there in my screencaps above. I also have separate Grid setups for 5/10 man, 25 man, and 40 man setups; you can swap between setups with macros.

Let me know if you want to hear more about my setup, and I can write up an article about that.


So, there you have it. I feel a bit disappointed that I can't provide the One True UI Answer, but the reality is that there's a lot of good approaches you can use. My best advice is to try something, decide what works and what doesn't, and change based on it.

Your UI can be your best ally or worst enemy for healing. Spend some time on it, and it will reward you.

08 April 2009

Patch 3.1 - Non-Druid Changes

I talked a few weeks ago about the caster Druid changes for 3.1; that information is pretty much still accurate. However there are a whole host of other changes in the works. What else is going on?

I'm not going to talk about the new content yet — stuff like Ulduar, Noblegarden, or the Argent Tournament. Instead I'll talk about the other random stuff that's changing. And there's a lot! I won't cover nearly everything; check out the Patch 3.1.0 notes and Patch 3.1.0 Undocumented Changes for details.

Quality of Life

There's a whole category of things that will affect the details of your gameplay. What's up there?

Obviously the big change is dual specs. Here's the nickel summary:
  • For 1000g, you can purchase the capability to have two predefined specs.
  • You'll have two talent specs. Switching between them will also switch glyphs and action bars. So when I switch from tree to boomkin, I will also get boomkin glyphs and boomkin spells on my action bar. That means you don't have to redo this stuff each time you switch.
  • You can switch specs any time you're out of combat. (You don't need a Lexicon of Power, as they'd originally planned.) The change has a 5 second cast time and will apparently drain all your mana. You have to be out of combat, and you can't switch in Arenas.
  • Once you define your two specs, you can change between them for free, or pay your normal respec fee to alter one of the two specs. So if you start as Balance and Resto, but want to switch to Balance and Feral, that's a respec fee.
  • You can buy this feature at level 40.
  • Blizzard had planned to offer an Equipment Manager to help change gear along with your specs, but that was removed from 3.1. No clue if they'll add it later or not.
  • For the love of... it's dual spec. Dual = two; duel = fighting. Sheesh.
See where you can change specs without the Lexicon of Power? It turns out the Lexicon of Power is going away. You can now add/change glyphs from anywhere. So yeah, you might start changing glyphs in the middle of instance runs, if they're cheap enough.

Ground mounts can now swim. It's slow — 60% speed, or the same as your level 30 mount. Still, it's much better than being dismounted whenever you ride through a river. There are several new mounts, including a swimming mount that's slow on land but swims quite quickly.

Your hearthstone cooldown is now 30 minutes instead of an hour. Congrats!


Most crafting professions have new epic recipes that drop from Ulduar bosses. Both the recipes and the resulting gear appear to be BoE, so you'll see items on the AH, and maybe a recipe once in a while. Expect to pay a lot for it, though. The gear is iLvl 226, or the same as what drops from the 10-man Ulduar hard modes. So it's good gear. The mats for these recipes include [Runed Orb]s, which will drop from (you guessed it) Ulduar bosses.

The blue crafted PVP sets now get actual set bonuses. For example, the leather Overcast Battlegear set gives you a 4-piece bonus of +75 stamina and a 6-piece bonus of +50 resilience. This will add some survivability for newer PVPers.

Also, most crafting professions have had their lower level items buffed, basically so it's worth using these items as you're leveling. You might now be able to sell some of those pieces you make while leveling a new profession.

Another big crafting change is to flasks. Basically, both duration and cost will be halved on flasks — they'll last only one hour (instead of two) but you'll need half the materials to make them. The goal is that flasks will be more flexible, so for example you're not wasting so much if you drink a flask for the last half-hour of raiding some night.

There are about 50 new glyphs. You'll want to check your class to see what's most interesting for you. Many spells which weren't glyphed before now have glyphs.

Your current WotLK flasks will change, too. Basically, if you have a WotLK flask today, it'll be converted to two of the new, shorter-duration flasks. (I believe there's an intermediary step in there, probably for technical reasons.) However, your old BC and vanilla flasks will see their duration halved but you won't be compensated for that! So if you have old flasks around, it's best to use them now.

Gathering professions have a couple changes too. Herbalism will now recover more herbs for each Northrend node, which should increase the herb supplies. It also will take less time to harvest a node. Mining nodes will now despawn 1 minute after they're looted, so you shouldn't find any partially looted nodes.

There are a host of lesser profession changes — some nice stuff but nothing game-changing. It's more than I want to cover here, so check out the patch notes for the full list.

Cooking sees a host of changes. You'll get more skill-ups from most WotLK recipes, so leveling to 450 should be easier. (Cue "Back in my day...") They've eliminated most 'flavor' materials, like apples and spices, from recipes. (Boo!) And there's one new recipe of significance: [Black Jelly] is only a health/mana replenishment food, but it provides more of each than any other current food. I'm not sure how much of a market there will be for that, especially when mage food is free, but there are probably some borderline situations where you'll want the quicker replenishment.

Fishing sees some nice changes and may be worth a post on its own. First, we now have Dalaran Fishing daily quests. Hooray! You can check out El's Extreme Anglin' for the full scoop. Much like in BC, the quest will give you a bag with random items in it. You'll have a chance at some new fishing poles (with nice models) and another new companion pet, which is pretty cool.

Wintergrasp fishing is now very worthwhile. In open water (no nodes) you will now catch the fish you need to make [Fish Feast], plus some clams that have extra clam meat and very good chance to drop pearls.

It now takes less time to fish (on each cast). And you can skill up anywhere. If the required skill in the zone is too high for you, you'll catch worthless junk, but at least you can still get skill points. And you don't need to do Nat Pagel's quest to gain Artisan fishing. Instead, that quest will give you a new fishing pole.


Wintergrasp sees some good change. The defense can now capture the south factories. This will make it much easier to kill towers, and as a result give the offense more incentive to guard both the towers and the south factories. There will be more NPCs guarding the fortress and towers. You'll get quest credit for killing them, but overall you need fewer kills for the daily quest.

Siege vehicles now get a Steam Rush ability, which I believe is basically a rush forward. (Edit: Steam Rush was removed in the latest PTR build; evidently it caused pathing issues.) You'll also get kill credit for attacking a vehicle, even if it's first tapped by a player in a different raid.

User Interface

The glyph interface is moved from the Spellbook to the Talent window. You can also preview talent choices before committing them, to make sure you don't mis-click and screw up your spec. (This option is off by default, so I think you have to turn it on.)

There are changes to quest tracking, Looking for Group/Looking for More, and the mini-map. There are also video and sound settings changes, to give you more precise control over the settings. And there are a host of Macintosh changes and bug fixes, including support for the Logitech G15/G19 keyboards. I might have to buy one!

So that's a lot of change, and I haven't even touched class changes or the new content! Yowtch! But what's the most important change? The one that will make your life much better and greatly increase your happiness?

The [Wind-Up Train Wrecker]. The best 200g you'll ever spend.

Guilds, EoE, and 3.1

Guild changes

After much thought and debate, I changed guilds last week. My original guild was created by my RL friends and myself, so this was not an easy choice. The core group is still in regular contact, and in fact more may join me in my new guild; it's a guild who we've been collaborating with already so it's a natural move.

It's still a culture shock. My old guild was down to 4 or 5 regulars who I'd see most nights, and sometimes less than that. The new guild has 150ish toons and 20-25 online most nights, with more on the weekends when we run Heroic raids. They're good people and I'm enjoying it so far.

Eye of Eternity

I got into my first EoE run last weekend, on normal. It was interesting even though we didn't get Malygos down. It's pretty hard to learn and I made my share of mistakes. We had a couple of early wipes, but mostly ran into the enrage timer, probably because we were slow to get through the first two phases.

You can find complete descriptions of the Malygos fight but I'll give a quick outline. The first phase is mostly a normal dragon fight, with two complications. One are the sparks that show up; if they reach Malygos they buff him, but if you kill them they leave a static patch on the floor that gives you a (stacking) buff. Also, Malygos will toss you in the air at times, which gives you a significant DOT and eventually falling damage. This phase lasts until you get Maly to 50%.

The second phase sees Malygos take off and adds show up on floating discs. Your DPS has to kill the adds, who drop their discs. Melee DPS will grab the discs, and fly up to engage more adds. Meanwhile, Malygos spits out shield bubbles that you have to use for protection. The bubbles shrink over time so you have to run from bubble to bubble. This phase lasts until you kill the adds.

The third phase puts you onto dragons, vaguely similar to the beloved end of Oculus. It's a cool concept but stressful because you have to learn different movement and fighting controls and techniques. The good news is that you can practice this. There's a daily quest near the Nexus that uses the same dragon controls. You can pick up the feeder quest Corastrasza right by the flight point at Transitus Shield. From there you mount and fly waaaaay up above the Nexus. There's a platform there where you meet Corastrasza and pick up Aces High. I would definitely recommend running that at least a few times before trying EoE.

So, it's a complex fight. Not everyone likes it! It's a frustrating fight to learn; don't be surprised if you wipe a lot at first. I'm still interested enough in it to keep trying.

Patch 3.1

We've seen fewer and fewer PTR changes in the last week, and we haven't had a new build in a few days. So 3.1 would appear to be close to completion. There's a tentative date for Noblegarden, starting on 26 April. So my best guess is still that 3.1 will arrive 14 April, with 21 April the backup date if issues pop up.

Obviously Ulduar is the major new content in 3.1, but there's also the whole Argent Tournament concept, an almost-new holiday with Nobelgarden, dual spec capability, multiple new interface features, and a host of class changes. I'm looking forward to it; here's hoping it comes off without major glitches!

01 April 2009

Patch 3.1: Speccing Resto and Balance

So, when is 3.1 going to arrive? The current tea leaves are a bit mixed. It feels fairly close, as the PTR builds haven't seen major changes lately. We heard yesterday that Arena Season 5 will end on 14 April, and Noblegarden is currently scheduled to start 12 April (though they will delay it if needed).

The Arena season info is dispositive for me. I can't imagine they'll drop 3.1 on 7 April, with so many talent and balance changes, just for the last week of the arena season. That to me says that 14 April is the most likely date for the patch. That would probably delay Noblegarden by a week, starting it on 19 April. We'll see if that's how it plays out. It's also possible that it will be even later, but Children's Week is supposed to start 1 May, and they're unlikely to overlap the two holidays.

So, we've probably got a couple weeks to get ready for the patch. I've spent a little time on the PTR. I haven't done any raiding there yet, so I don't have a firm opinion yet on how much the regen and Lifebloom changes will hurt. Still, I picked provisional specs for both Resto and Balance, based on talent changes.

Resto in 3.1

Here is the 11/0/60 spec I'm considering:

This is a raid-focused, mana-conservative spec. I'm worried about running out of mana, so I put 4 points into Tranquil Spirit. If mana turns out to be OK, I might steal those points back and put them elsewhere.

One place I didn't put points is into Nature's Grace. I've written about this before, but after reflecting a bit I think its value is a bit less for Resto druids than the previous flat .5 sec savings. To take advantage of the buff, you'll have to react to the NG proc quickly to cast a couple non-instant spells. But we do a lot of healing with instant-cast spells, which don't benefit, and they will use up the 3-sec buff. Also, I believe Nourish won't play nicely with this either, as the faster cast time will just bump up against the GCD. (I need to confirm this on the PTR.)

I put a total of 6 points into Living Seed and Revitalize, even though I'm not completely sure of their utility yet. For now though, I'll take the talents and see how much difference they make. Living Seed I feel better about, as the change to reflect overhealing will really help, and I think Nourish in particular will be a bigger part of our healing. Revitalize is a difficult talent to evaluate, but the addition of Wild Growth should make a big difference. If it goes well, this should actually bring a slight DPS increase to your raid.

If I pulled points out of Tranquil Spirit, Living Seed, or Revitalize, I'd be inclined to put them back into Natural Perfection, Empowered Touch, or possibly Nature's Grace. I would grab Improved Tranquility if I was doing 5-man heroics or PvP, and I'd definitely grab Natural Perfection and Improved Barkskin in a PvP build.

Balance in 3.1

Here is the 68/0/3 spec I'll probably use:

First, note that this is not a pure raiding spec. I expect to use this for a combination of raiding, battleground/Wintergrasp PvP, and solo questing. So I've taken a wide range of talents that won't help much with raiding. This spec will certainly do decent DPS, but if you really want to maximize your raid DPS, you'll need to look at your gear and the other players in your raid. Based on that you can decide whether talents like Improved Faerie Fire are useful.

So based on my desire for versatility, I've taken just about everything in the Balance tree. I took both IFF and Balance of Power, but these might be droppable if either I assume I won't be raiding as DPS, or if I collect enough Hit on my gear. (I should have plenty of hit for Heroics, even without these talents.) On the other hand, Eclipse is only really useable on longer fights, so if I were to stick to PvP and/or soloing, I'd probably shed those 3 points. Owlkin Frenzy is another talent I might sacrifice, particularly if I wasn't concerned with PvP.

If I pulled those points back, I'd put them into the Resto tree. The goal would be to build into Master Shapeshifter via more points in Furor, Improved Mark of the Wild, and Natural Shapeshifter. I'd also look at Intensity if mana is an issue.

So there are a couple provisional specs for 3.1. The big wild card in both specs is mana viability. Some of that can be theorycrafted, but a lot will depend on how the raids play out in both fight design and raid membership (particularly for 10-man). I can't promise that these will be the best specs, but I'm fairly confident that they'll provide a good starting point.