Restoration had a somewhat turbulent year in 2008, especially from a PvP perspective. When January 2008 hit, Season 3 had swung into gear, and Druid ascendancy was well underway after a lackluster Season 1 and a somewhat more startling Season 2 (really! Go check the statistics on this. Druids kind of sucked early on). Resto PvP specs were hated. I mean, really hated. You couldn't swing a dead cat (out of a plentiful supply of deceased arena ferals, I might add) on the forums without hitting a foam-flecked, apoplectic, screaming post demanding that Druids be nerfed now. They were a giant pain in the ass, all they did was kite the living hell out of you, Travel Form, roots, Cyclone, Feral Charge, Bash, Travel Form, f%$&$& Cyclone, NERF CYCLONE NOW, Feral Charge was up again, Travel Form, F@#^$#&* CYCLONE NERF THAT F#%$#&# SPELL.
It was a fairly bizarre experience to read accounts of Druid PvP as a bastion of unassailable overpoweredness (is that a word? Robitussin says it is), given how much Druid PvP was kind of terrible for most of classic WoW and early BC. Jeez, you add one or two spells, a little Lifebloom here, a little Cyclone there, and suddenly everyone just goes crazy. Well, no matter. I'm not much of a PvP bunny and I got my hide thrashed just enough in arena to get feral resilience gear so I could quit worrying about the defense cap. To hear other Resto Druids tell of the current arena experience, a Rogue Shadowsteps into the prep area and kills them before the match even starts. If you're lucky enough to survive the prep area, your life expectancy numbers in the nanoseconds. Wow, man. That's harsh. Is that why everyone's going balance nowadays? That would explain the hours' worth of shouting over vent I heard the other night while guildies did 3v3 arena versus a variety of pesky moonkin.
When you think about it, PvP at the start of Wrath is in pretty much the same place that PvP was in during classic WoW and the beginning of Burning Crusade. When your partner doesn't have a lot of resilience and is still on the low end health-wise...well, healing's not that much fun, and burst damage is going to be the exception rather than the rule. Nourish aside, Druids are still reliant on HoT's, which are abysmal at dealing with burst. Between that and the disappearance of the former 11/11/39 or 8/11/42 PvP specs, I don't expect Resto to sit atop the charts this season. I do expect it to do better once more players have acquired a full set of PvP gear, which has 2 effects: a). A partner with a ton of resilience is miles easier to heal with HoT's, and b). Opponents in PvP gear have traded some of their damage for health, which also helps enormously.
PvE-wise, tree druids' fortunes seesawed up and down depending on your job in raids and whether your guild was ever: a). crazy, b). bored, or c). stupid enough to do Sunwell, which turned out to be Raid Damage Palooza. As of patch 2.3 (which, to be fair, hit about a month and a half before January 2008), we had +spell damage on our healing gear and the ability to cast Abolish Poison in tree form (who remembers what a hassle it was not to have that?), but I would say that the single biggest change for trees (until November) was patch 2.4. Spirit-based mana regeneration got a complete overhaul, scaled with intellect, and actually -- who'd have thought? -- became useful. I actually gemmed for Spirit. I'll write it again, I'm so shocked. I gemmed for Spirit. Sort of. I guess that's what blue sockets are for anyhow. Too bad we couldn't decurse in tree form until 3.0.2, because Archimonde would have been the hell of a lot more fun that way.
Regrowth also stopped being a mana sinkhole. At the time I believe we referred to it as "gulp(ing) mana with the approximate fuel efficiency of a 1998 Chevy Suburban," and I stand by that comment proudly. However, Regrowth's mana cost was nerfed by 20%, and it started to resemble the main-line spell that it's increasingly used as today coupled with the Regrowth glyph. Lifebloom got the first of two nerfs, this time a 20% reduction to the coefficient on its final bloom, after players correctly pointed out on the test realms that nerfing the coefficient on its per-second tick was far more of a PvE nerf than the intended PvP nerf. But that's OK. When November hit, the coefficient on the per-second tick got nerfed too. Blizzard is nothing if not thorough.
While trees have traditionally been strong raid healers, we didn't have much to compete with Resto Shamans and CoH Priests in a place like Sunwell, which led to an overall decline in +healing done on most fights in endgame raids. With November came the introduction of Wild Growth, the new 51-point talent in the resto tree, an AoE "smart" HoT that healed for the amount of CoH (or at least, was intended to) over 7 seconds. I confess to spamming this spell with abandon last night while healing a Naxx-10 just because I could, awash in the knowledge that -- yes -- it is soon to be nerfed (alongside CoH) to a 6-second cooldown. In all truth, whether I'm raid- or 5-man healing it's rare for me to encounter situations where Wild Growth would be helpful more than once every 6 seconds anyway, but you might as well spam it for fun while you can.*
Patch 3.0.2 and Wrath otherwise left trees in, I think, a very solid position. Our lack of a true flash heal has been answered in the form of Nourish. We can decurse, depoison, barkskin, and cast Healing Touch in a newly-normal speed tree form (can you imagine doing Heigan as a tree otherwise?). Wild Growth, while facing an upcoming nerf, is still a very strong spell that plays to Restoration's traditional strengths with HoT's, and while Lifebloom has been nerfed, it's also become a much better HPM spell with its additional benefit from Glyph of Lifebloom and Nature's Splendor.
And with this, my fellow Druids, we knock back the dregs of our cough syrup, gaze into the horizon, and those of us who are still sick will shut our eyes because the light hurts us, Precious, it burnsssssss us. Time for this bear to go hibernate for a bit.
*I await the legion of irate Resto Druids who will tell me that Wild Growth was not meant to be spammed, and for accuracy's sake, they are correct. It's just fun to be naughty when you know that the nerf bat is descending.