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Shifting Perspectives: Restoration Druid 101

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Shifting Perspectives for cat, bear, restoration and balance druids. This Tuesday, we are sobbing inside now that Disentanglement has to be listed as an advantage for playing restoration.

One of the things that jumped out at me while writing the Cataclysm version of Shifting Perspectives: Restoration 101 was that Blizzard really did succeed in its effort to make things a little more straightforward for players. While I cut out a few sections that didn't really feel like they were contributing to the discussion of the spec at 85, restoration has fewer caveats these days than it did toward the end of Wrath of the Lich King. Haste in particular is a far smaller rat's nest these days.

As with our other 101 guides, you shouldn't consider this a comprehensive guide; it's a cheat sheet intended to get a player up and running with the spec as quickly as possible. If you're looking for a more encyclopedic approach:

What is restoration?

Restoration is the healing tree available to the druid class.

The restoration druid's advantages
  • Resto druids boast the best array of Heal over Time (HoT) spells in the game.
  • While we're a little less mobile than we used to be, we're arguably still the most effective healer on the move.
  • We're able to supply Replenishment to a group/raid.
  • Our specialized form (the Tree of Life) is available as a 31-point talent that, properly utilized, is a significant efficiency, throughput, and damage boost.
  • We receive Disentanglement as a passive bonus for speccing into the tree, though I am dying a little inside from the knowledge that this now has to be listed as an "advantage."
  • We are arguably the most annoying healer to kill in PvP when specced and geared. This tends to be more true as expansions advance, due to how well HoTs pair with increasing resilience.
  • The spec is generally easy to gear, as there's not much competition for spellpower leather. The only person who'd ever want to roll against you is a moonkin or another resto player, although (as always) you'll still be competing for necklaces, rings, trinkets, and weapons with other healers.
  • In the wake of patch 4.1 changes, we're probably the healer best placed to compete for top of the meters, if that's something that appeals to you. Hello, 3-minute Tranquility!
  • While not everyone agrees, I think the new graphic for Tree Form is pretty freaking cool. If you prefer the old version of Tree Form, there's an app glyph for that.
The restoration druid's disadvantages
  • The druid has limited capacity to address burst damage. Once you've burned Nature's Swiftness and Swiftmend, your only real answer to an unexpected and dangerous damage spike is letting Lifebloom expire (assuming it was on your target in the first place) and/or the extremely inefficient Regrowth.
  • On that note, Swiftmend's being necessary for Efflorescence is often problematic. You have to choose between using Swiftmend on a target who really needs it or putting Efflorescence where it'll do the most good.
  • By their very nature, HoTs are more proactive than reactive healing. There are fights where this is a good thing and fights where it's not.
  • Symbiosis is widely considered the weakest healer mastery.
  • Fast raid healers are often adept at "sniping" heals before HoTs have a chance to tick, decreasing our effectiveness. Asking other healers to refrain from doing this results in phrases like "screw you" being bandied about.
  • Restoration druids are the only healing spec with no damage reduction cooldown, an issue that Blizzard's openly acknowledged.
  • Effective druid healing is dependent on reconfiguring your user interface to show HoT targets and durations. While you can certainly heal without doing this, you're likely to waste a lot of mana.
  • Less Wow! factor with spells. If you're someone who enjoys seeing an enormous crit heal on a target, you're better off playing another class. Resto druids are about a lot of little numbers, rather than one big one.
Stats to look for

In descending order of importance:
  • Intellect Hands down, our best stat. More intellect means more spellpower, a larger mana pool, more regeneration, and more crit.
  • Spirit Improves mana regeneration.
  • Haste Haste reduces the global cooldown (GCD) and cast time of our spells. As of Cataclysm, it also speeds HoT ticks and past certain thresholds will even add them.
  • Mastery While there are certain contexts (tank healing, most notably) where mastery is a good stat for us, Symbiosis just isn't that great most of the time. However, if you're a 10-man healer, you'll have more opportunities to benefit from it, particularly because the Glyph of Wild Growth allows you to slap a HoT on 60% of your raid at once. Use your best judgment.
  • Critical strike Crit has historically been the weakest stat for restoration druids, and Cataclysm hasn't really changed that. While HoT ticks can now crit, there are still no benefits apart from increased healing associated with the stat (in contrast to, say, the priest's Inspiration or the shaman's Ancestral Healing).
Strength and agility are both useless to a healer and should be ignored. Stamina isn't exactly useless but is just a side benefit of upgrading your gear. Hit is occasionally useful if you find yourself being asked to help crowd-control a lot in 5-mans, but it's never something you should go out of your way to get. If the patch 4.2 changes announced yesterday go live, you'll also never have to worry about a crowd control spell aggroing a pull if it fails to hit.

Bottom line? Don't bother. While we can use pieces with hit and some may be situational upgrades, never take a hit piece over a caster DPS. Your priority should be pieces with intellect, spirit, and -- on weapons -- spellpower.

Reforging

Your primary aim with reforging should be reaching 2,005 haste if feasible to do so with your gear; this is the threshold at which Wild Growth and Efflorescence gain a ninth tick, assuming basic raid buffs. Once you reach 2,005 haste, you'll nearly always get more out of reforging for spirit or (depending on your situation) mastery.

To simplify matters:
  • Before 2,005 haste Reforge mastery or preferably crit into haste.
  • After 2,005 haste Reforge haste or preferably crit into spirit (if you're worried about mana) or mastery (if you're not).
How to spec

Most restoration specs are fairly straightforward, at least in the sense that it's pretty obvious what the most useful bonuses are. After that, it's a matter of deciding which talents best fit your own individual circumstances or (failing that) suck the least.

This is a representative 10/0/31 raiding spec at level 85, although you can and should toy with it to address your own needs. Nature's Cure is helpful to 5-man and often 10-man players (depending on who else is on your heal team); Nature's Bounty is worthwhile if you use most of your Clearcasting procs on Regrowth rather than Healing Touch.

The most agonizing part of speccing a restoration druid is the knowledge that two very useful talents (Genesis and Moonglow) are both in the second tier of balance, and there's no way to max them both. Getting to them will also involve spending points in situational or minimally helpful talents like Nature's Grace. However, we're better off now than we used to be in early Cataclysm, when three points in Living Seed (one of the spec's least-compelling talents) were required to get Efflorescence, so ... baby steps.


Filed under: Druid, (Druid) Shifting Perspectives

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