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Shifting Perspectives: Reconsidering Wild Growth

An Hour of Twilight trash pull on the PTR.
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Shifting Perspectives for cat, bear, restoration and balance druids. This Tuesday, we are still mulling over last week's subject.

When you blog professionally, you get used to an unfortunate truth: Most of the time, you could have written a better column if you'd had the advantage of reading the comment section first. Unfortunately, none of you jerks had the decency to comment on Shifting Perspectives: When healers run out of options before I published it, so I was stuck writing it without that advantage. Bad commenters! No biscuit.

Suffice it to say that people wrote a lot of interesting stuff on last week's article, and I've been mulling it over ever since.

In news unrelated to this or any other article, I would just like to state that the name Nosferatmoo (glimpsed on a tauren death knight from Misha-US while I was pugging on my goblin priest for the Low Level Tank Project™) is pretty much the best name ever.

Thrall before the final boss fight in Hour of Twilight.
While the entire comment thread is very much worth your time, I've single out some particularly representative ones that I feel gloss the various arguments best or that bring up some interesting points.

Wild Growth awkwardness

Nicko666: Lifebloom on tank swaps is awkward, and wastes a lot of global cooldowns before we can really get any healing done there.

Yep. I don't think it's too surprising that the issue of single-target healing was so constantly raised during the class feedback thread. The ramp-up time for a druid healer is problematic on any fight with tank swaps or any encounter with a mechanic that incapacitates or removes random players from actions. When this happens to you, you can kiss both your Lifebloom stack and Harmony good-bye. No healer reasonably expects to be doing much good if he or she has been removed from a fight, but having to devote three global cooldowns (GCD) and then a direct healing cast time to get back to full throttle is more punitive than it needs to be.

On a side note to this point, the druid is arguably most overpowered in the 10-man context, where even a non-glyphed Wild Growth is guaranteed to hit half the raid. Overall I think it's most accurate to say that 25-man raid healers are really the people who are going to suffer from both the throughput and glyph nerfs.

Tweaking Rejuv?

Armill3: Maybe if they made Rejuvenation last longer, so we don't have to refresh it as often? I don't know. If they want us to cast more direct heals, freeing up more global cooldowns for this purpose wouldn't be a bad way to go.

I think this touches on a shadowy problem: HOT durations got trashed in the run-up to Cataclysm, and the modern restoration druid is somewhat GCD-locked these days due to an unfortunate combination of Harmony and short HOTs. It's almost painful to recall that Regrowth once had a 22-second duration in comparison to the modern 6 (!). It's easy to keep Lifebloom running on a tank, but for everyone else, I would actually argue that the sensation of playing whack-a-mole has increased because every other HOT drops off so much faster.

Rejuvenation and Wild Growth spam was a real problem in Wrath of the Lich King due to the nature of raid damage (i.e., lots of constant damage auras that made HOTs much less likely to overheal) and the druid's lack of compelling options outside of them. These days, Rejuvenation and Wild Growth spam continue to be a problem for ... well, pretty much the same reasons.

This raises an interesting question: Are druids too good at doing what they do, or are they too good at doing what they do because modern healing challenges are addressed too easily by HOTs? Do we have a class problem here, a raid design problem, or something in between?

Confusion on the meters

Lissanna: In theory-land, if class A brought 10% damage reduction all the time, someone else would have to do 10% more healing to make up for not having that damage reduction. They'd be bringing the same actual value to the group, with healer A (bringing damage reduction) just looking worse on the ridiculous meters that everyone worships. However, choosing healer B over healer A is actually stupid, since healer A is actually doing something that is more likely to prevent deaths.

Luke: Regarding healing meters, "and people's obsession with them for performance." I hate this. Loathe even. And I've seen too many people who blog about healing emphasize this aspect of the game. I'm tired of seeing guides or articles that suggest players do this or do that to inflate their numbers.

The meters are a consistent sore point, and with good reason -- they're just not a good way to evaluate how much a given healer is bringing to a raid. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to convince the wider player population that this is, in fact, the case. This brings us back to one of Blizzard's knottier problems -- namely, how to get players to stop seeing player-created mods (damage and healing meters) as impartial authorities on whether a spec is balanced or not. I'll grant that DPS players have a point in saying that a spec that's consistently riding near the bottom probably has issues. Whether the same assertion is equally valid for healers isn't so clear-cut, because healing "meters" are a lot harder to assess accurately.

The resto druid's problems are really wrapped up in a whole host of issues: Player ignorance, raid design, PVP balance, and just plain class balance. I think it was Hamlet over at Elitist Jerks who first observed that a 3-minute Tranquility as a raid cooldown was going to inflate druids' output to the point that everyone would scream bloody murder in the space of a patch, even if the change ultimately had little real impact on raids' survivability.

AOE checkup

Doulos: Not using Tranquility, druids average 4789 per toon for that round of healing. Shaman average 2510 per toon. As you start to add regeneration the disparity of the current system grows even more ... the druid AOE toolbox is plenty powerful enough in 4.3 to keep druids in their niche of raid healing.

This was a really interesting comment comparing druid and shaman throughput. While I can't speak to the accuracy of the numbers (I don't know how many seconds Doulos was using for his/her numbers), I thought it was fairly representative of the observations made by restoration shaman commenters. Holy priests and restoration shaman need help with throughput, so it's not too surprising that they've gotten a few buffs. However, I do think that priest and shaman throughput is an issue that's ultimately separate from that of the druid's lacking toolbox.

Ghostcrawler (Blizzard's lead systems designer) told a story in the run-up to Wrath of the Lich King that I think is applicable here. Shaman had ended The Burning Crusade as the undisputed champions of raid healing in Sunwell, with Chain Heal, Bloodlust, and totems being virtually required for the purpose of getting through the endgame raids. If I recall correctly, a shaman could realistically end a Sunwell fight with Chain Heal contributing more than 70% of her output, and that obviously wasn't an ideal situation. The developers were discussing ways to nerf the spell for Wrath when one said, "Why are we nerfing Chain Heal? It's a great spell!"

And that was the crux of the matter. Chain Heal was a good spell that players wanted to use that was well-suited to raid damage and had a demonstrably beneficial effect on survivability. Blizzard hadn't gotten the spell wrong. The solution to the shaman's overreliance on it, as Ghostcrawler said, wasn't to nerf Chain Heal to the point that shaman didn't want to use it anymore. The solution was to give shaman options that they wanted to use in addition to Chain Heal.

As Lissanna noted, the "fix" isn't to keep returning to the cycle of buffing and nerfing Rejuvenation and Wild Growth spam, if that spam is at the root of the problem. The fix is to give druids a compelling reason to cast something else. Harmony was kind of an interesting jab at this, I think, by giving druids a mastery that can't be activated by either spell, but in the end, it doesn't actually make our direct heals more useful. It's just something you have to do to keep our raid-healing tools running at full blast, but it hasn't changed the spec's reliance on two spells.

Fashion disaster

Tyler Caraway: Allison, we need to talk. That hat on that cow? So not doing it for me.

Some of our columnists do not have enough to do.

Glyph choices

Bellajtok: But what really annoys me is the glyph thing. Seriously, our other "good" options are Thorns and Innervate. Both of those are a huge mana no-no.

Yep. The huge nerf to the Glyph of Wild Growth is, I think, actually more troublesome than the throughput nerf, especially as it leaves restoration druids with only two major glyphs that they actually want to use -- Glyph of Rebirth and ... um ... what the hell do we usually sling in there these days? Oh right, Glyph of Healing Touch. I would argue that this actually represents an opportunity for Blizzard to shift Wild Growth to the prime glyphs and leave it alone. A straight-up increase, no questions asked, to the efficacy or efficiency of a spell, is really prime glyph territory, and it would give druids an interesting choice in prime glyphs that doesn't currently exist.

That still leaves us with the problem of major glyphs being a major pain in the ass, without anything amazingly attractive in there. Rebirth is a no-brainer, but everything else has either been nerfed to the point that nobody wants to use it anymore, or it's just not particularly relevant to a PVE restoration druid.

That said, the Wild Growth glyph is still (cooldown increase aside) a throughput increase, albeit a problematic one. Ten seconds is an eternity to wait for your sole raid healing tool to come off cooldown in the middle of a fight.

Shifting Perspectives helps you gear your bear druid, breaks down the facts about haste for trees, and then digs into the restoration mastery. You might also enjoy our look at the disappearance of the bear.

Filed under: Druid, Analysis / Opinion, (Druid) Shifting Perspectives

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