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Cataclysm Class Previews – Druid

Posted by Malevica on April - 14 - 2010

Following on from the Shaman and Priest class previews, here’s the Druid preview from a healing point of view.


Spells and Abilities

Now the thing is, Druids aren’t going to get any new healing spells in this expansion, because according to the developers:

They have plenty to work with already, and our challenge instead is to make sure all of them have a well-defined niche. A druid should be able to tank-heal with stacks of Lifebloom, spot-heal a group with Nourish and Regrowth, and top off lightly wounded targets with Rejuvenation.

I can’t disagree with this; in fact I already feel that there’s possibly too much overlap at the moment which leaves no niche for Healing Touch. The other healing classes will end up with large, medium and small direct heals. Resto already has these boxes ticked and then also has a range of HoTs to choose from.
There will be some tweaks to the spells, to make them align slightly better and to fit the defined roles, but nothing new for this section, so I’ve included a couple of the other new spells that I can foresee Resto Druids using in Cataclysm instead.

Stampeding Roar (Level 83): The druid roars, increasing the movement of all allies within 10 yards by 40% for 8 seconds. Stampeding Roar can be used in cat or bear form, but bears might have a talent to drop the cooldown. The goal of this ability is to give both bears and cats a little more situational group utility. 3-minute cooldown. No cost.

I know it talks about giving Feral more utility, but this one is a nice new toy which non-ferals might be called upon to use as well, especially since it has no cost. This would be perfect for helping your group run out of ground-targeted or mob-centred damage when needed, although the 10-yard radius will require some pre-planning on the positioning front for a healer standing at range.

Wild Mushroom (Level 85): Grows a magical mushroom at the target location. After 4 seconds the mushroom becomes invisible. Enemies who cross the mushroom detonate it, causing it to deal area-of-effect damage, though its damage component will remain very effective against single targets. The druid can also choose to detonate the mushroom ahead of time. This is primarily a tool for the Balance druid, and there will be talents that play off of it. No cooldown. 40-yard range. Instant cast.

I wonder how long this was referred to as “Magic Mushroom” before someone caved and changed the name to something more family-friendly. Anyway, Druids now get their own Explosive Trap, with a bit of Fire Nova thrown in for added control. The only missing information here is the duration of the Mushroom, but I’m sure it will be long enough for it to be used and not to be too inconvenient.
This could be pretty handy in any case, and it’s a nice touch that it’s been given a 40 yard range so you won’t be running into melee range every now and then like your Shaman brethren replacing their totems.

And now for the Resto spell changes.

All heal-over-time spells (HoTs) will benefit from crit and haste innately in Cataclysm. Hasted HoTs do not reduce their duration, but instead add additional HoT ticks. Haste will also benefit Energy generation while in cat form.

If you’ve looked at the other healer previews this won’t be much of a surprise, since every class’s HoTs have been given the ability to scale with Haste and Crit without needing a set bonus or glyph.

Crucially for Druids in particular Haste does not reduce the duration of the HoT but adds additional ticks, which addresses some of the weaknesses of the Glyph of Rapid Rejuvenation implementation. As I mentioned in the Priest Preview, it’s unclear whether there will be a threshold of Haste needed to gain an additional tick from the HoT (i.e to reduce the tick interval enough that you can gain a whole extra tick within the fixed duration of the HoT) or if there will be a different solution. One to watch for clarification.

Druids will lose Abolish Poison with the dispel mechanics change, but Restoration druids will gain Dispel Magic (on friendly targets) as a talent. All druids can still remove poisons with Cure Poison and remove curses with Remove Curse.

Another change which is expected given the other changes to dispel mechanics in Cataclysm. In summary, all “fire-and-forget” dispels are being removed (Cleansing Totem, Abolish Disease and Abolish Poison) and each class is being given three types of single dispels, one of which will always be a defensive Dispel Magic. The stated intent of this change is to increase the importance of deciding when and what to dispel, a change which is probably for the good, although does feel very strongly like a PvP change. Still, Blizzard does design encounters around the abilities players have, so I don’t see this being much of a detriment in PvE.

Druids are pretty mildly affected by the changes, compared to other classes (commiserations to the Shaman out there), not losing any dispel type and even gaining one.


Deep breath!

Tree of Life is changing from a passive talent to a cooldown-based talent, similar to Metamorphosis. Mechanically, it feels unfair for a druid to have to give up so much offense and utility in order to be just as good at healing as the other classes who are not asked to make that trade. We are exploring the exact benefit the druid gets from Tree of Life. It could strictly be better healing, or it could be that each heal behaves slightly different. You also will not be able to be banished in Tree of Life form (this will probably be true of Metamorphosis as well). Additionally, we would like to update the Tree of Life model so that it feels more exciting when you do decide to go into that form. Our feeling is that druids rarely actually get to show off their armor, so it would be nice to have at least one spec that looked like a night elf or tauren (and soon troll or worgen) for most of the time.

We knew changing Tree of Life to a cooldown was going to be controversial. There was just no way a change this big would be unanimously accepted. My apologies if being a tree was what really drew you to the class.

We might (*might*) consider a minor glyph that kept the visual of the old tree form in some fashion even when not using the Tree of Life cooldown.

Yikes! This one came at me like a bolt from the blue, and it took a lot of other Restos by surprise as well. Needless to say there has been a lot of writing and discussion about this change. I’ll give you my take, there’ll be plenty of others out there to compare and contrast.

First, as Allison Robert did so well in her WoW.com post this morning, it’s important to consider where Tree of Life came from. Originally the Tree was a response to a low Resto Druid population, and an attempt to take them from a secondary, utility healer into the mainstream. At the time the idea of a hybrid tax was in full force, and it was fine for a Resto Druid to accept limitations on Tree of Life as a balance for their flexibility. Over time those limitations have been steadily removed as the hybrid tax idea has been eroded away, leaving the Tree of Life form as essentially a healing buff an artwork change, and a restriction on the casting of damaging spells in form.

So the primary reason for this change is that being a tree requires the Druid to sacrifice the ability to DPS in order to do comparable healing to the other four healing specs, which is regarded widely as not “fun”. I won’t get into the concept of “fun” because it’s so subjective, but looked at dispassionately it’s easy enough to see how little there is tying the artwork to the gameplay any more. Move a couple of the Tree of Life bonuses into talents or masteries and then Tree of Life becomes, from a theorycraft perspective, an artificial restriction on your choice of ability (a net loss) in exchange for a change in model (neutral).
If you only wore matching armour sets, refusing upgrades unless they came in a nice fetching shade of blue, you would probably be ridiculed by most raiding guilds. While not quite so extreme, choosing to be in Tree of Life form would be a similar choice for form over function (pun intended).

That said, plenty of people will only ever have played a Resto Druid since TBC, and will always have had access to Tree of Life, so this would be a removal of a huge, defining aspect of the class. Imagine a Shadowpriest without the purple glow. I remember one of our Restos in TBC experimenting with a specific build for Zul’Aman which did not include Tree of Life, and it was a real shock.
For this reason, I’d love to see them follow through with their Minor Glyph idea and allow Druids to choose Tree of Life form if they desired. Druids are characterised by their forms, it would be odd to be the only Druid spec without a form.

One highly positive change from this is that resto druids will be given a strong healing cooldown built in to the class, although the developers have not yet settled on what that might actually be. This means your friendly neighbourhood Resto Druid might turn out to be your saviour in a pinch, which is a step in the right direction compared to the unsung heroes of the raid today. You really miss them when they’re not there, but they don’t get many opportunities to really grab the spotlight.

Which segues nicely into:

Tranquility is an emergency heal, and we’ll change it to act more like Divine Hymn.

Another way to grab the spotlight. It’s great to see Tranquility getting some love and some recognition that in its current implementation it isn’t the valuable raid-saver it could be.
Homogenisation? Probably, but I’m not going to complain too loudly because I think Divine Hymn is a really nicely-implemented spell.

Restoration druids will have a new talent called Efflorescence, which causes a bed of healing flora to sprout beneath targets that are critically healed by Regrowth.

If I’m reading this correctly, it means that when you land a critical heal with Regrowth, you also place a ground-based AoE healing zone down. Cool, especially since Regrowth is being positioned as the Flash Heal equivalent. It will be interesting to see how many of the buffs to its crit chance Regrowth gets to keep after the talent cull, but in any case this could be quite a powerful effect.

I imagine it as roughly comparable to a Shaman’s Chain Heal: often now a Shaman will Chain Heal off the tanks to heal the melee, or Chain Heal into a group of DPS in danger (Pact of the Darkfallen springs to mind); in the future a Druid can Regrowth a tank and add healing to the melee, or Regrowth a player in an AoE damage zone and add healing to the others in the same predicament.

The big question will be how much it heals for, to decide if it’s worth casting Regrowth until it procs, in the same way other healers work to keep Inspiration or Ancestral Fortitude up today, or if it is regarded as simply a bonus when it does. With the Wrath mindset the former seems most likely, but that does seem slightly at odds with the Cataclysm philosophy of mana-management. Then again it will probably be situational, and where it matters enough it will be used and where it is less valuable it will be neglected.


HoT Scale Healing

HoT Scale Healing: HoTs will do increased healing on more wounded targets. The mechanic is similar to that of the Restoration shaman, but with HoTs instead of direct heals. In Cataclysm, we anticipate druids using a greater variety of their spells so there is a distinction between healing and HoT healing.

The third mastery bonus is an improved and baked-in Glyph of Rejuvenation, but with no breakpoints (i.e. it will scale smoothly with health, rather than just turning on below a certain percentage) and applying to all HoTs.

In Wrath the Glyph of Rejuvenation has ended up a bit forgotten, because people just don’t stay at low health for long enough to make it worth the glyph slot. In Cataclysm though this will be changing a lot, and these effects could be a very powerful boost to healing output.

A lot will depend on the discipline of the healing team as well though, to trust that players on low health have HoTs on them and will be healed up and not to snipe with a quick Flash Heal. However I’m hopeful that Blizzard can manage to make mana sufficiently constrained that this will be as necessary a part of how healing will operate in Cataclysm as it once was.

There is no detail on the sort of scaling we will see, and I don’t imagine this will be fixed until we actually have some dungeon or raid encounters to test on the Beta servers and can see how things play out. It needs to be significant enough to be able to quickly and effectively “rescue” someone on very low health (meaning getting them out of one-shot territory), while not so strong that no one with a HoT on them can ever die because it heals for more per tick than anything the encounter can throw at you.


On the face of it the loss of the iconic Tree of Life form and the relative of new toys (except for the new cooldown, which is somewhat under a cloud) is a bit of a disappointment, but actually a lot of thought has gone into better-refining the role of the Druid and giving them the tools to do the job Cataclysm demands.

The beauty of hybrid classes is that they do have access to the abilities of other forms, and dealing damage with Wild Mushroom and possibly using an AoE run speed buff from Cat form are great new tools for Druid utility in groups.

Plus the potential to save the raid with a revamped Tranquility and the chance to beat those Shaman at the cluster-healing game with Efflorescence are both nice thoughts to hold on to.

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Categories: Analysis and Theorycrafting

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