Reactive Healing, and Nostalgia on Lifebloom

For the moment my guild has more or less stalled out on raiding, due to the holidays gobbling up everyones’ lives and many people being more interested in exploring and levelling alts than raiding anyway. Such is the price for playing with a casual guild. I like these guys too much to leave them just to raid, so I’m stuck in neutral for now. Hopefully we’ll get going again soon – I want to finish off Heroic Sindragosa before she becomes trivial!

On the chances I’ve been getting to heal lately – mostly 5-mans – I’ve noticed that reactive healing has become much more difficult to pull off than it’s ever been in the past. Rejuvenation is so expensive now that with its 12-second duration, it’s usually very inefficient to heal proactively with it. I can still do it, but only at times when mana isn’t a major concern. When it is, its use is mainly restricted to the tank, periods of widespread party-damage when I don’t think I have time to spare a Nourish for everyone, or when I have to move. The only other proactive healing tool we have is Lifebloom, which is usually something you only use on the tank, and is so cheap and easy now that it’s not something you really have to think about.

I find that Lifebloom is actually what I miss most about the old style of druid healing – sure it was awkward and had a tendency to send you into a gruesome pit of helpless OOMness if you weren’t careful. But dealing with its eccentricities was a challenge, and it was also powerful and versatile – depending on how you used it, it could be a powerful HoT, a tank-healing cooldown, a cheap non-emergency raid heal, an occasional source of free mana, or even a mana battery. Of course, back then we didn’t need the last three functions much, but they were there and I had fun playing with them. Now that Rejuv is so expensive I find myself really wanting them, but only the first two functions still exist, and with Empowered Touch working with both Healing Touch and Nourish now, the second probably won’t be practical either.

I find it somewhat ironic. Before, we were good ten-man tank healers, able to keep two tanks up through truly nasty amounts of damage with a little supplemental help from the other healers in the raid. One of the most fun and challenging things I’ve ever done in this game was tank healing the Lich King. The problem was that most druids didn’t know we could do it because it was hard and took practice. Now, with brainless Lifebloom management and efficient direct heals, tank healing takes far less skill, but is also weaker, at least for ten-mans, where one healer usually has to heal both tanks. It doesn’t look like as much fun to me, really.

On the other hand, the change to Rejuvenation’s cost may finally force us to use more varied spells when raid healing, which could only make things more interesting. I may have to rethink my philosophical devotion to tank healing.

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Fun Refreshing HoTs

Tonight I spent a half an hour playing with Rejuv, Lifebloom, haste and crit trinkets, and Button (tossing totems on her shaman alt) and we’ve made some discoveries regarding HoTs and DoTs and how they’re updated. Though I didn’t record exact numbers, I’ll try to explain our methodology as clearly as possible so skeptics can replicate it. This is SCIENCE after all, gotta have replicability! Oh look, I think I just made up a word. Yay me.

The TL;DR crowd can scroll past this section and just see the results.

The Tests

First I tried casting Rejuvenation and Lifebloom with and without the benefit of Ephemeral Snowflake‘s on-use effect. I would cast the spell unbuffed several times, try to get a feel for how long there was between ticks, and then use the Snowflake partway through, and then refresh the HoT a few times while the buff was still active and try to get a feel for that. When it expired, I would watch and judge for a few more refreshes. Later I took advantage of Button’s Bloodlust to see a bigger change in haste rating at work. Lifebloom ticks too fast for me to judge with, I feel, any degree of accuracy, but I could tell a real difference with Rejuvenation (especially with Bloodlust up) and it very much seemed to me that Rejuvenation did not update in real time, only when the spell is overwritten. However, the tooltip that appears when you mouseover the buff updates in real time, meaning that it doesn’t necessarily reflect the actual rate at which the buff is ticking.

Then I tried more or less the same thing with Nevermelting Ice Crystal ‘s on-use effect. I repeated this a number of times, but the randomness of crits, combined with the relatively short duration of modern HoTs, made judging anything difficult. I am quite certain, however, that refreshing Lifebloom with Empowered Touch does not let it keep the Ice Crystal’s buff to crit indefinitely (which is consistent with blue posts, but cue disappointed “awww” anyway).

Next I tested spellpower with the help of Button’s Searing Totem.  Spellpower is very straightforward to track since it gives nice, consistent changes to the numbers your spells spit out. Again, I tried both spells with and without the totem up, tried refreshing Lifebloom with Nourish, and in this case we experimented with Efflorescence too. These spells definitely do not update with spellpower in real time, but neither does refreshing Lifebloom extend the benefit of any spellpower buffs that have worn off.

Button did some similar tests with her shaman spells. She tested Flame Shock, Riptide, and Healing Stream Totem, and our friend Blanket tested Renew on his priest. Of them all, only Healing Stream Totem updated in real time, and that only for spellpower – the totem isn’t affected by haste at all. Also of note is that she found that Flame Shock’s DoT (and, I would assume, the direct damage portion of the spell as well) is subject to the caster’s spellpower at the time the spell lands, not at the time it’s cast.

The Results

In a nutshell: The effect of spellpower on HoTs and DoTs definitely does not update in real time, only when refreshed or overwritten. Haste likewise seems to update only when refreshed or overwritten, though we lacked the tools  to measure it quantitatively. The tooltips of the buffs do update in real time, which makes them inaccurate. The only exception we’ve found so far is Healing Stream Totem, which is continuously updated. Most likely, the effects of crit don’t update in real time either, but our testing of that is inconclusive. For spells with travel times, the effects of the caster’s stats are calculated when the spell lands, not when it’s cast.

In other news:

Tree of Life and Empowered Touch

This may have been obvious to other druids, but I didn’t realize the potential to do this until Button pointed it out to me. There IS a workaround to the thing that’s been bothering me most about druid tank healing in 4.0.x – that is, the ability to put Lifebloom on only one person at a time. Although they both update spellpower and haste the same way now and people often use the two terms interchangeably, refreshing a HoT is still a different mechanic from overwriting it. None of it made any difference to we of a leafy persuasion before because we had no means to refresh HoTs, but now, with Empowered Touch, we do. And we also have a reason to: Refreshing Lifebloom on someone does not remove the triple-stack of Lifebloom goodness that might be ticking away on anyone else, even if Tree of Life form has worn off!

This means that you can, in theory, juggle Lifebloom indefinitely on both tanks. It doesn’t sound easy; at feasible levels of haste it takes two seconds to cast Nourish and Lifebloom has a ten-second duration. Since lag can screw with your timing and you want to be extra sure to keep that hard-to-replace HoT-pile from falling off, you’ll probably want to refresh it at least a second early, giving you an effective duration more like nine seconds. So you’ll be forced to spend about 4/9 of your time, or 44%, just keeping Lifebloom up and ticking on both tanks (though at least you’re still getting Nourish’s healing out of it too). Is this an exploit? Maybe. Is this worth the effort? I’m not sure, but I’m looking forward to giving it a try.

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Still Alive

Just wanted to say that I’m still alive. I’ve gone quiet because I’ve been feeling somewhat disillusioned with druid healing of late, and it’s hard to pinpoint why. I feel like part of it may be the reduced emphasis on proactive healing, and part of it may be the extreme simplification of tank healing. It’s hard to say. Anyway, I’m still here and hopefully will work through this and come to appreciate the new druid healing style. If not, I could always roll a shaman. I hear Azshara is nice this time of year…

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The Mighty Snowflake

So I’ve had a little more time to play with 4.0, and I missed a few things last update. Very notably: Rebirth now has a 30-minute cooldown that is shared between all druids and shamans (with their self-rez) in the raid! If it wasn’t important enough before to coordinate with your raid leader regarding use of your battle-rez, it sure is now. I can see all sorts of intra-raid conflict coming out of this in the future. Fun times.

The main problem I’ve run into so far is figuring out how to heal multiple tanks. I’m thinking the best way to deal with this will be to coordinate with another healer, and ask them to use Lifebloom, Earth Shield, or Beacon on one tank while you juggle Lifebloom on the other.  Empowered Touch’s second benefit of letting Nourish refresh Lifebloom sounds amazing, but so far it’s mostly just remained a juicy possibility. In serious content it seems like I rarely have the 2 seconds (at my haste level) needed to cast Nourish, and the few times I do, I usually wish I’d cast Healing Touch instead. Lifebloom just gets refreshed the old fashioned way because it’s faster. However, my reaction times are still just a bit slow, which I’m sure makes the two seconds seem like much longer than they actually are. As the new style becomes automatic I’ll be able to do everything faster.

Much of the reason Empowered Touch looks so juicy is because of this:

I’ve always been a big fan of the Snowflake – it easily blows all other mana regen trinkets out of the water for a resto druid – but it looks especially enticing when you can automatically refresh your HoTs. As long as you keep Lifebloom ticking you’re getting back mana, and if you’re doing it for free you’re looking at 100% pure profit. How much this is actually worth depends on your haste (that’s right, with the Snowflake haste is a weak endurance stat!), but even with 0% haste you’re looking at 55 mp5 from your Lifebloom alone. At 30% haste it’s somewhere around 70 mp5, and at 50% haste it’s around 81 mp5. Of course, Lifebloom is dirt cheap now, so refreshing it wouldn’t be that big of a deal anyway. Let’s say you’re using Rejuvenation, too (kind of a stretch, I know). Assuming 30% haste: For every Rejuv you have ticking, you get approximately another 22 mp5. If you’re throwing Wild Growth every cooldown, you’ll get nearly 50 mp5 from that.

This trinket is extraordinarily powerful for druids, not even taking into account the haste-granting on-use effect, which is, I might add, better than ever since it now makes our HoTs more powerful as well as faster-to-cast. And provides a bit more mana back too thanks to extra ticks! I’m almost sad that mana doesn’t seem to be a big issue so far in 4.0 because this is about the most OP thing in my arsenal, and it would be a shame if I didn’t get to wallow in it.

(Hats off to Malevica at Type H For Heals for the quick and handy info on how haste grants extra ticks for each particular HoT).

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4.0, In the Flesh

Today is the first day I’ve gotten to play with resto spec since the patch, since I spent the first day learning balance. Though I consider myself a tree healer first and foremost, in my progression raid, composition issues have forced me to go DPS, and the raid comes outweighs my own interests. But I’m quickly coming to terms with the new world of moonkin – it’s different, but nothing I can’t pick up. I’m not emotionally invested in balance, so I don’t regret any of the changes, I just adapt.

Resto is different for me, and I have to admit, when I first started exploring all the differences in earnest I seriously started to consider respeccing as a bear and never looking back. Regrowth’s HoT only lasts six seconds! Nourish takes three seconds to cast! WHAT IS THIS I DON’T EVEN

With encouragement from my friends, I stuck it out, invested my talent points in Resto, downloaded Vuhdo (since my previous raid frame, Grid, still doesn’t work), and gave it a whirl. Now at the end of the day, having had a chance to wrap my head around it a little, it seems a little more rational, but I still haven’t had a chance to heal in a raid environment so I can’t say too much at this point. I’m looking forward to giving it a try, though.

For those too lazy to investigate it themselves and just to review it myself, here’s the blow-by-blow:

Tree of Life: If you didn’t know this was a cooldown by now, you’ve been living under a rock. It affects a handful of spells and increases your healing done by 15% for 30 seconds.

Rejuvenation: Now only lasts twelve seconds, but assuming you’ve taken the new Gift of the Earthmother then it will apply a burst of healing when you place it. With Swift Rejuvenation it will also trigger a very short GCD.

Regrowth: Now has a 1.5 second cast time and the HoT lasts for only six seconds. With Nature’s Bounty it still has a very high crit chance, and it’s still expensive. This looks like it’s intended to be our primary emergency heal now.

Lifebloom: Now significantly cheaper, feels a bit weaker, and – here’s the kicker – can only be used on one target at a time. I never went into Lifebloom’s raid healing uses very much in my guide because they were more advanced concepts and because they didn’t serve an especially critical function (with the important exception of damage control in cases of slag-pot-style sustained damage to a raid member). Regardless, those uses are now gone unless you activate ToL form (in which case you can put it on more than one person). If someone gets shoved in the slag pot, you cannot put Lifebloom on them without leaving the tank vulnerable. The good news is that you don’t suffer a mana penalty for juggling it anymore.

Nourish: Now a three-second cast with a very low mana cost and about the same power as before. It still does bonus healing if used on someone with a HoT on them, but in most respects this is a very different animal. I feel like when tank healing we’re intended to spam this constantly on the tank whenever she’s not taking all that much damage. With Empowered Touch it refreshes Lifebloom on the target! Note that it doesn’t benefit from Nature’s Bounty anymore and so has your normal crit rate.

Healing Touch: Pretty similar to how it was before, actually, though with the changes to Nourish, it may well be useful again. It has the same cast time as Nourish, but is more powerful and much more expensive. We’re clearly intended to hit the tank with this when she starts taking more damage and Nourish isn’t enough – it’s there for mana-intensive burst healing.

Wild Growth: Now has a 10-second cooldown.

It’s obvious to me why some of this was done; I think increasing Wild Growth’s cooldown makes a lot of sense and the Nourish/Healing Touch dynamic looks interesting. It’ll be nice to push that rusty HT button again, I think. I’m more wary of the changes to Lifebloom and Regrowth – the former has been partly removed and the latter essentially completely removed from our box of proactive healing tools. That pretty much just leaves Rejuvenation. And it’s the changes to that spell which really puzzle me: if they were trying to reduce our reliance on it, why go out of their way to make it a better reactive heal and reduce its GCD as well?

Once I’ve had a chance to actually heal a raid or two I’ll come back with my thoughts.

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HoTs, Haste and 4.0

It’s patch night! Goodbye 3.3 and tree form, hello 4.0 and caster form. That means it’s time for me to hash out a last-minute prediction about what exactly is going to happen to resto druidry in this brave new world.

There’s all sorts of patch notes to read, spell changes, new glyphs, etc. to consider, but I’d like to look at the big picture. I suspect that little of this will change our fundamental healing style; what will is the changes being made to HoTs – the fact that they’re affected by both haste and crit now. Especially haste.

Most resto druids will have tried playing with the Glyph of Rapid Rejuvenation at some point. Love it or hate it, it’s a powerful glyph, dramatically increasing Rejuvenation’s powers. Part of the story is that it makes Rejuvenation more powerful, but the more important part, in my opinion, is simply its quickening. Before, unglyphed Rejuvenation was a terrible reactive heal. It took three full seconds for the first tick to land, and six for the second. Even if there’s enough time to wait around for Rejuvenation to heal the injured, by the time a significant amount of healing had been done, a shaman’s or priest’s heals would have landed on those same raid members multiple times and done all the work already, meaning that your Rejuvenation was a complete waste. You can partially counter this with healer coordination, but many of your fellow healers’ spells are smart heals and there’s little that can be done to coordinate those.

Compare what happens with Glyph of Rapid Rejuvenation and decent (but still not great) haste: the first tick happens after two seconds, and the second after four. This is fast enough to “stake a claim,” if you will, to particular injured raiders. Their health will be slightly higher than that of the people you haven’t healed, meaning that smart heals will avoid those guys and heal people who don’t have Rejuvenation on them, so everybody’s spells are working fully to restore the raid’s health.

In 4.0 this will be the way things work automatically, and without the Glyph of Rapid Rejuv’s annoying duration-shortening side effect. Added to this will be the new effect of Gift of the Earthmother.


So we’re looking at faster ticks, as well as a Swiftmend-like burst of healing when you first cast the spell. Between the two of them, I think Rejuvenation will actually be quite an effective reactive healing tool, able to stake its claim well before other healers get done with their cast times. In fact, it’ll be more efficient when used in this way, since the burst of healing would be wasted when healing proactively. Will mana efficiency be important enough in Cataclym for that to be a concern? I don’t know. There will probably still be a time and place for proactive healing. But I do think druids will be able to heal reactively far more effectively than they could in WotLK, perhaps well enough that it will become the norm.

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Guide to Resto Druidry, part 3

Basic Strategy

Time to dive into the particulars of being a tree. The most important concept you’ll need to grasp is proactive healing, or “prehealing.” Shammies, pallies, and holy priests mostly wait around for people to get hurt before they heal them (reactive healing). We druids (and our disc priest pals) don’t like to wait that long – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure they say, and when you’re a druid it’s almost true. You do this by placing HoTs on people before they get injured, which then keeps them alive when someone starts beating on them, or at least prolongs their life long enough for you to load them up with even more HoTs or direct heals until leaves start coming out of their ears.

Your proactive healing tools are Rejuvenation, Lifebloom, and Regrowth. Reactive healing is still important, though, and you’ve got plenty of tools for that, too: Healing Touch, Nourish, Swiftmend, and Regrowth fill this section of your toolbox. Yes, Regrowth swings both ways. Also, Wild Growth is technically a HoT, but because it’s a smart heal you have little control over and relatively “bursty”, it actually functions better as a reactive healing tool.

Remember how I said Nourish has a bit of an unsavory reputation among treefolk? The reason is that it’s a powerful reactive heal similar to a priest’s Flash Heal… powerful enough, in fact, that some druids who spec resto after they hit 80 simply learn to heal by spamming Nourish. It’s easy and it works well enough that they can convince themselves they’re doing all right, but they rarely fool anyone but themselves. For this reason I recommend learning to heal on your druid before he hits 80 – this way you’re forced to learn to heal proactively and when you get Nourish it becomes a tool, not a crutch.

Levelling/5-mans: At first, like all spellcasters you’ll find your mana reserves quickly depleted by unnecessary spellcasting. You’ll want to preheal (mostly with Rejuvenation), but only when you’re sure that your target is going to be taking damage (typically, this means putting Rejuv on the tank). Otherwise, Healing Touch and Regrowth are your mainstays. As you get more powerful and your mana regen gets more robust, though, you’ll find you can be much more casual with your Rejuvenation and start to use Regrowth proactively too, freely wasting the direct heal portion of the spell. This doesn’t just become possible, but necessary – as you progress through the game, your friends’ health pools will get smaller relative to the amount of damage they’re taking, giving you less reaction time when things go bad, making prehealing more important. That three-second Healing Touch really doesn’t cut it anymore by the time you’re halfway through Outland. Don’t be afraid to toss out Regrowth solely for the direct heal, either – it’s basically two spells in one. Even if you’re overwriting a nearly-fresh HoT already on the target, its mana efficiency is still actually not that bad. Swiftmend will also come along after a while, giving you that all-important oh-shit button.

At level 64 you’ll get Lifebloom. Some druids eschew it because of its awkwardness, but I think that’s a mistake – since it’s stackable, it’s easily the strongest HoT in your repertoire. Just let it bloom and refund that mana and you’ll be unlikely to regret using it. Without Lifebloom you’ve only got two HoTs (not counting Wild Growth) so you’ll have to rely on reactive heals much more, and a druid’s reactive healing capabilities are frankly pretty unimpressive before Nourish comes along. One more thing – once you get Gift of the Earthmother, Lifebloom will trigger a shorter GCD than your other spells. Get used to this and make use of it.

When you finally get Nourish at level 80, your toolbox will be complete. Nourish eliminates any need you may still have had to cast Healing Touch (other than in a Nature’s Swiftness macro), as it is much faster, nearly as efficient and, if you’ve got HoTs up like a good druid, will provide better HPS to boot. When you have to heal a single target reactively, Nourish is your go-to heal, though you can still use Regrowth if you want to place a HoT as well as toss a direct heal. For healing multiple targets reactively, Wild Growth is handy, though it’s not going to save someone who’s taking a lot of damage. Just keep an eye on what’s going on, keep those Rejuvenations rolling on anyone taking or expected to take damage, and remember the cardinal rule for any healer: saving the DPS is good, saving the tank is better. And if things get ugly, there’s always Tranquility.

Raid Healing: Raid healing as a resto druid is largely about Rejuvenation. Once you get Tree of Life Form and decent spellpower, it becomes an amazingly efficient heal and you should (ab)use it mercilessly as much as you can. How much you can is usually determined by the fight mechanics in question. They’re all different, but most damage falls into one of these categories:

If there’s constant damage to the whole raid (for instance, Marrowgar’s Bone Storm), that’s the situation where we trees are at our best – once you gear up you should be able to keep Rejuvenation rolling on ten people (or even more in a 25-man raid) through the whole fight, countering the consistent damage. Often Rejuv alone will be enough, but if it isn’t you can always supplement by tossing Wild Growth whenever it’s available. Wild Growth is a powerful heal and you won’t go wrong by using it extensively, so long as there’s several injured players who can be hit with each cast. On fights where everyone is spread out, its effectiveness is greatly diminished. In 25-mans, it helps if there’s another tree in the raid, so you can split the raid between you and each of you rolls Rejuvenation on half.

Sometimes the damage is spiky but predictable (for instance, XT’s Tympanic Tantrum or Toravon’s Whiteout). Preheal with Rejuvenation as normal, and, if necessary, follow up with Wild Growth and/or direct heals. Since you can predict the damage, such follow-up may not be necessary if you can be sure that Rejuvenation will top them off before the next damage burst. If you know -when- it’s going to happen but not to whom, you can always put Rejuvenation on everyone before it lands, but this takes time so you’ll have to decide whether or not it’s worth the trouble – at my level of haste it takes about 2/3 of my time to keep Rejuvenation cycling on ten people. That time may or may not be better spent doing other things, e.g. tossing HoTs on the tank or direct healing, depending on just how dangerous this raid damage is and how many people it’ll hit when it comes.

Some bosses will single out particular raid member(s) and put them in a world of hurt (for instance, Ignis’ Slag Pot or Marrowgar’s Bone Spike Graveyard). These are the situations Nourish spam was made for. If you have time, hit them with a Regrowth first so your Nourish will get its bonus for having a HoT on the target. If you already have one in place, celebrate by tossing Swiftmend. Once you’re sure they’re not going to die immediately, you can fast-stack Lifebloom and then heal them like a tank until the boss gives up chewing on them, or they’re freed from their cages of electrified acid, or whatever is going on.

What if the raid damage is hardly predictable at all (for example, Archavon’s rock shards or Razorscale’s fireballs)? Unpredictable damage is unfortunately very common, and is harder to deal with. In a 10-man you can always keep rolling Rejuvenation on everyone anyway, but if the damage is really spiky, this may not be a very good use for your time. Or, you may be the only druid healer in a 25-man raid and you can’t roll Rejuvenation on everyone. Sometimes, direct heals are just the best tactic. Regrowth and Nourish are your friends here.

You do have another option: Glyph of Rapid Rejuvenation. With this glyph, Rejuvenation will heal the same amount, but faster. If you’re at the haste softcap, it will do its healing and expire in 2/3 the time. This is significant. Rolling Rejuvenation on people will do much more healing when you have this glyph, but it will also take more time and mana. It will take nearly every GCD you have to roll glyphed Rejuv on everybody in a 10-man raid, but that’s a pretty powerful blanket of healing you’re laying across your friends. Perhaps more importantly, that crucial first tick happens after only two seconds instead of three. With Glyph of RR and good haste, Rejuvenation actually becomes a reasonably effective reactive heal! It’s not going to save someone who’s taking a ton of damage (you’ll still need direct heals for that) but it will work quickly enough to prevent other healers’ smart heals from landing all over raiders you’ve already HoTed, while using up a lot less time and mana per raider than direct heals would – letting you heal more raiders. You’ll never match a shaman’s reactive-healing mojo, but if you find yourself having to try often, Glyph of Rapid Rejuvenation may make you a happy piece of topiary.

Tank Healing: Conventional wisdom seems to be that druids aren’t very good tank healers. It’s probably true, but not because we’re inherently bad at it; rather because being a good druid tank healer takes practice. Practice we don’t get because raid leaders always reach for the nearest hpally when looking for a tank healer. It’s kind of a self-reinforcing cycle, and since most druids don’t seem very interested in tank healing, it’s one they’re happy to live with.

Well, I say tough beans. Learn. There isn’t always going to be an hpally around to do the hard part for you and give you that nice cushy raid-healing spot.

How you tank heal will depend a lot on how much endurance you have. The key player here is Lifebloom, which can be used in several different ways. You can refresh it and add another stack to the HoT just before it expires, in this way slowly building it up to three stacks.  This is called slow-stacking Lifebloom. Alternatively, you can fast-stack it by applying it three times rapidly, getting you quickly to that oh-so-juicy 3-stack. This is less mana-efficient and should typically be avoided unless your endurance is very good or you’re desperate to prepare the tank for a coming damage spike.

How you let Lifebloom expire matters, too. You can, once you’ve built your way to three stacks (or earlier if you like), simply let it bloom. Used this way it is a very mana-efficient heal, but now your Lifebloom has fallen off the tank, leaving her more vulnerable. I’ll refer to this as “cycling” Lifebloom. Alternatively, you can, after reaching three stacks, refresh the HoT before it blooms. This costs you the mana you would have been refunded and doesn’t grant the tank that extra burst of healing they would have gotten if you’d let it bloom, but it lets you keep that powerful 3-stack ticking on them for another 9 or 10 seconds (depending on whether you have Lifebloom glyphed). I’ll refer to this as “juggling” Lifebloom. The more you juggle Lifebloom, the more mana you give up, and ultimately this is very costly – but at current gear levels, you can get away with juggling Lifebloom an awful lot, or even constantly on a single target. If you’re healing multiple tanks, you’re probably going to have to let it bloom sometimes just to reduce the mana cost.

Ideally, you would keep juggling Lifebloom on the tank until there’s a damage spike, then unload Swiftmend, spam Nourish, and allow your 3-stack to bloom. Once the damage spike is over, you slow-stack it again in preparation for the next spike, always being ready to respond with more Nourish if the tank’s health starts to dip – you really don’t want her sitting on any sort of health deficit for long. In practice, if your endurance isn’t up to it you may have to cycle Lifebloom most of the time in order to keep from going OOM. Even if your mana regen isn’t a problem it often doesn’t work out this neatly – the bloom may be timed poorly, or you’ll accidentally let it bloom early because you were too busy doing something else to refresh it. Just roll with it. With practice it’ll happen less.

Yes, it’s kind of a hassle. I know druids who avoid all this effort and don’t use Lifebloom at all, simply placing Rejuvenation and Regrowth on the tank and then using Nourish as needed. While you can tank heal this way, you’ll never be as prepared for damage spikes as you would be if you’d had Lifebloom on the tank, and being able to deal with massive damage spikes is what tank healing is all about. Ultimately, using Lifebloom means spending extra GCDs when things are going swimmingly and there isn’t so much to do, and then getting a burst of healing when shit goes down by doing nothing at all. And you get a hefty HoT on the tank in the meantime as well. I’ll take that deal, thank you very much.

A Note on Terminology – The phrase “rolling Lifebloom” appears often when people are discussing Lifebloom use. The problem is, I haven’t found a consensus on what people actually mean when they say it – some seem to mean letting it bloom after each cycle, while some seem to mean refreshing the three-stack. Perhaps there’s more of a consensus than I think and the people I’ve spoken to just don’t know their terminology. Regardless, I’ve decided to avoid the term entirely and invented the terms “cycling” and “juggling” instead. I think they’re more evocative of what’s actually happening anyway.

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Guide to Resto Druidry, part 2

Glyphs

Glyphs should be discussed next because they may have a significant effect on your healing strategy. This is where you’ll really be forced to make a choice between tank and raid healing, since they’re glyphed quite differently.

Raid healing: Raid healers have some flexibility on which glyphs they choose. These are your major choices.
Glyph of Swiftmend – Almost every resto druid has this, and with good reason. With Glyph of Swiftmend, said spell will no longer remove a HoT on the target when it’s cast. Swiftmend is a powerful spell you’ll want to use often, and having to replace a HoT every time you use it is a pain. You’ve got better uses for those GCDs and mana.

Glyph of Wild Growth – A popular choice for raid healers. It adds an extra target to your Wild Growth spell, so that it affects up to six raid members instead of five. In 25-man raids this can be very handy; in 10-man raids you’re less likely to have six people within 15 yards of your target, but if there’s pets in there soaking up the spell, it can still happen.

Glyph of Rapid Rejuvenation – This is kind of an odd one. It makes your Rejuvenation spell affected by spell haste. Therefore, it will tick faster (depending on your haste, possibly much faster) and for a shorter duration (possibly much shorter). Because this greatly changes your workhorse spell, it will have a significant effect on how you heal. I’ll discuss the strategy considerations below. In short, this is a powerful glyph, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea and you may prefer to skip it.

Glyph of Innervate – With this glyph, Innervate gives you an extra 45% of your base mana pool whenever you use it – regardless of whether you use it on yourself or someone else. If you find yourself having to Innervate often, you’ll get a lot of bang out of this glyph. Eventually though, as you gear up and improve your mana regen you should outgrow it.

Glyph of Rejuvenation – Makes your Rejuvenation tick for 50% more when its recipient is below 50% health. They don’t have to be below 50% health when the spell is cast to get the bonus, just when the tick lands. This isn’t nearly as good as it sounds. If you’ve got raid/party members below 50% health you generally shouldn’t just be sitting around waiting for Rejuv to top them off – they need to be brought back up pronto. As a result, you don’t get very many Rejuv ticks that actually give the glyph a chance to work. Because this is such a weak glyph, I would only consider it if you’ve already glyphed Swiftmend and Wild Growth, don’t want the Glyph of Rapid Rejuv and don’t have any mana problems. Even then, I’d consider glyphing Nourish instead, just in case you end up having to tank heal unexpectedly, or even Rebirth.

Tank Healing: A tank healing druid really only has one glyph slot to play around with – the other two are pretty much set in stone.

Glyph of Swiftmend – As useful as this is for raid healers, it’s indispensable for tank healers. You’ll be using Swiftmend often and you don’t want it to take HoTs off the tank just when her health is dipping and she needs them the most.

Glyph of Nourish – The other indispensable tank healing glyph, this makes Nourish 6% more powerful for every one of your HoTs on your target. Since you’ll routinely have at least three HoTs on the tank, this glyph will make Nourish 18% stronger nearly all the time when used on a tank. This is in addition to the 20% bonus that Nourish intrinsically gets when used on a target with one of your HoTs on it. Add it all up and you’ve got yourself a pretty tidy direct heal to throw around when your tank(s) start taking real damage.

Glyph of Lifebloom – Adds one second to the duration of Lifebloom. This sounds weak, and it is. But if you’re slow-stacking Lifebloom on the tank, it’s frustrating to accidentally let it bloom when you didn’t want it to because something else came up requiring your attention and you didn’t have time to refresh it. You’d be surprised how big a difference an extra second makes in preventing this control-sapping annoyance. This is really more of a convenience glyph than anything else – it makes managing Lifebloom significantly easier (and slightly less mana-intensive) so you can angst over other things instead.

Glyph of Regrowth – Makes Regrowth 20% more powerful when cast on a target that already had Regrowth ticking on her. This applies to both the direct heal and HoT portions of the spell. Since Regrowth is such an important direct healing tool while levelling, this glyph makes a lot of sense for a levelling druid. At 80 Regrowth becomes less important and the glyph loses much of its luster. It can, however, get a new lease on life in the third slot of a tank healing build. The HPS boost is small, but is roughly competitive with that provided by Glyph of Rapid Rejuvenation and comes with virtually no effort or mana cost so long as you remember to refresh Regrowth on the tank before it wears off.

Glyph of Rapid Rejuvenation – As a tank healing glyph, this basically makes your Rejuvenation spell more powerful, providing a modest bump to your HPS. Whether this is better or worse than what you’d get from Glyph of Regrowth depends on your haste – somewhere around 25% spell haste or so, Glyph of Rapid Rejuv starts providing better HPS. On the other hand, you’re faced with the inconvenience of having to refresh Rejuvenation more often, so whether it’s worth it for the small HPS gain is up to you.

Glyph of Innervate – Tank healing can be mana-intensive. If you’re having trouble keeping the ol’ blue bar happy, Glyph of Innervate might help.

Other Major Glyphs: These aren’t likely to make it into your final glyph setup but are worth mentioning.

Glyph of Rebirth – Makes the recipient of a Rebirth spell come back with full health instead of the small amount they normally would. Occasionally your Rebirth will be wasted when someone you bring back is re-killed before you and the other healers can top them off, and this glyph might be worth using on fights with heavy raid damage just to make sure that doesn’t happen. Most of the time, though, it shouldn’t happen often enough to warrant spending a glyph to prevent it. Note that it doesn’t increase the mana a character comes back with, just their health.

Glyph of Healing Touch – This glyph changes the nature of Healing Touch quite a bit. It halves the cast time and healing effect, and decreases the mana cost by 25%. This turns it from a slow, efficient heal to a fast, inefficient one. Since fast heals are really what druids lack when levelling, glyphing Healing Touch fills a gaping hole in their toolbox. Once they hit 80 though, almost nobody keeps this glyph around – Nourish is just as fast and powerful, but is cheaper, gets stronger if there’s HoTs on the target, and, thanks to talents, has a higher crit chance. Other than for certain specialized PvP builds, I don’t see any use for this glyph at 80.

Minor Glyphs:  Our minor glyphs have negligible effects on gameplay so which ones you choose are really just a matter of personal preference. For completeness I’ve listed the ones that might be of interest to a resto druid.

Glyph of Unburdened Rebirth – Removes the need for a reagent to cast Rebirth. Saves money and bag space – always nice.

Glyph of the Wild – Halves the mana cost of Gift of the Wild and Mark of the Wild. We’ve all popped into random dungeons already missing some mana for whatever reason, tossed a Mark on everyone and their pets like good little trees, then found ourselves dangerously low on mana as the tank fails to wait for us to drink and makes the first pull. Glyph of the Wild will make that particular source of indigestion a thing of the past.

Glyph of Dash – Dash is a Cat Form ability that increases your movement speed significantly for 15 seconds. This glyph reduces its cooldown from 5 minutes to 4 minutes. Dash can be handy for getting around dungeons quicker, so reducing its cooldown isn’t a bad thing.

Glyph of Aquatic Form – Increases your swim speed by 50% while in Aquatic Form. Getting around faster in water isn’t exactly a crucial ability, but it’s nice to be able to explore the seas at a decent clip.

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Guide to Resto Druidry, part 1

Welcome to Arbington’s Guide to Resto Druidry! I first started making this guide some time ago because I couldn’t find any decent guides out there on the net. Since then I’ve found one I actually like, but I’d already nearly finished by that point so I went ahead and finished it up. I thought I’d post it up and get it out there before Cataclysm comes out and potentially renders it obsolete. So if you’re new to photosynthesis, take a gander and see if there’s something here that’ll help you. I’ll be posting it in installments over the next few weeks.

Arbington’s Guide to Resto Druidry

Several of my friends have told me that we, your friendly neighborhood trees, are OP healers. It might even be true. We sure are good at putting out the raw numbers when we’re raid healing. Healing numbers mean nothing, we all know this, but damn, don’t they look shiny. Of course, in order to convince your friends that you’re OP – and who doesn’t want to do that? – first you have to know what you’re doing, and that’s where this guide comes in. I want to pay particular attention to tank healing, because I feel like druid tank healing gets very little love from the other guides out there. We may not be able to match the one- or two-target HPS of a healadin, but we can definitely do the job and it’s entirely justifiable to specialize in tank healing, especially if your guild/raid lacks an amenable paladin. Even if you do have one, you never know when you’ll have to step in temporarily and every tree should know how.

Spells

Resto druids have a fair number of spells at their disposal to keep those bars up. This is your toolbox. Some of your tools are mostly used when levelling, but most will be useful from the moment you get them until you quit the game in frustration because everything’s just gone downhill since whatever version it was when you joined and your guildies are baddies who stand in Legion Flames in order to proc Owlkin Frenzy.

Rejuvenation – An instant-cast spell that provides an (when specced) 18-second HoT that ticks every three seconds. When you first get this it’s very weak, but it scales well with spellpower and by the time you hit 80 it should be your workhorse spell when raid healing. Cheap and powerful, its only real drawbacks are the time it takes to do its healing and the fact that you can’t spam it on a single target.

Regrowth – A hybrid spell with both a direct heal of fair strength and a weak HoT that lasts 27 seconds when specced. It has a two-second cast time, and the HoT ticks every three seconds. While levelling this will often be the fastest way you have to react to sudden damage, and it makes a useful all-purpose heal, albeit at a steep price in mana. At 80, it’s still a powerful spell that can be used to save a raid member and place a HoT on them at the same time, but it should be used sparingly due to its high mana cost. When healing a tank, it’s mostly useful just to place another HoT on the target  - always a good thing.

Swiftmend – An instant-cast direct heal with a 15-second cooldown that’s unlocked in the resto talent tree, Swiftmend is quick, powerful, and surprisingly mana-efficient. This is the spell of choice with which to react to a damage spike. Those 15 seconds before it comes up again can feel like a long time, though, when there’s a lot of damage flying around. It also requires a HoT (Regrowth or Rejuvenation, specifically) to already be on the target before you can cast it, so if you’ve been lazy and haven’t prehealed, Swiftmend probably won’t save your friends. In addition, if it isn’t glyphed, it will consume that HoT.

Nourish – Learned at 80, this is a direct heal with a 1.5 second cast time, moderate mana cost and quite good HPS if used well. “Used well” means having HoTs already in place on the subject, because Nourish gets a significant boost to its effectiveness if used on such a target. Although it’s an excellent spell, Nourish actually has a slightly unsavory reputation among druids, for reasons I’ll go into later. Suffice to say that it’s a useful emergency heal when Swiftmend is on cooldown, and is a mainstay of tank healing. Just be sure not to drive yourself OOM spamming it.

Lifebloom – A weak instant-cast 9-second (when specced) HoT that ticks every second. When it expires, it “blooms,” healing the target for a decent chunk of health and refunding half the mana you spent on the spell. Lifebloom is unique in that it stacks up to three times – if you refresh it before it blooms, it will gain a stack and tick (and bloom) for twice as much, and three times as much after the third application. If you keep casting it after three applications, you’ll just refresh the 3-stack. This spell is complex, and I’ll discuss its proper use under “Strategy” below.

Wild Growth – The resto druid’s 51-point talent is an instant-cast multitarget smart heal on a 6-second cooldown. It affects the 5 most-injured raid members within 15 yards of the target. Note that the target isn’t necessarily affected – in fact, he could be an enemy. It doesn’t matter, the spell will still go off and heal some fools, so long as they’re within 15 yards of the target and in your party or raid (this includes pets). It applies a short-lived (7 second) HoT that heals for more at the start of the spell, and wanes in power as it ticks every second. This makes it unusually “bursty” for a HoT. An invaluable spell for raid healers.

Healing Touch – A powerful direct heal with quite good mana efficiency. The lowest levels are reasonably quick to cast, but after gaining a few spell ranks it becomes a bloated, 3-second monster of a spell. It may be powerful, but it’s not really worth such a long cast time. You may use this while levelling, but you’ll probably make a point of trying to use it as little as possible, and once you hit 80 you’ll probably never cast this sluggish spell normally again. It does retain one function, however:

Nature’s Swiftness – A talent-unlocked ability that makes the next nature spell an instant-cast. The traditional use for this is to make a macro tying it to Healing Touch, giving you another powerful instant-cast direct heal for when the poo hits the fan and Swiftmend is already on cooldown (or you don’t have it yet). Nature’s Swiftness has a 3-minute cooldown of its own, though, so don’t waste it.

Remove Curse – Does what it says on the tin. Each cast removes one curse. Only two other classes can remove curses, and one of them is a DPS class (mage) who’s probably not paying attention to player status effects. The other is shammy, and they have to be resto-specced and spend a talent point on it and, on my server at least, aren’t very common anyway. Therefore decursing usually falls to the druids, so keep up with it.

Remove/Abolish Poison – Remove Poison works the same way Remove Curse does – one cast, one posion cleansed. Abolish Poison is better and essentially replaces it when you get it (level 26). Abolish Poison removes one poison effect when cast, and attempts to remove one additional poison effect every 3 seconds for 12 seconds. This means that if you know a poison effect is coming, you can preheal against it!

Innervate – Grants your target a hefty chunk of mana on a three-minute cooldown. Being a healer, it’s important to keep yourself from going OOM so if you think you might need it, don’t feel bad about hoarding it for yourself. If you won’t, though, give it away freely and make a friend happy.

Rebirth – The famous battle-rez, this lets you raise an ally in combat. It has a 2 second cast time and they don’t come back with much health so be ready to top them off quick before something comes along and kills them again. They won’t come back with much mana either, so if they’re a spellcaster you might want to toss an Innervate their way once you’ve got them healed. The 10-minute cooldown means that you’ve got to be careful how you use this spell – you’ll only get to use it once per boss fight so make it count.

Mark/Gift of the Wild – Mark of the Wild affects a single target, Gift of the Wild affects your entire raid. They have the same effect – a small (but noticeable) boost to all resistances, armor, and ability scores. This is one of the best buffs available and you should make sure everyone in your party/raid has it.

Thorns – A buff that causes the target to deal a small amount of damage to anyone that strikes them in melee. The damage is credited to the recipient of the buff, not the druid who cast it, so this should be put on tanks to make it just that little bit easier for them to hold aggro.

Tranquility – A very powerful channeled AoE heal that lasts 8 seconds and usually tops off everyone in the party during that time. In 5-mans this can very easily be the difference between a wipe and a good story to tell later about that time the hunter’s pet pulled two packs of radioactive doom-spiders. If you haven’t put any points into Improved Tranquility, though, this spell WILL get you aggro from every mob around as they inevitably notice the waves of healing awesomeness pouring out of your woody body. Note that this spell heals only your party, making it of limited usefulness in raids. It also has an extremely long cooldown – 8 minutes untalented.

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Thar Yonder Lich King

So my guild got the Lich King down last Friday.

I’d like to think this was a significant raiding accomplishment that finally gives me the ability to call myself a real raider. We worked hard on it and our victory was unquestionable – ironically, much more so than our victory over Sindragosa, who we barely got down in an arduous fight that I’m not entirely sure we could repeat, at least not without a lot of wipes and heartache. If I were to make up an RP history of our guild’s achievements, Sindragosa would be a Pyrrhic victory, leaving a battered, weakened party standing over the slain Frostwyrm’s bones. One of us didn’t walk away at all. Much of our difficulty in getting down Arthas, in fact, stemmed from our troubles replacing the raider we’d lost. In a way, though, this only made the victory sweeter. Our rebuilt raid is, if anything, stronger than ever.

Throughout the fight, though, I couldn’t help but feel the whole thing could have been done… better. I’m thinking about this from a storytelling perspective here. The fight mechanics were interesting and challenging and I don’t really have any complaint with them, but the story…

They had a lot to work with, here. There’s an awful lot of backstory and loose ends relating to the Lich King, from Arthas’ own history to the Ebon Blade to the Forsaken to Wrathgate, and I feel like very few of them got any closure. Terenas Menethil put in his appearance and that was kind of neat, but other than that, it was just fight mechanics that were fun but meaningless to the story, and then WOO TEH LITE SAVES, PRAISE TEH LITE. Oh, and Bolvar.

To me, the capture of Bolvar (and Saurfang the Younger) was much less interesting than the other result of Wrathgate – The Lich King was infected with the freaking New Plague! He was clearly affected by it, and it pissed him off. What did this mean? What would it do to him? This was the burning question I had when the Wrathgate cinematic ended, and I was hoping it would be addressed later. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Apparently he shrugged it off because he’s just that awesome. Me, I’d rather pretend that the Necrotic Plague was actually the New Plague, which the still-infected Arthas was spreading willy-nilly amongst his enemies and his own followers. It almost makes sense – a few tweaks to the way it behaved and a change of the disease’s name and it would have turned a random boss mechanic into Chekhov’s Plague.

So sans New Plague, it’s the power of the Light, wielded by Tirion Fordring, that defeats the Lich King. I feel like Fordring was one of the characters who least deserved to be in that scene – he had no history with Arthas, no vengeance to wreak or answers to seek. All he had to offer, plot-wise, was a lecture about what a bad boy the Lich King had been. Painfully conspicuous in their absence were Darion Mograine and especially Sylvanas Windrunner. Long before there was even a World of Warcraft it seemed like Blizzard’s writers were building up to a bloody revenge upon the Lich King at the hands of Sylvanas. It’s been a comeuppance years in the making, and when its time finally arrived, she was unceremoniously ignored in favor of two paladins blathering about duty. Like we couldn’t just walk into any one of a half-dozen Argent Crusade camps and get an earful of such talk without having to slay a Lich King first.

Speaking of Bolvar: the man irritates me greatly. Isn’t this the same Bolvar who let Onyxia lead him around by the nose (or something, anyway) for years while Stormwind crumbled from within? He really doesn’t seem so strong-willed or incorruptible in light of that history. Oh, and if you’re Horde (which I am) he’s also a general for a country you’re currently at war with. But he’s a paladin, so of course we all trust him to assume power over an unstoppable army and then willingly isolate himself for all eternity. I’m hoping that, come Cat, we see a sub-faction or two of Scourge break away from Bolvar’s mastery in the same way that Sylvanas broke away from the original Lich King. Perhaps led by a Crypt Lord or Frostwyrm? It seems like when I see Frostwyrms they’re at best lackeys, or at worst treated like dumb beasts. They’re supposed to be quite intelligent and it’d be refreshing to actually see one in a position of authority. As for Crypt Lords, well, I just think they’re awesome and could use more screen time.

In my opinion, though, the biggest loose end that was completely ignored is that “original Lich King,” by which of course I mean Ner’zhul. This was the orc that started it all – all the Warcraft games, the destruction of Draenor, the damnation AND the salvation of the orcs, the Burning Legion’s reintroduction to Azeroth – all of it. His story was long and tragic and deserved a much better ending than the inexplicable subsuming of his soul by a demonstrably weak-willed prince who he’d already established domination over. Arthas himself was a reasonably interesting character, but he was no Ner’zhul. Either one of them was more interesting than what we got in Wrath of the Lich King when Blizzard’s writers decided to mash the two characters into one, utterly destroying one of the most complex evil-mastermind-and-Dragon pairs in any video game and replacing them with a single two-dimensional Sauron wannabe. I wasn’t really expecting them to undo damage of this scale, but I was hoping they could at least acknowledge Ner’zhul’s existence, right there before the end. No such luck.

All in all, a lot of missed opportunities for some really nice storytelling. Damn, I’m really sad about Ner’zhul. It ain’t easy being a Lore buff.

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