Is there a forest in the trees?

Word around Aman’thul is that we should see the new talent trees once the current shutdown is over. I’m not sure if this is official, but there’ll be some surprised players tomorrow if the 51-point talents AREN’T available.

Of course, there’ll also be some surprised players if they ARE. Not everybody follows out-of-game news, and there haven’t really been any in-game hints surrounding the new talent trees. I don’t want to be caught off-guard about my spec, however, and so I thought I’d better do some homework. After all, I will be expected to go pwn some BT bosses this week (NOW WITH 30% LESS HEALTH!), and I don’t want to show up to raid saying “So, I heard there were some decent balance healing talents… Anyone know a good spec?”

We’ve certainly seen plenty of multi-tree builds in WoW over the years. There’s the good ol’ Holy/Disc priest, the Holy/Prot OT/healing pally, and the sometime-favourite oft-maligned dreamstate healing druid. Our boomkin cousins are often forced a fair way into resto to get subtlety, and few feral druids run without Furor or Omen of Clarity.

The real question is, which way will druid healing go? Will the new talent trees grow an ever-denser forest of tree-druids, or are we going to see a new dreamstate-like hybrid build emerge as the favourite?

First of all, I decided to take a look at the balance talents that would boost healers; there are some nice ones, and I’m starting to think we won’t see too many pure-resto druids around.

Genesis: Increase HoT ticks by 1/2/3/4/5%. Given that a significant quantity of our healing comes from HoT ticks, this is a nice boost.

Moonglow: Decrease mana cost of HT/Regrowth/Rejuv by 3/6/9%. This gives us a nice boost to mana efficiency, although it doesn’t affect our primary HoT.

Nature’s Mastery: Increases the critical strike chance of Nourish and HT by 2/4%. HT is used rarely at the moment, and crits are rarer yet. As for Nourish, I’m going to have to reserve judgement. However, NM leads to…

Nature’s Grace: All spell crits have a 33/66/100% chance to reduce the casting time of your next spell by 0.5s. Hmmm, we’re not all about crit at the moment, but a few regrowth crits and this could up our HPS nicely.

and…

Nature’s Splendour: Increase the length of Rejuv and Lifebloom by 3s, and Regrowth by 6s. Wow. This could be huge. This makes it easier to keep up full hots on multiple tanks, while still throwing out direct or group heals, and increases the length of time Rejuv/Regrowth can be swiftmended. Just wow. Oh, and the most recent opinions I’ve read from beta/PTR say that while this increases the length of the HoT, it neither reduces the frequency nor size of the ticks.

Celestial Focus: 1/2/3% increased haste. Not a big healing boost, but decent filler if you’re looking for points to get higher-tier talents.

Lunar Guidance: Increases healing by 4/8/12% of your intellect. Only 3 points to max, but a hidden cost of 3 points to get to it with zero healing benefit… and that’s if you want every balance talent mentioned so far. That said, I’d expect int values to soar towards 1000 with decent lvl 80 gear (source: wild speculation and baseless guess-work), and so this equates to an impressive… I mean, decent… Ok, a fairly unimpressive 120 +healing. Given likely +healing values heading well over 3000, this is like 3%. Oh, wait. Spell power. Maybe heading for 2k? Making it … 5%ish? Still not fantastic, for the point cost.

Dreamstate (Ah, the basis of many a hybrid-healing build): Increases your mp5 by 4/7/10% of your intellect. Once again, only 3 points to max, but the hidden cost is getting nasty. You could certainly see a boost of towards 100mp5 out of this talent with nice gear, and the hidden cost is actually less than it is under the old talent tree, as there are more healing buffs in balance now. If you liked dreamstate before, you’ll love it now.

That’s it for healing-affecting balance talents, and it certainly seems like blizzard wants to encourage us healers to take some balance talents. The catch is, of course, that we may need to sacrifice some resto talents to get them. So let’s have a look at the resto tree.

Tier one is easy. Imp MotW and Nature’s Focus, for 5 points. As before, Furor does little for us.

Tier two, and things are already complicated. 3/3 Natural Shapeshifter gives us access to Master Shapeshifter: Increased healing in ToL form by 2/4%, while Subtlety is down to 3 points, and Naturalist is the same as always (for 0.1/0.2/0.3/0.4/0.5s shorter HT).

Tier three sees Omen of Clarity adjusted to proc from spellcasts as well, meaning resto druids are actually likely to use it. Intensity is a given for 3 points.

Tier four is traditionally unpopular, however Tranquil Spirit now affects Nourish as well (2/4/6/8/10% reduced mana cost for HT, Tranq, and Nourish). Improved Rejuv is same old, same old.

Tier five is a mandatory point in Nature’s Swiftness, and five in Gift of Nature. Improved Tranq now also gives 30/60% cooldown reduction: Blizzard obviously wants people to actually try the talent out this time (it’s spectacularly unpopular at the moment).

Tier six brings the familiar Imp Regrowth, for an impressive 10/20/30/40/50% increased crit chance, and the unfamiliar Empowered Touch (not because the bonus is doubled, but because almost nobody’s ever used it before).

Tier seven brings mandatory spends in Living Spirit and Swiftmend, as well as the PvP-oriented Natural Perfection.

With tier eight comes the ever-popular Empowered Rejuvenation, as well as this funny Living Seed business, which I’m still not sure about. I understand the effect, I’m just not sure how useful it will be. Mainly aimed at tanks and aggro-whores, it (effectively) increases the total burst heal of Regrowth by roughly 5/15/25% (very rough estimates) and the total healing from swiftmend by rather less than that.

Tier nine brings a nice little surprise. Replenish isn’t it, however: you’re sacrificing some healing talents to provide some paltry mana/energy/rage bonuses to other classes. Interesting, but effective? Maybe. Tree of Life is roughly the same old (and much-loved) talent, but we now get Imp ToL: 33/66/100% armor bonus and 5/10/15% of our spirit as a bonus to healing power. As we tend to stack spirit slightly more actively than intellect, this is much nicer than the 12% of intellect bonus from Lunar Guidance. The improved survivability is nice too, and if you doubt me, just remember your last experience on the final boss in Shattered Halls.

Tier ten contains a single talent: Gift of the Earthmother, for 4/8/12/16/20% reduced GCD on Rejuv, Lifebloom, and Wild Growth. The normal GCD is 1.5s, so we’re talking up to .3s shorter, for a GCD of 1.2s. On spells which aren’t worth spamming on a single target. On spells which … aren’t worth spamming on multiple targets too rapidly either (see next tier). Uh, come on Blizzard. I’m unimpressed.

Tier eleven: Circle of Healing. I mean, uh, Wild Growth. We finally get a decent group heal! YAY! I see this as fantastic for 5/10-man content, and probably less awesome in 25-man (the priests are just gonna overwrite our HoTs with CoH anyway). Of course, it means you can use druids in place of priests for group healing…

Oh, and this is all complicated by the glyphs we can get. One turns HT into a kind of druid-Flash of Light or something. Shorter cast, smaller heal. This might stack nicely with some of the HT talents for some pally-style direct heal spamming.

So, talent builds. Balancing. Tree vs Dreamstate. Actually, once you reach lvl 78, you can have both maxed Dreamstate AND Tree of Life. You won’t make it to Wild Growth however, but this isn’t important if you don’t plan to do much group healing. Are druids the new priests? Are we going to spec hybrid for tank-healing and pure resto for group healing? Maybe. I think I need to bite the bullet and actually do my own theory-crafting here, and that’s a topic for another article or three. Or for stealing the info from somebody else who’s bothered (I’ve been slack and haven’t been watching the blogo-tree much lately).

This 14/0/41 build is my current baseline. All the core HoT talents (I am still oneHoTnelf), Regrowth Crit, Nature’s Grace and Splendour from the balance tree, and Tree form. From there, you can hit 3/3 Dreamstate by throwing another 14 points into Balance (and still grab 2/2 Imp Tranquility for a decent group-heal alternative to Wild Growth), or you can grab Wild Growth, Improved Tree, and some other additional resto talents. I’ve avoided Imp Tranquility for a Wild Growth build, because I see this as the hybrid’s alternative to Wild Growth. You still have the unimproved version for a crazy-HPS panic button.

Looking at level 80 builds, the Imp Tranq Dreamstate build is unarguably going to provide better mana efficiency over time, with a reduction in the effectiveness of specific and overall heals, and a group heal on a 4-minute cooldown. The Imp Tree Dreamstate build will sacrifice further group healing utility for a 10% of spirit healing bonus and some improved survivability, and I think this is a wiser choice for those keen to pick up dreamstate. Abandon the attempt at group healing and focus on the tanks.

Looking at the “mainly-resto” builds (14 points in balance only), I’d play on the spell-crit/Nature’s Grace bonuses and try out something like this build with Natural Perfection to squeeze the last bit of spell crit out of Regrowth, or this one (probably a better option) with all of the HT talents. Sacrifice a few points here and there for Gift of the Earthmother or Replenish if you really feel they’re worth it, and you have yourself a great mainly-resto build. Keep in mind that Nature’s Grace is far from crucial, although I can’t imagine many healers skipping Genesis or Moonglow.

As for pure resto, I think we’ll mainly see them happen when people get too hung up on certain abilities that I’ve tried to rule out. For example, if you picked up the Glyph of Healing Touch and decided to base your healing around that, while somehow developing a fetish for Imp Tranq (in spite of picking up Wild Growth as well), Living Seed, Replenish, AND Gift of the Earthmother… No. It won’t happen. All focused-healing builds will pick up at LEAST a few points in balance.

What about Althura? Well, as for tomorrow (assuming the new talents ARE live), I’ll be heading straight for this 8/0/53 build. I expect to use HT a LOT more (thanks to Moonglow and the ability to cast HT in tree form), and so I picked up a few of those talents. Wild Growth is just too sexy to miss (maybe I’m a priest at heart? No, I love my HoTs far too much), but try as I might, I just couldn’t fit 5/5 Tranquil Spirit in there, so I guess I’ll just have to go a little easy on the HTs in mana-intensive fights. Nature’s Splendour and Wild Growth are incompatible until level 71, sadly. Once Wrath comes out, I’ll be piling my points towards Nature’s Splendour, followed by Nature’s Grace, followed by maxing Tranquil Spirit, for a final level 80 spec of 14/0/57.

I’m sure I’ll play around with this some more, as I do some math, read other opinions, and play with the spells themselves. I’ve avoided reading other opinions so far to keep my theories unbiased, but I’m sure other people have some great ideas that may change my final spec plans. In particular, I want to see what Phaelia at Resto4Life has to say, as she’s been a great source of information on druid healing for me in the past.

Anyway, I’d love to hear feedback and other ideas. I’ll do another write-up on anything I change my mind about, and my initial impressions once I try out the talents in-game.

In the meantime, Happy Druiding!

Althura.

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