I have been vocal in the past regarding the state of restoration druid healing. Siege of Orgrimmar brought many positive changes to druid throughput, as well as helping our toolkit where it was previously lacking. This article will explore the changes we’ve seen over this expansion, where we sit in the healer meta, and what might come next.
Early Days of Throne of Thunder
Restoration Druids had a rough first half of the expansion. Our niche of sustained pure-throughput style of healing was out-classed, literally, by mistweaver monks. Additionally, our utility was almost nonexistent. Discipline Priests and Holy Paladins ruled the world (and still do), absorbing almost everything and smart healing anything that got past that. There was almost no reason to bring a restoration druid if you had skilled players of a different class. Perhaps the largest issue with druid healing was the lack of burst AoE. Most of Throne of Thunder’s encounters required a lot of healing, quickly. Almost every other healing class had a tool to deal with this and excelled at it. We only had a 3-minute tranquility (which, went compared to HTT, AG, or Revival, was terrible), soul of the forested wild growths, really horrible mushrooms, and rejuvenation spam. Healing rain and chain heal, renewing mist and uplift, and absorbs all worked a lot better at bursting the raid with healing.
Finally, in 5.3 Blizzard gave the resto druids some love. Our tranquility received massive buffs, all of our ground AoE’s radius was increased, force of nature became viable, and the new wild mushrooms were super good for burst AoE healing. These buffs brought druids to the middle of the pack, a place I was happy to remain. We had been towards the bottom of the barrel since Firelands, resto druids let out a sigh of relief, finally be useful to a raid team once more.
Siege of Orgrimmar
Where to begin? Restoration received a metric ton of changes and buffs in 5.4. First, our wild mushrooms got a complete rework. We now have a single mushroom, rather than three, that retains it’s overheal buff even when moved. This is the change that excited me the most. Having to reposition mushrooms, and losing all of their stored overhealing, was extremely frustrating and played contrary to the resto druid’s adaptive playstyle. Being able to quickly reposition your largest AoE was a huge quality of life increase. Although our mushroom blooms can no longer critically strike, it is a fair price to pay for the changes.
Additionally, we received a new glyph, the Glyph of Efflorescence. Words cannot describe how much of a game changer this has been. We can now maintain nearly 100% uptime on our ground AoE, which used to be tied to our casts of swiftmend (meaning, at best, it had a 46.66% uptime). Furthermore, we can now place our efflorescence with pinpoint accuracy (when using the Glyph of Sprouting Mushroom). Overall, this change has been a big contributor in resto’s massive numbers this tier. Very regularly, efflorescence will be one of our top healing spells. Another factor in efflorescence being so good is that it is completely mana free. Planting a mushroom costs zero mana and has a short 3 second cooldown. This means you can quickly adjust your main AoE heal throughout the raid to maximize healing on the group of people that are taking the most amount of damage. The only downside to the mushroom changes was tying the plant mushroom cooldown with the bloom mushroom cooldown. I understand the reason behind this, making it so you cannot instantly move a mushroom and bloom it at the same time (doing insane healing) and forcing you to use a little more intuition, but it still feels clunky at times.
Resto received some more changes to our toolkit. Living seed’s functionality was improved so that it no longer procs on a full health player, and it can stack (up to 50% of our total HP). We also got a brand new spell, Genesis. I will not get into genesis mechanics here (read our resto druid guide), but it has some situational uses and is certainly a welcome addition to the toolkit. Although Genesis does not actually do anything to increase the amount a rejuvenation will heal for, it speeds up the ticks. This makes Genesis useful for a large, predictable, and instant damage done to the raid. However, “non-genesised” rejuvenations will always be superior (and more mana efficient) in sustained damaged situations. Also, Glyph of Lifebloom went baseline. With the addition of the Glyph of Efflorescence, the lifebloom glyph going baseline is very nice. Finally, Blizzard gave resto Nature’s Swiftness as a baseline ability. This brings us to the next major section of restoration druid changes, talents.
Talents are where the majority of restoration druid changes occurred in the new patch. As mentioned above, Nature’s Swiftness is now a baseline restoration druid ability. In it’s place is Ysera’s Gift. This talent is really good for almost all druid specs. It does a lot of healing over the course of the fight, costs zero mana, requires no activation, and is overall really awesome. Think of Ysera’s Gift as a poor man’s Healing Stream Totem that has 100% uptime. Soul of the Forest got a substantial buff to the haste received from it’s activation. After casting a swiftmend you gain 100% haste for the next spell (up from 75%). However, the most interesting talent changes were in the level 90 tier. Dream of Cenarius was completely reworked, but still remains bad for restoration in raid environments. It may have potential on a fight with a massive damage amplification effect, but none are present in Siege of Orgrimmar. Heart of the Wild had another effect added to it’s six minute activated cooldown. In addition to enhancing our “out-of-spec-spells” during the 45 second duration, we also receive a 25% healing buff. This makes Heart of the Wild very strong on any encounter where there is only one major period of heavy healing required (or the periods are more than six minutes apart). The talent we will be using 90% of the time will be Nature’s Vigil. This talent is extremely strong now. The flat activated healing buff was increased to 12% from 10%. However, the main change was the addition of a smart heal mechanic to NV. Now, every single-target healing spell that heals during the duration of Nature’s Vigil triggers an additional heal on a nearby injured ally for 25% of the original amount healed. This is huge, especially when you consider that Nature’s Vigil lasts for 30 seconds and only has a 1.5 minute cooldown. We cover Nature’s Vigil further in our restoration druid guide, but you should be abusing this talent as much as possible!
Our Place in the Meta
Courtesy of Raidbots
Where do restoration druids rank among other healers in Siege? We are doing quite well. However, before I go any further, I want to stress that healing numbers on meters, logs, and raidbots are far less telling of the healer meta and a healer’s skill than that of a DPS. Healing numbers vary greatly based on how many healers the group is using, the type of classes used, how much damage your raid is taking, individual healer assignments, etc. Use the images provided as a baseline understanding on ranking healing class throughput, but do not assume that they are a “be all end all.”
With that said, restoration druids have been solidly in the top half of “healer rankings” since patch 5.3. We were in a good spot towards the end of Throne of Thunder, and we continue to be in a good spot in Siege. Although we are still around the #2-3 slot for healers, the separation from the bottom half is what really makes resto druids appear comparatively much stronger this tier. In Throne of Thunder we were towards the top of the rankings, but the classes below us were extremely close, within the margin of error. Now, the top three healing classes have substantially separated from the bottom healing classes. Although I would argue that less separation is better for general healer balance, I don’t mind seeing restoration druids benefiting from it!
I am really satisfied with our position in the healer meta currently. We provide excellent throughput and sustained healing to the raid. Additionally, we are very good at any high movement or high damage encounters. Still, my one gripe is how strong Discipline continues to be. Disc has held the top spot for most of the expansion, and all signs lead to them increasing that margin as the tier continues.
Courtesy of Raidbots
As you can see from the above image, showing raidbot’s data for all of Mists of Pandaria, restoration druids have come a long way from the beginning of this expansion. For the entirety of T14 we were very bad, and we continued to suffer for half of Throne of Thunder. It was not until patch 5.3 that restoration druids finally climbed the ranks and became viable in progression. As long as we can maintain a “middle to upper” spot in the pack, I will be very happy.
It is also interesting to note who has been top of the ranks for the expansion. As we can all remember, at the start of the expansion, mistweavers were absolutely ridiculous. After a nerf to their Renewing Mists (among other spells/abilities), mistweavers have remained solidly middle of the pack. However, the most obvious trend is how consistently strong discipline priests have been. During T14, after patch 5.1, discipline priests were unmatched. They fell slightly under holy paladins during the first half of Throne of Thunder, but regained supremacy in the second half of the instance.
Clearly, the trend has been that disc gets much stronger as the tier progresses, steadily climbing as their gear levels increase. With how strong disc priests started this tier (Siege of Orgrimmar), it is scary to think where they will be once they start to get full heroic sets.
What is next? Well, we are (by all accounts) done with Mists of Pandaria. Hopefully in the new expansion Blizzard does a better job of balancing healers in the first half of the life cycle. The second half of Throne of Thunder and the current Siege of Orgrimmar feel pretty good for most healing classes. However, the first half of the expansion was all about one spec dominating for a period of time. Class balance is always hard to manage at the new level cap, but we can hope for the best.
Additionally, restoration druids are strongest when our throughput is very high. We do not offer any raid mitigation, significant utility, or crazy unique spec-specific buffs/abilities. Due to this, a restoration druid’s appeal to a raid group will be, and must remain to be, their strong sustained throughput healing. Our main issue in the beginning of this expansion was that we had no utility, but also had terrible throughput compared to the other healers. There was almost no reason to bring us. A class needs either really strong throughput or utility (or in the case of disc, both), and I am fine with restoration druids always being the “utility-less” but strong throughput healer.