(This is another lunchtime napkin math post. There may be some slight errors in the math but the logic is sound for the most part. Please read on but take what I write here with a grain of salt as it is mostly theoretical)
So by now it’s no secret about Xaar’s (of Paragon) post on the Warcraft forums. In his post he calls out some rather serious issues with restoration druids at the higher end of this current tier of content. As of right now, due to poor scaling with gear and lack of burst AoE healing druids have fallen pretty low on their healer priority list for heroic content. He even went so far as to say that their resto druids are willingly benching themselves for new heroic content. I assume this might be boss dependent as some have massive raid wide life threatening situations. Shaman seem to get a pass because mana tide is still very powerful especially with on-use spirit trinkets.
When tank healing and taking full advantage of our mastery we are, according to Xaar, on par with paladins. This balance, as he cites, does not include any additional healing generated on the tank through Beacon of Light (putting us at a disadvantage I’m led to believe). When it comes to raid healing priests clearly start to pull ahead with high levels of gear. With Chakra benefiting Renew and Prayer of Healing simultaneous it creates an analog of our two “best” raid healing tools (Renew/PoH for Rejuv/WG). Given that Prayer of Healing has no cooldown and is entirely up front healing it seems to have a definitive edge when it comes down to “heal these people now or they die” effects. Now this analysis I’m going to do to investigate his claims is HIGHLY limited in its focus. These spells are difficult to compare as they function very different from one another. Wild Growth is, of course, a smart heal and will hit whoever is most in need (not necessarily your healing assignment if you have one). PoH heals only one group and only people within range of the initial target but in times of raid wide Decimate effects (as often is the case when looking at burst AoE) you will generally realize a much higher potential for the spell and pull it ahead significantly (HPS, not HPM or HPET).
For these numbers I’m going to leave out a couple of factors so let’s get that out of the way now. I’m not going to factor in mastery to either spell and I’m not going to factor in chakra or additional targets via Tree of Life. I just want to look at core statistics and use raid haste/crit buffs. I have slightly different numbers than TreeCalcs (by Hamlet) generates for the spellpower total I am going to use but he has taken a much more detailed simulation approach where I am just crunching some basic numbers. Please reference TreeCalcs if you have not already it is exceptionally useful.
NAPKIN MATH SECTION: OPTIONAL
Prayer of Healing
So I found a priest willing to give me some numbers in a pinch and here’s what he gave me - @6202 Spellpower his Prayer of Healing was averaging 7450 on himself at a mana cost of 5353
Assuming a situation where all five members of a group are healed for the full amount of PoH the numbers are:
Total healing done: 7450*5 = 37,250
Assuming 25% crit chance, average healing done: 41,906
HPM: 41,906 / 5353 = 7.83
HPS at Cast time of 2.1 seconds: 19,955 (sustainable, no cooldown)
I took off a piece of gear and dropped down to a spellpower of 6175 which was close enough to the priest for the sake of this test. At a mana cost of 4578 here is what Wild Growth healed for:
865, 817, 768, 720, 671, 622, 574, 525
These numbers also show that the decay of Wild Growth is 5.5% of the initial heal per tick (not a percentage of the previous tick).
Total healing done: 5562*6 = 33,372
Assuming 25% crit chance, average healing done: 37,544
HPM: 37,544 / 4578 = 8.20
Average HPS: 37,544 / 7 = 5,364 (not sustainable, 10s cooldown)
Sustained HPS (distributing the healing done over 10 seconds): 3,754
What do these numbers tell us?
First off I know this is a basic overview and there are a lot of other factors to look into. The first of which is probably Chakra as its uptime is more than that of Tree of Life. That being said there are some interesting things to take away from this. At first glance, assuming no special conditions, Wild Growth is the superior spell which is why it has a cooldown. WG is a smart heal meaning it will generally have a higher efficiency, it has a larger area of effect meaning no clustering is required, and it has superior HPM. Given a situation where no player is in a life threatening situation but the raid as a whole needs healing, Wild Growth will always be the more effective and mana efficient heal. The range on Wild Growth also makes it viable in fights where clustering is or is not required.
Efficiency however is not always going to be the limiting factor in a fight. There are times when you are going to need to be inefficient to handle the mechanics of a rather difficult (in this case heroic) encounter. Raid wide (or just a lot of people) “decimates” with other lethal sources of damage floating around is one of them. Having the ability to cast a front loaded multitarget heal (with no cooldown) gives you an edge when it comes to bringing people away from the brink of death. Prayer of Healing serves you well in this role and will come out as the superior tool for the job. Once Wild Growth is on cooldown, and you’ve dropped Efflorescence the only real tool you have to heal ciritcally wounded raiders is Rejuvenation (and Regrowth to some degree) and its slow ticks may not be nearly fast enough. In Wrath of the Lich king you had access to the old version of Nourish which was fast and benefited well from your blanket of Rejuv’s to top people off quickly (you even had glyph’d Healing Touch that some used healing Penetrating Cold during Heroic Anub). Without efficient raid healing tools to use alongside Wild Growth druids are put at a significant disadvantage in these particular situations.
Now you can’t balance these two spells versus each other on a 1:1 basis because PoH has a lot of restrictions on it that can limit its effectiveness significantly. The problem is that when gear improves to the all 359 or 372 ilevel and priests have enough mana and regen to use Prayer of Healing that much more without fear of running out of mana, it will outstrip the advantages of Wild Growth which are Smart Healing and HPM. This is why you might find Wild Growth doing better when raiding normal mode content and most of the healers are still geared in 346 heroic gear.
So what do they do?
Druid’s need more burst AoE healing, though you could argue they need a more defined AoE healing tool set in general. Xaar had a few suggestions that ranged from making WG heal for more and increase its cost accordingly or make Wild Growth significantly more front loaded in its decaying HoT but keep the amount healed the same. These are both pretty solid suggestions but are not without some potential drawbacks. Given that it has its cooldown, it feels like you’d need to increase the healing done and cost of Wild Growth by a sizeable amount to get it to feel as front loaded as you’d like. Frontloading the HoT itself so that most of the healing is done in the first few seconds trivializes its haste break points but that may just need to be an acceptable loss.
One wacky thought that I had was to have Wild Growth last a full ten seconds. Now I’m not saying to drastically increase its healing proportionately. I’d like it to heal for as much as it does now over the first seven seconds but front loaded. Its decay would need to not be linear but slow at first and faster at the end. This would mean the last 4 seconds of the HoT would not heal for very much at all but they would count for Symbiosis. This is a partial improvement to the issue at hand while also boosting our mastery usage.
The second thought I had, though it isn’t new, is to have Efflorescence place a buff on anyone standing inside of it. This wouldn’t be a HoT or have a duration just something that shows up in your buff list while you are being affected by the pool’s healing. Have this buff count as a HoT for the purpose of triggering our mastery and Nourish. This would allow us to benefit more from mastery as well as change the sequence of our AoE heals to boost Wild Growth when clustered up.
The more extreme approach would be to have Wild Growth scale differently with haste. You could possibly have its decay rate change with haste or even have any additional ticks gained through haste follow the first tick of the HoT with zero decay. This would mean you’d get 2, or 3 ticks at full strength before it decays.
I’m sure there are other ideas out there and I’m curious if anyone has given this some thought. The goal of this post was not to complain about the state of druids but more to investigate the claims being made by someone in a high-end guild that are pretty serious. Hopefully blizzard can give some thought to this while they start toying with how to nerf Omen of Clarity. Not doing these heroics myself leaves me at a disadvantage because I’m not feeling this scaling “squeeze” at all right now and I’m sure most of you aren’t as well.