To start this series off, we’ll be looking at Restoration Druids and see how these masters of nature-based healing over time are changing for Shadowlands.
Currently all classes with their updated toolkits are able to be tested, but so much has changed with each healer on a base level and the introduction of covenants adds a completely new twist and set of tools for each class. Moreover, we have still yet to see the full toolkits for healers as soulbinds, conduits, and legendaries have yet to be tested. Additionally, only a limited amount of content is available for testing including the Bastion and Revendreth leveling zones, Torghast, Tower of the Damned, and 3 leveling dungeons (The Necrotic Wake, Halls of Atonement, and Mists of Tirna Scithe). The types of encounters have just as much of an impact on healer balance as the toolkits of the healers themselves.
Although we don’t have the entirety of healing toolkits and Shadowlands content to test, we can and should still offer feedback on the current state of healers on the Alpha. This series will attempt to give a first look at each healer specialization in Shadowlands and hopefully provide early feedback on the current changes including baseline toolkits, covenants, and even the hot topic of abilities that feel lackluster still on the GCD.
Previous articles (ie. Ny’alotha and Eternal Palace) ranked healers according to desirability in previous raid tiers. While those articles were helpful especially for new and returning healers to determine what healers would be in high demand, it’s nearly impossible to determine any sort of ranking or demand this early in development of Shadowlands due to how much is still unknown or in flux regarding healing.
Remember, this is only my opinion on healers so far in Shadowlands and primarily comes from a PvE point of view. Everyone should provide as much constructive feedback as possible. As always, the information presented here is based on the 9.0 Alpha cycle as of this article’s release date and thus will almost certainly be inaccurate when the Shadowlands officially launches. Expect lots of changes to classes, covenants, soulbinds, conduits, legendaries, items, and encounters between now and launch. It should be noted that we’re trying to hit the major changes to each class, yet for the sake of brevity we won’t cover every single spell differential or mana cost reduction. If you’re interested in the entirety of the spell differentials for each class please see the Class Change link listed at the top of the section for each class.
About the Author
|This article is written by Jaydaa a veteran healer and contributing writer to both World of Warcraft content and other Blizzard games content here on Wowhead. I’ve been raiding in WoW for almost 15 years at various levels of progression. I’ve contributed to the theorycrafting of multiple healing classes, notably Mistweaver Monks and Restoration Druids. Find me on Twitter or on the Wowhead Discord username Jaydaa#2814.|
Because we don’t have a lot of Shadowlands content to test, we’ll be primarily be looking at how Restoration Druids have changed since Battle for Azeroth, especially in the stripped down world of healing sans Azerite, Essences, and Corruption. While these systems did improve overall healing throughput, they didn’t grant Restoration Druids brand new playstyles as was the case with other healers. As such, the core Restoration Druid playstyle remains nearly completely intact. If you liked Restoration Druids in Battle for Azeroth, then you’re likely to enjoy them so far in Shadowlands. They don’t really lose anything in the transition and really only gain in the process. Let’s take a look at what’s new and what’s changed so far.
Druid Class Changes
Baseline Toolkit Changes
- New Baseline Restoration Druid Abilities:
NEW Ferocious Bite & NEW Ironfur – These abilities no longer require their respective affinities. Not a huge change as each affinity really helps make the most out of these abilities, but good change.
- NEW Cyclone – Fantastic hard CC ability that was relegated to a PvP talent in prior expansions is back for Shadowlands. Having this to prevent Bolstering on a mob will be exceptional. Welcome back old friend.
- NEW Stampeding Roar – The AoE sprint ability that our Feral and Guardian friends have enjoyed is returning to Restoration Druid. Fantastic utility that I’ll be glad to have back in the Restoration Druid arsenal.
- NEW – A nice quality of life ability returning for Restoration Druids. I’d ideally like to see this expanded to the new Nourish and perhaps some additional perks for using it with Rebirth and Entangling Roots like a Reawakening and Deep Roots effect respectively.
- Shadowlands Leveling Perks for Existing Restoration Druid Abilities
Regrowth Restoration (Level 54): Initial heal has a 40% increased chance for a critical effect if the target is already affected by Regrowth.
Cost changed from 14.0% of base mana to 17.0% of base mana
The flat extra critical strike chance for Regrowth is back but this time with the caveat that the target must already have a Regrowth HoT active. Exceptional for continuous single target healing the same target (ie. M+ and PvP), but lackluster in raid where those situations are found less frequently.
Innervate Restoration (Level 52): If cast on somebody else, you gain the effect at 50% effectiveness.
- Interesting perk that solidifies that the best use of Innervate for overall value to the raid is using it on another healer. More utility for your fellow healers, but not mandatory to be used in that way. See the GCD section below for more thoughts.
Ironbark Restoration (Level 56): and increasing healing from your heal over time effects by 20%
Cooldown changed from 1 min cooldown to 1.5 min cooldown
- Baking in the Ironbark HoT increase baseline to the ability is a nice quality of life change even if it’s at the cost of an increased cooldown. This frees up a dead talent spot and beefs up Restoration Druid’s external defensive CD a bit more. Overall happy with this change.
- Reworked Restoration Druid Abilities
Swiftmend Instantly heals a friendly targetConsumes a Regrowth, Wild Growth, or Rejuvenation effect to instantly heal an ally for (240% of Spell power).
Cost changed from 14.0% of base mana to 8.0% of base mana
Cooldown changed from 25 sec recharge to 15 sec recharge
Swiftmend returns to a version that hasn’t been seen since Cataclysm consuming a HoT effect for a single target bomb of healing. Ideally you’ll want to consume a HoT that is about to expire to minimize the amount of healing lost from consuming the HoT, but the actual healing of Swiftmend will far outweigh the lost HoT healing. Combine this with a reduced mana cost and reduced cooldown and I’m pretty sold on this being a solid change. This also provides the side effect of buffing Soul of the Forest which is a talent that has seen only limited use in PvE.
Overall the base toolkit hasn’t changed a ton. Restoration Druids gained a lot of utility at no cost and that should truly be celebrated. I don’t think any of it is particularly gamebreaking or mandatory, but having more moments when your class and specialization can contribute to the success of your group should be encouraged. Restoration Druids also gain some interesting perks that actually has me excited to level through Shadowlands in order to pick up.
- NEW Heals a friendly target for (135% of Spell power). Receives triple bonus from Mastery: Harmony.
Tier 1 Talent, in place of REMOVED Prosperity
As a replacement for Prosperity I’m willing to give this one a shot, but I’m not completely sold on this one purely from a clarity standpoint. It fills the same design space that Regrowth does but its advantages aren’t super clear cut. It costs roughly the same as Regrowth, but has a longer cast time. Regrowth benefits from subsequent casts on the same target with the new crit perk while Nourish benefits more from mastery and therefore the number of existing HoTs on a target. How much mastery do I need to have and how many HoTs need to be on the target for Nourish to be an improvement over Regrowth? Later on in an expansion when we have a large amount of secondaries this will probably work itself out more simply but the answer will likely be more muddled early on.
- Baking in some additional utility into the affinities is a smart move and makes the choice of which to a pick a bit more meaningful. For Balance Affinity, Restoration Druids have also inherited the Eclipse system for dealing damage. Combine that with the energy regeneration reduction for Feral Affinity and the top affinity for damage for Restoration Druids may be up for grabs.
NEW Abilities associated with your chosen Affinity are substantially empowered for 45 sec.
Feral: Damage of your Feral abilities increased by 30% and critical strikes with attacks that generate a combo point generate an additional combo point.
Balance Affinity – Balance: Damage of your Balance abilities increased by 30% and Starsurge is instant.
Guardian Affinity – Guardian: Bear Form gives an additional 20% Stamina, multiple uses of Ironfur may overlap, and Frenzied Regeneration has 2 charges
Tier 4 Talent , in place of Typhoon
- Finally a talent that treats healer damage as utility and gives Restoration Druids a way to deal more of it if they’re willing to commit significant time to dealing damage. It’s also possible to become significantly more tanky as a Heart of the Wild Guardian Affinity Restoration Druid. Back in Throne of Thunder on Iron Qon our tank died in the last 30s of the fight so our Restoration Druid popped Heart of the Wild and tanked the remainder of the fight. It was one of the most epic boss kills and I live for those moments, so I’m all for any talents that have the chance to make that happen.
- Overgrowth failed to see a lot of play as the spell learned from Conflict and Strife and this iteration in the talent tree does very little to incentivize its use in Shadowlands. While the other talents in this tier boost AoE burst healing and AoE sustained healing, Overgrowth is meant to increase Restoration Druid single target burst healing capabilities. While it does do that to some extent, the costs are just too high. Overgrowth costs more than the Rejuvenation, Lifebloom, 1/6th of a Wild Growth and Regrowth HoT to apply, so you’re really only paying a larger mana cost to apply them all at once. Combine this with a very limiting 1 minute cooldown and the problems with this talent emerge. Reducing the mana cost, reducing the cooldown, or allowing the Overgrowth spell to cast a full Wild Growth and Regrowth would go miles in terms of making this talent more viable in PvE.
Replacing less used talents for something new feels refreshing and honestly I wish it was done more often. While I’m not 100% sold on all of them, I’m willing to give them a shot in the name of change. Initially during the Battle for Azeroth Alpha, Photosynthesis seemed near-useless as most were used to the Germination meta from Legion. Today, Photosynthesis has given rise to one of the most fun versions of Restoration Druid dungeon healing. I’m not sure if Nourish or Overgrowth will do similar things for the spec, but at the very least I’m hoping the new Balance Affinity can topple or at the very least compete with our catweaving overlords. Finally, I’m wildly excited for Heart of the Wild not because I think it really is that game changing of an ability, but because of its placement in the talent tree next to other utility abilities. This damage cooldown is being treated as utility as all healer damage should be treated.
Kindred Spirits – Essentially provides a Beacon to your bonded target for 10s every minute. Largely a single target throughput gain, but there is some interesting choices to be on who you bond with depending on if you want the additional self healing by bonding with a healer, the extra main stat by bonding with a damage dealer, or the extra defensive by bonding with a tank. The tank would be the obvious choice as you want the beacon healing to be largely effective, but there is a choice there. The thought of funneling 50% of a Tranquility through the bond while getting a stacking intellect buff is awesome, but it’s hard to justify in a raid environment where a majority of fights favor AoE throughput.
- Summon Steward – The steward offers some quality of life options like free talent changes or a vendor to sell things, but it essentially boils down to Phial of Serenity, a glorified healthstone for all intents and purposes. The healing will be nice and contribute albeit minimally to throughput, and the bleed and disease dispel for Restoration Druids could come in handy as you can’t normally dispel those; however, the circumstances where the phial will be invaluable will be few and far between compared to other covenant abilities which are more universally valuable.
Ravenous Frenzy – The best parallel to this ability would be The Ever-Rising Tide but with a longer CD. Instead of losing out on mana regen, you’ll lose the effect, become stunned, and take damage if you’re idle for more than 1.5s. At early levels you’re looking at somewhere between 8-10 stacks of the buff for 16-20% haste and healing. The strength of this ability is its versatility; it can be used for improving single target or AoE healing, raid or mythic+. Where it loses a lot of value for me is the 3 minute cooldown, it seems far too long considering we’re used to the 30s cooldown of The Ever-Rising Tide and the other covenant abilities are shorter. Could be an interesting use of supercharging your Incarnation: Tree of Life. Ideally If the penalty for idling stays, I’d like to see a reward for reaching the full duration like a cooldown reduction maybe? Double down on the risk/reward of this one.
- Door of Shadows – Quite possibly the star of the covenant signature abilities, it’s hard to say no to a 35yd teleport with a minute cooldown even if it has a 1.5s cast time. This type of movement is almost universally valuable and it’s hard to think of an occasion where it’d be useless. Full Venthyr dungeon groups can plan skips around this ability. As a Restoration Druid, our mobility is top notch, but I will never so no to more.
Adaptive Swarm – One of the coolest abilities I’ve gotten to play with on Alpha. A ton of thought went into the design of this ability and I absolutely love it. The HoT alone is decently strong by itself and does apply Mastery: Harmony. Now add in the 20% extra HoT healing to the target and you really start cooking. The cooldown is near perfect; short enough that I feel like I’m constantly interacting with the ability both via activation and healing targets with the HoT but also long enough that I don’t feel like it’s a maintenance buff that I’m constantly needing to keep up. You can have multiple copies up at once and if they land on the same target the stacks of remaining jumps just add together so you really only lose out on jumps if there’s no enemies or allies in range.
I do have a few requests to make this already feel good ability even better. First, make the jump range the full 40yds instead of 25 so that I can hit the injured hunter in the middle of nowhere and not be concerned about losing jumps because they’re max range from the boss. Second, make the jumps to allies always target the lowest health ally similarly to Renewing Mist or at least an injured ally to ensure that we can always make use of the HoT. It may already have the second functionality, but was hard to test with limited players. Beyond that I think this is a fantastic ability with an impressive visual.
- Fleshcraft – This extra self survivability will be nice and as an absorb will contribute minimally to overall throughput, but where this one loses me is the 4s channel. Restoration Druids already know how impossible it can sometimes be to find the perfect opportunity to channel a full Tranquility. Adding another long channel to our toolkit is not exactly something we want. I would really like to see the channel time reduced or allowing this ability to channel while moving would go a long way to making this ability more palatable. Even with those changes it’s a bit of a hard sell against the other movement oriented covenant signature abilities.
- Night Fae:
Convoke the Spirits – Possibly one of the most anticipated Restoration Druid abilities because of the sheer AoE burst healing potential, this one has let me down a little in practice. First, the abilities cast seemed to be all over the map. I’m not sure if this is related to the limited number of players I tested this with, but even as Restoration I got a significant number of damaging abilities. The ultimate dream is cast this with like 12 of the 16 abilities being Regrowth and Rejuvenation. I’m not sure if the abilities favoring your current specialization isn’t quite hooked up right or fails once everyone in the party has both HoTs, but something felt off. Second, once the preference is working I’d really wish the preference was on your current shapeshift instead of your specialization. I can definitely imagine times especially in Mythic+ where I’d like to use this more offensively. Next, there’s some issues where Thrash would just not hit if I was standing outside of melee range of the enemy and used Convoke the Spirits. I should haven’t to run into melee to get the full benefits of this ability as a Restoration Druid. Finally, I’m not in love with the 4s channel on this one, especially in its underwhelming current state of power. Restoration Druids already know the frustration of having to find the opportunity to channel Tranquility, so having to channel this as well better be worth the downtime and frustration.
- Soulshape As someone who adored Displacer Beast, it’s nice to see this come back as an option although more watered down. Blinks and teleports are universally valuable and while it might not be the Venthyr ability this is a strong second place option. You likely won’t be coming up with skips for such a limited 10 yard blink, but you get 3 in the 12s duration so you may have some opportunities to blink over some particularly nasty mechanics. Comes with a cosmetic collecting minigame which is fantastic.
We don’t have the full class toolkit yet with soulbinds, conduits, and legendaries still to be released, so it’s hard to make a clear choice right now as to what covenant is the best and for what type of content. However, if I had to pick one now based solely on the information we have on Alpha I think I’d be hardpressed not to pick Venthyr for Restoration Druid. The versatility of the ability for Restoration Druids and Druids in general is just too good. While I absolutely love the Necrolord ability and and the aesthetic of the Night Fae, the Necrolord’s Fleshcraft signature falls a bit short and the Night Fae’s Convoke the Spirits feels a bit lackluster in its current state. For me, the package of versatile ability and top notch signature ability of Venthyr is the strongest selling point for me currently.
Developers moved a fair number of abilities onto the GCD with Battle for Azeroth and players have been passionate about voicing their opposition to this decision ever since. The topic has continually been brought up in interviews and forums reigniting the debate every few months. While some abilities have been improved to empower their activation, many of these GCDs still feel hollow or unimpactful. Typically, this topic is brought up from DPS and Tank players, but there are a significant number of these abilities still impacting healers today.
In BFA, Innervate was placed on the GCD and eventually the duration was increased from 10s to 12s to compensate. However, in order to maximize the benefit of Innervate, a Restoration Druid had to cast it on another player. That other player did not have pay the GCD cost and could therefore get an extra GCD of mana savings compared to the Restoration Druid. They were paying a GCD for someone else to have that fun instead of themselves because it was optimal. Now I won’t be naive in thinking that most Restoration Druids altruistically always gave Innervate to a fellow healer; many would definitely choose to Innervate themselves. Even in that scenario, there was no upfront benefit, a small infusion of mana or something leading to Innervate feeling hollow.
- In Shadowlands with the Innervate leveling perk, the difference between casting it on yourself and another player is even larger. While it’s nice to receive some compensation, I’d really like a world where there was some equality of the effect for both players so the casting Restoration Druid doesn’t feel like their sacrificing part of their throughput. I think it’d be even better if when I cast Innervate on another player, after the effect expired I’d receive all the mana you spent. I would be cheering on my Innervate target so much hoping they burn a ton of mana for both the raid’s benefit and mine.
- Similarly, Boomkins lose a full GCD without any benefit for themselves. Most will still use Innervate, although begrudgingly or once their cooldowns are over which might not be the strategically best time for the healer. There should be no penalty for helping their healer friends; if anything they should be encouraged to do so. However, I’m not sure what kinda benefit upfront or otherwise Innervate could have for Boomkins that wouldn’t then shift using Innervate to being what’s best timing for the Boomkin instead of what is strategically best for the healer as we saw early on with Lively Spirit in Uldir. I honestly think if Boomkin Innervate is to feel good again for both the Boomkin and the healer then removing the GCD cost is necessary in this circumstance.
Before I leave you, I just want to add a few small requests that I’d love to see for Restoration Druids. Most are minor and unimportant, but if there’s ever a time to try for these things then I figure now is my opportunity.
- Customization Options – Seeing other classes that are able to change the color of some of their abilities is awesome. The best we have as Restoration Druids is Glyph of Autumnal Bloom and Glyph of Twilight Bloom which we only see on occasion.
Efflorescence – The updated spell animation from Legion is gorgeous, but I think there could be some options for recoloring this iconic ability without losing clarity. Maybe even covenant themes? A Restoration Druid can dream.
- Treant Form – We don’t really utilize this form all that often and that’s okay, but when I see the cool forms my other Druid friends got in Legion I feel a little bit jealous. If this one could be updated to the modern models we get today I’d be ecstatic. I’d even settle for a permanent Incarnation: Tree of Life form that was purely cosmetic or Ardenweald Treefolk (see below). I just want to be a tree again.
Efflorescence with Balance Affinity – Balance Affinity is huge for cat and bear druids because it allows them to take this low range abilities and make them larger so they can hit more enemies. While I enjoy those extra 5 yds of range from time to time, I think it’d be really cool if Astral Influence made Efflorescence a bit larger too. There always seems to be that one player that is just sitting on the outside of my Efflorescence that Astral Influence could help fit in the ground effect.
That’s a wrap for now for Restoration Druids. I hope you enjoyed the breakdown. More Shadowlands healer breakdowns will be coming very soon so stay tuned to Wowhead.