In Warlords of Draenor, the Druid has nine different Tier sets to choose from. The T21 set is designed for players who like their DPS on the low end and healing focus with a combination of mana regeneration and energy generation.
While the 4pc is likely to influence one of Feral’s key vulnerabilities (burst AOE), it’s also exceedingly (and I hate using this term) cumbersome. The 4pc only interacts with the 2pc, which is a little monotonous. The fact that the set bonus is activated AT THE END of Berserk is the main flaw. Due to Berserk’s duration and the fact that the set bonus is a dot, it’s possible that in AOE scenarios, such as M+, when Berserk has no value, it’s best to /cancelaura the buff to trigger the 4pc, which is counterintuitive and unpleasant to play. Nobody likes to have their cooldown canceled. I believe this is one of the simplest things to fix, but it would be nice if this set was iterated upon to make it more interactive to play with, perhaps something similar to soul cap where it deals damage based on the damage done during Berserk, or just make it trigger at the start of Berserk as a very simple fix.
Due to the early stage of the PTR, we’ll make certain assumptions about the tier set’s strengths:
Based on these estimations, the 4pc is about comparable to 3 Ferocious Bite’s worth of damage (Ferocious Bite being about 254 percent modified by mastery when the class aura is accounted for). Using the other Feral spell coefficients to estimate the value, I’d say it’s roughly 5-6 percent of our total in single target battles, and much more in AOE engagements. Obviously, the 2 percent is tough to account for since it might change greatly (from 0 percent to more depending on the fight length). Historically, I believe this would make the tier set middling in terms of throughput, but it’s still early in the cycle, and it’s possible that we’ll see further adjustment to them.
The Guardian Druid’s tier set bonus centers on Barkskin and Berserk, and it works well with Survival of the Fittest and Tough as Bark, both of which drastically lower Barkskin’s cooldown. Earthwarden is still quite powerful on some encounters and in Mythic+, so they will most likely be the go-to picks for most content.
The set boost will be especially beneficial to Mythic+, since snap threat has been one of our main concerns this expansion. Adding a Berserk at the start of most pulls that pulses a fair amount of AoE damage and allows us to grab 3-4 castings of Thrash quickly would be a huge improvement in quality of life.
For raids, there will provide a little damage boost and a minor survivability boost from the higher Berserk uptime, which will reduce the cooldown of Frenzied Regeneration more often. There’s also some synergy with The Natural Order’s Will and Incarnation: Guardian of Ursoc for a little more of a defensive benefit or perhaps using Legacy of the Sleeper to immunity certain mechanisms, although it’s unclear if this works yet.
Overall, I think our set bonus is very decent, particularly when contrasted to some of the set bonuses for Guardian Druid in the past, which were infamously awful. It should be a significant improvement in Mythic+’s quality of life, with just a little amount of free dps in any content.
As for adjustments I’d want to see, it seems very strongly aimed towards Mythic+ difficulties and is mostly useless for raids; I believe that to make it more relevant for raids, it could either lessen the cooldown of Barkskin or Berserk.
While a Tier Set bonus centered on Swiftmend should seem natural, the present approach encourages certain opposing healing habits and emphasizes Swiftmend’s difficulties since its release in Shadowlands.
Swiftmend of the Shadowlands Until now…
To completely comprehend the problem, we must first identify Swiftmend’s role in our toolset. Via rare exceptions, Restoration Druids heal largely with HoTs, which means there is nearly always a ‘over time’ aspect. Swiftmend is our strongest immediate reaction to single target burst damage, but it comes with a cooldown and the new Shadowlands HoT requirement; otherwise, we’re stuck with the weaker Regrowth.
With the release of Shadowlands, Swiftmend received a cooldown decrease from 25 to 15 seconds, but we were also burdened with Swiftmend needing and consuming a significant HoT in order to be cast; a mechanism that I find archaic and irritating, with little feeling of value when used properly. Yes, having more Swiftmend access was beneficial, but the added requirement doesn’t seem gratifying and delays the burst reaction by an extra-GCD if one of your primary HoTs isn’t already on the target. In the best-case situation, you eat a HoT with just a few seconds left. Consuming a full-duration HoT is much more unpleasant, and god forbid we’re forced to ingest 14s Wild Growth after a Flourish. It’s only a question of how big of a loss each situation feels like.
When you consider Swiftmend’s role as an activator for the Soul of the Forest, what should be a reasonably easy instrument with a clear function becomes even more difficult and confused. Is it a one-target burst reaction or a key to unleashing the full power of AoE healing? Both? Neither? And don’t forget that we haven’t even included in the set bonus. Fortunately, we don’t always choose Soul of the Forest, so it’s not always a problem; but, the new tier benefit is something we can’t avoid.
Creating a Bonus on a Weak Basis
Swiftmend, suffice to say, isn’t in the ideal position from a functionality standpoint; it seems harsh and as if you’re losing value in many instances, rather than seamless and always rewarding. It’s not the best starting place for our tier set bonus, but it’ll do for the time being.
Renewing Bloom follows in the footsteps of Mastery: Harmony for the 2-set. However, rather of boosting all healing done to the target depending on the amount of HoTs, it simply boosts Swiftmend’s healing. The stats on this one aren’t terrific, at 21 percent spell power per HoT, compared to Swiftmend’s basic spell power value of 345 percent. While we can strike up to 10 HoTs on a single player, giving them 210 percent more spell power (or a 61 percent overall gain), a HoT count of 3-5 is more feasible, giving them 63-105 percent greater spell power (or 18-30 percent total increase).
An additional 1-2 percent throughput isn’t fantastic when Swiftmend accounts for 3-5 percent of your overall healing. Consider that in order to optimize the effectiveness of the Renewing Bloom benefit, you’ll need to load up the target with HoTs, which implies that either a portion of the Swiftmend or the applied HoTs required to increase Swiftmend will most likely be used to overheal the target. The more HoTs you stack on a target, the less likely they are to need a greater Swiftmend. Furthermore, maximizing the bonus eliminates Swiftmend as a viable counter to single target burst damage on anybody other than a tank, since it’s very rare that anyone else will have that many HoTs at any one moment.
In terms of the 4-set, Ephemeral Blossom effectively doubles your Swiftmend healing by replicating 25% of the healing to four surrounding allies. Though we are unable to test the benefit at this time, we can assume that it includes the enhanced healing from the 2-set and will likely repeat overhealing as well. Nearby usually refers to an area of 8 yards, which is quite restricted in general but might be bigger awaiting testing. There’s presently no evidence that the healing is limited to wounded friends, but I’m crossing my fingers that this is the case and that pets are much less likely to benefit from it. Crit, mastery, and versatility, we’ll suppose, will only apply to the healing once, rather than on both the Swiftmend and subsequent replications. Will each replication have a chance to crit independently or will it be reliant on the first Swiftmend? Will the replication mastery healing be recalculated for each target depending on their HoT count or will the extra mastery healing be dependent on the amount of HoTs on the first Swiftmend target?
There are still a few unknowns in terms of execution, but this is a rather easy addition with nothing particularly intriguing. The boost should be at least equal to your current Swiftmend healing, and it might be larger if you play into the 2-set bonus, which usually involves relegating Swiftmend to your tanks. For both the 2-set and 4-set bonuses, expect a 4-7 percent boost in total healing, however this amount will likely range based on actual implementation and a few other things like covenant choice, talents, and so on.
Synergy of the Shadowlands System
The tier set bonus has no meaningful synergy with existing Shadowlands legendaries, whether it was intentional or not. The only legendary that comes close to double the throughput of the tier set benefit is Verdant Infusion, which allows Swiftmend to prolong the HoTs on the target by 10 seconds. It won’t increase throughput by supercharging the tier set benefit, but it could make it simpler and more efficient to keep HoTs for bigger Swiftmends. We currently utilize this legendary in Mythic+ for healing, but it might be a candidate for our non-Covenant legendary in raid pending the tier set bonus’s final tweaking.
In terms of Covenants, Night Fae seems to be the most likely to profit from the tier set bonus, although this will mostly rely on how it is implemented. If the free extra Swiftmends from Convoke the Spirits are permitted to multiply, they might be very useful in this situation, delivering additional healing. Convoke the Spirits Swiftmends’ ability to proc the tier set benefit is yet unknown. Swiftmends don’t need or consume HoTs to cast, but they also don’t trigger Verdant Infusion’s HoT extension, so it might go either way. While Adaptive Swarm gives Necrolord an extra HoT, you’ll only gain the additional 2-set healing boost to Swiftmend since the healing benefit from Adaptive Swarm only applies to HoTs. Kyrian and Venthyr should continue to operate as planned, but the tier set bonus has no intrinsic synergy.
The Journey Ahead
So, where does this leave us with the tier set bonus? Swiftmend is going through another identity crisis in terms of execution, which isn’t good for gamers. Is it meant to be a large part in our AoE healing through the tier set bonus, an activator for the Soul of the Forest Wild Growth combination, or a massive emergency rapid heal with minimum setup? Each scenario has its own set of rules and setup that don’t always function well together. Does the tier bonus have a significant impact on our healing strategy? I’d argue that it does, but not in a manner that seems natural or without a feeling of loss in the process.
I’d prefer that our tier bonus be focused on another area of our toolbox, but if this is the path to go, the tier bonus will most certainly be defined by numbers. And, for the time being, such figures aren’t out of the ordinary.
Rehabilitating the basic Swiftmend should be the first task if we’re going to remain with a Swiftmend-centric tier bonus. Allow Swiftmend to be thrown on any target so that our powerful single-target heal isn’t penalised or delayed. Have Swiftmend consume the HoT at full value when cast on a target with a HoT to immediately increase the Swiftmend’s throughput. This will change the spell’s HoT-agnostic character, ideally replacing the sensation of loss with one of motivation.
If it isn’t already, the replication distance for the tier bonuses should be more than 8 yards. It doesn’t have to be across the room, but it’s always great to have some wiggle space.
While a flat healing boost and quick Swiftmend replication is good and probably more readily balanced, it seems thematically disconnected from the spec. A situation in which the HoTs are instead reproduced for a certain length or strength would seem more engaging and like a natural element of the spec whose identity is blanketing their friends in healing would feel more natural.