Does shifting have a place in resto raiding?

Listening to Team Wafflecast last week and then chatting with Deppi (a fellow druid on my server) got me to thinking about forms. Specifically resto druids shifting into forms (other than treeform) and whether that has a place in raiding.

Run Glow, run!

Small context first: I’ve raided as a druid since Molten Core, mostly as resto. I tanked during early BC, so this is the period of the game I know least about as a druid healer. I have druid-healed in a few different guilds, including server-first/hardcore guilds through to guilds that would describe themselves as casual.

So do I use forms in raiding? Well, yes. But are they just a bit of trivial fun? Or has using forms at the right time changed the outcome of a battle?

Some shifty examples

To answer this, I started thinking back to some of the encounters in the game where I’ve shifted. I started listing them, there were… many. So some stand out examples first, then some general classification of the whens and whys.

Molten Core, Baron Geddon

This was my first raid instance, and the first time the raid leader instructed us druids to shift. Pretty much all serious raiding druids back then were resto, but Geddon had a couple of mechanics that meant cat form was useful. Firstly he threw out a mana drain debuff, but it only hit casters, so shifting avoided being debuffed and drained.

Secondly, his Living bomb made escaping from the raid quickly an advantage (go shift/dash!) and in cat form I could avoid taking falling damage once I exploded. Woo!

Ruins of AQ, Ossirian

This was one of those fights we were racing to get server-first, and I remember the randomness and the frustration of it so well. I also remember feeling extremely powerful as a healer, as in travel form druids were the only healer who could stay with the MT and keep him up.

ToC, Faction champs

Aah the Trials. And aaah, the champs.

Apart from the luxury of multiple CCs (cyclones, entangle, natures grasp) the ability to catform/dash out of trouble or more often just bearform/barkskin and kite when focused (which was damned often). I loved this fight, and loved being consistently one of the last men standing when wipe was called. I think everyone else LOATHED the fight with a passion, but I just felt like I had so many tools to throw around with HoTs and dispels one moment, then tanking it up the next.

I think I’ll get some hating for enjoying that. But I’m a bit crazy like that.

Firelands, Ragnaros

The most recent fight that I’ve felt that my forms really made the difference was Ragnaros. When transitioning phases, being able to dash to my position was critical. Also when transitioning between seeds spawns, being able to shift and stampeding roar was incredibly powerful in helping the raid get out of range safely. Not so helpful on heroic Rags, but extremely useful while we were working on normal.

Why shift?

After making a list of the fights where I felt shifting made a difference, I started to pull apart the ‘whys’.

Generally I’ve used forms for (really brief summaries):

  • speed – personal or raid (examples: Ossirian, Buru, Supremus, ToC: worms, Anub Arak, Battle for Mount Hyjal – all of it especially Archimonde, Felmyst, Mimiron, Shannox, Al’Akir, Conclave, Atramedes, Morchok, Aran)
  • taunting (examples: Freya (HM), Sartharion, Beth’tilac)
  • interrupting (examples: Faction champs… I can’t remember many other fights I shifted as resto to interrupt)
  • damage mitigation (examples: ToC champs, Nefarian)
  • kiting (examples: ToC champs, Gluth)
  • falling (examples: Anub’Rekhan, Beth’Tilac, Geddon, Archimonde, Conclave)
  • dps (This is a nonexample… I just wanted to mention that there are basically no examples where I can remember shifting to dps. Sure I used to dps when forced into cat form in the original Nef encounter, but I really don’t remember any fights where I’d go cat form to dps by choice. Just easier to pewpew wrath/moonfire when needed.)

Making this list made me think pretty hard about other opportunities for shifting… and would be interested to hear what other encounters resto druids shift for.

Also – it made me realise that Dragon Soul doesn’t really offer much for shifting. Maybe on heroic it will, we’ve only done Morchock so far – and the speed boost for the phase changes is far from game breaking.

In summary

I love playing a healer with so many tricks. I’ve written before of how much I love having these up my sleeve outside of raids. But in order for those tricks to be useful/powerful in raiding, you need encounters that are designed well to employ them. I don’t want to be forced to spend half the fight in a non healing form, I play resto to heal after all. But I do like a fight where intelligently choosing when to shift gives me access to abilities that help the raid more I would by just healing.

When I look back at the key fights where I shifted, when fluidly flipping in and out of forms meant the make or break of the fight… they were the fights I had the most fun. Those are the fights I remember most vividly. Those were the fights I felt most like a druid.

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7 Responses to Does shifting have a place in resto raiding?

  1. Navimie says:

    OMG how lazy am I Glow! After reading your post I realised I can taunt my OWN web down in Beth. How spazz am I! I admit I do shift a lot for the things you’ve listed: as resto for run speed (eg Atramedes, Hagara), survivability (faction champs in TOC), falling (Archimonde, Geddon) but I don’t think I’ve ever shifted to dps as cat. Great post Glow though :)

    • Glow says:

      Hehe I admit to only recently taunting down in Beth myself. Their spitting does a LOT more damage than if they are hitting me, so even if I’m not going up, I find it helps to taunt down extras if you can. Also depends on who you have downstairs and how busy your tank is currently of course :)

  2. lissanna says:

    My problem with the Cata stuff is specifically about them wanting moonkin & resto druids to do cat DPS. My objection is also to having talents in the talent tree that require us to be in a certain form to be able to use them. The utility stuff for the baseline abilities is all fine.

    • Glow says:

      Heya Lissanna,
      I don’t mind dpsing in fights where I’d otherwise be twiddling my thumbs – I guess that’s what I was getting at in the ‘encounter design’ comment. I can think of a multitude of recent examples (Staghelm, Magmaw, Alys, Morchok, there are others) where there is healing downtime and I currently dps. It would be nice if that was useful dps.

      At the same time I wouldn’t want EVERY fight to demand I dps, nor would I want to have to flip in and out of forms constantly. Being able to weave in moonfire/IS/wrath between heals on heroic Staghelm meant an extra 4-5k dps for our raid (and I strongly believe that helped us get out first kill) but god forbid if I had to shift every time I wanted to do that.

      So I definitely agree that the dps demand is a fine line, but I do like being in forms to use abilities… it’s a balancing act of encounter design, and it’s a subtle thing to maintain a role you enjoy and keep it varied.

  3. Deppi says:

    I am horrified at the idea that I might be expected to do intermittent and even useful kitty dps on boss fights.

    But I do think that changing forms mid fight to bash, dash, and shout is part of the joy of being a druid. Forms are FUN. Yes, Blizz could give me a speed boost CD ability that I could use in NE form and I’d save a click. And an interrupt–etc etc. I’d hate that.

    I get that the really serious druids object to losing those precious few seconds to shift into a form when they’re pushing the envelope on HM kills.

    But for most of us non-leet raiders, that extra click is not going to win or lose a fight, and shifting adds considerably to the fun factor. I love finding boss mechanics that I can utilise a form shift to counter, and I hope there are more in MoP.

    I look cool and FEEL cool when I’m cat dashing. I feel big and tough when I’m in bear. When I’m waving my branches I’m communing with nature to give my team extra healing love. I’m a druid and I’m special! I don’t want to be a dashing, interrupting, shouting NE, how boring is that?

    • Glow says:

      Hi Deppi,
      I’m not horrified by useful dps, but I AM horrified by intermittent dps.. (See my Staghelm in responding to Lissanna)

      I’m going to admit something personal here >.>

      I don’t have many vivid dreams, but the one and only dream I remember having that was WoW related was very early in my druid playtime. I was running through a deep shadowed forest, and I was a midnight blue cat. Then it was bright golden grassland and I shifted… and was a cheetah. I felt the shift in the dream. I was outside of the druid and I was the druid. It was very bizarrely (scarily) real.

      This is giving away way too much and kind of undermines the objectivity of my post. But there’s something about paying a druid that makes the shifting feel integral to the class. When I show people the game, I log on Glow and say “… and this class is the druid, look how cool is this?” and show them the forms. It is cool. Isn’t it?

      Erm, I’ll stop rambling now.

      /hides

  4. WeWhoEat says:

    After playing the imperial operative in SWTOR, I’m enchanted by how much fun hybrid DPS/Healing is. A class who’s gameplay is easily far more fun than anything I’ve seen from any wow class/spec. If we could have access to tank level DPS (via short cooldown instants, dots and healing finishers), and provide interrupts that can mitigate tank damage while at the same time provide a maintenance level of healing I think that would make healing a ton more enjoyable. Encounter switches to a heavy damage mode and we go back to our full healing play style to keep up with that.

    I hope this is what they’re attempting with the monk mist weaver, but I’d cry if they didn’t provide that for the druid since we’ve always had all the tools and its kinda what we’ve been built around.