The tier set bonus for Guardian Druid revolves around Barkskin
, it does synergize well with Survival of the Fittest
and Tough as Bark
, both of which reduce the cooldown of Barkskin
by a lot. These will both likely be the go-to choices for most content, however, Earthwarden
is still really strong on certain encounters and in Mythic+.
The set bonus is definitely going to be fantastic for Mythic+ in particular, as one of our core issues this expansion has been snap threat. Adding a Berserk that pulses a decent amount of AoE damage to the start of most pulls and enables us to instantly get 3-4 casts of Thrash
will be a massive quality of life change.
For raids, it will be a small dps increase and some mild survivability bonus in the form of reducing the cooldown of Frenzied Regeneration
more often from the increased Berserk
uptime. There is also some synergy with The Natural Order's Will
and Incarnation: Guardian of Ursoc
for a bit more of a defensive bonus or potentially the use of Legacy of the Sleeper
to immune certain mechanics, but it's unknown if this works yet.
Overall I would say our set bonus is pretty good, especially compared to some of the set bonuses in the past for Guardian Druid being notoriously bad. It should be a great quality of life change for Mythic+ and just some free dps in all content.
As for changes I'd like to see to it, it feels very heavily targeted at Mythic+ issues and is relatively irrelevant for raids, i think to make it more relevant for a raiding perspective you could have it also either reduce the cooldown of Barkskin
While a Tier Set bonus that revolves around Swiftmend
should feel like a natural fit, the current implementation pushes some opposing healing behaviors and further highlights the issues with Swiftmend
since the launch of Shadowlands.
To fully understand the issue, we need to recognize the purpose of Swiftmend
within our toolkit. Restoration Druids primarily heal with HoTs meaning there's almost always an 'over time' factor with few exceptions. Swiftmend
is our best upfront response to single target burst damage, but comes with a few caveats namely a cooldown and the new Shadowlands HoT requirement; otherwise, we're forced to rely on the inferior Regrowth
did get a cooldown reduction from 25s to 15s with the advent of Shadowlands, we also got saddled with Swiftmend
requiring and consuming a major HoT in order to be cast; a mechanic that I would consider outdated and frustrating with very little sense of payoff when executed correctly. Yes, greater access to Swiftmend
was a boon, but the additional requirement doesn't feel rewarding and delays the burst response by an extra-GCD if there's not already one of your main HoTs on the target. Best case scenario, you consume a HoT with only a few seconds of duration remaining. Consuming a full duration HoT feels even worse and heaven forbid we're forced to consume 14s Wild Growth
following a Flourish
. All scenarios feel like a loss it's really just a matter of how big of a loss.
For what should be a fairly straightforward tool with a clear purpose, Swiftmend
becomes further complicated and muddled when you take into account its position as an activator for the Soul of the Forest
. Is it a single target burst response or a key to unlocking further AoE healing potential? Both? Neither? And to think that we haven't even taken into account the set bonus. Fortunately, Soul of the Forest
is a talent that we don't always take, so it's not always an issue; however, the new tier bonus is not something we can opt out of.
Building a Bonus on a Weak Foundation
Suffice to say, Swiftmend
isn't in the best position from a base functionality; it feels punishing and like you're losing value in a lot of scenarios rather than fluid and always rewarding. It's not a great starting point for our tier set bonus, but its the one for the current iteration.
For the 2-set, Renewing Bloom
essentially works in a similar vein as Mastery: Harmony
. However, instead of increasing all healing done to the target based on the number of HoTs, it very specifically only increases the healing of Swiftmend
. At 21% spell power per HoT, the numbers on this one aren't great compared to the base spell power value of Swiftmend
at 345%. While we can hit upwards of 10 HoTs on a single player resulting in 210% additional spell power (or 61% total increase), a HoT count of 3-5 is generally more realistic resulting in a 63-105% additional spell power (or 18-30% total increase).
making up 3-5% of your total healing, an extra 1-2% throughput isn't great. Consider now that in order to maximize the value of the Renewing Bloom
bonus, you'll need to load up the target on HoTs which means that either part of the Swiftmend
or the applied HoTs needed to boost Swiftmend
will be likely going to overhealing. Essentially, the more HoTs you load up on a target, the less likely they'll need a larger Swiftmend
. Additionally, maximizing the bonus further removes Swiftmend
as an answer to single target burst damage on anyone other than a tank because it's very unlikely anyone else will have that many HoTs at any given time.
As for the 4-set, Ephemeral Incarnation
essentially doubles your total Swiftmend
healing by providing 25% of the replicated healing to 4 nearby allies. Though we can't currently test the bonus at the moment, we can make some assumptions that this does include the increased healing from the 2-set and will probably replicate overhealing as well. Nearby typically refers to 8 yards which is pretty restrictive overall but may be larger pending testing. There's currently no indication that the healing is replicated to injured allies only, but I'll keep my fingers crossed that this is the case and that pets are significantly less likely to receive this healing. We'll assume that crit, mastery, and versatility, will only apply to the healing once instead of on both the Swiftmend
and subsequent replication. For crit, will each replication have an independent chance to crit or will it be dependent on the initial Swiftmend
? For mastery, will the additional mastery healing be based on the number HoTs on the initial Swiftmend
target or will the replication mastery healing be recalculated for each target base on their HoT count?
There's still quite a few unknowns regarding implementation but overall this is relatively straightforward bonus and nothing too exciting. The value of the bonus is expected to be at minimum equivalent to your current Swiftmend
healing and potentially higher if you play into the 2-set bonus which typically means relegating Swiftmend
to your tanks. Expect somewhere on the order of 4-7% increase to our overall healing for both the 2-set and 4-set bonuses, but that number will likely fluctuate depending on actual implementation and a few other factors like covenant choice, talents, etc.
Shadowlands System Synergy
Whether intended or not, the tier set bonus doesn't really have any major synergy with existing Shadowlands legendaries. There's no legendary that outright doubles the throughput of the tier set bonus; the closest we come is Verdant Infusion
, allowing Swiftmend
to extend the HoTs on the target by 10s. It won't supercharge the tier set bonus to provide additional throughput, but may make it easier and efficient to maintain HoTs for larger Swiftmend
s. We already use this legendary when healing in Mythic+, but it may be a niche contender for our non-Covenant legendary in raid pending final tuning of the tier set bonus.
For Covenants, Night Fae looks to benefit the most from the tier set bonus but will largely depend on implementation. Specifically, it's the free extra Swiftmend
s from Convoke the Spirits
that could be exceptional here providing additional healing if they're allowed to replicate. However, it remains uncertain if Convoke the Spirits Swiftmend
s can proc the tier set bonus. These Swiftmend
s don't require or consume HoTs to cast but also don't proc the HoT extension of Verdant Infusion
, so it could go either way here. While Necrolord does get an additional HoT with Adaptive Swarm
, you'll only be getting the additional 2-set healing increase to Swiftmend
as the healing bonus from Adaptive Swarm
applies to HoTs only. Kyrian and Venthyr should continue to work as expected, but there is no inherent synergy with the tier set bonus.
The Road Ahead
So where does that leave us in regards to the tier set bonus? From an implementation standpoint, Swiftmend
is undergoing another identity crisis which isn't great for players. Is it supposed to be our big emergency quick heal with minimal setup, an activator to the Soul of the Forest Wild Growth
combo, or a major factor in our AoE healing via the tier set bonus? Each scenario has its own setup and guidelines that don't really work harmoniously together. Does the tier bonus dramatically alter our healing playstyle? I'd argue that it does, but not in a way that feels fluid or without a sense of losing something in the transition.
I'd rather that our tier bonus focus on another aspect of our toolkit, but if this is to be the way forward then the tier bonus will likely live or die by the numbers. And right now those numbers are nothing too crazy.
If we're going to stick with a Swiftmend
-centric tier bonus, then rehabilitating the baseline Swiftmend
should be the first priority. Allow Swiftmend
to be cast on any target so we don't feel punished or delayed with our strong single-target heal. When cast on a target with a HoT, have Swiftmend
consume the HoT at full value to directly improve the throughput of the Swiftmend
. This will remove the HoT-agnostic nature of the spell and hopefully replace the sense of loss with one of incentive.
For the tier bonuses themselves, the replication distance should be larger than 8yds if it's not already. It doesn't have to be across the room, but some leeway is always nice.
While a flat healing increase and instant replication of Swiftmend
is nice and probably more easily balanced, it feels a bit removed from the spec thematically. A scenario where the HoTs are replicated instead at some duration or strength would feel more interactive and a natural part of the spec whose identity is blanketing their allies in healing.