Friends with Benefits: (Resto) Symbiosis in Raids

So ... now what?

So … now what?

Okay, so maybe I’m a total nerd. Because. To celebrate finally reaching Level 90 on my Restoration Druid, I thought it would be fitting to take a closer look at Symbiosis and how it can be used to maximum benefit in this tier’s raids. Yes, this is as close to drunkenly screeching “WOOOOO!” as I get *adjusts glasses* 😀

Symbiosis absolutely fascinates me. It’s exactly the sort of thing I love about this game – it presents meaningful choices, provides utility, and allows me to be selfless or selfish as I so desire. Nothing makes me happier than using an obscure, neglected, or simply unconventional part of my toolkit to overcome an obstacle in an encounter. So where some players see Symbiosis as a disappointment – because the abilities you get from it don’t have a direct and obvious impact upon your performance in your chosen role – I see Symbiosis as opportunity, variety, utility, and fun.

So how would I use Symbiosis in this current tier of raiding? I’m so glad you asked. As you might guess, I have a lot to say on the topic! For you TL;DR types, I’ve put a summary table at the end, but in typical over-analytical fashion, I’ve got a lot of discussion and reasoning between here and there 🙂

For a quick reference to the abilities that are granted by and to us in Restoration spec, check out the Symbiosis table on my Druid Changes page.

Tank You Very Much!

Early in the expansion, tanks had a monopoly on our Symbiosis for a couple of reasons. Tanks who raided in the first few weeks were undergeared for the available content and needed all the help they could get, and the cooldowns we gave them were very powerful and cheap. As a result, many Druids did not get to experiment with their Symbiosis ability, and felt “locked in” to their raid’s tanks.

To combat this, Symbiosis was changed to provide tanks with the same spells that their DPS counterparts received. This then felt too weak, so in 5.1 Symbiosis was changed yet again to provide tanks with tanky cooldowns, but with a twist: the abilities now have a meaningful resource cost and are less powerful. The Druid is now presented with a real choice between offering a tank an additional cooldown, or using Symbiosis for one of its other utility functions.

That being said, not all tank cooldowns were created equal. If you are going to provide a tank with a cooldown, you’ll want to consider the encounter mechanics as well as the tank’s own abilities that compete for the resource cost of their Symbiosis spell. Obviously most Druids do not have the luxury of having all four non-Druid tank classes available to them in their raid, but hopefully this information will help you decide between the tanks in your raid group.

blood dkBlood Death Knight: Might of Ursoc is an excellent cooldown and, in almost every situation, you should choose the DK over any other tank in your raid. The cost is low – 30 Runic Power – and DKs do not use their Runic Power directly for their active mitigation. (Spending Runic Power on certain abilities does contribute to Rune regeneration via Talents, which in turn can be spent on Death Strike, creating Blood Shields, but we’re getting far, far down the tank-theory-rabbit-hole here.) This ability can also be combined with Vampiric Blood and Death Pact to provide the DK with a very large emergency self-heal, and assists the DK in magic-heavy encounters where Blood Shield can otherwise fail.

Exception: Might of Ursoc is not very useful for the Gara’jal the Spiritbinder encounter, since it does not actively help reduce Voo-Doo Doll damage.

brewmaster monkBrewmaster Monk: Survival Instincts is situationally useful, particularly in fights where most of the damage is magical. The ability costs 2 Chi, and thus competes with the Monk’s own Blackout Kick for resources. Since Blackout Kick provides a buff to Parry as well as increasing the amount of damage that the Monk can Stagger, it is far superior to Survival Instincts for mitigating melee/physical attacks. However, Stagger and Parry do not mitigate magical damage, and this is where Survival Instincts can be useful.

This would be an excellent addition to the Monk toolkit for Lei Shi and Gara’jal the Spiritbinder (the Monk could use Blackout Kick between Shadowy Attack, and use Survival Instincts to mitigate the Shadowy Attack; with a 3-minute cooldown, this can be used once every time the Monk is afflicted by Voo-Doo Doll).

prot paladinProtection Paladin: Barkskin is, again, situationally useful, for the same reasons as the Monk ability. The competing active mitigation ability, Shield of the Righteous, does not mitigate magic damage, so Barkskin would be a competitive use of Holy Power in low-physical, high-magical damage encounters. It is a very weak cooldown, but can be paired with Divine Protection for a total of 50% magical damage reduction every minute – which may be useful for Titan Spark soaking in Heroic Will, or Total Annihilation soaking in Heroic Elegon – or decoupled from other cooldowns to help the Paladin smooth out spiky damage.

prot warriorProtection Warrior: Savage Defense is, unfortunately, a very disappointing cooldown. At a cost of 60 Rage, it is simply too expensive to be an option, and it provides less mitigation than the Warrior’s other Rage-spending mitigation abilities, Shield Block (which enables Critical Blocking and mitigates every single melee attack during its uptime) and Shield Barrier. Unless your raid’s tanks are all Warriors – and even then – I would not consider granting Symbiosis to a Warrior tank, since it is likely to go unused.

Neither Peace Nor Tranquility

Just Say No

Just Say No

Giving Shadow Priests Tranquility sounds great in theory – another raid cooldown to get through those hairy-scary moments – but the Tranq they get is actually pretty terrible. Assuming a Shadow Priest with 20,000 Spell Power, their Tranq would heal the raid for a maximum of 172k. To put that into perspective, that’s 16% of what your Tranquility would heal for with the same Spell Power.

For even more perspective, in my guild’s most recent progression kill, one of our Shadow Priests healed for 2.8 million with his Vampiric Embrace ability. Tranquility would be useable only once during this encounter, and would have done less than 10% of what his Vampiric Embrace did, and would have been about 4.5% of his total healing done. It is basically a waste of time to use it.

I’m going to go ahead and say it: If your raid is failing an encounter by 172k healing, don’t burden the Shadow Priest with an additional button that’s just going to make the fight last longer. Maybe it’s time for you to use Wild Mushrooms 😀

Specific Encounter Recommendations: Mogu’shan Vaults

stone guardStone Guard: If your tanks are having trouble surviving the Rend Flesh ability – it hits really hard, even on Normal mode, but especially on Heroic – give them Symbiosis. However, the Protection Warrior cooldown is terrible, since Rend Flesh is refreshed with every melee attack the Quilen do, so dodge is rather useless.

If your tanks are fine, giving Symbiosis to a Hunter will allow you to pop Cobalt Mines, and on Heroic, they will be able to use Dash to light up Energized Tiles more quickly.

feng the accursedFeng the Accursed: If you have a Mage, Ice Block is an excellent ability for this fight. You can use it to remove an Arcane Resonance debuff, cutting down significantly on the damage dealt to you during a coinciding Arcane Velocity, or you can use it to save yourself if things get out of control.

If you are assigned to soaking Lightning Fists so that your tanks can use Shroud of Reversal on it, do NOT use Icebound Fortitude, as preventing the stun will prevent the Shroud of Reversal from functioning properly. Take the Monk’s Fortifying Brew or Ice Block instead.

gara'jal the spiritbinderGara’jal the Spiritbinder: If you have a Warrior, Monk, or Paladin tank, the CD you give them is excellent and will assist in mitigating the Shadowy Attack damage on the Voo-Doo Dolled targets. It’s not so compelling for Death Knight tanks, but they can use your Might of Ursoc in the Spirit Realm, in conjunction with Vampiric Blood and Death Pact, to get a quick, strong heal that will give them some Spiritual Innervation stacks and make their task of killing the Severer(s) of Souls a little easier. There are not a lot of other options here, since Ice Block and Deterrence prevent you from healing.

spirit kingsSpirit Kings: Getting another Stampeding Roar by granting Symbiosis to a DPS Warrior may help your raid survive the overlapping Annihilate/Flanking Orders events on Heroic mode.

If you are struggling with interrupts on Zian during the Subetai/Zian overlap, you could consider giving Solar Beam to a DPS shaman. If your tanks cannot survive Meng’s damage, you could consider giving them an additional mitigation CD. And, especially for Normal mode where these mechanics are less threatening, there’s always Ice Block for removing Pinning Arrow!

elegonElegon: For Heroic mode, Ice Block or Icebound Fortitude could help for soaking Total Annihilation. On Normal, personal damage reduction CDs can be useful to help you stay alive during the final phase or if you are getting attacked by Cosmic Sparks.

will of the emperorWill of the Emperor: For Normal mode, damage reduction CDs – such as Icebound Fortitude from Death Knights, or Fortifying Brew from Monks – to pop during Titan Gas are helpful.

On Heroic, getting Deterrence from a Hunter and giving them Dash is an excellent trade-off. This allows the Hunter to more effectively soak a messy Titan Spark spawn and also means you can soak a set of Titan Sparks as a back-up option for when your Hunter’s Deterrence is on CD. Other strong options if you have no Hunter are tank CDs – because when the bosses actually attack the tanks, they hit hard (especially if your tanks tend to get hit by Devastating Arcs occasionally and take an armor debuff).

Specific Encounter Recommendations: Heart of Fear

imperial vizier zor'lokImperial Vizier Zor’lok: Take a damage reduction CD from a Monk or Death Knight to help you survive the dangerous portions of the fight – Force and Verve and being attacked by Converted players – if you are having difficulty staying alive. You could consider giving a DPS Warrior Stampeding Shout, to help your group move more rapidly from one platform to the next in phase 1, but if you choose this option you must make sure to keep your Intimidating Roar on CD during the Convert platform and for all of phase 3, so you don’t end up fearing your raid if you get Converted!

On Heroic mode, fewer people can stand under each Noise Cancelling Zone, which means that a few of your players will have to stand out and take the entire Force and Verve damage, or more likely, you’ll have to rotate players with strong personal cooldowns in and out of the Zones. If you do not have enough soakers, you could take Ice Block and soak a Force and Verve; the duration of Ice Block matches that of Force and Verve exactly. This is risky because you won’t be able to heal during this time, but you can always use your cooldowns after the Force and Verve is over to get the raid back up, or lean on your other healer(s) briefly 🙂

blade lord ta'yakBlade Lord Ta’yak: Taking Spiritwalker’s Grace from a Shaman will help a lot for the healing on the most dangerous parts of the fight – the tornado corridor running. Pop Spiritwalker’s Grace, pop Tranquility, and run!

If you don’t have a Shaman, then grab a damage reduction CD from a Monk or Death Knight to help you stay alive during the tornado corridor.

For Heroic mode, you could also take Ice Block to remove Wind Step, or give a DPS Warrior Stampeding Shout to help escape Tempest Blades or speed up the tornado corridor run by chaining it with your own Stampeding Roar.

garalonGaralon: Grab a damage reduction cooldown from a Monk or Death Knight to help survive the Pheromones/Crush damage. Icebound Fortitude isn’t going to help you avoid the Crush knock-down ability, but Ice Block from a Mage could potentially allow you to ignore it. If you are kiting the Pheromones and find yourself getting hit occasionally by Furious Swipe, take Deterrence from a Hunter, and pop that whenever you are in danger of taking Swipe damage.

wind lord mel'jarrakWind Lord Mel’jarrak: If your group is having trouble with preventing the Zan’thik Battle-Menders from casting their Mending spell and healing the boss, consider granting Solar Beam to a DPS Shaman. This can be especially useful if one Battle-Mender’s assigned interrupter is trapped inside an Amber Trap.

Otherwise, Ice Block is great for removing Amber Trap. While Ice Block and Deterrence can both help you survive Rain of Blades, you cannot heal under these effects, so they are not ideal for that mechanic.

amber-shaper un'sokAmber-Shaper Un’sok: The only clever use I can think of here is taking Ice Block to get rid of Parasitic Growth if you’re unlucky enough to be afflicted by it. If you have plenty of cooldowns in your raid, such as Hand of Sacrifice/Purity and Pain Suppression, then you may not need to avoid Parasitic Growth and could instead take a damage reduction CD from Monks or Death Knights to help survive the final phase’s damage.

On Heroic, taking Leap of Faith could help with the Amber Globules in the final phase (run out of the raid with yours, and Leap of Faith the other player with Amber Beacon to you), but the idea here is for the boss to die well before you have to deal with this mechanic, so it’s not a very compelling use.

grand empress shek'zeerGrand Empress Shek’zeer: Once again, a damage reduction cooldown from Monks or Death Knights will be invaluable here for surviving the high damage phases (Sonic Discharge and Calamity in particular), or for popping right as you step into a Dissonance Field with Cry of Terror. You could take Ice Block for similar reasons. If you have trouble with the adds in phase 2 attacking you from healing aggro, you could consider taking Evasion from a Rogue, and using it at the start of the adds phase.

Specific Encounter Recommendations: Terrace of Endless Spring

protectors of the endlessProtectors of the Endless: On either difficulty, Icebound Fortitude is the best choice; you can use it to prevent the Lightning Prison from stunning you, and can use it again in the end when damage ramps up from Sha Corruption.

Alternatively, Ice Block can be used for the Lightning Prison. Solar Beam for a DPS Shaman could assist in interrupting Elder Regail and forcing him to move if he is casting in a pool of Cleansing Waters.

tsulongTsulong: If you have a Warlock, give them Rejuvenation. They can pop this on Tsulong each time they are affected by the Sun Breath, and for a single GCD it will do a remarkable amount of healing. At a conservative estimate of 20,000 spellpower, your Warlock’s Rejuvenation will heal for 362k; this isn’t encounter-breaking, but it is the most help your Symbiosis can provide.

If you don’t have a Warlock, you can try giving Healing Touch to a Mage, but this will take longer than a single GCD to cast (2.5-second base cast time) and deal only 344k healing.

lei shiLei Shi: Spiritwalker’s Grace will allow you to effortlessly use Tranquility during Get Away!, whilst running against the wind and taking less damage.

If you don’t have a Shaman, you could give Symbiosis to a Warrior (ideally DPS, he can use Stampeding Shout during Get Away!) so that you can use Intimidating Roar on the Animated Protectors, or you could give a healing Priest Cyclone to assist with adds management.

The Monk, Paladin, and Death Knight tank abilities are useful here for mitigating Lei Shi’s damage, while the Warrior tank CD is not useful, since Lei Shi does not melee, but casts spells.

sha of fearSha of Fear: For Normal mode, take Deterrence from a Hunter, and use it on the Outer Shrines to collect Sha Globes while the crossbowman is using his Death Blossom ability. If you do not have a Hunter, or don’t wish to use Deterrence because it prevents you from healing, you could take damage reduction CDs to mitigate damage on the Outer Shrines and at the end of the fight where Terror Spawns are out of control, or you could use Ice Block to break Fear effects.

On Heroic mode, you will probably need to give one of your tanks an additional CD; the Warrior CD is very strong here, with the Paladin and Death Knight CDs being least impressive.

Specific Encounter Recommendations: Summary Table

Recommended Symbiosis Usage for Tier 14 Raids
Encounter Target Desired Ability Recommended Use
Stone Guard N: Hunter Deterrence Popping Cobalt Mines
H: Non-Warrior Tank Mitigation CD Mitigating Rend Flesh damage
Feng Mage Ice Block Removing Arcane Resonance
Gara’jal Tank Mitigation CD Mitigating Voo-Doo Doll damage
Spirit Kings Mage Ice Block Removing Pinning Arrow
Elegon N: Monk Fortifying Brew Survival in phase 3
H: Mage Ice Block Soaking Total Annihilation
Will of the Emperor N: Monk Fortifying Brew Survival during Titan Gas
H: Hunter Deterrence Soaking Titan Sparks
Vizier Zor’lok N: DPS Warrior Stampeding Shout Movement between platforms in phase 1
H: Mage Ice Block Soaking Force and Verve
Blade Lord Shaman Spiritwalker’s Grace Tranquility while dodging tornadoes in phase 2
Garalon Death Knight Icebound Fortitude Mitigating Pheromone damage and Crush stun
Wind Lord Shaman Solar Beam Interrupting the Zar’thik Battle-Menders’ Mending spell
Amber-Shaper Mage Ice Block Removing Parasitic Growth debuff
Empress Mage Ice Block Avoiding Sonic Discharge damage; removing Visions of Demise
Protectors Death Knight Icebound Fortitude Breaking out of Lightning Prison
Tsulong Warlock Rejuvenation Healing Tsulong during Bathed in Light in Day Phase
Lei Shi Shaman Spiritwalker’s Grace Channeling Tranquility during Get Away!
Sha of Fear N: Hunter Deterrence Collecting Sha Globes during Death Blossom
H: Tank Mitigation CD Mitigating Dread Thrash damage

What Do You Think?

Do you have any novel uses of Symbiosis that have helped your raid through a tough encounter? Or even something that is just fun, or makes encounters more enjoyable for you? Let me know!

I recommend this a lot for specific encounter mechanics, but honestly, I just like the look of a tree in an ice cube :3

I recommend this a lot for specific encounter mechanics, but honestly, I just like the look of a tree in an ice cube :3

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About Dedralie

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4 Responses to Friends with Benefits: (Resto) Symbiosis in Raids

  1. Great post! Minor correction about Blood DKs: IBF, for Blood, doesn’t even cost Runic Power.

    One could somewhat argue that Rune Striking indirectly contributes to mitigation by proccing Rune Regen talents which in turn fuel Death Strike, but it would definitely be a no brainer when compared to a cooldown as powerful as Might of Ursoc in most situations.

    • Dedralie says:

      For serious? IBF is free for blood DKs? Oh man, I am gonna fire my DK fact-checker. 🙂

      Thanks for the correction, I will fix that up. And yeah, I thought about the whole Rune Strike -> Rune Regen -> Death Strike thing and discussing it, but then I realised that I am not a tank, and I am not a Death Knight, and this post was already long enough without me venturing into areas entirely unknown to me 😉

  2. Rayze says:

    Very nice post.

    I’d say that in encounters where using Tranquility might put you in a dangerous situation due to the channeled nature of the spell, it is always worth it to grab Spiritwalker’s Grace from a Shaman and pop it before tranq’ing, rather thank risking to lose the Tranq mid-cast. I am thinking Tsulong (nightmares) or Stone Guards (mines, chains spawning on you).

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