Monday, April 13, 2009


The History of Thorns
Long, long ago, back when I was a tiny level 60 elf running about the newly-minted Arathi Basin healing the Marshal group in its repetitive battles against the Warlords (the pugs usually just fled in terror and gave no real fight), I posted up details of my "PvP healing spec" balance/resto mix to my guild. I had taken the full points in brambles, and commented about how it "tore apart rogues," and then promptly got laughed at by the rogues in the guild who said the damage shield was nothing to them.

To which I replied, sure, per hit it's not much. Thorns wasn't single-handedly slaughtering the rogues on the field, but apparently my rogue guildies could not grasp the concept a healer's dps exaggeration :) Consider how I'm not DPSing, yet can make each member of the horde team take that damage every time they attack anyone in my raid, and the numbers add up to something quite nice for a passive. Consider those moments when it's down to the line, how you're nearly dead but can manage to squeak by to kill your opponent first, or before their buddies do you in, and those thorns sapping away your health could've done enough damage to prevent that victory? If all I was doing was healing, how can such passive damage be laughed at?

Sure, it was tiny then. I laugh myself now when I think back to level 60 thorns damage, in spite of the buff from the Cenarion T1 set and the talent. I remember coming across the giant Anubisath Defenders in AQ40 and wishing MY thorns did over 100 damage per hit! The rogues weren't laughing at THOSE thorns. Some people enjoyed sending thorns requests to my WhisperCast just for the humor of it... [Rygel] whispers: THORNS are painful to sit on! ...but overall, it was a buff overlooked in the grand scheme of things, compared to the powerhouses of Kings, MoTW, AI, and Fort.

As time passed, I never gave up on thorns. Damage increased as levels went by, of course, but it's still pretty minuscule, particularly compared to the amount of health players have now vs back at level 60. Percentage-wise, the damage has increased about 300% base of what it used to be, but health has gone up that same percentage or more as well. 18 damage (38-39 if fully buffed out) to a player of 6k to 8k health is one thing... ~80 damage is a drop in the bucket compared to 20k health and certainly compared to 40k health.

But, I still buff up my tanks with thorns (the ones who don't do it themselves as bears) when I'm not too lazy to shift out of tree form to do it (which is a lot of the time). I still toss them around to my buddies in our rare stints of PvP. I always make sure to do it when we need full buffs, just in case the damage done is necessary for that tiny little extra straw on the scale of survival, or to shorten the fight into the limits of mana. We've seen fights where a simple food buff saved the life of a tank, and thus kept us from a wipe; getting that extra damage in is no different.

Level 80, Pre-3.1

Ret aura Thorns
Base Damage:112 holy73 nature
Talents:Improved Ret Aura
(Sanctified Ret 3.1)
Talented damage:168 holy127.75 nature

Thorns also receives a spellpower buff based on the spellpower of the person it is cast on (pre-3.1 patch). Unfortunately, in PvE, the most useful people to cast thorns on are tanks, and they really don't have much spellpower, unless they're a crazy prot pally still clinging to TBC spellpower-tank ideals (....), so really, the buff is miniscule.

Sample of a no-brambles-talent Thorns damage from a 10-man webstats report, pre-3.1 with target-based spellpower buff:

Prot Pally: 138 damage
Feral Druid: 82 damage
Resto Druid: 202 damage

Ret aura is passive, raid-wide, single-click to cast it on everyone in range, with no duration. Thorns is single-target, actively cast, and only lasts for 10 minutes (excluding yourself if glyphed), and doesn't include any of the additional benefits of ret aura (from paladin talents). I've not complained much on this, as buffs are a tricky situation to balance game design around and our shapeshifts have their own passive auras, but when comparing these damage shields, Thorns is noticeably lackluster. As a radical idea, I do wonder what would happen if thorns was built into the moonkin aura through some kind of major glyph!

I would imagine that it is for this damage difference that the 3.1 thorns buff is going in (or being fixed): that Thorns will now receive an extra damage increase based on the caster's spellpower.

3.1 Change

Those who have tested have found that:
  • +spellpower is now from the buffer, rather than the buffee
  • +spellpower boost does not change after swapping gear (ie to feral kit)
  • Cast by a moonkin with Brambles (and Earth and Moon and full 25-man raid buffs), it was about 500-600 damage: a substantial increase over the base 73.
Well, I think that "tearing apart the rogues" is a bit more realistic with such numbers. The kitty druids will probably be upset about this, too. Either way, I think people are going to be asking for Thorns again.

When buffing, we could increase the damage further by casting it while a +spellpower trinket is procced or popped, and any feral druid may want to consider either swapping to a spellpower offkit when buffing themselves, or asking their tree/turkey buddy to apply it for them. As a note, the damage done by thorns has always been counted as damage done by the person buffed, rather than the person who cast it: as such, all threat (as well as the damage meter numbers, for those concerned) go to the person buffed, and not the caster.

Now, what is the exact percentage of spellpower that adds to the thorns damage? I have seen some quote 13%, but I am concerned that it may be not accounting for Earth and Moon or Stormstrikes, or other raid buffs. So, I took matters into my own paws and let some mobs hit on me!

Spellpower coefficient:

With 1919 spellpower, my thorns hit for 200 damage.
Base thorns damage: 73
200 - 73 = 129 bonus damage from spellpower on the thorns
129 bonus / 1919 = 0.0661 = 6.6%

For sake of comparison, I ran the same calculation on other spellpower amounts + thorns damage numbers, as well as from estimations pulled from WWS reports, and came up with the same percentage.

So, bit 'o theorycrafting, with 6.6% of your spellpower to add to your thorns damage, the above table shows what your thorns damage would be per your spellpower. I added lines to account for additional damage from 3/3 Brambles (+75% damage), and even when you have both 3/3 Brambles and are keeping Earth and Moon active on the target (+13% additional damage). If you are looking to take only 1 or 2 points of brambles, cut the Brambles damage increase (above the base thorns damage) by 50% and 25%, respectively. If my math seems off, please do let me know.

If you have Stormstriking Shammies running about your raid, you will see your thorns get buffed by that, as well, possibly even glyphed.

My remaining questions, however, are:
  • Will it overwrite the thorns buff on a feral druid, even if it has a shorter duration than the feral's own glyphed 50 minute thorns? UPDATE: Yes. The thorns cast by a druid with higher spellpower cannot be overwritten by one of lower spellpower, even if glyphed for the longer duration.

  • Is Brambles worth taking for moonkin for this damage increase over other available talents, taking into consideration the Treant aspect as well?

  • Why is the 50-minute duration of the glyph self-only? Why could it not at least increase the duration of non-self thorns to 30 minutes?

At least the first one will be testable Tuesay night, assuming the servers are stable :)

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