The PvE Healing Game of 6.0

Over the next month or so, I’ll be making a series of posts about my take on World of Warcraft’s overall gameplay and visual design in many areas, then jumping into where I see the Shaman class as a whole and what I’d do to improve the overall and Shaman gameplay experience and address some of our weaknesses and the game’s weaknesses in 6.0.  While Mists of Pandaria has done a lot of things right, there have also been a few missteps and a few problems that weren’t solved, and there are certainly improvements to make going forward.

What’s wrong with the live healing game?

Over the years, the healing game has made a handful of transformations.  In Classic, healing was a constant battle with your mana bar right through to the end of the expansion, where players eventually learned to use lower spell ranks for higher mana efficiency, and mana potions were chugged on their 2-minute cooldown with no limit to how many could be used in combat.  Wrath of the Lich King featured an extreme in HPS maximization with little regard to mana, and Cataclysm featured the introduction of raid cooldown choreography, where very few raid-wide healing abilities had existed previously.

My take on healing in Mists of Pandaria is that small group content generally feels pretty good.  The normalization of mana pools has succeeded in making healing more bearable early on and toning it down a bit in great gear.  The volume of healing cooldowns available to healers and non healers alike, however, has created a less-than-stellar 25 player raiding experience for healers, where spell selection is very exclusive, and tank damage is pretty trivial as long as the they don’t die in a global cooldown.  So what exactly are the problems, and how do we fix them?

WGSmart Heals: In Classic World of Warcraft, there was a grand total of one spell referred to as a Smart Heal, and it belonged to Shamans.  Chain Heal had a 10-yard jump range and each jump reduced its healing by 50%.  The current version has a 30% reduction per jump and has a 12.5-yard jump range.  Aside from a Shaman set bonus that affected Healing Wave, we did not see another Smart Heal added until Burning Crusade, with Circle of Healing and Prayer of Mending.  Now, every healing class and numerous DPS classes have smart heals, such as Daybreak, Nature’s Vigil, Wild Growth and so on.  I feel these kinds of heals – and a few others types of heals – are problematic in many areas and could use some adjustments and even some removals in a few cases.

BeaconSmart Player Heals: Another type of healing I’ll refer to as “Smart Player Healing” are the kinds of heals that happen automatically, happen when you deal damage, refresh easily, or are so efficient that you’re smart to cast them pretty much on cooldown or keep them refreshed.  These kinds of heals include Beacon of Light, Earth Shield, Ancestral Awakening, Lifebloom, Eminence and Atonement.

Divine StarNon-Healer Healing: More problematic heals are those that can be provided by tanks or damage dealers for little to no cost, or at great effectiveness.  These include Nature’s Vigil, Divine Star, Halo, Healing Rain with Healing Storm glyph, Blood Parasite, and every raid-wide damage reduction or mass healing cooldown provided by damage dealers.

PWSAbsorbs: The last kind of heals that I feel are currently problematic in 5.2 and recent history are absorbs, but this may have already been addressed.  Paladin and Discipline Priest mastery have long been overly powerful, providing the kind of damage prevention that allows groups to tackle content at a far lower gear level than it’s designed for, and hence, you’ve seen the vast majority of high-end progression raids with a healthy number of both since the launch of Cataclysm.  The best kind of healing is healing you don’t have to do.  It’s very easy to “snipe” heals with absorbs, and in today’s encounter design (which seems to be a direct result of class design) with frequent bursts of raid-wide damage, it’s rare for an absorb effect to expire unused.  With recent changes to Discipline and the 5.3 changes to Paladin mastery, this issue is becoming less prevalent, so further changes may be unnecessary.

PoM

On their own, very few of these heals are problematic.  You don’t hear many complaints about healers being weak in 5 player dungeons, every healing spec in WoW has plenty of room to acquire all golds in Challenge Modes.  The problem starts to show up when you have a lot of or all of them, so their negative impact is felt to a much larger degree in 25 player raids than it is in a 5 player dungeon.  The larger the group size, the more healing becomes about mindlessly pressing your most efficient or smartest spell (which are often the same spell) than it does about adjusting to the flow of combat and using a wide selection of spells.  Where a Shaman may frequently make use of Healing Surge in a 10 player raid or a 5 player dungeon, using Healing Surge at all in a 25 man setting isn’t very likely to be the right call – chances are, the player you’d use it on is about to get hit by a handful of smart heals, splash heals, or by some healing cooldown someone happens to be using at that given time, which effectively removes Healing Surge (and even Greater Healing Wave for that matter) from a 25 player Resto Shaman’s repertoire.

Here are two Resto Shaman logs for Heroic Durumu the Forgotten kills for consideration, each being over 9 minutes long – one from a 10 player guild, one from a 25 player guild.  Simply checking their spell selection, you’ll see the 25 player Shaman did not use Healing Surge at all, and the 10 player Shaman used it 35 times.  Their “direct healing” vs. “splash healing” breakdowns are very different as well, the 25 player Shaman received nearly 30% of his healing from Healing Rain, while the 10 player Shaman had roughly 15% from Healing Rain.  The 10 player Shaman also used Greater Healing Wave 42 times, with only 5 for the 25 player healer.

Having more players in a raid group will allow for healers to specialize a lot more, but I feel that the healing situation is not where it should be as long as many 25 player raiding healers are simply ignoring large portions of their healing toolbox, and when many spells are simply “pressed on cooldown” instead of used intelligently (such as Wild Growth and Prayer of Mending).  It’s easy to see why many spells might be ignored with so many smart heals, splash heals, raid cooldowns, and heals from damage dealers getting there faster than players can react.

I’ve made numerous posts over the past several years asking for the impact of and proliferation of “raid cooldowns” to be chilled out.  For 25 player healer spell selection to become more diverse, the sheer number and power of these things needs to be reigned in.  Tank damage in 25 player raids also tends to be very high – it’s nearly impossible to endanger tanks in larger settings without outright killing them in a window of time that is smaller than a player can realistically react.  A large part of this comes from the high volume of “free” healing that hits the tanks, and the ability for many players to throw heals on a tank without sacrificing too much from the raid due to the “free” heals going out everywhere else.

In 5.3, a change has been listed as increasing the number of targets affected by spells such as Tranquility, Divine Hymn and Revival to 12 instead of 5, providing these spells much larger impact in 25 player raiding settings.  I can’t, for the life of me, understand what this change is hoping to accomplish aside from making individual player spell choice even less prevalent in larger settings, and 25 player raid healing being based more on cooldown choreography and mapping instead of healer spell selection outside of “when to  use my cooldowns”.  Healing should never feel like a rotation, but it comes very close to feeling that way in larger raid settings.  It does a lot to take the individual out of the overall experience and make the logistics of 25 player raiding more of a headache than it needs to be.

Chainturnip

Tried to water my turnips, but missed.

What needs to happen?

While a lot of what you might see below will appear as nerfs, player power is relative.  It’s not really a nerf if everyone is getting nerfed, is it?  The examples I use may not be the ones that would ultimately get changed if I had my way, they are merely examples of what might need to happen.  Different spells might need to be adjusted that I haven’t mentioned here.  And don’t worry – your class can be adjusted to perform just fine with changes like these in mind:

  1. Low cost healing abilities need to be removed from damage dealers.  Damage dealers being able to provide meaningful healing in a pinch is not a problem, but providing automatic or low-cost healing through abilities like Nature’s Vigil, Divine Star, Halo or Healing Rain with Healing Storm glyph, or extremely powerful bursts of healing like Ancestral Guidance or Tranquility are far too much.  If a damage dealer is called on to provide healing, it needs to be restricted to self heals or cost the damage dealer the majority of their damage while it’s in effect while providing little more than a healer does outside cooldowns.    In short, Halo and Divine Star should not heal in Shadowform while Nature’s Vigil, Chi Wave, Light’s Hammer and Holy Prism should do damage or healing, not damage and healing.  Maelstrom Weapon should not work with Healing Rain.  Healing Stream Totem should not belong to DPS Shamans.  Ancestral Guidance and Vampiric Embrace should come with a damage penalty.
  2. Most smart heals need to be reduced in overall effectiveness, offset by a much higher cost, or simply be redesigned to be a lot less smart.  Circle of Healing and Wild Growth should affect the 4 closest targets instead of the 4 lowest-health targets as one example – the range on these could remain the same, but their functionality changed to make them less appealing in 25 player raids.  Prayer of Mending could jump only to targets with Weakened Soul or Renew on them.  Daybreak and Lightspring probably don’t need to exist.  Healing Stream Totem feels like a spell with high returns for marginal player input and could instead be changed to be a Restoration-specific self-healing cooldown.  Atonement and Eminence should allow the use of cheaper or instant-cast heals that require player input instead of simply automatically healing those nearby.
  3. The most powerful healing cooldowns should be based on player input.  I feel Ascendance, Incarnation, Archangel, Spirit Shell and Guardian of Ancient Kings are very successful examples of healing cooldowns that separate the great from the average.  On the other hand, Healing Tide, Tranquility, Devotion Aura, Revival and Divine Hymn are far too powerful for the effort they take to use and their true value should not be a raw healing-per-second increase, but rather as a mana-efficient way to get a burst of smart-healing for a dicey situation or a scenario where your spec’s toolbox doesn’t have the frequently-useable tool you need.

What will this accomplish?

Well, I’m not sure.  It’s impossible to know exactly what kinds of trends will emerge if these changes were to take place, but my goals are simple:

  1. Greatly reduce the efficiency of smart and splash heals in large groups, where more eligible targets and more such spells being used dramatically increase their efficiency while having a lesser impact on smaller groups and raids.
  2. Reduce the need for healer cooldown choreography in 25 player raids while increasing the variety of spells used in larger settings and putting more of an emphasis on in-combat performance and overall spell selection.
  3. Allow tanks and tank healers to feel threatened by damage that doesn’t outright kill them in 25 player raids.

I feel the majority of the problems with PvE healing stem from the synergy of these types of spells in larger groups, and that smaller PvE settings feel a lot better and are better at maintaining a need for a wider variety of spell usage.  While I understand the desire for wanting healers to “feel awesome when they press their big buttons”, I’m not sure this is being accomplished by the current model.  I feel awesome when I use Guardian of Ancient Kings well… I don’t feel awesome when I use Healing Tide well.

What do you think?

SoothingMist

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32 responses to “The PvE Healing Game of 6.0

    • It wasn’t nearly as smart as it is now (I believe it used to jump to the nearest injured target instead of the lowest injured target, and there were a lot more situations where it wouldn’t bounce) but it’s been a “smart” heal for as long as I can remember.

  1. I only heal with a Paladin. My impression is the two biggest changes to the toolbox have been spammable tier 13 Radiance and t14 Eternal Flame. Mastery was considered pretty terrible through most of Cataclysm, leading me to believe the bigger issue is smart heals and not absorbs.

    I feel the current implementation of EF is the worst thing to ever happen to Paladins. It made a class focused on direct heals (yes, I consider Beacon a direct heal) another ‘rotation’ healer in 25m raids. EF may not be the root cause, however, because at least I have to decide on the target.

    I can’t consider Beacon a smart heal, or much of a problem, because of how limited Paladins were before it was created. I appreciate recent changes which make me able to contribute to moments of “stack up, big heals” but I’d rather keep Beacon than keep a set of raid healing spells that do the job other classes have been specializing in for much longer.

    On the topic of smart heals, Light of Dawn might be a bigger problem than Radiance or Light’s Hammer. Light of Dawn, like CoH, picks low health targets automatically. Radiance and Light’s Hammer are affected by the AoE cap which makes them, debatably, less powerful in larger raids. Which just means Radiance is spammed more in 25m. Light of Dawn was a huge deal in Cataclysm, but is not a good choice now only because of EF.

    One possible solution: revert Radiance to the t11/12 version with a 1min cooldown and emanating from the Paladin. Maybe scale down EF, or more likely the elimination of Radiance as a spammable Holy Power generator will indirectly nerf EF output appropriately.

    • I actually think beacon is a really interesting spell anytime you use it dynamically, move it around to different targets often. I just don’t think it’s at all interesting when you place it on the tank and forget about it until it expires.

      Perhaps Beacon wouldn’t need to be among changes to rectify the problem I see with tank damage/healing in 25 player raids. Tanks just need to die almost instantly for there to be any threat to them at all, which doesn’t feel good, and a large part of that is just how much “easy” healing they are receiving at any given time allowing them to be topped off almost instantly after taking any damage. All you need to do for evidence of this is check out how many tanks out there are gemming for damage instead of survival (Brewmasters and crit, Paladins and haste), and the reason for that is because they just don’t need a lot of stamina. They are fine as long as they don’t get one-shot.

      I want to solve the “tanks get topped off instantly” problem in 25s. Beacon on its own is fine, I just think the sum of all of the heals in my post add up to be way too much.

      • I do see what you’re saying, but…

        If there’s no “tank” swapping then it’s tough to complain about Beacon not being dynamic. On the other hand, I love placing my Beacon well and the glyph is a great option.

        The issue with 25m, in particular, is so many heals are flying that mild tank damage is nearly ignorable. This includes non-smart heals like Lifebloom stacks, Earth Shield, Beacon, etc. From there, you start to see one healer prioritize the tank – which I prefer to do. When damage gets into the 2-shot range then you need 2 or 3 healers focusing the tank if it needs to be sustained through a whole fight.

        The spell changes from Cataclysm seriously nerfed everyone’s single-target efficiency. We can either heal big or heal quickly. Encounters would have to change significantly to force healers to prefer Haste just so heals could land between boss hits. And even now 6k Haste reduces a Divine Light to just under 1.9 seconds. We are too far gone from the 1s Holy Light spam of Wrath to make that viable in this expansion. Who knows what will happen in 6.0?

      • 1) Halo and Divine Star should not heal in Shadowform
        – This would break Shadow’s ability to survive in PvP and would lower their desirability in RBGs.
        2) Maelstrom Weapon should not work with Healing Rain.
        This would make Enh Shaman even -less- desirable in PvE.
        3) Ancestral Guidance and Vampiric Embrace should come with a damage penalty.
        – Both of which would break the function of the spell and make it much, much weaker. Of the two, VE is already quite weak.
        4) Circle of Healing and Wild Growth should affect the 4 closest targets instead of the 4 lowest-health targets as one example – the range on these could remain the same, but their functionality changed to make them less appealing in 25 player raids.
        – These are already expensive and cooldown-restricted. They are also “signature” spells. What you propose would break Rdruids and Holy Priests, both of which already have a low representation in most hardcore 25 man guilds. I have a feeling Fangthorn would throw the biggest hissy ever seen if he saw this. 😛
        5) Prayer of Mending could jump only to targets with Weakened Soul or Renew on them.
        – You don’t seem to have a clue how Disc Priests and Holy Priests work. If I’m using Prayer of Mending as a Holy Priest, I am in Sanctuary Chakra. If I am in Sanctuary Chakra, my Renew is 25% LESS EFFECTIVE. If I am in Serenity Chakra to use Renew, I am not casting PoM. If I am in Serenity Chakra, my PoM is 25% LESS EFFECTIVE. To restrict PoM to targets that have Weakened Soul for Disc Priests (who do not use Renew anyway) would mean even more bubble spam than we’re already seeing. Both of these would render the spell worthless. It already has a 10 second CD for Disc and Holy, and only Holy can “surpass” that with a Talent. Disc can’t.

        6) Daybreak and Lightspring probably don’t need to exist.
        – Daybreak isn’t smart. Lightspring is only effective when players drop below 50% health and is broken if they take too much damage. Why you would even nerf this spell is beyond me.

        7) Atonement and Eminence should allow the use of cheaper or instant-cast heals that require player input instead of simply automatically healing those nearby.
        – You don’t even seem to understand that if you were to do this, you would break these specs. Monks are -designed- to be able to DPS to heal, or straight heal to heal. The way they work requries Eminence to function as it does. It’s extremely expensive, and has been heavily nerfed in recent patches. Atonement is strong, but is already being nerfed. What’s more, you don’t even seem to consider the fact that Disc Priests use Atonement for lack of -anything else- decent to use in many situations. Single-target healing by Disc Priests is horrendous and nerfing Atonement into the ground would simply leave Disc Priests without a way to function in PvE content.

        • 1) Halo and Divine Star should not heal in Shadowform
          – This would break Shadow’s ability to survive in PvP and would lower their desirability in RBGs.

          “Break” is a strong word, and overused. Larger changes have happened without “breaking” a class or spec in X setting. How did Shadow Priests get on in Cataclysm or before, when neither of these spells existed? The answer to that is just fine. The game’s PvP landscape will be different in the next expansion due to numerous changes to every class, just like this one is different than Cataclysm. You can be designed to work just fine without Halo or Divine Star healing.

          2) Maelstrom Weapon should not work with Healing Rain.
          This would make Enh Shaman even -less- desirable in PvE.

          Enhancement’s healing capabilities are bordering on ludicrous, and they are receiving a substantial buff to it in 5.3. Nearly any raid out there could probably replace half their healers with Enhancement Shamans who know how to use their healing spells and not even notice a difference… except that their healers never go out of mana anymore.

          3) Ancestral Guidance and Vampiric Embrace should come with a damage penalty.
          – Both of which would break the function of the spell and make it much, much weaker. Of the two, VE is already quite weak.

          Then how does Tranquility see effective use from Feral and Balance despite their damage penalty?

          4) Circle of Healing and Wild Growth should affect the 4 closest targets instead of the 4 lowest-health targets as one example – the range on these could remain the same, but their functionality changed to make them less appealing in 25 player raids.
          – These are already expensive and cooldown-restricted. They are also “signature” spells. What you propose would break Rdruids and Holy Priests, both of which already have a low representation in most hardcore 25 man guilds. I have a feeling Fangthorn would throw the biggest hissy ever seen if he saw this. 😛

          I think Fangthorn is intelligent enough to see my overarching point. Just nerfing CoH or WG alone would be silly, these spells on their own aren’t a problem. But combined with the sheer volume of smart/splash/automatic heals in WoW, they are a problem when their effects are combined. These kinds of spells are typically “pressed on cooldown, the end” which isn’t very interesting either.

          5) Prayer of Mending could jump only to targets with Weakened Soul or Renew on them.
          – You don’t seem to have a clue how Disc Priests and Holy Priests work. If I’m using Prayer of Mending as a Holy Priest, I am in Sanctuary Chakra. If I am in Sanctuary Chakra, my Renew is 25% LESS EFFECTIVE. If I am in Serenity Chakra to use Renew, I am not casting PoM. If I am in Serenity Chakra, my PoM is 25% LESS EFFECTIVE. To restrict PoM to targets that have Weakened Soul for Disc Priests (who do not use Renew anyway) would mean even more bubble spam than we’re already seeing. Both of these would render the spell worthless. It already has a 10 second CD for Disc and Holy, and only Holy can “surpass” that with a Talent. Disc can’t.

          I have a clue how they work, but here I’m just throwing an idea out there, not really set on it. My point with PoM and Lightspring is that they automatically heal where it’s needed most without player input. Meaning they are faster than players. Which removes opportunities to use more of your entire toolbox, because a situation that they would be useful in is covered by 150 different types of smart heals and splash heals that don’t require thought. I’m not saying Lightwell on its own needs a nerf. On its own, it obviously doesn’t.

          6) Daybreak and Lightspring probably don’t need to exist.
          – Daybreak isn’t smart. Lightspring is only effective when players drop below 50% health and is broken if they take too much damage. Why you would even nerf this spell is beyond me.

          Never claimed Daybreak was smart. Daybreak also isn’t a problem on its own, which is my point. My point is that there are too many faster-than-players heals flying around that, when combined, remove opportunities to use your entire toolbox instead of just half of it in larger raid settings.

          7) Atonement and Eminence should allow the use of cheaper or instant-cast heals that require player input instead of simply automatically healing those nearby.
          – You don’t even seem to understand that if you were to do this, you would break these specs. Monks are -designed- to be able to DPS to heal, or straight heal to heal. The way they work requries Eminence to function as it does. It’s extremely expensive, and has been heavily nerfed in recent patches. Atonement is strong, but is already being nerfed. What’s more, you don’t even seem to consider the fact that Disc Priests use Atonement for lack of -anything else- decent to use in many situations. Single-target healing by Disc Priests is horrendous and nerfing Atonement into the ground would simply leave Disc Priests without a way to function in PvE content.

          Nah, the idea here isn’t to “nerf Atonement and Eminence into the ground”. The idea is for the healing they provide to be more active and player choice driven and to increase your spell usage instead of being automatic smart healing that works to reduce the number of spells healers use. Think something along the lines of “Blackout Kick reduces the Chi cost of Enveloping Mist by 2” in place of its current effects, or “Smite, Penance and Holy Fire reduce the cast time by 33% and mana cost by 15% of Greater Heal, stacking 3 times”. I don’t want to nerf the overall HPS potential of either Fistweaving or Atonement directly, I simply want to get the “smart” out of them.

  2. I like the direction you’re trying to take things, or at least I agree with your general healing philosophy, but I think you take it too far in a number of cases. Primarily addressing your “What needs to happen?” section:

    1. I passionately agree with the intent here, though to admit, I’m okay with some specs being known to occupy these familiar specializations. For example, Enhancement was well known at the beginning of Cataclysm to be a spec that could provide a consistent blanket of healing. I think that’s unique, acceptable design and I even see it to be no different than the construction of older specs from expansions past whose primary feature was supplying mana. Although, as someone who strongly agrees that cooldowns have skewed the raiding situation, I ultimately agree that there needs to be a noticeable rework.

    2. I get the impression that Vanilla/BC served as a soundboard for the reflection of your design ideas. While I can’t say I agree with the immediate details of how to change it, I agree that there could be modifications. Yet, healing toolkits will eventually evolve again, but I do think Blizzard can reconcile the healing model better with these changes.

    3. Similar to my closing statements for (1), I agree. I do want cooldowns like this to remain, but I’d prefer if they didn’t deliver such beautiful results. I also don’t think everyone needs to have these enormous cooldowns even after a rework.

    Unfortunately your article is somewhat reductive, and that’s often a necessary consequence in these discussions, though I fear it will be interpreted harshly due to this. While I don’t think the healing design today is unworkable, I do agree that 10 man does provide a healing model that pretty closely satisfies what I’m “searching” for. But as a Shaman, I’ve found myself in many of the same scenes in 25 man, so I don’t think it’s as bifurcated as many see it. I probably have Tidal Waves to thank for that. I can’t really stand to play any other healer due to the lack of triage assistance.

    Anyways, I’d say I agree more than disagree. If you had stuck to “principles” more than exact changes, or at least less detailed changes, then I suspect fewer people would become emotionally snagged by it.

  3. It won’t let me reply to your response, so I’m going to have to respond with a new one.

    [i]“Break” is a strong word, and overused. Larger changes have happened without “breaking” a class or spec in X setting. How did Shadow Priests get on in Cataclysm or before, when neither of these spells existed? The answer to that is just fine. The game’s PvP landscape will be different in the next expansion due to numerous changes to every class, just like this one is different than Cataclysm. You can be designed to work just fine without Halo or Divine Star healing.[/i]

    Then they’re going to have to redesign their intention for Shadow Priests, [b]as well as[/b] redesign all of the other classes to match this.

    [i]Enhancement’s healing capabilities are bordering on ludicrous, and they are receiving a substantial buff to it in 5.3. Nearly any raid out there could probably replace half their healers with Enhancement Shamans who know how to use their healing spells and not even notice a difference… except that their healers never go out of mana anymore.[/i]

    Then why isn’t every major guild using multiple Enhancement Shaman?

    [i]Then how does Tranquility see effective use from Feral and Balance despite their damage penalty?[/i]

    It sees basically nothing from Feral (it is terrible even with CDs) and Balance only gets amazing results when they use 10 minutes of CDs together. i.e. they have to pop ANOTHER CD to make it worthwhile.

    [i]I think Fangthorn is intelligent enough to see my overarching point. Just nerfing CoH or WG alone would be silly, these spells on their own aren’t a problem. But combined with the sheer volume of smart/splash/automatic heals in WoW, they are a problem when their effects are combined. These kinds of spells are typically “pressed on cooldown, the end” which isn’t very interesting either.[/i]

    Actually, no they’re not. There are situations where hitting those buttons are actually quite harmful to you (H Consorts comes to mind). Also, CoH is very, very expensive. I can’t even afford to glyph for the extra target because it’s already quite expensive. Holy doesn’t have the mana efficiency that nearly ever other class has, so we have to choose when to use our spells. I think if you actually spoke to a serious Holy Priest doing high-end raiding, they would inform you – as I am – that the decision to use CoH is not automatic. Same with PoH. We can’t afford to spam mindlessly in content that has a high amount of incoming damage.

    I can’t speak to Druids, but I really, really do not think they need another nerf. CoH AND Wildgrowth already have a penchant for hitting pets.

    [i]I have a clue how they work, but here I’m just throwing an idea out there, not really set on it. My point with PoM and Lightspring is that they automatically heal where it’s needed most without player input. Meaning they are faster than players. Which removes opportunities to use more of your entire toolbox, because a situation that they would be useful in is covered by 150 different types of smart heals and splash heals that don’t require thought. I’m not saying Lightwell on its own needs a nerf. On its own, it obviously doesn’t.[/i]

    Really? You mean when they bounce into neverwhere because the person they bounced to/original target is too far from someone else? When they favor pets over raid members?

    I seriously wonder what kind of healers you are healing with that you feel that Prayer of Mending and Lightspring are gimping your ability to do anything. I mean, if you can’t get to a player before Lightspring does, when it only activates at 50% health, I don’t even know what to say. I don’t know how to fix that.

    [i]Never claimed Daybreak was smart. Daybreak also isn’t a problem on its own, which is my point. My point is that there are too many faster-than-players heals flying around that, when combined, remove opportunities to use your entire toolbox instead of just half of it in larger raid settings.[/i]

    Then I suggest you work on your reaction time.

    [i]Nah, the idea here isn’t to “nerf Atonement and Eminence into the ground”. The idea is for the healing they provide to be more active and player choice driven and to increase your spell usage instead of being automatic smart healing that works to reduce the number of spells healers use. Think something along the lines of “Blackout Kick reduces the Chi cost of Enveloping Mist by 2″ in place of its current effects, or “Smite, Penance and Holy Fire reduce the cast time by 33% and mana cost by 15% of Greater Heal, stacking 3 times”. I don’t want to nerf the overall HPS potential of either Fistweaving or Atonement directly, I simply want to get the “smart” out of them.[/i]

    I’m sorry, but I disagree with you on this. Very, very much. This would kill a lot of fun for me. I mean, I get that you want to have the only serious AoE spells in the game, but…lol…I just… I have no desire to be a gimped paladin, and that’s what this would leave my character as.

    • You’re missing my point entirely.

      There is nothing wrong with Mending or Lightspring or Daybreak or CoH or Wild Growth or Nature’s Vigil or Ancestral Guidance or Healing Stream Totem or whatever.

      The problem is Mending + Lightspring + Daybreak + CoH + Wild Growth + Nature’s Vigil + Ancestral Guidance + Healing Stream all put together.

      There is no desire here to nerf Priests or Druids “just because”. I don’t want to see these classes get nerfed, they don’t need it. In the current game, I would agree that Holy Priest and Resto Druid could use a little more reason to be brought, but class balance is not what this is about.

      • I don’t understand how you can even say that when everything you’re talking about is nerfing those classes. If it isn’t about class balance, how the hell is it supposed to work? You can’t just start cutting things willy-nilly because you don’t like them, and to hell with class balance. You have to talk about them both, or everything you are saying is pointless.

      • I’ve talked about “nerfing” smart and splash heals across the board. Not just Priests. Honestly, no exclusions. I’ve talked about “nerfing” them all. But another option would be to simply buff player health and buff all single-target heals and achieve close to the same effect. Would you prefer that? It’s more or less the same thing that I’m after.

      • There’s a balance between the two that hasn’t been met. AoE heals will always have a use – heavy AoE damage periods. Prayer of Healing was used in Classic even though it only healed your own group and wasn’t very efficient.

        If AoE heals are the most efficient way to heal, however, (and it is) the single target spells see very little use unless they generate a resource or buff your AoE healing.

        As I said, smaller group content like 10 player raids are a lot closer to the mark, but still not quite perfect. Pretty much every class uses every healing spell they have situationally there. Not really true in 25s.

        I’ve played a healer (every class except Monk) in every era since World of Warcraft’s original release in 2004.

  4. Stating things such as “x class got along just fine in x expac without this” is a terrible response to a remark. Things in prior expacs were different. Also, your argument is completely 1 sided and there’s two other sides not being addressed. The first being pvp, but the second being challenge modes.

    Most groups that Ive seen get gold were comprised of Dps, no true heals or true tanks. And those groups relied on hybrid spec heals to fill the need. Mind you, this is on Farstriders; not a well or by any means elite progressed server. No one has heroic ToT kills and hardly any have 5.2 heroic clears. Challenge modes aren’t just for those players, and we have some Golds to back that up.

    You have reasonable complaints, and in some cases I can agree. But perhaps a broader view should be considered. Besides, as an Enhance myself, on 2 heal fights I can really play to my strengths by cross healing the tank. And Maelstrom lets me do that, as it always has, as it was intended to do.

    • Stating things such as “x class got along just fine in x expac without this” is a terrible response to a remark. Things in prior expacs were different. Also, your argument is completely 1 sided and there’s two other sides not being addressed. The first being pvp, but the second being challenge modes.

      What’s terrible about it? As I said, the landscape for class balance and combat in all areas changes over time. That means that while any individual change here right now wouldn’t make sense in the current game, if many or most of them went through in a period of significant change (an expansion release) the landscape would change and it would make a lot more sense.

      New expansions tend to bring a lot of mechanics and design philosophies back to the drawing board or scrapped entirely, while new ones are added. The same will be true for the next one, as it has been for the last 4. Hypothetically, if they removed Stormstrike from Enhancement, the spec could be made to work without it, just like Fury Warriors were made to work without Whirlwind on a single target. That’s my point – no single ability in its current form is required for your class to be viable. There are no exceptions to this.

      Most groups that Ive seen get gold were comprised of Dps, no true heals or true tanks. And those groups relied on hybrid spec heals to fill the need. Mind you, this is on Farstriders; not a well or by any means elite progressed server. No one has heroic ToT kills and hardly any have 5.2 heroic clears. Challenge modes aren’t just for those players, and we have some Golds to back that up.

      Challenge mode golds are not that difficult to acquire, and can be done as any spec in the game as long as your group has a balanced composition. The question is do you expect challenge modes to be the reason why they don’t make overarching design philosophy changes to improve the game in far more popular areas? Chances are, they’d be more likely to simply design new challenge modes to take the changes into account, while applying a few numbers tweaks to the old ones if they become unnecessarily difficult, as doing it this way makes more sense. When they revamped Shield Block from Warriors at the end of Burning Crusade, Illidan magically lost his Shear ability which was countered by Shield Block and Holy Shield.

      You also have to think about it this way – one of my suggestions was to make CoH/WG heal the 4 closest players instead of the 4 most injured targets within its range. How much would a change like that affected Challenge Modes? Not at all. How much would it affect 10 player raids? Marginally. How much would it affect 25 player raids? On its own, barely… but combined with a bunch of other similar changes, significantly.

      You have reasonable complaints, and in some cases I can agree. But perhaps a broader view should be considered. Besides, as an Enhance myself, on 2 heal fights I can really play to my strengths by cross healing the tank. And Maelstrom lets me do that, as it always has, as it was intended to do.

      And Enhancement should still have that capability – choosing between a Lightning Bolt and a Healing Surge or Chain Heal is alright, that’s supposed to be a perk of the spec. The issue with Enhancement healing, while present in 10 mans, primarily affects 25 due to Healing Rain being a much more useful spell in that setting, and when combined with Ancestral Guidance causes an absolutely absurd burst of smart healing. A part of my suggested fix would not remove your ability to toss Chain Heals or whatever through the tank – it would be to prevent Healing Rain from working with Healing Storm, which affects smaller groups far less than larger ones.

      • But how do you remove the option? There really is no reasonable way to do such a thing. For example, taking HR off MW means no Enhance ever will take Conductivity. Who would hard cast that in a raid or rbg or arena?

        How do you limit AG? Also, how do you limit it without removing it as a viable option for that class? Are you proposing Enhance get stuck with the Totem instead?

        And speaking of such, what would be your proposed replacement for HST? You want to remove the option, but it would mean no water totem at all. What, maybe bring back Mana totem?

        Your proposals cut off Enhancement at the knees. You agree we should be able to self heal like pros, or even single target, but these proposals remove a lot of our utility as a hybrid spec. Our heals don’t do nearly as much as Resto heals. I don’t even do as much as my Blood tank.

        I just feel as if you’re not considering all points here. I’m trying to include the Pvp aspect of this as well because your proposed changes would mean less opportunities for the spec.

      • What I said was taking Healing Rain off of Healing Storm, not Maelstrom Weapon.

        Conductivity is a generally terrible talent for Enhancement anyway. The only conceivable use for it is soloing group content (like Zandalari Warbringers) where keeping HR down is necessary and all of the Conductivity healing goes to you. It otherwise provides a completely pathetic amount of healing compared to the HR itself. If Conductivity actually provided a meaningful percentage increase to the power of Healing Rain, it might make it slightly more attractive, but the problem with Conductivity isn’t Healing Rain’s power.

        I think the entire healing talent tier needs a major overhaul, and I think that totem schools are pointless beyond being cosmetic. We don’t really need a water totem, or it can be changed into something else.

        You have to keep in mind that spec power is relative. If everyone’s raid healing gets nerfed by the same degree, you’re in the same spot you were before. In fact, the healing we bring might be even more valuable. Where you’d never cast a Healing Surge in PvE, that Healing Surge would all of a sudden be much more useful because the damage and healing model actually supports some single target heals.

        Enhancement heals actually do compete pretty well with Restoration heals in 5.3…. while bringing 90-95% of the DPS of a damage dealer, but the issue is seen primarily in 25 player raids where Healing Rain is far more powerful than it is in 10s, 5s, or PvP, so my point is, again, to reduce the efficiency and effectiveness of smart and splash heals when many healing targets are present. There may be other ways of doing that.

  5. Your post shows why Blizzard needs to get rid of 10 and 25 man raiding and pick 1 intermediate size as the only size for raiding. What you perceive as overpowered or too easy in 10m raiding and want nerfs would make 25m even less accessible and help to further kill off that raid size.

    • Actually, what Ash is saying wouldn’t affect how to heal a larger group at all. If people are all knocked down a rung on the ladder, then they’re alls till at the same rung on the ladder. As of right now, the points are valid; my reasonsing was to understand what a proposed fix for any of those problems/concerns would be.

      I would like to add, Conductivity while terrible (admittedly awful) in pve settings is absolutely terrible, in pvp it has a bit more merit. Flag defense/point defense, it’s much easier to generate healing from Conductivity, also more efficient, than using AG. If I can’t hit a target, especially one that’s moving (and consider all the disengagement abilities and sprints out there, coupled with slows), then AG becomes a wasted talent requiring almost perfect scenarios to maximize it’s efficient healing. Conductivity, or I suppose Totem -bleh-, then become a much more logical choice.

      • Well, I think that most people would agree that Conductivity needs a rework because right now it’s extremely lackluster on that tier.

        For that matter, I think the level 90 talents for Shaman need a rework, but that may be because I am rather frustrated that Priests and Paladins get bona fide healing talents at 90, but Shaman do not.

  6. Really fantastic post.

    I completely agree that there are way too many smart or fire-and-forget healing spells in the game. It makes healing feel less meaningful. As the game evolves healing becomes less about precision and the players making smart decisions and more about everyone (even the non-healers) throwing out any many AoE and smart heals as they can in order to keep the raid alive.

    I’ve been ranting about this issue recently. When looking at why Druids were performing poorly compared to other classes I noticed that the spells that do the majority of healing for most other classes/specs don’t even require the player to pick a target. Cascade, CoD, LoD, HR, HST, IH, Uplift, Atonement, Lightspring, all spells that just need to be used at the right time, rather than at the right time and on the right person (or people). Of course Druids suffer from this too from things like WG and Tranq, but I’m pretty sure we’re the only healer whose #1 spell actually requires us to pick our target (at least in 25s). Something about that seems very wrong.

    I’d love to get rid of or change many of the smart heals currently in the game so that spell selection mattered more and healing was less of an AoE free for all.

    • I’m not sure how much removing/changing smart/splash heals is necessary, only that some measure of it is necessary. Perhaps actual healer heals could be entirely left alone if hybrid heals were substantially reduced. Now I think that hybrid damage dealers should be able to provide meaningful healing at times, but I greatly prefer the Heart of the Wild concept for that purpose over simply giving every hybrid powerful raid cooldowns (this coming from someone who mains a spec with an extremely powerful one). A hybrid, in my opinion, should be capable of transforming into a healer for a short time when the need arises, not providing healing and damage at the same time.

      I imagine if raid CDs and smart/splash heals removed from hybrid DPS/tanks, healing would not be as much of an “AoE free for all”. But it’s hard to really say without seeing it in action.

      At any rate, if Blizzard were to do anything like this, it would basically need to be “disguised” as buffs to non-smart/splash heals rather than nerfs to smart/splash heals.

      Ideally, this is how I feel things should be, but getting there without perceived nerfs is a challenge:

      1 – Single-target heals are the best healing-per-mana spells available by a significant amount, including both the slow-small heal and slow-large heal (Heal, Greater Heal respectively) with Flash Heal being more inefficient for obvious reasons.

      2 – Area heals are generally the highest healing-per-second spells available, but have mana costs that make them a situational choice as opposed to the only way to heal in large groups. They should be lower healing-per-mana than single target heals with their healing-per-second potential being their benefit. This would include smart heals, which would have an increased cost for their increased effectiveness.

      3 – Raid cooldowns belong to healers and only healers. The emphasis should also be put on ones that require skill – Incarnation, Ascendance, Guardian of Ancient Kings etc. as opposed to the most impactful ones being mindless smart-healing like Tranquility and Healing Tide.

      4 – Absorbs are changed to require thought. “Free absorbs” should not exist (Paladin mastery remains the worst offender, Spirit Shell is close. PW:S spamming should be made a little less attractive). Heal-over-times which don’t increase effective health mindlessly like absorbs do should be the stabilization-healing, giving Resto Druids and Holy Priests their jobs back.

      5 – Hybrids can provide some burst or sustained healing depending on spec, Enhancement and Retribution can keep their Chain Heals and Selfless Healer style healing, being significantly lower HPS than a healer but still potentially valuable, Druids can use a Heart of the Wild-like ability to become as competent as a strict healer for a period of time etc. The absurdity of Enhancement doing 150,000 HPS and 200,000 DPS simultaneously with a potential HPS burst with AG above 600,000 HPS really needs to die, even if it’s situational.

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  9. Great read. I agree with a lot of what you said, as a Disc priest I can understand why some people would be upset by things you’ve pointed out (I love the Atonement playstyle and always have even when it wasn’t as powerful / was completely optional). I could see Atonement becoming a cooldown that causes the same abilities to not deal damage but heal for it’s duration and stack AA.

    I really think the raid healing contribution and raid damage mitigation provided by DPS needs to be toned down quite a bit and encounters balanced around that. Things have become quite boring when fights are constant stream of raid damage and cooldown rotation. Sometimes I miss healer specialization (tank, spread, stacked, etc.), I felt it added a lot of depth to compositions and as more healing specs are added into the game I think the necessity to move back towards healer specialization grows stronger.

    I think cooldowns like Tranq, DH, HTT, Revival, etc. could be made a lot more interesting if they were based on location. Tranq / DH around the caster, HTT around the totem, Revival beyond 30y around the caster (reversed stack). Currently these skills involve little to no thought, “people low, press magic massive heal button.” Another alternative is to give these skills additional effects (like Revivals mass cleanse) and make those the focal point of these heals while bringing down the throughput component.

    In regards to absorbs, I’d really like to see a mechanical change done to them. Making absorbs sit at 85% of the targets total health pool and increasing their duration a bit would make them a lot more balanced and prevent their heal sniping. It would build synergy with throughput healers, involve more forethought, and if used improperly you can get wasted absorbs (essentially overhealing).

    If a model like that worked out it could also add more interesting absorb mechanics, like adding in more powerful absorbs but having them sit at a lower health percentage.

    I’d also really like to know what your thoughts are on Blizzard rewarding overhealing. Personally I think Wild Mushrooms, while interesting, are a move in the wrong direction. Similarly with the healer legendary cloak proc although that doesn’t matter much in the long run.

    • Great read. I agree with a lot of what you said, as a Disc priest I can understand why some people would be upset by things you’ve pointed out (I love the Atonement playstyle and always have even when it wasn’t as powerful / was completely optional). I could see Atonement becoming a cooldown that causes the same abilities to not deal damage but heal for it’s duration and stack AA.

      I actually really like Atonement conceptually, healing through dealing damage, I just feel like it’s a contributor to the problem I’m getting at due to being too smart. I also feel other healers should be capable of comparable damage without the healing benefit, but that’s another discussion. It is an example of something I’d be totally cool with leaving untouched if raid cooldowns and smart heals from damage dealers disappeared.

      I think cooldowns like Tranq, DH, HTT, Revival, etc. could be made a lot more interesting if they were based on location.

      Your raid cooldown suggestions would all be interesting. The way I see it, heals should be either efficient single target heals, inefficient AoE heals (high healing per second), or cooldowns (healer only) which combine the efficiency of single target with the throughput of AoE heals but obviously have very low up-time, basically turning them more into mana conservation tools that also stabilize a raid through smart healing, rather than being magical skill-less healing buttons that top your entire raid off. Raid cooldowns should not trump everything else, they would still be very useful without being a strict HPS gain… as long as mana matters.

      I feel a true triage-style healing model wasn’t given a real chance in Cataclysm thanks to raid cooldowns. Subtract raid cooldowns from the equation and the healing model felt great.

      In regards to absorbs, I’d really like to see a mechanical change done to them. Making absorbs sit at 85% of the targets total health pool and increasing their duration a bit would make them a lot more balanced and prevent their heal sniping. It would build synergy with throughput healers, involve more forethought, and if used improperly you can get wasted absorbs (essentially overhealing).

      I also think this is a potentially very interesting idea, and I would love to see how something like this would play out. It may have its own challenges or problems if it were implemented, but that would be hard to predict.

      I’d also really like to know what your thoughts are on Blizzard rewarding overhealing.

      Pretty much everything being done with Druids right now is the wrong thing to do long term. Ysera’s Gift? Bad. Glyph of Efflorescence? Terrible. Mushrooms absorbing overhealing? Horrible. These kinds of changes aren’t good for the healing game.

      I think overhealing should feel like a bad thing when it happens. When you overheal, you should think “Oh crap, I just wasted mana”. HoTs should feel less punishing than a direct heal when they overheal due to their nature, but actually rewarding overhealing is silly (outside of a boss mechanic like Arterial Cut). I imagine that due to the “problem” I’m getting at with the majority of my post, HoTs felt a lot less effective than they have historically, so it seems like it’s their attempt at making them valuable in the current landscape. I just think the current landscape is very polluted and would favor some cleaning up.

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