Rather than digging into Enhancement Shaman talents like I had planned, Blizzard dropped us a Dev Watercooler on healing in Warlords of Draenor, and wow was there a lot of information in there. The backlash was also pretty epic. But why?
The things Blizzard announced break down as follows:
Doubling of health pools and monster damage, but not doubling healer throughput
Toning down absorbs
Making “smart” heals dumber
Reducing the efficiency of AoE heals, either by potency or by cost
Removing the “auto-attack” heals
Increasing base mana regen and reducing scaling
- Adding cast times to the majority of instant heals
That is a lot of changes, and how they interact to create a bigger picture--along with other information Blizzard has already announced--isn’t necessarily obvious. My opinion on most of these changes is largely based on PvE.
Doubling Health Pools and Monster Damage, but Not Healer Throughput
Ignoring the changes with respect to PvP, doubling monster health and player health isn’t really that interesting by itself. Do remember that this is after the squish, so if someone had 15,000 health after the squish, they’ll have 30,000 after the squish and this change.
However, when taken in concert with not doubling healer throughput, it means that we’ll take more heals to get a bar from say, 30% to full. And that’s a good thing: the developers can have more play with incidental damage and don’t need to spike the tank to death. I have logs from our initial attempts at Iron Juggernaut where our tank went from 750k health to dead in 3 seconds. As primary tank healer, when I have lag spikes the tank often dies. We had similar issues on some bosses like Horridon in ToT.
Could we play better? Absolutely. Could the tank have more stamina? Yes please. We were still learning the encounter, but it was supremely frustrating to watch a tank go down in two globals. That’s bordering on Wrath of the Lich King where as a Holy Paladin I would do literally nothing but spam Holy Light on the main tank and hope to whatever deity of the Internet you want to pray to that I wouldn't lag spike while they were main tanking.
A single Divine Light crit hits for 300k+ from my Holy Paladin right now, without Avenging Wrath. Once you include the 25% shield for my Mastery, it comes to 375k of effective healing. Basically, I can do about a third of a tank’s health in one spell. That means to challenge me for spike damage, the tank needs to take more than 33% of his health per cast. That still ignores the tank’s active mitigation, the other healers, and any HoTs (or shields) I may have already rolling on him, so it really ends up being hit for a lot more. Not fun.
Compare that to the first couple tiers of Cataclysm, where it took about four or five boss swings before the tank would be dead. It turns the game from a reflex game to a longer-term thinking game, assuming you cannot ignore mana. It allows tanks (and other players) to sit somewhere between 0% and 100% for longer than a GCD, allowing once again for triage.
Toning Down Absorbs
Similar to above, absorbs are incredibly powerful. Tanks (mostly) die from spike damage, and absorbs smooth that damage out. Absorbs are basically healing damage before it occurs. If you’re Disc, today you still need to be smart about who you’re applying shields to, whereas Paladins just leave them everywhere they touch. But shields are the antithesis of triage healing. They prevent things like HoTs, and direct heals to an extent, from being effective, because the damage never really occurs. Toning down absorbs works in tandem with the previous point to ensure that folks can sit between 0% and 100% for longer than a GCD.
I almost wonder if they should retool Holy Paladin mastery. As much as I love having absorbs, I think they could change our Mastery to something else and still be okay. Perhaps change it to be like Cleave? That’d have issues where it’d be less useful on fights with lots of single target damage, but super powerful on a fight like Thok. Eh, I don’t know. But changing Holy Paladin Mastery would be a good step to reining in Absorbs.
Making “Smart” Heals Dumber
This one is rather interesting, for a couple reasons. The idea is rather than taking player health into account and healing the x targets with the least current health, a smart heal will just choose x targets who are injured any amount.
If you have a Healing Stream Totem and three players, one missing 1,000 health, another missing 5,000 health, and a third missing 15,000 health, today it would always target the one missing 15,000 health. In WoD, it would randomly pick one of those three targets.
The upside, according to Blizzard, is that we will supplement AoE with targeted heals to fill in the gaps. Basically, we cannot rely only on smart heals. Sometimes they’ll pick the right target, sometimes they’ll be useless. For a spell like Holy Radiance or Wild Growth, picking six targets means that you’re pretty likely to at least hit a few people who need the health now, especially if your targets are all at less than 100% health more often. You could still get screwed by bad RNG if Blizzard isn’t careful, though. It’s conceivable that three healers each use an AoE heal, and the one person who’s still at 25% health after the first tick because none of the heals touched him gets nailed and killed the next GCD.
(Edit: See Rohan's and my conversation below. Basically, while I believe having no smart heals means less computational complexity, the bottleneck was and likely still is the number of healing events rather than the complexity of the healing events)
Reducing the Efficiency of AoE Heals, either by Potency or Cost
Hand-in-hand with the previous point, making people choose between single-target or multi-target heals is better than just always spamming your multi-target heals. Right now Holy Paladins basically use Holy Radiance in lieu of single-target heals because it’s not really much less efficient than Divine Light directly on the tank for Holy Power, thanks in part to Beacon of Light’s transfer. This isn’t ideal, because it means we’re making fewer decisions.
Rather, by either reducing the relative power of AoE heals, or making them cost more per point healed, they don’t automatically become our default heal. If they’re just as efficient as our single-target heals, why ever use the single-target? Dragon Soul and Siege of Orgrimmar both devolved into AoE spam-fests for the most part.
Removing the “Auto-Attack” Heals
Holy Light, Heal, Healing Wave, Nourish, etc. All gone. Honestly, they’re pretty well only used in earnest in the very first tier of play, and in the later tiers they’re basically used when we have nothing better to do. Heck, our mana regen currently is such that we can cast them for free. Boring.
In today’s healing climate, they give us a little buffer because if the tank takes a big hit, at least you had a heal already in progress. If players can sit at less than 100% health for an extended period of time, then having a low-cost, low-power heal doesn’t make much sense. Either cast the expensive, fast heal; the slow, big heal; or sit tight and let HoTs do their work.
Hooray, we get a button off our bars!
Increasing Base Mana Regen and Reducing Scaling
Remember Cataclysm? It sucked. Everything was really, really hard to start with. We were constantly running on fumes. Random heroics were a mess because the content was hard and we had to be really judicious with our mana with a bunch of folks who weren't prepared for the difficulty.
Increasing base mana regen allows folks with less gear to actually have some regen to deal with spending mistakes. The healing model in Cataclysm was fun (and largely mirrors the one announced for WoD), but that fun was completely trashed by the fact that the very little content we had at max level had a single difficulty: really hard. Between easier content to start with and the base mana regen increase, it should allow us to ease into the beginning of the expansion rather than struggle.
Remember the end of Cataclysm? The end of Mists? Between spirit and legendaries, everyone has so much mana regen that we can spam our biggest heals with impunity. Go check out Hamlet of EJ’s post on the Mana Economy. It’s extremely eye-opening as to just how crazy mana has gotten, taking into account spirit, cooldowns, trinkets, and the legendary metagem, you’re looking at nearly ~1.9 million effective mana over the course of a 6 minute fight.
With a reduction in mana regen scaling, it means the end of the expansion will look more like the beginning did. We’ll have a bit more mana to play with for more AoE heals, and more emergency throughput heals, but if Blizzard gets it right, we won’t be able to spam AoEs with impunity.
Adding Cast Times to the Majority of Instant Heals
This is the one I’m least convinced of as helping the healing model. Paladins and Shaman in particular already struggle with fights that require high amounts of movement (Tortos can go DIAF, thank you very much), while Druids and Monks can heal while performing backflips. This one seems primarily motivated by PvP (similarily with DPS also having their mobility reduced).
However, this should not reduce our total throughput. Before, you’d hit your instant heal, and have your 1.5 second GCD (reduced by haste). After, you’d hit your 1.5 second cast heal, and the GCD activates at the time the cast it started, so with haste they should end about the same time. Basically, we should be approximately GCD-limited still, rather than cast-limited. Rather, it’s just really annoying that we’re losing most of our instant heals. Well, except for Shaman. They only had Riptide to begin with.
If you were to take the above and compare it to the raiding environment today, you would rightly be severely concerned: this would be a huge nerf. However, keep in mind Blizzard will retune at least Siege of Orgrimmar to take these changes into account (and provide some good testing for the new model to boot), and further raids and dungeons will be designed with these changes in mind. As Lissana of Restokin said, "At some point, it’s like asking if a lime is a nerfed lemon just because its smaller."
Also keep in mind the other thing Blizzard announced: the new progression model. We’ll have normal mode 5-mans for all dungeons at level 100, with both LFR and Heroic 5-mans being valid methods of progression. Heroic 5-mans random queues will also be skill gated behind a Silver in the new Proving Grounds equivalent, so you won’t get thrown into a random group with a bunch of people who are incapable of playing at the skill level required--ignoring the fact that some may just not want to play at that level, but removing trolls from LFD is a different discussion with a different solution. As Ashunera of Wind Lashed said, "Cataclysm healing sucked because it was hard. This has very little to do with the healing style they aimed for."
For the most part, I think the changes are well-thought out and will bring fun back to healing. With enough content that isn’t just plain hard, I think we’ll have a model that gives us more leeway for planning and smart playing at high levels of difficulty, while allowing folks to continue playing without too many changes at the lower levels of difficulty. I’ll leave us with the following from Watcher:
@Asros The goal isn't to make healing harder, actually. I'd say it's to replace testing reaction time with testing decision-making.
— Watcher (@WatcherDev) March 7, 2014
#Expansion, #GoodDesign, #Healing, #WarlordsOfDraenor, #WoW