Since reading the revealed healing changes here, there has been a thrum of excitement from the healing community on Twitter and in game. The changes make me extremely happy, but have been met with mixed responses - understandably. In my opinion these changes are needed desperately; read on to find out why.
Going back a step
'If your allies spend more time between 0% and 100%, then it won't usually be overhealing.' - Celestalon
I hear many people talking about the healing changes being reminiscent of how it was back in Cataclysm, this inherently requires me to look back into Cata healing and pick apart what was good and what was bad. The first question I have to ask is this: Is taking a step back a good thing?
Having not played during Cataclysm I had to trawl forums, ask people in my guild and on Twitter, the answer was a resounding one. It was better than the frankly sorry state it is in now even with the downsides; going out of mana (OOM) very easily if you do not take care and use efficient heals, and the fact that healing potency was far lower than it was now, to the point that poor old druids were pretty much useless until the very end of the expansion where they got a buff... when it was too late.
Cata VS MoP
So what where the upsides to Cata healing compared to MoP?
- Challenging - Healing did not revolve one shot mechanics as it does now, meaning that many people will be hovering around the 50% - 90% and you have to make informed decisions on who you need to heal and what spells you need to cast to achieve that goal.
- Fun - Everyone I speak to says that Cata healing was fun, compared to MoP at least. mostly because it was not based on race healing and keeping people at 100% at all times, even if you have to spam and over-heal to achieve it.
- Skill stands out/easily noticeable - Good healing does not stand out very plainly at the moment mostly because you can spam heal like crazy to keep people alive and get away with it. 'Good' healers are fairly common, where as back then good healers stood out, were cherished and sought after. This is because being bad was apparent very quickly due to OOM-ing, not using CC and other helpful spells, not to mention the main thing, people dying.
- Meaningful spell choices - Healing used to involve informed decisions; is healing that tank from 40% an emergency or can I use cheaper and slower casted spells that cost less mana? As I have said before and will probably say many times during this blog, the current model is spam happy.
- Slower paced - Healing back then the heals bars dropped slower and in smaller chunks. This gives healers a time to actually think a strategy through and carry it out, rather than the current model of 'OMG THE HUNTER DROPPED TO 30% HP IN ONE HIT, SPAM EVERYTHING I HAVE TO GET HIM FULL HP NAOWWW!!!'. And then the hunter dies anyway because he got RNG'd by some rubbish boss mechanic before you had time to cast your heal...
- More intelligence required - Healers had to know their class more in depth, you had to know how to be 100% mana efficient, any waste potentially could cost lives eventually when you OOM. Now... just no. I would bet money I could heal a flex mode by using just one skill alone!
- Absorbs were not crucial - If you have read my previous blog posts you know how I feel about absorbs currently *eye twitch*. Back then they did not rule healing, they facilitated it.
- Healing was far less potent - Nowadays you can instant heal a player from 20% to full hp. That has lead to stressful boss mechanics that currently make healing a bad experience, my current motto is 'You wont die if you don't get one shot' and this is 90% true for our raid group.
If any of my thoughts on cata healing are wrong, I apologize. Feel free to correct me, I don't bite!
Back to the Future
So after making a distinction between MoP and Cata are you exited? You should be!
''One of our goals for healing in Warlords of Draenor is to tone down the raw throughput of healers relative to the size of player health pools...Ideally, we want players to spend some time below full health without having healers feel like the players they’re responsible for are in danger of dying at any moment. We also think that healer gameplay would be more varied, interesting, and skillful if your allies spent more time between 0% and 100%, rather than just getting damaged quickly to low health, forcing the healer to then scramble to get them back to 100% as quickly as possible.''
This in my mind is first and foremost on the fapping list. No more feeling like the wipe was your fault because you didn't heal someone in 0.2 seconds of them being hit for 60% of their HP. No more feeling useless when a mechanic makes it almost mandatory to have absorb healers. The current healing model is very stressful, because people will die through no fault of your own, and quite often no fault of theirs, feeling the disappointment of a wipe just because boss mechanics can one shot your raid members is very disheartening. My current raid group have HC Iron Jugs on farm, but the boss still wipes us frequently due to laser/ricochet/cannon combinations, which cannot be helped most of the time.
''To that end, we’re buffing heals less than we’re increasing creature damage. Heals will be deliberately less potent compared to health pools than before the item squish. Additionally, as gear improves, the scaling rates of health and healing will now be very similar, so the relative power of any given healing spell shouldn’t climb so much over the course of this expansion. For those concerned about what this means for raiding, don’t worry—we’re taking all of these changes into account when designing Raid content for Warlords of Draenor.''
It is undeniable that Blizz are very keen to mix things up drastically in regards to the healing model, as proven evident in the aforementioned statement. Although it worries me ever so slightly that they are increasing creature damage at the same time as nerfing heals, logically this would imply that there would be a negative ratio of healing to damage? Maybe this will mean that if people stand in bad in raids and take damage they will not die immediately but the healers will find it ever increasingly difficult to keep on top of the healing without oom-ing themselves, eventually leading to a slow wipe where several raid members hover at around 10% HP and eventually die. This would be AMAZING. it would reinforce that 'standing in bad' is a massive no-no, as that extra damage you take will eventually guarantee the raid groups eventual doom. Currently you can get away with it a little bit, unless the bad on the floor kills you pretty rapidly (fallen protectors poison, Garrosh desecrated axe, Siege Crafter lazer beam fire).
''All of these changes apply to damage-absorption shields as well. Additionally, we're toning down the power of absorbs in general. When they get too strong, absorption effects are often used in place of direct healing instead of as a way to supplement it. We will, of course, take these changes into account when tuning specializations that rely heavily on absorbs, such as Discipline Priests.''
Disc priests are in my opinion, going to be a huge hurdle in the decision making process for Blizzard while putting the finishing touches on the game, and if you currently play a disc priest I actually almost feel sorry for you, because not only are you going to get your hugely overpowered shields nerfed to the ground, but over the course of the months post WoD launch you can probably expect numerous changes to your class, which can be very disrupting and a bitter pill to swallow most of the time.
''We also took a look at healing spells that were passive or auto-targeted (so-called "smart" heals). We want healers to care about who they're targeting and which heals they're using, because that makes healer gameplay more interactive and fun. To that end, we're reducing the healing of many passive and auto-targeted heals, and making smart heals a little less smart. Smart heals will now randomly pick any injured target within range instead of always picking the most injured target. Priority will still be given to players over pets, of course.''This change is both good and bad; I need to jump into bullet point form again!
- Prevents mindless spamcasting of smart heals such as chain heal and wild growth
- Makes healing decisions more meaningful
- Puts much more emphasis on casting the 'right' heals - for mana efficiency
- Requires more co-ordination from dps and more insight from healers to maximise the potential heals from your 'ex'-smart heals
- Adds an element of RNG to healing, no one likes RNG
- 'Ex'-smart heals will contribute to overhealing, and from what I gather overhealing is going to be much more taboo that it is now
AOE VS Single
''Another of our goals for healing in this expansion is to strike a better balance between single-target and multi-target healing spells. We've taken a close look at the mana efficiency of our multi-target heals, and in many cases, we're reducing their efficiency, usually by reducing the amount they heal. Sometimes, but more rarely, raising their mana cost was a better decision. We want players to use multi-target heals, but they should only be better than their single-target equivalents when they heal more than two players without any overhealing. This way, players will face an interesting choice between whether to use a single-target heal or a multi-target heal based on the situation.''
Yet another mana efficiency change, no longer will plonking down an AOE heal for a single person be a viable option as it is now. It is very apparent that mana efficiency is at the top of their priority list, it gives me a very warm fuzzy feeling that Blizz are aware of the problems within their game and are taking proactive measures to make the healing model much better.
''Finally, we're removing the low-throughput, low-mana-cost heals like Nourish, Holy Light, Heal, and Healing Wave, because we think that while they do add complexity, they don’t truly add depth to healing gameplay. (We’re also renaming some spells to re-use those names. For example, Greater Healing Wave is being redubbed Healing Wave.) However, we still want healers to think about their mana when deciding which heal to cast, and so the mana costs and throughputs of many spells are being altered to give players a choice between spells with lower throughput and lower cost versus spells with higher throughput and higher costs.''
Although this sounds like a pretty major change, in my opinion this was very long overdue and makes very little impact on the game as a whole. I do not know any healers who actually bother to use any of the heals listed, purely because the current mana Regen allows for the low efficiency higher heal abilities without any negative consequences, ultimately making the higher efficiency lower heals completely redundant.
''All of this discussion of efficiency may cause most healers to start worrying about mana regeneration and their mana pool. To allay those concerns, we’ve increased base mana regen a great deal at early gear levels, while having it scale up less at later gear levels. This will make all of these changes play well even in early content such as Heroic Dungeons and the first tier of Raid content, and also play well in the final Raid tier without mana and efficiency becoming irrelevant due to extremely high regeneration values.''
This is quite simply a common sense buff, I know from healing Cata dungeons while leveling other toons I felt very bogged down by the amount of mana I had to spend to simply keep people alive, this was probably mainly due to the dungeon group not avoiding a single bit of damage but non-the-less, there is obviously a point where no matter how good you and your group are, you still need a sensible amount of mana regeneration to keep you afloat. I trust Blizz will test and perfect this and perhaps make mana efficiency a little more forgiving at lower levels.
Casters become Casters again!
''Over time, healers have gained a bigger and bigger arsenal of heals that they can cast while on the move, which removes the inherent cost that movement is intended to have for them, while also limiting players’ ability to counter healing in PvP. This left silences and crowd control (which we’re trying to curb—see "Pruning the Garden of War") as the only ways to actually limit an enemy player's healing output. We're still preserving the option to instantly heal, but are reducing the number of instant-cast healing abilities overall.
All of these changes taken together are intended to make gameplay more consistent between PvE and PvP, and invigorate healers with more dynamic gameplay.''The changes they are making to many instant cast heals pleases me greatly. Casters are meant to cast their spells, is that not the whole point? You use your noggin to pick a decent safe spot and heal away for as long as you can before being forced to move. I find it a little overpowered at the moment where casters have a whole arsenal of abilities at their disposal which undermines the benefits of playing a melee character.
Resto druids are a prime example of this, there is a barely a spell in my toolkit where I actually need to cast anything at all. The 2 set bonus lets me cast instant heal touches, NS does the same, juve, WG, SM, LB... I can go through whole Heroic raid bosses without casting a single spell where I have to stay where I am. This not only removes the 'pick your spot wisely' element from the game but it also trivialities much of the boss mechanics that were designed to make people move, instant casting completely removes any consequence to movement that i am fairly sure the Devs had in mind.
ConclusionAll of these changes have pleased me no end, it is extremely refreshing to see Blizzard have listened to their customer base and have made the necessary changes to improve the healing game by a great deal. All we can do now is sit and wait to see if all of our healing dreams actually come into fruition.