Thursday, October 21, 2010

Impressions on healing so far

Blizzard is working against me. Server downtimes and random instance/raid crashes has effectively kept me from doing any kind of constructed research on the different healing classes. But I have managed to get a general idea so far, and this is it.

First of all I'd like to really commend Blizzard on their effort to reinvent healing for us healers. I kind of feel it like a special little gift just for us. And they have done a tremendous job in coming up with things that have turned our way of healing upside down without alienating us from our favorite thing to do. So although there will be some whining in this post, I don't want anyone to get the idea that I'd want to go back to how things were before. I don't think any healer is worse off than before, well not really anyway. Well let's get to it and maybe you understand what I mean.

They've made some changes that have affected all healers. For instance they've tried to give all the healers three different kind of heals as a base;
  • Fast, expensive, small heal - like Flash Heal, Regrowth, Healing Surge and Flash of Light.
  • Slow, cheap, small heal - like Heal, Healing Wave, Holy Light and Nourish.
  • Slow, expensive, big heal - like Greater Heal, Greater Healing Wave, Healing Touch or Divine Light.

This way each heal only has one benefit and two drawbacks. It is either cheap, fast or big. And then each healing class has some individual heals to fill the inbetweens like Chain Heal, Rejuvenation and Word of Glory. And then some cooldown based heals like Shields, Penance, Swiftmend, Riptide and Holy Shock.

Holy Priest
Why not start from the top, with the healing class I have got the most experience of. I haven't played holy priest actively for a couple of months, maybe even half a year or so. But holy priest has been a part of my core WoW gaming for several years and will most likely stay that way unless Blizzard seriously do something weird to this class. Because that's just it. All the way from Vanilla I feel like holy priest has been the pillar of healing. Bringing a holy priest to a raid you always know what to expect. Healing as a holy priest you'll always feel at home with your role. Holy priest has developed over the years of course, it isn't much like it was 4 years ago. But it has kept its identity more than any other healing class.

Holy healing has always been fun. I can't ever remember playing holy priest and thinking "Wow this sure is dull". They've never had any real lows. Holy priests have been insanely powerful, but had lost some of that in late Wotlk. That never meant holy healing was bad. But the way resto druid hotting, disc priest shielding and holydin Holy Light spam worked usually made those classes outperform holy priests when it came to straight out healing done. Holy priests had a little bit of everything and weren't best on any of them, except maybe heavy aoe healing. But they did their job well.

Now in 4.0 Blizzard have given Chakra to holy priests. What has that done for us? Chakra is probably among the best working new healing skills currently. It perfectly examples the old saying "easy to use, difficult to master". Like I've been going on about Chakra before, I am sure this will set the casual and the hardcore priest healer apart. The lovely thing about Chakra is that you don't have to know much about it, or even use it at all to do decent healing. But it is an extremely powerful tool when used properly and will be necessary to fully master for the most difficult content. So Blizzard have succesfully implemented a tool that is just tricky enough to not scare the casual player away all the while giving the more dedicated healers something really interesting to put their teeth in.

As you might have noticed I am very pleased with the way Chakra is working. As with every other class I've only had limited possibilities for testing so far, but I did some tries on LK and had tons of fun trying to figure out the best way to use Chakra and Revelations. I really can't find any downside about it. The only thing, maybe, would be that some Chakra forms are better than others, but I think that is more due to Renew still being among holy priests best heal while Prayer of Healing and Heal are a little more situational.

Speaking of Heal, here I'd actually be able to open up a casket of whine. This affects Discipline more than Holy however so I'll go at it there instead.

Discipline Priest
Discipline priests across the bloggosphere are not really sure what to think of discipline healing right now. The only time I've managed to try it in a raid was when Atonement was still bugged, making all my healing efforts pretty uneffective. I have tried some in heroics though and I can just say that it isn't really what I wanted it to be.

I think I speak for many discipline priests when I say that I was really looking forward to the changes made to Discipline priests. I was overjoyed that Blizzard actually dared to make dpsing part of our healing rotation. I think most of us actually have thought Blizzard would put way more emphasis on the Evangelism-Archangel-Atonement combo than it actually seems like they have. I think many of us went in guns ablazing and started to smite frantically all around us thinking our smites would now cure cancer. Well that isn't really how it turned out to be. Setting aside the first disappointment for noticing that Atonement didn't heal at all, I quickly noticed that even when it did heal it was far too unreliable to put too much trust in. 8 yards is no distance at all. In many heroics the tank is thrown away from the boss and might die by standing 10 yards away from your target while you're frantically smiting. Also, trying to keep track of your target, Holy Fire debuff and the right time to pop Archangel kinda gave me a tunnel vision that proved lethal for my friendly vicinity.

No fellow disc priests, I think we have to come to terms with that Blizzard apparently didn't actually intend for us to become pewpew-smite healers. What they wanted was to give us a tool that we could use occasionally to boost our regular healing. By regular I mean it works basically like it always has. You're not supposed to smite like there is no tomorrow, you do the occasional smite while healing, and once you've got your full stack you pop Archangel for some extra healing bonus.

There are several issues
with this however. Blizzard removed Flash Heal as a viable heal-filler, and it has now become an "oh shit" heal instead. We've gotten two new heals to fill the spot of Flash Heal, but none of these work very well. I've already mentioned Atonement. It just doesn't heal good enough for current raid content, not even on non-heroic mode. The other is either Heal or Greater Heal. Let me just dismiss Heal right here and now. Not only is it abysmally slow (nearly 2 sec with 40% haste), it is way too small (some 6k). What am I to do with that? There is no place for such a heal in the current content and hasn't been for a long time. Greater Heal heals enough (15k uncritted), but is also very slow. When doing instances or 10mans this is less of a problem. In 25mans Greater Heal is generally a waste of time and mana. And always has been.

This means they took away Flash Heal, but didn't give us any proper replacement. I notice myself not actually knowing what to do when I've shielded and PoMed my target. I can always use Penance, but only on one target at a time. For the first time ever I have to wait for cooldowns as a healer, just because I don't have many good enough to use.

Another thing, I read that it seems like the 10% healing buff from Archangel doesn't even affect our shields. Excuse me? Then what is it good for? The occasional PoMs and Penances that I throw? Sounds like Archangel is barely worth using in that case, since mana really isn't an issue either. Maybe we should start spamming Flash Heals just so we oom and get some use from Archangel...

I think we have to re-evaluate the plan we thought Blizzard had for disc. Clearly it wasn't in line with whatever we thought they were up to. Maybe once we've realized this, we'll find out how to really heal as a disc priest. Right now I'm not sure.

I am disappoint. And I'm not alone. Until level 81 shaman healing is basically exactly the same as it used to, and that really makes me sad panda. I was hoping so for the interesting resto shaman changes, like an aoe heal and healing while running cooldown. But none of this is available now at 80. Instead we've gotten some tools to help us with mana management, the one thing that always really been a problem for resto shamans, especially when compared to the other classes. With lightning bolts we can regenerate mana and with shocks we can reduce mana cost and increase the effectiviness of our heals. Sure, it gives an edge to shaman healing, but it's definitely not enough to keep me interested when there are other heal classes that have actually become fun-to-heal-with tools.

Also they nerfed Chain Heal so that we would spam it less. And just as with disc priest they've tried to make us use Healing Wave and Greater Healing Wave instead. But it's the same problem here. It's too dang slow. So we keep on spamming Chain Heals, they're just not as good anymore. Basically shaman healers just became a little less good and alot less fun. I think I will take a break from resto shaman healing until Cata comes. I am disappoint.

Holydin are among the healers that have become the greatest changes. Part of our healing rotation now is Holy Power. With Holy Power we can use one of our new skills, Word of Glory for an instant and big heal. I've heard that holydin healing output has been considerably lowered since pre-patch. I'm not entirely sure this is solely due to an actual nerf in healing output or due to the fact that holydins are supposed to manage more than one spell nowadays. Since Vanilla holydins have basically only ever had to worry about using a couple of spells on no more than one target. Place Beacon on one tank, spam the other. Keep Beacon up and shield up and you're set. The only difficult thing about holydin healing was to time your Divine Plea well. Which didn't seem particularly difficult.

Now on the other hand FoL is out of the standard rotation. In comes Holy Shock, Word of Glory, Divine Light and Holy Light. Holy Light has the same issue as Heal, it is way too slow and too small to be used in a raid setting. But Holy Shock has a cooldown and Word of Glory needs Holy Power to be used. Divine Light suffers from the same issues as Greater Heal. Slow, expensive and will probably mostly be overheals. Yepp well you better like it paladins. The only alternative to using Holy Shock and Holy Lights/Divine Lights to gather Holy Power is that holydins start using Crusader Strike in melee. Exactly, that probably won't work very well either.

As with Disc priests and shamans there is a gap here. Holy Light and Divine Light just aren't designed for current content and we really have nothing else to use. Holydins have less issues with the slow-ness of Holy Light and Divine Light however due to talents like Speed of Light that increase haste by 30% after using Holy Shock. Priests and shamans could use something like this. Holydin healing has been stumped, but a combination of a lot of instant and fastened heals still make them work ok.

The healer I know the least of are resto druids. That's ok I suppose since 85% of the wow-bloggers seem to play resto-druids ;) I know alot of resto druids are sad about Tree of Life going away as a shapeshift. I can understand them since I suppose the other shapeshifts (cat, bear, boomkin) would be pretty upset if their shapeshifts went away, even if you accounted for the fact that cats and bears can't use their skills in caster form. (Love never liked the shapeshifts however since they always been rather buggy. He suggests a minor transformation rather than a full shapwshift instead). As someone who doesn't main a resto druid however I am glad. The cooldown is a good one, using it at the right time will give good resto druids an edge to the casual player. Also it always annoyed me that the Tree of Lifeses (nice one) looked exactly the same. I hated trying to keep three-four trees apart in my 25mans. If they at least could have different skins?

Resto druids would be in the same position disc priests, shamans and paladins are in if it wasn't for one thing - their hots. The same thing that makes holy priests work better than the other healers in current content is what seems to make resto druids work even better. Sure their Nourish and Healing Touches suck too. But who cares, they never used those anyway apart from under extreme conditions. No, resto druids have rejuvenation, swiftmend (and efflorence), wild growth and lifebloom to play with as well. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what an upper hand resto druids are sitting with at the moment. Hots are the new black. Without them you just won't be able to perform as well, because the alternatives are just too sucky at the moment.

It seems like all the healers have gotten into healing issues with the current content. The way our healing works doesn't rhyme with how damage works. None of us are especially well adapted at dealing with heavy blows anymore, something that unfortunately is a part of how tanks take damage in raids like ICC. I also read that armor has been nerfed, making most tanks even more vulnerable to taking big hits. We no longer have a given healer to heal tanks. I noticed when raid healing that most of us healers probably thought "darn, the tank went low... well, do they want me to cast my extremely slow and expensive heal now or what? Surely there must be a better way?". A combination of Holy Shocks, Swiftmends, Riptides, Penances and Holy Words might work for a while. But it feels like a panic substitute. Priests (both disc and holy) and resto druids still have their aoe-heals, but shamans and paladins are left in the dust.

Holy Priest = :)
Resto Druid = :)
Discipline Priest = :S
Holydin = :S
Shaman = :(

I can only hope things will work better in Cataclysm.


  1. As a long time disc priest I've healed during all the changes to the class from vanilla to current and I have to say I am really enjoying the smiteheal approach to life.

    Perhaps I'm not disappointed because when I saw the talent changes I didn't expect us to be able to heal with smite alone. Instead I expected something more like what we have. Not only are the wings rather pretty, weaving the smites in between my other heals and bubbles gives me something less monotonous to do. Sure I won't be topping the DPS meters with ~2.5k but given that most healers do 0, it's pretty good.
    The spec has a lot of potential for interesting and effective healing. You can see some of it now, and I suspect more of it will reveal itself as we all level up to 85.

    Though I've currently specced out of it in favour of a straight healing approach for LK25hc I shall be speccing straight back to it as soon as he's dust for some more smiting funtimes!

    Darkmoon Faire, EU

  2. @Katimi
    Yes I try not to have high hopes for anything, since that increases the risk of disappointment, but I suppose the prospect of pewpew-healing got the best of me. Now that I have come to terms with that it didn't turn out the way I thought, I do find it interesting, although a little too much like the old ways. Nothing wrong with that, I liked disc healing. But I was hoping for a little change, especially since holy healing feels so different.