Monday, July 25, 2011

Comments on "Ask the Devs - Healing"

I was very excited to see that Blizzard had thrown us a Healing "Ask the Devs", especially since it was pure chance that I noticed it at all, what with being away from mmo-champion for over three weeks. It finally held some words on priest healing, which I of course threw myself at like a pig throws herself in mud. Here are some of the things that were said and a little comment from me on them (shortened, you can get the full versions here).

Epicfail, some Taiwanese guy and Pikapika ask this question;
"Is it intended for “smart” heals and target capped aoe spells to heal companions/pets like bloodworms instead of players?"

This is one of the things that has really bothered me about my "smart" heals, since forever it seems. As a priest I have a couple of those, Prayer of Mending and Circle of Healing both randomly heal meaningless targets like pets and summoned pets from time to time. The only other healer to whom this is a major concern are shamans, because apparently Chain Heal can bounce to a pet, which honestly is even more annoying than having PoM or CoH do that. It's annoying because you know it's basically a wasted heal, and there is nothing you can do about it. It also makes it a lot harder to heal when the dk decides to pull out Army of the Dead, it is possible that all my heals from CoH hit a ghoul, and for each time I heal a pet instead of a player I've wasted mana and time. It's not a major concern but it's always bothered me that some targets are healable at all. Would it be so horrible if Bloodworms or Shadowfiend weren't healable? And like mentioned, some healing classes are more affected by this than others. I just don't see how fixing this could be so difficult, but apparently it is because this problem has been around for ages.

Blizzard answers;
"True AoE heals (e.g. Healing Rain) will heal pets and guardians, but will not count those units towards the AoE cap. We’d prefer for “smart” heals to prioritize players over non-players whenever possible, and we’ll continue to improve the logic on such heals until that is the case – it certainly doesn’t feel particularly satisfying to see that you’ve just delivered a critical heal to a Bloodworm."

I'm glad they've realized this, and I didn't know actually that non-pets didn't count towards the aoe cap (although it would've been really silly if they did, but you know how Blizzard are sometimes). I don't mind healing pets, but I don't want them to steal heals from target that actually need them.

Frazlo and some Korean guy asks;
"At the start of Cataclysm, the the idea was given that developers wanted to step away from niche healing and let all healers be capable tank or raid healers. Has this goal since changed?"

I think that Blizzard did a pretty good job with shamans and priests, giving them tools to be decent tank and aoe healers as needed. They did fail on changing the roles of paladins and druids however, where I definitely agree with the people who think that druids are mainly aoe healers and paladins are mainly tank healers just as back in Wrath. You could argue that the way paladins and druids heal somehow force them into these niches, but I just don't think that is true. I don't think there is something inherently about hotting that makes it impossible to point heal with, or something about cast healing that makes it impossible to aoe heal with (just look at Prayer of Healing!). If you look at them just like that, then yes maybe. Hotting does work well for healing multiple targets for small damage because they're mana efficient and instant. Big heals work well for big damage for obvious reasons. But the real reason paladins can't do aoe and druids can't do tank (and remember I use the word "can't" as in "are less good at") are because they lack the tools. Paladins have decent aoe heals, but once they've spent their Holy Radiance and Light of Dawn they have nothing else. Druids barely even have a good, big heal that is worth throwing continously and that could save a tank in a pinch. But I think they could both be redesigned to do the other area of healing better. I think hotting could be designed to work for tank healing and cast-heals be designed to work with aoe healing (something along the lines with how GoAK works now perhaps?). Maybe Blizzard are afraid druids and paladins would become too good if they did this, and they're ultimately satisified with having two healers that are slightly more niched and two healers that are more to the middle.

Blizzard answers;
"Currently Holy Radiance can just be layered on top of the other heals, so the paladin isn’t shifting into group-healing mode the way a shaman can focus on Chain Heal or a priest can focus on Prayer of Healing."

I think this is the problem. Blizzard are afraid to give druids tank healing tools and paladins aoe healing tools because they might be able to do both at the same time (kind of like how druids can keep LB on tank while aoe healing and the above example). I know plenty of druids who think they're good at tank healing, so we might already be there. I don't entirely agree that priests and shaman have to switch though. A shaman can keep Rain up while nuking a tank and as a holy priest I can keep Sanctuary and PoM up (and poke the occasional CoH in) while spamming a tank (as disc I have to switch, but Blizzard hate disc). But yeah, I can't throw GH and PoH at the same time (nor can a shaman do Chain Heal and GHW at the same time). A druid can do WG and HT at the same time though and a paladin can do Holy Radiance and DT at the same time. It's all about balances, but it's definitely possible.

Kahlan and Zerruhju ask;
"What are the developers' thoughts on perhaps giving Discipline priests three strengths/types of shields/absorbs, in a similar manner as all other healers have three main heals? (...) Why does this become shorter and shorter, always saying we should go for direct healing instead? In that case you could play another healing class that has better direct heals."

This is a tricky one, but I agree with the general point here - why force disc away from shielding when that is what the class is about? But similar to how they revamped druid mastery to force druids to use their direct heals, Blizzard just can't make us all about shielding, because hots and absorbs are so superior to regular heals in most situations, especially absorbs. Blizzard says the same thing;

"Balancing the Discipline Priest is often challenging because they can provide so much more damage prevention than the other healers. If Discipline priests had all absorb spells instead of heals, it might make them mandatory for all raids but weak when healing a 5-player dungeon. "

This is exactly what I have been whining about regarding the mastery vs haste discussion for discipline stat choice. If I focus on mastery, I will have awesome shields, but shielding alone isn't good enough in any situation other than 25 man raiding (similar to the debate going about holydin mastery vs haste now). For 5 and 10 mans I'll still need to mainly use my regular heals and that is where I will need haste. Problem is, making the shields too good is easy because they're instant and big and prevent damage. I think in a 5 man environment, the Weakened Soul debuff is enough to force us to use cast-heals inbetween the shields, and they probably implemented the Strength of Soul talent  because WS was too punishing for point healing, but in raids we've got plenty of targets and the shield quickly becomes overpowered.

Blizzard continue;
"However, players who cling to the attitude of “I’m a Disc priest; I should only shield,” aren’t really understanding our design for the class. Ditto with druids who only want to cast hots, or paladins who only want to drop heal bombs on the main tank. “I’m good at something” isn’t the same as “I only do that thing.” "

This is partially another discussion, but I don't agree with Blizzard at all here. Let me just say I wish that how they see it really is how it would work but it's simple - Why would you choose someone who is less good at something to do that, if you've got someone who does it better? If you're going to play basket ball you wouldn't pick Zinedine Zedane, you'd pick Michael Jordan. Zedane is great at football, so you'll pick him instead when that comes up. The same goes for healing. Why would I put the paladin on aoe healing when I have a druid who does it better? As long as Blizzard design classes to do things more or less good (and I think that is inevitable), people will put whoever does it best in that position. I think Blizzard should acknowledge this and account for that when they design their classes instead of just saying "you should do something else because you can". We all want to do what we're best at, obviously.

Two korean guys ask;
"When healing, it is hard to see the overall screen because healers must keep an eye on the Raid frame. And due to PVP balance issues, dispels are only allowed for healer’s. This situation makes it too harsh for the healers and gives to much responsibility and also a burden because healers have to heal and move at the same time during raids. Isn’t this a little too harsh? "

The ye olde debate about whoever pulls the biggest load in a raid will never finish. I do think however that now more than ever, everyone really have to bust their ass off to get things done. Some fights are dead easy for tanks, some are extremely difficult. Most fights are fairly difficult for healers (as long as it's progression) but on the other hand I always felt like the very fact that we get to concentrate on those neat little frames made our job easier. We don't have to keep track of stuff that are out of our screen (much), we rarely have to keep track of advanced tactics like certain interrupts, target switching and whatnot, we can just focus on those frames and stay out of shit. No, I don't think healers have a tougher job, I think it's fairly even.

Some Taiwanese guy and Galadruin ask;
"Healers are usually responsible for the loss of the teammate, but not all the mistakes are made by healers, such as over taunt or damage zone avoidance. This also happens in the 5 man dungeons frequently. Is there any chance to add a design to punish damage classes with inappropriate behavior? Is there ever going to be a clear indicator that the indivdual [sic] died from "unhealable damage" in combat logs/on screen warning?"

Blaming the healer seems 2006 to me. Now it's usually always the tanks getting the blame. I suppose this can differ from place to place and pug to pug, but overall I don't get much whine thrown at me as a healer, and that is far from being because I'm always such an awesome healer. I've had people die just because I had tabbed out (yes, shame on me) and they actually usually assume they did something wrong than that it was my fault! Do you think people still blame healers overly much? I get the impression we've actually got the easiest time right now.

Nehalim and some Russian guy ask;
"How do you plan on addressing our inflating spirit and mana pools later in the expansion to keep mana a resource, rather than a solid blue bar?"

This is a very good question, and something I have been pondering myself lately. As I've told you, I've moved away from spirit more and more because I just don't need that regen. My mana pool is usually not an issue at all during raiding or instancing, and I'd actually really have to go out of my way to go oom (it's usually in a fight that I don't yet know how to heal and where I heal more than I have to). It's always difficult to give players an impression that they improve and advance, without making them overpowering the old content. I think actually it's probably impossible not to. Now, I haven't had a chance yet to try out the new Firelands (I am slow, I know), but throwing new content at us is probably Blizzards best way to counter this effect. By giving new bosses that hit even harder and have even more aoe damage, they're forcing us to use more mana. Or they could just nerf our spirit like they did in Wrath. In either case, I'm not much worried about this issue. It goes back in forth in waves and always will.

Maladi asks;
"Are there any plans to give Holy Priests access to a viable 3-minute raid cooldown? There are concerns that without a cooldown along the lines of Power Word: Barrier, Spirit Link Totem, or Tranquility, we may need to play disc a lot in firelands. Maybe simply an improved Divine Hymn? "

Interestingly enough, I never thought that the holy priest lack of a 3 minute raid cooldown ever was a big problem - because we still have tools that people like having in a raid. As long as we do what we do good enough, people will want us. Blizzard seem to be on the same line;

"(...) we feel the Holy priest toolkit overall is strong, that they provide meaningful contributions to raid healing, and are well represented in actual raid groups."

Sergan asks;
"Looking at the healer changes with patch 4.2, there are changes being made to paladins and druids, but there doesn't appear to be any for either the priest or shaman. Do you feel comfortable with where these two classes are? Where do you feel the other healers are at currently? "

I was assuming that the lack of changes, or notes of any kind really, regarding priests were due to Blizzard being happy about where we are at the moment. Or possibly because they had more pressing matters. In any case, I overall agree. Priests have always been fairly solid in their design, and eventhough Blizzard seem to be uncertain about how discipline should play their shields, how holy should play their chakras and how shamans should deal with raid damage, they've pretty much fixed many issues regarding that and have now turned their eye on the next problem - druid and paladin masteries. I bet priests and shamans will get plenty of love with the next content patch.

Anohako asks;
"Do you feel that the three-heal model you implemented at the start of Cataclysm is a success? Have you changed your expectations or goals in regards to the three-heal model after watching a tier of raiding? How do you feel about how the various specs are using or avoiding these three core heals?"

If you ask me, I'm quite pleased with the three-heal model. As a priest I use Heal and Greater Heal regularly (and I know many priests use Flash Heal about as often as it's supposed to, although I'm bad at using it). On my pally and shaman I heal with Holy Light/Lesser Healing Wave and Divine Light/Greater Healing Wave pretty much like I use the equivalents on my priest (and same with Flash of Light/Healing Surge). When I heal as a druid I use Nourish a little less than I would Heal, but still quite a lot. I don't use Healing Touch (except if the tank is the only one taking big damage) because it's usually less useful than spamming hots and I only use Regrowth when I've got a cc proc or I'm in ToL form. So druids are the only ones that work very differently from this system as compared to how the other healing classes use it - but they still use the skills (except maybe Healing Touch), just in a different way. What I like about it is that Blizzard really made our tool kit easy to understand. So eventhough they gave us more tools to use (making Heal a viable heal at all), they also made it very simple to identify when to use which heal. Not to mention how easy it is to switch between healing chars ;)

Blizzard answers;
"Overall, we still like the model and we intend to keep supporting it. One flaw with the system is that healers in 5-player dungeons often have to make harder choices about which of the three core heals to use at any given moment."

More than any other class, healing really changes from raiding to 5 man (tanking does too, but healing even more imo). You go from having a couple (or many in 25 man) support healers, to being the only one on whom the rest of the group rely. It does make a lot for how you have to heal, and I agree that you sometimes have to be even better in 5 mans than you have to be in raiding, at least as far as healing goes (in raids you often have to succeed more with the fight mechanics rather than skilfull healing). Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you see it), 5 mans don't stay difficult for very long, but I rarely feel like I have to be more skilled healing than when I do new 5 man instances.

Now I will have to long until the next time Blizzard open their mouths about priest healing. Another two months?


  1. Why would you choose someone who is less good at something to do that, if you've got someone who does it better?

    I think you're kind of misinterpreting the devs' response there. Personally I thought they just said that people get too hung up on only wanting to use their most powerful abilities all the time, i.e. if my shields are my best ability, then I shouldn't have to use anything but shields all the time.

    I also think that priests are in a pretty good place right now (Chakra having unlimited duration now was a huge buff IMO), but I was still kind of disappointed by the FAQ because I was hoping for more discussion of healing in general, while a lot of questions seemed to be about class-specific abilities or people basically asking for a buff to their class.

  2. I enjoyed reading your commentary.

    On druids, on a small issue, I think you'll find that as gear gets better, you switch to healing touch from nourish. I really hate when I'm in the middle of a nourish cast bar and some heavy damage comes in. Your general point remains, though. Players drift to one or the other of these spells, so they really only have two direct heals in practice.

    Regarding tank healing, when Cataclysm came out, druids had completely reversed roles. Rejuvenate, wild growth, and regrowth had all been gimped, and our direct heals had been buffed. As the expansion has gone on, though, wild growth has gotten a shorter cooldown, and rejuvenate has gotten less expensive. So druids are being pushed back to raid healing to some degree. I'm not sure I'd say the balance has completely shifted, however. Druids are still good on tanks.

  3. I agree with Ohken, druids are fine tank healers. WE recently downed Shannox in our guild and our 3 healers were a Holy priest, Holy Pally and a Resto Druid.

    Strangely enough the Druid was healing the Shann tank, I (Holy priest) was healing the Limb tank and the Holy pally was raid healing.

    I lean towards Shintar when it comes to the Disc shielding. Blizzard has stated from begining of Cataclysm they do not want any class to only use 1 or 2 of thier healing mechanics. They want the whole toolbox used. This means to me that Disc will never be able to rely solely on shielding and will have to heal with direct spells, and I agree with this. At no point should shields become so good that a person no longer needs to heal.


  4. @Shintar & Solaril & Ohken
    That makes sense. Druids are very powerful raid and tankhealers at the moment and I got a whisper from one of our resto druids yesterday where he said "I wonder how long it takes before Blizzard nerf us".

    We've all gone up and down since the beginning of cata, Blizzard have experimented back and forth with all classes to find a good balance. At the moment I am actually quite pleased with the lot of them (not saying there aint stuff that could be better). Druids are topping the meters, but what else is new? ;)

    Your interpretation is much better Shintar, I'll go with that one. And in that case I completely agree with Blizzard, no class should be all about one thing (just look at Arcane mages, makes me wanna cry).

    "people basically asking for a buff to their class."

    I think this annoys Blizzard as well and this seems to have been an issue in previous ATD. But I don't think these questions were that bad, the ones I chose were some I thought were really interesting.