Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Field Report - Now with extra Atonement

Pre-post edit: This was written end of July. Things have happened since then, but I'll get to that in another post.

I haven't got to raid very much lately. For the first time in my raiding career I've got to know what it feels like to constantly be put on standby. The problem is spelled "attendance", I simply don't have enough of it. Apparently it doesn't matter that I was on a three week vacation which I announced well ahead of time. It doesn't matter that I've had good attendance ever since I joined the guild before my vacation. It doesn't matter that I am a better healer than some of the people who do get into the raid instead of me. It doesn't matter that I've actually had to bend my work schedule around just to be able to get to some raids. They even take trials into raids instead of me, because we're still basically accepting everyone who enters an application and who can spell to "application", and they need a fair shot at showing how good they are! But you know what? I should know this already. After a year in this guild none of this should surprise me, but it still does. It reminds me of how my mom seemed to be equally disappointed everytime I told her I didn't like her Moussaka. She should know I don't like Aubergine the 15th time around, and it is not really her problem if I don't either. It is my problem. As long as I am in this guild I have to accept the rules, no matter how weird they are. I can debate them and discuss them, but as long as they're there and apply to everyone that is what I have to deal with (the fact that they don't is another matter however).

Tim Schafer said it well when he commented on people getting upset about how Activion like to sue people left and right for seemingly arbitrary reasons (like EA releasing his game Brütal Legend that Activision didn't want anyway);

"It's like getting mad a the monkey for slinging poo. It's just how the beast communicates."

The fact that the real reason might as easily be that the GM simply has it in for me doesn't matter either. That might be true, and it wouldn't surprise me at all, but the truth is that my attendance is an issue. Because my guild counts attendance solely based on your EP, not on your signing. So it doesn't really matter if I sign for a raid. If I don't collect my EP while being standby it still looks (to them) like I have no attendance. I didn't think that the system was so rigid, so I never bothered to gather EP. See, I thought EP was only to get more gear, which I honestly care very little about. I've been way too lazy to whisper to get on the standby list every 15 minutes (yes, that is how it works in my guild), eventhough I have been available and I thought that was clear to the officers (that was clearly a misunderstanding). So I get no EP. So I don't have any attendance. So I don't get into raids. It doesn't really matter that I think it's stupid or that when I asked I was told that it would be ok that I did it my way, or that I've been a progress raider in the guild since I joined and never taken any unannounced breaks, or that rules apply differently to some people - it is how it is, and I will have to adapt or pack my bags.

On another note entirely, I decided to give Atonement healing another shot. It all started with the priest who joined us who really likes Atonement. For some reason he doesn't use it in raids, but it still got me thinking. It was about time that I gave Atonement a new try, I hadn't really tried it out since 4.1 in which they actually buffed Atonement quite a lot. It would mean removing my holy spec though, because I didn't want to sacrifice my other non-atonement disc spec just in case my Atonement healing would suck (due to mechanics or me failing) and I needed a trustworthy spec to fall back on. I was very reluctant to remove my holy spec at first, but fortunately Firelands made the choice easier by simply having so very few fights where holy feels like the better choice of the two.

After a discussion with Pradzha of Piercing Shots on a post I had made on how to fix Atonement, I finally caved in. Fortunately I did get to do some raiding with my new spec and I must say I am definitely positively surprised. I will even admit I was wrong about some of the things I had written in my post about Atonement, but first things first. The post I wrote about Atonement was based on earlier experiences, reading other peoples thoughts on it and my lack of understanding of some of the design choices regarding how Atonement works. After using it for two full raids I must say that I really like it however. So I was wrong about one major point - it is a lot more useable than I thought it would be. The way Atonement worked when I last used it (pre 4.1) it was just too weak to be able to be used in progression raiding. Even when it did hit what you wanted it to hit it didn't do much of a difference. When I used it this time around however I found plenty of time to use it and had great use of the Archangel buff on fights like Shannox and Ryolith (less use for it on Beth'tilac and no use for it on Baleroc however, but still). In fact I thought what many had said about it being too difficult and too much hassle to be useful isn't true at all. I'll also admit that the 15 yard boss range wasn't as much of an issue as it was in t11. Maybe Blizzard actually thought about this when designing the fights, but in most cases 15 yards worked well. It seems overall like the fights in Firelands are better designed for Atonement healing than I felt that t11 was.

There is a big but here however - despite me being wrong about the usefulness of Atonement, all the other issues are still true.

I still think the range of Smite and Holy Fire is silly. 30 yards? Why?
I still think targetability is an issue. It's definitely not as big an issue as I thought it would be, but it's there. When I was using Atonement these two raids I was put to raid heal. If I had been the tank healer I probably wouldn't have been able to use Atonement as much as I did. Now I could fool around with it because my heals landed on anyone who was hurt, which was exactly the point and assignment of my healing. If I had had any other assignment, my Atonement healing would've been gimped.
I still think that Atonement healing doesn't make much enough of a difference to be worth the hassle, unless you enjoy the extra level of planning it gives. Which I did far more than I thought I would. I did like being able to stack up on Evangelism and nuke of an Archangel just before spamming Prayer of Healing.
I still think Atonement healing could be designed to be more interesting. Some say it's too difficult, I say it's too easy.
I still think Atonement healing probably doesn't work as well in a 10 man environment as it does in a 25 man. Even when I was put to tank heal (like on the spark tank on Ryolith) I knew I had a couple of other healers to back me up, which made Atonement a lot easier to use.
I still think Atonement (or rather Archangel) should be linked to our shields, but I will admit that this too was less of an issue than I thought it would be.
So overall I definitely think Atonement isn't there yet, it still needs fixing.

Jasyla of Cannot Be Tamed wrapped my thoughts up on Atonement pretty well with this comment;

"I understand that not taking AA means losing a cooldown, but I don't like it as a cooldown. In order to get the benefit you need to gimp yourself while you build your stacks up. I'd rather just spend those 5 talent points somewhere else.

This is exactly how I have been reasoning the last couple of months, and unfortunately eventhough I did enjoy and find Atonement a lot more useful than I thought it would be, I still can't find enough pro-arguments to tell someone that it's a must have. Eventhough the gimping is less than I thought it is still mostly for funsies and even with leet-usage (yeah, that's me alright) I even out with the disc priests who didn't use it at all or to my own healing if I hadn't used it at all. There are fights where it shines (again, Spark-tank healing in Ryolith) but overall it doesn't matter enough to be an important tool for our healing. Right now I've basically replaced my Heal spamming with Smite spamming, and I actually prefer the latter - not so much because it is better but because it's slightly more fun. I do miss my SoS on some fights, but so far I've been able to work through it.

Pradzha was very right about one thing though, there is more potential and power in Atonement than I thought, and I definitely think you should try it out if you haven't for a while. It's still not necessary to do good and competitive healing, but it does add a new level to healing which might ease up on all the boring PoH spamming that they're putting us through. Which reminds me, I must get some timer to track my Evangelism stacks.


  1. I always wondered when Atonement would step out of its shabby corner, so this was an interesting read. obviously I am not playing at the moment, but at the start of Cata I was very vocal against Atonement and all its flaws. Since then I have talked to a few priests who added it to their raid setup, but I couldn't help but think this was more for enjoying the gimmick of it and possibly the focus relief, than anything else.

    Your summary confirms to me that the spell is still not what it could be - which is sad because the overall concept can be awesome and I would certainly have welcomed a proper "dps to heal"-approach for WoW. but Atonement always missed synergy and was too restricted and situative to warrant a spot on my bars.

    Age of Conan has succeeded here brilliantly, by the way; playing a healing priest there is all about adding dps, damage control and CC. it was a big eye-opener to me when I played it, showing a refreshing approach to other (and by now I think nicer) ways of implementing healing in an MMO, adding playstyle variety and removing the tunnel vision and raidframe-perspective of more traditional healers. the game is worth looking into for this reason alone. :)

  2. Sorry! I meant to respond when I first saw this post, but then I didn't.

    Basically I don't really think that all of the stuff in my first comment was accurate, and I agree that it's not needed. Indeed, the only encounter in heroic FL it's regularly used on is Rhyolith, because the sparks take bonus damage (and thus do bonus healing).

    IMO, the real problem with the spec is not so much that atonement isn't targeted, but rather that the efficient heal is just not very useful on progression. Encounters are not long enough, with periods of low but consistent damage, that would encourage such an extreme choice in the direction of efficiency. They're fairly brutal 4-7 minute affairs where you're chain-casting more expensive spells.

    If smite cast faster or hit harder, AA would be more viable. As it is, the additional cooldown it supplies (while fun and so cool looking!) is not really going to be accessible on a lot of progression content.