Sunday, March 13, 2011

Are raid cooldowns for everyone?

Blizzard dropped quite the bomb on the resto shaman and druid community the other day when they announced that they will implement some sort of raid cooldowns for these two classes. It seems clear that a raid cooldown is something shamans and druids have been longing for for a long time, and plenty of druids have treated this as the final piece to fit their healing puzzle. Blizzard revealed Spirit Link Totem to be the new Resto shaman raid cooldown, and I must say it looks really cool. At the same time they also revealed a significant buff to Tranquility, big enough to warrant the suspicion that that buff is supposed to be the raid cooldown resto druids are getting. Most resto druids are unhappy about this, for the simple reason that they didn't really feel like they needed more healing. What they needed was some way to mitigate damage. We have seen an increased streamlining of classes, where buffs for example now are provided by many classes and no buff is unique to one class.

This has started a really interesting and relevant discussion around the internet, where the question really is whether we prefer the uniqueness of a class or every class being able to handle every situation equally well. Blizzard have stated that they want us to be able to bring "the player, not the class". I completely agree with this, but up to what point? I don't think anyone of us would like every class to be completely equal. There would be no point in playing a certain class if it worked exactly the same way like all the rest. So what things should differ between classes? Are raid cooldowns one of those things?

Derevka has preceded me in this discussion with a great post suitably named "Are more tank cooldowns really the solution?". It does say alot about Derevkas point of view, and in essence it wraps up my thoughts as well. We both think that just handing out the same kind of spells to all classes would make the game boring.

"Is just adding a tank cooldown the best solution? Is just a band-aid of “make Barkskin castable for resto druids” the answer? I’d much rather see a CD that is unique to Resto Druids, and leverages their existing strengths over a clone of Guardian Spirit or Pain Suppression. "

Classes need differences, we need to have something on which we can build our "teamwork" as Derevka mentions. But I am getting ahead of myself, let's take a step back and see why I think about this the way I do (and what am I really thinking anyway)?

In a post a couple of weeks ago, when it was first announced that resto shamans and druids were going to get their own raid cooldowns, I commented that I didn't think that resto druids really needed it. Back then I wrote;

"Druids on the other hand [apart from shamans] don't need a raid cooldown. First of all they already have good raid cooldowns in Tranquility (which now is better than Divine Hymn) and Rebirth. Add Innervate to that. Also I feel like the unique healing style of druids is not easily filled by another class. Hots are so powerful I consider them to be sort of a "continous healing cooldown". Shamans even have a special cooldown to be able to do what most druids can do basically all the time - run and heal. "

At that time I had forgotten about Tree of Life
, which really is a good healing cooldown too. But of course, it is still all about healing, where resto druids want to be able to actually reduce incoming damage as well. My above quote annoyed some druids, quite alot it seems. One comment from Beruthiel started out;

"I'm going to admit that as I read this, my jaw completely hit the flow. I even asked myself "did he seriously just say that?". I hate to say it, but you are way off base on this."

I can understand his reaction. My way of wording made it sound like I didn't think druids deserved a raid cooldown. Maybe even like I wanted to hog all the raid cooldowns for myself (being the priest that I am). Also I will admit, I had not given 10 man raiding much thought when I wrote this. Nonetheless, I still think this way. I still don't think druids necessarily need a raid cooldown, especially not for the sole reason that "they don't have one yet". I don't think druids are shit without one and that no serious raids pick druids because of this. But it does open up the question of stackability (among other things).

Apart from the general usefulness of mitigating damage, the strength of which I have talked about a dozen times before, there are actually fights out there where you need to mitigate damage because the tank will probably be oneshot if you don't. I understand the line of reasoning from the resto druids here. Just throwing a heckload of heals won't save anyone from those really big blows. You can't heal someone from being oneshot. Quite true. This means that for fights like Chimaeron hc, where mitigating damage is vital, bringing 3 resto druids (for 10 man) or 6-8 resto druids (for 25 man) will pose a problem. I completely agree that the stackability of druids isn't very good.

But on the other hand I refuse to see this as a problem. In any case I refuse to see this as the problem druids are referring to. Just looking at my own backyard, disc priests have struggled with stackability since they became a viable raid healing spec, where until Cataclysm you mostly never took more than one disc priest to a raid, regardless of size. Because of how Shields and Grace work, disc priest just stack very, very poorly. Yet we haven't said a peep about this issue for the three-four years that it has been around. If you're going to tell me that a disc priest could just switch spec to holy, you must know that the differences in healing style between the two specs are big enough to be next to switching class alltogether. Throughout my raiding days in Wrath, whenever we had another disc priest in the raid, I had to go holy (because I had the choice). The only time we ever used two disc priests was for the LK fight. And it is still so that more than one disc priest steps on the toes of the other. You still don't want to stack disc priests in raids for most fights. Besides, how often is careful mitigation the make or break of a fight? You might argue that "once is one too many" but I don't agree. It is impossible for Blizzard to design all fights so that all healers are exactly equally useful, I've never had a problem with having to struggle more than other healers for a fight or two.

Druids and discipline priests are alike in many ways. Both their healing styles have been based on "buying other healers time", rather than throwing the big heals themselves. Although disc priests were once seen as tank healers, shields were quickly deemed as too useful as a raid healing tool to have a discipline priest focus on only one-three targets. Throughout Wrath, most discipline priests spent as much time spamming shields on the raid as druids spent time spamming Rejuv. We also often topped the meters because of this, and admittedly both resto druids and disc priests were decent single target healers as well, but not as good as a paladin for example (the best example being healing Valithria, where pure single target output was the issue, paladins and shamans excelled over disc priests and resto druids). But just topping the meters doesn't save a raid. Like mentioned we merely bought everyone else time enough to do the actual healing. Like a healing friend of mine (who plays resto shaman and resto druid) told me the other day - "when two targets are at 5% and 30% respectively, a resto druid would throw a WG and rejuvs". And a disc priest would place a shield, quite regardless of health. This is generalizing the healing styles, but the point is that most of the time disc priests/resto druids do more good throwing those small heals and moving on, than pausing and throw a big heal. None of these spells will save the target, but it might just buy the paladin/shaman more time for that big heal, because they are the ones focusing on healing up the lowest targets. So in a way those heals are saving the target, of course. Resto druids and disc priest are rather indirect savers in this manner.

At the same time we were and are eachothers opposites. Disc priests mitigated damage mainly (and this is still so), while resto druids were pure healers. No other class lacks mitigation completely (resto shamans have Ancestral Fortitude, Holy Priests have Inspiration and Shields too and Paladins have Sacred Shield). I want to believe that we can stand on each side of this line of healing styles, and still be equally useful, without having to meet up in the middle. I've never once complained about the fact that I as a disc priest (which I mainly play nowadays) basically lack hots, which are an extremely powerful healing tool. If I really wanted to play with hots, I would roll a druid. I have decided to heal in another way - which should be, if not exactly equally useful, at least close to. But whether this diversity works or not is up up to Blizzard.

Because of how healing was designed in end game Wrath, stacking only resto druids for a difficult raid fight might actually have worked. But that is beside the point. The point is that we used to have clearcut roles where we didn't solve every situation as good as another class, and this wasn't an issue. We were all needed, the "cushioners" and the s"niper healers", the aoe healers and the single target nukers alike. It was an immense relief for me as an aoe bombing holy priest to know that we had a paladin making sure that the tanks wouldn't die. My task was to keep him and the rest of the ranged alive, and in turn he didn't have to think about that problem. In my opinion this is a how a good healing team should work. And when you roll a certain class you should know that you will be mainly put to fill a certain pair of shoes. You will probably not get to do "everything all the time", but be put in the areas you can handle the best. This is true for all roles, tanking, dpsing and healing alike. On Nefarian 10/25 man I always do aworse job healing the Onyxia tank than our resto druids. I just have big problems keeping the tank alive if we get a Tail Swipe and Electrocute at the same time, because while I am stunned I do no healing whatsoever, while the resto druids hots still work their magic. Same goes with healing the addtank. I just have trouble keeping a constantly moving object alive. If we didn't have a resto druid for our 10 mans, this problem would be alot bigger. I still think that is ok because eventhough it requires more work and risk, all the others healers could do that job if they really had to. I feel like this is the case for resto druids in the vast majority of situations. There is always use for at least one resto druid in all the current fights, correct me if I am wrong!

Also I could feel that if anyone really has reason to complain about not having good raid cooldowns, it should really be warrior, druid and dk tanks. Paladin tanks have raid cooldowns that is freaking awesome, while the others don't have anything even remotely like it. In this case, Divine Guardian is powerful enough to warrant taking a paladin tank over a warrior/druid/dk tank (of equal skill and gear) in basically all difficult raiding situations. I am glad they are nerfing DG, but it's funny how this rather big unfairness in raid cooldowns has gone basically uncommented (at least I haven't seen much about it).

But, there is a big but here. It doesn't really matter how I think healing should work, what really matters is how Blizzard designs the fights, and whether all healers are capable to fill at least some role in those fights. If there really are situations where guilds feel they have to pick a certain class over another to complete the fight (and it's not just because they're being silly, but because of real issues), there are at least that many reasons to warrant a change. The change doesn't necessarily have to be among the healers however, we might just as well tell Blizzard to become better at designing fights that require a little bit of every class in the game. A huge task of course. It would be a lot easier to just give all healers equal tools to solve every issue in the game.

When I said "druids don't need a raid cooldown"
I was really thinking "I really wish druids don't need a raid cooldown" or "druids don't need a raid cooldown if Blizzard only knew to design proper fights". It's not that I don't think they don't deserve one, it's really nothing personal. In fact I would think it a splendid idea to move Inspiration from priests to druids. What I really want is diversity. I want to have to rely on another class to do their job, and for them to rely on me doing my job, but it all boils down to whether there are fights where we're both needed. Just as with any other class, if you need something a class doesn't provide, you need other good reasons to bring that class. I do feel like druids have a strong healing style. Like I mentioned in my other post I feel like druids have plenty of strong cooldowns already, and they shouldn't need to be able to solve every situation. This isn't just my point of view, but something shared by many healers. For example, my healing on the run is pretty sucky, but that is ok because I leave that in the capable hands of other healing classes. This is how I want it to be. But if there was a fight where healing on the run was crucial, or a fight where my healing style was basically obsolete, and I felt like people chose resto druids over me because of this, then yes of course - there is a problem. I have to say like Derevka however - is another raid cooldown really the answer?


  1. Just off the top of my head, your idea that a druid cooldown should leverage their strengths instead of cloning another class' made me think. I've been helping my guildie mage improve his guy (read: referring him to mage bloggers) and one Fire mage ability is to combine all their current DoTs on a target into one big, newer, massive DoT. I wonder if a similar idea would be good for druids?

    Now granted, it's different for fire mages because some of their DoTs are proc-based, so it's more of a "wait for the right moment" ability (I think), unlike druid HoTs which are always available. But when it comes to a unique spell playing off resto druids' strengths, well, that came to mind.

  2. Or! Maybe some kind of mechanic where the druid can put a huge HoT on someone whose strength is based off damage the tank (or raid?) received in the last x seconds. Something new but still HoT-based.

  3. Yes, druids need a damage mitigation cooldown.

    I don't want to sound like curmudgeon, but not a thing you said invalidates the need for a mitigation cooldown. Having a damage mitigation cooldown won't change druids away from hots, any more than having one keeps disc priests from shield spamming or paladins from being powerful single target healers. The basic healing arsenal and playstyle won't change, only the druids' ability to save a tank in a nasty situation.

    There's been a lot of chatter on the internet about keeping each class "unique." I say that Blizzard has done a bang up job of making the healing styles for each class/spec feel unique already. Having the ability to do the same things does not mean doing them in the same way. And if druid's get a "pain suppression" cooldown, so what? Both shamans and druids have nature's swiftness, and it doesn't make the two classes heal the same way.

    Chain heal and Prayer of mending both bounce from target to target, but the spells feel very different. The new shaman cooldown is tres cool and feels right. I trust Blizzard to do the same for druids.

  4. To make a long story short, I don't think resto druids fundamentally need a tank cooldown. What's different now than over the last few years?

    Even if tanks are being one-shot (and they aren't in normal-mode encounters, so I guess this is hard mode), so long as you have one healer with a tank cooldown you'll be fine. Besides that, can't the encounters be modified to have smaller hits and more of them?

    Druids will certainly be a lot more capable due to having a tank cooldown, but I don't get Blizzard's rationale here.

  5. @Rades
    You're talking about Combustion, my favorite cooldown in the entire game. It really requires some skill to properly use it (maybe less if you use one of those fancy addons to track it) and you can immediately tell between a new mage (like me) and a veteran one by how they use their Combustion. To have a similar skill, but for hots, for druids is a great idea.

    You ask "if druid's get a "pain suppression" cooldown, so what?". This is the essence of the question really. Some people think it matters alot, some people think it matters less. Just because some classes are similar in some ways already doesn't mean we should continue the trend. What is the next step? Give everyone equal amounts of hots vs direct heals? Give all tanks a raid cooldown? Give all dps a raid cooldown? Give everyone a battle res/healthstones/bloodlust? We're already treading that path it seems.
    What I'm really going at here is that I want classes to have weaknesses. I want classes to have areas in which they have to trust another class to do the job. These weakness strengths have to be equally distributed of course, and maybe they aren't atm. But that doesn't mean that giving druids a mitigation cooldown is the only answer.

    I totally agree.

  6. @Zinn

    At this time, I have one of everything. (Not at max level!) No class feels like any other class. I trust Blizzard to be able to keep it that way.

    By preference, I'm a 25 man raider. I do 10 mans for fun on my alts. For better or for worse, Blizzard is moving to a primary focus on 10 man raiding.

    For alt runs, for little guilds, for pugs, your healers are who you can get with the classes they want to play. "2 druids and a shaman, yeah! we can go." Gimping one or more healing classes so that they can't do whatever is necessary is fine in theory for 25 mans, but not so much for the little not so serious raids.

    You speak of the "slippery slope".. I say that brez feels different from soul stone which feels different from ghouls/raising from the dead thing. My 10 man with no druids is quite gleeful.

    And, in the end, I trust Blizzard to spread around the tools in the toolbox so that it is easier to form a 10 man raid without compromising the feel of each class.