Active Mitigation into Active Regeneration

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So these details have been out a little while now, meaning this article is largely going to be about my views on the matter now they’ve been out for some time, and what could happen in the future as a result from this, instead of a general news post with my initial reactions to the changes.

What I’m talking about is the changes healers are seeing to their mana regeneration going into 6.0 and beyond. Please note that at the time of writing this article, Warlords of Draenor is in its alpha stages, with changes happening left, right and center, so chances are details in this article are likely to change. It didn’t take long for Blizzard to re-implement Innervate for example, unless it was their plan all along to completely scrap it and rebuild it from new with a new spell ID.

The full details of the changes to healers’ mana regeneration can be found here, but I’ll list a brief overview below:

  • Druid: Innervate has been redesigned to have no cooldown, have a two second cast, and every 4 seconds for 8 seconds will restore 2.5% of their max mana. Innervate will cancel if any healing spells are cast during this time.
  • Monk: Crackling Jade Lightning will have no mana cost in Stance of the Wise Serpent (baring in mind Mistweavers can now choose between Serpent and Crane stances), and once channeled for the full 4 seconds will restore 2% of their max mana.
  • Paladin: Divine Plea has been redesigned to have no cooldown, but now consumes 3 Holy Power to restore 7% of max mana.
  • Discipline Priest: Penance now restores 1.1% of max mana every time it hits, but no longer triggers Atonement.
  • Holy Priest: Red Chakra (Chastise) will cause Smite and Holy Fire to restore 0.75% of max mana instead of costing mana.
  • Shaman: Telluric Currents is now (finally) passive for Resto Shamans. Casting Lightning Bolt will restore 1.25% of max mana instead of costing mana.

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So it looks like Blizz have taken a look at Mistweaver Monks and Power Word: Solace, and decided that they like that particular model of regenerating your mana in a more active role, as opposed to a button you just pressed every couple of minutes to greatly regen your mana like the Innervate or Divine Plea we’re used to in Mists. Just like how Blood Shield for Blood DKs was kind of a testing ground for what all tanks eventually received in Mists through active mitigation, it seems that all healers now get this active mana regeneration model as a result of the success with Priests and Monks.

I have to say, I’m most intrigued by the Druid and Paladin ones. The Druid one less so, but they both have something a little more unique than “deal damage to regen mana” – something that builds upon the Monk’s mechanic for Mana Tea. We’ve had Telluric Currents for years, just slapping the same thing onto both three more specs doesn’t make it any more interesting. What about something like “Every 3 Renews you cast makes your next healing spell cost no mana” or bring in the return of mp5 through saying something like “Not casting a healing spell for 5 seconds will increase your spirit by X%”. Monks could make use of their secondary resource, chi, to instantly restore something like 0.5% of max mana – baring in mind that spending chi gives them stacks for their tea too, it could be a good way to actively dump throughput to gain a ton of mana back.

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I think the active mitigation model has worked extremely well in Mists, even going as far to say that out of them all, ironically the Death Knights are the tanks that seems to be the weakest and most dependent on lucky streaks from dodge and parry in order to stay alive. But what’s worked out the best is that because of all the different resources tanks have to increase their survivability – healers on the other hand largely just have mana to work with. Monks and Paladins have their combo points, sure, and I’m not trying to push for all healers to get some kind of combo point mechanic to spend as that’ll just feel shoved in for complexity’s sake. But simply dealing damage to regen mana just seems like boring design.

I do want to make a point on the new Innervate too: It essentially means the Druid isn’t healing for 6-10 seconds, taking the cast time into account. I don’t know if haste will have an impact for partial mana ticks at all, but it does involve a bit of communication with the raid to only expect heals to tick out for the next few seconds – if we’re going into Mythic raiding with 4-5 healers, that means for 6-10secs at a time raids are going to have to make up 20-25% healing while an Innervate is going out. With triage healing being the focus of the expansion, with Blizzard planning to reduce the huge damage output and expecting raids to spend most of their time at sub-100%, it’s going to take a lot of intuition of the encounter for Druids to time their Innervates correctly without being tempted to throw a Wild Growth out or sweep a few extra Rejuv’s out. What Blizzard are telling Druids to do with Innervate in its current form is to essentially do nothing while they regen mana, as casting will negate the regeneration from Innervate anyway.

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So yeah, I’m complaining about using damage to regen, and I’m complaining about one of the few mechanics that doesn’t involve using damage to regen mana. I sound like the average forum user… The proof is in the pudding, Blizzard made active mitigation work extremely well for tanks – it certainly breaks up the main problem I have with tanks: long periods of nothing to do, maybe taunt every so often, but then suddenly all the weight of an encounter is on your shoulders, and you could be the cause of a wipe. It’s up to the tank to be able to cope with the sudden switch in responsibility, so for those that tend to lose focus from boredom, this active mitigation model certainly makes much more interactive gameplay.

It makes me think about the future though – if this active mana regeneration model works out well for healers, could it be something we see for DPS? Perhaps removing some DPS cooldowns to combo some abilities together to grant more damage. As much as people hate it, Rune of Power from Mages could be a good template to start from, or Steady Focus on Marksmanship Hunters.

The Health Conundrum

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Hey guys! It’s been a while since I’ve talked about Warcraft instead of me waiting on Heroes of the Storm or whatever other game I’m playing that isn’t WoW, surprisingly enough considering the amount of information that has been given to us the past couple weeks, one of which linked to the image above. That’s right, pre-orders are available, and we can expect the expansion on or before the end of fall on the 20th December 2014. This post isn’t going to talk about anything like boosted level 90’s or the increased price of the expansion pack (I might make another post concerning those topics) – this article is going to be about healing and health in WoD. This intro has mainly had nothing to do with it, so let’s get right into it!

Blizzard earlier on this week released a blog article concerning how health and healing is going to change in Warlords of Draenor, and it goes to continue the discussion started last year of how there’s been this huge back and forth of balance, especially in PvP, of how players have this mindset of being able to keep people topped off at all times, and being able to heal effectively while keeping away from things that might smack you in the face a few times. This form of healing got too powerful for some classes, and Blizzard retaliated by allowing more classes to lock down these healers that are suddenly able to keep at full health and run away from them at the same time.

This was then combated by the healers that were unable to heal effectively on the move as they just ended up getting pressured too much to be able to have more options to not get locked down as easily. We’ve also seen the introduction and changes to Resilience, PvP Power, Battle Fatigue and capped item levels to further affect the survivability and lethality of players in PvP combat (while making sure that PvE-geared players don’t dominate in instanced PvP), each season the stats changing around so that it takes around as long to defeat others in similar gear, but so that you still feel more powerful in comparison to previous seasons. However, to avoid what happened in TBC with “welfare epics”, Blizzard have had to keep PvP gear weaker than PvE gear so that people don’t necessarily have to farm for gear in content they don’t enjoy playing, just to get that best-in-slot item.

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With the stat squish in WoD, this squishiness (or lack thereof) has to change yet again. Blizzard are aiming to tighten the gap between PvP and PvE, because as it stands at the moment most players feel much weaker in PvP content than they do in PvE, with reduced health pools and lower damage in comparison to PvE content. However, people still think that MoP has been “World of Burstcraft” where everything is tied around how much you can burst in the small window of CC.

This time around, when 6.0 hits Blizzard will squish people’s stats down, and then effectively double their health. To compensate in PvE, creature damage and healing will be increased so that it doesn’t affect that crowd too much, however we should see a bit more standard survivability without the need for a healer in PvP combat. This, alongside the cut in critical strike damage to only being 150% instead of 200% will hopefully slow down World of Burstcraft.

Along a similar vein, Blizz are also hitting healers so that they’re no longer as mobile while healing, turning some instant cast spells into cast-time abilities, and the ethos for WoD will be to not expect a full raid of people at max health during combat. We’re going to focus more on triage rather than reacting to burst damage. Shields and absorption effects will be less effective than they were before, so we may see heals over time leading raid content, as there will actually be things to heal this time around, instead of most of our Renewing Mists or Wild Growths go into overhealing. Whether or not Blizzard can keep it up for the entirety of the expansion is another deal, but unless there are any soothsayers out there, we’ll have to find out! To avoid the Cataclysm problem where healers in 5mans could heal 3 times before going out of mana, Blizzard are increasing mana regen at low gear levels, and with spirit only being available on jewellery the scaling shouldn’t get out of control later on in the expansion cycle.

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We’re seeing some changes to healing spells themselves, with at least one strong expensive AoE heal, one weak cheap AoE heal, one strong expensive single target heal and similarly one weak cheap ST heal. What is planned below for each class is as follows:

Druid

  • Nourish removed.
  • Wild Growth has a 1.5sec cast.
  • Higher efficiency spells: Healing Touch, Rejuvenation, Efflorescence
  • Higher throughput spells: Regrowth, Wild Growth

Monk

  • Uplift has a 1.5sec cast.
  • Higher efficiency spells: Soothing Mist, Renewing Mist
  • Higher throughput spells: Surging Mist, Spinning Crane Kick

Paladin

  • Holy Light removed.
  • Word of Glory/Eternal Flame has a 1.5sec cast when specced Holy.
  • Light of Dawn has a 1.5sec cast.
  • Divine Light renamed to Holy Light.
  • Higher efficiency spells: Holy Light, Holy Shock, Word of Glory, Light of Dawn
  • Higher throughput spells: Flash of Light, Holy Radiance

Priest

  • Heal removed.
  • Level 90 tier abilities has a 1.5sec cast time in Holy/Discipline.
  • Prayer of Mending has a 1.5sec cast.
  • Higher efficiency spells: Greater Heal, Circle of Healing, Prayer of Mending, Holy Nova (Disc-only version), Penance
  • Higher throughput spells: Flash Heal, Prayer of Healing

Shaman

  • Healing Wave removed.
  • Greater Healing Wave renamed to Healing Wave.
  • Higher efficiency spells: Healing Wave, Riptide, Healing Rain
  • Higher throughput spells: Healing Surge, Chain Heal

I can’t say I know too much to go into detail about the other classes’ healing styles, but in a Resto Druid perspective, the changes don’t seem that terrible. Rejuvenation and Lifebloom are still instant casts, along with other spells that are currently instant and not mentioned above to be changed to 1.5sec casts. Nourish doesn’t get used, I’ve even taken it off my bars for my Resto spec it’s that trash, so I’m not going to miss no longer having my weak, cheap heal any more. Getting used to the new Wild Growth will be interesting, as it’s been quite a core without many changes since the early days of Wrath when it found itself with a cooldown. It’s listed as a high throughput ability, so whether it’ll be similar to Genesis in terms of expensive to cast, but a ton of quick healing, or it’s just less efficient because of the cooldown and cast time making it a rarer ability to use, is something we’ll have to find out when beta hits.

Now, the worry I have is that healers are going to be left with nothing to do if people’s health is trickling down, but still being non-fatal enough to concern your mana about. Ion Hazzikostas (Watcher) could see these concerns and may be including more options like Atonement healing for other classes. As we know, Monks may be getting Cranedancer stance so they can split between mistweaving and fistweaving, Shamans may be getting free Lightning Bolts as filler. I wonder what kind of filler Paladins and Druids could gain? I guess Paladins could make use of Battle Healer if mechanics allowed, and Druids have Dream of Cenarius for filler (assuming Wrath is cheap to cast anyway), but I’d love something baseline like with the other classes so we’re not just sitting there watching doing nothing. Then again, homogenization and all that.

Overall, I’m all for these changes, especially if they do end up working out not just in early WoD, but in later tiers and seasons, and even progressing into the next expansion after WoD. Personally, I think Blizz will turn a 180 on something here or end up making the healer-DPS equilibrium in PvP out of whack, but that’s what alpha and beta cycles are for, right? Getting things changed before they go live and harder to revert!