WAWK: Monk Artifact Edition

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The second of WoW’s classes to be added, Monks have been part of the game for nearly four years as of this writing, and I believe it’s safe to say that they’ve been one of the more volatile classes when it comes to gameplay ever since. In Mists itself, Windwalkers could never focus on a mastery to stick around with up until Warlords where all three specs received fairly large overhauls in their gameplay. Now in Legion, all three specialisations have completely changed their style of playing once more. Let’s face it, if you choose to play a Monk you’ve got to get used to change. That may be why their player numbers are on the lower side of things…

Regardless, their weapons are equally unimaginative between themselves – with little lore outside of Pandaria it’s hard to think of impressive artifacts that they can wield. What they can wield, is staff crafted from the first of Pandaria’s forests; using the same staff that their most famous and last emperor, Shaohao, used during his series of trials; and wearing the fist weapons literally imbued with the essence of the Windlord, Al’Akir, Blizzard have made a good effort to design weapons for monks that we can feel are awesome. They’re no Felo’melorn, Ashbringer nor Doomhammer, but Fu Zan, Sheilun and the Fists of the Heavens are mighty weapons to take up against the Legion.

Introductory Quests

Straight after settling Dalaran in its new location above the Broken Isles, Initiate Da-Nel runs up to you claiming that Grand Master Hight has requested all senior monks to return to the Peak of Serenity as soon as possible, so it’s high time that we use our personal teleport to get to there!

Master Hight explains that the Broken Shore was a massive blow to the Horde and the Alliance, but before he can finish a young monk comes rushing in, warning of a Legion invasion at the Peak! The monk then gets picked up by an infernal and pummeled against the opposite door, before you dispatch of the infernal.

Heading out of the doors, you find that the Legion are swarming everywhere at the Peak, so you’ll have to fight your way through to the Cave of the Crane. When you reach the cave, Number Nine Jia thanks you for helping save the ancient scrolls, and tells you that Chen Stormstout was teaching a class of youngsters when the attack began, so we have to go round and help him. She will turn you into a zen sphere to take you close to Chen, but not close enough that you’ll have to fight through some demons to get to him.

When you get to him, Lasy Keletress will taunt you, saying that you can’t hide and that the monastery will burn. When you save him, he will assist you in fighting demons on the way back to the monastery, where you will meet back up with Master Hight. The Grand Master will tell Chen to take the cubs to a safe location far away from the Peak, while you and Hight will seal the portal.

Running down the steps, you face against the Portal Master, Jorvinax, before destroying the master fel stone in front of the Legion portal. When you try to destroy it however, hordes of demons come through the portal, so you do a small jump and spinning kick to take out the stone and black out… Before arriving at your class hall, the Temple of the Five Dawns on Shen-zin Su, the Wandering Isle.

Fearsome Jang greets you at the base of the Temple, and tells you the bad news that Grand Master Hight now rests with the ancestors, and that the new leader for the monk order should be you. After a short ceremony, you are able to choose which artifact to pursue.

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Brewmaster – Fu Zan, the Wanderer’s Champion

As one of the oldest weapons on Azeroth, Fu Zan dates back to when the titans first molded Azeroth. Long ago, Keeper Freya set out to populate the world with life, and she place one of the first seeds in Pandaria. From the seeds grew Fu Zan, the first of all of Pandaria’s forests, and the ancestor to all of the region’s forests. Before continuing on her journey, Freya fashioned a walking stick for her travels before passing it onto the Jade Serpent, Yu’lon, who later gifted it to a hozen known as the Monkey King.

The Monkey King hung his most prized possessions from the staff, and it is said that the bearer of the staff cannot be harmed by any weapon, so we must begin our search for this weapon with the Monkey King himself. He was last spotted at Tian Monastery in the northern part of Jade Forest. When you arrive at the Ring of Balance, the Monkey King is already there, overseeing a bunch of hozen being trained in the ways of the monk. He then gives you three rhyming riddles for you to solve, in the riddle of purity, of the barrel and of the land.

Fortunately, Blizzard’s quest tracker will lead you directly to where you need to go and what you need to gather. Gone are the days of working things out for yourself… Then giving up and searching for the answer on Thottbot, Allakhazam or (currently) Wowhead. All three of the answers are in the Valley of the Four Winds, so you’ll have to take a flight over to the Pools of Purity as your closest stop, taking care of Desecrator Ma’veth who is currently corrupting a Pandaren Water Spirit. Take the Pure Water Core from the Spirit, and the Monkey King will appear in front of you to tell you to carry on finding the other riddles.

The next stop for both the riddle of the barrel and of the land is at the Imperial Granary, where the Legion are, predictably, setting fire to everything. Grab sacks of grain dotted around the place, and in the top floor of the building is a demon holding onto a barrel of brew. Kill him and take it for yourself. When you hand in the riddles, the Monkey King makes you go flying again – this time to the Temple of the Jade Serpent in the Jade Forest. I get that you want us to see Pandaria again Blizzard, but couldn’t you have kept everything in the Jade Forest? It doesn’t give a great sense of urgency too, as when you’re flying over the continent you don’t actually see any signs of Legion invasion – only at the points where the Monkey King tells you to go.

The Monkey King tells you his final task is to help him with brewing in order for him to tell you where his weapon lies. It’s one of those simple “I tell you a clue what item to press, and keep doing it until the bar fills up” kind of deals, and after you finish with all the ingredients the Monkey King tells you that the staff was only a gift from Yu’lon while he completed his task. After the task was finished, he had to return it to her (seems like a good closing clause for us to relinquish the weapon at the end of Legion too, huh?).

We accompany the head hozen to the temple to request the staff from the Jade Serpent, and we find that the temple is suddenly overrun by the Legion, despite it being peaceful and tranquil just moments before. You’ll have to fight your way round and save who you can starting from the Scrollkeeper’s Sanctum. You fight your way through to Belphiar, an observer, who is currently feasting on the minds of a couple pandaren, though when you defeat him you find that Lorewalker Stonestep did not make it, unfortunately – you may remember the Lorewalker from the 5man instance.

The Monkey King tells you that Yu’lon is in trouble, and that you have to come and help immediately to fight off the demons while the Jade Serpent recuperates. When she eventually revives herself, she goes on into the temple itself to fight off a monstrous felbat while you fight its rider, Lord Korithis. When you succeed, she will grant you Fu Zan and offers to take you back to your order hall.

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Mistweaver – Sheilun, Staff of Mists

Mistweavers get to wield the staff of the last and legendary emperor of the Pandaren, Shaohao. The last time the Legion launched a full-scale invasion of Azeroth, the emperor received a prophecy that the Legion would leave the world shattered, so to save his people he embarked on a series of trials. When he finished, he became part of the land, and vanished into the mists that enshrouded the continent, now separate from the rest of Kalimdor. The staff he took on his journey, Sheilun, clattered to the ground, where it lay until monks of Tian Monastey found and took it to the Terrace of Endless Spring for safekeeping.

The current major Legion invasion has broken into Pandaria and Shado-Pan defenders have rushed to secure the area. They haven’t reported back, so it’s up to us to save their hides! Considering this is the healing line, I’d guess some are alive, but we have to help keep them that way…

Tak-Tak will take us back to Pandaria, to the Terrace of Endless Spring, where you will find our good old Shado-Pan friend Taran Zhu waiting for you.

And he’s gotten himself injured again.

When you heal him up, he will tell you to free the other Shado-Pan while he takes on Hellwarden Xaphan. Taking down the jailer will allow you to carry on up the terrace, where you get to choose which of the Shado-Pan members you wish to focus on keeping alive while they go be a terrible tunnel-focusing DPS. The choice is between Fei Li, the firemage; Taoshi, the rogue; or Hawkmaster Nurong, the hunter. Whichever you choose will affect how the fight progresses, but it’s largely down to your own playstyle as a mistweaver to go for mana regen, mobility or attack speed.

Or you can go for all three bonuses if you feel up to the challenge and overgear the scenario. Speak with Taran Zhu, and your crew can start attacking Aspersius. When you defeat the fel-blighted water elemental, Sheilun, the Staff of the Mists, is yours to take! Short and sweet for the mistweavers, not an awful lot going on here!

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Windwalker – Fists of the Heavens

Moving away from the Pandaren culture (seeing as there’s more than just Pandaren Monks in this game), the Windwalker artifacts look at one of our side-character races, the tol’vir. Tol’vir smith Irmaat crafted a magnificent pair of handblades thousands of eyars ago, however he was unsatisfied with his work, so he set out to try and capture the essence of the Windlord, Al’akir. The elemental lord of air was not amused by the tol’vir, and to spite him he poured significant amounts of raw elemental fury into the blades, and when Irmaat unleashed their might, a giant vortex sprung up, taking out the city and scattering the weapons to the winds.

Little more is known of them, so it’s up to us to see if the legends are true as these weapons would be beneficial against the Legion invasion. Iron-Body Ponshu tells you that Li Li Stormstout is one of the most traveled people on the Wandering Isle, so it is best to start with her to find the whereabouts of this weapon. She tells you that she met with a tol’vir in Booty Bay, and tells you the legend of the handblades concerning Irmaat and Al’Akir.

She tells you to take her kite and meet her in Ramkahen, and once you land she tells you that while you’ve been taking the scenic route, she’s been in discussion with King Phaoris, ruler of Ramkahen, and found out that he can help as long as we take care of a problem for him: an elemental called Nader attacking his people.

You quickly take care of Nader, where he mentions a lord Typhinius, and grab the essence of the whirlwind for the first clue and return it to Phaoris. He tells you that using the stone will take you to Skywall itself, and says that the Fists of the Heavens should be in the elemental plane of air. When you arrive, Li Li immediately gets herself into trouble with Typhinius, and its up to you to save her. You then make your way through Skywall (ahem, Vortex Pinnacle) to destroy 3 stormtouched orbs to bypass the raging winds.

Getting to the end of the platform will cause Typhinius to appear again, and send four of his minions against you, alongside a couple extra enemies per wave, with an air elemental dragon (the Cataclysm winds dragons, not the new storm dragons from Legion content) who you defeat and then jump onto the back of. Zaurac, the dragon, will take you to Typhinius himself, who you also end up defeating. When you win, the Fists of the Heavens are yours to keep!

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Heroes Launch Detected, The Mayhem Begins and E3!

The game is finally live after around a year of player testing, and a whole whirl of exciting news has followed it! For one of the few times in Blizzard history, they decided to do the official launch event here in the UK, with a free celebration in cloudy London (which, when it was evening and indoors, didn’t really matter much anyway – we’re all nerds!) that left people feeling a little underwhelmed, in true modern Blizzard fashion. Let’s face it, even Hearthstone was just a switch-flip and suddenly it was live.

At least with Heroes and the London party, it had a little more pizzazz! What we got for the free event however was a pretty neat light show (shown here); a recap of what we already knew since BlizzCon 2014; the Johanna hero trailer; the same length of discussion about the game as the length of a Madeon gig; some awesome cosplay; a presenter that seemed like he didn’t know an awful lot about the game (when we had people like Khaldor and MFPallytime there who were both even interviewed), and some free swag. So there were lots of ups and downs, but the main downer in my opinion that for a launch event of a video game… We didn’t actually see any gaming going on other than the 20 PCs they had set up for. Key developers were there, the Yogscast were there, many famous streamers were there; I don’t think it would have been too much of a stretch to get a shoutcast going of a Blizzard Brawl or something.

Nevertheless, it was a free event that I probably wouldn’t have gone to if it wasn’t in the UK anyway, so I can’t complain too much – it was mainly a thank you to the players for supporting Blizzard over the past year. If we’d have known beforehand what to expect I’m pretty sure that people flying in from all over Europe (and I think I even heard an Aussie accent!) likely would have just watched YouTube at home.

Eternal Conflict map

The very next weekend however we were teased and presented with an event that included a matchup between Heroes of the Dorm winners UC Berkeley and pro team Cloud9 Maelstrom. It was a very close game to prove that the collegiate scene is very competitive when they held up so well against one of the best teams in the world – even if two of Berkeley’s team members were pro players Fan, who plays for Cloud9’s other team, Vortex, and Suppy, who plays for Evil Geniuses in Starcraft II. The game could have gone either way right up until the final team fight where 3 of Berkely’s players fell, and the remaining two could not defend against Cloud9’s five push through the lane’s final keep and eventually core.

That was followed shortly by BlizzCon 2014 Blizzard Brawl’s champions Low Expectations – Jesse Cox’s team – up against an assortment of streamers teaming up as The Challengers. Low Expectations used an unconventional lineup in using both Murky and Abathur, neither really seen on their own in pro play let alone together, but with Johanna, Brightwing and Jaina rounding out the team they managed to get plenty of global play, alongside massive sustainability with the warrior and just heavily pushed and forced The Challengers to split up enough for effective teamfights. In the end, although Low Expectations suffered more team deaths, they ended up winning through the brutal split push and objective domination. With amusing smack-talk and a much more relaxed atmosphere in comparison to the previous match, it definitely shows a different light on high-skill games.

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Next up we were teased with the first event coming to Heroes of the Storm – the Eternal Conflict! Already starting with Johanna the Crusader at launch, we’ll be seeing some Diablo-focused content for the next few months, and once we hit June 30th we’ll see the new battleground Battlefield of Eternity and new assassin, the Butcher! Looking at Butcher first, we were shown his entire kit, which looks as follows:

  • [Trait] Fresh Meat: Nearby minions drop 1 and heroes drop 3 fresh meat when they die, which you can pick up to gain 1% bonus attack damage. Can hold up to 25 meat. All meat is lost on dying.
  • [Q] Hamstring: Slams your axe down into the ground, dealing 40 damage and slowing units by 50%. This slow fades away over 2 seconds.
  • [W] Butcher’s Brand: Deal 32 damage to an enemy and cause your basic attacks against them to heal you for 75% of the damage done for 5 seconds. Healing doubled versus heroes.
  • [E] Rutheless Onslaught: Charge at an enemy, becoming unstoppable and gaining movement speed. If you reach the target, they are stunned for 1 second and take 110 damage.
  • [R1] Furnace Blast: After a 3 second delay, fire explodes around you dealing 685 damage to enemies. Can be cast while using Ruthless Onslaught.
  • [R2] Lamb for the Slaughter: Throw a hitching post that attaches to the nearest enemy hero after a 1 second delay. This deals 75 damage and causes the enemy to be chained to the post for 4 seconds.

There’s also a full list of talents ready for him to go out of the gate, so it’s a bit disappointing that the PTR isn’t testing him. Cited as being the Illidan counter, we also saw a matchup of heroes that are good with Butcher, and not so great against him, and I have to admit the heroes they picked for this (Diablo, Sylvanas, Tassadar, Rehgar and of course Illidan) is a setup you’d typically see in ranked play. To see that Butcher feeds well on this kind of set up is going to make July onwards very interesting for Heroes ranked and competitive play! It’ll be interesting to see if he’s balanced for assuming he has 12-15 stacks of Fresh Meat, or for 0 or even 25!

Not only do we have a new hero, but as I mentioned earlier we’ll also be seeing a new battleground coming to Heroes along with Butcher! The High Heavens and Burning Hells are at war with each other as always, and this two-lane map looks to be an interesting addition to the map roster:

Map

Looks pretty gorgeous, doesn’t it? I’ll likely do a breakdown of the map once I get my hands onto it for tips and tricks, but holy cow it looked good on the playtest match! The main map objective of two immortals duking it out anime-style, the mercs being Diablo themed… My only issue when we saw the playthrough was that the map objective didn’t really appear to do much, but we didn’t really see what a full powered immortal does down the lane.

Finally, E3 recently happened, and while there’s plenty of stuff that I could talk about there, Blizzard did appear at the PC Gaming Show on Tues 16th June and talked even more about what to expect over the next few weeks with the Eternal Conflict! It looks like they’re going to try to stick to their 3-4 week schedule of new heroes as we got information about two more heroes after Butcher – it hasn’t even been that long since we saw Johanna make her debut.

Leoric

The first hero announced was Leoric, as many Diablo players will recognise as the Skeleton King. While we don’t know too much about him in comparison to Butcher, what we do know is very interesting. Firstly, his trait allows him to never leave the field of battle, where upon death he turns into a wraith (similar to Uther) and cast spells. Instead of doing damage, these will slow enemies, but the damage he would have done reduces his respawn time. When he respawns, he comes back at full health wherever he ends up. I don’t know if he continues to earn exp or walks through obstacles like Uther’s ghost, but I can certainly see some heavy diving happening and potentially heavy feeding.

His Q will slow enemies in an arc in front of him; his W is a skillshot that will tether him to an enemy, draining their life and regenerating his; while E is similar to Sylvanas’s Haunting Wave, where he sends out a wraith that Leoric can control and teleport to. The first of his ultimates is called Entomb, which creates a U shape of tombs around a target, creating temporary walls that on first indication is a big massive “kill this target” or a decent way to trap enemies inside for a wombo combo. Definitely something I’d see the pro’s use, as different ways to control enemy movement is king (no pun intended). At level 20 this upgrades to tombstones with spikes. Because that makes sense.

His second heroic on the other hand is March of the Black King, which Diablo III players will recognise as his three massive swings while moving forward that deals huge damage while healing himself – while being unstoppable at the same time. Useful if you have someone like an ETC already keeping the enemies in place, or in maps where there are plenty of choke points to fight people in like Tomb of the Spider Queen. At level 20, this will upgrade it to cast his W on anyone nearby once done, allowing for massive survivability and staying within the fight.

Overall, he seems like quite a unique hero who’s trait aids in separating Heroes from the MOBA genre again. Leoric wasn’t the only thing teased at the PC Gaming Show however, we also found out about the Monk, rounding out the D3 roster of Nephalem with the exception of the Wizard! Not only that, but we also see Diablo’s first support (and Heroes’ second non-WoW support!). We know even less about this hero than we do Leoric, but from the Eternal Conflict trailer we can assume he gets Seven-Sided Strike, but one thing that Blizzard has mentioned is that at level 1 we get to choose what trait he gets to go with for the rest of the fight – one more support, one more tanky and one more of a damage dealer role, similar to his mantras in D3. Amazing for Quick Match, but if it holds him back in competitive play we’ll have to see.

Treasure Goblin

Regardless, it’s good for Blizzard to be branching out to make unique heroes that hopefully will continue to have different playstyles from each other, though we’ll see what happens when we get to rosters of 60+ heroes, let alone the 100 or more that League or Dota have. One thing that Blizzard mentioned that was pretty fun to hear was that at the start of each map during the Eternal Conflict event will have a Treasure Goblin at the start of each battle, and if you kill him before he escapes you’ll earn extra gold at the end of the match! I can only imagine the rage people will have if you fail to kill him… “GG NOT ENOUGH DPS TO KILL GOBLIN MAY AS WELL QUIT NOW!”

Overall, it looks like a fantastic event that will bring the roster of Diablo heroes to at least 10 by the end of it, some awesome skins with Archangel Diablo (and what appears to be an update to Demonic Tyrael?) as well as a bunch of cross-universe skins from Butcher and Leoric too! It was a badly represented universe, especially in comparison to the slew of Warcraft heroes we had received. I’d hope that it doesn’t mean that when it’s over, it’ll be half a year until we see more Diablo heroes again (if we go 12 weeks per event) as I’d really love to see the final Nephalem, as well as more angels like Imperius, Malthael and Auriel, and of course more of the Evils like Belial, Baal and Mephisto. For some reason, Diablo characters just seem far more suited for Heroes than other universes.

 

Active Mitigation into Active Regeneration

active mana regeneration

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.