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!

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WI Community Blog Topic: Do we need an ability squish?

Hurricane Temple of StormsAmong many others bits of news that has come out these past few weeks in preparation for patch 5.4, another interesting idea that has brought up a bit of discussion is one of another ability squish, outlined in the Legendary interview at Gamescom.

As levels continue to increase, Blizzard have mentioned that it would be a shame to miss out getting new spells when we level in each expansion – and it’s true! In my case, I’m always looking forward to seeing what new toys each class will get in the upcoming expansion, but at the same time I’m looking at my 40+ keybinds I have on my Druid’s screen – that’s without including abilities in other forms, healing spells and PvP-specific bindings – and wonder just where I’m going to fit the new abilities on my bars.

We recently had a decent pruning in the Mists expansion itself, seeing the removal of certain lesser-used abilities such as Thorns, or abilities that became spec-specific such as Regrowth, Shred and Skull Bash. Ghostcrawler mentioned that in this expansion Blizzard were probably too nice to players, listening to their pleas of “We won’t be viable if we don’t have X – what happened to ‘Bring the player, not the class’ if we don’t have an interrupt” ending up with spell books that are still rather large in the case of certain classes.

What Was Discussed?

Now we have no information just yet for what abilities will get pruned back for patch 6.0, but one spell that is being looked at in the case of healers is the ‘base heal’ spell – so spells like Nourish, Heal, Healing Wave, etc are only useful at lower gear levels, and just don’t become used once healers have the regen to sustain the harder healing spells.

Other things that may get looked might be the wealth of instant cast heals and silences. In PvP at least, it has been an on-going war between countering healers and DPS – first the casted heals were getting interrupted all the time, so Blizzard opted to give healers more instant cast abilities, more ways to prevent interruption, but then that caused healers to get too powerful, making Blizzard implement these silences that would counter the instant cast spells, that led to healers getting locked down via stuns, silences, etc. We might end up seeing a pruning to both silences and instant cast spells to either become select few class niches or a complete rework where neither really exist (in a tree’s perspective there – gulp!).

Nourish

What I’d Like to Remove/Change

I’m all for an ability squish, by all means I don’t particularly want to go into the next expansion having to work my UI around to fit an ability I get at 93 or 95 or whatever that becomes quite rotational onto my bars. I already have enough trouble with Symbiosis depending on what spell I get. However at the same time, Blizzard said they wanted to get rid of the abilities you have to keybind, but don’t necessarily use all that often – I look at my bars, and I do use different abilities fairly often, depending on the content.

Soothe for example is an example of an ability I have to keybind, but don’t necessarily use all that often… until an encounter arrives that involves dispelling enrage effects or I find a Warrior on my ass – or I end up on a PvP server and spam Soothe on an Oondasta tank. Unless Blizzard ends up removing Enrage effects from the game, I don’t see Rogues and Hunters being the only ones to dispel that effect leading into the next expansion.

As I’ve already said earlier, Nourish is one of those spells we MIGHT see go for Restoration specs. I think the only time I’ve used it is when I don’t get a Clearcasting proc on the countdown of a pull to use Regrowth in its place, to get Harmony up. Even at the start of the expansion, despite playing Moonkin for most of it, I don’t think I really used Nourish at all, and wouldn’t mind freeing up the VuhDo slot for a more useful ability – especially if all healers get their similar spells wiped too, so that the same binding for the similar spell can all be replaced!

Of course, there doesn’t have to be outright removal of abilities to a certain specialisation either – we could see merging of abilities to cut down on the bloat. Much like how Moonkins got a new spell, Astral Storm, that changes on Eclipse between itself and Hurricane, we could see something similar between Moonfire and Sunfire. Though losing the double dot would be a shame to what Moonkins have had for years, I don’t really see the point in having essentially the same spell in a different flavour. We’d have to see an increase to our Shooting Stars procs and what pathetic movement DPS we have to make up for the loss of a second DOT, though for the latter the next change might work…

Plenty of people know how much I utterly despise Moonkin AoE in general since our Mushroom powerhouse was nerfed to the ground. Hurricane/Astral Storm is only really effective under Nature’s Grace, that will then end up gimping our single-target to get to the NEXT eclipse, and double dotting with Starcleaving requires mobs that will be alive for the dots to be effective. Although Balance have always had Hurricane as a signature ability for them, ever since it used to be their 31pt talent way back in Vanilla, I think it’s time to put it into retirement. In its place, I’d buff Mushrooms to leave a spell-storm DOT on its Fungal Growth similar to Hurricane’s damage (or 40% of it per Mushroom, for balancing reasons) – it gives us something to use on the move that’s actually effective in both Lunar and Solar, as well as on the move. It is a little bit fire and forget like Rain of Fire for Warlocks, but it’s still unique in that you could either stack all 3 mushrooms on top of each other for a larger amount of AoE, or spread them out for a larger area, but more importantly you can activate all of your AoE at once! It’s main drawback would be the 10sec cooldown in case the mobs have to move, but there’s got to be some drawback somewhere, right?

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Talents

Talents are also another way they can reduce on ability bloat, but only for the players that don’t want the extra buttons on their bars. For Druids at least, of the 18 possible talents we have, 3 of them are passive. Fortunately they are in different tiers, but that still leaves us with 3 extra buttons from our talents alone that could also give us the choice to remove them from our bars. 5.4 will alleviate this slightly by replacing Nature’s Swiftness (giving it to Balance and Resto) with Ysera’s Gift, giving us a passive 5% of our health in healing every 5 seconds. But what if we could extend this further to our two CC tiers of talents?

At tier 3 we have Faerie Swarm, Mass Entanglement and Typhoon, otherwise known as single-target spammable slow, AoE roots and AoE knockback/slow. Of the three, I’d probably axe the AoE roots as they’re still rarely used – in both PvE and PvP we’re still not seeing much more than 16% of Druids using the talent, despite its changes since their original incarnation. I’d axe the talent for a passive armour effect that slows down attackers by 30% or similar – could be called something like Grasping Vines to make it sound Druidic. This way, it reduces ability bloat if the casual crowd don’t want to remember to use the other two abilities, while also having the slow be not so powerful that it’s better than the actives in the same tier.

Tier 5 is also an ugly child, providing us with Disorienting Roar, Ursol’s Vortex and Mighty Bash – an AoE disorientate, a snare/grip combo and a stun. This tier is a bit more challenging to deal with, as they’re all very useful abilities that do all get used a fair amount by different specs in different playstyles. The only thing that I would suggest would be to make Ursol’s Vortex baseline for Balance (as it’s not widely used by the other specs, apart from Resto maybe in PvE to help tanks out) and replace it with Druid of the Wild, causing shapeshifting to root anyone in a 10yd radius around the Druid. It doesn’t reduce bloat for Balance unfortunately by keeping Vortex, but Beam+Vortex go hand in hand with each other – perhaps even bake the Beam and Vortex into the same spell as they’re both on a 1min CD? Probably not, quite a few times I prefer to just use Vortex to keep someone in place, but not necessarily silence them.

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On the Flip-side

However, I can see the argument AGAINST ability squishing, and it comes from the elitist standpoint more than anything else. In PvP especially, I know I have to use more abilities more often than I do in PvE, however I’d like to think that what I’ve done in my casual time in arenas and BGs has definitely helped me as a raider to use my entire toolkit that’s available to me for when the time arises. Having more abilities sets the casual apart from the hardcore, and it could allow Blizzard to design more complex heroic encounters with the knowledge that many classes have extensive toolkits to combat what is thrown at them.

Also, if we do squish abilities down so much and merge spells so much that we only need the 12-button hotbar (at an extremity I’d say), what would be the flavour that separates classes, other than the colour and names of the spells? What would be the ideal amount of abilities per spec before WoW turns itself into a MMO-MOBA?