Tobold's Blog
Thursday, March 05, 2009
Has healing changed?

I find that I am not having quite as much fun raid healing in Wrath of the Lich King than I had in vanilla WoW and The Burning Crusade. No, this is not another post about the difference in difficulty. But I have the impression that the very nature of healing has changed over time. Healing has become faster, less targeted, and involves less decision making.

I'm a big fan of Sid Meier's definition of a game as a "series of interesting decisions", and healing used to be all about interesting decisions. You had limited mana, and limited time, and you watched all of those health bars move slowly, and had to make a decision where to intervene and stop some health bar to reach the bottom. Only in Wrath of the Lich King those health bars don't move slowly any more. They move at lightning speed. If a non-tank pulls aggro he dies in less time than my fastest non-instant heal. And even when healing tanks at bosses, there is no time to make any decision. I healed the main tank at Patchwerk heroic last night, and all I could do was spam fast heals. There was no timing, no decision making, no selecting more or less mana efficient, more or less fast spells involved. Wrath of the Lich King is all about fast healing.

So quite often I find myself spamming AoE heals, or casting preventive healing spells like Renew or Prayer of Mending on characters I think will be damaged soon. On trash we usually have too much healing capacity, and healing degenerates into a meaningless race to top the healing meter, which has nothing at all to do with the original function of a healer to keep people alive. Even on bosses my healer is acting more and more like a dps class: Casting an "optimal" healing spell rotation of instant or fast heals, smart AoE as much as possible, without looking much. Slow healing spells have become useless. And the fun of deciding what spell to cast, based on the situation, has gone, because health bars just fluctuate too wildly to still make any meaningful decisions.

If you are a healer, do you have the impression too that healing has changed, or is it just me?
From what you write, i can see how Blizz is pulling it off. The guys are geniuses!
By making healing a frantic but mindless task, they allow everyone that can tap as a madman to become a "good" healer, thus giving that heroic feeling. Pure gold I admit.
I rolled a resto shaman when TBC was released, so I don't have any experience of vanilla healing.
My experience is the larger the group, the easier it gets. I enjoy healing heroics most, then 10m, and 25m the least.
In heroics I use riptide and lesser healing wave to keep the entire group alive. I hardly use chain heal.
In 10m raids it's a bit of both. And in 25m raids it's chain heal only. Mana is no problem for me in any group, I hardly watch the bar.

I remember in TBC I had more time to choose a spell/rank and also had time to watch and predict/anticipate damage.
And I agree that this is no longer the case in wotlk. It's about spamming as much heals as fast as you can.
Pure win this one. You are so right. Healing is becoming a mindless smash on buttons. Reason why I actually now roll as Retribution and not Holy. As you say all the decisions is taken away. And that was, what was fun about healing. The decisions.

Bring back the decisions to healing, Tobold you have my vote.
Well, Shadow Bolt spam on one target was not really the pinnacle of exciting DPS class gameplay...

Warlocks got a more complex rotation, very nice, Incinerate, Conflagrate, Affliction got something similar... but it worked worse than the silly spam (good intention, but it failed)

Now let's assume a more complex rotation of spells works - FINE!
But what do we have? AoE spam. Rain of Fire, target area, wait, cast Rain of Fire again.

I really loved that this spell got useful, for small groups its better than the infamous Seed of Corruption.
But the GAMEPLAY went downhill. I just spammed this spell through all WOTLK dungeons. Even in their heroic versions.

This is similar to Shaman chain healing: Effective, great, ... and boring in the end.
I have no idea what happened to priests, but the fixed chain and the favor of AoE healing indicate a similar development.
I have only really experienced being a healer in WOTLK, having played a solo game in BC.
But I do remember mana used to be a much bigger problem, and I found it much more interesting choosing which spells to cast - mana inefficient big spells for emergencies, mana efficient spells during the fight.

Now it very much is a case of spamming fast heals. I enjoy the adrenaline rush of heroics and keeping everyone alive when things go wrong (Extra pat pulled, new encounters etc). That's probably the reason I love healing so much :D
Healing has become faster,

True. Most of us are carrying around more +haste gear (+haste used to be limited to high-end BT+ gear in TBC). In addition we frequently get haste from outside sources such as a shaman's totem or heroism. Finally, at least for Disc priests, FH is the new main spell, unlike pre-LK where GH and PoH were much more common as the main healing spells in boss fights.

less targeted,

Not sure what this means. Group healing has always been a big part of WoW healing. Actually in LK I turned from Holy to Disc so I'm doing a lot more targeted healing...

and involves less decision making

Not exaclyt, IMHO. In general, right now, priests have too much mana-regen and so can afford to spam-FH the entire fight - a far cry from the old "plan your healing so that you can be OO-5SR as much as possible so you don't go OOM half-way through the fight". Or at least I can as a Disc priest - not sure about Holy.
So yes in this respect you can say there are less decisions to be made. But this is only true in general, in practice:
1. Mana regen is being changed in 3.1. This is a point in time, enjoy it while it lasts :)
2. Current content is easy and most raiders over-gear it. Fights always become easy and boring when your entire raid over-gears the instance.
3. Especially in 10-man raids if you lack a retri-paladin in the raid, mana regen in long fights can become an issue. I still drink a mana pot some fights :)

More specifically, you can and should still be making smart choices as a healer, even in easy fights - in order to build good practices for the harder fights. For example as a Disc priest, you should be using PW:S followed by Penance on the tank at the start of a fight and every time the PW:S debuff goes away from the tank; You should be using Penance every time there is spike damage or when you want to save/top-up and non-tank taking damage; you should be using PoM almost every fight and almost all the time - especially in Sapphiron, with the T7 bonus, it's one of my main healing sources.

If a non-tank pulls aggro he dies in less time than my fastest non-instant heal.

This has always been true. Heck it has always been true back when Molten Core was a newly released instance - I remember as a mage many times getting agro and 1-shotted :)

As for "fastest non-instant heal" - that's why you have instant heals...

And even when healing tanks at bosses, there is no time to make any decision.

Plenty of time, unless your tank is badly under-geared or you're talking Sarth+2D or Sarth+3D after Sarth enrages (or heroic Patchwerk, but see below). Please explain and give examples, but personally I have no idea what you are talking about. Even on Sarth (or hc Patwerk I would imagine), the proper use of cooldowns can help a lot - sure this requires planning ahead but so did many of the fights in Molten Core or ZA...

I healed the main tank at Patchwerk heroic last night, and all I could do was spam fast heals

It's my understanding that you're a Holy priest. Letting a Holy priest heal a main-tank is like using a warrior to do ranged damage - possible, but not very efficient...
I was healing on a heroic Naxx PuG a while back and in Patchwerk the incoming damage on the tanks was just insane in terms of speed and quantity (we wiped BTW and the PuG broke up). Patchwerk is designed that way - it's a gear check for both tanks and healers and a fight that requires multiple Off-Tanks and multiple healers per tank. But this is not a typical fight by far and I'm at a loss to understand why you're giving this single example and extrapolate from it. Why not take the other side of the spectrum and say that because Sapphiron is fun and interesting (well it is in my opinion at least), all LK fights are?
You don't let the holy priest heal the OFF tank on Patchwerk. The main tank takes less damage, so the specialized single-target healers like paladins are on those. You seem to be under the impression that holy priests are raid healers, which they WERE, but aren't any more since the CoH nerf. You'd want your druids on raid healing at patchwerk. So presuming you didn't already kick out your holy priest from the guild because he isn't the best at anything, where exactly do you propose the holy priest heals in a Patchwerk fight?

Of course other boss fights are different, but I dare you to point out one boss fight and say "that is a typical fight", with nobody objecting. Is Grobbulus typical? Thadius? Noth? Heigan? Every boss fight has its particularities. I'm describing general trends, because it isn't as if fast heals are only used on Patchwerk, and on the other bosses I'm casting Greater Heal like I did in WoW 1.0
I wanted to write something constructive but reading "Letting a Holy priest heal a main-tank is like using a warrior to do ranged damage - possible, but not very efficient..." just made my cringe, a lot. SolidState please tell, that was irony I hope, yes? :)
Well, as mentioned, Patchwerk is a gear check, with no interesting mechanics. The DPS just stands still and DPSs, the healers just stand there and heal. There are other fights with more interesting choices as to who to heal.
I don't think it is just healing. I think this applies to caster classes as well. I ran my paladin and a dk up to 80, being melee I didn't notice. I jumped on my arcane mage and leveled from 70-71 last night and a good portion of my damage comes from my instant cast spells. Although I wasn't looking at health bars, I was just following a rotation.

As far as healing goes, being healed on my pally and dk tank often....I feel healing in it's current state is a total joke. I havn't come across a tree or a paladin who didn't have infinate mana. I've been healed in heroics runs by priests in greens. Healing isn't a challenege, or fun. I'd spec my pally to heal only if it was needed for a guild run. DPS is very boring on the DK, and the mage....tanking is the only thing I find to be fun currently.
Some of the changes in the healing game are universal, but some seem class-specific to me. My main experience is with healing as a holy paladin (I've done groups with my holy priest and resto shaman as well in Wrath, but only lvling instances).

As a paladin, in TBC I had two healing spells that counted: Holy light and Flash of light (+ downranking, but in the content I did which was mainly 10-man raids just using FoL and mana potions at the right times worked wonders, downranking was useful sometimes but not something I used all the time). Holy Shock was not something I used much in PVE unless it was a moving fight. Judgement of light was ok but range was an issue.

In Wrath, the game changed quite a lot: Sacred shield should ideally be kept on the tank and lasts 30 seconds, Seal of light should be kept up and lasts 2 minutes (that was changed to 30 minutes recently), Beacon of light should be kept up and lasts 1 minute, Divine plea should be used at reasonable intervals and has 1 min cooldown, wings can be used and do something for healing finally, holy shock has been reworked and is something I use more and it also gives bonuses in speed to the other spells, and judging the mob is possible at long range and needed to keep up another self-buff. Add to this the instant-crit and the reduced mana cost for 15 sec-spells that both have a 2 min cooldown (worked the same in TBC) and I find myself having a lot more of things to watch on my own quickbars.

In conclusion, I feel that as a holy paladin, I agree with Tobold's assesment about fast healing in Naxx when everything runs smoothly. I feel that desiscion making still plays a part though when people do something wrong (who should I save of those hit by the flame wall on Sartharion?). And I feel that the timing/spell rotation desiscions I do with regards to my own character has become a lot more complex.
(Forgot to mention Lay on Hands, which in it's Wrath "I don't eat all your mana" state is a spell I find myself using a lot more now than I did in TBC).
You spam your heals on Patchwerk because the point is to kill him as fast as possible. Thusly you can't go out of mana and you assure your tank stays alive.

Also Naxx fights are a poor way of determining fun in healing. As another poster mentioned. Do a sarth 3-drake 10man with 2.5 healers. Then you will understand how much healing has changed in WoTLK. Unfortunately there are few encounters today that test that. Hopefully Ulduar changes this, which according to the devs they are.
Don't worry. In 3.1 mana regen is being nerfed and Ulduar is a step up in difficulty all around. So, supposedly, you won't be able to spam your heals mindlessly because you'll go oom faster.
I agree and, fortunately, so do the devs. They've said they want to move healing away from this trend where the limiting factor is the GCD instead of mana. This is the motivation behind the mana regen nerfs in 3.1. It's not to make healing harder or less fun but so they can balance fights around limited mana and force interesting decisions instead of button mashing. Let's hope they pull it off.
Since Blizzard made all the spell ranks cost the same mana, which makes the lesser ranks less HPM, I always cast the higest rank. Having to choose which rank of "X" spell made for a real challenge. Casting the lesser ranks conserved mana and decreased overhealing. As a druid in WotLK, I still do great on the overhealing charts, around 15-20%, but it has become mindless point and click. I still enjoy being a healer and I can't wait for dual specs to come out. I'm just wondering if dual specs will also take away from the challenge. Not that you couldn't change your spec and gear before, but you had to really go and respec, put on the correct gear and get back to the instance. Now it's just a one button click and your spec, glyphs, and gear magically change.
Yeah, I have to agree the interesting decision making that I faced when I first started healing on my priest alt in BC seem to be completely missing in Wrath.

I am on my second Naxx25 full clear and ready to claw out my own eyes in boredom. (OTOH I am quickly coming to the point on Naxx where if I am not raid leading and tanking it, its not really interesting.)
It's not just healing, but other classes are feeling "different" lately. I have had a survival hunter and master trapper for BC, and now, even though Explosive Shot is fun, the whole playstyle feels much different now. For many classes, they juggled talents around, removed/added/changed/removed/added things so much that it's an entirely new class sometimes as far as what buttons and pattern of abilities to use. I don't like the changes very much myself. :(
I think you're right Tobold, and I also think that the latest druid nerfs (justified or not, but that is an aside) are indicative of this too. Blizzard seem to be incentivising Nourish more and more, and with nerfing Lifebloom it's going to be a lot less interesting healing. Instead of keeping lifebloom up on different players, throwing out the occasional AoE heal, using rejuv and regrowth as necessary, they seem to want us to spam Flash Heal - sorry, Nourish - like the rest of you healers.
If you’ve only healed for Wrath then you don’t won’t know the number of decisions and level of skill that was involved in separating the ok-good-amazing healers. So much of what made healing a skill based profession was taken away in 3.0. Like the rest of the game, Blizzard decided to make it easier assuming that easy=more people will do it. They also made took a lot of the skill out of tanking and DPS, but that is another topic.

In many ways I feel as though I went from having 20+ heals to use depending on the situation, mana and fight requirements down to only 4. The removal of downranking took away most of the thinking involved in healing. But Blizzard caters to the lowest common denominator now days.

I really dislike this whole random spike damage thing. I think healing is a lot of fun when I am actually healing the damage, if damage were smaller and slower and less random. Raid healing is a lot of fun on my druid when everyone is taking damage slowly, like when I get to stack Rejuvs on everybody during Sapphiron to counteract the incoming frost aura damage.

As tank healing is right now, the tank sits at 100% health for five seconds, then suddenly goes down to <40%, and if I don't heal him immediately, he could die in the next two seconds. He could just as likely stay at 40% health for the next five or ten seconds, but I can't risk that. So it all comes down to spamming my fastest heals, hoping that one of them happens to land when the tank is below full health. Keeping HoTs on him, in hopes that they will tick when he actually takes that damage. Hovering my finger over my swiftmend button and hoping the tank doesn't need it again before the cooldown is up. It's all about hope, and RNG.

I don't find spamming heals on someone who's at full health to be fun, and I really hope they find a way to make healing challenging without enormous spike damage. I'd much prefer it if they cut down both the amount of healing we could do and the amount of spike damage being done drastically.
" I havn't come across a tree or a paladin who didn't have infinate mana"
That's very group dependent. I go oom regularly with PUGs as some random DPS pulls aggro off the death knight who thinks tanking means topping the damage charts. With a competent raid team, it's far less of an issue.
Retired Holy Paladin here. Got very bored of the new healing, not least because recognition as a healer is now about meter placement. I actually cleared all the content with my old guild and not once, despite multiple unnecessary wipes, did anyone try to persuade people to keep the tanks up instead of sniping each others' raid heals. Healing has become spammy and uninterested and those of us who do prioritise end up appearing to be worse than the spammers.
Without enormous spike damage, you're throwing the entire tanking system TOTALLY out of whack.

Like, to the point where shamans could wear druid tank gear and do heroics with a shield on type of out of whack.

The whole point of high gearing for tanks is to mitigate that damage and prevent the real spikes you see in bad tanks. Drop that from the game, the entire raiding system will get badly distorted.
Random spike damage was one of the things that made healing interesting, because you had to balance out the need for constant heals with being able to respond to an unexpected spike.

Blizzard are moving away from spike damage, Ghostcrawler also said they don't really like tanks wearing avoidance gear for the same reason (takes less damage overall but the damage they do take is spikey). So the only way healing can go is towards rotations to keep up with regular predictable damage.

I think it's a shame really. I used to like stop-casting on my priest, back in the day.
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