The Info Dump is Here! (Healing Priest Edition)


Finally, after months of impatience and complaining, Alpha is here and we know stuff. I honestly am a little surprised. I figured I would be freaking out at this point – either too excited for coherent thought, or devastated that priests were going to be unplayable next expansion –  but most changes were either expected or pretty minor. And though there were some changes I’m not too keen on, they’re a far cry from the end of the world.

The Chakra and Sanctuary Change

Healing Chakras have been changed to only buff their pertinent spells by 10% and make their exclusive abilities a lot stronger. Now. while having less of a penalty for casting spells outside of your Chakra is absolutely a good thing, the fact that there’s still a penalty means the ability is still problematic. The only way I can ever see the current implementation of Chakra working and feeling really satisfying is if they can make casting spells in the right Chakra feel like a bonus (i.e. balancing it so that priests are a little stronger than other classes when casting spells appropriate to their Chakra), or simply make the stances be tied to the Holy Words and nothing else (which was suggested by Derevka, I believe). The latter would be boring but functional.

Honestly, though, I would be much happier if they just turned them into short throughput cooldowns that share a CD. (And give us Serenity permanently and tie Sanctuary to our Lightwell so we can pretend we’re druids! Although, then again, we can’t reposition that at will, so it might be a terrible idea. ><)

The other thing to note here is that Sanctuary has been massively buffed. Which essentially means we now have Healing Rain. I know it’s been said a lot that Sanctuary is not meant to be Healing Rain, but I can’t help but think that there isn’t much of a different niche that an AoE circle can fill. It has to be something that provides enough healing to be worth the cast in both mana capped situations and GCD-capped situations. While I wouldn’t say it wasn’t necessarily worth the cast currently in a period of heavy AoE damage, it certainly wasn’t much of a heavy lifter either. (I’ll confess I even forgot it for a couple of Malorok kills; I know, I’m a terrible priest). Ideally, I’d like it to be something expensive enough that you would only cast it where there really is a lot of damage going on and people are liable to be stacked, instead of something that you just keep down whenever you’re in Sanctuary Chakra. But, hey, as long as it doesn’t become 50% of our healing done (in the style of current Shaman Healing Rain), I’ll be happy.

The Atonement and Smart Healing Change

Atonement now heals for 25% less. This is, as far as I’m concerned, something that absolutely had to happen. Not necessarily because the smart healing component of Atonement was too good (though it was), but because its interaction with Divine Aegis made it entirely too powerful. As your crit inevitably went up (and as it will again in Warlords), it meant you could cover the entire raid with crit bubbles and get all the benefits of shields (effective health, less spiky damage) while bypassing their biggest drawback – the fact that if there’s not damage incoming, your resources have been wasted – due to smite spam being absurdly cheap.

This change, coupled with the fact that smart heals only heal a random injured  target as opposed to the most injured target means Atonement will likely only be a good choice for stacking Evangelism and periods of very low raid damage, which is honestly much more in-line with the original design intent for Atonement i.e. give discipline priests something to do while they would ordinarily be twiddling their thumbs, instead of having them spam it all encounter because ‘DA, lulz’. My only question is whether this is enough of a nerf, something that we won’t know until we see some actual numbers.

The Stuff We’re Losing

Rapture and Void Shift are gone. I can’t say I’m too happy with either of these losses. I thought Rapture was an excellent mechanic that made it so spam shielding wasn’t much of an option (until we got ALL the mana regen at the end of the expansion, that is) while casting our one shield on the tank didn’t feel punishing. I expect the reasoning for this might be that it’s one of those mechanics that required an external addon to track so you could perform adequately, but I still worry that it’ll will either mean we’re back to being shield spamming machines (the new perk that lowers Weakened Soul time doesn’t exactly alleviate this concern), or that with the proposed mana changes we will only cast Power Word: Shield very rarely.

Void Shift just makes me sad ’cause I thought it was a fun ability and appreciated having a second tank cooldown. I thought that the risk inherent in it (I’ve killed myself with it more than a couple of times) made it so it wasn’t completely broken, and -let’s face it- nothing is more satisfying than combo’ing it with your Desperate Prayer. The worst part is I’m not really sure why it’s going away. The only feasible reason I can come up with is PvP. In which case, I bite my thumb at you, PvP. (The more pressing question, however, is how am I supposed to be able to get rid of tank Chomps as disc in the proving grounds? D:)

Other Bits and Bobs

Honestly? I expected them to talk more about how they’re making absorbs less effective. An across the board nerf to all absorbs? Worse scaling for passive absorbs? Shorter duration for effects like Spirit Shell? Or longer cooldowns maybe?

I’m thinking it’s probably the former, which I’m not too sure I like. I honestly think that Power Word: Shield and Spirit Shell are alright in their current incarnations. Spirit Shell is only really good for predictable spike damage. In fights where the damage is unpredictable or constant it’s, at best, overheal protection and, at worst, a gamble that is not worth it if you don’t have the mana to sustain possibly useless PoH spam. Though I suppose a longer cooldown wouldn’t be terrible.

The talents look alright. The only one that really piqued my interest is Words of Mending. Clarity of Will seems meh for disc (do we really need an other absorb?). It seems like it’ll be a nice boon for Holy in terms of stacked up fights, though, to smarten up Prayer of Healing some. Saving Grace just looks entirely too situational, but I will withhold my judgment until we’ve seen more of what kinds of damage patterns to expect in Warlords.

Finally, who thought it was a good idea to give priests an incentive to cast Lifegrip in the middle of fights? I’m looking at you, Improved Leap of Faith; you have finally given me the excuse I needed to troll people in farm fights under the guise of trying to save them (‘well, your health looked really low and I figured I could really use that extra 50% healing when I brought you up. I’m woefully sorry it interrupted your Chaos Bolt’). Not that I would actually do that. 🙂


The RNG Gods and the Problem with the Healing Proving Grounds

Proving Grounds have been something I’ve been looking forward to trying since the moment I first heard they’d be a thing. Naturally, the second they popped up in the PTR, I was in there. I figured I would give it a couple of tries to satisfy my curiosity, see how far I could get in endless, give a little feedback (so I could feel like a good tester), and then wait for it to come to live so I could get all my achievements in a permanent sort of way.

A couple of tries turned into a couple more and, at this point, I would not be surprised if I’ve put in upwards of a hundred attempts on endless. I blame my nemesis, the eighth wave (formerly knows as Wave 8, also known as Wave 7 or ‘the one with all the evil Pyroblast-spamming Flamecallers in which the annoying hunter stands in the fire’). I’ve gotten past it twice, and not once since they made Flamecallers immune to fears. I could probably go on and on about all that’s wrong with this wave (and me, given that I keep bashing my head against it even though I know I’m very unlikely to succeed). But I want to talk about the one element in it that I think is problematic on all of endless healing mode: RNG.

Now, RNG is a great thing in most regular fights. It makes them feel slightly less predictable, slightly more interesting. It makes this week’s Iron Qon, where my side of the room got no fire spears during the first phase and healing it was a breeze, completely different from last week’s, where we got all the fire spears on our side and I needed to lifegrip people over lines, Pain Suppress our shammy with five stacks of cinders and use Voidshift so our mage wouldn’t die. Sure, it’s very frustrating to die because you got crappy RNG but, for the most part, you can look back and figure out what you (and your raid) could’ve done to prevent the dying, and hopefully get a little bit better at reacting to crappy RNG in that particular fight. And there’s nothing more satisfying that surviving through crappy RNG.

So what is wrong with a little RNG in Proving Grounds? And let me assure you that there’s a lot of RNG, ranging from the one-hundred-and-something-k Pyroblasts cast on random people, to the bleed debuffs cast on other (or sometimes the same) random people, to your party’s seemingly random ability to interrupt certain spells at apparently random times, to you hunter’s random ability to tell his butt’s on fire.

Nothing’s wrong, really, except in endless. Endless, as you might be (might be) able to tell from the name, doesn’t end. It doesn’t end ’til the health of one of the people in your party reaches zero, and this is only limited by two things: your ability to keep up with the damage, and your mana. There is this ideal point in gearing every healer intent on getting to wave thirty must look for, where somehow you get enough spirit to boost your longevity without making the throughput stat loss make your heals hit like wet noodles, rendering you unable to respond to the HPS requirements (or being only able to do so by spamming your large, or quick, inefficient heals). You also need to figure out the most efficient way to deal with abilities (is it better to cast two Flash Heals to get rid of the bleed? Should I try and use a Flash Heal and a Greater Heal) and how to space your CDs so that they both provide an efficient way to heal through medium damage waves and are up to save your butt during high damage waves.

When RNG goes way wrong (when two high damage abilities hit the wrong person, or your rogue fails to interrupt any AoE attack), though, it punches this delicate balance you’ve woven in the face. You’re suddenly forced to either burn a CD early, or burn through a lot of mana. And when that happens  you won’t be thinking ‘hey, I’m awesome, the tank survived that!’. Instead you’ll have to wallow in the knowledge that, that wave you’re having trouble with, there’s no point in even attempting it because you won’t have the resources needed to succeed.

Because the success of every wave directly depends on how well you did on previous waves (unless you can manage to do a ‘reset’, where your party is sitting at a 100% health and your mana regens to full before the next wave, but that’s pretty hard after about wave five), and there’s no other cooldowns you can rely on but your own, there is no fixing it. There is no way to undo the damage. And bad RNG, instead of being a fun challenge, is the thing that made lose earlier than you should’ve.

So, Blizz, how about we get rid of some of that RNG? Either make our DPS’ers interrupt more reliably, or don’t make them interrupt at all and adjust damage accordingly. Don’t put three pyroblasting loons up at the same time, or make that pyro hit a little less hard. Maybe make the aqua bombs prefer people in ranged, and don’t allow the tunnelers to apply two bleeds to the same player. Make damage a little bit more predictable so we can all rejoice in one of the other joys of healing, proactive healing.