The Info Dump is Here! (Healing Priest Edition)

excitedcat

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. 🙂

Mythic!

So, much to my suprise, and after worrying quite a bit, I’m actually rather excited about Mythic raiding. Not only did my raid team pleasantly surprise me by pretty much uniformly agreeing to the idea that we’d have to go 20-man, but the upcoming change has led to a series of discussions on the structure of the guild. Honestly, I think if we can pull this right, it will be incredibly beneficial in making us more efficient a team so we can push a little harder come progression time, which makes me all kinds of happy and excited.

Of course, one of the proposed changes involves role leads. And I think I might’ve sort of volunteered to help out as healing lead, which makes me incredibly nervous. It’s not that I don’t think I’d be a good fit. I mean, I know I have the knowledge to do it. I spend probably entirely more than I should reading up on other healing classes’ mechanics, so working out assignments and rotations shouldn’t be too much of an issue.  I’m slightly more concerned when it comes to the interpersonal aspect of it. I find being firm with people quite hard, and I tend to be paranoid about hurting other people’s feelings. Still, I really want to help and if this is the way I can, I’ll definitely give it a try. Plus, this gives me an excuse to set up a healing channel for the guild, which I’ve been wanting to do since day one.

Beyond how this affects our guild, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about how this might affect the healing game. Blizzard devs made a point to mention some of the more niche abilities and how they could go back to designing mechanics around these abilities now that you’re more or less guaranteed at least a member of each class in a Mythic raid, and this makes me hopeful that they’ll go back a bit on their homogenisation of the healing classes. While I think it was definitely necessary at the time, I miss having proper assignments. Obviously, it’s a delicate balance, since they still have to make every healer viable in Normal and Heroic in just about every comp without making the encounters trivial to heal if you’ve got every class available to you, but I’m optimistic that it could be pulled off.

And I’m simply excited to get to meet more people. 😀

The Peculiar Plight of the Middle of the Road 10-Man

With this weekend’s Blizzcon we’ve learned lots of things about the upcoming expansion and while I’m mostly (so many orcs make me unhappy) really excited, there is one aspect of Warlords of Draenor that worries me: raid sizes. I suspect I’m not alone in this, heroic 25-man raid teams must be quite annoyed at having the difficult decision of which players to drop and heroic 10-man raiders must be looking with dread at the recruiting on steroids (or merging) that will allow them to continue raiding at their preferred level.

My guild falls into neither of these categories. Yes, we are a ten man and we do habitually raid heroic level content at the end of the tier. The problem is, it’s only at the end of the tier. Which means, unlike every other guild who is strictly a heroic raiding guild or a normal raiding guild, we have to figure out how much we value heroic raiding and whether it’s worth the effort of recruiting ten more players. And the big problem is we’re probably not all going to agree. I mean, I know which side of the fence I’m on. I spend mostly all the tier hoping we will get to do some heroic progression and it’s the most enjoyable content for me. I hate doing farm content and if WoD suddenly means two or more months of doing the same thing over and over again with no new challenge to look forward to, I will likely go insane.

But, then, I’m also not an officer. The onus of finding a solution that will allow us to do this heroic (mythic; one day I will get used to the term!) content will not fall on me. We’re a tiny guild. We have a bench of one. Of the people who are active on a regular basis, 100% of them are raiders. Of the people who poke their heads in occasionally, 90% of them are former raiders that had to quit for one reason or the other. If all of them came back, we’d still need to recruit seven to ten players to ensure having enough people to be able to do heroic content, not to mention a bench big enough to sustain that roster. It’s going to take quite a bit of effort, and if our GM decides it’s not really worth it, I could easily see why.

I also am not particularly averse to 25-man raiding, but I know a few of our members raid 10 man because they like it. Not everyone’s computer can take large raids. I know because mine barely does (one of the reasons I have not really actively pursued 25-man raiding before now).

There’s also the fact that the difficulty of tiers varies greatly. Tier 14, my guild was racing the patch to get their (alas, I was not yet a part of the team by this point) Sha kill. They got it on the last week and mustered just one heroic kill. With ToT, we had about three months to work on heroics. This tier? It’s looking around the same, perhaps a bit more, depending on when Blizz releases the new expansion. If every tier looked like tier 14, then we’d be able to happily remain normal raiders, but there’s no way to know.

Mostly, I’m just crossing my fingers that making this decision won’t turn into a drama bomb.