Summertime in WoW is generally considered a bleak time in raiding, as players take advantage of good weather, time off from school or work, and, typically, a lighter content load. It’s also a time that guilds often dread, a time where rosters start to thin out and players start dropping off the radar. But for me, summer has absolutely flown by, in a blur of new content, new challenges, new stuff to do and … lots and lots of emails. So today I thought I’d share some of those Q&A sessions with everyone, which cover everything from GHW usage and T12 to theorycrafting and how to get into a progression guild. And, I’ll also answer that one burning question that’s been sent my way plenty of times over the past several weeks—what’s with all that haste-stacking?!
Question #1 – GHW Usage
I’m a resto shaman in a 10 man progression guild. We’ve just started some heroic modes, working on Ryolith and Shannox this past week to give you an idea. I feel I’m doing really well so far in this tier, but one thing keeps popping up throughout all the shaman blogs and podcasts that I follow. The general statement goes that most fights break down into either heavy CH usage for aoe healing or heavy GHW usage for single target healing. My question is how can you mana pool possibly sustain heavy GHW usage?
Is this just a 25 raid environment thing? I look at parses and see the break down, but working it out in my head the math just doesn’t add up. As such, GHW probably only makes up ~10% of my healing aside from some specific fights like Baleroc. This is the one bit of shaman healing that’s leaving me in the dark and it’s picking my brain so any insight would be intensely helpful.
Your question is an excellent one. The fact of the matter is, a pure GHW rotation is almost impossible to maintain because it requires such a massive amount of regen to support it. So, on fights where you see my (or any other shamans’) heals made up of copious amounts of GHW, what you aren’t seeing is that we’re using a number of tricks to keep it going—things like stopcasting (which I’ve used quite frequently on fights in this tier), supplemental TC regen, and oftentimes just some basic HW filler spam. And, on fights like Shannox, for example, I’ll oftentimes be spending my time running around after the tank, so I’m afforded more of a break in between my burst GHW periods.
More to the point, I think the prevalence of GHW in shamans’ healing distributions is due in large part to the fact that we really don’t have much of an option these days when it comes to single-target healing. HW, at best, pushes 10-20k healing; HS can get up to 35k, but GHW simply blows everything out of the water with 30-50k hits (depending on your Mastery), and sometimes upwards of 100k crits. A HS for slightly less mana simply doesn’t compare. So, that’s why on fights like HM Rag, my Phase 1 healing largely consists of nothing but RT-GHW, with some supplemental heals mixed in. Even though it’s highly inefficient to single-target heal players, there’s really no greater throughput when mechanics invalidate CH usage. And believe you me, my mana pool suffers for it. But the trick is to find a way to make it work, either by stacking a high amount of spirit, or by using one of the techniques I mentioned before.
Question #2 – Free-for-All (FFA) Healing Assignments
I was just reading one of your most recent posts, Circle of Healers Redux, and I was really struck by your comments on how your raid team does not use healing assignments. I run in a 10 man team with a holy priest and, formerly, a holy paladin, but we recently lost our pally. She was our dedicated “tank healer” and since she left my group has really been struggling with how to fill this position.
We’ve since gotten a very good resto druid to fill out our 3 person healing team, but we’ve still been grappling with that notion that paladins are the only real “tank healers” and that we are essentially raid healers trying to fill a position we’re not necessarily suited for, despite all three of us being pretty capable of it. From reading your post it seems that a no-healing-assignments approach is something definitely worth trying in our situation. I’m curious as to how you may have adjusted or perhaps didn’t adjust your mindset and how you and your raid team made the jump to no healing assignments.
These days, most classes are fairly strong tank healers, so having a resto shaman, disc priest, or druid step in handle tanks isn’t all that wrong. (Oftentimes, our holy paladin has less tank healing than I do). I’d say that the hardest part is getting comfortable with the idea that each and every healer is responsible for keeping the tank alive, because prior to running FFA, I oftentimes simply turned a blind eye to tank damage thinking it was the purview of the holy paladin. So, my first couple of weeks healing with PC, I freaked out every time the tanks took spike damage and instantly started pouring into them, (which was obviously, not a good idea, lol). After a couple clears, I became a little more comfortable and realized that I didn’t need to do such big swings in focus.
It’s also important to remember, and I noted this in the post, that there are some fights where we do revert to healing assignments–Shannox, for example, it behooves you to have someone focused on each tank because their spike damage is so high. But in those cases, you really don’t need someone FT on the raid since they should only be taking damage if they fail at mechanics. The end result of the FFA approach is that it allows us to cut down on the number of healers we need for an encounter, and it also allows us to adjust easily if something goes wrong (like say, our holy pally can’t make it one week).
The other key distinction to make is that I’m not talking about cross-healing here. Healers love to talk about how they “cross heal all the time” because they occasionally toss out an RT or a PoM on the tank; that’s like saying that I, as a Resto Shaman, actually DPS because I toss out an LB every now and then. Cross healing is not the same as FFA. I’m talking about literally walking into HM Rhyolith or HM Domo with no assignments whatsoever; there is no understanding that I will heal this section or this area or these people. We are tasked to heal whoever needs it. Period. If a tank dies, it’s all of us on the line, and if we each can’t show a sizable direct heal on that tank in the 2-3 seconds before he died, then we failed.
The end result of FFA is that we’re able to make the most of the healing we do have, which in turn means that if we have to drop a healer to make a dps check, our team is already accustomed to healing in that type of stressful environment.
Question #3 – Getting Into a Progression Guild
I’ve been raiding with the same group of people for almost a year and a half and they are content with just clearing normal modes and then waiting until the next content of raids to progress further. This really doesn’t fit well with my competitive nature, but I’m not sure how to make the transition from a guild who only does 3 or 4 out of 13 to a guild who was attempting Firelands Heroic encounters within a week or two after release. While it may sound egotistical or that I’m full of myself I fully believe I can handle the change. I’ve fully researched and watched these fights executed countless times, I’m just unsure how I would go about applying to one of these heroic guilds without them laughing at my low heroic experience.
I think I have the perfect reading material for you! It’s a post from a now-defunct blog by Raegx (a Priest currently in Blood Legion) about his experience breaking into the upper tier of raiding guilds and it’s a pretty good example to model yourself after. I wish I could also point you to a post from one of CUTIES ONLY’s top healers, which expanded further on the ways to get into a top guild, but unfortunately they’ve taken down the majority of their recruitment forum posts since they called it quits. But, in essence, you have four options open to you:
- Get in based on a referral from a current raider
- Get in based on insane off-the-charts amazing parses
- Get in based on an incredibly impressive app and interview
- Work your way up the ladder until you have comparable experience
Of the above, #4 is, in my experience, how most people find their way into higher-level progression guilds. Obviously 1-3 are highly dependent on your ability to distinguish yourself (even #1, since a referral is generally based in the player’s belief of your exceptional performance). And to be honest, there’s a fair amount of luck involved in it too, since oftentimes what one guild considers crucial in a raider, another guild regards as inconsequential. But, generally you can overcome that with a fair amount of research and reaching out to the recruitment officer or guild leader to get a better idea of what he/she values. And when it comes to finally writing your app, I put together a post last May which has a good number of tips.
As a last bit of advice, if you haven’t already, I’d recommend that you read another one of my posts from last July. Although no two guilds are exactly the same, and some of my experiences might not be applicable everywhere, I would caution you to be really sure that you know what you’re getting into. There are plenty of “cons” to being on the forefront of progression and I think it’s important to emphasize that the stress on performance only increases as you get closer to the top. The more comfortable you are with that, then the better off you’ll be.
Question #4 – T12 2pc Bonus
I’ve noticed in the logs of my guild that the mana returns seem to be very dissimilar when it comes to Tier 12 2pc bonuses. My return as a resto shaman seems to be much lower than my pally and druid counterparts. I know that the druid life bloom ticks once a second and riptide once every 3 seconds (less time if proper haste of course). Are we not getting credit for being able to roll 3 riptides and its only calculating the 40% chance on the first riptide? I see my uptimes as 96%, and am pretty sure I have at least 2 rolling all the time.
As far as I’m aware, t12 2pc is functioning correctly. It’s important to note that our mana return won’t be identical to other healers, given that our base mana is a different value and that other classes are based around different consumption patterns (and thus need differing amounts of passive mp5 to sustain a rotation). Looking at my own logs for last week, there were a fair number of times where Flametide procced multiple times within a 1 second window, which would lead me to believe it was proccing from two different RT hots.
The thing to remember is that it’s very commonplace for a Resto Shaman to overwrite a previously applied RT; to get the maximum benefit from Flametide procs you will need to first, RT on CD, and secondly, never overwrite an existing RT hot. So, if you apply RT on the tank on CD, you’re looking at significantly reduced gains. In addition, there’s always the threat of inadvertently bouncing a CH off an RT’d target and consuming the hot. Druids, on the other hand, only need to maintain one rolling LB on the MT, which can be refreshed through any direct heal, so it’s significantly easier for them to optimize their returns.
Lastly, bear in mind that RT uptime on meters reflects the active time for an RT hot on any person in the raid. So you could conceivably only hit 1 RT every 21 sec and still parse at 100% uptime. It takes digging a little bit deeper in WoL to determine just how many hot ticks you got per cast, if you consumed a tick through CH, or if you refreshed RT on a target absentmindedly (as I do, quite frequently).
Question #5 – Theorycrafting
I’d like to learn a bit more about theorycrafting so I can share it with the other shamans in my guild and also improve my own play (since I feel it is what separates me most from playing at your level). Are there any specific tools (simulators) or spreadsheets that you use to theorycraft? How would someone like me even get started theorycrafting?
When it comes to my own theorycrafting, I’m afraid I don’t use any simulators. While they can give some insight when it comes to dps rotations, I find they’re not very accurate when representing the healing perspective of encounters. Simcraft spreadsheets, which attempt to show the effects of talent changes or stat adjustments, likewise fail to capture the variable nature of healing. So, most of what I do with my spreadsheets is explore the mathematics behind stats and stat allocations. There are a couple complete spreadsheets that have been posted on the LiG5 site, and numerous others that are shown in picture format in my theorycrafting posts, but in general I don’t publish a spreadsheet unless I feel like it’s ready for public consumption (ie: it’s easily understandable, which most aren’t).
Ultimately, if you’re looking to get into theorycraft (which is like saying that you’re “looking to get into philosophy”), all you really need do is to start doing it. Find something you’ve been wondering about, pull up a WoL parse, figure out what to look for with Expression Editor or another analysis tool, and set about answering your question. For example, you could take a look at:
- If you overwrote any of your RT hots during the encounter
- If Glyph of Healing Wave is better than Glyph of Stoneclaw totem
- If you’ve been using Tidal Waves appropriately or wasting it on overhealing
All of these are viable theorycrafting questions, and ones that will ultimately lead to you better understanding the class (and thus, help you become a better healer). And you needn’t use a spreadsheet or a simulator at all; I simply default to excel because it’s a program that I’m comfortable with. In my not-so-humble opinion, being a healing theorycrafter isn’t really about finding the 0.2% HPS increase that garners you 50k additional healing, it’s about finding the knowledge you need to make better decisions. But it takes initiative to ask those questions, and the burning curiosity to keep exploring until you have a defensible answer.
Question #6 – Healer DPS
I’ve been reading your blog for a while, however, I haven’t stumbled upon your view on damage, and I was wondering what your standpoint on healers doing damage is? And furthermore, how important is it when you are progression to squeeze out a little extra damage?
I tend to have a pretty harsh perspective when it comes to healer dps, a perspective which I know is different from some of the other bloggers and top end raiders out there. To me, if you (as a healer) have time to dps at times other than phase transitions and random 1-2 sec intervals, then that’s indicative that your guild is overhealing the fight. In my opinion, if you’re not stressed when you’re healing, if you’re not gasping for GCDs (which you’re not if you have time to keep up FS, keep a dps fire totem down, or spam 20-30 continuous seconds of LB’s) then your team hasn’t optimized the raid composition to its fullest.
Obviously, the exceptions to this are: a) Atonement Priests, and 2) TC regen. But in both of these cases, I don’t think the primary focus of the healer should be dps. I don’t think your secondary focus should be dps either, because the small amount of damage that you contribute as a part of your healing strategy should be a bonus. I don’t cast LB’s because I think our dps team needs help, I cast them so I can have more mana to heal with. And although I concede that it’s beneficial for a Resto Shaman to drop Fire Elemental when the raid needs some additional burst, I don’t think the raid should be reliant on that benefit.
Ultimately, because the differential between healer dps and real dps is so large, (in comparison to say, Sarth 3D, where a healer might trail a dps by only a 50% margin), today’s healers-who-dps are simply a drop in the bucket.
The Million-Dollar Question – Haste Back on the Radar?
I’ve been checking out your Armory recently and it appears that you’ve entirely abandoned every other stat in favor of haste—what gives? Have you given up on Mastery completely?
I’ve spent a good deal of time in the past weeks in Firelands experimenting with gear and with various playstyles, trying to figure out what’s going to come out on top at the end of Tier 12. I walked into most encounters in Firelands (both NM and HM) in my typical Mastery-heavy set, and for the most part, it worked out that Mastery’s benefits paid off significantly. However, as we worked on each encounter, there were notable exceptions to the Mastery-only rule. To make it past Baleroc the Gatekeeper, I found that I needed more haste in order to be able to keep up Torment targets and more spirit to be able to sustain a heavy amount of GHW usage over the 6-minute fight. In contrast, on Majordomo Staghelm, because of the Concentration buff’s effects on HS and AA, my throughput increased as I switched to a Crit-Haste heavy build.
And lastly, on HM Ragnaros, while mana is most certainly an issue, haste became infinitely more important in order to deliver triage healing in the short windows created by the encounter’s damage mechanics. Because effects hit frequently, with a short amount of time in between bursts, it becomes more important to pick multiple players up out of the danger-zone quickly than to hit only a few for much more. So, the past few weeks have found me pushing those haste levels ever higher, from 1300 to 1800, to finally last night, above the second haste threshold. The ultimate goal is to not only increase how quickly I can respond to damage but also increase the performance of RT, since it’s consistently been one of my top three heals for the encounter. In the end it might not be worth it, because of the stats I’ve had to drop to get to that level, but I wouldn’t be much of a progression raider if I didn’t give it a shot!