Life in Group 5 – A Resto Shaman Blog
A resto shaman perspective on raiding


Philosophy

April 22, 2013

Perspective and Optimism in the Face of Class Balance

mists-of-pandaria2-battle-sm

“Balance”. It’s a word that inspires both optimism and pessimism in a community focused on measuring the contributions of its players. The optimists, through naiveté or iron resolve, look at class balance and see the potential for an even playing field, a world where “bring the player and not the class” is decidedly within reach. But the pessimists look at balance through different glasses, possibly clouded by sentiment or cultivated discontent, and see performance tolerances that invariably result in continued disparity on meters, tier after tier. And somewhere in this debate over class balance, are players like you and I, with one ear open to the theoretical discussion but who, in this battle between the Vocal Minorities and the Blizzard Blues, just want to play the damn game.

Admittedly, it’s oftentimes hard not to get caught up in the debate, especially if it’s your class that’s in the spotlight. And sometimes, as you’re trying to avoid being caught in the crossfire, you come up against a question that, in the weeks since 5.2 launch, many Resto Shaman have been struggling with, and which was posed to me via email:

 I do have a question for you about morale when playing a resto shaman. I find it hard not to get upset or angry with my class when reading all the negative posts, benching, forum issues and class weakness/under-performance that currently surround the resto shaman. It seems to happen every tier lately and really can be quite disheartening. What would you say to a raider who lets this kind of stuff get to him but doesn’t want to switch classes?” – Dreadfox

As you might have guessed if you read my post several years ago during Firelands—Life in Group 6—class balance and I have a somewhat … tenuous? strained? frosty? … relationship. Unlike some top-end players who oftentimes switch “mains” based on the needs of their raid team, I still cling (for better or for worse) to the distinction that I made back in BC: Vixsin is my main, and all my other healers, no matter how much I play them, are my alts. While I’ll happily heal on my other characters for the purposes of guild progression, and have done so in the past, I will always be the most comfortable on my shaman and the most proud of my achievements on her.

And so, I do oftentimes struggle to remain positive in light of overwhelming negativity about the class, whether it’s from the forums, the community or even from my guildmates. I won’t lie; the first few weeks of Throne of Thunder, where Resto Shaman were arguably not the strongest of healers, were tough. A 20% buff to our AOE spells emphasized how much our design had missed the mark. (And I thought that 15% Purification buff we received at the start of Cata was the worst it could get!)

But, there was something slightly different in my perspective this time around (versus in Firelands, almost 2 years ago), something that helped me bolster my defenses for the rough times ahead. So, in answer to the question above, here’s what keeps me afloat when things start to seem bleak.

 

Perspective

I want to get this one out of the way first, because by and large, perspective is hard to come by when you venture onto forums (and blogs, natch). And it’s even harder to gain when someone links a Raidbots graph, which although it oftentimes gets panned by developers, is actually closer to the “global” perspective of performance than the community has ever been before.

Anyway, back to the point about perspective … You might not realize it, but Raidbots provides you with a number of ways to look at the data set that it’s able to pull from World of Logs, and the default option (the one that is consistently linked and referenced in many “I’m underpowered” posts) is oftentimes a capture of the top 100 parses for the classes listed. Now, while you might argue that the top performers of a class are just as valuable a metric as any, the point remains that you’re looking at players and conditions which are, by definition, out of the ordinary. In fact, when it comes to top healing parses, you’re often looking at results which are either engineered to favor someone in particular, where someone was deliberately pushing max HPS, where a mechanic was intentionally gamed (think: Diffusion on Megaera) and/or where some aspect of the strategy went awry.

It’s also important to remember that, firstly, class performance is going to vary by raid size and by difficulty, and secondly, when you’re looking at aggregate performance over an entire tier, the values can be incredibly skewed based on incredibly high or incredibly low performance on a single encounter. In regards to the former, to give you an example of just what I mean, I took all of the Raidbots “Overall DPS” values for today, dumped them into one table, and then color-coded each parse category from red to green (red being the lowest value in that parse category and green being the highest value):

Raidbots HPS Comparison for T15 as of post date

Raidbots HPS Comparison for T15 as of post date

So, as you can hopefully see, there’s no one healer dominating in every single category. Looking at the above, you could say that Disc priests *tend* to be doing well, while Resto Druids and Resto Shaman *tend* to be doing poorly, but if you made a blanket statement on either of those cases, you’d obviously be incorrect. Further, and this relates to my second point, it’s important to remember that the values in the table above represent an aggregate (median) HPS for the entire tier. This means that if there’s a fight where a class does incredibly well or incredibly poorly, their overall HPS is going to be skewed because of it. Similarly, if WoL isn’t parsing a fight correctly, or guilds aren’t making logs public (and a number of top guilds don’t), their performance values won’t be represented in the data. So, in sum, all of this isn’t to say that the numbers presented by Raidbots are wrong or misleading, simply that it’s up to you to understand the context and how the values are derived.

 

Support

The second thing that you should be able to rely on when things get rough is support.* Although it hasn’t always been the case, in T15 I’m lucky enough to have a guild leader and healing teammates who recognize the benefits and the limitations of every class. They’re not going to cut me any slack when it comes to performance (and, rightfully they shouldn’t, because the guild is about progression, not keeping my ego suitably fluffed) but they also understand that every class has strengths and weaknesses.

So, in my case, will be things that shaman are great at, things that we’re not-so-great at, and things that we bring that may not necessarily show up on meters. Yes, I hate this argument as much as the next player out there, but it is true–meters still cannot capture all of the benefits of a class. Ancestral Vigor is a great example–10% health may not seem like a big deal but it can oftentimes be the difference between life and death. That’s 10% HP to keep your raid alive during Megaera’s Rampages or tip the scales of survivability during Iron Quon’s Fist Smash. It’s 10% more HP on a tank who’s otherwise getting 1-shot. In other rough terms, that’s ~1.3M additional raid HP if you’re able to have it stacked on a 25-man team which is also about 50% of the throughput of one Healing Tide cooldown. And the same argument could be made for things like Misdirect, Power Word: Barrier, Smoke Bomb, and a litany of other class abilities that have zero HPS or DPS values, but a huge benefit when used correctly.

* Notice that I’m not talking about forum empathy here, because threads talking about class imbalance rarely are successful and most times become an argument of who’s worse off. Other classes join in, “yeah, but you have [x]” arguments fly, and no one emerges with a positive outlook.

 

Stubbornness

I’m sure my mother could write a novel about the ways in which my stubbornness has led to more problems than solutions, but when it comes to performance I am consistently someone who believes that all it takes is sufficient willpower. I’ve met plenty of very gifted gamers over the years, some of whom have absolutely blown me away with their raw talent, and all of whom have convinced me that when it comes to being blessed with innate skill—I am not one of those people.

And yet despite my struggles, which if I had simply conceded defeat would have had me s-keying out of fire along with Donald, I’ve managed to secure a spot on every healing roster I’ve aspired to join, all the way up the ladder. Because while I may not be innately gifted, I have a stubborn streak that keeps me subscribed to the idea that, I think, Randy Pausch expressed perfectly:

The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.

So, when it comes to being aware of class balance issues but not letting myself be completely restricted by them, a little bit of pure stubbornness goes a long way.

 

Separation

Lastly, what keeps me going despite the ups and downs of class balance is the appreciation of the fact that as much as I like to think of myself as a Resto Shaman, I am, more importantly, a raider. And the qualities that distinguish a great raider are qualities that transcend class—awareness, adaptability, communication, problem-solving, attentiveness, and execution. Playing a flavor-of-the-month doesn’t absolve you of the responsibility of being a good raider any more than it keeps you alive while you stand in a fire.

Believe me when I say, that a great way to close the divide between your own performance and the performance of your teammates is to stop focusing on what you can do with your class and start focusing on what you can do as a raider. I’ve made up some pretty big disparities in the past through very simple techniques like:

  • Timing cooldowns better or more aggressively
  • Being more precise and meticulous about movement (knowing where players are going to be before they get there)
  • Paying more attention to damage patterns and visual cues of incoming damage (like actually watching the movement of my teammates instead of my raid frames)
  • Knowing more about the fight and its nuances (research, research, research)
  • Tweaking my raid frames to show more information (like debuffs, tank swaps, personal cd’s, etc.)
  • Executing special assignments (add kiting on Vashj, dispel management on Kalecgos, Sinestra and Spine, or most recently, running constellations on HM Twins).

High HPS or DPS is a good thing, but consistently solid raid performance is going to trump it nearly every time.

 

Standing Strong

Ultimately, I think perhaps the reason that the question posed at the start of this post:

How do you stay positive in light of class negativity and poor performance?

resonated so strongly with me is for two main reasons. Firstly, because it’s a question that I’m forced to battle with as someone who has created such a specific image for themselves in game and in the community. Search “Vixsin” in Google and my blog comes up as the #1 result, suggesting that I am tied to the game as much as I am to the class. So when something affects Resto Shaman, it’s difficult to divorce myself from it because it’s a part of my identity.

But secondly, I think it’s an important question because it highlights how we often we let comparative performance influence, or even dictate, our enjoyment of WoW. For example, I have a blast in BG’s when I’m winning, typically by heal-botting another geared player on an absolute rampage. But, the flip side of that “fun” is that it requires that someone else be losing (and likely not enjoying the game as much as I am). And yes, I enjoy topping meters by a mile on an incredibly OP class, even when it means that other healers have to feel underpowered (as many Resto Shaman have since 5.2).

The fact is, there will always be a Flavor-of-the-Month spec, one that’s dominating in PVP or PVE, healing, dps or tanking. Perfect class balance simply isn’t obtainable in a game as nuanced and complex as WoW, which means that someone will always be on top and someone else will always be losing. So the pessimists have it right in that regard. But if you base your enjoyment of WoW on “winning” the balance game (being the OP class of the hour), then you have a mere 2.9% chance (11 classes, 3 specs ea. / 4 for druids) to “win” at a game you can’t control or even influence. And I don’t know about you, but I think those are pretty shit odds.

So what would I suggest? Don’t try to win the balance game. Be stubborn, nurture a broader perspective, hone your skills as a raider, and find a group of people to play with who like playing with you. And in the end, stick with whatever class you enjoy playing for the simple fact that you enjoy playing it. The best successes, in my opinion, are the ones you have to work for.






22 Comments


  1. Good read as always. I understand exactly where you’re coming from.


  2. Great post; you forgot “Minimize Overhealing”!!

    It’s nice to see players still concerned about their performance and willing to pursue improved play, rather than faceroll their way through LFR.
    Shawn Holmes´s last post ..39. Cream


    • I think it’s a hard line to walk when you’re the “underperforming class of the moment”. On one hand, it’s easy to let yourself off the hook with concessions like “I’m doing great not overhealing as much as everyone else!” (which I disagree with you on–I don’t think that’s a valuable metric any more), and on the other hand it’s tough to sustain the same sort of drive when you know that it’s only going to contribute a marginal increase in your performance.

      Personally, although I care about how the class is doing overall, I only really care about how much I can contribute to my raid team. It’s tough to hold yourself to a number from Raidbots, or even a range, because strats have such a significant influence on what sort of performance you can expect. Sure, I’ll argue for buffs or changes and cite global performance, but why I argue for those things is deeply rooted in my experiences healing those encounters, not on raw numbers.


  3. shelly

    As someone who only raids this tier andast expansion in lfr, there are still sufficient face plants to counter the face rolling.

    And yes, perseverance does pay off, especially if you aren’t one of the gifted gamers, even with “bad” specs for the expansion. I love my druid but I suck as a boom in, totally suck. Put me in feral gear and I do vastly better, even when boomkin was overpowered. (Bliz lost my boom in love when they introduced the solar/lunar cycle. I understand the concept but do better with something less mathy. )


  4. […] And finally there is this fantastic read over at Life in group 5: Perspective and Optimism in the Face of Class Balance […]


  5. gus

    I see your point sometimes the best you can do is aspire to be the best you can be on your chosen class/spec.

    nevertheless there are some things that prevent you from doing as good as you could *cough*Shields*Cough*.

    still found this post mirroring many of my thoughts on the matter
    http://r4healingtouch.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/druid-forum-eu-recape-method/#comment-1486


    • Yeah, I was just reading through that the other day–it offered some interesting perspective on the problems that druids are facing right now. I do wholeheartedly agree with them (Method’s druids) on one point–absorbs need to be scaled back or at least reconsidered. The act of proactively mitigating damage should be a conscious decision and require a concerted effort, not be the side-effect of healing as you normally would.


  6. It is sad that, in order to shine, we need fights where we either are all stacked and/or take constantly massive amounts of raid damage. I feel more useless than nipples on a breastplate when I am healing normal mode fights or even some heroics like jinrok, horridon or mageara outside of rampage phases.


    • Agreed. HM Horridon especially, which we typically do with 1-2 discs and a paladin. The other healers might as well be dps until the last phase, and even then, we’re unnecessary.

      I think this brings up an interesting discussion topic though, about how fast a tier “ages” for healers, or in other words, how quickly the incoming damage decreases based on the gearing of your teammates. Naturally, there is a decrease of required HPS as a result of the gearing of your DPS (since fight times decrease), but when you add in tank HPS and proactive mitigation, you see the aging accelerate. To the point where in order to maintain that same challenge of progression, you’re looking at using a 3-person healing team instead of the 6-healer team present on the first kill.


  7. shammypie

    a nice moral boosting post. Although i think one of the biggest issues i think you missed is not the brick wall of being able to heal comparably. But when you have more than enough healing for the raid and you feel worthless not being able to help as much. Meaning you help heal but the raid doesn’t dip hardly at all for your healing to be effective. This leads many people in your raid to think your not a good healer even though you can easily shift your output with damage. I guess this goes into letting your raid know your strengths and weaknesses but it just feels wrong to have to explain it all the time.


    • Fair enough point. I definitely should have clarified that I’m looking at things from a progression perspective, a team seeking a first kill. That’s the point at which, to me, class imbalance weighs most heavily and is most important.

      When fights shift to farm and you’ve got absorbs coming out your ass (see my comments above), then there’s going to be a definite divergence of hps between the mitigation classes and the pure throughput classes.


    • First post in your site, but I’m a long time reader.

      I hope it don’t disturb you if I always link your posts from my site;

      My goal is to help french players to have lastest informations for our class.
      I will be very proud if you can comment my calculations, I’m not the best theorycrafter but I try to give all my knowleges to others. I know, my site is in french, but google translate is our friend.

      Thanks for your site and your philosophy that help me.

      Sorry for my english.

      Colandrina
      colandrina´s last post ..Guide de la candidature pour une meilleure guilde


  8. Great post as usual, Vixsin :)

    I work really hard not to let meters get to me. I’ve never, ever been a meter-focused healer myself; I focus almost entirely on outcome to measure my performance. As an example, on H Garalon I was assigned to healing the melee as they ran around and killed legs, and rather than drop Healing Rain on the ranged pile where I knew I’d get guaranteed numbers of awesomeness, I focused really hard on predicting where the melee would be, dropping HR in such a manner that they could stand in it *and* the leg circle even though Garalon was moving, and using my CDs solely for the melee team’s benefit. As a result, I did less healing overall than I could have (and less than my other melee-healing partner who *did* drop his HR in the ranged pile), but if you looked at who I healed, I was clearly sticking to my assignment and keeping them alive. That made me happy, and I didn’t care that I was 3rd or 4th on the HPS meters in my raid.

    In fights where my strengths are almost non-existent and my weaknesses are dominant, I usually consoled myself with performing utility tasks – interrupting, swapping to Flametongue for a while and DPSing (*cough*Blade Lord/H Sha p1*cough*), dispelling/purging, slowing adds, slinging totems, whatever.

    There’ve been several fights in this tier where I feel pretty much helpless, though, in terms of being able to cope with the damage. H Horridon is certainly one of them, and H Primordius was another. (Let’s not talk about Twin Consorts and Corrupted Healing!) Admittedly my raid may not be working hard enough to take advantage of my strengths, but on the other hand … can you really blame them, if the holy paladins and disc priests and mistweaver are able to deal with the damage without the raid having to fulfill any extra special requirements?

    It has been getting to me a while, so it’s good to know that it’s getting to others too. And as always, when I start to despair, you come to the rescue with a positive, thoughtful, insightful, and inspiring post to get me excited again. It’s like you’re my Ancestral Guardian Angel ;)

    ~Dayani <3


  9. Nihilith

    Long time lurker and reader. This post really struck home with me. I’m not Restoing this expansion, I came in late into and the raid team was already full on healers. It is however still a treasured off-spec though and I’m happy to say I get to play it on occasion.

    As Elemental this tier has had it’s own issues and struggles and it’s sometimes hard not to get disheartened. I remember reading your blog through Cataclysm (when Resto was my main spec) and it was often the one thing that would keep from tearing my hair out in pure frustration.

    It’s so important to remember your strengths as a shaman, not always focusing on what you don’t bring but what you do bring. I’m not a naturally gifted raider myself though, like you, I make up for it in pure stubborness and I try to work with the difficulties rather than against them.

    It is hard however to always keep a positive spirit, especially when one is surrounded by amazing players. Lucky for myself, my raidleader recognizes the strengths and weaknessess within each class and plays to them, rather than against them.

    This became and bit long winded and rambling but this is a thank you, for this post, for your past posts and hopefully many more to come. You are, to me and I’m sure many others, a source of strength and a bright shining star in the shaman, healing and WoW community.


    • Noeffect

      I wouldn’t mind being the weakest link this tier if it hadn’t been such a depressingly consistent theme over the years. I can remember all the way back in early Ulduar, watching holy priests spam CoH( before the CD was added) and destroying meters, and thinking, ” Why am I playing a resto shammie?”. Four years later, and I feel like nothing has changed.

      The other factor that makes this hard to take is how easy it would be for Blizz to fix the class, yet seeing them take no action beyond the band-aid of buffing us on the fights where we were already performing competitively. The forums are awash with good suggestions on what they could do to improve our toolkit for spread fights, yet we see no response.

      At this point in the xpac, Ive decided to stick it out on my shammie. I would like to get him his shiny orange (weapon?) before I take a break from WoW, so my subscription is secure for the near future. After that, who knows? I have been playing for 6 years now, and the game is getting old. If I can’t enjoy myself playing the character I have been healing on since I was in the mid 40’s and was asked to heal a Sunken Temple run, then it might just be time to move on and find a different hobby.


  10. Raynjari

    It’s been a frustrating expansion for me and I totally what Shammypie said applies to me, hardcore. I have been asked by the RL if I can switch to dps – my ele gear isn’t half bad, so that a SP can bring in his pally to heal. Besides the fact that I don’t like dpsing unless I have to, there would have been no way for me to get the same dps as the SP does (often the SP’s dps made the difference between wiping and not) – and we were working on progression kills. I do see the benefit of having a pally heals – that would be optimal with a druid and priest heals. But I argued against it just the same (I, too, am notoriously stubborn). Because I wasn’t willing to switch, the SP, who does not understand my class at all, started yelling at me about stat priorities, gemming and whatnot – essentially establishing what he really thought of not just shamans but I as a player. So, now, I feel stuck – and HMs are looming; and everyone is resigned, but no one is happy.


  11. Raynjari

    Just an update: I won the battle. Kinda. SP is going hunter (he actually wanted to switch because too many on tokens and cloth – and he was kind enough to say that it wasn’t me, but the spec >< still ouch)- we are now going to two heal ToT – not me though – I will be backup heals. I made the argument that most guilds were no longer 3 healing, and that those that do just need one heal as backup. Pointless to have a plate healer come in to go dps. Whatevs – still better than being replaced.


  12. Jaydin

    When will it be a resto shamans time to shine? Will it -ever- be again?

    I don’t understand why they just can’t balance the throughput of all the healers. I hate working so hard and then getting 3rd on heals and the worst dps! Oh the monk and disc priest are doing 50k+ dps while healing. “Can’t you help dps a little more?” Sure I’ll just stick my talented fire elemental on the boss (healing loss) and lightning bolt (the damage it does tickles..). And is still comes out to be no where close to the monk/disc priest.

    If our mastery was really so great.. all of the top parses of resto shamans should be higher than other healers. If we are the ‘emergency’ healer, resto shamans should be pure top in the top percential only. It is not fair the other healers can ‘beat’ a shaman’s heals when the raid is low (other healers die, etc).

    We don’t have the capability of keeping up with the throughput of other classes. It makes me want to quit.


  13. severina

    Unfortunately, I had to hang up my resto shaman reins. Played her since BC and was really sad to do it. I rerolled a monk and now am back to being competitive. i am still following thos blog in hopes blizzard does something about our pve balance one day. Thanks for your blog.. you have great info here.


  14. Fieryphoenix

    I totally agree with your final statement:
    ‘And in the end, stick with whatever class you enjoy playing for the simple fact that you enjoy playing it.’

    I got a resto shammy alt but my main is a fire mage, and has been that for ~2 years now. I have played fire through thick and thin cause i love it, even though we were really weak and also really strong sometimes
    (possibly best scaling class in game right now, but in early cata we ran oom after 10 fireballs)

    Keep up the awesome blog, it makes me wanna play my shammy alt :)


  15. melandroso

    Thanks for this peptalk!

    I have healed on my shaman since the imps had us on farm in Molten Core and have never bothered much with logs, meters or stuff like that – just being happy being a raider and having fun beating big bad bosses. But lately, I have been depressed with my shaman and finding her lacking. Which I hate, because I love her and she is my main come rain or shine.

    Thanks for keeping it real, making me remember what it is all about – being a good raider – and lifting my spirits. I’ll hang in there :)



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