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Philosophy

December 31, 2013

Non-Critical Healing Noise in Mists of Pandaria

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Written by: Vixsin
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(Alternatively titled: Why we throughput classes maybe, kinda shouldn’t hate Disc Priests and Paladins all that much)

It is a common occurrence on raid nights the world over—the healing team is assembled for the evening, and with every absorb class added to Group 5 (or whichever group holds your healing bundles of joy), the groans grow ever louder from your Shaman, Druid and/or Monk healers. Slowly, the raid fills and those old battle lines are redrawn in the sand, with your Discs standing resolutely next to the Holy Paladins, while the throughput classes glare at them from across a sometimes icy divide, muttering about the overhealing to come.

Those darn discs and paladins, who can take a beautiful healing meter full of competition and turn it into a one-sided argument. For this exact reason, I’m as guilty as anyone of throwing a good amount of vitriol at my absorb-centric friends. Despite the fact that I join their ranks for Promethean’s weekly alt raids, I confess that I do find it aggravating to watch the divide between classes grow ever broader as our Discs and Paladins push themselves, week after week, to beat other healers to the punch. But as frustrating as it is, I found myself wondering the other night, if taking issue with absorbs was really the right stance. Are absorbs really worthy of all the hate? Are they really to blame for the huge differential between healers, or has there been something else at work in Mists of Pandaria?

 

Themes and Effects

If triage was the central theme of Cataclysm, the design philosophy applied to every encounter, then I’d argue that the central theme of Mists was burst. Short bursts, rapid bursts, timed bursts and random bursts—the mechanics that we saw peppered throughput Tiers 14, 15 and 16 were designed not only to, in increasing intensity, push healers’ limits, but also test our capacity for self-tuning. And in contrast to the triage style of healing, which tempered careful resource management with self-regulation, in Mists resource management bit the dust relatively early on (for most classes, in late Tier 14), leaving us with really only two types of healing conditions: critical healing and non-critical healing.

Critical healing is something I think most healers inherently understand. It’s that time where you roll up your sleeves and dive into the thick of it. It is:

  • Time-constrained and time-sensitive, meaning it needs to occur after a specific event and within a constrained window of time
  • Demanding on healers’ resources, meaning it requires high mana consumption, high twitch, and precise decision-making

This type of healing is in direct contrast to non-critical healing, which would be defined as:

  • Loosely impacted by time, meaning that the healing needs to occur but on a more protracted window
  • Not demanding on healers’ resources, meaning it could be accomplished on a conservative and mana-neutral healing rotation, and that target selection “errors” have little to no effect

Roughly illustrated, these two types of healing represent opposite ends of the spectrum:

Healing Spectrum

 Now, in a triage state, for the duration of an encounter, you exist somewhere between the two extremes, fluctuating between them but tending towards a middle ground where you’re weaving inefficient spells into efficient rotations and vice versa. Triage healing is about flow, choice, and modulation.  That isn’t to say that there are times in a triage-based fight where the healing window shrinks to be more immediate–even the first tier of Cata had its fair share of burst mechanics–simply that a triage game rewards finding the right mix of fast and efficient over the course of an encounter.

But, in a burst environment, that tenuous middle ground doesn’t exist because efficiency isn’t a priority. In a burst environment, you’re not focused on getting the most healing per mana, you’re focused on cramming as much healing as possible into the short window that you’re given. As a result, by virtue of the fact that you have periods of high intensity healing, balance demands that you accordingly have periods of almost pure regen. So, in a pure burst environment, the healing demands of an encounter alternate between one end of the spectrum and the other; meandering healing peppered by periods of incredibly intense activity.

You can see evidence of this all-or-nothing style of healing throughout MoP. It started in the very first instance released, in fights like Feng and Will of the Emperor. Choose almost any fight from Throne or Siege and you’ll find it there too. It’s apparent in the most dominant “heal” of the expac—Spirit Shell. It was unmistakably at the core of the major retool of Resto Druids’ Mushrooms. It is the reason that Resto Shaman were able to retain a raid spot Tier 15, despite our poor healing performance. Even the design of the legendary tank cloak acknowledges that massively unexpected burst was going to be so common that Blizzard actually designed a get-out-of-death-free card and handed it to tanks at the start of Siege. And capping it all off, the end boss of the expac, HM Garrosh, serves as a perfect example of a fight where healing is critical only in a few select moments, leaving your healers to trip over themselves for the rest of the 12-minute encounter.

Okay, okay, OKAY! WE GET IT.  Burst was everywhere. Why the hell are you hammering on this point so much?

 

The Untruths We Believe

Because as a result of this prevalence of burst, these healing meters:

NM Garrosh - Raidbots Healing (2013.12.17)

 

And these healing meters:

HM Galakras - Overall Healing

 … are misleading the community into believing something that isn’t really true. (Hell, they were leading me to believe something that isn’t really true).

They are telling us that absorbs are incredibly more powerful (in some cases, twice or three times more powerful) than pure throughput. They’re telling us that the performance of throughput healers is vastly inferior to absorb classes. But, in this case, they’re wrong. And they’re wrong not because of that horrid “unseen benefits” argument that gets brought up so often during healer balance discussion, but rather, they’re wrong because they are incapable of distinguishing between critical healing and everything else. (This is actually something that GC touched on back in Ulduar, when talking about meters’ limitations. And yes, I do remember blue posts from 4 years ago!)

It’s all the non-critical healing noise, that fills in the lulls between incoming damage bursts, that’s creating such a divide. Absorbs can and will always get to this non-critical damage first, especially when mitigation classes can apply those absorbs from a mana-conservative rotation.  But, when we look at meters and charts like the ones above, we forget that non-critical healing noise is exactly that—nearly irrelevant healing. It’s healing that doesn’t even need to be done by healers—it can be covered by non-healers’ splash healing (think: Shadow’s Divine Star, Enhance’s Healing Rain, a boomkin’s Nature’s Vigil, etc.), by players themselves, or even by the incidental heals that all healers are equipped with. It is healing that, but for the fact that you have an absorb class in raid, could and would be done by a multitude of other means. It is healing that has very little impact on the outcome of an encounter. (This is also why is possible that your “critical tank healer” isn’t necessarily the absorb class who absolutely dominates the healing done to a particular tank—but that’s a topic for another day).

More importantly, the difference between absorb and throughput classes is further exacerbated by the fact that you have fights with incredible swings in incoming damage. Consider this design problem:

You have a healer with a static mana pool and somewhat constant rate of regen. At 100% capacity, that healer can last for maybe 45 seconds. However, at 90% maximum throughput, that healer has no threat of going OOM, even over the longest of encounters. Combined with all the supplemental healing from non-healers, that 90% is sufficient to handle most mechanics. How do you stress that healer?

My answer would be: you either employ a fight mechanic to rob them of their mana cushion (mana drain, player debuff, etc.) or force them to operate at 100% as frequently as their total available mana pool will allow. Unsurprisingly, the latter is exactly what fights tended towards over the course of the expansion.

But, here’s the kicker with that solution … while healers can dump mana at a highly accelerated pace, they don’t have many means by which they can recover it at an equally accelerated pace. Yes, you can employ Mana Tides, Hymns of Hope, Innervates, Divine Pleas, Shadowfiends, and the like, but not only are they on long cooldowns (except for fiend), but they won’t return an entire mana bar, which means your healers are still constrained by time. So, the higher your burst HPS requirements (the more times you force a healer to that 100% throughput mark), the longer the time period needed to recover that mana. In other words: the higher the burst in an encounter, the more downtime is required to balance it out. And the more downtime you introduce into an encounter … dun dun dun … the more non-critical healing noise is represented on those meters.

Still a little skeptical? Still thinking I’m trying to justify my raid spot? Let’s take a practical example.

Below is a chart of Damage Taken (by ability), from this past week’s HM Garrosh kill. Each one of the solid purple humps on the log below represents a 6-second window where Garrosh is channeling Whirling Corruption. Those 30 seconds total (5 humps at 6 seconds each) represent the largest single contributor of incoming damage in the encounter, outside of the boss’s melee hits. That melee damage, charted through the course of the encounter, is shown in orange; it is 18.52% of the total damage over the course of 12 minutes and 38 seconds. In contrast, Whirling Corruption, at 18.24% of the total damage of the encounter, represents damage which occurs in 4% of the total time.

HM Garrosh Inc Damage (2)

Even if you add in the time where healers are dealing with Annihilate (two 30-second segments, shown in the dashed purple), you have 36% of the total damage of the encounter being done in 12% of the total time. In actuality, this is the reason that the fight is a 4-heal encounter in 25s and a potentially 1-heal encounter in 10s. Because, for the other 88% of the encounter, your healers are tripping over themselves to handle what little healing needs to be done.

As you might expect, given what I’ve talked about in the post thus far, the chart below is an example of what the overall healing meters look like for this encounter:

HM Garrosh - Overall Healing

Pretty discouraging picture, if you just take it at face value. Our disc positively dominates the fight when you look at overall meters. (Two discs and I start to wonder if I should just AFK until my cooldowns are back up). But, narrow the healing window to the times in which that spike damage is going out, and you see something else entirely. For reference, here’s what the incoming damage looks like during the last two Empowered Whirling Corruptions, in Phase 3:

HM Garrosh - Whirling Corruption

 I’d qualify that as spike damage, wouldn’t you? (lol) And here’s what the healing meters look like during that time period:

HM Garrosh - Whirling Corruption Healing

 Now, keep in mind that the segment above isn’t all critical healing, as much as I’d like it to be, because it includes healing done before and after those Whirling Corruptions. But, regardless, this picture is substantially different than the overall healing meter that I showed you for that same HM Garrosh fight. The picture above actually makes healing balance look surprisingly close, and presents a good argument as to why paladins might deserve a little more help in the burst healing category. But unless you know to dial it down to this level, you’re never going to see the healer balance that is being masked by the noise present in the encounter.

 

Lessons Learned

Ultimately, there are a number of lessons that can be garnered from the raids in Mists of Pandaria; lessons about the impact about stat inflation (which I’ve discussed before), lessons about healer regen, etc. But I think the two most important lessons that we can take with us into the next expansion are these …

First, that context really, REALLY matters. We hear this sentiment from developers almost every expansion, and certainly every tier where one class seemingly obliterates the others on overall healing meters. It was said about Icecrown, it was repeated in Firelands, and it was dusted off again in the first tier of MoP when Spirit Shell finally found traction with Disc Priests. Class balance is not a vacuum and it is not independent of the context in which healers perform. Granted, I don’t think this absolves developers and encounter designers of the obligation to make fights in which all healers can succeed, but likewise, it doesn’t absolve the community of our responsibility, when discussing balance, to address the context of our arguments. It isn’t enough to say “absorbs are too strong”, because clearly the meter just above this paragraph demonstrates otherwise.

Second, that the presence of a middle ground (in between non-critical and critical healing) is requisite to not only the perception of healer parity but also the realization of balance. Mists, for all its successes, also did one thing horribly wrong–it polarized healers into distinct camps at almost every turn. Healers still struggling with mana and those free from its shackles. Healers with massive raid cooldowns and those without. Healers with absorbs and those without. As a result, healing became less about what healers could do with the tools they had at their disposal, and more about if they had the “right” tools to begin with. There was no positive effect of having a diverse healing team, and likewise, there was less flexibility to work with what you had available. Instead of unifying healing teams, Mists made a clear distinction between the haves and have nots.

So, although there are a number of things to argue for when it comes to adjusting healer balance in Warlords of Draenor, I don’t think that absorbs are going to rank too highly on my list any more. As much as I’m irked by a meter dominated by Divine Aegis or Illuminated Healing, I think I’ve reason enough to believe that those are only symptoms of an underlying problem. Because if there is one thing that empowers all healers to change the outcome of an encounter, if there’s one thing that normalizes the contribution of a hot versus the contribution of an absorb, if there’s something that keeps an fight from being a completely automated series of cooldowns, it is an encounter that is devoid of extremes and non-critical healing noise. It is triage. And it is time for it to be back on the menu once again.

 






40 Comments


  1. Fantastic post! The zoom in on spike damage really just sold me on your point (not to mention why my Holy Paladin feels really sluggish as far as AoE burst healing is concerned).

    I really miss triage, though. It was glorious in the first couple tiers of Cataclysm, but once DS hit, and then ToT and SoO, I find my healing to be way more like Wrath than actual triage (though I use a couple more spells now than I did in Wrath, so that’s good at least). We have fights where tanks were getting globaled or close to it, and unless I was spamming big heals on that tank while they were tanking, they’d die. Not fun. Granted, they were a little under geared, but it goes back to your point about stressing mana pools/regen and ensuring healers need to be pedal to the metal for a large chunk of the encounter. I hate getting a 1 second lag spike. And bam, tank is dead. Not fun.


    • Kynreth

      I had the same reaction: that zoom in was very persuasive indeed. It makes me feel better about my healing choices!

      And it demonstrates good principles to bring to bear on anything that seems obviously one way.


    • I absolutely agree about the parallels to Wrath healing and I can’t even begin to explain how furious it makes me to hear the same commentary crop up in Siege that occurred during ICC. Namely, the complaint “I didn’t get heals for a whole X seconds before I died”, where X is typically equal to somewhere around 2 seconds. That’s not twitch, that’s not smart prioritization of heals, that’s mindless spam, and definitely not something that I want to see in Warlords.


  2. Excellent analysis and completely agreed. I mainly play Shadow, but when I play Disc I feel brokenly overpowered for general healing with Atonement (sniping everything automatically) and for brief burst damage with prep time (spirit shell everything!). But when it comes to more regular burst or consistent heavy damage, I definitely felt weaker than some of the other healers.
    Balkoth´s last post ..Fare Thee Well, Ghostcrawler


    • Drea B

      Thank you. I’ve been trying to say this for years. I’ve raided as a disc priest since early Wrath, and I detest meters with a passion because people can’t see past the surface numbers to what is really happening. Healing numbers are as much about the encounter design as they are about the class design.

      I feel healing is team work, you take the various strengths of the classes/players, match it to the specific needs of the fight and take it from there. There are times the classes have obvious issues that need to be fixed by the devs, but the meters can’t show that if you just look at a couple of trend lines.

      Absorbs can’t heal back massive damage. They can keep someone alive long enough for the throughput healers to heal them up, but there are times I feel utterly useless on my disc priest. Plus PoH is annoying for aoe healing in my opinion. But absorbs are a preventative, not a cure. Sometimes ppl have to be healed back, and that’s just the way it goes. Sometimes the encounter allows absorbs to mitigate something entirely (infest on the LK fight is one example), but the absorbs are there to protect your raid while the other healers get everyone healed up. To me, that’s how the team works, and I always have my healing UI set up to see who has hots so I can prioritise my healing.


      • Incredibly valid points. Disc rewards proactive healing, on an even more forward-looking window than most classes due to the duration of its absorbs (Spirit Shell, PW:S, DA), but really falls off when tasked with catch-up healing, ie: the kind that throughput classes excel at. Actually, when I pop into PuGs and LFRs, this is one of the primary issues that I see with poor-performing Discs–they simply aren’t being proactive enough and/or are healing like they would on a throughput class. But I digress …

        What I found myself thinking while writing this post was that, had this expansion included less burst healing and more constant-pulsing damage mechanics, I’m quite sure that we would have seen the typical healing meter invert itself, and discs would have been pointing out their lack of sustained. Which, all things considered, wouldn’t have been an unfounded criticism.

        If anything, I wonder if this expac, and the issues that we healers encountered, isn’t grounds for a deeper examination of what “core tools” we all need. To this day, it still blows my mind that we found ourselves in ToT where encounter design actually had an effect on class design (and the hotfixes implemented, for example, for druids and shaman), when it really should be the other way around.


        • Ash

          Brilliant Post Vixin, as always. Even though I main a disc I completely agree.

          This is a really noticeable problem for disc too – one of the only fights I’ve played holy on this xpac was our first Twin consorts heroic kill which has constant pulse damage. I feel lost on my priest when I am in a situation where i cant atonement and there is spike damage (Nazgrim d stance for example)

          I miss casting healing spells. I loved the first tier or 2 of cata for exactly that reason. Healing felt skillful.


        • Ash

          I think a lot of this design we have now comes from the homogenization of healers as well. Before in BC/wrath and to a much lesser extent Cata all healers had a role they excelled at.

          Holy pallys were the tank healers – which allowed blizzard to make tank damage high, to give the pallys something to do – while the druids dealt with the pulse raid damage (just for example)

          Now every class is so similar and we have 10 man the only way for blizz to work the encounters is to make the raid have to cycle through raid CDs during burst damage.

          I miss all the healers being different. Honestly I realize it is frustrating when your class isnt fotm and you don’t get taken to H rag or w/e boss but I would happily sit the first kill if it meant I felt like I had a unique class again.


        • Drea B

          I honestly believe encounter design is the crux of the entire ‘best healer’ debates. I rarely swap to holy, but there have been fights where I felt the damage was just too random for disc to manage and until I over geared the fight, I’d swap to holy.

          Ticking auras vs predictable burst vs random target burst are very different healing environments. The classes aren’t equally set up to manage all 3 environments, and if you add into the mix “stack’ vs “spread” fights, then that affects it even more.

          The occasional “heal this debuff off” fight is another thing I point to for throughput healers, although that is a rare thing. Valithria in ICC was anti absorb for the dragon, saved the raid fighting the trash though.

          Encounter design plays to the strengths of one class / healing style over another. Combine that with how meters work, and you get the situation where some classes look better, or even are better, for a given fight or raid tier. It’s annoying and frustrating and entirely out of the players’ hands.


  3. Noeffect

    Over the course of this xpac, I’ve really come to detest the current healing model. Healers have so few actual decisions to make anymore that there are fights where I am fighting not to alt tab out and watch Youtube. The current healing model is dominated by absorbs, smart heals, and big raid cd’s, thereby removing any real decision making from the whole process.

    I remember having to heal tanks on heroic LK back in Wrath, where one mistimed spell meant a tank death and a likely wipe. Say what you will about that model, it kept you on your toes. While I’m not advocating a return to that extreme, I truly believe that unless healing begins to challenge skilled players more, and allow those players to demonstrate their skill via some obvious metric(like meters) then those skilled players are going to migrate to roles(like dps) that allow them to do so.

    At least that way you won’t sit through 3/4 of a raid feeling like you could just log out after using your raid cd’s and no one would even notice for the next 3 minutes.

    I


    • Afua

      Completely agree. I really enjoyed healing in wotlk, it kept you busy, focused and energized. You actually had to heal, and to pay attention. Very fast-paced and fun.

      Nowadays its just pressing the autoheal button, and hit a hymn/tide/etc when burst phase happened. Another reason that I don’t raid anymore.


      • Highly

        Definitely agree. WoTLK had the most fights that kept me on my toes and was constantly a moment away from being full and dead.

        As of right now, between Druid HoTs and the insane amount of mitigation Priests & Palis bring to the table, healing has become very mundane and more focused on DBM than Grid.


    • Completely agree about the erosion of decision-making from the current healing model. I don’t think it’s completely absent, because healing decisions can still be the cause of failure, but I do think that “smart” decisions are less visible these days.

      And that situation is further exacerbated by the fact that you have such high damage spikes present, meaning that any numbers of “smart” decisions that you make, to swap to a critical target (eg: a tank) or leave another target at less than full HP (eg: that hunter standing off in BFE) could easily become massive overhealing or a 2-shot death, with no discernible difference between the two situations. It makes healing more of a gamble and less of an informed decision.


  4. Aanzeijar

    How could any shaman ever forget those blue posts?


    • Oh man, some of those during Ulduar got me so riled up … Many raiders might remember Ulduar as the best of raiding, but I remember it is the instance where I had to go Ele to keep a raid spot. :(


  5. shammypie

    The zoom in on the burst healing is pretty neat and a good indicator of what output healers do for your raid. My concern is that if you zoom out a little bit and look at the overall period of burst, absorb healers still have more overall output.

    Your logs show a disc priest dominating even during burst periods. Granted this dies off about half way in, the amount of healing per burst period is still greater. This is compounded by the issue that part of burst healing happens after burst damage, meaning that there is still a few seconds of high healing going out after damage has subsided to finish topping people off. This period of the burst healing is actually non-critical healing. To most healers we would probably still classify this as critical healing as you will need people up for the other mechanics; however, it still does have the same urgency as before.

    I agree that absorb healing is important and softens the initial spikes of burst damage. However I don’t think it needs to be such a dominating factor. Being brought to fight because you can ramp up for those few seconds of major damage and look like chump for the rest of it is degrading. It is even worse at lower difficulties where these spikes can be handled by the absorb healers alone.

    In the end it is a little comforting knowing that i keep the raid alive in those o s**** moments, but overshadowed by the metric for healers saying i’m bad.


    • I absolutely agree with your point about how such consistently disproportional meters can be disheartening, and that’s something that I personally struggled with this tier. There is this, I think, inherent desire in WoW players to see meters as a reflection of level of effort; certainly it’s present on the dps side of the house, where meters and DPS sims are the end-all, be-all of class balance discussions. And I don’t think that desire is something that should be looked down upon or discouraged because it’s the same reason we want epic raiding gear versus quest greens or better stats on my T16 ring versus a T14 one. Player power matters because it makes us FEEL good about what we’re doing.

      But, part of what I was trying to illustrate with this post was the incredible dissonance that we saw with this concept, in Mists, on the healing side of things. The constant presence of massive amounts of non-critical healing meant that what some players felt (eg: “I worked hard and contributed”) wasn’t always reflected on meters. In actuality, it was oftentimes buried where it was hardly discernible.

      Case in point (story time!): On HM Siegecrafter progression, we had consistent issues with tank deaths, and not at any specific point during the encounter. So, one of the criticisms leveled at some of the healers was lack of tank healing. Now, from my perspective, that’s really all I saw myself doing for the majority of the encounter, aside from dropping HR and using my cooldowns. But, when you toggled to see who healed the tanks the most, I was substantially below our discs and paladin.

      When I saw that, I was really taken aback, because my perception of where I should have been and where I actually placed on that metric were radically different. I started to wonder if maybe I was slacking, possibly casting more RTs on extraneous targets when it wasn’t really necessary. So, I dialed down our logs to look at my actual casts–every single GHW, HS, CH, and UE, and over 75% of the RT’s that I cast were on the tanks.

      Now granted, tanks were still dying, so I can’t absolve myself of that responsibility by saying “well I healed them almost exclusively”, but when you compared this with the activity of our absorb classes, you saw that their healing was much more spread across the raid. Meaning that with less focus, less specificity of heals, they were able to significantly outpace my focused healing. Why? Because they could get there first during non-critical periods, and thus despite being as culpable as the rest of the team for tank deaths, they still appeared to be shouldering a greater burden. What happened when those absorbs classes narrowed their focus a bit more on tanks? They stopped dying.

      Now, the point here isn’t that our absorb-healers are baddies–they are all amazing healers–simply that that form of disconnect is something that I think developers need to be aware of and actively working to eliminate. I don’t care about a couple percentage points, but when the divide starts to be upwards of 8% or 10%, and when it’s consistent across a large number of fights, that’s rough on your ego and sense of self-worth. Being a healer shouldn’t require us to be genius log analysts to prove our worth and it shouldn’t require that we be the quirky raiding sidekicks who march to the beat of our own drummers and our own metrics.

      Perception does matter.

      (Sorry for the long-winded response … I get a little amped up about this topic :-P )


      • shammypie

        no problem i agree with you and i think we both want to argue the same point in 2 different languages.

        My question is how do you change the perception. Should designers work more on the way healing classes interact, tuning, or raid mechanics? Or should we change how the metrics work. The right answer is probably a mixture of all of them.

        I think there is potential in creating a death prevented chart that shows when a healer prevented you from dying with a comparison to average incoming healing or so. It would be hard to get right and perfect but would be really useful in showing the advantage of different classes.

        Sorry about my ranting, i just have issues with some healers (disc) having the ability to outclass others and compete evenly even in other healer’s niche.

        Side Note: I noticed that a lot of the old healing roles for classes have become homogenized. Many healers take advantage of this to step outside of their role and overtake the other healers. This is all well and good for most fights, but like your siegecraft, when they go back into their old role the raid is a lot healthier.


  6. Qooxxy

    So nice this thread ;)

    As usual!


  7. Verdell

    Wonderful read. I main a Pally and have recently fallen back in love with my Shaman. There is such a stark contrast in playing then 2 healers.

    My guild calls me a “padder” when I heal with my Paladin, because I never stop casting, no matter the damage output. Playing a half absorb class, I have to play that way to maximize my output potential in a raid environment. Is it the best practice? No, but who competitively wants to play and not bring their best?

    With the shaman, I feel like I have to play a timing game, which for me, I love. I have to time totems, I have to time heals, and that all plays into the fight and what’s going on. It really is a different type of healing, it feels “smarter”, even though “smart healing” has a completely different meaning in game.

    I too, am hoping for change in WoD. If not, I don’t know if I can continue to play a healer, it’s not very intuitive anymore. There is not planning your heals anymore, there’s spamming to top meters.

    Again, great read. Well done!


  8. Seersa

    Thanks so much for this post. My main has been a restoration shaman for two years but every once in a while I get down about how we play with other healers. I was really encouraged by this :)


  9. Although I have left my resto shamman by the wayside for this expansion in leu of my Prot Warrior and Rogue, I still come to this blog on a regular basis because the information provided is useful for me as a raid leader and the posts are informative and entertaining.

    I would like to add a dps perspective to the non-critical healing discussion. I personally feel that the amount of absorbs combined with major lulls in outgoing damage have made us dps lazy. Many dps (myself included) tend to stand in way more bad than we used to simply because a. we know there is some sort of absorb on us and b. we know the healers can pause to heal us with zero danger to the tank. The only time dps really concern themselves with damage intake is during these obvious critical healing phases of an encounter. A swing back the the triage syle of healing would make more players far more cognizant of the various mechanics of an encounter. A good dps would no longer be soley defined by how well they can maintain their rotation but would also include raid awareness.
    Velluana´s last post ..Non-Critical Healing Noise in Mists of Pandaria


  10. Sil

    Very interesting article.

    A few points:

    -Meters are a necessary evil for lack of better analytical tools, but they hide the truth for all roles, not only for healers. A dps that does whatever he has to do to make the raid win the encounter (move, interrupt, push a button, whatever) in spite of the dps meter cost is the better dps. That’s why the absolute best guilds aren’t generally systematically crushing the meters. They do whatever they have to do to win, not to fill meters.

    - As a noob with limited experience in healing I’m not sure what you’ve complaining about: For most 25HM SOO encounters available to me on worldoflogs, eg up to Thok, shamans dominate anyway or can hold their own at the highest level meterwise.

    -while I understand the appeal of critical healing to not fall asleep during raid, I find 6 second periods extremely short. In the best of case you’ll have 6 gcds. How interesting can it be? Do these 6s not feel repetitive and once the optimal sequence is found, isn’t in the same sequence more or less used each and every time.? Don’t we need to vary more the healing pattern of the encounters instead of 95% flat 5% critical? These are questions not affirmations.

    Cheers


    • Awesome comment! You bring up some very valid points. But, I think it’s important to emphasize a couple key qualities about this post:

      - This post is not a critique of the usefulness of meters or logging sites. Personally, I think both are very necessary; the negative stigma surrounding them is due to their missue and misinterpretation. And I agree with the finding, and have experienced it myself as I’ve moved up the progression ladder, that the higher you get in world rankings, the less meters serve as barometer of player skill.
      - This post is not a commentary on healer balance. If anything, my conclusion agrees with yours–I think healers are in a fine state of balance, shaman included. (It is also important to note that HPS rankings on WoL represent maximum throughput. This is, I’d hypothesize, why you’s see throughput classes heavily represented).

      - This post is a commentary about the perception of healer balance. Hence the screenshots provided on HM Garrosh, emphasizing that how you frame a critique is important.
      - This post does advocate a return to triage–the swing between downtime and critical healing states. While I think there is challenge to be found in fights that operate on the extreme ends of the spectrum, I personally find the most interesting fights to be those which task you to function across the entire range. (IMO, this applies to DPS as well–too many Patchwerk fights and they’d be bored to tears as well).

      Ultimately, what I wanted to do was encourage players to delve a little deeper when they start offering commentary about Mists of Pandaria. And I wanted to emphasize that balance is not only a function of framing, but also a function of context. Such that Blizzard could do nothing to change healers between now and Warlords, and simply design the fights differently (and the damage patterns differently), and classes would have an entirely different distribution and entirely different problems.


  11. Ara

    A very insightful read. Given I’ve just told my guild I will be stopping healing when Warlords drops after 5 years of staring at the little green boxes of success or failure, this has made me reconsider my thoughts. I main a Holy Paladin and have become wholly disheartened by the monotony of keeping up IH and popping a CD or two during obviously predicable dmg spikes.
    I hadn’t considered it from this angle, my healing has always been above that expected by my raid leader which draws the complements and repeated raid slot but I’ve recently begun to compare the ‘fun’ of healing to the perceived difficulty by the rest of the team. Only being called on 2-3 times an encounter to do some actual healing makes the majority of bosses uninspiring to heal. I’ve started finding my own fun in what dps can I hit denounce spamming between when I need to do something and when our disc priest has it covered (and when you can afford to pop cds to improve your dps instead of healing it is a sad day).

    Thanks this might have saved me slipping into the black hole of chasing dps meter domination in Warlords.


    • Iseulde

      I’m a hpally main as well and this healing model is what led me to quit playing. I raided 25s with a good group (they were well on their way to a HGarrosh kill when I quit), and to their credit didn’t count out non-absorb healers – the stars of our team were two disc priests and a tree – but I was told during H Lei Shen that I had to bring burst healing to keep my starting raid slot (earned quickly when I joined the team in Firelands) and that continued into SoO. Pallies may stand with the disc priests on the absorb side of the line, we are the weaker cousins.

      I never thought I would miss Wrath pally healing, but at least then I wasn’t spending large portions of the encounter selecting healing targets with only slightly more thought than random choice. Fun for the last 2 min of H Ultraxxion with a blue crystal, maybe, but not for a whole tier.


  12. Jessica

    You have a good point. I would like to see more analyzes, what spells and CDs are used when by the players; did the druid pop a fully loaded Efflo bloom with NW and tranq the next whirling etc, did the shaman pop Ascendance and HTT. How much dmg did PWB absorb. Did the disc use SS and DS “correctly”. Still much left to examine.


    • Yes, if I was trying to argue the details of healing balance, the details of who used what and when would be something that I’d delve into a bit more. Unfortunately, because it’s a private parse, I can’t provide the link so that individuals can pour through the details, but I can say that each of the 4 healers got fairly good uses out of each of their CDs. (That’s actually why I chose a parse from this date instead of simply choosing a date and time at random).


  13. i’m not a raider, so I may not relate to a lot of what you say. but my first 90 was a shammy and did most of my leveling while healing dungeons and bgs and loved it.
    now i’m leveling a disc priest and not liking it as much. after reading this post, I wonder if some of us are better suited for one or the other or is it just a matter of familiarity?


  14. Epics

    I think that your zooming in on the last two Empowered Whirlwinds might not be totally fair (as Shammypie pointed out too), as your discipline could possible have dominated those two damage spikes aswell if he timed better his Spirit Shell and whatever Tier 6 talent he is using (just speculating). With an optimal performance disc priests can dominate the entire fight on the meters. You can always find small parts of a fight where other healers outperform a disc priest on the meters. In response to that you can give plenty of examples of fights where disc priests dominate the meters on every damage spike.

    Having that said I myself greatly value throughput healers with their great cooldowns and good burst healing that is very necessary to top the raid up before the next damaging game mechanism. Although I hate the fact that they are so dependant on the timing and assignment of their cooldowns. Surviving a damage spike moreoverly comes down to good timing of damage preventing and healing cooldowns.
    Taking that as a fact we have to deal with I see this great article as a confirmation of my thoughts on healing in Pandaria.

    Embracing your conclusions that throughput healers are very valuable at the damage spikes I was wondering what your thoughts are in reaction to this conclusion.
    If you consider non critical healing of less importance and high throughput when it’s needed most as very important, then consequently you should value mastery as very good too (as resto shaman). Assuming a 25 man raid and using mainly heals that don’t trigger Ancestral Awaking (spam Chain Heal) mastery will outperform crit when the targets hp is below 65%. Using heavy mastery should theoretically make you more valuable to the raid as you’d heal a lot more during damage spikes, but you’d be practically useless for the rest of the fight. In my guild we usually use 1-2 disc priests and 2-3 paladins every raid, so healing during the non critical periods shouldn’t be much of an issue.
    So, would you think it’s a good idea to go for mastery instead of crit (and get rid of high amounts of haste, 15316 cap) for the hardest heroics in SoO?


  15. Thank you for this. I’ve been saying all tier that Disc isn’t OP, we’re just over healing our fights, it’s nice to see the math to back up my experiences. It’s something else trying to explain to your raid leader you need to go holy to hit hps requirements when his recount says your doing 40% of the healing. Gonna send him here. Thanks again :)


  16. Cvl

    Interesting Analysis and Points regarding healing mechanics and class ‘balance’. I do however feel the need to post my thoughts:

    To begin with,i challenge anyone to competitive progress pandaria’s tiers again this time using no discs priests. (especially in 10 man) The amount of personal mistakes/rng spot bursts or even whole boss mechanics that were able to get covered/ignored by absorbs was beyond me.Having the ability to extend efficient health by almost 40-50 %(SS) every minute , 30 % at will (Shields) and 10 % passive (aton/illum) at all time made me a sad panda..

    Secondly,healing in Cataclysm was mainly triage but it had burst moments as well.Current critical moments just require proper tool timing/class usage.They are not by any means mana intensive since the following non-critical part allows one to recover .Maximazing your output in a short period of time sounds great at start but once achieved this design made healing look more like a dps spec rather than a thinking / deciding on the spot role.Cata first tier healing had low / mid and high intensity moments while stressing healers in their most vulnerable spot , their mana .

    Conclusion? Absorbs were too strong this exp. I hope in WoD they get more limited ,more expensive and less performing. An absorb healer should be needed and brought for his utility rather than his output (unlike Mists were these 2 go together) Imo , 10 man design this expansion was great.It had everything : spot healing , tank healing , aoe healing , spread aoe bursts , solo healing – it was different every time .If mana pools were similar to Cataclysm’s first tier i would say ideal but unfortunately it lacked that even early on 463.
    25 man made me thinking seriously to quit healing.Everything is smart , passive , aoe, snipy and most importantly dump with healers mindlessly bursting and alt tabing.

    Healing numbers have always been irrelevant.And as long as there arent huge performance gaps all healers will be welcomed and justified.

    I hope WoD ll bring: triage back on the surface (like you very nicely stated)
    punishing mana management according to healing tools used
    less static / dump / ‘dps alike’ rotations
    a mix of low/normal and high intense moments
    redesign on smart heals


  17. Cvl

    As a side note , you obviously taken wol with healers having gear >>>>> progress gear.(At least in 10 man the difference was huge)

    Also you forgot to take into account that those absorbs would be fine for wirls since the model of inc dmg (critical bursts) doesnt require them to be topped right away passives would do it by next wirl so druids, shamans burst wasnt that needed after all was it ?

    Sorry for my English keep up the good work


  18. Yn

    You picked the two burst phases where the disc was low and ignored the ones where they were ahead. The disc has the highest peak hps in the whole encounter and has it at multiple points. And using points where throughput healers pop their big raid cooldowns as proof of being better at “critical” healing is ridiculous when you can’t account for Disc’s raid cooldown that does not appear on the meter. Disc is OP and has been for a good 95% of MoP. This article is ridiculous and I am sick of seeing disc priest post it as proof they don’t need nerfs.


    • I do really feel like you should read the “Lessons Learned” section again, because you’ve missed some of the major take-aways from the post. Namely:

      1. Healing balance is about context.
      2. Healing balance is more easily perceived and demonstrated in fights with triage.

      To say that “Disc is OP” is to imply that their toolkit is awesome in every situation, which it most definitely is not. Unfortunately, the weaknesses of Disc simply have not been highlighted in the encounters in Mists, which I would hypothesize, had led to the prevalence of assertions like yours. Do I think Discs’ strengths should be reigned in for WoD? Absolutely. But, my contention was that pointing to overall healing meters as evidence of the necessity of a nerf is not sufficient.

      Think about it like this …. healers in Mists are like triathletes, where each of us excel at a different portion of the event. Disc priests are the sprinters, who fall way behind during the swimming and biking portions of the competition. Shamans, Druids and Monks are your swimmers, but we lag behind during sprints. Paladins are the bikers, mostly because they like the tight bike shorts. But whereas we all showed up to Mists thinking it would be a series of triathlons, it has instead simply been a series of sprints. So, those speedy Disc Priests have looked amazing in comparison to the rest of us.

      And here’s where you and I differ. You look at those Discs who are running past us, and argue that they should have to slow down. I don’t disagree. But I’m arguing that we should go back to running triathlons, instead of races that only favor one competitor.


      • Yn

        Being OP does not mean being the best in every situation. It never has and never will mean that. It is being TOO good at something to the point that it effects overall balance. Monks were OP in the first tier of the MoP. They had their weaknesses(lack of utility, weak/expensive single target healing, etc), but that doesn’t mean their overall healing output was not ridiculous. So they got nerfed. Paladins were nerfed in 5.4 when they were already middle/bottom of the pack healing-wise after the 5.3 nerf to their mastery and T14 4p because the way eternal flame’s worked with their mastery was too strong. And disc has been in the same boat for the majority of the expansion. Their shields are too strong and Divine Star and Halo should have been hotfixed within 24 hours of patch day. Basically, disc strengths are too strong and they have helped create several issues in healer balance. Yes the encounters and raid damage patterns have also helped fuel the imbalance but that does not mean disc is not OP and in serious need of balancing.

        You also failed to address the fact that you picked the 2 burst phases that proved your point while ignoring the others where the disc did well. And if you use burst phases where the druid and shaman are using their big 3 minute raid cooldowns, they are meaningless. Cause as said, Disc’s cooldown does not show up on the meter.

        Every clueless disc priest links this exact blog post on every forum as proof “Disc is fine and does not need any adjustments whatsoever” which is completely incorrect.


        • Man, you completely skipped over my wonderful triathlon metaphor! I worked hard on that. :( /sad panda

          All I can reiterate is … context matters. This post was not set to be the ultimate evaluation of healer balance; I never even asserted that it was close. I took one fight, on one level of difficulty, on one raid size, with one raid group, one healing comp, on one particular night and said, “Here’s some food for thought”. Any reasonable person would define that as a very narrow context, which only emphasizes my point all the more. (That’s like Inception-level blog posting, right there).

          I also happen to know what the triage model does to discs and to absorb-based healing, if they have nothing else to back them up. So give me some credit here, and consider that maybe the reason I didn’t call for massive nerfs is because I know that what’s on the horizon will nerf their power more than a percentage reduction would. A smart disc would find the holes in my argument; a silly one will link to this post and be hoisted by his own petard when WoD healing changes the context yet again.


  19. Yleina

    I love this post because it reinforces what I have been saying all expansion. As a long time holy priest before MoP, I finally switched to disc in ToT precisely because of the burst model. One of the reasons that Disc priests dominate even burst phases like Garrosh is that they are still so short. If you think heavy damage phases in previous expansions many still lasted far longer. I can’t think off hand of many (if any) encounters that did not perfectly cater to Disc’s sprint type healing (although I didn’t really get anywhere in SoO heroics before quitting). This encounter design is also what made Holy the neglected spec, as outside the high renew breakpoint play style in SoO, holy specializes in triage healing and powering through sustained moderate-high damage phases.

    The other major issue that I saw appear in this model was the constant stream of healers that simply spammed their fastest smart heal at the expense of all others, and ended up looking good on the meters and thinking that they were phenomenal even though people were dying.

    In the end, despite how much I enjoyed many elements of ToT’s encounter design, the constant burst healing model was enough to make me quit.



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