Sunday, 8 January 2012

State of Healing in 4.3

I'm not going to start by saying anything particularly new, I'm pretty sure that anyone who is healing Dragon Soul at the moment knows that the healing model is horribly broken (even those Paladins currently posting in forums arguing that Paladin healing is totally balanced must have some inkling that something isn't right assuming that they have the capability to carry out simple reasoning of course, which is not guaranteed considering that they're posting on the World of Warcraft forums).  The main issue with healing as it stands is the pure dominance of Holy Paladins over all other healing classes when it comes to healing output, which, has been argued is no different to the extremely high throughput enjoyed by Restoration Druids during 4.2.  This argument only stands up to the simplest of scrutiny (ie. the sort of scrutiny usually applied to DPS as they spam their Recount scores in Party or Raid chat while the rest of the Raid is busy telling them to move their arse so they don't die horribly to some easily avoided void zone or other) as currently, not only do Paladins bring insane throughput to a raid they also bring a huge number of fun and exciting utility cooldowns, while Druids bring nothing other than their healing to a raid. In addition to very high healing throughput Paladins can also:

1) Make themselves completely invulnerable every 5 minutes with Divine Shield (ideally used to test those tricky instant death mechanics that Blizzard includes, this invariably goes wrong and results in a horribly embarrassing death, which is difficult to explain.  For extra fun, try casting it just behind the Ice Wave on Hagara and then running through it.  Current results suggest that you don't move fast enough to get through before it ends),

2) Reduce raid damage from Fire/Ice and Shadow abilities by an average of 15% every 2 minutes with Aura Mastery (any Holy Paladin who doesn't spec this should be taken out the back behind the shed and shot, out of sight of the children of course, it's the kindest thing to do),

3) Reduce damage on a single target by 30%, once every 90 seconds with Hand of Sacrifice (redirects damage to the Paladin which can result in hilarious deaths when used incorrectly, but generally Paladins heal themselves just by healing others so it's not really a big deal),

4) Increase throughput by a large amount with Divine Favour for 20 seconds (30 seconds with the glyph), every 3 minutes or with Avenging Wrath for 20 seconds every 2 minutes (both functionally better than the next nearest healer equivalent, Power Infusion for Discipline Priests which lasts 12 seconds),

5) Massively increase single target healing with Guardian of Ancient Kings (an utterly bizarre cooldown really, effectively turns Divine Light into a way of fully healing a target from 1% health, while causing splash AoE healing, I've yet to work out when's actually best to blow it and tend just to use it when I'm bored or my Paladin would like a friend),

6) Make another member of the raid completely immune to physical damage for 12 seconds and convince whatever's hitting them to go hit something else for a bit (also prevents all physical attacks from being used, great to cast on a Rogue/Warrior/Death Knight/Feral Druid DPS that's been annoying you, pretty sure there's other uses but that's by far the best),

7) Instantly save a raid member from death by healing them to 100% health instantly with Lay on Hands (great fun for playing tank chicken, where you let the tank's health drop to near 0 and watch them panic).

In contrast druids bring:

1) Tranquility, a less good version of Divine Hymn that can now almost be matched by a Paladin blowing Avenging Wrath and spamming Holy Radiance,

2) Tree Form, increased healing throughput by a bit which will cost you vast amounts of mana or similar throughput potential as normal very cheaply,

3) Erm, that's about it really.

All through Cataclysm Paladins have been close to the top for pure throughput among healers, although this was tempered by their weak AoE healing potential, Holy Radiance only being available every 20 seconds and requiring the group to be stacked up on the Paladin to make it particularly useful. Now that Holy Radiance is probably the best spammable AoE heal in the game this is not the case and this has completely destroyed any semblance of balance between healing classes.  It can be summed up as, if a boss is hard then the best option is to bring a Holy paladin and drop another healer for an extra DPS, which should NOT be the case, hopefully Blizzard will hit Paladins with the nerf bat in 4.3.2 or this tier is going to be remembered as a bit painful for other healing classes.

I'll write up some thoughts on Druid healing in a future post as I feel that the changes with 4.3 really hit them hard and make it difficult to justify taking them in a progression minded raid group.


Wednesday, 4 January 2012

So, I may or may not be back!

Hey anyone who may be looking at this rather dead website!  Been having a hard time out there in the real world and it has sort of kept me from my little corner of the internet, but, things are looking up, so I'm going to see if I can get back to this.

I started the blog to talk about WoW and this will almost still be a major part of my little incoherent babblings, but I may expand out a bit and talk about some of the bits and pieces that I'm enjoying/being annoyed at/being affected by/no longer being affected by (delete as appropriate).  Any way, Peri is still healing raids in Disc, Barbican is all grown up and I now have 2 further raid geared 85s in Hainault (Holy Paladin) and Osterly (Restoration Druid).  Yes I realise that that is 4 healers, but, hey, I like healing so it works.

Some quick 4.3 thoughts:

1) Loving Dragon Soul (DS), all the bosses still feel fun although it may be a tad undertuned,

2) Looking For Raid (LFR, unsurprisingly), great idea by Blizzard and does successfully get those who don't have time to raid in a guild into the instances that they have spent ages lovingly crafting (or throwing together while high/drunk, depends who you ask),

3) LFR, terrible idea by Blizzard, designed specifically to increase the blood pressure of anyone who actually knows what they're doing and can pull somewhere above 10k DPS by smashing their face repeatedly on the keyboard,

4) LFR, awesome idea by Blizzard, great way to gear up alts and allow me to get my 4 piece slightly earlier than I otherwise would,

5) LFR, worst idea ever.  What's that Blizz? You expect me to run DS normal on my main and run LFR too (at least early on)? Come on you said you wanted rid of that multiple run stuff when you linked 10 and 25 man raids? No, I got the wrong end of the stick, ah, OK then, got it.

Anyway, so I'm (sort of) back.


Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Challenging Healing

As a healer my favourite moments are those just before everything goes horribly wrong; that moment where you notice the hunter's pet accidentally move too close to a group of mobs you were skipping or when you notice that your at about 10% mana and yet the boss is still at 50% health.  It's that sinking feeling before you realise that you're going to have to  re-evaluate your healing tactics if you're going to survive the next hellish minute and a half that I live for in this game, especially now I'm out-gearing heroics by a fairly large degree.  In such a situation there's only one thing to do and that's knuckle down and get on with it, in many cases the situation may not even be salvageable anyway so, if failure should strike, remember that it was probably the initial mistake that caused it and that it's not completely your fault, but, for me, the thrill comes from being forced to think on the fly and, when you succeed, it's one of the best moments the game can provide.  As a discipline priest I'm used to responding to most situations when things get tough by popping a cooldown (Pain Suppression, Power Infusion, Power Word: Barrier etc.), which, when they're all available is usually all that needs doing (usually when the fight is going fairly by the book), but sometimes they're not available and a little cleverness, massive mana usage or a bit of both is important.

Current Cataclysm content appears to have been designed around this sort of healing style, particularly when you enter heroics for the first time with an iLevel of about 329, as it is rare that you will have mana to spare if people make mistakes and only a very clever choice of spells will aid recovery.  As you collect more gear your extra mana regeneration helps to overcome sloppy spell selection in all but the most challenging of pulls, but this is often counterbalanced by the overconfidence (or desire for greater challenge) in higher geared tanks and the challenge becomes one of managing throughput instead of worrying so much about mana usage (as long as overhealing is kept to a minimum).  In current raids both mana efficiency and throughput matter a great deal, which I feel gives the perfect level of challenge to healers, while not being so hard that if someone messes up the raid is unsalvageable, just a bit harder.

From what I've read and heard many people appear to disagree with me, saying that current content is too hard, not just in the forums but in a number of podcasts as well.  I worry that Blizzard might over-compensate and push it back to "Power Word: Shield" spam or "Flash Heal" spam which I don't enjoy, but, at least for now, there are plenty of opportunities for me to enjoy healing.


Sunday, 27 March 2011

Magmaw Tactics with Mighty Rising

Been a while since I posted this over on YouTube, but I've been a bit busy recently writing my thesis.  Anyway, here is a kill video of Magmaw with me sounding ridiculously posh explaining the tactics we used over the top. Happy raiding!


Sorry, but I'm having major difficulty convincing Blogger to read my HTML correctly, hence the tiny embedded YouTube video above.  Any ideas would be awesome!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Tank Mentality

After numerous rolls of the dice, entering the random dungeon finder innumerable times I feel that I've probably seen nearly every type of tank from veterans through to DPS warriors pretending to tank to avoid the long queue times, so without further ado, I present a (definitely incomplete) guide to the type of tanks that you are likely to meet in a PUG.

Pictured: A typical incompetent tank (mine)

The Insane Suicide Tank - This is one of the most common archetypes at lower levels, he's the guy who thinks he can take anything and probably doesn't even need a healer, in fact, he's already charged 3 rooms down, is completely out of line of sight and has managed to pull 3 separate packs of mobs "because it helps him tank better" all before you've zoned in.  If you're lucky he'll at least know how to use his cooldowns so you may have time to get there and rescue him with a few mana intensive heals, your cooldowns and a lot of luck.  Of course, if he does survive, expect him to leap immediately into the next group of enemies, so the use of "luck" here is highly subjective as you'll almost certainly be low on mana, won't have access to any of your cooldowns and there's no way he's going to let you stop and recuperate.  Eventually you will fail and when you do he will yell at you and probably drop group! Yay, what fun!

The Heroic Raid DPS - You enter the dungeon and look upon his glory, he's in full Tier 11 gear, he's a "Defender of a Shattered World", you bask in his very epicness, but wait, what's that?  Is that DPS gear?  You've just met the Heroic DPS raider, he's got bored of long wait queues and is only collecting Valor Points to sell the Bind on Equip boots, so he's decided he can tank, I mean how hard can it be?  He's seen Cho'gall go down on heroic, so tanking heroic dungeons should be easy, right?  In most cases this person hasn't got a clue, you'll be lucky if he's even got his cooldowns on his action bar, let alone knows when to use them, on top of this he's probably going to be a jerk to you, you're the healer so if he dies it's your fault apparently.  Get ready for wipes, insults and, if you're lucky having to queue for another tank when the idiot drops group.

Mr Clueless - This guy has a few things in common with Heroic Raid DPS, except his tanking skills will somehow be worse, it's impossible to know how he made it to 85 without having discovered that a Paladin cannot tank in retribution spec or that warriors generally don't wear cloth armour; however, somehow they managed it and you're about to discover first hand how much it hurts to be hit in the face by a level 85 elite mob as there's no way the "tank" will be keeping threat.  Unfortunately this can be further compounded by some members of this archetype who will helpfully inform you that it is in fact your healing that you're doing wrong and that the boss is meant to be removing your face while repeatedly stomping on your badly broken body; needless to say he is in fact wrong.  This type of tank can be a problem as they'll rarely drop group, preferring instead to yell at everyone until everyone else leaves, if you're lucky a well-timed party kick will get rid of him.

The Veteran - He has seen it all and outlasted it, he was there the day the gates to Ahn'Qiraj were opened, he's whacked Illidan in the crotch with his shield and glared menacingly at the Lich King after he cheated by wiping the raid and promptly got back up to get his <The Light of Dawn> title, this is the tank that just won't go down.  In many cases a man of few words, apart from a few lines to assign crowd control duties at the start of the dungeon and he will lead you through faster than you ever thought possible, rarely requiring anything more than the most simple healing.  The only problem here is that if you screw up and something goes wrong, he won't say anything, but you'll know that deep down he's disappointed in you and this will haunt you as a healer for the rest of your days... Or is that just me?  Anyway if you end up in a dungeon with The Veteran thank the gods of the random number generator as those Justice or Valor points are already yours.

Of course, most of the time you'll just get Mr Average and that's OK, just be glad it isn't one of the first 3, at least he won't repeatedly screw up, is unlikely to call you names or act like he's some sort of god.


Monday, 21 February 2011

Why play a healer?

OK then, seems like a good place to start is answering why anybody would want to heal in the first place, especially considering the standard make-up of Pick Up Groups (PUGs) these days, plus, if you're a priest (like me) you have to wear a silly dress (at least my staff glows).  

To set the scene, you're out farming mats in Twilight Highlands and decide to join the dungeon finder, there's no one in the guild available and those Valor points sure are tasty, so you wait and, after about 10 minutes the Dungeon Finder pops telling you that a dungeon in progress is available. On zoning in you discover that the tank's run off and laid claim to every mob in a 10 mile radius despite not having a weapon equipped, the Warlock who has just joined you has life-tapped himself down to 5% health while a giant monster made of demonic energies is closing on him in an attempt to separate the juicy essence of his soul from what little remains of his body, the hunter is, for some reason, dancing naked by the dungeon entrance and has his pet set on "aggressive, while the Rogue has "hilariously" used tricks of the trade on you, the healer, the only sane man and it's your job to somehow keep these idiots alive.

OK, I jest, not all other players are insane and worthless, only those that use the dungeon finder as tanks and DPS, as a healer I have no experience with PUG healers, but, for the purposes of this post I am going to assume that they are all awesome.  Anyway, PUGging as a healer in Cataclysm heroics can be hell unless you're lucky enough to get a bunch of competent individuals who all happen to be queueing at the same time, especially if you're stuck with a bad tank.  If the tank is good but the DPS not, at least all the damage your going to see will be on the same person, plus, after a few attempts the DPS that keeps getting themselves killed will probably swear at you and drop group and there's plenty more where they came from, right?  

So why would you put yourself through this?  I do it because I enjoy the ever-changing problems that you're expected to solve as a healer, as DPS or even as a tank, your rotation stays pretty much the same, but, as a healer you'll be using whatever tools happen to be available in your toolbox and hoping that you've picked the right one, plus, it's the one role where if someone is being a douche you can just let them die (although I only recommend that near the end of a fight that you're sure to win, any other time will likely annoy those you actually don't mind).  As a healer you're responsible for the survival of everyone in the group, but you have far more control over each individual's status than the tank, your decisions will determine who lives and dies (hopefully only the idiot who stood in the fire).  If you decide incorrectly you can quite easily cause a wipe, as even your super-awesome cooldowns of concentrated healing awesome are unlikely to rescue someone who's health pool has dropped too far, except for very short periods of time.  Oh, and if the group downs the boss, expect it to be the "leet" DPSers that did it, not the "noob" healer.


New Blog! Woooo!

Hey to all of those out in internet land (ie. the 1 person who managed to get lost clicking their way through Blogger and somehow ended up here).  This is my new blog, and, as you can already tell I'm intending to break all new ground here!  Actually, I'm not, I want to write about World of Warcraft and anything else geek-culturey that comes to mind (bet your regretting ending up here now random person) and this seems to be as good a place as any to do it.  Anyway now that the random World of Warcraft hater has left I think I'll get on with a proper post and welcome any and all who care to read my ramblings.