3 Annoying Problems with Discipline Healing

3 Annoying Problems with Discipline Healing

It was a beautiful Sunday morning. Time to take this beta Disc Priest out for a spin and see what he can do in a dungeon environment. I needed a tank, but where could I find one? I happened to be idling in Shrine keeping an eye on trade chat and noticed one of my bear tanks was online!

Time to con her into being my pocket tank.

She agreed and we appeared on the beta servers ready to queue up. I should’ve done a quick pass over my binds and abilities to ensure everything was in place. It took until the end of Bloodmaul Slag Mines before I finally configured everything to my specifications. There were periods where I had to open my spellbook and manually click on select abilities.

Anyway, I’m here to gripe about Disc Priest healing. Here it is:

Lack of Healing mobility: Prayer of Mending has a cast time. We’ve lost access to Renew. Divine Star has a cast time. Penance can be glyphed to allow casting while moving. Holy Nova has a really short radius (and we’ll touch on this in a second).

As a healer, I move around a ton. I don’t mean just simply dodging projectiles or dangerous boss abilities. Sometimes I have to kite or run away from any mobs or ads that are activated. Other times, my tank has screamed ahead and I’m trying to play catchup while stabilizing the rest of the group. The Hunters, Mages, and Rogues are busy trucking on trying to help the tank. Meanwhile, there I am huffing and puffing attempting to keep everyones health up while being unable to move. In Mists, we have all these tools that allowed us to help players recover some health as we were moving from point A to point B. It wasn’t that strong or efficient, but it was something. And yes, shields are great at absorbing inbound damage but they’re not the greatest at restoring health. An absorb simply buys you a little more time to dump heals on your target whereas actually healing your target has the effect of both negating the damage they’re about to take and healing them back.

This must be what a Resto Shaman or Holy Paladin feels like sometimes.

Proposal: Glyph of Mobile Mending – Allow Prayer of Mending to be cast while moving. Exclusive glyph.

Weak Multi-target Healing: Holy Nova is the new efficient Discipline AoE heal. Prayer of Healing has a 30 yard radius. Holy Nova has a 12 yard radius. It’s hard to insist that every player remain stacked. There’s attacks that will prevent the party from doing just that. Holy Nova appears to be enough to keep a players health bar from trending down long enough but it won’t be enough to shoot them back to full right away. That’s a tradeoff at this stage of the game since we’re testing dungeon content at reduced item levels. At the same time, functionally speaking, Holy Nova might not be able to reach the rest of the party if everyone has to split up. You’re reduced to a slightly weaker Prayer of Healing option. Alternatively, you can play the executioner and focus on healing yourself, the tank, and 1 or 2 other players while opting to sacrifice the fifth for the good of the party.

Proposal: De-couple Holy Nova from the Priest. Make it targetable like Prayer of Healing. Allow Holy Nova to heal any player in range of the target up to a maximum of 5 of the weakest players. If you’re still spread out, at least Holy Nova might be able to catch 2-3 other players in your party at a time.

Lack of time: As healers, we have to think of time as a resource. Is there enough time to bring the tank out of range of lethal if I use this spell? How many seconds can I buy my group if I spam this AoE spell until the deadly AoE ability stops being used? Is that player a lost cause or should I try saving them? As mentioned before with the cast time spells, choice becomes important. For example, you and your tank are within lethal range after suffering an unavoidable hit. You have about 2 seconds before the next blow comes and you’re looking at a wipe. A 2.5 second Heal might hit slightly harder and save you more mana. But a 1.5 second Flash Heal would’ve allowed the tank to survive the hit. A Binding Heal would’ve saved both you and the tank*. Most of our direct healing spells are a cast time now. A Holy priest can Renew blanket but a Disc Priest is playing catch up one target at a time.

*The correct play is to either shield one, and Penance/Prayer of Mending/Flash Heal/Desperate Prayer the other and pray the shield holds. The god play is to have never arrived in this situation in the first place.

Regardless, Binding Heal is one of those spells that allowed you to inefficiently heal yourself and your target really fast to get out of lethal range. This is a tool removed from the Priest toolbox. If Flash Heal is the wrench, then Binding Heal is the duct tape because it’s a quick fix and not necessarily the permanent solution. Sometimes you just have to be inefficient or else players die.

Proposal: Bring back Binding Heal. It’s already tough as is for AoE healing as a Disc Priest in a party.

The next step is to give Holy a shot and see how well that performs in dungeon environments. Bloodmaul Slag Mines was a piece of cake but I certainly struggled a fair bit in Upper Blackrock Spire and the Shadowmoon Burial Ground instances.

Zone Healing

Zone Healing

Ever play Ultimate (or Ultimate Frisbee)?

The rules are quite simple. You have two teams starting at opposite end zones who attempt to advance the disc to the other team’s end zone. Once the pull (like a kickoff in football) is initiated the teams can start jockeying for possession. A team that advances the disc to an end zone secures the point.

Kicker: The person with the disc can’t move. They can pivot on one foot but they can’t move. The opposing team gains possession whenever any pass is incomplete, intercepted, or received out of bounds .

Teams will employ different strategies to prevent the other team from scoring. One of the common defensive strategies is zone defense. Players are pre-assigned to sections of the field as they attempt to intercept and stop opposing players from advancing towards their end zone. It’s used to stop the offensive team from making really long passes. There’s usually one or two players that will close in on the disc handler. There’s different variations of it, but the key concept is that the defenders have their own sections to work with (not to mention that covering a small area instead of advancing up and down the field all the time is great at minimizing fatigue — I would know).

Gosh, I can’t wait for summer to get here.

Zone healing

Now the concept of zone healing works the same way and is used in situations where not every player is within range of the healer or where players are constantly shifting in and out of range. Sometimes there are raid mechanism place preventing you from moving or that keep you constantly away from each other. Zone healing is an approach that directs the healers to only heal the people that are within range of them. They must trust the other healers to cover the players near themselves in other areas. If you’re assigned to the blue beam of Durumu’s platform, then you can heal anyone that comes in range as the other beams are being moved around. Most raid frames have a function where the individual frames turn transparent if a player isn’t in range. As the healer, this makes your job easier. Any frames that are opaque (or solid) are the players that depend on you to live.

I understand, I have trust issues too. For the officers, zone healing is a great way to isolate which healers are true rock stars and which ones are struggling.

It’s a simple and effective healing strategy to use if the encounter demands everyone to be spread out. Let me give you some examples:

Ji-Kun

Ji-Kun has an ability called Caw. It’s a common raid mechanic where she’ll send sound waves at a player and damages anyone nearby within 8 yards. This calls for people to be spaced out around her main platform. Depending on which Ji-Kun strategy you use, you’ll have groups clearing out nests and may not have the same, consistent number of players on the main platform at all times. Be flexible.

Dark Animus

Healers will have to generate threat on the little anima golems at the start of the fight to hold them in place. If the golems are brought together, their attack speed greatly increases and will quickly snowball into a wipe. This requires everyone to stand in place. As the little golems are gradually killed near the Massive Anima, players will be freed up and can move around the room consistently. In addition, Matter Swap will switch players with their most distant ally forcing healers to react accordingly and dispel or heal any teleported players.

As a healer, you’re not going to be able to hit everybody. DPS and tanks will come and go through your area of the map. It won’t always be a set group of players all the time. Keep the players in your zone healthy!

How about a training dummy/event for healers?

OK, so there is this awesome new set of training dummies in the Mists beta that gives someone facing, raid buffs, food buffs and flask buffs, can be killed and has about 50 million health. It’s a pretty damn cool new tool for players to try to more accurately judge their DPS in a raid environment without having to actually go in to a raid. It’s a wonderful idea, a great idea and a necessary idea.

But how about one for healers?

So, lets lay it out there, healing is a stressful job, accompanied by a certain sense of anxiety and dread that accompanies healing a group for the first time. I hear horror stories of people getting booted out of instance all the time when they first start healing because they are new and not perfect. It’s a huge fear. One of the things I always suggest to new healers is to pop into a battle ground. As folks on twitter have pointed out, and I’ve agreed with for years, it helps you sort your UI, and it helps you learn some of the aspects of healing like triage. But it doesn’t teach you everything. Healing a PvP group isn’t quite the same as an instance, especially when you have to manage cooldowns and mana usage for boss mechanics, tanks, DPS and yourself.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t heal in PvP, by all means you should as it’s a great way to test out your UI, spells and what they do as well as key binds, but I still find fighting against another group of people is much different than fighting against a raid or boss design. I just want to make it clear I’m not discrediting PvP healing as a learning tool, but there’s no elegant solution to it. I mean, even Rift has healing dummies to help you gauge yourself.

Now here’s a thought that’s been on my mind for a couple months now. In The Secret World there’s a test you have to take for your preferred role to access nightmare content, and it’s called the gatekeeper. What the gatekeeper does is it forces you to respond to mechanics and use your toolkit. When I stumbled upon this I was immediately reminded of a very old class quest in Vanilla World of Warcraft , and I’m sure some of you will already know where I’m going with this.

Remember when you went for your Benediction priests? Do you remember the difficulty of that class quest and how it made you use everything you had to smartly complete the quest? It was an awesome class quest that worked within the confines of the character class at the time.

So here’s my proposal, lets have something, an event,  that you can go into that gives you NPC party members to heal and a faux boss fight. Through this, players could individually test their mettle, get logs and see if they were having issues without having to risk embarrassment or ridicule. Yes I know it’s an MMO and yes I know there are social requirements to be had, but DPS can go to a dummy and test out their numbers, why shouldn’t other classes get something similar? Why not a faux encounter like the Gatekeeper in TSW that lets you test out our abilities in relative safety. Think of how something like this could benefit healers.

Lets take that a step further, how much would something like this benefit tanks as well, or DPS. It would be an amazing boon. It would relieve so much pressure by eliminating at least partially the notion that you have to be perfect on your first time out. You could test to some extent and get an idea before ever having to walk into an instance. I would wager that if something like this was implemented there would be a lot more willing healers, and a lot more willing tanks. I can’t count how many times people in my own guild have said that they would want to try healing or tanking, but don’t want to do so in a manner that would waste someone’s time while they were learning. It’s nice to have friends to call on to learn this stuff, but sometimes they just aren’t around to help at the times you need them.

Yes you could make the argument that you can learn this while you level up and learn your abilities, but at the end of the day I’d be willing to be the amount of people that level through instances isn’t nearly as great as those that level through questing. Even though questing as a healer or tank has gotten better, it’s more often than not more effective to level as a DPS spec anyways. I’ve had healers message me for advice, and then when they get ridiculed in a 5-man or an LFR, or a new raid they just stop because while they were learning, not everyone understood that and made it twice as difficult.

The Gatekeeper system is one of the best things I’ve seen implemented into an MMO in years, it is something I would love to see re-purposed in other MMOs, if only tooled a bit differently. In our case a repeatable event or quest that lets you test yourself, your new gem setup, your new talent choices, your new reforging or just learning how spells work without the opportunity cost of failing publicly before you’re ready. Lets just make it more of an event and less of a test, make it something healers and tanks could use to get a feel for their respective roles.

Is it  a perfect solution, I can’t really say, but healers and tanks need some love too. Having a new tool for DPS to check their numbers with full raid buffs is really nice, but don’t leave out the healers and tanks, the two most stressful jobs you can choose to undertake in just about any game. I just think adding something like this would be amazing, useful, and combined with everything else at our finger tips would just further strengthen our healers and tanks, and their confidence in their roles.

I’ll write more on this later I’m sure, something more in-depth and detailed, but for now I’m curious to see what you think. Would this be something you’d like to see implemented for healers and tanks?

Oh Chakra, How You’ve Changed

Oh Chakra, How You’ve Changed

Keybinds.

So many keybinds.

Another expansion means more new spells and abilities and we’re gradually running out of keys to use. Chakra’s been split three ways now. As you know, the corresponding bonus you get from Chakra is decided base on what spell you use immediately after Chakra has activated.

Now you can just activate whichever Chakra you want by hitting a button.

So on the one hand, that’s nice because you don’t have to rely on spell selection anymore to get the Chakra you want.

Question: No more fat fingering the wrong spell and being in the wrong Chakra stance. Hands up! How many times did mistakenly  you hit Prayer of Mending after casting Chakra and being in Chakra: Sanctuary instead of being in Chakra: Serenity specifically for a phase?

On the other hand, now I have to find a way to free up more keys for the individual Chakra bonuses. I figure I can just stick to Chakra: Serenity and Chakra: Sanctuary. Not sure how often I’d use Chakra: Chastise unless I’m leveling.

The Killer Instinct of Healing

The Killer Instinct of Healing

Aunaka wrote a nifty post wondering if great healers could be taught. Not quite sure if a truly great healer can be. How would you even start defining that? Someone who shows up all the time? A player capable of carrying the raid? A Druid who’s able to solo heal the last 10% of a raid boss? I’d classify a great healer as a player who is not only technically sound, but results-oriented. They’re the players who put aside everything and find ways to win.

Would you have thought to Life Grip the tank away from the boss to buy time for them to live?

What about using Pain Suppression on a DPS player so that it was one less player to worry about when healing your group?

You did the research. You read the forums. You followed along with the discussion. You gained the technical knowledge on the best times and best targets to use your spells on. What you’re not taught is that there’s multiple right answers to the same problems and different degrees of success.

This is where the killer instinct of healing comes into play.

There’s a marked difference in approach between an alt healer that has played for years versus a healer that’s done nothing but heal. It’s easy to teach a new healer the basics about their spells, resource management, and so on. However, I don’t believe it’s possible to instil that survival instinct of healing. That alt healer guy mains a Retribution Paladin, perhaps. All they’re interested in is unloading the DPS and only comes in to relief heal as a break from DPS or because there isn’t enough healers for that day.Having a killer instinct is an approach that needs to be embraced and can’t be taught. You start making your own decisions and throw “the book” out the window because “the book” didn’t cover the situation you were in.

Case study

Hard mode Yor’sahj calls for two Paladins to help heal during the purple phases. Guess what? You might not have two Paladins. Find a work around. Sometimes that means letting the tank die on one occasion and using the Battle Res. I struggled when I didn’t have two Paladins to work with. 1 Paladin healed the first tank and I took the second one. We ended up using 3 Rebirths because I struggled like crazy to keep my tank alive during the various purple oozes. Relied endlessly on Prayer of Mending so as to not detonate our tank and really strategic cooldowns.

Listen, as much I want to, I can’t teach you to be desperate.

I can’t teach you how to be hungry.

I can’t teach you to want a boss kill badly enough that you’ll consider using unorthodox specs, weird spells, and what-the-hell inducing plays.

One thing I learned when playing hockey is that you play hard every shift between the whistle. In WoW terms, you don’t stop what you’re doing until the raid leader says “Wipe it up”. If you’re busting your ass healing, you better expect everyone in your raid to be right there with you. This isn’t a casual philosophy in any aspect.

As my uncle Freudicus, a psychologist, once told me, “It’s all in the id, kid!”.

You’ll be a good healer by reading, asking, and watching other healers play. Being a great healer requires the attitude, the work ethic, and the burning desire. It can’t be taught but maybe it can be learned.

Atonement Priests in Mists

Atonement Priests in Mists

Edit: As of build 15640, Atonement is no longer a glyph or a talent. It appears to be a baseline ability built into Discipline and will not be accessible to Holy. Discipline Priests will learn it at level 60.

Plan on going Atonement? The process has changed.

For starters, Atonement isn’t something you talent into anymore. Instead, all the relevant abilities are located in your glyphs (See the above screenshot).

Atonement presently takes up a Major glyph slot. For it to continue being a strong style of healing for Priests, you’ll need to grab Glyph of Smite. You could grab Glyph of Holy Fire but it doesn’t seem to be as important. In order to be an Atonement priest, you must have the Atonement glyph and the Smite glyph. The Holy Fire glyph makes the spell instant but might not be a necessity depending on the encounters.

Not quite sure how I feel about moving Atonement from talents to glyphs. I understand what the move was made: So that Priests could really pick out their talents without feeling they had to force themselves down one route. At the same time though, limiting it to a glyph means that Atonement Priests don’t have as much flexibility either when it comes to glyph selection. I’d wager that you’d still have to grab Archangel in order to remain competitive.

The bright side is that you can go Atonement as Holy.  Chakra: Chastise increases the potency even further.

That third glyph slot?

You could go with the Glyph of Circle of Healing or Glyph of Penance as your two spec stapes.

There hasn’t been much change to the style of healing. If you’re comfortable playing Atonement right now, you should have no difficulties heading into the expansion. At least you can set up a specific glyph page just for Atonement.

Leveling as Smite spec? Still good to go (I’ve been doing it from 85 – 87).

Will you be giving Atonement a shot in Mists?

How Spirit Shell Works

How Spirit Shell Works

During dungeons when Spirit Shell is fully absorbed, it is only healing for 1. Do you know if this is a bug or if they intend it to not heal the target when fully absorbed?

– Rave31211

Received a few comments and questions from people wondering about the use of Spirit Shell so I’ll do my best to clear it up some.

When Spirit Shell is on a player, it places a shield on them. After 8 seconds, the shield wears off. That player is healed for 80% of the absorb amount remaining.

If the shield gets completely absorbed, the player gets healed for a whopping 1 health point (I guess it rounds up). There’s a few problems with it right now:

  • It can’t crit
  • It’s a really long cast time for a low benefit
  • You can’t see the benefits in your raid frames
  • Doesn’t add Grace (Thanks FtenEQ)

Derevka has added his own thoughts on Spirit Shell and created a forum thread in the beta forums expressing feedback. I don’t expect this to be the final version.

HST takes a hit

So, if you’ve looked at the Mists of Pandaria talent calculator anytime recently, you may have noticed that restoration shaman finally got an update. While I definitely like most of the changes, there’s a big change looming that I’m not quite sure what to make of it quite yet. Healing Stream Totem, our tried and true companion, is getting re-worked. It’s hard to tell whether it’s a nerf or not, but my gut instinct is that it’s going to be a nerf. So what’s changed?

Well for starters the totem is now raid wide, it is no longer restricted to group only. That’s a bonus, don’t get me wrong, and one that I think we were missing for quite sometime. So, that part I like. Currently the cost remains the same, clocking in at 3% of your base mana. The base healing number has gone up from 28 to 81, plus your spell power modifiers and talents of course. But here’s the kicker, it now only targets one person, and it will always be the lowest health person in range. That’s right folks, it’s a single target totem now. If that wasn’t enough of a kick in the teeth, the duration has also been adjusted. It is no longer 5 minutes, instead it is a 1 minute duration totem. While it still doesn’t have a cooldown, and you can cast it as often as you want, the 3% base mana cost combined with a 1 minute duration means that if you want to use it you’re going to be burning a whole lot more mana in order to keep it down.

It’s a significant change, and one that I’ve been feeling pretty keenly in the beta. Healing dungeons is a lot more active, as you can’t really rely on the passive healing anymore. It is still affected by mastery so you can now use it as a single target spike healing tool. It’s an adjustment. I’m not going to call it a nerf, but it is a noticeable change in healing behavior for us. It’s just no longer the “always keep it down totem”. My personal belief is that it is a result of us having some new tools in the water tree. Besides healing stream totem and Mana Tide Totem we have our brand new Healing Tide Totem, or rather our Tranquility. That’s an interesting tool, and I can see us using quite well. The hardest thing right now is just breaking the mentality that you HAVE to have your totems down. It just simply isn’t the case anymore.

There are a lot of other changes like the glyph’s we’ll have to work with. Some are awesome, some are meh, others are incredibly situational. I’m going to be evaluating them over the next few days, possibly in video form, so be sure to check often. If you have a specific shaman question, please feel free to ask and I’ll see if I can find out how it shakes down in Mists.

Heroic Morchok Down: Where Next?

Heroic Morchok Down: Where Next?

Managed to score Heroic Morchok on Tuesday. Ended up using 6 healers. Another classic 22% wipe, then a 16% wipe, then a 13% followed by an 8% then a kill. Actually, the numbers aren’t precise. But that’s what it seemed like anyway.

How to Land 3 Healing Spells in Under 2 Seconds

It seems impossible, doesn’t it?

Note that I didn’t quite say I would cast 3 spells only that I would land them. You have to be precise when it comes to timing and you need to be ready to pounce on the next spell the moment the other one is finished.

We were working on heroic Morchok for a total of 6 – 8 hours (over 4 weeks, with raid hours lost due to a healer shortage). Our longest attempt was just under 6 minutes. Most of the wipes occurred between 2 – 3 minutes. The trickiest part for me was maintaining tank health right after a stomp. A common occurrence I noticed is that after Kohcrom stomped, he would attack the tank around 2 seconds later. If I timed it right, I could land a Flash Heal and a quick Holy Word: Serenity. But sometimes that wasn’t enough. I needed another way because those two spells just weren’t consistent enough. Sometimes the tank lived, sometimes he died. I wanted a better (and consistent) way in keeping that tank alive.

It all revolved around the Stomp.

After a few wipes, I realized the consistency of his melee swing following the stomp. I didn’t want to focus exclusively on the tank to the detriment of the group. But at the same time, if the tank dropped it was game over.

Timers from DBM gave me a 5 second count down on approximately when the stomp would land.

I ended up watching the animation of the stomp. The moment the foot start rising up, I’d target the tank and hit Prayer of Healing ensuring it would land just after Stomp connected with the group. This gave me time for a quick Flash Heal (Or Binding Heal) followed up with Serenity (or a Circle of Healing if the tank was sufficiently high enough.

Credits to

Lodur for gemming all strength reforging to Mastery giving him the ability to really stabilize players and allowing me to spike them back  up.

The DPS warriors on my side who picked up on the fact that when I frantically called their name, it meant I wanted a Rallying Cry (and giving us that buffer after a fumbled heal).

Logan of the LeetSauced podcast (and soon-to-be host of the Matticast) for remaining calm, collected and patient after enduring hours of frustrating incidents beyond his control.

Tanks with 4 piece bonuses. Seriously. More bonuses like this in the future.

Old Spice. I smelled awesome that raid.

Now what?

What’s the next hard mode boss that you went to after Morchok (25 man as I understand 10 man has different priorities)?

Hagara?

Ping pong guy?

Ooze boss?

Seems like we’re going to take a hard look at Hagara. Pointers?

Is it the Tank’s Responsibility to Lead Groups?

As Javier said in a previous comment:

Please answer me a question that I have been wondering forever. […] Why is it the sole responsibility of the tank to know and lead the group in to every instances?

During my adventures through the dungeon finder, I’ve been remarkably fortunate.

Little to no wipes.

Timely CC’s.

Sustained DPS.

I don’t always run with my guild on my priest. I prefer to give opportunities to other healers in the guild who still need the gear or the reputation. If I need a refresher course in healing, there’s no test greater than braving LFD.

But I digress.

Tank ‘em!

Traditionally speaking, tanks have been the players that automatically take leadership of a group. For years, they’ve been the ones setting up the marks, executing the pulls and controlling the pace. Whenever I joined trade chat groups (this was before the dungeon finder, mind you), tanks would usually insist on leading groups. During Wrath, it got to the point where the rest of the players in the group expected the tank to assume that role.

The thing is, I’m not really noticing that as much anymore. I mean, it wasn’t until recently that I started observing other players taking control of groups. It wouldn’t always be the tank. It could be that random ret paladin or that warlock. Its an interesting trend to see happening, for sure. Could it be that there are just that much more knowledgeable people in the game? I once dropped in on a Halls of Origination group where most of the players in there didn’t know how to do any of the bosses on normal much less heroic. I had the option of dropping out of the group right there and then.

I’ll admit, I was tempted.

But no, I stayed right in there and showed them all the ropes. I gave myself a limit of 3 wipes on a boss. If we wiped 3 times on a single boss and it was clear they just weren’t “getting it”, then I’d take my leave. Setting a hard boundary for yourself is a good way to retain your sanity.

Blizzard allowing anyone in the party to mark targets was a great improvement overall. I’d say it ranks as one of those really underrated changes. Now other players don’t have to be the dungeon guide to mark stuff. They can simply tag their own targets.

The pressure is slowly easing off the tanks when it comes to taking the lead. That is a good thing, right?