Circle of Heartbreak: Proposed Fixes


This a guest post by Jason who examines other ways that Circle of Healing can be “fixed” other than using a cooldown.

Within my guild I’m referred to as the “Pre-Nerf Priest,” lovingly, I’m sure.  However, I’ve recently started getting in-game whispers asking me to heal some heroic “before the nerf hits.”  It’s one thing for gentle ribbing from your guild, those you live, die, and progress with.  It’s a different matter entirely when strangers are bringing it up in the first line of dialogue they’ve ever had with you.  It’s the latter scenario that has really opened my eyes to just how big this coming change is.  Not only are the Priests concerned, but also it appears that every class is painfully aware of what’s to come.

Of course I’m referring to the proposed Circle of Healing nerf coming in patch 3.0.8.  For the uninitiated, Circle of Healing is the spell responsible for life on this planet, grants Chuck Norris-like invincibility allowing all DPS to AoE at will with no ill consequences whatsoever, and (rumor has it) Circle of Healing has beaten WoW.


Alright, so maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration. Circle of Healing (CoH) is actually one of four AoE healing spells available to Holy Priests, and the only one requiring a specific talent build as it’s the 41-point talent in the Holy tree. CoH heals five targets in the party or raid within 15 yards of the target. It is one of two spells that can effect targets in the entire raid, and it and Wild Growth (Druid specific ability) are the only instant-cast AoE heal in the game with no cool down timer. In that last part we find our problem.

Blizzard has expressed concern with the over-use of CoH by holy Priests. I’ve personally witnessed usage up to 50-60%. Blizz reports that there are individuals out there who are using it 70% of the time or more. Understandably, they feel that if we’re leaning on the spell this heavily, it’s overpowered.

The proposed nerf is a 6-second cool down to be applied to the spell.  To me this means the spell isn’t healing for too much, it’s an issue with the raw number of times it’s being cast in a raid/dungeon. Their developers and designers put a lot of hard work into those other spells, and dang-it, you need to use them more!

For me, CoH has always been that emergency spell I can pull out of my pocket when things are out of hand or when the boss mechanic calls for it.  Those accidental patrol pulls with vicious AoE, Loatheb’s 4-second window to heal, Malygos’s Vortex ability are all examples of situations where CoH is a godsend and can save a raid.  This is the true value of the spell: the utility of it.  Yes, the 6-second cool down would indeed lower the number of times a Priest can use CoH in an encounter, but it also removes all the previously mentioned utility and, to me, removes all purpose and uniqueness from the spell. 

Further, how creative is a 6-second cool down?  Come on Blizz, you can do better.  However, since you seem set on your solution, let me propose a few of my own.  The idea here is to create a limitation on the use of CoH by giving the players a choice with consequences, as well as retain the core purpose of the spell. 

Think of healing as a water balloon fight. Throwing a water balloon at a single target is relatively easy.  You have one balloon, one target, and two hands (in most cases).  You’re clearly well equipped for this task.  Now take 5 water balloons (6 if you have a special piece of paper stuffed into a book) and hit the 5 driest targets at the same time.  Not so easy is it?  Not only do you have to aim these 5 harbingers of the soak, but it also takes 5 times the effort to throw them.

Yes, you could alleviate the additional strain by waiting 6 seconds between tosses to make up for the additional strain.  However, the purpose of all these water balloons is to make a lot of people wet, fast, in the case of a heat wave.  What do you do?  You have two choices.  Toss progressively smaller and lighter water balloons until you are no longer able to do so, or continue to strain with the same size balloons, throwing slower and slower until your arms give out.  At that point you rest, recover your strength, and are able to resume barraging your victims… err… targets. 

So let’s apply this to CoH with some game-specific mechanics.  While there are several ways to do this, I’m going to mention the two that makes the most sense to me:

Holy Exertion
– Casting CoH causes the debuff “Holy Exertion” to appear on the caster.  The debuff lasts for 6 seconds and can stack up to X number of times, with each cast of CoH refreshing the debuff timer.  Each additional debuff lowers the effectiveness of CoH by a set amount in one of three ways (not all three, just pick one):

  • With each use of CoH within the 6 second window, one less target receives the heal until it reaches 0.
  • Each cast heals for Y% less healing until the amount healed reaches 0.  So if Y is 25%, then after four CoH casts within a 6-second window, you have 6             seconds before casting it will generate heals again.
  • Increased mana usage.  Each cast within the debuff window requires 50% more mana, for example. 

Holy Exhaustion – Similar to the above mechanic with a 6 second timer on a “Holy Exhaustion” debuff, however, there is a more severe penalty for over-using CoH.  In this case, all of your healing spells would be impacted by your decision to use, or not use CoH.  See the following two possibilities:

  • Every time you cast CoH while the debuff is active, you become exhausted.  Each cast causes some percentage decline in your haste rating.  For example, you cast CoH once, the debuff becomes active, no haste penalty.  You cast it again within that 6-second window, and you take a 5% haste penalty.  Again and it’s 10%, then 15%, and so on and so forth.  Sure, this won’t impact CoH as it’s an instant heal, but 6 seconds with a flash or greater heal that takes 50% longer to cast could be fatal to a tank or dps player.
  • The other option is that once the debuff reaches a specific number, you are exhausted and can no longer cast any spells for 6 seconds.

So why are these better solutions to the problem than just slapping on a 6-second cool down?  These allow the spell to remain true to its design and purpose while adding a degree of penalty if over-used.  Now instead of spamming CoH, or under the proposed solution, hitting it and counting to 6, we have to analyze the fight on the fly.  Is it worth taking a possible haste reduction or losing all my heals for 6 seconds to get off this one last CoH? 

Blizzard has said they want to make healing “more fun” and move away from the whack-a-mole model we currently have.  I think they have a great opportunity to start moving in that direction with the CoH change.  Let the players know the risks and weigh the consequences.  Give us something with substance to it, not just another bland spell we’ll tap every 6 seconds.

Image courtesy of woodsy

23 thoughts on “Circle of Heartbreak: Proposed Fixes”

  1. Fantastic options, not that Blizzard will note any of them. CD seems to be their answer to most OP spells.

    I, for one, am lucky in that I didn’t really notice I had the spell at first, (I said lucky, not smart). So I got used to healing without it, then incorporated it into my healing play. Once I saw the patch notes….I try not to use it as much just so I don’t begin to rely on it too much.

    As with all changes, let the QQ’s begin.

  2. I must say this is an interesting post, I agree with the suggestions. Instead of a 6sec CD to give us a debuff (with the things you suggested). I wouldn’t complain at all if blizzard actually made that change, it’ll make things more interesting in aoe fights. (Lets hope blizzard reads this post!)

  3. I’ve done similar to Nadra lately – I’m just trying to minimize my use of CoH so it won’t be as much of a shock when the change is implemented. I haven’t done the Malygos fight that everyone points at as the reason we have to have CoH spammability, so I can’t speak directly to that, but IIRC, GC has said that if the change negatively impacts the ability to complete certain fights, they will address those fights. I have every reason to believe that they will. Contrary to what people seem to think – Blizzard wants WoW to be fun for everyone involved. With regard to the CD being a cop-out fix, I think it’s a matter of logistics. Adding a CD is a few keystrokes and it’s done, whereas a complete redesign of the spell would be much more intense with regard to programming, testing, etc.

    Personally, I think this is another case of people freaking out and overreacting about changes before they hit because they’ll have to – GASP – CHANGE the way they play. Quite frankly, all the QQ’ing from everyone is more annoying to me than the 6 second CD..

    Okay, I’ll shut up now.. 🙂

  4. @John: Yep, you’re right. Blizzard did say things like Malygos’ Vortex ability would get nerfed.

    @Nadra: That must’ve been tough to do! Although I remember I was once a 23/38 hybrid healer once that never picked up CoH.

    @Maraetha: I’d be really happy if Blizzard reads my little blog =).

  5. Very original, very well-presented ideas. I like them. I also like them about as well as I like the proposed 6-sec CD; which is to say…”Meh.” CoH is going to change, and as others have said, we’ll either change with it, or we’ll change specs/classes. I just wish we had a better voice in the process.

    Please don’t misunderstand: I think CoH as it exists today is “overpowered.” It needs to change. We need to change with it. Like many others, as soon as I heard rumors of the coming CD, I changed how I use it in heroics and raids. (Well, I worked at changing, but if needed, I’ll still cast it 2 or 3 times in succession, without waiting…because I can.)

    Given a choice, I’d pick one of your alternatives to the Blizzard proposal. However, I’d be very interested in how the voting would go, if we had three options on which to vote. I suspect the vote would be rather even. And if the vote were to take place on the official forum, more people would vote “4. None of the above” even though such an option wouldn’t be present.

    Here’s the thing: Blizz says, “We think CoH is OP; we’re considering a 6-sec CD. What are your thoughts?”

    And of course, the community (that is, the official forum QQing majority) simply QQ about a nerf, rather than present a cogent, coherent, and convincing argument for a different change.

    What I would have preferred from Blizzard is “We have determined CoH needs a change because of X, Y and Z. So tell us how you think it should be changed to address these concerns.” That way, we get more input, and (hopefully) more buy-in to the final result.

    Kestrels last blog post..Here’s To A Wonderful 2009!

  6. /applaud

    Loved all the alternatives. I’ve personally been putting a self imposed 6 sec cd on my Wild Growth with my Druid and haven’t had a problem. A good healer will be able to adjust just fine. Maybe Blizzard is just bringing forth the cd because they saw a decrease in resto shammys and wanted to make Chain Heal seem OP again. =P

  7. How about instead of the cooldown, priests can’t regen any mana for 3 seconds after casting CoH (or whatever the number needs to be for balancing purposes)? CoH maintains its current usability, particularly in fights like Malygos, but spamming is completely unsustainable for very long.

  8. But its a pitty, that this isnt the way Blizz want to go. The want to make the game easier. too easy. so everything, which comes with new addons/patches will make the game easier to handle/unterstand.

    the most healer are very smart persons, and the most raiders like the challenge. but this makes the game challenging.

    i dont want to say too much but:
    easy game -> more players -> more accounts -> more money

  9. Note that WG already has such diminishing returns built into it, since its a HoT, each successive casts risks over-writing previous ones. The faster we spam it, the less effective it is. For this reason druids are at the same time a little less concerned about the nerf than priests, and also a little upset that we are getting the same treatment since we didn’t really need a cooldown.

  10. A cooldown strikes me as a brute force solution to the problem. Unfortunately, they seem to be set on implementing a 6 second cooldown. I presume this is so guilds don’t simply rotate their CoH healers … priest 1 spams 3x in a row, priest 2 spams 3x in a row, priest 3 spams 3x in a row … repeat.

    I think the idea to reduce the # of targets with each cast is a very good one, it makes the spell ineffective after 2-3 casts in a row (they could even extend the debuff cooldown to 12 seconds). This would force an interesting decision on the caster, and Blizz could design encounters knowing that CoH spam wouldn’t account for more than 20-30% of overall healing.

    The cooldown just makes holy priest healing less interesting, IMO. Most encounters will involve using PoM on cooldown, CoH + free flash heal on cooldown … then casting greater heal or flash heal the remaining ~50% of the time.

  11. @Shaejin – makes use LESS interesting? I’d say it does exactly the opposite. Makes us think and work harder to be efficient and good healers. Spamming CoH is hardly interesting.

  12. Well, I know I don’t play a healer, but these sound like some fantastic options and would really make healing more of an art form, as opposed to point and click.

    I would love to see changes like this incorporated into a lot of classes, making the game as a whole more dynamic and flexible.

  13. I was in a WG25man yesterday, the holy priest topping the charts had 93% of his healing in CoH. It needs nerfing, no doubt about it.

    What I find sad is that they had to go and change it into a raidwide, nobrainheal, and now they find that that change is too powerful. Doh?

    Does it need a cooldown? Dunno, it doesn’t make the nobrainheal better, it only makes that holy priests will be wathing another cooldown on their timers, more watching the ui, less watching the game. Which…I cannot imagine will be blizzards intention.

    IMO, up the manacost. Priests aren’t feeling the overuse of CoH on their manapool enough to stop doing it.

  14. I’d love to see a slightly different nerf applied to CoH and to WG, which I think would address Blizz’s issues while keeping it useful.

    Each recipient of CoH (or WG) receives a debuff like Weakened Soul, that means they can’t be the recipient of that spell from the priest for 6 secs. In a 25man, one priest can heal each member of the group once every 6 secs, but they can still get the max spam speed off if necessary. It means in Loatheb you can try to get 2 off and hit every member of the group once.

    Note: “from the priest”. This should not be a raid wide exclusion for all CoH’s just that you can’t receive more than 1 from one priest every 6 seconds.

    … then again that may mean Priest Stacking will occur, so you have 4 holy priests.

  15. I think we’ll see it go both ways, there will be guilds who just take a shadowpriest for the buffs, and are pretty naive.

    we’ll see guilds who attempt to stack priests to mitigate the nerf.
    also a fail situation.

    What COH is about to become and what blizz wants is for it just to be a bandaid for a shammy getting off CH.

    so… we are back to shammy stackin. Great going blizz.

  16. @Shyraia

    “the holy priest topping the charts had 93% of his healing in CoH. It needs nerfing, no doubt about it. ”

    The real problem here is the player is lazy. There’s no need to use CoH that much in ANY raid environment. It’s so easy to push that one button and let off a massive set of heals. The changes I propose get around this because each push of that button has consequences and actually forces the player to be engaged in what he/she is doing.

    “up the manacost. Priests aren’t feeling the overuse of CoH on their manapool enough to stop doing it.”

    You would have to increase the mana cost by 3-4x. Even then, it’s not much of a solution. Holy Priests can pretty easily reach 20k+ mana unbuffed. Throw on raid buffs, and it gets pretty crazy. Further, we can just stack spirit/int for the mana regen to counter that effect, not to mention replenishment, mana totem, arcane torrent, hymn of hope, and runic mana pots to offset the additional cost.

  17. Totally agreed, jason. except for 3-4k mana. that would be a bit brutal, and make it a non cast. 10% of base would be an interesting solution. I’ve listened to guild healers complaining about pug naxx runs where priests were spamming it, came down to “I can’t wait till they nerf that shit” “He sucks anyway” I’ve gotten alot of respect in guild by not abusing it everytime two people take damage. flashes, hots poms and greaters on the tank, as well as the much overlooked POH and binding heal are part of my arsenal, and my mana pool and longevity in fights proves that.

    I like the either more mana cost, or the return it back to a party heal solution. *we didn’t ask for it to become OP*

    the problem with it having a six second cooldown, is that there are situations in a fight where it needs to be spammed and is the best choice. KT when melee gets tombed, lothab, maylgos.

    to make it exist in a way that its just a six second bandaid, sort of stacks the deck against us. “stack shammys” =(

  18. I’m quite worried about the loss of control this cool down gives, coupled with the “smart heal” mechanics. We don’t really have control of this spell anymore, it will always hit those with the lowest HP, also pets.

    Healing those with the lowest HP might sound grand, but I like to decide who I heal, especially when the spell I’m using’s got a cool down!

  19. Great suggestions. I had been posting about a similar change that would allow use of CoH without making it OP. My suggestion was to tack on a 10% reduction to healing debuff for every CoH hit. I do like the haste de-buff suggestion. Hopefully they’ll fix CoH without breaking it.

  20. All very creative suggestions though I’d favor a CD opposed to a new mechanic to work around. For me, it’d probably be much easier to work a rotation to shield, mend, renew etc (heck, PW: Shield used to have a much longer cool down no?) in between cooldowns than take into account haste or cost changes.

    I just would have preferred that in exchange of a CD, the CoH had a bit more “oomph” to it. Or a lighter CoH (lower coef?) but no CD.

  21. Most classes spam one type of spell/shot, or move more than others, prolly 93% of the time, does that mean those need to get nerfed too? Tell that to an elemental shammy about their lightning bolts! So what if a priest topped the healing charts…you got through your instance because of their “Over powered” healing didn’t you? Pissed off people complaining about a spell thats kept them and their party alive makes me wanna puke! I read a few forums pre WotLK about how more and more raids were taking holy pallys and resto shammys and druids on thier raids, instead of priests…..those hybrid classes have become IMO the best healers in the game. CoH then and up until this nerf allowed us priests to be competitive to get that spot to a raid. Think about this now, if you are a raid leader and can take only 25 people, who are you going to bring with you and why?


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