Healing Crusader’s Coliseum: Faction Champions

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Back from Blizzcon and now well rested. Got some pretty cool announcements coming up. I’m working on a very special project right now that I’ll disclose later.

Anyway, I’ve gotten several requests for tips on Faction Champions.

And it’s just going to be that: Tips. The same day I touched down at Vancouver, it was back to business in the raid machine. After blitzing through Northrend Beasts and Lord Jaraxxus, it’s time to check out Faction Champions from a healer perspective.

Not a traditional fight

This is the key. There is no such thing as aggro management or threat on this encounter. This is an extremely chaotic, fast paced, arena-esque fight. Players that dual spec into PvP may even wish to consider doing so for extra survival or abilities. Your raid group is going to be facing off against 10 champions of the opposing faction (6 on normal). They’re selected from a random pool of NPCs.

  • Death Knight
  • Balance Druid
  • Resto Druid
  • Hunter
  • Mage
  • Holy Paladin
  • Retribution Paladin
  • Healing Priest
  • Shadow Priest
  • Rogue
  • Caster/Healing Shaman
  • Enhancement Shaman
  • Warlock
  • Warrior

Ones in bold are your raid’s targets of interest. Isn’t it rather odd that they’re all healers?

Execution

It’s difficult to provide an exact outline of what your group has to do. The best I can provide is a general guideline. Go ahead and move your group under the Alliance (or Horde) section first before activating the NPC. It’s a good idea to take stock of what class combination you’re group is going to be facing so that crowd control can be used accordingly.

In most cases, our raid group initially crowd controls every NPC as much as possible other than healers. For example, this week we had a healing Priest, the caster Shaman along with the Holy Paladin. We opted to zero in on the Shaman first. Our Warrior tank started working on the Holy Paladin just by keeping him locked down and interrupted. Placing a Rogue or 3 on the Priest is also a nice idea.

Our basic mentality is that if we run down the healers first, then the other NPC’s are a cake walk. The next dangerous Champion after healers is the Rogue based on the speed at which it can kill a target.

This is an endurance fight. Expect to invest around 10 minutes from start to finish. Each NPC has around 2.4 million health (some have 1.9 million).

Communication is extremely important here. If you’re being pursued, say something. Someone might be able to jump in and snare or CC a Champion.

General class tips

  1. Keep the melee NPC’s busy as much as possible.
  2. Death Knights should defensive Death Grip Rogues, Warriors, Ret Paladins, and Death Knights away from the raid and slow them down. Minimize their movement with slows and stuns
  3. Typhoon and Thunderstorm intelligently. Again, use them defensively to keep NPCs away from your healers.
  4. Drop a Fear Bomb if multiple NPCs are closing in on someone.
  5. Crowd control incurs diminishing returns. Example, after casting 3 Polymorphs on one Champion, it’ll become immune to Polymorph. Spread that CC out.
  6. Offensive Dispels are a virtual requirement. Shamans should be Purging, Priests should be Dispelling. Things you want to get rid of are Druid HoTs and Shaman Earth Shields.
  7. If you have a PvP Trinket, consider equipping it for the fight.
  8. Heroism/Bloodlust on the initial pull. The sooner you kill an NPC or 2, the easier it becomes.

For Priests

As a Priest, my limited arena training has taught me two important skills: Running and healing. If you can manage to run and heal at the same time, you’ll be in good condition. I mainly stuck to firing off blind Mass Dispels (targeting an area with a lot of traffic and hoping it connects) and specific single target Dispels. Keep Shields active on players who get focused and are soft. Don’t bother with mana burning or mind controlling.

Use Psychic Scream everytime it’s available. Just run into a crowd and drop the fear bomb.

Your first priority is to keep yourself alive. If you have to run, drop what you’re doing and run. This isn’t exactly a fight where you can sit there and just grind heal your way through.

Use your defensive cooldowns liberally. Pain Suppression and Guardian Spirit will save lives. After I see a big spike on someone, I’ll drop a cooldown on them. If I see 3 Champions close in on a player, I’ll drop a cooldown on them. If I get death gripped, I’ll crap my pants then use a cooldown on myself (No joke. That Death Knight is a pain).

For Druids

This is just from me watching Sydera. Hopefully she’ll chime in here at some point. I’ve seen Druids use their Cyclone in between healing on various NPCs. Reserve Roots for melee NPCs if they’re chasing after people. Go cat form to put distance between you and Champions. If you’re out of tricks, it’s bear form until the Champion gets peeled off you.

For Paladins

Platewearers are usually durable in this one. Have the Hammer stun ready and use it when the cooldown is up. Hand of Sacrifice or Divine Sacrifice and follow it up with a Paladin bubble to help out the raid. The Champions are smart enough to occasionally focus fire on one target.

For Shamans

I reconfigured my totem setup to include Earthbind, Cleansing, and Grounding totem. Every so often, I’d run into a crowd and drop them all down again. Really aware Shamans will know to keep a healer focused and Wind Shear to help with the interrupting process. Bonus points if you can squeeze off Frost Shocks on a Champion who is chasing someone. Do all that while healing, and your raiding group will love you.

Hope this helps! Feel free to comment below with any extra tips or tricks in general or against specific Champions.

Good luck!

How to be a Tree in 3.1

How to be a Tree in 3.1

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Even though the new patch has been out only a week, I thought it might be interesting to share what I’ve observed while raiding the first few bosses of Ulduar. So far, Conquest has brought down Flame Leviathan, Razorscale, and XT. The first night we spent a couple hours on a bugged Ignis. I’ve also tagged along on a short 10-man raid whose purpose was to reach Ignis and see if he’s still bugged. All I can say is that he seems a little easier than he did, but I’m not sure if the two pulls we were able to do on him before we ran out of time can be taken as evidence. At least he didn’t melee any of us in the Slag Pot–those of us who were chosen got to be happy little Hot Pockets.

I also spent some time going over two combat log parses, WoW Meter Online and WWS, to check on my performance in these raids. There is a long-standing debate about meter reading among raiding healers, and I stand in the middle. I use reports mostly to see my ability rotation and how effective each thing I cast turned out to be. I do look at overall numbers, though, when I can compare myself to another druid who had the same assignment.

General Impressions

I’ll confess that in two nights of Ulduar this week, I had one bad performance and one very good one. Our first night in, I managed to patch just moments before we pulled, and I only had one spec. I also used that spec very, very badly. I’ll explain below, but first, here are some of my first impressions of the new instance.

1. Flame Leviathan is really cool. The encounter doesn’t feel like the rest of WoW, but it’s quite fun. On the 10-man version, I begged to be one of the people launched onto the boss. I absolutely loved that part.

2. I’m not really running out of mana. I pretty much did what I usually do, except that I let my Lifebloom bloom almost all the time. They really did reduce OOFSR regen, so all I can think is that druids must not have spent as much time out of the five second rule as we had previously thought. My observations match up to Lissanna’s, so I bet it’s a common experience.

3. Dual spec is really convenient. At current, I have both a tank healing and a raid healing spec on my druid. On our XT attempts, I switched specs when I traded places with Mallet to heal the main tank through spiky damage. Being able to do that so seamlessly with just the talents I wanted was brilliant.

4. The difficulty level of Ulduar is quite high. I was expecting Serpentshrine Cavern, and it seems that I got Black Temple. Think about the look and everything–it’s actually very similar to BT. Now, I didn’t raid on the PTR, and I’m at my worst when I’m surprised, but I swear that Ignis fellow is overtuned for his position in the instance. Even his trash is challenging! It seems at least as difficult as the Tempest Keep trash pulls leading up to Kael’s room, which is pretty much wrong for its position in the instance. Ignis’ trash should, at most, be at the level of Morogrim’s trash (remember all those pretty murlocs?). In our attempts on Ignis on 10 and 25, healers were able to learn the abilities and adjust to them, but the adds are still out of hand. I think that the melting, freezing, and cracking mechanism is a little much to handle at that speed. In contrast, I thought that both Razorscale and XT were pretty manageable.

5. The gear in Ulduar seems odd. Granted, I’ve only seen a few pieces, but they don’t seem to be much better than the stuff from Kel’thuzad or Malygos. In contrast, the gear requirements for the dungeon feel very high. Briolante, our warrior tank, is full best-in-slot from Naxx, but Ignis was still ripping him up. He got a new weapon from Flame Leviathan, but it’s a marginal upgrade at best over his previous weapon–and the new weapon is an i-level 232. Weapons, in my opinion, should be significantly different between tiers. I can imagine that the ordinary 226 items might not be an upgrade at all over the scattered 226 items that a player is likely to have from the opening tier of raid content. I’m not sure why they decided to have Ulduar gear not be a progression from our current best-in-slots. I think the claim is that it’s better-itemized, but that’s certainly not true for druids. It’s the same old crit/haste itemization that we dealt with in Naxx.

6. I seem to always want my fast heals. I was skeptical about glyphing Healing Touch for raid healing, but in the middle of our attempts on XT, our other resto druid went to respec and glyph for it as well. Healing in Ulduar is quite spammy. There are some breaks, like the exposed heart phase on XT, but when damage occurs it seems to be both deep and wide. Ulduar uses a combination of heavy hits on the MT with directed raid damage and also AoE splash damage. This is a change from previous content, which seemed to test only one skill at a time. The only thing I can think of to compare some of these fights to to is Gurtogg Bloodboil, who ripped up raids with a combination of hard hits, regular AoE damage, and targeted damage to a raid member.

Trees on the Meters

I won’t go over the exact details of my meter performance, but I’ve been lucky enough to be able to compare my numbers up to two other resto druids who were more or less doing the same tasks as I was. On our second night of raiding, I put in a competitive performance and I thought I did my job well. Here are my tips for putting in decent numbers.

1. Remember that you are a HoT healer. The buffs to Nourish may have distracted you, but HoTs are stronger in Ulduar than they are in Naxx. Both HoTs and shields are at their strongest when damage and difficulty are high.

2. Let your Lifebloom bloom. You could probably roll it on some bosses, and the bloom will be mostly overheal, but if you never let it bloom, you are wasting buckets of mana. On some fights, I got as much mana “back” from blooms as I got from Replenishment.

3. The druid talent Revitalize is still bad. It’s a drop in the bucket compared to other sources of mana return, and I’m going to take it out of my build for a while and see if I feel the effects. If not, it’s staying out.

4. Do not use Nourish without HoTs as a raid heal. It’s slow compared to other Flash Heals and it has low throughput. This mistake is what led to my being at the bottom of meters the first night in Ulduar.

5. Glyphed Healing Touch (with talents) is very strong. This is the Flash Heal you want, not Nourish. I was skeptical about putting this in my raid build but both my own comfort level and my effectiveness on meters improved. I was actually fast enough to save Slag Pot victims, and I was well able to heal Light Bomb and Gravity Bomb with a glyphed HT.

6. Lifebloom is an okay raid heal. It still ticks fast, which gives it an advantage over Rejuvenation. I’m actually using Rejuv less than I did in Naxx or Sarth 3D, because the chance of imminent death for my targets seems higher. I really, really want my 4pc T8 set bonus, however, which will effectively fix Rejuvenation.

7. Innervate is still useful. I have mine glyphed, and I get not quite a full bar out of it.

That’s about all I have. I’m still working out the kinks, so to speak, in Ulduar, and I’ll report back again if I have any startling new observations as we progress. The jury’s still out on whether I like this instance. It’s much better than Naxx, but I’m still comparing it in my head to my favorite BC instances, Serpentshrine Cavern and Black Temple. Ulduar has a lot to live up to. I really enjoyed the bosses we took down, but Ignis disappoints me. In addition to being overtuned and buggy, this guy reuses a model from a 5-man instance. That’s pretty disappointing to me–the art is one of the aspects that most affects my enjoyment of the game. In addition, I like Thorim’s new golden-boy model much less than his old, crusty, blue-skinned look. The old Thorim was much more melancholy, which really fit his quest line. Hopefully once I get into Ulduar proper I’ll be able to ooh and aah at the new art.
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Ulduar Caster Weapons and Tier Gear: A Primer

Here’s a list of all spellcaster related weapons that drop from Ulduar. Items are sorted in the rough order of progression that raiding groups will be going in. I linked all currently known spellpower weapons and off hands so that your raid group can get a general idea of what item to go for and what items are better off in the hands of other players along with the rough order they will appear in. It seems heroic mode drops slightly more weapons. Loot tables for some of the bosses are still unknown at this time (like Yogg-Saron and Algalon). Read the bottom of the post for a theory of tier gear drops.

Heroic Mode weapons

Weapon Weapon Type Source
Overcharged Fuel Rod OH (Spell hit) Flame Leviathan
Intensity 2H Staff (Spell hit) Ignis the Furnace Master
Scepter of Creation Wand (Spirit) Ignis the Furnace Master
Guiding Star 1H Mace (MP5/Haste) Razorscale
Quartz Crystal Wand Wand (Spell hit) XT-002 Deconstructor (Hard mode)
     
Rapture 2H Staff (Spirit) Iron Council
Ironmender OH (Spirit) Kologarn
Runescribed Blade 1H Sword Auriaya
The Lifebinder 2H Staff (Spirit) Freya
Staff of Endless Winter 2H Staff (Spirit) Hodir (Hard mode)
Scepter of Lost Souls Wand (Haste/Crit) General Vezax

 

Normal Mode Weapons

Weapon Weapon Type Source
Firesoul MH Sword (Spell hit) Flame Leviathan
Plasma Foil 1H Dagger (Spirit) XT-002 Deconstructor
Pulsing Spellshield OH (Shield) XT-002 Deconstructor
Stormtip 1H Dagger (Spirit) The Iron Council
Nurturing Touch Wand (Spirit) Auriaya
Pulse Baton 1H Mace (MP5) Mimiron
Unraveling Reach 2H Staff (Hit) Freya
Icecore Staff 2H Staff (Spirit) Hodir
Ice Layered Barrier OH Shield (MP5/Haste) Hodir (Hard mode)
Pillar of Fortitude 2H Staff General Vezax

Tier gear

All we know right now is that Mimiron drops tier 8 gloves. I’m assuming Yogg-Saron either drops the chest or the helm. I have a sneaking suspicion the other 3 Titans (Freya, Hodir, Thorim) drop the other 3 tier 8 pieces. My theory is unconfirmed, however. But I think it’s a decent assumption that the 4 titans along with the “end” boss of the instance are the ones that drop the tier pieces.

T8 Set Bonuses Revealed

Post updated 1:42 AM
MMO Champion’s got the goods on the next level of tier 8 bonuses. Let’s check it out and do some quick analysis shall we?

Priest

  • Priest T8 Healer 2P Bonus — Increases the critical heal chance of your Prayer of Healing by 10%.
  • Priest T8 Healer 4P Bonus — Casting Power Word: Shield also grants you 15 spell power for until cancelled. Increases spell power by 250 for 5 sec. (Source: Thottbot)

I’m not the most thrilled with the 2 piece. It’s not bad but it’s not that great, I don’t think. Although let’s not forget that Prayer of Healing is no longer restricted to the Priest’s current party. You definitely want to consider coupling this with the Prayer of Healing glyph. Having the extra crit chance means there’s a higher chance the glyph portion should tick for more.

Now the 4 piece is a real eyebrow raiser. I’m almost certain that’s a typo. More than likely, it’ll grant 150 spell power instead of 15. The second typo is towards the end. It sounds to me that either a) There’s going to be a duration on it. Probably 9 or 15 seconds. b) Until the Shield wears off of a target. This is a bonus that seems targeted towards Disc Priests. With talents like Soul Warding (Reduced cooldown of PW: Shield by 4 seconds and reduces the mana cost by 30%), I can see myself throwing shields around. It’d be mana inefficient, to be sure. But I’m chain casting it to maintain a spellpower boost. Of course, with the mana regeneration changes this might not be the most smartest idea. Anyway, I don’t think they’re quite finished with this set bonus yet guys.

Paladin

  • Paladin T8 Holy 2P Bonus — Your Holy Shock critical heals now also place a periodic healing effect on the target, healing for 15% of the Holy Shock’s heal amount over 9 sec.
  • Paladin T8 Holy 4P Bonus — Increases the damage absorbed by your Sacred Shield by 10%.

Any Paladins want to weigh in on these bonuses? How do these look to you guys?

Shaman

  • Shaman T8 Restoration 2P Bonus — Reduces the cooldown on Riptide by 1 sec.
  • Shaman T8 Restoration 4P Bonus — Reduces the cast time of Chain Heal by 0.2 sec.

That Shaman 4 piece makes me go wa wa wee wa. Assuming haste, could we possible see 2 second Chain Heals?

And for the Druids, don’t forget that Syd’s got a nice writeup for the Druid bonuses that were released earlier in the week.

A Healer’s Most Important Skill

A Healer’s Most Important Skill

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It amazes me to no end how many healers still have trouble grasping this concept.

It’s not so much about covering as many people as possible. Nor is it about conserving your mana and knowing when to regenerate. Moving around and avoiding fires is a good skill but not quite the most important skill. Situational awareness is an incredible asset to have but it doesn’t quite rank as high up there.

The art of spamming

It is the act of standing in one place and doing nothing but going through global cooldown after global cooldown and dumping massive heals on one target.

Actually, spam means unsolicited or undesired electronic messages so that might not be the right word to use.

Then again saying focused rapid-fire heals is a bit of a mouthful.

The point is that any healer regardless of their class should master the art of spam healing. I’ve partied and raided with healers who are too worried about regeneration or movement or otherwise that they’ve lost track of simply dumping heals on a player.

For a Priest, it’s a combination of Penance, Flash Heal, and Greater Heal depending on your spec, of course. Yeah you can sprinkle Shields and Renews here and there. But when you’re in a raid and when you feel that you cannot heal damage of that magnitude, it’s time to grind your teeth, narrow your eyes, and lean forward. Every healer has their own personal heavy artillery healing spell. Don’t be afraid to get into that zone and start mashing your heal button.

You are the last line of defense. Spam healing might go against everything you believe in. But don’t be afraid to go out with your heals blazing.

Image courtesy of klsmith77

When a Bonus is More than a Bonus

When a Bonus is More than a Bonus

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Thanks to MMO Champion and it’s data-ming ways, we now have access to a preliminary version of the Tier 8 set bonuses. It’s anyone’s guess whether these bonuses will actually go live. The bonuses for Resto druid appear to be excellent, though there’s one catch: the 4-piece bonus for Tier 8 is much too good.
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Here we have a classic example of a good set bonus and a “bad” set bonus. Lest you grow angry at me for complaining about buffs as well as nerfs, I’ll explain what I mean.

What makes a set bonus good?

The two-piece Tier 8 bonus, which gives a 10% boost to the throughput of Swiftmend, will be nice to have. Swiftmend is a spell almost every healing druid talents for, and it can be used by both raid healers and tank healers alike. The bonus doesn’t conflict with or double the Glyph of Swiftmend, which is a different and even stronger throughput increase which allows Swiftmend to be applied without consuming one of the druid’s HoTs (either Rejuvenation or Regrowth). Moreover, if I had one piece of advice for most Resto druids, it would be to use Swiftmend more. Many forget all about it because it’s a two-step spell–HoT setup plus instant top-off. I find that I perform much better if I use it whenever it’s up. Still, this bonus will never be overpowered, even in combination with the glyph, because Swiftmend continues to be on a cooldown. Druids will get this bonus and enjoy it, perhaps giggling to themselves over their WWS reports. However, it will be a set bonus that the druid can bear to leave behind for whatever Tier 9 gear has in store.

What makes a set bonus bad?

We’ve all seen set bonuses that are lackluster or unusable. The Tier 6 4-pc Resto druid bonus to Healing Touch comes to mind as a particularly useless one. I passed on Tier 6 pants in favor of badge pants because this bonus simply wasn’t one. However, a bonus that goes in the other direction, becoming so good that it overshadows all other gear upgrades, is actually more harmful to the class and the game. Take, for example, the much-lamented 4pc Tier 5 mage bonus, which entirely changed the functioning of Arcane Blast, greatly upping its damage output at an increasing mana cost. I still /spit on this bonus. It caused the four raiding mages in my former guild to hold onto 4-pc Tier 5 until they were able to equip 4 pieces of Tier 6 at once. The consternation this caused them probably cost my guild several extra hours of loot debate. The mages also faced accusations of DKP hoarding as they waited to buy the early Tier 6 pieces. They had much more DKP than they could spend because of their need to hang onto T5. Moreover, the mages themselves didn’t always pay the increased mana cost. Instead, the druid healers Innervated them. We didn’t mind, exactly, because mana was plentiful for healers at that point, but I couldn’t Innervate all four of them, and I always felt bad when I didn’t have any juice left for a player who asked. However, the most pernicious aspect of the bonus had to do with play style. It pigeon-holed mages into an arcane spec and a set rotation, turning three trees into one for a tier and a half of content. I know one determined fire mage who switched to her warlock in Tier 5 because she didn’t like the arcane playstyle. In the end, the T5 bonus was judged to be too strong, nerfed, and finally taken away.

Ghostcrawler has actually said in the past that a tier bonus should be just that–a bonus. I wholeheartedly agree. However, the 4 pc T8 bonus isn’t going to just be a bonus–it’s going to radically change most druids’ rotations.

Rejuvenation has always been a good spell, but its limiting factor is that it doesn’t tick for 3 seconds after it is applied. In essence, that turns it into a HoT with a long cast. Rejuvenation is probably the druid’s most over-written spell. Thankfully it’s also our most efficient. With the bonus, I would get a tiny burst of healing–1997 in Syd’s current gear–when I cast the spell. That’s less than a Holy Shock, but it has a huge impact. With even a small initial heal, Rejuvenation would be “fixed.” It would go from being something that some druids don’t cast, preferring the faster-ticking Lifebloom and Wild Growth, into the raid healing spell. I think this is a very innovative and necessary addition to the spell; however, it doesn’t belong in a set bonus. This “fix” would get druids away from using Lifebloom for every situation, and that’s great. However, if this change is truly imagined as a “fix” to the spell, it needs to be made permanent through talents. Hell, I think it’s worth 5 of my talent points–or even the entire space in the tree occupied by Revitalize and Living Seed. This one little set bonus would give druids what they’ve always wanted–a tool to keep others from sniping their heals.

“Sniping,” for the uninitiated, is the practice of going outside one’s own healing assignment to heal someone else’s target, particularly a target that already has a ticking hot or a slower-casting incoming heal. Typically, players snipe with quick heals–Flash Heal, Flash of Light, Chain Heal, even Nourish or glyphed Healing Touch. As I’ve explained before, healers will never stop sniping–in any case, not until the default UI shows incoming heals and HoTs, mana is as scarce as roses in the Alaskan winter, and healing meters go extinct. Druids are incredibly vulnerable to heal-snipers as most of our healing takes a bit of setup before it starts to work. Ghostcrawler has said in the past that heal-sniping is a valid concern, but it’s not going to be fixed through nerfing mana. Other tools have to be used against it, and the new Rejuvenation is a perfect fit. Healers who play without any incoming heal data will be able to see that the target is covered and consequently will turn elsewhere, even (gasp!) back to their own assigned target.

The change to Rejuvenation needs to be either a talent or a glyph–and I would prefer talent, because then it would correspond to priests’ new talented Renew, which just got a similar front-ended burst. Renew has never been as good as Rejuvenation in the past, but with a small initial burst, it might just be better than Rejuv post-3.1.

In any case, if this tier bonus remains unaltered, druids will wear their Tier 8 until they have 4 pc of Tier 9–and maybe even beyond. This set bonus is more powerful than any one gear upgrade–and I would say, probably more powerful than four. It steps beyond what a bonus is supposed to do. At maximum, I’d say the set bonus for a previous tier should maybe give a player pause about equipping just two pieces of the new tier or item level, as it may be. Not all the best pieces are part of a set. However, when it gets to three upgrades over the stats on the old tier, players should be happy about making a change.

I’m concerned, Blizzard–very concerned. Thinking as both a raiding druids and a guild officer, I’d rather not wrestle with this particular angel, as good as that set bonus may seem when we’re sitting at the beginning, not the end, of Tier 8.

Lifebloom nerf for 3.1: WTF?

Lifebloom nerf for 3.1: WTF?

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I thought I was having a nice Friday afternoon, and so I said to myself, “Self, why don’t we read a little Elitist Jerks forums before we leave work?” Good idea, right? Not so much. Here’s a little jewel, quoted from the European forums of all places, for your reading pleasure:

• Lifebloom: Mana cost of all ranks doubled. When Lifebloom blooms or is dispelled, it now refunds half the base mana cost of the spell per application of Lifebloom, and the heal effect is multiplied by the number of applications.

Fortunately, my leafy friends have already been at work, and GC has made some responses. Here is the discussion–it’s actually quite instructive and I feel like I learned a little bit after reading the whole thing. The surprise, actually, is how constructive the community is being–sucking up, I guess, versus Ghostcrawler’s uncharacteristically snarky attitude. GC seems to think we have all been triumphing over an OP Lifebloom and just waiting on a nerf. In my experience, that’s just not the case.

Why Oh Why Did this Happen to Us?

The stated reason for the efficiency nerf to Lifebloom is, quite simply, to de-incentivize stacking the spell on multiple tanks. Unfortunately, the nerf targets single tank stacking as well. From the math, it becomes horribly inefficient to refresh Lifebloom after the initial triple stack. In the future–especially in a mana-scarce environment–we will need to manage both the bloom and the roll, instead of now just worrying about the roll.

Most posters believe that the bloom of Lifebloom will be mostly overheal. I concur. There are many situations where my Lifebloom blooms. Sometimes I refresh too early, but sometimes, well, I’m too late. The “too late” problem is exponentially more likely to occur in busy fights with lots of movement or sources of damage. Yes, I know, I’m a bad druid. I use Grid to display my current Hots, but I’m not running a big splashy HoT timer like I used to in BC. I can tell you that the bloom of my Lifeblooms tends to wash out at around 1% of my effective heal in any given fight.

Who’s Facerolling Lifebloom Now?

This nerf really puzzles me. Are any of you, dear readers, topping healing meters by rolling on multiple tanks? That used to be me–back in Hyjal. Most of the current fights are either one-tank only, see me raid healing, or require so much movement (Sarth 3D) that facerolling LB gets to be impossible. I used to love stacking LB on 4 tanks–it felt dynamic, and the contribution of the heals was large enough in proportion to the tanks’ health that I felt like I was doing something. Now, not so much. The proportion of the tank’s total health that a triple-stacked LB is able to heal has decreased, such that Lifebloom looks like it’s not doing anything. I’ve spent some time looking at my WWS v. my guildies, especially when another druid outperforms me on the same assignment. It looks like right now Lifebloom is doing a decent job raid healing, but it’s usually not triple-stacked or rolled. It’s doing a lot of healing on tanks, but Regrowth is doing even more.

Maybe Ulduar is Hyjal 2.0 with four tanks in play. That’s the only setup I can imagine where this change would be absolutely necessary in order to keep resto druids from having a distinct advantage over other healers. That’s bad–a lot of guilds choose their number of tanks based on content, and right now you need a maximum of three. I wonder where everyone’s going to find their fourth?

Goodbye, Lifebloom?

The saddest thing about this change is that it adds yet another thing for druids to time perfectly. I’m in the fair category at perfect timing–I’m more into using my HoTs as a set-it-and-forget-it type heal. As such, Rejuvenation is my favorite spell, and if there’s a silver lining here, it’s that I’m about to actually be rewarded for casting it instead of kicking for using it. Right now, Rejuvenation is a poor bet–it’s going to get overhealed, and in the current environment, the numbers show a single Lifebloom to be more effective as a raid heal due to its faster tick. Presumably, the change to mana regen will be enough to tone down the endless sniping and spamming that goes on now. Right now, it’s very easy to pad the meters by ignoring your healing assignment in favor of whoever’s lowest or taking damage, but in the future I look for tighter assignments to be the norm.

However, my head already hurts contemplating what I believe will be the new use of Lifebloom: stacking on the MT to three and letting it bloom, and then immediately stacking again. It could be all-Loatheb, all the time–we’ll have to refresh our 3-stack selectively in order to time the bloom of Lifebloom to a point where the burst will be needed, or at least we’ll feel compelled to try.

Sure, the best restos will do that. Others will simply start to play sloppy. My healing, worst case scenario, could go something like this: I’ll cast whatever number of Lifeblooms from 1-3 that I feel like on the MT and then go do other stuff. Sometime later, I’ll get back to my target and say hey! Why don’t I stack on you again, using up a lot of GCDs in the process? Because I didn’t pay attention to timing, my blooms will be 100% overheal, and because the tank didn’t always have 3X Lifebloom as a buffer, he came close to dying a couple of times. And at the end of the fight, there I’ll be, hanging down at the bottom of the meters, standing alone, like the cheese in the Farmer in the Dell song. I’ll end fights wondering if I did anything worthwhile at all, besides, of course, the obligatory Wild Growth cast every time it’s up. Man, I wish I had started working on my shaman like I intended to six weeks ago!

It might be easiest just to take Lifebloom off the bar. After all, there are druids who stopped using it after the last round of nerfs. It might take down my potential effective healing, but it might be worth it just to have a little more breathing room. After all, I decided not to play my Affliction warlock at all in the expansion because her expanded DoT rotation got to be too much to handle. They’ve just made her easier to play by eliminating Siphon Life–now why would they do something to a HoT class that has an opposite effect? However, if I, as a tank healer, take Lifebloom out of my rotation, I miss out on the full bonus to glyphed Nourish, which is shaping up to be 3.1’s prize pig. What’s a poor weepy willow to do?

On Change

I usually like change, but this time it’s a little different. I had to relearn my class for Wrath, and I have to say, I preferred the TBC Lifebloom-heavy healing model. I felt important, and what I did for the tanks seemed dynamic and useful. I learned to work with the limitations on my rotation and my movement–I was good at that. Now that I can do anything, I’m less likely to know what to do! I’m overburdened by choice already. Adding one more thing to manage–and at that, a burst heal that happens 8 to 10 seconds after the original cast and requires three more GCDs to be spent after it–in an already full rotation–just seems daunting.

3.1 PTR Notes: New Druid Glyphs

3.1 PTR Notes: New Druid Glyphs

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I haven’t found time quite yet to log onto the PTR, but I have been anxiously following all the updates and changes on MMOchampion.com. If you’ve had your head in the sand somehow, go check out the new stuff here.

This morning’s post will be a short one, but I wanted to bring to all of your attention the awesomeness of the new Druid glyphs, particularly for resto.

Here’s what we’ve got:

Druid (Skills List / Talent + Glyph Calc.)
Glyph of Rebirth — Players resurrected by Rebirth are returned to life with 100% health. (Old: Increases the amount of health on a character brought back to life via Rebirth by 100%.)
Glyph of Starfall — Reduces the cooldown of Starfall by 90 sec. (Old: Increases the duration of Starfall by 2 sec.)
Glyph of Berserk *new* — Increases the duration of Berserk by 5 sec.
Glyph of Wild Growth *new* — Wild Growth now affects up to 6 targets.
Glyph of Nourish *new* — Your Nourish heals an additional 6% for each of your heal over time effects present on the target.
Glyph of Savage Roar *new* — Your Savage Roar ability grants an additional 6% bonus damage done.
Glyph of Typhoon *new* — Reduces the cooldown of your Typhoon spell by 3 sec.
Glyph of Barkskin *new* — Reduces the chance you’ll be critically hit by melee attacks by 1 to 0% while Barkskin is active.

Too Many Choices?

Up until now, there have been accepted “right” and “wrong” ways to glyph the restoration druid. With the current glyphs, most top-of-the-line restos use one of two combinations.

1. Swiftmend, Regrowth, Lifebloom
2. Swiftmend, Regrowth, Innervate

I am personally using Combo #2, though I would have replaced it by now if I hadn’t wanted to keep Innervate at least until my character copied to the PTR. Hopefully once there I can exploit the dual spec system with two Resto specs and test many of the Resto glyphs in raid situations.

However, based purely on guesswork, I give you the hot combos of the future:

1. Swiftmend, Wild Growth, Innervate.
This one says “raid healer” to me. However, people’s individual use of Swiftmend varies. It’s a combo type spell and it gets used directly in proportion, I’d think, to people’s ability to identify their own Rejuvenations on their UI. I am a very heavy user now, mostly because of the glyph.

2. Swiftmend, Regrowth, Lifebloom.
This combo is for the classic tank healer, usually assigned to Main Tanks.

3. Swiftmend, Regrowth, Innervate.
For the tank healer who sometimes runs short on mana.

4. Swiftmend, Nourish, Lifebloom.
Also for the tank healer, but for those who like either combos or shorter heals. This lets the druid use all her spells and depending on spec, could be a fairly mana-efficient combo.

5. Swiftmend, Nourish, Innervate.
For the efficiency expert. This druid will have mana left when everyone else is doing the twist and wishing they had their old OOFSR mana return values.

6. Swiftmend, Wild Growth, Lifebloom.
This combo is for the generalist who never knows what she’ll be doing in a given fight. However, she’s mana-confident.

7. Wild Growth, Lifebloom, Regrowth.
The WWS-obsessed. This druid has looked at what spells get used the most and has glyphed entirely based on the percentages. Substitute Nourish for Regrowth based on personal preference.

8. Wild Growth, Lifebloom, Innervate.
This combination is for the raid-healing druid who doesn’t use Swiftmend. She gets a scolding from me, but well, she’s probably in the majority. Swiftmend is currently our hardest-to-use spell, though its one of our most rewarding.

9. Regrowth, Lifebloom, Innervate
For the tank healer who does not use Swiftmend. Regrowth could substitute for Nourish based on preference. However, I can’t imagine this druid. Swiftmend is easiest to use on tanks and is our best save. Nature’s Swiftness + Healing Touch is nice, but it’s infrequent.

For me personally, #6 looks likely. As much as I love tank healing, the balance of healers in the guild has shifted and I’m usually needed on the raid. I am also going to try #5 and #1 if mana starts running low. I may also try out #7, but boy, would I miss Swiftmend.

Wow, we have a lot of choices. The only thing you won’t be doing is glyphing for both Regrowth and Nourish–the conditions of the glyphs contradict each other. The Nourish glyph wants you to use all your hots, including Regrowth, and finish with Nourish, while the Regrowth one encourages you to rely heavily on…guess what…Regrowth.

What are the rest of you going to glyph for in 3.1?

Tier 7 Bonuses: A Guide to What’s Hot and What’s Not

Tier 7 Bonuses: A Guide to What’s Hot and What’s Not

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Updates:: This is another classic example of me not fact checking my stuff. This post sat in my draft queue since early January. Other things came up and I set it aside for the time being. Patches 3.0.8 and 3.0.9 were released and I forgot that some changes were made. Resto Druids 2 piece, Feral Druid 2 piece notes have been changed. Stop’s opinions have been revised. I split the tanking and DPS feral druids accordingly instead of lumping them together. Added another Enhancement Shaman perspective. Sorry! :(

Tier pieces have a history of granting bonuses. Blizzard has an even more illustrious history of giving set bonuses that are really good and some that are really bad. I don’t know everything about every class. Yet, as a member of loot council, I should be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the various set pieces. Like it or not, set bonuses do tend to have an impact on decisions. One of the Resto Shamans in my guild was the first to get the 4 piece (because Archavon was kind and dropped 2 Resto pieces).

To help you understand and decide on your set pieces, I’ve consulted my guild and several other prominent bloggers and players in the community. I don’t know as much as I would like about other classes and it wouldn’t be fair for me to make any assumptions (without asking others about it first).

This post will be broken down into 4 different roles: Tanking, melee DPS, ranged DPS, and healers.

Tanking

Warriors

2 piece: Increases the damage of your Shield Slam by 10%. Rating: Good

4 piece: Increases the duration of your Shield Wall by 3 seconds. Rating: Moderate

Several of the tanking Warriors I consulted weren’t impressed with the Warrior 4 piece. Prot Warrior blogger Veneretio only had this to say:

"It’s a great bonus if the 4 pieces fall into your lap, but the current non-set itemization is so strong that you’ll be hard pressed to even get the 2 piece. Basically, it’s go for the 7.5 gloves and another set piece (like shoulders or chest).”

Druid

2 piece: Your Rip lasts for an additional 4 seconds, and your Lacerate deals an additional 5% damage. Rating: Good (for both)

4 piece: Increases the duration of Barkskin by 3 seconds. Tiger’s Fury cooldown reduced by 3 seconds. Rating: Good for tanks

I had to consult Feral Druid Karthis about this one.

His thoughts on the 2 piece:

“While extra damage is always nice, Lacerate doesn’t form a crucial part of a bear tank’s output – Maul and Mangle generally outperform it (although Mangle is close).  Since threat is a non-issue in the existing content, this set bonus is even further trivialized.”

On the 4 piece:

“This unassuming-sounding set bonus is actually fairly significant.  Barkskin reduces damage taken by 20% and usually lasts for 12s.  It is a spell that every tank should be re-casting as soon as it is off cooldown.  Boosting the uptime to 15s only improves an already must-use skill, and further reduces the total incoming damage that must be healed through.”

Paladin

2 piece: Increases the damage dealt by your Hammer of the Righteous by 10%. Rating: Good

4 piece: Increases the duration of your Divine Shield and Divine Protection by 3 seconds. Rating: Moderate

HoR is good AoE threat. 4 piece is irrelevant to raiding. (Thanks Myze!)

From what I’ve been told, the 2 piece is good. The 4 piece appears to be just average. The situation seems to be similar to the Warrior 4 piece. Divine Protection is probably going to get used more often in the same was Shield Wall would be. Thanks Anna!

Death Knight

2 piece: Increases the critical strike chance of your Plague Strike by 10%. Rating: Moderate

4 piece: Increases the duration of your Icebound Fortitude by 3 seconds. Rating: Good

When Stop speaks, I listen:

2 piece: It’s still not fantastic… at all. Plague Strike is one of our lowest-hitting abilities, and improving its crit chance is not as useful as if they’d increased its crit damage. Basically, the 2-piece bonus is not worth going for.

4 piece: About the tanking gear 4-piece bonus: If you have to have a set bonus, this would be the one to go for. However, I don’t know if I’d pass up other gear just to get it, depending on your playstyle. Icebound Fortitude is basically Barkskin, and with some specs being squishier than others, some use it constantly while some use it like a moderately less effective Shield Wall. If you use IBF every time it’s up, go for this bonus. Otherwise, consider it a nice perk for getting this already-nicely-statted tank gear.

Melee DPS

Warriors

2 piece: Increases the damage of your Slam by 10%. Rating: Good.

4 piece: Your Bleed periodic effects have a chance to make your next ability cost 5 less rage. Rating: Moderate

Not that hot. Most DPS Warriors don’t have as much rage issues from what I’m told. But the Slam bonus is very nice.

Rogues

2 piece: Increases the damage dealt by your Rupture by 10%. Rating: Good

4 piece: Reduces the Energy cost of your Combo moves by 5%. Rating: Ugh

“The two-piece bonus seems pretty useful but I’m unconvinced about the four-piece.” Seri, Snarkcraft

“Just that the two piece is a huge bonus for rogues while the four piece is lackluster considering the amount of energy used to perform the combo moves.” – Cassio

Druids

2 piece: Your Rip lasts for an additional 4 seconds, and your Lacerate deals an additional 5% damage. Rating: Good

4 piece: Increases the duration of Barkskin by 3 seconds. Tiger’s Fury cooldown reduced by 3 seconds. Rating: Not great for DPS kitties

2 piece notes: “This is an important set bonus for a feral cat’s long term sanity.  Kitty DPS is stressful – there are four separate buffs/debuffs that need to be monitored.  By increasing the duration of Rip, a Druid is allowed more wiggle room to keep the other three (Rake, Mangle, Savage Roar) all active, which leads to consistently higher DPS.  “

4 piece notes: “It reduces the Tiger’s Fury cooldown by 3s. While TF is used every 30s, the top theorycrafters say that this new bonus is almost meaningless, clocking in at an extra 0.7% dps. There are much better gear choices that provide a bigger DPS boost than that.” (Karthis’ notes in the comments)

Shamans

2 piece: Your Lightning Shield damage is increased by 10%. Rating: Not so good.

4 piece: Your Flurry effect provides an additional 5% melee haste. Rating: Good

Not the greatest. Most Shamans don’t appear to pick up the Static Shock talent. Water shield is primarily used since they go through mana quickly. The 4 piece is decent as it results in overall faster hits.

On the other hand:

It is actually fairly good, static shock is a must take ability for an enh shammy. When I look at my WWS, lightning shield represents about 6% of my total damage output. Since I am at about 4k DPS right now that means my lightning shield is doing about 240 DPS.

Paladins

2 piece: Increases the damage dealt by your Divine Storm by 10%. Rating: Good

4 piece: Reduces the cooldown of your Judgment of Light, Judgment of Wisdom and Judgment of Justice by 1 second. Rating: Good

An overall net increase in DPS. Your Ret Paladins will love it. From what I’ve been told, Ret Paladins have this in their rotation anyway.

Death Knight

2 piece: Increases the critical strike chance of your Obliterate and Scourge Strike abilities by 5%. Rating: Good.

4 piece: Your Obliterate and Scourge Strike generate an additional 10 Runic Power when used. Rating: Moderate

DPS 2 piece: The only people who won’t benefit from this are dual-wielders. Every two-handed build in common usage uses either Obliterate or Scourge Strike, so for much the same reason as how Heigan’s sigil is great for pretty much every two-hander-using DK, this set piece bonus is fantastic for them. I’m still trying to get a set piece just for this bonus, in fact!

DPS 4 piece: I have no idea what they were thinking with this. I think they would’ve done better to try to rip off another class’s bonus, like, say, warriors? No DK should be having problems generating runic power, two-handed or dual-wield, period. Plus, again, this is useless for dual-wielders – both of the DPS plate set bonuses are geared exclusively towards two-handed weapon users. All that aside – I would never gear for this set bonus specifically.

– Stoppable force.

Ranged DPS

Priests

2 piece: The mana cost of your Mind Blast is reduced by 10%. Rating: Good

4 piece: Your Shadow Word: Death has an additional 10% chance to critically strike. Rating: Not so good

From my Shadow Priests:

The 2 piece is nice but is purely for mana efficiency on Mind Blast and doesn’t really matter much if you have stacked Spirit and Crit like most Shadow Priests do. The 4 piece isn’t worth it because with itemization there are many pieces that add more DPS than the 10% critical chance to Shadow Word: Death.

Druid

2 piece: Your Insect Swarm deals an additional 10% damage. Rating: Good

4 piece: Your Wrath and Starfire spells gain an additional 5% critical strike chance. Rating: Good

Boomkin ones are awesome all the way around. Insect swarm should always be up and 5% extra crit on our two major nukes is flat out gibbering insane. – Llanion, Moooonfire

Shaman

2 piece: Your Lightning Bolt costs 5% less mana. Rating: Moderate

4 piece: The bonus critical strike damage of your Lava Burst is increased by 10%. Rating: Good

I play an Elemental Shaman in my off nights and I absolutely love it. I don’t have a ton of mana problems in the beginning. Fights are short enough that I won’t be taxing my mana pool. The 4 piece set bonus is great for me. Flame Shock guarantees that my next Lava Burst will crit. This means Lava Burst will get an increase of 10% damage no matter what. Normally I’ll do around 8000 damage per Lava Burst. This shoots it up to a little under 9000. Fights like Thaddius or Malygos where your damage gets increased will have Shamans see an extremely noticeable amount (18000 with Sparks)!

Mages

2 piece: You gain 40% more mana when you use a mana gem. In addition, using a mana gem grants you 225 spell power for 15 sec. Rating: Moderate

4 piece: Your offensive spells gain an additional 5% increased critical strike bonus damage. Rating: Good

I consulted one of my Mages on this and he tells me that the 2 piece is nice for the extra mana boost. The 4 piece could potentially equal a 1%-2% overall DPS increase.

Hunters

2 piece: Your pet deals an additional 5% damage. Rating: Good

4 piece: Your ranged attack speed is increased by 20% while Aspect of the Viper is active. Rating: Good

2 piece bonus is nice for any spec, but it’s particularly good for MM or SV looking to close the gap in pet damage. The 4 piece bonus is kind of a nice boost to DPS while in regen mode, but nothing earth shattering, looks like. – Lassirra, The Hunters Mark

Warlocks

2 piece: Your Corruption and Immolate periodic effects have a chance to increase the next critical strike chance of your next Shadow Bolt or Incinerate by 10%. Rating: Good

4 piece: Casting Life Tap grants you an additional 300 spirit for 10 seconds. Rating: Good

“2 piece bonus is really good. 4 piece bonus is- OMG WHY DON’T I ALREADY HAVE THIS?”  – nibuca

Note: Nib immediately dashed off and could not be reached for further comment.

Healers

Priests

2 piece: Your Prayer of Mending will jump an additional time. Rating: Good

4 piece: The cost of your Greater Heal is reduced by 5%. Rating: No, not really

Personally, I’d say go consult your WWS on this. Try to get a feel for how often you use Greater Heal and see if you can justify it. I don’t use Greater Heal as often. When you think about it, 5% off of Greater Heal is about 50 mana or so. I don’t use this spell enough to warrant the free payback. But if you do, then it is something for you to consider. Otherwise, go for 2 sets then defer the rest to the other classes (like Warlocks or Paladins). Obviously if the 7.5’s drop and you have nothing else better in the slots (like heroic gear), go ahead and take a stab at it.

Shaman

2 piece: Your Water Shield is 10% stronger (each tick restores 10% more mana). Rating: Good

4 piece: Increases the healing done by your Chain Heal and Healing Wave by 5%. Rating: Good

Earthshatter set bonuses for Resto Shaman are awesome! Because they buff Water Shield as well as Chain Heal and Healing Wave, they manage to suit most of the various healing styles that Resto Shaman can perform (Anna, Too Many Annas)

Druid

2 piece: The cost of your Rejuvenation Lifebloom is reduced by 5%. Rating: Good

4 piece: Your Nourish heals an additional 5% for each of your heal over time effects present on the target. Rating: Good

2 piece is solid. Rejuvenation Lifebloom gets used frequently. With the 4 piece, Nourish becomes even stronger for Resto Druids. At least, this is what Syd tells me. Can’t go wrong here!

Paladin

2 piece: Your Holy Shock gains an additional 10% chance to critically strike. Rating: Good

4 piece: The cost of your Holy Light is reduced by 5%. Rating: Good

"Neither bonus is play-changing in the way that old set bonuses have been (4pcT5, anyone?) but both 2pc and 4pc bonuses are nice boosts to our mana-intensive spells." – Siha, Banana Shoulders

Hopefully this summary will help you in your loot decisions! For the DKP players, maybe it’ll even save you some points for other items instead!

Image courtesy of riyono

A Druid’s Response to the Upcoming Change in Mana Regeneration

A Druid’s Response to the Upcoming Change in Mana Regeneration

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It has been a hard week to be a druid, dear friends. Not only did restoration druids miss out on any significant buffs in the most recently announced draft of class changes, but we’ve also been faced with an upcoming nerf to mana regeneration that stands to affect us more than any other class. As such, druid bloggers have taken notice; both Phaelia and Keeva have their own takes on the 3.1 changes. In this article I am going to take a look at the specifics of the changes to mana regeneration and speculate on possible ways to play around them. In case you missed the big blue letters, I’ll quote the substance of the change to mana regeneration below:

Regeneration while not casting (outside of the “five second rule”) will be decreased. We think that (1) the ability to cast heal over time spells and then sit back and (2) benefitting from a clearcasting proc that also gets you out of the five second rule both provide too much mana regeneration, even over short time periods.
To make this change, we are reducing mana regeneration granted by Spirit across the board. However we are also boosting the effects of talents such as Meditation that increase regeneration while casting. The net result should be that your regeneration while casting will stay about the same, but your not-casting regeneration will be reduced. This change will have little impact on dps casters, since they are basically always casting.
The specific talents and abilities being boosted are: Arcane Meditation, Improved Spirit Tap, Intensity, Mage Armor, Meditation, Pyromaniac and Spirit Tap. Yes this makes these “mandatory” talents even more mandatory, if such a thing is possible.

Since paladins rely less on Spirit as a mana-regeneration stat, we have to address them in other ways. We don’t want to change Illumination or Replenishment. However, we are going to increase the healing penalty on Divine Plea from 20% to 50%. Divine Plea was originally intended to help Protection and Retribution paladins stay full on mana. It should be a decision for Holy paladins, not something that is automatically used every cooldown.
In addition, we are also changing the way Spiritual Attunement works. In situations with a large amount of outgoing raid damage, as well as in PvP, this passive ability was responsible for more mana regeneration than we would like. We want to keep the necessary benefit it grants to tanking Protection paladins, while making it less powerful for Holy paladins in PvP or raid encounters with a lot of group damage.

We are also taking a close look at clearcasting procs themselves. One likely outcome is to change them to an Innervate-like surge of mana so that the net benefit is the same, but healers won’t shift to out-of-casting regeneration so often.

We balance around the assumption that even 10-player groups have someone offering Replenishment. To make this even easier on players we are likely to offer this ability to additional classes, as well as make sure that existing sources of Replenishment are more equitable.

These changes are ultimately being done to bring the different healing classes more in line with each other as well as to give the encounter team more leeway when designing encounters, who can balance with these new mana regeneration numbers in mind. In a world with infinite healer mana, the only way to challenge healers is with increasingly insane amount of raid damage, so that global cooldowns become the limiting factor since mana fails to be. An example is the Eredar Twins in late Sunwell. We weren’t necessarily happy with that model, and this change hopefully allows us to move towards giving healing a more deliberate and thoughtful pace rather than frenetic spam.

So, What Does All This Mean?

For those of you who may be puzzled by Blizzard’s language, I will sum up by saying that our mana regeration, which is admittedly too high at the moment, is going to be reduced by a number of combinatory factors, including both an across-the-board nerf to Spirit and tweaks to individual spells and abilities. This is the worst kind of nerf to receive, because it will be pretty difficult to tell how each of these points affects the others without extensive testing. Here’s hoping that enough people get on the PTR to avoid major bug fixes or crippled classes. I know that I’m planning to do some PTR raiding myself to test this out. Some posters on the WoW forums and on PlusHeal are predicting that nothing will change for them, or that they won’t “feel” the changes–that’s wishful thinking, or keeping one’s head in the sand. We’re going to notice. In terms of magnitude, my guess is that this one outpaces even the great nerf to Lifebloom in patch 3.0. And we’re going to notice out of combat. Questing as a healer is about to become very, very expensive as we’ll have to sit to drink much more than formerly. As many forum posters suggested, they’re going to need to put in some bigger, faster waters.

Why So Severe?

Bornakk’s post offers some justification for the changes. He says, “When mana regeneration is trivial then certain parts of the game break down – classes that offer Replenishment are devalued, stats that offer mana regeneration are devalued, and spells that are efficient are neglected in preference to spells with high throughput.” I am sympathetic to this point. I see druids stacking Spirit over Mp5, because it’s been widely believed throughout Wrath that Mp5 is too expensive a stat in terms of item budget. I’ll also note that there’s comparatively little of it available, at least compared to the ubiquitous Spirit. More and more healers are stacking Intellect as well. There’s every reason to believe that this practice will continue, and in fact become more common. I’ve also seen many raiders glyphing Healing Touch, preferring a very fast, but not very efficient spell over the slower Nourish, which when supported by 4pc T7 becomes our most efficient tank heal. And guess what? They’ve been beating me on the meters. Evaluating spells by HPM has become a practice for theorycrafters and not players. So yes, I agree that some changes are in order. I just don’t like the direction they’ve taken.

Why Should Druids Worry?

More so even than priests, the healing druid’s fate is tied to that of Spirit. I remember when the initial changes to Spirit were put in place for 2.3. Before that time, one resto druid in each raiding guild would stack Spirit in order to sit in the tank group and give a passive buff to tanks. Like all other buff-givers in BC (ahem, shadow priests), a Spirit-stacking druid traded some of her individual power for the buff. A Spirit-stacker had to sacrifice healing throughput (+heal) and efficiency (Mp5) as a tradeoff for a high amount of Spirit. It’s hard to tell without testing it out myself on the PTR, which I certainly intend to do, but my guess is that we’re about to return to pre-2.3 regen values for Spirit–or else come very close to that number. Druids have a number of abilities and talents that depend on Spirit, most notably Innervate, Living Spirit, and Improved Tree of Life. I would also argue that Intensity is greatly dependent on Spirit. As a consequence, druid gear weights Spirit very heavily. Up until now, it has been projected that at high levels of gear, a player should strive to keep their Spirit to Intellect ratio at 1.1 to 1. This has been very easy for resto druids–in fact, we’ve risked having too much Spirit–just through picking up our tier pieces and emblem items. It is not going to be easy for us to de-emphasize Spirit. We’re going to get stuck with a certain amount of it.

If Spirit is Junk, What Can We Do?

At a certain point, we are limited by the gear available to us. Because one of our cherished techniques–rolling HoTs and then pausing to regen–is about to go the way of the dodo, we’re not going to have a lot that we can actively do during a fight to counter the nerf. The overall advice is going to be “heal less.” There’s no two ways around it–we’re not going to be able to maintain current levels of throughput or coverage in the raid. I can already run myself out of mana, and I’m usually doing so to try to be competitive on the meters. I have a good sense of how long inside the FSR spam casting can last, and even with my current mana regen, it’s only a very few minutes, possibly 6-8, but not 10. In terms of technique, we are going to be swapping glyphed Healing Touch for Nourish. We are also going to be keeping to tighter healing assignments. As S13 put it last night, “Tank healers will stay on tanks and just that.” Sniping heals will no longer be common practice, as we won’t be able to afford it. As for Innervate, which isn’t on the list for a buff and stands to be very greatly affected by the change, I’m expecting that it will still do at least a little something for us–half a mana bar maybe, as it might if you were now in greens with little to no spirit. We’ll probably be glyphing it and using it on ourselves only.

Gear and Gems

In terms of gearing and gemming, we can actually mitigate how much this nerf will hurt us. Despite the laments of many healers, Replenishment seems to be here to stay. The most persuasive argument I’ve seen for preferring this new regen mechanic to the traditional Spirit-based regen is its predictability. It’s admittedly much tidier than giving all dps casters their own native regen mechanics like healers have. To take advantage of Replenishment, we need Intellect and Intellect alone. I don’t expect healers to suddenly be able to roll on gear earmarked for DPS casters, so we will have to be creative to get around our gearing. I expect that, like Innervate, the Spirit World Glass and the Majestic Dragon Figurine will continue to have some use for regen, but the best trinkets in the new order will become, respectively, Je’Tze’s Bell and the Darkmoon Card: Greatness, Intellect version. Malygos’s heretofore lackluster Living Ice Crystals will also be worth equipping. We’ll also be putting yellow intellect gems in our gear where possible. The smartest thing to do would be to buy them now, when they might be selling low, and replace our Spirit and Spellpower gems later. As for a meta gem, we have two choices: Insightful Earthsiege Diamond and Ember Skyflare Diamond. I think the former will be more useful, but it really depends on the levels of Intellect a player is able to attain. As far as enchants go, in some cases we’re stuck with Spirit. There’s not an Intellect or Spellpower option for everything. However, I fully expect to use the Spellpower weapon enchant and Tuskarr’s Vitality for extra speed on my boots. If Spirit is giving a poor return, let’s make the tree go faster. That’s always good for hard content anyway.

Are There Good Effects to the Nerf?

I can think of one consequence of the nerf that will, in the end, favor healers. I know it seems that healing–and healing difficulty–is being made the balance point of encounters in 3.1. However, I am going to forward the radical idea that the difficulty that raiding healers currently experience will not change at all. Over time, guilds tend to take less and less healers to the same encounters. Our sphere of responsibility gets larger as the guild gets “better.” Encounters go faster with more dps, and guilds typically sit out more dps than healers on progression content. These dps want in for the farm content, and the overall load on the healers in the raid becomes greater. In fact, even in an era of enrage timers, one of the best ways to guarantee an easier time at a new encounter is to take one healer more than the most hardcore strategies suggest. I can feel the difference between 5 healer Naxx and 7 healer Naxx, both of which Conquest has done based on the players who happened to show up. I’m predicting that Ulduar is going to feel like the 5-healer Naxx–except that there will be 7-8 healers sharing this load. This change will allow a few new healers to get raid spots. Of course, the shaman (predictably) comes out looking the rosiest after the nerfs–and yes, I’m a little jealous. I’m sure that resto shamans will have many opportunities to join top-notch raiding outfits. Many guilds of all types will be looking to add a new healer to their rosters, and guilds like ours, who are actually carrying extra healers, will be able to dip into their bench. Each one of us can only do so much. We will continue, as now, to do our utmost, and no more can be asked at that point. I expect the standard number of healers for Ulduar encounters to vary between 7 and 9, as it did for most guilds in Black Temple. If Dual Specs come in, there may even be some 10 healer encounters in the future.

A Word of Encouragement

Dear friends, we have all faced the nerf bat before this moment. This current danger to our mana regeneration is in truth no greater evil than the changes to Lifebloom, which we all suffered and survived, though our tanks have taken more spike damage ever since. Some day, we will look back and remember this mana regeneration nerf, as even now we look back on the nerf to Lifebloom. Let us continue on, then, healing faithfully in raids as we always have before.