Circle of Heartbreak: Proposed Fixes

Circle of Heartbreak: Proposed Fixes

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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.

Twice.

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