Cast Times on Instant Spells Highlights Warlords Healing Changes

A new week means a new Dev Watercooler! Today, Blizzard looked at healing gameplay. Cataclysm was the last expansion where there was a true healing “reset”. Mists of Pandaria largely preserved that same model. Now we’re entering Warlords where the healing model is getting changed again. The Watercooler can be summarized in three points:

  • Health and resilience
  • Smart heals getting “dumber”
  • Instant casts getting slower

Raiding realities going into Warlords

The Mythic size raid group is dropping from 25 to 20. Less players overall which means slightly less healers to bring in so I can understand the dumbing down of some of the spells. More difficulties and the ability to scale the number of players you bring in also allows raid groups to control for that. Keep this in mind as we go down the list of changes. Lots of the freakout is taking future expansion plans and applying it to the current game.

What’s happening to the mana regeneration? That’s going to go up. At the start of Cataclysm and Mists, I’ve had to chug pots and burn cooldowns just to keep up with running the heroics. To be fair, this was a time when there wasn’t that much information on how to do the bosses. Much of our time was spent working on staying alive not so much killing the boss fast. Everything leveled off weeks later as we acquired more gear and crafted more stuff.

If I’m interpreting it right, it means our healing style shouldn’t change that much between doing heroic dungeons and heroic raids.

The downside is that now we’re losing out on our low-throughput healing spells (Nourish, Holy Light, Heal, and Healing Wave). I’m not afraid to see them go. Let’s be real, we’ve only ever used these spells twice ever in an expansion: Once at the start of it because we couldn’t afford to cast Greater Heal and at the end of the expansion when we run out of mana on a long and dragged out boss fight.

… Oh, you guys never ran out of mana? Must be nice!

Our smart healing spells are getting dumber. Instead of striking the most wounded player, the spells will now hit any wounded player. Healers can also jump on the blame RNG bandwagon! A reduced raid size does mean higher odds that our spells will hit intended targets at least. No more using Circle of Healing without abandon anymore.

Absorbs are being looked at. They’ve always been incredibly strong dating back to Wrath. Discipline has been so dominant compared to Holy. Not much information was offered as far as what specifically they plan to do with it other than tuning the strength of absorbs. Can’t see that problem going away though. Doesn’t matter if Power Word: Shield absorbs for 50000 or 10000. That’s still an additional layer of health going on top of players.

There’s a nice summary at the bottom of that part on what the devs plan on hitting.

That’s a lot of big changes for healers: reduced throughput, more triage, less powerful “smart” heals, weaker absorbs, fewer spells, and a new focus on efficiency decisions.

Okay, let’s look at instant spells. Not so instant anymore are they? Cascade, Divine Star, Halo, and Prayer of Mending are being given a 1.5 second cast time! To be fair, other classes are seeing reductions in their instant spell arsenals. Wild Growth and Uplift have cast times tacked onto theirs.

Hey remember when Prayer of Mending didn’t have a 10 second cooldown?

Pepperidge Farm remembers.

I can understand Divine Star and Halo getting cast times. But Cascade? It’s not exactly appealing in the current version of talents. Maybe that’s just how the encounters are setup. Cascade actually takes time to travel around from player to play so I’m not sure why that cast time is needed.

Hang on, these are PvP nerfs? Hrm, okay. Not what I wanted to hear. What I’m more concerned about is what those spells mean for Shadow. Divine Star and Halo are one of the few spells we can cast on the move and that’s being slowed down slightly.

Speaking of more questions, what’s going to happen to Atonement or the Monk version of it?

Decision Making

Maybe I’m just hitting a point of mental fatigue. I liked having smarter heals around. I liked having one less thing reduced to chance. When I’m not busy dodging a meteor, dispelling a silence, and deliberately taking damage for my Prayer of Mending to fly off, I was reassured that my smart heal would always hit the most injured player without any thought. Now I have to take extra time and carefully consider a choice between using a single target heal or a multi target heal. Granted, I’ve already been doing that since vanilla. But over the years, the small incremental changes to healing and rendering them smarter helped cut down on burnout rates. Healing the dark shaman top side and taking care of the Iron Tombs and the like was pretty darn engaging.

Healers think and decide way more than any other role in the game. Tanks, granted, have it fairly difficult. They have to consider boss positioning, direction, and their own cooldowns. One wrong choice and it’s an automatic wipe and that’s a ton of pressure. But at least those mistakes can be corrected quickly on the next-go round and aren’t as dynamic (as in, the boss shouldn’t face this direction or this defensive cooldown has to be used at this time).

Healing is a little more dynamic. You’re not always going to see the same situation. A different person might receive a debuff. Instead of a rogue standing in fire, it’s going to be a mage and are they shrewd enough to Ice Block it? Who needs the dispel in the next 5 seconds when that debuff goes out? Now I have to gamble with my spells. I have to hope that my Prayer of Healing will splash onto that really wounded guy and not the one who is at 90% health. Because if that RNG dice goes against me, I better follow up fast with a Penance or else that really wounded guy is going to wind up a dead guy.

Current: A small group that just took more raid damage than others? No problem, I can respond fast with a Circle of Healing and they’ll be safe.

Future: A small group that just took more raid damage than others? I can use Circle of Healing that might hit all of them, but I better be prepared to follow up with a few Flash Heals just in case it doesn’t.

I love choice in games. I like the ability to pick and decide my fate and that of others. I just wish that those dynamic choices be from the encounters more so than from my tools. Now there’s one more thing we have to actively think about all the time instead of simply relying on reaction.

Bring on the beta!