Lots of new healer changes announced for Warlords of Draenor

Healers finally got a nice big Dev Watercooler today and had a great deal of information tp finetooth comb over about the upcoming expansion and how it will affect healers in Warlords of Draenor.

First, we also have posts on the individual classes if you want more specifics where I am adding all the class specific tweets the Blues are making today, so definitely check them out for even more detail…. Resto Druid, Resto Shaman, Holy Pally, Holy & Disc Priest, and Mistweaver Monk

Rethinking Health Bars

Blizzard doesn’t really like how the healing game has changed from thinking about every heal and every individual player’s health pool, to the current “spam them as fast as you can to heal them to 100%” with *absorb* *smartheal* *absorb* that is happening now.  And this is actually the reason why we saw a lot more bursty damage this tier than in previous tiers, because bursty damage was the only way to challenge healers – and really, that’s not a challenge, its all about who has the fastest trigger finger and the most haste after the mass absorbs fall off.

One of our goals for healing in Warlords of Draenor is to tone down the raw throughput of healers relative to the size of player health pools. Currently, as healers and their allies acquire better and better gear, the percentage of a player’s health that any given heal restores increases significantly. As a result, healers are able to refill health bars so fast that we have to make damage more and more “bursty” in order to challenge them. Ideally, we want players to spend some time below full health without having healers feel like the players they’re responsible for are in danger of dying at any moment. We also think that healer gameplay would be more varied, interesting, and skillful if your allies spent more time between 0% and 100%, rather than just getting damaged quickly to low health, forcing the healer to then scramble to get them back to 100% as quickly as possible.

Watcher also tweeted the same sentiment about how it isn’t an ideal situation.

When healers can top off critically injured players in seconds, encounters have to try to kill players before healers can react. Not ideal.

Blizzard wants to see things back to the time where the raid wasn’t at 100% health, but you didn’t have the “OMG he/she is going to DIE!!!!” you sometimes get now.

To that end, we’re buffing heals less than we’re increasing creature damage. Heals will be deliberately less potent compared to health pools than before the item squish. Additionally, as gear improves, the scaling rates of health and healing will now be very similar, so the relative power of any given healing spell shouldn’t climb so much over the course of this expansion. For those concerned about what this means for raiding, don’t worry—we’re taking all of these changes into account when designing Raid content for Warlords of Draenor.

This will be nice and make healing a lot more challenging to healers over the course of an entire expac, rather than generally getting less challenging overall (raid mechanics aside) when healing.

Percentage of Health Spells

Blizzard is making changes to many spells based off percentage of health, although they say the changes are actually in line with the changes to other healing spells.  They haven’t gone into specifics yet, but hopefully we will know more soon.

Added: Gift of the Naaru is one that will be changing.  It is currently “Heals the target for 20% of the caster’s total health over 15 sec.”.  Will now be “Gift of the Naaru heals for 4% of your max HP, every 1sec, for 5sec.”

Many Instant Casts now have a 1.5 second cast time

Many, many instant cast heals have gotten reworked with a significant 1.5 second cast time.  Blizzard felt the mechanic of running and healing at the same time removed some of the complexity and decision making behind healing.   For instant casts, all of the following have been hit with a 1.5 second cast time: Druid’s Wild Growth; Monk’s Uplift; Paladin’s Eternal Flame, Word of Glory and Light of Dawn; Priest’s Cascade, Divine Star, Halo, and Prayer of Mending.  Shaman’s did not have their one instant cast (Riptide) reworked with the cast time.

The loss of insta-cast heals will be pretty significant from a “OMG, save the tank!” moments when all the healers decided to target someone else in those crucial seconds or if the tank missed a cooldown and the other tank forgot to taunt and you need to attempt to keep him up.

Right now, these are the only instant-cast heals being affected by the new 1.5 second cast time, so you can breathe a sigh of relief over anything left.

Yes. The only currently planned changed to cast times are the ones listed in the blog.

That said, Nethaera says (in comment on the watercooler) they are planning raid encounters in WoD to take into account these changes.

We’re also taking a look at Raid design as a larger part of all of these changes. So, rather than having to make encounters that do a lot of damage to counter the large health pools and player healing ability, we can pace the damage in these encounters a bit better and allow healers to make better healing choices as a part of the gameplay.

However that won’t really help save people who stand in bad for a tick too long or don’t use personals.  And a bitter part of me suspects PVP also had a role in this change, since these are now interruptible.

Mana in WoD

They are planning to focus on making healers be but much aware of their mana and their subsequent healing decisions based on it.   However, there are changes to spirit and baseline regen according to Watcher.

Baseline regen will be higher, Spirit will still be good where you can get it.

But they did make one nice change – healers are so used to sucking mana dry at the start of an expansion, but they are making it easier for healers this time around.

All of this discussion of efficiency may cause most healers to start worrying about mana regeneration and their mana pool. To allay those concerns, we’ve increased base mana regen a great deal at early gear levels, while having it scale up less at later gear levels. This will make all of these changes play well even in early content such as Heroic Dungeons and the first tier of Raid content, and also play well in the final Raid tier without mana and efficiency becoming irrelevant due to extremely high regeneration values.

For some healers, it has almost become a game to see how low they can get their spirit (and then cry for Mana Tides).

Speaking of Mana Tide, Blizzard has not said anything about MTT, so it is unclear if it will be reworked yet again.  I do miss the Cataclysm days when it became an art to drop Mana Tide when your Tsunami Darkmoon Card Trinket proc’d, I would love to see there be some wiggle room again by allowing spirit proc trinkets work with Mana Tide, even if other tricks don’t work.

Baseline spirit is going to be higher, which is important since healers won’t be getting as many gear pieces with spirit, which is a definite turnaround from the usual “every piece has spirit unless you specifically choose a non-spirit one”.  Celestalon stresses that gear will not matter less to healers because of the change, although many guilds tend to gear DPS first to meet early DPS checks in early expansions.

Low Cost Spammable Heals Gone

Blizzard has given the axe to many heals they saw as being both “low-throughput, low-mana-cost heals” – basically the healing spells healers do when everyone is topped off, there is no imminent incoming damage, and you want to maybe spam heal the tanks without wasting mana if it is an overheal.

While it seems they haven’t included all the heals, they have listed several kinds as being removed including Nourish, Holy Light, Heal, and Healing Wave.  They are reusing some of these names with the less mana efficient big brother of the heals, such as Greater Healing Wave being renamed Healing Wave (yes, I can see this causing all kinds of confusion when it goes live).

I can see why Blizzard did this, as they want to make healers think about every heal they make, and lose some of the “afk spam” type heals we all do at some time or another.  The comparison was made that these low cost heals end up as being like an auto-attack for healers, which is probably a fair comparison.

However, how does this affect the “always be casting” mentality and the goal to have 100% uptime – even if healers feel this isn’t ideal, many raid leaders who don’t know much about healing will cite “But your uptime was only 82% according to logs!  FIX IT!!”  Perhaps that 18% was everyone topped off and it was a non-absorb class.  And by the same accord, healers don’t generally like fights where they sit around twiddling their thumbs with nothing to heal either.

Low throughput heals served a role of feeling like the auto attack for healers. Do healers frequently do nothing during combat?
Your efficient single-target heal (Healing Wave, Holy Light, etc.) should still be a mainstay. Unrelated: Big fan of Healer:ALitD (WatcherDev)

Having a heal you can always be casting without worrying about the mana cost seems important to prevent healers just watching.
Agreed, I see the value there. For some, a DPS filler can work fine (free Lightning Bolt for shaman, Atonement for Disc, etc.). (WatcherDev)

Which heals for which jobs

Along with the changes to the low-mana low-efficiency heals, they are also prioritizing which heals they feel healers should be using depending on the situation:

Druid Higher Efficiency: Healing Touch, Rejuvenation, Efflorescence
Druid Higher Throughput: Regrowth, Wild Growth

Monk Higher Efficiency: Soothing Mist, Renewing Mist
Monk Higher Throughput: Surging Mist, Spinning Crane Kick

Paladin Higher Efficiency: Holy Light, Holy Shock, Word of Glory, Light of Dawn
Paladin Higher Throughput: Flash of Light, Holy Radiance

Priest Higher Efficiency: Greater Heal, Circle of Healing, Prayer of Mending, Holy Nova (new Discipline-only version), Penance
Priest Higher Throughput: Flash Heal, Prayer of Healing

Shaman Higher Efficiency: Healing Wave, Riptide, Healing Rain
Shaman Higher Throughput: Healing Surge, Chain Heal

Watcher has also said that it will be your efficient single target heals that will be a big part of your healing toolkit.

Your efficient single-target heal (Healing Wave, Holy Light, etc.) should still be a mainstay.

Along with this, they want to stress that healers should be in the business of decision making which heals to use, rather than just using your go-to heal as many do currently.

The goal isn’t to make healing harder, actually. I’d say it’s to replace testing reaction time with testing decision-making.

Passive and Smart Heals

There has been a lot of backlash against passive and smart heals this time.  We had two trinkets this time around that did some form of smart healing (Cleave and Multistrike), heals have become “smarter” and it means a lot less healing is left to be done by true targeted healing.

We also took a look at healing spells that were passive or auto-targeted (so-called “smart” heals).

We want healers to care about who they’re targeting and which heals they’re using, because that makes healer gameplay more interactive and fun. To that end, we’re reducing the healing of many passive and auto-targeted heals, and making smart heals a little less smart. Smart heals will now randomly pick any injured target within range instead of always picking the most injured target. Priority will still be given to players over pets, of course.

On one hand while this will bring some cheers, it will also be jeers with the mechanics.  Remember some of the “dumb heals” we got from trinkets/weapons in previous expansions where we would see a trinket heal go and heal someone missing 2 health points and bypassing the tank who was about to die?  It became a contest of sorts after every boss to see whose trinkets actually did real healing instead of overhealing.

I’d almost rather see it go to the most injured player within a closer distance (ie. heals the most injured player within 20y instead of 40y) but then I could also see that cause a huge issue with Mistweavers rocking those heals because range healers had to be 30-40y out because of some boss mechanic.

So I am not sure what the real solution is, since smart heals have been so dominant, but I can see a lot more overhealing.

Celastalon has also confirmed that all smart heals will be changing.

It’s safe to say that we’re changing all smart heals.

Blizzard also likes the idea that “smart heals” will turn into “not-so-smart” heals, making them random and unpredictable.

That’s the point. It also emphasizes single target heals in supplement.

We are also going to see the 6 player cap on “smart heals” for performance issues.

Probably will have a target cap of 6 for better client/server performance. Will hit 6 random injured players.

Absorbs

Ah, absorbs, the bane of every healer’s existence but Discs and Holy Pallies.  While it wasn’t such a headache for non-absorb healers earlier this expac, this tier has been pretty painful.  Blizzard had previously said they were going to make some changes to absorbs, but while they once again acknowledge the problem, they haven’t really said specifics, other than they will stay true to Disc being an absorb class.

Additionally, we’re toning down the power of absorbs in general. When they get too strong, absorption effects are often used in place of direct healing instead of as a way to supplement it. We will, of course, take these changes into account when tuning specializations that rely heavily on absorbs, such as Discipline Priests.

But with the changes to the health pool, where Blizzard doesn’t necessarily want everyone at 100% nor healers have the ability to just easily top the entire raid off quickly and efficiently, absorbs will have a lot less of an impact to overall healing numbers, and could make them quite poor on some fights (think of a fight like Valithria Dreamwalker, Tsuong or Chimaeron where raw HPS output is needed)

Single versus Multi-Target

Blizzard wants to make healers have to think about what kind of heal they want to use, a single target or multi-target heal.   As such, they are reducing the mana efficiency for many multi-target heals.

Another of our goals for healing in this expansion is to strike a better balance between single-target and multi-target healing spells. We’ve taken a close look at the mana efficiency of our multi-target heals, and in many cases, we’re reducing their efficiency, usually by reducing the amount they heal. Sometimes, but more rarely, raising their mana cost was a better decision. We want players to use multi-target heals, but they should only be better than their single-target equivalents when they heal more than two players without any overhealing. This way, players will face an interesting choice between whether to use a single-target heal or a multi-target heal based on the situation.

There is no word on how this change will affect Shamans, whose toolkit is really geared towards multi-target healing with Chain Heal and Healing Rain, and it really is their niche.

Back to Cataclysm?

The changes seem to be another throwback to Cataclysm, and I am not the only one who sees that and is concerned about it for the health of healing overall (no pun intended!), but Watcher had a bit of reassurance for those with bad memories of the start of the first Cataclysm raiding tier.

Cata’s healing had upsides and downsides. We’re capturing the upsides, and preventing the downsides.

But Cataclysm also brought a fair amount of healing issues with healing being so difficult and painful that a lot of healers switched to tank or DPS instead.  And don’t even mention the abuse we endured back them while trying to heal a some of those dugeons, like heroic Grim Batol – if you got past the first boss, you were #winning.

It may give exceptional healers more room to distinguish themselves. But we plan to avoid the pitfalls of early Cata healing.

Fortunately, Blizzard does acknowledge that mana regen was a serious issue in early Cataclysm days.  I remember farming non-stop for the Darkmoon Card: Tsunami trinket and the Archaeology trinket Tyrande’s Favorite Doll just so I had a tiny bit more mana and mana regen for bosses because going OOM was such a real issue.  And yes, it would be really awesome to have another version of Tyrande’s Favorite Doll for WoD, so those who are really suffering (or want to be super awesome) can farm it.  It was a real shame that the Archaeology items this expac were only blue quality and not epics, and no decent healing item.

Mana regen was a huge issue early Cata, along with overtuning. Created a trap for many healers; too easy to OOM.

Final thoughts

Fortunately, Blizzard says they will keep a close eye on how testing goes with the changes (speaking of which, hopefully we get beta soon, especially since we will have to do the 90-100 grind to get true level 100 testing in for healing).

The developers plan to keep a close eye on how testing goes in the beta with all of these changes. It’s a lot of interconnected systems changes so there’s a lot to take into account. Hopefully, with some great focused (and constructive) feedback, they’ll be able to continue making solid decisions to get the results they (and the community) are looking for. (Nethaera)

And don’t forget this is just a slice of the current changes – I have many things in my mind I think would be pretty awesome if they changed for healers, so my fingers are crossed that some of them could possibly happen.

What do you think?  And don’t forget the indivudual class posts which have more class-specific info from the Dev Watercooler and all the zillions of tweets the blues are doing today: Resto Druid, Resto Shaman, Holy Pally, Holy & Disc Priest, and Mistweaver Monk

Happy healing :)

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32 Responses to Lots of new healer changes announced for Warlords of Draenor

  1. Arita says:

    I hope they don’t go too overboard in the absorb department, since that is the core of a disc priest. But even though I love my disc priest, I totally understand how much hate we are getting from other healers, since in BIS, we aren’t leaving the other healers much left to heal once the damage finally gets to the point of knocking off actual health rather than whittling down the absorb.

    • Healer CDs says:

      They say their goal is to balance it, and they did say they are aware of the issues with Disc being an absorb healing class. But I imagine we will see it reworked and adjusted in beta to try and balance it more.

  2. Shadowran says:

    I hope they don’t completely bork resto shamans with the smart healing change. We had a tough time at the start of this expac, and this will hurt shamans tremendously unless they buff our other heals.

    • Healer CDs says:

      The fact they comment about Shaman being so smart-heal-centric means we will probably see our happy totems being not quite so happy when it comes to healing the people we want them to heal.

  3. Nachtel says:

    Smart heals, I shall remember you well :(

  4. Theace says:

    I wonder if Paladins will lose all their absorbs, or if it will just be Discs they are knocking down.

    • Healer CDs says:

      I think if they are looking at balancing absorbs and tone them down, we will see Paladins affected as well. If not, the Discs would be raising their pitchforks I am sure!

  5. Makani says:

    I wonder how hots will be affected, especially for druids. Now let’s play the “reroll what we think will be the best WoD healer” game.

    • Healer CDs says:

      So far nothing, but it is an area that definitely concerns me, since hots will become so much more powerful. With the instant cast change, druids are looking pretty hot (yeah, pun intended LOL)

  6. Cynlara says:

    Do you think innervate will revert back to where we always had to give it to the “most important” healer? I hated when I couldn’t use it for myself, my raid leader would pick and choose who to give it to, prior to the nerf.

    • Healer CDs says:

      I am wondering this as well. We haven’t heard anything yet on mana CD changes for the Mana Tide Totem, Innervate or Plea. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t coming down the pipe, so I think we will just have to wait and see.

  7. Frostsha says:

    Thanks for the great writeup as always. MMO just gives us the facts, but you go into it a lot deeper and really make me think about the potential implications – sharing it with my guild healers too!

  8. Limber says:

    As a non-healer but raid leader, this really gives me a better understanding of the inner workings of what healers will be facing next expansion, thank you!

    • Healer CDs says:

      Thanks Limber! I know it can be tough for raid leaders who have never healed before. I always think raid leaders who have done some healing will have a better understanding of the overall scope of the raid. But most raid leaders tend to be tanks… and their alts tend to be tanks too. With instant 90s, and who knows how much longer of farm, I definitely recommend RL try out healing heroic SoO for a better overall perspective.

  9. Mr Right says:

    Do you think we will see more instant cast nerfs or do you think this is it? There really aren’t that many left that I can think of.

    • Healer CDs says:

      Well, I can see why it is good for the health of the game, and it will make healers think about their next heal. Or it could just become a race of quickest reaction time plus haste.

  10. Ewww says:

    I hate when Blizzard removes a spell but reuses the name again. So annoying, and I have to rethink how I am using that spell from the automatic don’t-think-about it reaction in my grids to. Ok, I want to use this spell, but remember, its name got changed and is now called Old Crappy Healing Spell. Yeah, makes sense!

    • Healer CDs says:

      Yeah, I do agree with this. But on the other hand, if there is no Healing Wave, why would there be a spell called Greater Healing Wave? I imagine many people will just be redoing keybinds to have the new spell names match the old spell, rather than use your old Healing Wave keybind for the new version of it. But everyone will have their preferences, and maybe one of those spells was on an odd keybind.

  11. Not a PVPer Blizzard says:

    I hate to hate on the PVP guys, but they ruin everything for the raiders.

    • Healer CDs says:

      It is unfortunate that so many things get changed because of how it is being used/abused in PVP. I am sure the PVPers moan and groan on their own boards too about how raiders ruin everything too LOL.

  12. spiritsup says:

    Thanks for going through all the changes. You helped me understand the watercooler much easier, and what it will mean to me.

    • Healer CDs says:

      Glad it helped! Those Dev Watercoolers, especially ones going over so many changes, can be a bit overwhelming to some.

  13. tankay says:

    Do you think they will make more changes to differentiate between the holy and the disc priest healing spells? In other words, do you think they might take away power word shield from holy so we don’t have to fight the weakened soul debuff from the inferior bubble?

    • Healer CDs says:

      The weakened soul thing is annoying, especially when a Disc has something planned out for a big incoming damage burst and you see Weakened Soul popping up at the last second. But spells are always related to other specs of the same class, even if it is an inferior version of the same. I would like to see more differences between the two. That said, most healing priests tend to love one spec and hate the other, so maybe there isn’t really that much overlap that Blizzard will be concerned about. You are probably best to try and work with the holy, but many healers consider sniping heals an artform, and this definitely falls under sniping heals… or just being annoying LOL.

  14. Vanim says:

    Thanks for sharing ^.^

  15. Icyheals says:

    They didn’t really get into how haste will affect healers, I know many people talk about “no haste breakpoints” but surely there will still be breakpoints for healers?

    • Healer CDs says:

      Haste breakpoints are gone because instead of trying to mathematically determine what you need to get that extra tick, there will be a partial haste tick at the end equal to the heal and the amount of time left. And with reforging gone and lower stat values, it would be very difficult to obtain some of the crazy haste breakpoints some healers can do these days anyways. So these partial ticks is Blizzards way of handling it.

  16. Disco says:

    Thanks, I am getting a little nervous about these absorb changes. I am getting a little more anxious for the beta now :(

    • Healer CDs says:

      Enjoy them while you can :) That aside, Blizzard doesn’t want to see one healing class be the bane of all the other healing classes’ existence, which is kind of what is happening with Disc Priests lately. But the change where the raid isn’t supposed to be topped off at all times should leave the other healers with plenty to heal while Discs get to shine a bit too.

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