Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Rant.

I haven't written much about how I heal in raids. A failing, I know. Let me teach you before I launch into my rant.

Healing for me is a dance. You learn the rhythm of your healing spell cast times and artfully choose which heal to cast on the beat. As a restoration shaman deep into 25-man raiding (6/6 MH, 9/9 BT) and owner of the 4-set T6 bonus, I cast chain heal 90-95% of any given raid.

It isn't a simple matter of hitting one button over and over again. I use Healbot for raid healing and I rotate between three ranks of chain heals. Rank 1 is my primary heal, Rank 4 is reserved for more intense raid-wide AoE damage, and Rank 5 is used only during encounters like Bloodboil, Phase 3 Reliquary of Souls, and Kalecgos (Kalec is as far into Sunwell Plateau as I've seen).

The vast majority of my healing is done with my very efficient Chain Heal rank 1.

Now that you have an understanding of how I heal in raids, let me delve into my rant concerning changes in the upcoming expansion, specifically the removal of downranking.

Yes, I know. Another QQ about how shaman can't heal without downranking. You know, I would actually pay money for an actual restoration shaman raiding the same content as me to tell me that I'm wrong. So please, read on and enlighten me.

The source of concern is this post. Blizzard tells MMO-Champions that they have removed downranking (the practice of using a lower rank spell in place of a higher or max rank spell) from the expansion. Well, more accurately they based the mana cost of lower rank spells off the base amount of mana a player has, effectively making a rank 1 spell cost more mana at level 70 than a max rank spell.

Now, if you don't immediately see the problems here, let me explain a few things about shaman healing mechanics. Shaman heals, even chain heal, cost a lot of mana, have very slow cast times, and heal for big numbers. One of the advantages to downranking is being able to manage overheal (heals that hit for more than is needed), which is the simplest form of conserving mana. High overhealing means that a high percentage of your heals are going to waste, which means the mana you spent casting them is going to waste.

Due to the slow cast time of shaman heals (2.5 second cast time on Chain Heal and Healing Wave, 1.5 second cast time on Lesser Healing Wave), downranking is essential to managing overheal. By casting rank 1 chain heal, for example, I am ensuring that my heals will hit the targets for the lowest possible amount, which accommodates the possible incoming heals from the other seven or eight healers in raid with me. By using nothing but full rank heals, I either resort to having huge overheal percentages (normally I run about 40% overheal in raids with primarily rank 1 chain heal), or I only cast a heal when my target is at low health. Given the slow cast time of my heals, I run the risk of my heals not hitting the target in time if I wait too long. Neither option is desirable.

What about mana regeneration though? Surely my mana pool can support using max rank heals the same way I use downrank heals. All the other healing classes can use max rank heals and manage their mana efficiently.

That is the crux of my rant. Shaman cannot support max rank heals exclusively. Our heals are simply too mana-inefficient and neither our gear or our talents are designed to help.

For example, Priests get Holy Concentration, Meditation, and Serendipity. Druids get Intensity, Omen of Clarity, Gift of the Earthmother, and spirit-enhanced regen. Paladins get Illumination, Divine Illumination, and crit-enhanced regen. All of those abilities are talents that increase mana efficiency of healing spells and regeneration increases directly with gear, particularly for paladins and druids.

In all fairness, shaman have a few abilities that help mana regeneration. We have water shield (a spell) and mana spring totem (a spell). We have a couple talents, too. Tidal Focus can reduce the mana cost of healing spells by up to 5%. Improved Restoration Totems can increases the effect of Healing Stream and Mana Spring totem by 25%. Mana Tide restores 24% of base mana and is on a ten minute cooldown.

We even have a couple new talents in the expansion. Improved Shields increases the amount of mana returned by Water Shield by 15% (80 mp5) and Improved Water Shield gives a 100% chance on a Healing Wave of Lesser Healing Wave crit to consume an orb of water shield (approximately 230 mana with the Improved Shields talent).

There are no additional ranks of totems yet, meaning that my mana spring totem will still return 24-25 mana per tick (approximately 63 mp5) in the expansion. My water shield will return 80 mp5, with the potential of an additional 230 mana on a crit. 143 mp5 between water shield and mana spring. Salanthe's mana pool, raid buffed, sits a little over 12,000 mana. Let's call it 12,000 even for the sake of argument. With that mp5, it would take 420 seconds to fill up her mana bar. With the expansion talents and her level 70 mana pool, and assuming that she is not spending any mana in the interim.

Now, let's look at shaman heals. Lesser Healing Wave (Rank 9) costs 965 mana. Healing Wave (Rank 14) costs 1600 mana. Chain Heal (Rank 5) costs 540 mana. Salanthe's raid buffed mana pool could manage 12 Lesser Healing Waves, 7 Healing Waves, and 22 Chain Heals. It would take 33 seconds to recover mana from a Lesser Healing Wave, 56 seconds to recover mana from a Healing Wave, and 19 seconds to recover mana from a Chain Heal. Those are expensive heals.

Basically, by removing downranking and not giving shaman appropriate mana regeneration talents (gear-based or not), Blizzard has killed the spec. All the other healing classes received improved mana regeneration talents with the expansion. Shaman got a very slight buff to water shield, which is not enough to restore even half the cost of Lesser Healing Wave or Healing Wave if they crit. Not only that, but most of the new talents require spell crit to make them work, which means shaman will be gearing for crit. With the itemization restrictions Blizzard sets, I predict that a shaman will never be able to stack appropriate amounts of crit and mp5 in their gear.

This, folks, is why I'm upset. Restoration shaman are not viable healers in the expansion without downranking.


Rakhman said...

That's highly concerning. Are these issues posted on the beta forums for Blizzard to note? My shaman friends and I also have such concerns, that we need new spells which are basically downranked versions of the old healing spells. Your comment about the other healers having mana regen and mana-back talents is interesting, I hope Blizzard are intending on doing something like that for Shaman as well.

Salanthe said...

Actually, I was posting this here and on my guild forum to get some feedback and fortify my arguments a little before posting on the beta forum. Every time I bring this up with anyone I get the "QQ moar" line, so I wanted to make sure I had a solid argument before throwing it up for the devs.

Thanks for your input though! I'm very glad that I'm not the only one to be concerned about this.