The Healer Problem, Part 1: Scaling

In my last post, I promised you I’d be taking a close look at the many factors that affect healer gameplay as an expansion progresses. And I got started on tackling the most theoretically challenging aspect – the throughput value of increased Spirit – right away. It seemed like a non sequitur, probably, but it was the cornerstone of an entire analysis on the influence of gear on healer throughput. In this post, I’ll be expanding on that analysis, to explore the magnitude of effect that stat growth has on healer throughput, and also to look forward to Legion with what little we know.

This will be a graph-heavy post, so if you are math-averse, I’m really sorry, but I’m not sure there’s any cleaner way to express the information.

I’ll just jump straight into the Big Picture, and drill down from there, highlighting a few interesting points along the way.

The Big Picture: Warlords Scaling

I turned to my heavily modded version of HealerCalcs to estimate the percent throughput increase that healers have experienced over the course of the expansion. I won’t bore you with the details of how I generated the data, other than to note that I used my first-week-of-raiding iLvl of 643 as the starting point, and the max iLvl recorded for healers on Warcraft Logs at the moment I’m making this post, 745, as the end point.

Here is the graph I generated, plotting throughput increase as a function of iLvl:

Throughput increase as a function of iLvl over the Warlords expansion

Figure 1: Throughput increase as a function of iLvl over the Warlords expansion

The green line at the top represents the combined effects of all of our gear on our potential maximum throughput. You can see that it’s just over 400%, which means that our HPS now at the end of HFC is potentially 5 times as strong as our HPS was at the start of Highmaul. 

We turn now to our expert healing correspondent, Gwen Stefani, for her reaction:

this shit is bananas B-A-N-A-N-A-S

Figure 2: Didn’t you know that Hollaback Girl was all about the perils of power creep and its effects on the healing role?

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Posted in Legion, Theorycrafting, Warlords of Draenor | 12 Comments

Prelude to The Healer Problem: Evaluating Spirit

This is the first post in what is hopefully going to be a series examining what I call the “Healer Problem” – the way in which the healing role changes as players gain additional power. In my opinion, healing gameplay becomes diluted as we progress through an expansion, or even within a tier, resulting in a less engaging experience for our role.

saluting dayani

How I feel on raid nights at the start of an expansion: “Reporting for duty!”

The Healer Problem is multi-pronged and complicated. In brief, I’d suggest it is related to the following things, all of which are intertwined:

  • Gear-related power increases for the healer
  • Gear-related power increases for the raid
  • Encounter design that disproportionately rewards faster kills and damage avoidance
  • The CD and AoE ability arms race

Now seems an opportune time to talk about it. Legion development and testing is underway but it’s still early, and we’ve seen a lot of signs of things being very much mutable and open to feedback and influence. We’ve also seen some hints of how several of these systems will be operating in Legion, so it’s a good time to talk about how the new systems will affect the Healer Problem, for better or for worse.

sad dayani

But by the end of the expansion, raid night is more like, “Ugh, again? Can I just go Ele?”

I want to start with analysing the first of the above points, gear-related power increases for healers. As a healer gears up, he or she gains power in the following ways:

  • Increased primary stats (Intellect and Spellpower);
  • Increased secondary stats (Critical Strike, Mastery, Haste, Versatility, and Multistrike); and
  • Increased availability of mana (accumulation of Spirit, trinket effects, tier bonuses, etc.).

All of these power increases affect our throughput, and the effects are multiplicative. This leads to rapidly increasing healer power as we gain more gear. And this is a part of the Healer Problem, since, after all, our healing effectiveness is ultimately constrained by player health pools, which scale only with one primary stat, Stamina. But more on this in a later post.

The primary and secondary stats simply add raw healing power to all of our spells in roughly the same way, and are fairly easy to evaluate and understand. Mana, however, is a different story. Unlike the primary and secondary stats, gaining mana does not add raw healing power to our spells. It simply allows us to change our casting patterns. It’s been historically very difficult to quantify just how much of a difference some additional mana can make to our healing performance.

Mana is a particularly interesting starting point because the mana system will be changing in Legion. Currently on the Legion Alpha, Spirit does not affect a player’s mana regeneration rate. There is no Spirit on gear, and players simply regen a flat amount of mana every 5 seconds. This has potential to shake up the Healer Problem – but by how much?

It really depends on the value of Spirit, especially compared to the value of the primary and secondary stats that aren’t going anywhere. So before I can look at just how big a difference the Legion mana system is going to make to the Healer Problem, I really need to get some idea of how our Warlords Spirit growth has increased our healing throughput. And this means I had to take apart everything I already know about Spirit and put it back together again.

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Posted in Theorycrafting, Warlords of Draenor | Tagged | 8 Comments

Healing Notes: Mythic Hellfire Assault

Recently I’ve taken over more responsibility in my raid team, and have been quasi-coordinating our healing team, picking things like healing comp and raid/tank CD uses. I thought it might be interesting to kind of document my experiences here, for those of you who may be progressing at a similar rate to us and are looking for tips and tricks on how to approach Mythic encounters from a healing team perspective. As well, this will hopefully help me analyse and improve upon my own leadership skills – something I’m pretty terrible at.

This is my first attempt at a simple, but hopefully informative, analysis of Mythic Hellfire Assault’s healing requirements. I’ll be providing simple comp advice, detail any healing strategies, and when the encounter warrants it, I’ll address more advanced issues too. I’ll be assuming you already know the encounter itself, but I’ll provide a link to my detailed guides on Wowhead just in case. :)

So here goes:

Mythic Hellfire Assault Setup & Composition

Hellfire Assault Wowhead Guide
Recommended number of healers: 4
Recommended composition: 2 Discipline Priests, 1 Holy Paladin, 1 of {Restoration Druid > Mistweaver Monk > Restoration Shaman > Holy Priest}

Two Discipline Priests are desirable because this fight features extremely heavy tank damage. While Holy Paladins are excellent tank healers (particularly with 2-piece tier 18 and the Archimonde trinket), they typically deliver tank healing passively via Beacon, and tanks will require more dedicated healing than that. As I’ll cover later, this is one of the more tank-damage-intensive fights we’ve encountered thus far.

I prefer healers with tank cooldowns for the final spot. Of the remaining healers, I think Restoration Druids are a great choice since they can frequently Ironbark the tank and can put up some strong tank healing with few GCDs, focusing the rest of their healing on the spiky raid damage. Mistweavers also have a fairly frequent tank CD, but it is weaker against this heavy type of tank damage (the fixed absorb will break very quickly, offering little to no benefit from the increased HoT effect).

Send a Discipline Priest to each side, and be sure they are specced into Clarity of Will. Put your tank with weaker CDs with the Disicpline Priest/Holy Paladin healing team.

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Posted in Guides, Hellfire Citadel, Raids, Warlords of Draenor | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Etheralus, the 20-Week Reward: A Brief Look at the Legendary Ring Mechanics

I just got my Etheralus, the Eternal Reward today, and I thought I’d post up a short & sweet summary of the way the ring works in general and for Shamans specifically. I’m sure I’ll find more data in the days & weeks to come for other classes, but for right now this is the best I can do – my next closest character to the legendary ring will finish her Elemental Runes this week :)

I'm the Champion of the Naaru, I possess and bestow the Gift of the Naaru, and I've finally collected the Light of the Naaru to get the Blessing of the Naaru.

I’m the Champion of the Naaru, I possess and bestow the Gift of the Naaru, and I’ve finally collected the Light of the Naaru to get the Blessing of the Naaru. I’ve got a whole lotta Naaru going on, is what I’m sayin’.

So the legendary ring has two parts; an activated buff and a burst of absorption healing when that buff expires. I’ll detail the workings of each of these here briefly. (Stop laughing. I mean it! Brief!….-ish?) First, though, the bare facts:

  • Etheralus, the Eternal Reward, is item level 735 when you first obtain it.
  • Each week, you can kill Archimonde to receive Crystallized Fel, which will increase the item level of your ring by 3.
  • The ring can be increased to a maximum item level of 795, which requires 20 Archimonde kills.
  • Crystallized Fel can only be looted after you possess Etheralus.
  • When you upgrade the ring’s item level, the % boost of its healing/absorption buff and the % that gets converted to absorption after the buff expires also increase, from the base 25% up to the maximum 43.7%!

In short, these rings are extremely powerful based on item level alone. But there’s more!

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Posted in Shaman, Theorycrafting, Warlords of Draenor | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

6.2 Mini-Analysis: RIPtide (Resto Shaman t18 Set Bonuses & Archimonde Trinket)

Thought I’d get back into the swing of things here, while I have a bit of a break from live raiding this week, to post a quick vignette about the way the t18 set bonuses and the class-specific Archimonde trinket work. This is part of an experiment to try to update the blog more frequently with less overwrought posts – let me know what you think :)

First of all, for those of you not in the loop right now:

  • T18 2pc: Increases Riptide’s Critical Strike chance by 25% (was 50% in previous PTR versions, but was just reduced today)
  • T18 4pc: When you Chain Heal, you have a 65% chance to also apply Riptide to the primary target (was 100% chance in previous PTR versions, but was just reduced today)
  • Core of the Primal Elements: Casting Chain Heal, Healing Surge or Healing Wave on a target with your Riptide on it has a 55% chance to spread that Riptide to another nearby ally

My initial reaction to these set bonus and trinket effects was one of skepticism. I didn’t think they sounded that strong, particularly the trinket effect. I mean yes, getting additional Riptide effects on the raid without having to cast it means stronger High Tide Chain Heals and a wider flexibility of Chain Heal target options. But if you’ll recall my Mini-Analysis on Chain Heal/High Tide, you’ll see that additional Riptides don’t make that big of a difference to your throughput. I thought the flexibility benefits would be very difficult to quantify, and that the T18 4pc was counterproductive since, heh, who was going to be casting Chain Heal on a target without Riptide on them anyway?

But I think the developers may have asked themselves that exact same question, because well before we could test these set bonuses on the PTR, they made an additional change: Resto Shamans no longer have a Riptide/Chain Heal interaction! This was a long-standing feature of the Resto Shaman class, one that, yes, added complexity and depth to our playstyle, but also kept us chained to a set of 3 players that would function as our Chain Heal turrets. I found the interaction questionable and problematic enough that I actually advocated for the RT bonus removal in that very same post. You’ll note in that post that, when the RT bonus is removed, we get more mileage out of High Tide by casting CH on non-Riptided targets.

(So this doesn’t constitute a nerf to the class, Chain Heal also received a passive 25% boost in its healing. Which is actually a miniscule buff, given that very occasionally you might have been casting Chain Heal on a target whose Riptide falls off before your cast ends. But I digress.)

In light of all these changes and a lot of confusion that seems to have arisen from these set bonuses, I thought I’d explore a little how each bonus works alone, and how they interact if you happen to equip both. So, here we go.

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Posted in Shaman, Theorycrafting, WoD Beta | Tagged , | 23 Comments

6.2 Patch Notes & Upcoming Content

Just like the last time there were major patch note announcements, Hamlet and I got together and recorded a podcast covering our thoughts on Patch 6.2 Notes. Then we did it again a little later that night, because data mining came out with some interesting healer tier set bonuses and trinkets to discuss. You can find both parts of the epic Patch Note podcast here.

Since Patch 6.2 is bringing a new raid, I’ll be working on guides for all Hellfire Citadel bosses; these guides will again appear on Wowhead, like my BRF and HM set. But there’s also Mythic Dungeons, which I’ll have to run and add to my Dungeon Guides (also on Wowhead), and I’ll be covering Timewalker dungeons as well to help out those of you who haven’t got the wave structure of Black Morass or the patrols of the invisible mobs in Arcatraz memorised ;)

In all of that, I’d like to take a little time to also work on stuff here, but as you all have noticed, Healiocentric has been a little low in content lately. I’m hoping that Patch 6.2 healer balance changes will re-invigorate my desire to write again. Thanks to all of you for your support on my other projects, though! <3

Posted in Blog News, Dungeons, Guides, Raids, Warlords of Draenor | Leave a comment

Blackrock Foundry Guides

I just wanted to drop a quick note here that my Blackrock Foundry encounter guides are now available on Wowhead. They have an entire Blackrock Foundry hub, where you can find links to just about everything you’d like to know about BRF.

These guides are based on Beta/PTR testing primarily, but I’ll be updating them with improved images and information after I get into the zone this week, so keep checking in.

Blackhand Picture Good luck in your raid today! Once this project settles down – about a week from now, when hopefully I should have all the Normal/Heroic mode information settled – I should be able to get back to writing about healing things. I have some further projects in mind! <3

Posted in Blog News, Guides, Raids | Tagged | 3 Comments

6.1 Patch Notes Review – now in Stereo!

Okay, well actually, more like in mono, but whatever. The point is, yesterday Hamlet and I live-recorded, rather than live-Tweeted, our thoughts on the healer balance portions of the patch notes. We’re a little disorganised since it was a pretty impromptu thing – maybe 30 minutes after the patch notes were posted? – and we didn’t have a great deal of theorycraft results yet, but we still managed to talk for nearly an hour about the changes, why the specific talents were chosen, what we think they’re likely to do for talent balance, and of course, the benefit of Tweeting while in-game ;)

We still don’t have a title, but click here to listen to our 7th healer discussion podcast – patch note notes! And most of the theorycraft results are now in, so as you listen, you can follow along with the numbers in HealerCalcs.

Also, I’ve been remiss in not posting a little link here each time I do one of these. If this is news to you, and you want to catch up on the previous 6 shows as well, you can use his podcast tag to find them all. :)

Posted in Blog News, Discipline, Druid, Holy, Monk, Paladin, Priests, Shaman, Theorycrafting, Warlords of Draenor | Leave a comment

Patch 6.0.3: Raid Cooldown Overview

Contents
Healer Throughput CDs
Non-Healer Throughput CDs
Damage Reduction CDs
Damage Reduction vs Throughput
MoP vs WoD Comparison
Conclusions
Appendix 1: Available Raid CDs
Appendix 2: Methodology

Now that I’m progressing steadily through Mythic content and actually healing again (most of the time *glares at Tectus*), it’s time to dive back into one of this blog’s staple topics: raid CDs! I’ve been thinking about them a lot ever since I noticed how big of a difference it made when I used my CDs twice during a fight instead of just once. And I don’t mean just my throughput – which I rarely look at! – but moreso my mana efficiency. What makes raid CDs feel so different in Warlords? And what does it mean for how I should be using my cooldowns in raid encounters?

Warlords of Draenor is an exciting new world for healers – a world that we’re probably still getting a little bit used to, one in which our healing decisions actually matter. It’s a stark contrast to the Mists of Pandaria healing style, where I felt like the depth of the healing game eroded as we progressed through raiding content, and while there were many culprits, the Mutually Assured Destruction of raid CDs was one part of it. Our CDs were too powerful and too plenty, and what’s worse, non-healers had CDs that could be just as powerful, meaning healers were riding the bench while their hybrid DPS counterparts were covering our shifts!

Every raid leader/healing team lead in Mists, particularly SoO

Every raid leader in Mists of Pandaria, particularly SoO

Sure, Heroic Thok would not have been possible without non-healers’ CDs being as prevalent as they were. But does that make strong non-healers’ CDs a good thing for the game, or does it make Thok a bad fight? I think the latter, personally; while there was some fun gameplay for your raid leader in organising the CDs to fire off at the right times, so much of that fight was decided by our raid leaders rather than our own healing instincts, and that was just dull.

To address these issues, the developers have redesigned raid CDs, removing some, nerfing others, and restricting certain CDs to heal-specs only. And, having realised that spell behaviour alone was not responsible for the way raid CDs were used in MoP, they’ve also changed encounter mechanics and increased player health pools relative to heal size. All of these changes have been aimed at making our raid CDs less powerful than they were in Mistsso that we feel like our actual healing decisions make more of a difference than our ability to press our CD buttons on command. But how successful were these changes at creating this kind of environment? We’ll have to look at a lot of parameters to find out. If you’re anything like me, that thought (mm, parameters!) makes you feel happy and a little tingly all over ;)

In this article, as in previous posts in this series, I’ll provide calculations of typical raid CD throughput/mitigation, explore a little bit about the philosophy of raid CD usage, and compare raid CD potency to that of previous content patches. I’ve tried to avoid repeating too much of the theory I established in those earlier articles, so if you find yourself needing – or wanting – a refresher on the benefits of effective health CDs versus pure healing CDs, or the quasi-qualitative evaluation of Spirit Link Totem’s health redistribution effect, well, that’s all still there. But for now, let’s get started on dissecting the Warlords raid CD landscape, shall we?

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Posted in Discipline, Druid, Holy, Monk, Paladin, Priests, Raids, Shaman, Theorycrafting, Warlords of Draenor | 23 Comments

Out of Office Reply

I probably should have posted this before I left, but I was pretty busy.

I may not be responsive for the next three weeks because I am overseas for BlizzCon and related post-Blizzcon traveling. I am hoping to still add some content to this site while I am away, but that will depend on how much fun I am having! :)

In the meantime, I just finished up a huge project for Wowhead – strategy guides for the 8 Warlords dungeons – so if you need your Dayani-writes-too-much fix, check those out.

My Twitter will probably be blowing up with pictures from BlizzCon and the Wowhead party and whatnot. If you are coming to BlizzCon I would love to meet you, so please come find me!

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments