Proofing Grounds: The L100 Mekka PG Challenge [feat. Hamlet]

Sometime last week, DK theorycrafter and soloing trailblazer Mione tweeted that the MoP Proving Grounds were available on the Mekkatorque Warlords of Draenor beta server, and they scaled with gear! While initially this prompted a round of testing to determine how the scaling works and whether it was a good or bad idea – an opinion I’ve still not fully formed for myself – it also led to something a little more generally interesting:

… A friendly “competition” between me and the only other Proven5 Healer I know, and my favourite healycrafter, Hamlet! You may know him from Twitter, or perhaps from maintaining Moonkin and Resto Druid theorycrafting threads on Elitist Jerks, or from his shared blog with Perculia of Wowhead – and if you love healing, you definitely should know him, as he dissects the theory behind healing concepts in great detail and knows more about all the classes than I do 🙂

Table of Contents
Caveat Healor
Druid (Hamlet)
Monk (Hamlet)
Paladin (Hamlet)
Holy Priest (Dayani)
Shaman (Dayani)
Disc Priest (Dayani)
Synthesis

As it turns out, attempting the Proving Grounds provided us both with a lot of insight into each class’s mechanics and toolkit. The exercise became more of a collaboration, as we discussed strategies and helped each other the whole way through – just like the last time I did a Proving Grounds challenge. And since we worked together closely on these challenges, we thought it’d be a great opportunity to present a joint post detailing our shared PG experiences. So please welcome Hamlet as Healiocentric’s first ever co-author!

Caveat Healor

The information that follows is not an indicator of the difficulty, intended or otherwise, of Warlords of Draenor’s Proving Grounds. We were playing Mists of Pandaria content with the new Warlords healing mechanics. These are untuned, outdated, overly punishing encounters for the new WoD healing playstyle. Real Warlords Proving Grounds will be designed with the new model in mind, and will not pose this level of challenge in the Bronze/Silver stages. I promise.

All of those caveats above made the MoP Proving Grounds a great place to get a feel for the new Warlords healing model:

  • Testing WoD mechanics against familiar MoP content really highlights just how much healing is changing in the new expansion;
  • The highly consistent nature of the encounters made a great platform for comparing spells and Talents to one another in a “real” healing environment;
  • This also makes cross-class comparisons easier, since other factors like group composition, available buffs, etc., remain the same;
  • The vastly overtuned content forced us to push our specs to their limits and to be creative with Talent and spell uses.

This latter point is really the most important. It can be difficult to get a good understanding of a class’s strengths and weaknesses if you are limited to testing in contrived situations – like a healing dummy – or in less-lethal environments – like a levelling dungeon. When you are stressed to fill every GCD, when you are strained to your last drop of mana, when you just … can’t … quite … hold on, this is when ‘archaic’ concepts like ‘efficiency’ and ‘triage’ really start to shine. Even before doing any math, it became clear to me very quickly which spells were ‘worth casting’ for their mana cost and which weren’t; which strategies were going to pan out and which wouldn’t.

The beauty of the Mekkatorque Proving Grounds is that this strained, stressed, exigent state occurs a mere 3 minutes into Bronze, not 40 minutes into Endless. This let us throw dozens of attempts, test build after build, and generate a large amount of data and experience, with a (relatively) small time investment. We each managed to achieve Bronze on all five healing classes, as well as Silver medals on our respsective main classes, and what follows are our general impressions of each spec’s gameplay, accompanied by video of our (mostly) successful attempts.

Druid – Hamlet

Druid is 1) my native class on live, 2) a class whose toolkit generally works very nicely in the Proving Grounds setting, and 3) a class whose heals are in a strong numerical position at the moment on Beta. Therefore, it wound up being a pretty manageable introduction to these Proving Grounds challenges. I was able to get Bronze and even Silver somewhat quickly, in contrast to the later classes that would take far more effort.

One of Druid’s biggest advantages is the same as it was in 5.0: Lifebloom. The generally unfair part of these old Proving Grounds with the new healers is the sheer amount of tank damage. In harder waves, it’s more than most classes can keep up with. And when you can keep up, you often have to use expensive heals nonstop, causing mana problems. Druids aren’t immune to this, but Lifebloom is a free source of passive healing on the tank that cuts into this healing need. In the video above, I was not using Glyph of Blooming, but I later discovered that the size of the Lifebloom bloom is very large on the Beta. It will probably have to come down, but at the moment, a Lifebloom that you allow to bloom is a very large heal for one GCD and almost no mana (albeit with a delay).

Further backing up Lifebloom on a single target are Healing Touch and Regrowth, which are nothing unusual, but are on the high side of HPS and efficiency among the parallel set of direct heals for each healer (I’m working on a separate post that uses my large spreadsheet that I get this info from to lay out detailed numbers on points like this). The result of all this is that while tank healing as Druid was still not easy, I was able to keep up on even the harder waves without resorting to advanced tricks or having the tank continually sink like some other classes need to.

Group healing is a similar situation, where the main Druid tool, Wild Growth, is more reasonably able to deal with this damage level than some other classes’ spells. Group healing is a bit less of a concern than tank healing, because the party members have the HP means to take a number of hits, sometimes most of a wave’s worth, without dying. This actually winds up being a really good illustration of 6.0 healing: you don’t have to heal up damage immediately when it happens, because the HP of the targets gives you some room to work in. I’ve called this the “HP as a Resource” model of healing. You have room to let people’s HP go down when they’re not in immediate danger and you want to heal other targets or use your most efficient spells (or the fight’s about to end), and bring their HP back up when it’s needed.

In any event, Wild Growth currently does healing per cast that far exceeds most other similar spells, twice as much as Prayer of Healing or Healing Rain for example. The mana cost is commensurate with the healing, so against lighter damage the difference isn’t too important, but in intense situations it’s helpful. Being able to cast one spell and do a lot of party healing helps when you have a lot to do, and the strength of the spell lets you bring people up quickly when it matters. Furthermore, the mana cost of the spell can be negated with Clearcasting and its strength can be buffed with Soul of the Forest. The presence of these buffs works nicely with Wild Growth’s “big, expensive cast” model, and also produces good gameplay out of using HP as a resource. When the party needs healing, you can judge whether to Wild Growth immediately, which is expensive, or patiently use it as Clearcasting allows while saving mana.

Experienced Druids from 5.0 should transition easily to 6.0, as a lot of the basics feel the same. Rejuvenation is not quite the workhorse it was, with its healing per cast and mana generally similar to the other core heals rather than being too far ahead. Using Healing Touch and Regrowth more will be the biggest change, as expected. Other changes are more incremental, such as being much more judicious about how much you cast Wild Growth and getting used to using it on Clearcasts. Swiftmend is weak right now, being not especially stronger than an HT or Regrowth, but more expensive, which isn’t good for a spell with a cooldown. Overall though, the central spells for Druid are strong and efficient enough that variances like this don’t pose a big problem.

Monk – Hamlet

With Monk, things will start getting harder. I’ll note at the outset that while the biggest change to Mistweaver is the split into Serpent Stance for traditional healing and Crane Stance for melee DPS and Eminence healing, I did this challenge entirely in Serpent. Crane Stance is intended to be weaker healing than Serpent, used when you judge that heal requirements are low so you can shift into a split heal/DPS role for a while. This challenge taxed healing throughput too much for it to be any use to try to spend time on DPS.

The biggest thing that will feel new is using Surging Mist much more often while healing significant damage on a tank. This is not only because all healers are expected to use their single-target direct heals more, but also because Soothing Mist no longer generates Chi. Once you get used to this, I like it better than the 5.0 system. You have more control over Chi, and in particular, the lack of randomness means you don’t have to keep watching your Chi to see when you get one from Soothing Mist; you know exactly when you’re using an ability that gets one so you can track it in your head more easily. Keeping up against the huge amount of tank damage on Oto required almost nonstop Surging and Enveloping in Bronze waves 4 and 5. And in 5, I was still doing less healing than the damage he’s taking, so I probably wouldn’t have made it without a Life Cocoon, Revival, and Leg Sweep in there. Mana is an issue (you can see in the video I barely made it) so I wanted to do as much of the healing as possible to Oto with Soothing Mist, the most efficient heal, whenever I could get by with it.

AoE healing, admittedly, is a problem that I mostly short-circuited on the way to Bronze. In these harsh healing conditions, it would have been very hard to keep up with meaningful party healing without cutting into tank healing too much. I won’t focus on this too much since the RenewingUplift engine is mostly unchanged from Mists, and some of the problem is that it’s never been perfectly suited to Proving Grounds (a topic that’s probably better revisited when we get to try out the actual 6.0 Proving Grounds). As it was, I got through wave 4 without any Hive-Singer casts going off, due to some luck with the NPC interrupts as well as being able to get 3 on my own, and then in wave 5, Revival canceled out a lot of the damage. The result is that I never had to sink many GCDs into Renewing Mist, and I believe I never used Uplift, allowing me to focus almost all of my time squeaking by on Oto.

dayaniBecause I did this class last, after talking to Hamlet about it a bunch, we ended up using the same basic spell priorities. The logs of my attempt are here, and you can see how much we leaned on Soothing and Enveloping Mists. I tried all three of the Level 100 Talents and settled on Breath of the Serpent, not because it was impressive, but because it was free. I didn’t like Chi Explosion‘s 3+ Chi functionality and at 2 Chi it wasn’t even close to 66% of the strength of an Enveloping Mist, and I couldn’t make good use of Path of Mists without sacrificing too much Soothing Mist spam.

I did try one attempt in Crane Stance. Hilariously, I didn’t get past the first 20 seconds of wave 2. You can see logs of this here – the DPS and healing is quite low, and Hamlet is quite right – this PG challenge was not the place for Cranes!

Paladin – Hamlet

This was the most difficult of the 5 Bronze Proving Grounds (setting aside Disc Priest, which neither of us was able to complete).

Much like the classes discussed so far, the basic rotation of Paladin is familiar, but various subtleties take some getting used to. Enhanced Holy Shock means you don’t always rotate in a Holy Shock every 4 GCDs, since you can sometimes use two consecutively. This is both a change I don’t totally enjoy, since I liked the natural rhythm of the class before, and one that’s not yet reflected in the default UI, so you can’t use it very well without sharing at your Shock cooldown. Eternal Flame having a cast time doesn’t change how you use it in the Proving Grounds context. One interesting note on EF is that, comparatively speaking, more of the total healing has moved into the upfront heal and less in the HoT. This means that it’s a little weaker for tank healing purposes—still good, but the added value of the perpetual HoT is more balanced against Sacred Shield. Also, recasting EF on a tank that already has it is less of a waste than it used to be, due to the larger upfront heal that you still utilize.

The basic story of Paladin Bronze is similar to the others. Oto takes an extreme amount of damage in waves 4 and 5, and even your best healing output doesn’t keep up. You have to use those heals, cooldowns, CC and any other tricks, and the full breadth of Oto’s HP bar to get by. Also, as before, some amount of healing has to be done to the party during waves 4 and 5 so that they still escape at low HP after all the Hive-Singer damage.

The key to this was my 2 cooldowns (2 fewer than in Mists). I used Holy Avenger in wave 4 and Avenging Wrath (which is now a combination of the former Divine Favor and the former Guardian of Ancient Kings). The choice is mainly due to the fact that AW is a stronger cooldown. Holy Avenger isn’t perfect in wave 4 since its ability to allow easy EF coverage on the group is great against AoE damage, and that’s more of an issue in wave 5. But the +100% healing from AW can be used to gain substantial ground on Oto in wave 5. I have 2 opportunities to fill up his HP (the other being Lay on Hands), and in between he inexorably sinks no matter what I cast. In wave 4, I try to use Rebuke and Fist of Justice to get by with 0 or 1 Sonic Blasts actually completing, as with Monk. In the attempt in the video, I got 1, but the EFs I’d put on the whole group with Holy Avenger mostly cancelled it out. Keeping up on Oto was still difficult, but the EF blanket helped through Beacon (a smaller benefit than in Mists), and Saved by the Light provided a substantial one-time shield—in the new system, 30% of a tank’s HP is much more healing than it used to be.

Wave 5 is, as described, a race to keep Oto afloat. Paladin has lower single-target spam HPS than other classes. This is likely to be partially due to incomplete tuning on beta, and partially due to the fact that Paladins, due to Beacon, aren’t totally efficient when healing a single target. On the whole, I don’t think this is a big issue, but in a scenario that puts a strong focus on a single-target HPS check, the difference from other classes is visible. As always, most real-world scenarios will require enough healing on at least some other targets for Beacon healing to have some use, negating this problem.

The rest of getting through wave 5 was, as discussed, using all the buttons I had available to add healing beyond the basic rotation. Avenging Wrath, Lay on Hands, two Saved by the Light procs, a few interrupts, and a Divine Shield to survive the final Sonic Blast without having to divert even one GCD or any mana from healing Oto.

dayaniWe again used similar healing styles, because this was the last class Hamlet did, and we discussed strategies before he began. So here are logs from my successful attempt; I’m confident they’re pretty similar in spell breakdown. I’ll note that I experimented a lot before settling on the Talents that we both ended up using, including trying Selfless Healer. I have to say, Selfless Healer as it stands is a negative throughput Talent. I think the devs may need to iterate on this again.

Priest (Holy) – Dayani

Holy Priest healing felt remarkably familiar. Not much has changed except the new Chakra system, which – along with folding a passive 10% increase into all Holy spells regardless of their Chakra alignment – has left the spec feeling as flexible as ever.

Because the greatest part of this challenge was the single-target healing, I camped out in Chakra: Serenity the entire time. The benefit of Holy Word: Sanctuary remains, as it always has, more applicable to raid environments than to dungeons, so the only draw to Chakra: Sanctuary would have been its cooldown reduction on Circle of Healing, a spell that I never used in Bronze. In this small-party, mostly tank-healing context, the Serenity perk of Renew refreshing was too strong to give up.

You can see from my logs of the attempt that Renew did most of the work for me. It’s an incredibly powerful HoT and extremely mana-efficient too. During waves with both heavy tank and party damage, I could throw Renew on party members whenever I had a spare moment, and it acted like an ersatz AoE heal – at a much better cost and throughput value than my other options.

The original version of Clarity of Purpose was in effect when I completed Holy Priest Bronze.

The original version of Clarity of Purpose was in effect when I completed Holy Priest Bronze.

Perhaps what stands out the most from those logs was the strength of Clarity of Purpose, a Level 100 Talent. I did this in Beta build 18505, when Clarity of Purpose was still using its original design. When I read this, I was immediately struck by one thought: Tanks don’t typically stand within 10 yards of the rest of the raid – that’s going to be one hell of a tank heal. Of course, in a typical raid situation, you probably wouldn’t want to give up your spammable AoE heal for a stronger-than-usual tank heal. But here in Proving Grounds, I knew I’d be quite okay making that trade-off.

And boy, did it pay off. Clarity of Purpose did a truly stupid amount of tank healing, even though Ki, and Kavan, and sometimes even I stood close enough to receive a bit of its splashy AoE healing. In fact, that was part of what made it so strong – when AoE healing was needed, Clarity of Purpose still provided it, but kept the tank portion of the heal proportionately large so that I didn’t fall behind on Oto’s health.

I tweeted about this, and immediately got this in response:

(Click through to see the rest of the conversation)

This, I think, is a good change. While overall I found it interesting that the original Clarity of Purpose could be used as a strong tank-heal if you were willing to give up your on-demand AoE healing spell, the design was a bit opaque, and you didn’t have to be smart about your targeting in order to get the best possible outcome from the spell. The new design – which is currently available on Beta servers – preserves Clarity of Purpose as an AoE healing spell, turning the choice into ‘spread AoE healing vs stacked AoE healing’, while rewarding smart target selection. It’s still going to be a great Talent – it just wouldn’t be able to carry me through PG Bronze today 😉

Shaman – Dayani

Of all the healing specs, Shaman has changed the least. While adjustments have been made so that Shaman smart-healing spells are less important to our toolkit than our targeted spells, none of the core healing abilities have been pruned. Shaman still retain a great deal of utility and three baseline raid cooldowns, so overall playing Shaman in Proving Grounds felt very similar to doing so in MoP, and I was able to achieve the Silver medal … eventually.

It took me six hours and a lot of experimentation to actually get through all that, and I tried out most of the new Talents (with the exception of Echo of the Elements, which I still dislike). I settled on the Storm Elemental talent for the small amount of extra damage it could deal during the dangerous wave 5-6 overlap, which is where most of my attempts stalled.

None of the Level 100 Talents conferred much of a healing benefit for Proving Grounds. High Tide is mathematically the best, but you’ll see I didn’t cast very many Chain Heals during my successful attempt – the Warlords version isn’t strong enough, relative to its mana cost, to use frequently. I preferred to handle most of the damage in Silver with the more mana-efficient single-target healing – mostly Healing Wave and Riptide and leveraging my Mastery – and to just use Healing Tide Totem or Ascendance to help out with heavy AoE damage.

Though I didn’t record logs of these attempts, you’ll note from the other classes that overhealing in these Proving Grounds was very low. This made Condensation Totem extremely unattractive (though I did try it, rolling glyphed Riptides on non-injured party members for a little help with tank healing during Large Ripper waves). In this particular content, there simply wasn’t the time or the mana to pull my attention away from the tank to cast heals on full-health targets to buff my next tank heal, when instead I could simply cast two (or more) heals on the tank in that time. I would question whether there is ever a situation for which Condensation Totem makes sense – but in all fairness, the spell effect is kind of cool 🙂

Condensation Totem is pretty useless, but it looks nice.

Condensation Totem is pretty useless, but it looks nice.

Another thing that stood out is that the power of our raid cooldowns is vastly reduced compared to MoP. Healing Tide Totem is still very strong, but it isn’t the sort of “put everyone on full HP for its duration” kind of CD that we’re accustomed to. And in MoP’s Proving Grounds, even when scaled down to heroic-dungeon-blues levels of gear, one Chain Heal during Ascendance pretty much solved any problem. Not so in Warlords – these cooldowns are less powerful because compared to player health pools our heals are less powerful.

hamletI like the comment on leveraging mastery. You and I have always argued that a lot of the healing community undervalues the Shaman mastery even in Mists, but in Warlords it should really come into its own. If you imagine going to a raid and getting to pick from the available choice of healing Masteries regardless of what class you play, in Mists the choice would always be Paladin by a long shot, but in Warlords it’s hard to argue against Shaman. Illuminated Healing is valuable on targets at full HP, while Deep Healing is valuable on targets at partial HP. Even on other classes, we’ve discussed the strategic element that will be central in Warlords—choosing to leave people at lower HP to improve healing efficiency. Deep Healing emphasizes that part of the gameplay even further.

Priest (Discipline) – Dayani

When I did Disc Proving Grounds in MoP, I leaned very heavily on Spirit Shell and Inner Focus/Prayer of Healing to preempt highly damaging events. In Warlords, we have lost Inner Focus, and in the builds I did my attempts with, we had no Spirit Shell, so how could I possibly handle the huge amounts of damage these PGs were going to throw at me without the comfort of advance shielding?

As it turns out, I was unable – after 160 attempts and over 8 hours of recorded footage – to achieve a Bronze medal. So instead I will link you the video and logs of my best attempt. So. Freaking. Close.

The same tank healing/group healing conflict that Hamlet described in the Paladin section above was the major source of my problems in these attempts, exacerbated by Disc’s current tuning. Disc, as a whole, is just not as strong for single-target healing as other classes can be. This would ordinarily not be a problem if there were frequent breaks in the damage – I could stack absorption shields up on the tank, and that effective health buff would be as useful as it is currently in MoP – but with the constant stream of incoming damage that starts about 100 seconds into the fight, my slow and moderately-sized shield simply couldn’t keep the tank on full health. The benefit of absorption over strong direct healing is somewhat degraded in this situation.

With the loss of Renew, group healing as Discipline requires a large time investment. Besides the Level 90 Talent, all we have is Prayer of Healing and Holy Nova. Holy Nova is position-limited and extremely low throughput; while I could spam the spell until the cows come home thanks to its low mana cost, I simply couldn’t afford the GCD-sink.

With this in mind, you can start to understand the issues I ran into around 2:10 in the video: If I have to take a GCD away from Clarity of Will to cast some other spell, I fall behind rapidly on the tank. There isn’t an AoE heal that could maintain the high level of tank healing I needed. And once I fall behind on the tank, I don’t have a great way to recover – Penance is very mana-efficient, but its pure healing power is not much stronger than a Flash Heal.

Spells such as Power Word: Shield, Prayer of Mending, pre-buff Prayer of Healing, and the Evangelism hooks of Holy Fire and Smite, simply couldn’t stack up against the mana efficiency and throughput of Clarity of Will. I was particularly surprised about Evangelism. 3 Holy Flames and 2 Smites would heal for about 45,000 and replace 3 Clarities of Will. Clarity was around 57k per cast, so I was down 126k healing from that. Meanwhile, under the Archangel buff, I could get 25% more healing out of 7 Clarities – just shy of 100k additional healing! While Evangelism/Archangel definitely makes sense in a typical encounter where you have lulls during which to build stacks and burst-healing moments in which to activate Archangel for great glory, in a sustained throughput scenario, the throughput loss of building those stacks just isn’t worth it.

I’m not entirely sure it means a lot that Disc was underperforming in this challenge, but I am a little bit concerned about the lack of a clear direction for the spec. Pretty much all of its heals feel lackluster, and healing as Discipline – especially if you elect not to take the Clarity of Will Talent – does not feel significantly different to healing with any other class. The preemptive aspect is nearly all gone, with the exception of planning Archangel usage; there is a greater focus now on reactive healing, which Disc has never really been strong at, and while I am glad that Atonement has been de-emphasized, I’m worried that in a sustained healing situation – e.g. the Garalon of Warlords – Discipline will feel pretty lifeless.

Note – Spirit Shell just made a comeback as a Talent in the most recent build, while I was writing this post. When it’s working, I’ll see if this changes my assessment of the spec. It may make a huge difference to the aesthetic concerns I have, but whether it will pan out as an intelligent Talent choice over Twist of Fate is a whole ‘nother question.

hamletSpirit Shell coming back for Disc is nice; it should work well as a talent. However, (partially because it is only a talent) it doesn’t address the underlying problems with Disc currently. And for purposes of your white whale, this Disc PG challenge, I don’t see how it could be better than Twist of Fate. Spirit Shell talk ties into an important point about Disc healing: when a target is not at full HP, a shield is never better than a heal. It’s usually no different from a heal at all, but has a chance to be worse because it can fall off unused. And in the case of Clarity of Will, it can overcap on a target that’s at partial HP, which is impossible for a heal. In the present situation, Oto’s taking so much damage that those things rarely happen, so Clarity of Will functions no differently from a heal most of the time. We’re going from the Mists world where shields are usually better than heals because the HP buffer they provide is critical, to the Warlords world where they’re often worse, and situations where they’re better are rare.

dayaniAgreed entirely. I will note that Clarity of Will’s 20-second duration helps a lot in making the shield-falling-off situation less of a concern than any other shield (except, I guess, a Holy Paladin’s Eternal Flame-fuelled Illuminated Healing.). I tried several attempts using pre-cast Clarities on the party for wave 4’s Large Hive-Singer casts, but unfortunately that took too much of my attention away from the tank. On those attempts, I ended mid-wave 5 with the party on full and Oto dying.

Synthesis

Aside from class-specific changes, which we both got into in some detail above, there have been some general changes to healing gameplay that affect all classes pretty much equally. Proving Grounds were a great way for us to get a feel for these, too. In particular, the loss of mana regen cooldowns or active mana regen, and the weakening of AoE healing, were two large deviations from the Mists playstyle.

hamletI was very happy with the gameplay surrounding mana throughout this challenge. It mattered, but it wasn’t all that mattered. It’s hard to get into the tuning in too much depth, because we were playing content that wasn’t tuned at all for these characters, but even so it generally worked. On mana mattering, it was usually possible to keep up with the damage on each class for a while by using the strongest heals possible, but then you’d run out of mana. On mana not being all that matters, as we discussed throughout this post, we certainly could not keep up with much using efficient heals only—quite often we had to splurge. In a hard challenge like this we were taxed on both fronts, and winning meant finding ways to use efficient heals where possible, which it often wasn’t. The fact that, even when thrown into a somewhat unfair situation, the solution didn’t collapse to using only efficient heals or only max-throughput heals, makes it appear that the mana game is looking healthy.

dayaniI was a little concerned with how few mana problems I had as Holy Paladin and Resto Druid, compared to the mana strains I had even as Resto Shaman or Mistweaver Monk. In the case of Holy Paladin, the extremely mana-efficient rotation of HS-HL-HL-EF was slow and fairly low throughput, so it may not be a problem. The earlier I transitioned to HS-HL-FoL-EF for moderate damage and HS-FoL-FoL-EF for heavy damage, the earlier I started to threaten my mana bar. I was able to finish Druid Silver without thinking about mana, though – a huge difference to Shaman Silver, where much of my progress came from finding ways to push exorbitant mana expenditures later and later in the waves so I would have fumes left for the end of wave 8. I barely did – and that’s after equipping about 500 more Spirit on my Shaman’s gear, advice I’d never give anyone for MoP PGs!

In general, the constant-regen model was a refreshing change from the current mana glut we have in Mists. It encourages you to think about the encounter and to really practice the “HP as a Resource” healing style Hamlet talked about earlier. If you spend too much of your mana reserves on quickly healing up damage when it isn’t necessary, you’ll have to find a way to make efficient heals work for you later in the fight, and sometimes that might cause you to fail. Healing is more of a thinking game, and I couldn’t be more pleased with that.

hamletMuch of the current strength of Druid on beta might have to do with Clearcasting being a bigger deal than it ever was. A good point to keep in mind as we get further into numbers and modelling.

dayaniSpeaking of numbers, let’s talk about the reduced emphasis on AoE healing. Personally? LOVE. I know that AoE healing is fun to a lot of people – it feels powerful, and it can generate large numbers – but part of my problem with Mists raid healing is that AoE is pretty much all we cast anymore. And while that’s great for meters, I find it fairly boring. AoE requires less thought, less target selection, and is more rotational than single-target healing. The prospect of getting to cast single-target heals in a raid again – right now, in MoP, I feel punished by smart healing mechanics and mana costs if I do so – is very exciting to me.

hamletBeing de-emphasized from where they were is definitely good, although I think they might be on the low side right now. As you say, we don’t want AoE heals to eclipse single-target heals totally in raids. But they do need to be the best heals in AoE situations, and right now many AoE heals, even in the best case (target cap and full effectiveness), have similar or slightly better performance than single-target heals. The odd standout is Wild Growth, as discussed, but it could be a good example. It’s not a huge problem since it’s costed appropriately (although the potential to Clearcast it might counteract this too well). Those details aside, while WG may have to come down a little, it’s fine to have a spell which does a lot of AoE healing. If you can’t use it constantly, it’s still a far cry from the Mists situation.

dayaniAll right, yeah. Some AoE healing could certainly stand to come up a bit. I’m thinking here of Uplift, Chain Heal, and maybe even Disc Prayer of Healing (yes, again). All single-target all the time is no more desirable than all AoE all the time. I just want to be careful to avoid the present situation wherein AoE rotational healing is the optimal playstyle. I was very happy to see this wasn’t the case while doing this PG Challenge.

hamletIf you’re an experienced healer and want to see how your class feels in 6.0, giving this a whirl is a good thing to try. Doing the actual content designed for 6.0 has its advantages too, but so far that only consists of a few normal dungeons. Despite its imperfections due to being an unintended use of the content, the Proving Grounds made us explore the class toolkits in good detail. Even though the challenges were a little odd, they didn’t wind up being degenerate, and generally resulted in using a mix of the available spells more or less as intended. There will be a lot to do throughout the Beta on the math and theory fronts (which both of us have been working on quite a bit), as well as seeing what happens when raid or challenge content is available to test. But for now, this was something that got us into playing the new healers in a fun way and gave a taste of what healing challenges feel like in the new system. I’m excited to keep playing them.

dayaniAnd I’m still dying to find out if Disc Priest Bronze is possible, so one of you really ought to show us – before I throw the rest of my life at it 😉


For more information:

Watch all of Dayani’s Mekkatorque PG Challenge videos here.
And check out Hamlet’s YouTube channel for all sorts of great healing guides!

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23 Responses to Proofing Grounds: The L100 Mekka PG Challenge [feat. Hamlet]

  1. Pingback: Guest post at Healiocentric: Healer Proving Grounds on Beta | It's Dangerous to Go Alone

  2. I don’t know if this helps at all, but watching your Disc video, Healiocentric, I think you could lean more on Twist of Fate for that last wave. I find on live at least that this makes a night and day difference for Disc in PGs. So much easier with higher ToF uptime.

    • Dedralie says:

      I agree with your assessment on live – maximizing ToF really helped me get through Endless 30 then. And you’re probably right, but if you notice in the video whenever I spend a GCD off of Oto he sinks pretty rapidly. 15% increased healing for 10 seconds is probably going to counteract that, but it also gets really scary!
      … Now I want to try again, buh. But no. That way lies madness … 🙂

  3. kaels says:

    I wish I had beta access. It appears to be time for my Third Biannual Yelling About Disc On The Forums event.

    (After, of course, I get PG bronze as Disc, because that’s too good a challenge to pass up.)

    • Dedralie says:

      Kaels!! ❤

      Haha, everyone on the Healer OT thread is doing the level 90 (*cough*easy*cough*) version of this challenge.

      I'll note that I did do the dungeons that are available as Disc, and Disc felt really great there. That's before they restored Spirit Shell to us (which doesn't even work right now anyway, but you know, eventually it will). New_Disc struggles the most with content that was designed for a Disc-dominant world, but does perfectly well in what little content we've been able to test that is actually WoD-specific. I don't think it's time for yelling just yet, but I do think that some numbers are likely to be adjusted upwards. I'm not sure if I think that's a good idea or not, although if it does happen soon, I'll hopefully get my Bronze 😉

  4. Amaranthea says:

    I guess I didn’t explicitly state it in the healer OT thread, but all my test runs were done on the level 100 premade characters. In addition to what I posted there, I was able to complete silver as a holy paladin, which was significantly harder than holy priest but easier than disc.

    • Dedralie says:

      Wow, I’m very impressed 🙂 I didn’t try silver on anything but Druid or Shaman (well, I accidentally started my very first Disc attempt on silver, haha, and that went pretty poorly), but I did think Holy Priest would be the next easiest Silver. Before trying Holy Paladin I thought it would be the clear next best choice because interrupts, but then seeing how weak the tank-healing felt I quickly changed my mind.

      So you got Disc Bronze? Do you have logs or a video or something? I would love to see what a good Disc can do on that, because I certainly do not qualify 😀

      Edited because I apparently cannot keep my Holy Priests and Holy Paladins straight 😛

      • Amaranthea says:

        I didn’t record initially but went back and did it again. Should have a video uploaded shortly.

        The difficulty depends a lot on what talents you are “allowed” to take. FCDL (buff lasts entire duration and isn’t consumed by flash heal), Clarity of Will (can be cast immediately following an instant without waiting for the gcd to finish) and Words of Mending (stacks accumulate too fast) are all buggy right now in ways that make it easier on you, which is annoying because those are also the talents you would want to be using (FDCL in particular is enormously better than mindbender from a mana conservation standpoint since you are going to have to cast flash heals anyway in order to keep the tank up).

        I’ve completed bronze as disc the following ways:

        1. Spec FDCL. Infinite flash heal spam (easy as it essentially removes the requirement to pay attention to your mana).

        2. Don’t spec FDCL but still use one of the non-Saving Grace talents. <- I have a recording of this that I'm uploading right now.

        3. No FDCL & using Saving Grace (which I think is the worst talent in the tier for PG but is the only option if you're trying to avoid the bugged talents). Considerably more difficult; I was able to do this but only barely.

        No matter what you do as disc it's enormously more difficult than holy (priest), where I could pretty much just jump around in circles and keep everyone topped off.

        @Hamlet: I agree with your assessment of silver not being much more difficult than bronze. I completed silver as discipline as well, but it was using FDCL (although I tried not to abuse it by only using flash heals when I would have cast them normally).

      • Hamlet says:

        Ah yeah, the FDCL bug wasn’t there when we did it (I used FDCL since I agree it’s the best and it worked normally). We also didn’t have flasks/food/enchants. It’s hard to compare things between builds generally due to all the random stuff constantly changing (one of the downsides of taking beta content and trying to have challenges/goals like a real game). The big PoH/CoH buffs probably changed Holy a good bit too.

        At any rate, fun to have someone else who got into trying these. Getting Disc Bronze with no FDCL is impressive no matter what, and I might be curious to go and try some more Silvers after hearing they’re worth spending time on.

        I think it’s good, also, that an experienced Priest (which neither of us is and that definitely comes through in our play in these) had an easier time of it. While there’s definitely balance work to be done, it’s good to keep in mind that that’s part of the difference between e.g. me getting Silver Druid easily but having to try a lot for Bronze Holy. PGs have always been decent at separating out people who are competent on a class, but they’ll be much more so for healers, now that healing will have a not more skill to it compared to 5.0.

      • Hamlet says:

        Do you think Saving Grace is that bad? I found it a little awkward and maybe I’m not totally happy with it generally, but it is twice the HPCT of anything else, and strong HPM as well (better than CoW and far better than Flash Heal). I should do a proper rotation model, but doing ~twice the HPCT of your normal casts for (say) 3 GCDs and then doing 70% healing for 10 seconds shouldn’t be that bad. It’s a wash on paper; in reality probably a mana problem due to the Flash Heals you have to fill with. So CoW clearly better, but SG seems okay, and much better than unbugged WoM which I don’t see much use for in PG.

        My problem with SG is less on the numbers (though a little buff would probably be good) and more on how it will fall into this rotational use which isn’t very interesting. Should think about ways that can be avoided.

      • Amaranthea says:

        Disc bronze:

      • Amaranthea says:

        Yeah SG might not be that bad; I only used it on the last wave (tank about to die, void shift… wait that’s where I put SG) – then I hit it two more times and tried to wait out the debuff with minimal healing.

        I should try playing with mindbender and SG and using it properly instead of treating it as a way to hide the popup for not speccing into a L100 talent. I haven’t done a serious look at hpm / hpct other than a quick glance at the spellbook.

        Preliminary thought is that SG is pretty strong compared to other heals, but it has to come out really far ahead to beat even a non-bugged WoM if there’s any aoe going out.

    • Hamlet says:

      Yeah, definitely curious to hear more. I didn’t try Silver much due to time; I did the Bronzes (other than Druid) and mostly stopped. I just realized it’s possible that, counterintuitively, Silver isn’t much harder than Bronze, since it never has a wave with 2 Large Rippers (in fact, it never even has Large Ripper + Large Hive-Singer like Bronze 4). The only LHS is wave 2. For all I know it’s easier than Bronze in some ways; I’d never thought about that! It was pretty easy on Druid…

      I did try Gold a bit (on Druid), but that gets shut down pretty good by Chomp. It’s possible I’d have gotten further, but I was guessing there was no way I’d get through the intense final waves so I never tried long.

      Now I want to go back and try those 😛 .

    • Hamlet says:

      I did try going back and visiting Silver today 😛 . I believe between us there was only one we hadn’t done:

  5. Rainbo says:

    Fascinating, as always! I’m glad you tried out Crane Stance, since Fistweaving was very effective in the MOP proving grounds, and the effectiveness of Crane Stance absolutely has to be tested.

    Did you try out the different level 30 talents for monks (Chi Wave, Chi Burst, Zen Sphere)?

    • Dedralie says:

      I just stuck with Chi Wave, since I think it’s generally the best for small-party content like this, so no. I found these pretty difficult so I didn’t want to experiment with things that were already working, if that makes sense? All my experimentation was in trying to find ways to turn things-that-weren’t-working into things-that-were 🙂

      • Rainbo says:

        Fair enough. Funny, I found Zen Sphere to be a solid I-WIN button for healing Oto. I definitely think it’s worth investigating in the new healing paradigm, though of course it doesn’t have to be you testing it.

  6. Dedralie says:

    Nested replies so bad on WordPress.
    Thanks for the video, Amaranthea, I’ll definitely be watching that! I tried WoM and Saving Grace myself, and didn’t find either to help too much (WoM was stacking very, quite possibly too?, slowly back then, and I underused SG because my math said the throughput overall would be worse than CoW). I wanted to use FDCL but since at the time it didn’t proc from CoW – and I haven’t checked to see if that’s been ‘fixed’ or if it’s intended – I’d go entire attempts where it procced maybe 3 times total, and that seemed to be less of a mana savings than Mindbender under those circumstances.

    If these bugs get fixed I may try a SG/FDCL combo again, because FDCL really served me well in live Disc PG, and CoW is great but obviously lacking a little. I’m bummed that FDCL is bugged in this way because I’d really like to give Holy Silver a try, but there’s no way I’m doing that without FDCL, and no way I’m going to try to dance around a bugged ability haha – I did that already with Divine Star and it was annoying 😛

    Thanks for all the tips – I am really glad to see someone get through it! As Hamlet notes, now that healing is about skill I am going to struggle with PGs a lot more than I did before 😉

    • Siory says:

      Now that most of the bugs have been fixed with talents (no more infinite SoL, WoM stacking at it’s intended slow rate) I’ve been looking into these on the 100 PvP premades as a way to test stats (granted the nature of the healing is a bit weird compared to what is intended in WoD it’s still good for looking at some things). Versatility is still bugged (hence Chii and my raging in the official TC thread) of course, but even trying to stack it and lean on Atonement double dipping doesn’t provide enough output for Disc. You also lose any WoD flask buff mere seconds after you take it. Some of the raid buffs provided by being in the proving grounds also don’t seem to work.

      Regardless, I’m up to Endless Wave 2 (lol) as Disc and Endless Wave 14 as Holy (using the int/int proc and int/int clicky pvp trinkets). Haven’t tried it with other healing classes. I also haven’t put as much testing into Disc (it’s very frustrating at its current power level) so I don’t have much to say about talents for that. I personally went Mindbender and Saving Grace (for reasons explained below).

      As holy I played around with FDCL and it’s true that those Flash Heals can sometimes come at clutch times. However, when getting to the longer sessions (gold, endless) I often find myself dredging the bottom of the mana supply. In those cases it’s hard to cast anything to proc SoL. Switching to Mindbender worked better for me at least as it let me maintain my mana longer and I could count on it to give me some mana to operate with if I otherwise had none even if the gains are less than the potential savings of SoL.

      For the final tier it’s really hard for me to see anything other than Saving Grace being effective once Chomp gets introduced. SG will almost instantly clear a Chomp from anyone but the tank unless the target was low when they acquired the Chomp. It’s also a really great burst heal on the tank (and the obscene tank damage in the rounds with multiple aqualites/rippers/conquerors is the primary reason I fail). Sometimes you can even luck into a Crit/Multistrike chain that will top the tank off from 10% HP.

      I also like the GS glyph that increases the healing bonus to 200% but removes the get-out-of-dying-free portion. One of the reasons being is it lets me GS the tank and Renew + GotN (did I mention this racial is hacks here), while attending to the rest of the raid during large Hivesinger situations. However, I’ve gotten similarly far without using that glyph.

      No videos or public logs at the moment so you’ll just have to take it at face value. Still, figured I’d share some of my own findings with others who are known to be mildly addicted to these things.

      • Dedralie says:

        Holy crap, Siory. Nicely done! 😀

        You make me want to get back in there and give Gold+ a try as Shaman or Druid, except that I swore I wouldn’t because of sanity reasons. And I could easily see myself getting caught up in it and missing the start of WoD raiding 😉

  7. Pingback: Warlords Update: Resto Shaman Talents & Minutiae | healiocentric

  8. Pingback: A Quickie: Stuff I’ve Been Up To on Beta | healiocentric

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