MoP in Review, Part 3: The Troubles with Bubbles

In this third installment of my Mists of Pandaria review/opinion series (previous posts in the series here), I’ll be tackling the topic of absorption healing and why it has been so prominent throughout the expansion. This is a retrospective, more of a historical analysis than a mathematical one; I’ll talk a bit about absorption mechanics in general, dissect the factors that make absorption so strong in MoP, give a bit of history about the evolution of absorption-based healing from 5.0 to 6.0, and finish up with a bit of a look ahead into Warlords. And listen, I’ll try really hard to keep my ranting to a minimum, but this topic gets me – as it does most Resto Shaman – a little heated up 😉

This is going to be an inherently Paladin- and Priest-focused discussion, so I apologise in advance to all my Monk, Shaman, and Druid readers. I’d like to think that you’ve all been touched by the absorption ‘problem’ enough to still find this interesting. If nothing else, jump ahead to the Warlords section and read about the future of absorption healing – I hope it will help you feel a little better.

Introduction to Absorption Mechanics

Everyone knows absorbs are good – it’s all too obvious if you have either a Discipline Priest or a Holy Paladin in your raid, and these two specs make up a plurality of healers in raids, if you combine 10- and 25-player raiders into a single pool. But what makes them so very strong? Is there ever a situation where they’re less powerful than healing? If you’re not accustomed to thinking a lot about the nuts and bolts of healing, these might be questions you haven’t been able to answer.

I discussed some of this length in my post about Raid Cooldowns in 5.3, but perhaps less elegantly than I’d like, so I’ll go over it again here with some better presentation and in a more thorough fashion. This will not be aimed at any particular absorption-generating spell or ability, but at the idea of absorption as a whole; I’ll address spell-specific concerns later in the post.

1. Absorbs are always better, except for when they’re not.

Things are going to get a little abstract here, but bear with me.

Let us assume an alternate-universe raid of 10 players, each with 100 health. The raid has two fictional healers: a Mistweaver Mock and a Pseudiscipline Priest. Each healer has only one spell available to them. The Mock has Fakevival, an instant heal that restores 20% of each player’s health to the entire raid, and the Pseudo Priest has Spurious Shell (SS), an absorption ability that shields players, preventing up to 20% of their health in damage. Let us further assume that each healer acts in a wholly rational manner: the Pseudo Priest wishes to apply SS before any damage is taken, such that SS will prevent as much damage as possible, and the Mock holds off on casting Fakevival until enough damage has been taken by the raid that every heal event will be fully effective (no overhealing).

This mirror-world raid group goes into an encounter where the enemy, let’s call him Dark Animitation, will periodically use Interrupting Jerk, a spell that deals a very large amount of damage – 110 damage, in fact. If our Pseudo Priest uses his Spurious Shell ability just before Interrupting Jerk goes off, the raid will take a total of (110-20) = 90 damage per player, leaving the whole raid on 10 HP – dicey, but they survived! By contrast, there is nothing our Mistweaver Mock can do with Fakevival alone that will save the raid. Reactive healing abilities are worthless against an attack that will deal more damage than you have health, while absorption shields provide the only thing that matters here – effective health. Players under Spurious Shell have the equivalent of 120 health, so they live.

But this example is pretty contrived – very few raid mechanics are designed to kill players outright when handled appropriately. So let’s look at a version of Interrupting Jerk that is a little more moderate – one that deals 50 damage rather than 110. And let’s see how Fakevival and Spurious Shell compare:

MoP in review 3 moderate single attack

You can see here that the outcome is the same – 20 points of healing or 20 points of absorption both leave the player at 70HP. However, note that the players affected by Spirit Shell are on 70 HP the entire time, while the players who are affected by Fakevival dip to 50 HP and then are boosted back up to 70 HP once the Fakevival goes off (on my arbitrary time-scale above, Fakevival occurs 1 second after damage is received). Over this little time-slice of the raid, the raid’s average HP is higher when Interrupting Jerk is mitigated by absorption effects than when it is reactively healed.

And what about for periodic damage? Let’s say these through-the-wormhole raiders go on to tackle Negaera, a Hydra boss whose most dangerous ability, Shampage, deals 105 damage over 14 seconds. Again, our Pseudo Priest and our Mistweaver Mock use the same behaviour; how does this affect the raid’s health?

MoP in review 3 deadly periodic damage

Once again, 20 points of absorption versus 20 points of raw healing come out the same at the end, but while the Mistweaver Mock is waiting for Revival to be fully effective before casting it, the raid dips lower in health than a raid under Spurious Shell would have. This means that, overall, the raid’s average health is again higher when Shampage is mitigated by absorption effects than when reacted to with pure healing.

If we just look at the 20-second time-slice of this Negaera encounter, we can in fact calculate the difference in average raid health for the 20 seconds, and find that under Spurious Shell mitigation, it’s 54.5 HP, and with reactive Fakevival healing, the average is 52 HP – Spurious Shell is approximately 5% better by this sort of estimation. This is still not an appropriate way to evaluate the added benefit of absorption healing, but it’s an interesting effect. (Why is it not an appropriate way to evaluate the added benefit? Well, consider that if the Fakevival came five seconds later, when the raid looked like it was in more danger and that burst healing CDs were needed, there would have been a much bigger gap in average HP between the SS and Fakevival strategies.)

The distinction becomes important when the ability you’re trying to mitigate is not the only source of damage. If our Dark Animitation boss had both Interrupting Jerk (at 50 damage) and could cast Anima Fraud, instantly dealing 50 damage to a randomly-chosen player, immediately afterwards, raids which only had Fakevival-type mechanics with which to counter Interrupting Jerk would occasionally see deaths to Anima Fraud; raids with Spurious Shell-type mechanics never would. In general, your raid is safer from death-by-random-spikes when sources of random spike damage are mitigated by absorption effects.

So above I said that absorbs are always better, “except when they’re not”. When are they not?

When the raid is off full health, healing and absorption are closer to point-for-point parity. The danger with absorption effects here is that they have a duration, and if that duration expires before the affected player takes damage again, the entire absorption effect is wasted. This is the absorption equivalent of “overhealing”. Meanwhile, healing effects do not have this problem, and if a raid is sufficiently off of full health, healing effects are always useful. At best, absorption effects are at parity here; at worst, absorption effects expire without doing anything, and are infinitely worse than healing. How frequently this latter, “doomsday” effect will occur depends heavily on the damage pattern of the encounter, but in Siege of Orgrimmar at least, the chances are negligible.

2. Absorption called “Dibs!” on everything.

This is pretty straight-forward. Absorption effects have the first shot at any damage that comes in. If the shield can mitigate more damage than the damaging ability deals, then other healers don’t even get a chance. Thus, for non-absorption healers to be competitive versus absorption healers, we have to hope that the damage the boss is putting out is higher than the shielding your co-healers can create – much higher, in fact, since absorption healers provide actual healing while they apply their absorption shields (Spurious Spirit Shell notwithstanding 😉 )

This is most significant in farm content, when players are overgeared, or when content is undertuned (e.g. LFR and Flex raids). The lower the outgoing damage, the better off absorption healers are. As your raid gets better at executing mechanics, and avoiding damage, absorption healing accounts for an even higher proportion of healing done.

Vixsin wrote a great article on her blog, Life in Group 5, that is at least partially about this phenomenon; I strongly suggest you all go check it out 🙂

3. Absorption effects both stack and refresh duration.

I state this mostly because I reference it obliquely in the next point, but it is important. A Druid who wishes to concentrate more healing on one target cannot simply Rejuvenate them, then Rejuvenate them again (in Mists) to achieve that; the second Rejuvenate replaces the first, effectively refreshing the duration of the Rejuvenation buff, but the two Rejuvs do not stack. You lose out on some of the healing of the first Rejuvenation by overwriting it with the second.

But with absorption effects, in order to make sure they have a shot at being useful – especially given that very few are targeted, deliberate abilities – the shields are allowed to stack and refresh duration whenever a new shield of that type is applied. It hasn’t always been this way; the original incarnation of Illuminated Healing, for example, did not stack, but simply refreshed duration if the new IH amount would be smaller than the old amount, or overwrote if the new IH amount would be larger than the old amount. That changed sometime mid-Cataclysm because Holy Paladins were avoiding Mastery in droves, because so often the Mastery contribution to their throughput was being completely wasted by this behaviour.

Instead, absorption abilities are given caps – typically 30% of the caster’s health – to attempt to limit the power of this capability. Once the cap is reached on a player, further applications of the same shielding effect simply refresh the shield’s duration.

4. Absorption effects are independent of overhealing.

Effects that generate absorption shields – Divine Aegis and Illuminated Healing, to be precise – do so based on the size of the raw heal, not the size of the effective heal. Absorption healers can therefore continue to stack up their shields on the raid during long lulls of little to no damage, while throughput healers just kind of shrug and file their nails. In an expansion where many fights feature mostly short bursts of heavy damage, this is a clear advantage for absorption healing specs. Especially considering that mana has been very abundant in the last two raid tiers – there is little to no penalty to absorption-spec healers continuing to operate at maximum, or near-maximum, throughput while the raid is on full health.

Due to all of these factors, throughput healers have smaller windows of time during which their heals can be effective, whereas with enough mana – or enough Critical Strike rating, in the case of Discipline Priests – absorption effects can be maintained for as long as necessary. This also ensures that absorption caps can be reached even early in the expansion when heal size has not yet outpaced health gain.

A Brief History of the Absorbsiverse

With these basic premises in mind, let’s take a look back at the expansion and how specific absorption abilities have evolved.

5.0.4

Mists at launch was the Patch of the Mistweaver Monk; they were so powerful at level 90 that they pretty much overshadowed any particular Absorption healer. Discipline Priests felt underpowered with their 30% base Divine Aegis and the low Crit available on their gear. They were well-represented still in Heroic content, but had not yet come to dominate the world of raiding.

The reason Discipline Priests were still well-represented in Heroic content was that Spirit Shell’s original incarnation was absurdly powerful. Back then, Spirit Shell and Power Word: Shield were the only spells that scaled fully with Mastery, but Spirit Shell also benefited from the full Divine Aegis coefficient – the equation was (1+Crit)*(1+Mastery)*(1.3)*Average Heal Size, while outside of Spirit Shell, this was more like (1+Crit)*(1+0.3*(1+Mastery))*Average Heal Size – a subtle difference, but one that resulted in a huge throughput boost under Spirit Shell. Just for example, at 30% Mastery, which was wholly achievable in Heroic t14 gear, this resulted in a 1.69/1.39 = 21.5% boost in power. That is just what you got from pressing the button, notwithstanding the fact that absorption abilities are less likely to overheal than healing effects are and therefore even at a 1:1 conversion Spirit Shell would have represented a throughput boost.

The one-minute cooldown being a multiple of Archangel’s cooldown allowed Disc Priests to use AA every time they had Spirit Shell, so on top of the exemplary 21.5% throughput boost we add another 25%, which brings us up to 51.8% more powerful than their usual healing capacity – for 15 seconds of every minute!

The one-minute cooldown was also very synergistic with raid abilities. Many people complained about Discipline’s power in the Wind Lord Mel’jarrak encounter, for example, where the majority of the damage occurred during Rain of Blades, a once-every-60(ish)-seconds ability. Similarly on the Blade Lord Ta’yak encounter, Unseen Strike could be Spirit Shelled every time. Only the most progressed raids were doing these Heroic encounters in 5.0.4, but it is these raids that are most visible amongst the community. (There were plenty of applications in Heroic Mogu’shan Vaults, such as the Stone Guardians’ Overloads, any of Feng’s abilities not mitigated by the Nullification Barrier, a variety of Spirit Kings’ attacks, etc., but the mechanics of Heroic Heart of Fear were very conducive to Spirit Shell’s performance.)

Paladins, particularly in 10-player content, were doing very well with their Illuminated Healing. The predominant playstyle was in spreading Eternal Flames across the raid, since EF HoT ticks refreshed and added to existing Illuminated Healing shields. This kept shields active for up to 45 seconds with a very minimal Holy Power investment (1 Holy Power EFs did just as well at keeping shields refreshed as 3 Holy Power EFs, after all), and the Season 13 4-set PvP bonus refunded a Holy Power whenever a 3-HoPo WoG was cast, making it a very popular gear set for raiding. This set bonus worked with Divine Purpose procs, even, which resulted in literally free Holy Power.

5.1

Here begins the rise of the Discipline Priest. Based off of complaints that Disc Priests were performing poorly, particularly in Normal raids – despite Spirit Shell’s demonstrated utility in keeping Heroic raids alive through heavy damage, allowing Heroic raids to underheal content and meet harsh enrage timers – Prayer of Healing was buffed by approximately 25%, and Divine Aegis was bumped up to a base of 50% of the triggering heal. This, along with some ill-advised Rapture changes that allowed Priests to take advantage of temporary Spirit buffs like powerful trinket procs and Mana Tide Totem to regain truly obscene amounts of mana, opened up a new, powerful Prayer of Healing-spamming, Divine Aegis-rolling playstyle. Heroic Grand Empress Shek’zeer was a pretty amazing encounter for DA-rolling, and one of the most obviously Disc Priest-dominated fights of the tier.

Now, this buff was not applied to the Spirit Shell equation – the DA portion of Spirit Shell remained at 1.3 rather than 1.5 – so the relative buff of Spirit Shell over the Priest’s “normal” rotation was reduced. However, this didn’t make Spirit Shell any less amazing for stopping powerful boss abilities, and on fights like the aforementioned Shek’zeer (or Heroic Gara’lon) with constant AoE damage, Spirit Shell usage on CD regardless of what else was going on in the encounter was still the best course of action.

Not much changed for Paladins here, except that the PvP gear was changed to grant 1 Holy Power on casting Flash Heal. However, even this early in the expansion, AoE healing was dominating over single-target healing, so this didn’t have as many benefits for raiding as the previous set bonus. This was a good change, as it’s never a good thing when PvP is required for PvE progression or vice versa.

5.2

In the Throne of Thunder patch, Discipline Priests were completely revamped. Rather than having Divine Aegis applied automatically on Prayer of Healing casts and only on-Crit via Greater and Flash Heals (spells that were rarely cast in raids anyway), Divine Aegis would now apply on any critical healing effect. Rather than being limited to 50%*(1+Mastery) of the size of the triggering heal, the Divine Aegis would now be calculated at (1+Mastery) times the triggering heal. But as a trade-off, Disc Crits would no longer deal double healing; the “extra healing” of a Crit was entirely shifted into this Divine Aegis effect. Additionally, all healing received an increase equal to half the Mastery value, so that Mastery still had some benefit for heals that did not Crit. (Note that, previously, the only heal for which this was true was Prayer of Healing, and even then the scaling was pretty weak.)

Furthermore, Spirit Shell was reworked to remove the throughput benefit of pressing the button. The equation switched to (1+Crit(1+Mastery))*(1+Mastery/2)*Average_Heal, which is the exact same equation to calculate the average healing dealt by a Disc spell. This meant that activating Spirit Shell created large shields, as before, but the only throughput benefit now is the improved efficiency of absorption shields over regular healing. This was sorely needed, and we saw Spirit Shell decline a little in tier 15.

At the time, many of us thought this represented a nerf. However, opening Divine Aegis up to every source of healing the Discipline Priest had made Divine Aegis quite a bit stronger, especially as Priests gained access to more and more Crit rating. (While Mastery appears in the spell equations twice, and therefore Disc heals scale with the square of Mastery, one of those Mastery terms is modulated by Crit rating, while the other is straight-up halved, resulting in overall lower scaling from Mastery than from Crit.)

Despite feeling that this was a nerf, Discipline Priests continued to be strong during Throne of Thunder. The ability to apply Divine Aegis through the Level 90 Talents and through Atonement filler kept Disc Priests very well represented. This was most notable on Heroic Horridon, a fight that may as well have been designed with Disc Priests in mind: there was a stacking +damage buff on the boss, empowering Atonement a great deal; there was a one-minute-CD boss ability, Dire Call, which dealt Physical damage and was countered by Spirit Shell; and in the time between Calls there was very low raid damage, allowing Divine Aegis to stack up from a variety of sources.

Paladins became more strongly represented in 25-player raids this tier than Disc Priests, because many other fights did not favour Spirit Shell quite as heavily, and Paladins were able to generate Holy Power faster and therefore use stronger EFs to blanket the raid – partially due to more Spirit on gear allowing them to spend more mana on Holy Radiance, but primarily thanks to the t14 set bonus that reduced the cooldown on Holy Shock, giving them a more frequent source of extremely cheap Holy Power.

5.3

Atonement saw a slight nerf in this patch, but very little else changed.

5.4

The introduction of Patch 5.4 saw a massive shift in power. The Eternal Flame/Illuminated Healing interaction was eliminated when Illuminated Healing was changed to no longer work from periodic effects. By way of compensation, EF ticks were buffed by 40%, but this was fairly meaningless considering that most directed healing in this patch was ineffective. (Consider the legendary cloak and other healers’ smart healing abilities.)

Disc Priests, on the other hand, received a serious buff when the target capping function of the Level 90 Talents was removed. Previously, these spells were reduced in healing power based on the number of targets healed, making any resulting Divine Aegis shielding relatively small. Now, these spells applied their full healing power to all members of the raid, and since they are incredibly powerful healing spells, they result in very large absorption effects. It was a 67% buff to these spells in 10-player raids and an amazing 317% buff to these spells in 25-player contexts.

Divine Star in particular stands out as an example of a Discipline Priest mechanic that clearly should not have been allowed to proliferate. The spell has a 15-second cooldown, which aligns with Divine Aegis’ uptime, and heals everyone in its path twice, giving two chances at Critting and applying a DA shield. If we further consider that some lucky – generally progression-focused – Discipline Priests ran with the Unerring Vision of Lei Shen to allow for the occasional 100% Crit Divine Star (usually the UVLS proc expired before Divine Star began its return trip, but even one set of DS DA shields was amazing), we can see how Divine Star could get out of control.

Of course, UVLS was quickly shunned for Amplification trinkets. Discipline Priests were able to select Shadow specialisation and spend coins on attempts at the DPS Amplification trinket, the Purified Bindings of Immerseus, and this allowed them to attempt a dual-Amp playstyle where auto-attacks could proc the DPS trinket’s Intellect buff when desired. And running dual Amp trinkets for up to 18% additional Mastery (and 18% larger Critical heals) was attractive in and of itself, since the other trinkets in this tier didn’t mesh well with Divine Aegis. While ordinarily the sheer throughput of the Cleave trinket would outweigh the benefit of a second Amp trinket, and did so for many other non-absorption-based classes, the aforementioned strength of absorption effects made this a serious concern, since healing itself typically ranges from 40-80% overhealing in Siege of Orgrimmar. Anything that would increase the size of absorption healing was considered a worthwhile pursuit.

Paladins eventually shifted to a Selfless Healer style of healing to go along with the general zeitgeist of smart healing (Light of Dawn) and absorption above all.

5.4.8

This brings us to now. The main change in this patch that had any sort of effect on absorption healing is that Amplification trinkets were changed to stack multiplicatively rather than additively (with some caveats about the Critical Strike effect) and that all healing classes can now activate the proc on the DPS trinket by auto-attacking (previously, only Monks, Druids, and Discipline Priests could activate the procs in any way). This opened up Paladin healers to a whole new world of Selfless Healer abuse 😉

Beauty and the Priest

Given that both Paladins and Priests have such high shielding potential, why exactly is it that we blame Priests more than Paladins for the woeful state of absorbs in Mists?

It’s pretty simple, really. Illuminated Healing shields are numerous, but small; Divine Aegis shields are numerous and large.

If we consider a typical Selfless Healer rotation of Holy Shock – Judgement – Holy Radiance – Light of Dawn, on a stacked raid, the typical Paladin produces 37 shields every time he or she completes this rotation, about every 5 seconds (7.4 shields per second). If we add up the spell coefficients for all of these heals, including spec passives and other things, we get a base shield size of 28% of the Paladin’s Spell Power. This is moderated by (1+Crit)*Mastery; for a typical Paladin these values may be around 25% and 50% respectively (I just stole these from my guild’s two Holy Pallies, your mileage may vary) – resulting in around the shields being around 17.5% of the Paladin’s Spell Power on average.

Applying this same logic to Disc Priests, assuming they are focusing as hard as possible on Divine Aegis stacking and therefore casting Prayer of Healing as a filler instead of Smites beyond what is necessary to stack Evangelism – except for using Spirit Shell on CD – we end up with about 67 potential shielding events every 15 seconds, or about 4.4 such events per second. If we add up the spell coefficients for these heals, we get a base shield size of about 61% of the Disc Priest’s Spell Power. This is modified by (1+Mastery/2)*((1+Mastery)*Crit); for a Disc Priest, these may be 57% and 46% respectively (again, yoinked from one of my raid’s Disc Priests) – resulting in the shields being around 57% of the Disc Priest’s Spell Power on average, or pretty much three times as large as a Holy Paladin’s. Keep in mind that these calculations are working around Spirit Shell usage – so a Disc Priest generates shields at 57% of their Spell Power for 50 seconds of every minute, and at ~90% of Spell Power during Spirit Shell (assuming Archangel usage) during the remaining 10 seconds. The time-weighted average of these two effects puts Disc Priests’ average absorbs at 63% of Spell Power.

The difference of course is that the Disc Priest’s DA shields are less likely to be evenly spread across the raid, since they are dependent upon Critical Strikes, while the Holy Paladin’s absorbs are likely to be more evenly distributed since Daybreak affects every player in the raid, and LoD/HR smartly choose 6 targets each, while outside of Level 90 Talents, the Disc Priest absorbs are less evenly spread. But the huge disparity in shield size counts for a lot more in the current model, since a Disc Priest still creates a lot of shields.

These numbers, by the way, are only really generated for comparison purposes. Don’t put too much weight on the specifics – it’s a very generalised look.

Sucking it Up in Warlords

It’s no surprise to the developers that absorption healing is out of control in Mists of Pandaria. They’ve taken some steps to ensure that it is less prevalent in Warlords of Draenor:

  • Player health pools are doubled relative to gear level, because Stamina now provides twice the benefit it does in Mists;
  • Players are intended to remain below full health for longer, reducing the advantages that absorption spells have over healing spells;
  • Efficiency is supposed to be more of a factor in healing than it is in Mists, meaning that players may not be able to sustain a high DA- or IH-stacking rotation for an entire fight;
  • A reduction in power of AoE healing spells will make any sort of high DA- or IH-stacking rotation much less impactful than it is in Mists.

In particular, target capping is being returned to Priest Level 90 Talents, meaning that the DA delivered by those spells will be much, much smaller. Similarly, Spirit Shell is now a Talent that competes with Twist of Fate, and note that Prayer of Healing is an incredibly small AoE heal now, so even when Disc Priests do talent into Spirit Shell, it’s going to be a much different kind of ability than it is today. Finally, the Selfless Healer playstyle for Paladins is pretty much untenable, as the Judgement no longer grants a Holy Power, and the mana cost/casting speed reduction and throughput bonus no longer applies to Holy Radiance. These factors will result in a much lighter blanket of absorption effects on the raid – really more like a crocheted afghan or a 300-thread-count Egyptian cotton bedsheet than the heavy goose-down comforter we’re getting now 😉

The combination of being off full health for longer, and having larger health pools relative to heal sizes, should mean that even when absorption healers are producing maximum shielding effects, throughput healers have more to do. And while Illuminated Healing is being returned to Eternal Flame, the duration of the HoT now scales with the number of Holy Power used to cast it, so it will no longer be sufficient to blanket the raid in low-Holy-Power EFs and cash in on ridiculous absorption healing.

In the few raid tests I’ve participated in so far, Beacon healing effects have outweighed Illuminated Healing (this is partly due to a change in the way smart heals work, meaning that tanks are no longer a smart heal sponge and can accommodate extra healing from Beacon effects, and partly due to Talents that increase Beacon healing), and Disc Priests have been mostly leaning on the new Clarity of Will to generate absorption shields. Clarity of Will is extremely strong, as a glance at Hamlet’s recent numbers post will show, but it is single-target and has a long cast time, making it unideal for raid blanketing.

In general, absorption spells in Warlords are going to require more thought than they have in Mists, particularly compared to Siege of Orgrimmar playstyles. This is a great thing – absorption effects are simply too powerful, in my opinion, to be blanketed over the raid the way they are today. Having to consider who to target with Eternal Flame and Clarity of Will based on who will be taking the most damage over the next few seconds is going to go a long way to alleviating the concerns that other healers have.

I haven’t provided much in the way of numbers in this section; that’s because I doubt that the tuning we are seeing now in the Beta is going to last. Disc is quite a bit behind other healers in AoE throughput and even struggles with single-target healing, so I expect that some of their spells will be buffed again. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some sort of change to Selfless Healer for Holy Paladins either, since it is currently a very unattractive Talent. Furthermore, to get super-analytical about the next expansion just doesn’t fit in a historical review of the current one 🙂

As we get closer to launch and numbers-tuning begins, I’ll reevaluate and try to draw more concrete conclusions, and perhaps take a look ahead at the “scaling” issue that we’ve all heard so much about, but until then, I am mildly optimistic that absorption healing will be more controlled and sane in Warlords than it is today.

A Parting Note

This whole post may seem to have come off pretty hostile to Discipline Priests, and I’m sorry. It’s not your fault. I in fact think that Discipline is really beautifully designed from a mechanical point of view – if they were the only healing spec in the game. I appreciate the interactions between spells and feel that the toolkit as a whole is rather elegant. My experiences in Proving Grounds helped me form this positive impression – in the presence of restraints such as the relevance of mana and a low-Crit environment, Discipline healing is incredibly deep and requires a lot of encounter knowledge and strategery. I love this flavour, and if it were true throughout an expansion I’d be pretty tempted to play Disc Priest as my primary alt. I don’t expect that we’ll see this happen, and that’s probably the right choice by the designers 🙂

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About Dedralie

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This entry was posted in Discipline, Mists of Pandaria, Paladin, Philosophy, Priests, Raids, Theorycrafting, Tier 14, Tier 15, Tier 16, Warlords of Draenor and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to MoP in Review, Part 3: The Troubles with Bubbles

  1. lifetotem says:

    Hmm. Few things to add/fix about Paladins.
    Season 13 old PvP bonus working with Divine Purpose – confirmed, that was the idea behind the spec before the bonus was changed. Casting a (free) DP Eternal Flame gave you 1 free HP.
    Throne: Paladin as Sonie pointed out was best due to its Tier 14 set bonus which was extremely good at the time (4 second HS gives you ridiculously cheap Holy Power). That + Seal of Insight to for mana was what was able to fuel the EF engine, not so much spirit (you could never have gotten enough spirit to truly pump out EF’s back then). Note Seal of Insight didn’t work in Tier 14, it was bugged.
    Siege: Seal of Insight no longer gave mana but Spirit’s value went up due to Divine Plea change. That said EF is a more spirit intense build than SH is by miles and miles, SH is the opposite of “requiring spirit” in fact and once geared you really don’t even need the Dysmorphic for it.
    Finally, what was truly overpowered in Siege was Disc Priests, with their uncapped 90 talents. Once geared up, basically all healers had to work around them. But for early value and before the Priests got their gear I wouldn’t say absorbs were necessarily king. Something lost is that Divine Star even with lower gear can do over 1,000,000 actual throughput in a single global – before the Aegis. Also a fact (and some food for thought), most Paladins ran with EF through most of the initial weeks.

    • Dedralie says:

      I tried to reply to this earlier but missed, I guess – this is why I shouldn’t attempt blog management from my phone in bed 😉

      Thanks for the S13 PvP gear confirmation, I was pretty sure but I couldn’t find anything quickly that supported the point and I didn’t really want to wade through page after page of omnibus forum threads to find a post stating it!

      Re: SH, I think I got myself turned around. I have fixed it now; regardless, it doesn’t matter In A World With A Legendary Meta Gem.

      The rest of this, idk if I’d call “inaccuracies about paladins” — I do mention uncapped L90 Talents and Priests as being overpowered in SoO. Maybe absorbs weren’t quite as strong at the start of SoO as they are now – I mean … duh, haha, gear – but trust me, as someone who couldn’t make ’em, I was still feeling their oppressive presence 😉 And I did note that Paladins “eventually” switched to a Selfless Healer playstyle … and we all know they weren’t using Sacred Shield before that XD

      • lifetotem says:

        Re: Re: SH, I think I got myself turned around. I have fixed it now; regardless, it doesn’t matter In A World With A Legendary Meta Gem.

        It did, before you get 580+ gear. EF was a huge mana burn, you needed a lot of spirit to sustain it in general. Part of what made SH initially attractive was not its mastery scaling, it was the fact that it was 100% smart heals and that it costed a lot less mana.

        In toT you could drop it for the last few bosses only because you could melee for a huge % of the fights.

      • Dedralie says:

        Well, not 100%, right; Holy Shock still isn’t smart and Daybreak is splashy not smarty 😛 But regardless of pedantry, I don’t think we are actually in conflict/disagreement anywhere here. 🙂

  2. Sean Stewart says:

    Oh I laughed so hard at this. Nice post though! I like being able to look through these things on a temporal level and how they panned out and the directions they went.

    But for now. Let us say our prayers, as this phase of our absorby-bursty healing life comes to an end.

    Zarhym 1:1-31, By Amabella.

    In the beginning Ghostcrawler created the instance and the raid. And the raid was without mobs, or loot; and darkness was upon the dungeon journal. And the developers of Ghostcrawler iterated upon the specs of the healers.

    And Ghostcrawler said, Let there be absorbs: and there was PW:S. And Ghostcrawler saw the shield, that it was good: and Ghostcrawler divided the absorbs from the heals. And Ghostcrawler called the absorbs balanced, and the healing he called useful. And the shielding and the healing healed the first raid.

    And Ghostcrawler said, Let there be a spec with the power of the absorbs, and let it call forth the tears of the healers. And Ghostcrawler made the disc priest, and divided the healers which were without absorbs from the healers which were granted absorbs: and it was so. And Ghostcrawler called the disc priest balanced. And the crying on the forums encompassed the second raid.

    And Ghostcrawler said, Let the buffs of the disc priest be gathered together unto one place, and let the spamming begin: and it was so. And Ghostcrawler called the spammed spell PoH; and the spamming of the PoH called forth the Seas of tears: and Ghostcrawler saw that it was good. And Ghostcrawler said, Let the disc priest bring forth damage, the fire and the smite, and the penance producing more healing offensively than when used to heal, even more than CoH: and it was so. And the absorbs brought forth spirit shell, and it did stack to maximum upon the raid, and the mechanics were ignored, whose damage was absorbed: and Ghostcrawler saw that it was good. And the shielding sniped the healing in the third raid.

    And Ghostcrawler said, Let there be absorbs in a spec of the paladin to divide it from the throughput healers; and let them be for shocks, and for radiance, and for divine lights, and talents: And let them scale at such great rate as to give rage upon the other healers: and it was so. And Ghostcrawler made two great absorb healers; the disc priest for the first healing slot, and the holy paladin for the second healing slot: he made the shaman, druid, and monk also, but noone cared. And Ghostcrawler set them in the raid to give heals upon the tanks, And to rule over the heroic raids and over the normals, and to divide the progressed from the raids lacking absorbs: and Ghostcrawler saw that it was good. And the shielding crushed the healing in the fourth raid.

    And Ghostcrawler said, Let the mistweavers bring forth abundantly the healing of great volume, the mists that may cover the raid and randomly heal it. And Ghostcrawler created great set bonuses, and every single healer that readeth mmo-champion did weep upon the power of the T16 four piece: and Ghostcrawler saw that it was good. And Ghostcrawler blessed the mistweavers, saying, Be powerful, and multiply, and fill the raids with green, and let population balance be achieved. And the crazy smart heal chi waves healed the fifth raid.

    And Ghostcrawler said, Let the druids bring forth mushrooms to store up their hots’ overhealing; and to grant them burst: and it was so. And Ghostcrawler made the mushrooms equal to the power of lay on hands on a fraction of the cooldown, and every holy paladin did weep at this and the destruction of eternal flame: and Ghostcrawler saw that it was good.

    And Ghostcrawler said, Let us make shaman, because self rezzing is cool: and let them have dominion over the niche of stacked healing, and over the cooldowns, and over the regeneration of mana, and the other healers shall beg them to sacrifice their throughput in the name of raid success. So Ghostcrawler created mana tide totem, and did gift it to shaman only; he gave hymn of hope also to the priests, but it sucked. And so Ghostcrawler blessed the shaman, and Ghostcrawler said unto them, Be powerful, and heal in small radius, and replenish the health, and augment it: but not if it stands more than ten yards away from you.

    And Ghostcrawler said, Behold, I have created healer balance, which is evident in the composition of all raids, and every spec, in which is the fruit of many developers minds; shall be represented. And to every tank of the raid, and to every melee on the bench, and to every guy that creepeth upon the one female raider, wherein there is damage, I have given healers to heal it: and it was so. And Ghostcrawler saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. Except for the part where all 10-mans used disc priests and whatever was the next-most-OP healer.

  3. ElBne says:

    I guess I don’t share your enthusiasm for the idea that this will be fixed for WoD because it sounds so much like what we were told after Wrath and then after Cata. It’s been Disco Priest or GTFO for most of three expansions now.

    I’m not sure how “people won’t be at full health as often” and “efficiency will matter” is any different then when they told us that Triage was the future (cata) or that mana would matter (MoP).

    I mean it sounds good. But I feel like I’ve seen this dog and pony show before.

    That being said, why they don’t steal Wildstar’s partial absorption shield effect so that shields aren’t perfect I don’t know. It seems like an ideal world where shields blunt the attack, but enough leaks through that throughput healing has something to do.

    • ElBne says:

      I don’t know if it’s pertinent, but I feel I should mention that I make that comment *as* a Disco Priest. I really like preventative healing as a playstyle (I’m old and my reaction times aren’t great). I may be the only one of my brethren that didn’t mind spending H-LK mindlessly spamming PW:S on the entire raid endlessly.

    • Dedralie says:

      Hi ElBne, you raise fair points and I definitely share your concerns — Disc was in a “behind-the-pack” position at the start of MoP too, and got buffed to truly dumb levels in 5.1 and then just kept getting stronger, and I hope we don’t see that happen in Warlords.

      I guess what I think is different this time is that I have more faith that the devs are actually cognizant of, and are concerned about, these issues, because there’s been much better communication with players. (This could just be me being self-centered; *I* get to talk to devs more than I did in MoP, haha.) I think they have learned from the mistakes of Cata and MoP. My previous post in this series notes how they improved the mana situation that was so VERY ridiculous at the end of Cata to something that is “just” ridiculous (but not VERY!) at the end of MoP, and they have been working to keep Spirit relevant but not make it too easy to come by in Warlords. That’s not really related, it is just an example of how they made a mistake and have been progressively iterating on the mechanics to try and fix it.

      I agree that WildStar’s energy shield/absorption mechanics (they do have full-absorb abilities in WS, but they’re rarer – would be perfect for a CD like Spirit Shell) are a great model and it would be lovely to see something like that in WoW. I did kind of advocate that in my one-and-only post about WildStar, haha 🙂 But this was one of those things that I cut from this post because I am unlikely to become Queen of the Universe XD

  4. DiscOnRexxar says:

    Read your blog late, but would still like to put my comments in for nostalgia sake, since WoD is coming. 🙂

    I love being a Disc priest. Not because I was top 3 healer in raids…on the contrary I was uncomfortable with it, probably because I know exactly how the disc mechanics works.
    But I have to spec on Crit and Mastery to play the class to its potential, otherwise why play it at all…

    I love playing Disc because I can contribute to helping my mates in surviving the mechanics, something not many healing classes provides, and I am not referring to just raid cooldowns or damage reduction.

    1. Spirit Shell obviously for damage reduction…seeing everyones health freeze during burst damage is satisfying, not so for other healers for obvious reasons. But I can also say the same for Tranq, Revivial, Healing Tide etc. 😛

    2. PW:Shield with Body and Soul for speed boost on fellow raid members during Thok fixate, Engineers team on Garrosh etc

    3. PW:Shield for Bomb Disposal Squad for Iron Juggernaut and Iron Prison for Shaman, Aim for Paragons

    4. Mass Dispel for Thok

    5. Life Grip for the Kunchong in Paragons

    But I doubt most raiders I raid with will ever know what was being done for most of the above. To most, as long as the boss is down, no one cares about the healers much.

    But to the other healer classes, I would like to say, that they have one advantage over Disc priest, for progression raid. Most possesses burst heals or raidwide cooldowns. Something that Disc priest do not have. Even if the entire raid were to stack and we spam Divine Star, our contribution to survivability is not much. In raid preparation, conversation frequently goes this way, “At 7 stack, BoP so and so druid for Tranq, at 10 stack, Devo and Healing Tide, err Disc…eh do what you always do.” And then we top healing meters because of shield mechanics….without which, we will likely have been the lowest healers in the list.

    So I agree, we do need tweaking on the Disc toolset to narrow the gap but not so much to cripple the disc set. Playing Disc have increased my situational awareness and predict incoming damage. Knowledge that I am able to apply on other healing classes to great effect.

    • Dedralie says:

      I definitely agree that a lot of people who don’t play Disc don’t really get all the intricacies and subtleties. Myself, I really do love the spec – but I only realised it after doing Proven Healer on my Disc. Standing alone, being unable to burst people back up, and therefore having to know every second of every wave like the back of my hand so I could preempt it all – well, that was really exhilarating when I got it right 🙂

      I am all about the whole “healers need to know the encounter first, THEN apply their spells to the encounter’s damage pattern” argument. My favourite thing about healing is understanding how an encounter fits together and how to counter it. This is why I write ridiculously detailed guides 😉 And yes, Discipline is absolutely the poster child for having to understand a fight to get maximal performance. Unfortunately, right now I think the gap between a Disc who knows the fight and a Disc who spams Atonement in between Divine Star casts and Spirit Shell is a little too small 🙂

      The problem with Disc is just that it really doesn’t play well with others. At least, not in its current implementation. A lot of that is the error of allowing us too much mana and the overbuffing of the L90 talents, but also the damage patterns in SoO and the simple fact that people are off full health for 2-3 seconds at a time at most are contributing a lot to Disc’s overpoweredness. These things get better in Warlords, such that Disc probably didn’t need to have Spirit Shell instated as a Talent choice rather than a baseline spell, but I can understand why they are being cautious with that.

      • DiscOnRexxar says:

        I totally agree with your analysis. Was recently in a raid with another Disc, and she was just standing there spamming atonement and divine star. No dispel, no PW:S, Spirit Shell on Cooldown, and she grind every other healers’ faces down to the ground. Even though every other healers were doing the “right” thing in dispel, burst heal to bring teammates HP up after taking a mechanics, Dmg suppression etc.

        And everyone goes gaga over the healer, praising her for carrying etc.

        But no one knows, that in the greater scheme of things, she didn’t contribute much to survivability. Her shields get randomly thrown around, while those raid members absorbing mechnics are burst healed and dmg suppressed by other healers.
        So yah I do feel the pain.

        Do keep your sites going with more information on WoD changes, and your advice on each WoD raid contents. I learn quite a bit from it for my raids. 🙂

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