Patch 6.0.2: Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

It’s been one day since Patch 6.0.2 was applied, and as Mythic raid logs accumulate, we’re starting to see some familiar trends. Before people get too worried about What This Means For Warlords Healing, I want to jump in and address the issue. The TL;DR is: this month is meaningless, and absolutely none of this has any correlation to how the healing game will play out in Warlords of Draenor. But that is just the short story – you all know I’m going to provide you with the long story, too 😉

So here’s what the rankings looked like earlier today – highlighting Warcraft Logs’ new RaidBots-esque feature:

The first day of Mythic SoO raiding shows absorbs are still king

The first day of Mythic SoO raiding shows absorbs are still king

(And here’s the direct link to that report – mind you, the graph is skewy because there’s no option other than “view the last two months”, but Mythic rankings were only added yesterday; the table below still gives us the same information.)

These results seem to contradict the developers’ intention, and many of the things I’ve written here, about absorption healing not being as powerful in Warlords. Discipline Priests and Holy Paladins are on top, like they have been all expansion, but this doesn’t mean that Warlords hasn’t fixed the absorption issue. All it means is that it takes more than a bit of class tweaking to fix the absorption issue.

There’s a lot of things at play here beyond the numbers issues that are highlighted by that table. Numbers can be tweaked, and probably will be, but that won’t bring around the Warlords atmosphere we all crave. Here I’ll break down all the various reasons why I casually dismiss this entire month as “Magical Unicorn Fairyland Raiding”, and assert that nothing we do until December 2nd will really matter. A lot of this will apply to DPS as well as healers, so tell your friends 😉

Unfinished Business

While this Tweet was written specifically in response to Hunters unhappy with their DPS, it applies to the entire game:

Balance isn’t done. Tweaks are still occurring on Beta, and as should be obvious from this post in the Beta Theorycrafting Discussion thread, tweaks and hotfixes will continue to occur throughout 6.0.2. The developers are aware that there are underperforming and overperforming specs and are working on it.

But their first priority is ensuring that classes achieve parity at Level 100. Level 90 parity is a lesser concern – and this is as it should be. After all, we’re only going to spend another month at Level 90, but we’ll spend an entire year (or more?) at Level 100. All of the cool new content is for Level 100 characters, and all of the ability pruning and design changes are aimed at the Level 100 playing experience.

It’s important that players have fun in the month before Warlords launches, too, so they do care about the classes that are struggling to have fun. Sure, they could just buff everyone to do ridiculous levels of damage and healing, so that everyone feels powerful and fun, but that sets up some unfortunate expectations for the leveling experience and beyond, and any substantial changes would just have to be undone when the new expansion launches.

It’s likely that any changes that affect your characters at Level 90 on the live servers are going to be aimed at class balance at Level 100, and while they will bring Level 90s closer to parity, it isn’t going to fix everything.

A Few Wrenches Short of a Set

Remember, too, that we are playing with incomplete toolkits, ones that are no longer designed for a Mists of Pandaria aesthetic.

Draenor perks are pretty important to the playstyle of some specs, and not quite as important to others. Mistweaver Monks, Discipline Priest, and Restoration Shaman perks aren’t that integral to their gameplay, for example, while Holy Paladins miss out on the really nice-feeling Enhanced Holy Shock (amongst other things) and Restoration Druids are missing out on perks that make their tank healing amazing. This isn’t making or breaking any classes, but it does mean that class comparisons we make now aren’t going to give us a good impression of what classes will look like in Highmaul.

More significantly, some specs’ Level 100 talents have a much larger impact on their throughput and playability than others. Consider a Resto Shaman without High Tide: their raid healing is going to be very weak without that talent, which constitutes a 65% buff to their main raid-healing spell. Meanwhile a Resto Druid’s raid healing potential is almost unchanged without Germination – all Germination does is allow you to double-up Rejuvenation casts (and generate one extra Rejuv tick) on the same player, it doesn’t let you actually cast more Rejuvs. A Disc Priest gains very little raid healing from taking Clarity of Will, but a Mistweaver loses a lot of potential by not having access to Pool of Mists to spread Renewing Mist or Chi Explosion for sustained AoE healing.

This disparity in the importance of perks and talents is necessarily going to create a disparity amongst class performance for the remainder of Mists.

Square Peg, Round Hole

As I mentioned above, there are two elements to the Warlords playstyle: Class changes, which are already in effect (but not yet complete, since we’re not yet at Level 100), and encounter design. Many of the Warlords healing principles that were covered in the Dev Watercooler on healing are tied more closely to encounter design than to class design.

And right now, we’re still raiding Mists of Pandaria content. Siege of Orgrimmar is still Siege of Orgrimmar: the spiky damage model persists, and players still spend most of their time at full health. As it always has, and always will, this model strongly favours absorption healing, and so it’s no surprise that we see absorption healers on top.

But there’s another factor that tips the scales even more in absorption healers’ favour: Mythic Siege of Orgrimmar seems to be using the pre-patch Heroic 10-player Siege of Orgrimmar balancing in terms of mechanics (such as only sending out two Toxic Mists debuffs on Mythic Dark Shamans, instead of the 4 we might expect if it scaled linearly with raid size), and the raid has been heavily nerfed in terms of damage output. You could probably get away with 2-healing most of these fights, so raids bringing more healers than that are going to find that their absorption healers’ throughput remains maxed out and their direct-healing healers’ throughput is reduced.

Encounters in Warlords are designed to be less bursty. Players spend more time below full HP, and so absorption isn’t more powerful than regular healing in these fights. There’s a lot less opportunity for stacking (which will reduce just about everyone’s HPS) and a lot more movement (which will lower Disc and Paladin throughput somewhat). It’s apples and oranges.

Mo’ Mana, No Problems

Consider this series of Tweets from Hamlet:

(Click to see the entire Tweet thread, because he lays out his argument in more Tweets than I can embed here.)

Mana in general is insane right now. Not only is the Spirit you’re using more powerful than it has been for the rest of the expansion, but your base regen – which was normally 2% of your maximum mana every 5 seconds – has been doubled to 4%. I talk about this a fair bit here, so I won’t get into more detail on Spirit numbers and math – perhaps Hamlet will 🙂

The important takeaway from all of this is that nobody is feeling the mana constraints that are a central part of Warlords‘ healing model. Healing feels more spammy than it has before, and that means that Discipline Priests can afford to throw out Power Word: Shields with reckless abandon, and Holy Paladins can still cast Holy Radiance to generate Holy Power as frequently as they’re used to. And since it’s still Mists healing, Disc and Paladins’ ability to turn mana into overhealing into absorption shields is going to trump everything.

With mana constraints, the absorption healers aren’t going to be able to just blanket everyone in absorbs, and so they’ll be brought in line with the non-absorption healers.

Stat Shuffle

Finally, this period between expansions is always a bit silly because secondary stat rating conversions are weirdly balanced and we usually have a glut of Crit, Haste, and Mastery. This is exacerbated in Patch 6.0.2 by the fact that most of our gear used to have Spirit on it, and on armor slots that Spirit has been converted to other secondary stats that have a lot more of an effect on throughput. So we’ve all had an increase in the availability of secondary stats.

Also note that some specs have benefited more from their Stat Attunement than others. Discipline Priests get Critical Strike, for example, and that’s a big deal. By comparison, Monks get Multistrike, and about the most Multistrike anyone could have is 112 rating from a 4/4 Upgraded Mythic Warforged Nazgrim’s Burnished Insignia (and the 5% Attunement buff).

This is admittedly the least important factor, compared to all the other reasons I’ve listed above, but it’s undeniably affecting the way classes are stacking up against one another.

Conclusion

All this said, I will mention that tuning passes have been continuing to occur on Beta, including some very powerful buffs like Disc’s Grace being bumped up to a blanket 30% increase to all healing and absorbs, without any raid testing to test these changes (yet). I trust that Blizzard has people testing this stuff internally in raid and dungeon settings, so I’m not worried that anything completely broken is going to happen. But there’s so much creativity and expertise in the playerbase that goes untapped when changes happen after raid testing finishes; it’d be really great to see a couple of raid test sessions reopened before Warlords goes live.

In raid testing that has occurred so far, balance is actually pretty good, and absorption isn’t ridiculously strong the way it’s showing up in the Warcraft Logs report above or the way it’s been all through Mists. Tuning will still continue, so I’m not ready to say anything definitively yet, but I think we’ll all experience the promised Warlords healing style once the expansion actually hits and we start to level out of the extra mana regen we’ve been “blessed” with in this patch.

So just consider this month to be a holiday, like a month-long drunken Las Vegas junket for healing. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, and with any luck, what happened in Mists will stay in Mists. Enjoy your Magical Unicorn Fairyland time, and you’ll be refreshed and ready to think again when Warlords strikes!

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16 Responses to Patch 6.0.2: Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

  1. Samantha says:

    “So just consider this month to be a holiday, like a month-long drunken Las Vegas junket for healing. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, and with any luck, what happened in Mists will stay in Mists. Enjoy your Magical Unicorn Fairyland time, and you’ll be refreshed and ready to think again when Warlords strikes!”

    This whole paragraph is made of absolute win. Just so you know. 🙂

    I like your analysis as always. I am currently not sure if I’ll be healing next expansion – I’m eyeing leveling my warlock first, honestly. But we’ll see, I always end up healing at some point during an expansion. The cast times on abilities are still a turnoff to me even though they’re not as bad as I thought they’d be, and yes, the mana regen (and DPS) is crazy right now. Most of our raiders were geared enough to plow through normal (now heroic) before, but last night it was just silly. Not to mention funny bugs like Thok eating us all for a wipe due to a mechanic functioning differently because of the stat squish, and then having spinning meat on the floor for the whole rest of the next pull.

    Otherwise, Magical Unicorn Fairyland time is great so far. 😛

  2. Coreus says:

    So, so happy to hear I’m not the only Mistweaver “struggling”.

    I was spewing during my raid — being right at the bottom isn’t something I’ve had to deal with for a long time. With the major nerfs and stance dancing bs we have to put up with now, I’m pretty squarely in the “angry at Blizzard” camp right now.

    • Dedralie says:

      The takeaway here shouldn’t be just that you aren’t the only struggling Mistweaver, but also that the fact that you are struggling during this pre-expansion month has little to no bearing on how you will do when you reach Level 100 in Warlords. You’re in a situation where a lot of the nerfs to your healing abilities will be partially undone by Level 100 talents, and also in a situation where your spells and abilities have been redesigned to accompany a new encounter-design model, but we are not yet seeing the new encounter design, because Siege is still Siege.

      I’m not going to tell you not to be angry, because I know that I’m in the minority on believing that we shouldn’t care whatsoever about what happens during this next month. Lots of people do care, and want to be able to rank, and I can understand that it isn’t fun to feel like you’re unable to pursue the goals you’d like to achieve until Warlords hits. But I will just say that this has literally nothing to do with how you’ll perform at level 100, so don’t get too down about things just yet 🙂

      • Coreus says:

        Yeah, I know. I read the post. 🙂

        The goal I’m actually most annoyed that I didn’t do pre-patch was the Brawler’s Kodo. I’ve been on the lookout and haven’t seen anything about this mount being removed, but for some reason it didn’t occur to me that Brawler’s would be L100 immediately following the patch.

        I think it’s actually a bit poorly thought out to expect subscribers to pay for a whole month of the game being “between expansions”. If it’s not going to work at 90, they shouldn’t make us play it at 90.

      • Dedralie says:

        I’m bummed about green fire. I knew it was going away, but I never got up the courage to try it. My warlock was my first toon and I try to keep her current, and that seemed like something really cool, but I was just so swamped with Beta stuff I never got to try. Poor lock 😦

        And yeah, I understand where you’re coming from. On the one hand, it’d be kind of nice to have the pre-expansion times be free-of-charge since everything gets all wonky. Usually everything has gotten all wonky in the direction of “LOL I have infinite power”, and unfortunately the way things worked out this time around, it’s rather the opposite for us healers. But we can learn a few things in this pre-patch time – mainly, it sounds like, from running the UBRS dungeon rather than raiding, and getting a small taste of what the next expansion’s dungeon healing will be like. I haven’t done that myself, yet; I probably should.

  3. Krazyito says:

    I think a what a lot of people don’t realize is the reason this is happening at 90 is because of the raid we are doing. The type of outgoing damage in SoO greatly benefits absorbs because of “non-critical healing noise” (as mentioned in lifeingroup5 here: http://lifeingroup5.com/?p=3686) which let’s absorbs soak up extra healing and even prepare for the “critical heals”.

    Healing is mainly dictated by the encounter as much as, or more than, your class and co-healers.

    • Dedralie says:

      Yes, precisely. The changes that will engender a better healing environment have to come not only from within (class changes) but also from without (encounter design). And there was never a chance in hell the devs were going to waste WoD development time on rebalancing SoO to fall in line with their encounter design goals for WoD. So what we’re seeing is SoO Amplified, thanks to even *more* infinite mana and insane secondary stat inflation.

  4. Pingback: Healing Discussion Podcast | It's Dangerous to Go Alone

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  6. Lightmayo says:

    I am probably getting old and bitter but I smile a bit when I read the forums these days and see people complain about healing UBRS, which is probably the first real healing test many people have seen in a while (and it isn’t even that much of a test). I feel much of the angst and frustration from these people stems from never really having learned *how* to actually heal unless they were raiding (not LFR) current content or having done proving grounds. I’ve seen many threads from healers saying that how they are amazing healers because they topped the meters in LFR content and so it *must* be too hard if they aren’t successful. *cackles with glee*

    • Dedralie says:

      I’ve not actually done it yet myself because I’m still in that stage where I don’t want to log on to live unless I absolutely have to, because all the fun stuff is on beta!

      I do think that Mists raiding is not really representative of what healing is really about, and I’m loving the return to actually having to make decisions again, rather than just pressing whichever button is off CD and instantly filling everyone’s health bars up 😛 But it is going to be a painful process for a lot of people to make the transition, especially for those who just began healing in Mists and don’t have early Cata and BC instincts to fall back on!

  7. Crystal says:

    Excuse me, Dedralie~In WoD, 1 spirit=? PM5?~

  8. Absorption is easy to fix. Make it leaky. A PW: S for 10 K leaks 2 K damage through, requiring healing. Mastery works to improve that leak, so for some mastery rating x, % leak reduces to 10% etc.

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