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Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Reflecting on the Dragon Soul Nerfs

Posted by Malevica on June - 19 - 2012

The Dragon Soul nerfs have now reached the 25% mark. How has the experience been?

When the Dragon Soul nerfs were first announced I wasn’t thrilled. They changed the experience when we didn’t need it changing. We were still progressing, still improving both gear-wise and skill-wise, and what we really wanted was more time.

An Anecdote

We’d spent a couple of weeks sat at heroic Spine at 10% and were consistently getting to the final lift of the fight before a healer or tank would die and the game would be over. We went away on the Sunday, had a good rethink, really sorted out a few things and were all set to go back in and kill it once and for all. Unfortunately we’ll never know if we really did have it nailed because the fight got nerfed that week; we went in the following Wednesday and 2-shot it.

That did rather take the edge off the achievement.

As did two other guilds on our realm killing it on the same night.

Levelling the Field

Sometimes a boss will come along which provides a serious challenge to a raid team. Guilds will “bunch up” at this point as they work on it, but eventually one will manage to get past it and move ahead for a while. That’s good, because it helps to space guilds out and feeds into the sense of competition. Nerfs undermine that.

Lower the bar and suddenly the leader is whoever gets organised and pulls earliest. That’s not good for competition. I don’t raid for a ranking but I do pay attention to it, and having your ranking determined by the time of the evening you raid, or whether you extended your lockout or re-cleared, or whether one of your raiders had internet problems that night just doesn’t feel right.

What’s more, often you’re not actually solving the problem but postponing it. A guild that’s stuck on heroic Hagara will just get stuck on heroic Blackhorn instead. By not allowing them the time to figure out the solutions (improve DPS, coordinate better, etc) on their own, you’re giving them the metaphorical fish, when it would be better to teach them to fish.

What Does Heroic Mean Anyway?

On my fairly small server 11 guilds have defeated heroic Madness, and 30 guilds are at least 5/8. 91 have killed at least one heroic boss. According to WowProgress almost 10% of the guilds recorded globally have killed heroic Madness. Go back to WotLK, and only 2% of guilds killed heroic Lich King on 25-man, and less than 7% on 10-man despite the gear advantage.

I know 10% is still a minority, and the raiding population is also a small fraction of the playerbase, but I can’t help feeling that the “heroic” tag has lost some of its lustre at this point.

For me, “heroic” should mean difficult to the point where less than 5% of guilds (and maybe a lot fewer than that) can defeat the final encounter. It should mean that you acquired pretty much the best gear available to you, and still had to reach deep down to get the kill. You need to bump up the skill side of the gear x skill product to pull it off. Nerfs that kick in before the gearing process is even close to complete just serve to undermine this.

A Surfeit of Healers

The new collective noun for healers: a surfeit.

Nerfs play merry hell with raid composition. We’ve dropped from needing 3 healers for most of the fights to solo-healing several of them, and at least one of us is stuck either sitting or DPSing each week. Believe me, that’s not something any of us especially enjoys.

The trouble is that nerfs don’t usually affect the number of things to be tanked, and more DPS is rarely a problem (Madness is the exception to both of those rules), so their roles are secure and relatively unchanged. But as the fights get nerfed there’s just not enough healing to go around and it directly affects our play experience and our fun level.

Incidentally, 2-healing heroic Madness last week was the most fun I’ve had in ages! Talk about running on fumes!

Solutions?

It wouldn’t be fair to grumble and mutter without at least trying to be constructive.

First off I can accept the argument that the raids need to be almost overtuned initially to provide a decent challenge for the top teams and then perhaps renormalised for the rest of us. We see that happen every time after a famous team snatches a world first with some crazy tactics. I’m fine with that. But once that adjustment is made the heroic bar needs to stay where it is. Give the teams who like to work for a challenge a stable set of goalposts. Once the gearing process is complete, then consider rebalancing.

If it absolutely has to be a progressively-increasing nerf it would be nice to be able to select the levels rather than just having an on/off switch. It’s a small change but an important one. My guild have talked about going back and trying some of the encounters without the buff, but 0% is a big jump from 25%, or from the 5% and 10% at which we got our first kills. But if we could select 10% to start with that might be more realistic and we could work our way up from there.

I’d like to find a way to solve the problem with the lack of damage to heal, but unfortunately I’m coming up blank. I think it’s a fundamental problem with healing being capped where DPS just isn’t. I don’t like the idea of just splitting the healers up spatially so that you have to take 2 or 3 anyway (the tank solution), because it doesn’t really help with the boredom problem.

Suggestions would be welcome.

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Categories: Opinion

Reflections on Heroic Healing

Posted by Malevica on April - 18 - 2012

Now that heroic Dragon Soul is over with I find myself in an interesting position: this is the first time in my WoW career that I’ve completed an end boss on heroic while it’s been current content. It’s been a fascinating experience, and I’d like to talk a little about how heroic raiding and healing has felt to me. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

 

Context is King

I’ve been flirting with heroic raiding for the last two expansions, but it took me a while to work my way through the ranks of guilds raiding progressively closer to the cutting edge before finally ending up in a guild that was in the running for the top of the server charts.

WotLK was the first time I managed to join a guild that was running hardmode and heroic content, but we didn’t manage to kill heroic Anub’Arak or heroic Lich King on 25-man, only on 10-man with 25-man gear. Not that I’m not proud of the team I achieved those feats with, we all worked hard for them and they were a great bunch of people to raid with, but I still felt we fell short of what some members of the guild could, and probably should, have achieved in the expansion.

In Cataclysm I only got a couple of heroic bosses down in Tier 11 before rerolling yet again to Oceanic so that was a bit of a washout, and reaching 85 midway through Firelands pretty much put paid to my chances of earning a heroic Ragnaros kill before Dragon Soul (although we did go 6/7H post-nerf after starting the guild only weeks before). So DS with <;Abraxas>; was my big opportunity to really push progression and I’m very grateful for the opportunity and for the victory.

What my previous experience gave me was a sense of what heroic fights entailed mechanically but what I’d missed out on from being late to the heroic party and not raiding heroics relatively early, with less gear and thus at the difficult end of the progression curve was a sense of what those fights require of raiders personally.

 

Heroics Require Focus

And by this I mean total, full-time concentration. When an encounter is really stretching your team’s limits, when your tank is fractions of a second away from dropping dead and when those green bars just don’t seem to ever want to come up again you absolutely have to pay attention the whole time. Glance at your chat log and someone might end up dead. Fail to spot an enemy spell cast and don’t hit your cooldown in time, someone’s dead. Stand in the fire for a second too long and your HPS will be zero for the rest of the fight.

And it’s not just paying attention, it’s also having to constantly think. There’s so little time that you can spend just mashing the same button and waiting for a big blue DBM warning; instead you’re watching timers or learning to feel the fight so you can be ready for the next big thing to come at you, switching spells and healing targets on the fly, and working out what your fellow healers are doing.

And let me tell you, this gets exhausting. We raid 9½ hours per week spread over three nights which isn’t much by some standards, but we generally raid hard for those hours with quick re-pulls after wipes and as little downtime as possible. By the end of good progression nights I’m quite often completely frazzled and no use to anyone for a while afterwards. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy myself, but it’s hard work, mentally, and if you can’t keep it up for the duration of the raid then you’re just going to be wasting time by the end.

 

Heroics Require Motivation

So we’ve established that healing heroics is sometimes hard work and tiring; that inherently means you need to find your motivation.

You can be intrinsically motivated – motivated by your own reasons like killing bosses makes you happy or you have a desire to be the best healer you can be – or extrinsically motivated – motivated by something outside the task, maybe so your raid leader will stop yelling at you, or for bragging rights or a shiny mount – or a combination, and neither is inherently “better” than the other.

Whatever you use, you need to be able to stay motivated because healing heroic raids is not going to be fun all the time. For me, it’s a combination of factors, and they come in and out of play as progression rolls on, for example:

  • At a basic level I want to kill bosses because it makes me happy to overcome a challenge I’ve been set, but I’ll admit sometimes I wonder if it’s worth the stress.
  • I also keep turning up because my team needs me and I don’t want to deny other people the opportunity to raid and beat encounters. That’s partly intrinsic because I know that turning up is the right thing to do, and also partly extrinsic because I’ll lose my raid spot if I leave people in the lurch.
  • I also set myself targets like improving my usage of a certain spell or cooldown, or beating my numbers compared to last week. Those small, measurable, achievable goals keep me coming back even when a boss takes weeks to move past and it’s frustrating as hell.
  • And yes, I want to stand around Stormwind showing off the title and mount that are the metaphorical carrots dangled in front of me every tier. Nothing wrong with that as a motivational tool!

I think that a good team community helps a lot with motivation. If you feel loyalty to your raid team you’re more likely to want to come back day after day to help them out even when you’re not personally having much fun, and some healthy competition and banter can provide side-goals to keep you aiming at something.

 

Heroics Require a Thick Skin

This is probably the thing that I’ve struggled with the most. We don’t have a culture of yelling at people in Vent as a general rule, but I know when I’ve missed a cooldown or got myself killed or got someone else killed. I am my own worst critic and I set myself standards which are probably too high, and I’m very good at beating myself up when I don’t meet them.

At the end of the day, you need to remember that heroic raiding is difficult. You will make mistakes and you will cause wipes, everyone does. And because of that you’ll probably be the target of other people’s frustrations at times and even if you don’t get yelled at immediately or called out publicly you’ll probably feel it anyway.

Heroic raiding requires you to pick yourself up, acknowledge your mistakes (to yourself or to your team or both), learn from them, and move on.

 

Heroics Require Flexibility

Unlike normal modes, where the tuning is a bit more forgiving, heroic raids require the right composition. Over the years the definition of the “right composition” has been made a little more reasonable than stacking your raid with Shaman and making everyone take up leatherworking, but (pre-nerf, at least) 3-healing Ultraxion on heroic just wasn’t happening. So you need to be able to adapt yourself to the demands of the encounter.

For healers (and tanks too, probably more so than for healers) that often means being competent at a DPS spec or being willing to sit out for a mainspec DPS when there’s not a spot for you. I’ve sat on a few bosses and I’ve even tried DPSing, albeit without much success. Fortunately we have healers in the team who are competent in their offspecs, and they make up for my inadequacies!

I’ll also mention that you will sometimes need to work harder, and it might feel like you’re being asked to “carry” another role. We’ve all been there, when you’re dropping a healer because you’re hitting a berserk timer instead of giving your DPS the kick up the backside (you feel) they really deserve. Maybe it’s not fair to make you work harder, maybe other guilds manage just fine with 3 healers instead of 2, but you have to at least be willing to give it your best shot. Whatever it takes to get the boss down, even if that means going way outside your comfort zone.

Flexibility also means tailoring your spec and glyphs to the encounter you’re currently working on, and that’s something everyone will end up doing to some extent. Every fight is different and you can’t rely on one spec, one glyph setup and one reforge and never change anything for an entire tier. You need to think ahead about the mechanics, and look back at logs, to see where you can improve or what needs to change.

 

Heroics Require Analysis

Which leads nicely to the last thing on my list: you have to be analytical. Not your raid leader or your healing lead, you! And by “you” I of course mean “everyone”. You need to analyse your own performance, your raid’s performance and your strategy and also be able to communicate your ideas to the team (or at least to your raid leader) clearly and concisely.

Your raid leader will have an idea of the strategy they want to employ; they’ve watched the videos, read the guides, understood the mechanics and come up with a plan. Yet the boss is still defeating you. WTF?! Your raid leader will have questions you need to answer, and they can’t answer them on their own. Questions like:

  • Why did you die? – Not “what killed you”, plenty of addons will report the proximate cause of your death, but “why were you able to be killed”. The answer might be that you stood in fire for too long, but was there a reason for that? Was everyone too clumped up? Were you preoccupied by too many things to watch? Is something preventing you from seeing the spell effects? Do we need to call out that mechanic? When your raid leader asks a question like this, pretend they’re really asking “how can we help prevent this from happening again”.
  • Why didn’t X get healed? – Maybe X got 2-shot and you couldn’t have healed him up, that’s good information. Perhaps a healer was out of commission (Ice Tombed, maybe) and no one noticed. Maybe someone took an unexpected damage spike and everyone switched off the tank to heal him up. To answer this question well you need to understand your assignment and how it relates to everyone else’s, and bear in mind that those assignments might not be formal, they might just be what the healers expect each other to do.
  • Why is your HPS (or DPS) so low? – Bad answer: “I don’t know”. Worse answer: “<;myClass>; sucks on this fight. Better answers should relate to the strategy or mechanics. Is there too much movement? Are you missing buffs? Are you not maximising AoE (or cleave, for DPS) opportunities? Bad timing for cooldowns? You get the picture.

I’ll repeat myself, because I think this is one of the most important things I’d tell a new heroic raider: When your raid leader asks a question about why something happened or didn’t happen, don’t stop at answering the question they asked. Instead pretend they’re really asking “how can we help prevent this from happening again?” and answer that question.

Sometimes you might not get your wish, but if you never ask then how will your raid leader know there’s a problem at all? They’re only one person, playing one role, they’re not omniscient.

 

Is It Worth It?

Absolutely, one hundred per cent, without a doubt.

But do bear in mind that heroic raiding will not always be fun. In the words of the great Del Preston:

It will not be easy.

You will get tired. You will get blisters. You will get aches and pains.

But you will also get good.

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Categories: Anecdotes, Opinion

Dragon Soul Nerfs

Posted by Malevica on January - 20 - 2012

Blizzard has announced that from January 31st Dragon Soul normal and heroic will be hit with a 5% nerf across the board, which may or may not be followed by further nerfs. Reactions have been predictably strong.

What Blizzard Said

Let’s have some choice excerpts. You can read the full text on MMO-Champion and elsewhere.

Here’s a bit from the first announcement:

During the scheduled server maintenance on the week of January 31, the Dragon Soul raid will become enveloped by the “Power of the Aspects” spell, reducing the health and damage dealt of all enemies in the raid by 5%. This spell will grow progressively stronger over time to reduce the difficulty and make the encounters more accessible. The spell will affect both normal and Heroic difficulties, but it will not affect the Looking for Raid difficulty.

The spell can also be disabled by talking to Lord Afrasastrasz at the beginning of Dragon Soul, if a raid wishes to attempt the encounters without the aid of the Dragon Aspects.

So it’s a flat 5% nerf to health and damage done, no mention of removal of mechanics or mechanic changes à la Firelands. The scale is similar to the ICC progressive nerf/buff, and just like the ICC effect it can be turned off if you want to.

Later on, a follow-up post with clarification and, importantly, explanation was posted:

Believe it or not there are actually guilds and raiding groups that are attempting to progress through Normal and Heroic raids, but are hitting a wall, and have been hitting a wall. We have actually statistical date [sic.] we base our changes on, we know exactly how many people are clearing these raids each week, we know exactly how many people are able to down just a few bosses, and how many were only able to down a few bosses every week for weeks on end and then stopped raiding altogether.

The issue we’re constantly trying to combat is the one where people feel like they’re just out of options. One way this is an issue is the content is too easy, they blasted through it, have everything they could possibly want, and have nothing else to do. Ideally that’s a small subset of very hardcore players. For everyone else it’s a feeling of just being stuck with no possible way to progress. Very few players are willing to suit up, buff up, do all the necessary requirements to raid, jump in, and then do no better than they did last week for hours and hours, only to return next week and do the same.

[...]

If they don’t have to be like us, why do they have to have nerfs to get to our position in HM Raiding?
Because they want to and they pay the same amount for the game? I don’t know, man. How is it good for the game to have 1% of players parading around for months and months and a 99% sitting around with nothing to do because they’re sick and tired of wiping?

[...]
We plan to increase the spell by 5% about every month, but we’re not sure if we’ll need to. If we see a lot of people able to keep progressing and downing bosses, maybe 5% is all we need. It’s going to be watching completion numbers and seeing where that gets us. We’re not assuming we’ll need to go as far as we did with ICC. It’s not going to be automatic, our hand is on the dial.

The increase is not automatic or set in its frequency. We will be manually controlling when it increases, if at all. It will be completely based on how many people we see able to complete the raid, and our decision to increase it or not.

Needless to say, much has been made of these two announcements.

Reactions

Taking a quick, far from exhaustive look down my Google Reader and Twitter, I can see several really great points being made. Gina at Healbot.net looks at it in terms of how it affects raiding guilds, particularly when it comes to recruitment. She describes two scenarios:

Option A) Turn off the buff. Fall behind on progression because everyone and their mother is using the buff. Fall behind on server leaderboard. Does it matter that we clear it without the nerf? Not so much, leaderboards don’t show the difference unless you look at clear dates.
Option B)
Succumb to the buff, get totally demotivated (/sigh), and let it hang over your head that you cleared from 3+ on HC after the nerf and had to do it with the buff or fall farther behind.

Looked at this way it’s a real no-win situation.

Kurn made a similar point:

While yes, it can be turned off, I don’t know that many raiders will take advantage of that option. What looks better when recruiting — 2/8 HM (no buff) or 5/8 HM?

In my experience while it’s not the be all and end all, server ranking is a major determining factor in the rate of applications received by guilds, especially those not at the cutting edge; a large proportion of applicants will simply work their way down WoWProgress, and if you’re a fair way down that list it’s a lot more work to recruit without a really good selling point. Saying that you can easily turn the buff off assumes both that your entire team is of one mind on the subject (which might not be the case) and that your team is stable enough to not be affected by turnover and recruitment.
Guilds do not exist in a vacuum, and the decision about the buff is not solely determined by in-game factors.

Gina also sums her feelings up in a way I can definitely relate to:

I feel a sense of disapointment and I’m sorry for my raid team. Sorry I didn’t push us harder, faster, and get us more HC kills.

Nerfing current content reminds us that raids, at launch, are intended for a different audience than us. Once they’ve been through the content, it gets changed to be more suitable for hoi polloi. That’s not a good feeling. I want to raid the same content, albeit a bit later and with more gear, as everyone else.
What’s more it feels slightly patronising to me, as if the game is somehow taking pity on us and nerfing bosses so we don’t have to wipe too many times.

Another thought from Kurn:

I still wear my Hand of A’dal title because of what it took for us to kill Vashj and Kael and finish the Vials of Eternity quest.

Those were my favourite days of WoW; pushing hard to achieve something, even though I was months behind others, knowing that, apart from minor tweaks and slight adjustments, the encounters were basically the same as they had been when the server first guilds had done them. (Until the 3.0 nerf, anyhow.)

Raiders like us who take their in-game achievements seriously are bothered by when we kill bosses, pre- or post-nerf. A post-nerf kill, regardless of the size of the nerf, feels illegitimate, as if we’ve used a cheat code or killed the boss’s weaker sibling. Many guilds insist on tackling heroic modes because normal mode kills aren’t enough of a challenge and therefore don’t give enough of a psychological reward; as normal modes are to heroic modes, so post-nerf bosses are to pre-nerf bosses.

Juvenate of WTS Heals (@WTSHeals) on Twitter was one of several people who brought the LFR mode into the equation:

I always thought the ICC nerfs were so that people can see the content. We have raid finder now.

When LFR was announced, I was hopeful that LFR would allow people to “see content” without needing to nerf normal modes. Unfortunately, as Adam Holisky points out at WoWInsider:

The Raid Finder, while good, isn’t for everyone. Some people really hate pugging — so much so that they’d rather not play the game than have to pug. There are some people who are just interested in running content with their guild, and if their guild doesn’t want to run the Raid Finder, then it’s normal modes.

LFR might have fixed the difficulty problem, but it has its own problems relating to the format and to the social side of raiding. Perhaps if there existed a 10-man LFR difficulty mode that a casual or otherwise less-progressed 10-man guild could elect to tackle we’d have our third difficulty level, but at it stands LFR is an entirely separate animal and can’t just be considered an easier version of the raid that people can do if they can’t handle normal mode.

Note, I’m not arguing for the removal of LFR either. The match-making functionality and the ease and speed of grouping is a huge bonus for a vast number of people, and the game experience for many people has been dramatically improved by the feature. All I’m saying is that it didn’t achieve one of the things I, and others, had hoped it might.

Finally, in what I suspect might be a regrettable slip from whoever wrote that second Blue post, there was a noticeable change in the tone of the rationale this time around. In previous tiers the changes have been framed more towards “greater accessibility” and “allowing people to see the content”. While we’ve not always agreed with the decision, the intention has always appeared relatively noble. This time around though there was some extra language which very definitely pushed Kurn’s buttons, and I can certainly see why. Here are those lines again:

The issue we’re constantly trying to combat is the one where people feel like they’re just out of options. [...] For [all but a small subset of very hardcore players] it’s a feeling of just being stuck with no possible way to progress. Very few players are willing to suit up, buff up, do all the necessary requirements to raid, jump in, and then do no better than they did last week for hours and hours, only to return next week and do the same.

[...]

If they don’t have to be like us, why do they have to have nerfs to get to our position in HM Raiding?
Because they want to and they pay the same amount for the game? I don’t know, man. How is it good for the game to have 1% of players parading around for months and months and a 99% sitting around with nothing to do because they’re sick and tired of wiping?

I wouldn’t go quite as far as Kurn did in her reaction to these comments, although she’s perfectly entitled to her opinion and as I’ve said I do understand her perspective. But it is very provocative to see Blizzard effectively saying that they’re not catering for you.

The (valid) point Blizzard is trying to make here is that insurmountable roadblocks cause players to leave the game and that’s bad for everyone. Thus, they argue, if people have reached their ceiling they’ll get bored unless the difficulty is tweaked to let them progress again (until they reach another ceiling, when the number goes up to 10%, etc.). Clearly the data they have suggests to them that a large enough number of guilds have reached their ceiling to start the tweaking.

The trouble is, one size doesn’t fit all. Some of us are not at our ceiling, so we’re seeing our experience altered, our rewards diminished, our playing field made less level, for the benefit of other people. As humans, that just isn’t going to sit right with us.

And that “they pay the same money, they should be able to do whatever they want to” line was really ill-advised, and I note with interest that it’s been edited out of the forum post.

Et Moi?

As much as I’m disappointed by the nerfs to current content it’s not the first time it’s happened while I’ve been raiding and the game’s still here, I’m still raiding, and I can’t see either of those things changing in the foreseeable future. I’m happy with my current guild, and I’m enjoying the Dragon Soul encounters. Even with the 5% nerf there will still be plenty of challenge to be had.

When I look over the list of issues most of them are external, they relate to how other people will perceive me, or how I perceive my achievements in comparison with other people. So the trick is to focus on the team, focus on the encounters in front of us, and worry a little less about rankings and progression.

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Categories: Opinion

Dragon Soul Difficulty

Posted by Malevica on December - 7 - 2011

The current hot topic amongst the raiding blogo- and twitterspheres is the question of the tuning of the new Dragon Soul raid instance: far too easy and not enough to keep us going for potential 8 months? Tuned about right, when you consider it as a difficulty curve and realise that Firelands was rather flat compared to a strong curve in Dragon Soul. I also commented that I thought the raid was undertuned, but I think I may have been a little hasty in that assessment.

Some Data

<Abraxas> cleared Dragon Soul on Normal this week, taking a total of 20 pulls for the first 6 bosses and then 33 pulls on the last two together, although quite a few of those were on the Spine where we were 9-manning for practice because we had too many people LD that evening. For a better sample (albeit still small), I’ve taken the top 5 guilds on my server and averaged their pulls to kill for each boss for which data were available; it’s not very scientific, but it’s interesting:

First Week Pulls to Kill for Normal Dragon Soul 10-man

First Week Pulls to Kill for Normal Dragon Soul 10-man - Data gathered from World of Logs for the top 5 guilds on Dath'Remar-US

Caution is due here because there may have been server issues affecting guilds on later bosses, or experimentation with tactics, or less information available from the PTR, but this does suggest that there was a pretty strong increase in the difficulty throughout the raid, for whatever reason, lining up with what Rohan observed over at Blessing of Kings.

For additional data, we turn to WoL again, tracking the kills-to-total-pulls ratios for the bosses, again on 10-man normal for comparison:

Success Percentage (Kills/Wipes) for Normal Dragon Soul 10-man - Data from World of Logs for all uploaded reports

Madness of Deathwing has no kill detection so it doesn’t appear, and Spine seemed to have dodgy kill detection earlier in the week so take that figure with a pinch of salt.

With the exception of Zon’ozz who seems to be causing raids a great deal of difficulty, once again you can see a curve there. Morchok is a pushover, but then there’s a good ramping up of difficulty between Yorsahj, Hagara and Ultraxion.

Both of these data sources point to a strongly-graded difficulty curve. Compare that to Firelands:

Success Percentage (Kills/Wipes) for Normal Firelands 10-man - Data from World of Logs for all uploaded reports

Again, a note of caution. Dragon Soul is a snapshot of week 1, whereas the Firelands graph includes the effects of nerfs which I’d expect to have flattened the curve somewhat, but again it’s suggestive of a difference.

So Is Dragon Soul Actually Too Easy?

Initially I thought it was. We’re a very strong but not elite guild and we’ve cleared 8/8 bosses in the first week. And we’re far from alone: on Dath’Remar, hardly a hotbed of hardcore raiding, 7 guilds went 8/8 in Week 1, and a further 8 are 7/8.

However, the situation we’re in is atypical. Guilds like ours, high-ranked but not the cutting edge, benefited from the Firelands nerfs to gain a gear advantage that wouldn’t have been available to us in previous tiers, so Dragon Soul normal probably should feel easy to us. It’s meant to be done in ilvl378 gear, not ~ilvl388 like many of us have, and it absolutely has to be designed that way. By the time we came to the Madness of Deathwing we were very close to the Cataclysm and Berserk timers on several occasions, so a starting position closer to ilvl378 should indeed mean a few weeks of farming would be needed to meet the checks of the later encounters.

In short, I think all is as it should be with the raid, the trouble is more a consequence of the previous tier, and perhaps premature reactions to first nights from surprised raiders like myself incorrectly assuming the whole place is at the same level.

The trouble though, with guilds like us being in this position, is that we’ve lost something important in the raid lifecycle: the “inevitable kill” phase.

Working through normal modes, for a guild like us, is supposed to be something that takes a bit of time while we learn the fight, but which we always know we’re intended to kill. It’s a good feeling, it’s reassuring, and the successes help to lift our spirits and build some momentum. Now, instead, what we have to look forward to are heroic modes which are a far from a certain prospect. We didn’t kill heroic Ragnaros; most of us didn’t make much progress in heroic Tier 11 let alone kill Sinestra; heroic Lich King (even with the 30% buff) evaded many. So every kill from now until MoP is likely to be a long, hard grind, and some kills we may not even get.

You’ll forgive me for feeling a little cheated.

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Categories: Featured, Opinion

MoP Priest Spells

Posted by Malevica on November - 24 - 2011

In a previous post I talked about the talents Priests will get to choose from in Mists of Pandaria. Under the new system most of the old spec-specific talents will be granted to players as they level up along with general class skills, instead of needing the investment of talent points. Yesterday Blizzard released a very early pre-alpha version of their Talent Calculator, which included lists of the spells we will acquire and the levels at which we will acquire them.

Looking at the spells and trees as posted there are some striking gaps and omissions, and some of the talent and spell descriptions don’t line up with each other. Remember that this is pre-beta information and will undoubtedly change before release. The sky is not falling! If it still looks like this a week before release, then we’ll panic.
This post, like the previous one, is simply to see what the announcements thus far suggests about the intentions of the developers and to look at how the new system may work.

Credit goes to Harpy’s Nest for getting a list up in a really handy format along with some insightful analysis, and I’d strongly recommend you head over there and check out her post then come back. I’m going to lay out the spell lists out separately, so it’s worth keeping both views in mind.
Another take comes from the legendary Derevka, who adds some very healthy ladlefuls of caution to his analysis.

And here’s mine:

Caveat: There are some big omissions in these tables, spells which seem to have vanished altogether, such as Mind Blast and Prayer of Healing. There’s also spells that don’t make sense, or which appear otherwise odd. Bashiok has already said Prayer of Healing’s absence is an oversight and that it won’t be the only quirk in these very early talent/spell lists, which makes it impossible to draw firm conclusions like “Spell X: Gone!”. Where we can draw slightly more reasonable inferences is when spells have been deliberately placed in one or another spec list, although of course even that may change dramatically.

Here’s the full quote from Bashiok:

The calculator contains elements that are experimental, still in the process of implementation, or in some cases outright failed experiments that we already intend to revise or replace. Odds are good that if it looks like we’ve forgotten some critical piece of a particular class toolkit, it’s either accounted for elsewhere, or simply a data glitch (e.g., Prayer of Healing is currently absent from the calculator – we are not taking Prayer of Healing away from priests, and Devastate for warriors probably won’t sunder armor 453%). Our hope is that revealing the calculator in this state will shed light on the philosophy behind our talent overhaul, and let you get a sense of how pieces of your core rotational gameplay, such as Hot Streak, Riptide, or Sudden Doom, fit into the new system.

The Spells

 

Class Spells

This is the set of spells that all Priests get as their baseline toolkit, which gets supplemented by their spec-specific spells.

Level Spell Tooltip
1 Smite Smite an enemy for 858 Holy damage
3 Shadow Word: Pain A word of darkness that causes 1398 Shadow damage over 18 sec.
5 Power Word: Shield Draws on the soul of the friendly target to shield them, absorbing 9123 damage. Lasts 15s. While the shield holds, spellcasting will not be interrupted by damage. Once shielded, the target cannot be shielded again for 15 sec.
7 Flash Heal Heals a friendly target for 7603.
9 Inner Fire A burst of Holy energy fills the caster, increasing the armor value from items by 60% and spell power by 2052.
18 Resurrection Brings a dead ally back to life with 35% health and mana. Cannot be cast when in combat.
22 Power Word: Fortitude Power infuses all party and raid members, increasing their stamina by 2257 for 1 hour. If the target is in your party or raid, all party and raid members will be affected.
26 Dispel Magic Dispels magic on the target, removing 2 harmful spells from yourself or 1 beneficial spell from an enemy.
32 Shadow Word: Death A word of dark binding that inflicts 408 Shadow damage to the target. Deals three times as much damage to targets below 25% health.

If the target is not killed by Shadow Word: Death, the caster takes damage equal to the damage inflicted upon the target.

34 Levitate Allows the friendly party or raid member to levitate, floating a few feet above the ground. While levitating, the target will fall at a reduced speed and travel over water. Any damage will cancel the effect. Lasts until cancelled.
38 Mind Control Controls a humanoid mind up to level 93, but increases the time between its attacks by 25%. Lasts up to 30 sec.
42 Mind Vision Allows the caster to see through the target’s eyes for 1 min. Will not work if the target is in another instance or on another continent.
50 Mysticism (Passive) Increases your Intellect by 5%
64 Shadowfiend Creates a shadowy fiend to attack the target. Caster receives 3% mana when the Shadowfiend attacks. Damage taken by area of effect attacks is reduced. Lasts 15 sec.
76 Mind Sear Causes an explosion of shadow magic around the target, causing 268 Shadow damage every 1 sec for 5 sec to all enemies within 10 yards around the target.
80 Inner Will A burst of Holy energy fills the caster, reducing the mana cost of instant cast spells by 15% and increasing your movement speed by 10%.

You can only have Inner Will or Inner Fire active at a time.

84 Leap of Faith You pull the spirit of the friendly party or raid target to you, instantly moving them directly in front of you.

 

What we see in this table is a list of basics (e.g. Flash Heal, Inner Fire/Will, Power Word: Shield, Smite, Shadow Word: Pain) and utility spells (e.g. Resurrection, Power Word: Fortitude, Levitate). The spec-specific lists are where the differentiation is to be expected.

As noted in the caveat above, Mind Blast and Mind Spike are gone entirely. I don’t expect them to have really been removed, but neither is it clear at this stage where they’ll end up. I’m hoping they’ll be shunted out to the Shadow list, leaving healing specs with fewer less-relevant abilities to worry about. Notably though all Priests keep Mind Sear and SW:P, which is good because they have specific uses. The new skill and talent system allows the developers to separate out spells far more precisely than before and declutter our spellbooks, and it’s good to see them using that.

Our Shadowy brethren will be pleased that they aren’t going to be troubled by all those pesky healing spells in their spellbook and on their bars in the future, since all but the essentials have been shifted out to the spec lists. Shadow healing is left with PW:S and Flash Heal, while the slower heals are reserved for the healing specs now.

Another notable absentee is Shadow Protection. At this stage it’s a bit early to conclude that it’s been consigned to the bin, but I can’t say I’ll miss it if it is going.

Discipline Spells
Level Spell Tooltip
10 Penance Launches a volley of holy light at the target, causing 874 Holy damage to an enemy or 3370 healing to an ally instantly and every 1 sec for 2 sec.
18 Holy Fire Consumes the enemy in Holy flames that cayse 1251 Holy damage and an additional 420 Holy damage over 7 sec.
32 Rapture (Passive) When your Power Word: Shield is completely absorbed or dispelled you are instantly energised with 7% of your total mana. This effect can only occur once every 12 sec.
34 Greater Heal A slow casting spell that heals a single target for 10136.
36 Inner Focus Reduces the mana cost of your next Flash Heal, Greater Heal or Prayer of Healing by 100% and increases its critical effect chance by 25%.
44 Evangelism (Passive) When you cast Smite, Holy Fire or Mind Flay you gain Evangelism. Stacks up to 5 times. Lasts for 20 sec.

Evangelism (Smite, Holy Fire)
Increases the damage done by your Smite, Holy Fire and Penance spells by 4% and reduces the mana cost of those spells by 6%.

Dark Evangelism (Mind Flay)
Increases the damage done by your Periodic Shadow spells by 2%.

45 Grace (Passive) Your Flash Heal, Greater Heal, Spirit Shell and Penance spells bless the target with Grace, increasing all healing received from the Priest by 10%. This effect will stack up to 3 times. Effect lasts X.
58 Pain Suppression Instantly reduces a friendly target’s threat by 5%, and reduces all damage they take by 40% for 8 sec.
66 Hymn of Hope Restores 2% mana to 3 nearby low mana friendly party or raid targets every 2 sec for 8 sec, and increases their total maximum mana by 15% for 8 sec. Maximum of 12 mana restores. The Priest must channel to maintain the spell.
68 Prayer of Mending Places a spell on the target that heals them for 3332 the next time they take damage. When the heal occurs, Prayer of Mending jumps to a party or raid member within 20 yards. Jumps up to 5 times and lasts 30 sec after each jump. This spell can only be placed on one target at a time.
70 Power Word: Barrier Summons a holy barrier on the target location that reduces all damage done to friendly targets by 25%. While within the barrier, spellcasting will not be interrupted by damage. The barrier lasts for 10 sec.
78 Train of Thought When you heal with Greater Heal, the cooldown of your Inner Focus is reduced by X sec.

When you Smite, the cooldown of your Penance is reduced by Y sec.

80 Mastery: Shield Discipline (Passive) Increases the potency of all your damage absorption spells by 20%. Each point of Mastery increases the potency of absorbs by an additional 2.5%.

 

A pretty familiar toolkit.

The healing spells have been split between Holy and Discipline in an interesting fashion: Discipline got to share Greater Heal while Holy wrested Binding Heal, Heal, Renew and Divine Hymn entirely from our fingertips. If this is how it ends up then I’ll be a little sad to lose so much of the flexibility that I’ve enjoyed as a result of playing a Priest; Discipline will be left with Flash Heal, Greater Heal and Penance for tanks and (possibly) Prayer of Healing for the raid, which really does push us squarely down the tank-healing road.

One could speculate that this is intentional, to split the Priest specs more definitively into tank- and raid-healing specs, but this doesn’t feel like the best way of achieving that goal. Then again, in 4.2 I don’t often find myself using anything on the list besides Binding Heal, I just like being able to when the situation demands it. As I’ve said, this is early days, so I’m hardly freaking out!

Another one to add to the list of notable omissions is Divine Aegis. I’d be very surprised if this didn’t make a reappearance, since it’s so central to how Discipline healing currently works.

I my previous post I speculated about who might be able to take advantage of the Archangel talent, and looking at these spell lists, Discipline is the only spec given an Evangelism spell. However, Shadow currently has no Dark Evangelism spell while the talent specifically refers to a dark version, so either the talent or the spells will have to be changed.

Holy Spells
Level Spell Tooltip
10 Holy Word: Chastise Chastise the target for 727 Holy damage, and disorients them for 3 sec.
18 Holy Fire Consumes the enemy in Holy flames that cayse 1251 Holy damage and an additional 420 Holy damage over 7 sec.
26 Renew Heals the target for 1373 every 3 sec for 12 sec.
28 Heal Heal your target for 3801.
30 Spirit of Redemption (Passive) Upon death, the priest becomes the Spirit of Redemption for 15s. The Spirit of Redemption cannot move, attack, be attacked or targeted by any spells or effects. While in this form the priest can cast any healing spell free of cost. When the effect ends, the priest dies.
32 Holy Concentration (Passive) Increases the amount of mana regeneration from Spirit while in combat by an additional 30%.
34 Greater Heal A slow casting spell that heals a single target for 10136.
36 Lightwell Creates a Holy Lightwell. Friendly players can click the lightwell to restore 11133 health over 6 sec. Attacks done to you equal to 30% of your total health will cancel the effect. Lightwell lasts for 3 min or 10 charges.
48 Binding Heal Heals a friendly target and the caster for 6085. Low threat.
50 Circle of Healing Heals up to 5 friendly party or raid members within X yards of the target for 2725. Prioritizes healing the most injured party members.
56 Chakra When activated, your next Heal, Flash Heal, Greater
Heal, Binding Heal, Prayer of Healing, Prayer of Mending, Mind Spike or Smite will put you into a Chakra state.

Serenity (Heal, Flash Heal, Greater Heal, Binding Heal)
Increases the critical effect chance of your direct healing spells by 10%, and causes your direct heals to refresh the duration of your Renew on the target.

Sanctuary (Prayer of Healing, Prayer of Mending)
Increases the healing done by your area of effect spells and Renew by 15% and reduces the cooldown of your Circle of Healing by 2 sec.

Chastise (Smite, Mind Spike)
Increases your total damage done by Shadow and Holy spells by 15%.

68 Prayer of Mending Places a spell on the target that heals them for 3332 the next time they take damage. When the heal occurs, Prayer of Mending jumps to a party or raid member within 20 yards. Jumps up to 5 times and lasts 30 sec after each jump. This spell can only be placed on one target at a time.
70 Guardian Spirit Calls upon a guardian spirit to watch over the friendly target. The spirit increases the healing received by the target by 60%, and also prevents the target from dying by sacrificing itself. This sacrifice terminates the effect, but heals the target of 50% of their maximum health. Lasts 10 sec.
74 Revelations (Passive) While within Chakra: Serenity or Chakra: Sanctuary, your Holy Word: Chastise ability will transform into a
different ability depending on which state you are in.

Holy Word: Serenity
Instantly heals the target for 6322, and increases the critical effect chance of your healing spells on the target by 25% for 6 sec. 15 sec cooldown.

Holy Word: Sanctuary
Blesses the ground with Divine light, healing all withinit for 367 every 2 sec for 18 sec. Only one Sanctuary can be active at any one time. 40 sec cooldown.

78 Divine Hymn Heals 5 nearby lowest health friendly party or raid targets within 40 yards for 4496 every 2 sec for 8 sec, and increases healing done to them by 10% for 8 sec. Maximum of 20 heals. The Priest must channel to maintain the spell.
80 Mastery: Echo of Light (Passive) Your direct healing spells heal for an additional 10% over 6 sec. Each point of Mastery provides an additional 1.25% healing over 6 sec.

 

As noted in the Discipline section, Holy seems to have come away with the lion’s share of the juicy healing spells, at least at this stage. I’m not so concerned about Divine Hymn being Holy-only, since it slots in as the rough counterpart to Power Word: Barrier while Guardian Spirit counters Pain Suppression.

Honestly, I suspect this separation is just an artefact of the state of the spell lists when the snapshot was taken to create the talent calculator. It would be odd for Blizzard to implement a 3 Heals system in Catalcysm, praise its success, then ignore it again one expansion later.

Disciple/Holy Overlaps

There are a few overlapping spells too, listed here for completeness.

Level Spell Tooltip
18 Holy Fire Consumes the enemy in Holy flames that cayse 1251 Holy damage and an additional 420 Holy damage over 7 sec.
34 Greater Heal A slow casting spell that heals a single target for 10136.
68 Prayer of Mending Places a spell on the target that heals them for 3332 the next time they take damage. When the heal occurs, Prayer of Mending jumps to a party or raid member within 20 yards. Jumps up to 5 times and lasts 30 sec after each jump. This spell can only be placed on one target at a time.

 

Conclusions

Well, as I’ve said throughout, there’s not much to conclude at such an early stage. There are some general observations though.

I find it reassuring to see that the old familiar talent abilities haven’t all been lost, and those that are missing may well turn up again in due course. This suggests that healing won’t be changing too dramatically into MoP, which is good given that it’s had one shake-up recently.

There is a note of concern that so many of the core Priest healing spells we all know and love seem to have been given to Holy only. This might just be because of the time the snapshot was taken, it might be an oversight, it might be a deliberate design decision to nudge the classes in distinct directions. I hope they don’t go quite as far as these lists suggest, because I think that could lead to a loss of flexibility. I can understand the argument that it would simplify the class for players if you simply didn’t get given Renew, for example, if you’re in the “wrong” spec for it; I’ve heard it said that possibly Priests have ended up with too many options. But a lot of the appeal of the Priest over other healing classes, for me, is having that expanded toolkit, so I’m hoping the separation isn’t permanent.

Of course, none of this may mean anything by the time the next iteration comes around, the only real way to know how MoP will play is to get in there in the beta and try it out, which I will of course be doing as soon as it’s available!

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