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Priest Class Feedback

Posted by Malevica on September - 20 - 2011

Blizzard recently put out a call to the community for feedback on the classes, presumably with a view towards setting the direction for the next expansion and beyond.

There have been some great posts already for the Priest class, and the one thing that’s struck me from reading the posts from healers of all stripes is just how much of a range of opinion there is out there. In this spirit, here’s my two penn’orth!

What type of content do you focus on? [PvE/PvP/Both]

PvE, very strongly. I might wander into AV from time to time, but that’s really it for PvP.

If PvE, what type of PvE? [Heroics/Raids/Other]

Raids primarily. I’m not in server-first guilds, but I’ve generally worked my way through heroic modes to some extent.

If PvP, what type of PvP? [Arenas, BGs, Rated BGs]

N/A

What are your biggest quality-of-life issues? For instance, no longer requiring ammo could be considered a quality-of-life improvement for hunters.

The 30-yard range on our Holy spells (HF, Smite, Penance). It just seems a bit outmoded now, especially given that the Atonement spec exists and those aren’t spells we only use while soloing.

The other big thing that would make my life easier is better damage when soloing, or not giving mobs ever-increasing health pools. I don’t have a third spec for Shadow, nor do I particularly want to spec that way. It’s way better than it was in the TBC days, but places like the underground areas in Tol Barad with high HP mobs and very fast respawn meant I was almost unable to get out of combat down there.

Otherwise it’s little things like a crafted wand to go with every other class’s crafted relics (although the VP wand meant that wasn’t so much of a problem in T12, so perhaps T11 was an oversight).

Oh, final one: please can we have more undead mobs to CC? Not vital ones in boss encounters, I understand about bring the player not the class and all that, but putting an undead or two in trash packs would give us some reason to use Shackle again. You could make me extra happy by making the Glyph of Divine Accuracy affect Shackle too.

What makes playing your class more fun?

For me it’s really about shifting gears and making us use more of our abilities. Doing the same thing all fight can be dull, but a fight or raid where you can be on tanks for a while, then on the raid for a while, and then on quick triage for another period keeps me engaged. Priests have a lot of versatility and we make excellent “float” healers, it always feels good to feel like we’re using that skill set.

That versatility extends to gear as well. I feel that of all the classes we have the least constraints on stat choices. On the one hand it’s been weird in this expansion not to be stacking one stat exclusively, it’s made gearing a bit more complicated, but on the other hand it’s been really good to be able to pick and choose gear based on the fights to increase performance for a given situation, rather than having it pre-determined for everything.

We also have good utility, with tank cooldowns in both specs, and Discipline having an additional raid cooldown and Power Infusion to play with. I play to help the team, so having special moves to make the most of really works for me.

I like playing Discipline specifically because it feels more proactive than something like a Paladin or Shaman (I may be grossly misjudging these classes!); it feels like more of a cerebral challenge to predict where you’ll be needed and get prevention in place, rather than reacting quickly after the fact. You need both styles within a raid, and I like the interplay between them.
(On that subject I like the control that party-based PoH gives for proactive damage prevention, and I hope that doesn’t go down the smart-heal road).

What makes playing your class less fun?

Fights like Ragnaros where the mechanics prevent Atonement from working (the tanks can’t be within 15 yards of Rag without being in the lava) are a disappointment for me. Atonement isn’t always appropriate, but I do feel that it should be up to us to decide that or find it out.

Something else that makes playing a Priest less fun is Divine Hymn having an 8-minute cooldown and feeling relatively weak, especially when compared to Druids using Tranquility every 3 minutes and hitting more targets for about the same each. I appreciate that Druids don’t have any other raid cooldown so I can see why Tranq is where it is, but that doesn’t stop DH from feeling underpowered all the same when it is (inevitably) compared side-by-side, or even compared against just throwing Flash Heals out there. The +10% healing buff is nice though and can be used to good effect.

I suppose the other thing that bothers me is the lack of Minor Glyph options for me. As a raider my Shadow Protection doesn’t tend to run out (and it’s not a big deal if it does), so my third Minor tends to be Shadowfiend, which just doesn’t seem to every get used. Perhaps there’s room for more fun options like model changes for the Shadowfiend, tweaking the Archangel wings, or more practical ones like reducing the mana cost of Shadow Protection as well.

How do you feel about your “rotation”? (Rotation is the accepted order in which abilities are used to maximum efficiency.)

I think that Priests are in a pretty good place. We have a tool for most situations, and we don’t have too fixed a rotation to obsess over although we can settle into something approaching a rotation when we need a chance to think.

I like the interplay with Strength of Soul and direct heals allowing us to use our PW:S more often. Although I do find that the lowered Weakened Soul duration can take a while to reach my end, to the point where I often don’t cast a PW:S after lowering the WS duration to zero because I’ll just be told I can’t do that yet, which negates a lot of the value of the talent in a PW:S, Penance, Heal, Heal, PW:S type rotation. I wonder if it’s possible to fix that at all though, given the client-server nature of the game.

I’m glad there’s not much in the way of procs to watch out for, at least for Discipline, which allows me to prepare and think about my next move instead of switching around to react to some thing new, or generally having my flow interrupted.

What’s on your wish list for your class?

Really the things mentioned above. I don’t feel we’re really missing anything in particular because we have such strong versatility, it’s more a matter of tweaking what we have.

My top priorities would probably be, in no particular order:

  • More damage or less tank-like mobs to help the soloing/daily-completing process without requiring a respec to Shadow
  • Longer range on Smite and Holy Fire (and Penance if possible) and no more bosses that render Atonement more or less automatically ineffective due to range.
  • Something to make Divine Hymn feel like it packs a bit more of a punch when used in a tight spot
  • Something to Shackle every now and then!

What spells do you use the least?

From my healing toolbox, Renew, probably. It just doesn’t compare favourably enough in HPM terms to the alternatives, even compared to Flash Heal (Renew: 7304 HPCast, 3.09 HPM; FH: 11627 HPS, 2.78 HPM in my gear), to make it a go-to spell for Discipline, and there aren’t enough talents points spare to buff it enough to make it worthwhile. I’d use it more as a tank heal if it could auto-refresh like Chakra: Serenity makes it do for Holy.

Other than that, Mind Control, Mind Vision, Mind Soothe and Fear Ward. These are all situational. Fear Ward hasn’t been much use lately because of a lack of fearing mechanics on bosses, which might be something to pass to the designers to look into. I really do love the quirky functionality of Mind Vision and Mind Soothe though, they’re just not especially raid-relevant, although I did read a suggestion elsewhere to add an enrage dispel to Mind Soothe which I thought was a great idea, assuming there’s a need or desire to spread that around any more.



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Categories: Opinion

Cataclysm Class Previews – Summary

Posted by Malevica on April - 15 - 2010

Now that we’ve seen all four of the healing class previews (Shaman, Priest, Druid and Paladin), what can be inferred from looking at the previews as a whole?

Standardisation

The first and most obvious theme running throughout all of the class previews is the standardisation of the basic toolkit for all of the healers. Once Cataclysm arrives, every healing class will have three direct healing spells: a fast and small but expensive heal like a Priest’s Flash Heal today; an efficient and moderate-sized heal to act as the default “go-to” heal; and a large, expensive heal for when throughput really counts. The classes have had their basic tools reworked or extra heals added to achieve this.

What’s more, the developers have made it clear repeatedly throughout the previews that they intend to move the classes out of the niches that they have been in over the last few expansions. The best example of this is the big boost to the Paladin’s raid and AoE healing potential.

The point of this is to further the goal of “bring the player, not the class”, allowing every healer to be better-suited to both tank healing and raid healing; of course habits, preferences and in some cases just naked prejudices won’t change overnight, but this is a positive direction to be going in.

I’ve not heard many complaints about homogenisation, although I’m sure that is a fear held by many. Homogenisation to the extent that all the classes are the same but with different artwork would be a bad thing for the game, but so is having your class be ineffective in particular instances or encounters. With these previews Blizzard do appear to be trying to retain individuality and allow healers to specialise, while not forcing a specialism on players.

Looking forward to seeing a new wave of raid healing Paladins in Cataclysm!

Positioning

Another common theme in the previews was the apparently increased importance of awareness of your position, the position of the raid, and the position of the damage. From Leap of Faith and Power Word: Barrier to Healing Rain through to Healing Hands and Efflorescence, every class gained a new ability which will require them to target it carefully to get the desired benefit, either by casting on the ground, by positioning themselves near those in need of healing, or by casting on the person in the most advantageous position.

This has the effect of getting healers to look away from their health bars and take stock of who is standing where, and also suggests that raiding in general will be more position-focused than it has been in the past.
Positioning is a key part of many fights in Wrath, particularly hard modes, and it’s something that I see a lot of people struggling with; I hope this works as a way of adding challenge back into the encounters again, making strategy and coordination pay bigger dividends.

“Fun”

When Blizzard talked about the talent tree changes way back in 2009, they told us they wanted to strip out all the passive talents and allow us to pick and choose for utility. Where “cookie-cutter” builds today might say “start with 14/54/0 and spend the last three points however you like”, the aim is that in Cataclysm we will see more of those free points, especially since the trees aren’t becoming any deeper but we are gaining five additional points to spend by the time we reach level 85.

We haven’t seen enough detail to call this one way or the other, we can look at the extra new abilities each class will get to do their job and consider those a step in this direction. The standardisation of the core abilities allows the developers to be a lot more free with the rest of our toolkit, since we won’t need to spend tons of talent points simple to make our baseline abilities up to snuff. I’m very keen to see the new talents when they are revealed.

Reactions

As a final point, I don’t like to end on a low note but I wanted to remark on the amazing amount of cynicism that’s been on display around the web. Not everywhere, but neither do you need to look hard to find it.

First, these are previews, and in some cases fairly obviously preliminary ones at that. If an ability sounds ok but underwhelming, there’s plenty of time for it to be souped up before release. I’d be extremely surprised if everything here made it live in its present form. So don’t panic just yet.

Second, instead of focusing on how much you didn’t get, why not look at what you did get? Instead of looking for the worst case scenario of just how useless and impractical a new ability will be, why not look for the potential, for all the creative and raid-saving used to which you could put these abilities?

Thirdly, “fun” is about as subjective a concept as they come, so what you consider fun is unlikely to be universal. It’s tricky to judge based on three spells and some preliminary thoughts about the future direction how much fun it will be to play a particular class. I often find Paladin tank healing fairly boring, but others get great satisfaction from feeling themselves slotted neatly into the role and being able to hone their throughput or free up GCDs. I love abilities which test my situational awareness, others feel that they are busy enough playing triage with the green bars.

And I love vehicle fights.

Well, someone has to!

 

Lastly, remember that Blizzard does play your class, they have plenty of people on the payroll who understand your class, probably better than you do, and they are not out to deliberately break your class.



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Cataclysm Class Previews – Paladin

Posted by Malevica on April - 14 - 2010

Following on from the Shaman, Priest and Druid class previews, here’s the Paladin preview from a healing point of view.

Paladin

Spells and Abilities

Healing Hands (level 83): Healing Hands is a new healing spell. The paladin radiates heals from him or herself, almost like a Healing Stream Totem. It has a short range, but a long enough duration that the paladin can cast other heals while Healing Hands remains active. 15-second cooldown. 6-second duration.

As we’ve seen with Healing Rain, Efflorescence and Power Word: Barrier, this is another healing ability with strong raid awareness and positional requirements. This ability should help a paladin to plug their AoE/group healing weak spot to some extent; a paladin can be assigned to a cluster of people to provide some supporting healing.

The wrinkle with Healing Hands is the duration relative to the cast time, meaning a maximum of 40% uptime. In Wrath that would provide some sticky moments on something like Blood Queen Lana’thel or heroic Val’kyr Twins, but with the larger health pools and slower pace of damage taken this might allow time for the healing to average out.

The size of the heal will determine whether this is simply used on cooldown or saved for a tight spot, much like a Druid’s Swiftmend: too little healing and it might as well be used on cooldown, make it larger and it becomes sensible to save it for a time when it won’t be wasted. Perhaps even a rotation of paladins could be used to counter abilities like Kologarn’s Shockwave which affect the entire raid, or to cover both the melee and ranged.

I like the sound of this ability, especially for 5-mans, since it will allow me to have something other than Glyph of Holy Light splash or frantic Flash of Light spam to heal up my party after AoE or multi-target damage, which can only be a step forward.

Guardian of Ancient Kings (level 85): Summons a temporary guardian that looks like a winged creature of light armed with a sword. The visual is similar to that of the Resurrection spell used by the paladin in Warcraft III. The guardian has a different effect depending on the talent spec of the paladin. For Holy paladins, the guardian heals the most wounded ally in the area. For Protection paladins, the guardian absorbs some incoming damage. For Retribution paladins, it damages an enemy, similar to the death knight Gargoyle or the Nibelung staff. 3-minute cooldown. 30-second duration (this might vary depending on which guardian appears).

Just wow! I’m really excited about this ability, and especially the way it has been adapted to give something useful to all three specs: tanks get a defensive cooldown (although this will be a tricky balancing act), DPS get a boost to their damage output, and healers get a helper to smart-heal at their side for a while. Just the thing to get you through the tricky last 30% or when the raid needs a little extra help.

I honestly can’t see a downside to this, and it will also help with the Paladin’s raid healing along with Healing Hands. I’m impressed that the developers seem to have found good, practical ways to improve Paladin group healing without just giving them a Prayer of Healing or baking in the Glyph of Holy Light.

Cleanse is being rebalanced to work with the new dispel system. It will dispel defensive magic (debuffs on friendly targets), diseases, and poisons.

Not exactly a revolution for Holy Paladins, although it’s worth noting that as part of the new dispel system Retribution and Protection Paladins will lose the ability to Cleanse.

Blessing of Might will provide the benefit of Wisdom as well. If you have two paladins in your group, one will do Kings on everyone and the other will do Might on everyone. There should be much less need, and ideally no need, to provide specific buffs to specific classes.

Not so much buff streamlining as a quality of life change for the poor junior Paladin who gets to buff 15 times to cover every spec in the raid and their pets. It should also reduce some of the contortions needed to persuade PallyPower to give the right people the right buffs.

It might also help alleviate the headache of trying to figure out what buff to give all the hybrids in your PuGs quickly enough that they don’t start moaning. Or maybe they’ll see “Blessing of Might” and moan anyway. Perhaps it can be renamed to something more spec-agnostic, like Blessing of Power?

Holy Shock will be a core healing spell available to all paladins.

Fair enough. Depending on the level it becomes available this should make healing in instances a lot easier, as well as possibly giving Protection Paladins an easier self-heal.

Talents

We want to increase the duration of Sacred Shield to 30 minutes and keep the limit to one target. The intention is that the paladin can use it on their main healing target. That said, we would like to improve the Holy paladin toolbox and niche so that they don’t feel quite like the obvious choice for tank healing while perceived as a weak group healer.

That’s a long duration. 60 seconds felt very short and I’m glad and not surprised that it’s going up, but I didn’t expect more than 5 minutes. I wonder then if the mana cost will go up correspondingly to discourage the Paladin from swapping targets as much as we do at the moment and to keep it on the “MT” (or their assignment, whoever that might be). This does seem superficially to be against the goal of moving the paladin away from tank healing, but might be intended to provide more smoothing or ‘passive’ healing to allow the paladin to do other things in between direct heals.

While I’m pleased to see Paladins gaining some extra group healing in general, I’m really not sure if the “tank healer” label will be so easy to shrug off. Healing Hands will have to be rather good to drag Paladins off the tanks, especially as many will have either rolled the class with tank healing in mind or become accustomed to that as their role over the years.

We want to add to the Holy tree a nice big heal to correspond with Greater Heal. Flash of Light remains the expensive, fast heal and Holy Light is the go-to heal that has average efficiency and throughput. Beacon of Light will be changed to work with Flash of Light. We like the ability, but want paladins to use it intelligently and not be constantly healing for twice as much.

My first thought on reading this was that I wasn’t aware Flash of Light was the expensive, fast heal at the moment. I suspect this is a clash of tenses, where “remains” should be replaced by “becomes”.

In any case, this seems to position Flash of Light as the “Flash Heal”, moves Holy Light more towards Heal than Greater Heal (although it will need to have its single-target throughput reduced significantly, because currently it has a Heal-like cast time with at least Greater Heal-like output) and leaves the field open for an as-yet-unidentified big slow heal. This really just pulls the basic direct healing toolkit into line with the other three healers and isn’t unexpected, even if the wording could have been checked a bit more carefully.

Some quite big fundamental changes here though. As Rohan at Blessing of Kings points out, currently Paladin heals operate on a different paradigm to the Priest heals that seem to be the new norm: while Priests trade immediacy and casting speed for mana efficiency (fast and expensive vs slow and cheap), Paladins trade throughput for mana efficiency instead.

When I read the Sacred Shield change I rather expected to see an increase in the duration of Beacon of Light as well. However, from what has been said about Beacon of Light it seems almost as if it is being moved away from 100% uptime and more towards situational use, perhaps for times when there is widespread spot-healing to be done with Flash of Light and the Paladin needs to divert themselves away from their assignment temporarily.

That said the impact of this change is a little unclear at the moment, since we don’t have information on the relative size and cost of Flash of Light to be able to understand the role of FoL and Beacon together.

Edit: The section of the class preview quoted above has been clarified and the original post on the forums updated. The new version is quoted below for reference, but I’ve left the original in place in this post as well for reference. This doesn’t affect the conclusions, but it is worded slightly better.

We want to add to the Holy tree a nice big heal to correspond with Greater Heal. Flash of Light remains a fast heal, but will be more expensive to justify the cast speed. Holy Light will be the go-to heal that has average efficiency and throughput. Beacon of Light needs to be changed so that its benefit is letting the paladin heal two targets at once, not letting the paladin get two heals for the mana cost of one. It’s intended to save GCDs and targeting time, not mana.

And the final change for this section:

Holy paladins will use spirit as their mana regeneration stat.

This change was announced previously, so it will probably not be news to many people. It will be slightly odd to be picking up Spirit gear again.

Masteries

Holy
Healing
Meditation
Critical Healing Effect

Meditation: This is the spirit-to-mana conversion that the priest, druid, and shaman healers also share.

Critical Healing Effect: When the paladin gets a crit on a heal, it will heal for more.

Clearly Paladins will continue to be built around the idea of critical heals and single target heals, which is good if only to retain some consistency in healing style between expansions. Generally though the mastery speaks for itself.

Conclusions

The Paladin preview was released later than the other classes because the developers felt they needed more time to hammer out the details of the class changes before publishing them. Even then there are still gaps, the odd error and the notes feel a little more vague than other classes, but despite that this preview is a decent indication of the intentions of the developers for the Paladin in Cataclysm.

They have stated clearly that they want to allow the Holy Paladin to feel empowered to heal more than just the tanks, and have given them a number of useful tools to do this, from a body-centred AoE HoT in Healing Hands to a summonable Guardian of Ancient Kings to smartheal the raid on their behalf. I’m just not sure if the changes alone will be enough to really move the Paladin out of their niche, but not much would break them out of it in a short timeframe anyway. Little steps.

No doubt there will be some distress at the Beacon of Light change, but from the (probably biased) point of view of a Disc Priest who has been left in the dust on many occasions I’m almost glad that Paladins won’t automatically have the throughput of 2 tank healers in the future. Beacon of Light is an amazing ability and I’m glad it’s staying in the game in some form, but the contrast between raiding with and without a Holy Paladin is probably a little too big at the moment. My Holy Pally is sad though!

On balance I think this preview represents a good step forward: expanding utility and moving Paladins out of the niche without too much naked homogenisation.



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Cataclysm Class Previews – Druid

Posted by Malevica on April - 14 - 2010

Following on from the Shaman and Priest class previews, here’s the Druid preview from a healing point of view.

Druid

Spells and Abilities

Now the thing is, Druids aren’t going to get any new healing spells in this expansion, because according to the developers:

They have plenty to work with already, and our challenge instead is to make sure all of them have a well-defined niche. A druid should be able to tank-heal with stacks of Lifebloom, spot-heal a group with Nourish and Regrowth, and top off lightly wounded targets with Rejuvenation.

I can’t disagree with this; in fact I already feel that there’s possibly too much overlap at the moment which leaves no niche for Healing Touch. The other healing classes will end up with large, medium and small direct heals. Resto already has these boxes ticked and then also has a range of HoTs to choose from.
There will be some tweaks to the spells, to make them align slightly better and to fit the defined roles, but nothing new for this section, so I’ve included a couple of the other new spells that I can foresee Resto Druids using in Cataclysm instead.

Stampeding Roar (Level 83): The druid roars, increasing the movement of all allies within 10 yards by 40% for 8 seconds. Stampeding Roar can be used in cat or bear form, but bears might have a talent to drop the cooldown. The goal of this ability is to give both bears and cats a little more situational group utility. 3-minute cooldown. No cost.

I know it talks about giving Feral more utility, but this one is a nice new toy which non-ferals might be called upon to use as well, especially since it has no cost. This would be perfect for helping your group run out of ground-targeted or mob-centred damage when needed, although the 10-yard radius will require some pre-planning on the positioning front for a healer standing at range.

Wild Mushroom (Level 85): Grows a magical mushroom at the target location. After 4 seconds the mushroom becomes invisible. Enemies who cross the mushroom detonate it, causing it to deal area-of-effect damage, though its damage component will remain very effective against single targets. The druid can also choose to detonate the mushroom ahead of time. This is primarily a tool for the Balance druid, and there will be talents that play off of it. No cooldown. 40-yard range. Instant cast.

I wonder how long this was referred to as “Magic Mushroom” before someone caved and changed the name to something more family-friendly. Anyway, Druids now get their own Explosive Trap, with a bit of Fire Nova thrown in for added control. The only missing information here is the duration of the Mushroom, but I’m sure it will be long enough for it to be used and not to be too inconvenient.
This could be pretty handy in any case, and it’s a nice touch that it’s been given a 40 yard range so you won’t be running into melee range every now and then like your Shaman brethren replacing their totems.

And now for the Resto spell changes.

All heal-over-time spells (HoTs) will benefit from crit and haste innately in Cataclysm. Hasted HoTs do not reduce their duration, but instead add additional HoT ticks. Haste will also benefit Energy generation while in cat form.

If you’ve looked at the other healer previews this won’t be much of a surprise, since every class’s HoTs have been given the ability to scale with Haste and Crit without needing a set bonus or glyph.

Crucially for Druids in particular Haste does not reduce the duration of the HoT but adds additional ticks, which addresses some of the weaknesses of the Glyph of Rapid Rejuvenation implementation. As I mentioned in the Priest Preview, it’s unclear whether there will be a threshold of Haste needed to gain an additional tick from the HoT (i.e to reduce the tick interval enough that you can gain a whole extra tick within the fixed duration of the HoT) or if there will be a different solution. One to watch for clarification.

Druids will lose Abolish Poison with the dispel mechanics change, but Restoration druids will gain Dispel Magic (on friendly targets) as a talent. All druids can still remove poisons with Cure Poison and remove curses with Remove Curse.

Another change which is expected given the other changes to dispel mechanics in Cataclysm. In summary, all “fire-and-forget” dispels are being removed (Cleansing Totem, Abolish Disease and Abolish Poison) and each class is being given three types of single dispels, one of which will always be a defensive Dispel Magic. The stated intent of this change is to increase the importance of deciding when and what to dispel, a change which is probably for the good, although does feel very strongly like a PvP change. Still, Blizzard does design encounters around the abilities players have, so I don’t see this being much of a detriment in PvE.

Druids are pretty mildly affected by the changes, compared to other classes (commiserations to the Shaman out there), not losing any dispel type and even gaining one.

Talents

Deep breath!

Tree of Life is changing from a passive talent to a cooldown-based talent, similar to Metamorphosis. Mechanically, it feels unfair for a druid to have to give up so much offense and utility in order to be just as good at healing as the other classes who are not asked to make that trade. We are exploring the exact benefit the druid gets from Tree of Life. It could strictly be better healing, or it could be that each heal behaves slightly different. You also will not be able to be banished in Tree of Life form (this will probably be true of Metamorphosis as well). Additionally, we would like to update the Tree of Life model so that it feels more exciting when you do decide to go into that form. Our feeling is that druids rarely actually get to show off their armor, so it would be nice to have at least one spec that looked like a night elf or tauren (and soon troll or worgen) for most of the time.

We knew changing Tree of Life to a cooldown was going to be controversial. There was just no way a change this big would be unanimously accepted. My apologies if being a tree was what really drew you to the class.

We might (*might*) consider a minor glyph that kept the visual of the old tree form in some fashion even when not using the Tree of Life cooldown.

Yikes! This one came at me like a bolt from the blue, and it took a lot of other Restos by surprise as well. Needless to say there has been a lot of writing and discussion about this change. I’ll give you my take, there’ll be plenty of others out there to compare and contrast.

First, as Allison Robert did so well in her WoW.com post this morning, it’s important to consider where Tree of Life came from. Originally the Tree was a response to a low Resto Druid population, and an attempt to take them from a secondary, utility healer into the mainstream. At the time the idea of a hybrid tax was in full force, and it was fine for a Resto Druid to accept limitations on Tree of Life as a balance for their flexibility. Over time those limitations have been steadily removed as the hybrid tax idea has been eroded away, leaving the Tree of Life form as essentially a healing buff an artwork change, and a restriction on the casting of damaging spells in form.

So the primary reason for this change is that being a tree requires the Druid to sacrifice the ability to DPS in order to do comparable healing to the other four healing specs, which is regarded widely as not “fun”. I won’t get into the concept of “fun” because it’s so subjective, but looked at dispassionately it’s easy enough to see how little there is tying the artwork to the gameplay any more. Move a couple of the Tree of Life bonuses into talents or masteries and then Tree of Life becomes, from a theorycraft perspective, an artificial restriction on your choice of ability (a net loss) in exchange for a change in model (neutral).
If you only wore matching armour sets, refusing upgrades unless they came in a nice fetching shade of blue, you would probably be ridiculed by most raiding guilds. While not quite so extreme, choosing to be in Tree of Life form would be a similar choice for form over function (pun intended).

That said, plenty of people will only ever have played a Resto Druid since TBC, and will always have had access to Tree of Life, so this would be a removal of a huge, defining aspect of the class. Imagine a Shadowpriest without the purple glow. I remember one of our Restos in TBC experimenting with a specific build for Zul’Aman which did not include Tree of Life, and it was a real shock.
For this reason, I’d love to see them follow through with their Minor Glyph idea and allow Druids to choose Tree of Life form if they desired. Druids are characterised by their forms, it would be odd to be the only Druid spec without a form.

One highly positive change from this is that resto druids will be given a strong healing cooldown built in to the class, although the developers have not yet settled on what that might actually be. This means your friendly neighbourhood Resto Druid might turn out to be your saviour in a pinch, which is a step in the right direction compared to the unsung heroes of the raid today. You really miss them when they’re not there, but they don’t get many opportunities to really grab the spotlight.

Which segues nicely into:

Tranquility is an emergency heal, and we’ll change it to act more like Divine Hymn.

Another way to grab the spotlight. It’s great to see Tranquility getting some love and some recognition that in its current implementation it isn’t the valuable raid-saver it could be.
Homogenisation? Probably, but I’m not going to complain too loudly because I think Divine Hymn is a really nicely-implemented spell.

Restoration druids will have a new talent called Efflorescence, which causes a bed of healing flora to sprout beneath targets that are critically healed by Regrowth.

If I’m reading this correctly, it means that when you land a critical heal with Regrowth, you also place a ground-based AoE healing zone down. Cool, especially since Regrowth is being positioned as the Flash Heal equivalent. It will be interesting to see how many of the buffs to its crit chance Regrowth gets to keep after the talent cull, but in any case this could be quite a powerful effect.

I imagine it as roughly comparable to a Shaman’s Chain Heal: often now a Shaman will Chain Heal off the tanks to heal the melee, or Chain Heal into a group of DPS in danger (Pact of the Darkfallen springs to mind); in the future a Druid can Regrowth a tank and add healing to the melee, or Regrowth a player in an AoE damage zone and add healing to the others in the same predicament.

The big question will be how much it heals for, to decide if it’s worth casting Regrowth until it procs, in the same way other healers work to keep Inspiration or Ancestral Fortitude up today, or if it is regarded as simply a bonus when it does. With the Wrath mindset the former seems most likely, but that does seem slightly at odds with the Cataclysm philosophy of mana-management. Then again it will probably be situational, and where it matters enough it will be used and where it is less valuable it will be neglected.

Masteries

Restoration
Healing
Meditation
HoT Scale Healing

HoT Scale Healing: HoTs will do increased healing on more wounded targets. The mechanic is similar to that of the Restoration shaman, but with HoTs instead of direct heals. In Cataclysm, we anticipate druids using a greater variety of their spells so there is a distinction between healing and HoT healing.

The third mastery bonus is an improved and baked-in Glyph of Rejuvenation, but with no breakpoints (i.e. it will scale smoothly with health, rather than just turning on below a certain percentage) and applying to all HoTs.

In Wrath the Glyph of Rejuvenation has ended up a bit forgotten, because people just don’t stay at low health for long enough to make it worth the glyph slot. In Cataclysm though this will be changing a lot, and these effects could be a very powerful boost to healing output.

A lot will depend on the discipline of the healing team as well though, to trust that players on low health have HoTs on them and will be healed up and not to snipe with a quick Flash Heal. However I’m hopeful that Blizzard can manage to make mana sufficiently constrained that this will be as necessary a part of how healing will operate in Cataclysm as it once was.

There is no detail on the sort of scaling we will see, and I don’t imagine this will be fixed until we actually have some dungeon or raid encounters to test on the Beta servers and can see how things play out. It needs to be significant enough to be able to quickly and effectively “rescue” someone on very low health (meaning getting them out of one-shot territory), while not so strong that no one with a HoT on them can ever die because it heals for more per tick than anything the encounter can throw at you.

Conclusions

On the face of it the loss of the iconic Tree of Life form and the relative of new toys (except for the new cooldown, which is somewhat under a cloud) is a bit of a disappointment, but actually a lot of thought has gone into better-refining the role of the Druid and giving them the tools to do the job Cataclysm demands.

The beauty of hybrid classes is that they do have access to the abilities of other forms, and dealing damage with Wild Mushroom and possibly using an AoE run speed buff from Cat form are great new tools for Druid utility in groups.

Plus the potential to save the raid with a revamped Tranquility and the chance to beat those Shaman at the cluster-healing game with Efflorescence are both nice thoughts to hold on to.



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Cataclysm Class Previews – Shaman

Posted by Malevica on April - 8 - 2010

Blizzard has begun posting the current state of their thinking regarding how our classes will be evolving into Cataclysm, as a series of Class Previews. These are preliminary and should in no way be construed as a promise, but they do show the directions in which they see the class moving which is valuable insight.

I’ll take them class by class, picking out the more important or interesting bits, and there will be a summary post looking at the big picture once the dust has settled.

Shaman

Spells and Abilities

Healing Wave (level 4): While the shaman already has an ability called Healing Wave, we’re adding another spell to the class’s direct-healing arsenal and giving it a familiar name. The current Healing Wave will be renamed Greater Healing Wave, and the intent is for the ‘new” Healing Wave to be the shaman’s go-to heal. Lesser Healing Wave and Greater Healing Wave will be used on a more situational basis.

In line with previous statements on the subject, this is a step closer to giving every class a more standardised toolkit with the class-specific things being the “fun” extras. I expect a little bit of concern to arise about increasing homogenisation, but on the whole making sure every class has a decent set of basic tools is a positive, especially given the increased prominence of 10-man raiding and heroics over time.
I’m not convinced Shaman needed a middle-of-the-road direct heal, but I’ve not raided on mine for a while so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Unleash Weapon (level 81): Unleashes the power of your weapon enchants for additional effects (see below). A dual-wielding Enhancement shaman will activate the effects of both of their weapon enchants. Instant cast. 30-yard range. 15-second cooldown. Undispellable.

Here are a few examples of effects we’re considering for this ability:

- Windfury Weapon – Hurls a spectral version of your weapon at a target, dealing 50% weapon damage and increasing the shaman’s Haste for the next five swings.
- Flametongue Weapon – Deals instant Fire damage and buffs the shaman’s next Fire attack by 20%.
- Earthliving Weapon – Heals the target slightly and buffs the shaman’s next healing spell by 20%.

Interesting. For Restoration at least it seems like a good way to add another dynamic element to a spec which can drift into a rotation mindset at times. I suspect the size of the heal will be comparable to a Flash Heal or Lesser Healing Wave, similar to the way Surge of Light works for a Priest currently. One more to add to PowerAuras, anyway.

Healing Rain (level 83): An area-effect heal-over-time (HoT) spell that calls down rain in a selected area, healing all players within it. There is no limit to the number of players who can potentially be affected; however, there are diminishing returns when healing a large number of targets, much like the diminishing returns associated with AoE damage spells. This should give Restoration shaman another healing tool that improves their group-healing and heal-over-time capabilities. 2-second cast time. 30-yard range. 10-second duration. 10-second cooldown.

I’ve been wondering when this sort of effect would turn up, since we have plenty of ground-targeted AoE damage spells, but no similar heals. Good examples of times I wish I had access to something like this would be Pact of the Darkfallen (aim it at the central point), Lich King Phases 1+2 (great for clearing up Infest when we’re all grouped up) and Sindragosa (on the melee throughout or on the ranged in P3).
The best bit is that (currently) it doesn’t seem to be channeled, which means that in theory it won’t be a terrible inconvenience to maintain a “healing well” for the bulk of a fight, either over the melee or for players to run to if they take random damage. This will be highly dependent on the mana cost and the AoE cap, of course.
I’m slightly jealous that Lightwell didn’t get the same fire-and-forget treatment.

Rohan at Blessing of Kings made the excellent point that this is a departure for most healers in that it requires you to target the game world, not a coloured box. Having played the Mass Dispel bot on heroic Faction Champions, I know how different the fight looks from that perspective and know too well the tunnel-vision you get when Vuhdo becomes your world.

I’m also curious to see the animation they go for. I picture falling leaves, like the flutter you get from some heals already. I really hope we don’t end up with a sickly green Blizzard…

Anyway, more of this type of thing please!

Spiritwalker’s Grace (level 85): When this self-targeted buff is active, your spells are no longer interrupted by movement and possibly even by your own attacks. This will give shaman of all three specs another way to heal or do damage when it’s necessary to move in both PvE and PvP. Instant cast. 10-second duration. 2-minute cooldown.

Healing Rain has the “wow!” factor, but this one has so much potential too. Shaman in particular have been hamstrung in the past by great difficulty healing on the move, so this is a nice acknowledgement. Putting it on a moderate cooldown says, to me anyway, that while the developers recognise this as a shortcoming of the class, they would rather you work around it where possible, rather than just giving the class more Instants or HoTs.

Matticus expressed doubts about the cooldown being a bit long. I can see where he’s coming from, since most boss abilities are on shorter timers than 2 minutes, but I think this is meant to be used more selectively. Compare it to Divine Hymn: I’d love to use it on every Bloodbolt Whirl on Blood Queen Lana’thel but the cooldown prevents me, so I either use it when I feel the raid is in most danger, or coordinate with a fellow priest to use one per phase. More coordination gets my vote every time.

My wonder is if the 10-second duration will come down for PvP reasons once beta testing gets properly underway. Only time will tell.

Restoration shaman and other healing classes will need to pay attention to mana more than they’ve had to during Wrath of the Lich King. Spirit will be the Restoration shaman’s primary mana-regeneration stat.

I doubt this is news to anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past six months, but yes, every healing spec will now use Spirit and the Meditation mastery (see below) to regenerate mana. This is essentially a non-issue, really just a change of name for the regen stat.

We’re making changes to which classes and specs are able to dispel magic, diseases, curses, and poison, largely for PvP purposes. Shaman will have Cleanse Spirit as a baseline ability, but it will only remove curses. Restoration shaman will have a talent that will improve Cleanse Spirit so that it also removes magic. Shaman will no longer be able to remove poison.
Cleansing Totem will be removed from the game, as we want dispels to be a decision for players, not something done mindlessly. To that end, all dispels will cost slightly more mana, and you will waste the spell if you cast it when there is nothing to remove. (Currently, the dispel is only cast when there is something to remove, which encourages spamming ‘just in case.”) We will balance PvE dispelling with this new model in mind.

Oh boy, the dispels change. I might get round to dedicating a post to this, but the short version is that of the five types of dispel in the game (offensive magic, defensive magic, curse, disease, poison) each healing class will be able to dispel three, one of which will be a defensive magic dispel.
Shaman will keep Purge (offensive magic), all specs will be able to remove curses with Cleanse Spirit, and Restoration Shaman will be able to remove defensive magic with a talented Cleanse Spirit.

Along with this normalisation, all “dispel-over-time” abilities such as Cleansing Totem, Abolish Poison and Abolish Disease will be going away. Personally I’m neutral on this change: there’s only rare times when this mechanic is valuable, and as long as content is balanced around single dispels I don’t see a problem.

Talents

Spirit Link will likely be worked back into deep Restoration in some form. The idea is that you will be able to link targets together so they share damage. When we had previously tried to implement Spirit Link, it was hard to balance and a little confusing. However, we really liked the concept — and so did players — so we are trying to bring it back.

I never got to play with the old Spirit Link so I can’t comment on how awesome it was (or wasn’t) but this sounds like it would be quite handy. Something like a Hand of Sacrifice but with both ends targetable, so you could have a vulnerable player linked to an off-tank, for example.
I can see how it might be hard to balance though. If you have a situation where a random ranged DPS can become a tough tank by sharing damage, what do you do if your raid doesn’t have a Restoration shaman? HoS is balanceable, but would Spirit Link still be as amazing as it sounds with a short duration or low transfer percentage?

Ancestral Knowledge will boost mana pool size, not Intellect.

With the Mastery system, we’re also considering removing a number of talents that grant passive bonuses, such as Mental Quickness, Improved Windfury Totem, Mental Dexterity, Call of Thunder, Tidal Mastery, Purification, Nature’s Blessing, and others, to allow players more freedom to choose more interesting talents.

Not much to say on these, but they’re here anyway, for completeness.

Masteries

Restoration
Healing
Meditation
Deep Healing

Deep Healing: Your direct heals will do more healing when the target’s health is lower. This will scale to damage (e.g. someone at 29% health would receive more healing than someone at 30%) rather than have arbitrary break points.

I never really got into Test of Faith on my Priest, so at first glance I wasn’t especially taken with this Mastery bonus. On the other hand, part of the reason I never got into ToF is that players tended to go 100% –> 20% –> 100% in a couple of GCDs, so you may or may not actually realise the benefit of the extra healing. With players staying at lower health for longer, this could turn out to be much more valuable.

I’m also intrigued by the lack of break points. Does this mean that you get a (tiny) increase in healing even comparing 98% with 99% as well, or is there an upper limit? The way it’s worded suggests the former. Combined with Chain Heal’s “smart heal” nature, this could easily work out to be a significant buff for Shaman throughput.

Note also the appearance of Meditation, to convert a proportion of your Spirit-based, Oo5SR regeneration into Io5SR regeneration.

Conclusions

Looking at the list, it looks like being a good time to be a Shaman. Healing Rain is a great new toy, and the big bugbear of mobility has been addressed to some extent with Spiritwalker’s Grace.

On the negative side, RIP Sentry Totem.



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