This week will be another week focused around what is waiting for us in the upcoming content patch of 5.4. We've been focusing on this a lot recently, but it is because seldom do we get such rapid fire change and balance adjustments as when World of Warcraft is in a beta phase for an expansion, or when new content is being tested and adjusted on the PTR.
The past two weeks are no different than the ones before, and we still have changes rolling in. The only thing I can say is that it does appear that they are slowing down a bit, which usually indicates that we're reaching a state of equilibrium in the eyes of the development team. That doesn't mean the changes weren't significant, though.
Healing Rain Rollback
One of the more exciting changes, or at least one of the items I was most looking forward to, was retaining the increased number of maximum targets for Healing Rain in a 25 man raid environment. This change was going to stave off diminishing returns until there were more than 14 targets standing inside the awesome blue healing circle. Currently, the effectiveness diminishes when more than 6 targets are standing in the good spot. Now, we've been been seeing a lot of modification with Healing Rain in terms of what talents and passives have an effect on it, to the the coefficient of spellpower the beloved spell can draw from. The initial buff would be something that would have been very good, especially for earlier raid content in Mists that involve a lot of grouping up. Newer healing shaman, or alts would have had a much easier time healing that content. Make no mistake, it was a powerful buff, and I was certainly excited.
In the latest build this was brought back down to the same number of targets before diminishing returns as it is on live, and while I lament anything that is considered a nerf, I can understand why it was done. A lot of the new encounters don't really have a whole lot of group up mechanics, at least so far. Giving it the target buff really, at least in testing, didn't have quite a big effect on the "current" content being tested. Also, with other spells like Chain Heal getting some much needed love with it's buffs and the changes to things that modify it like Glyph of Chaining, having too big of a buff to HR at this point is a really weird thing.
On a purely non mechanic level, Chain Heal is a spell that hasn't been getting as much use at it used to, and with the recent changes and the fight mechanics coming up in the next tier of raiding, it has a chance to make a pretty strong comeback for group healing over HR which has been dominating that front since it was introduced. That's not to say that buffs that affect HR aren't going to still be present, in fact another change will put another spring in the step of the healing rains power. Purification, a passive ability granted to a shaman once they choose restoration as their tree, will increase the healing done by HR by an additional 100%. While this does happen at the same time that the spellpower coefficient and healing baseline for the spell will remain the same as it is on live, it is still ultimately a net gain for the healing power of this spell.
On shaman and balance
I thought it would be good to address this, as it comes up quite often in emails and in twitter conversations. We've talked about balancing shaman against other healers quite a bit, in terms of numbers, at least on paper, healers are generally pretty close to each other as far as throughput counts. Practical application often shows things much differently however, and resto shaman have a nasty tendency starting out strong at the beginning of an expansion but having to work that much harder as each tier of content is pushed to live servers. Part of that is how some of our class mechanics work, like Deep Healing which relies on people taking damage and being at low levels of health. Inherently that gets weaker as players learn encounters and learn how to react to the incoming damage. The first option most people call for is buffing our healing spells. But you can only buff them so much until it becomes ridiculous at one point. Another option that some folks have called for was was is a constant, incremental buff each tier of content. Some folks argue that is already what happens now. Though at some point that will just become too much work to keep doing and will make the class cumbersome to maintain as well as open up so many more opportunities for something to go horribly wrong. The third group argues that, as healers, the entire class needs to be reworked from the ground up.
I do believe that we are probably the hardest healing class to properly balance. I judge this based on how much the class has changed since Classic World of Warcraft to now. I'm not saying we're bad, I will never say that, but I will say finding a sweet spot for healing shaman tends to be a task that takes some consideration. So today I want to end this with a question for you the readers. As a restoration shaman, what do you think is the biggest hurdle is when balancing shaman against other healing classes? How would you overcome these challenges?
Totem Talk: Restoration lends you advice on healing groups, DK tanks and heroics and mana concerns in today's endgame -- or take a break and look back at the rise of the resto shaman. Happy healing, and may your mana be plentiful!