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Waging WAR: Patch 1.3.6 and the proverbial DPS-Healer

Greg Waller

There aren't very many companies that open up planned patch changes to their players and fans for discussion; however, Mythic is one that does. This week, Waging WAR focuses on the suggested career balance changes for the Zealot and Runepriest coming in patch 1.3.6 for Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. We'll cover the issue as well as the proposed solution for these careers. We'll also discuss the impact that these changes might have on the affected careers and on the community in general. There's also a part where Greg throws some drama at the fan and rants about "DPS-Healers."

Let's start by clarifying the main issue and the proposed change. Currently, the other healing careers (Archmage, Shaman, Warrior Priest and Disciple of Khaine) have their mastery paths organized by the role which they might play (i.e. damage focus, healing focus, etc.); whereas, the Zealot and Runepriest don't. Their mastery paths are organized by the delivery method of their healing (i.e. over time, direct, or area). The problem is, after deciding whether to specialize offensively or defensively and gearing to that role (a freedom of choice that they should be given), the Zealot and Runepriest are left with only one-half of an effective skill-set -- the other half of their skills being rendered ineffective by role choice and gear itemization. To bring these careers in line with their archetypical cousins, a new mechanism is proposed which gives Zealots and Runepriests a chance to retain some effectiveness in skills that are outside their chosen role.

The suggested solution is to introduce a stance toggle that grants a 2:1 stat conversion for willpower and intellect, healing power and magic power, and healing critical chance (%) and magic crit. When activated, healing stats would be converted to damage stats, and vice versa when toggled off (damage stats converted to healing stats). However, the proposed change comes with a caveat. First, the existing Zealot skill "Harbinger of Doom" (which currently debuffs a target's corporeal resistance) would be reworked to become this stance toggle and renamed to "Harbinger of Change" when in healing stance, or "Harbinger of Doom" when in damage stance. Second, Runepriests would have a new skill added to mirror the re-written Zealot skill, called "Rune of Breaking" (for damage) or "Rune of Balance" (for healing) -- depending on the stance state. Essentially, the Zealot loses something old and familiar (along with the corporeal resistance debuff) and the Runepriest gains something fresh and new.

After reading through some of the responses to the thread on the issue in the official forums, the community seem polarized on the issue. Some look forward to the change; some are vehemently against it. Considering what we discussed above, it should come as no surprise that Zealot players are generally against the proposal (with the loss of their current Harbinger and corporeal debuff), and Runepriests are taking the change in stride, generally looking forward to it. There are other points raised, however, that are less than obvious and that make the change unwelcome to some. Mainly, the biggest issue with the change comes with the idea of a stance or toggle and the current function of tactics. As things are now, tactics can't be changed during combat. It doesn't make much sense; for example, for any healer (regardless of mastery path specialization) to switch to a healing mode when he has "Divine Fury" (an archetypical tactic, available to all healing careers, that increases damage dealt while reducing the effectiveness of outgoing heals) running in his tactics layout. The other issue is the inclusion of a 30-second cooldown on the stance toggle. Thirty seconds is universally seen as an entire lifetime of PvP combat, and most players on the forum are in agreement that this is an extremely long time to be locked into any stance -- one way or another. The cooldown could also prevent the toggle from being used in a clutch situation -- where a timely and effective heal (or nuke) could potentially sway the outcome of an entire battle. In those situations -- which appear more often than you would think -- it would be better to be stance-less rather than negatively affect one's performance in desperate situations.

On the other hand, there are those who feel the proposed change is good, as it would allow for greater adaptability and versatility to a pair of already-strong and well-balanced careers. The new situational freedom would allow for Runepriest or Zealot players to switch to damage mode after a battle has been decided to provide that last bit of damage-per-second (DPS) to properly clean up the opposition. Alternatively, an offensively specialized player could switch to healing mode to "top off" groupmates after a skirmish, or to provide spot healing in a pinch when the tide of battle is leaning the wrong way. The proposed change would also allow for players to take greater advantage of existing itemization that features a blend of offensive and defensive stats, again, allowing players to pick up needed stats in clutch situations where there were none before.

"There's nothing quite like lining up a squishy Choppa and laying him out flat before he can get to me."

As far as I'm concerned, there's another way that the proposed change could affect the community, one that hasn't really been touched on in the forums. With the addition of a "damage mode," it seems to me that the developers are recognizing that healer archetypes were also given damage abilities for a reason, and that reason isn't specifically limited to solo play (i.e., leveling). As a long-time Archmage (as you may already be aware), I've (quite literally) fought against the community for some time when it comes to playing a damage-specialized healing archetype. Far too often have I received tells accusing me of being "terribad" or "noobish" in my decision to forgo healing in favor of damage -- with the exception of clutch battles, in which I contribute to healing if I decide that is what is needed. There are many, like me, who enjoy causing damage and killing opponents and using healing to increase my own selfish survivability. There's nothing quite like lining up a squishy Choppa and laying him out flat before he can get to me. But I digress. Quite simply, the proposed changes could potentially shift the common paradigm held by the community that says, "Healers must heal and only heal" or "If you want to DPS, roll a DPS career." For some reason, the Warhammer community only allows the freedom of choice to damage or heal to be enjoyed by Warrior Priests and Disciples of Khaine, and the other four healer archetypes are considered to have sub-par damage abilities, and are thus shunned, humiliated, and publicly ridiculed. These new changes could open new possibilities in that regard, and allow more leeway as far as individual specialization is concerned.

Personally, I applaud any change that affects the negative values of the WAR community. As such, whatever changes are made to the Zealot and Runepriest need to affect the community's perspective on healing vs. DPS and bring more awareness and acceptance of healing archetypes that specialize in damage or debuffing rather than pure healing. For the Runepriest and Zealot specifically, the proposed change would add flavor to otherwise bland, single-build careers and push the envelope for those players who choose to bear the constant oppression of the community in the form of jokes about the infamous "DPS-Healer."

But what do you think, dear reader? Should healers be pigeon-holed and forced to "pew-pew heal" by virtue of the fact that a career possesses healing abilities, or do you think that a healer's damage abilities should be put to better use, other than by simply allowing a healer to solo level when no DPS careers are available to help them? After reading about the proposed change, do you support it or do you think it is a bad idea? Leave a comment and tell us why.

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