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Raid Rx: Class balance and design Q&A panel looks at healing

Matt Low

Every week, Raid Rx will help you quarterback your healers to victory! Your host is Matt Low, the grand poohbah of World of Matticus and a founder of Plus Heal, a discussion community for healers of all experience levels and interests. Catch his weekly podcast on healing, raiding and leading, the Matticast.

Manage to catch the class Q&A earlier this week? If not, there are some pretty interesting things going on for patch 4.3 and for Mists of Pandaria. You can either go check out the full transcript or read on for only the healing relevant ones.

Highlights include:
  • Discipline priests get a new spell.
  • Intellect won't directly increase mana pool size.
  • Restoration Druids get a castable Barkskin.

Guest asked:
I know this was an idea/plan for Cata, but for MoP is there any plan to give discipline priests different shields such as a shield for tanks.

Celestalon answered:
Spirit Shell is a new cast-time shield spell for Discipline priests coming in 5.0, that does not cause Weakened Soul.

This is going to be cool to see. We've never really had a castable shield before; I wouldn't say Divine Aegis really counts. This will give priests a spell that can be used as a filler when no damage has been dealt. On a holy priest or a druid, if there's expected incoming damage, the raid would be lit up with HOT spells. Discipline now has a way to help with that.

Aure asked:
Regarding healers: do you have any plans for more proximity spells ? That is spells that use your real position in the world rather than clicking on health bars ? I really can't stand the UI anymore. I miss so much of the fight.

Koraa answered:
We did do some of that in Cataclysm, with Healing Rain and Holy Word: Serenity and Light of Dawn. The Monk healer will also involve a lot of non-targeted healing. Anything can change, but I'd like to say you could heal as a Monk competitively without ever having to target a friendly player.

Additional proximity spells would be a plus. The designers would have to take care that it isn't anything similar to the existing spells already in the game, though. These would have to be new and fresh spells, or else we'd all feel sort of cheated. I hope we'll see some more that rely more on positioning.

Whicker asked:
How do you plan on balancing healer mana management in MoP? I for one enjoyed the beginning of Cata when healing was a little more challenging but now Disc and Druids barely have any worries while shamans and Holy priests have a little harder time.

Watcher answered:
We agree. It's a nearly-unavoidable consequence of gear scaling under our current system. Fresh level 85s in mostly quest gear need to have enough mana and regen to be able to set foot in dungeons and sustain a healing rotation for a couple of minutes in the face of reasonable incoming damage. But then a healer in Heroic Firelands gear now has nearly double the stats of a healer fresh out of Uldum questing, and the mana cost of that healer's spells is unchanged, often resulting in a large mana surplus.

Our current plan for Mists is for Intellect to no longer directly increase the size of player mana pools. We intend for our mana-based DPS and Tank classes to be entirely self-reliant regardless of mana pool, so the gameplay impact for those players will be nil. For healers, Spirit will remain as the pure regen stat, and healers after multiple tiers of raid progression will clearly have far more mana at their disposal, but there will be more of an inherent tradeoff between regen and throughput stats. A healer with amazing regen will have amazing regen because of a choice to focus their stats in that direction.

Okay, so intellect won't have an effect on mana pools anymore. I guess that's going to belong to spirit. Every healing class and spec will most likely need to place a higher priority in spirit in later tiers of content to keep up with the regeneration. Something tells me that there's going to come a point where mana regeneration numbers will hit a cap where it does become useless to keep stacking spirit.

Dennis Mooney asked:
There hasn't been any questions answered about Resto Druids yet. Can you talk about our extremely weak state in PvP and the fact that we're the only healer not only not seeing a buff but seeing a nerf in 4.3?

Wradyx answered:
We will definitely be addressing some of the PvP weakness of Resto Druids in 5.0. For one, the ability to recreate the Restokin builds of earlier expansions was introduced in the talent trees. Carefully selecting talents like Typhoon and Wild Charge together will give Restoration Druids a lot more opportunity to control. One of the new abilities Resto Druids will get baseline is a replacement for Barkskin that can be cast on others with the same effect and cooldown. Finally, we have a new level 87 ability abiltiy in mind for all Druids called Symbiosis that will blow your mind and potentially add a lot of flexibility and utility, including survivabiltiy options.

Can you say finally? I'm sure every resto druid out there is just pumping their claws (or branch) in the air right now. You trees now have your own castable cooldown that you can use on tanks. I trust this will help those of you in 10-player raid teams. I know we've been hollering about it for a while. Too bad druids aren't able to get this sooner. Would be nice to see how that ability interacts overall in a raid setting right now, prior to the release of 4.3.

Lodur asked:
Firelands seemed to do a good job at highlighting a disparity between healing classes and specs. Some, like shaman, have had to struggle to maintain healing numbers that were reasonable for the content and comparable with other healers, while other healers just shot ahead of everyone else with seemingly little effort. Are there going to be systems in place to keep this from happening again? Is this problem something that has been actively reviewed? How will healing balance be maintained while adding a 5th healing capable class?

Watcher answered:
We've made some class-level adjustments to healer balance for 4.3, but healer performance often ends up being as much a reflection of the encounter design in a particular tier as anything else. Healer specs in their current form have strengths and weaknesses, and niches in encounters that play into those strengths. Using your example of shaman, there were fewer situations that were ideal for shamans in Firelands than in Tier 11 (or in Tier 13, for that matter) -- If there had been more encounters like the second phase of Beth'tilac, for example, perceptions might be different.

We feel that it's important to maintain those niches to ensure that the different healer specs feel distinct from each other, and that means that some fights will play to some specs' strengths and less so to others. Of course, just because a fight doesn't fall squarely into the niche of a given spec does not mean that anyone should feel unable to perform adequately in that situation. Our ongoing healer balance efforts aim at ensuring viability in all setting, but particular encounter mechanics will often dictate what is strictly optimal. Our class and encounter designers work closely with each other to keep things diverse and balanced on that front.

Good on Joe for asking this question. Certainly there's been a large number of calls for nerfs and buffs to the different healing classes throughout the last tier. But not many players would have caught on to the fact that healing classes were just one side of the balance equation. Now we have a second one: encounters. Since raid and boss encounters are the primary way for the raid to take damage, how they take damage is going to dictate which healing spells and abilities are best used. Normally not a problem -- but even so, choices matter.

One of the questions I wanted to know is if there are any further plans to raid cooldowns from other non-healing classes. Warriors already have Rallying Cry and protection paladins have Divine Guardian. I wonder if we'll see any more on the way that are being considered. Maybe mages will get a Glacier Block ability (or a really large Ice Block).

I'm really like these Q&A sessions. Some of the questions bother me (like the quantity of warlock questions), but I've found them to be generally informative!
Need advice on working with the healers in your guild? Raid Rx has you covered. Send your questions about raid healing to For less healer-centric raiding advice, visit Ready Check for advanced tactics and advice for the endgame raider.

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