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What might Mists of Pandaria mean for healing?

Joe Perez

Mists of Pandaria is something of a scary thought for the future of many healers. The introduction of another class that is capable of tanking, DPSing and healing marks a potential destabilizing factor. While it is scary, it is also exciting to a lot of players. Shaking things up isn't always a bad thing, and it has the potential to introduce some very different playstyles. The most important question, though, is what the addition of another healing class could potentially mean for how the other healing classes play and are balanced.

The introduction of the monk class has the potential to trigger a series of changes that could wind up being seen across all of the healing classes -- that is, depending on the reception it receives. These changes are things that some healers might not have considered or further expanding of particular mechanics that are already in game. With that said, it's time for a bit of speculation!

An active healing model

The first potential change -- and it's a major one -- is the introduction of the active healing model. What is an active healing model? Well, I touched on this a little bit before, but ultimately, an active healing model is one that forces the healer to do something other than target a player frame and cast a spell. So if it breaks away from the whack-a-mole healing of our forefathers, chances are it's classified as active healing.

Right up front, you'll see that a healing monk will be doing a lot of running or rolling around. As it was described previously, the healing monk will dodge out of combat to place healing totems or wards or what have you, and then dive back into combat to deal damage and trigger the healing effect if they want to melee. If ranged is more their style, there will be an option to deal damage from afar as well and still heal. It's pure hybrid healing like no other. You deal damage to heal, and you have to pay extra attention to your environment, player health and the boss you're facing.

That's a lot of sensory input, but the challenge of it will appeal to a variety of players. It moves you beyond the role of just caretaker and makes you interact with more than just raid frames. Dodging fire, positioning yourself right to the boss, making sure that you're hitting the boss and triggering enough healing. The monk will have still have some direct healing capability, as it was confirmed by developers at Blizzard Entertainment. Otherwise it would make healing trash in raids and dungeons very difficult. The point is you have a choice to take on an active healing role if you so desire.

Now, you might be saying to yourself that this is fine and dandy for the monk, but it will never see the light of day on the other healing classes. Well, that might not be the case. One need not look much further than discipline priests and Smite healing, which allows priests to deal damage and heal at the same time.

Even in the next expansion, the new talent tree system that will be introduced in MoP is starting to show signs of active healing making its way to more healers. Ancestral Guidance is a talent proposed for the new shaman talent revision in the next expansion. The idea is that once activated, it will reward shaman by taking a portion of the damage or healing they deal for the next 10 seconds and applying it as healing to nearby injured allies. What if instead of 10 seconds, that was active all the time, allowing you to throw lightning and still heal? It's not too far-fetched. Priests and druids could just as easily get a talent that lets them do the same, and paladins already like to run in and smack things when they can. Depending on how well it works out, we could see the active healing model branch further into each healing class easily, allowing us to do more and interact with encounters in entirely new ways while still healing.

Dual resources

In the monk class balance Q & A back in November of 2011, we learned that the dual resource system of chi and force orbs will be replaced by a mana bar and force orbs when a monk goes into healing stance. Force takes the form of light and dark orbs that the players can unleash for additional effects. What those effects are has yet to be revealed, but the fact that the class will still be utilizing two resources to do its job is the important piece of information to take away from this for right now.

The monk class isn't the first class in World of Warcraft to utilize a dual resource system. In fact, two classes have had access to a dual resource system for quite a while now, death knights with their runes and runic power, and paladins with mana and holy power. As the classes use their abilities, they fill up their secondary resource, which can then be used to fuel other abilities such as Holy Light. So if it's successful for monks and successful for paladins, would it be something that is considered for the remaining healing classes?

I think that this principle could very well find its way to priests, druids and shaman. It could give a little more versatility to the classes and be a way to introduce new spells or abilities. Shaman could receive a totemic power; druids could gain a nature's boon. It could be called anything and have the same effect, essentially expanding on the idea of healing combo points. It would add a little more depth to healing on those other classes, adding another level of strategy to your spell usage. Use your secondary resource too soon and it might not do enough; too late and it might not be enough. Managing another resource would take getting used to, that is for certain, but it could be quite rewarding.

Mists of Pandaria offers the perfect opportunity to institute changes to all the healing classes, many of which may wind up being tested through the monk class itself. Active healing models, the inclusion of a secondary resource, or any number of other changes could find their way into the game. What do you think? What type of changes do you think we'll see for healing in MoP? What changes or modifications to healing mechanics would you like to see?

World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria is the next expansion, raising the level cap to 90, introducing a brand new talent system, and bringing forth the long-lost pandaren race to both Horde and Alliance. Check out the trailer and follow us for all the latest MoP news!

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