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Warlords of Draenor: What is the future of mana regeneration?

Matthew Rossi
One of the biggest changes to the Alpha Patch Notes for Warlords of Draenor has been the removal of the entire Active Mana Generation section of said notes. That's a pretty big change, and what's bigger is, we at present have no idea of what's going to replace this paradigm, or even if it is to be replaced - it's possible that there will still be an active mana generation system at play, but that current ability pruning (classes like druids and shaman saw significant pruning changes) means that there's a need to figure out which abilities will remain first before deciding which abilities will return mana actively.

What's interesting, however, is that the entire section was removed, including its header paragraph.

Another part of the changes to healing is providing a way for them to better manage their mana. There are ways to spend more mana for more healing but we're also adding methods for healers to trade extra time, healing, or more mana to use later in a fight when they really need it.

Why remove this entire paragraph, and the section as a whole, rather than simply remove the abilities that weren't in play? It's possible that testing has shown a flaw in this design paradigm - that some particular aspect of the design isn't working as desired. Whatever the reason, however, it does leave us wondering what we're going to see for healers in Warlords? Mana is the 'soft enrage' of a healer - it's as their tanks run empty that fights become unwinnable. They need some method to regenerate mana to keep in the fight. And clearly Celestalon is aware of this, based on today's forum posting.

Changes to instant cast heals have been retained, so it suggests that the triage model is still the one we're going to be seeing. This makes it even more important going forward to know how the topic of mana regeneration will be addressed. How are players expected to beat that 'soft enrage' of running out of mana? Because even if a raid is executing perfectly, if they get to say 30% on a boss and their healers are running out of mana, that's an issue. But it doesn't have to be a crippling one - one answer to 'what do we do when we start to run out of mana' can be 'heal less' if the fights are designed without as punishing a damage ramp up. At present, we see fights in the hardest tier of raiding put out an astonishing amount of damage, ramping up throughout the fight. That kind of fight design could be removed or ameliorated and mana running out could be part of the fight design.

Still, the idea of players being unable to make proper gearing decisions or play choices to extend their mana seems odd - even unlikely. We'll no doubt see spirit continue as a regen stat for healers, and potentially other stats like haste or mastery could provide this as well. For that matter, Multistrike could end up as a desirable healing stat as well. since its cloning of healing spells would presumably cost the healer no extra mana. But while the active mitigation design may have been flawed in some way, something like it - something that rewards player choices - needs to be implemented.

So where does this leave us? Well, as mentioned before, Celestalon today wrote a post that goes into detail on this topic.

Celestalon - Active Mana Regeneration
As you may have noticed, the most recent update to the patch notes included the removal of the Active Mana Regeneration, and I'd like to take a moment to explain that a bit.

First, I'd like to dispel some misconceptions about what Active Mana Regeneration was. Due to the similar name, and how it had its own section in the patch notes, some people were under the impression that it was as significant a feature as Active Mitigation was for tanks; that was not the case. It was quite minor in its impact. We found, based on internal testing, that in order to make it impactful, we'd have to make it much, *much* stronger. As it was, most forms of it were only worth using when you had mismanaged your Mana and were trying to recover. Based on its low and unintuitive usage, we decided to remove it.

Now, a fair question to ask is, "Why not just tune it stronger, so it *is* worth using?" We considered that heavily. There is probably a design where most of your Mana regeneration comes from active sources, and all healers spend a significant portion of their time and ability usage actively regenerating their Mana. However, that is a gigantic change to healer gameplay, for all healers. Many existing healers would not enjoy that style of gameplay, and we're not even sure that it'd be better gameplay for a new player anyway. Overall, we think that, while that option does seem like it could potentially function, it would not be good for the game.

So where does that leave healers for Mana management? Rest assured, healers will still have significant control over their Mana. The primary method for doing that is through spell selection. We've tuned healers such that they have a mixture of high efficiency and high throughput heals. If you maximize efficiency, you'll actually be spending less than you regenerate (as of about blue dungeon gear), so your Mana bar will actually be going up. The way you'll spend that Mana is through high throughput heals, which will let you burn more mana for more throughput. As your gear improves, you'll get more and more Spirit, so that your Mana refills faster while casting efficient heals. And that additional Mana will translate into more and more of your spell casts being high throughput ones, as you get better gear. The key, as it relates to Active Mana Regeneration, is that if you find yourself at 30% Mana, and the boss is still at 50% health, you do have something to do to catch up: lean more on your efficient heals, until you catch up. You'll never end up in a situation where you run OOM and are unable to cast anything. Also important to note, all healers have some way to deal minor damage with no Mana cost now, so that they have something to do when there is no healing needed, if you're the type of player that feels compelled to always be casting something.

It seems, based on this post, the the idea of active mana regeneration remains in Warlords, but the hows and whys of it and how much of a healer's toolkit it will be are still to be determined. Clearly the goal is not to do for healing what Active Mitigation did for tanks. The design seems to be one where, as was the original intent, you'll switch up what you do when you're in a low mana situation.

It still remains to be seen how it'll all shake out, of course. But now we at least have an idea of how and where Blizzard is going in Warlords, at least right now.

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