Thursday, January 22, 2009

Impact of Circle of Healing's New Cooldown

One of the intended changes implemented in 3.0.8 was the introduction of a 6 second cooldown in Circle of Healing (CoH). While the topic of whether or not this nerf was justified when talking about a Holy Priest's role and function is completely overplayed, the bottom line is that the change is in and we have to deal with it.

A couple of nights ago, I ran some Naxx25 with the guild while specced CoH Holy and had a very different experience than I normally do. To highlight the differences, let me first pain a picture of my previous healing experience in a 25 man raid environment as CoH Holy.

Pre 3.0.8, a.k.a. EZ Street
Before Tuesday, raid healing for me primarily consisted of bouncing Prayer of Mending (PRoM), Flash Healing here and there, and firing off a CoH or two. Raid statistics generally saw my healing as an equal usage of PRoM, Flash of Light and CoH with Renew at a distant second. As a point of note, Flash Heal usage was often a result of Surge of Light procs. In fact, due to my reasonable Holy Crit rate (>20% base Holy Crit) in combination with the Glyph of CoH, I would often be surprised if I didn't get a Surge of Light proc after a couple of CoHs. Our strategy for burst healing in situations where more than two people were taking damage was to CoH two to three times and then use the Surge proc to instant Flash Heal the person needing the most healing. Most of the time, I gamed the Five Second Rule (5SR) with Surge procs to maximize our regen. Actual CoH spam, where a Priest only used CoH and eschewed usage of other healing spells wasn't common unless the raid was in a very dire situation.

They key point here is that due to Surge of Light procs and the relative efficiency of two to three CoHs chained together to keep the overall raid health in the green, I often had ample opportunity to sit back and regen mana. Very few fights saw me popping Shadowfiend. Incredibly rare situations called for both Fiend and a Mana Potion.

Post 3.0.8 Observations
After this Tuesday's patch, raid healing during my Naxx25 guild run became a much more frenetic responsibility where the downtime created by the six second CoH cooldown was being filled by harried applications of instant casts and Flash Heals. I found myself having to anticipate damage by applying Renews and bubbles on people who were liable to take splash damage, Flash Healing people who had taken significant damage and popping CoH and PRoM at nearly every cooldown to hopefully proc Surge of Light, which could then be saved to possibly counter burst damage.

They key point here is that due to decrease in quick applying and sustained raid healing, it took the healing crew longer to top everyone off to a safe level. This increase in time spent healing resulted in a decrease in time spent out of the 5SR, thus limiting regen and putting a strain on my mana pool. At various points in the run, I found myself focused more on the raid frames, playing whack-a-mole with Flash Heal and Renew, than on the environment. This usually results in a dangerous situation, as not recognizing a bad situation because having healing tunnel vision often results in one's untimely death. No, I didn't stand in the fire, but I almost missed a Thaddius Polarity Shift.

I believe that the biggest adaptation isn't going to come from the healing crew, but from the Raid members understanding that raid healing just got much more time consuming. Not panicking and watching one's own back with a finger on the Healthstone, Health Potion, or defensive cooldown may be appropriately prudent.

From the healing crew perspective, an adaptation that should be realized, is that the notion that 'everyone needs to be constantly topped off as soon as they take damage' will not be possible anymore aside from some extreme raid stacking. In correlation with that, healers should begin to realize that it's okay to let a Renew/Lifebloom tick to full to top someone off if that target isn't in mortal peril.

I found it very helpful that Grid, my raid frame mod, displayed incoming heals so that my single target spot heals were not overlapping (and thus overhealing) someone else's heals. However, the best part was that due to my configuration of Grid, I could see who had Renew, Rejuv, or Lifebloom already on them. This would consequently save me some mana as I would let them tick to full instead of spot healing, and nab myself a GCD or two of mana regen.

Overall Impressions
I realize that CoH was grossly overpowered. It was. There's no argument. However, the healing playstyle of a Holy Priest was far more fun with a spammable cross party AoE heal. I enjoyed it because of its ability to put out some incredible raw healing numbers and because I liked using various tricks to stay out of the 5SR. There's something enjoyable about abusing Spirit based mana regen. I understand that the change to CoH was to give Priests a triage-esque decision when dealing with raid damage. However, due to other healers' inability to let any damage go unhealed (especially when are HoTs on that target), Priests have been reduced to playing whack-a-mole with Flash Heal, PRoM, and PW: Shield in between CoH applications.

The bottom line is that I find this new means of coping with raid damage mentally tiring. Competing with other spot healers to see who has the fastest reactions isn't my 'thing' as a Holy Priest. If I wanted to spot heal, I would have gone Disc. At least then, I'd have some crazy Haste, awesome mitigation and insane mana efficiency. I can't say that I'm unhappy, but, I'm certainly not ecstatic about the changes.


Oiysters said...

I just read your CoH essay for a second time, and it reads like you feel like Priest healing has turned into a race with the other healers to generate healing numbers and keep yourself off the overheal meters.

I've done a lot of druid healing the last couple weeks, and I found that while the unwanted (to say the least) six second cooldown on Wild Growth was definitely unfun at first, it has also forced me to raise my game and play at a higher level.

Being forced to spam Rejuv and stack Lifeblooms on my party does not leave a lot of extra GCDs to calmly maintain a stack of HoTs on my tank and puts a hell of a dent in my mana pool compared to what I could do with spammable WG. I feel quite useless as a raid healer with only HoTs to spam that get overwritten by direct healers who delight in keeping my numbers down.

Five Second Rule? Ha! I never even enter the same dimension as the 5SR on any fight fight with meaningful aoe damage.

All that being said, the awareness and focus required to avoid environmental hazards and keep a party taking aoe damage up without a spammable aoe heal makes the game more engrossing and forces me into the moment; I defintely cannot be reading the forums on my second monitor while healing anymore.

As to whether the new CD is fun, well, that's pretty subjective. I could be snarky and say that apparently the only class meant to have ez-mode healing is Restoration Shamen, but that just wouldn't be fair. And I'm not about to switch main specs from tanking to healing. But where tanking has become rather autopilot for most encounters for me, healing on my druid in patch 3.0.8 is a constant, engrossing challenge.

Chu said...

Oiysters, after playing my Druid in last night's 25 Naxx raid, I'd have to say that Druid healing is definitely different from Holy Priest. The cool thing about Druid heals is that its all pre-healing as opposed to reactive healing. Sure, there were times where I'd be spamming Regrowth on a target because they were super low, but if they were low on HP and I didn't proc Nature's Grace, I was stuck casting a 2sec casted heal. Nourish sucks unless you have lots of hots stacked up on the target.

Since much of it is prehealing (3stack LB/Rejuv on the tanks + wg on raid), it was actually easier than playing on my priest, where I had to frequently stand and cast. Heigan was even more of a joke as I hit WG on every CD on the melee and rolled hots on the MT. WG is essentially the Druid version of Prayer of Mending, not Circle of Healing. You cast every chance you get and if it heals people, great, if not, no worries.

Sure, you can't take a super long break to regen mana as a resto druid as compared to a Holy Priest, but that's more because you want to maintain effiency with LB rolling not because the raid/tank doesnt need it. Infact, with the longer duration to LB, you can actually sit in 5SR quite a bit if all you do is roll LB on the MT or stack hots then take a break (Maexxna, Anub, Gothik, Gluth, etc)

Stephakanoni said...

I am going to have to agree with Oiysters here. Let me first apologize for posting on an entry that is like 4 months old or whatever. Let me first point out by sayting that I have only healed once and a while as disc on a friends account. Believe me when I say this, it was easy. Leaps and bounds easier then say warrior tanking on my main... so if anything all I can say is, "HA!" now you actually have to play your class throughout a raid. Instead of a yawnfest with your HealBot or Grid, or whatever you have. I have a buddy that also play different charecters, as to the fact we think alike- and are on the same page with stuff- he stated that healing is one of the easier things to do in the game, that and dps as a hunter or mage. So, let's hope you enjoyed the vacation and welcome to raiding! :)