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.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Long Boomkin Weekend Recap and a Gank Story.

I love long weekends. A big heartfelt 'Thank you!" goes out to all of the various activists, rabblerousers and notable individuals who have given us the chance to sleep in for an extra day. It's greatly appreciated. God knows I could always use more sleep.

For a while now, my Priest has been essentially at a gear impasse. everything is 'good enough' and really all that we're lacking is Arena practice and experience. In my approach to the game , gear is secondary to the experience. I do like having some nice gear because of the ePeen factor, but as long as I'm able to be competitive, I'm having fun. I'm not obsessive compulsive with gear as some people are, and as such, I save myself alot of headaches in the realm of PvE. Amusingly, I've been incredibly lucky with my PuG loot dice, winning various 'best in slot' items that work in line with my personal gearing strategy.

Getting back to PvP, however, I desperately need the experience. I feel, that as a new player to this class, I'm behind in my understanding of the class and that I need a few hundred games under my belt to really being to fully understand all of the little nuances. I'm not worried about the ratings, but in my case, the best solution to this issue is to take the Asian way out, and just grind Arenas. The root of the problem, however, is scheduling. It's tough, with work and life, to make sure we get in games, and lately, I've been finding a lot of dead time. While I could go PvE or grind BG's during that time, I'd rather just log.

Enter the Druid.

This past weekend, when I wasn't doing Arenas with the Priest, I was levelling my Druid. Readers who have read my first posts will know that I had, in TBC, successfully piloted a Druid to reasonably high ratings, but that due to gameplay homogenization for Restoration spec'd Druids post 3.0, I had decided to swap mains to a Priest. Do I regret the swap? Not at all. But, being bored leads me to do crazy things and when I asked people how long they thought I would take to get to 80, a friend guesstimated that it would take me 2 weeks to get form 71 to 80.

Of course, this guesstimation amounted to a serious affront against me and my heritage, so I popped my Asian Leveling Racial Ability (6 month cool down) and less than a week later, I'm 11 bars from 80, with 7 BoE epics lined up and ready to roll. If I had chosen to stay in all weekend and not go out to dinner with a friend and not sleep in, I would have hit 80 before the server resets, but, even with my racial active, that would have been quite extreme. I plan on PvPing as Feral, but it will be a side project to the Priest, so expect a few posts here and there about our experiences as a downsy looking kitty.

Anyways, I promised a Gank Story, so let me draw y'all story of a level 78 Boomkin stepping foot into Icecrown.

Those of you who have done the initial quest chains in Icecrown know that Icecrown is one of those zones that utilizes the new phasing tech, implemented with Lich King. What this means, is that depending on your progress on the main quest chain in that particular section of the zone, that particular section will look different to you than it does to others at different points on that quest chain. This also means that players on different parts of the chain will not be able to see each other. You can only see people, in those phased areas, that are at the same point in the quest chain. This is important later.

Well, as it was, I was level 78 at that point and spec'd deep into the Balance tree, and even with my full Brutal/Guardian's PvP gear, I could pump out some pretty crazy damage, especially with some Eclipse procs. 7k Starfire crits at that level with that old gear wasn't out of the question. Several Alliance, who tried to gank me while leveling, quickly found out that a Boomkin with full resilience gear is generally a bad target to pick on. This group of unfortunate individuals (who clearly need a hug), includes a level 80 Warlock, who decided to gank me while I started on the very first quest at the Argent camp in Icecrown.

I knew something was up when this level 80 Human Female Warlock stood nearby waiting for something as I engaged a mob 2 levels higher than me. A Deathcoil and a Fear later, with a full row of dots, the mob and a Felguard on me, I was at half health, vainly trying to apply dots to her while spamming my glyphed Holy Touch (love it!). A second fear sealed the deal and I found myself flying back in ghost form. Extremely. Pissed. Off.

Seldom known Druid fact #1: The thing about Druid dots that most people don't realize is that they're just as strong as Warlock dots. I just don't have as many. But, on their own, they can chew someone up if given enough time.

Well, this particular Warlock decided that he was safe in the Argent Crusade camp. Unfortunately, when you start off with any faction, you start off at Neutral. AND, if you're doing the very first quest in that zone, indicated by the fact that I can see you in this phased section of Icecrown, you too, are Neutral. No protection from the guards, hunnybuns.

Rezzing quickly, I managed to catch this lock at half health (from my dots) and while I ate a couple of fears, she went down like the ganking trash that she was. Equipping my PvP trinket turned out to be a good decision because this one was a Fear spammer. Judging from the strength of her dots, she had shit gear, too. I don't have a clue why she tried to summon a Felhunter mid fight, but that cost her. Cyclone into Starfire sealed the deal.

The next kill was quite a bit faster as I was able to Pounce her into a Wrath, which crit, proccing Eclipse, Nature's Grace and the Brutal 4p set bonus (1.5 seconds off your next Starfire), leading to a massive 6k 1 second Starfire to her ugly face. Having the stars align for such ridiculousness is always fun.

Seldom known Druid fact #2: Typhoon dismounts.

Kill number 3 came as she was able to mount up on her gryphon and flit about as I chased her in Swift Flight Form. This little cat and mouse chasing bullshit went on for quite some time, until I got a clear shot at her, catching her in a Typhoon, thus knocking her off her mount and down to the ground, where she took a little bit of falling damage. I chased her with dots and Moonfire spam for a while longer, eventually scoring some honor from her broken and lifeless body.

Kill number 4 came as she once again mounted up and flew to a ledge away from the camp, presumably to eat/drink. Why she dismounted I would never know, but I Typhooned her Fear (saw it coming) and as she ran, she ran clear off the cliff and cratered into the snow below. I guess my presence just has that effect on some people.

I followed this particular Warlock after she rezzed again, and while I didn't get a clear shot at her with Typhoon to send her cratering, I did /laugh and /spit on her while she ate and drank at the Krasus' Landing.


I chased an 80 Warlock all the way back to Dalaran.

Our Warlock friend begged us to stop camping that ganking trash on grounds that it might reduce the Warlock population because Warlocks are so weak in PvP right now, but unlike him, I like to teach lessons to would be 'look at me I'm so cool' gankers.

Just 'cause I can.