Circle of Healing 2011

I noticed there was a new Circle of Healing meme bouncing around.  So I thought I would take part.

Name, class and spec: Akandra, Night Elf Holy Priest

What is your primary group healing environment? 10 man raiding

What is your favourite healing spell for your class and why?

Power Word: Shield with Body and Soul.  I know we have Life Grip to get people out of stuff, but Life Grip is not always easy to use.  My Shield protects people, heals them a bit (its glyphed) and enables them to run out of bad.  Its a brilliant spell and one case where spell, glyph and talent work well together.

What healing spell do you use least for your class and why?

Heal. Its just too weak.  The only use I have for Heal is to spam when I have nothing else to cast, since I can basically spam it and not run out of mana.  I know a lot of people have stopped using it now, but I never really used it.  Instead I stacked Spirit to the rafters to enable the regen I would need to not bother with it.  It works for me.

What do you feel is the biggest strength of your healing class and why? 

Priests have a tool for every occasion.  Especially with Chakra.  Chakra is another particularly good addition to the priest class and would be my second favourite spell.  Most healers can tank heal or AoE heal these days to a greater or lesser extent, but I feel that Chakra gives priests the edge because it allows us to adapt our spells for our assignment.

What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your healing class and why?

We used to be a bit ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ in previous expansions.  But these days I no longer get that vibe.  I didn’t really like our dependence on our most expensive heal (Flash Heal) for the first tier of raiding.  Blizzards comments would lead you to believe that Heal should be your staple heal, but Serendipity only procs off of Flash/Binding Heal.  So if you want Serendipity procs for Greater Heal/Prayer of Healing, you have to burn mana to get them.  But this is a problem only early on.  You can gear yourself out of it.

I am aware there is a criticism of our throughput.  I’ve seen World of Logs and Holy priests weren’t in the top 100 (I think there was one) parses for a lot of tier 11.  This is, in part, because of the fact that we scale better with Spirit than with Intellect (which makes the choice to have less Spirit gear so irritating).  I’ve not done any heroic raiding so far so I can’t tell you if that lack of throughput compared to other classes is a problem.  I’m also not sure that it would be apparent at the middle to lower levels of raiding where a player’s ability to make the most of their class is more important.

In a 10 man raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best healing assignment for you? 

Personally I like to heal the raid. But priests can (and do) tank heal as well.  As a player, I react very quickly to things on my bars so I normally do the dispelling.

Which healing class do you enjoy healing with most and why?

Shaman totems.  Mana Tide, Healing Stream, resistances.  Apart from that its all about the team.

What healing class do you enjoy healing with least and why? 

Paladins.  This is likely my experience, but I think paladins have had the hardest time transitioning from Wrath.  The on-beacon, off-beacon healing thing seems to be confusing, their AoE heals are odd and situational (so are priest AoE heals, but if Prayer of Healing isn’t working we can change Chakra and do something else instead).

What is your worst habit as a healer?

I’m a very reactionary healer, as opposed to a pro-active healer.  Its the reason I don’t play disc well.  I need to know the fight well before I can be pro-active.

What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while healing?

Two things, in different groups.  I don’t PuG because PuGs like to blame the healer.  Apparently it was my fault a PuG wiped on Ahune the other day because the tank didn’t … tank.  He ran to the boss and started hitting him while the adds killed us.  So the tank and his warlock buddy ripped into me.  Now, I know I’m not that bad a healer, so I was not impressed.

In raids, I dislike people who take the healing meters at face value.  A good healer is a healer who can keep their assigned targets alive throughout the fight and help a bit elsewhere.  Thats it.  Throughput? Irrelevent.  If you are healing the tank your throughput will be lower, if the raid is split, throughput will differ.  If you had three of the same class healing on the same fight, their meters would be different in 10 man because their assignments would be different.

I’m not saying they can’t be useful, but I think you can’t use them to ‘prove’ you’re a good healer.

Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other healers for PvE healing?

Yes. I think all the healing classes are well balanced right now.

What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a healer?

Recount.  I do use World of Logs some as well, but I prefer to look and see what is going on as we raid.  WoL is more useful in a 25 man environment where you can’t use Recount on the go because of scale.  Mostly, I look at the Death logs to see why people died.  Was it lack of healing or was it spike damage?  Was the spike of damage avoidable or not?  Its a group activity and we make adjustments try on try based on it.  I might also look at who healed what to see how to adjust assignments.  But that is more to find the things that weren’t obvious.

But mostly I just think about what happened.  Did my targets live? If not, why not?  Can I fix it?  How was my mana?  Can I be more efficient?  Will I manage the next part of the fight?  Nefarian is a good example.  It took me a few experiments to find the best way to heal phase 2 was to use single target heals and a LoLwell.  Prayer of Healing didn’t work.  It was less efficient mana wise because AoE heals didn’t affect the spikes of damage so I still had to use single target heals to tackle those, only they were more expensive.  I knew I would burn a lot of my mana in this phase, but as long as I could end it on about 25% I had the regen to manage the crackles.  I didn’t need Recount or any other tool to tell me this – I just needed my own healing experience.

Now I had a huge arguement with a ret pala about the way I healed phase 2.  I prefer to keep people topped the whole fight rather than top them just before the crackle.  I think its necessary because someone on low health may well die.  The other platforms did things differently – probably because they had different healers.  A druid might roll hots to mitigate the barrage and top for crackle, for example.  But I know I am right because it works for me.

Tools I don’t use to evaluate my performance – ret palas who think they know best.

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your healing class? 

I’m not sure.  I would suspect that people’s ideas about a healing class are coloured by their experience of them.  I am certain my perceptions of paladins are, for example.

What do you feel is the most difficult thing for new healers of your class to learn?

Mana management.  I would say that priests run out of mana quicker.  But we also regen it quicker if we’re geared right.  I, personally, prefer it that way.  But its a horrific shock when on the first trash pull in Heroic Stonecore, you run OOM.  I think the reason for the general shortage of healers is that without support most new healers give up at that point.  The others try to use Heal a lot on the next pull and everyone dies.

It takes time to learn to manage mana.  Even experienced healers had to learn it again at the beginning of this expansion.  The only way to learn to heal better is to fail at it in the 5 man environment.  Even if you read everything available, you are still going to have to work out how to manage your mana, push the boundaries of what you can get away with in terms of casts, figure out how your spells interact to make you more efficient.  And sometimes, you will make the wrong choice and people will die.  Its especially hard if you are healing in PuGs because they won’t be tolerant of that learning curve.

Its also hard on new healers to assess when its their failure to heal efficiently and when its the group wasting their mana by failure.  Thats where Recount death logs are useful.  Did your target stand in bad?  Then its their failure, not yours!

I would encourage new players to stick with it.  It will get better and healing is sooo much fun.

If someone were to try to evaluate your performance as a healer via recount, what sort of patterns would they see?

I do 90%+ of the dispelling in a raid.  I’ve tried to make topping the dispelling meter a competition in the hope that others will do more.  Its not working.

Haste or Crit and why?

Haste.  See below.

What healing class do you feel you understand least?

Druids.  I’ve attempted to heal, at least briefly, on shamans and paladins.  I’ve never ever had a Resto druid.  I should fix that at some point.

What addons or macros do you use to aid you in healing?

Vuhdo does everything I need.  I keep meaning to have a stopcasting macro so I can Dispel even faster!  But I forget.  I also like to have a UI addon that rearranges my screen and an addon that counts cooldowns, etc.  I am trying nUI for this right now.  I was using SpartanUI in combination with a couple of other little addons, but Spartan is no longer being updated.

Do you strive primarily for balance between your healing stats or do you stack some much higher than others and why?

My approach has been is: Spirit on every item (and item enhancement for the most part), followed by Haste to 12.5% raid buffed for the extra tick of Renew, followed by Mastery.  I don’t see that changing much, although I am tempted to stack a bit more Haste because  in 10 man you feel it when Haste you are getting from another source is missing.  I will be using more non-Spirit gear, but that simply means I will reforge into Spirit more and stick with my Spirit cloak and weapon enchants.

I can understand why there is less Spirit cloth in drops (Spirit cloth = Priest cloth, though I would argue that Spirit Leather, Mail and Plate is one class only too!).  I don’t like Blizzard saying they don’t want us to stack Spirit on one hand whilst boosting our contribution from Spirit and not Intellect on the other.  Holy Priests are never going to stack Haste,  Mastery or Crit at the expense of Spirit (since these are considered equivalent stats).  If I have too much Haste and not enough Spirit I will just run out of mana faster!  If I have too much Mastery and not enough Spirit my passive healing will be great but I will run out of mana for my active healing.  If I have too much Crit and not enough Spirit my throughput will be higher, but only for a short time until I run out of mana.  Get where I’m going with this?  Its not essential to have Spirit in every slot, but personally I find that being close to it lets me have some freedom in what I cast.

A Change is as Good as a Break

Cataclysm Burnout.  The firey expansion has unleashed a wave of death not just on Azeroth but on its inhabitants.  Many people are quitting the game.  Its possible that its not more people quitting, just people quitting more visibly of course, but there are a number of long term players who are struggling to find the fun in Cataclysm.  Most have one or two particular niggles they can place a finger on and a whole bunch they can’t.

Thats not my Retribution Paladin, its rotation is too Rogue-like
Several classes in Cataclysm have changed beyond recognition.  Retribution paladins are one.  Restoration druids are another.  Arcane mages are still sad to see their spec not working in raids, and have to choose either Frost or Fire.  Hunters have a whole new resource system.  Death Knights have only one tanking tree.  There are probably more.  The difficulty here is that players who have loved their class for a long time aren’t enjoying it any more.

I’ll talk about retribution, because thats what I know.  Retribution has changed beyond all recognition and is now one of the most complex rotations in the game, right up there with feral druids.  Mostly because retribution paladins are feral druids.  With sparkles.  The rotation is similar in many ways – the use of combo points, fillers and finishers, the need to maintain a damage buff using the same resources as your damage abilities.  Its done a little differently, but not so much that levelling my feral druid doesn’t give me an eerie sense of deja vu.

So whats wrong with that?  Nothing really.  But its so very different from what came before.  Retribution needed to be made more complex as a rotation, but I can’t help feeling short changed by the Rogueification of my paladin.  Its not even that I don’t like the rotation.  I enjoy playing it.  Its the same feeling I had about priests at the end of TBC when I decided my paladin would be my main but for the opposite reason.  I left my priest because there were basically no changes to the class and I felt I didn’t want to keep hitting the same buttons for another couple of years.  I felt short changed by the expansion.  I feel that again with retribution, despite the fact that they did what I wanted.  They made the rotation more complex.  They balanced us in PvE and PvP.  But they did it using combo-points with sparkles and that was just lazy.

For many paladins, it was just too much.  They don’t like the new retribution (check out Unholy DKs for a simple but fun rotation these days).

Changing mains
When I decided to change from my paladin to my priest, the feeling of having been short changed definitely contributed, but I never would have made the change for that reason alone.  I started on my priest because that was what the guild needed, and found I enjoyed healing and particularly enjoyed the priest class again.  Wrath broke healing, Cataclysm fixed it.  I know some people who disagree with that, but I think they got it pretty much right.  I always felt the mana change in healing had not been good for the game – it changed the game into one of ‘who has fast enough reactions’ instead of ‘who can make smart choices’.  That one change affected raids far more than I think the developers anticipated.

As a quick note, people ask me why I didn’t go healing on my paladin.  The answer is that my paladin isn’t my priest.  When I heal, its always been with my priest.  If I try to heal on other classes all I can think is ‘Prayer of Healing would be better here’ or ‘I miss Binding Heal’.  I got used to the priest toolbox and I prefer it to any other class I’ve tried to heal on.  And I’ve played Akandra so long I know where all the spells go.  I’m pretty sure my buttons are in much the same place they were in TBC because if I put them anywhere else I end up using the wrong ones.    The priest class is similar to the one I left, but better with changes that fit in well with the class.

Where was I?  Oh yes, so I changed my main to fit in better with what the guild needed and it was a possibility for me because they fixed healing and tarted up the priest class nicely.  It gave me a better feeling than my short changed paladin.

Breaking up is hard to do
Its hard to change your main.  Very hard.  Especially if your an achievement hunter.  I remember struggling over whether to change to Morrighan and I struggled over whether to change to Akandra again.  But sometimes, change is the best thing.

I’ve mentioned that I didn’t change class because I disliked retribution particularly, but if you really do dislike it, change is the way to go.  I mentioned a few classes above because I know that many players are unhappy with those classes.  You can see it every day.  Those changes have taken the class they have played, in many cases since Vanilla, and made it so different they feel lost.  I talked about having kept my healing buttons in the same place for years on Akandra.  Well on Morrighan my buttons all had to change drastically because only a couple of them are used in the same way any more.  Theres nothing wrong with the classes (except for arcane mages) – they just aren’t the same.  For some players, these changes are too much and they are losing the fun in WoW.  I know a few people who are struggling with this right now.  At first they found it hard to put their finger on what exactly was wrong, but in most cases they just don’t like the way their class has changed so drastically.

The solution is to make a change.   If you’ve fallen out of love with your retribution paladin, then you should stop playing it and try to find something you do enjoy.

How to change your main character/role
Theres a lot to consider when making this change.  If you raid and want to remain in the same group, you need to consider the requirements of your raiding team as well as your own sense of fun.  You need to think about whether you are changing your role, your character or both.  You need to think about the transition period and if you want to try out your new choice.

Firstly you need to decide are you making the change just for you, or are you willing to be flexible to fit in with the raid group you are a part of?  If you want to keep raiding you firstly need to look and see what your raid group needs.  Have a chat with your officers to see what you can and can’t change to within the group.  If the group has too many mages, they aren’t going to want another one.  If melee is full, you will need to look at the other roles.  If theres a shortage of healers, would you consider healing?  Are there any other players who would like to change role also?  If your mage wants to heal and you want to dps then theres a solution.  It might be that the guild can’t accomodate you right now because what you want to do is oversubscribed – in that case if you are willing to wait have them put you on a ‘waiting list’ where you get the next available slot.  This also gives them time to recruit and can be a good way to make a change.

I mentioned roles there, because your second consideration is do you want to change role? Either on your current character or with another character? I mentioned my reasons for changing both role and character above, but for many people who are very attached to one character changing role can be a solution. Don’t like druid healing? Go boomkin.  Thats harder if your a hunter, for example, but its a consideration for hybrids.

Once you’ve made the decision to make the change, you also need to think about the process.  Is your new character ready for what you want to do with it?  If not you need to get it ready.  If you want to go melee but that will leave your guild short on healers, then I would suggest a transition period during which you heal when needed until a replacement is found.  Theres no point changing your character only to be unable to raid on it because there aren’t enough healers any more.  Discuss with your guild if you could ‘try’ your new main in a raiding environment to see what you really think about it if you aren’t sure.  This works fine as long as you explain to the team why those alts are suddenly raiding.

One of the biggest reasons people struggle to change mains is because of the achievements they have on their main.  But this can actually be a reason to change!  If you already have over 9000 achievement points, then a new main will give you something to do.  If you are an achievement hunter, this is obviously something you enjoy, so embrace the change to start again.  Set yourself some time to gather achievements/titles/pets/mounts on your new main.  See if people will come with you for old content for guild achievements.  Farm the new quest achievements in the new levelling zones allowing you to see all the new content.

What you should not do is just ignore your feelings about your class and hope they will go away.  They won’t unless your chosen class/spec is broken right now.  And most class/spec combinations are viable at the moment.  Even those that are broken may take a long time to fix.  If you think your class/spec is not viable at the moment make sure you read up on whether Blizzard thinks its broken.  If Blizzard don’t think its broken, then they won’t be changing it.  Blizzard have acknowledged the problems with an arcane mage, but they aren’t going to roll back the changes to retribution.  You can see all of the hate posts you want about new ret – its here to stay.

These are just some observations based on people I see playing the game at the moment.  Some of these I’ve talked to about their feelings, some not.  But its clear in every raid when people are feeling this way.  The people who have made the change are a lot more positive in those raids than those that haven’t.  They enjoy them more, they are better at raiding, they are enjoying the game.  So think carefully and if the drastic changes to your class are why you don’t enjoy WoW any more, then think about whether its time for a change.  Your new main could make the game fresh for you all over again.

Patch 4.1 and the little things that make WoW better

Patch 4.1 has some big things.  It has troll heroics and the Call to Arms for LFD.  But it also has some little things that just make the game better.

  • Flying mounts can now be used in Ghostlands.

Lets hope they work their way through all of the TBC Azeroth areas.

  • A dead player can now be resurrected by targeting them using the Party or Raid Frame even if they have released. No more hunting for corpses.

Win.  Often players release immediately, only to discover someone managed to survive and could res the group quicker.

  • All non-damaging interrupts off the global cooldown will now always hit the target. This includes Pummel, Shield Bash, Kick, Mind Freeze, Rebuke, Skull Bash, Counterspell, Wind Shear, Solar Beam, Silencing Shot, and related player pet abilities.

My husband the tank/raid leader has been looking forward to this one for weeks now.  In 10 man it negates the need to lose a dps from where you need them, or put them in a difficult spot just because you need to interrupt.  The first phase of the Council fight in BoT is a prime example.  Unless you have an elemental shaman you lose a melee from a boss where you need to focus all your dps at one point, and that melee has to run in and out or die instantly to Glaciate.

  • Several persistent ground effects now display different visuals for hostile and friendly players. The following spells have the same visual effects for friendly players, but new alternate visuals for hostile players: Ring of Frost, Consecration, Desecration, Wild Mushroom, Flare, Ice Trap, Power Word: Barrier, Smoke Bomb, and Hand of Gul’dan. As a general rule, the alternate effects have a red tint or hue indicating they are created by an enemy player.

If you’ve ever come across a mage frost circle thing on the ground in a BG or in Tol Barad and thought ‘hmmm can I step on that or not?’ then this is a change you will welcome.

  • Righteous Fury now persists through death.

If you’ve ever mashed Judgement as you ran in only to be one shotted and hear the tank go ‘damn, forgot RF’ then this is a change you will welcome.

  • Honor is now purchasable from the Justice Commodities Vendor at 250 Honor per 375 Justice.
  • Justice is now purchasable from the Honor Commodities Vendor at 250 Justice per 375 Honor.
  • Conquest is now purchasable from the Valor vendor at 250 Conquest per 250 Valor.

Gotta love this one.  Heres the thing.  Conquest points are quite easy to get each week up to the cap.  But theres a LOT to buy with those points (theres two whole sets of gear if you want the prestige pretty gear).  Valor is gained more slowly, but you run out of things to buy sooner.  So the last bullet is a win.  Then, Honor is painfully slow to get compared to Justice IMO.  If you play solo, or prefer BGs sure its probably not so much of a grind.  But to run a BG and get only 50-100 Honor and get a slew of abuse into the bargin is not my idea of fun.  I have a limited amount of WoW time and this is not how I want to spend it.  On the other hand you can get at least 280 Justice from a four boss heroic (more with guild perks and even more if you have already done your Valour run).  Morrighan still needs some PvP gear so I will be taking her back into heroics once this patch hits to farm PvP gear.

  • Targets and focus targets now display on the mini-map.

I can think of at least two valuable uses for this. Finding that female dwarf rogue for a holiday achievement and finding a rare elite you’ve been looking for.  And thats before you even get to its use in raids and BGs.

Things that make me want to cackle madly

  • Dark Simulacrum now works on numerous additional spells in dungeon encounters.

Mwhahahahahaha.

Ret Paladin changes
Note this is not a complete list, just the highlights (or lowlights depending on your point of view).

  • Word of Glory now has a 20-second cooldown.

This is obviously a nerf for retribution.  In PvE I doubt it will be noticed.  If you notice it in PvE as ret then really you need to look at your healing strategy some more (prot is a different matter all together, but still…).  In arena it will be, and especially in 2s.  I will notice it in 3s if our healer dies.  But I can understand the philosophy behind it and support that.  If you cast WoG more than every 20 seconds you aren’t really doing a lot of dps because it takes a big chunk of that time just to get up to 3 points of Holy Power!

  • Divine Storm now generates 1 point of Holy Power if it hits (i.e. successfully lands on) 4 or more targets.

This makes DS usable.  I haven’t really used it much in PvE at the moment.  Its useful when you have a group of very little, low health adds and thats it.  And even then Consecration is better.  DS without HP generation is a huge dps loss.  I also had the feeling it needed a boost in dps itself, but maybe not.  We’ll see.

  • Sacred Shield’s internal cooldown has been increased to 60 seconds, up from 30.

Well of course I don’t like it.  But I can see why they did it.  I was glad to see Sacred Shield back and can understand that in PvP all the other classes don’t feel that way.

  • Selfless Healer: The damage bonus from this talent now has a 30 sec duration instead of 10 sec.

Again supporting the use of WoG as an occasional heal.  This means you at least get the debuff for long enough to get your Holy Power back, and then a bit longer.  I think you’ll see more WoG in PvE with this and it will make the cooldown less painful in PvP.  If I save the mage with a WoG I then get more of a dps boost to help burn our enemies.

Holy/Shadow Priest changes
Note this is not a complete list, just the highlights (or lowlights depending on your point of view).

  • Dispel Magic can only be used on the casting priest as a baseline effect.

Booooo.  I know it brings us in line with the other healers.  I wonder if this also affects Mass Dispel?

  • Priests now innately have 100% pushback protection from damage while channeling Divine Hymn and Hymn of Hope.

Cheer.  Theres nothing more irritating than channelling one of these only to have some adds spawn and interrupt it.

  • Holy Fire damage has been increased to be approximately 30% higher than Smite.

Good.  I know its rare to use it and you could just use something else.  But I always felt this was wrong.

  • Inner Will and Inner Fire now last until canceled.

Another point in the ‘helping forgetful raiders’ column.

  • Mind Sear damage has been doubled.

Needed.  Much needed.  Mind Sear is terrible right now.

  • Power Word: Shield duration has been reduced to 15 seconds, down from 30.

Although its a nerf I don’t think its a huge change other than were you pre-cast shields.  You’d only really notice it in PvE when your shield wasn’t needed anyway.

  • Absolution (new passive) enables priests to use Dispel Magic on up to 2 harmful effects on friendly targets.

This is confusing as I’m not clear if its a talent or a part of choosing to be Holy.

  • Chakra now lasts until canceled, up from 1 minute.

Useful for pre-casting.  Or if you cast it and then get distracted and don’t use it.  The problem with both of those is you often end up with the wrong Chakra state because you need to cast a different type of heal anyway.

  • Holy Word: Sanctuary healing done has been increased by 35%. In addition, it has a new spell effect.

Needed.  Once I realised how underpowered this was for how much mana it cost, especially in constrast to the instant heal from the other Chakra state, I stopped using it.  Which is a shame because its pretty.

  • Surge of Light can now also trigger from Binding Heal.

Nice.  I use Binding Heal quite a bit.

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