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Tidbits from the Blizzcon Q&A Panels

November 1, 2011

I am finally (mostly) caught up on all the Blizzcon news and blog reading after spending a week in real life.  I suppose that means I should finally post an update.

There are so many topics and posts that I could cover… It all seems a little overwhelming.  But I don’t see much reason to re-hash all the new features announced at Blizzcon — you’ve all read dozens of blogs on those topics, right?  Instead I’m just going to touch on a few comments that were made in the Blizzcon panels that I haven’t seen discussed much, (though this could just be because I’m still slightly behind in my reading), mostly related to Druids and healing.

An Arcane Version of Hurricane?  Yes, Please!

In the Classes, Items and Professions Panel there were two brief announcements of interest to Druids:

In 5.0 Hurricane will have an Arcane version — meaning no waiting for AoE. Otherwise, there’s a balance between eclipse, and we like the way it’s working.

This is welcome news for Boomkin!  Arcane AoE is something we’ve been requesting since the beginning of Cataclysm.  This means Boomkin will be able to deal decent AoE damage while in Lunar Eclipse, so we won’t have to sacrifice so much of our single target rotation in order to deal with adds.  This simple change should drastically reduce the amount of time we have to spend gaming the Eclipse mechanic just to be viable.  However, the mana cost of Hurricane will have to be reduced and its damage increased before it will be on par with Wild Mushroom.

While I’m on the topic of Eclipse, with the radical new talent paradigm for MoP Lunar Shower will probably be completely redesigned, eliminated, or baked into the Balance spec.  We won’t have the option to take or drop the ability depending on whether or not we like the way it works.  I’m one of those who dropped the talent, sacrificing some DPS on the move for more control in AoE situations, so I hope they redesign it before baking it into our spec.

Please Stop Insulting My Healing Intelligence, kthnx.

Q: AoE heal is mindlessly spamming some HoTs, any plans to not do this?
A: Wild mushroom healing type spell. But overall, we think the resto druid healing kit is good. Some of the healing playstyle where mindless aoe healing happens is on the encounter design. [yes, they’re saying it’s the encounter, not them]

Ok, first of all, every time someone calls Resto Druid AoE healing “mindless” it makes me want to kick some puppies.  (Ok, I would never actually kick poor innocent puppies, but it does really piss me off.)  Why does this piss me off so much?  Because Resto Druid healing is not fucking mindless.  Everyone seems to be convinced that Resto Druids run around spamming two spells, Wild Growth and Rejuvenation, over and over again until we win, like we’re some healing version of an Arcane Mage.  This is not true.  And seriously, if there are any Resto Druids out there only casting those two spells I can guaran-fucking-tee you they are failing, and I want you to bring them to me so I can slap some sense into them.

Resto Druids are all about timers.  We have HoTs and we need to know when those HoTs are falling off, and when our mini-cooldowns (Wild Growth and Swiftmend) are available, and when our Mastery buff is about to expire, etc, etc.  Pretty much every spell we have is on a timer of less than 10 seconds duration.  We have to juggle all our spells so that we keep everything refreshed every 10 seconds or so.  So even during a period of intense AoE healing we cannot just sit there and spam the same two spells endlessly.  We have to watch our Lifebloom stack, make sure we cast a direct heal at least every 10 seconds to maintain our mastery, mix Swiftmend into things on cooldown, and deal with our Clearcasting procs effectively.  This is not a mindless process.

When you throw Tree of Life into the equation it actually makes things a little bit more complicated (in my opinion), because now you are trying to roll Lifebloom on as many targets as possible, (meaning each target has their own 10 second HoT that needs continual refreshing/reapplication), while you are also trying to cast a Rejuv + Swiftmend combo every 15 seconds and Wild Growth every 8 seconds, while also making use of the dozens of Clearcasting procs from the multiple Lifebloom stacks without letting them overwrite each other and go to waste.  It is a LOT of juggling to do and it takes practice and skill to really maximize our healing.  It is NOT a mindless process.

Contrast this with the current Paladin AoE healing strategy which is essentially “cast Holy Radiance and let the other healers worry about the AoE while I continue to heal the tanks”, or the Disc Priest strategy which is basically “put down a Barrier, throw out a Prayer of Mending, alternate spamming Prayer of Healing on each group and maybe use PW: Shield every so often”.  (I can’t speak for Shammies or Holy Priests since I don’t know much about them…)  So really, I don’t see how the Resto Druid AoE healing strategy is any more mindless than that of other classes, and I really don’t think they should throw more complexity at us unless they decide to give us some HoTs of longer duration so I don’t have to micromanage them so obsessively.

That loooong rant out of the way, I’m really not feeling the proposed Wild Mushroom-type spell.  If it’s anything like the Boomkin mushrooms, they’ll want us to use a targeting circle to place mushrooms and then detonate them to send out a healing explosion.  (An explosion that heals?  Say what?)  Now, I understand that they want us to have to think more about heal placement or some such crap, but targeting circles are clunky and irritating (for one thing), and they also take time to place and detonate.  If we can put out three at a time, as the Boomkins do, that’s 3 GCDs to place them and 1 GCD to detonate them, for a total of 4 seconds to cast them.  Did I already mention that most of my HoTs have a duration of less than 10 seconds?  I did?  Oh, well, then I’m sure you can see how I’d love to spend 4 seconds placing mushrooms while all my HoTs fall off.  Oh, and then people will move away from where I’ve placed the mushrooms so I’ll have to place them again, because modern encounters are all about movement.  So they’d probably only really be good for stacking phases.  Also, if the way Blizz handled the Boomkin mushrooms is any indication, they will nerf our other AoE spells into uselessness in order to “encourage” us to use the mushrooms.  Yay.  Looking forward to that.

DPS Off-Specs Are De Rigueur Next Season

In the Open Q&A Panel there was one question about the MoP healing design that stuck out for me:

Q: Healers’ design in MoP. Bring more healers to a 25-man raid? New healing class to be introduced, so increased pressure on existing healers to justify their slots.
A: I don’t think we’ll change the number of healers we expect raids to bring, some will mix it up, some won’t.

There has been a lot of discussion in the WoW Blogosphere recently about encounter design and the number of healers raid groups should be bringing to those encounters.  Currently there is a wide variation on the number of healers each encounter requires, especially in 25-man raiding.  25-man raid encounters can require anywhere from 4 to 7 healers, while 10-man raids usually fluctuate between 2-3 healers.  This variability in healer requirements can make filling a raid roster a logistical nightmare, forcing raid groups to either sub healers/DPS in and out for each encounter, or forcing healers to develop an excellent DPS off-spec if they want to keep their raid spot.  Now, the question asked in the panel didn’t directly address this issue, but the answer given certainly sheds a bit of light on the topic.

Firstly, we learn that Blizzard expects raids to bring a certain number of healers when they design encounters.  Well, that sure seems like news to me, considering the variability we’ve seen in the Firelands raid tier.  I only wish they would let us know what that number of healers is.  Is it 3 for 10-man, or 2?  Is it 5, 6, or 7 for 25-man?  Or do they really expect us to change the number of healers from fight to fight with no understanding of how that creates hardship for raid teams?

Secondly, we learn that Blizzard intends to continue designing raid tiers that “mix up” the number of healers required for each encounter.  This is not good.  It means that we can likely expect to have the same issues of raid role composition going forward into the next expansion.

Finally, I’d like to comment on what Blizzard did not say here.  Based solely on the answer to this question it would seem that Blizzard is either unaware that changing healer requirements from encounter to encounter causes issues for raid groups, or that they don’t think the problem is severe enough to bother becoming more consistent in their design.  This saddens me.  I hope that people will continue to try to bring the issue to Blizzard’s attention so that Blizz will actually address the problem.

Ramping Up Inter-Faction Conflict… For Now

Mists of Pandaria doesn’t have any particular “big bad” cast as the villain.  Rather, Blizzard has stated that they want the MoP expansion to focus on the conflict between the Alliance and Horde.  At first this made me unhappy, because I’m not the biggest fan of PvP, and I would much rather see the Alliance and the Horde working together to defeat common enemies than be at each other’s throats all the time.  I know, I know, it’s called World of Warcraft, I get it.  But it makes no sense for the two factions to be intent on destroying each other at all costs when there are enormously powerful villains out to destroy the world, which neither faction can defeat on its own.  I firmly believe that the many races of Azeroth need to learn to work together if they have any hope of survival, and if I could make my toons full members of the neutral factions and work toward world peace I probably would.

However, Blizz said something during the Lore Q&A Panel that gives me hope for the future:

The pandaren are ultimately going to be part of the solution between Horde and Alliance.

There have also been other comments (which I don’t have sources for at the moment) about how the Pandaren are generally peaceful people who only fight when they have a very good reason to.  This makes me hopeful that after an expansion of increased inter-faction conflict our warring societies will learn to overcome our petty squabbles and focus on what’s really important — saving Azeroth.  If so, there’s the potential for a lot of story and character development in the panda expansion, and it probably means that the expansion after MoP will return the focus to the big bads that are the real threat.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 2, 2011 12:25 pm

    As a “new” Druid healer, I stopped spamming two spells after about level 20 and still haven’t got a handle on the finer points of timing, procs, refreshing, etc.

    I don’t know enough about it to make any comment, but from what little I do know I’d have to agree with you – “mindless” is not even playing the same game.

    Personally, I wish they would stop messing with the “toolbox” and tune the encounters to bring a creative approach. Letting me decide what to do for unique encounters is fun – relearning spells/convoluted spell mechanics and mana management every patch is not fun.

    Yeah, I’ve kinda given up on healing…again 😦

    • November 5, 2011 1:36 pm

      Yeah, I hate having to re-learn my toolkit. I’m not looking forward to having to do so again.

      I hate to see people giving up on healing though. Healing is fun! Don’t give up! I’m sure you can do it. 🙂

  2. November 4, 2011 11:04 pm

    Re: healing composition. The number of healers per encounter per raid has always been wildly variable–back in BC I knew groups running with anything from 4 to 7 healers on a 25. They consider this a feature and not a bug, I think; some groups prefer safety to speed and vice-versa.

    Blizzard is never going to look into changing the role balance for raids. Their focus has consistently been on reducing the number of players full stop and making it possible for one toon to fulfill multiple roles. That’s always the direction they’re going to take things.

    Back in the day certain specs simply weren’t welcome in raids. Druids, priests, and paladins were expected to come holy or go home. (I expect the same was true for shamans? I’ve never raided as horde.) Blizzard listened to their complaints and made their dps/tank specs viable–nay, necessary!–for raiding. I bring it up because it helps make clear that Blizzard listens to individuals rather than raid teams when deciding this sort of thing. There wasn’t a reason to make spriests raid-critical in BC other than pleasing the player base on an individual level, and be hanged to the raids.

    • November 5, 2011 1:32 pm

      It’s not a problem with having a varying number of healers per raid instance, the problem is having a varying number of healers per encounter within the same raid instance. For example, Alysrazor is pretty obviously designed for two healers on 10-man, and some of the other fights are strict DPS checks that favor two healers. However, some of the other encounters have high AoE damage phases that favor three healers. So you run into the issue of having to do one of the following:

      1. Two heal everything, putting a ton of pressure on the healers for certain high-damage fights
      2. Three heal everything, putting a ton of pressure on the DPS and possibly failing many of the DPS checks
      3. Switching the composition from fight to fight, which requires either a) subbing DPS and Healers in and out of the raid entirely or b) pressuring a Healer to use a DPS off-spec (or a DPS player to use a healing off-spec).

      This composition issue is compounded by the fact that tank requirements vary from encounter to encounter as well. There are two fights in the Firelands that only require one tank (Rhyolith and Staghelm), which means that the other tank must switch to DPS or put on the bench for that fight. Tier 11 had one-tank fights as well, and Heroic Halfus required 10-man raids to bring *three* tanks — which was sometimes pretty difficult to do, since you’d either need to have a spare tank hanging around (who happened to be geared for heroics) that didn’t mind being brought in for one fight the entire tier, or you’d need a DPS with a well-geared tanking off-spec to switch to tank for that one fight.

      So it’s not a matter of one guild preferring to two-heal the raid while another guild prefers to three-heal it. It’s a matter of being forced to juggle your raid composition from encounter to encounter, regardless of your raid group’s preference, because of the way the encounters are designed. This means there are a lot of healers right now who are being forced to either DPS or sit out half of the encounters. If they choose to DPS they feel guilty wondering if they are holding the group back and if it would be better to bring in a dedicated damage dealer that contributes higher DPS for that fight. If they choose to sit out then they get to raid about half the amount they would otherwise.

      • November 5, 2011 2:58 pm

        I ~have~ raided Firelands, you know, and am aware of how the fights work.

        And I think you missed my point (I was perhaps not clear about this)–when I said I knew groups running with 4-7 healers, I didn’t mean that these groups always used seven healers regardless of which fight they were on and it was just a matter of preference. What I meant is that a group that brought seven healers would sometimes have five people healing and two people dpsing in their healing specs. (Or more commonly, five dedicated healers and two poor boomkin wearing healing gear for a particularly nasty fight.) The problem of encounters being designed around different numbers of tanks or healers within one raid has ALWAYS been there, and Blizzard doesn’t give a rat’s ass about it.

        I understand why you’re frustrated, but the approach Blizzard takes to this is not going to change.

  3. November 14, 2011 3:27 pm

    The only thing that will determine how many healers Blizz expects is Raid Finder, because I assume you’ll select one role and it will be filled with the number needed. That will give a clue to how Blizz is expecting things to go. However, I think Fellmama is right, it’s flexibility, and I think that while there are healers out there that are “I ONLY HEALS” there are probably just as many out there that have both specs as viable specs and work on gear for both. My Shaman is NOT Firelands raid geared, but his DPS and Healing specs are about the same iLevel because I work on improving both.

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