Looking Back: Thoughts on Healing in Cata

MVP
85 Blood Elf Paladin
9730
I've been thinking about this for a while, and this is something that I do every year or so - but I wanted to drop my opinions/criticism on this expansion as a whole, and I hope that people provide constructive feedback as well.

Upon hitting level 85 and playing through normal/heroic dungeons, I felt like I did as a DPS back in Burning Crusade: It was challenging. To me healing felt extremely rewarding and if the group failed, I could feel assured that it probably wasn't my error.

That said, looking back at raiding I'll have to say that I've had the most fun I've ever had in raiding so far. Some may not agree with this, and that's fine, but the Triage model (in a Paladin playstyle at the very least) really resonated with me positively. My problem with this raiding environment this whole expansion though, is how it felt that raiding mechanics have almost regressed.

Tier 11 was a pretty big tier, with the introduction of BH, ToT4W, BWD, and BoT, and so fights felt different every time. You went from some high movement fights to fights that had intricate mechanics (Still kinda like Omitron), and THEN you had fights like Chimaeron. Kinetic movement took priority over static in this tier.

In Tier 12 we started to see a pattern, however. Things started to become *Come over here, stack. Do stuff. Heal.* Some fights deviated from that, but from a healing perspective it didn't seem as varied as T11.

We get to T13, and while I genuinely enjoyed it - if I have to stack up any more for any fight past this tier I may just go insane. In T11/12 The stack-up and heal model was novel and fun. By T13, when we're facing the end boss, I didn't want to be on his back (or a platform) spamming Holy Radiance. I don't know what happened there, but It didn't seem too creative with the mechanics - and that makes Practical sad.

On a more positive note: Healing has been more balanced than it's ever been. There are some slight discrepancies, but I think that with the de-emphasis on absorbs (WoTLK), the difference between pure HPS healing and Proactive shielding really isn't so large because damage output isn't as crazy.

It's in my opinion that the quality of life changes made (such as judging for paladins) are great and I hope that you guys continue looking at how you can improve it all.

Cheers!
________________________________________________
Healing Forum MVP
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90 Draenei Priest
16820
Agreed. I think T11 was a pretty great tier, and I actually enjoyed T12 for a while when it first came out.

T11's excellence was for a large number of reasons - multiple raids, 14 bosses (including Argaloth), and encounters with much more varied strats than what we see in T13 (all of Tot4W says hi).

Nef was one of my favorite encounters of T11 actually because I really loved Ph2. At the appropriate gear level, it was very intense but fun to heal. It was also a very different phase from what I'd seen in other boss encounters. The whole encounter was enjoyable and well-designed (particularly on heroic) but I find Ph2 is most memorable for me.

Heroic Omnotron was actually an insane but excellent heroic.

For T13, so far I've only seen 3/8H (just got HYor'sahj down last night). Heroic Yor'sahj on 25 was brutal for us, and I absolutely enjoyed the challenge, but I can't really say I enjoyed the encounter. Stack up tight as humanly possible unless Green is out. Purple was not a really difficult mechanic, but to its credit, at least it was different.

Heroic Hagara is pretty decent I think. I don't care for Heroic Morchok at all however.
Can't speak for the other encounters currently. But I agree, way too much stacking up in this raid. My T11 nostalgia is strong.
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100 Night Elf Hunter
13930
I agree with you on all of it pretty much, and I especially like your comment on the "over-saturation" of stacking in DS (although it does make my Shaman happy).

This expansion has been the most fun I've had healing overall. I think the devs, even despite the homogenization of the 3-heal model, have done a good job of making each spec feel unique.

One area that I feel is a little off has been in mana management. I like it that mana matters again, but I'd like to see more balance in healer regen. Specifically, I think where it went wrong is that for some specs, Int became a GOD stat for both throughput AND regen, and so some specs could stack Int and get more out of secondaries, while other specs have had to become Spirit addicts and/or rely on encounters to provide downtime in which you hopefully don't miss with lightning bolts. But I think that Blizzard acknowledges this, and is looking at the mana/Int/Spi interaction for MoP.

I know a ton of people (vocally) hated it, but I really loved hitting 85 on my healers; it was brutal in a fun way, and every new piece of gear felt like a blessing.
Edited by Samarana on 1/27/2012 2:19 PM PST
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100 Gnome Priest
11670
I've been thinking on this as well. Healing is definitely well balanced this expansion, but mechanics have become simpler every tier.

My main gripe is the lack of terrain design in Firelands. Everything mostly the same texture, it is dark, and lacks any interesting features. BWD and BOT weren't much better, but at least it wasn't a strain on the eyes, it wasn't so dark that you couldn't see the rock that is causing you to run in place. DS isn't too bad, each zone is unique, but EoE, the boat, and the tower are basically copy and paste. Not since Ulduar have I seen a raid where you know that the designers were there to do something cool rather than collect a paycheck.

Honestly, if we spend 3-12 (or more?) hours a week in a raid I hope its decent to look at.

Fight mechanics went from being impressively diverse to simple to basic, there are a few gems though.

Overall, I prefer the LK raids (minus Naxx) over Cataclysm, but the healing and health model are a significant improvement.
Edited by Koban on 1/27/2012 2:27 PM PST
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85 Night Elf Priest
4975
In Cata healing was terrible in my opinion. Cata was all about crazy boss mechanics and little about healer skill.

In Cata it didnt matter if you were an AMAZING healer, if the group didnt get the "Boss Choreography" correctly then everyone died, if group got the Boss Dance right, then they passed even with a very mediocre healer.

In other words, healing was far more mechanical, like a cog in a machine, with a set function from which you could not deviate.

In my opinion Healer skill mattered less in Cata even though it felt like it mattered more: We have preset skills to use on "grouped in" phases and on the "spread out" phases. So basically, do healing plan A in grouped phases and healing plan B in spread out phases. It was so predictable and mechanical that it is not funny. Again like a cog in a machine.

Also healing in Cata for FAR SLOWER. Which is not fine. I left like i was playing a slow chess game rather than a faster paced strategic game. Which was NOT ok.
Edited by Lygion on 1/27/2012 2:56 PM PST
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90 Troll Shaman
15630
Definetly have to agree with you. The start of Cata healing was a lot more fun with the challenges of gearing and having to change your play style for 12/13 raid bosses. What I thought made it more satisfying as a healer was a lot of "one shot mechanics"(for lack of a better term) a lot of the bosses had that shifted a lot of the responsibility off healers and back onto individual players. Back in Wrath and even a bit into BC it always felt like if for example a dps died to a mechanic it was because a healer couldn't heal him through it, but when you're you being hit for twice your maximum health, blame starts shifting else where and people start to pick up their game a bit.

Lately though seeing the changes in recount for top 3 heals going from Riptide/Healing Wave/GHW to Healing Rain/Chain Heal/Riptide. has been a little depressing and feels like healing is really starting to be (excuse the bad pun) watered downed back to the Wrath style of spam x spell for y situation = profit.

More of global change for all roles/specs, but Id really like to see changes to glyphs steering away from the "+x% to spell" to something a little more interesting, and some sort of change to gems. I personally dont think stacking the same gem in my healing set as I do in my dps set simply because any other gem just isnt up to par.

The proposed change to intellect for Mists looks pretty interesting though, kinda want to keep a close eye on where thats going.
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90 Blood Elf Priest
8855
01/27/2012 02:52 PMPosted by Lygion
In Cata it didnt matter if you were an AMAZING healer, if the group didnt get the "Boss Choreography" correctly then everyone died,


I actually like this. I want my role to matter, but I like the increased responsibility on everyone else. It feels right that my job is to protect the raid from everything but their own stupidity.

01/27/2012 02:52 PMPosted by Lygion
if group got the Boss Dance right, then they passed even with a very mediocre healer.


This may be true of regs, but heroics really do require great healers, even if everyone does everything correctly.

01/27/2012 02:52 PMPosted by Lygion
So basically, do healing plan A in grouped phases and healing plan B in spread out phases. It was so predictable and mechanical that it is not funny. Again like a cog in a machine.


From what I took from Blue responses at the beginning of Cata to healing questions, their intent was to give us spells that we use at the proper time, so of course we're going to use small heals for light damage, big heals for big damage, and group heals for group damage.

01/27/2012 02:52 PMPosted by Lygion
Also healing in Cata for FAR SLOWER. Which is not fine. I left like i was playing a slow chess game rather than a faster paced strategic game. Which was NOT ok.


I enjoyed the slower pace, due to the changed mechanics. In a world where you had to think about what heal to use (much moreso in T11 than now), the slower pace gave healers the chance to adapt to this new model. With higher stats (particularly anyone stacking Haste at all), you have your fast paced healing back to a degree.

Overall, I enjoyed T11 a ridiculous amount due to the more varied fights and the stronger presence of the triage model. The "slower pace" and "crazy boss mechanics" might not have sat well with everyone, but I really enjoyed it a lot. I sincerely hope that MoP turns out to be a whole lot like T11 in those respects. I'm hoping the Intellect change will help preserve the triage model better than it was preserved in this expansion, because I really do love it.
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85 Draenei Priest
7125
01/27/2012 02:52 PMPosted by Lygion
In other words, healing was far more mechanical, like a cog in a machine, with a set function from which you could not deviate.


This is a major reason why so many healers were losing their raid spots in t-12 to any mediocre dps with a tranq.

My problem with this raiding environment this whole expansion though, is how it felt that raiding mechanics have almost regressed.


I completely agree with this. From a story aspect, BOT had the entire pre-expansion questline and a huge amount of story from 80-85. BWD had the richness of history from dwarves and the long-mysterious Grim Batol, in addition to blackrock nostalgia. Throne had a lot of story built up over the 80-85 leveling and pre-raid dungeons. It was engaging; it made sense that we were there; and it had a great sense of fantasy about it. I really think the air elemental dungeon (why can't I remember the name?) was every bit as beautiful as Ulduar/storm peaks. The best part was that the difficulty curve increased steadily with gear; even in mostly 359s Nef was really tough to get down, and Cho-gall was pretty hard to heal thru in p2.

T-12 had enought story to keep it from being too disconnected, but the "Thrall as Wolverine/Batman" nonsense where cosmically-powered dragon aspects *need his help* was so preposterous that it was jarring. Overall, I thought t-12 had some fun boss mechanics and were really challenging to heal in t-11 gear pre-nerf. I feel there was a major disparity in difficulty between 10 and 25-man starting here that really threw a wrench in most 25-man guilds' ability to recruit and maintain a roster.

t-13 feels more disconnected than any raid I've ever done. It feels like a bunch of charicatures running around doing things with no motivation other than it's what a villian's supposed to do. Deathwing is comically self-aware (I AM THE CATACLYSM), as if he named the expansion himself. The entire thing feels like a parody of a raid. I do think that LFR took the edge off the thrill of seeing and learning the last boss. Yor'saj is the best boss of the tier, imo.
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90 Tauren Shaman
11215
Healing has been weird for me this expansion. I've always been a 25 man raider (I ran my own 10 man side raids but for progression, always 25) up until this summer when a job took me out of the game for a few months and I didn't have a spot on the 3 nights a week 25 man team when I got back. So I got into 10 man raiding in T12.

T11 I really liked. I think there was an overemphasis on interrupt-or-die mechanics but there were a lot of good fights (Nef was a real stand out, getting that heroic kill felt GOOD.) The varied locations was icing on the cake. Shaman healing lagged quite badly early on but we got a few buffs and Spirit Link and things were- if not great- at least acceptable. The MTT nerfs really hurt shaman though, and we had some terrible mana issues. Healing Surge was gutted in a HOTFIX, (something I will never ever forgive, what bullcrap) and we can't even use it in PVE anymore. I feel like shaman as a healing class just wasn't brought up to cataclysm standards, even with Healing Rains. It was obvious very early on that priests and paladins were going to be stacked, and by nerfing all the mana cooldowns (to hurt that stacking) shaman were collateral damage. I really do not like my mana cooldown being subject to other classes' nerfs.

T12 I have mixed feelings on. The instance really was too small to be an entire tier, it should have had a buddy raid and I think that really hurt it. The fights we had were pretty good mechanically and I still think H Alyzrazor is the best fight of the expansion as far as fun goes. Shaman healing was pretty neutered this tier thanks to the spread mechanics and it was the first tier I did hard modes in 10 man on, so I had to relearn a lot of things. The saddest part is that I think if it had 3-5 more bosses it would have been the best tier in the game no contest. There just weren't enough of them to include all the healing styles equally. Resto druids were also ridiculous that tier due to blunt throughput (yes yes, BALEROC) and while shamans didn't recieve any nerfs, they were just allowed to sit at the bottom. Our mana was just atrocious in T12, and sneaking TC in wasn't viable for a lot of fights.

T13 Leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Mechanically it suits shaman healing the most and is the first raid of the expansion where people aren't benching us. Our heals shine in this tier and I get to use all my spells effectively. So why do I hate it? Well, it's a bunch of recycled models in multiple recycled areas while Captain Planet and the Planeteers talk about nonsense and waste time. The trash is tedious (whoever designed the dragon gauntlet before ultrax, I HATE YOU. Why dont those dragons have corpses? The trash drop ratio is utter crap in DS- even the spiders before Sindragosa had corpses!) the bosses are all Stack Up Spread Out Stack Up Spread Out. Did everyone just phone this raid in completely? How the heck did they manage to make riding DEATHWING through the sky boring? Oh, by making it an add fight, just like Madness.

See the thing about add fights, is you still FIGHT THE BOSS after you kill the adds. Bethtilac is a good example of an add fight. Ragnaros is a good example of an add phase. I don't feel like we ever got to fight Deathwing at all. Poking inanimate tendons and inanimate wing tentacles is NOT fighting Deathwing. Tanks must feel even more cheated, since they get to tank blood, tentacles, and elementals instead of- you know- DEATHWING.

Overall I'd rank them 12>11>13 with a caveat that 12's primary flaw was that it should have had more bosses.
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100 Blood Elf Priest
13330
I have to say first off that I'm not a fan of the healing model. I like being time-limited, not mana-limited. I like a fast pace. I like how my healer plays now, and healing was miserable in t11 for me.

That said, I agree with respect to the raid mechanics.

T11 was amazing. Ascendant Council is one of my top 5 fights in all of WoW. But the rest of the fights were great too. Even the entry 'easy' bosses of t11 were fun and creative. The only major issue in t11 was that it required more interrupts than a 10m raid could reasonably be expected to have, although Alys was worse for that than anything in t11 because it required 4 non-tank interrupts.

T12 was...meh. There was still some creativity in the bosses, but it didn't work out well, and the most unique boss (Rhyo) ended up just being an RNG PITA that had to be nerfed 4 times in the first month. And overall, it just felt like it was designed to be time-consuming and frustrating rather than fun - the only way to make 7 bosses occupy a raid for a week was to include 723482957238 trash mobs. If I have to kill Shannox trash one more time...

Rag was a fun fight. But it was the final boss. It took us months to get to it, because the trash ate up half our progression time every week.

And t13 is just incredibly boring. I think the devs got it in their heads that since healers aren't mana-restricted, the only way to challenge us is to make us dump our max AoE HPS for 5-10 minutes. That's obviously not true - look at Wrath. At least 5 fights in ICC managed to be challenging while staying outside the "max HPS dump" box. They could have looked at the Blood Princes, Putricide, or LK models. But instead they went for the BQL/Marrowgar model for every. single. boss.

And since they decided on that, in order to maintain some semblance of healer balance, they had to design the fights so that all the healers could hit their max AoE HPS the entire time, which meant full-on stationary stack-and-spam (since they went with the "stack AoE" healing model for 3 out of 5 healing specs).

The result is that the fights are trivial if you meet the DPS requirement (they never tune healing checks as tightly as DPS checks. Why?) And they're also rather boring and similar. So even though I could be having a lot of fun with healing right now (my character plays exactly the way I like him) I'm not. I had more fun in t11 even though I hated my priest the entire time.
Edited by Kaels on 1/27/2012 4:10 PM PST
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MVP
85 Blood Elf Paladin
9730
01/27/2012 02:52 PMPosted by Lygion
Cata was all about crazy boss mechanics and little about healer skill.


It doesn't take skill to respond to boss mechanics?

01/27/2012 02:52 PMPosted by Lygion
In Cata it didnt matter if you were an AMAZING healer, if the group didnt get the "Boss Choreography" correctly then everyone died, if group got the Boss Dance right, then they passed even with a very mediocre healer.


I'd argue that I'd rather have people do those boss dances the right way, and be successful, rather than the healers do it the right way and the group fail.

01/27/2012 02:52 PMPosted by Lygion
In other words, healing was far more mechanical, like a cog in a machine, with a set function from which you could not deviate.


You could say that, the way I see it is setting up people for success. Players should be able to see and know that "this" is the good way to do a boss, and to that degree, be able to execute it. If you can execute it and the numbers aren't right, such as the DPS or people dying due to lack of healing - then you can start looking at skill as a factor.

01/27/2012 02:52 PMPosted by Lygion
We have preset skills to use on "grouped in" phases and on the "spread out" phases. So basically, do healing plan A in grouped phases and healing plan B in spread out phases. It was so predictable and mechanical that it is not funny. Again like a cog in a machine.


That could be because after you do the boss once, then you already know the fight. A high amount of RNG just makes a fight unpredictable. That's really hard to balance.

You could look at it like that - like a choreography. But using that analogy: when looking at a show in a concert, you want all dancers to be on key. All the dancers want to be on key and flow together well. You could argue that as a viewer that it's going to be 'choreographed' and as such really doesn't illustrate dance skill, but I think that's an unfair assessment.

To get 10 or 25 people to do the same thing (or different things) at once takes a team effort of skill, everyone is responsible for everyone. One person messes up and it can create a domino effect. It's not longer about how fast the healer can respond because responding to someone else's mistake is a little volatile; You're going to be held responsible because someone made a mistake? That makes no sense.

01/27/2012 02:52 PMPosted by Lygion
Also healing in Cata for FAR SLOWER. Which is not fine. I left like i was playing a slow chess game rather than a faster paced strategic game. Which was NOT ok.


You're not responsible for 10 or 25 people. Everyone is responsible for each other. Playing chess means that you have to map out your decision in a constrained time frame, this fast paced strategic game you keep alluding to means you have to make decisions (whether they are efficient or inefficient) on the fly. The latter isn't okay, though the aforementioned is.

t-13 feels more disconnected than any raid I've ever done. It feels like a bunch of charicatures running around doing things with no motivation other than it's what a villian's supposed to do. Deathwing is comically self-aware (I AM THE CATACLYSM), as if he named the expansion himself. The entire thing feels like a parody of a raid. I do think that LFR took the edge off the thrill of seeing and learning the last boss. Yor'saj is the best boss of the tier, imo.


I agree with your on the story parts; But I wanted to quote this only because I'm half and half on it. Deathwing's lore is really robust. If you don't believe me, reference War of the Ancients by Richard Knaack. You're going to get tired of Rhonin's red fiery hair, but you'll get a good grip on the story. Sinestra/Nef/Rag/Cho/and even DW had good storylines.


________________________________________________
Healing Forum MVP
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85 Draenei Priest
14060
T11 was a very good tier but it was a terrible entry tier. Encounter design was varied, but the tier was too long, especially when you factor in the leveling and gearing phase and quite a few encounters felt untested (pre-nerf Magmaw and Sinestra anyone?).
Best encounter: H Ascendant Council (Chaos!)
Worst encounter: H Conclave
Dishonorable mentions: 25H Al'Akir and Wrack.

T12's encounter design was abysmal, most fights were DPS checks with a burn phase and the hardest fight in the instance was 3 healed, on 25H.
Best encounter: H Beth'tilac
Worst encounter: H Staghelm
Never truly on farm: Shannox; you know you liked seeing Rageface reach 75+ stacks, every single week.
Other thoughts: Geometry > Raid designers

Only 5/8H for T13 but I can say that boss mechanics went from being interesting to simple annoying gimmicks. And healing design is restricted to stand in a single spot and cast for 7/8 fights.

It feels like there's some unwritten rule that prevents Blizzard from making non-end boss encounters with more than 2 distinct phases anymore and that really sucks.
Edited by Mint on 1/27/2012 7:34 PM PST
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100 Blood Elf Priest
13330
Ah, yes. The best and the worst.

Best: Ascendant Council.
Runner-up: Nef.

Worst: Rhyolith at release.
Runner-up: Al'Akir.

Best of t12: Ragnaros.
Best of t13: Hagara.

"Why did this trash mob just drop 3 epics?" award: Morchok 10N.
"Why doesn't this boss fight drop any loot?" award: Pre-nerf Beth trash.

Best 5m dungeon: Halls of Origination.
Worst 5m dungeon: Deadmines, ZG, ZA, and Grim Batol share this award, and SFK only narrowly misses joining them.

Best crafting design decision: Cauldrons.
Worst crafting design decision: Dreamcloth.

Best loot design decision: Tier gear from early boss drops in t13.
Worst loot design decision: No spirit cloth boss drops.
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90 Blood Elf Paladin
5915

"Why did this trash mob just drop 3 epics?" award: Morchok 10N.

Love this. My first kill of this was on a 9-man facepull where nobody had flasked or eaten and we were missing a healer. So true.
Edited by Solann on 1/27/2012 9:24 PM PST
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