So we’ve had 5.3 out for a few weeks now and I feel pretty confident in talking about how the patch has affected healing now. Healing class balance changed drastically, and it seems that the focus on healing has changed completely. Holy Paladins definitely got a nerf, but looking at the numbers the issue is much greater than a simple numbers change for us. Healing classes have been up and down a lot this patch and it seems to be more than a problem with scaling that requires simple nerfs and buffs. The way that the healing classes are built is broken on many levels and it needs to be looked at carefully.
Holy Paladins in 5.3
As far as I can tell from my own healing, the Patch was not a huge overall nerf to us. The nerfs that did go through, mostly to mastery, have reduced our Illuminated Healing to about 83% of what it was before the Patch. We have also lost out on our T14 4 Piece bonus that many healers were still using. As a whole though, I don’t think that the Holy Paladin nerfs were as great as others are making them out to be. That’s not to say that our performance comparatively is where it was Pre-Patch though. According to the Raidbots Spec score system, Holy Paladin performance has taken a nose dive in 25 H raiding since the patch came out. While the effects weren’t as great for 10 H, they have also shown some signs of decreased Holy Paladin performance.
The above shows that Holy Paladins went from being the second healing class comparatively, to the fifth as far as Top 100 Rankings go. That drop looks to be huge compared to other healers, and it explains to me why I haven’t felt that the nerf was that great but other players have complained that it was huge. On a personal level the nerf really wasn’t that bad, but when seen in context of basically every other healer being buffed at the same time the Patch knocks us off a high horse that we had been riding all of MoP. The only healing class that isn’t performing worse than us in the 25 H Scene are Restoration Shamans, who in 25s are many times utility healers anyway.
10 Heroic has generally been more static as far as changes go, and this patch has proven to be the same. With the patch you can still see quite a jump in Restoration Druid and Mistweaver Monk healing, a small decrease in Holy Paladin healing, and surprisingly no change in Holy Priest healing. This shows that in 10, where the majority of raiding happens, the nerfs weren’t as pronounced comparatively. There is still a drop, but it’s nowhere near the nose dive that Holy Paladins took in 25 Heroics raids.
As a whole, the patch has had some serious effects in our competitiveness with other healers, but it seems that this is not due to the nerfs given to us directly. Other classes have simply been given the buffs that they needed since they’ve been underpowered for large periods of time. This taken with how powerful Discipline Priests continue to be has hugely detrimental effects on our strength. The majority of our healing comes from Illuminated Healing, and Discipline Priest’s absorbs are much stronger making our absorbs useless many times.
I think that as this expansion continues there is simply more and more proof that healing as it stands is in a terrible place. Absorbs are out of control, but nerfing them has huge repercussions for classes that use them due to much of healing being snipe healing. The way that we are moving forward doesn’t seem to be fixing this either.
Patch 5.4 and what it means for Healing
There hasn’t been much talk of what is actually happening in Patch 5.4 yet, but there have been hints dropped here and there by Ghostcrawler. Based on what I’ve read in the MMO discussion of the healing nerfs it seems that they believe absorbs are still very powerful and that the next Patch will focus on a HoT healing style for raid healing. They have also hinted that they think EF is still too strong and may be getting a nerf going into the next patch. All of this together seems to leave us in a very bad place as far as healing goes.
If we look at this expansion’s healing style that we’ve had so far and where it may be going, it paints a very bleak picture for healers in general. We started off with massive changes to stats in general this expansion that changed the way healers played. Where once our longevity improved as gear scaled due to higher mana pools with Intellect, now we had our mana set to a static amount. This brought the focus very heavily on Spirit for many classes sot hat we could have the mana to heal through an entire encounter. The new talents also brought with them complete remakes of every healing class while adding into the mix the Mistweaving Monks new with the expansion.
With all this change it was clear at the start of the expansion that Restoration Shamans and Restoration Druids were not doing well. Their healing style was based in a way that didn’t suit raid environments as well as other classes. To top it off the healing style based on absorbs was far too powerful to allow much healing to be done by classes who focused on HoT healing and snipe heals.
Healing as a whole needs to be looked at and the way that each healing class plays addressed. As much as it may seem a silly principle at times, it should be more about bringing the player than the class. Yet I know that a true Heroic healing team needs certain classes right now to perform at its best. A Restoration Shaman brings such powerful utility and while they can do some decent healing they seem to have become utility bots and mana batteries. Discipline Priests and Holy Paladins on the other hand have seemed almost necessary for a strong healing core due to the strength of absorbs and the raid utility that they have. Monks and Resto Druids on the other hand don’t seem to have as much class utility in the form of raid damage mitigation cooldowns and focus so heavily on sheer throughput that absorbs negate much of their healing. Yet if we move towards a situations in which this healing style becomes more viable, it has to be at the expense of absorb healers. This would once again leave at least two healing specs out in the dark and less relevant than the other healers available.
I’m not claiming to have a solution for any of this because frankly I don’t know how to fix this. What I am sure of is that there is an intrinsic problem in the way that healing classes interact and compare with each other currently. Our healing styles are counters to each other and only seem to work together on fights with massive amounts of constant raid damage. When that damage isn’t present it becomes more a situation of whose tools are more powerful and better suited to the job. While I understand that that will be the case sometimes, having great players sit out of progression continually because their class isn’t as powerful as somebody else’s is wrong. A healing core should be able to bring whatever classes they have available to bring down content, and make it possible for a great healer playing any class to compete and be useful.
Class Balance in Healing
Class balance has been a large issue for World of Warcraft for a while now, but the primary places that I’ve heard it talked about have always been either PvP/PvE or DPS comparisons. When players are competing with each other outright it’s much easier to make the comparison of is X better than Y. When it comes to healing the issue isn’t quite so black and white. While it’s nice to be able to be on top of the HPS meters, that’s not what truly matters in healing. Healing is more about making sure that everyone stays alive and is able to do their jobs, and each healer needs to be able to do that. While some healers are capable of putting out massive amounts of HPS, it isn’t always enough to make sure that the raid stays alive. Healers need the tools to be able to keep the raid alive through the mechanics we are presented with: sometimes that means damage mitigation, movement buffs, or other utility. There has always been a problem on the utility front for some healers, particularly Resto Druids. For a long time they were the only class with absolutely no form of raid or tank damage mitigation. They made it by simply by having the highest throughput available, and it worked because no one else had that kind of healing. This system was also present at a time when the role of “Tank” and “Raid” healers were still present though. Once other classes were given the tools to step out of those roles and started doing as much throughput as Resto Druids with the added utility, the class was left alone.
In a way we’ve run into a similar problem where certain classes are being slowly pushed into the role of utility classes. Restoration shamans seem to fit this role currently, but to bring sheer throughput healers up to a competitive par other healers will need to be there as well. This way of looking at healing will likely get rid of the sheer number competitiveness of healing, but it will do it by setting up somewhat more rigid roles. I don’t think that is the proper way to go about it.
I don’t really know of a way to fix this issue. It seems to be that absorbs are a huge part of the problem, but so is the lack of utility that certain classes have. Switching from an absorb focused healing encounters to HoT focused healing encounters isn’t the solution for this problem though. It will simply make it so that classes with HoTs are more powerful. In my opinion Blizzard needs to try to set up the same type of balance in healing that they’ve strived for in DPS, but it’s clear that they haven’t succeeded there yet either.
I don’t want to leave this off with some bleak outlook on healing. I want to have faith that Blizzard will be able to fix this, but I think it’s necessary that we make the issue heard. I also think its important that we present whatever ideas we may have to fix this to them so that healers are able to play and be competitive no matter what class they play.