Monday, October 18, 2010

[Paladin] Gut Feeling About Healing in a Post-4.0 World

Cavaet: I have not raid healed since the patch. I have only done heroics. However, I did spend an fair amount of discussion with my guild's holy paladin over his performance in our heroic ICC 10 raid last Saturday, so I think I have a decent handle on what the fuss is about.

And fuss there is. Ghostcrawler wrote a humongous post on the subject yesterday.

After our first post-4.0.1 raid in ICC, our holy paladin posted on our guild forums about his issues with healing that night, most particularly in regards to Heroic Lich King. He was concerned that due to the change in how paladins work, that he might not be able to perform at the level he used to pre-patch. Typically he would beacon one tank, heal the other, and possibly help the raid if GCDs allowed or the situation demanded (disc priest grabbed by valkyr).

Now he's no longer sure that's possible, and he thinks we may have to three-heal H LK. With the improved dps post-patch, we might still be all right.

So, I did some thinking about paladin healing; after healing heroics on Gillien, listening to my guildie's woes and analyzing World of Logs with him, and reading Ghostcrawler's mega-post.

My feeling is that paladins are heading in the right direction. It may be bumpy now, but I like having more spells, more decision making. I was never a big fan of the firehose approach to paladin healing. My crowning moment was solo-healing half the Moroes fight in Karazhan after our priest died, and that was back in TBC. It was a big mess of triage and figuring who could live for a few seconds more and who needed a heal now.

There wasn't really that kind of decision-making in WotLK. Beacon tank. Heal someone else. Make sure the heals keep flowing in even if no one else needs it. It was a little wonky at first, when the beacon didn't transfer overheals at the start of WotLK, but after overheals counted there was even less thought involved.

Running through heroics after 4.0.1 I found I had to change my keybindings. Flash of Light and Holy Shock swapped places, since Holy Shock would be my go-to heal and FoL my emergency quick heal. Holy Shock was now stronger and cheaper than Holy Light, with the bonus of being instant! Building up Holy Power for Word of Glory wasn't a problem, and Word of Glory was another instant heal more or less on par with Holy Shock. If I couldn't use either, then I would consider a Holy Light; Divine Light if the tank needed it. My biggest problem is that I need to set up a good Power Auras for Holy Power so I can better keep track of it.

Divine Light felt a little sluggish, but for heroics it usually wasn't necessary. Flash of Light I barely used and mana troubles were non-existent. After a few heroics I felt confident that I should be able to play my paladin in a normal ICC just fine. The only thing I was not certain about was longevity, since nothing in a heroic lasted long enough to test me, so I wasn't sure how much spirit I would need on my gear.

However, I haven't raided progression content on Gillien in months, and my guild's holy paladin had quite the maddening experience in heroic ICC.

The problem arises from what was expected of him, what he was previously capable of, and what he can do now.

The 4.0.1 paladin is no longer a firehose.

  • Divine Light is more or less the same as the old Holy Light in terms of output, but it's slower.

  • Beacon of Light only transfers half the heal.

  • Holy Light has a low mana cost, but does a low amount of healing, and takes about a second longer to cast.

  • Flash of Light, while quicker, does about 80% the healing of Divine Light at the same cost (still not quite the old Holy Light)

Due to the 50% reduction in Beacon of Light, it's no longer possible to beacon one tank, heal the other, and expect them both to stay up. He actually has to heal both tanks. While that doesn't sound horrific on paper, it is costing him GCDs he didn't have to worry about before, and in our raid he's also the person who cleanses the Necrotic Plague. (We used to have a dps do it, but we found our transitions worked better if he could concentrate on dps-ing so the shambling horrors are up a shorter period of time.)

Our paladin's job is harder, and I don't mean to trivialize his concerns, but I don't think holy paladins are necessarily in as bad a spot as he thinks, or that the people on the forums think.

It might just be a need to rethink strategies.

For instance, on Saturday he ran with a spec without Enlightened Judgements and he was having trouble maintaining his 9% haste buff with the limited range, so when we go back tonight, he's going back to that so he can judge from afar.

He can't heal like he used to, constantly powering through heals that will hit both tanks, but he isn't supposed to heal like that anymore. It might be a case of relearning how to heal, redividing the duties between him and our disc priest, or maybe bringing a third healer. With the post-patch boost in dps we probably can spare that now.

When I looked at our World of Logs report, only one of the four H LK wipes we had on Saturday was due to premature tank death. None were due to the plague not getting dispelled in time. It might have been hard, but considering he was still learning his new spec, he did fine. The plague was getting dispelled, and with one exception it wasn't tank death that caused the undoing of the raid. He was performing just about the same as he was pre-patch.

Naturally, this is just a top level view of our attempts. It doesn't encompass how he's needed to change his play style and how his percentage of heals vs. the other healers on World of Logs has actually gone down. But on the surface he can still perform the job he was assigned to do. It's just harder/different.

Paladins might not be what they were, but that doesn't mean they're broken. I like where we're going. I like the idea of not being a spammer. I like triage. Holy Power's a little quirky, but I'll figure it out.

I'm not going to miss the pug raids where holy paladins fight over who gets to heal the tanks. I'm not going to miss being told that when they were looking for a healer they really meant a priest/druid/shaman who can raid heal. I'm not going to miss the VoAs where I was told to raid heal because they already had three other holy paladins and someone had to do it (which I didn't mind much, though I still beaconed one of the tanks because it was only prudent to do so).

I'm sure there will be people who quit their holy paladins for another class/spec. It's not going where they want it to go. And that's fine. But maybe it won't be that bad either.

A coworker who's also a casual raider, thought about dumping his holy paladin after he heard about the patch 4.0.1 changes. He thought about switching to his level 70-something priest. But he tried the paladin changes and ultimately decided they weren't as bad as he thought. He'd keep him.

Maybe I have too much faith in Blizzard, but I think we just need a little more time for the dust to settle and get used to things. Of course it will be hard for those working on the toughest content, those who will feel every little change and are fighting bosses with razor precision and precious little margin for error. Paladins are different now.

Ghostcrawler said:

We haven't seen too much evidence yet that paladins are much poorer tank healers than other classes, though I understand many of you feel that to be the case. (It also doens't help that the popular logging programs and websites aren't showing Holy mastery yet.) If we do decide Holy can't competitively tank heal any longer, then we will buff them.

Blizzard's watching. If it's really bad they'll fix it.

1 comment:

jeffo said...

A very good assessment of where Holy is right now, thanks. If you look at the straight-ahead numbers, yes, we're doing less and were nerfed. I have about half the output I did pre-patch. But I also notice that my heals are more likely to land and hit for their full capacity -- my overhealing is going down.

Paladin healing isn't 'bad', it's just different. Unfortunately, for a lot of people, 'different' *is* 'bad'.