Saturday, October 30, 2010

Which direct healing spells on hard fights?

The common wisdom so far is that in 4.0, druids should mainly use regrowth for direct heals, even on targets that already have a regrowth hot. This makes our healing very similar to 3.x except that we use regrowth instead of nourish.

Meanwhile, the Blizzard is trying to change healing more fundamentally. We have mana problems now. We have three direct heals to heal from: small, medium, and large. Nourish, Regrowth, and Healing Touch. The small one is mana efficient, and the medium one is fast, and the big one is efficient but very slow. They all have tradeoffs, so Blizzard hopes we'll be choosing among them.

On fights that aren't demanding, the new conventional wisdom is the way to go. On less demanding fights, you have plenty of mana, and the healing isn't difficult. Just heal like you used to except use regrowth instead of nourish. Do use Thorns. Further, if it gets really boring, remember that you can throw out some dps spells and crowd control now without losing our healing buffs.

I've recently raided on fights that are a bit harder, at least for our group, and the story is a little different. Specifically, we did Algalon (yes, the old Ulduar boss!), and heroic Blood Queen. I'd like to share a few notes about that.

First, on Blood Queen, I had mana problems. I've reforged all my spirit to mastery, under the theory that on fights that are hard, it's usually tank death that is the biggest risk of wiping, not raid member death. Still, my in-combat regen is around 550-600 mp5. It's not enough for the most mana-intensive fights, so I had to tone back on the regrowths and rejuvenates a little. People with a wild growth didn't get a rejuv on top of it, for example. On Algalon, to contrast, mana wasn't as big of a deal. Dps in T10 gear is overkill for this fight, so the fight doesn't really last long enough for mana to be a big issue.

Second, I think healing touch would have been useful on both fights, had I been a pure tank healer. The tanks were taking high damage (something that should change in Cataclysm), but not so high that they would die in three seconds even fully hotted. So if I were in a 25 man and assigned to tank heal, healing touch would have been great. I'd keep up all hots, and cast healing touch as a filler. In a 10 man, though, healing roles aren't as sharply defined. The cast time of healing touch is an eternity if you see a dpser drop below 50%. Thus I mostly used regrowth even on Blood Queen. All I can say is, remember to hit innervate early rather than waiting until you really need it. You want to be hitting innervate early and then at every cooldown.

Third, I really wanted to save swiftmend for the tanks. I'm having a fun time with efflorescence, and on most fights I'm wasting swiftmend so as to place an efflorescence circle somewhere convenient. On both of these harder fights, though, I found that the tanks occasionally dipped below 50%. Swiftmend was much better used for those situations. I would have rather dropped efflorescence in the raid somewhere, typically the melee, but putting it on the tanks is a good second-best.

Finally, our cooldowns add an extra dimension to the play. Tree of life and tranquility are both good things to pop when things get nuts, and it's fun to plan ahead for when that might be. On Blood Queen, the time to use them is after she fears everyone and starts throwing blood bolts. I use tranquility on the first round, and our raid is practically invulnerable. I use tree of life on the second one, and berzerko tree's instant regrowth and improved wild growth really help keep everyone up.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Thorns hits hard

Thorns has been changed in 4.0, and it now hits HARD. In 3.x, you cast thorns on the tanks before a fight when everyone is buffing up, and then forgot about it. It was also useful in Culling of Stratholme, where you can cast it on the dps and healers and make the wandering zombies much of a nuisance. Honestly, though, it wasn't that important. It would typically add a few percent damage to the tank's damage only, and the tank's damage wasn't that big of a deal. I didn't always bother to cast it, and only once a month or so did a tank actually remind me when I forgot.

It's completely different in 4.0. Now thorns is of short duration and is on a cooldown. If you want to keep it up, you have to keep recasting it. In exchange for needing such active maintenance, though, it now does gigantic damage output! In 5-mans, I am seeing it provide 20-35% of the tank's overall output, and typically it is the highest individual ability in a damage breakdown. I've also tried it in soloing, and I've frequently seen it do more than 50% of my output, even on fights where starfall and treants were available. Consider that carefully: it does more damage than hurricane, but you don't get locked into channeling.

In short, cast thorns. Cast it early in the fight to give the tanks some initial threat, and then cast it again whenever you can spare the GCD. Furthermore, the Glyph of Thorns is quite helpful, if you don't know what other major glyph to take. I'm using it on both resto and moonkin specs right now.

Now that the spell is so much more useful, I have two questions about it?
  1. What happens if multiple druids cast thorns on the same tank? Will they both take effect, or just one of them? I'm guessing just one, but a tree can dream.
  2. Will Skada, World of Logs, and other log parsers ever account the damage back to the druid? Currently you contribute a lot of dps to insert invocations of thorns, but the meters don't give you credit for it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The best of PUGs, the worst of PUGs

Traxy of I Like Pancakes has a great article up on the foibles, let us say, that a tank faces in a random LFD pug. Beruthiel of Falling Leaves and Wings has a similar article up, but that one describing the downright abuse that tanks often get, despite doing everything right. Beruthiel's post gives a strong suggestion about why tanks are scarce in the LFD tool.

I have tanked a few LFD runs, and I see a lot of what Traxy and Beruthiel describe. I've been flamed for using resilience to get uncrittable (when that worked), and I've been flamed for taking the Pit of Saron gauntlet in three pulls instead of two. It's usually something where there's a common way to do things, and then another way that is sometimes better but that isn't as well known to the player base.

On the flip side, I keep coming back for more. A lot of the fun of Warcraft is that it's multi-player. If you can let the jerks just go their way, you meet a lot of other people who make it fun.

If you feel the same way, you'll love Pugging Pally. It posted the above two articles as guest articles, and it has a steady stream of posts that "look on the light side of LFG".

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Regen stats

While mana is still plentiful at level 80 -- you get enough regen just by the mandatory intellect and spirit on our gear -- it looks like things will be different in Cataclysm. We won't be able to just stack all throughput stats. We need to watch out for mana as well.

Rank 4 Healing Touch did some math that compares intellect versus spirit for mana regeneration. In short, at level 85, one point of spirit gives about 0.5 mp/5 and one point of intellect gives 0.90--almost twice as much!

What this means is that, as things stand, spirit is mediocre Always stack intellect in preference to spirit. You'll get better regen, and you'll also get spell power to improve throughput. Further, when comparing same-ilvl gear, always prefer the gear that has no spirit, no matter what else it has on it. Even if you need the regen, you can make up the lost regen by gemming half as much intellect as the spirit you gave up.

Personally, I find this a little disappointing, and I hope Blizzard rebalances the regen stats. I find it fun to balance regen versus throughput, and even to balance different kinds of throughput (crit, haste, mastery, spell power). On the regen side, it makes no sense that the one stat that is purely for regen is underpowered. It becomes one of those things where players who read the tool tips and follow basic logic end up playing worse than players who go snoop around on the Internet for obscure calculations.

It seems like all Blizzard would have to do is double the regen from spirit and halve the regen from replenishment. Then, intellect would be a so so regen stat but also give throughput, while spirit would be the place to go if you are really hurting for regen. Intellect would still win out for most people, but at least spirit wouldn't be so bad that people avoid gear with it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Type H for Heals has done some great analysis on how haste affects heal-over-time spells.

One punch line is that, from the perspective of healing per cast time (HPCT) and healing per mana (HPM), haste doesn't improve a spell until you get an extra tick on the spell. For restoration druids, the only relevant extra-tick number is 37.5%. If you get to 37.5% haste -- from all sources including raid buffs -- then your rejuvenation has an extra tick at the end.

You also get a rejuv tick at 12.5% and a regrowth tick at 16.7%, but these are such low numbers that practically all druids will be past those points. There are also several thresholds for lifebloom, but those don't matter because...

The analysis is completely different for tank healing! When tank healing, even if you don't get an extra hot tick, you benefit from haste by being able to cast the hot a little sooner. Thus, for tank healing, you get higher HPS at all levels of haste. HPS will take an extra large bump when you get past 37.5%, but otherwise haste is all good. Assuming you have a 5% haste buff from a raid, you need 1016 haste rating to get there. There seem to be some rounding issues, so it's better to get a little more.

All this said, I'm not sure what the practical impact is. Haste is still great both before and after that number. First, you are probably at least rolling HOTs on the tanks even if you are raid healing, and for rolling HOTs, haste benefits them at all levels of haste. Second, every little bit faster that regrowth gets, the better.

Haste in 4.0

It looks like haste is an even bigger stat than ever for 4.0. We are casting a lot of direct heals, now, and more haste means they land faster. In particular:

1. Regrowth is now our top-up spell, and haste speeds it up until a cap of 50% where it has a 1.0-second cast. Faster regrowths on a tank mean it has a better chance of landing before the next melee swing. Faster regrowths around the raid mean we can top up more people after a decimate before they die.

2. Healing touch hits like a truck now. I’m seeing it land at twice a regrowth and three times a nourish. However, the cast speed is just sluggish enough that it’s difficult to use well. Getting it’s 2-second cast time lower makes it much easier to use. Haste is valuable for this purpose until healing touch is at 1.0 seconds, somewhere around 150%.

3. Rejuv and regrowth have better throughput when hasted, which is especially relevant for tank healing. This is useful up until stupid levels of haste. (Instant rejuv? Yes please.)

As much as it makes sense to talk about a soft cap, it's around 50%. However, 50% is already nearly impossible to attain at level 80, and it should be even harder at level 85. For practical purposes, resto druids have no haste cap in 4.0.

So how much haste should you get? Right now, mana regen seems to be fine for most players. Many are even spamming regrowth and not running out. So don't worry too much about regen.

What about throughput? To the extent you really want to worry about raw throughput, haste should be balanced against intellect, crit, and -- if you tank heal -- mastery. Right now, though, throughput is pretty high, and for many healers it is probably as high as matters for the raids they are doing. In that case, it's more important to get heals landed than to make them bigger, and landing heals faster is all about haste.

TL;DR: Haste is great. Get all you can without going OOM.