Have heals become too smart?

Lately I’ve been feeling that druid healing is unbalanced, and that healing in general is a little off. I feel like there is a disconnect between effort spent on heals and healing done, especially in 25s.

I recently hit the magical 2005 haste break point on my druid, giving a 9th tick to my Wild Growth and Efflorescence. One the one hand, it’s awesome, my healing from those spells have spiked and I’m now even more capable of putting out some ridiculous HPS in the right circumstances. I’m generally feeling really good about my healing. But at the same time, looking at logs, I feel like these two spells are way out of balance compared to the others.

Here’s the spell breakdown from my last boss kill.

Druid-spell-breakdownThe numbers just seem wrong to me.

I cast Wild Growth 34 times and it did almost 32% of my healing, more than double the healing of my next spell. Wild Growth did an average of 80,756 healing per cast. Effort expended by casting Wild Growth? Very little. It’s fairly cheap mana-wise, it’s instant and it’s a smart heal to boot. WG is basically a fire-and-forget-it spell and it is the number 1 druid spell in terms of HPS.

Wild Growth heals a lot of people, the overheal is low and it helps to stabilize the raid. But it doesn’t save anyone when they’re sitting at 3000 health. It doesn’t take finesse to use. As long as I don’t target someone sitting in a corner by themselves it will almost always hit the maximum amount of targets.

I do my best to make use of all the spells in my arsenal on every fight, but the spells that do take finesse, that can be the difference between life and death for someone get dwarfed in comparison to the big, AoE smart heals. Wild Growth, Tranquility and Efflorescence heal up so many people with so little effort and stomp poor Regrowth, Swiftmend and Healing Touch into the dirt.

Druids are not the only class that experiences this. Any raid healer follows a similar pattern. Shaman raid healing is dominated by Healing Rain, holy priests will often see Circle of Healing and Prayer of Mending near the top of their meters and Holy Radiance can top meters for a Paladin. These are all basically fire-and-forget spells. Use them on cooldown and watch your healing soar.

It’s not really the fault of the smart heals, it’s the nature of raid encounters that causes this. Almost every fight has huge, raid-wide damage through most of the fight. Big AoE heals will always win the day. It’s made my job as a raid healer feel a little monotonous.

Maybe I should add on to the title of this post: Have heals become too smart or have raid bosses become too stupid?

How do you solve the problem of smart, AoE heals providing too much healing and feeling like that’s all healers are good for?

I’d like to see some BC-era mechanics make a comeback. Things like Brutallus’ Burn, Archimonde’s Doomfire and Bloodboil’s Fel Rage, which cause you to pour heals onto one or two targets rather than everyone at once. I’d like to see more fights that involve staying spread out and having to heal random debuffed targets taking damage rather than have everyone in a clump, taking the same damage all the time. I’d also like to do something other than heal once in a while – I miss dispel mechanics that were extremely dire, like Archimonde’s Grip of the Legion or complex like Kalecgos’ Curse of Boundless Agony.

What do you think? Do raid damage mechanics need an overhaul? Does the immense amount of healing done by smart and fire-and-forget heals ever make you feel like a one-note healer?

22 responses to “Have heals become too smart?

  1. Wild Growth and Rejuv will always be high up on spell breakdowns due to the nature of the heals – aoe heals and hots which are constantly ticking. Even when I’m focussed on tank healing in a fight and using HT a ton along with other spells, my WG and Rejuvs will still be high up on the log breakdown. It’s just how it is.

    While WG and other class spells may be smart heals, you still have to be intelligent in how you use them. Anyone who is simply hitting it (or other spells like Holy Radiance etc) on cooldown just for lolHPS is likely just spamming things and more concerned with topping the HPS charts rather than keeping people alive. Similarly, smart heals like WG can be used cleverly – if I’m out of range of, say, a group that’s getting wrecked by sludge on Maloriak HM, I can hit the right person with WG to get it to chain onto those out of range to help cover them while I’m moving to get back in range.

    Similarly, on normal mode content which people are beginning to outgear (and certainly will with the 4.2 nerfs), it’s very easy to just spam and forget these things. On HM content there’s absolutely a lot more thinking and timing required, and there’s certainly fights where you have to heal specific targets extremely well or they will die. Pre-4.1 Blackout on V&T on HM you had to heal the debuff off rather than dispel, HM omnotron flamethrower person will certainly die without strong heals, timing tank healing on Maloriak HM, Explosive Cinders on Nef, and Wrack on Sinestra will give any dispeller a significant challenge in managing it, etc.

    TBH I’m always concerned when I see commentary on things like WG as I don’t want to see it get nerfed to the ground again – it was absolutely destroyed in 4.0 because of how it was performing in Wrath and on Beta and it completely screwed druid healing. Druids are in a good place now, particularly with the mastery change coming in 4.2 (which will also encourage significantly more direct heal usage to keep the mastery activated).
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    • My intent isn’t to have Wild Growth, or any AoE heal, nerfed. I’d just like to see some different mechanics added to fights. All raid damage all the time gets tired after a while.

      I agree that you need to be somewhat intelligent on how to use the smart heals, but it doesn’t take that much thought. 30 yards on WG or CoH is a big range so as long as you have some degree of spatial awareness, it’ll end up on the people who need it most. Yes, we need to pick a good target for Wild Growth and Swiftmend to get the maximum effect, but as I said, it just feels like there is a huge disparity between the effort I put into a heal and how much healing is done. I put a lot more effort into a Regrowth, for example. It costs more mana, I have to stop moving to cast it, I have to react to damage taken to cast it on the right person, I have to react to OoC procs so I don’t waste them. Wild Growth? Pick one of several appropriate targets and cast. That’s it.

  2. I have a kinda of a different take on this. While Wild Growth is certainly a very important spell to us, it is not a critical spell. It is critical in the context of allowing us to accomplish our overall job but in the binary success world we live in as healers (is he alive or dead) wild growth is not making the difference in those critical situations. I’m still having to follow up with rejuvs, etc. to keep people alive or get them back to health in time for the next wave. Wild growth does the bulk of the work, but like the old 80/20 rule, its those last twenty that truly count for success.

    I also think WG and Effl are smart heals not because it adds to their power, but because of the mechanics of using them. If they were not smart, and worked on proximity or something else, too much of their output be wasted on overheals and they would no longer justify their cost. Because of all their other constraints/parameters, they _need_ to be smart heals or else they go wasted.

    What I do really like about this latest encounter design is that avoidable damage is much more severe. Its very good design that the point of not standing in the fire is much more of a cruel mistress now, its making people better raiders, I’m seeing much less carrying of dead weight going on. I would not like to go back to world where DPS are chalking up raid mechanics to unavoidable damage and shifting that burden on to the healers.

    • I agree that these heals need to be smart heals. Efflorescence is a million times better since it got turned into a smart heal.

      My problem is mostly the nature of the boss fights. Rather than the whole raid taking damage for the whole fight (forcing us to use our smart AoE heals every cooldown), I’d like to see a few people at a time take significant damage. There are a few mechanics like this, but not many. I want fights to be different. I want my healing breakdown to change from fight to fight, but it doesn’t change much at all.

  3. The worst part about this is that it’s going to get even worse. 3 of the T12 set bonuses are based off of some smart heal.

    Druid- Swiftmend heals another low-health target within range for the same amount.
    Priest- Argent Lightwell smartheal that spawns by random players and heals lowest in range.
    Paladin- HL/FoL/DL all have “smart splash” heals to raid members in range.

    Shamans are actually the one class whose bonus doesn’t have a smart heal proc. Instead it bolsters one of their current group AoE heals by a large amount through Riptide.

    Being a Disc priest, my top heal is Atonement followed by Power Word: Shield and Divine Aegis. Atonement is a smart heal. I literally just mindlessly Smite the boss and it heals whoever has the lowest hp within 15 yards.

    Even Wrath had some mechanics where you had to heal certain players with debuffs. Lord Jaraxxus from ToC and his debuff comes to mind where you must heal the player for 30k before the timer goes off or it might wipe the raid. I do kinda miss this type of healing.
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    • I remember everyone talking about how triage healing was going to make a comeback in Cata, but besides the very start of raiding, when people were short on mana, I don’t think triage healing has been that prominent. There are so many fights where everyone is all grouped up and everyone gets healed at once with AoE heals.

      I don’t think healing is mindless. I try to time cooldowns well, anticipate damage and use direct heals to save people a lot, but it’s the heals that take the least amount of thinking that do the heavy lifting.

  4. They’re decreasing the cooldown on Holy Radiance for pallies next patch too (talented), so that’s only going to make this worse, although I supposed it will help to make us better raid healers. It’s an interesting conundrum when “better raid healer” equates to “less buttons pressed to heal people”. I guess the 1-to-1 ratio of healer to healee doesn’t really work so well for healing 8 people. I agree that it’s boring just to cast something on cooldown though.

    • I didn’t know about the change to Holy Radiance, that sounds like a nice buff. It also indicates to me that Firelands will continue along the track of having raid-wide damage all the time though 🙁

  5. Ditto on the fights that FeralTree mentioned as being more involved, healing-wise, because I think those examples are the counter-point to the set-it-and-forget-it heals that dominate today’s meters. (Note: Healing Rain is not a smart heal; Chain Heal is). I’m a huge fan of the Sinestra encounter simply because Wrack management is not about mashing buttons or knee-jerk dispels; it’s about using judgment and prediction to make sure the dispel is timed perfectly. It’s a radical concept in the healing world–it’s not about what button I push, it’s about when I push it.

    As an aside, as a Sunwell Shaman I find this whole topic very amusing. Backdate this a couple of years and you’d be perfectly on point then as well.
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    • Unfortunately, I haven’t seen all the heroic fights that you or FeralTree have. However, on the 5 heroic fights I have done (besides the non-Feud phase on Chimaeron), and the 12 normal fights, there aren’t a whole lot of interesting mechanics for a raid healing druid. Sinestra sounds like a challening fight for healers, but it’s also the last boss of the tier and not everyone will see it. It’s not really fair to save all the interesting and healer-challenging mechanics for the hardest fights.

      Perhaps I view BC through rose-coloured glasses – I am an admitted T6 fangirl. People joke about shaman casting nothing but chain heal in Sunwell, or druids binding Lifebloom to every button then slamming their faces on the keyboard…but I remember having multiple LB timers to manage, focused raid healing and debuff mechanics that were actually dangerous that I haven’t seen too much of lately.

  6. Healing Rain in 10’s at least isn’t exactly Fire and Forget. It’s expensive, it has a cast time, and is rendered useless on a lot of movement or spread out fights.

    Once it’s down it’s very powerful and passive which is what I think some 25’s raiders complain about.

    I don’t have any problem with how WG or CoH work as they fill a niche which I can’t with my class. Pretty cool if you ask me.
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    • This post is mainly about 25man raids. I know Healing Rain isn’t nearly as powerful in 10s as 25s, but it does still provide 10 seconds worth of healing for a 2 second cast.

      I have no problem with the way WG and CoH work either, but I would prefer if they filled a specific niche rather than be the bread and butter of every raid healer.

  7. I think you do have a good point on healing mechanics of now compared to some encounters in the past, I find two new troll instance healing more challenging than raid healing right now, but that’s probably because bad DPS behavior in pugs is creating those sorts of interesting pour mechanics you’re talking about, rather than the steady ballet of my raid group 🙂

    I do think you’re missing the point on tying raw healing output to what matters with encounter success. I think that scenario you outlined with regrowth probably has more to do with that target living or dying than the sustained output of WG. Your other heals are for sure standing on the shoulders of WG’s output but its not a well timed WG that’s saving lives.

    • No, I understand whats important to succeed at an encounter. Maybe I’m just not expressing myself well enough. I love being able to save people with a well timed Regrowth or HT, I’d just like to be forced to do that more often.

      I don’t mind having some fights with heavy, constant raid damage that encourage aoe-heal spam, but in my experience so far they are all like that. I want to see some variation. Some fights where AoE heals make or break the fight and some where direct and targeted spells get to be in the spotlight.

  8. Excellent point, and I completely agree. (I also noted that you didn’t mention disc priests among the healers that have an easy time on the meters, I agree on that too ;))

    Aoe heals have fallen into the same problem-pit that disc-shields were in before they were nerfed. They were too easy, too rewarding, too cheap and all at the same time. Even with the nerf, shields make out roughly 30% of my healing. But yes, the core issue here is really as you say – why make so many encounters that require us to spam Prayer of Healing (and equivalent)? Eventhough having high hps can be fun, it’s only fun for so long. Spamming shields on LK did get me some ridiculous hps numbers, but was it fun? Not really 😛

    I remember early cata when mana forced us to choose targets, and I’d really love it if Blizz would return to some of the scenarios that you describe. Healing tombed targets on Kel’Thuzad is an addition to all your good suggestions. You’ve really put words to something that has been nagging me about healing, I just couldn’t really figure what it was myself. Thanks for a great post 🙂
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    • Thanks for commenting Zinn, and thank you for agreeing. I was beginning to feel like a crazy person.

      I don’t think Disc priests have a particularly hard time on the meters, but they lack smart or big aoe type heals. While there are some mechanics that encourage mindless shield spam (such as the last phase of Ascendant Council or Cho’gall), when I play my disc priest I don’t feel like the majority of my heals are coming from spells that don’t require much thought.

  9. I think part of the problem is that some healers feel that just because they “can” use a spell that they “should.” Could I use CoH off cooldown, even if only one or two people in the raid have taken damage? Sure. Could I also use Renew to single heal those people and not do what I call “heal vomit?” I sure can. Unless I see at least 3 people in the raid taking damage, I won’t use it. Same goes with PoH. I could spam these spells and LOL my way to the top of the meters quit easily, but I choose not to.

    You see similar things with WG and Healing Rain. Healers using it to use it and not without any real thought behind it. Is it their fault or the design of the spell’s fault? I can’t really say either way, but it sounds like you may just be on to something here.

    🙂
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    • I think there is a problem with both spell design and how quickly mana became a non-factor while raid healing. There’s no reason not to ‘heal vomit’ on most fights at this point. I find that with Druids especially. A Rejuvenation costs 20% of base mana. Wild Growth costs 27% of base mana. So even if only 2 people need a heal, it’s always worth it to toss out the WG (followed by rejuvs or direct heals on both as well if needed). Plus, in a 25-man raid how often do only 2 people need a heal? Usually everyone is taking damage at once. Maloriak’s blue phase and Chim’s non-feud Caustic Slimes are the only mechanics I can think of off the top of my head where a WG is the wrong choice.

      If everyone is missing a bit of health (which they usually are), mana isn’t an issue, and the ‘heal vomit’ spells are actually more efficient than the other spells, I think the can vs. should question goes out the window. Though single target healing everyone would make me feel like a more technically adept healer the nature of the spells and fight mechanics cater to tossing out AoE heals as much as possible.

  10. In Beta, I asked Blizzard to think about both AOE healing tools and the single-target AOE healing tools when designing how classes would heal in Cataclysm. However, they balanced out the single-target tools and largely ignored the AOE healing tools, and thus the AOE healing tools that each healing class has is limited in terms of – one or two spells is going to make up the bulk of AOE healing a class does. I think it’s more disturbing that WG and Rejuv are our top heals just because they’re not really the type of reactive healing Blizzard wanted people to do (and they never gave druids direct reactive AOE heals).

    • An extra AoE heal or two would make things more interesting and give us a little more variation in healing.

      I don’t think druids have anything to complain about in terms of ability to keep people healed, I’m just disturbed that WG is almost always the right reaction to raid damage. I’d love to see a fight or two where I was allowed to ignore it for a bit (without people dying).

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