Healing Theory, Part 8: Three 6.0 Topics

Previous posts in this series can be found here

This is an interim update covering a few loosely related topics about 6.0. Not exactly a normal post in this series that analyzes some point of theory in detail, but I wanted to catch up on a few issues, and I figured most of the same people who read this series will be interested in this.

6.0 Regen Math

Now that I’ve gotten to play the alpha some, I have some more concrete numbers on regen in 6.0.

As a reminder, regen currently (5.0) consists of base regen and spirit regen.  Base regen is an amount of MP5 equal to 2% of your max mana (6000 MP5 currently). Spirit regen is 0.564 MP5 per Spirit, in combat.

Spirit Regen

Two important things are happening to Spirit in 6.0:

  • Each point of Spirit is worth substantially more MP5 (2.061 MP5 in combat). This increase is even more dramatic when you consider that mana pools will be smaller by factor of around 2. Adjusted for this deflation, the real value of Spirit (proportional to the size of your mana bar) is about 6.85 times stronger in 6.0 than it is in 5.0.
  • You will have much less Spirit, even after controlling for the item squish. This is because you will only have it on a few slots: rings, necks, cloaks, and possibly trinkets.

The end result is that these two effects, roughly speaking, cancel each other out. The amount of regen you get from Spirit, controlling for the changed size of your mana bar, will be in the same ballpark as it is now (i.e. at a comparable gear level, your mana bar will “look” like it refills at around the same rate).

This means, however, that when evaluating items, Spirit will be, relative to other stats, 7 times as valuable as it is now. Without getting into the extensive discussion I’ve done in past posts on how to evaluate Spirit in 5.0, we can say a general matter that it’s reasonably tuned as a secondary stat. It was close enough to the others to make for an interesting discussion. Making it 7 times stronger has an obvious result. I often commented that the numbers have to drive how we evaluate the stat, and the numbers in 6.0 are looking pretty clear. There should be no more confusion, since Spirit will be substantially stronger than any other secondary. Putting aside any significant changes between now and live, healers will always want it on all of the available slots. Int items (in those slots) without Spirit will be DPS items, and Int items with Spirit will be healer items. I believe this loot separation is, in fact, the reason they’ve tuned Spirit this way.

Base Regen

Notwithstanding everything I’ve said so far, anyone who’s tried healing on alpha has noticed that, even in the weak template gear, mana is extremely abundant. When I looked into this I found something odd: base regen for level 90 characters on the alpha is 4% of max mana rather than 2%. This is a very significant change–in 5.0 terms, doubling base regen would the same as giving a healer 10,638 extra Spirit. What’s more, the added base regen phases out as you level up, eventually falling back to the normal 2% amount at level 100.

In short, I’m not sure what’s going on here. I don’t know if the huge regen boost at low levels on the alpha is a temporary measure to ensure healing is viable while they tinker with numbers, or if it’s part of some greater change to the way regen scales during the leveling process. In any case, it seems clear for the moment that when you get to level 100, regen values (adjusted for the stat squish) will be similar to what they are now. But while healing on alpha in the low 90’s, keep in mind that whatever the reason is, you benefit from greatly inflated mana regen.

The New Healing World: HP as a Resource

The new healing environment of 6.0 is often described as one where people spend more time between 0 and 100% HP. That is a true description, but I want to talk a little about how to think about the changes. It’s easy to hang completely on that description, and fall into a pattern of visualizing the 6.0 healing experience as staring at a raid of people at 50% HP and constantly pouring heals in, but I think that’s a little bit misleading.

Over the course of an entire fight, players take a lot of damage–many times their max HP, and you heal it off. If you imagine, at one extreme, that someone never touches full HP between the beginning and end of a fight, that means that the damage and healing they took were almost exactly equal. They differed by no more than the player’s max HP, which, as mentioned, is a small fraction of the total damage and healing amounts. There are a lot of reasons why this healing world wouldn’t work very well. The other extreme is where we were in late 4.0 and late 5.0, where people are almost always at full HP, and only short windows of burst damage are important, and the goal is to heal them off instantly.

Think of 6.0 as somewhere in between (as a thought experiment, but my dungeon experience on beta has also been consistent with this). You’re not inexorably falling behind on damage and unable to top people off. Your goal, generally, is to top people off after they take damage. However, this takes longer than it did before (hence, “more time at <100% HP” is totally true). Not only that, doing it as fast as you can every time will run you out of mana, so sometimes you leave them below full even longer than needed. The decision of when people need to be healed up quickly and when they don’t is one of the key aspects that should emerge as a regular part of the gameplay. This is what the “triage” term that’s often thrown around is really describing. It’s not about regularly letting someone die because you can’t save everyone (the most literal meaning of the word). It’s about judgment of how much danger different people are in and how you need to respond.

The concept that captures how I like to think of this is “HP as a resource.” Damage is coming in varying amounts, and in the long run you have to heal it all off, but in the short run you have a variety of options. The raid members’ max HP level defines how much room you have to work with. When a player is partial HP, their HP is a resource you use to avoid having to heal them instantly. If you know they have enough to be safe for the moment, you can do other things first before worrying about refilling it. A player being low on HP doesn’t mean they’re about to die; it simply means they’re low on HP, and you have to refill it before the next time it’s needed. The better you know the encounter, the better you can predict when that is.

A time when this concept will be most visible is at the end of an encounter. Say it’s a very hard encounter for you, which in 6.0 means you’re running out of mana as it’s ending. Now your goal isn’t even to get people to full HP–that’s (potentially) wasteful because it’s more than they need to make it to the end. You need to give them enough to survive. This is a distinction that doesn’t exist too much in 5.0 because deaths happen over short timeframes so “keeping people alive until the end” and “getting people back to full HP” are pretty much the same goal. In 6.0, that difficult end-of-fight scenario will look more like “triage” in the literal sense: you only have so much HP to give out, and you have to figure out who needs it in order to not die. If you do it perfectly (hypothetically), everyone ends at a somewhat low HP value as the boss keels over, by the same familiar logic that says you should end a hard fight at low mana. HP is a resource that you use, as a healer, to be flexible in your approach to dealing with healing problems while not allowing deaths.

Postmortem on Active Mana Regen

At the end of my previous post on active mana regen, I said that I was generally happy with how the concept looked, but thought it needed a little more depth, especially in certain classes, to really add a new kind of decision to the healing game. As they stood, they tended to amount to a “filler” activity in most cases. So I was a little disappointed to see them go, because I think they might have been something more with some iteration, but it was pretty understandable. The concept was good, but its place in the healing toolkit was unclear, and it sounds like Blizzard’s testing didn’t convince them that active regen would find that place.

Their post on the removal of active regen focused on how it was turning out to be too minor of a gameplay element. I touched on the math in my previous post with usage of active regen, in the previewed version, returning 0.5% of your max mana per second. The blue post has an interesting comment on why, then, they didn’t want to try something much greater: it is far too large of a change to the fundamental gameplay of healing. They have done that type of thing before, with active mitigation for tanks. But given that the basics of healer gameplay aren’t searching for a overhaul the way that tanks were during the de-emphasis of threat mechanics, it makes sense that they don’t want to risk completely changing how healing works. There’s no problem that active mana regen addresses that necessitates a huge redesign like that.

As I touched on in the previous post on active regen, the model where you can get a small amount of mana back while not healing doesn’t actually add anything new. Right now, with passive regen, you can get a small amount of mana back by not healing. In both cases, the important factor controlling whether you need that mana is whether you’ve used overly-expensive heals too much throughout the fight. Active regen, as it was previewed, didn’t change that. Where I was hoping it would go, as I described, was to add a new kind of decision about trading off healing for mana. It would have had to be something more, though, than simply “using cheap spells”, which is already a way to trade off healing for mana. The direction with some potential was having the healer commit to reducing healing ability for a short time to get more mana back, and some of the previewed mechanics had elements of that. That’s difficult though–when this mechanic existed on live (Divine Plea), players disliked it and it was eventually removed. In the end, I’m not totally surprised they didn’t come up with a variation of this that they liked for every class.

One other development since the initial reveal of active regen was a significant around of ability pruning for all classes. Against that backdrop, it makes sense that they’re not inclined to try to force in a new concept with a questionable purpose. My take on regen abilities like Innervate, throughout 5.0, has been that they should either be made interesting or removed. There was hope for the former, but given the reasons while it’s troublesome and the new focus on making class ability sets more lean, the latter is acceptable.

9 thoughts on “Healing Theory, Part 8: Three 6.0 Topics

  1. Seems like going into MoP the mantra was that burst would be way down, and you wouldn’t bother to keep people at 100%. I wonder f they’ll do a better job of making that happen this time?

  2. Celestalon posted in the Theorycrafting thread that they had upped base mana regen in WoD, so the 4% mana regen at 90 is intended.

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  4. I find it funny that you called out late 4.0 and 5.0 as being “ping pong healing” scenarios of immediately topping people off, when Wrath was in many way’s the start of that. I mean the whole idea of having an “efficient heal” vs. a “heavy hitting” heal is the essence of down ranking, which was key in Vanilla and BC, and removed in Wrath. My Holy paladin in wrath was dropping flash of lights that healed a 1/2 of a persons total hit points, and did so in a GCD.

    It makes me very nervous that they’ve talked about doing this exact change twice before and still haven’t nailed it. Personally I think it has more to do with the stat creep. Ilevels went crazy starting in Wrath with the introduction of heroic and hard mode content, and Cata/MoP has made it worse and I don’t see WoD changing at all.

    BC Heroic Dungeon Epic reward, 110 ilevel, with (http://www.wowhead.com/item=35507) 20 main stat to Sunwell reward, ilevel 164 (http://www.wowhead.com/item=34177) that has 25 main stat! Less than 5 agility difference and 13 offstat. The majority of players experienced T4-T5 (115 and 128 respectively). IE most people playing BC were only 20 iLevels away from the starting heroic, 2-3 main stat away. (I’m glossing over a little with the valor gear that got introduced, but bear with me.)

    So Wrath first heroic dungeon epic reward was ilevel 200, (http://www.wowhead.com/item=39146) with 36 main stat and 2 secondary’s, to ICC Heroic (http://www.wowhead.com/item=50633) at ilevel 277 that has 106 main stat!! (Oh yeah Halon was there too but whatever)

    Cata – Where heroic Dungeon loots were rare not epic, but had main stat of 168 (http://www.wowhead.com/item=56338) ilevel 346 to DS Heroic having 286 (http://www.wowhead.com/item=78489) ilevel 410.

    MoP – Dungeon heroic loot starts at 463 with 501 agility (http://www.wowhead.com/item=81186) to 588 ilvl and 1526 agility (http://www.wowhead.com/item=105451 w/ 4 upgrades)

    So in % wise,
    BC = 25% improvement from start to end.
    Wrath = ~300%
    Cata = ~170%
    MoP = ~300%.

    Now I think Blizzard has gotten far to married to this 13 ilevel seperation between difficulty’s. Introducing Heroic mode content in Wrath was great fun, and the gear rewarded for that content was understandably better, but it didn’t have to be 13 ilevels better. I think Warforging has shown that people are willing to get but hurt over 3-6 ilevels just as easily. >_>

    Looking forward to WoD, obviously this is a little shakier because you can’t tell exactly if these items are going to hit live, but they currently have data mined starting epics at 600 ilevel and 98 main stat (http://wod.wowhead.com/item=117362&bonus=553) to Mythic ilevel 695 and 178 main stat. (http://wod.wowhead.com/item=113957&bonus=567) for a 180% improvement.

    So the entirety of Cata can fit in the first WoD raid tier. Unless they have drasticly changed the scalling of % per stat rating, we are on track for crazy burst healing by the end of WoD as well.

    • You’re right on the general points of ilvl scaling. Mists has much bigger ilvl jumps between tiers than there ever was in the past. It’s partially due to the added difficulty levels, but also I think they specifically like the degree of effective reset that happens, and the guaranteed steady stat increase as people start looting new gear. It makes it easier to create smooth progress through zones. It does cause this problem though, of huge ilvl ranges within an expansion.

      I talked about this more in the specific case of healer mana here:
      http://iam.yellingontheinternet.com/2014/02/11/healing-theory-part-6-the-mana-economy/ (link fixed)

      Note that there’s no reason for “crazy burst healing” to result. Player HP and mob damage are scaling up as well, so by and large things stay proportional. Mana is the only major change in healer strength that’s not canceled out by progression into harder content. And as I went into at length in that post, it’s not as bad in Mists as it was in Wrath and Cata, and there’s good reason to think it will be an even milder issue in Warlords. Numbers from Warlords beta seem to bear this out so far, with the lower amounts of regen (compared to spell costs) and more limited ways to get more of it.

      • Okay went back and read the post you linked, that’s what I get for reading these things out of sequence. I see what your saying that without the Legendary meta gem, Mists healing likely would have been much more in line with that it appears they are trying to achieve, and because of those lessons learned there’s hope that they will manage it through WoD.

        That would be cool. I’m going to remain skeptical. With how they’ve weighted spirit, I particularly don’t see that trade off being achieved. It seems like they’ll stay towards the early phase of the graph, where everyone will get as much spirit as they possibly can. In addition it seems they’ve continually found unsuspected surprise consequences from stat scaling. Synergy’s and hitting stat caps in one regard or another. This doesn’t even go into the “whoopsies” that seemed to occur around trinkets (UVLS, stat amping comes to mind recently, but MoP wasn’t the only offender)

        On another topic, I particularly resonated with your discussion on Active mana regeneration. I really really liked the challenge during Wrath in picking when to use Divine Plea during a fight, and what having established good times to do so allowed me to do by sacrificing mana regen from my gear. … As they’ve put active mitigation into a core mechanic for tanks, I think it would be interesting to put it in for healers. Maybe patch 7.0. :P

        • Yes, the goal of Spirit in WoD is a little different–it is less of a choice, and more of a fixed gear progression. People probably will get as much Spirit as they can, but your ability to do that is limited–rings, neck, cloak, trinkets.

          I had hope for AMR, but basically what I said in the post–it was a little bland. Plea and Penance (6.0) were pretty interesting, the others not as much. I thought there could still be neat to have, as I said in a prior post, but would rather they went somewhere a little deeper. The problem with making them as important as AM for tanks is that they probably don’t want to totally change healer gameplay the way they have tank gameplay.

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