Healing Theory, Part 10: Single-Target Rotations

All posts in this series can be found here.

As promised at the end of my last post on Warlords heals, the next step would be to analyze more complex rotations involving multiple spells. This post will go into single-target healing rotations for each class, building on the overview of individual spells I did previously. Single-target rotations are only one slice of the healing picture, but one of the more readily quantifiable ones, making them a good place to start. Also, the need to directly heal tanks is expected to be a much bigger part of Warlords than it was in Mists.

On Modeling Healing Rotations

One difficulty in expressing numerical results of combined healing spells, especially cross-class, is that healers don’t use “rotations” in the same way DPS do. They’re constantly reacting to the demands of the encounter and modulating output based on that. A model of a pure max-output rotation akin to DPS is slightly informative, but rather limited because that’s an unusual mode of casting. Since you spend nearly all your time somewhere in the middle of the sliding scale of mana usage vs. healing output, it’s hard to nail down exactly what numbers to measure or model. We can choose cases to model that are informative, but it takes more thought to motivate the decision of what those are. The assumptions also have to be made clear so people understand what the numbers represent.

The usual way I approach this is anticipated by earlier posts in this series, and should also be familiar to anyone who used my TreeCalcs sheet in Wrath/Cata/Mists (for this post, I actually put the heal chart from the prior post into the WrathCalcs/TreeCalcs shell). I assume a certain subset of spells are used whenever possible: on cooldown, whenever a HoT expires, or whenever procs/resources allow. All available cast time that’s left over is for “filler” or no-cooldown/spammable spells. In the case of the single-target model, the filler time is divided between a) the cheap direct heal, b) the expensive direct heal, and c) casting nothing. This flexibility in how to allocate the filler time is needed for two important purposes:

  • One class filling all time with its cheap heal (for example) may not be parallel to another class filling with its cheap heal. The first class might do less healing but also use less mana in that comparison, but then equal the other class in both healing and mana consumption if it mixed in the expensive heal some. Every class has a different mana vs. healing profile, and being able to adjust spell usage allows more sensible comparisons.
  • It provides a basis for evaluating mana. As discussed extensively in the post on mana, mana usage affects your use of non-cooldown heals much more than it affects your use of cooldown-bearing heals. In a more concrete framework like a rotation model, you can evaluate exactly what mana lets you do by varying the spell usage correspondingly. The conceptual chart in the final section of that post, describing healing done as a function of mana, will be revisited in this post.

This is of course idealized, as is unavoidable when theorycrafting healing, but it’s useful in a lot of ways. In particular, while in various low-healing situations you might use spells more in isolation and not nonstop like in a rotation model, we already have HPCT and HPM info on individual spells. Those can be looked up anytime on the spell chart form the last post. Models of rotations let us find out more about what happens when cooldowns and cast time become a limiting factor in how much healing you can do.

I’ve not yet modeled every talent and glyph combination for every class, but I’ve tried to include the ones that were especially relevant to the current analysis.

Spreadsheet Updates

Download the current version I used for this post here.

As before, this post can be read on its own, or with the sheet open to look at things in more detail. The spreadsheet has had a lot of additions since last time, to both add a rotation model and to provide a lot of analysis of the effects of spells and talents. It’s had some user-friendliness updates but also is a lot more complicated. I’m going to refrain from giving a full tutorial now—I’m going to be continually building more into it and if I ever get it ready for totally public use I’ll do so then. For now, most of what’s going on is evident from playing with the “Main” tab, where you can set up a character and see the output of the current rotation. The actual workings of the rotations are a bit opaque for now, but they generally work as discussed for each class below.

One of the handy parts of the sheet is that, next to every talent and stat, it shows how much HPS and MP5 they’re adding to the current rotation.

I’ve also replaced the abstract framework using raw spellpower coefficients with one using more traditional stats. HPS and HPM work as you’d expect. Throughout this post, I assume 4000 spellpower from gear, 1000 Spirit, and 600 of each other secondary stat. This is a generous amount of Spirit (more than you’ll have in low gear), but I expect gearing in Warlords to heavily favor it where possible, and it may well be a popular food/flask as well. The only impact of Spirit in the discussion is factoring into the “net MP5 usage” described for each rotation—essentially setting what the zero point is. For reference, spending 5000 net MP5 will drain a full mana bar in 160 seconds; spending 2000 MP5 will do so in 400 seconds.

Druid (and some further explanation of the methods)

With all filler time on Healing Touch, this rotation clocks in at 44.7k HPS while burning 4353 MP5 (net mana drain including regen). This is actually a slightly more aggressive approach than it looks. Druid burns a lot of mana on its rotational spells due to Rejuv and Swiftmend, and does a significant amount of baseline healing (Swiftmend is actually a poor addition to the rotation on its own, but it enables SotF). So we’re going to use less filler heals to compensate. If we cut to 50% filler time on HT (and the rest unused), we’re at 34.9k HPS for only 1610 MP5.

Rather than typing out more individual cases, we can plot the whole variation on a graph:

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 12.51.41 AM

The leftmost part is where we slide from spending 0% of our open time on HT up to 100%. Then after the kink, we start replacing HT with RG. Because HT is a very good spell, the efficiency of added mana is strong earlier on while we have time to add in more HT, but then drops quite a bit when we need even more healing and the only way to get it is to replace them with RG.

(I will not show this individual graph for each class; I used this one to illustrate the concept. However, at the end of the post is a combined one showing all healers, so if you want to refer to that as you look through the classes, it might help put the numbers you read in perspective.)

Note that we have built the graph from the end of part 6 in a concrete case with actual numbers. Neat! The only important difference is that the current graph is measuring net mana consumption including Spirit regen, so “0 mana usage” here refers to what you can do while holding steady on mana, not to what you can do without spending mana at all. It’s only a visual difference, with the y-axis being further to the right in this case. I took Spirit regen into account here to help relate these numbers to your mana usage in practice, and to better account for talents that affect regen.

Back to Druids. You’ll see when we get to other classes that these numbers are good. Most classes can build a reasonable rotation of around 30k HPS with little net mana use, but getting up to 45k HPS without resorting to excessive mana use is beyond every other healer besides Monk. While it’s true that Druid is strong, there are a few important components to note here:

  • Living Seed. Around 12% of the healing in the all-HT rotation is from Living Seed. Whether you get full value from this depends on how well the Seed is utilized when spamming HT nonstop on a tank.
  • 2 talents, Germination and especially SotF, are very strong in this context. In a very efficient rotation, they can add over 20% output by increasing Rejuv healing so much.

Any way to look at it, Druid is very strong on a single target. Being able to reach 25k HPS without spending any mana on direct heals, due to the strength of Lifebloom and Rejuv and the talents that boost Rejuv, gives it a very high baseline.

Disc

The first issue with Disc single-target is, as hinted in the previous post, its relative helplessness without Clarity of Will. Filling with Heal can get to a decent mana-neutral rotation for 22.5k HPS, but mixing in Flash Heal increases the mana burn rate rapidly for a modest gain, topping out at a maximum of 30.7k HPS for a full burn of about 8900 MP5 (switching to Surge of Light for this purpose).

There’s actually very little Disc can do to improve on pure CoW spam (35k HPS), and those improvements come in terms of efficiency. Technically adding PWS is a small throughput increase if you account for Borrowed Time into a 2.5s cast, but at half the efficiency of CoW it’s not attractive to add in (the prior post discussed some problems with the costing of instants). Penance, inversely, is a small throughput loss compared to CoW, but very cheap, so it’s some free mana savings. Mixing in Holy Fire and Smite (some weak casts) to allow Archangel is also an HPS wash that saves significant mana. It saves even more mana by allowing full value from the PW:Solace talent.

So we can actually build a very efficient rotation, but it tops out at 32.8k HPS (spending only 1264 MP5). This is actually similar to what Druid could do for a similar low mana cost. This is fine so far, but the Druid can extend much higher, while Disc spells just don’t have the single-target throughput needed to provide that option. Due to the mana return from Solace and the efficiency of Penance, Disc can even do reasonable healing at zero net mana use (at the 1000 Spirit used for this post), reaching about 26.5k HPS.

Holy

At an efficient mix between the two filler options, this rotation produces 35k HPS for 3196 MP5. That’s a pretty nice place to be, though not as efficient as the Druid for similar healing. Surge of Light is very strong in a context with heavy Heal and Flash Heal use.

There’s not too much to say about this one. There’s no one overly strong spell, but Serendipity and Surge of Light together allow for good mana savings while mixing in nontrivial amounts of Flash Heal. This lets throughput reach pretty standard levels without high mana use.

I’ve left out Saving Grace, even though it can improve the average rotation, since I’m not sure that’s a realistic usage model. The talent’s a little odd right now because the stacking debuff encourages you to use it very rigidly, casting 3-4 times and then letting the debuff fall off (you never want to restack the debuff anytime other than immediately after the previous SG). I’m not sure this is the desired outcome for the talent. I’ve similarly left off the Level 90 talents, which can technically be slight throughput increases on a single-target, since they’re inefficient for this purpose and are usually used for other things.

Paladin

Because the EF direct heal is comparatively stronger than before, and there’s Empowered Beacon of Light, it’s better to recast on the tank every time you have 3HP than to blanket around the raid (for this purpose). One EF rolling on yourself adds a very small amount overall. Sacred Shield is almost as good on a single target, and both talents have a lot more value when you consider multiple targets, so this will be an interesting comparison in group healing models. Selfless Healer is generally useless to Holy in its current form.

I added Stay of Execution even though I’m not usually including things with medium or long cooldowns, since it’s a talent whose explicit purpose is single-target.

Another class with some difficulty keeping up. Like Disc, Paladin can do a solid amount (25k HPS) for free, in this case because it has some very cheap spells (and Glyph of Illumination, which now is almost always a net benefit). But similarly, Flash of Light can’t push you higher with any decent efficiency. Much of the strength here is the Paladin’s baseline cheap Holy Power generation from Holy Shock and Holy Light, and cashing that out into Word of Glory on the tank. Upgrading the Holy Lights to Flash of Lights at significant cost is not a huge gain, since you spend a lot of extra mana but aren’t getting much more Holy Power. Even going up to 6000 MP5 spent or higher will only get to around 30k HPS.

Unlike Disc, Paladin is not quite as bad as it looks here, because by focusing on one target we ignore the benefit of Beacon (other than through the perk). In real situations, nonstop Beacon flow from all your group healing will cut into the needed healing on the tank, making the lower throughput more acceptable when you do heal them directly. But if you’re behind on one target and need to pour heals into them aggressively, it will be harder.

One caveat is that this does not account for cooldowns, and Avenging Wrath is a far stronger single-target throughput cooldown than anyone else has. If situations where heavy burst throughput is required only occasionally, a Paladin can actually cover them quite easily. This might ameliorate the disadvantage of having trouble maintaining heavy throughput on a single target. Not to mention there is also Lay on Hands for serious problems, which is a much bigger deal than it used to be, now that HP bars are so large relative to heal size.

Shaman

Shaman is a little tricker than most to set up in a “pure single-target” model, because on only one target, you have no reason to Riptide more than once every 18 seconds, or to Chain Heal ever. This means that your filler heals don’t all have Tidal Waves, whereas in most realistic situations you’ll at least be using enough Riptide to have Tidal Waves whenever you cast on the tank. I experimented a bit with including Riptides on off-targets in the model (most reasonable way to do this seemed to be counting their healing done and mana cost to both be 0), just to produce Tidal Waves. This is mostly a wash in the end so I didn’t include it.

Earth Shield is also tricky to model. I chose a somewhat arbitrary refresh time (18 seconds) and assumed 100% uptime. It turns out that the per-cast HPCT and HPM for the Earth Shield cast itself are reasonably close to neutral for the whole rotation (specifically, pretty similar to Healing Wave), so things don’t change much if you have to refresh more or less often. And it’s a big healing increase simply to have it on there. If it gets eaten rapidly, the constant GCDs to refresh could be awkward, but the numbers come out pretty even in any case. If gets eaten so fast that you can’t reasonably keep it up, you’ll lose some output.

Finally, I didn’t include Healing Rain. It can add a a little throughput on a single target due to the Perk, but is quite expensive for this. I also don’t want to dash Shamans’ hopes for Warlords quite yet, so I’m maintaining the possibility that there can be situations where you don’t cast Healing Rain.

With all that explanation, Shaman come out average or slightly below. A Healing Wave-only filler rotation (except for Unleashed Fury, which is always used on HS) nets 29.2k HPS for 2847 MP5. It is worth pointing out that, similar to the Paladin case, you’ll mix in some non-tank healing in the real world, and some of that will come essentially free (because, as mentioned above, Riptides on other targets cancel out their own time and mana cost through Tidal Waves, leaving the tank healing unchanged). So only counting healing on one target ignores some amount of potential output. Moreover, the Healing Rains and Healing Stream Totems that the Shaman is using in any group situation (not included here), will contribute to tank throughput a little as well.

Like Druid and Paladin, mixing in the expensive heal comes at a steep cost, because the basic heal is reasonably good and the expensive heal is only a marginal improvement. Shaman can output near 40,000 HPS with a heavy mana burn but still won’t reach Druid and Monk levels.

Monk

The most unusual single-target rotation. The backbone of the huge efficiency of the Monk setup is nonstop Soothing Mist, which continues even while using more expensive filler heals. Note that this model benefits from one very favorable assumption, which is that your Statue is also Soothing the tank. It quite reasonable that this will often be the case when healing on a single target matters, but it is not controllable. Because so much of the strength of this rotation comes from using Soothing as often as possible, removing the Statue bonus would lose on the order of 20% of the healing. One other generous assumption here is that mastery spheres from the single-target heals are fully counted. That wasn’t worth trying to dig into further since it only accounts for 3-4% of the healing (single-target heals don’t produce as many spheres as AoE heals).

Finally, it’s rather hard to account for the GCDs used restarting Soothing Mist, since you have to do so every time you interrupt to cast certain spells, and you get an inconsistent amount of Soothing time per GCD used. I actually ignored this problem for now (as well as the GCDs used on Mana Tea), meaning that if you crank filler usage up to 100%, you get a nonphysical rotation that uses too many GCDs. This is fine, since Surging is such an expensive filler that 100% use isn’t a very important case anyway. Monk (with the assumptions mentioned above) surpasses the other healers in throughput even at much lower filler usage.

Monk starts out at a strong baseline. Even with no Surging Mist use, Monk can manage 29.7k HPS and remain mana-neutral or slightly positive. This is with nonstop Soothing Mist (stopping only to cast Expel Harm and Chi Wave), and Enveloping Mist only using the Chi from Expel Harm and Chi Brew.

Adding in Surging Mist adds healing quickly and not too inefficiently, due to the powerful Enveloping Mists they enable you to cast more of. Enveloping Mist has great value when you’re already Soothing most of the time, which in this model there’s no reason not to be. It will become a little less effective in real-world situations where you have to stop Soothing to cast other things more often, but only marginally. By adding Surgings, Monk can pass 50k HPS, higher than anyone besides a Regrowth-using Druid, at a mana cost that that’s not at all outlandish, 6882 MP5.

So Monk is clearly very strong. It’s hard to say exactly how strong, because they are benefiting from some helpful assumptions (most importantly that the Statue is always assisting you). The message is still clear that Soothing and Enveloping are two of the best tank heals, a fact which will remain even when you have to spend some of your time healing other targets. And even when the Statue is healing someone else, or the tank’s not getting mastery spheres, they are still providing value by doing effective healing on other targets. Monks exemplify a theme in these single-target rotations that applies to almost all classes: leaning as much you can on your efficient baseline heals (e.g. using them often even when the tank’s almost full) will go a long way towards overall efficiency in the long run.

Synthesis

To start with, here is a graph summarizing the HPS/MP5 numbers for all the rotations discussed above.

HT10 Graph

I put this at the end because it’s best looked at with a full understanding of what it means for each class: what spells/talents are included, and what assumptions are needed for a single-target model that work for or against the class. The relative position of the classes is generally anticipated by the comments above, but this helps to see it all at once. To restate the most notable patterns:

  • Druid and Monk can push higher HPS than anyone else, in both cases at reasonable cost. This has to do with HoTs primarily.
  • Paladin struggles to do much on a single target; they really need to be using Beacon to get value out of their heals. Even that won’t be a massive increase (especially since Holy Light and Flash of Light are cast on the Beacon anyway).
  • Disc can get to reasonable point somewhat efficiently through CoW spam, but has almost no other relevant options.
  • Holy seems like a very solid example of what a class should look like. There’s an efficient and mana-neutral option that gets you pretty far using Heal alone, and mixing in Flash Heal provides meaningful added returns for the extra mana. Note how the slope of the right half of the Holy line is steeper than Druid, Paladin, and Shaman, showing that Holy gets better value for added mana spent.
  • Shaman is weaker than Holy but stronger than Paladin (although not quite as efficient), subject to the difficulty of modeling Tidal Waves. Of the two healers in the middle, I like Holy’s mana vs. HPS tradeoff slightly better (in terms of good choices for gameplay).

Finally, note that the classes performing best (Druid and Monk) are there largely because of a more Mists-like rotation, with high baseline HPS and then more optional filler heals. The classes with no or almost no strong rotational heals to build on (Disc) are the ones languishing.

All of the above should suggest some spell tweaks to help with class balance. For this post I’ve spent a lot of time (and words) simply doing the analysis of 6 classes, so I don’t have detailed tuning proposals, but I think the things you’d focus on most are:

  • Possibly too strong: Soothing Mist, Enveloping Mist, Healing Touch, Soul of the Forest, Surge of Light
  • Possibly too weak: Penance, Power Word: Shield, Holy Fire, Flash Heal, Flash of Light

Conclusion

As you can see, there is a lot to discuss even on a seemingly narrow part of the healing world—only healing one target. Starting here was good, because the mana dynamics are complex, and we’ll need the robust framework to go into the even more openended world of analyzing multi-target healing. I’m looking forward to it, and hope this has been an informative look at the healing classes of Warlords so far.

14 thoughts on “Healing Theory, Part 10: Single-Target Rotations

  1. When I was raid testing, I guess I fell into the trap of wild growth and it costing way too much mana.

    Since I stopped excessively using wild growth I felt the value of soul of the forest dropped for me personally, so I took ToL. How do you value the two talents when it comes to mana efficency?

    • It would be hard to compare off the top of my head, before having a relevant model in the sheet, because both are so good :P . My guess, just glancing at the spell chart, is Tree is better. I haven’t tried adding it all up, but it’s probably a bit overpowered due to the huge HPM/HPCT of Lifebloom.

      (counterpoint: a very powerful 3min cooldown isn’t necessarily overpowered–look at what happened to Avenging Wrath this expansion. Also, Tree’s value still has largely to do with efficiency.)

  2. Small typo, possibly?
    “Adding in Surging Mist adds healing quickly and not too efficiently, due to the powerful Enveloping Mists they enable you to cast more of.”
    I believe you mean inefficiently.

  3. Wouldn’t it be better to consider a non swiftmend/SotF model version for druids?
    As it stands, your druid single model has severe implications for the druid AoE rotation [ideally you won’t be using WG, but rejuvenation, hence you have on average less time for fillers on single], whereas other classes can switch almost freely to their AoE rotation (there’s TFT to consider for monks, the chakra GCD for holy).

    • With most classes you can’t totally decouple single and multi-target (Shaman and Paladin are the most complicated). I generally tried to analyze the best single-target only options here. It’s true that some classes will gain some apparent efficiency when you start mixing ST and AoE (Paladin due to Beacon, Shaman due to Tidal Waves), and some will lose efficiency (Druid since you can’t use SotF for both, Monk since you can’t Soothe all the time). That would be good to try to address in later posts when I discuss AoE more.

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  5. Is there any specifik reason you didn’t look at Druids with non-glyphed Regrowth, SotF, and Rampant Growth? From my testing SM will, if a rejuv is already on the target, consume the HoT from the -regrowth- you just cast if you queue it. Using a regrowth+SM rotation as filler would massively increase your HPS with not much mana increase.

    Doing a quick calculation from your spreadsheet, 5xRegrowth (all SoTF), 5 SM, 1 rejuv and rolling lifebloom, gives me 64.8k HPS at 5351 MPS. This is probably not completely accurate, but gives an idea what it may be worth.

    • That’s a good point. It’s a little tricky to model because using unglyphed RG on a single target leads to HoT clipping, but I can probably make some good assumptions about the HoT being up most of the time. The RG HoT is very minor anyway.

      I might hold off on that until after looking at the AoE heals, where it iwll be even more clear (I’m expecting) that SotF/Rampant synergize way too well and will have to be nerfed in some way. That would also kill any SM/RG single-target rotation.

      • The main point with unglyphed RG is so you can swiftmend that with Rampant Growth rather then rejuv, but I agree, the HoT itself is rather minor.

        I’m curious what changes they could make to Rampant, because as you say, it seems very good right now. But making it much worse with the limitation of needing a HoT consumed may place it in a weird place. It’s the synergy with SotF that brings it up, and I believe it should be compared to the other combinations you would have. Without SotF Rampant would be almost useless.

        Looking forward to reading the next part!

      • Prior to your AoE post, may I ask why you expect a that SotF/RG synergizes to well?

        As seen in raidtests, WG without SotF is worse than Reju/Germ for AoE healing, and even with SotF, a WG rotation is about equal in terms of throughput and efficiency to a reju based built (using ToL/Germ). [That’s assuming you get full use out of SotF and not wasting any available (mana wise) WG slots, otherwise pick ToL because it is superior. Whence, simply relative to ToL, there’s no room for nerfs to SotF]

        Just looking at SotF itself, the only argument for a SotF nerf I could think of right now would be based on the possible peak HPS it allows. But any such argument I consider rather futile, because it usually yields a rotation, which is not sustainable for even a below-average fight duration, and whence not realistic. As it stands, you have enough mana for WG/SM about once every 20s (alongside your tank rotation), if you nerf SotF you’d be required to fill up with rejuvenation and run out of mana halfway trough the encounter.

        As for the RG/SotF interaction, there’s hardly any worth of note. Given the 20s restriction on RG/SotF/WG (otherwise it’s not sustainable, sotf-reju is out of question), the only gain over a non-RG SotF spec would be that 100% buff on SM , which given it’s target limitations, would probably not even compare to the one (or more likely two) free regrowths via MoC (you’ll want to maximize WG useage on a SotF, that is limit mana spent on other things).

        For RG itself, the only argument for a nerf I currently see would be based on PvP: a 100%SM, or worse crit, followed by a 100% buffed Reju is simply too strong.

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  7. An extraordinary post, thanks for the work. Many of the values used are now out of date, and so I worry your conclusions and comparisons are misleading. I would love to see this exact format for updated values before 6.0!

    I wanted to quickly outline changes for Shaman, since that’s my main interest. Correct my corrections as you see fit.

    It’s not true that “you have no reason to Riptide more than once every 18 seconds”. If you Riptide every 5 seconds, the healing ends up a total of 188% SP / sec (138% + 5/18 * 180% and instant cast). Unhasted HW only heals for 165% (412.5% / 2.5 sec). Therefore, even ignoring the TW benefit, Riptide is worth it for throughput on single-target. This completely changes the remaining calculations, and adds more complexity to the rotations.

    http://www.icy-veins.com/forums/topic/6859-resto-theorycrafting-in-wod/ has good discussion, though I do not believe it has the 412.5% SP value for HW or HS. Some quick replacement may provide a good way to find an average throughput and mana cost considering larger 30 second rotations instead of 5 second mini-rotations.

    • Thanks! Though this post was made in an earlier beta, the spreadsheet has been kept up to date and further developed here: http://iam.yellingontheinternet.com/healercalcs/ .

      I’ll think about the Riptide point and see if I should change the Shaman ST rotation to always use Riptide even if only for the direct heal. That would simplify things since then Shaman would never use non-TW HW/HS. To be honest, I’ve not focused on the “single-target” models much since this post.

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