Healing Theory: Spirit–Past, Present, and Future

All posts in this series can be found here.  Good background for this post can be found in this entry.

Many of the big questions about the new healing gameplay in Warlords center around mana management.  While that will probably be a complex topic throughout the expansion, one place we can start is by looking at exactly what’s changed regarding Spirit, regen, and the amount of mana you have to spend.  I’ve been discussing recently how we have a temporary period of even more mana abundance than we had in 5.0, but that this not reflect Warlords healing at all.  Here I’ll explore that in more detail as well as other questions about mana in Warlords.

Overview of Changes

To start with the facts–this how the basic parameters are changing:

Mana Changes

A few other relevant points:

  • Spirit from will now only be available on certain slots (ring/neck/cloak/trinket).  This affects how much you expect to have, which is discussed below.
  • Many significant sources of mana went away or will go away: most importantly, the meta gem and Innervate and similar spells.

Finally, spell costs as a % of base mana often went down.  Not in every case, especially for spells that got design changes which increased costs (Chain Heal).  AoE spells also tended to relatively increase.  But many typical spells that were not changed, such as Rejuvenation, Renew, and Regrowth cost around 2/3 of what they did before (as a % of base mana).  I’m not going to explore this point in too much detail, because it would require making some kind of complicated Consumer Price Index for spell costs.  But keep it in mind when comparing 5.0 numbers to 6.0 numbers.

Even if I did some elaborate normalization of spell costs, that wouldn’t mean much.  Damage comes in in different amounts now, and you use your spells in different quantities.  Basically, we can’t compute a precise watershed amount of mana or regen that will make 6.0 healing feel exactly the same as 5.0 healing, since too many other things changed.  We’ll look at the comparison as well as we can though.

We do have to adjust for deflation somehow though, since 1 mana means something very different in each of the 3 time periods in the above chart.  For the most part I’m simply going to use total mana pool size as the reference.  That is, since it’s gone from 300,000 to 160,000, assume that 1 mana now is equivalent to roughly 300/160 = 1.875 pre-squish mana.  The point above about changing spell costs is mostly to say that this is likely an underestimate of the difference.

Total Mana Availability

Let’s revisit the discussion from the first half of this post, where we computed how much total mana there was to spend in a 6-minute encounter.  There we used a character with a somewhat typical 12,000 Spirit in 5.0.  For 6.0 we’ll use a character with Spirit in the standard 4 slots (2 rings, neck, cloak), and 1 passive Spirit trinket (so you could of course have more or less than this based on trinket choice).

Things are a little different at L90 since we’re still in MoP.  My character, immediately after the squish, now has 481 Spirit.  That’s with Spirit in the standard 4 slots, plus a few leftover gems and an Amp trinket.  That’s probably pretty typical, so we’ll use that.  It also turns out it’s about the same as what you’d get from 4 Spirit items + 1 passive Spirit trinket at ilvl 580, so the comparison to L100 is still good.

At L90 post-squish, my mana in a 6-minute encounter, again in thousands of mana, is:

  • 37 (starting mana)
  • 107 (base regen (1480 MP5) over 6m)
  • 71 (6 minutes of Spirit regen, at 481 Spirit)
  • 23 (meta gem, evaluated @ 3 Rejuvs (2097 mana) per proc)
  • 6 (potion)
  • Total: 244

What about at L100–let’s say at ilvl 615, corresponding to Normal dungeons and Proving Grounds.  Looking at the relevant items, I’ll have roughly 54 from each of my 4 non-armor slots, and 138 from one trinket, for a total of 354 from gear.  With 784 base Spirit as a Tauren, that’s 1138 Spirit.  So now we’re looking at:

  • 160 (starting mana)
  • 230 (base regen (3200 MP5) over 6m)
  • 169 (6 minutes of Spirit regen, at 1138 Spirit)
  • 34 (potion)
  • Total: 593

In order to add these new numbers to the previous chart, we have to scale them to account for changes in mana pool size, as discussed above.  Here I’ve scaled them all to correspond to a mana pool size of 160,000:

Mana Bars 6.0

Looking at this, we can see a number of things.

First, remember that despite the disclaimers about comparing Mists to Warlords, the comparison of L90 6.0 to WoD is a perfect apples-to-apples comparison.  You’re using the new spell costs in both cases, and scaling to mana pool size exactly accounts for the changes in spell costs as you go to level 100.  So this is a clear way of seeing how L90 6.0 is not like level 100 Warlords healing (in particular, you can clearly see the effect of the temporary doubling of base regen, the red part of the bar).  Your gross mana availability is nearly double what it would be if it accurately reflected the level 100 experience.  This is the most important factor driving the sheer weirdness of healing between now and the launch of Warlords.

If you want to think about how things have changed since 5.0, this is a good start.  Even ignoring changes in spell costs, you have more mana than you did two weeks ago.  The subjective play experience right now is that you have much more mana than you did two weeks ago.  In late Mists you could throw heals rather freely, but now you can throw expensive filler heals completely at will, and your mana doesn’t even sink much.  This supports the notion that, in the aggregate, spell costs have come down.  Your total mana is only slightly higher in real terms, but in practice you’re far more flush with mana.  This strongly suggests that if we did construct a Consumer Price Index of spell costs and take it into account, the two leftmost bars in the above graph would be compressed further down.

Spirit Increases in Warlords

A major concern many healers have is whether increases in stats from gear, which tend to increase by a huge amount over the course of the expansion, will result in an overly large amount of regen a few tiers from now.  The Mists post I’ve been linking concluded that increase in Mists was more due to the meta gem and other factors than it was to straight Spirit increases.  This suggests that, even if no changes were made from Mists, the situation would be largely under control unless some ill-advised item were added in Warlords that gave healers huge amounts of mana.

It turns out that, even beyond that, other changes in Warlords are further damping the impact of Spirit increases.  Spirit from gear is an even smaller part of the overall mana picture than it was in Mists.  The chart above pools all “Spirit” together, but remember that of the 1138 Spirit at ilvl 615, 784 was the passive Spirit from being a level 100 Tauren.  Only 354 of it was from gear and will increase with ilvl.  That 354 Spirit accounts for only 52,500 mana over 6 minutes.  This is less than 10% of the total mana we had available at that ilvl (593,000).  The entire remainder of your mana supply will be constant.

Spirit from Gear (purple) will increase with ilvl.  All other sources will remain constant.

Spirit from Gear (purple) will increase with ilvl. All other sources will remain constant.

However, the fact remains that stats, including Spirit, increase exponentially with ilvl (at the rate of 15% every 15 ilvls, or doubling every 74.4 ilvls).  And with exponential growth in the picture, we definitely cannot be satisfied with the mere fact that regen looks safe right now; we need to project the future increases in more detail.

I started doing that when I made the bar graph above, and included a column for Warlords at ilvl 695 (corresponding to Mythic gear at the end of the first raid tier).  Consulting Wowhead again, at that point we expect to have 115 Spirit on a non-armor item, and 291 from a trinket.  This results in 751 Spirit from gear, just over twice what we’ll have at ilvl 615 (as expected after an increase of 80 ilvls).  Total mana supply will have gone from 593,000 to 655,000, as was shown in the graph.  So far, nothing concerning.

Extrapolating forward, with the constant sources of mana staying constant and the gear term increasing exponentially, we have something that looks like this:

x-axis is ilvl.  y-axis is thousands of mana available in a 6-minute period.

x-axis is ilvl. y-axis is thousands of mana available in a 6-minute period.  Red line is constant term only, blue line is constant + gear.

The exponential growth is pronounced, but the very small starting size of the gear term means that it doesn’t start to get out of hand until around ilvl 800, hopefully higher than we’ll ever see.  Between 600 and around 750, the growth is small next to the constant term.

Without getting too deep into speculating on Warlords, let’s remember that ilvls in Mists increased by 63 from the end of the first tier (509 from H Terrace/Heart, ignoring Elite Protectors) to the end of the third and final tier (572 from H WF Siege), ignoring upgrades.  There should be a reasonable hope of going from 695 in M Furnace to something that’s not too far above 750.  If that hope isn’t borne out and items get stronger than is currently foreseeable, then we will very rapidly have to revisit this discussion.  To match the end of Mists in squish-adjusted terms (the 1.01M mana shown in the bar graph), we’d need to reach ilvl 846, so we’re probably safe in that sense.  However, again, if you were to adjust for reduced spell costs, that number will get smaller.  For example, if you guess that spells only cost 80% of what they used to, so you only need to reach 806,000 mana to have something similar to the Mists feel, that will happen at ilvl 783 (hopefully, still out of reach).

One final interesting aside, which I’m going to leave open for now, is whether the very small impact of the “gear Spirit” term will make Spirit less attractive at low ilvls.  It’s not clear that it will (all other stats follow a similar growth pattern as well), but it’s worth trying to look into further.  A related question would be whether Spirit should have diminishing returns so that it grows linearly rather than exponentially with ilvl (this would be accomplished by having regen be O(log(Spirit))).  That seems like a much more stable growth pattern–in fact, if Spirit worked that way, they would probably not have had to squish it down so hard at the start to keep it under control for the whole expansion.  That might make it difficult to balance against other stats, however.

Conclusion

The most immediate thing you should take away from all this is cementing the notion that the current month of healing is a complete oddity, now with more numbers to help explain it.  Keeping our sights set on level 100 though, this is a fuller explication of what I surmised in the “mana economy” post from Mists, namely, that Spirit growth would not be nearly as pronounced in Warlords.  Absent new items on the order of the Mists meta gem, or unanticipated ilvl increases, we should see only a modest increase in mana supply over the course of the expansion.

6 thoughts on “Healing Theory: Spirit–Past, Present, and Future

  1. Wonderful breakdown on the past, current and future regen models. I’ve been raiding since the early MC days in 2005 and the mana regen game has almost always added a fun element for me (I still miss downranking). Healing in Mists has been one of the more frustrating experiences in my raiding career, partially due to the regen model being very flawed. Proving Grounds was really the only place I found it decently balanced, and even then some classes had major advantages over others. So happy that WoD is changing that and it won’t be so much of a spam game. Healing is fun when you are rewarded for being smart and calculating about your heals, not so much when mana doesn’t matter and it is just a free for all.

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