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.

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Theorycraft 101: The Statistics of WoW Spells

I’ve been doing a lot of in-game testing of spells lately, as a part of making spreadsheets and other projects. In particular, with the new beta, I’m more inclined to vet the info for any spell I look at by measuring in-game, rather than simply putting the coefficient from wod.wowhead into a spreadsheet, because:

  • The designers are changing spells a lot, and tooltips are out of date much more often than on live.
  • The passives, talents, and Draenor Perks aren’t all familiar, and you have make sure you know what all needs to be multiplied in between the coefficient in the data and the final damage amount.
  • There are frequent bugs on beta, and actually testing means you can help catch/report them.

There are a lot of various techniques and tricks you get used to for doing this stuff quickly, but I wanted to dash off a quick post on one that both saves work and is mathematically interesting.  It looks like Theck is starting a series on general concepts of theorycrafting, and while I don’t expect to do anything that elaborate, I do want to write down ideas that are familiar to me but might be helpful to people who are just getting into it.

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Healing Theory, Part 9: First In-Depth Look at Warlords Heals

All posts in this series can be found here.

I’ve been waiting since alpha started to sink my teeth into the numbers of six new healing toolkits. Rather, I’ve been doing so for a while, but trying to get the information to the point where I can write about it in an organized way. I’ve been assembling a large spreadsheet of 6.0 heals since even before alpha started (since we had spell data). It’s mostly for my own purposes, to have a good reference for the properties of all the spells. I’ll post it here for people who want the full detailed background, while using the post to discuss various interesting points. The goal for this, and ensuing posts, is to work both for people who don’t peruse the actual sheet and just read the post (so I copy various numbers and such into the post), and also for people who want to look further into the sheet after I use a post to highlight some interesting points.

This is the sheet (download).

HT sheet image

It’s more utilitarian than user-friendly; as I said, it’s mostly an easy place for me to store/compare numbers (it’s not a character setup tool). The main focus for each heal is to compute an index for their HPM and HPCT (healing per unit cast time). In some cases, for non-spammable heals, HPCD (healing per cooldown time) is used to measure how much healing is added if the spell is used as often as possible. Some notes:

  • All of these are in unusual units, which is fine since they’re only meant to be compared against each other. For people who want details, HPCT and HPCD are in units of (spellpower coefficient)/seconds, and HPM is in units of (spellpower coefficient)/(% base mana cost).
  • All heals use the haste, crit, mastery, and multistrike values from the top of the sheet (Multistrike affects all spells equally so is not that interesting, except that Holy Priest heals get 25% more benefit).
  • Mastery is also in unusual units. “0.2″ means, the amount of mastery stat that’s equivalent to 20% crit, or what was once called “20 points of mastery.”
  • The main computation in each row is to combine a spell’s spellpower coefficient from wod.wowhead.com with haste/crit/mastery/MS, any class passives or other auras, and any Draenor perks or other bonuses, to compute an overall effective spellpower coefficient.
  • I make assumptions as needed about talents, glyphs, and other variables. Usually the guideline is, a spell’s row in the sheet represents whatever case I was most interested in when thinking about how it would be used in practice.
  • Similarly, sometimes a spell has multiple entries if I want to see e.g. both glyphed and unglyphed, or if I want to see a combination of spells in a single row.
  • Blanket disclaimer: the beta build is changing often, changes aren’t always documented, some spells’ behaviors don’t match their tooltip data, and so on. I got some help from Dayani of Healiocentric, and we vetted all of the rows against in-game behavior in beta builds 18505 or 18522 (often with the techniques described here), and are continually updating them.

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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).

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The 6.0 Moonkin, Second Look

My first post when the new Moonkin patch notes were revealed was about explaining them and giving the highlights, but not too much in-depth analysis (read that one first if you haven’t, though). But I’ve been thinking about the details of the rotation a good bit. To the extent possible on paper that is, without an actual alpha to play, but I got pretty far on a reasonable WrathCalcs model. So here are some more detailed observations on how this rotation will play. You can think of this as, how the basics of my Moonkin guide would look if this rotation were going live right now.

Updates

A few things have been mentioned by Celestalon on twitter since the last post.

  • The cycle will now be 40s long instead of 30.
  • The DoTs are now 40s and 20s long to correspond to that (instead of 32 and 16).
  • The cycle will pause briefly at the top. Instead of a sine wave oscillating from -100 to 100 energy, it will go from -110 to +110, but with a cap on the bonus at 100. This will result in roughly a 5 second pause at the peak of each Eclipse.
  • Starsurge will be instant cast.

Eclipse

DoTs

Moonkin are preserving one aspect of gameplay that is otherwise being removed from most classes for causing too much complexity: DoT snapshotting (DoTs will snapshot their Eclipse bonus, and presumably their mastery level at cast, but not other stats like spellpower). Unsurprising then, that some of the more finicky bits of timing that are likely to appear in the new rotation are related to snapshotting.

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The New 6.0 Moonkin Rotation

After a conspicuous lack of Balance changes in the 6.0 notes before now, the newest update shows what they’ve been working on: a complete rework of the class.

Eclipse

There is still an Eclipse bar, but it’s changed in two important ways:

  • Its movement is no longer affected by your casts at all; it cycles on its own between the two endpoints, making one complete loop every 30 seconds.
  • Your Arcane and Nature damage bonuses vary continuously based on the Eclipse marker. At the midpoint, you get half of your mastery bonus to either element, and at an endpoint, the full mastery bonus to one element only.

So, some things stay the same. Your Eclipse cycles back and forth regularly, and you cast Starfire half the time and Wrath half the time. You use Starsurge regularly (see below) in either half of the rotation, since it’s buffed by either bonus. You maintain DoTs, and casting them when you have a high Eclipse bonus is still beneficial (even though DoTs will no longer snapshot most effects, they will still snapshot Eclipse).

The reason cited for the change is that Moonkin was daunting to initially learn, but relatively easy to play well once you understood it (which is the reverse of what you usually want in a class). I think this is generally correct, subject to some details of Eclipse management at the highest levels of play. Eclipse is confusing to explain and understand at first, to new players to the class, and the new version hopefully won’t have this problem.

In addition to the stated problem related to the learning curve, the 5.0 Eclipse had some issues that commonly caused frustration among players. I tended to pinpoint the problem as being related to Nature’s Grace–a major DPS buff that lasted a fixed amount of time and whose uptime was determined by your ability to race between Eclipses as quickly as possible. This made the class somewhat reliant on haste to avoid being stuck outside of NG, and severely penalized the class for any time not spent advanced in the Eclipse bar, in particular, movement and AoE. Even before seeing these changes, I’d suggested to the devs that they remove Nature’s Grace in 6.0. With the new constantly-oscillating Eclipse, they are not only removing Nature’s Grace, but making it so that your choice of what to cast doesn’t even effect the uptime of an Eclipse bonus. This should make the performance of the class much more stable.

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Healing Theory, Part 7: Introduction to Active Mana Regeneration

Previous posts in this series can be found here

This is the first post in this series that’s explicitly about new mechanics in Warlords. As a general disclaimer, at the moment there is not yet a public alpha, so all we have to go on is information in patch notes and spell data. So I while I will be going into some numbers in this post, keep in mind that anything can change. The point will be more about how to understand active mana regen, and not as much, in particular, about comparing the relative strengths of each class’s new mechanic.

The Active Regen Spells

  • Druid: Innervate. The Druid casts Innervate (2 seconds), which lasts 8 seconds or until the Druid spends mana on a healing spell. If it runs for the full duration, it regenerates 5% mana.
  • Shaman: Telluric Currents. Lightning Bolt casts return 1.25% mana.
  • Monk: Crackling Jade Lightning returns 2% mana after a full-duration channel, which takes 4 seconds. Monks also still have Mana Tea.
  • Paladin: Divine Plea costs 3 Holy Power, and returns 7% mana.
  • Disc Priest: Penance, when used offensively, returns 1.1% mana per hit (and no longer Atones).
  • Holy Priest: When in Chastise, Smite and Holy Fire each return 0.75% mana. Notably, Chakra shifts have a 10s cooldown.

The idea behind these is pretty easy to see: give every healer an ability that lets them choose to regain some mana, at the cost of giving some opportunity to heal. This is a response by Blizzard to the problem that current mana-related abilities tend to involve little or no decisionmaking; you generally simply use them on cooldown. They were prime candidates for removal during the ability-culling process, and that is what happened at first. And while there was no huge problem with that (mana is still interesting due to the inherent choice in choosing how to spend it), abilities whose purpose is to regain mana are definitely a place to add something to healer gameplay.

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Behavior of DoTs and Haste in Warlords of Draenor

Among the various bits of mechanical info that’s been revealed about Warlords is the fact DoTs and HoTs will no longer have “haste breakpoints” and will no longer “snapshot” your stats at cast time. Celestalon has mentioned this a few times on twitter and frequently responded to questions about it. Since a lot of people seem to have questions on how the math of this breakpoint-less system will work, I want to to explain some of the behavior that will result from this. First, a brief history of this whole problem.

Current System: Haste Breakpoints and Rounding

Before Cataclysm, haste generally did not affect the rate of DoT ticks. There were a few exceptions, such as the Glyph of Rapid Rejuvenation that caused the tick rate of Rejuvenation to be affected by haste. But this did so by shortening the total duration of the HoT and keeping the number of ticks constant, so it didn’t have to address the big question of DoTs and haste: what do to with the fractional ticks that appear when you do this?

When Cataclysm introduced a general mechanic whereby DoT ticks would be accelerated by haste, it handled this problem by changing the duration of the DoT, rounding it to the nearest integer number of ticks.

To work an example: say a DoT has a 12-second duration and a tick period of 3 seconds. Unhasted, when you cast the DoT, a 12-second debuff appears on the target, and the 4th tick will occur exactly as the debuff expires. If you add 25% haste, the tick period will decrease to 2.4 seconds (3/1.25). Since 5 ticks at 2.4 seconds is exactly 12, you will still get a 12-second debuff when you cast the DoT, and now it will be the 5th tick that occurs as the debuff expires. But what if you only had 20% haste? Now the tick period is 2.5 seconds (3/1.2). Since there is no system in place for handling partial ticks, the game can either give you:

  • A 4-tick DoT that lasts 10 seconds, or
  • A 5-tick DoT that lasts 12.5 seconds.

In fact, you get the latter. The game rounds to the closest whole number of ticks, and since in this example, the 5-tick option is closer to the default duration of 12, that’s what you get.

Finally, if you had 12.5% haste, the tick rate would be 2.667. So a 4-tick DoT would be 10.67 seconds, and a 5-tick DoT would be 13.33 seconds. These are equidistant from 12, and this is the oft-discussed “breakpoint.” At any higher amount of haste, you get 5 ticks, and at any lower amount, you get 4.

DoThaste1

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“The Proven Healer” — Advanced Guide for All Classes

This is a supplement to the guide I wrote for Wowhead, meant to include more detailed class-specific info for people trying to find every advantage they can to get their title, or to push beyond it. It’s generally assumed you know the basic info from the guide, but now that I’ve done wave 30 on Endless myself on all the classes, I can say a lot more about exactly what worked well on each.

General

  • Your frames should have an alert for the Chomp debuff, and for Oto’s Shield Wall.
  • Chomp is the trickiest ability to deal with in healer PG. More than ever, you have to stress anticipating and handling it promptly to succeed at Endless. Chomp, more than anything else, punishes you for being behind when it appears. When you’re having a problem with a Chomp wave, figure out what’s happening before the Chomp appears that’s causing people to not be topped off.
  • Macro your interrupt and stunning spells to “/targetexact Large Illusionary Hive-Singer” so you don’t have to worry about targeting.
  • If you’re looking to squeeze out every advantage you can, try using a separate gear set other than your raid set so you can gem differently. At this low ilvl you want to gem Int on every class, which you probably stopped doing in your raid gear.
  • In general, the best item in any slot is a socketed item with an Int socket bonus.
  • In any event, remember to use a hat with a Burning meta, not a legendary.
  • The best trinket after scaling is Relic of Chi-ji, as its stats are disproportionately high for its ilvl. Zen Alchemist Stone (JP upgraded) also has as unusually strong proc. Otherwise, just use passive Int and a good mana proc, like Dysmorphic or Horridon’s.
  • The best cloak is the legendary, even without the proc; it has a few extra stat points.
  • The best possible weapon is a socketed 1H from Throne of Thunder (such as this). This will have both a socket bonus and an Eye of the Black Prince.
  • Professions are mostly neutral since you want the 320 Int from all of them. Engineering is a bit more efficient since you can have it up at the hard beginning of each wave.

Wave Details

The biggest focus of this guide is class-specific cooldown planning. One general point throughout: since each wave is exactly 1 minute long, and most cooldowns are multiples of 1 minute, you have to use them very crisply at the start of the wave (or whatever the planned time is) so future uses aren’t delayed. Here’s an outline of the waves, with some more detailed comments:

  1. Easy. No cooldowns, goal is to save mana and build resources. Good time to practice multiple interrupts on a caster while Ki/Kavan interrupt also.
  2. Hard. Large Hive-Singer, as well as a Large Aqualyte doing heavy tank damage throughout. Ki is usually ready for the opening stun on this LHS. Add your interrupts where you can until it dies, but since it dies first, the tank is a bigger worry in this wave than the group. Being topped off going into wave 3 is important.
  3. Easy but takes care. Chomp is a mechanic that punishes you heavily if you don’t handle it immediately.  Have instants saved for the opening double Chomp. Stunning the first Tunneler before it dies can prevent it from Chomping a second time. If you’re behind during the wave, a possibility is to efficiently keep people alive until combat ends and the Chomps fall off automatically, but this is not as good as handling them quickly.
  4. Medium. Double dispels and heavy tank damage. An explosion due to bad debuff luck won’t kill the group–the main worry is the tank–but you have to top everyone off before wave 5. You specifically don’t want Oto to blow his Shield Wall here, so keep him stable, even using a tank cooldown if needed.
  5. Very Hard. If Large Hive-Singer casts unmolested, he gets people low to set them up for a bad Chomp, right as the Conqueror is Enraging on Oto. Ki won’t always be ready to open on the LHS, so you have to watch it (you can let him interrupt if you see him Shadowstep over). Preventing its first casts and/or using a big cooldown pre-emptively will make sure people aren’t at low HP from two Sonic Blasts at the moment the Tunneler arrives.
  6. Hard. Hectic wave, but the only thing that should wipe you is falling behind on Chomp. Oto takes a lot of damage, and if you let him get low, a Chomp can be really bad.
  7. Easy. Tank cooldown is a good idea, but otherwise you should try to get mana back after 4/5/6. Locking down the Small Hive-Singer saves you a little mana healing the group.
  8. Medium. As long as you have a way to mitigate damage in the opening seconds, this wave is generally manageable. Group CCs and mitigation cooldowns are good. After one Flamecaller is down, there’s little threat of a spike. If you interrupt the furthest Flamecallers so they run towards the AoE clump, the group’s DPS will be better.
  9. Very Hard. The Large Hive-Singer can live a long time, wearing down the group if his casts aren’t interrupted. You want to interrupt him early and often, but keeping him far from the group for a long time can cause them to kill him last. Mix throughput cooldowns and interrupts to deal with the constant damage for as long as he lives. The worst moment is the very start when the first cast happens at the same time as a Chomp–interrupting it and dealing with the Chomp immediately gets you off to a good start.
  10. Easy. All you need here is a tank cooldown. Think about topping off any class resources and saving other cooldowns to start the next cycle.

The general pattern is that the waves that need throughput cooldowns are 2/5/9 with a Large Hive-Singer. Secondary cooldowns are good on 4 and 6. Tank cooldowns at 2, 4 or 5, and 10, and 7 if you can fit it in. An important tank cooldown is Oto’s Shield Wall (2 minutes), which he will use anytime either a Conqueror Enrages or his HP is low. If the latter never occurs, he’ll use it at 2, 5, 7, and 10, which is what you want.

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