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.
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.
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.