Friday, May 27, 2011

Field Report - All my stats are bad

Sometimes you should know better than to sit down and start writing. Some of those times are when you know you're going to rant. I know I will rant, but I figure - what's the point of having a blog if I can't abuse it from time to time? So here it goes.

The only Vanilla pic that is left of me!

I've played priest since early Vanilla. Although I did try out resto druid, shadow priesting and warlocking inbetween, what really stuck with me was healing as a priest. I love it, always have. I'm not sure what got me to like priest healing so much specifically. I think it's because it's always felt like a solid and thought through class. Like Blizz devs designed priests first, and then modelled all the other healers to fit that. Although I actually think that might even be true originally, the feeling has stayed with me throughout the years. While most healers have yo-yod between OP-ness and hitting rock bottom, priests have always been pretty good. We've been awesome occasionally, but we've never sucked (except perhaps briefly in early Cata). Overall I think Blizz have managed to keep their design choices for priests at a pretty high standard, and off the top of my head I can't remember ever being especially concerned about priest healing. We've always had our role.

But something has happened. I don't feel comfortable in my priest role anylonger. I still love what I do, but something just feels... off. Maybe an incident that happened the other day could best describe my feelings. Me and a couple of guildies decided to run a bear run. We did a warm up in ZG before queueing for ZA. Once we were done with ZG however, I asked if it was ok that I switched to my holydin instead. Now let me compare these two characters. We've got my main - Zinn, whom I've played for approximately 100 days, ever since Vanilla, of which the vast majority has been spent healing. My holydin has been around since BC, sure. But 80% of my 33 days played have been spent tanking. I only started healing in Cataclysm. Zinn outgears my holydin by more than 10 gear levels. And I still feel like healing ZA/ZG is a cakewalk on my holydin, compared to my priest.

I know there are differences between the classes. I know some healers have an easier time doing certain things than others. But does it have to be this much difference? I have the gear. I have the experience. I have the skill (hopefully by now). I will admit that I have done those instances more often on my paladin than my priest, but after having done one trillion billion instances, I think I've got the hang of it generally on any healing class.

I won't be unfair enough to say that priests suck just because I am seriously struggling in the ZA/ZG heroics. I will say that I think disc priests were a little too nerfed (and I'll get to more about that in a sec). When discussing this dilemma with Love, he mentioned that he had the same problem, but with the two other heal classes. He mains a druid, and often heals in raids. He also heals heroics with his resto shaman. He has little trouble keeping people alive on his shaman but has to bust his ass off with his druid. The same relationship between the characters exist there - he started healing as resto shaman in Cata, he's healed as resto druid since Vanilla. Same gear difference as with my characters. Yet again I would lean towards blaming the class rather than the player. I will put a disclaimer right here - saying something is more difficult doesn't mean it is impossible. It doesn't even have to mean it is difficult, just more difficult than the comparison. But in this case, I actually feel it is significantly more difficult.

Let's look at these healing classes in raids. Shamans and paladins struggle generally, while priests (especially holy atm) and druids rock (the meters anyway, but it depends a lot on the fight of course). I think there should be differences between classes, but something is wrong when I don't want to do something, not because I don't think I can't handle it - but because I don't think my class can. I can understand why druids and shamans struggled so long to get their own raid cooldown. Maybe it's only right that priests get into this situation, so that shamans especially can point their fingers and say "now you know what it feels like". When even my gear and skill won't make up for the drawbacks of my class - something aint right.

Unfortunately, this has spread to my raiding as well. Nerfing my shields has put me in quite a pickle. Shielding is a core part of my healing rotation. My shields affect many of my spells, provides me with mana refund and haste. There is no question about whether I have to use the shields or not. But I can't use them as much as I used to however, which means I have to resort to my other heals a lot more. That wouldn't be a problem, if it wasn't for the fact that it has made gearing a freaking nightmare. Gearing towards Shields means going for mastery. Shields and DA are completely unaffected by crit, and only slightly affected by haste. But all my other skills are completely unaffected by mastery, unless you count my critted heals DA procs. Mastery, haste and crit all affect different portions of my healing, and boosting one means nothing for the other. Even if we remove crit from the calculation it's giving me a headache.

Stacking Mastery means sacrificing haste, which means slow Heals and Greater Heals. In heroic content, I seriously feel like I am falling behind with my 2.2 casts, when both paladins and shamans can haste their skills, and even druids have some sort of haste source and loads of instants. Disc have nothing like that. Oh wait! We have the shield. Too bad it was nerfed and is far from as usable as it used to be. I don't feel like DA fills the gap, since I don't want crit - because crit is worthless for my shields and DA. See the evil circle of evil here? I need a stat to boost a skill which in itself doesn't benefit from the stat.

Stacking haste means sacrificing mastery, which means smaller shields. Considering that shields and DA still make out some 30-40% of my total healing, that is a big sacrifice to make. But it still means I'll be buffing the remaining 60% of my healing.
As you can see, the problem basically is that disc use two vastly different sources of healing, and they make out just about 50% each of my total healing done. I know you'll say to get the perfect balance, but it just feels like bad game design to have to choose stats that are only half as good as they are to everyone else. The problem isn't the choice, but that the stats are basically incompatible. No matter which stat I choose, it is pretty much worthless for half my healing. Why Blizzard, Why?! They said Cata was going to be the expansion of easy gearing and stat weighting, removed spellpower and armor penetration and whatnot - and I've never had more trouble finding a good way to gear myself.

Do I feel like just going holy would solve my problems? Well, it definitely would solve my gearing issues. Unfortunately, my raid loves me for my PS and Bubble, so I'll probably won't be able to go holy there. And honestly, I think holy have about as much trouble keeping people alive in ZA/ZG as disc do, for much the same reasons that resto druids do - hots won't do the job, and the rest of our heals are too slow (or in druids case, too weak).

For now I've decided to grab the bull by the horns, juggle my stats around and see what fits me best. We're currently fighting Nefarian 25 hc, and I feel like that's a good fight to get a general feel on stat weights, since it requires a little bit of every kind of healing style - aoe, single target, shielding and direct healing. I reforged all mastery I could find into haste (something I've done before, but I reverted back for whatever reason, I can't even rememer at the moment), giving me some 13% unbuffed armory haste (meaning, that is what my armory shows) and 16,5% unbuffed in game haste (no idea why there is such a big difference). In a raid that is approximately 20%. Yes, well above the renew cap, but I don't use renew anyway (generally). But it did get my Greater Heals into a comfort zone, without sacrificing my shields too much - they currently absorb 30k damage, which feels alright. I think I'm a haste-oholic, in which case I'm clearly playing the wrong class at the moment.


  1. Our guild's Priests have often dual specced Holy and Disc, and change specs depending on the fight. There are definately some fights that favor Disc, and others that favor Holy.

  2. What is that shovelfaced monster sitting next to you on the picture?
    It can't be handsome me?

    And as you said in the text I do have issues keeping people alive in ZA while healing on my very well geared druid, and the reason is that my hps is capped. I can go "all out" and still see people almost die to damage, because my all out is by using my big-slow-medium cost heals, accompanied by my staple hots. Pretty much the way I always heal, but with cds like Berserking or ToL. CDs are what increases my output, not by casting more often. And if cds are not enough - tough luck. Wipe, res, rebuff.
    On my shaman I can go nuts with Riptide-hasted GHWs, go through my manapool like nobodys business, but man I can heal. I could take the tank through a nuclear war, if it was brief enough.
    That rock-paper-scissor style of healers works well in raids, as we've all got our niche jobs, but 5mans and solo healing weren't kept in mind.

  3. @Grimmtooth
    That is how I've been specced since BC (mostly because I dislike shadow), but unfortunately I rarely get to play holy since my raid needs my mitigation more :/

  4. Here's what I think about this.

    First, in terms of relativity and strictly going by meters, paladins are actually middle of the road, with holy priests and shaman at the bottom, and druids and disc priests on top. At least, from an overall perspective.

    On the second note, holy priests are the ones that lack the most in terms of haste. Period. There is no arguing this point. With Tidal Waves, Borrowed Time, Nature's Grace/Nature's Bounty and Speed of Light, the only thing that holy priests have to compare is Serendipity. It's also the most lackluster of the haste options, and requires significant mana cost relative to other healers in order to get it to proc, much less at two stacks. Just some food for thought.

    Re: ZA/ZG... I HATE healing these, period. Not because I do them as PuGs, or because they're significantly difficult (well, Venoxis and Jin'do aside), but because it's really unfair to go into a pull and be spamming nothing but Flash/Greater Heal in order to get through a pull. With two mobs.

    Now, to that end, you did mention on Twitter how it's a balancing act between all of our stats. Let me ask you this: why shouldn't it be? I don't know about you, but stacking one stat to exclusion is silly; it SHOULD be balanced between haste, mastery and crit (though I suppose spirit, too, but I just take that one for granted and stack it where I can, as holy). It's ideal that the stats should be balanced. It's not ideal that most healers don't have to (shaman, paladins, druids) or otherwise have no incentive to do so.

  5. @Tomaj
    Yeah, that's absolutely true, but raids are one thing and dungeons another. Even if some healers have crashed (holy priests, wtf?) after 4.1, I still feel like they have something to bring to a raid. It perplexes me however that some classes are perfectly designed for dungeons (paladins) while others really aren't (imo disc). I don't mind small differences, but they're huge.

    Also, I completely agree with you that choosing stats should be difficult. I definitely don't want to go back to stat stacking. But as my post title says, there's a lot of difference in making it a tough choice because all stats are bad rather than because all stats are good. Looking at holy, there's a point to having any stat and this will be especially true with 4.2. Crit, haste and mastery will all bring something worthwhile to all your skills making it more a choice of flavor and style of healing than anything else. That is good!

    With disc however, the choice is difficult because no stat is beneficial to all my skills and it feels like I have to choose the one that is the least bad. It makes gearing counter intuitive and unfun - that's just poor designing imo.

  6. I've puged some zuls lately on my disc, sure its not a cakewalk but its not that hard. I definitely found a new friend in binding heal but other then that its the usual stuff. The problem I have is usually mana related both in dungeons and in raids. I therefore have int,spirit,mastery,crit,haste as a rule as crit essentially is manasavings in da procs and higher hpm/hps and haste is just higher hps and makes you burn mana faster. Crit also has great synergies with mastery while haste is just a comfort stat for me as faster heals don't tax the nerves as slow does. :) This is just my thoughts thou and I'm not really qualified to have a credible opinion on the subject.

  7. @Cis
    Indeed, as I said in the text it's not impossibly difficult to heal za/zg in the text - it's the differences that I've got a problem with. With my holydin I need less cc and still come out with a lot more mana in the end. I very rarely have to take mana breaks. This is definitely not true with my priest (I don't have mana trouble in raids though).

    But this post is mainly to whine about the unclear relationship between stats that disc have. As you say, crit has a synergy with mastery in that it will allow us to proc more DA - but crit doesn't affect DA or shields at all. Stacking crit is useless for your absorb effects, which make out some 50% total healing done. So the synergy between them isn't clear and only one-way. Personally I don't think I gain enough DA procs to make up for the fact that crit is otherwise basically useless for my healing (this might change with 4.2 though).

    Haste could mean that you burn through mana faster, but it can also mean you don't have to burn through mana faster - I will try to explain. With low haste you will more often have to resort to fast and expensive heals like Flash Heal to save people. With faster heals you can save mana by using your mana efficient skills instead, at least that is my experience of it.

    Healing is a lot about what feels comfortable, so I definitely recommend to try different things and see what fits your healing style. Just because I don't think crit is good doesn't mean it isn't to someone else.

  8. @Zinn

    To be frank with you regarding Disc stat balancing, I honestly have to disagree. Mastery definitely is going to be killer for DA and PW:S, but in order to GET that DA, you need crit. And to make sure it stays up, you need haste (for GHeal and Penance, plus PoH when raid healing). I think that if anything, they got stat balancing right with priests - for both Holy and Disc - and they still can't seem to figure out how to make things more appealing for other healers (though I think they're taking steps in the right direction with shaman and druids - shaman still are going to forgo haste in favor of Mastery and possibly crit, though). See, paladin mastery.

    But then, maybe this is just perspective. I don't see the stats as bad at all, and honestly, I don't know how you could. I don't mean that to demean what you're saying - obviously, you know what you're talking about, I just don't agree or necessarily understand your point of view, when each of the stats improves things in a different way. It also doesn't seem counter-intuitive to me, when the stats work very nicely together, just as they do with holy.

    As a final side note, it's way too hard to be wall-of-texty on blogger. Just sayin'.

  9. @Tomaj
    I feel like I have to clarify - I don't have a problem with something being troublesome, or even counter-intuitive, but it has to feel worthwhile. A parallell could be drawn to shaman aoe atm. It is a lot trickier than most aoes, but definitely doesn't come near in damage. That means you have to bust your ass off, and still not get the reward. If I have to make difficult choices with my stats (which is ok in itself, even something I prefer) I want it to feel like I get rewarded by allowing me to heal everythin slightly more awesome than someone who doesn't have this extra trouble. That is what I don't feel atm. I just feel like I have to go through the extra trouble to become on par, if even, with all the other healers. My raids doesn't want me because of my awesome healing output (because holy/druid have better aoe and paladins have better point), but because of my cooldowns. In what way does that make me feel like putting time and effort into maximize my stats is worth it in the end? Right now it doesn't.

  10. Ok, well, the thing is.. I don't really use fh at all.. (which might be wrong, but the manacost doesn't really allow it) if the tank takes lots of dmg then shield/gh/gh/shield spam with background renew and if necessary pi, works just fine in most cases pom/poh/binding heal/renew/penance mostly on group if none has taken aggro. My thinking is that 10% crit is about 10% extra healing + da absorbs (about 50% with my current mastery (x*0.3*1.65) if my math isn't out the window, not counting poh da) so if all da are absorbed it would mean that I get about 15% more healing done with no extra mana cost. 10% haste on the other hand is 10% more healing done with 10% more mana consumed. (over the same amount of time ofcourse.) I'm probably missing something vital here, I usually am... The main drawback as I see is the dependency on rng and as I have lucked out in love I might haveto reconsider my gaming choices.. :)