Friday, February 6, 2009

Mana regen changes for 3.1 = Druid nerf

Amongst all the class change previews for WoW patch 3.1 was a lengthy post explaining the changes being made to mana regen to help make mana conservation more important.
* Regeneration while not casting (outside of the “five second rule”) will be decreased. We think that (1) the ability to cast heal over time spells and then sit back and (2) benefitting from a clearcasting proc that also gets you out of the five second rule both provide too much mana regeneration, even over short time periods.
Ouch. This hits me right where it hurts. It's difficult to imagine a paragraph that says 'druids are OP' more strongly without actually using the word 'druid'. While it's true that priests also have HoTs and clearcasting, the style of healing that uses clearcasting to get outside the FSR seems to have gone out of style for priests back at 70. The druid alone has the means to really exploit clearcasting (Omen of Clarity in our case) and multiple stacking HoTs to produce non-stop healing while outside the FSR. On top of that we already had strong incentive to stack spirit because of the tree's conversion of spirit into spellpower and innervate working off of spirit. So all that spirit really kicks in if we dance around OoC to get outside the FSR.

On one hand, it's something of a vindication for me. I had been reading EJ resto druid threads and was surprised not to see more discussion of this style of healing and explaining why I thought it was so powerful. I know that the current content is so easy that it doesn't really matter what style of healing you use, but back when I tried Malygos or Sartharion for the first few times, I leaned heavily on this technique and fully expected to again in 3.1 once content became harder. I had been amassing spirit gear, gemming and enchanting spirit, and collecting spirit consumables. So it's sort of nice to see that the technique that I had thought was so powerful that it was semi-exploitative was apparently at the top of Blizzard's list of things that were too powerful. Of course on the other hand... damn. I will need to redo a lot of my gear now.
* To make this change, we are reducing mana regeneration granted by Spirit across the board. However we are also boosting the effects of talents such as Meditation that increase regeneration while casting. The net result should be that your regeneration while casting will stay about the same, but your not-casting regeneration will be reduced. This change will have little impact on dps casters, since they are basically always casting.
Bam. And there's the other shoe. Huge nerf to me and my chosen way of life.
* The specific talents and abilities being boosted are: Arcane Meditation, Improved Spirit Tap, Intensity, Mage Armor, Meditation, Pyromaniac and Spirit Tap. Yes this makes these “mandatory” talents even more mandatory, if such a thing is possible.
Interesting that most of these talents are for DPS casters. Only two of these abilities are healing talents: Intensity for druids and Meditation for holy priests. Note carefully that this does not mean priests and druids are being buffed. These buffs are compensations for the fact that we have a lot of spirit on our gear that's getting nerfed. But note as well that the grand-daddy of all regen-while-casting abilities is not mentioned here: Innervate. Phaelia points out that this is a big nerf to Innervate and hopes that it's only not mentioned here as an oversight, an opinion which is sheer naïveté. This is a druid nerf.
* Since paladins rely less on Spirit as a mana-regeneration stat, we have to address them in other ways. We don’t want to change Illumination or Replenishment. However, we are going to increase the healing penalty on Divine Plea from 20% to 50%. Divine Plea was originally intended to help Protection and Retribution paladins stay full on mana. It should be a decision for Holy paladins, not something that is automatically used every cooldown.
Interesting that paladins are singled out here. There's another class that 'relies less on Spirit' that isn't mentioned here at all: Resto shamans. You guys are relatively untouched by these changes, a net buff. I guess you've had about as much punishment as you had coming to you for your god-like status at the end of TBC. Look forward to seeing shamans catch back up in Ulduar. Also discipline priests are sort of on the outside of all this. They do not favour spirit and have fewer clearcasting procs (no Surge of Light). Expect to see even more priests take a trip on the Discipline side.
* In addition, we are also changing the way Spiritual Attunement works. In situations with a large amount of outgoing raid damage, as well as in PvP, this passive ability was responsible for more mana regeneration than we would like. We want to keep the necessary benefit it grants to tanking Protection paladins, while making it less powerful for Holy paladins in PvP or raid encounters with a lot of group damage.
That's interesting. I wouldn't have thought of that as being a noticeable amount of regen.
* We are also taking a close look at clearcasting procs themselves. One likely outcome is to change them to an Innervate-like surge of mana so that the net benefit is the same, but healers won’t shift to out-of-casting regeneration so often.
Interesting... Umm... so it's like Innervate instead of out-of-casting regen. But Innervate is out-of-casting regen. I assume this means it will be like Innervate in the sense of multiplying your regen, but not in the sense of letting your spirit kick in. If so, this is aimed squarely at spirit-stacking druids. What really bothers me about this change is not the nerf so much as the fact that clearcast proccing was a very fun style of healing and required a lot of skill. You had to carefully watch your procs on top of everything else you had to watch and make split-second decisions on how to use each proc and to determine if you could safely get out of the FSR or not, and for how long. To really get the most out of it, it also meant that you had strong incentive to melee something in between casts. And you can't tell me there's anything much more fun than hitting a boss with tree branches.
* We balance around the assumption that even 10-player groups have someone offering Replenishment. To make this even easier on players we are likely to offer this ability to additional classes, as well as make sure that existing sources of Replenishment are more equitable.
So far Replenishment has been additionally given to frost mages and warlocks (practically all specs I believe). This should mean that almost any group of 10 or 25 will have near 100% replenishment uptime. If the basic mechanic isn't changing, I expect this will create a strong shift from spirit to int for regen stats for priests and druids. Of course, priests get an additional benefit from int that druids do not. You may however see a resurrection of the nearly dead Dreamstate build, though I doubt it will be more than a passing fad.
* These changes are ultimately being done to bring the different healing classes more in line with each other as well as to give the encounter team more leeway when designing encounters, who can balance with these new mana regeneration numbers in mind. In a world with infinite healer mana, the only way to challenge healers is with increasingly insane amount of raid damage, so that global cooldowns become the limiting factor since mana fails to be. An example is the Eredar Twins in late Sunwell. We weren’t necessarily happy with that model, and this change hopefully allows us to move towards giving healing a more deliberate and thoughtful pace rather than frenetic spam.
Without directly saying it, I interpret "more in line" to mean "nerf druids, buff shamans". What will raid encounters look like now for healing? If we see them move more towards Blizzard's suggestion of fewer, larger hits as seems to be implied here, then druids will be the big losers since we have no competitive way to deal with large spikes of damage.

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