Saturday, March 7, 2009

The new lifebloom

Recently in the testing platform for new WoW patches, a major change was made to Lifebloom. This has been a troubled spell since it's inception in The Burning Crusade, an attempt to create a very different type of spell that would make druid healing unique. What makes it unique is that it can stack up to 3 times, and provided you can refresh it before it falls off, it continues to tick at triple power, for a fraction of the price. It's a really cool idea but the stacking aspect made it so potentially powerful in the hands of skilled druids that it was nerfed several times since then. Even right up to 3.0 and a final truly killing nerf, it was still druids main heal, able to be rolled on 3-4 tanks to produce a tremendous amount of pure healing per second.

The change note that appeared on the testing realm was:
Lifebloom: Mana cost of all ranks doubled. When Lifebloom blooms or is dispelled, it now refunds half the base mana cost of the spell per application of Lifebloom, and the heal effect is multiplied by the number of applications.
Naturally the druid community was immediately up in arms about touching a spell so sacred and iconic of the resto druid class. I wasn't so concerned because like I say, 3.0 put a nail in its coffin by making it heal for much less than before. It seemed to be the only way Blizzard could think of to make it so it wasn't so powerful when stacked 3 times. A single stack was worthless, and even rolling a triple stack was only really useful in specific situations. Most druids were using it far less than before. But when mana becomes much more scarce in 3.1, lifebloom stacking would begin to look attractive again, because its so incredibly efficient. Rivven can keep a stack going while gaining mana. I haven't tried but I suspect I could keep 2 or 3 up while still breaking even. Each stack is about 1400 healing every second and we have plenty of time to cast other heals on top of those stacks.

So Blizzard has decided to try something completely different. By making it refund mana for only the first 3 applications, it's essentially putting a tax on druids who try to maintain a triple stack. This is the part that got druids upset because it appears to hit us in our bread and butter. Rolling stacks is what defines us.

But few people stopped to talk about the other big change here: the bloom. No one ever thinks about the bloom, because the bloom is... failure. The bloom means your timing was off and you let the stack die. The bloom is the joke of a consolation prize. Except now the bloom stacks as well. So if a double stack falls off it gets a double bloom. And a triple stack causes a triple bloom. A single bloom is upwards of 3k healing, which can crit for closer to 5k. A triple bloom becomes a formidable heal, about as large as any heal a druid has. And Blizzard pointed this out to the crowd of booing druids, saying now you can make the choice of letting the stack bloom. Not all is lost.

Which seemed like a joke to some. What good is a big heal if you have to predict it 10 seconds in the future? But I think what Blizzard is trying to do is make the bloom a useful decision you make. Each time a lifebloom is about to expire, a druid could now look at the tank health and just as they're about to refresh it, if the tank suddenly takes a drop in health, they could do the unthinkable: nothing. Letting the stack bloom would be an immediate heal, just when its needed. The cost of refreshing the stack is relatively minor if you continue to let it bloom whenever the tank could use it. In fact it becomes more expensive to keep it going now. It seems like the ideal situation is to cast it and refresh it only if the tank is topped up, hoping to let it bloom after about 3 applications, give or take. I posted some numbers I came up with on elitistjerks to try and get a handle on it, if anyone is interested in specifics.

I think it's an interesting design change. It's understandable that people get upset when a core ability is nerfed. But in this case it's hard to call it a nerf, because it's really changing the spell completely. I expect the numbers will be tweaked shortly anyways, so rather than worry about the exact healing per second or healing per mana, I think a more interesting question is this. Which takes more skill? Keeping multiple stacks going or accurately deciding when to let a stack expire? Whether it's a nerf or not it's still a unique and interesting type of heal that defines the druid.

P.S. The graphic above is taken from a great comic from Smoosh that gives you an idea where Lifebloom was before all the nerfs.

1 comment:

  1. "Each time a lifebloom is about to expire, a druid could now look at the tank health and just as they're about to refresh it, if the tank suddenly takes a drop in health, they could do the unthinkable: nothing."

    You know, I never thought about it like that. Makes sense to me.

    I've been pretty bummed about this change, but I'm trying to take it in stride. It's going to be a question of: 1. does the tank need a big heal NOW? 2. do I need mana now?

    If 1 and 2 are "no", then you can keep rolling the LBs, I guess.

    I don't know. The whole new system seems choppy to me. As to which system takes more skill? you know, I don't know about that either. Rolling LBs has always been like an artform to me. Letting them bloom seems like it'd be less of that...I guess we'll see.