Heroic Scarlet Monastery
I finally had some time this weekend to get into a couple of LFR groups and do some raid testing. Having been unable to participate in almost all of the other testing because of the times testing was available, I was excited to get in there and see how druids played out in a raid setting. Even though this was just LFR, and the weakest of the 25 man raid settings, I was able make a few observations with regards to our stat priorities and our toolkit. As such, I wanted to talk a little bit about how I felt we fit into the overall picture.
I did two front half LFRs comprising of three bosses. The first one I did we couldn’t get past the second boss – as in grand LFR fashion a wipe meant half the raid dropping and having to refill (even in beta!). The second one I was able to kill all three bosses in the first half of the zone. Overall I found the bosses to be fairly fun; however I strongly suspect that the second boss will see a nerf to phase 3 in its LFR version before it goes live.
Let’s move on and talk a little bit about the healing. If you have any specific questions about the raid or bosses themselves, let me know and I’ll try to answer them to the best of my ability!
The Monk Problem
I think that I should first address one of the biggest issues I encountered over the weekend, namely Monks. They are so broken right now that any raid with multiple monks who are maximizing Spinning Crane Kick is hard to judge how you perform comparatively. Largely because the Monks are doing so much healing that you can’t really get a feel for how your toolkit is working.
The first raid I did had 4 monks in it, and for whatever reason ended up with 7-9 healers (LFR only queues 6!). I struggled to find my footing in the encounters and manage my mana well – but even after I did I was miles behind the monks. Because they were doing so much healing, many of my spells were overwritten. I actually left the first raid fairly despondent, and feeling pretty crummy because I was so outperformed.
However, I convinced myself to run a second raid and have another run at the encounters now that I had a better idea of how to manage my mana and the flow of the encounters. This raid had two monks who were seemingly trying to heal appropriately and not just rolling their face across the Spinning Crane Kick button (which is getting nerfed and DR capped). I performed much better, and felt a little better about things upon the closure of that raid – even if it kept me up many hours past my bed time!
Upon entering these raids I was still using the default UI and my only AddOn was Clique. While this is workable, I regretted not taking the time to set up a decent, if basic, healing UI for myself. I missed Grid. I missed having my Power Auras. I missed Forte Xorcist. I missed Quartz. I didn’t realize how much work I’d put into my UI to make me a better healer, and I certainly felt not having better tools in this regard.
I know that I was slow and late on several innervates and I absolutely didn’t maximize swiftmend. I could have timed cooldowns much better – although I got into a groove with them by the end of the night as I grew more familiar with the encounters. But to say I didn’t feel a touch out of my element would be a lie. I flailed a little bit at the start and it took me some time to get my footing. You could see this in my healing.
How I performed
In the first raid I did, I really struggled. I was the dead last healer on the first encounter – although I was woefully unprepared and played poorly. The encounter was dominated by Monks and Paladins. During the second encounter, I clawed my way up from that bottom position as I started to get a better feel for things, but I was never able to get ahead of the four monks in the raid.
In the second raid I did, I performed significantly better. I was familiar with the first two fights, and I was better prepared for the mana crunch. I was the top healer on the first encounter, but only just beat out a monk – who in their defense used buttons that weren’t spinning crane kick. In the second encounter I was third behind two monks. And they whopped me quite healthily. Again, they refrained from just lying on the spinning crane kick button or it would have been even more of a blow out – but their Uplift and Renewing Mists were equally as effective. On the third encounter I was on top by a decent margin – but the stronger of the two monks had left the group. I also am uncertain how I would have done if the paladin in the raid had been a stronger healer.
As for where we fall comparatively to the other healers – it’s hard to say. I was definitively behind both strong monks and paladins, but never found myself behind priests or shaman. As a strong healer, I outperformed weaker healers regardless of class, but I think that could be expected for any class. Until Monks become more balanced I think it’s going to be hard to get a good feeling for where we fall as a whole, and I’ve definitely seen some 10s and 25s parses where druids are doing well – however, many of these parses are missing monks. As always, the dynamics of each healing team will be different, which will invariably have an effect on your overall performance as well.
I think we will have to wait to see where we fall over the coming weeks, but there were absolutely some gaps in our toolkit which I will discuss below.
While I had very few mana problems in any of the heroics that I ran, I really struggled with my mana in a raid setting. In the very first encounter I tried I was OOM halfway through the fight. It was certainly a wakeup call for me, and I immediately became more conscious of what I was casting and using innervate more smartly. I even downed several mana/concentration potions, even though they were quite weak. Now that Intellect no longer drives our mana, we are going to have to be more flexible in our gearing and find a good balance between throughput and regen. I wished I had taken the time and had the foresight to regem out of my pure Intellect gemming regimen that I followed in Cataclysm – and since I was still wearing almost full T13 gear none of my gemming had changed.
Spirit is going to become significantly more important for us as healers as we enter into this first tier. There is no question about it. You should expect to dust off those blue spirit gems (yes…the ones we make fun of people for using) and those purple int/spirit gems that we’ve largely shunned this expansion. Don’t expect to be reforging spirit off your gear in these early tiers. We are absolutely going to have to find a balance between spirit and intellect – and I am strongly speculating that spirit is going to come out on top early on. As always, each player will have to find their own balance, but I think every player is going to have to include spirit in that equation.
Our Toolkit: Mushrooms
The largest, most frustrating revelation for me is that we are still lacking the ability to effectively deal with burst AE raid damage. The terribly implemented mushrooms that were supposed to facilitate closing the gap in this area have been nerfed so much that they fail to solve the problem they were supposed to fix. They also remain incredibly clunky and cumbersome to maneuver. I know that Blizzard has indicated that they intend to buff them again, but I question if it will be enough. As it stands right now if they buff them enough to fill our burst raid healing gap they will heal for too much comparatively, and if they don’t buff them enough they will not be sufficient. It’s quite the pickle. Perhaps to solve it they give them the same diminishing returns we’ve seen on most other AE spells. Not my ideal solution – but if mushrooms don’t deliver a punch, they become a mediocre tool, that’s cumbersome to use, and continue to leave a huge hole in our toolkit.
Before you start thinking “Beru, you just hate mushrooms, you will always complain about them”, I feel I should tell you two things: 1) You are right; and 2) I used the shit of them in my raid testing. They never accounted for more than 9% of my healing, and that was in an encounter where there are points of intense incoming damage that would really favor the use of mushrooms. I felt they came up way short and that in their current state continue to leave a gaping hole in our toolkit that is further accentuated by the new tools paladins and monks have received.
Something is going to have to change in this regard, or we are going to continue to experience the same challenges we faced in early Cataclysm and T13. And I assure you that there is plenty of AE damage that requires quick healing – and I only saw the first three fights of the tier on their easiest mode!
Our Toolkit: Everything Else
Everything else in our toolkit remains largely the same and our healing style remains largely unchanged. You will have to be careful about your rejuv and WG usage, as both can be very costly and quickly deplete your resources. However, healing smartly can solve many of these issues. Don’t cast WG unless several people need healing. Swiftmend smartly. Etc.
I found ToL to continue to be valuable for low cost healing in high damage situations. I found that I mixed HT and Regrowth for my OoC procs – generally used on the tank. The lower cooldown on Nature’s Swiftness is nice – and I enjoyed having the extra cooldown in Nature’s Vigil. I liked the extra time on Lifebloom and Harmony. I know some folks were worried about Harmony becoming almost passive as long as you swiftmended on CD, but I will tell you that I used every OoC proc to cast a direct heal to someone and I do not feel that Harmony has become a “gimme” in that regard simply because the damage going out is significant enough that if you aren’t casting a direct heal somewhere in those 20 seconds you are probably “doin’ it wrong”. Additionally, I feel the extra time provided was needed in encounters where you are trying to integrate mushrooms. I continue to feel that it is a good change.
In short, you will largely heal the same way, just now you will have to be extremely mana conscious.
As of right now, I’m feeling pretty neutral about where druids are falling in MoP. I’m not excited, I’m borderline disappointed, but I’m also willing to see how things play out and the tuning of all of the healing classes continues to be tweaked. Do you have any experiences with healing a raid in the beta? What were your thoughts?