It took me quite a while to decide what to write about next, but having settled into raiding with my new guild and downed all the Crusader bosses I figured this would be a good time to take a look at what has changed since 3.2 and my impressions of the new raid so far, in much the same vein as my last post on 3.2. Yes, Cataclysm has been announced, but all I’d really be writing about if I covered that would be stuff you’ve probably already read about! Suffice to say I’m really looking forward to the expansion and excited to see how stuff like guild levelling and the Mastery system plays out.
So, without further ado;
Why? Good question.
About a week after 3.2 hit, the Glyph of Flash Heal made its glorious return to my talent pane. I’ve replaced Glyph of PoH with something that I once told you “just wasn’t worth it”. This means that something must have drastically changed – because let’s face it, the PoH glyph was pretty insane back in the day.
The key in this glyph puzzle is the 3.2 nerf to Penance. Back in 3.1 with Penance on a ~6 second cooldown, (6.4 if you’re a pedant like me,) tank healing wasn’t really much of a problem. We could throw a Penance on the tank every 5 or 6 GCDs, and provided we kept Shield/Renew/PoM up whenever possible, keeping that tank alive was an absolute breeze. In 10-mans, we could solo tank-heal no problem. In 25-mans, we could support the other tank healer and have plenty of time to shield the raid, safe in the knowledge that a tank death in-between Penance cooldowns was very unlikely.
But then Blizzard increased the cooldown by one precious GCD. Suddenly tank deaths in-between Penances became a possibility – especially considering Coliseum bosses are hitting harder. What fills the gap between Penances if the tank is in danger of dying? Yep, you guessed it. Flash Heal.
Flash Heal has suddenly rocketed up my healing charts and thanks to the Replenishment nerf, it was increasingly correlating with me running on fumes at the end of hardmodes. Fights like XT and Steelbreaker became battles to do as little overhealing as possible in an attempt to conserve mana. Despite hitting ~26k mana raid buffed with the +int elixir and getting in two Shadowfiends per fight, (along with the odd lucky Alchemist’s Potion double-mana proc,) I was really struggling at the end of those fights. Enter Glyph of Flash Heal, and now I’m just that bit more comfortable.
Trial of the Crusader – Impressions So Far
First things first – yes, I hate the artificial gate system too. Maybe “hate” is too strong of a word, but it seems counterintuitive to release one boss per week when the ones you put in are so, so easy. Many guilds are already getting the normal-mode achievements (things like Upper Back Pain and Three-Sixty Pain Spike) just because they “feel like having a go” and proceed to one-shot them. It remains to be seen how difficult the hard-mode bosses are, but I’d imagine they’ll just be the same mechanics with slightly increased damage. Doubtless having said that, Blizzard will prove me wrong – but given the current difficulty and the time we’ve had to practice on them, I still imagine it will be a race for server firsts rather than “the best guilds” getting them.
Anyway, as for what the raid is actually like – it’s really fun! I’m enjoying it, despite the system of progress. Many of the encounters – things like Jaraxxus, Faction Champs and the Val’kyr – strike me as the sort of fights that simply require good organisation rather than good gear to beat. Faction Champions is just about my favourite of the four fights so far, and take note here DPriests, it’s a fight that we absolutely destroy. Blizzard have to tune the fight so that the AI will set up spikes on players, but it can’t be crazy enough to give the healers no time to react. This means that you’ll see when people start to die, all you have to do is shield them – which essentially lowers the reaction time required by the other healers. With the lack of cooldown on shields and the lack of an aggro table for the fight, they’re super-spammable and make the encounter a lot easier.
Jaraxxus comes a close second in that there’s a lot of movement required and I always have to react to something – the style of the fight led me to describe it to someone as “Shade of Aran with adds”. That might not seem too accurate at first glance, but just cast your mind back to Zelda games (if you’ve ever played any). The boss did some kind of special attack, you reacted in a set way. It’s very black-and-white gameplay, as opposed to fights like the Faction Champs or the Jormungar where your strategy needs to be fluent, for want of a better word (we found that Ventrilo was a massive help for those fights). With Jaraxxus;
a) Someone gets a debuff, they run to the wall.
b) Someone gets a different debuff, healers heal them.
c) He casts a fireball, someone interrupts.
See what I’m getting at? There’s no room for different reactions, it’s just cut-and-dry. I almost enjoy it more that way.
Then there’s the Beasts encounter. This is relatively fun (and kindly asking your tanks to swap at 3 debuffs instead of 5 makes it a hell of a lot easier) and strikes me as “the new Heigan” – see picture. Icehowl is the third phase of the encounter, after you’ve downed the Magnataur and the two Jormungar. Now, I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m saying this… let’s face it, Heigan is a unique fight! Two things make me say this – the first is that Icehowl can, up to a point, be killed with as many or as few people alive as possible. The first week of 3.2, my old guild’s first Icehowl kill was with 5 people alive at the start and 4 at the end.
The second point is that in theory, Icehowl’s big gimmick is just as avoidable as the eruptions in Heigan’s dance phase… but people still die to it. Provided you’ve got a Hunter in your group and the tank positions himself correctly, someone dying shouldn’t be a problem. I’m not going to lie, I’ve died to it once! But that was lag on the stun debuff wearing off, so it doesn’t count. 🙂
Finally, the Twin Val’kyr. An interesting concept for a fight, but sadly far, far too easy provided your raid has the DPS to break their heal shields and people are quick to react to the floating orbs. I hadn’t popped a single mana cooldown and I was still at half mana when the fight finished! We almost got the 10-man achievement, but a couple of our DPS were offspec and not pushing as much as the guys in our guild’s other raid group, who got the 3-minute kill without a problem on their first attempt. Frankly, I think that if there was no shared health pool, they had to die within X seconds of each other then the fight and there was a strict 3-minute enrage (on hardmode) then it would become much more interesting, but still fairly easy.
EDIT: This was written before the Val’kyr were fixed. The healing in this fight is now what I’d call “stressful”. 🙂
The Truth About the Penance Nerf
Something struck me the other day when I was thinking about this post and how I was using Flash Heal more. I imagined myself sat in the Blizzard design offices, balancing Penance. Why would I nerf it? Sure, it was pretty overpowered, but it was the only way we could heal tanks effectively. And that’s just the thing, folks. They nerfed Penance to make sure we were staying in the role they designed us for – a mix of healing on the tank and raid support. Think of that extra GCD as a choice – if the tank needs healing, we can use it to heal him. If he doesn’t, we can throw out another shield.
But gone are the days when we can just main-tank heal in 25-mans. I was put on our Steelbreaker tank the other day and let me tell you, it’s no longer easy to solo tank-heal or be the main MT healer. I got switched to our OT and could suddenly shield the raid a whole lot more – and we instantly made it to phase 3 as opposed to wiping on phase 2. Let’s look at Penance and FH;
Penance: Heals an MT faster than they take damage (net increase on their health)
Flash Heal: Heals an MT slightly slower than they take damage (net decrease on their health)
Imagine, for the purposes of this exercise, the MT is taking a constant stream of damage instead of 20k chunks. We pop Penance, the tank goes back to full health. As the main MT healer, we have a choice here. We can either pause to shield the raid and then have to spam-heal the MT to keep him alive, (thereby completely killing our mana bar and risking a tank death,) or keep Flash Healing the tank to make it much smoother for the MT and not shield the raid. We can only do one or the other now. Remember 3.1, when we could use Penance on every cooldown and be able to throw out some shields on the raid? We weren’t a good raid healer, and now we’re just a slightly worse Holy Paladin as a tank healer.
So there it is, the truth about the Penance nerf. It may have been to make DPriests a little less scary in PvP, but in PvE it was to reinforce where we should be in raids. Ladies and gents, the day I get told by my RL “just do whatever you want” I will be a happy man.