What Did You Want? Future of Healing Assignments – Part 1

A couple of weeks ago I gave you all a quest – what did you want me to write about. A fair number of you responded to the quest and Jooles completed it by way of winning my RNG ingame /roll. So now here I am, a giant oversized owl ready to hand over the quest reward with a yellow question mark ruffling my ear feathers. Which, let me tell you, does nothing to help the usually-aggrieved furrow of a boomkin’s brow.

Joole’s question was this:

The future of healing assignments. Have they gone the way of crowd control due to smart heals and class pigeon-holing? Is it Paladins heal tanks, Shammy’s heal melee, Priests + Druids heal raid forever or is this going to change in Cataclysm? Which way are Disc priests going to go?

With four healing classes to look at and changes happening all the time in beta it’s taken a brief spell to get going on this. This ‘ere is the first of a two-post answer. I’m not stumping up precisely calculated answers; with things not nailed down in beta I’d have to be a physic owl to do so. Which I’m really not, given I can’t remember what I had for dinner tonight and I’m not playing in the beta.

I am looking at the beta information for healing classes and talking about the picture it gives me of their healing style. I’ll look at two classes a week and include a summary of my predictions for healing assignments at the end of the second post.

So without further ado, let’s have a look at Cataclysmic druids and paladins.


Anyone got an axe? Tree druids are going to be split into two camps. Blizzard have said they want the difference between a druid’s direct healing spells and their HoTs to be more noticeable, and boy, are we going to notice it.

Tree druids are losing the permanence of tree form but gaining the ability to tank-heal more seriously. At least that’s what Blizzard want: according to blue posts they want trees to be capable tank healers who can spot heal when the going gets tough. But I foresee it not quite playing out like that in healing assignments.

Sure, druids are going to be able to keep tanks up.

But they’re also going to be your “oh nitwibble” guy when things go wrong. Given that we know there’s going to be more damage flying around affecting everyone in the group and that druids’ tree form is going to be the “it’s all gone wrong and I need to pump out extra healing for a bit” cooldown, you’re going to need someone who waits for those “oh nitwibble we’re all dying” times and reacts the second it hits.

Your tree druid is the guy breaking out the roots for the extra healing when everyone’s taking more damage. He’ll stand there (with the current speed penalty to tree form he’s not going anywhere if things are that bad) madly spamming HoTs, the effectiveness of which now scales the more injured the target is, on the group when things go wrong. Not to mention the new talent “efflorescence” which spawns a patch of healing flowers underneath the recipient of a critical-hit Regrowth. So while your druid’s standing there setting his limbs on fire spamming HoTs, the rest of the group could be running madly to stand in the good stuff on the floor. I can hear it now – raid leaders yelling “things are going to piffle! Go stand in the healing fauna!”

Which is a little worrying to my mind. I have a feeling trees won’t be able to be both your tank healer and your “oh nitwibble guy” given healers are going to have less mana. You’re going to have to choose between the tree who heals your tank and the tree who stems the mass-damage spike. Given that Blizzard are trying to homogenize the healers so we can all handle 10 and 25 man content, I’m a little worried that tree druids are going to be irreplaceable.


I can see the paladin running around. Groans from paladins, eh? Hear me out.

First of all, holy paladins are going to need to accrue globules of this new ‘Holy Power’ combo-point like thing. Holy paladins can do this three ways; their primary is by healing (duh). Specifically, by using Holy Shock or healing their Beacon of Light target if they’re talented into Tower of Radience.

Sure they can stand anywhere to use this, but Holy Shock has a 6 second cooldown and healing their beacon target might not always be the smartest move. Maybe the beacon target doesn’t need healing, or maybe it’s more mana efficient to get Holy Power another way rather than casting a heal right this second. So a a secondary Holy Power gatherer they can also stick Crusader Strike up on something, which requires Mr. Holy to be doing the hokee-kokee into melee range.

Now, Blizzard have said flat out they’re trying to remove the “tank healer” label from paladins, though it’s stuck so well they’ve had to scrape it off with new tools in the holy toolbox. So how to make the paladins less like a tank healer?

They’ve given them AoE capability. What with the new “Healing Hands” and talent-based “Light of Dawn” AoE cone/wave heal, paladins could find themselves on their toes. Popping Healing Hands will allow paladins to act like a sparkly version of Healing Spring totem, giving out a short range aura-like AoE heal and “Light of Dawn” could be useful for both clusters of melee and slightly more spread out ranged, depending on your positioning relative to them.

So holy paladins might be donning the headless chicken suit to run around and AoE/aura heal. They’ll need to be spacially aware at all times of who’s standing where so that if they want to use “Light of Dawn” on a few ranged they have to stand a distance away to catch everyone in the cone. Want to use “Healing hands”? Go near the people who need it. Need more Holy Power but can’t heal to get it? Run into melee and stick up Crusader Strike.


To my mind druids and paladins are going to be shaken up. Possibly even mixed up, as if we put on the over-generalization goggles for a moment it looks like they’re swapping some of their current iconic roles of trees running around, paladins being the big healers.

Having recently started playing a paladin I’m somewhere between excitement and terror that they’re getting yet more bells and whistles. Druids might not getting that much, but it looks like they don’t need new spells for their role to be flexible. That’s either quite admirable or a tad worrying.

What do you think? Do you see druids and paladins completely differently, or has this opened up new ideas for what Cataclysm will look like?

This is an article by Mimetir, an owl (and resto shaman) of a raid leader on The Venture Co. (EU) You can find my website MMO Melting Pot here and my twitter feed here.

Article image courtesy of Chris Campbell @ flickr

6 thoughts on “What Did You Want? Future of Healing Assignments – Part 1”

  1. It is always hard for the community to change paradigms on raid roles, or anything, really.

    If things work out the way Blizzard wants it to, your choice of talents, glyphs, and gearing will be a bigger deal than what class/spec you are when it comes to assigning tank/raid healers. ALL classes will be able to tank heal and ALL classes will be able to raid heal.

    Now, to a misconception about healing currently. Priests of both specs, Druids, and Shaman can tank heal just fine. They have talents and glyphs designed just for that purpose. It just so happens that Paladins are ten times better at tank healing than the other classes. So, when you have a holy Paladin who is any good, it would be silly to put him on raid healing.

    Another reason it would be silly to put him on raid healing is that holy Paladins are currently *abysmal* at raid healing. In their own words Blizzard “made the Holy Paladin niche very narrow” so “they might as well be overpowered at it”. When they chose not to equalize healer performance on tank healing, they forced the other classes out of that job because tank damage was balanced around Holy Paladins.

    So, we’re going to have to get it out of our heads that Holy Paladins are the “huge bomb wtf” healers, at least somewhat. We’re all getting Holy Light – a slow, efficient (Holy Light is currently not efficient, but Holy Paladins who use it stack enough intellect so their mana cost is similar to the other “big” heals), huge heal.

    As for disc? There have been three classes/specs who have really been abusing the whole “mana doesn’t matter” thing. Those classes/specs being resto druid, disc priest, and holy Paladin. Pallies stack int and abuse replenishment, allowing them to spam their inefficient heal (try that in your current gear on any other class and see how fast you go oom spamming flash heal or lesser healing wave or something like that). Druids spam rejuv and wild growth, even if there isn’t that much damage going out. Its the Druid answer to everything (and blizz encourages it with raid wide damage auras). Holy and Disc Priests do some thing similar. Even Shaman are dropping all their mp5 for Haste/crit DPS gear to get massive haste numbers to keep up with the insta-cast spammers. That’s why you hear healers talk about “rotations” now. You used to have to decide when to cast and when not to cast. Now, a good healer is measured by how many GCDs they used. If, in the current model, your healing isn’t measuring up there’s a really easy answer for you: cast more.

    But Blizzard is running into a problem. In the old system, when mana mattered, the 5 second rule encouraged healers to try to do nothing as often as possible. They don’t want to go back to that. SItting around watching other people play the game isn’t exactly fun (although the lovely large ticks of mana from massive spirit stacking was 😛 ). So how do they keep healers doing stuff but still make mana matter? Well, they’re not sure yet. But they’re trying a few things. They’re just starting to get their feet wet on this whole “doing damage to regenerate mana” shtick. Holy Paladins have had such a mechanic since inception from Judgement of Wisdom, but that’s going away and we haven’t seen anything similar. So they haven’t decided that’s the solution to the problem quite yet.

    As for disc? If you enjoyed hitting one button to heal all the time, Cataclysm will not be fun for you. Disc right now is like a resto druid who casts shields instead of hots. Disc in Cataclysm will be like a Holy Priest that traded in CoH for Penance, and Renew for PW: Shield. You’ll be casting a lot more *healing* spells than you do currently. You’ll still be focused on shields and absorption though, don’t worry. You just won’t be 100% focused on it.

  2. Regrowth is druids’ flash heal, meaning that we won’t be able to spam it. Given that regrowth is really the only spell that is buffed by tree form’s cooldown that we could even spam-cast on raid members, I don’t see us being able to fill the “o crap” healing role for dealing with raid damage. Priests’ actual AOE healing tools will do that job much better. They even gave wild growth to shaman in the form of healing rain.

    In addition, tree form will only be up for a small amount of time in a boss fight, since it’s on a 5 minute cooldown. So, if we’re only “good” as raid heals for 45 seconds out of a 5 minute fight, where we spam ourselves OOM spamming our flash heal, they won’t bring us for that role.

    Right now, druids in Cataclysm are tank healers, since proactive HOT healing (druids’ raid healing style for dealwith with AOE damage) is not going to be a viable raid healing strategy. So, right now, we have a great tank healing toolset, and then a VERY confused raid healing toolset that it is really outdated & broken. If I had to do healing assignments right now, I’d put paladins, disc priests, & druids on tank healing – and I’d put shaman & holy priests on raid healing.

  3. I would disagree about paladins running around too much and I would especially disagree with needing to resort to using Crusader Strike to generate Holy Power.

    I do think that everyone will be moving around more than we have previously (except trees in tree form, as you noted) but after playing around in beta and using all but Healing Hands, I think holy paladins are going to stay mostly at range.

    1) Light of Dawn and Enlightened Judgements. As of build 12644, LoD’s range is 30 yards and Enlightened Judgements allows us to have just about a 40 yard range on our judgement. To me, this indicates that Blizzard intends for us to continue to stand at range, with Light of Dawn being used to heal the melee crowd in the event of AOE damage to the raid (or perhaps just melee: like on Gormok the Impaler in Trial of the Crusader). Bearing in mind that, as of this build, Light of Dawn’s healing done is lacklustre at best and that the 30 second cooldown is something paladins haven’t really had to deal with for quite some time (untalented Sacred Shield is all I can think about and I don’t remember the last time I wasn’t talented for a 1m SS), I would have to say that Light of Dawn will not really be something used terribly frequently in a 25-man raid instance.

    Of course, this depends on the content and the mechanics used in various encounters, but I don’t see that it’ll do much good when you have Circle of Healing and Wild Growth on 10 second cooldowns and a spammable Chain Heal. Not to mention Healing Rain and Efflorescence. I feel that Light of Dawn, cool as it may look, will probably be relegated to a tool primarily used in 5-man dungeons or 10-man raids, seeing only occasional, situational use in 25-man raids.

    2) Healing Hands. As of this build, with 3/3 Speed of Light, we have a 30 second cooldown on this spell as well. I’m only 82 on the beta, so I’m unsure as to its potency (although I fear it’ll be as lacklustre as LoD is at the moment), but the long cooldown on this implies to me that this is, again, a situational spell in a 25-man situation. Again, it just cannot compare to the shorter cooldowns on CoH and WG and the lack of a cooldown on Chain Heal. If it all hits the fan, you pop HH where you’re standing (where the range may be told to group up) and you shoot Light of Dawn over towards the melee and hope that tides them over until WG/CoH are off cooldown.

    But what about Crusader Strike? You really don’t need to use it to generate Holy Power. It is EASY to generate. It lasts 30 seconds and is refreshed when you add a stack (or use an ability that would add a stack).

    Of course, I can’t break it down by boss or whatever, but I parsed a full clear of The Stonecore (with 3-4 wipes at the end and a couple along the way). In the full clear, including running back, wiping, drinking, everything, I maintained a 46% uptime on at least one stack of Holy Power. I gained 661 stacks of Holy Power and used Word of Glory 151 times. That’s obviously not nearly enough times compared to the stacks, but it shows you that even without trying, without using Crusader Strike even once, it was easy to generate Holy Power.

    Holy Shock, previously relegated to “oh crap, I have to move!” situations, becomes a strong heal that buffs all our other spells, thanks to Speed of Light and Infusion of Light. (Although Infusion of Light is currently bugged and I suspect Holy Light is bugged as well, so the usefulness of IoL remains debatable) The short cooldown is manageable (and currently able to be glyphed to a 5 second cooldown) and, in that same run, I used it 241 times. It was my second-most used heal after Divine Light.

    As to not wanting to heal your Beacon… if you beacon your tank (and I admit that’s Wrath-era thinking; we may want to beacon someone else in Cataclysm), you have to directly heal them. You have to. Beacon reduces the amount of the heal it’s copying by 50%. So it doesn’t matter if you just crit a hunter for 20k health if your tank is down by 30k. You will then HAVE to heal your tank to make sure they don’t die. And that’s another charge — two charges if you heal with Holy Shock first to proc Speed of Light for a faster Divine Light cast.

    Unless content dictates otherwise, I don’t see how the new mechanics at all imply any kind of need to be within melee range. We can regen mana through judgements using Seal of Insight, we can AOE heal range with Healing Hands, we can AOE heal melee with Light of Dawn and we can easily generate the Holy Power necessary to keep Word of Glory heals going out without resorting to running to melee and using Crusader Strike.

    My two cents. 🙂

  4. I don’t think that “running” will be the modus operandi for paladins so much as “proper positioning”. No more will a paladin get to just park themselves in a convenient spot and get to spamming. Instead they will have to choose, based on the fight, how they want to function.

    Obviously melee healing has always been a part of the paladin strategy, thanks to our seal (and that doesn’t seem to be changing much even with changes in names/mechanics to the seal/judgment system). Staying in melee and popping our aoe as needed without really using our cone might work great for some fights.

    On other fights it might behoove a paladin to stay at range, with a cluster of ranged dps and healers and stick to using their cone to hit the melee. I’d imagine this would involve fights where being in melee is “dangerous” (think blood beasts on Saurfang) or there are ranged requirements ( something like the shadow crash mechanic on Vezzax).

    Just because you have a bunch of tools doesn’t mean you have to use them all, all the time. Each fight will require the paladin to actively think about how they can best utilize their toolbox. Which is a pretty major change considering right now that thought process involves “where can I go that will allow me to spam Holy Light uninterrupted for the longest period of time”. I think we will still be “tank healers” but now we won’t be exclusively so.

    I for one am very excited.

  5. This will definitely shake things up a bit, but that’s OK. I expect a couple of weeks (months?) of ‘OMG, this sucks, I’m quitting!’ before everyone settles down and starts finding their groove in the new paradigm. I love how powerful I feel playing my Holy Paladin, but I am looking forward to the changes on the overall.

  6. Nice axe pic, btw. I live pretty close to that in NB (or at least it’s a more-or-less identical axe). On topic about healing though – druids still lack a big tank saving CD, so I’m not sure that they’ll ever truly replace pallys and priests at tank healing. Hots are going to be pretty powerful in cata, but that won’t mean anything if they’re too expensive to cast. So I think the effectiveness of druids at 85 will depend entirely on how blizzard balances the mana costs of their spells – given current beta numbers, it doesn’t look very promising.


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