Shared Boss Mechanics

January 11, 2010 at 3:10 pm (Borrowed Time, Circle of Healing, Empowered Renew, Flash Heal, Greater Heal, Grouping, Guardian Spirit, Guardian Spirit, Healing Mechanics, Icecrown Citadel, Pain Suppression, Penance, Power Word: Shield, Prayer of Healing, Prayer of Mending, Raiding, Renew, Serendipity, Talents)

This is not something I’ve written a blog post on before because, whilst it’s something I find interesting and it helps me think about my healing, I wonder whether it is unnecessary over-complication.
So I’m posting this with a little trepidation. If you don’t find it interesting, stop reading, I won’t mind.

Damage Profile

Whilst there are still new interesting fights designs coming out, and I’m certainly enjoying Icecrown Citadel, every fight tends to share certain things with fights that we’ve done before. Patchwerk, Gruul, Zul’Aman’s Panther boss and Marrowgar all share a Hateful strike/Cleave effect. They are all new fun fights, but they aren’t so different that you can learn substantial things from one to bring to the others. As such, when I’m thinking about how to improve my performance on a boss fight I try to think about what I call the “Damage Profile”. The style of damage the boss is doing.


The idea of a Damage Profile is probably best described with an example. There are various fights with high raid damage: Hodir, Kologarn, Loetheb, Festergut, Twin Val’kyr to name a few.
While in all these cases the raid damage is high, the style of raid damage is different. Kologarn does relatively little raid damage most of the time, but periodically does his smash for 10k damage to the entire raid group. Twin Val’kyr has constant ticking raid damage over the entire fight. Both these fights have high raid damage, but their damage profile is different. One is brief periods of high damage, the other is long periods of constant damage. Then obviously there are mixes of the two – XT, Festergut, Lord Marrowgar, Lord Jaraxxus.

Similarly Tank Damage can have a profile too. There can be high single Tank damage like Anub’arak, or a fight with high damage on both tanks like Lord Marrowgar, Patchwerk or Gormok the Impaler. There can be fights with Tank switches like Archavon or Thorim.

Spell Profile

Okay, so hopefully now we’re thinking about things not just in terms of “High Tank damage” Vs “High Raid damage” but in a little more detail. Is it ticking damage or burst damage? Is it random spikes to individual players, or hits on multiple targets at once? Is it predictable damage on a set timer, or it is random timing?

Once we have a good idea of the sort of Damage Profile going on we need to think about the spells we have and how they work.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Permalink Leave a Comment

The Great(er) Heal Debate!

August 27, 2009 at 5:15 pm (Borrowed Time, Flash Heal, Glyphs, Greater Heal, Healing Mechanics, Mana, Serendipity, Spells)

The Challenge

Is there still a place for Greater Heal in a Priest’s healing arsenal? I still use it, but I’m beginning to wonder whether it really is something I should have on my action-bar. There are certainly times that people have died because I’ve used Greater instead of Flash, but I’m prepared to work on those mistakes if I feel Greater Heal is giving me tangible benefits. So here’s the question: Does Greater heal have a significant benefit over Flash Heal in any situations?

WoWScrnShot_082709_162621


The differences between Flash and Greater Heal are essentially three things: a) Mana Cost, b) Size of Heal, c) Cast Time.

So lets look and see whether Greater Heal has any major advantages in one of those three things. Quick and dirty summary at the bottom of the post.

Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink Leave a Comment

Tracking your cooldowns

July 20, 2009 at 3:57 pm (5 mans, Circle of Healing, Divine Hymn, Grouping, Guardian Spirit, Guardian Spirit, Healing Mechanics, Pain Suppression, Pain Suppression, Penance, Prayer of Mending, Raiding, Serendipity, User Interface)

It’s hardly news, or it certainly shouldn’t be, that Priests, just like every other class, spec and mob under the (fake) sun have cooldowns. As a DPS you use your cooldowns in a straight up rotation. Unless you are waiting for a DPS burn you spend cooldowns pretty much as soon as they are ready. As a healer you’re blowing cooldowns in response to the positioning of all the pretty multi-colored health bars and the abilities of the boss. In either case it’s important to keep a tight track of all your cooldowns. As a DPS player if you don’t recognise that Mind Blast is ready, you lose DPS. As a healer on the other hand the danger is not a loss of DPS but possibly the loss of a player.

There are two things you can do wrong. The first is to forget to use a cooldown. I’ve talked about this a little in the “Being a Hero” posts: If players are dying and you are consistently finding you have Pain Suppression, Guardian Spirit, Divine Hymn, Face etc off cooldown then you could probably of handled things better. Don’t assume the mistake occurred when the player died. Often I realise that the mistake was not letting that player die, but occurred ten to fifteen seconds earlier when I ought to have used Divine Hymn or Pain Suppression to get control of the situation. The death is result of something which I failed to do much earlier.

The other mistake, and the one that I usually make, is to try to use a spell when it is on cooldown. Most commonly this occurs with very short cooldown spells like Penance where you want to use it very often. It also occurs commonly with very very long cooldown spells like Divine Hymn where I try to use it and forget that it is still on cooldown from the previous boss attempt. Trying to cast a spell while it is on cooldown is often the worse mistake. If I try to cast Penance on the tank and nothing happens I usually will hesitate. “What happened? Am I silenced? Oh Penance is on cooldown, is it almost ready? Should I wait one second for the cooldown to end?” Usually the tank dies about now.

Whilst these mistakes will always occur, they are definitely reducible if you find ways to better keep track of your cooldowns and display this information. My suggestion is Addons and, in my view, displaying the same information in multiple places on the screen makes a big difference. Providing redundant information means that wherever your eyes are looking, whether it’s health bars, action bars, or you’re trying to manoeuvre around the battle field, you’ll always have the important information right in front of your eyes. Obviously don’t make the information too intrusive, if you’re obscuring big parts of the screen that’s bad, but I think the mistake I used to make was thinking that I only needed to display each bit of information in one place.

My Addon suggestions are:

OmniCC – Displays the cooldown of your spells numerically on your action bars. This is much much easier to see than the standard blizzard effect which is neither quantitative nor very obvious at a glance. Works  fantastic without much tweaking at all.

PowaAuras – A very popular Addon amongst DPSers to track important debuffs but this mod is extremely powerful. You can make it display icons, or shapes on the screen in response to all sorts of things. It will show you when spells are available, the cooldown remaining, when you, your target, your focus etc have certain buffs or debuffs on them. All kinds of things. For example: When a spell becomes available the icon appears, when the spell is used the cooldown timer appears. When I get a Serendipity buff the icon appears, additional stacks of the buff are displayed by additional icons stacking up in a tower so they are easy to take in at a glance. Anyway, definitely 100% recommend it for pretty much anything you want to do.

Satrina Buff Frames – A very powerful Addon for displaying buffs and debuffs for your player and your target. I use it for displaying things like Renew, Weakened Soul on my target so I know when these spells are worth recasting. It’s also great for showing up important debuffs. For example, Bosses with uncommon but key abilities like Ignis’ Slag Pot can be displayed very very clearly on your screen when they occur without otherwise intruding on your play. Again, like Powa Auras this mod takes a while to tweak with.

So, if you are finding yourself failing to use, or trying to use cooldowns you can’t, then consider ways of better displaying that information in your UI

Permalink 2 Comments

Serendipity & Prayer of Healing

July 16, 2009 at 2:44 pm (Binding Heal, Circle of Healing, Flash Heal, Glyphs, Grouping, Healing Mechanics, Prayer of Healing, Prayer of Mending, Raiding, Renew, Serendipity, Spells, Surge of Light, Talents)

By far the biggest heal in a Priests arsenal is Prayer of Healing and even with the upcoming 3.2 nerf it out heals every other Priest spell by a long way. Greater heal crits for around fourteen thousand, Prayer of Healing currently crits for twice that! What Serendipity gives you is the ability to blast the raid with giant Prayers of Healing at a moment’s notice.

Using stacks of Serendipity you can be dropping a Prayer of Healing as fast as you could cast a flash heal. The key is being able to build up Serendipity stacks as fast as possible, and being able to use them at the right time.

Serendipity wills stack whenever you cast a Flash Heal or a Binding Heal. Flash Heal is not a fantastic raid heal spell. It’s fast but it’s only one target out of the whole raid. Binding Heal is usually the better choice so long as you aren’t overhealing too much. However Surge of Light procs give free, instant cast Flash Heals which is not something to scoff at. Flash Heal is not the best raid heal, but it fills a role.

The Circle of Life:

The result is a really neat synergy.

Circle of Healing will do AoE healing and probably proc Surge of Light.

You spend you free Flash Heal for healing and a Serendipity buff.

Throw out a renew on a player for a small instant heal (and possible Surge of Light proc).

You cast Binding Heal for more healing, more chance of crits, and more Serendipity buffs.

You cast Prayer of Healing with 2-3 haste buffs and in the process probably proc Surge of Light again.

Back to Circle of Healing and repeat.

So the idea here is to let Circle of Healing, Prayer of Mending, Surge of Light and Binding/Flash heals top up the people really in trouble whilst Prayer of Healing takes massive advantage of the Serendipity buffs to land giant splash heals on whole groups at a time.

So that’s how we get Serendipity buffs, but how to best use them?

Making the best use of Prayer of Healing

Prayer of Healing will hit 5 people in a specific group. So it’s important we think very hard about which 5 players to heal. Because it’s not a smart heal we can’t rely on it to heal the 5 people most in need of it. Therefore it’s up to us to ensure that the people who need healing are all in the same group.

We do that by careful use of our “filler” spells, the things we used to generate our Serendipity buffs. So for example, we cast Circle of Healing, Prayer of Mending, Renew, Flash Heal and Binding Heal to help generate our Serendipity stacks. If we were to throw these out randomly we would not expect to have a good target for Prayer of Healing. Chances are that no single party would have 5 players on low health, they’d each have a mix of players near death and players at full.

This is what I call spot healing, and it’s the bread and butter of a good healer. You aren’t just healing anybody who needs it, you’re being careful about the sorts of heals you use, and who you use them on to create a situation where you can benefit the most from your real powerhouse heals. If you just go crazy with Prayer of Healing straight off the bat individual players may not survive long enough to see that Prayer land. So topping up players before trying to cast a Prayer is an important stage, and with Serendipity you benefit even more from this Spot Healing stage. Once people are out of danger and you have created a nice juicy target group, that’s when you come in with the big slow heals like Prayer of Healing.

So the process of generating our Serendipity buffs is important to helping us make the best use of our Prayer of Healing. We want to spread these heals out to leave us a good target for Prayer of Healing: A party of 5 players on more or less the same health, and with plenty of health deficit so we aren’t wasting mana on overhealing.

Some of our heals will do this automatically. Prayer of Mending and Circle of Healing will heal targets on the lowest health so they automatically help to balance out everybody’s health. All we need to do is be thoughtful about Binding Heal, Flash Heal and Renew.

An example of what I mean: I’m in group 1 and we’re all on low health. I want to heal a Player in group 2. Usually I’d cast Binding Heal because it’s healing me and another player at the same time. But if I’m about to cast Prayer of Healing on my party anyway, then it would make more sense to cast Flash heal on that group 2 player. If I used Binding Heal I’d just overheal myself a moment later when I cast Prayer of Healing. Binding Heal is a fantastic spell, but in this situation it’s essentially just wasted healing because I’m going to heal my group with Prayer of Healing anyway. So in this situation I should cast Flash heal and save some mana and overhealing even though Binding Heal looked like a good choice.

The goal here is to try and heal the raid in such a way that you have a nice big target for Prayer of Healing every time you cast it. If you find the other Healers in your raid are treading on your toes here, then chat to them about having specific groups you are responsible for. Perhaps you pick a group and let everybody know that you will be targeting them with most of your Prayer of Healings. Make sure it’s a group who regularly stand close to each other, perhaps a group of melee characters, then you can be sure they will take similar damage, and be in range of each other. In 25 man raiding you may find that other healers will happily do the spot healing for you, leaving you free to top the groups off. It may seem less glamarous than throwing out fast heals to save lives of individual players, but ultimately it’s all the same thing. You’re landing the big heals which are keeping the raid healthy, confident and out of the danger zone, and in the process probably doing substantially more overall healing that those focusing on catching low health players.

Tip: Glyph of Prayer of Healing is rediculously good. Rediculously rediculous. If you’re raiding as a holy priest it’s a no brainer. If you raid 10 mans as discipline you will probably find that you still do a reasonable amount of raid healing and, as such. it’s probably still worth taking a long hard look at even over something like Glyph of Flash Heal. We’ll talk later about breaking down healing meters to see how best to glyph yourself out for your style of healing.

Permalink 3 Comments

Being a Hero: Serendipity

July 16, 2009 at 2:10 pm (5 mans, Being a Hero, Grouping, Healing Mechanics, Naxxramas, Raiding, Serendipity, Talents, Ulduar)

Serendipity: When you heal with Binding Heal or Flash Heal, the cast time of your next Greater Heal or Prayer of Healing spell is reduced by 12%. Stacks up to 3 times. Lasts 20 sec.

I plan to post several articles soon focusing on Serendipity because I still see Priests not taking it. Equally I think it’s a very complicated ability and it’s something I find it very hard to use correctly in raids when there is so much to think about. Serendipity doesn’t buy you mana, only time. Therefore you only benefit from it is when you are hard pressed to heal. You need it most when you don’t have time to think about it. Hopefully if I get this down on paper it will help me get it straight in my head and allow me to make the right decision with less thought.

Just like Power Word: Shield, or Renew, or Prayer of Mending, what Serendipity gives is stress insurance. The contract goes something like:

I, the undersigned, being of sound mind and body bla bla bla…

…Promise to pay the sum of a little bit of time now, because I’ve got plenty to spare while Hodir pansies around gently patting the tank. I’ll cast a few single target heals like Flash or Binding Heal. In return, Serendipity promises to give me a whole bucket of haste when Hodir starts throwing around Frozen blows and things get dicey.

The key is knowing when to cash in the insurance.

You only get the benefit for your first Prayer of Healing or Greater Heal. After that you have to build your insurance back up again. So it’s only worth taking advantage of when you are hard pressed for time. Unfortunately you don’t get a choice. You can’t decide not to use up your Serendipity stacks unless you just don’t cast certain spells at all. If you want to cast Prayer of Healing, you will use or lose any Serendipity stacks you’ve currently got.

So the worst thing that could happen is that you cast a Prayer of Healing at a time when it’s quiet rather and so don’t have it when the “OH S**T!” moment hits a few seconds later. Where possible then, save your stacks for a time when you need them. I suppose that’s what having other healers in the raid are for, let them heal a little and save your Serendipity stacks for when they are needed. Don’t squander your resources if you can help it.

On the other hand if I sit sit back miserly protecting my Serendipity stacks the raid could die a long slow death because I don’t pull my weight.

Serendipity is a nice thing, and it can do a lot for you when it comes to something like Freya’s exploding daffodils. However if I sit back and don’t cast my best heals (Prayer of Healing) just because I’m waiting for the ideal time might cause more problems than it averts. Sometimes trying too hard to be the hero means you cause the exact harm you were trying to prevent. Every movie involving time travel proves this to be true.

So there is a balance to adopt in terms of knowing when you should wait and when you should not. A big part of that will be knowing the fight and the likely abilities. XT-002’s Tympanic Tantrum is the only real AoE in the fight. So can safely spend your Serendipity for quick help on the Tank, or topping up people wandering too close to the Bombs. Once it gets close to Tantrum time you need to be thinking ahead and saving up those serendipity stacks ready to go. If you know it’s soon, save your Serendipity.

On a fight with more single target damage it’s much easier to save your Serendipity for important moments. For the most part nobody casts Greater Heal in their standard rotation so you can easily make do with Flash heal and Renew and save Serendipity for a big Greater Heal when somebody gets caught in the fire, or takes a big hit you were only half expecting.

It’s a fine line to walk, but knowing the fight, and being able to rely on the other healers in your raid will help a lot in terms of helping you stack Serendipity and helping you spend those stacks at just the right time.

Tip: Use a mod like Powa Auras to show your Serendipity stacks in a more visually explicit way. For example, mine is set up to show a tower of 1-3 icons rather than a number because I find it much easier to read at a glance. Also it allows me to locate Serendipity away from my other buffs which I care much less about.

Permalink 1 Comment