Should healers have to deal with mana management?

So, the healing forums have been having a pretty big discussion lately (over the last few weeks) about how much mana management should matter in Cataclysm, and how spell choice plays into managing mana.

As someone who survived healing from the early days through now, I remember having to make more… intelligent decisions about what heals to use when mana was a limited resource.

I remember the days of using down-ranked Healing Touches weaved between other spells. In Burning Crusade, we didn’t really make that many choices about spells (my resto druid spammed rolling lifeblooms, and my shaman spammed chain heal). I remember the days of actually having a macro to cancel my long cast spells, though. Even at the beginning of WotLK, mana seemed like something that was a slightly more limited resource.

The problem right now, though, is that you have to use your fastest heals at the expense of everything else. This encourages people to heal with less efficient, more expensive spells (which is why Glyphed Healing Touch is seeing a resurgence, and why HOT raid healing even works). There doesn’t seem to be a way to tell good healers from bad healers. Meters just reward healing “first”, and people don’t really judge healers any other way. Since you can’t run OOM, you may as well just spam your fastest and least efficient heals all the time.

In Cataclysm, the goal seems to be a desire to return to the original game’s style of healing, where you need a team of healers to manage their mana and heal “smart” instead of healing first. Where you will have to actually spend time choosing what sized heals you want (maybe unglyphed HT’s long cast time will make it back as a useful tool?). I think that there would also have to be less AOE raid constant damage, as it is the AOE healing that really tends to be the most spammy and the least mana efficient a lot of the time (with the most limited healing tools). For single-target healing, most of the classes have those small, medium, big options. For raid healing, none of the classes have much variety in tools (and for paladins, they just have nothin at all). So, perhaps raid healing is a place where the developers should look at the tools that the healing classes have, to see if they want to give us more choices in what spells we use for AOE healing.

Mana management can be an interesting part of the healers’ game.  I hope that it leads to interesting changes in Cataclysm, and that it makes the game more fun instead of more frustrating. So, I think that healing spell variety has to be interesting and meaningful if mana management is going to be part of the healers’ job in Cataclysm once again. If one or two spells are obviously just better than the rest, then we’ll just spam ourselves OOM and get frustrated, so there has the be the right mix of tools and the right balance. Can we achieve all of this next expansion? Only time will tell. I personally think that mana management can work as an interesting part of the game, because it has been in the past. However, I think there is also a lot of risk.

15 Comments

  1. Posted March 9, 2010 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Hadn’t GC stated before that they were happy with where HT was right now? Being used mostly in tandem with a NS, or else used as a leveling heal? I wonder if the developers have changed their minds about it.

    Currently, druids are the queens of overhealing. It may be that most of what they’re saying is in mostly in reference to non-druids… or maybe, as with every other expansion, druids’ healing style is in for some huge changes.

    Time will tell!

  2. Posted March 9, 2010 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    I remember being so proud that I could keep people up and have mana at the end. I remember chaining mana potions, and coordinating healing shifts and picking the right spell for the job so that I had mana for when I needed it.

    I think the removal of chain-potting is partially what prompted the ‘endless mana pool’. Without the ability to chain pot, the healers are in the situation of needing lots more passive regen to make up for it.

  3. Kayeri
    Posted March 9, 2010 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    I do watch my mana like a hawk, it’s something I’ve always had a strong paranoia streak about, you can ask anyone who’s healed with me regularly.. ::chuckle:: It was one of those early heal lessons that emblazoned deeply.

    Especially now, I always heal hard when learning encounters and mid-ICC, yeah, things can get tough… once you know the encounter, it’s much easier. I do hope they don’t radically change our style, as it’s one I’m very comfortable with. :)

  4. Posted March 9, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    I recently (a few months ago, I think) started healing 5-mans again after not having done so since early BC. I have to admit that there were some deaths, and part of the problem was that I was trying to manage my mana and threat, not realizing that neither of those things is the Big Deal ™ that they once were.

    It will be interesting to see how it adjusts come Cataclysm, that’s for sure.

  5. Posted March 9, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    I can’t speak for other healers, but I find my role as a priest interesting and challenging at present. I have a dynamic rotation of casting flash heals, prayer of healing, circle of healing, prayer of mending, renew, bubble, and even greater heal. I’ve tried to expand my mana pool so that I can endure long fights, and have two trinkets, shadowfiend, and hymn of hope to keep things on the up and up.

    I didn’t heal end game in vanilla, and my raiding was limited to Kara in BC, but I’m pretty happy with things are right now. Personally, I think it would be annoying to have to fill macros & bars with downgraded versions of spells.

    I do think that meters are overrated, and sometimes far from accurate in terms of displayed how well a healer is fulfilling their role. I’m hoping with the talent changes coming in Cataclysm, we can be less focused on mana management, and more focused on choosing the right spell for the situation.

  6. Treeboi
    Posted March 9, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    I remember healing back during the level 60 days, and I don’t remember it being all that interesting.

    Raiding was mainly cancel casting Healing Touch rank 4, a spell you learned at level 20, and carrying around a ton of mana potions.

    5 man dungeons, you might have to do a faster rank 2 or rank 3 Healing Touch, but that was about it.

    Rejuv and Regrowth were both pretty rare spells to cast.

  7. Posted March 9, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    I think healing is in a good place right now. As Treeboi said, spamming rank 4 HT to heal in vanilla was not fun. Spamming lifebloom to heal in BC wasn’t that interesting either. In this expansion I have used a wider range of spells than ever before. It’s true that I never have to worry about mana, but that doesn’t really take away the fun or the challenge for me.

    However, based on what’s been said about increased stamina levels in Cataclysm, I think a new challenge may be deciding how much to heal. It may be a choice between spamming yourself oom to keep everyone tat 100% or letting people sit at less than max. health and keeping some mana reserves.

  8. Posted March 9, 2010 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    On my tree, the most mana-management I get is whether to save my Innervate for another healer or to just go ahead and blow it when I’m getting low.

    On my level 40 priest, however, it’s a different story. I don’t always get a nice tank in pugs who will wait for me to drink. I also PvP in battelgrounds on her, where I may or may not have a moment to drink before having to get into combat again, so I tend to think less about how to heal this person the fastest, but how to heal them while not actively killing myself at a later point by wasting mana.

    However, I’ve only played a healing class in Wrath, so I can’t say I’ve been *there* healing with lower ranks and things. =/

  9. Posted March 10, 2010 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    I just ran a new druid up to 80 as a tree. Before I got over geared for a given instance I most definitely had mana concerns. It was not seriously hard (it was my second 80 tree), but I did go OOM on occasion. Anytime things got bad, and I was not trying to be efficient, I could certainly tap out. Of course with Innervate it was not usually the end of the world.

    I don’t think mana regen is over powered. We don’t see many issues now because GEAR levels are over powered and max level, and somewhat overpowered with Heirlooms while leveling.

  10. Posted March 10, 2010 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    I’ve done the Saurfang fight on 10man difficulty 6 times now. Four times we downed him, twice we completely failed. This last time was the first time I did not have mana issues (more gear + Wrynn buff). With this being the hardest fight I’ve done consistently lately I can say that once I could stop worrying about mana, I could concentrate on the fight a lot more. I kited blood beats, I had my hots right, I kept the Marked victim alive. The fight was decidedly easier, but I think that was a good thing. Healers suffer from burnout at a rate resembling tanks, and I think mana issues play a large part of that. Having to worry about “if I save this DPSer now, will the tank die in thirty seconds because I don’t have mana” just stinks. I’d rather worry about “do I have time to drop a wild growth before I Swiftmend, or do I have to do it now?” issues.

  11. Lissanna
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    All the changes that would happen would likely impact the highest levels of raiding more than leveling or 5-mans.

  12. Posted March 11, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    I realize I’m swimming in uncharted teritory there… but this could be an interesting idea to throw around.

    Take a look at how Death Knights class mechanics works. We have runes and runic power and due to those limitations DK play style is not too spammy and more about resource management.

  13. Trillien
    Posted March 13, 2010 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    I have a priest main and I totally agree with Etni. I feel so limited on my resto shaman because I don’t have the depth in my spellbook I’m used to.

    I rerolled so I could heal at the beginning of Wrath, and I’m forever scarred by those first few undergeared Naxx runs where I actually did run OOM on KT, and that has influenced my mindset since. I think I will do OK with the changes since I already carefully gear with an eye toward not being the cause of a wipe because I’m OOM. But I worry that we will be the cause of wipes because we either didn’t heal the dps in a fire, or we went oom because we healed them too often. Right now healers are in this wonderful place where we seldom get blamed for anything because we’re going all out all the time.

  14. Posted March 13, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    It does sound like they are considering bringing mana management back as one of the ways to challenge healers.

    I must admit that I would prefer that to the way healing is now. At the moment it feels like for any content you do not overgear, you heal full out the whole time. I don’t mind being kept busy, but people go from fine to dead in the blink if an eye, so you barely have time to react but instead have to spam, spam, spam to keep everyone topped up at all times.

    I remember Karazhan fondly when it comes to healing. The first time we downed Prince it was because we set up a healing tactic where one of us was stop/start casting big heals on the tank, while another person was stepping back and regenning mana and then swapping back in again. It was about strategy and teamwork rather than constant mindless spamming.

    Just my preference. :-)

  15. Sincaster
    Posted March 14, 2010 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    This is more a case of the pendulum swinging…

    Disclaimer: My healing background is primarily as a Resto Shaman, but I’ve been healing Pugs and Randoms with my 72 druid a lot lately. (which is what brought me to this great site to begin with)

    Down ranking was more of an issue with procs. It was problematic when folks were doing things like spamming LHW Rank 1 to trigger Ancestral Fortitude. Which I did in Kara ALOT. Or triggering really cheap clearcasting for huge inexpensive heals. Or getting mana returns from trinkets that were more than the cost of the spell.

    When down ranking went away, I seem to remember lots of folks wondering how they would manage mana at all. Blizz seems to have erred on the side of caution- so much so that mana regen just isn’t an issue.

    So now they appear to be correcting it, and bringing it back to where its at least a concern.

    For me, this is a welcome change. As Lisanna said, for the time being, any measure of overall healing becomes who’s fastest on their healing UI to cast. It makes healers territorial, and it grows old apologizing to Priests and Druids because chain heal bounced on their tank and wasted their GCD.

    If their going to touch healing at all, perhaps we’ll actually get spells that complement other healer classes abilities and we can really have team healing.

    Sin