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.