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Chakra and Why You Should Be Concerned

I don’t like writing posts like this – and by that I mean posts where I completely disagree with the direction the development team is going with the priest class. That said, I do believe and trust that Blizzard can develop and balance their game correctly. The development team for Mists of Pandaira has been really good at communicating this beta, and the number of blue comments on the beta forums seems much greater than before. (GC has been great at engaging us.. as well as the CM team on Twitter as well. I have to tip my hat to them there).

However, it doesn’t mean I love every change that they make… and sometimes, its important for us to point out changes that could be missed… and I do think that Blizzard is missing the mark when it comes to Chakra.

Chakra was introduced in the 4.0 build and during Cataclysm’s beta we saw a number of changes to the spell as it rolled out. Chakra was released as a way for priests to “feel in the zone” and so we can maximize our output. It was introduced to give us flexibility and opportunity to be fluid in our healing and to align ourselves with the role we’re playing in our raid. However, with the current incarnation… and the current beta build it actually is doing the opposite It has become restrictive, punitive, and disadvantages priests.

First let’s understand where the spell is CURRENTLY ON LIVE. Chakra provides PVE Healing Priests really two ‘stances’ to be in, one specialized for AOE Healing and the other for Single Target Healing. (Let’s ignore Chakra: Smite as that really is a questing/psuedo-DPS stance— if you can call it that!) Additionally, each Chakra stance, through Revelations,  gives us access to one Holy Word: Sanctuary and Serenity for our AOE healing, and single target healing respectively.

The current incarnation of Chakra is pretty poor considering the fact that in a PVE situation, very rarely are you ever going to use Chakra: Serenity over Sanctuary; something which  GC acknowledged earlier. (here) The benefits of Sanctuary greatly outweigh the benefits (and cost) of Serenity.

The latest beta build (15799) introduced these changes:

  • Chakra: Sanctuary: Increases the healing done by your area of effect healing spells by 15%, reduces the cooldown of your Circle of Healing spell by 2 sec, and transforms your Holy Word: Chastise spell into Holy Word: Sanctuary.
  • Chakra: Serenity: Increases the healing done by your single-target healing spells by 15%, causes them to refresh the duration of your Renew on the target, and transforms your Holy Word: Chastise spell into Holy Word: Serenity.

You’ll notice that Serenity received a huge buff over the previous incarnation and Sanctuary lost the 15% buff to Renew (sidenote: making renew very weak overall, hopefully we’ll see it buffed to be more in line with the mana cost required). This is great news, right? No, actually it causes and exacerbates some really complicated problems when you consider how class-balance is benchmarked…

Benchmarking

The development team does a good deal of testing and benchmarking. This includes being certain that no one class’s potential output is meaningfully weaker or stronger than another. This means, when Blizzard is bechmarking our AOE healing they are weighing in the 15% AOE Bonus that Chakra: Sanctuary provides us and when benchmarking our single target healing they are weighing in the bonuses that Chakra: Serenity provides us. Good, right? No… The concept of Chakra immediately puts us at a disadvantage should we heal “oustide our stance”. Why’s that? Because we are benchmarked assuming we are in the ‘buffed’ stance.

If I am in Chakra: Sanctuary my AOE heals are healing for what I am balanced around other class AOE heals. Now, if I were to assist healing the tank with my Single Target heals… my single target heals are now healing without the 15% throughput bonus that the other classes are balanced around.  No other healer is disadvantaged when this occurs… is a HPally hindered when he casts Radiance or Light of Dawn? No. Is Wild Growth nerfed if a druid is rolling LB’s on a tank? No. The fact that we have to ‘give up’ a static buff (ie. each stance’s respective 15% bonus) should we decide to enter our ‘single target’ stance is punitive.

Even if I compare Holy to Disc, Holy is disadvanted by nature of how Chakra works. Let’s compare single target healing:  Discipline has Grace, which provides added throughput (up to 30%) to single target heals. To match a Greater Heal as Holy, I would have to be in Chakra: Serenity (15% buff)… if that same Disc Priest, who just was healing the tank, casts Prayer of Healing…. he is guaranteed his added throughput since Divine Aegis is Guaranteed on POH. The Holy priest would need to be in Chakra: Sanctuary to stay in lockstep. The BASE healing  of these spells are the same, its the Chakra/Grace/Divine Aegis interaction that brings it up to the benchmark.

We are not advantaged when in a Chakra state, we are balanced around that state. If Chakra stances gave a meaningful benefit over other healers, as the  opportunity cost of having “oustside of stance” heals inferior… then I might be Ok with it. However, that then brings up even more balancing issues… if Chakra: Sanctuary priests could inherently be the ‘strongest AOE’ healer, while giving up either single target throughput; you’d simply have raids stacking priests and have them specialize for their roles. Not what we want to accomplish here.

Further, this seems to be extra punitive to 10 mans, when cross-healing is the name of the game, while in 25′s you sometimes can have the luxury of ‘exclusively’ tank or raid healing. Cross-healing immediately is wounded by the disparity between stances.

Stance Dancing Doesn’t Correct the Problem

Chakra has a 30 second cooldown. So even if I were to swap back and forth, I am locked into the corresponding Chakra buff for 30 seconds; disadvantaging any ‘outside of stance’ heals. Even if Blizzard were to remove the CD on Chakra, it then would become painfully maintenance-y. You’d be swapping in and out every time you wanted to cast a different heal.

A great example of why this doesn’t work was when I was Raid Testing Imperial Vizier Zor’lok the other day: he mind controlled me, and immediately put me in Chakra: Chastise. This then left my heals (BOTH single and AOE) disadvantaged for 30 seconds. If another healer was MC’d, even if the MC used a cooldown… their subsequent heals stayed just as potent as they were prior to the mind control.

No other healer has to give up their throughput in one form of healing to be equal in another.

Potential Solutions

Scrap the current form of Chakra. It is inflexible, complicated to balance, and frankly does the opposite of what it is trying to do. Balance our AOE and single target throughput baseline. In the interest of full disclosure and due diligence, this would require a passive Holy-only buff, as Disc has POH/DAs guaranteed and Grace.

Then, have all the Holy Words share a cooldown. If you cast Sanctuary, you can’t cast Serenity until Sanctuary is off CD (and visa versa). This still gives us access to the benefits of the two spells, and situational usage of them both, but doesn’t allow us to use them any more frequently than we could have before.

I would much rather have Chakra be the Holy counterpoint to Disc’s Archangel. Simply put: make Chakra a throughput cooldown… “Align Chakra”, or something. Allow US to DECIDE when we need the improved throughput in AOE or Single Target… don’t balance around it as some mutually exclusive stance.

I am curious to understand how Blizzard balances around Chakra’s stances, and the give up we have to take when doing this. It is materially different than what the other healers have to do if they want to AOE or Single Target heal… and its materially different enough, and in a substantive way that it is punitive.

Maybe we’re all missing something here… I don’t see it and I would love to be enlightened. I don’t want to be overpowered or over-advantaged. I only want to be able to do my job well, and not worry about impairing my ability to be flexible. Afterall, isn’t that supposed to be the new mantra in the healing world? That all healers should be able to do every job effectively?

 

Note: I have updated the Mana Regen Talent post to reflect the buff in Beta Build 15799 to Mindbender (here).

 

Written By: on June 29, 2012
  1. I guess I am not all that upset by these changes as I already stance dance quite a bit between the two chakras on live. I understand what you are saying about being balanced around our buffed state, and potentially being put at a disadvantage because of it but I think only time will tell how blizzard is going to balance this.. who knows, maybe a “good” holy priest who is able to stance dance at just the right times will be at an advantage to other healers while someone who doesn’t will be right on par.

    That being said, If I could make one change to the system it would be to remove the CD from chakra completly and take it off the global cool down making it more like a Paladin’s aura or a Hunter’s aspect so that we are free to switch as needed. I think a fair trade off for this would be to have the Holy Word: Chastise spells for each stance share a CD so that you cant benefit from both at the same time.

    1. With exception that you then would simply macro every heal to its stance…. having it without a CD simply forces us to swap every heal.

      Having it at all, disadvantages us when cross-healing. Its lose-lose.

    2. Look at the discussions Hunters are having right now over aspect twisting – you don’t want the CD removed.

      The best solution to this problem is to turn Chakra into a throughput CD for Holy. Make it a 1 min CD, and 30% buff, and make us choose one or the other stance (make them share a CD).

      That will reward the behavior Blizzard wants to reward (thinking ahead about damage patterns) without punishing us for cross-healing and triage.

      1. If I remember correctly, that was similar to how Chakra worked in the earlier iterations; turn it on, cast a heal (it was three heals in the first Chakra, I remember that) and it put you in the corresponding Chakra for 30 seconds or a minute. However, people complained because it was too high-maintenance, and frankly, I don’t think I want to return to early Chakra.

        1. This was because ya had to MAINTAIN the state. You could loose the buff and have NO state and therefore NO healing buff. They made it ‘on tell changed’ to stop ya from having to watch it or loose throughput. No other class had to maintain a ‘stance’.

    3. Paladin aura does use a GCD to change. At least on live, we don’t have auras in MoP.

  2. I hear you, but each class has weaknesses, wile I do not know how much this really changes or nerfs priests I will take your word at face value.

    Just be glad you do not have to heal like a shaman where as time rolls by and more and more raids are 10 man and more more spreading out is an issue.

    1. Its similar to an extent… However you’re really comparing two different things. Positioning requirements are fundamentally different to the pure mathematical scaling of the base spell itself. And positioning/range is actually a bitch for priests too given POH and party group and distance requirements.

    2. Spread healing sucks as a Shaman but that really is nothing compared to Chakra. Its not as if you cast Greater Healing Wave, then for 30 seconds (whether the raid is stacked or not) your Chain Heal and Healing Rain automatically heal for 15% less.

  3. Thank you! I love healing as a Holy Priest, but more and more it seems like Blizz is telling me not to. Really really frustrating.

  4. I love the 30% buff cd idea, even if our baseline was on par with other healers it would feel like too much of a chore to change every 30 sec, but I mean you still would be forced to. A cd sounds much more appealing then “stances”.

    1. The simple problem with the stances/chakra states is it was introduced to give priests flexibility, and now its gotten to the point where its a restriction.

      I think the fact that getting MC’d on Grand Vizier illustrates this point perfectly… he swaps you into Chakra: Chastise … you’re disadvantaged until your 30 sec CD is up, while every other healer doesnt have to deal with that.

  5. Chakra should be passive, but still influence playstyle. Something like:

    Your single-target spells increase your chance to enter Chakra: Serenity by 33%, stacks 3 times. This transforms your PW: Chastise into HW: Serenity. Chakra: Serenity increases all healing done to a player affected by Serenity by 25%.
    Holy Word: Serenity – instantly heals the target for X and places them in a state of Serenity for 6 seconds. Increases the haste of your next single-target spell by 50% and decreases its mana cost by 10%.

    Your PoH and CoH spells increase your chance to enter Chakra: Sanctuary by 33%, stacks 3 times. This transforms your HW: Chastise into HW: Sanctuary. Chakra: Sanctuary increases all healing done to players standing in Sanctuary by 15 %.
    HW: Sanctuary – places a Sanctuary on the ground healing up to 6 players for x over y seconds. Maximum of 2 Sanctuaries active at one time. Increases the haste of your next two PoH spells by 50% and decreases their mana cost by 10%.

    This would also replace Serendipity, it is built into Chakra’s Holy Words. You would enter a Chakra by casting one to three of the activating spells. PoM, Shield, Holy Nova glyph, Renew and the level 90 talents work in both Chakras, and are buffed if they hit a target with the corresponding Holy Word buff. As for balance, well, I wouldn’t asssume 100% uptime for the healing buffs, and they would return more for a skilled player and baseline for an unskilled player.

    It’s certainly not perfect, I’m sure any design will not please everyone because it’s inherently limiting us a bit in order to buff us a bit. You can change this approach to use the “stance” switch method in MoP but I prefer to switch by choosing spells.

    Another idea is to reduce the cooldown of GS while in Serenity by 1 minute, and the cooldown of DH while in Sanctuary by 1 minute.

  6. To be fair, the Mind Control issue shouldn’t be laid out as an argument against Chakra, it should be addressed as a problem with the fight mechanics (although historically MC fights cause bosses to do things like burn 5 minute CDs, etc, which is simply something classes have to deal with). Addressing it as a problem with Chakra over-complicates the issue you have with Chakra, when it should really more be addressed separately as feedback for the encounter.

    1. The mind controll example isn’t about the MC, per se, it’s illustrating the restrictiveness of Chakra. It’s not like using a CD like hymn or Another CD since it doesn’t affect /future/ spells substantively in a negative manner. I used the MC to illustrate the punitive nature of being in the “incorrect” stance.

      To liken it to another ability in the manner you are suggesting; it would be like using Metamorphosis them causing all subsequent spells to be 15% weaker. But– that’s not how it works. So it’s not the same as the boss burning Hymn or PI.

  7. ‘ve been thinking a bit about our whole Chakra discussion, and comparing it with Grace. Really, the issue with Chakra is single target healing in raids. Serenity works fine in 5 mans (and PVP but no one does that as *Holy* unless they are crazy) and Sanctuary Chakra isn’t a problem when AOE healing. The problem comes, especially in 10 mans, when you have to switch back and forth quickly between single-target and AOE healing – otherwise known as triage or cross-healing.

    Look at the same situation from Disc. Lets assume for a moment Disc only has Greater Heal available, just like Holy. Well, using Derevka’s “benchmarking” theory, a triage Greater Heal (read: one that is cast on a target with *no Grace stacks*) from a Disc Priest is nerfed 24%, even worse than a Holy Priest’s. So why does Chakra *suck* so much more for Holy than for Disc and Grace?

    Several reasons:

    - PW:S is unaffected by Grace
    - Penance is on a much shorter CD than Chakra, is so efficient you don’t care if it is affected by Grace or not, and is really good at putting Grace on your target
    - There are still really good reasons to cast Greater Heal, including Strength of Soul and Train of Thought
    - Disc’s mana mechanics much better than Holy’s

    I don’t know, it seems like Blizzard likes that we’re so limited in triage situations but I guess that’s why we have a Disc spec – so if you totally hate everything about Holy from 4.0 onwards you have another option.

  8. I really like the discussions this blog creates. They always bring meaningful discussions about usually overlooked subjects. But, unfortunately, I have to say I disagree with most of what was said here.

    Although this “punishment” may exist, it is based in the assumption that all classes are benchmarked to have the same healing potential for single target and for group healing. IMO, that is completely wrong.

    The classes are balanced, obviously, but not in that way. Let’s take the current Cataclysm spellbook, for example. A shaman, can only compete with a disc priest in tank heal if the target is very low on health.

    On the other hand, Disc priests only have one raid healing spell – PoH. Barrier is great, but doesn’t heal, PoM is not exactly a group heal and Divine Hymn is much weaker than it is for holy and has 8 min CD. Holy also have CoH and Sanctuary. Sooo… I can’t say holy and disc are near each in this situation.

    So, I think Chakra does what it intends to. I agree it is benchmarked for group healing, and we are most of the time in this state, but it gives us the option to become a decent single target healer when needed.

    I bet the two guys I mentioned before would love to have something similar to a Chakra for their “weaker side”, a Serenity for the shaman and a Sanctuary for the disc priest.

    1. I have to disagree with some of your points. PoH for discipline priests, as Derevka points out, is great because not only does it heal, it adds a Divine Aegis bubble to everyone it hits. No, it isn’t a smart heal like CoH, but honestly, holy priests have to rely a lot on PoH for AoE as well, so they share the disadvantage. Besides that, if you have 3 people in a group who take damage, it’s generally worth it to use PoH, and if it’s only two, single target them.

      As far as Barrier, preventing damage > restoring health. Always. You put down the barrier, use PoH and rely on your other healers to help put the health back.

      PoM is arguably better for discipline on fights like Madness where there’s constant, raid-wide damage, because not only does it heal, it has a chance to proc DA and absorb more incoming damage. Echo of Light is ‘meh’ in comparison. Otherwise, PoM acts exactly the same for holy, except its heals are bigger.

      But the difference between holy and discipline is that if a discipline priest wants to cast PoH, he’ll get a full heal and DA procs every time, while a holy priest in Chakra: Serenity who casts PoH (or PoM, for that matter) will get a less-effective version than a priest who’s in Chakra: Sanctuary. I think this is mostly true in reverse as well, but I could be wrong, considering Grace.

    2. The point is that Holy (supposedly the “flexible” spec) is STRONGLY (as in much more than any other spec) discouraged from using single target heals. There’s really no analog.

      Tanks go below 50% health fairly often so Shaman get fairly good use out of their mastery when tank healing. But the point is, if they want to fire off a CH, they can, and it will be at its maximum effectiveness. Popping it on the tank actually helps them AOE more since it will use a Riptide that’s most likely on the tank. What’s more, they can go back to maximum tank healing effectiveness by popping another riptide on the tank and it will be as if nothing has happened.

      More AOE healing spells != better AOE healing. Disc does just fine with POH and PW:S, thanks.

      Finally, classes really are ‘benchmarked’ to be relatively equal. More and more, you’ll hear devs say things like “we want to get rid of healer niches”. That means everyone’s going to have to be able to ST heal effectively – or in other words have roughly equal ST healing overall (same with AOE healing – example A would be 4.3 Paladins). That means Holy gets the same abilities as everyone else, but they have to lock themselves out of one side or another, while other healers just…heal.

      Basically, Holy went from “flexible healer” to “straightjacket healer” overnight the day Chakra was implemented.

      1. I completely agree, and this was an argument I was making on the beta forums prior to Cataclysm. I never liked Chakra, or the way that it limited what was supposed to be my jack-of-all-trades class. The benchmark issue was an issue from the instant that Chakra was implemented for holy priests – we aren’t going to be more powerful than other AOE healers in the AOE heal Chakra, so we are instead just underpowered if we are NOT in the correct Chakra. As someone who raids in 10 mans primarily, I hated the limitations and awkward playstyle it forced onto my holy priest.

  9. “Because we are benchmarked assuming we are in the ‘buffed’ stance.”

    This, this, this. Blizz took tree form from druids and gave it to priests. This is what I said when we first got Chakra, and have continued saying it (no one listens to me…). Blizz removed tree form for this exact reason: that it was a necessity in order to heal effectively and druids were forced to be in the form to be competitive (that, and it took away some of their utility options, but that was minor and secondary). I play a holy priest as my main, and I love it, and I think that Chakra is an interesting and (somewhat) fun mechanic. That said, I’ve only used Chakra: Serenity a handful of times because it just doesn’t make me a good enough tank healer, and it gimps raid healing. But for the exact reason that druids had their tree form taken away, priests should have this changed or even removed. Chakra is actually worse than tree form, because at least tree form buffed ALL healing; Chakra states only buff some. That said, I do like the flavor of it and I like having something to differentiate me from discipline priests other than “Oh, he isn’t using Power Word: Shield.”

    It’s funny to me that I played a restoration druid in WotLK when tree form was theirs, and I switched to a holy priest, and apparently brought it with me…

  10. This has been the problem with chakra from the get go: that we are balanced around being in the buffed state, but penalized for casting other heals. I hope you are posting this information in the forums!

  11. Chakra for me has been a let down. I was so excited when I heard about it in Cata Beta, but it has never lived up to my expectations.

    I do like Chakra when I have to dance, but the 30 sec CD is too punitive. I wouldn’t mind seeing the CD removed and replaced with a 1.5 sec cast to prevent being macroed into every spell cast. I’d love the ability to cast Renews in Sanc (when it was buffed 15%) and then swap into Serenity and keep them up on the tanks for awhile and then when damage is low slip into Chastise and dps a tendon for 20 seconds and then swap back, etc.

    I wholeheartedly agree about the 15% buffs being moved to Holy passives. I’m not fussed on your idea of having HW’s share a CD. I’m happy with the stances but rather than the 15% buff, each stance should have a HW, and two utility/mechanics. So Serenity would have HW: Sere, Renew Refresh and say perhaps critical single target heals refund a mana %. Chastise would have its HW,maybe Atonement and perhaps Holy Fire dots refund a mana % per tick. Sanc, likewise, would keep its HW and COH CD reduction but add another mana return mechanic at a similar strength to the others.

    Also, I really like your Align Chakra idea for a CD. With the exception of PI, Holy really is going to suffer a lack of AA/Divine Favour/Elemental Mastery type thru-put CDs. Shamans are talking a lot about spread AOE healing being a weakness in their toolset, but Holy Priests especially will be vulnerable to damage patterns that require a significant boost over normal throughput.

    My most favourite trinket of Cata was the one from Sinestra – not for the mana reduction (which was nice) but for the 10 sec haste boost every minute. I would love to see a similar type CD given to Priests, either in the form of Align Chakra, or Holy Form: Naaru/Elune/Loa (insert racial Holy aligned mythical body here).

  12. Hello,

    I started Holy and switched to Disc in wrath and never looked back (well I tried for 2 days as holy in Cata and went back).
    I started in a 10 man and now in a 25 man. I am the switch hitter; shadow then Disc as needed for certain fights/healer vacations. Had a FIGHT with Healing leader where he thinks ONLY 1 Disc in a 25 man. However, when I tried Holy the 2 days and could not work it well, AND I beat him healing, I was ALLOWED to stay Disc since it was my OS and it worked. The RL agreed with me that 2 can do just fine with 25 shield targets but let him handle healers.

    THEN here comes Heroic Spine in a 25 man with 1 other Disc Priest (he is in charge of healers so no chance on him switching lol). This is a fight where 1 disc is AWESOME; however, two SUCKS. He is poH spamming, going oom but topping charts tell I went holy. Shields do little against the debuff; however awesome keeping low health peeps alive tell we heal it off!

    Me and another Shadow/Disc Priest went holy as well and we rocked the fight! I did LFR and 5 mans to get a feel for Holy.

    Soooo, take this from someone who is new with experience as listed above!!

    I strongly agree Holy needs to have the chakra as a CD! Stance dance is not fun and can get ya in wrong stance with a CD limiting ya and takes a 2 step process to change. Yes in mists it may end up as 1 step; however, as OP says we need to be balanced no matter what we are doing.

    Playing Holy I feel like I have less CD’s/options! No grace/shield(weakened Soul)/activate wings output options available! I can stance dance but limited to 30 sec dance!
    Disc has the 3 things to boost output and can weave all 3 in a LOT shorter time frame. Even GS requires a glyph to use as a boost in throughput and not totally loose a valuable CD!

    NOW in Mists; Disc gets ANOTHER Cd in Spirit shell!!!! Holy gets what???

    Shield nerfs inbound! lol. I actually preferred Spirit shell as is was. just an option and not a CD. Had a cap and a cast time so it was a tool we could use when needed; not, a CD. STACK Disc until it’s nerfed!

    Anyway, I really think Holy needs a CD over a ‘stance dance’ option that nerfs part of what you are doing.

    1. Disc almost has *too many* CDs now. It gets tedious trying to find a keybind for them all and work them into your playstyle.

  13. Have you posted this to blizzard? This is an extremely well written write up on chakra and why it is currently not optimal for balancing.

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