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…
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.
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).