Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Mana Management as a Resto Druid

Battling Sinestra!

A quick update to start! Apologies for the lack of posts recently, I’ve been very busy still in game and in real life. We’ve been pushing progression hard these past few weeks but with some good results, we’ve gotten 25 Ascendant Council and Cho’gall down on heroic, as well as a quick Al’akir heroic kill on 10 man outside of raid hours to get a good look at the fight. We’re working full time on Sinestra now, which has been quite a lot of fun. The fight is pretty neat, and has a, er, fun version of Twilight Cutters - think Halion cutters that chase random raid members.
There’s also been a lot of news updates about Patch 4.1 on the PTR, but with how quickly that’s changing and updating, I’m best off pointing towards MMO-Champion for the latest updates rather than trying to rehash all the news.
Instead I thought I’d make a post about the most important thing for healers in Cata - mana management!
It’s a bit of a fallacy that Resto druids have no mana issues - we have to manage our mana as much as any other healer, and you can easily run OoM if you’re not careful. 
The most obvious tools in our mana-management arsenal are Innervate, Revitalize (talent), our Replenishment, and Omen of Clarity (which now only procs for healing spells when you spec into Malfurion’s Gift).
Let’s start with Innervate.
Innervate: Causes the target to regenerate mana equal to 20% of the casting Druid’s maximum mana pool over 10 seconds.
Innervate is our key mana-restoring tool. It’s generally best to use your Innervate early and often so you can make as much use of it as possible during a fight. Generally the best time to first pop it in a fight is when you are roughly 20% down on mana, so that 20% back is theoretically topping your mana pool off again (or close to it). You don’t want to pop it too early, though, as you don’t want to waste it if you’re topped off and it’s still ticking. After that initial use, you can generally use it on cooldown through the rest of the fight (with the exception, perhaps, of certain fights or mechanics which result in you regenning enough that the timing of your later innervates might be wasted).
There are also several tricks you can do to maximize the mana you get out of your Innervates.
Timing Innervates with Procs

Timing your Innervate with item or enchant Procs can provide substantial boosts to your Innervate, such as the Power Torrent proc (Increase Intellect by 500 for 12 seconds), the Mandala of Stirring Patterns proc (Healing spells have a chance to grant 1926 Intellect for 10 seconds), or the Engineer tinker use Synapse Springs (Increase Intellect by 90), etc! Our Innervate is based off of our Maximum Mana Pool when used - so syncing it up with these procs or other abilities (such as a Priest’s Hymn of Hope) which increase our mana pool will increase the size of the Innervate.
Addons such as Power Auras Classic can be extremely helpful in knowing when item procs are occurring to help you time your Innervates with them. Use your judgement though - all of these procs and uses have cooldowns, so there may be times where you simply have to use your Innervate before a proc simply because it cannot wait.

A quick Power Aura code for the Power Torrent is:
Version:4.9; icon:Ability_Paladin_SacredCleansing; buffname:Power Torrent; texture:172; alpha:0.7; isResting:0; inVehicle:0; spec1:false; combat:true; size:0.49; y:-50; ismounted:0

Just click 'import' on the Power Aura edit page (/powa) and paste that code in. That code will make a lightning bolt appear in the centre of your screen when the proc is up, but you can easily change that to suit your liking!

Trading Innervates (Update: Trading Innervates is no longer viable as of Patch 4.2)
If there are multiple Resto druids in your group you should see about trading Innervates. The Glyph of Innervate is key here - the Glyph gives you 50% of your Innervate’s effect when you cast it on another target. If you and another Resto druid are both Glyphed, by trading Innervates you each gain their full Innervate plus half of your own. This can go a long way in maintaining both of your mana throughout a fight. Be sure to communicate when you’re trading, particularly that first one, so you can each keep Innervating each other on cooldown!
You can also set up quite lengthy circles of Innervates, particularly if you have several Boomkins in your group. Generally the boomkins won’t need their own Innervates, particularly in raids with Replenishment. This frees up the Boomkins to Innervate you and other healers. If the boomkins or another Resto druid innervates you, that also allows you to Innervate another healer, helping your fellow healers out over the course of the fight as well. To simplify things over a course of a fight, it may be helpful for Innervate targets to be assigned, ie Resto druid Innervates Pally, Boomkin 1 Innervates Resto Druid, Boomkin 2 Innervates Priest, etc. 
If you do not have another Resto druid or a Boomkin in your group, the Glyph of Innervate can still be useful for you, particularly in situations where an Innervate might be needed on someone else. Another healer might be struggling, or a healer or mana-using DPS may have been Battle Rezzed and so almost out of mana - having your Innervate glyphed gives you that bit of extra flexibility to Innervate the person who’s in greater need without completely sacrificing your mana return should you need it.
Revitalize and Replenishment
Revitalize is an extremely important talent in the Resto tree. 
Revitalize: When you periodically heal with your Lifebloom or Rejuvenation spell, you have a 20% chance to instantly regenerate 2% of your total mana. This effect cannot occur more than once every 12 seconds. In addition, you grant Replenishment when you cast or refresh Lifebloom, which grants up to 10 Party or Raid members mana regeneration equal to 1% of their maximum mana per 10 seconds, lasts 15 seconds.
We have our own little mana battery in this talent, restoring mana through Revitalize’s main effect and also in granting ourselves and our party and raid members Replenishment.
It is extremely important that you maintain good uptime on Lifebloom. While Rejuvenation can also proc Revitalize, Lifebloom is much less costly in terms of mana spent, grants Replenishment, and also plays a key role in our Omen of Clarity procs (which I’ll cover next).
Omen of Clarity and Malfurion’s Gift
Patch 4.0.6 saw a change to Omen of Clarity and it will now only proc for healing spells if we spec into Malfurion’s Gift. It is now an essential talent in the Resto tree, do not forget to pick it up!
Malfurion’s Gift: Whenever you heal with your Lifebloom spell, you have a 4% chance to cause Omen of Clarity.
Again, it is extremely important to maintain Lifebloom on a target, ideally a 3-stack. Not only will it grant Revitalize and Replenishment, as detailed above, but it will grant the chance for Omen of Clarity to proc. Generally, the most likely target for a 3-stack of Lifebloom will be one of your tanks, most likely your main tank target if you are tank healing. Do not hesitate to maintain that stack on a tank even while primarily raid healing, though. If you are in a fight or situation where there is not a tank target for you to heal (healing Rohash/East platform in Conclave of Wind, for example), use your best judgement on who to heal, whether it be another raid member or yourself.
Clever use of Omen of Clarity procs is essential in your mana management. Healing Touch, Regrowth, and Swiftmend all consume OoC. Generally you don’t want to Swiftmend for an OoC proc as it’s a reasonably cheap spell. If there’s little other damage going out and so no reason to use a HT or RG, you may want to pop a SM on a target who needs it just so the OoC proc isn’t wasted. 
Healing Touch and Regrowth will be your most likely use OoC procs. If you are tank healing, Healing Touch will likely be your best use of your OoC as it hits hard enough for your tank heals. Use Regrowth on your best judgement. The best time for Regrowth OoC uses though is definitely in Tree of Life form - spreading Lifeblooms around the raid will be increasing your OoC proc chance, and ToL grants you instant Regrowths, so this will give you tons of instant free Regrowths to cast out on raid members.
Mana-Saving Talents
There are several talents we can spec into to help with overall mana cost. Moonglow is a very useful one which reduces the mana cost of our spells by 3/6/9%. This talent is in the Balance tree in the second tier. 
Furor in the first tier of the Feral tree is also a helpful talent which increases our maximum mana pool size by 5/10/15%. Our mana pool size affects our Innervate, Revitalize, and Replenishment, so this talent will help increase not only your mana pool size but those mana generating abilities as well.
This is touched on above with Furor - our mana pool size affects our Innervate size and our Revitalize and Replenishment procs. This is part of why Intellect is such an excellent stat for Resto druids, particularly for regen.
 Although it may be tempting to gem for Spirit for the regen, favouring Intellect is the best course of action for Resto druids. Our in-combat regen tends to seem fairly low, relatively speaking - even on my main I’m at only about 2.6k in combat (self-buffed, mind), my other Resto druid who is in a mix of 333 and 346 gear is sitting at around 1.9k in combat self-buffed. It doesn’t seem like a massive amount, especially if you start comparing it to, say, a Holy priest, who may easily be hitting 3k+ regen in combat. The difference, particularly with Holy priests, is their talents boost their in-combat regen based on their Spirit specifically (Holy Concentration), which is why you may often see them favouring Spirit quite heavily.
Our mana regen is based largely on our Innervate, our Revitalize, and Replenishment, and Intellect will increase the effect of all of those. 
Healing and Planning
One of the biggest things in our mana management will of course be what heals we use and how we use them. Good use of our Omen of Clarity procs, covered above, is of course crucial to our healing and mana management. The use of the rest of our spells is also extremely important.
Lifebloom should always always always be up. If you don’t have a tank target to place it on, cast it on yourself or another raid member. It’s ok if it falls off - sometimes it can be quite useful to let it bloom, in fact - just be sure you put it back up right away. A 3-stack is best to keep up as much as possible. Many healing addons like Vuhdo and Healbot have HoT timers built-in which can help you keep track of your HoTs, though you can also find separate HoT timers or set up a Power Aura to let you know if your LB has fallen off.
One of the biggest issues that Resto druids seem to have today is moving past the Rejuv and Wild growth spam that proliferated during Wrath of the Lich King due to the nearly unlimited mana reserves. It is no longer feasible to simply continually spam Rejuv/WG. Don’t get me wrong, these two are extremely important spells in our healing arsenal. We just don’t have the mana to be able to spam them unnecessarily. While Pre-HoTing is still useful in certain situations (eg, you know a large quantity of raid-wide damage is about to hit), you can’t continually cover the raid and you can’t do so too far in advance. Our Rejuvs are of a shorter duration than they were in Wrath so you would have to refresh them more frequently, resulting in even more mana spent (and wasted). If the raid is fully topped with no incoming damage you are simply wasting mana on overheals. 
Similarly, many advise to use Wild Growth on cooldown - I prefer to advocate using WG on cooldown as necessary. The key is those last two words - as necessary. If the raid is taking constant AoE damage and 5+ raid members are always in need of heals, then it’s easier to use WG strictly on CD. If the raid is topped and there’s no incoming damage, spamming WG wastes not just mana but also the cooldown itself. As it’s a smart heal, it will hit those who are most injured, so it’s not really as feasible to pre-HoT with it (at least, not in 10- or 25-mans; in 5-man dungeons it will hit everyone in the party regardless). 
When AoE damage is expected, WG makes an excellent reactionary tool to hit right as that AoE damage hits. Keep in mind how Wild Growth heals as well - ‘the amount healed is applied quickly at first, then slows down as it reaches its full duration’ - so those quicker initial heals are best when applied for actual damage, rather than always pre-applied so only those final slower ticks actually have healing to do.
Overall, healing is much more reactive than it was in Wrath, so we need to be smart about when it’s viable to pre-HoT and when it’s more advisable not to.
As mentioned earlier, Regrowths are generally best saved for OoC procs, particularly in ToL form. The mana cost is very high for a spell which generally doesn’t hit too hard (especially if it doesn’t crit and you don’t have Nature’s Bounty), and you can easily spam yourself OoM if you’re only hitting Regrowths.
Don’t underestimate the value of Nourish. It’s a great spell for smaller damage, and if you’re, say, just keeping the tank topped off and refreshing his LB stack, Nourish is a great spell to do that. It’s so low cost that with LB up you can basically gain mana as you’re casting Nourish. Just be careful when tank healing that you don’t get caught flat-footed and miss a HT if you need that bigger heal!
Knowing the Fight
The best tool in your arsenal will always be knowledge. While there will be times when there’s unexpected damage (someone stands in something bad, RNG results in some bigger tank hits, etc), the majority of damage in fights is predictable and learnable. You know there’ll be bigger tank damage when a dragon does a breath, or heavy raid damage on something like Magmatron’s Incineration Security Measure. Learning fights and when to expect damage can help you plan which heals you need to use and when and can also help for planning your mana management throughout the fight. For example, if you know damage is light at the start of the fight, you can conserve a bit more so that you’re ready for a big burst of damage that may be coming in another minute or two. 
Also, knowing about how long the fight will last and what’s to come can help you greatly in planning your mana usage. If you have a ton of mana left and a very short period left in the fight, you can easily dump that mana and heal very aggressively. Similarly, if there’s a period of very low or no damage coming up that will give you time to regen mana (such as Magmaw when he is impaled on the spike), you can afford to spend more mana before that when you know you’ll have the opportunity to regen.
Tree of Life as a mana cooldown
This is an interesting strategy which I use in certain fights. Tree of Life is very effective as a healing cooldown (and even as a DPS cooldown if needing to help put some DPS into a boss) but it can also function as a mana cooldown of sorts. This is most effective in a fight that has pretty heavy AoE damage coming out in a mana-intensive phase. It can be very helpful for mana because ToL allows you to spread your Lifeblooms all over the raid to help heal up that raidwide damage, and Lifebloom is a much cheaper heal than Rejuvenation. Not only that, but the increased OoC procs from all of the LBs allows you to throw out those free instant Regrowths as well.
My best two examples of this are Valiona&Theralion and Nefarian phase 2, both fights when I use ToL for both the increased healing and for mana conservation. V&T can be a pretty mana intensive fight with all the raid damage that goes out, particularly on Heroic, so mana can easily get low when covering the raid. On V&T I tend to use my ToL form on a heavy damage phase when my Innervate is about halfway off cooldown, allowing me to recover some mana while throwing out those cheap LBs but still effectively healing the raid non-stop. 
In Nefarian phase 2 on the platforms, ToL can again be extremely effective in keeping the members of your platform healed by spreading LB all over them. It’s also much easier in that phase on Nef to keep multiple stacks of LB on each targets since there are much fewer people on your platform (as opposed to the full raid).
Never forget the value of a potion! A personal favourite of mine is the Mysterious Potion, as it restores health and mana and is fairly cheap and easy to make (it requires Deepstone Oil, made from Albino Cavefish). This can be a great potion to use to get you both mana and health back. It does have a range so you can get unlucky with a low effect, but still a nice pot to have a stack of nonetheless. 
The most amazing potion though is definitely the Potion of Concentration. There’s a little bit of a drawback in that you have to sit and channel it, which puts you out of commission for 10 seconds (be sure to let the other healers know when you need to stop to use it!), but it restores a tremendous amount of mana. If you can use it, I definitely recommend it! Again, knowing the fight can be helpful here - knowing when there’ll be a period of low damage that will allow you to channel that potion. I also recommend popping Barkskin before potting to help mitigate any damage you might take.
Triage is extremely important and there will come a time where you have to make split-second decisions about who you heal and with what. Again, knowing a fight may help you with this - is there a certain class or raid member who needs to stay alive to perform a crucial role? (Perhaps that rogue needs to stay alive to interrupt). Can you afford to lose one of the tanks or is it essential they’re both kept up for a required tank swap? Is the boss almost dead, should you be focussing on the DPS to help burn that last few percent of HP, or do your fellow healers need help so the entire group lasts longer? Don’t forget to heal yourself too!
Generally these are the ‘oh shit!’ moments and decisions start happening on the fly. You won’t always make the right decisions, and they won’t always be easy - I’d certainly prefer no one die! But if it’s a situation between, say, a DPS dying and a tank, the DPS loss might lead to a wipe, but if the tank dies it’s generally almost guaranteed to lead to a wipe. 
While this is largely general healing advice, mana management does come into play as well as it will be affecting the choices you make on who you heal and which heals you use. It’s especially important towards the ends of fights when every healer is running low on mana. There are also times when people can (or, in the case of a fight like Chimaeron, must) sit at lower health - healthpools are very large and topping everyone’s health may not always be necessary. Again, knowing the fight can help here - if a big AoE damage spike is expected, your party members may need to be topped off, but if not, they may be just fine at lower HP for a bit!
Don’t stand in the fire!
Finally, spatial awareness, knowledge of fights, and personal cooldowns are important for everyone - that is to say, DPS and tanks as well as healers. If someone is standing in fire or poison or whatever else and just not moving out of it, it’s avoidable damage that you’re being forced to heal through (and burn through mana). 
Most classes now have personal damage reduction cooldowns (like Barkskin for all druids, Divine Protection for paladins, etc) they can use. It’s also important that tanks be using their damage mitigation cooldowns - you’d be amazed at just how many tanks don’t use any of their myriad of damage mitigation/reduction cooldowns and just expect healers to heal them through ridiculous damage.
I mention this last bit largely as a reminder that DPS and tanks have their part to play as well as the healers. Healer mana is limited, and any unnecessary damage taken by party and raid members (healers included too!) is mana wasted for the healers. 
I also bring this up as I’ve heard many healers getting discouraged, particularly in PuGs (oh, the joys of the LFG tool!). While it can be great practice (nothing teaches you to deal with healing crises better than a PuG that’s just pulled an entire hallway in Stonecore, for example), it can also feel very discouraging. It’s always good to examine how you handled the situation and think ‘could I have done something differently to prevent that person from dying or that wipe from happening?’ There are times though when people were simply standing in fire / standing in a frontal cone / inexplicably jumped off a ledge / DPS taunted the boss / so forth! I have noticed an increase in pressure on healers, as when people die or there’s a wipe for many the first thought is ‘wtf the healers messed up!’ This isn’t always the case, though, so don’t forget to look to see whether someone was standing in something they shouldn’t have been!
As always, good luck and have fun!


Anonymous said...

Triage is a myth, and GC's experiment has failed. I'm tired of my friends leaving WoW because of game balance resting on the shoulders of healers.

Anonymous said...

Bravo! This post is just what I needed. Thanks for the pro tips.

Feral Tree said...

@Anonymous (Triage)
I don't know, I've found plenty of times were triage has had to come into play, particularly in raids and even 5 mans at times (especially on my alts which are a bit undergeared).
I definitely think healing's become more challenging and in some ways more fun, but it's definitely led to some increased pressure on healers as well.

Partly I think some of it is people just assume when they die it's automatically the healers fault (it isn't always, there are plenty of things DPS and tanks can do that make their death unavoidable).
Also though as healers we're no longer able to really carry people through stupid like we could in Wrath - we could heal DPS tanks through dungeons, people through fire, etc. That's just not really possible anymore, especially with mana as a limited resource.

@Anonymous (Bravo)
Thanks very much, glad the post was helpful! :D

Anonymous said...

Has anybody tried to up the number of healers in their group? The fight may last longer but it could prob help. We should start doing this in LFG 5-mans, que as DPS but have one DPS go as 2nd heals. Think this is viable?

Anonymous said...

I learned that a wipe is not necessarily the healers fault when i rolled my 1st healer(a holy priest), and yes i was discouraged a lot in the beginning thinking that a wipe no matter wat is the healers fault, but then as i gained more knowledge into fight mechanics i realised there are times when a healer no matter how good cant always save the day