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Jdotb BFA Q&A #9 - Mythic+ Healer Balance, Regional Class Preference
BlizzCon is over and we're back with another Method Jdotb Q&A, as he goes over Mythic+ healer balance, regional preferences of classes, Weekly Affix advice and more!
Watch live video from jdotb on www.twitch.tv
Check out our previous BFA Q&As with Jdotb!
Part 1: Pre-Season 1 Preparations
Part 2: Learning Skips, Personal Loot
Part 3: Azerite Traits, King's Rest Advice
Part 4: Azerite Armor, Infested and Teeming
Part 5: DPS Roles
Part 6: Tank Meta, Arcane Torrent
Part 7: Mythic+ Currency System, Class Buffs
Part 8: MDI All Stars
Part 9: Mythic+ Healer Balance, Regional Class Preference
Part 10: Explosive, Underrot, Tol Dagor Changes
Part 11: Reaping, Grievous, Boss Difficulty
Part 12: Shadowmeld, Season 2 Item Levels
Part 13: 8.1 Thoughts and Role Rankings
Part 14: 8.1 Dungeon Changes, Keystone Deletion
Part 15: Remaining Issues in Mythic+
Want to ask Jdotb a question? Leave a comment below and we'll pick some questions for Jdotb to answer in the next Q&A!
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Method Jdotb Q&A #9
Is it possible to achieve healer parity in M+ without nerfing Disc priest?
Let’s start with the implication behind this question: is Disc priest too good in M+? Maybe, but there are reasons to believe this might already have been addressed in 8.1. Disc priests are getting their damage to healing conversion on Atonement nerfed a bit, and Weakened Soul has returned for Power Word: Shield. Will these meaningfully affect Disc in M+? Probably not, but that’s not the end of the story. Disc also relies heavily on tanks that can keep themselves alive with minimal attention from the healer, namely DK and monk, and both of those tanks will be getting nerfed in 8.1 as well. While neither of them appear to be getting nerfed significantly, the tank nerfs combined with the Disc nerfs might be enough to make tank healing a dicey proposition for Disc in high level keys.
But whether or not Disc is the best healer at the moment is the less interesting question; the more interesting question is whether Disc is “balanced” compared to other healers. And the answer is a resounding “no”. Not because of their healing output, which is incredible in raids (where damage patterns are usually much more static and predictable) and pretty good in M+, but because of their ability to deal more damage than other healers. It’s much more noticeable in raids because healers spend most their time healing, and while other healer specs have to choose between dealing damage or healing, Disc just does damage as part of its rotation. In M+ it’s a bit less lopsided since there is less consistent damage so healers are generally more able to dedicate time to DPSing. But the point is that Disc outputs damage in nearly all situations, and can output a LOT of damage in certain situations, and that’s a big deal. Being a healer that can consistently damage things is obviously very important in progression raiding where DPS checks are plentiful, and it’s also a distinct advantage in M+ where you’re racing against a timer to complete the dungeon.
Now I’ll address the response I know will get made: “But JB, Disc is supposed to do damage. That’s how it heals.” Sure, and there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with that approach. The problem is that Disc does MORE damage than other healers, which isn’t a necessary feature of the damage-as-healing style. You could very easily nerf Disc damage and buff Atonement throughput and maintain Disc’s healing numbers while bringing its damage more in line with other healers. Disc could Smite for 5 damage as long as Atonement was doing 1000% conversion. There is nothing about the spec that requires Disc to be doing big damage.
And I wish other healers had more options to toss in damage as part of their healing rotation. It feels really nice as a Disc priest to know that you’re speeding up the fight meaningfully while healing, and it adds another element to your gameplay decisions (do I focus more on healing or damage during this phase?). I don’t think Disc necessarily needs to be nerfed as much as I think other healers need to be given more DPS options to more closely resemble the Disc kit.
But so long as Disc is the only spec that features damage as part of its healing rotation while also doing competitive healing per second, it will always be nearly impossible to balance the spec.
What’s your opinion on why NA seems to favor Balance and Mage for range, while EU groups have had success with BM Hunter? Is it just regional preference or more about the players themselves?
If you’ve ever cared about your body weight, you’ve probably heard of a metric called BMI (body mass index). It’s a tool used by the medical industry to try to quickly assess whether someone is at a healthy weight. It’s very useful when applied to large populations and can give some meaningful insight into health trends for demographics, but its value diminishes quickly when it’s applied person to person. There are a lot of variables that BMI can’t account for, and those variables tend to average out when looking at big groups of people, but those variables become very important individually.
The M+ meta is a lot like BMI. You can look at how classes and specs are performing in the community at large and draw some important and accurate conclusions about classes, but when you look at the individual players on those classes you will find some extreme outliers. Gingi is going to play his hunter and get world firsts no matter what. Drjay didn’t care what the community thought about mage, he combusted his way to BlizzCon. Shakib didn’t need group leech to hold the top NA tank spot for most of Legion. There are certain players in the M+ game that know their class so well and spend so much time practicing that the meta doesn’t really apply to them, and you’ll often find those players working their way up the leaderboard at all costs.
So when those players end up at the top of the leaderboard, the community tends to step back and go, “Hmm, maybe that class is actually sneaky good and we just missed something.” In reality, though, it’s often just the player doing well in spite of their class. If you see representation for a class is super low across the board and then one guy starts cranking out +19s and +20s with it, it’s probably just that guy. Unless that guy figured out some crazy new build or synergy with another player on his team, he’s probably just accepting his spec’s limitations and figuring out how to play around them.
As far as regional differences are concerned, I chalk that up to pure coincidence. I don’t think there are any forces at play that would cause a divide in the meta between the regions, so I just assume that any trends are purely the result of small sample size. It’s not like we have monthly meetings where we go, “We’re blacklisting all the non-mages, right?” And I think a lot of extrapolation happens, too, where the raider.io leaderboards display the top runs and you see BM hunter show up 13 times in a row. Your brain naturally assumes that means lots of BM hunters are being played but really it’s just Gingi each time.
Occasionally you’ll see someone shoot to the top of the leaderboards as precursor to a new trend (like when Dark’s Windwalker dominated the leaderboards for a few months after Windwalker got buffed) and it will take the community a bit to reroll and adjust, but for the most part you should pay more attention to broad trends rather than individual teams.
Any tips on healing the Heartsbane Triad in Waycrest Manor especially on Tyrannical weeks?
The Triad is definitely one of the more daunting fights in M+, and especially so when pugging because the fight requires some knowledge of the mechanics, i.e., you can’t just turn your brain off and pound the boss. The fight essentially consists of six “phases”, so let’s walk through it step by step to get an idea of how to pace your throughput and defensive cooldowns.
The fight starts with Solena, and ideally you’ll have lust up so this phase should go fast. Solena has an aura she puts on your group that reduces healing done by 50% which can be an issue later but is essentially meaningless the first time you see her. She also casts Soul Manipulation on a party member which mind controls them until their health is reduced below 50%. On Fortified weeks or in groups that have strong single target DPS, it’s possible to just skip the Soul Manipulation in this phase if you lusted. Otherwise you should get one Soul Manipulation before Solena transitions at 50% health, and your group will just need to focus the MC’d player.
The next sister up is Malady. She has an aura that puts a stacking DoT on party members that can only be removed by moving around. This phase requires your group to know to move, and if one of your group members stands still they will most certainly die. Malady will also cast Unstable Runic Mark which is a debuff that does damage over time and upon removal (either by expiring after six seconds naturally or by being dispelled) will deal damage in a radius to any nearby party members. It’s critical that your group spreads out enough not to overlap circles because the damage will add up quickly. This is the phase where you start thinking about using throughput cooldowns as the group damage will be heaviest here.
The final sister is Briar, and this is for most groups the most dangerous sister. Briar has an aura that reflects damage to any physical attackers, so your DPS will be doing some damage to themselves. Briar’s casted spell is Jagged Nettles, which is a debuff that will inflict significant damage upon application and also deal heavy damage over time once applied. The target needs to be healed above 90% to remove the DoT. Ideally all your party members have some kind of addon that notifies them that they’re the target of Nettles so they can pop a defensive, and ideally you as a healer have some kind of external defensive you can put on them (Ironbark, Sac, Pain Sup, etc.) because this DoT hurts. Most of the time you can probably expect only one Nettles to go out, but if your group is slow Briar might cast two. This becomes a real issue because the second cast will likely happen right before the transition back to Solena.
The second Solena phase shouldn’t be much different than the first and is basically a recovery period for the healer, but it can get wild very quickly if one of your party members still has Jagged Nettles. Solena’s healing reduction aura will make it virtually impossible to heal Nettles off of a party member, so your goal in this phase should probably be just to keep the person alive long enough to make it back to Malady.
The second Malady phase will be another great place to pop cooldowns. Your group is probably sitting below full health after Solena’s healing aura, and Malady is going to do some group damage, so this is a good spot for things like Tranquility or Healing Tide (lol shamans, I know). Ideally you want every topped off going back to Briar for the last phase.
There’s a decent chance if your DPS is good that you can completely avoid a Nettles in this phase, and even if you can’t the DoT will disappear as soon as the fight ends so just do your best to keep the person alive.
Practically speaking, though, a lot of the responsibility for the Triad fight lies with your group members. They need to maintain good spacing in Malady’s phase and pop their own personal defensive for Jagged Nettles, and DPS is important because the fight becomes substantially harder if any of the sisters are allowed to cast their abilities more than once per phase. Don’t get too down on yourself as a healer if this fight gets the better of you as there are a lot of elements out of your control.
Weekly Affix Advice
The affixes this week will be Fortified, Teeming, Explosive and Infested.
Dungeons Most Affected by Fortified
- The mini bosses following the Golden Serpent (Queen Patlaa, Queen Wasi, King Rahu’ai and King A’akul) are all scary without buffs, so giving them more health and damage makes this room uncomfortable at best. Spectral Berserkers leave a nasty physical DoT on the tank that stacks, and it can quickly get out of control on Fortified weeks. Watch out for Spectral Beastmaster’s Poison Barrage as it can easily wipe a group if it hits multiple party members. Shadow of Zul will deal a lot of damage to the tank, so make sure to have cooldowns ready.
- The Heartsbane witches and Bewitched Captains do tremendous damage to the tank, and the Matrons have a lot of health. The confined quarters of the manor don’t leave much room for kiting, either. The Gloom Horrors before the final boss do a lot of damage when they jump, so you will want to be careful about which party member is standing furthest out (which is what determines who gets leapt on).
- You will want to handle Tick packs carefully as they can easily wipe a group if they all explode simultaneously. Be careful on packs with Headhunters (who root) and Blood Matrons (who charge and cleave) as you can get one-shot by this combination. Bloodswarmers will be at the very least incredibly annoying and potentially lethal if their Sonic Scream interrupts healers. Pay very close attention to the Spirit Drain Totem from Bloodsworn Defilers. Fetid Maggot’s Rotten Bile can quickly kill a ranged player if it isn’t interrupted.
- Be sure to interrupt Hired Assassins as their Toxic Blades / Hail of Flechettes combo can easily wipe a group. Mine Rats target random players with Throw Rock, so be careful not to pull too many and risk bad RNG on who gets targeted. Taskmaster Askari wrecks tanks, so make sure to have cooldowns ready for him. Watch out for Mastermind’s Energy Lash as it hurts quite a bit, and don’t let Feckless Assistants finish their Transfiguration Serum cast or they will turn into Grotesque Experiments which are much more difficult. Be vigilant with Crawler Mines on the way to Mogul as they will do quite a bit of damage if they explode on a player.
Dungeons Most Affected by Explosive
Shrine of the Storm
- Shrine features a lot of trash pulls with high mob count which will obviously spawn a lot of orbs, but the boss fights are where this affix is the most dangerous. When Aqu’sirr splits into his smaller Aqualing forms, you will need to keep an eye on three different mobs that are spaced around the room. Council and Stormsong aren’t terrible, but then you’ll have to deal with Vol’zith. Vol’zith becomes incredibly frustrating on Explosive because each of his adds can spawn Explosives, and they will be spread out across the room. If you’re trying to keep the Whispers of Power debuff for the whole fight (as you should be), any one of the Explosive orbs going off will kill you, so Explosive makes this fight incredibly stressful.
Temple of Sethraliss
- Another dungeon where Explosive is only an occasional issue, but it can easily wipe you on some of the bosses. Aspix and Adderis will each spawn Explosive orbs, and this can be extremely dangerous because a lot of classes have incidental cleave abilities that will chain to the boss if you target the orb. If that boss happens to be the boss with Lightning Shield, you’ll get zapped. Adderis also melees players near him while Aspix is active, so any melee trying to kill orbs near him might get whacked. Avatar is the real headache in here, though, as each add on the fight can spawn orbs, and the adds are always spread out around the room. You’ll need to make sure you’re keeping your eyes peeled or orbs will go off when you aren’t looking.
- The pulls in Motherlode are generally always big, and often times the packs are scary on their own anyway. Adding in orbs that you have to pay attention to on top of the rest of the mechanics that are frequently lethal makes Motherlode trash extra scary this week.
Dungeons Most Affected by Teeming
- Several additional Heartsbane and Coven witches are added to Waycrest for Teeming, and those mobs are no joke. An extra Thornguard in the courtyard makes big pulls even more dangerous. The added Teeming trash will make life difficult for the tank as the mobs in Waycrest hit pretty hard.
- A few new Blood Matrons show up at the start of the dungeon which is not good. Lots of added Fetid Maggots on the way to the second boss means you probably won’t have enough ways to break their Rotten Bile casts so you’ll need to keep your head on a swivel. Cragmaw’s room has lots of extra Bloodswarmers which might be the most annoying mob in the game. At least the back half of the dungeon is fairly untouched.
- You’ll get some extra Assassins and Mech Jockeys before the first boss which isn’t great but isn’t terrible either. The Taskmaster Askari pull before Azerokk gets some extra adds, and that pull is already hectic enough. The real issue is the inclusion of several new Masterminds before Rixxa and literally dozens of new Crawler Mines on the way to Razdunk. This makes battle res skips almost mandatory.
Dungeons Most Affected by This Week’s Affixes
- The trash in Motherlode is always dangerous, even on Tyrannical weeks, so adding in Fortified and Teeming and Explosive will turn most of the “usual” big pulls in Motherlode into an exercise in tightrope-walking. You’ll probably want to slow down a bit on trash this week as there will be a lot to keep track of on each pull.
- The mobs in Cragmaw’s room will hurt a lot, and the Bloodswarmers added by Teeming will make it all the more lethal. Once you’re past Cragmaw the dungeon gets a lot easier, but all the trash at the front of the dungeon warrants extra caution.
- Waycrest trash packs are some of the nastiest in the game, so adding more to them with Teeming and juicing them up with Fortified will make them a real challenge. Explosive is never a great affix, but it will get especially bad around Raal’s room where the mob density is high.
Dungeons Least Affected by This Week’s Affixes
- Atal’Dazar doesn’t have many mega pulls, so Explosive should never get out of hands, and the dungeon doesn’t change much with Teeming. You’ll have to be careful with Fortified Saurid packs, but otherwise the dungeon is straightforward.
- You won’t be able to grab all trash outside the dungeon like you can on other weeks, but the rest of the dungeon isn’t especially affected by Explosive or Teeming. Close quarters means good opportunities to use line of sight on orbs, and the added Teeming trash isn’t terrible.
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