How I learned to stop worrying and love the new Holy Shield

Of the major complaints I’ve seen about the new version of Holy Shield, there are two that really stand out in my mind as the “loudest” – in other words, the ones I see most often.

  • We’ll take more damage on average
  • We already have enough cooldowns, why do we need another one to manage?

I wanted to write a blog post about these, but Mel has already covered both of these points pretty effectively.  He’s discussed why taking more damage on average isn’t necessarily a significant change in overall survivability, and he’s talked about planning cooldowns a few weeks ago.  So blame Mel for the lack of content this week!  However, there are a few things that he didn’t cover that I think I can add to the discussion.

Taking more damage on average is only meaningful if it causes you to die.  That seems like an obvious statement, but it’s not.  The crowd of folks clamoring about the decrease in total damage reduction tend to overlook it, at least.  As an exercise, go to World of Logs and bring up one of your most recent raid parses for any moderately difficult boss.  Pick a progression boss that you’re working on.  If you don’t have any parses, pick one of mine or Mel’s.  And try not to spot any stupid mistakes I’ve made!

Click on “Players” and choose your character (or if you’re looking at one of mine, Theck).  Go to the “Healing by spell” tab, and look at healing received.  The far right column gives you the amount of overheal you got from each spell, along with an average at the bottom.  Take note of how large that number is – in my parses, it tends to be around 30% or more.  On “farm” bosses it can spike as high as 50%.  That’s a huge amount of overhealing.

Consider what happens if you start taking 10-15% more damage.  For the most part, it’s just going to soak up some of that overheal.  Instead of topping you off with a 20k Divine Light and overhealing you for 10k, it might overheal you for 5k.  That’s not important in most cases, the important part is that you got topped off.  That’s why Mel and I, amongst others, keep reiterating that losing 10% static block isn’t a huge nerf to survivability.  It’s certainly a nerf, but most of us won’t really be able to notice it.

So when does that extra 10-15% damage taken become important?  If the extra damage meant that 3 melee hits killed you instead of leaving you at a few thousand health, or if it ran your healers out of mana.  The former is one potential concern, but it’s significantly mitigated by the new form of Holy Shield.  We have a “freebie” cooldown to pop for those situations when your healers can’t counteract a series of 3 melee hits.  I’ll talk about that more in a minute.

As Mel mentioned in an earlier post, the extra damage shouldn’t be running your healers out of mana.  Content in this tier hasn’t been balanced around excessive amounts of tank damage – a competent healer (or healers) can keep a tank topped off during periods of throughput damage with little mana expenditure at all.  I don’t believe that many healers are capable of mentally distinguishing between a tank that took a 50k hit and a 55k hit; they see your health percentage as a rough estimate, not at a fine level of detail.  The events that cause them to drop back to a mana-inefficient heal are going to be the bigger spikes, where you take a few hits in a row.  That’s not going to change if each of those hits are 10% bigger.  What will save your healers mana is using Holy Shield to mitigate those spikes, which is why I think that the new version may actually be a net boon to healer mana efficiency.

As far as the second point, I think the primary disconnect is the concept that Holy Shield needs to be “managed.”  People are assuming they need to micromanage it to get the maximum possible effective uptime out of the skill.  I don’t think that’s the case at all, and in fact doing so may very well be sub-optimal.  You are not going to be expected to keep HS up to counter-balance the mitigation nerf, and I don’t think that was ever the design intent.

On most fights, I have a plan for when I need to use AD/GAnK/DP, and sometimes Mirror and WoG.  The longer cooldowns are ones I “manage” and worry about, because using them at the wrong time can guarantee a wipe.  WoG is nice in that regard, because it’s a short cooldown that I can blow when I feel threatened without agonizing over whether I’m locking myself out of it at a critical moment later in the fight.  It’s “selfish,” because I can use it when I want it, rather than when the fight dictates I should use it.

The beauty of the new Holy Shield is that it’s also a “selfish” cooldown.  I don’t have to worry about saving it, because it’ll be available again very quickly.  I’m not going to worry about maximizing its uptime – in fact, I’m not even going to try.  I’m going to mash my Holy Shield key bind whenever I feel like I’m in danger the same way I would with WoG, but without the annoying reliance on my current Holy Power state.  It’s going to be my “me” cooldown, for my discretionary use.  Looking at it that way, the new Holy Shield is a lot like WoG, a skill that was fairly overpowered when it lacked a cooldown.  If you like having WoG in your back pocket, you’ll probably like having Holy Shield up your sleeve as well.

I think that a lot of the outcry over Holy Shield is a matter of perception as a result.  If you view it as something you have to micromanage, you might see it as a pain and an annoyance.  But if you think of it as WoG v3.0, and use it that way, it’s not something you manage at all.  It’s the button you hit during those “oh shit” moments where you need something to buy you time.  If more players stopped worrying about “managing” and “maximizing uptime,” I think they’d start seeing the issue in a new light, and perhaps begin to understand why many of us like the new Holy Shield.

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13 Responses to How I learned to stop worrying and love the new Holy Shield

  1. Rhidach says:

    Theck, reputable sources on the official tanking forums have indicated that you’re not the one that’s “good on the math side”. But also that you’re a “champ” (so, could go either way). Confirm/deny?

    But seriously, much love for wading into the fever swamp and fighting the good fight on those forums or WoW Insider!

    Not that some of the most verbal detractors will ever change their opinion, but it’s still worth the fighting for.

  2. Orthien says:

    I have to agree, its takes a special kind of person to read that pit and still want to jump in to fight the good fight. It takes an even better kind of person to do so for long periods of time without losing integrity and sinking a few levels.

    I can’t wait for the HS change becuase I see only good in it. I forget I have HS currently, now I know I have it, its back as a useable ability and most importantly a very useful one at that.

    All we can do is follow what we know and offer advice to those willing to take it when we can.

  3. Queldan says:

    Funny, I’d made a blog post just yesterday about people complaining without good argumentation, and mentionned yourself and rhid’ as examples of smart criticism.

    And you don’t dissapoint, as usual!

    OT, I’m not as much a fan of the HS change, but that has mostly to do with a “wait and see” attitude: I haven’t tested it enough to give a definitive opinion. And in the end that’s the point: admitting ignorance is not a crime. Neither is expressing concerns in a constructive, thougtful manner. Venting frustration without trying to dispel that ignorance, on other hand, is.

  4. Chris says:

    My issue with new HS as a cooldown is not that we don’t need another cooldown to manage, but that is suffers from a kind of diminishing returns.

    HS relies on your Block chance, which is a function of your Mastery. Until you reach 100% CTC, there is always a chance that your HS will do nothing for you (there is still a chance HS is doing nothing for you at 100%, but that would be in the case of a miss/dodge/parry and you probably wouldn’t care).

    As it stands, HS is basically “on” when we’re tanking, so we can count on the law of large numbers to get us a good return on that chance.

    With the new HS, the lower your Block Chance is, the more likely that this new cooldown will *nothing* for you in the 10 seconds you have it up.

    To my mind, this is a step backwards in design because in order to take full advantage of HS as a cooldown, we need to emphasize even more on reaching 100% CTC.

    I was actually hoping Theck might take a run at the number to see how the new HS as a cooldown will scale as Block chance decreases from 100% to the state we have now.

    • Theck says:

      You have to consider it in a statistical sense though. There’s a chance that you won’t block any attacks during the 10-second duration, but there’s also a chance that you’ll block several. Given enough uses of Holy Shield, it will average out.

      Note that this is no different than the current version of HS. You’re not guaranteed to block an attack during a 10-second “spike window,” so there’s an equal chance that the current version of HS wouldn’t do anything for you during that spike.

      The difference is that with old HS, you’ll accumulate a lot more overall mitigation. But most of that will come from the “safe” periods outside of a spike event, which just contributes to overheal (and thus isn’t very meaningful).

      That said, there may be back-to-back spike events where the cooldown on new HS prevents you from covering both – in those cases, old HS would have given smoother damage intake, though the amount mitigated will be roughly the same.

      • Chris says:

        That is my point though – “Given enough uses of Holy Shield, it will average out”. Up time on the current HS is very high, and know it will average out very quickly.

        How do you use the new HS? If you are trying to use it as a cooldown during a spike, rather than just using it every time it is up, your up time will be much lower, and it will take much longer for that average to be reached.

        Of course, that is just one factor. If I have 20% Block Chance, this is a pretty crappy cooldown for me. For 10 seconds I have a 20% Chance to reduce incoming physical hits by 50% (I believe HS is additive to the normal 30%). If my Block Chance is 75%, and the rest of my CT is covered by Avoidance, it is a pretty good Cooldown for a spike – for 10 seconds I have a 75% chance to reduce incoming physical hits by 50% and what I don’t block is avoided entirely.

        Doesn’t this just place even more importance for Pally tank to cap mastery? Isn’t that the opposite of the what Blizzard stated the original intent of mucking about with HS was?

      • Theck says:

        There are two separate points I want to make here.

        The first is regarding uptime. You’re completely right that the uptime on “old HS” is very high, and things average out quickly. The uptime on “new HS” will be low, and it’ll take more uses to get the average to come around.

        However, that’s focusing on one particular metric – essentially trying to maximize “total damage blocked.” I’d argue that this metric isn’t very relevant. Consider a sequence of 10 attacks, 4 of which you avoid completely, 5 of which you block, and 1 of which “hits” you. the sequence looks like this:

        B – D – B – P – D – B – B – H – P – B

        Now, how important is it to block 40% compared to 30% during the first five attacks? Not very, you have a few avoids in there and average damage taken is pretty low. Your healer is going to have little trouble topping you off with his efficient heals. Blocking 10% less there isn’t a live-or-die situation.

        However, how important is it to block 10% more on the final five, a nasty string of block-block-hit-parry-block? That’s the dangerous period, so blocking more there will do a lot more to increase your survivability. Most of us would gladly trade 10% block from the first five attacks for another 10% on the second, giving us the 30%/50% split Holy Shield represents.

        Of course, we can’t predict those strings mid-fight. Maybe you wouldn’t pop HS until the 2nd block dropped you to 50% health. That means you only get its effect on the very last attack. However, that’s the most important attack to block of all of them, because that’s the one that has the potential to kill you. Blocking that attack for 50% instead of 40% might make the difference between life and death (as might any blocks that follow it).

        This is admittedly a fabricated scenario, but I think it makes the point clear – blocking a higher amount of the one attack that matters is more important than blocking for a higher average value on 5 attacks when several of those attacks don’t really matter.

        As for the second point, you’re also correct that the new HS is “strongest” if we reach block cap, because it becomes guaranteed mitigation. That was true of the old HS as well though. The HS redesign was never intended to prevent block-capping. The issue, as far as I can tell, was that a constant 40% block was just too strong when block-cap was attainable.

        To bring up a point I made on the WoW forums, Holy Shield was our version of Critical Block. Warriors blocked for 30% some of the time, but crit-blocked for 60% occasionally. Paladins just blocked for 40% period. Re-designing Holy Shield killed two birds with one stone – it brought our constant block value back in line with warriors, but also gave us an active mitigation equivalent to Critical block as a replacement for a fairly boring mechanic (“use HP, gain block”).

        Now they could have taken a different route and fixed the problem by changing our mastery to prevent block cap. In fact, I would bet money that they did try this route, and that’s what was going on behind the scenes with our mastery redesign that never came to fruition.

        In essence, they had two plans: redesign mastery, and redesign Holy Shield. Either of the two might’ve worked alone or in combination, but the Holy Shield change was likely just easier to implement and caused less collateral damage. Maybe they found that redesigning mastery made paladins too weak at low gear levels, or that it caused strange scaling problems, or who knows what. Whatever it was, it was enough to make them punt the mastery redesign back to a future patch and go the Holy Shield route.

  5. Worloch says:

    Good points and I can accept the idea of a redesign of HS in addition to a redesign of Mastery as being their intention but only getting as far as HS in this patch.

    I’m not sure I will prefer the new HS over the old, but I am hopeful they will remember to address the Mastery issue, which I still feel the new HS only exacerbates.

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  7. Apollorx says:

    On a less serious note, the title reference is hilarious.

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