Along with the concept of triage healing, another new construct was introduced in Cataclysm for healers that would allow them to create a special zone on the ground that would heal people that were standing in it. Initially this created some confusion, as we had spent the last two expansions trying to program people to move out of harmful looking spell effects and now we were going to have to convince them that it was safe to stand in some things that were of a different color. Once people got the hang of when to stand inside these new healing zones they seemed to be a big hit.
Unfortunately, things change as they so often do in this game and it became clear that one “zone heal” (as I refer to them) may not necessarily be as useful as the next and this has caused some amount of discussion as to just how balanced these abilities should be. This topic picked up steam after it was confirmed that Efflorescence, the druid version of a zone heal, would now have a smart healing effect and would heal the three most injured people standing inside of it. Naturally, this has caused some paladins, priests and shamans to wonder if their respective zone heals are going to receive the same amount of attention in the next patch.
Is one really better than the other or are they all in need of some work? Let’s find out.
Currently, Efflorescence is only available to druids who have at least 20 points in the restoration tree and 3 points in Living Seed. Many druids have suggested that the two not be linked together as Living Seed is considered a sub-par talent that never seemed to work the way it was supposed to. A druid can create an Efflorescence zone by using Swiftmend on someone, which will create a large green circle underneath them that will begin to heal those standing inside of it for 30% of the amount healed by Swiftmend over 7 seconds. The healing effectiveness of Efflorescence will diminish for each player beyond 6 in the area.
One of the downsides to Efflorescence is that you can’t really choose where to create the zone. If someone needs a heal and Swiftmend happens to be the heal that would bring them back up, they are going to get a zone created under them. You also cannot create Efflorescence if the person does not already have a Rejuvenation or a Regrowth already present on them. More often than not, Swiftmend will be used on the tank and there are probably going to be at least 6 melee in that zone already. This will cause Efflorescence to fall victim to the “more than 6 people rule” and means that it will come out already being a diminshed effect.
Healing Rain (Shaman)
Healing Rain is a spell that all shaman can train into at level 83 and comes with a 10 second cooldown. The shaman creates a blue ring of rain on the ground that heals those standing inside of it for 690 to 820 every 2 seconds for 10 seconds. The healing effectiveness of Healing Rain will diminish beyond 6 people within the area. There is also talent in the restoration tree called Soothing Rains that provides support by increasing its effectiveness by 15/30%.
This spell perform quite well and appears to be the strongest of the zone heals, mostly due to the factors listed above. The only real downside to it that I can see is that it appears to be the most expensive of the zone heals, at the cost of 46% of a shaman’s base mana.
Holy Radiance (Paladins)
Like Healing Rain, this spell is also trainable by all paladins at level 83 but comes with a steep one minute cooldown. The paladin has very little say about who receives the heals from this because the spell is centered around them. Holy Radiance is an instant cast spell that will heal all friendly targets within 20 yards of the paladin for up to 1136 every second, lasting up to 10 seconds. Not only will the healing effect diminish for each person beyond 6 that are in range, but also for targets that are more than 8 yards away.
Holy Radiance could easily be seen as the weakest of the zone heals, due to the lack of real choice regarding who will receive the healing from it, two factors that would reduce the healing effectiveness instead of just one, the longer cooldown and the fact that the only talent that supports it is Speed of Light (which grants the paladin a certain percentage of overall spell haste, reduces the cooldown of Holy Radiance slightly and increases the paladin’s movement speed after casting it).
Holy Word: Sanctuary (Priests)
This spell is currently available to priests with at least 20 points in the holy tree, 2 points in Holy Concentration and 1 point in Chakra. Holy Word: Sanctuary only becomes available when a priest is in Chakra: Sanctuary, which will convert Holy Word: Chastise into this ability. It takes less than a full second to cast (depending on your haste rating) and costs 44% of a priest’s base mana. Like Healing Rain, a priest can create a Sanctuary zone by targeting an area, which results in a large circle of gold being placed on the ground. Those standing inside of it will be healed for 616 every 2 seconds for 18 seconds. This spell also works along with the holy priest’s mastery, Echo of Light which will leave a HoT that may last once the Sanctuary effect stops generating heals.
Holy Word: Sanctuary seems to have an equal amount of good and bad qualities attached to it. For starters, it is the zone heal with the most prerequisites standing in the way of a priest wanting to use it. Not only do you need to be a holy priest, but you need to be in the correct Chakra state to use it. If you are in one of the other available Chakra states, you will be stuck with either Holy Word: Serenity (an instant cast, single target heal) or an unchanged, but slightly stronger Holy Word: Chastise. However, being in that Chakra state also comes with benefits that will make Holy Word: Sanctuary heal for more. This spell also comes with a lengthy cooldown of 40 seconds, which can be reduced by the Tome of Light talent. On the other hand, this spell lasts for 18 seconds, which makes it the zone heal with the longest duration.
As you can see, there definitely appear to a number of things that prevent each zone heal from being as useful as the others. This brings up a number of questions. Do they need to be in line with each other or are some naturally meant to be stronger than the rest? Should there be more in place (i.e. talents or glyphs) to make these spells work better for those who have a healing spec (in the case of Healing Rain and Holy Radiance)? What would it take to make each one better and for them to see more use in raids, if they’re not already?
I look forward to seeing the discussions continue as the PTR testing continues and morel changes are released. For the most part, I’m pleased with Holy Word: Sanctuary and I feel fortunate that mine has the luxury of having my mastery play a part in it. Of course I think things can always be better, but I won’t deny that other classes may have it worse than I do and their zone heals should definitely receive more attention than mine right now. I’m perfectly content to enjoy what I have and to wait patiently and see if Sanctuary will come up on the list of zone heals that will be improved in the next patch.