I've been having a blast lately on the Cataclysm beta. I managed to sneak into a few raids on both 10- and 25-player raids. Even better? I got to do it as holy! While I was interested in seeing how I could cope with the new healing mechanics, my primary purpose was to evaluate what the overall healing game would be like in a raiding environment. It isn't enough for me to see the posts and see the numbers or the discussion. I myself need to be in there and do it. I figured while I was at it, I could record a video of a few encounters and do direct comparisons between 10s and 25s, along with detailing the challenges with both.
Before I get into the differences between 10- and 25-man healing, I want to mention something about our healing circles first.
This is a tactic every healing team is going to want to master. The premise is that one healer lays down an initial healing circle (Holy Word: Sanctuary, Efflorescence, Healing Rain, or Holy Radiance). Once one is on the ground, the other healers unload their circles and overlap them in the same place. When all players in the raid stand on the circles, health just skyrockets.
Nerfs have been made to these spells so that if there are more than six players standing within them, the healing effect is reduced in potency. The more players standing on the circles, the less actual healing received per player. That doesn't mean the strategy of overlapping circles is any less effective.
The nerfs were necessary. The effects were that much better on 25-man than on 10s. Not only that, but on 25s, there were more players who could use cast a healing circle of some kind and more players who could benefit from standing on them. This made it slightly tougher to heal 10s -- at least, in theory.
10-man healing: Straightforward triage
I've done both Halfus Wyrmbreaker, Theralion and Variona on 10s and 25s. I've only done the Omnitron Defense system on 10s. I've made attempts on the Ascendant Council on 25s. I think I've spent a solid 12 hours of beta time healing raids. Heh, perhaps half of that time was spent on the floor eating dust. Either way, I've got a fair understanding of Cataclysm healing now.
Now, in a 10-man fight, a boss encounter would have maybe one add. It might also have one void zone somewhere. You might be asked to dispel a single player. Perhaps you need to heal a certain amount of damage to get rid of another debuff.
Now for me, wading through those types of mechanics is straightforward. The trick is to have to deal with them while maintaining raid health. As you can see from the video, not everyone gets topped off. They don't need to be. Players don't have to be at full health. They just need to be high enough to survive the next few seconds.
This is true triage at its finest. The challenge is the delicate balancing act between having enough mana to last and delivering enough healing to stay alive. If a player goes down, it feels fatal to the group, especially with the limited combat resurrection. Even with decent healers, we all had to work hard to ensure everyone stayed alive.
25-man healing: More action, less pressure
As one would expect, 25-man raids bring the challenge of simply having more stuff to deal with. I'll have to be aware of three possible void zones. There need to be additional tanks to pick up the three ads. There are debuffs on three players that need to be removed.
This is what I find a little peculiar. There isn't as much pressure to really sustain the raid as there is on 10s, because when I'm in a 10-man, I represent maybe 33 percent or 50 percent of the healing team. On 25s, I could be one of five or six healers. Since there are more of us, there are more healing spells that can fly off simultaneously. Keeping players alive isn't a big issue, especially when the team of healers is able to stack healing circles and get everyone to stand directly on them.
Instead, the challenges for me lie in making sure I'm able to handle the raid mechanics being thrown my way, since there is more to contend with. The healers were able to do their jobs and then some. The rest of the raid was doing what it could to minimize damage. Even then, the damage to the raid wasn't really what one could call extreme.
Striking a balance
You'll notice in 10-man that everyone was floating at about 60 percent to 90 percent health. In 25-man, perhaps six people other than the tank would be injured at any one time -- not to mention, unlike 10-man, not everyone is taking excessive damage. (However, these differences could be a byproduct of the group I was with.) Because of the differences, the game designers may compensate for the lack of overall damage by throwing more abilities that will test the awareness of players.
Balance isn't just a byproduct of classes or raid compositions. Raid encounters need to be tuned accordingly, as well, and I think more work is needed in this area to deliver a satisfying amount of challenge. Even though it is logistically easier to form a 10-man, 25-man encounters appear to have a slightly easier time with encounters simply due to the numbers of players available to them. Losing a body on 25-man isn't a big a deal as losing a body on 10-man.
When I have the time to raid again, I'm going to see if I can duck in and determine if there have been any recent changes, as this experience occurred before the Tuesday patch. Who knows? This post might be outdated already!
Need advice on working with the healers in your guild? Raid Rx has you covered. Send your questions about raid healing to firstname.lastname@example.org. For less healer-centric raiding advice, visit Ready Check, and don't miss our strategy guides to Icecrown Citadel and Halion/the Ruby Sanctum.