Now that we sort of have a release date for patch 4.2, the time has come to review everything healers should be aware of in anticipation. The gear "floor" is going to reset. This means you'll now purchase tier 11 items with justice points, so you'll have a chance to step into the new raids without having such a large gear deficiency. The valor vendor now has some new swag available for purchase. Your existing valor emblems will convert to justice points, so you may want to consider planning your item purchases around it (at least, if you still need to).
Still worried about the gear gap? Don't worry, as the Avengers of Hyjal have some new faction items you can buy to help in your efforts against Ragnaros and his minions. Certain items that are picked up from the vendor or from raid trash can be upgraded to heroic item levels.
At the end of the post, I'm going to list my thoughts on healing in tier 11, and I'd like to hear what you've thought of it.
Upgrading items to heroic quality
These are just some of the items that can be purchased from the valor emblem vendor.
- Phoenix-Feather Wand
- Firesoul Wristguards
- Firemind Pendant
- Soothing Brimstone Circle
- Firebinder Relic
- Scorchskull Bindings
- Bracers of Misting Ash
- Bracers of Imperious Truths
The tier 12 chest, gloves, and legs are also available for purchase with valor emblems for each class. In tier 11, certain raid zone drops did not have heroic versions of themselves (such as Chelley's Staff of Mending or Maldo's Sword Cane). While it doesn't seem that we'll be able to upgrade our bracers or our rings to heroic quality, it appears that trash drops like weapons and trinkets, as well as relic slot items purchased from the vendor, can be upgraded. There is a caster dagger available to us that is upgradable, Chelley's Sterilized Scalpel. It doesn't have any spirit on it, which means your DPS players will want to have a first crack at it. However, if they're already packing sufficiently good weapons, it might be worthwhile to hand it over to a healer, especially if the spirit can be made up in other gear areas.
Anyway, in order to upgrade a normal-quality item and power it up to the heroic version, first you need to obtain the item plus a Crystallized Firestone, which only drops from the heroic versions of Firelands bosses. I'm not sure how many of these will drop per boss, but my guess is something between one to three drops. Notice that the heroic version of the raid trash weapons will not be made BoE -- in other words, we can't take an item, upgrade it, and then park it on the auction house.
Faction and reputation
For other item slots, we'll need to turn to the Avengers of Hyjal. The Avengers are a new faction trying to keep Ragnaros in check. We won't be able to simply farm raid bosses for reputation, as we did in the early stages of Icecrown. Instead, we'll need to continue to grind reputation by doing dailies.
Belts can be picked up at honored. Cloaks can be picked up at friendly, and trinkets can be obtained at the exalted level. Naturally, this leaves rings as the final item that is picked up at exalted. The item level on rings are significantly higher then the other items, matching the item level of gear from heroics.
- Flowing Flamewrath Cloak
- Embereye Belt
- Girdle of the Flaming Foothold
- Searing Slice Girdle
- Firescar Sash
- Quicksilver Signet of the Avengers
The Fiery Quintessence has a boatload of spirit on it, along with a great on-use effect of 1,149 intellect over 25 seconds. What's more, it only has a 1-minute cooldown, compared to the traditional cooldown timer of 2 minutes that most other trinkets have. Naturally, you'll want to activate it during heavy damage phases of an encounter (whether it's the tank is being hit extra hard or the group). I'll grab it and add it to my arsenal of healing trinkets, though I don't know how often I'll get around to using it. I'm not the best when it comes to on-use trinkets; I have a bad tendency of forgetting about them when I'm in the "zone" of healing.
Wrapping up tier 11
Personally, I'm tired of healing this tier. The attrition and the grinding has worn me down.
It was a decent introductory raiding tier for Cataclysm. While there were some healing-intensive and control mechanics (like Chimaeron), the rest of the tier hinged heavily on overall group skill and individual effort. By comparison, Icecrown was largely about reflex and quick healing. But this tier 11 stuff? Healers were best rewarded if they were able to "read" what was going on.
Healing was extra tough at the beginning of the tier because not only did we have to master the encounter mechanics, we had to get used to the new healing model. Much of the pain was on us to relearn how to heal. I know that's what led to a number of healers departing the game because they just didn't have the skill to adapt. It was really easy during The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King because our mana pools didn't matter.
I hope Firelands will be a rejuvenating experience for healing. The assorted encounters I've healed on 10-man show extreme promise; that place can't come soon enough! I know that summer is here and all that. The guild leader in me is going to work really hard to continue recruiting and attracting players (such as shadow priests, warlocks and rogues). I don't know about you, but I'm perfectly content beating the heat outside the house by stepping into Firelands!
We won't be using our mana-neutral healing spells as often these days, since our gear levels have gone up. No point in using a spell like Heal when we can use a faster or harder-hitting heal. It isn't just because we can -- it's because we have to. With mana costs staying the same, the only ways developers can make things punishing and engaging for healers is to increase incoming damage.
So now that we're winding down tier 11, what were your overall thoughts on healing this tier as compared to past tiers and expansions? We're taking everything into account, from normal mode versions to heroic modes.
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 for advanced tactics and advice for the endgame raider.