How Do You Feel About Mana Management?

I was reading a lovely post over at Restokin which got me thinking: How do I feel about mana management?  What is the impact of going to a more “vanilla” style healing team in today’s smaller, tighter raiding teams?  Do I think it’s a viable or even a desirable change?

The Team

Today’s teams are smaller than the massive 40-man monsters.  While I miss the massive outdoor bosses, for long dungeons, I much prefer today’s tighter teams of 25 or 10.  The ratio remains similar–least number of tanks, few more healers, and a huge number of dps.  In terms of coordination and rotating healers, the number of bodies is just… smaller.  If you rotate healers, you have less constant throughput, and… well… some people are standing around doing minimal healing in order to be a mana reserve–I don’t miss that part of the old healing regime at all.

Pushing buttons is fun!  Pushing the right button is even more fun.  I think the problem that healer’s are having now is that they feel like they are cornered into the main-heal spam with some fun side buttons from time to time.  However, I don’t think this indicates that we need to be more concerned with mana management, but that we need a  rewarding system for pressing more buttons. Old healing styles rewarded knowing when to down-grade your healing, and when to push out massive thorough-put.  Right now, if you gear well enough, you can push out your biggest, bestest heal to the max without penalty.  Spam isn’t fun.

Dungeon Changes

Dungeons have changed massively on all sides.  I no longer do the healer shuffle in a raid.  I hussle.  I cannot depend on being able to stand in a stationary position for the bulk of the fight, and must rely on my ability to move not only well, but often.  I don’t find myself in a position where I’m standing around spamming my I WIN button from start to finish (::waves to BC heals::).  While mana management can be a fun mini-game, when compared to looking up from my raid frames and actually taking part of a fight, I’d much rather play the movement game instead of the mana game.

And what about PuGs?  Older raid content required massive guilds that could tackle end-game content.  If you were unguilded, or in a small guild, end-game raid content was not accessible.  Now, raid content is more accessible to the pick up group, or guild alliance.  Many times, you are unfamiliar with team members, and key positions can be filled with different people from week to week.  I like the increased accessibility.  While I am in a good-sized guild now, I have been in many different positions, and I understand and definitely sympathize with players who want to raid, but would prefer to play in free agent mode.

Mana management has traditionally required a strong healing team to coordinate healing successfully for encounters.  Depending on the type of changes to require greater mana management, unfamiliar healing teams could create an additional obstacle to successfully downing encounters.  While a raid in general requires some degree of coordination–who’s healing the tanks, who’s healing the raid, who’s healing debuffs–that is already one obstacle to raid completion.  Tank and dps roles can have similar requirements for roles; however, in general, these roles do not require the added complexity of managing their basic resource for doing damage or abilities.  If dps teams were required to rotate to the degree that many vanilla healing teams had to coordinate, than I imagine many raid teams, guild or pick up runs would suffer from the additional micro-management required to succeed.

What About the Gear

So, what’s to be done?  We want a challenge, but we don’t want to penalize the greater population.  I love that most servers have a massive list of guilds that raid now, instead of the 2-5 that vanilla servers could handle.  One way that mana management becomes inconsequential is when healers gain gear.  When I walked into ICC, I ‘struggled.’  I used mana tide totems.  I used mana pots.  I wasn’t healing unless healing was needed.  Now, first wing, I rarely drop a mana tide totem, much less chug a mana pot.  I pump out chain heals non-stop on the tanks for Lord Marrowgar.

What’s the change?  We have less healers, yet I can heal more frequently without consequence?

  1. I know the fights
  2. My team is well-coordinated
  3. I have better gear

Our guild runs a modified EPGP system.  Sign up, show up, gain points, earn gear, lose points.  Points degrade over time, but basically, if you are a regular raider, you are rewarded with a good potential to gain gear regularly.  We have 2-3 tanks, 5-7 healers (yes, we started with 7 healers ^^) and the remaining dps.  When healing gear drops, I have a really good shot of getting it.  When healer/dps piece drops, I still have a really good chance of getting it.

Say what?

Well there’s a built-in disadvantage for dps of smaller raiding teams built-in.  Guilds work very, very hard to minimize the number of healers and tanks they recruit–it is a very fine balancing act.  Rotating tanks and healers is more difficult than rotating in dps when learning new encounters.  Because of this, guilds recruit less tanks and healers, and tanks and healers generally feel that their presence is needed. Guilds tend to over-recruit dps.  In every guild I’ve ever been involved with, there has always been more potential dps per slot than tanks or healers.  In general, there are very dedicated dps who come every raid, and a handful of dps that will rotate regularly.

Basically, in any attendance based EPGP system, healers and tanks will generally be high on the list with a handful of dps and everyone else hoping to gain enough so that when a healer or tank (depending on their class) will bid, drop below them, and they’ll see a piece of loot they can grab before they ratchet back up. (This is all based on my personal experience in attendance based systems–EPGP, loot council and dkp.)

This is where the DPS check comes in.  DPS checks make sure that DPS get the nod and some shiny loot–if nothing else, you spend a few weeks killing the same 4-5 bosses until your raid stops gearing up healers and tanks and start gearing up their dps.  However, healer and tanks still get plenty of upgrades.  In proportion to the baseline of the raid, healers and tanks will generally have 2-5 more upgraded pieces.  They become overgeared and quickly!

Final Thoughts

I would welcome some more emphasis on my mana throughout the content.  While I “struggle” when first encountering content, I am not hurting, it is merely having to make use of the tools available for me to regen mana in combat: totems, pots, and ::gasp:: occasionally an innervate.  I think the move to haste is a good, possible solution.  I love having faster hitting heals, and feel more in control of my healing game; however, in excess I could potentially have mana issues.

I’m not sure I would embrace a mana shy game that required me coordinating with my team as a whole in order to down an encounter.  While it can be an interesting mini-game, there are other mini-games I’d rather play: moar buttons and movement.  The biggest joy of mana management is choosing the right spell at the right time, and I think spell selection and choice could be more interesting.  Also, knowing that for many, healers gear fast, hard, and quickly overgear content, stacking our stats in a way that makes mana regen more scarce while limiting mana pools would quickly make everyone looking for that mana saving button on their bar in the next raid tier.

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2 thoughts on “How Do You Feel About Mana Management?

  1. I think mana management is an important part of caster's gameplay (may main is a Warrior so I don't know too much about it though). Certainly, when I've played healers or a Mage, managing your mana can mean the difference between effective DPS, healing and/or long downtime. It's a fun part of the game that can offer a lot of strategy and often set aside the best players from the average ones.

    • My only experience with mana management in WoW has been… well… down-time. Being smart about your spell choices is much different to me than standing around not doing anything b/c, oops, I have to "manage" my mana. This is how resource management works in other classes (rogues is one of my favorite classes in terms of resource management) but healers have either had the cycle-method or 100% throughput. I don't think either is the right idea, but an equitable system IS possible.

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