Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I was reading Thespius who referred to Dills regarding spells that should leave the game in Cataclysm. Dills posted a list of spells he believes should be removed and Thespius said that Dills' post was ill-considered.

I basically agree with Dills regarding his list of spells that should go, aside from the "Soothes" which can stay as non-combat class quirk spells that don't really get in anyone's way or affect raid content but make classes feel different, even if only to a few people. Amplify and Dampen are special raid buffs that should either get in a raid buff category and be shared between classes or hit the road. Hunters really don't need three different melee strikes (though I personally think they could certainly keep one melee strike).

But the spell I really want to talk about is Lightwell. Obviously this spell is not a favourite of the community, though it has its die hard supporters. The problem is that debates over Lightwell tend to degenerate into debates about how the game should be played where people lament the fact that in today's GearScore obsessed world everyone just cares about upping their personal dps and can't be bothered to try to keep themselves alive. This annoys me because I don't like nostalgia for imagined pasts, but it also annoys me because it misses that actual problems that Lightwell faces. The biggest problem is that Lightwell isn't good.

The most interesting part of this post and response was an analogy to the made up spell Shadowwell. Imagine you could put a well of darkness on the ground and your healers could click it to do damage to the boss. Would that be a good or a bad spell? It's sort of a silly question without knowing how much damage it does. If clicking it did 200 damage to the boss over 10 seconds and used a GCD then everyone would wonder why the spell existed. If clicking it did 100,000 damage to the boss over 3 seconds and used a GCD then everyone would complain that you needed to stack priests to beat everything because Shadowwell was a necessity. 4k damage over 10 seconds at the cost of a GCD: bad. 50k damage over 60 seconds at the cost of a GCD: good. Pretty much any amount of damage without the cost of a GCD: good. What if the DoT breaks if the target takes a hit for 10k or more? Then it's bad. What if the DoT breaks if the target takes a hit for 30k or more? We don't really care about that.

The numbers actually mean almost everything to whether a spell is good or not. If the numbers are high enough then the mechanic can be as awkward as it wants because people will use it anyway. If the Lightwell HoT didn't break on damage and healed for 10k a second on a 1 second tick for 10 seconds then people would use it for sure. As it is few people use it, and quite rightly.

We all know they could make Lightwell good and we all know they could make it too good. But this is what brings us to the fundamental problem with Lightwell, and the reason it should go. They've been working on this spell for years and they haven't got it yet. Lightwell has always been a contentious spell, and people have always argued that it really isn't that great. When raiding used to be set up in a way that would have made it better, the heal broke on any kind of damage so it was virtually useless on the fights that you most wanted to use it on. They've eased that restriction but it is still there threatening to negate the heal. Fights have become much more dynamic and mobile in the mean time, making useful Lightwell placement difficult on many bosses. On top of that, dps checks have surpassed tanking and healing as the primary factor in whether or not you can win a fight, meaning dps can't afford to switch off target to get a heal on themselves, they have to trust their healers to do their job.

Lightwell has also been very hampered this expansion by the fact that healing is so powerful and fast. A dps choosing when to put a HoT on themselves is pretty meaningless when they might not know whether a 20k heal is about to land on them. Dps should be in a position to judge their own health, but they are not in a good position to plan healing for the raid, and putting a HoT on someone that won't do anything for the next two seconds is a question of healing the raid, not healing that one person. From an individual perspective the tick from Lightwell pretty much always be too little, too late.

And with that powerful healing comes powerful damage. I would love to have the option of putting an extra HoT on myself when I run out to drop off a shadow zone on Halion, but I don't have the luxury of going by an immobile place to do so, and even if I did the ticks from the zone can actually do enough damage to break the heal.

The fast healing and brutal damage will be less of an issue in Cataclysm, so Lightwell might have room to work. But it still comes back to the numbers.

I think on Lightwell the developers have a tough decision to make. Either make it good by making the numbers compelling, or scrap it completely. The breaking on damage feature probably needs to go, the cost should be dropped to virtually nothing and the duration/cooldown extended so you are expected to cast it only once per encounter. Make it the Lightwell untargetable (like a door), so clicking it doesn't deselect your current target. Then make the heal big enough that it can be meaningfully incorporated into a plan for the encounter (e.g. if you get hit with ability X, use the Lightwell or when the boss does ability Y, everyone click Lightwell). But, as Dills says in his post, it's current implementation on position on the tree make it really bad. Making Holy priests takes a spell they don't want to cast to get a talent that is supposed to be a big new feature for them this expansion is not going to make the priest community happy.


  1. I can see why they think they need to make it break on big damage. If you didn't then you'd make people feel obligated to drop Lightwell near the tank and have the tank spend time and concentration clicking on it to keep the hot up. I certainly wouldn't want to do that on every fight.

  2. Yeah, I know the breaking on damage thing is there to prevent it from being put by the tank. If they really want to prevent that, though, I'd rather have them put a debuff on you that prevents you from using it more than once per lightwell. I mean, none of us want a situation where the tank is expected to click lightwell every 20 seconds, but the break on damage solution just hasn't been working out. Of course none of us wants another useless debuff hanging around on our screen all the time either.

    As I said, I think ultimately this spell has to go because they clearly can't think of a way to make it work the way they want it to.

  3. Another option for changing it is to take away the click component. During Brewfest, the repeatable quest to pick up kegs and return them using a special mount had these baskets of apples. If you passed near them, they reset the mount's fatigue meter, allowing you to run full speed for a while longer.

    Why not make Lightwell trigger on proximity? You would probably have to also add limits on how many times it could apply to a player (as you discussed above), but it would greatly improve its utility. It would essentially become an AOE HoT, but that's kind of right up a Holy Priest's alley, right? And, it could work for range because people would just have to run near it, and could take advantage during movement phases when they're running anyway. It could be placed in a kiting path to help tanks and melee on the run as well.

  4. Yeah, if they changed it to work like the "Lightwell" that the priest trash in the 5-man Colosseum works then they might reinvent the spell in a way that it would get some use.

    Coming back to this issue after a few months I think that Lightwell has chance in Cataclysm. I don't know how good a chance it is, but the community barriers don't seem as insurmountable as they did. If it's good enough to use then world leading raiding guilds will use it, and if they use it then other people will follow suit.

    Another solution, instead of getting rid of the break on damage component completely, would be to make it break only on direct attacks - spells that target you and auto-attacks. That would keep it off tanks but would let other people use it through high damage phases, including pre-hotting themselves before a big AoE.