It’s Not About the Timer

Until recently, Silvering all four Veteran Dungeons was a required part of the attunement process for WildStar raids.  There is an argument you see frequently on the Official Forums and other places (e.g., Reddit) that goes something like this: “Raids don’t have timers, so it doesn’t make sense to require players to beat timers to gain access to raids.”  While true on the face of it (raids generally don’t have an overall timer, although certain boss encounters can have what amounts to timers in the form of hard enrages), I think this argument completely misses the broader point.  That is, the skills and behavior required to actually clear the dungeon within the time limit is, imho, essentially the same as some (but not all) of the skills and behavior required to be successful at raiding.

To elaborate, let’s discuss what it takes to be a valued member of a raid team:

  • Knowledge of your class and roll, and the ability to use that knowledge to perform well in your given roll.
  • General “raid awareness,” which means you can avoid avoidable damage, manage your position relative to the boss, the tank, the healers, and other DPS, and constantly adapt and react as circumstances change, all while generating the most DPS/HPS/TPS you can.
  • Good communication skills: you can react to the raid leader calling something out, and you can speak up when you need to inform the team of something, all while juggling the demands of the encounter.
  • The ability to learn from your mistakes and continuously improve your performance on each successive attempt of the same content, reducing your “error rate” until you can reliably execute a fight with a low probability of making a mistake.

I believe these are exactly the skills required to silver a Vet dungeon.  They are of course hard to measure, but in my view the silver timer is a measuring tool for determining how good you are at the above.  Yes, it might be a bit of a crude measurement, and other factors can influence the result (IRL interruptions, computer issues, internet issues, etc., but those are present during raids as well), but overall I think it’s a pretty good metric.

Beating a Vet silver timer basically requires you to: 1) have sufficient DPS/HPS/tank survivability to complete the content (relatively easy even with “bad” gear), 2) interrupt enough Trash casts to generate lots of MoO to reduce TTK, and 3) execute the mechanics of boss fights with only a few wipes1.  Doing these things requires the first three skills above, and the fourth skill means that although you may wipe two dozen times on your first full clear, you will wipe fewer on the next, until, with sufficient practice you are flying through with time to spare.

To those who are still not convinced, consider this.  What if they changed the requirement for Silver from beating a timer to something like “Interrupt 80% of Trash Mob casts and don’t wipe more than twice.”  That’s not a timer, but a measure of your ability to coordinate interrupts and execute mechanics with a minimum of mistakes.  Would that be better?  Because it is kind of the same thing: if you can meet that hurdle you will almost surely have made the timer, unless you are: a) spending inordinate amounts of time sightseeing inside the instance, b) taking frequent post-hot-pocket bio breaks, or c) RP walking between every pull.  So if it helps, don’t think of it as a timer, think of it as: “we need to get through this dungeon by chain stunning trash and not wiping more than a few times.”  And that requires the same skills needed to be a successful raider.

What does it take to get a Bronze in a dungeon?  Do you have to be good on interrupts on trash?  Nope.  Can you wipe repeatedly on every boss and never really “learn” the fight until you get one lucky attempt and kill him/her/it?  Yes.  I think most people get Bronze their first time in a Vet, provided they are with a semi-competent group and can put out the minimum HPS/DPS/TPS required.  There is no testing of the ability to continuously improve, no real need to practice an encounter until it becomes almost effortless.  And that is a huge difference.

Before sharpening your comment knives, note that I am not arguing that Silver medals should still be required for attunement.  I just want to make the point that I do think there is a strong positive correlation between the skills required to get a Silver in a Vet dungeon and the skills required of a good raider.

Will the change to Bronze mean there will be more attuned players?  Absolutely, which seems good for the game.  Will it bring some people and guilds back to the game?  Maybe, and that would be great, for Carbine, for the community, and for the future of WildStar.  Will it mean there will be some players running into Genetic Archives who may not have developed the skills necessary to be successful there?  Maybe, but if they are not on your raid team, why do you care?  And if they are on your raid team, you would deal with them the same way you always deal with them: help them to be better players, or replace them.

The one drawback I see of not having the Silver requirement for attunement is that fewer players will stretch themselves to get Silver, and I think that’s very unfortunate, because pushing oneself is a great way to learn, improve, and have fun.

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1 I’ve also seen it argued that wiping repeatedly on a boss isn’t a bad thing and certainly happens a lot in raids.  While it’s true it happens on a progression boss, after you’ve beaten an encounter once, the expectation becomes that you will be able to down it the next week (and every week thereafter for a long while) without wiping (or with a minimum of wipes).  Any raid team that is still wiping for hours on the first boss of a raid weeks after first killing it is unlikely to progress very far through the content.

Becoming a Veteran of Veteran Dungeons

Veteran Dungeons are, for almost everyone, the most challenging step in the attunement process, although with a decent team and the right attitude they can also be the most fun.  This post will review some “tips and tricks,” mostly Medic-specific, for healing your way from zero to 4/4.  Note this is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to the mechanics and strategies for the bosses and base pop mobs, so it will assume you are already familiar with these from other sources and/or from personal experience.

Overview

In general, the raw healing requirements for Vet Dungeons, even on Silver+ runs are pretty modest, provided the team is performing well.  For the most part this means: a) interrupting almost everything that is interruptable, b) avoiding almost all avoidable damage.  If your team is stellar at both these things, there isn’t really much to heal; sure you have to heal through white damage on the Tank and the occasional unavoidable/uninterruptable telegraph, but unavoidable group-wide damage is very rare in these four instances (I try to highlight those occurances below).  This point is driven home by the fact that there are teams of players who have Silvered some of the dungeons without a healer (I’ve heard of at least STL), and examples of players who have one-man’d boss fights with just self heals (at least Thunderfoot and Mordechai).  Does this mean we are not needed?  No, but it means how much healing we do is strongly dependent on the group’s performance, even more so than in other MMOs I’ve played.  While first learning a dungeon, people will make mistakes, since that is part of the learning process.  And you are there to provide heals in the face of the missed interrupts, the dodges from the frying-pan telegraph into the fire telegraph, and the Spellslinger Gate that turns an interrupt into a double trash pull.  You are there to prevent every misstep from spiraling into a wipe, because if it does, the rate of learning will go down significantly.  You are the “mistake eraser,” and the better you are, the more mistakes your team can make and still be alive, and the faster you will all progress toward the near-mistake-free run that will earn you Silver (or Gold).

Basic Builds

I generally use this build for trash:

Veteran Dungeon Trash Build

And this build for bosses:

Veteran Dungeon Boss Build

Departures from these basic builds will be noted below.

There are many viable Medic healing builds for succeeding at healing Vet Dungeons.  Find something that works for you and your group, and that you enjoy playing, even if some other players consider it “suboptimal.”  If you enjoy the playstyle and can accomplish what you want in game, what exactly is not being optimized here?

You will note I don’t have either Attrition or Running on Empty, and I never equip Recharge.  My Focus Recovery Rate is around 3.0, I have 8/12 of the Focus Recovery Rune Set, and I have crafted shoulders with the Reduced Burden special.  Given this gear, I’ve found myself consistently drowning in Focus without needing those AMPs or Recharge.  By drowning I mean I’ve never been on a run and worried about my Focus, even on boss attempts where one (or two) DPS go down early and you know you are in for a longer than normal fight.  Your mileage may vary; depending on your gear you might find you need Recharge or more Focus AMPs, but I think it’s overall much more efficient to solve Focus problems through gearing than via spending precious AMP points or using even more precious LAS real estate.

Depending on your group composition, having an interrupt on trash can either be a safety measure or a necessity.  As a safety measure, you can jump in on an interrupt if the person who should be interrupting is otherwise occupied (i.e., stunned, out of position, dirt napping, etc).  If group comp requires you to have an interrupt, you might want to turn up the Paralytic Surge to Tier 4.  On bosses I generally prefer to have a CC break to an interrupt, but if you know you won’t really be needing a CC break, by all means run the interrupt for those “just in case” moments.

This build can have great burst.  When you need to heal your little Actuators off, you pop Energize (which triggers Hypercharge) and then Crisis Wave x3.  You can throw a Flash in there as well, and don’t forget your trinket (I run with Protection), and your medispray (Mourningstar Medispray).  Taken together this is more than enough to take any group from near zero to full in the space of a few seconds (with the longest cooldown being the Endorphin Rush debuff on the medispray, which does not prevent players from using their own medishots).  When I refer to “burst” in the discussions below I am referring to this: Energize + CWx3, with some combination of Flash/Gadget/Medispray if available and needed.  Given our current set of abilities, this is your best option for single-target burst as well (yes there is Barrier, but I don’t think it warrants an LAS slot for Vet Dungeons).  Perhaps once Triage is resuscitated we will have a different combo for single-target vs group burst.

Stormtalon’s Lair (STL)

This is widely considered the easiest Vet dungeon, although Stormtalon can present problems if your DPS is low.  Antidote will definitely be your friend on trash pulls; be sure to warn your group to stack in front of you for dispels.

Blade Wind the Invoker

Given the nerf to group Interrupt Armor duration, it’s more challenging, but certainly still very doable, to use the IA from Prot Probes (via the Solid State AMP) to avoid the subdue on phase transitions.  This is not really necessary in the first phase transition, but it is very useful in the second transition to ensure your group can get a stun off on the first Electrostatic Pulse.  I generally cast Prot Probes just after the fourth add goes down.  Note if you fail at the timing you can use Calm to get your weapon back instantly, but you might want to save it to break out of stuns from Static Wisps.

Aethros

The Gusts (little adds) hit pretty hard, so be sure to keep Prot and Mending Probes running to help with the tank damage.  One source of danger is if you get bad RNG and several puddles in a row spawn on you (my record is three).  Since you need to run away from the group to drop them, you can sometimes spend a fair bit of time not in healing range of the Tank (even with Urgency to help).  So try and keep the Tank as topped off as possible just in case you won’t be seeing them for a while.

Stormtalon

I generally try and stay on Stormy’s front left paw, in range of the Tank but out of danger from his cleave.  Put Antidote on your bar to dispel the debuff from his cleave, which will slow the Tank (making kiting more difficult) and apply stacks which increase damage taken.  The times when Stormtalon is stunned after interrupting Static Wave is clearly a good opportunity to get everybody stabilizing/topped off.  I use Calm to breakout of the stun after the knockback, which gives me plenty of time to run into the middle without needing Urgency (provided you run sideways and aren’t too close to anyone there is zero chance of getting struck by lightening.)  I save Urgency for emergencies, which can happen frequently during the kiting phase.  The fight is a DPS check due to the tight soft enrage, so it’s important to keep the DPS alive to get a kill.

Ruins of Kel Voreth (KV)

A little more difficult than STL, with more trash and, with the exception of Grond, more complicated boss encounters.  You will need Antidote less on trash, although it’s very helpful for the Voreth Darkwitches.

Grond the Corpsemaker

Urgency is your fiend on this fight given the large area and the fact people tend to get pretty spread out during the add phase.  Your default position should be on his front left paw, along with the DPS, which will allow you to heal the Tank and give you plenty of time to interrupt Thrash since he always goes counterclockwise.  After people trap their fleas, try to get everyone to return to this position for healing.  Be ready for burst healing on Mutilate if the target fails to avoid it.

Slavemaster Drokk

The DoT that the pursuit target gets is pretty painful, so you will want to start by hitting them with Prot and Mending Probes to ensure they are getting some healing goodness even if you get separated from them.  But you will want to stay close to them because those Probes will not be sufficient to keep them up.  Emission and Shield Surge should be fine, and use Urgency to keep up if needed, or to escape if you get cornered by the bombs.  I think having clean pursuit phases is the key to the fight; if you are using VoIP, one thing that helps is for the pursuit target to countdown the last few seconds of the Tracking Beacon debuff (the icon is the same as your Recall button) to alert people that a new target is about to be chosen.

Forgemaster Trogun

It can’t hurt to group up before the flying-flaming-razor-disk dance party starts and out out Prot and Mending Probes to help keep people up in case they miss a (dance) step.  I also find disabling “double-tap-to-dash” useful to avoid mishaps.  Be ready to burst the group back to stable if people come out of that phase with a few cuts and bruises.

Provided your group is good at green-orb grabbing and interrupting Trogun’s Volcanic Strike, tank damage will be manageable.  If not, it can get spikey, so be prepared.  If you are suffering from the Tank dying before you get a chance to heal her back up, you can try moving points from Flash and Crisis Wave into T8 Protection Probes for some extra mitigation.  As soon as he starts with the razor disks again I Urgency away to have sufficient distance to easily avoid them (while picking up orbs, of course).

Skullcano (SC)

This instance turns up the amount of trash, but a lot of it (especially at the beginning) is avoidable no matter what optionals you have.  But be prepared for a lot of pulls between the gauntlet and Mordechai.  The Silver timer is pretty tight on this one, especially with some optionals, and rehearsing Mordechai enough to get a reliable one- or two-shot will take some time.

Stew-Shaman Tugga

This boss is a breeze with good interrupts and a nightmare without them.  As such, I take Paralytic Surge T4 to serve as a “spare” interrupt (taking points out of Crisis Wave).  We typically interrupt everything except “Into the Stew,” and if the stew-goer is due to interrupt the next cast, I can take their place.  Be sure to top off the stewed player once they are out (they emerge pretty tender and juicy, but without a lot of health).  There isn’t too much else to say on the healing front, with solid interrupts and good DPS this meal won’t last very long.

Thunderfoot

If your group is good at timing their double jumps and staying out of the fire, all damage is avoidable except the cleave on the Tank.  If this is the case, I recommend keeping Empowering Probes on your LAS to make the fight quicker, if not, Protection Probes should help reduce damage from any mistakes even if the group is pretty spread out.

His cleave is a very wide arc, so it is difficult to “flank the Tank” and stay out of the cleave but within healing range of the Tank.  I find it much easier to stand directly behind the Tank, just out of cleave range but within healing range.  As far as overall positioning, I think it’s generally better for the Tank to keep the boss facing the center of the room, except when he needs to be turned to swipe a mushroom.  If he is tanked facing the walls of the pit, I find the healer can sometimes get boxed in between the walls, the cleave telegraph, and the crap the Moodies are throwing down into the pit.

Molten Cavern

This is more commonly known as the “left” gauntlet, as opposed to the “right” gauntlet (aka, the Lava Field).  For this gauntlet I move Flash to Base and Crisis Wave to T4 to pick up Protection Probes T8.  This is one of the few cases of group-wide unavoidable damage: when the shield drops, everyone will be taking ticks from Molten Heat.  As soon as the shield goes down I put out Prot Probes and Mending Probes and start spamming Emission.  If you find yourself falling behind, do some burst healing.  Once the mob is down and you are once again comfortably under the shield, stay a little behind the group and top everybody off with Emission and Shield Surge to be safe and to prepare for the next shield drop.

Boson Octog

The phases of the fight where you are actually attacking the boss should be pretty light on heals since you will be interrupting his Shred ability.  If this is missed and the victim doesn’t have a CC break up, get ready for some burst healing.  Provided the tank picks up Razooki (touch his monkey! touch him! love him!) and the DPS are good at dodging the bad stuff, there is not too much to do until the ink phases.  Speaking of those, CC break out of the blind if you get inked, and try to keep Prot Probes or Mending Probes (or both) up on anybody who gets inked so you can keep the heals on them without having to be near them.  Be sure Energize is ready when you transition back to DPSing the boss just in case people are in need of topping off from bomb or ink damage.

Mordechai Redmoon

Keep Antidote on your bar because anyone who gets clipped by the lower beams will get a pretty nasty (but dispellable) DoT.  Purging this is very high priority, although your highest priority is staying alive (sound familiar?).  Calm can be a life saver if you get too close to the edge of a lava pool, and can also be used to remove the blind (although clearly you should be avoiding that by not looking into the light…never a good idea).  The best advice for this fight is “Remain Calm and Stay Alive.”  Having Paralytic Surge (possibly tiered) to interrupt Big Bang and Vicious Barrage in the event one (or more) of the DPS aren’t around can be an attempt saver, and you can swap it in for Calm if you are confident in your own survival.

If you are having issues separating the “bad red” from the overall background redness, or distinguishing the “jump over” lower lasers from the “run away from” upper lasers, I recommend colorblind mode Protanopia (the middle option).  Harmful telegraphs will be yellow and beneficial ones will be purple (takes some getting used to), but I find it helpful in this particular room.

Sanctuary of the Swordmaiden (SSM)

The War and Peace of Veteran Dungeons.  This instance has a bad rep, but in its current state it is very manageable.  All trash is “leashed,” which is unusual for an instanced dungeon, so if you pull them too far away from their anchor point that will eventually lose interest and run back.  This means you can skip most trash unless you have an optional that requires you to kill them.  Of course, for some packs it will be easier and safer to kill them than try to avoid them, but with a proper interrupt rotation you will cut through them very quickly.  There are also a lot of potential mini Bosses, but none of them should present much of a challenge, and the boss encounters, with the exception of Rayna Darkspeaker are pretty forgiving.

Deadringer Shallaos

The main thing to watch for here is if a DPS gets aggro via out-stacking the Tank on Resonance.  Given good communication, the Tank will very quickly try and remedy this by ringing some chimes, but in those precious few seconds you are going to have to keep that (potentially clothy) DPS alive.  Another thing to be mindful of is not Shield Surging the chimes.  Remember our trusty Shield Surge also does damage, and hitting a chime with Shield Surge will build a stack of Resonance on you.  Don’t do it!

Rayna Darkspeaker

I take Antidote for this pyromanaic, replacing Mending Probes.  The DoT from the Lava Pools debuff does a fair amount of damage and the sooner it is off, the better.  Note dispelling the debuff does cause the lava pool to immediately spawn under the player dispelled, so you want to make sure you (and/or your target) is in a good position to drop the pool before dispelling.  There are various strategies for handling this DoT/pools, and you certainly don’t have to dispel them, but it does give you some more control and reduces overall incoming damage.  If you are individually dropping the pools away from the boss, you can sprint out, quickly dispel, and then if it looks like you need to get back in a hurry, just Urgency back.  If you decide to group dispel all the debuffs, make sure people know to remain stacked in front of you given Antidote’s short range, then dispel everyone as soon as the DoT is up and double-dash together out of the pools.

Just before the walls of fire are called down to dispose of you, she will reduce everyone’s health to around 10% no matter what the starting point, so you don’t need to worry about getting people high before hitting the phase transition (save your Focus, not that you need it).  During the wall dodging phase your Number One priority is to not die (that is forever and always your number one priority), but you should also try and get everyone back to full (or at least reasonably close) before the phase ends.  This is usually pretty easy with a combination of Emission and Crisis Wave since you will likely be pretty closely grouped (since there is only one gap in each wall), just try to stay a little behind everybody.

Ondo Life-weaver

I take Antidote for this boss, replacing Mending Probes.  I also take Paralytic Surge rather than Calm since there is nothing to CC break out of, and it’s nice to have a backup interrupt when he uses the Heal Totem.  When the boss is enraged your Tank will be kiting for her life, and the boss occasionally slows her, making her kiting less kitey.  Dispel that nonsense.  Even though the Tank is kiting, she is likely to take some hits, so do your best to stay within healing range at all times (Urgency can obviously be a huge help) and be ready to burst if needed.  Other than the kiting phase, healing is light.

Moldwood Overlord Skash

The only healing challenge on this fight is dealing with the damage during the “hammer phase,” or as we started calling it the “donut phase” (given the annulus shape of the telegraph that spawns around each player.)  Our strategy has been to stack as tightly as possible without knocking each other around with the Tank closest to the hammer (but not directly under), myself behind her (so none of the discs emanating from the hammer hit me) and the DPS near the Tank but a little further from the hammer.  The discs spawned by the hammer head toward each player and do damage and spawn little spider adds on impact.  If your Tank tries to absorb all the discs she will take massive spike damage and have a lot of adds on her.  This can lead to Tank death, absent some cheat death mechanic such as a Stalker’s Last Stand, so we usually have the Tank try and pick up a lot of the discs, but not all, and let some go by to the DPS.  There will still be decent Tank damage, plus some damage on the DPS, so you should be ready to burst and then continue pumping out the heals until the adds are gone and everybody is stable.  Note given the knockback from the donuts, moving needs to be kept to a minimum; we are usually tightly enough stacked that by just rotating I can reach everyone with Crisis Wave (although not all simultaneously, usually just three targets, including me).  Note the upside of losing someone on the donut phase is there will be fewer discs and hence less spike damage and fewer adds in subsequent phases.  I’m pretty sure our first few kills were with one (or two) DPS down, although the “eyes” do present a soft enrage mechanic.

Spiritmother Selene the Corrupted

This is by far the easiest end boss of the four dungeons (imho).  During the dark phases you can just group up on the boss (although you can’t DPS her due to Shadow Meld) and heal through the damage; there is no need to go into the light.  This avoids the group getting separated from her Shadow Grip ability but obviously leads to more healing (with Mending Probes and Prot Probes ticking, Emission spam and Shield Surge should be sufficient).  If you have Focus issues, by all means get into the safe zones.  Note this advice does not apply to the last dark phase (when she casts Blackout instead of Shadow Meld).  I’ve heard the damage from Blackout is too high to heal through, and never had the desire to test it myself.

TL;DR

- Work out an interrupt rotation with your team and interrupt all the things for MoOs and reduced trash kill times, as well as an easier time on bosses.

- Remain Calm and Stay Alive.  Many fights can be finished with a DPS (or two) down, so prioritize keeping yourself and the Tank up.

- Practice, practice, practice the boss fights until you can reliably down the bosses with almost no wipes

- Profit (or at least, get attuned and have a lot of fun, since the gear/gold/Elder Point rewards are not very exciting).

A Eulogy for Silver

Silvering Vet Dungeons made me a better player.  It made my group of players, three of whom I didn’t know from Adam going into our first run, a cohesive team.  Each dungeon in turn was a challenge that steadily bent, with practice and sustained effort, from seemingly neigh-impossible to almost easy.

Was it disheartening to wipe at 1% a few times on Forgemaster?  Yes.  Was I often worried that someone on the team would give into frustration and want to call it an early night?  Yes.  Was it scary when I noticed my hands shaking with excitement/nerves as we were forced to sit through Mordechai’s (seemingly endless) roleplay while the timer rapidly ticked down?  Yes.  But damn, it was fun.  Challenging, exhilarating, rewarding fun.

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Disclaimer: This is my personal (visceral) reaction to the news that the Vet Dungeon attunement requirement will be reduced from Silver to Bronze.  I will likely post a follow up with more general, dispassionate discussion of the change and its impact on the game. But for now I’m just posting how I feel.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

Okay, the latest (Sabotage!) drop changes might not exactly rival the 1960’s in terms of their broader cultural significance, but they are likely to change up the playstyle of Healing Medics across Nexus, so from the narrow weltanschauung of this blog, they warrant a Dylan reference.

Mending Probes nerf

As was expected the part of our healing kit that was deemed “overtuned” was Mending Probes major tier upgrades.  The T4 detonate got nerfed from 50% of the HoT potential to 35%, the number of T8 splash heals was lowered from 3 to 2 per probe, and the size of the these splashes was reduced even further from 100% of the base detonate to 75%.

The table below compares Mending Probes T8 + Flash T4 combo, pre and post patch, to some other abilities.

Ability 20-man AvgHeal/ Player (k) 5-man AvgHeal/ Player (k) “Cooldown” Range (m) Cast time (s)
OLD MP T8 + Flash T4 5.2 17.4 10.2 6 1.0
NEW MP T8 + Flash T4 3.3 9.6 10.2 6 1.0
Crisis Wave T8 1.4 5.8 2.5 15 1.25
Crisis Wave T8 Burst 4.3 17.3 5.0 15 2.5
Reverie T8 (> 35%) 3.4 6.9 6.0 25 0
Reverie T8 (< 35%) 4.5 9.0 6.0 25 0

In 5-mans the AvgHeal/Player drops from 17.4k to 9.6k, a substantial (45%) reduction.  This puts the combo only slightly above Reverie T8 (on targets < 35% heath) despite the longer cooldown and significantly lower range.  Things look worse for 20-mans where the AvgHeal/Player is now only 3.3k, even below Reverie T8 on players above 35% health, and again on an ability where players need to be tightly stacked rather than spread out.

Some players, including me, suggested altering the detonation mechanic so that a player could be hit by at most one splash heal, which would reduce the healing in 5-mans but not 20-mans.  Note this would reduce the 5-man AvgHeal/Player to 10.5k, 10% higher than the new value.  So I would classify the change, on 5-mans, as “major” but not completely game-breaking.  However, in a 20-man environment, MP T8 + Flash T4 now looks pretty uncompelling, which is disappointing since Medics don’t exactly have a lot of skills in our kit that are useful for healing large groups of players (our only other ability that hits more than 5 targets is Rejuvenator).

You will note I’ve added Crisis Wave (CW) T8 Burst to the table: this assumes you cast Crisis Wave three times in a row, taking advantage of the major tier upgrades that make the third cast instant (and off GCD) and Actuator and Focus free.  The burst healing per target put out by CW T8 x3 is almost the same as MP T8 + Flash T4 pre-Sabotage, and has a less restrictive positioning requirement.  Of course, it comes at a cost of four Actuators, a 2.5sec cast time (as opposed to 1sec), and 40% more Focus (86 vs 61, unAMP’ed).  So with these changes should Mending Probes T8 be replaced by Crisis Wave T8 on our LAS?  Possibly; it’s definitely something I will be experimenting with in the coming days.  Although Crisis Wave does appear to do the job for burst (with some drawbacks), I will certainly miss the Focus-efficient healing of the Mending Proves HoT, and the fact that you could place the probes on someone and then run out of range to do something else and the HoT would still be ticking on them 12sec later.  Of course, with Crisis Wave now on your bar, if you are at full Actuators and the tank is close to full shields, you can afford to spend some of those Actuators on a Crisis Wave to heal those DPS that normally would have been taken care of via the probe HoT.

Reboot Changes

Reboot will now trigger when the target is below 30% shields, but will hit for only 135% of Support Power, down from 225%, a 40% reduction.  Using typical stat values1 (and taking into account that Reboot can crit), the average Rebooted (base) Shield Surge will go from healing for 8.9k to healing for 6.8k, “only” a 23% nerf (since the Shield Surge healing itself is unchanged).

How much does this change matter?  One way to evaluate it is to consider how often you will be casting a Rebooted Shield Surge if your strategy is to only cast Shield Surge when Reboot will proc, and assuming you are healing a target taking steady damage.  The math says in any given time period you will end up casting Shield Surge 8.9k/6.8k – 1 = 30% more frequently2.  That’s a pretty significant increase in the number of times you are casting a Rebooted Shield Surge, and I think you will feel the difference in Focus burn rate.  That said, although the heal from Reboot was nerfed, the fact it triggers off of someone at 30% shields means it’s easier to maintain a higher average shield level, and hence a higher average Effective Health, although clearly it will now cost you more Focus.

More to come…

The Devs specifically mentioned they wanted to “update Triage to function as a powerful single-target emergency heal.”  Let’s look at what needs to happen for Triage to earn a spot on the bar.

For Triage to be viable as a single-target emergency heal it needs to be a targeted heal.  Period; full stop.  They tried something else, and it has issues.  They might be able to cook up some other way of Triage selecting a target, but let’s face it, no matter what the mechanic there will be corner-cases, so short of having Triage read our minds, the only way it is guaranteed to hit the target we want is for it to be targeted.  As Hick’s said, “it’s the only way to be sure.”  And sure is what we want in an emergency heal that will only hit one target.  Do I relish having to disengage mouselock (I currently use Steer), select a target, and reengage mouselock?  Nope, I’m definitely not looking forward to it (although having the mouselock toggle bound to the G-shift key on my Logitech G600 makes it pretty seamless).  But I will do it if the heal is good enough.  And so will you.

How good does the heal have to be?  Well, it has to hit for enough to make having it on our bar worthwhile compared to other abilities.  With typical stats, Emission T8, Flash T4, and Shield Surge all hit for around 3.5-4k, but hit 5+ targets, so I think Triage has to be well above these numbers, even at base.  To get some more points of reference, Esper’s Phantasmal Armor hits for 9k at base (but with a 45sec cooldown), and Esper’s Mending Banner and Slinger’s Astral Infusion each hit for around 7k.  So it seems like something in this neighborhood, say around 8k, would be compelling3. That’s around double our multi-target alternatives and gives us an incentive to cast Triage over them when we want to concentrate the healing on one target.  Triage currently splits its healing 50/50 between health and shields, and I like that aspect (why heal health or shields when you can heal both!) and see no reason to change it (especially in light of the Reboot change).

What about the cooldown?  45sec seems about the longest the Devs go (e.g., Barrier, Phantasmal Armor).  This seems a bit on the long side for our only single-target heal, with something in the neighborhood of 20-30sec feeling more reasonable.  So let’s say 25sec as a ballpark number.  If one were then to (ab)use it by casting it on cooldown to supplement a normal single-target tank healing rotation of Emission T8 x2 + Shield Surge T0, it would only increase the single-target sustained HPS by around 7%, so it won’t give us much better single-target sustained healing, it will just allow us to ramp it up a bit when needed.  Since this added throughput shouldn’t come for nothing, the Focus cost should be high enough that adding Triage on cooldown increase the overall Focus burn rate, which sets a lower bound of around 16.  A Focus cost of 25-30 would make using Triage on cooldown (rather than saving it for when it’s needed) somewhat Focus punitive, without making the Healing Per Focus so low that you favor casting other abilities purely for efficiency’s sake.

These suggestions are just one possible set of numbers that I think would make Triage interesting.  You could certainly lower the cooldown and increase the Focus cost to allow a Medic to significantly ramp up their single-target healing for a short period of time, while severely draining their Focus, something akin to our ability to increase group healing when needed by spamming our spenders (Crisis Wave and Shield Surge, with Emission in between of course) at the expense of a good chunk of Focus.

As for major Tier upgrades, I like the idea of it being a source of Actuators, since you will still want them in a single-target healing role because of the need to cast Shield Surge.  The current Tier 8 upgrade of gaining additional healing on low-health targets is fine, especially appropriate for an emergency heal, although it won’t really change up our playstyle.  If T8 did something like add a short-lived buff that increases incoming healing, it would require the Medic and his teammates to react to this to gain the full benefit of the ability.  Another random thought is the base cooldown could be longer but one of the major Tier upgrades could give Triage two charges (since Medic healers don’t have any multi-charge abilities).

TL;DR

  • The burst healing from Mending Probes T8 + Flash T4 has been nerfed by 45% in 5-man stacks, slightly less-so in 20-mans. Although the nerf looks mostly warranted in 5-mans, it really harms Medics’ already limited ability to heal large (10+) groups. Crisis Wave T8 might replace Mending Probes T8 on many an LAS.
  • A Rebooted Shield Surge now hits for around 23% less. If you’ve gotten used to casting Shield Surge whenever Reboot will proc, you will be casting it 30% more often and will have to be mindful of the increased Focus burn rate.
  • If Triage is to be a viable option for an emergency single-target heal, it has to be targeted, hit for something in the neighborhood of 8k at base and either have a moderate cooldown (25sec) and Focus cost (25-30) or a lower cooldown and a higher Focus cost.

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1 2,000 Support Power, 20% Critical Hit, 175% Critical Severity.

2 If the incoming DPS to shields is D, you will go from casting once every 8.9k/D to once every 6.8k/D, which means in a given time interval T your number of casts goes from T/(8.9k/D) to T/(6.8k/D) which is an increase of [T/(6.8k/D)]/[T/(8.9k/D)] – 1 = 8.9k/6.8k – 1 = 30%.

3 This would be achieved by Triage healing for 72.51 per level plus 166.5% of Support Power (total, with a 50/50 split of this healing between health and shield).

Critical Reboot Required!

You may have read, even right here on this very blog, that AMP-based heals do not crit.  But for every rule, there is an exception, and for this rule the exception is Reboot.  As first brought to my attention on the official forums by Reglitch, Reboot, since it supplements an actual ability rather than being a separate heal in its own right (such as Hypercharge), adds to the healing of Shield Surge before the crit roll and therefore its healing can be amplified by the crit.  I have done extensive in-game testing to confirm this with the help of my ever-eager research assistant (aka, my pocket-stalker-tank wife).

The upshot is that, depending on your Critical Hit and Critical Severity of course, Reboot is around 15% better than I thought it was (and I thought it was pretty good!).  I have updated numerous posts, as well as the Stat Weight tool to account for this.  Thanks again to Reglitch for challenging the conventional wisdom.

As an added benefit, the testing showed that the natural RNG variation on an ability (Shield Surge at least) seems to be capped at +/-10%.  That is, if your Shield Surge tooltip says it will heal for 4,000, then without critting it will heal for between 3,600 (90%) and 4,400 (110%) with what appears to be a somewhat uniform distribution (more testing would be needed to have sufficient statistics to confirm the shape of the distribution).  I am guessing this +/- 10% range is universal (although it certainly could vary…), and I don’t think I’ve seen it mentioned before, so I thought I would put it out there.

Probing our OP-ness

The Devs recently lit up the official forums by announcing changes in the works for each class.  For Medics, the changes to DPS seem especially (although not universally) welcome, but there were also a few changes on the healing side.  Reboot is going to proc on targets below 30% shield, rather than zero shield, which essentially eliminates the often frustrating interaction between Reboot and various classes’ small shield heals (in addition to Stalker’s Frenzy T4 bug, which has been especially frustrating for yours truly).  30% seems a bit of an overkill, and I’m guessing it might be reduced before it hits live.  Dual Shock will be castable while casting, which is a nice buff to an ability I admit doesn’t see a lot of action in my Action Set.  It looks like they are reducing the duration of Interrupt Armor (IA) across the board, which will hit the IA buff to Protection Probes from the Solid State AMP and Rejuvenator T4.

The forum post also included the somewhat cryptic comment: “Specific portions of the Medic’s AoE healing kit are currently over-tuned and will be adjusted.”  The most likely target for this incoming nerf seems to be the Mending Probes (MP) T8 + Flash burst-healing combo.  Is this nerf warranted?  How should it be implemented?  Let’s take a look at some numbas.

Consider a standard-issue Medic: level 50, with 2,000 Support Power, 20% Crit, 175% Crit Severity, with Mending Probes T8, Flash T4, and the all three Cooldown reduction AMPs.  In order to have some context, let’s compare this to a similarly-stat’d Esper with Reverie T8 and Soothe T4.  For the Medic’s burst, we assume they put out Mending Probes and then immediately detonate with Flash.  They can do this once every 10.2sec, which is the cooldown of Probes with the assumed AMPs (we assume Flash is off cooldown because of the Flash T4 upgrade).  For the Esper’s burst, we assume Reverie with 5 Psi Points, which they can generate in 5sec with 5 casts of charge-2 Soothe T4.  Taking into account the 1sec GCD for Reverie, the Esper can perform this feat of golden-lantern goodness every 6sec.  We are only going to compare the healing on the burst, not the healing done in between bursts.  The table below compares the average heal per player1, assuming no overhealing, for two cases: a 5-man group and a 20-man group.  I’ve included two sets of numbers for Reverie depending on whether the targets are above or below 35% health (which determines whether the T4 bonus healing applies).

Ability 20-man AvgHeal/ Player (k) 5-man AvgHeal/ Player (k) “Cooldown”
MP T8 + Flash T4 5.2 17.4 10.2
Reverie T8 (> 35%) 3.4 6.9 6.0
Reverie T8 (< 35%) 4.5 9.0 6.0

Let’s first look at the 20-man case.  The Medic’s average healing per player (5.2k) is 52% higher than the Esper’s (3.4k), but only 17% higher on low-health targets, and the minimum time between bursts is 70% longer.  In addition, Reverie has a 25m range with a large circular telegraph, whereas MP T8 + Flash requires targets to be stacked up within 6m to get hit by the MP detonation splash.  The Medic burst will also have a more varied distribution of healing.  Reverie will hit 10 of the 20 targets for 6.9k (9.0k below 35%), leaving 10 of them without any healing.  MP T8 + Flash will hit 10 of the targets for 3.6k from Flash T4, detonating probes (hopefully) on 5 of those targets for an additional 3.5k, and then send out 15 splashes of 3.5k heals that might hit 15 targets, or potentially fewer (since a given target can be hit by multiple splashes) leading to more uneven healing (and likely some wasteful overhealing).  So, in summary, in a 20-man group Medic’s burst is somewhat more powerful, but on a longer “cooldown,” has a much more constraining positioning requirement, and a more random variation of healing distribution among the targets.  This doesn’t scream “overtuned” to me.

Now let’s consider the 5-man case.  The Medic’s average healing per player is now 153% higher than the Esper’s (94% on low-health targets), with the same difference in minimum time between bursts.  This is a significantly larger gap than in the 20-man case; a 17.4k per player burst heal is very (over?)-powerful.  The difference between the 5-man and 20-man cases is all due to the mechanics of Mending Probes T8.  Detonating the probes generates 20 3.5k heals, 5 from the Probes themselves and 5*3 = 15 from the splash healing.  In the 20-man case these 20 heals are distributed among 20 different targets, producing an average healing per player of just 3.5k.  In the 5-man case, you still get the 20 heals, but they are shared among just 5 targets, producing an average healing per player four times greater: 4*3.5k = 13.9k2.

If a nerf to MP T8 + Flash is coming, it seems like it would be appropriate to nerf the healing in 5-man groups without reducing the output in 20-man environments.  One way to do this would be to prevent a player from getting healed by more than one splash from the Mending Probe detonation.  For example, getting healed by one splash could apply a short-lived (a few sec?) debuff that prevents the player from getting healed by another splash heal.  If splash heals also “preferred” targets without the debuff, then when Mending Probes are detonated in a stack of 5 players, they would each get one splash heal, reducing the average heal per player from 17.4k to 10.5k, a 40% reduction.  This is still higher than Reverie, as I think it should be given the much stricter positioning requirements and longer cooldown, but it’s not 153% higher, only 52% higher, exactly the percentage difference as in 20-mans.  With this change, the average healing per player for a 20-man stack would be unchanged, since there are 20 available targets for the 15 splash heals so none would be wasted.  This change would have the added benefit of “smoothing out” the splash healing in 20-man stacks, since you wouldn’t have some targets getting hit by multiple splashes and some getting left out entirely.

Of course, Mending Probes T8 + Flash might not even be what the Devs were referring to when they talk about our overtuned AoE healing kit.  Perhaps they mean that Emission’s Support Power scaling with Tiers is so good, as are the Major Tier Upgrades, that Emission T8 is almost mandatory in a healing build.  Or perhaps it’s something else entirely, like Crisis Wave.  No, it’s probably not Crisis Wave.

TL;DR

- The coming Reboot change is very welcome, but I’m thinking the 30% will be reduced before it hits live.

- The average burst heal per player from Mending Probes T8 + Flash is much higher (3.3x) in a small group than in a large group because the number of splash heals received does not change with group size.

- If Mending Probes T8 + Flash is what the Devs have identified as our over-tuned AoE healing, they could reduce its (overpowered?) effectiveness in 5-mans without changing its (reasonable?) behavior in 20-mans by preventing players from getting hit with multiple splashes.

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1 This is per player, not per target, so 20 in a 20-man and 5 in a 5-man.  Reverie hits 10 targets, MP + Flash hits potentially all 20, although I guess with bad RNG as few as 10 could get heals.  When comparing two abilities that heal a different number of targets, it seemed appropriate to normalize by the total group size rather than the number of targets.  Note this is equivalent to comparing the total healing done, but makes the numbers more intuitive because you can compare them to the average health pool.

2 The remaining difference comes from Flash, which hits 50% of the players in the 20-man case and 100% of the players in the 5-man case.

Weight, Weight…Do Tell Me

Once you’ve dinged 50 and moved from replacing your gear every few levels to gearing up for Elder Game content, you will probably start paying more attention to the tradeoffs between swapping gear piece X for piece Y, or because of creative Devs, your “Ethically Questionable Coat” for your “Chestwrap of Writhing Vines.”

Stat priorities for the healing Medic have always been pretty clear. Support Power is king because it translates directly into bigger heals, Insight is queen(?) since every point of Insight is 0.5 points of Support Power, and Moxie is next because it adds both Critical Hit Chance and Critical Severity. Brutality gives Critical Severity, but not Hit (it also increases Strikethough, but the value of that stat for a Medic is almost zero unless you are really worried about deflects reducing the effectiveness of things like the Scalpel! Forceps! AMP). Finesse (Deflect and Deflect Critical), Tech (Assault Power), and Grit (Base Health) all give things we shouldn’t care too much about. Sure having more health and deflect will increase your survivability, and you can’t heal if you’re dead (unless you are a Priest with Spirit of Redemption, but that’s a different game), but you are never(?) going to gear for survivability since by far the two most important levers you have to be more survivable are to avoid avoidable damage (player skill/knowledge of encounter), and to keep the heals coming to yourself (i.e., all those throughput stats). Focus Recovery Rate is an important stat, but folding that into a list with the others presents problems which we will discuss below.

Although stat priorities are clear, stat weights are less clear, and the subject of the current post. Yes Insight is better than Moxie, but when you start comparing two pieces of gear that have both, and asking questions like: “is it good to give up 20 Insight for 60 Moxie,” you need to know how much better. We need to transition from the ordinal to the cardinal (ask your math teacher).

Stat Weights 101

To compute stat weights we need to know how primary stats translate into secondary stat ratings (easy, Carbine tells us), how secondary stat ratings are converted to actual secondary stats (e.g., how does Critical Hit Rating affect Critical Hit Chance) and how secondary stats impact healing throughput (relatively straightforward, see this post). The rating to stat conversion needs to be deduced from in-game experimentation. As far as I can tell, the relationship is linear (i.e., no diminishing returns) for Critical Hit Rating and is equal to 0.0155%, e.g., it take 65 Critical Hit Rating to increase your Critical Hit Change by 1% (at level 50).

Critical Severity Rating (CSR) has diminishing returns, and the current best guess at the formula was worked out by Dalrea and Naokai:

Critical Severity = 221.4286% – 144.126%/(CSR/1000 + 2.01777)

The final step, translating secondary stat changes into healing throughput changes, has two complications. The first is that healing from AMPs cannot crit, although Reboot can, because it is its own special snowflake.  Therefore, the more your healing comes from things like Hypercharge and Emergency, the less valuable Critical Hit and Critical Severity are since they don’t impact these healing amounts at all. In the results below I will assume 5% of your healing is from AMP effects.

The second wrinkle is that the value of Support Power (and hence Insight) depends on your ability Tiers. At Base, a given percentage change in Support Power is worth the same percentage change in healing throughput across all abilities (as discussed in detail in this post), but this beautiful symmetry is broken when you start adding Tier points. For now we will ignore this effect, which is equivalent to assuming all abilities are untiered.

With the additional assumptions of a level 50 Medic with 2,000 Support Power, 20% Critical Hit Chance, 175% Critical Severity, and a Critical Severity Rating of 630 (which implies you have some AMP points in Critical Severity) stat weights, normalized to Insight, are as follows:

Stat Weight
Support Power 2.00
Insight 1.00
Moxie 0.51
Brutality 0.13
Crit Hit Rating 0.76
Crit Severity Rating 0.27

The first takeaway is Insight is worth about twice as much as Moxie. Note the stat weight for Moxie is just the average of the stat weights for Critical Hit and Critical Severity (obvious from the definition of Moxie), and Critical Hit is worth almost 3x Critical Severity. Brutality is almost worthless given it only gives Crit Severity (with a 0.5 multiplier) and a stat that doesn’t help us heal.

Stat Weight Calculator

Now that we have some idea what stat weights look like, we get to what you probably really want, which is a calculator for computing stat weights given the details of your character, LAS, and ability usage. The ability usage data is necessary to properly evaluate Support Power (and hence Insight), and I recommend using a healing meter (e.g., GalaxyMeter) to measure this. To get your Critical Severity Rating you can mouse over the Critical Severity Percentage in your Character Sheet and the rating will be at the bottom of the tooltip.

The sheet is here, and I think it should be pretty self explanatory. Inputs you should change are in green, data you shouldn’t change are in red, and everything else is formulas.  If the sheet is hard to read (diagonal grey bars almost everywhere) just uncheck View -> Protected ranges.

The sheet has a toggle so you can choose to include the value of approaching the next Milestone in the Primary Stat weights.  For example, if you are at 600 Insight, 90 more points of Insight will get you to the next Milestone and give you a bonus 20 Support Power.  Therefore, in this range, the value of each point of Insight is increased from 0.5 Support Power to 0.5 + 20/90 = 0.72 Support Power.  If you prefer to ignore Milestones except when the gear swap you are considering takes you through some, you can just toggle it off.

Focus Recovery

Focus Recovery is certainly a very useful stat, but it is difficult to compute a relative weight for it versus other stats since it increases longevity whereas the others increase throughput. The two are certainly related: you can generally increase your throughput by using more Focus-intensive abilities, but that obviously reduces your longevity and vice versa. Valuing this tradeoff, in general, is difficult. For a given encounter, if you have enough Focus to last the entire fight, even casting Focus-intensive abilities, but not enough throughput, then no amount of Focus Recovery is going to help you. In fact, you should probably replace some Focus Recovery on your gear (e.g., from Runes) with Insight. Alternatively, if you are able to keep up with damage on a fight but find yourself going OOF mid-way through, you clearly need to cast less Focus-intensive abilities, somehow reduce incoming damage (e.g., changing strats or just being less bad), or move some Insight into Focus Recovery Rate. So, in general, there is no “right answer” for the tradeoff between Focus Recovery Rate and other stats: if you find yourself often Focus constrained, get more of it, if you typically end fights swimming in Focus, get less of it.

The calculator linked above does allow you to get some idea of the relative importance of Focus Recovery Rate versus healing throughput stats, but requires you to define the tradeoff, in terms of what percentage healing you are willing to give up to get an extra +1.0 Focus Per Second.  How much does +1.0 Focus Per Second really buy you?  Here is a handy formula: if your total Focus pool is F and you are currently running OOF after around T seconds, an extra +1.0 Focus Per Second will increase your longevity by T/(F/T – 1).  For example, if you have F = 1,000 total Focus, and you currently run out of Focus after T = 5min = 300sec on a given encounter, an extra +1.0 Focus Per Second will allow you to last an extra 300/(1,000/300 – 1) = 129sec, so your longevity goes from 5min to a little over 7min, which is clearly a big change.

TL;DR

- Typical stat weights are given in the table above. Insight is our best stat (outside of Support Power) by a decent margin.

- More detailed values for your specific character/LAS/ability usage, can be obtained from this calculator.