Revisiting Healer Predictions for Mythic Castle Nathria in Shadowlands

Revisiting Healer Predictions for Mythic Castle Nathria in Shadowlands

The Race to World First Mythic Castle Nathria is over. Complexity Limit defeated Mythic Sire Denathrius on December 23rd and several guilds have followed suit since then. We’ve stemmed the flow of Anima into the Maw, defeated the Venthyr that remained loyal to their sire, and imprisoned Denathrius within Remornia for the foreseeable future. Healers were key in every encounter and while we made some predictions prior to the raid release, it’s time we review those initial predictions to see how close we came: what unique utility was most valuable and what are the ramifications for future raids?

About the Author

About the Author

This article is written by Jaydaa a veteran healer and contributing writer to both World of Warcraft content and other Blizzard games content here on Wowhead. I’ve been raiding in WoW for almost 15 years at various levels of progression. I’ve contributed to the theorycrafting of multiple healing classes, notably Mistweaver Monks and Restoration Druids. Find me on Twitter or on the Wowhead Discord username Jaydaa#2814.


Before we begin our retrospective, it’s important to note that nearly every healing specialization has cleared all the Mythic raiding content of Castle Nathria. Currently, the only exception is Holy Priest on Sire Denathrius, but I imagine that they’ll see a kill relatively soon as more guilds reach the ultimate boss of the instance. It’s been true for the past few expansions, and it remains true for Shadowlands that every healing specialization is viable in Mythic raiding.

While we can analyze data to look at how healing shook out for Castle Nathria and make predictions for future raids, we don’t yet have any information on the 9.1 Shadowlands patch. We don’t know what tuning we’ll see: covenant changes, class tuning, new/modified legendaries, returning tier set bonuses, and even what the encounters will look like will all play a huge factor in what will be valuable for healing in future patches. Keep that in mind as we look critically at healing in Castle Nathria.

Number of Healers Required

In a stark contrast to previous modern Mythic raid tiers which saw 4 healers as the standard healing composition size for Mythic progression, Castle Nathria saw a 5 healer requirement on six of the ten raid encounters during progression. Let’s break it down:

*Huntsman was 4- or 5-healed on progression.

With the number of healers required known, the question usually turns to why are we seeing a shift to more 5-heal fights?

The largest factor will just generally be encounter design. For Sun King’s Salvation, healers can directly contribute to the overall progression of the encounter by healing Kael’thas directly. For other fights there’s just simply a ton of incoming damage. Typically, guilds can bring a large number of healers for safety especially when there aren’t any strict damage checks. We saw this for a number of fights in Battle for Dazar’alor, but that doesn’t strictly apply in Castle Nathria. Sun King’s Salvation required significant burst damage to overcome Cloak of Flames and Sludgefist was a difficult DPS check to kill the boss before hitting enrage. There’s just that much outgoing raid damage in Castle Nathria.

The other large factor will just be the overall strength of healers, especially at the start of an expansion. We tend to be significantly weaker comparatively to our end of expansion counterparts that tend to have additional systems of power creep attached to them. It takes more than a single cast to fully top a players health bar at current power levels compared to only one in the end of expansion raid.

As another more minor factor, the passive damage output of certain healers allows for the additional healer raid spot without completely giving up the damage of a full DPS. While it may not have been the difference between 4- or 5-healing an encounter, it was definitely of significance.

While I can’t speak for every healing core, I think healers were exceptionally elated at the increased number of healers required for Castle Nathria. The increased number of healers required allows for additional diversity and gives moments for every healer to shine. It’s frustrating to always have to sit 1-2 healers from your healing roster on every encounter so this is a much welcome change and one that I hope will continue for the entirety of Shadowlands. Please Blizzard, make 5-heals the standard and 4-heals the slightly rarer exception. Down with 3-heal fights!

Representation of Healers in Castle Nathria

In our previous article, we predicted how valuable each healing specialization would be in Castle Nathria based on a various factors. So did live representation line up with those predictions? To start we’ll take a look at all currently public parses for healers in Mythic Castle Nathria.

(Above) Public Healer Parses for All of Mythic Castle Nathria Encounters and Statistics at 95th Percentile

  • Restoration Shaman account for 33.4% of all parses in Mythic Castle Nathria.
  • Discipline Priest account for 15.4%.
  • Holy Paladin account for 20.7%.
  • Restoration Druid account for 12.2%.
  • Holy Priest account for 13.5% .
  • Mistweaver Monk account for 4.8%.

The three top predictions of Discipline Priest, Restoration Shaman, and Holy Paladin make up the vast majority of healer representation with Restoration Shaman being far and away the most popular healer in Mythic Castle Nathria.

Does this still stand true for later fights of the instance where guilds are still progressing? Let’s look at The Council of Blood and Sludgefist.

  • Restoration Shaman account for 39.2% of Sludgefist parses and 41.0% of The Council of Blood parses.
  • Discipline Priest account for 31.1% and 25.8% of parses respectively .
  • Holy Paladin account for 24.7% and 24.2% of parses respectively.
  • Restoration Druid account for 3.8% and 4.4% of parses respectively.
  • Holy Priest account for 0.9% and 3.2% of parses respectively .
  • Mistweaver Monk account for 0.4% and 1.5% of parses respectively.

This offers a more stark contrast of representation, compared to the overall mythic parse demographic, meaning higher progressed guilds are prioritizing healers in line with the healer predictions outlined in the previous article.

The Classes

We hypothesized a number of reasons that healer specializations were ranked in a particular category. For brevity, we won’t go over all of those again, but instead we’ll look at specific cases where each particular healer specialization excelled in Castle Nathria.

Discipline Priest

To say that absorbs, damage reductions, and passive damage are highly valuable utility in raids would be an understatement at this point. Discipline Priest have all three in spades. Their absorbs were invaluable in mitigating damage on Gluttonous Miasma afflicted players that were healer immune on Hungering Destroyer or almost completely negating Destructive Impact with Spirit Shell buying more time for other healers to top the raid between the Colossal Roars on Sludgefist.

With the exception of Sun King’s Salvation where raw single-target healing throughput was highly coveted, they were almost universally valuable throughout the instance, although you typically only saw 1 or 2 on a fight typically having a diminishing return. Spirit Shell was the prevalent healing tool that contributed to their dominance allowing them to completely mitigate certain damaging mechanics leading to an almost toxic healing meta that doesn’t allow other healer to contribute at the same time. Without massive changes expect Discipline Priests to continue to be a strong pick for the remainder of Shadowlands.

Discipline Priest Guide

Restoration Shaman

After putting up exceptional Heroic numbers, Restoration Shamans received a few nerfs at the start of Mythic Castle Nathria. While this brought this more in line with other throughput healers, Restoration Shamans were able to excel in the semi-stacked positioning of most encounters in Castle Nathria. Moreover, their particular brand of utility was invaluable on a number of fights. Spirit Link Totem works through Hungering Destroyer‘s Gluttonous Miasma allowing you to quickly stabilize those players. Additionally, Spirit Link Totem allowed players to discharge their Dancing Fever on The Council of Blood relatively quickly while keeping the entire raid stable.

The truly unsung hero of Castle Nathria was Ancestral Protection Totem, allowing players to sacrifice some players without losing a battle rez. Notably, on Sludgefist, a combination of Ancestral Protection Totem and Blessing of Protection allowed players to negate the boss’s Chain Slam ability in the later half of the encounter reducing the overall danger and lowering the overall healing requirement. Another prevalent strategy on Stone Legion Generals is having a Priest Mass Dispel the Heart Rend sacrificing the Priest but allowing them to take the Ancestral Protection Totem to quickly revive with very little downtime. This severely reduces the overall healing requirement at almost no expenditure to the raid. Huge!

After a long time being heavily undervalued in BfA, it’s good to see Restoration Shamans find their place in Shadowlands.

Restoration Shaman Guide

Holy Paladin

Holy Paladins came into Shadowlands a bit undervalued by higher end guilds and even me. Their utility toolkit was always strong but their healing throughput was the big question after some less than stellar performance in Beta. Without any more recent raid testing, it was a bit unclear how Holy Paladin would fare in Shadowlands. Holy Paladins were definitely brought down from their interstellar heights of BfA for sure, as they weren’t miles ahead in the post-Azerite era, but ended up being fairly respectable, especially when selecting Kyrian and Divine Toll along with Shock Barrier.

Of note for Holy Paladins was the selection of the Venthyr covenant for many world first Holy Paladins. While typically not the highest healing throughput covenant, what attracted high-end raiders to Venthyr was the sheer amount of passive damage from the single button press of Ashen Hallow. With the reduced amount of loot in Shadowlands, the pressure to eek out as much damage as possible was as high as ever and this was another unique tool to help meet that challenge. Whether the damage of Ashen Hallow will be tuned down in subsequent tiers remains to be seen but expect Holy Paladins to remain a staple of healing compositions.
Holy Paladin Guide

Restoration Druid
While absent from a lot of world first compositions, Restoration Druids have put up some fairly competitive numbers in their own right. The sheer amount of cooldowns that Restoration Druids have access to has allowed them to remain competitive on a variety of fights. Unfortunately, they still don’t bring that something extra that we see from a lot of other classes. The closest we got this tier was typically in the form of Stampeding Roar and the mobility requirements of fights like Artificer Xy’mox; however, this utility was replicated by other Druid specializations or a Shaman’s Wind Rush Totem.

There’s potential to see Restoration Druids truly excel in the remainder of Shadowlands, but when throughput is relatively balanced across all the specializations, it’s hard to find compelling reasons to select healing Druids above other options.

Restoration Druid Guide

Mistweaver Monk

Mistweavers were in a similar position for Castle Nathria typically falling in the middle of the pack or just slightly behind in terms of throughput. With Rising Mist becoming the go-to talent playstyle, they did manage to pick up some passive damage albeit not quite on the level of Discipline Priest or Ashen Hallow Holy Paladin. Where they truly excelled this tier was on Sun King’s Salvation and the raw healing they’re able to channel into Kael’thas Sunstrider via Life Cocoon and their overall healing toolkit.

While Mistweavers provide adequate throughput in a lot of situations, they’re still trying to find their footing in most high-end healing compositions largely due to a less relevant utility toolkit that tends to be replicated by the other monk specializations or other classes. Where you could see them become a staple in healing compositions is if their other specializations are weak and you still need to apply Mystic Touch. Unfortunately, though Brewmaster was not a premier tank in Castle Nathria, Windwalker was one of the strongest melee.

Mistweaver Monk Guide

Holy Priest
Holy Priest have fallen behind in throughput and for a specialization where their main draw is their ability to output strong sustained healing, this is not a place they want to end up. While it’s not entirely doom and gloom as they’re not so far behind to no longer be viable, they could definitely use some love. It’s not quite as easy to switching to Discipline at any time this expansion, as the best Covenant choice for Discipline is entirely different than Holy. They did have a shining moment on Sun King’s Salvation with Guardian Spirit and the Guardian Angel granting them greater access to the cooldown to help their raid team meet the strict healing requirements necessary to overcome Cloak of Flames.

Without some additional changes, expect Holy to continue to be overshadowed by Discipline for the remainder of Shadowlands.

Holy Priest Guide

Predictions for the Future

A lot of the predictions were spot on. Restoration Shamans are the premier healer of Castle Nathria seeing a strong resurgence after a less than stellar showing in Battle for Azeroth. Discipline Priests utility toolkit and absorbs dominated other healers making it hard to even contribute on damaging events where Spirit Shell is used. Holy Paladins continued to surprise with a few tricks up their sleeve including fairly solid throughput and a new damage tool with Ashen Hallow if they choose Venthyr. The other three specializations while generally being competitive throughput-wise just struggled to find their footing outside of that.

Where do we go from here? Shadowlands is far from over and hopefully we’ll see a shakeup to the healing meta. It’s likely we’ll receive additional systems with future patches that hopefully turn everything on its head healing-wise. We’re almost certainly going to receive additional Legendaries and the promised return of tier sets could change everything and should change everything. Healers are tired of the same stagnant healing meta and we’re prepared for change.

Where we don’t necessarily want changes are to the sheer amount of healers required in raids and overall healing requirement in encounters. Castle Nathria scratched that itch with most encounters requiring 5 healers and it would be a welcome change if that became the standard. Utilizing the full potential your healing core allows more classes to shine and more opportunities for playtime. Healers love to heal! If we wanted to DPS we’d just reroll and be done with it.

Regardless of how healing continues to evolve, Wowhead we’ll continue to cover all things healer including new predictions for every tier of Shadowlands and beyond.

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