I May Learn Some Discipline Yet

I’ve played a holy priest since 2005. I leveled to 60 as full instance-spec holy, and to 70 and then 80 as a weird Holy Smite spec that I made up as I went along. In 90% of raids I’ve attended in the last four years I’ve healed as holy, learning disc only when mandatory for Lich King fights. Earlier this week, though, I looked at the current priest theorycrafting, read over the new talent trees, and pondered for a bit. Then I specced Disc.

I didn’t spec Disc solely for the new integrated Smite, although that’s a pretty compelling reason right now. My main motivation instead was how little I like Chakra. You have to toggle one of two states every 30 seconds — and holy priests are balanced around having Chakra activated, so you have to use it.

That cooldown timer means that you can’t respond to a fight on the fly, but in fact have to anticipate which state you’ll need up to 30 seconds before it happens. It’s a virtually impossible goal for the first or second attempt on any raid boss (which is also when individual performance is most important), leaving holy priests grasping in the dark for optimal healing. Aside from Chakra… well, there is no aside from Chakra, as that’s pretty much what holy priests got in Cataclysm.

So then we turn to Disc, which was the darling of ICC. They have smite healing (rad!) and archangel (mana regen, spell power and a kickass graphic of glowy wings? rad!), not to mention our neat old friends penance and shield.

Maybe I’m just being fussy, but the fact is that healing instances yesterday was great fun. Disc has some neat mechanics like popping a shield before a PoH to get the benefit of the haste, or having archangel stacks in the pocket to be used right before a serious business penance. And this doesn’t even touch on smite healing — it was pretty satisfying to engage a level 82 instance elite and come out with a party at full health and about 3k DPS on the meter.

Will Atonement/Archangel Disc be viable in raids? We’ll have to see, but I sure hope so. A lot of it depends on how bosses are dishing out damage and whether twitch healing will be required. If not, I think there will be room for a clever application of smite and I’m kind of excited about bucking the holy trend for an expansion.

PS: I ran Throne of Tides and Stonecore instances yesterday, and they were both a blast! Tough, challenging, but not impossible. I am reminded of how much I really enjoy in-guild small instances.

Notes on Cataclysm: Priest Preview

So let’s preface this by saying that I am not one of those crazy theorycrafting math priests, with the charts and the knowhow. I mean, good on those guys, because I rely on them to help me figure out what I’m doing. However, what I am is someone who has played a holy priest for five years. I like to think over that time I’ve developed a pretty good gut feel for holy spec and the class in general.

Anyway, Cataclysm notes! Let’s begin.

Introduced at a low level, the “new” Heal spell will functionally work much like a down-ranked Greater Heal did in the past, adding more granularity to your direct-healing arsenal. If you need to heal someone a moderate amount and efficiency is an issue (making Flash Heal the incorrect spell for the job), then Heal is what you want to use.

Amusingly enough, I was discussing potential class notes earlier this week with my friend Thae the Cranky Resto Shaman and he joked that they would just give us a whole bunch of “medium” spells. “Priests clearly need more spells to choose from at any given moment! If you roll a priest, Blizz will send you a keyboard attachment to hold your extra bindings!” From his mouth to Blizzard’s ears, apparently.

I actually really like the fact that priests have a ton of options. I have six different healing spells alone that are important enough to be bound on my N52 keypad, and I certainly would prefer to have a ton of options than, say, play a paladin. (Oh, burn. Yeah, you heard me, Sema.) However, with THREE different levels of straight up heals.. something is going to fall by the wayside. My prediction is that Greater Heal will become even less used than it is now.

Inner Will (level 83): Increases movement speed by 12% and reduces the mana cost of instant-cast spells by 10%. This buff will be exclusive with Inner Fire, meaning you can’t have both up at once. Inner Fire provides a spell power and Armor buff; Inner Will should be useful on a more situational basis.

Increased movement speed… and reduced cost of instants. I see. I am reminded of a recent trip to Mexico, when I ordered onion rings and they were served with a side dish of mayo. Sometimes things just aren’t meant to go together.

I am currently specced into Body and Soul, so I can appreciate a judicious application of run speed, but in a self-buff? Coupled with cheap instant spells? Is this a PVP thing?

Leap of Faith (level 85): Pull a party or raid member to your location. Leap of Faith (or “Life Grip”) is intended to give priests a tool to help rescue fellow players who have pulled aggro, are being focused on in PvP, or just can’t seem to get out of the fire in time.

Life. Grip. As god is my witness, I have no idea what to think about this. Well, okay, what I think is that I’ll be able to annoy the hell out of my guild. Oh, friends, the griefing possibilities. My eyes well up in joy just contemplating the chaos. That line about moving slow DPS around makes me nervous, though. I can hear the puggies now: “omg healer let me stand in goo until i slowly died!!!!!”

There are so many details I need to hear before I can decide on this. Will being gripped interrupt the party member’s cast? Does it reduce or remove aggro? Can it be used in Shadow Form? It would have to be a pretty unique circumstance during a raid boss for me to want to revoke a teammates control over their character for a couple of seconds.

I just don’t know. It sounds shiny. It will probably be useless.

All HoTs and DoTs will benefit from Haste and Crit innately. Hasted HoTs and DoTs will not have a shorter duration, just a shorter period in between ticks (meaning they will gain extra ticks to fill in the duration as appropriate).

This is the best part of the whole preview, for me.

Discipline will finally be getting Power Word: Barrier as a talented ability. Think of it like a group Power Word: Shield.

I think this is the Disc version of the HoTs update. This seems like a Big Deal. (And also the second priest version of a death knight ability in these notes.)

We want to make Holy a little bit more interesting to play. One new talent will push the Holy priest into an improved healing state when he or she casts Prayer of Healing, Heal, or Renew three times in a row. The empowered state varies depending on the heals cast.

Oh, I like this one too! Mea Culpa to Ghostcrawler — Serendipity turned out to be a really fun and useful mechanic, and these sound similar in nature. I’m also intrigued by the flexibility of the buff, which would potentially suit an array of Holy Priest styles. Just give the “empowered state” a fancy graphic, and we’ve got something like the much vaunted Holy Form that healy priests have been making puppy dog eyes about for years.

We’re also going to cut back on the benefits of buffs such as Replenishment so priests (and all healers) don’t feel as penalized when those buffs aren’t available.

I just included this line because I was vastly amused by the phrasing. Blizzard is going to take away our own mana regen buff as FAVOR to us so we don’t get all overwhelmed. I am actually kind of looking forward to seeing what they do with mana management, but this bit still made me chuckle.

I try not to count my patchnote chickens before they hatch, but I’m pretty satisfied with this preview. Let’s see what actually makes retail!

Better Pugging Through Smite

The great tragedy of healing is that the better your team gets, the more boring it becomes. It’s been said many times that while DPS can strive for bigger and better results on farm bosses, healers just see their numbers dwindle. Easy farm content leads to boredom, and in my guild bored healers lead to trouble. All of us enjoy the crazy chaotic fights with lots of running and stuff to do. Healychat after the first couple of Festergut wipes read like wide-eyed kids in a candy store: “Did you see that? There’s so much raid damage. It’s .. it’s AWESOME.”

This is particularly applicable to LFG pugs at the moment. Given a halfway decent tank, I can get away with Prayer of Mending and a shield or two, leaving me to space out and spin around in my chair for half the instance. So what’s an overgeared healer to do? SMITE!

I know a lot of healers queue up with DPS gear and specs now to help out with damage, but I’m not that brave. I burn through mana really quickly in my shadow set, and my hotbars and keybindings are all wrong for the kind of panicked “oh shit” healing that might be required. Besides, you never know how good your next Heroic tank will be. Instead, I like playing the Battle Priest, Smiter Extraordinaire. I’ve beaten DPS on many a pull, which is vastly more entertaining than dancing in the back of the room.

The secret to healer dps is this macro, which you probably already have in use somewhere:

/cast [harm,nodead][target=targettarget,harm,nodead] SpellName

Set up all your offensive spells to use this macro. Now you can DPS a mob without ever leaving your friendly target — instead it will hit your target of target. I use this to pop shadow word: pain, devouring plague, and shadow word: death on a boss as much as possible (assuming you can give up the GCDs). Hey, every bit helps, and I’m pretty sure my 200 DPS on Rotface was what put us over the top. Totally.

Anyway, this can be used with smite too, which is your friend on pugs. Throw SW:P on anything, and pop devouring plague and SW:D on the big baddie. Is there a single target? PoM and shield your tank, and Smite away! Is it a pack pull? Oh, you lucky dog, it’s MIND SEAR time. I love mind sear. I love it so much. All the tanks in my guild can testify to my love of mind sear, as it’s killed them each at least once. (What? I can’t stop and heal you, I’m clearly MIND SEARING. Duh.)

It helps to have a bit of +hit. I have 70 incidentally from a wand and offhand in my main gearset, which is good enough for me. The hit cap for Heroic bosses is about 130 for Alliance and 160 for Horde, not that it’s a huge concern.

A well geared healy priest can easily pull down 1-2k DPS during a Heroic (again, assuming a good tank), which means that you will clear the instance that much faster. Being a Heroic Battle Priest and occasionally beating Mr. Mouthy Noob Hunter on the charts has made LFG much, much more fun.

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Fitzcairn’s Macro Explain-o-matic: Feed it a WoW macro, and it will explain what the heck is going on in those many square brackets. Oh, clever website!

So You Have a Val’anyr: holy priest edition
Nov24

So You Have a Val’anyr: holy priest edition

So before you read this I should probably mention that I haven’t truly “theorycrafted” any of this. I’ve barely even done any independent research on it (although really there doesn’t seem to be a lot out there). Instead this is all just based on my observations and own sense of logic. If you see a flaw in my logic, feel free to correct me in the comments.

So you have a Val’anyr! First, let’s look at the proc for a holy priest:

  1. It can come from any direct heal, as long as the target has less than 100% health.
  2. It technically is supposed to proc off of each Prayer of Mending bounce, but I’ve only personally observed it going off the first one.
  3. It does NOT proc off of Empowered Renew, much less regular Renew.

Okay, so far, so good! Now, how effective are some popular heals? For this, I’m just going to use my stats, which are pretty much, I think, your average “farm regular TotC” gear levels, averaged out with crits.

  • Circle of Healing: heals for 2500, shield for 375 (2250 total if glyphed)
  • Flash Heal: heals for 3400, shield for 510
  • Prayer of Healing: heals for 3400, shield for 510 (2550 total, glyph agnostic)
  • Prayer of Mending: heals for 5700, shield for 855 – 4275 (inc. 2pc T9 bonus)
  • Greater Heal: heals for 6400, shield for 960

valanyr So You Have a Val’anyr: holy priest editionThere it is, the closest I possibly have ever come to mathcrafting. There was division and everything! Anyway, okay, now we have our information mostly in line, what can I figure out from this?

First, if you are in a fight with regular raid damage, Circle of Healing with the bubble is badass. For 21% of base mana, assuming you have the CoH glyph, you have 2250 in shield damage thrown around on the average CoH. That’s the equivalent to having an entire extra person included in your CoH! Note that the shield is not large at about 375, but that’s not the point. 375hp will probably not save an individual, but 2250 damage absorbed by the bubble is 2250 damage that did not have to be healed, and that saves mana, time, and GCDs for all of your healers.

Depending on how well you keep track of your bounces, PoM is also potentially a really efficient way to use your Val’anyr proc. Even with just one bounce, an 855 hp shield is not insignificant, and it gets ludicrously good the more bounces you have. I admit, I am fairly bad at keeping track of my PoM, so I probably only 3 bounces off each one, for a predicted shield total of ~2500. This is probably less important during a fight with very occasional raid damage, and totally amazing during something like Heroic Twins with constant raid-wide damage.

As a holy priest we aren’t often called upon to heal the Main Tank, but he or she should not be ignored when it comes to bubbles. Suddenly our mana-inefficent large heals become better when served with a large bubble. I always try and hit the MT with a Serendipityx3 Greater Heal when Val’anyr procs. If there is a lot of damage on the tank, follow that up with a Flash Heal and a fresh PoM — you just threw a 2300 hp bubble on them, too! I deeply enjoy this on a fight like Gormok, when the incoming tank damage is crazy.

Circle of Healing, Prayer of Mending, and hasted Greater Heals are three really good ways to use your Val’anyr procs. Adapt to the specific fight and the kind of damage you’re combating, and enjoy the bubbles!

I Hate Recruiting!

Augh, recruiting. Augh!

I hate recruiting. It’s too much like job hunting or other related real life chores. There are always a glut of guilds, too, so we all line up and flash our beautiful plumage and hope that we entice the right people. Recruiting makes me daydream about terrible things like one of the larger guilds on our server going belly up, allowing the rest of us to cherrypick from their remains.

And I realize this makes me sound like an old lady talking about walking to school in the snow, but the quality and stability of recruits seems to have decreased over the past year or so. It used to be that I could rely upon someone who transferred realms to at least seriously give it a shot. It cost them $25 to raid with us! Now a good 15% of the time a transfer will show up and then just disappear a week later. Why did you pay $25 to waste your time? Why did you pay to waste my time? A pox upon you!!

I have cranked up the recruitment machine to full speed this week, mostly with responding to “Looking for Guild” posts on the official Alliance Recruitment forum. This gets our name out there, which is great, although it has not escaped my attention that (to my recollection) we have never actually gotten a reliable new member from this forum. Everyone who isn’t a friend of a friend came from other, more niche-specific sites.

Also, while I’m ranting, where did all the mages go? I don’t think I’ve recruited a reliable, butt-kicking mage in at least three years. Fortunately we have a couple, as it stands, but another one would be nice!

Tips for people who are in a new guild:

1) Participate! Not just in raids — talk in gchat, talk with other members of your class, try and put together heroic runs, and so on. Get to know people, and let them get to know you.
2) Be on time for raids! It’s not a real job, but first impressions still count. I have people with years of seniority, and then you. Don’t give me an excuse to bench you in favor of the devil I know.
3) If your guild leader is female, and particularly if she has seemed the sensible type thus far, don’t join the guild and hit on her. A majority of new male recruits send me a “So, how YOU doin’?” whisper within moments of being invited. How am I doing? I’m running a guild. Any other questions, new guy? :)

/rant

PS: WTB mage, ret pally, and elemental shaman. We will pay you in puns, epics, and good times, although the dental plan is shoddy.

To GHeal or not to GHeal: Holy Priests in 3.1
Apr22

To GHeal or not to GHeal: Holy Priests in 3.1

In the week since 3.1 was released I’ve been focused on getting the guild pumped up, leading raids, learning new bosses, figuring out dual specs, and recruiting, not to mention the new fishing daily and Argent Tournament quests. In fact, it was only today that I sat down with the Armory, Elitist Jerks, and a pen and decided that it was time to work out exactly what happened to holy priests with this patch and what I was going to do about it.

A couple of months ago I wrote about how my mana regen in mostly Naxx-25 gear was kind of silly. And it was! There was little consideration for regen mechanics, and mana pots were some archaic concept that we joked about in the healer channel. Fortunately — and unfortunately — Blizz was paying attention to that, and nerfed the 5 second rule into oblivion. My o5sr regen was decreased by 40%, and, oh man, do I feel every single percent. Ideally this will get better with Ulduar gear, but for now it’s back to mana pots, mana flasks, and any other tricks. Another interesting effect of the change is that I feel quite lost without a source of replenishment. Whether it’s heroics or just farming old instances for mounts, all this Int isn’t doing me a whole ton of good without a shadow priest or ret pally or someone similar around.

spirit healer To GHeal or not to GHeal: Holy Priests in 3.1Along with the changes to mana regen came changes to our spells and talents. I’ve said before that one of the great joys of playing a holy priest is all the options we have in our toolkit, and I’m exceedingly pleased to see that pattern continue in 3.1. Prayer of Healing is targetable, Renew is vastly improved, and wonders of wonders, I actually have Divine Hymn on my hotbar. There are a few different play styles available to holy priests now, and the talents to suit it.

I was always an unrepentant Renew spammer in Vanilla and TBC raids, and I missed that in WotLK. (Renew was grossly inefficient and just not quick enough to be worth it after 3.0.) I quite happily sunk six points now into Renew and Empowered Renew, and use it much as I suspect a Discipline priest would use shields — bored? throw some Renews around! Prayer of Healing has become pretty outstanding, although I admit I’m still training my brain and my fingers to use it as often and as correctly as I should. And I was never one to fuss too much with the o5sr tricks (Clearcast! Inner Focus! Trinkets! Surge of Light!), but I am entirely diggin’ the new Serendipity. Weaving Flash Heals and Prayer of Healing has already proven to be very nice, and will only get better the more I get used to it.

So what of Greater Heal, our eternal staple of heals? If your healing style includes GHeals, then it’s supported by both the old and new talents. If it doesn’t, though.. now, since 3.1, you can free yourself from all your old talent point ways! Let go of Divine Fury, or say goodbye to Improved Healing. The new math even shows that Empowered Healing is not as essential as it once was, depending on what spells you usually use. (Remember, if you want to tank heal, you should probably go Disc and do it right. Holy priests are for raid healing now.)

Tonight I’m going to respec to something like this, if not exactly that. I’ve given up Inner Focus, Improved Healing and Empowered Healing in favor of Healing Focus, Body and Soul, Test of Faith, and most of Blessed Resilience (for the healing bonus, not the damage reduction, natch). It’s a very, very, very “raid healing”-oriented spec, with bonuses for Renew, PoH, CoH, and PoM, and reductions to GHeal and Flash Heal. I’m a little concerned about giving up Inner Focus and not 100% convinced about the usefulness of Body and Soul, although the brainiacs over at EJ say it’s a good choice.

We’ll have to see how it plays in Ulduar, but I’m initially pretty intrigued. Ghostcrawler promised a long time ago that healing Priests would be made more interesting to play in 3.1, and by golly he may just have been right.

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