12 March 2011 § 2 Comments
2 February 2011 § 5 Comments
I have lots of stuff I want to talk about – plenty of things that have struck me as worth a comment or a discussion while I was levelling in Cataclysm. I think the most pressing matter, however, is a discussion of the state of Discipline. I switched to Discipline originally at the start of Wrath, as we were starting out in Naxx, because the other healer in the raid was himself a Holy Priest and we thought having some variety would have been a good idea. It was love at first sight: I loved the mechanics of it, I loved the versatility, and I also liked the flexibility in terms of soloing and PvPing (remember, this is all pre-dual spec, albeit by only a few months). I remained Disc throughout Wrath, through our OP moment in Ulduar (before the Penance nerf) and through our slightly darker situation in ICC. However, I am now seriously thinking about going Holy, because most of the raids turn into bouts of frustration and despair. Note that this is not about ego – in our raid I have not been top healer for many fights, and in fact I think I have most often been in second place (regardless of whether we were two- or three-healing an encounter). Now, however, I find myself with about half the effective healing of our top healer on almost every fight, so I am starting to feel like deadweight for the rest of the raid. Why is this happening? And what can I or we do about it?
Atonement, once again – and basic healing strategy
There was a lot of debate in the last days of the Cata beta, as well as during the 4.0.1 time, about the role of Atonement. The question was whether Atonement was supposed to be a mana replenishment tactic, a healing boost tactic, a viable healing strategy, a dps entertainment during those boring heroics, or just a very good coffee machine. OK, I made the last one up (although, hmmmm, coffee machine), but you get the idea: lots of possibilities, not a lot of data to understand, and the little data we had changed on a weekly basis with the various patches. So, I think it may be time to put a few ideas to rest.
Atonement is NOT a way to regain mana. Casting 5 smites will cost around 12,234 mana (depending on how the game rounds fractional costs), and return you 5% of your total mana. Unless your total mana is in the region of 244,672, you are actually getting LESS mana back than what you are spending (if your mana is around the 240k mark…. I don’t know what to say). This is not to say that we will not get there: Wrath mana pools more than doubled from start of raiding to end of the expansion, so it’s possible that the same will happen this time around. But, for now, I think we’re stuck with the fact that we will gain about 50% of the mana we spend on building Evangelism stacks. There goes the mana idea.
Atonement still has a fairly low healing throughput. It has received some hot fixes to make it better: it is now affected by most healing modifiers (Archangel, notably, but also talents like Divinity), but 7k-9k normal hits, and 10-15k crits are still not very much for a 1.3 sec heal (especially given our very low crit rate this early in the expansion). Of course, it is still relatively cheap (Archangel may not return mana, but it sure makes Atonement healing very cheap, effectively halving the cost), and the fact it is a smart heal makes it very useful on situations of low diffused damage. Also, keep in mind that Atonement depends on your Smite damage: so any special situation linked to the encounter that modifies this damage could make the corresponding heal a waste (on Siamat, if you’re smiting the boss before the adds are down) or pretty juicy (in Deadmines’ ragezones).
We already ruled out the possibility that Atonement was meant to be our coffee machine, and, I don’t know about you, but Heroics are still not exactly snoozefests that encourage me to Smite to have fun (and even if they were, I doubt we could ever get any noticeable dps from Smite, really). So, that leaves the healing boost from Archangel as our main reason to build up Evangelism: that 15% is actually a very nice increase, especially when you add to that the 24% of Grace (here’s a question that needs some verification: are they multiplicative? Or additive? I think Blizz made all bonuses like this additive a while back, but it would be nice to find out). This means that our healing should be to throw mending, then alternate Shields and Smite (to benefit from Borrowed Time), get to 5 stacks and then decide whether we want to keep that stack rolling, or get Archangel and boost our healing. When Archangel is up, switch to high throughput heals (Penance, GHeal, but also PoH or Divine Hymn), and remember to refresh PoM and even a Renew or two before Archangel expires. If you find yourself with Archangel up and not very much damage to heal, you can start building the next stack of Evangelism up – rinse and repeat. Notice that nowhere have I mentioned the use of Heal or FHeal. Heal should really not be on your bars: it is for people that don’t have Atonement, as it heals for about as much and doesn’t give you Evangelism (which really begs the question of our 2pc bonus for T11: why, Blizzard, why?). FHeal… I probably went from using too many FHeals (see below) to using too few of them. In theory, if someone is going to die in the next 1.3 secs, and Shield and Pain Supression are not an option (Weakened Soul and cooldown, respectively), then you should use FHeal, while crying about your mana disappearing down the drain. FHeal should, however, be a very small part of your overall healing, all things considered.
Mana, throughput and set-up time
As I was leveling and as soon as I got to 85, the biggest problem I had was mana management. Partly because I was still piecing things together, and probably used a fairly outmoded healing model, I found myself oom more often than not. This problem however went away as I got more comfortable with the healing routine I described above, but also because of another fact. Our mana replenishment comes from Rapture, Shadowfiend, and Hymn of Hope. ALL of those are based on your total mana – so as you gear up, and your maximum mana goes up, your mana replenishment will correspondingly go up, and it really felt it went up exponentially. I did gain about 20k mana in the gearing up process, so maybe it was just physiological – I think in fact all healers now gain mana depending on the size of their pool, so this may well be a common issue.
So the mana issue was just a matter of gearing, and it may well be common to all healers – it is worth noting that I am seeing it a lot less on my paladin, but the difference may also be that I know the fights better now, and so do (most of) the other people using LFG (or my guildies). However, attaining a decent mana situation only served to expose other, and possibly bigger issues.
The biggest gripe I have is a numbers issue. I am spamming my heart out, casting constantly, and my numbers are just way too low. I mentioned my “rotation” (as much as healers can have a rotation) just above, and as far as I can tell, this is the most sustainable rotation for healing Disc priests have at the moment. The problem is, I’m still healing about half of what our paladin or druid healers can do. And I know healing is not about numbers, that latency and reflexes may mean we’re sniping heals off each other, that Disc has never been a contender for the top spot on the metres. But half the healing? That sounds way too high as a gap.
I am not completely comfortable with the choice between mana efficiency and sustainability on one hand (which is basically using the spells we mentioned above) and throughput. Our “high throughput” rotation to me is spamming shield, penance and GHeal on one target – which is basically sure to get us oom very fast, and sadly, and this is my gripe, not really getting a lot of healing out – or at least not substantially higher than what we would get from our mana efficient use of Atonement. I admit that this may just be a matter of still adjusting to the new system (you know, I’m starting to get old, it’s difficult to change…), but it feels that the difference should be higher – and it would be, if we could use the Archangel buff for high throughput, but of course Archangel is not available on use when we want.
This brings me to the third and final concern – the set-up time for Archangel. Most healers have cooldowns that allow them to just heal burst damage: druids have tree form, paladins have Avenging Wrath, shamans… not sure about them, as we don’t use them much and I haven’t delved into them. Our comparable cooldown, Archangel, requires about 7 secs to prepare. Now, to balance that, the actual cooldown of the ability is MUCH shorter (18 secs with 30 secs cooldown, compared to 20 secs with 2 mins cooldown talented for Avenging Wrath, and 30 secs with 5 mins cooldown for Tree of Life), but the set-up really limits the usefulness of Archangel as an “oh shit” button – in fact, the Smite rotation is the first thing that goes out of the window when the shit hits the fan, in my playstyle. I don’t want to stress comparisons with other classes, because it’s unfair and most especially dangerous because we really don’t want all classes to have the same abilities. The message here is that Archangel seems to be stuck in the middle between a true “oh shit” button and a regular feature of Disc healing every 20 secs.
So, in Heroics, I often have the tank plunge dangerously low in the first 10 secs, as I build up to Archangel, and then I use the next 15 secs trying to scramble them back to a semblance of health. In raids, I feel like the 5th wheel of the healing team: I’m either stuck to background healing, or I’m running out of mana. I may be doing something wrong, and I know I can certainly improve on my healing skills. I am currently using Archangel as often as I can, but given mana is becoming less of a concern in normal situations, I could probably start keeping a 5-stack rolling, and use it as an emergency cooldown much more than as a routine part of the healing strategy. Also, I don’t want to overly stress the extent of the problem: writing this post over several days has also helped me to separate temporary frustration with a bad night from a more permanent, underlying problems.
The next patch is also buffing our numbers quite considerably: Grace will apply to multiple targets, Shields will cost 30% more but heal 200% more, and Penance will cost 7% more and heal 20% more. I am not sure. The Grace change in particular will be nice: at the most basic level, it means that Grace can stay on the tank, even if we throw a Penance or a GHeal on a secondary healing target (another tank, or a careless dps). It also becomes possible to get fancy and actively keep Grace up on multiple targets, though that sounds fairly difficult. The Shield change will be nice: although the cooldown change has made shield spamming impossible, having a shield whose basic absorption is 3x the current one will be invaluable, especially in the Archangel-building times which are our weakest spot. The real question is whether the change will affect just the basic value of the spell, or the spellpower scaling too (I would guess a mix of the two). I really really hope these changes will be enough: I still adore the spec, and we have a lot going for us (Power Word: Barrier is nothing short of amazing) – which makes the current state of affairs even more frustrating.
20 October 2010 § 2 Comments
Just a quick post to mention that my training dummy testing suggests that Archangel doesn’t buff Shield absorbs. Now, I can live with all the nerfs and the changes in mechanics of Disc, but this just strikes me as bad design. If you include a new mechanic in the Disc tree (Archangel), it seems to me you should make sure it works in good synergy with the existing main mechanic of the tree (Shields). I understand that the developers want us to move away from Shield spamming, but I’m just not sure that this is the way to do it.
19 October 2010 § 5 Comments
A week has gone by, and while a fair few bugs still remain in the game, most of them have been solved by now. We lost one raid day due to our tanks having trouble downloading the patch, and the second one was cut short by rolling restarts (instance server first, then Feathermoon always means we are better off stopping the raid before the restarts, because the servers never come back in time). In all this, we managed to get most of ICC10 down, so it is time to share my impressions. Unfortunately, impressions are all that they are, because World of Logs, our site of choice for combat log analysis, is still a bit buggy (doesn’t show Power Word: Barrier at all; shows Atonement as two separate spells, one for hit and one for crits; doesn’t show pally shields; etc.).
So, in general, it is doable. Disc priests seem to have lost some throughput and flexibility, but mostly it is a matter of getting used to the new spells/new dynamics and I think we will get back into a good place. This, of course, should come as no surprise, given that our healing model really hasn’t changed that much (compared to a lot of the other healers, at least). We did wipe a couple of times because we just could not handle a spike in damage: mostly, I find that we can go along like normal, but our “oh shit” routines just don’t work anymore, so any small hiccups is likely to snowball into a wipe (Tamarind makes a similar observation over at Righteous Orbs, of course with a lot more wit)
In the end, I went with a slightly different spec from the one I suggested here a while back, mostly because of comments back in the EJ Disc priest forum thread, pointing out that we will not use Heal at all until higher levels, and so Strength of Souls is a bit of a waste. On the other hand, Darkness gives a nice haste boost, which we now (horror!) need. The single point in Mental Agility is simply needed to get Power Word: Barrier – feel free to put it anywhere else in the tree instead (I should probably put it in Inner Sanctum, as less spell damage is a good thing). Although I ended up not Penancing very much, I will keep the points in Train of Thought, because a) I need to put them somewhere; b) I need to Penance more to stop any stupid minor spike to disrupt our existing teetering balance.
I did not regem, mostly because I wanted to have a better feel for how things were. I did not reforge either, partly because of the same reason, and partly because BobTurkey had warned that Mastery was not a particularly desirable stat. He has since expanded on that, explaining that it may be ok now in ICC with our other ratings being so inflated, so I may reforge some of my spirit into mastery now, to check it out (I need haste for my Smites, and crit for my delicious Aegis, so spirit seems the obvious reforging candidate). I have since reforged all the spirit I could into mastery, and will post next week about how that feels.
The only other thing I changed was to take Inner Focus out of my Divine Hymn macro, and instead put it in a Gheal one. This gives me the chance to note that in my earlier talent discussion I had completely missed the reduced cooldown (45s now). I am still not sure it makes it a useful talent at 85, but it’s certainly better than I thought.
I ended up with 38% crit and about 690 haste, which means I’m not soft capped, but not far either (my FHeal shows 1.08 cast time with Borrowed Time).
Archangels, Barriers, and the lot
Moving on to some more specific comments, Atonement will probably be the one mechanic that will require some adjustment, although at least it got fixed during one of the restarts we’ve had, and is now healing correctly for 100% damage. Throughout all of Lower Spire, I was basically trying to have it up 100% of the time, so I was getting 5 Evangelism → Archangel, then shielding and mending and penancing. Of course, that’s because mana is still not a concern, so the only interesting part of Archangel is really the healing buff (and the cd reduction of Penance, through Train of Thought). I was probably smiting more than I should have, or rather, I wasn’t switching between job A and job B fast enough: I was smiting to full, Archangel, healing, smiting to full, etc. This means I was not using the cd reduction on Penance as much as I should have, which is a pity. This pattern also created two issues.
The first one is that I would get my 5 stacks of Evangelism up, while Archangel was still on cooldown. Arch has a 30 secs cooldown, and Evangelism lasts for 15, so it is not hard to see how that would happen. The problem of course is that I would then have to Smite again to refresh Evangelism – not a problem right now due to the mana abundant raiding environment, but if mana really becomes a serious issue afterwards, that’s a total waste of mana in our Archangel returns (well, not total waste, because you still get a heal, but yeah, not ideal either). A related issue is that I need to set up an alert in my UI to let me know how many stacks of Evangelism I have, and how long till they expire – I guess I will finally cave in and install Power Auras…
The second and bigger issue is that although Atonement is nice, the throughput is just not there, so we cannot use it during times of heavy damage. Case in point: Festergut, the early phase where the whole raid takes a ton of damage. We just did not seem to be able to keep up with the incoming damage – although the fact I got gassed didn’t exactly help either, but that never used to be much of an issue before. We ended up 3-healing, mostly because we didn’t feel like wiping multiple times, but I think it is possible to 2-heal this still, though it will require some much more careful throughput management. On a more general point, though, the issue is that Atonement will need to be carefully weaved during lull phases, possibly in preparation of bigger damage spikes happening (and Festergut is again a good example, because after the first inhale you can build up your atonement stacks, then keep them up during the second inhale with just a smite or two, and use Archangel to help deal with blight damage and the new spike).
The final consideration is that we will just need some basic experience with it to make Atonement work properly. My personal “d’oh!” moment was on Gunship, when I was smiting Riflemen happily and wondering why I wasn’t seeing Atonement heals (the answer of course is that NO-ONE was anywhere near the riflemen, so Atonement just didn’t find anyone to heal).
You know, as I’m writing this, I just realised one thing: does Archangel buff shields too, or just heals? I remember how shields needed to be included in the ICC buff with a hotfix, and I sincerely hope this is not the case with Archangel. I guess this is important enough to test, so I may grab a friendly fire mage and duel in Dalaran to test this.
Moving on to Power Word: Barrier, I have to admit it was a big disappointment. I cannot produce numbers, because, as I said, World of Logs is not recording any of it sadly. However, I was hard pressed to find a good use for it, partly because of the mechanics of ICC which heavily discourage clumping up, and partly because whenever I did put it down, the Barrier seemed to disappear very very quickly. I suspect it will just need a serious bump up in numbers, before it can become useful. Again, I’m happy to give it the benefit of the doubt, considering the needed adjustment, but so far, I have to say I am not impressed.
What did impress me, though, was Holy Nova. With 10 people in range I am getting hits for around 1k healing, more for people with abilities or talents increasing healing (e.g. our pally tank). With the fact that it’s instant, spammable with a very short GCD thanks to the glyph, I can see some fairly huge potential for it inside Frostmourne, during Heroic LK. The proof is in the pudding, of course, but I am actually excited about having a means to deal with that phase (together with mending, which becomes incredible in there).
I wanted to add one additional note about other healing classes. My healing partner throughout most of the instance was a holy paladin – and yes, it was much harder to keep up with healing with just the two of us healing, whereas we normally have no trouble. Again, I don’t want to say immediately that Holy paladins need a buff – it may simply be adjustment pains as we find our feet again. An interesting note is that we’re normally fairly close in healing outputs, and this was reproduced this time too – which would suggest my healing output has gone down too.
What was instead fairly amazing was how much more output a druid could generate. Our boomkin switched to resto to help us with Plague and Blood Wings. She admits she wasn’t really trying to maximise new rotations or anything, just plain Rejuv spamming, and she pulled ahead by 30% or more. Tildie is a very good healer in general, so it is not uncommon for her to be top healer in fights where the three of us are working together – but not by that much.
All this means may simply be that a basic druid rotation (OMGREJUVOMG!) is more effective than a basic priest one (OMGSHIELDOMG!) or paladin one (OMGFOLOMG!) – or that druids at 80 and in current gear levels and current raid content are more effective.
We will finish the instance tomorrow, and the real test will be to survive P1 of the LK: the increased dps should make the rest of the fight easier, but the spikes in P1 due to Shambling Horrors’ Frenzy kinda scare me a bit.
14 October 2010 § 1 Comment
Patch 4.0.1 is here, and last week I’ve been busy trying to finish up a few things and get ready for the patch. I will hopefully make a longer post in the next couple of days about my patch thoughts, in the meantime, I wanted to share a couple of things and ideas:
- If you are a scribe, be warned that there’s a new glyph that comes from Northrend Research (Glyph of Living Bomb) and one that comes from books (Glyph of Colossus Smash). Neither of those was available pre-patch, so if you’re like me and had maxed out your glyphs, be ready to get two more
- More central to this blog theme, I think Atonement is seriously bugged. I am getting heals for about 10% of my Smites, which is not very encouraging. Can anyone else confirm or deny this?
That’s all for today!
26 September 2010 § Leave a Comment
The Disc tree is clearly being fine tuned by the developers as we speak, which means that each build brings one or two changes – which often are annulled or compounded by the build after. I am going to suspend debating the talent trees for a (short) while, and I am sure the tree will stabilise soon and we can restart. So far, the changes are interesting and fun, but don’t change the gist of what I posted before: I will still go with an Archangel/Atonement build. As for the details of that… well, stay tuned!
20 September 2010 § Leave a Comment
I finally downloaded the PTR client, and went there to play a bit. Here’s a couple of tidbits and stuff that had escaped me:
1. The Prayer buffs are gone: Fort and Shadow Protection are automatically group wide, require no reagent, etc.
2. Mana has shot up, but the drinks have stayed the same. Tsark has 50k mana unbuffed, and drinks still restore 19.2k. A small suggestion: stock up on holiday food, whether the Harvest Nectar I mentioned in my last post, or the upcoming Halloween candies or the Winter Veil Eggnog. I cannot find new drinks up in the PTR, which makes sense as the post-80 content is not in, so I don’t know when new drinks become available. If anyone is on beta, please let us know.
3. Archangel/Evangelism: the dynamic is interesting, but it’s difficult to test it when not in a group or raid. Just to give an idea, my Smites are hitting (with 5 stacks of Evangelism) for around7k, critting for 10.5k. The healing buff of Archangel lasts for 18 secs, while the ability itself has a 15 secs cooldown. If you’re really good, and your tank is not taking too much damage, you could keep the Archangel buff up all the time. More realistically, it’s quite possible to weave your Smites in a way that keeps your stacks at 5, to be used whenever you need mana. This segues well into…
Gone is Improved Inner Fire, and Inner Sanctum, its replacement, seems to be wholly PvP now (damage reduction on Inner Fire, movement increase on Inner Will). Nice talent, and both of those effect could be situationally useful in PvE too (especially if you move slowly like me), but I can only see me getting it if we’re stuck on a specific fight that could use that (e.g. a Firefighter fight, or Sindragosa). So, I’m taking it out of my chosen spec.
Atonement got a BIG buff, and now heals for 120% of Smite. Damn you Blizzard, now it is actually interesting, as it means that while Smiting with a full 5 stacks of Evangelism (i.e. to keep them up), I get 8.4k heals, which are not much short of my Flash Heals – for a much lower mana cost (792 for Smite, 4k+ for Flash Heal), and a slightly higher cast time (about .5 secs, depending on haste). Atonement is also a smart heal (which is good), but doesn’t refresh Grace or Inspiration which is bad) – still, all in all it seems to be a viable choice even in a raid environment, especially with the appropriate targetoftarget or mouseover macros so you don’t waste time retargeting.
The other change is that we lost Improved Healing (good riddance to a boring passive buff) and gained Trinity - more spell haste, this time if we Smite three times in a row, which means we could even build up the stacks quicker if there is a lull in the fight. A sequence of Shield – Smite – Smite – Smite – Shield – Smite – (Shield) – Smite would probably be a nice way of still healing, while building up Evangelism stacks and Trinity buffs.
So my chosen build now looks like this. I would dearly love to get the second point in Trinity: so far, the only contenders for the axe I see are either Desperate Prayer, or Borrowed Time. I think this will need some serious testing…
14 September 2010 § 4 Comments
See what happens when I work on a post for too long? We get a new datamined beta patch on MMO-Champ, and the opening of the PTR servers, which means I need to rewrite half the post. Oh well, teaches me to post more quickly, I guess. So, without any further ado, let’s start!
In the last post, I split the Cataclysm Discipline tree into several different pieces, each of which was focusing on a different aspect of our roles or actions. In this post, it is time to put the pieces together into a coherent spec – or specs, as I will also look at several alternatives, because of course it is difficult to decide before we can see the numbers of (at the very least) the lvl 85 Heroic dungeons and the first tier of raiding (Tier 11, which from my understanding should be Bastion of Twilight, Blackwing Descent and Throne of the Four Winds).
So, this is the spec I came up with. Basically, and in reference to my last post, I took all the talents of the Frame, as well as the Heal piece. I skipped the two PvP/levelling talents, and then took Archangel/Evangelism, as well as Power Infusion, Pain Suppression and Desperate Prayer (please, let that “Requires Shadowform” be a mistake). This left me with a gap on the lower tiers, which I needed to get the later talents, so I took Twin Disciplines and Improved Inner Fire. Let’s examine the spec in more detail, moving from the talents I cannot see myself taking at all, to the talents that barely made the cut, to the talents I cannot do without.
The Ones in the Discard Pile
The PvP/Levelling Piece: I don’t think it comes as a surprise here, but Focused Will and Reflective Shields are clearly not talents made for me. They are fun talents, and useful, just not for the WoW I personally play. Unless the talents will change a lot, these two will stay out of my spec.
Atonement: Much as I want to give Archangel/Evangelism a go, I really cannot see this talent being any use beyond some 5-man action. The fact that it requires 3 talent points for 45% of the Smite also makes it very expensive for the result.
Inner Focus: I am really sad to see this talent go. In fact, it will be the first time Tsark will be without Inner Focus since November 2005. Back in those days, smartly using Inner Focus was the key to additional ticks of full mana regen, and the sign of a good priest. This stayed for BC, when Inner Focus, coupled with some nifty trinkets, could result in massive mana regen – again, if you knew how to time it. However, with the demise of O5SR regen, Inner Focus loses a lot of its appeal – and the fact that it only applies to the Heals and to PoH makes it even LESS interesting as a mana saving tool. There is still the crit portion, but 25% is a bit too low to make it worth a talent point.
Mental Agility: When it comes to filler points, I decided to go for the ones that cover throughput, and forego the mana regen (or mana saving, in this case) one. My rationale here is balance: I’m already getting Archangel/Evangelism, so I hope that can cover all my needs when it comes to mana. Ghostcrawler last Tuesday answered a post about healing saying that “you shouldn’t have huge mana problems in a normal dungeon”, so I’ll keep this choice and review it after a bit more experience.
The Ones that Just Made the Cut
Improved Healing: I am absolutely not sure about this talent. 10% seems sizeable, but I cannot find information about base stats at 85, so I cannot exactly see how much mana saved would that 10% be. To be honest, it’s quite likely this talent will be cut out from my final spec, in favour of either Mental Agility or filling out Improved Inner Fire and Empowered Healing. If I can handle the mana requirement of healing, then 1 additional point in Improved Inner Fire would give me about 150 more spellpower (Inner Fire at 85 gives 1080 spellpower), and I can get the 5% increase in Heals from the last point in Empowered Healing. If mana is tight, then the real question is whether I will save more with a 10% decrease in cost of my cast heals, or 8% for my instant spells – and this is an empirical question, which will need an empirical answer after some adjustment at 85.
Evangelism/Archangel: I *really* want to give this mechanism a go, mostly because it’s new and different. I agree with Derevka over at Tales of a Priest that this is far less appealing as a mechanic than Chakra. However, I’m resigned to the fact that this is what we will be getting for Cataclysm, and we may as well just make the best of it. Let’s look at some numbers. Evangelism stacks to 5, you gain stacks when you Smite, and each stack gives you increased damage and a mana reduction for Penance and for your damage spells. The stacks last 15 secs, so assume your Smite is around 1.8 sec cast time (2 secs with Divine Fury, minus your haste – I think 1.8 secs is actually fairly conservative, especially given we could become smart with Borrowed Time). So,it takes 9 secs to build the full stacks up, and 66% of your base mana (15% per Smite, but with a 6% discount for each successive stack of Evangelism). This gives you 30% reduction to your Penance, and the possibility, through another GCD, to gain 15% of your total mana. Mana wise, this is interesting if 66% of your base mana is lower than 15% of your total mana, which means that base mana should be lower than 22% of total mana for all this to be worth it.
Currently, at 80 and at the end of the expansion cycle, Tsark has 31k mana unbuffed, while a priest’s base mana at 80 is 3863 – amply above the cutoff point. In fact, with 3863 base mana the cutoff for Archangel to be worth it is just shy of 17k mana, which is a value that, if memory serves, I attained almost as soon as I hit 80. Now, this of course tells us little about Cataclysm: if anything, the values of intellect should be even higher in Cata, as spellpower is converted to Int in all gear except weapons – which suggests that yes, Archangel will net mana. UPDATE: Miss Medicina reports a base mana pool for level 85 priests of 20,586 – so if your total mana at 85 is around 81,546 Archangel will return mana at 5 stacks.
We still don’t know whether it’s worth it, though – because aside from the mana investment needed to get the mana return, we need to also invest time (the 9 secs + a GCD mentioned above, to build the 5 stacks and then use Archangel). Just to give another example, Hymn of Hope gives us 10% net mana (just above it) for 8 secs of time investment. Of course, it’s apples and oranges (HoH requires channelling, which is a lot more painful than finding 5 discrete 1.8 secs intervals; I’m also assuming the caster gets all three ticks on himself/herself, something that is not necessarily the case), but it does give an idea. Even more difficult to consider, I find it difficult to switch to dpsing mobs while healing – I generally lose track of my heal targets, and then need to catch up on the tank (though, hopefully, this is just a matter of practice).
If this does not work, I think there are multiple options. One possibility is to get Atonement. If the mana return is really worth it, and it just needs a little extra investment to make complete sense, then that minor heal may be the deal breaker. The heal will make the ramp up time for Evangelism slightly less of a waste, and thus could in the end make the whole experience worth it. I doubt this would ever be the case (especially if Atonement stays 3 points), but conceivably I could drop Improved Inner Fire or Empowered Healing to get Atonement. The other possibility is the one Blizzard doesn’t want to hear about – drop the whole “piece”, and instead use the three points in something else: Mental Agility or Inner Focus if mana is still an issue without Archangel, or Improved Inner Fire if it’s not.
The Ones I Cannot do Without
Divine Fury: The real issue is not so much getting this talent, but whether to max this or Empowered Healing out. So, .2 secs off Smite and all Heals, or 5% more healing? Both outcomes are throuput improvements, so it really is a mathematical question. Given HPS is given by Amount Healed/Time, and if we make our average heal 100 (for discussion’s sake) we have (100/2.5) = 40 vs (105/2.7)= 38.8 repeating, which means that Divine Fury is the way to go (and of course, this is independent of our actual amount healed, given that is the numerator of both values).
Strength of Souls: This talent looks more appealing every time I look at it. In fact, the talent could make it so we could Shield a tank every three heals, as opposed to every six-seven heals (depending on haste) – a clear increase in our effective healing that is nothing short of staggering.
I think all the other talents I chose are non-controversial, so I won’t go into detail on them all – of course, I’ll be happy to answer any questions that appear in the comments Now of course the question is what to cut for the levelling, and whether I want to actually get Reflective Shields until I get to 85. That, as they say, will remain a question for another day.
7 September 2010 § 2 Comments
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may recall that I already made some comments about Discipline talents. Since then, of course, things have changed quite dramatically: most importantly, trees have been shortened to 31-points, in an effort to streamline them, “to make [talent] choices more meaningful”. In short, most, if not all, the considerations I made in that post are now inapplicable. That’s the nature of beta tests, so of course I’m not worried about that or resentful or anything. However, it does mean that I have the opportunity to talk once more about talents in Cataclysm. I will split the discussion in two parts. Today, I will look at the talents in the trees, trying to understand the philosophy behind them. In the next post (which shouldn’t be a long time coming, as it’s mostly written already), I’ll actually suggest possible builds.
Disclaimer: As I made abundantly clear, I don’t have a beta invite, so my analysis will be mostly based on what I can find on forums and various sites (which I will try to quote). However, I don’t feel this is a big disadvantage, as the focus of my analysis will be on the “endgame” (i.e. the game when you have spent 41 talent points), and in a raiding context. Also, in case it hasn’t been clear so far, this post will feature the Cataclysm talents – so if you don’t want to have that aspect of the game spoiled for you, you’re better off not reading. For the rest of the discussion, I will refer to the talent calculator posted by MMO Champion, which you can find here.
I want to suggest that speccing Discipline is a bit like a puzzle: you have different pieces (talents or groups of talents), and you need to put them all together into something that is vaguely coherent. So, in this post I will examine what the pieces of the puzzles are.
Tier 1: Improved PW:S (2 pts)
Tier 2: Soul Warding (3 pts)
Tier 4: Rapture (3 pts), Borrowed Time (3 pts)
Tier 5: Divine Aegis (3 pts)
Tier 7: Power Word: Barrier (1 pt)
All these talents are no brainers, and should be present in any Disc spec. They effectively provide you with the frame onto which you can attach the other pieces of your puzzle spec. They improve the effectiveness of PW:S, which is our current bread-and-butter, and will remain to be if we judge by the support it still receives in the talent trees. A separate word for Power Word: Barrier. Clearly, I included it in the skeleton spec, because it would be stupid not to want the 31-pt talent (as several blue posters have stated). However, it is disparaging to see that NONE of the previous talents apply to PW:B: not Soul Warding, not Improved PW:S, not Rapture. Given that none of those talents are strictly prerequisite, it would be nice to actually have more interactions between talents – and I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to have some or all of the earlier time work with PW:B too.
The Heal Piece
(or, what to do in-between Shields)
Tier 3: Renewed Hope (2 pts)
Tier 5: Strength of Souls (2 pts)
Tier 6: Grace (2 pts)
Tier 1 Holy: Empowered Healing (3 pts), Divine Fury (3 pts)
Tier 2 Holy: Improved Healing (2 pts), Inspiration (2 pts)
This second set of talents boosts our Heal, Flash Heal and Greater Heal spells (respectively the workhorse spell, the fast-and-expensive spell, and the fat-slow-and-expensive spell). Strength of Souls is particularly interesting, because it plays off very well with PW:S. I can see this talent alone pushing a lot of shield botters towards a more balanced style of healing. You will note I have not looked at Improved Renew: I am assuming that Blizzard will balance the numbers to push us towards Heals, given that some of the Renew talents are unaccessible for Disc (e.g. Divine Touch). Of course, all this has to be confirmed by some actual numbers, for which we will have to wait. Also, the Heals are spammable and thus could be used in a tank healing situation: Renew is not, which makes it a lot less interesting as a spell for 10-man raiders.
The Archangel/Atonement Piece
(Mah smites gimme mana!)
Tier 2: Evangelism (2 pts), Archangel (1 pt)
Tier 3: Atonement (3 pts)
These three talents are the main addition to our tree in Cataclysm. They introduce a new mechanic, one where we basically use our Smites to gain the Evangelism buff (and partly to heal someone with Atonement) and then use Archangel to get mana back or to get a boost in healing for a short period of time. The two mechanics are separate, of course: Atonement looks fun for 5-mans, but I really cannot see it getting a lot of use in raids; Evangelism/Archangel instead has the potential to become another cooldown, and I can imagine a lot of situations when it may turn out to be very useful. The critical variable here is how important/valuable mana regen really is: does it make sense to sink 3 talent points into mana regen? Is the mana regen from Archangel enough to make it worth? The answers to these questions depend both from gear (how much spirit will we have?), mechanics (how much mana will that spirit give us? What about replenishment?) and, of course, encounter tuning (are we expected to heal for long periods of time?).
(I can haz moar spellz?)
Tier 3: Power Infusion (1 pt), Inner Focus (1 pt)
Tier 5: Pain Suppression (1 pt)
Tier 2 Holy: Desperate Prayer (1 pt)
The talents in this piece have little in common with each other, save the fact that they all give a new ability. Not much to say about Pain Suppression (you’d be certifiably mad not to take it), Power Infusion (make your dps happy, spec PI!) and Desperate Prayer (I cannot understand people who don’t take this talent – it’s saved me more times than I care to remember). Inner Focus makes me weep: the cataclysm version only covers very few spells (the three basic heals and PoH), which is a severe nerf of the talent (which used to be “any holy spell”). I think 95% of all healing priests currently have IF macroed to their Divine Hymn, as the ultimate raid “oh shit” button (with extra goodness for Disc, as crits give our targets more Aegis) Not having that, and not being allowed to use it for Penance either, will be a fairly big nerf. EDIT: And I just noticed that Inner Focus has a 6% base mana cost – which I hope is a mistake, or it reduces the utility of IF even further. EDIT AGAIN: The latest build took away the mana cost for Inner Focus, so that was clearly a mistake.
In a similar vein, I see that Desperate Prayer requires… Shadowform! I’m going to assume that’s a mistake (either of the tooltip or of MMO Champ), because it would be really bad otherwise.
The Levelling/PvP Piece
(We face melt through healing)
Tier 4: Reflective Shields (2 pts)
Tier 6: Focused Will (2 pts)
No changes in Reflective Shields, which remains an awesome talent for levelling or pvp, but really not very interesting in a PvE endgame situation. Focused Will loses its crit portion, so becomes a pure PvP talent.
The Filler Piece
(Not all talents can be fun)
Tier 1: Twin Disciplines (3 pts), Mental Agility (3 pts)
Tier 2: Improved Inner Fire (3 pts)
As promised, we still have some passive talents – and equally as promised they are in the lower tiers, where they can be accessed by other specs too. One minor gripe: Blizzard has been moving away from talents that modify one single ability, as a partial compensation for the fact that we have a lot less talents. It would be nice if Imp Inner Fire somehow improved also Inner Will (and call the talent Inner Strength?), as a way to increase its domain a bit. EDIT: And right on cue, Inner Sanctum now increases the speed boost of Inner Will, and Inner Fire reduces the spell damage taken.
So there we have it: one frame and five additional pieces, which we can combine in any ways we want – provided we can manage to use only 41 points. One thing I want to mention is that the priest talents indeed seem to respond to the designers’ intentions: not many passive talents, all in the lower tiers; talents that seem to synergise well with each other, and thus create interesting interactions and potentially fun gameplay.
That’s all for now: see you in a few days for the actual choice of specs!
29 August 2010 § Leave a Comment
Nope, still no invite for the Cataclysm beta.
However, I have started to realize that I am not missing the chance too much. I enjoyed the Wrath beta, and tried my best to give constructive feedback (although the set-up of asking for feedback for each quest is a bit too much sometimes…), and if I had the invite for the Cataclysm beta I would do the same. But I would be equally happy to focus on what is left in Wrath for me, and keep the discovery of the actual zones in Cataclysm for when I play the game in live, without the bugs that are bound to condition my experience (to this day, I have a tinge of pain when I need to grab the relics from the pirate ships in Howling Fjord, a quest that was famously bugged in the beta).
The other thing I realized is that Discipline really gets the minimum amount of change – especially if, like me, you’re a 10-man raider and thus never got pigeon-holed as a shield bot. Sure, we get PW: Barrier, and a better Heal, and possibly the Archangel mechanic as a mana return, and we will have to watch mana more carefully instead of spamming heals freely – but these are all changes that, although fairly big, do not lend themselves to theorycrafting, and will affect our gameplay only in the practice of it. The changes are certainly not in the vicinity of what our Holy cousins are getting, in the form of Chakra. Druids need to deal with the trauma of losing their treeform – a psychological barrier much more than a gameplay one. Paladins are handling the healing aura and the various Word mechanics, although my impression is that this last will affect Prot and Ret more than Holy (but I admit I haven’t looked at paladins in any depths).
So, Discipline is not changing – so we should storm Blizz’s headquarters and demand our new tools and shiny spells, right? Not necessarily.
I am firmly convinced that Discipline is one of the success stories of Wrath. The developers took a tree that had gone from totally useless in vanilla to very specialised in PvP, and not only made it a viable spec for PvE (in the sense of making sure that players specced into that tree could put out enough healing to remain competitive with the other healing classes/specs), but even managed to find it an interesting and different niche. In many ways, this is not changing in Cataclysm, and although the reorganisation of healing classes means that we become less specialised, the partition of the healing space remains the same. Paladins will still be very strong single-target healers, druids will still be the most mobile healers, shamans… well, shamans I’m not really sure what they are supposed to be and in fact are still the spec that needs the most attention and re-development (are they getting it? Not sure – I should probably look…). Discipline will still be focused on preventing damage, through powerful shields – and to me, that will still be an interesting niche.
I think I said it before, but I will say it again: the main problem Disc has had during the expansion cycle is that, while our shields have kept up with the general damage increase in successive raid tiers, none of our other heals have done the same. Not renew, not Greater Heal, not Flash Heal, not even Penance, which is supposed to be our signature spell. In Naxxramas we were in general considered tank healers who could heal the raid when needed, although raid healing would be taxing our mana. By Icecrown Citadel, gear had progressed to the point where mana was not even registering as a concern, and any GCD not used for PW:S felt like a waste (though of course in 10man raids we were still limited by Weakened Soul). As a result, parses from any Disc priest reflected a wide choice of spells in Naxx, 90% Shield and Divine Aegis by ICC. If Blizzard manages to solve this scaling issue, then Discipline is likely to still be a very fun spec to play.
Of course, only time will tell whether it’s going to happen, but I’m hopeful. First of all, because blue posts have recognised that this is a problem, and therefore we can assume they will try to set it right. Second, because the change of philosophy in talents will definitely help us going in this direction. One of the reasons none of the spells scaled well except Shield was simply that Shield was the only spell receiving significant talent support. The current design of talents has mostly done away with talents that support base spells, or has put those talents in the upper tiers of the tree, which means we have access to most of the same talents of this kind that our Holy cousins get. The lower tiers are then dedicated to the mechanics that are specific to the spec – Chakra for Holy, Aegis/Barrier and Grace for Disc. This means that either both specs will keep up with the tiers, or neither will – and I find it doubtful that Blizz will leave both priest specs lagging very much behind.