Priest Talent Previews for Cataclysm

June 12, 2010 at 3:33 pm (Cataclysm, Cataclysm Expansion, Circle of Healing, Divine Hymn, Flash Heal, Greater Heal, Heal, Healing Mechanics, Hymn of Hope, Mana, Patches, Penance, Power Word: Shield, Prayer of Healing, Renew, Shadow Word: Death, Shadow Word: Pain, Shadowform, Spells, Talents)

So Blizzard have released some Previews for the Priest, Shaman, Druid and Rogue talent trees for Cataclysm. Of course they are rough – there are duplicate talents, place holder names and so forth. And obviously it’s Alpha. However it gives some really great insight into where the Priest talents are going. And with a little careful thought it gives us more information on things we have been left in the dark about up until now – Shadow Orbs, Casting while moving. Smite DPS specs! It’s all really good stuff. And more to the point Blizzard are actively looking for feedback on it, so it’s a great time to get out there and talk about it.

Rather than write a post this week I’ve made a presentation – mainly because I thought the software was pretty cool and I wanted to try it out. However, it’s a pain in the tush to get it working on WordPress, and the files take a long time to download. Moreover the fullscreen – which is really needed to see the text – doesn’t work on WordPress. Awesome… So my suggestion is to click here which links directly to it.

Anyway – if you can. Enjoy!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Shared Boss Mechanics

January 11, 2010 at 3:10 pm (Borrowed Time, Circle of Healing, Empowered Renew, Flash Heal, Greater Heal, Grouping, Guardian Spirit, Guardian Spirit, Healing Mechanics, Icecrown Citadel, Pain Suppression, Penance, Power Word: Shield, Prayer of Healing, Prayer of Mending, Raiding, Renew, Serendipity, Talents)

This is not something I’ve written a blog post on before because, whilst it’s something I find interesting and it helps me think about my healing, I wonder whether it is unnecessary over-complication.
So I’m posting this with a little trepidation. If you don’t find it interesting, stop reading, I won’t mind.

Damage Profile

Whilst there are still new interesting fights designs coming out, and I’m certainly enjoying Icecrown Citadel, every fight tends to share certain things with fights that we’ve done before. Patchwerk, Gruul, Zul’Aman’s Panther boss and Marrowgar all share a Hateful strike/Cleave effect. They are all new fun fights, but they aren’t so different that you can learn substantial things from one to bring to the others. As such, when I’m thinking about how to improve my performance on a boss fight I try to think about what I call the “Damage Profile”. The style of damage the boss is doing.


The idea of a Damage Profile is probably best described with an example. There are various fights with high raid damage: Hodir, Kologarn, Loetheb, Festergut, Twin Val’kyr to name a few.
While in all these cases the raid damage is high, the style of raid damage is different. Kologarn does relatively little raid damage most of the time, but periodically does his smash for 10k damage to the entire raid group. Twin Val’kyr has constant ticking raid damage over the entire fight. Both these fights have high raid damage, but their damage profile is different. One is brief periods of high damage, the other is long periods of constant damage. Then obviously there are mixes of the two – XT, Festergut, Lord Marrowgar, Lord Jaraxxus.

Similarly Tank Damage can have a profile too. There can be high single Tank damage like Anub’arak, or a fight with high damage on both tanks like Lord Marrowgar, Patchwerk or Gormok the Impaler. There can be fights with Tank switches like Archavon or Thorim.

Spell Profile

Okay, so hopefully now we’re thinking about things not just in terms of “High Tank damage” Vs “High Raid damage” but in a little more detail. Is it ticking damage or burst damage? Is it random spikes to individual players, or hits on multiple targets at once? Is it predictable damage on a set timer, or it is random timing?

Once we have a good idea of the sort of Damage Profile going on we need to think about the spells we have and how they work.

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Holy FAQ

October 23, 2009 at 3:31 pm (5 mans, Binding Heal, Circle of Healing, Divine Hymn, Empowered Renew, Fade, FAQ, Flash Heal, Gearing, Glyphs, Greater Heal, Grouping, Guardian Spirit, Healing Mechanics, Holy FAQ, Holy Spec 14/57/0, Holy Spec 18/53/0, Mana, Power Word: Shield, Prayer of Healing, Prayer of Mending, Raiding, Renew, Spells, Stats, Surge of Light, Talents)

What do I shine at?

Like Discipline Priests, Holy Priests make great healers in small 5 man groups because of their tremendous utility, their range of AoE and single target spells and their ability to dump aggro and self heal through Binding Heal and Desperate Prayer.

In raids Holy is primarily seen as a Raid Healing build. That is to say, you are in your element healing multiple targets simultaneously using spells like Prayer of Healing, Prayer of Mending and Circle of Healing.

You are less capable as a Tank Healer as you miss some of the mana efficiency of Discipline, or the mitigation talents like Grace. However, you still have some Tank healing ability if you spec for it, in particular through larger Flash Heals and utility spells like Guardian Spirit and talents like Inspiration. As a result Holy priests are tremendously valuable both in 25 man raids for their mass healing, and in 10 mans for their ability to fill a variety of roles as required.

Spirit of Redemption

What’s my spec?

There are essentially two specs for a Holy Priest. The first focuses on mana efficiency and is best for Priests starting out when mana is an issue. This spec picks up Mental Agility from the Discipline tree whilst still collecting as many of the powerful Holy talents as possible. That would look something like this: 18/53/0

Once you gear up you move even more towards improving your healing picking up things like Test of Faith. So more like this: 14/57/0. Your crit is higher so only one point in Surge of Light. And because you’re focusing more on raid healing Empowered Healing looks less attractive than some other raid heals. You might drop Lightwell if your raid gets no use out of it. You’re taking Spell Warding over Divine Fury because you’re not casting Greater Heal and the additional spell reduction means you take less damage in heavy AoE fights – which are exactly the fights you’re needed for the most.

Some personal choices:

Body and Soul can be a fun utility talent in certain situations. It helps people avoid fire and other dangerous boss abilities. However, Power Word: Shield is a very inefficient heal for a Holy Priest so you should not ordinarily be casting it. Furthermore, Body and Soul is only useful for a Priest who is very good at keeping track of the fight. If you don’t have a good sense of what it happening to all the players in your raid and who could really benefit from a speed boost you won’t make the most of this talent.

Another personal choice is Lightwell, more on this later. It will depend a lot on the willingness of the rest of your raid to make use of it.

Finally Inspiration is a fantastic talent if you are planning to do a lot of five mans or you want to be versatile enough to help with Tank healing in certain fights. However it is a very mediocre talent for a Priest who intends to only be the best Raid Healer that they can. This will depend a lot on your raid group and the other healers you play with.

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Discipline Evolves. The new Raid Healer

October 13, 2009 at 3:36 pm (Being a Hero, Circle of Healing, Divine Hymn, Flash Heal, Grouping, Healing Mechanics, Penance, Power Word: Shield, Prayer of Healing, Prayer of Mending, Raiding, Rapture, Renew, Trial of the Champion, Ulduar, User Interface)

I’m taking a break out of the FAQ series because a couple of things came together for me recently. What I want to talk about this week is two things. The first is the evolution of the Discipline Priest’s role in a raid since 3.0 launched. The second is to go a little theoretical and talk about what a modern Discipline Priest has that makes them the most powerful healers in the game.

Discipline as a viable raid spec really came with Patch 3.0 with the introduction of three talents. Penance, Borrowed Time, and Rapture. Before these talents Discipline had poor mana, poor healing, and no real niche. Rapture brought the Mana, Penance the Healing, and Borrowed Time has let us find our niche.

Priest Evolution

The emphasis from very early on was on Discipline as a Tank healing spec. PW:S, Grace, Renewed Hope and Inspiration provided the mitigation, whilst Borrowed Time and Penance gave quick healing necessary to heal tanks up. For a long time therefore Discipline Priests have been the Tank Healers.

Holy Priests on the other hand have been the traditional Raid Healers. Circle of Healing, bigger Prayer of Healing, larger Prayer of Mending, and better HoTs make the the obvious choice for healing larger numbers of people.

This simple Distinction is naïve, and it’s beginning to change. There is talk in the back rooms of Forums. Priests are talking late at night in the Orgrimmar Drag when the Paladin’s aren’t listening. Things said only in /whisper… Have you heard? Come closer. Discipline is becoming a Raid Healer.

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The Tier 10 bonuses, and how it’s been handled

October 10, 2009 at 10:21 am (Circle of Healing, Flash Heal, Patch 3.3, Penance, Surge of Light)

Tier 5

So the Tier 10 set bonuses have been top of the news list recently because of a new style of approach. Rather than have them simply data mined out, Blizzard have posted them, asked for feedback, and changed the bonuses accordingly.

Whilst subject to change, the current plans are for the bonuses to look like this.

Priest

  • 2 Piece Bonus – Your Flash Heal critical strikes cause the target to heal for 25% of the healed amount over 9 sec.
  • 4 piece bonus – Your Circle of Healing and Penance spells have a 20% chance to cause your next Flash Heal cast within 6 sec to reset the cooldown on your Circle of Healing and Penance spells.

Let’s be honest, Tier set bonuses are a rather minor part of the game. However having a good tier bonus encourages people to get excited about their tier gear, the next patch, the next raid, and gives a bigger feeling of reward for killing new bosses. I’m always a little disappointed when I find that the next Tier of gear doesn’t look as good, or is strictly inferior because of a worse tier bonus. In the case of the last tier of gear Blizzard can afford to make things a little overpowered because they know everybody will ditch it for new gear as they level to 85. So the bonuses now can be really nice ones.  Personally I think asking for feedback on them was a masterful move for getting people excited about it, and I think the fact that the feedback has provided positive results is fantastic.

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Holy Spec

August 18, 2009 at 3:02 pm (5 mans, Circle of Healing, Divine Hymn, Flash Heal, Grouping, Guardian Spirit, Healing Mechanics, Holy Spec 14/57/0, Holy Spec 18/53/0, Prayer of Healing, Prayer of Mending, Raiding, Renew, Talents)

Unlike a Discipline priests there really is a lot of decisions to make in choosing a Holy spec.

As you make your decisions it’s important to keep in mind what you plan on doing as a Holy Priest. You can Tank heal as a Holy Priest, but you don’t really have the single target heals that Discipline benefits from. So as a Holy Priest your job is primarily raid healing. Now if you do a lot of 5 or 10 mans then chances are you might find yourself Tank healing every now and again so, if you expect to, you should take that into account when making your talent picks. On the other hand, if you’re doing solely 25 mans then you will rarely be tank healing and should pick your talents accordingly.

Disc

So here’s a couple of possibilities:

The first focusing on Mana efficiency:  18/53/0

And the second focusing on being an AoE healing powerhouse: 14/57/0

Discipline Tree:

As a Holy priests, strangely enough, your first major decision is how far you are going into Discipline. The realistic options are either 13, 14, or 18 points.

13 Points

Thirteen points is obligatory to pick up meditation. Without Meditation you gain zero (absolutely zero!) mana back from Spirit while casting. Without meditation you will either run out of mana, or spend so much item budget on MP5 and intellect that your healing will be awful. If tanks run away screaming whenever you join a group, check you have 3/3 Meditation.

14 Points

If you want it, the fourteenth point goes into Inner Focus. Inner Focus is also a mana talent. With a three minute cooldown, you will use it 2 or 3 times a boss fight. Assuming you use it on your most expensive spells (once on Divine Hymn and two times on Prayer of Healing) you are saving something like 4,500 mana, and gaining a 25% crit chance on those casts. For the 4,500 mana alone, that’s as good talent point.

18 Points

The final option is to take Mental Agility. As a Holy priest 3 of your 5 main spells (Circle of Healing, Renew and Prayer of Mending) are instant cast. So 10% less cost on those spells is a lot of mana. Furthermore this is nothing to do with your gear. So if you are just starting out and you have mana issues, getting Mental Agility is a good way to keep up with better geared healers. You’ll have to waste a point to get to Mental Agility, usually it’s in Improved Power Word: Shield, but it really doesn’t matter too much where it goes. Wasting a point can feel messy, but really, Mental Agility is good, if you are starting up and are having mana problems, or you’re doing hard modes, you might have a good hard look at this spec.

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What glyphs should I take?

July 28, 2009 at 6:07 pm (Circle of Healing, Flash Heal, Glyphs, Guardian Spirit, Guardian Spirit, Mind Flay, Pain Suppression, Pain Suppression, Penance, Power Word: Shield, Prayer of Healing, Renew, Shadow Word: Death, Shadow Word: Pain, Spells)

Picks first, then there is a run down of all the majo glyphs incase you want a little more information.

PicksGlyph screen

Discipline Picks

I raid with Glyph of Penance, Glyph of Flash Heal, and Glyph of Power Word: Shield. In ten mans I would consider dropping Flash Heal for Glyph of Prayer of Healing if you can spare the mana.

Holy Picks

My picks would be Guardian Spirit, Circle of Healing, Prayer of Healing. If you need more mana take Flash Heal over Guardian Spirit for 10 mans, and over Prayer of Healing for 25 mans.

Shadow Picks

My picks would be Shadow, Shadow Word: Pain and Mind Flay as they offer the best DPS boosts and the range advantage from Mind Flay glyph can be a massive boost in certain situations.

Rundown of all the options:

Shadow

Dispersion : Reduces the cooldown on Dispersion by 45 sec.

You should not really have mana issues as Shadow so being able to use Dispersion more often would only really be useful for avoiding damage. It doesn’t work on many dangerous boss abilities. Essentially this is a PvP glyph and not worth it for PvE.

Mind Flay : Increases the range of your Mind Flay spell by 10 yards, but it only reduces the target’s movement speed by 10%.

A definite PvE glyph and not a bad one. For fights with positioning advantages like Hodir, Iron Council, Vezax etc where you don’t always have a choice where to stand, this glyph is a really nice one. Even where it doesn’t matter where you stand, any time you spend chasing the boss to get in range is a huge amount of wasted DPS.

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Tracking your cooldowns

July 20, 2009 at 3:57 pm (5 mans, Circle of Healing, Divine Hymn, Grouping, Guardian Spirit, Guardian Spirit, Healing Mechanics, Pain Suppression, Pain Suppression, Penance, Prayer of Mending, Raiding, Serendipity, User Interface)

It’s hardly news, or it certainly shouldn’t be, that Priests, just like every other class, spec and mob under the (fake) sun have cooldowns. As a DPS you use your cooldowns in a straight up rotation. Unless you are waiting for a DPS burn you spend cooldowns pretty much as soon as they are ready. As a healer you’re blowing cooldowns in response to the positioning of all the pretty multi-colored health bars and the abilities of the boss. In either case it’s important to keep a tight track of all your cooldowns. As a DPS player if you don’t recognise that Mind Blast is ready, you lose DPS. As a healer on the other hand the danger is not a loss of DPS but possibly the loss of a player.

There are two things you can do wrong. The first is to forget to use a cooldown. I’ve talked about this a little in the “Being a Hero” posts: If players are dying and you are consistently finding you have Pain Suppression, Guardian Spirit, Divine Hymn, Face etc off cooldown then you could probably of handled things better. Don’t assume the mistake occurred when the player died. Often I realise that the mistake was not letting that player die, but occurred ten to fifteen seconds earlier when I ought to have used Divine Hymn or Pain Suppression to get control of the situation. The death is result of something which I failed to do much earlier.

The other mistake, and the one that I usually make, is to try to use a spell when it is on cooldown. Most commonly this occurs with very short cooldown spells like Penance where you want to use it very often. It also occurs commonly with very very long cooldown spells like Divine Hymn where I try to use it and forget that it is still on cooldown from the previous boss attempt. Trying to cast a spell while it is on cooldown is often the worse mistake. If I try to cast Penance on the tank and nothing happens I usually will hesitate. “What happened? Am I silenced? Oh Penance is on cooldown, is it almost ready? Should I wait one second for the cooldown to end?” Usually the tank dies about now.

Whilst these mistakes will always occur, they are definitely reducible if you find ways to better keep track of your cooldowns and display this information. My suggestion is Addons and, in my view, displaying the same information in multiple places on the screen makes a big difference. Providing redundant information means that wherever your eyes are looking, whether it’s health bars, action bars, or you’re trying to manoeuvre around the battle field, you’ll always have the important information right in front of your eyes. Obviously don’t make the information too intrusive, if you’re obscuring big parts of the screen that’s bad, but I think the mistake I used to make was thinking that I only needed to display each bit of information in one place.

My Addon suggestions are:

OmniCC – Displays the cooldown of your spells numerically on your action bars. This is much much easier to see than the standard blizzard effect which is neither quantitative nor very obvious at a glance. Works  fantastic without much tweaking at all.

PowaAuras – A very popular Addon amongst DPSers to track important debuffs but this mod is extremely powerful. You can make it display icons, or shapes on the screen in response to all sorts of things. It will show you when spells are available, the cooldown remaining, when you, your target, your focus etc have certain buffs or debuffs on them. All kinds of things. For example: When a spell becomes available the icon appears, when the spell is used the cooldown timer appears. When I get a Serendipity buff the icon appears, additional stacks of the buff are displayed by additional icons stacking up in a tower so they are easy to take in at a glance. Anyway, definitely 100% recommend it for pretty much anything you want to do.

Satrina Buff Frames – A very powerful Addon for displaying buffs and debuffs for your player and your target. I use it for displaying things like Renew, Weakened Soul on my target so I know when these spells are worth recasting. It’s also great for showing up important debuffs. For example, Bosses with uncommon but key abilities like Ignis’ Slag Pot can be displayed very very clearly on your screen when they occur without otherwise intruding on your play. Again, like Powa Auras this mod takes a while to tweak with.

So, if you are finding yourself failing to use, or trying to use cooldowns you can’t, then consider ways of better displaying that information in your UI

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Serendipity & Prayer of Healing

July 16, 2009 at 2:44 pm (Binding Heal, Circle of Healing, Flash Heal, Glyphs, Grouping, Healing Mechanics, Prayer of Healing, Prayer of Mending, Raiding, Renew, Serendipity, Spells, Surge of Light, Talents)

By far the biggest heal in a Priests arsenal is Prayer of Healing and even with the upcoming 3.2 nerf it out heals every other Priest spell by a long way. Greater heal crits for around fourteen thousand, Prayer of Healing currently crits for twice that! What Serendipity gives you is the ability to blast the raid with giant Prayers of Healing at a moment’s notice.

Using stacks of Serendipity you can be dropping a Prayer of Healing as fast as you could cast a flash heal. The key is being able to build up Serendipity stacks as fast as possible, and being able to use them at the right time.

Serendipity wills stack whenever you cast a Flash Heal or a Binding Heal. Flash Heal is not a fantastic raid heal spell. It’s fast but it’s only one target out of the whole raid. Binding Heal is usually the better choice so long as you aren’t overhealing too much. However Surge of Light procs give free, instant cast Flash Heals which is not something to scoff at. Flash Heal is not the best raid heal, but it fills a role.

The Circle of Life:

The result is a really neat synergy.

Circle of Healing will do AoE healing and probably proc Surge of Light.

You spend you free Flash Heal for healing and a Serendipity buff.

Throw out a renew on a player for a small instant heal (and possible Surge of Light proc).

You cast Binding Heal for more healing, more chance of crits, and more Serendipity buffs.

You cast Prayer of Healing with 2-3 haste buffs and in the process probably proc Surge of Light again.

Back to Circle of Healing and repeat.

So the idea here is to let Circle of Healing, Prayer of Mending, Surge of Light and Binding/Flash heals top up the people really in trouble whilst Prayer of Healing takes massive advantage of the Serendipity buffs to land giant splash heals on whole groups at a time.

So that’s how we get Serendipity buffs, but how to best use them?

Making the best use of Prayer of Healing

Prayer of Healing will hit 5 people in a specific group. So it’s important we think very hard about which 5 players to heal. Because it’s not a smart heal we can’t rely on it to heal the 5 people most in need of it. Therefore it’s up to us to ensure that the people who need healing are all in the same group.

We do that by careful use of our “filler” spells, the things we used to generate our Serendipity buffs. So for example, we cast Circle of Healing, Prayer of Mending, Renew, Flash Heal and Binding Heal to help generate our Serendipity stacks. If we were to throw these out randomly we would not expect to have a good target for Prayer of Healing. Chances are that no single party would have 5 players on low health, they’d each have a mix of players near death and players at full.

This is what I call spot healing, and it’s the bread and butter of a good healer. You aren’t just healing anybody who needs it, you’re being careful about the sorts of heals you use, and who you use them on to create a situation where you can benefit the most from your real powerhouse heals. If you just go crazy with Prayer of Healing straight off the bat individual players may not survive long enough to see that Prayer land. So topping up players before trying to cast a Prayer is an important stage, and with Serendipity you benefit even more from this Spot Healing stage. Once people are out of danger and you have created a nice juicy target group, that’s when you come in with the big slow heals like Prayer of Healing.

So the process of generating our Serendipity buffs is important to helping us make the best use of our Prayer of Healing. We want to spread these heals out to leave us a good target for Prayer of Healing: A party of 5 players on more or less the same health, and with plenty of health deficit so we aren’t wasting mana on overhealing.

Some of our heals will do this automatically. Prayer of Mending and Circle of Healing will heal targets on the lowest health so they automatically help to balance out everybody’s health. All we need to do is be thoughtful about Binding Heal, Flash Heal and Renew.

An example of what I mean: I’m in group 1 and we’re all on low health. I want to heal a Player in group 2. Usually I’d cast Binding Heal because it’s healing me and another player at the same time. But if I’m about to cast Prayer of Healing on my party anyway, then it would make more sense to cast Flash heal on that group 2 player. If I used Binding Heal I’d just overheal myself a moment later when I cast Prayer of Healing. Binding Heal is a fantastic spell, but in this situation it’s essentially just wasted healing because I’m going to heal my group with Prayer of Healing anyway. So in this situation I should cast Flash heal and save some mana and overhealing even though Binding Heal looked like a good choice.

The goal here is to try and heal the raid in such a way that you have a nice big target for Prayer of Healing every time you cast it. If you find the other Healers in your raid are treading on your toes here, then chat to them about having specific groups you are responsible for. Perhaps you pick a group and let everybody know that you will be targeting them with most of your Prayer of Healings. Make sure it’s a group who regularly stand close to each other, perhaps a group of melee characters, then you can be sure they will take similar damage, and be in range of each other. In 25 man raiding you may find that other healers will happily do the spot healing for you, leaving you free to top the groups off. It may seem less glamarous than throwing out fast heals to save lives of individual players, but ultimately it’s all the same thing. You’re landing the big heals which are keeping the raid healthy, confident and out of the danger zone, and in the process probably doing substantially more overall healing that those focusing on catching low health players.

Tip: Glyph of Prayer of Healing is rediculously good. Rediculously rediculous. If you’re raiding as a holy priest it’s a no brainer. If you raid 10 mans as discipline you will probably find that you still do a reasonable amount of raid healing and, as such. it’s probably still worth taking a long hard look at even over something like Glyph of Flash Heal. We’ll talk later about breaking down healing meters to see how best to glyph yourself out for your style of healing.

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