Leveling, Holy and Discipline Priest specs

Here’s a quick glance at my healing and questing specs on the grind from 80 to 85. My mentality behind this was to select talents that would give me an edge in either survivability or efficiency. I went for talents that helped reduce mana costs or gave me mana back. I also opted for talents that made me a little bit tougher to kill.

Starting from level 80

As Shadow (Link to talent calculator)

Notes

Improved Psychic Scream – In case things get dicey with an overpull, I can couple this talent with Glyph of Psychic Scream. I don’t send mobs flying every where and pulling even more stuff. But it might buy me the precious seconds I need to DPS something down and heal up.

Mental Agility – Cheaper dots. ‘Nuff said.

Veiled Shadows – Wishbone gets to come out more often. … What, don’t you guys name your Shadowfiends?

As Holy (Link to talent calculator)

I chose holy as my dungeon healing offspec. Mana won’t be a terribly challenging issue with the opening instances like Blackrock Caverns or Throne of the Tides. But you’ll want to consider grabbing Mental Agility on the way up.

Notes

Desperate Prayer – Yeah, yeah, not many people would choose this. But I personally like having a safety net in dungeons in case I pull something.

As Discipline (Link to talent calculator)

Notes

Chose Empowered Healing over Divine Fury. Cast time isn’t as big a factor when you’re leveling up via dungeons, I found. Still going to be using a combination of shields and Flash Heal to get over the top.

Raiding

As Shadow (Link to talent calculator)

Sorry guys, I can’t say this is the final form of the raid spec I plan to use as shadow. I’ll use this as a baseline to work with though at least.

As Holy (Link to talent calculator)

Yup, I kept Desperate Prayer and Inspiration for raiding. Darkness is another option when your mana regeneration hits a point where it isn’t a big a factor. I won’t be switching to it until I accumulate more potent gear.

As Discipline (Link to talent calculator)

So many options here. You can take out the points from Veiled Shadows and place them into Surge of Light or Inspiration (In case your party doesn’t already have one with it). But Disc by far seems to offer the most variety when it comes to talent placement.

An Instance of Fail

An Instance of Fail

**Image courtesy of Universal Studios**

Matt’s note: After an actual good night’s sleep and further deliberation, I’ve exercised editorial control and removed the quote that was at the end of post as I determined it was unnecessary. The team remains committed to delivering honest and thoughtful opinion on the subject and content around the community, and it is never our intention to go after individuals.

I, like a good number of people that I play with, listen to The Instance, a WoW-based podcast featuring Scott Johnson and Randy Deluxe.  They’re an incredibly entertaining duo, and their show is produced remarkably well. Since their fame, they’ve been able to amass the largest guild in WoW, A.I.E., a Horde fan-guild on Earthen Ring.

Needless to say, they’ve developed quite a following. They score interviews with members of the Blizzard staff, host their own Nerdtacular Expo, and have even coined the famous “Obey Henry!” (a reference to Scott’s Hunter pet) phrase on bumper stickers and websites. They’ve got sponsors galore, and it shows.

A lot of people have been given the oppotunity to contribute to the success of “The Instance”, via the podcast or their blog.  Because of the “bragging rights” that come along with such an honor, it’s expected that people probably flock to get a chance.

Well, just because you get the chance, doesn’t mean you should take it.  Living in downtown Chicago, I have the chance to jump off bridges into the water below. Doesn’t mean that it’s a smart idea.

The Culprit

I try to keep a good grasp on what blogs are out in the WoW world.  A lot of us on Twitter are really good about tweeting and re-tweeting blogs that we think are relevant. I find some great articles that way, and some real duds.  That’s what brings me to “The Instance”.

I came across an article posted by someone named Dills. I checked out some of his posting history. He seems like a fairly new blogger. His posts are succinct (good), and touch on relevant topics (also good). The article I read, however, hurt my soul.

In the “calm before the storm”, we’re learning what spells are going by the wayside.  Some spells like Sentry Totem are easily justified. Their mechanics make no sense. Other spells however, will make a lot of us shed a tear upon their departure. Dills, lacking the eloquence he usually displays, delves into his opinions of what should be on the chopping block.

First Offense

Although in the healing community we beg for the repair of our beloved Lightwell, Dills calls for its demise. It’s not really the call for the demise that bothers me as much as the poor thinking that it’s derived from:

The idea is not horrible but in today’s raiding environment does anyone have time to stop their rotation for a moment to click on something for a heal?  I know when I’m dpsing or tanking the last thing I want to think about is healing.

Wrong, sir. When you gear your tank to 540 Defense (or spec into Survival of the Fittest), you’re thinking about healing. When you gather your 251+ gear for your tanking set, you’re thinking about healing. If you’re NOT thinking about healing when you’re going through your “rotation”, then you’re just a bad DPS.  It is every raid member’s responsibility to contribute to the raid as a group effort. This is why one of the quintessential rules of WoW is:

  • Don’t stand in the bad; Do stand in the good.

When you stand in the good, you’re not just “upping your numbers”, you’re assuring that the fight will progress quickly so the healers won’t run out of mana.  With Blizzard’s desire to make mana an issue for healers, this will become paramount.  When you avoid standing in the bad, you’re doing the exact same thing by saving the heals for those that really need it.

But wait!! There’s more!

That’s what the healer is for.  I’ve got a great idea.  How about we put a little Shadowwell on the ground and the healers can click on it to dps things?  Dumb right?  Right.

Wrong again, sir.  Wrong.  How many times have you been working on a progression boss and you hit that last 5% with an imminent enrage timer, then wipe?  I’m willing to bet money that part of the reason you got to that 5% in the first place is because of your healer(s) Smite-ing/HolyShock-ing/LightningBolt-ing/Wrath-ing the boss when they had the global cooldowns to spare.  I can’t tell you how many times when I raided with Lodur’s guild that the whole raid (healers included) threw everything they had at a boss in the final 10%.  I’ll use Blood Queen Lana’thel as an example. One attempt ended in our guild first, with only 2 people alive, the other 23 dead. Healers DPS’d the boss, too. “That’s what the DPS is for,” right? So does that mean the DPS wasn’t doing their job? Nope. We succeeded, which means the raid did it’s job.

Secondly, it’s obvious that Dills hasn’t been following the new game mechanics, namely that Healers will be nudged to DPS in order to regen mana. In the current build, Priests have the following talents:

  • Evangelism – When you cast Smite, you gain Evangelism increasing damage done by your Smite, Holy Nova, Holy Fire, and Penance spells by 4% and reduces the mana cost of those spells by 6% for 15 sec. Stacks up to 5 times.
  • Archangel – Consumes your Evangelism effect, instantly restoring 3% of your total mana, and increases your healing done by 3% for each stack.
  • Atonement – When you deal damage with Smite, you instantly heal a nearby low health friendly target within 8 yards equal to 15% of the damage dealt.

So, sir. If we can DPS the boss, you can help with healing.

Second Offense

Although Amplify/Dampen Magic is getting tossed onto the cutting room floor, Dills seems to think it’s welcome. His primary reasoning:

I know, we use Amplify Magic on the Saurfang fight.  I’m aware of that.  However; one fight does not make a spell useful or necessary.

How about Valithria Dreamwalker? Ever think about throwing Amplify Magic on her? And Dampen Magic, what about throwing that on your ranged tank in Blood Prince Council? I can think of a myriad of ways that this can be used on a case-by-case basis. Just because it’s not mandatory for each fight doesn’t mean that it deserves to go away.

More you ask? Sure…

I also don’t know a single Mage who is excited when I remind them to please “give amp magic to the raid please”.  They all have the same reaction, “Ugh”.

Wrong, sir. Any mage worth running with (in my opinion), is more than willing to buff the raid, if it’s necessary  or will aid in getting that solid kill.  To any player that gripes and groans because they have to buff the raid, I tell them essentially what they’re saying is “Oh noes! I have to give the raid a (possibly) better chance at downing this boss! /cry”.  It is these people that I don’t like playing with.  Our mage (also our DPS captain) always looks to see what little things the DPS can do to help out the rest of the team.

Three Strikes; You’re Out!

Last, but not least, Dills brings up Mind Soothe and Soothe Animal. These are spells that I’ve become quickly familiar with through my raiding days.  Remember when CC used to be essential to getting through a raid?  Remember packs of mobs that needed to be Slept, Sheeped, Sapped, Hexed, Repented, etc? Does anyone recall Blizzard saying they’d like to see CC brought back in? I do. I welcome it. It actually makes it more interesting than “nuke da mobz wit aoe”. Let’s start at the top:

Priests can Mind Soothe which I guess could be useful while questing but if you can’t kill a mob reliably you got bigger problems than Mind Soothe can fix.

Dills, did you read the spell? Mind Soothe has no impact on the level of damage a Humanoid mob takes. It reduces the aggro range that the mob can detect you. For leveling, this means you can Mind Soothe a mob to grab that quest item you need. For dungeons, it’ll help you sneak by that one mob patrolling right near you or near a party member that was lagging behind.

I’ve heard of Priests using Mind Soothe on the Instructor Razuvious fight but I admit I have never confirmed that it really works.

Here’s some confirmation for you. In the Razuvious 25man fight, you need two priests to Mind Control.  Without Mind Soothe, they have to mash the Mind Control button as fast as they can to grab hold of the Understudies.  Why? Because when the Priest gets into range to cast the spell, he’s already in the Understudy’s aggro range. The mob starts running at the Priest, alerting the other students (and Razuvious) that he’s there. If the tank’s not fast enough, or the other Priest can’t get off Mind Control on time, the Priest is dead.

Now, with Mind Soothe, the Priest settles into this spot, casts Mind Control with ease, and there’s no mad dash to get it done. The tank can run in and get aggro on the other Understudies without fear of them charging after the Priests.

This works for any time you have to set up CC assignments before a pull. With the need for CC coming back stronger in Cataclysm, you’re gonna need Mind Soothe until you really outgear the content.  And guess what? Soothe Animal is the exact same thing, except for Beasts and Dragonkin!

I do like the idea of these spells upping the targets vulnerability to other spells though.

Where, oh where, did you even get that from the tooltips of those spells?  How does “reduces the range” mean “makes more vulnerable”?  Both of those spells are designed to help prevent face-pulling mobs by anyone other than the tank.

Head to the Dugout

In the end of Dills’s post, he says:

Leave a comment with any spells you hate or think should change or tell me how wrong my analysis is.

Gladly, sir. Let me say first that anyone is more than welcome to have their opinion. I encourage it. However, make sure you know what you’re talking about before you open your mouth if you’re looking to spur a debate. The examples provided above show a poor thought process on your part.

Your thoughts on how healing is “not your job” is an insult to the people you depend on to keep you alive. It is your duty to make sure the raid succeeds, however you can contribute to it.

The ability to think outside the box on certain spells is something I highly recommend checking out. Simply because one raid leader said to use Amplify Magic on the Saurfang encounter doesn’t make it useless everywhere else. You’ve got raiders that groan at increasing chances of success? Get new raiders.

I can certainly say that I don’t like apples because they’re fuzzy and blue and taste like feet.  You’d say I have no idea what an apple is. That’s my opinion of you regarding Mind Soothe and Soothe Animal. Try Soothe Animal in Ruby Sanctum. You may be surprised.

Email: Elder.Thespius@gmail.com | Twitter: @Thespius

Less is More?

Less is More?

As some of you may or may not know, I am actually trained in the skills of an architect. It’s a fun fact about me on the off chance you care about that sort of thing. The reason I bring this up is because all throughout my college career, my teachers attempted to drive home the point that “Less is More”. This is not a new design concept by any means, in fact it is a rather old idea, a 19th century proverbial phrase. It is first found in print in Andrea del Sarto, 1855, a poem by Robert Browning:

Who strive – you don’t know how the others strive
To paint a little thing like that you smeared
Carelessly passing with your robes afloat,-
Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,
(I know his name, no matter) – so much less!
Well, less is more, Lucrezia.

Architect Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe is often associated with this phrase as a founder  of modern architecture and proponent of simplicity of style.

So I’m sure you’re asking why I’m dragging architecture into your dragon game right now yes? Well, quite simply the idea of less is more is a design concept that many game companies have embraced. To do more with less decreases production time, allows for a better shake down of bugs and glitches, and can free up a developer to create some very innovative game play.  One need not look much further than Braid or The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom to see what I mean here.

Blizzard it would seem has just begun to adapt to this way of thinking, at least it appears that way. You can see this in the latest build of the Cataclysm Beta. The new 31-point talent system has streamlined the talent trees by removing  bloat and overused space. What we are left with is a cleaner, albeit smaller, talent tree. A lot of the talents cut away were instead folded into the players choice in specialization, for example Earth Shield was removed as a talent and given as a core spell when a player chooses to specialize in Restoration. This design model is an attempt to do more with less. Less wasted talent space will lead to more interesting talents in the tree, as well more interesting game play for players… in theory anyways. I wrote up a more detailed breakdown of these changes on WoW.com so feel free to check it out. This is my more personal thoughts on these changes, and well… I just felt the need to keep talking about them some.

While it is still in an early beta phase, I can’t help but feel… disrupted a little bit. While I agree that some of the talents should have been moved, I’m not entirely feeling good about what was pulled out and what was put in. I agree that for restoration, Earth Shield should have been removed as a talent and made into a base spell. You will never hear me complain about that. Every resto shaman I know takes that talent, and in truth it is a very core, very iconic spell that is part of the identity of a resto shaman. If you are a restoration shaman without Earth Shield… well I just don’t even know. I am curious though as to why Mana Tide Totem was left in place though. Like ES it is a very core shaman talent and again something most if not all resto shaman take. Why not remove it as a talent and give it as a bonus for choosing the restoration specialization? That could further open up the tree and allow more space for more fun talents. From a design perspective it would make more sense to make it a base ability or a specialization bonus and open the slot for something else… maybe something like Spirit Link!

Another thing that confused me was some of the additions, Spark of Life to be exact. One of the things that Blizzard stated was that they wanted to move away from/remove talents that added passive % bonuses. Don’t get me wrong, I like the talent. Buffing the healing done to yourself has been near godly in the beta (*ahem* restoiz4tanking!) and it makes the passive heal from Healing Stream Totem nice for longevity, but I am still surprised to see it included. It does go well with Ancestral Resolve as far as that whole staying alive thing goes as well. I fully plan on using these for tanking as a healer!

Telluric Currents would be nice for leveling… if it was lower in the tree. I can’t see taking it as a dedicated healer in end game, as it is rare that I have to DPS at all and even then it is usually a flame shock followed by more healing and then a lava burst. It could be useful for soloing… maybe.

We lost a lot however. A lot of our supercharged healing is gone, and we are dreadfully low on passive crit. Some additions to the tree give us back some of the bonus healing, but no where near where it was. I understand that they want to make healing harder and more thoughtful and I am pro difficulty on that, but a shaman’s best procs all come from crit. Passively we can push 40% in a raid without trying, this helps with heals from Ancestral Awakening and helps trigger Blessing of the Eternals sure. It also is necessary for shaman mana regeneration. Improved Water Shield procs off of critical heals. The more crits you have the more likely you are to regen mana and be able to keep casting. I don’t know if you remember but there was a time not so long ago that shaman were having longevity issues. IWS was implemented to compensate for that, but by removing the passive crit, it hurts our regeneration rates. Meditation is supposed to allow for further regeneration, but the question remains if it will wind up being enough.

Along those same lines, Tidal Force is out. I really really miss this spell. It has become second nature in to pop this spell and its absence is keenly felt. When I’m healing on live I usually have a rhythm going. Like say for Valithria;

Riptide > Healing Wave > Healing Wave > Chain Heal > Tidal Force > Healing Wave > Healing Wave etc. Refreshing Riptide when off cooldown.

Now it has become

Riptide > Healing Wave > Healing Wave > Chain Heal > Look for Tidal Force *DAMNIT* Unleashed Weapon > Healing Wave > Healing Wave etc.

Throws me off quite a bit. Still getting used to it. I can see what they are doing by trimming the trees and I approve. While I may not be a staunch minimalist, I know when things have gotten bloated. The restoration tree on live definitely is bloated, and the one on the current beta could use some more pruning .

So Blizzard, keep in mind that less is more. Players have been doing creative things with very little for a while now. Just make what we have better defined and maybe move a few more things around. We don’t necessarily need a rolls-royce (although it would not be turned down!) we just need things that function well. We’ve been trotting along pretty much unchanged for a good bit, just make sure you don’t break us ok?

So what do you guys think of the changes so far? Anything you noticed you love? Hate? Anything you think they should add in?


Understanding New Talents and Thoughts on Priests

Last week, it was announced that talent trees would get sliced. Reason being that there was too much unnecessary crap and not enough fun talents. Most of us sort of got the idea of what they wanted to do. Include more talents that do something tangible, that we can feel or use.

Potentially free Lightning Bolt after casting a Lightning Bolt? Cool.

Gradually increasing healing by some random percentage of which you can’t really see? Not quite as exciting.

Preview the new trees and see what they’ll look like

How specialization works

Okay, so the way I understand it, the moment you ding level 10, you get to start specializing your character. The moment you invest your first talent, you get access to a myriad of spells and abilities which define that particular tree.

Let’s use a Priest for example.

As Holy

I get access to:

  • Desperate Prayer
  • Holy Priest (Pushback reduction on discipline and holy spells)
  • Meditation

As Discipline

I get access to:

  • Penance
  • Pushback resistance
  • Meditation

From what I can see, no special training is required. You are well on your way to becoming that specialized priest of your choice. There won’t be any 20/21 type builds either. You need to fully invest your points down one tree before you can fork over to a different one. The rate at which you receive talents points have been roughly halved as well. Figure you get a new point every 2 or maybe 3 levels.

What do I think?

My opinion though, I’m not sure what can be done to entice players to select holy at the lower levels. I notice a few sad face Priests when they notice that Desperate Prayer is the innate spell we get. Desperate Prayer makes the most sense for balance and logistical reasons (like what’s the point of getting Circle of Healing at level 10?) At that stage of the game, you’re hardly doing much in a party anyway. At least with the prayer, you can fire off a desperate heal if you pulled one too many murlocs.

I can’t count the number of times where I could’ve easily leveled the murlocs and their huts if I had access to Desperate Prayer.

Anyway, I can certainly see the foundation of Holy taking place. I’m trying to remember what the original 41 point talent was back in vanilla (Spirit of Redemption? Lightwell?). Now if they can just somehow throw in something new in place of Renew or Empowered Healing at the first level under Holy. What would be a decent ability at that level?

Holy seems quite top heavy in the sense that any of the deeper talents could easily fulfill the role as the 31 point talent. Guardian Spirit is the current one. Circle of Healing used to be the end talent back during Burning Crusade, if memory serves. I wouldn’t mind seeing Chakra and Guardian Spirit switched. From a symbolic perspective, I think a talent like that which gives your spells nifty bonuses whenever you string them together should be an ultimate skill.

But that’s inspired from assorted limit breaks from Final Fantasy.

From a logistical and practical standpoint? It might be better off if priests get a feel for Chakra earlier in their leveling life.

The Discipline side of things looks great! Power Word: Barrier as the 31 pointer? Awesome. It appears that Discipline is destined to be the leveling spec (due to Evangelism and Archangel).

One thing I noticed is the placement of Inner Focus. At 11 points in, it will not be accessible to Holy priests. I don’t know if that’s intentional or not. Inner Focus has been one of those taken-for-granted type talents that all healing priests usually get. For it to be cut off like for those that choose the path of Holy is going to be quite the impact. Here’s hoping it gets switched with Archangel.

Anyway, I like the direction the talent condensation is going. Obviously they’re not all complete or finalized yet. Some classes still have a few placeholders or leftover talents from live that aren’t supposed to be there.

Now I don’t know about you, but I’m going to have a heck of a time figuring out which healing priest type I want to switch to. I’ll probably end up dual speccing both anyway. I might just go back to my roots and be straight up holy again in the expansion.

How are you liking the talents so far? (And it doesn’t have to be restricted to just priests either)!

4 Questions to Answer on the Respec Policy

4 Questions to Answer on the Respec Policy

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post detailing the freedom that players had in their own play. Reader Revaan wrote a series of questions that I wanted to answer but I never got around to it until now. I’ll divide that post into two parts: One with a direct Q & A to his questions and the second half with a more detailed thought process.

Q&A

Revaan: The debating about consequences of respeccing seems to make it clear that every guild should have a policy about respecs. Do you require approval from anyone? If so who?

Matt: Yes and no. Players are free to respec on their own time for PvP or just for general farting around. I impose no conditions on their respecs. When it comes to raids however, they’re required to go back to the original spec they asked to be in when they joined the guild. I’ll elaborate more on this later.

Revaan: Do you have some sort of trial period with the new spec?

Matt: I usually give it a raid. I’ll compare that day’s performance with data from past raids and see if there’s a significant difference. If both specs are about the same, it’s a wash. I’ll let them decide what’s better for their style of play.

Revaan: What if the chosen role is full?

Matt: Tough. It’s first come first serve, usually. If there’s a set amount of tanks and another player wants to go Prot, it’s highly unlikely they’ll ever get a spot unless one of the tanks decides to retire or spontaneously gets their account hacked. But that rarely happens.

(Actually, at the time of this writing, I just found out one of my main tanks had his account compromised. Go figure.)

Revaan: Are they first up if that role opens up or will the guild recruit and you need to compete with applicants?

Matt: Typically no. Players tend to have a certain amount of gear invested in them. For them to change roles like that is a messy undertaking for the guild because not only do we have to find a replacement for the spec they switched from, we also have to gear up that player again. It would be as if we were gearing up two players again instead of one. I would much rather recruit from outside but I will never say never. Situations like these are often resolved in a case by case basis.

Explanation

I don’t like asking people to re-talent themselves unless I have a very good reason to do so. I prefer to let players come to their own conclusion about what’s best for them.

Here is a list of the 3 goals for the 3 different roles in the game.

  • DPS: To deal an insane amount of damage
  • Heal: To heal or mitigate an insane amount of damage
  • Tanking: To survive an insane amount of damage

Respeccing within the role

Let me give you an example of a case where I approved a respec.

During the infant stages of Conquest when we were working our way through Naxxramas, we picked up a Rogue named Derek. He’s an extremely bright and skilled player. He wanted to try out a new spec because he had reason to believe that he could increase his DPS output.

I don’t know much about Rogues. But I figured I had nothing to lose. I was essentially trading a DPS spec for a DPS spec.

After the raid was done, I pulled up the Patchwerk notes for that day along with notes from previous raids and compared them.

Sure enough, Derek’s performance improved notably. It was partly due to gear and partly his style. But it seemed the spec helped a lot. Alas, from what I’ve been told, this upcoming patch may nerf it. You Rogues probably know what I’m talking about because I don’t know what I’m talking about. All I know is, he respecced and his damage spiked upwards.

Derek did an insane amount of damage before. After the respec, he did an insanely higher amount.

Allow your raiders to innovate and test new specs that allow them to excel at the same role. I had a Warlock (let’s call him Tom) who tried a new spec every raid for the first few weeks because he wasn’t sure what the optimum spec was.

What’s cookie cutter now could become outdated later.

As my former mentor Blori once told me,

There ain’t a problem in the world that can’t be solved without more DPS.

Inform your GM

Let your raid leader know. I guarantee you that they will generally be supportive (the good ones at least). Here’s the process:

Derek: Hey Matt, I’d like to respec.
Matt: Why’s that?
Derek: I think I can do more damage
Matt: Sure, go for it and let me know what you need.
Derek: Don’t forget to log me for Patchwerk so I can compare it to last week.

It’s that simple.

Respeccing roles

This one I am not as receptive as. A raid composition consists of a simple equation:

X healers + Y DPS + Z tanks = Dead boss.

By changing the equation, you risk rendering the problem unsolvable. A great tank does not necessarily make a great healer and you may find yourself short stacked on bosses from time to time.

It is an extremely tough sell to a GM. But that’s when everything is good.

On the other hand, if your raid has a few key role players absent, requesting a respec could end up being favorable.

If I’m short on healers and a DPS hybrid requests to go healing to help alleviate the stress, I am way more likely to approve it.

  1. Keeps the raid in house. I don’t have to outsource my important roles to trade chat.
  2. Solves a problem with little effort: It’s a good reflection on the guild member.

I guess my underlying philosophy towards respeccing can be boiled down to one line:

If it improves the raid group in any way, ask.

Image courtesy of marcello99