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shieldAnecdote:  A couple of years ago, The Kid and I were at Toys R Us, shopping for a gift for my nephew’s first birthday.  The Kid’s a teenager now, and so the demands to visit the toy department were long ago replaced by demands to go to the video game store.  But no matter your age, toy stores are incredibly fun, and I confess, I squealed with delight when I saw a display full of foam shields and swords.  “Oh my god, I’m buying us these,”  I said.  “Oh my god, no,” he said, and blushed with embarrassment as I grabbed one and proceeded to poke him in the belly.  I don’t remember what we bought my nephew that day, but The Kid and I came home with Nerf weapons.  He had a long sword; I had a dagger and a shield.  We ran around the backyard dueling, and I quickly learned several things:

  1. Laughing hysterically makes swordplay nearly impossible.
  2. It’s hard to get up in someone’s grill to whack them with a dagger if they’ve got longer arms and a long sword and a much longer reach.
  3. Foam shields don’t do shit.

Analysis:  Foam shields don’t do shit.

I feel like a broken record in raids sometimes:  “Please don’t shield the tanks.”  “Please don’t shield the tanks.”  “Please don’t shield the tanks.”  “Please don’t shield the tanks.”  I’ve long struggled to get my fellow priests to cease-and-desist, but with the priests’ 4-piece bonus now offering +250 spellpower for 5 seconds after shielding, it’s even more of a battle.

Hey, Holy Priests:  if you raid with a Discipline Priest, don’t shield, ok?  Please?  If you have the 4-piece bonus and want to take advantage of the spellpower boost, shield yourself.  Your job as a Holy Priest is to heal, not to shield.  While the boost to your throughput is nice, I agree, the bonus wasn’t designed for you (I know.  Startling concept:  a poorly designed set bonus.)  PW:S hasn’t been part of your rotation, and this set bonus shouldn’t change things.  It’s not what you should be using your GCDs or mana (~900 mana for you, and I know you don’t have much to spare) to cast.

I had several shields last night absorb 10K damage; most of the time, they absorb at least 8K.  A Holy Priest’s shield absorbs less than half that.  

And that’s not remotely strong enough to absorb my fury when I see your Weakened Soul debuff on the tanks.

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It’s been about a month since Patch 3.1, and I’ve noticed lots of bloggers writing talent and spell reviews lately.  Indeed, the changes have been out long enough for better evaluation than some of the kneejerk “oh those bastards nerfed me” reactions that patches typically elicit.

I’m considering a respec on Khaeli tonight:  dropping the 5 points I have in Divine Fury and taking 5 in Spell Warding.  I rarely cast Greater Heal.  And it seems like there’s enough raid damage flying about in Ulduar that the latter might be useful.

We shall see…

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Thanks to the good folks at talentchic, I now have a good idea of how to spec and glyph my shaman for both Elemental and Restoration.  And phew! — I was putting the points in the right places already.  (Minus the Improved Ghost Wolf option, which I’ll dump when I’m done leveling.)  Yay me.

Of course, the excitment of the Outlands wore off almost instantly when I realized yesterday that the speed at which I tore through those zones on my DK would not be matched by a mana-using toon in bloobie gear.

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With a multitude of add-on and instance errors since Tuesday’s patch, it is a little difficult to make a complete assessment of how the Discipline tree works now.  But hey, I’ve raided twice (although arguably more time has been spent waiting to pull than actually fighting), and it’s never too soon to start evaluating things.

The Priest class experienced a pretty substantial overhaul to its talents, and for those that get in a rut and never change their game-play, this can be problematic (you know the type, the Resto Druids, for example, who still think they need to shift to caster form in movement fights, thinking Trees still have that “slow” effect).

Khaeli’s Spec & Glyphs

penanceAfter weighing the pros and cons of different talent options, I decided to stick with the 57/14/0 build.  Taking the revised Focused Will talent gives me more crit than I really need (I’m approaching 40% raid-buffed), but hopefully this will give me some flexibility with gear options.

I have had the Power Word: Shield and Flash Heal glyphs, as well as the Prayer of Healing one.  But I picked up the new Glyph of Penance (oh hellz yeah) this morning and will be replacing the latter.

The New Grace

graceThe old Grace provided recipients of a Disc Priest’s Flash Heals, Greater Heals, and Penance with 1% damage reduction and 2% healing increase (stackable up to 3 times).  The new Grace has no damage reduction component, but increases healing from the priest by 3% (again, stackable).  Although Grace now lasts 15 seconds, it can only be maintained on one target.  I hate this mechanic, and as it stands, it’s the one thing that I truly dislike about the changes to the Discipline tree.  Any time I heal someone other than the tank with these spells then, Grace transfers to my new target.  No healer, even one designated as a tank healer, will ever only heal one person, and to punish a healer for doing so is silly.  If the Disc Priest needs to maintain Grace on the Main Tank but heal others, she must use something other than Penance, Flash Heal, or Greater Heal (in other words, she must use the heals that are unbuffed via glyphs and talents).  Of course, the Priest can shield as long as that person isn’t already affected by the Weakened Soul debuff.  Lame.  Blizzard has stated they know this mechanic is clunky.  Whether or not they’ll make it a workable talent remains to be seen.

The New Divine Aegis

divineaegisIn addition to zapping the tank with the pewpewpewlasers of Penance, one of the joys of Discipline Priesting has long been watching the bubbles of Divine Aegis appear on others.  But the old Divine Aegis, despite the great graphic, wasn’t always that useful as it only absorbed based on effective healing and as it didn’t stack.  In other words, if your Flash Heal crit for 7K but only healed for 1K, the bubble would only absorb 300 damage.  This was particularly frustrating with Penance as the DA from crits would overwrite themselves, and while an initial bubble might be substantial (particularly if the recipient needed healing), subsequent hits might actually reduce its effectiveness.

Two changes to DA have made the spell vastly better:  1)  it is calculated based on total healing, not just on effective healing.  So that 7K Flash Heal gives a bubble that’ll absorb 2100 damage.  And 2) the absorptions will stack, up to 125*target level (up to 10K for a level 80).  Yay bubbles.

The New Power Word: Shield

pwsWhen the changes for Patch 3.1 were first announced, Ghostcrawler promised us a pony Power Word: Barrier, a group-wide shield.  While that talent never manifested, the 4 second cooldown was eliminated from Power Word: Shield via the new Soul Warding talent.  Shields can be cast every cooldown (if need be), allowing a Disc Priest to maintain the Borrowed Time buff (+25% haste for next spellcast) for the ol’ PW:S > Penance > Greater Heal routine.  Maintaining shields on multiple targets also keeps the revised Renewed Hope buff up, providing 3% damage reduction to the entire raid.  As the Patch also changed rage generation vis-a-vis absorbed damage, tanks now can no longer whine about shielding.  Sure, there’s no PW:Barrier, but nevertheless — shields for everyone!  Srsly.

While You Were Shielding, the Other Healers Were Pwning You On the Healing Meters

If a Disc Priest can now opt to use every GCD for a shield in lieu of a heal, then she will find herself falling (further) behind on the healing meters.  Yes, I know.  Healing meters suck.  And the new playstyle of the Disc tree makes that even more profound.  I’ve used WoW Meter Online to parse the combat logs from the two Ulduar raids I’ve run, in part because they claim they’re working on accurately accounting for Discipline’s absorption effects.  The reports do place PW:S as my #1 “heal,” something other combat logs don’t recognize.  But I’m not entirely confident in their numbers (how, for example, can Divine Aegis have an effective heal of 100K and an overheal of 800K?  How does an absorption overheal?).  Nevertheless it’s another tool, along with WoW Web Stats, for assessing one’s performance.

The New Rapture

When I first heard Blizzard was gutting Rapture, I was sad, but hardly shocked.  Rapture provided the Discipline Priest with an almost unending mana supply.  To end every boss fight at almost full mana might be a wee bit overpowered.  The old Rapture worked like this:  “Causes you to gain up to 2.5% of your maximum mana each time you heal with Greater Heal, Flash Heal or Penance, or damage is absorbed by your Power Word: Shield or Divine Aegis. Increasing the amount healed or absorbed increases the mana gained.”  So, if you were running low on mana (lol), you could just heal or shield your way to more.  

The new Rapture now only returns mana when Power Word: Shield is completely absorbed or dispelled.

rapture
According to my combat logs, I gained 90K mana from Rapture last night and 124K from Replendishment.  Although it’s a bit of an apples and oranges comparison, in my last Naxx25 run (pre-Patch), I gained 290K from Rapture and 145K from Replendishment.  Yes, that’s a huge nerf, but I’m not sure any Discipline Priest could keep a straight face and argue some adjustment wasn’t warranted.  Even with the change, I have experienced no real mana issues.  I did use my Shadowfiend (no wai!) once.  But there was no groveling for innervates or test-driving the new Hymn of Hope.

Some New Heals

Oh yeah.  Hymn of Hope.  I haven’t used it.  Nor have I used Divine Hymn.  I need to make a macro for it tonight so it’s Inner Focused.

#showtooltip Divine Hymn
/cast Inner Focus
/cast Divine Hymn

divinehymnMoving Divine Hymn in particular into my repertoire will take practice, as its lengthy cooldown makes its timing important; but with a high potential for crits and DA procs, it’ll definitely be worth it (I should’ve used it during Razorscale.  I suck).  With the changes to Rapture and Grace, I can now consider moving Binding Heal into more regular usage as well.

TL;DR

Shield spam.  6-second-cooldown Penance spam. Prayer of Mending spam.  Crit spam.  Yay bubbles.  Profit.

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talents31Derevka wrote a great post yesterday on her plans for speccing in 3.1.  She gives a Discipline spec and a Holy spec, with description of the talents she’s taking and a solid explanation of her rationale for doing so.

I’m not quite ready to state mine, although I too intend to have a Holy and Disc spec.  I have a rough idea of what these will look like, but in both cases, there are four or five talents that I’m just not sure about.  So rather than parrot Derevka’s argument about why some talents are good, I thought I’d write about why some still give me pause.
 

Discipline (52/13/0) 6 points unspent

Focused Will:  Formerly a PVP talent, this now grants an additional 3% crit.  3% more “innate” crit means 3% less crit that needs to be gained via gear.  But Khaeli is already well over 30% crit raid-buffed, and I need to look more closely at Ulduar itemization before deciding whether or not these points are worth it.  Right now, it’s not; but if everything’s slathered with haste and if I find myself with some gear options, then this talent becomes a lot more attractive.

Grace:  The developers themselves have admitted Grace is “clunky” as its benefit can only be maintained on one target at a time.  With two points, it increases the target’s healing from the priest by 3%, stackable up to 3 times and lasting 15 seconds.  To my knowledge, this talent still won’t stack with a paladin’s Blessing of Sanctuary.  

Divine Fury:  I do have the points in this talent now, only to unlock access to Inspiration.  While both Shadow Priests and Holy Priests benefit from the first few tiers in the Disc tree, Discipline Priests don’t have a comparable benefit from early Holy talents.  Their choices are underwhelming at best.  5 points in Divine Fury annoys me as I do not use Greater Heal all that much.  That said, however, when you need a Greater Heal, you want it ASAP and even half a second faster feels too slow.  

Improved Renew:  If there are points to spare in the Holy tree, this is one option.  I’m not a fan of Renew, as unglyphed and un-Empowered, it is likely to just be overhealed by another player.

Improved Healing:  If I sacrifice some points in the Disc tree — no Focused Will and no Grace — I will have enough talents to grab Improved Healing.  Will mana be an issue with the changes to Rapture?  If so, this talent might be worth pursuing, although it really only helps with Penance as the other spells aren’t typically part of a Disc Priest’s “rotation.” 

Desperate Prayer:  This spell has definitely saved my life numerous times, but now that the only limitation on PW:S is the Weakened Soul debuff, I wonder if the spell — a mana hog — will be as necessary for instant-cast-self-healing.
 

Holy (14/53/0) 4 points unspent

Empowered Renew:  While there is some hubbub about the changes to Empowered Renew, I’m still not sold on this slow-ticking HoT.  15 seconds is an eternity in a raid, and while the initial heal provided by Empowered Renew does some of address the problem with the spell, I’m not sure if I will invest the full three points in the talent — maybe one point just to get some up-front heal.  I certainly won’t glyph the spell for more throughput on it. Of course, the spell will now trigger Surge of Light, which does make it more appealing.  For math on how this spell scales with spellpower, check out this recent discussion on the PlusHeal forums

Test of Faith:  While learning new content, it seems like a boost on those at less than 50% health might come in handy. 

Desperate Prayer:  Again, this spell has saved my ass, but with the instant-heal option to Renew now, is this spell necessary?

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Last night was raid number 3 for me as Holy.  I still feel incredibly insecure about myself as a Holy Priest, and my frustration was compounded with dying to two bosses.  The first time was when a taunt went awry with the Four Horsemen, and I didn’t pay attention to my stacks in the front, so accustomed I was to only paying attention to stacks when in the back.  The second time was completely my fault — I was distracted by a guildie who was going on and on and on and on and on about how a UI error had caused him to die to Thaddius — ruining our immortal run — that I left the safety of the iceblock before Sapphiron had finished his breath.  Stupid stupid stupid.  I was angry at myself not only for two needless deaths but also for lying crumbled and useless on the ground when I could’ve been — you guessed it — kicking the other priest’s ass on the healing meters.

I know, I know, I know.  Hypocrisy, thy name is Khaeli.  What.ev.er.

What I Did Differently

  • I tweaked my spec a bit, pulling points from Serendipity and Improved Renew and putting them into Holy Reach and Healing Prayers.
  • I used two elixirs in lieu of the spellpower flask:  Elixir of Spirit and Elixir of Lightning Speed, boosting my mana regen and my haste — two things I feel like I lack as a Holy Priest.  I still ate spellpower food, but only because my druid was too damn lazy to fish for the cuttlefish required for the + SPI food.
  • I memorized the icons for Surge of Light, Clearcasting, and Improved Holy Concentration — instant cast, mana free cast, hasted cast.  Gotcha.

What I Wonder About

  • The other Holy Priest with whom I raid casts Binding Heal a lot.  A LOT.  As in, it was his #3 spell.  Since Binding Heal never really did much for me as a Disc Priest (didn’t proc Rapture or Grace), I rarely cast it.  When I look at the “Who Heals Who” report on WWS, he cast 13% of his heals on the MT, 12% on one of the OTs, and 12% on himself.  The spell results in 77% overheal.  Flash Heal has the same cast time and the same spell coefficient, and so it does make sense to cast it if you’re taking damage.  But if you’re not?
  • So, Circle of Healing is a smart heal, yes?  If you are on raid heals, how do you choose who to target?  Do you target a melee DPS?  Do you target a tank?
  • What else am I missing, other than practice?

 

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WHAT

powerinfusionPower Infusion
Infuses the target with power, increasing spell casting speed by 20% and reducing the mana cost of all spells by 20%.  Lasts 15 seconds.

2 minute cooldown (lowered to 1.6 minute with 2 points in Aspiration)  Does not trigger the GCD.


HOW

I’m a big mouseover macro fan, as clicking on someone to target them, then clicking on a spell is too slow and unwieldy.  It’s also good practice to notify someone they’ve received Power Infusion because even though they should notice the animation and the buff, they might not (and/or might not realize what Power Infusion does.)

The following macro casts PI on your mouseover target and sends them a whisper:

/cast [target=mouseover] Power Infusion
/script local n,r=UnitName”target”;if(r)then n=n..”-“..r;end;SendChatMessage(“Power Infused! +20% haste at -20% mana for 15 seconds. Go!”,”WHISPER”,nil,n)

Penance Priest has some other macro ideas, including the addition of quartz cooldowns and error checking.


WHO

As Power Infusion gives the recipient increased casting speed at a reduced mana cost, the spell should obviously be cast on someone who a) casts spells and b) uses mana.  Duh.  When determining who will benefit the most from PI, consider a) who can use an increased casting speed and b) who can use the break on mana consumption.  Duh +1.

Although I’ve read some suggestions that Disc Priests use the buff solely on themselves (and have raided with a Disc Priest who did just that), I think it would be a difficult argument to make that a Disc Priest needs help with mana.  (Maybe if you’re undergeared?  Maybe if you’re healing a heroic with 4 melee who won’t step out of whirlwinds?  Maybe if you’re using spells that don’t proc Rapture?)  If you feel you are struggling with the healing in a particular encounter, then by all means, buff yourself.  Otherwise, I’d recommend buffing someone else.

I don’t use Power Infusion as an “Oh shit!” button for more healing, but rather as a “Hell yeah!” button for a high-dpsing caster.  Consensus seems to be that mages are the best recipients of PI — they get the most bang-for-the-buck from the haste and the mana reduction.  However, depending on the makeup of your raid and the DPS of your caster group, you might chose a different target.

I don’t use Recount, and I don’t monitor the DPS of a fight, but if I don’t know my fellow raiders and don’t have an established target, after the first encounter, I always ask Kaleyen who the top caster and the top mage were so that I can gauge who gets PI.  If appropriate, I’ll Raid Leader if they have a preference for who receives it.

Mages who respond to my PI whisper macro with “??” do not get the buff again.  Mages who respond to my PI whisper macro with “omg i love you” do.


WHEN

Power Infusion does not stack with the mage talent Arcane Power, and the haste portion of the spell does not stack with Heroism/Bloodlust.  You’ll want to track these spells so you aren’t wasting a cooldown.  You can use the addon Need to Know to track the latter.  I use Grid to track Arcane Power on mages (See this post for help on setting up Grid).  If you try to cast PI on a mage who has Arcane Power up, you will get the “a more powerful spell is active” error message.  The mage will, however, be able to override PI with Arcane Power.

It’s also worth having a conversation with your casters to ask about their preference for receiving the spell.  Good DPS have their casting rotations down to a science, and they’ll be able to tell you when the buff would most benefit them.  For example, the mage Mirror Image ability reduces a mage’s threat, and so Mirror Image and Power Infusion work well together as the mage will be able to pump out the extra DPS without the risk of pulling aggro.  This spell is often their opening salvo, and if so, you should cast PI on them right away.  (I need to figure out a better way of tracking when a mage has Mirror Image active — other than, ya know, looking at the screen)

With a 1.6 minute cooldown, one can cast Power Infusion a lot over the course of a raid.  (You can use WWS to check the “uptime” of the spell.  For help with WWS, check here.)  This is something I’m trying to improve in my own gameplay, making sure that PI gets worked into my “rotation” regularly.

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