Wednesday, September 21, 2011

This Is How I Priest

In July, I tagged the "Circle of Healers" post - to detail a bit about how I understood healing, to talk about things I did, and to look at stuff I watch intently. And then, Blizzard recently had a "call to arms" for classes for players to detail what and why they're happy/unhappy with their chosen class.

This, paired with conversations I've had with Lizzia and some others about HOW I actually heal has led to this, this thing here. A blog post.

As before, the character in question is Karanina, Discipline Priest of US Medivh-A's guild Waypoint.

She's not smug, she's just prettier than you, and has the GM logs to prove it. (Picture by outbirk of Dancing Runes)

Anybody who's had the misfortune of listening to me debate my Valor Point purchases will probably know all of this stuff already, and will likely want to close this blog and silently mourn their knowing me.

A lot of this in blog is going to be more how I do things - I'll explain why, I'll point what I'm doing, and I hope, share some ideas on what I'm doing.

For better or worse, let's call this a performance evaluation.

Talents, Specs, Glyphs

This is currently what I'm running: 33/8/0

To me, Discipline feels like a really good model of what Blizzard intended with the truncated talent trees - there are two very viable, very quantifiable playstyles within the tree - either for running an Atonement based spec (where you fill in periods with casting smite at the boss/enemy, which does include healing and mana regen) or Strength of Soul based, where you put a bit more emphasis into your shielding, allowing for STRONGER shields - and the ability to get a strong shield up in time to mitigate a fairly nasty strike.

I prefer my SoS build for a big personal story reason, and a little gameplay one.

Shielding is fun, the play style is fun, demanding a lot of focus to keep up well - I've joked once that I've wiped groups by sneezing, but it's not entirely an exaggeration; to keep the pace up and rolling shields onto people, managing cooldowns to help smooth out incoming damage, or to outright nullify it.

I feel like an air traffic controller managing heals and mana and shielding to absorb damage, and while I'm doing this, I'm also making raid calls and directing players to targets and... that's really cool.

Personal story reason, when my One True began playing, she rolled a draenei paladin - and we played together. She noted "You're too squishy, I need to be protection to keep you alive" and I smarted off back, "Yeah, I need to be discipline to keep you safe from yourself, too." Yes, this is literally the entire reason I have based my playstyle, spec choice and continue to play one of the most complex healing classes in World of Warcraft.

I made a few talent choices that deviate away from Elitist Jerks recommendations - in the Holy tree, I've put points into Divine Fury and Inspiration for a bit more weight behind my heals and my critical heals; something I had to actively choose over 3% haste and a minute less on cooldown of my big mana regen.

Divine Fury's benefit is mostly in faster casts - shaving half a second off of a cast time for a number of my spells is a good boost, and allows me to be more timely - and Inspiration's benefit is an extra reduction in damage after a critical heal.

Looking down towards my glyphs, I've put an emphasis on my shields - in particular, looking at the Glyph of Power Word: Barrier, I bring a bit of utility to the healers I work with: in addition to a solid damage reduction, everybody beneath the barrier recieves a bit more healing...

I wish I could say I'd been running with that all along, but instead, I've only thought to change that up recently

I've been able to look at some of my abilities, and figure how they work together - for example, Inner Focus is a fairly good spell, allowing me to cast something without any mana cost; something that could make food a good "last ditch" effort. I use it when it's come off of cooldown to allow a bit more conservation of my mana pool, though - peppering my tank with free Greater Heals. As an aside benefit, it improves the critical rate of my heals, but, I'll touch on math a bit later.

I've tried to be a "one spec fits all" type of player. This can be effective, and it can work; but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't trying to get better at looking over my talent point choices and figure what I can adjust where.

Reflective Shield, for instance, looks like it'd be amazing, but it only applies to damage I take personally. Considering most of my play is done in raids and dungeons, I don't often take damage consistently enough that this would be something I could invest in. If I was more into PVP, this could be a thing I do to keep myself alive better - I'm not ready to out and out dismiss it, but for the encounters we're in now, I just don't feel like it'd add a whole lot of benefit when it'd force me to give something up in a different direction.

When an encounter might make Reflective Shield attractive, I'd probably rebuild a talent spec to include Focused Will as well - any fight where I'm consistently taking damage enough that I need to worry about my own survivability, I'd want to be able to reduce what I could where I could. I can't expect to shove myself off on the other two healers to take care of me. "Physician, heal thyself!"

Numbers Are Hard, Let's Go Shopping

Currently, Kara's sitting at 9.11% haste rating, 16.74% critical rating, and 14.27 mastery.

A lot of classes and specs have ratings that determine what's more useful for them - the death knight I've played as a main through the entirety of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, and into Cataclysm for example, favors Haste above Mastery, which is head and shoulders above Crit rating.

For me, all of those numbers are important, working in synergy. I don't know how. Voodoo I guess.

Shopping Is Hard, Give Me Numbers

Okay, okay, fine.

Prior to World of Warcraft patch 4.2, a critical heal was 150% of what was originally cast. If I healed for 10,000, a critical heal would be 15,000. Patch 4.2 made a critical heal 200% of what was cast. If I healed you for 10,000, a critical heal would be 20,000.

This is where we start getting complex. You asked for it.

When I apply Power Word: Shield, it also applies a debuff to the recipient, known as Weakened Soul. This is to stop me from being a bubble-happy mouth-breather of a monkey, to actually make me have to engage the game and not just be like "HURRRRRR BUBBLES FOREVAR DURRRRRR."

Disc healing then becomes engaging, and the philosophy of healing becoming akin to a game of darts. But your talents and abilities work with that.

Penance applies a buff to the recipient, known as Grace. For every heal I cast, I apply one stack of Grace. Penance applies three stacks, because Penance is three heals. Penance starts as the tank starts taking damage - when Penance is finished, I apply PW: Shield (If it isn't on cooldown) Weakened Soul is applied to my target, but damage is incoming. I can cast a few Flash Heals - I certainly have the mana pool to afford this.

Why am I casting inefficient Flash Heal? To make use of Renewed Hope. My heals get larger by 10% because of it. The 10,000 HP heal becomes an 11,000 HP heal. If critical, that becomes a 22,000 HP heal.

But wait, there's more! Because of talents like Divine Aegis and Inspiration (linked above), I can create ANOTHER shield, even if I have cast a shield; it's a shield WITHIN a shield, we are talking shield-ception here you need to go deeper. A 22,000 HP critical heal creates a second, smaller shield, that will absorb 6600 extra damage on top of whatever shield I have placed upon my tank.

That's not even taking into account Mastery, which starts at a base 20% bonus absorption and only improves as I add more mastery, which affects every single shield I could put on anybody ever, including, but not limited to Inspiration, Divine Aegis, and Power Word: Barrier.

tl;dr, Yo Dawg. So I heard you like bubbles. So we put some bubbles in your bubbles so you can bubble while you bubble.

What I Do, How I Do It (That's What She Said)

There is no healing "rotation" or "priority" system the way there is for DPS or tanking. You need to react, or in the case of Disc spec, be Proactive.

I try to keep Renew active on my tank at all times, because I have gear that makes Renew worth while, in the Darkmoon Card: Tsunami - every time Renew ticks a heal, no matter how small it is, I get a stack of Giant Wave. Giant Wave is the benefit to DMC: Tsunami, in that it's 80 spirit per stack, up to five; or 400 spirit consistently. The rewards of mana generation from that will eventually taper off, but as of right now, there's very few other trinkets I could consider replacing it with.

I vary between Flash Heal and Greater Heal as my "prime" healing spells, because each varies. Regular, run of the mill Heal is too much time for too little reward, so I honestly keep it off my ability bars. This is probably because I'm bad.

Inner Focus is something I hit as soon as it's off cooldown, and I usually tend to IMMEDIATELY follow with Greater Heal or Prayer of Healing, depending on the situation. The critical heal bonus from Inner Focus is NICE, and there's an additional critical bonus provided by a member of our raid group - a near 50% critical heal rate is fantastic, and it does let me aid the party as much as I can.

Power Infusion is something I cast prior to heavy damage phases to try and reduce my mana cost during periods I need to cast a lot of heals to keep people up - but it's on a short enough cooldown that I can afford to use it early on, when easing into a fight, so it'll be ready and available later on as well. If the fight rolls long enough for whatever reason (for example, Rhyolith) I'll hit Power Infusion when it comes off cooldown, simply because I need to string along the mana as far as I can.

My biggest regens are Shadowfiend and Hymn of Hope - both of which are on long enough cooldowns that I try to time it for periods where it'll be most beneficial, and adjusting from there. As we've moved forward in the Firelands, I have more mana available at the periods when I needed it before - because of gear, as a raid team? We further along than we were before, when I hit the same mana milestones I used to use as "mile markers" for cooldowns.

Overall Thoughts

I could benefit from trying Holy. If not for having a different nuance of healing to add to the raid when needed, then to be better at healing over all for myself.

Predominantly, I am a tank healer - I focus on healing one or two targets, and I keep them up well. Personally, I get a bit spazzy when I have to heal ALL THE THINGS and do get a bit freaked out by it. Possibly because I'm used to the comforts of working in a tightly defined spec?

I sometimes worry if I miss raid calls people need me to make because I am too focused on healing. I try to strip down my UI to bare essentials so I'm not fighting areas of the game for attention. And above all, I do get a lot more antsy when I perceive something not going right in some direction I have no control over.

I am getting better at trusting my heals; and I trust my fellow healers implicitly.

At the end of a raid night, it's hard to look at things I've done without nitpicking minor details. But every time I nitpick those minor details, I take steps to correct them. I'm getting better at movement, I keep gaining a bit more awareness.

Overall? Room for Improvement. Need to breathe more. Need to panic less. Have to learn to trust the heals more, too often spazzes and overheals on a DK tank.

I think I'm doing okay though.

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