Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Healing with Grace

I know I have been reviewing Holy Talents, but I wanted to insert a post on the Disc talent Grace. This talent is designed to increase our single-target healing capability, without giving us all the permanent +healing modifiers that Holy has.

The way it works is a little clumsy, and Blizzard has admitted they feel it's an awkward mechanic. But it does serve to increase our tank healing by 9% for just two talent points. (Or one point, if you don't mind the stack dropping occasionally due to the RNG). This is a big boost... of course with the caveat that if you heal anyone else, you'll lose the bonus until you cast a few more heals.

Or will you? The Grace stack is only refreshed (and moved to a new target if applicable) on casting a direct heal. That is, Flash, Greater, or Penance. It's not refreshed by shields, HoTs, or group heals. This means we are free to cast PW:Shield, Renew, Prayer of Healing, Prayer of Mending, and even Binding Heal on anyone we like without losing our Grace stack. This is a surprising amount of versatility given the initial impression of the talent's limitations.

Penance and Shield are a disc priest's meat and potatoes. Given that Grace works the way it does, Penance can be cast on a tank on cooldown, and Shield can be used on the tank every 15 seconds and on anyone else whenever else you like, while still maximizing Grace usage. Furthermore, a Prayer of Mending can be launched off every 10 seconds or so, bouncing across the raid (and creating little Divine Aegis shields too) without affecting the Grace stack, yet still benefiting from it when it bounces back to the tank.

Using this technique, you can heal multiple people while still getting full use out of Grace on your main ward. You can reserve Penance (and Flash in some cases) for the MT, but also help out an OT by keeping them shielded (with Glyph!) and Renew'd. If the OT needs a direct heal, you can even cast Binding Heal (which is as powerful and fast as Flash) without losing Grace on the MT.

Now, all of this advice is only relevant for some fights. In any easy fight, you probably won't need Grace, so you can Penance anyone who's low. And certainly in a hard fight, keeping your tank up takes priority to throwing out heals (especially expensive ones like Binding) to others. But I feel it's good to know how to finesse Grace, to keep up its bonus, while still healing someone who needs it in an emergency. A 9% bonus on one person may seem like a drop in the bucket, but we've all had times where a tank had 500 health for a few perilous seconds, and next time it might just be the bonus from Grace that gave him or her those 500 hit points to begin with.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Talent Review: Serendipity

A lot of people were excited to see Serendipity when it was first unveiled. It seemed to be Blizzard's answer to mixing up healer rotations, to let healers do things besides spamming one heal. But does it accomplish its purpose?

Serendipity builds up a stacking haste buff when you cast Flash and Binding Heals, that will speed up your next Greater Heal or Prayer of Healing up to 36%. That's a lot of haste; it basically will speed up the GHeal or PoH up to Flash Heal speed. Naturally, this will only be useful if you'll have reason to cast Flash Heals as well as use a big heal nuke from time to time. It's not like the old Improved Holy Concentration which let you simply spam GH and end up hasting a bunch of them.

So where is Serendipity powerful? For tank healing, it does not seem especially useful. One could throw in Flashes when a tank is mostly topped off, to provide a periodic haste buff to GH, which of course is never a bad thing. But where this talent really shines is in conjunction with PoH and Ulduar's raid damage. Prayer of Healing is very powerful targeted group heal. With even 1 or 2 points in Serendipity, a priest can "charge up" their PoH in advance, in preparation of an upcoming Tympanic Tantrum or other burst of AOE. This allows the PoH to land much sooner after damage hits, which also gives all healers more breathing room to top the raid up afterwards.

Serendipity has great synergy with Surge of Light. When assigned to raid healing, there is not always occasion to cast Flash Heals, especially when movement is necessary. But with SoL (proccing off CoH and PoM), there is almost always an opportunity to cast an instant Flash and refresh the Serendipity stack before it expires.

I feel that Serendipity is a useful talent in any environment with raid-wide AOE. It provides a good insurance policy, so that with a little planning, a large heal can be at one's fingertips at a moment's notice. In this way it can serve a role like Borrowed Time does for Disc priests.

The only thing I feel is missing is a good AddOn to track Serendipity's status, since you may wish to see the umber of stacks (to estimate PoH's current cast time), as well as the remaining buff duration (to know when to refresh it, if it will be needed soon).

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Talent Review: Test of Faith

I thought I might do some quick posts reviewing Holy talent choices. As I said in my post on 3.1's viable talent specs, I feel the Disc tree really offers a best path, but the Holy tree offers a number of different options for talenting.

Test of Faith

This interesting talent increases your healing by 4/8/12% on targets below 50% health. 12% is a large bonus for 3 points, but is the 50% health requirement a good thing or a bad thing?

I think there's two ways to look at this talent. One the one hand, you could say Test of Faith is a bad talent if people are doing what they're supposed to, because if they don't stand in the fire or botch their abilities, they will rarely be below half health. On the other hand, you might say Test of Faith kicks in when you need it most, when people are in dire need of healing. And should you really pick your talents to help when everything is going fine, or to help you most when the raid needs all the healing it can get?

I think that both arguments are valid, but that there are two extenuating factors. First is that many of us are learning new bosses and new hard modes in Ulduar. This means that everyone is still learning where to stand, what to click, and how to avoid damage. People will be taking more damage as guilds learn encounters, so Test of Faith can be a good safety net. Also, there is a lot of raid damage in Ulduar, much of it nontrivial. Ignis's Flame Jets and Kologarn's Shockwave are two examples of raid-wide abilities that will bring many people below 50% health. Test of Faith can add a lot of oomph to the CoH's, PoH's, and PoM's that will be flying around.

Of course, the decision to invest in any talent comes down to what else the points could be spent on. This may be a number of other Holy talents but for me, I was comparing it to Blessed Resilience, which gives a flat 1% boost to all healing per point. Test of Faith gives 4 times the bonus per point, so you could look at total throughput and ask if Test of Faith will proc on your heals at least 25% of the time. If so, then it will affect your bottom line more than Blessed Resilience. Of course, the times Test of Faith procs are times when people need healing most, and when heals are least likely to overheal. So even if it only procs on 15-20% of your heals, perhaps it is still better overall.

Although I was skeptical of this talent early on, I have decided to use it. The +12% healing is a strong bonus, and given all the damage flying around in Ulduar, and the fact that our smart heals (CoH, PoM, DH) seek out injured players, it seems a good investment to me.