Friday, April 19, 2013

MoP Disc Priest Healing Guide - Part 2 - Stat Choices

Welcome to my second part of How to Disc Priest, this time we'll take a closer look to one of the favorite subjects for any disc priest to argue about - stats. More specifically what stats to choose, and why.

Previous post in this guide;
- Part 1: Talent Choices

Over the course of WoW, what stats you want to go with as a disc priest has rarely been set in stone. Even Icy-Veins state that;

"The statistic priority as a Discipline Priest is very much subject to personal preference. Your final choice will depend greatly on your spell usage, healing style, and encounter requirements, and we encourage you to experiment until you find what works best for you."

Most of the time there has been a primary stat we want to stack as much as possible, and the secondary stat has mainly been up to playstyle. There are usually recommendations as to which stat is overall the best one, overall in this case meaning "for most encounters" and/or "for most playstyles". And that's in the end what it really comes down to - what are you fighting (dungeons, pvp, raids) and how are you playing your priest? Other factors that will affect your choice somewhat are raid composition, for instance which other healers you run with, and your gear level. If this all seems like too many factors to think off, don't worry - hopefully it will be somewhat clearer once I am done here (I'll try at least).

What are stats anyway?
So how do we know what stats we want to use? Is it fine to just read what someone says in some think-they-know-it-all-blog (like this one) and smack it all on to my gear? Maybe, but wouldn't it more interesting to know the reason to why you want a certain stat over another? I've always thought so, and it has helped me greatly to adapt to certain encounters and raid groups over the years. It has meant going against the stream on several occasions, but most of the time it has worked out better for me rather than just assuming that the general advice will work solidly regardless.

Stats do one thing - boost our output. Be it passively via stamina or spirit, or actively via spell power, in the end stats are all there to make sure you can do your job for as long and as much as possible (obviously I'm not thinking of strength or agility or other stats that don't do anything for us). You should be able to look at any stat and think "how much more healing will I get from 1 more point of this?". Sometimes the answer is straightforward - 1 more spellpower might give you 1 extra heal point. Most of the time however the answer is heavily dependant on outside factors and this is exactly why you need to know more about each stats function to make the right decision and this is something I've written about before.

Take stamina for instance. By 99,9% of the healing community not even mentioned when talking about stat choices. That is because nowadays, most of the time you get enough stamina passively to not ever have to choose stamina over almost any other stat. This does not mean stamina is a meaningless stat worth ignoring however. I remember back in Wotlk (I think it was), casters were required to have more than 10.000 hp for certain encounters, or they were just too difficult to keep alive. Some had to actively enchant/gem/gear for stamina to get up to those numbers. In many ways stamina can be considered the very basic of stats, which without all the other stats are completely meaningless, because a dead healer won't heal anyone. No matter how much spell power, intellect or haste you might have, if you can't stay alive you're worthless to the group anyway.

Now I am not trying to tell you to throw every other stat out the window out the window and stack stamina, I am merely trying to point out that stats might seem simple at a first glance, but they often correlate both to eachother and outside factors that make them worth giving many extra thoughts. Rarely is that more true than for disc priest, who have many skills that are affected differently by different stats. Most of the time this is something I have enjoyed about being a priest, sometimes however it has been quite frustrating.

As you can see I am clearly in favor of adapting your stats to your playstyle rather than adapting your playstyle to your stats, although of course overall a good balance is the best. But, this must never mean that your choices should handicap your raid in any way (this is especially important in progress raiding, less important in whatever you deem to be easy content). Don't pick a stat just because "it's more fun" or "I like to crit" like one shaman told me when I had some questions about her gearing. Let there be thought behind your choices and even more important, firm results. Play around, but make sure that you in the end are able to perform the job you're there to perform. Disc priests have the benefit of being allowed a lot of leeway in their stat choices, but if something turns out to work a lot better for you, you should definitely consider running with it even if it's not an immediate favorite of yours. I have on occasion been allowed to try out some weird ass ideas, but that is because I've had a lenient raid group. Don't do that without asking first.

To wrap up this rant somewhat, here are a couple of things to keep in mind about disc priests and stats just to give you an idea as to the complexity;
  • Stats affect our spells differently. Some spells benefit more from a certain stat than others. We have skills that are more actively affected by mastery (fx PW:Shield) and more passively affected by mastery and actively by haste (fx Prayer of Healing). Because of this it's important to consider spell usage and the encounter when choosing stats.
  • Some stats boost eachother, so that having more of one makes another better. The more mastery you have, the better haste becomes. The more crit you have, the better mastery becomes. The more mastery you have the better crit becomes. There are correlations between most stats.

You're probably thinking "yeah that's all swell, but what does it mean?". Or maybe you skipped that wall of text up there and jumped straight to this section. Either way, let's get to the actual stat choices.

What do our stats do?

Intellect - Has long been our go-to stat, since we used to have a big portion of our mana regeneration through intellect via Rapture, back before it was nerfed to only proc once every 12 seconds and worse, when they locked our mana pools to set amounts. Intellect is still a very important stat to us, it's just had to make some room for spirit as our mana regen stat instead. My personal stand point on Intellect is that it is the most important stat for us right now, but only if you have enough spirit to be comfortable with you mana regeneration. Intellect will give you bigger heals, which in turn means you have to throw less heals and therefor might need less spirit. It's important to find a good balance here, but overall, start to really stack Intellect once you've reached your spirit comfort zone. More about that up next.

Spirit - Spirit is both one of your most important stats and least important stats. Without enough of it, all your other stats are pretty useless, since you won't have the mana to cast them. Once you do have enough mana regen however, any additional spirit is basically useless since you only need as much mana as you need to keep everyone alive for whatever you are killing. How much that is of course totally depends on your playstyle, whether you're doing mostly raids or dungeons and raid composition (if you happen to do regular raiding). I found that a good benchmark to aim for was crossing the 10.000 combat regen mark for raiding. After that you will need to simply estimate based on whether you oom a lot or not if you need more spirit or not. As long as you still have trouble with your mana pool, pile up some more spirit (or consider if you're using your spells wrong, more on that in spell usage in another part). As soon as you notice that you end the encounters with some mana, without struggling throughout the encounter to not oom, no need for more spirit!

Disc healing 25man Cho'gall

Mastery - Mastery has historically been pretty much on par with haste, and it has basically been down to personal preference. Do you want to cast faster heals or have bigger absorbs? Although the disc community has seemed to lean slightly towards favoring Mastery since what seems like forever, I've always been a haste-fan myself. It's simply felt better, and trust me, I regularly tried gearing/gemming mastery to see which seemed better. Come MoP and especially enter Spirit Shell, and I feel like things have changed however. Back in Cata my heals consisted of roughly 10% shields and 15% DA. 75% of my healing was unaffected by mastery, while only 10% would be unaffected by haste. These numbers did not change much with mastery heavy gearing, because Prayer of Healing was such an important spell to us back then (as it still is) and it loved haste more than mastery.

Nowadays however, mastery also boosts our healing, meaning it is less of a one-or-the-other choice that it used to be. Because of Spirit Shell combined with Shield and DA, absorbs now also make up a much bigger portion of my, and probably your, healing than it used to. Spirit Shell is one of the most powerful tools a discipline priest has when wielded correctly, and boosting its output is definitely recommended.

Haste makes you cast out spells and thus get up Spirit Shell faster, but you risk only wasting Spirit Shell absorbs this way since it doesn't stack. With Mastery on the other hand, your Spirit Shell will become stronger, which you definitely want. Because of this, and the general awesomeness of Spirit Shell, I recommend going for Mastery as your main secondary stat.

Haste - Haste has been my favorite stat for most occasions, and only rarely did I spec mastery (and never crit). Because of the resent changes to the discipline spell book and choice of spells (read: inclusion of Spirit Shell and even more preference towards absorbs), mastery has overtaken haste in MoP. A lot of priests would even put crit, a stat I've always scoffed at, higher than haste now for the same reasons (and more about crit in a second). Personally I still prefer haste, since crit, unless you have shit tons of it, is still an unreliable stat whereas haste affects almost all of your spells no matter how much or how little you have.

Crit - So let's talk a bit more about crit. As I just mentioned, crit has come in from the cold in MoP because of a couple of changes to it made in MoP. A critical cast now gives roughly 200% heal rather than the old 150% (or something like it), unless you are a discipline priest. If you are (and I think you might be), you get a Divine Aegis proc equal to the amount healed. Divine Aegis is affected by mastery, which you should have a lot of and therefor they are great. You want many Divine Aegis.

Crit still suffers from the major drawback of its unreliability however, meaning that even if you have loads of crit there will be occasions where you don't crit. Theoretically you could do a whole fight without crits. It won't happen, I know, but it points at a flaw of the stat I simply don't like about it. Haste is now considered weaker, but at least it delivers. When I have one point of haste, that haste will give me haste to all my casts (with few exceptions), whereas a point of crit might only benefit me occasionally. And maybe not even when I actually want it to. Crit is dealing with probabilities, and I've always wanted to cut uncertainties out from the equation.

There is obviously a point where crit is so useful that the stat on average outweighs its own uncertainty, in the end this is something you have to notice for yourself depending on your playstyle.

So to conlude, here is my personal suggestion for how you should prioritize your stats. You might not agree, your friend might not agree, some other blogger somewhere might not agree - this is my personal preference, it works very well for my playstyle and I couldn't recommend you more to test different things yourself if you have the time and interest;

1. Spirit (until satisfied with combat mana regen)
2. Intellect
3. Mastery
4. Haste
5. Crit (crit being the joker here, you either love it or hate it).

And what should I gem/reforge/enchant to?
The obvious answer is that you should reforge/gem to whatever boosts the stat you need. Below are some suggestions, there is also the Perfect cut of the green quality equivalent. Here is a good list too.

Red - Brilliant Primordial Ruby (320 int)
Blue Sparkling River's Heart (320 spirit)
Yellow - Quick Sun's Radiance (320 haste) or Fractured Sun's Radiance (320 mastery) or Smooth Sun's Radiance (320 crit)
Purple - Purified Imperial Amethyst (80 int + 160 spirit)
Orange - Reckless Vermilion Onyx (80 int + 160 haste) or Artful Vermilion Onyx (80 int + 160 mastery) or Potent Vermilion Onyx (80 int + 160 crit)
Green - Energized Wild Jade (160 haste + 160 spirit) or Zen Wild Jade (160 spirit + 160 mastery) or Misty Wild Jade (160 crit + 160 spirit)
Meta - Revitalizing Primal Diamond (432 spirit and +3% crit effect) or Burning Primal Diamond (216 int and +3% crit effect).  

 For enchants I suggest you check out Icy-Veins list, it's good and probably better than anything I could produce.

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