Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Strength of Soul Revisited

I got a comment by Nrthrnlights a while ago on my post on Discipline Healing Heroics. There he said (based on another comment about whether to use Heal or not as disc);
"(...)what about heal reducing the CD on power word shield? If you take the talent then heal reduces the cd by 5sec ( i think). Not the cd to cast PWS but the weakened soul i think it is called. So for that it is usefull. after i shield i heal x2 and can instantly recast shield if need be which in cata dungeons I find VERY useful. "
My answer in short was that although the synergy between Strength of Soul-Heal-Shield is a good one, I preferred the Inner Focus-Train of Thought-GH synergy better. But as I concluded my answer;
"if you think Heal+Weakened Soul+Shields work better, it probably does. "
This thought nagged on me. I didn't doubt that Nrthrnlights felt like Heal-SoS-Shield was a good combo, but why didn't it work for me? I had tried it and it just hadn't cut it, so what was the difference?

I decided I had to give it another try, so I went to respecc and gave the new spec a thorough runthrough - a run through Bastion of Twilight, and even Nefarian in the end (a raid session that ended up taking 6 hours...). My conclusion? Nrthrnlights was right, Heal-SoS-Shields really is a strong combo, so why did I prefer the other (when I wrote the post)? Had I been doing it wrong?

As I started thinking about it the solution became fairly clear. Turns out we're both right! My post on Discipline Healing Heroics was posted on 9th of January, which means it was probably written some week before (that is how my posting works). That in turn means I had done my testing for the post somewhere between Christmas and New Years Eve. What was the difference between Zinn dated ~27th December and Zinn dated 2nd of February (as I am writing this)? Gear of course! My guild didn't start raiding seriously until after New Years Eve, before Christmas we had a couple of 10mans going, but we took a break some days before Christmas since people were going on holidays (me included).

The testing I had done for my post was based on a Zinn geared in, at best, some heroic gear, I think I had an epic belt by then and otherwise still loads of normal gear. My new testing was based on a Zinn with about 20 more item level score. Of course it would make a difference.

So what was my original problem, and how did it change? The reason I didn't like the Heal-SoS-Shield Synergy back in December was because of two things - Heal was too weak when I was Disc and casting more Shields wasn't doable because of mana issues. When writing this, before the buff to shields that is coming in 4.0.6, it's still a relatively mana inefficient spell. Like I explained for Nrthrnlights;
"Heal is actually a rather weak spell. Even when holy I often feel like it doesn't cut it to handle the damage to a tank in a heroic, and have to throw in bigger heals. We have alot of bonuses from it and to it when being holy, but only one - that of lowering Weakened Soul debuff, when being disc. This buff is only useful if we want to cast alot of shields, which I don't think we want to do (mostly out of mana efficiency).
My Heal has a HpM of 4,5, GH 3,8 and Shield 2,6. This is not taking into account the free GH I get through Train of Thought which increase the overall hpm of GH. It won't be as mana effective as Heal, but close enough, in my opinion."

When I was saying "Heal is actually a rather weak spell" I was still stuck in my mindset from my original testing from back in December. As I thought about it myself I wondered if that was still really true (for me). Hence my testing in raids. And I found out that Heal really isn't that weak of a spell anymore. With my gear it heals between 13k (hit) and 20k (crit) which is a good amount for such a cheap spell. The extra amount of shields didn't feel like too big a strain on my mana pool either. But when I wrote my initial post my Heal was doing some 6-9k.

December Zinn had way less good gear, she had (yes I am talking about myself in third person) low spellpower, low haste and low mana regen. That has changed considerably since then (no wait, I still have low haste). As my gear gets better I can see how discipline becomes more and more powerful, while I on the other hand feel like holy doesn't scale as well.

The aim of my heroic healing guides are those priests that just dinged 85 and just managed to scrape enough gear together to join heroics. These people will have about the same gear that I had when I initially wrote those posts. That doesn't mean however that I want to give people the impression that that way of healing is the only one that works or that Heal-SoS-Shield is an iffy synergy forever.

My original assessment was probably right. With "bad" gear, that is normal gear and maybe some heroic gear, low spellpower and low mana regen will make a Heal-SoS-Shield spec more troublesome. In fact disc healing overall will be more troublesome than holy, which is one of the conclusions I drew back then as well. Another indication that I wasn't all wrong is that Blizzard have announced that not Heal alone will affect SoS, but GH and FH as well, which would make this talent alot better in lower levels, and lower gear levels as it will allow it to synergize with the Inner Focus-GH-ToT synergy.

As soon as you reach higher stats,
disc seems to scale faster than holy, becoming better, faster. By the time you got full heroic gear and maybe some epics Nrthrnlights evaluation becomes completely correct, Heal-SoS-Shield becomes a great synergy for both instancing and raiding. Right now I prefer disc healing in raids over holy healing and the Heal-SoS-Shield combo is what I usually use (that doesn't mean disc is better than holy though).

The "best" way of healing is an ongoing project and I love the fact that things change rather dramatically after some gear. I love that disc actually picks up to become a great spec and that all synergies in the tree work in the end.

There is a "but" there though, there always seems to be. Blizzard are announcing a change to SoS (taken from MMo-Champion.com);
"Strength of Soul now occurs when the priest casts Inner Focus on oneself, rather than Power Word: Shield. In addition, Strength of Soul now also causes the priest to become immune to silence, interrupt, and dispel effects for 2/4 seconds after using Inner Focus."
I'm not entirely sure what this means yet, but right now I will have to do as Nrthrnlights and change my recommendations regarding SoS, and I will update my posts on Discipline Healing as well, but the last thing about SoS has apparently not been said!

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