Friday, April 26, 2013

Field Report - Boulevard Of Broken Games

How about another update on what's going on around here gaming wise?

World of Warcraft
First up, now that I am playing WoW less and less I've noticed something very interesting that I really was wrong about in the past. I've always thought that my WoW-gaming took time from other things that I should or could be doing. I even mention that in my previous Field Report, saying that all the time not spent playing WoW should give me loads of time to do other things I wanted to do. I don't necessarily mean studies, chores, sleeping or work (although also occasionally that) but mostly other games that I wanted to play. I've always been curious about loads of different games but WoW was just always so available, ready, easy to jump in to. I knew exactly what I had to do and eventhough I normally ended up for way longer than expected or planned, I always had the feeling that I could jump in and out of that game easily whereas most other games take some time to get in to and aren't as easy to just quit whenever you want.

This meant that I always had the impression that I chose WoW over other games simply because I was too lazy to get invested in anything else. Turns out, that wasn't the case at all. Now that I don't play WoW that much, I normally don't do anything really! Yeah, how depressing does that sound. I will expand further on this in its own post, so I will leave this thrilling subject here for now, but trust me I will rant on about it eventually because the reality of it really confused me.

Kotor 2
There is much to like about this game and a couple of things to not like so much. Unfortunately, there is a disturbance in that balance and the dark side is definitely starting to take over. The story is ok, and after rewatching the old Star Wars movies I just find it even cooler to be running around in the Star Wars universe. Suddenly I have the new found love for all things Star wars because hells yeah, it's awesome. There are loads of things to do and discover, I've never gotten stuck so far wondering what to do next and I totally love the combat system, honestly. Although the AI isn't always the cleverest and my team mates keep running in to close combat before throwing bombs, but ah well. Things like that rarely bother me as long as they're not game breaking.

I can sense a crash coming...
What is completely ruining the experience however are the myriad of bugs and crashes that this game suffers from. And then I've even updated it with the TSL Restored Content Mod which apparently was going to take care of the worst glitches. Crashes are somewhat ok, when I first started playing Settlers 2 way back when, that used to crash on me every 5-10 minutes (no kidding) but I still kept on playing it. Admittedly I would not have that level of patience nowadays, but a crash every now and then is ok. Just remember to save. The bugs however... now they really push my buttons. Mostly because they're not tinu bugs, like falling through the world somewhere or the game crashing if you do some weird ass combination of commands. No, these are bugs that mean that if you happen to choose the wrong dialogue option somewhere, the event doesn't unfold like it's supposed to. You have to go back to an old save and read up on the internet how to do it step by step right so that the game understands to move on. I can forgive this once in a game, maybe. But every other quest? Come on! Right now my Google Search history is full of things like "kotor 2 Onderon Crash", "kotor 2 Dantooine Crash" and "kotor 2 confrontation with Atris bug". Grr.

I had one where fortunately I had an autosave not long back to remedy the situation. But without a walkthrough it would've taken me a very long time to figure out exactly what step I had done wrong to make things screw up. There are many options to screw up when only one is the right one! And now I am currently stuck on basically the same thing, only this time I can't find out what I've done wrong. I'll have to restart an old save and just hope that it is old enough to fix whatever went wrong, but I'll be seriously pissed if I replay all of that and get the same result.

Other bugs include graphic crashes for no damn reason at all. How do you solve it? Just go into graphic settings and change a setting. Any setting. Doesn't matter if you change it and immediately change it back either, as long as you've pretended to change something it usually works. Having to start most gaming sessions doing what feels completely meaningless also doesn't add much to the fun.

This would be ok if I had cracked or otherwise pirated the game, then I just get to suit myself. But I've paid for this bastard! How can they release such an unfinished game?! It makes me want to scream, and it definitely doesn't want me to play. Kotor 2 should be happy it is as entertaining as it is, because otherwise I would've given up on it long ago in favor of games that actually work. Which is any other game.

Divine Divinity

I had only seen my ex bf play this game a little and didn't think much more of it than that it had to have one of the worst gaming titles ever. Divine Divinity? How about Awesome Awesomeness or Long Longevity? It gives me an excuse to use the phrase "hey, what a tautology" for the first time ever and I am going to take it. Good thing the game is a lot better than its title and until now I've spent some 40 hours playing it. It's very straightforward with its dungeon crawling, skill and stat choosing system, making it resemble most RPGs released around this time. And eventhough there is a lot of "down time" ie time spent mostly running around, trying to find the next thing to do or figuring out how to solve a quest I realized that it doesn't bother me at all. Because I always know what to do next, and if there is a 10 min run to get me to where I need to be, fine. At least I have a clear goal. There is just always something to do and you rarley get stuck not knowing what to do next. Just walk into an area of the map you haven't been to yet and bam, talking tree that summons 30 zombies suddenly attacks you.

Can't have slaughter without laughter
Another thing that I enjoy about old RPGs compared to many other old games are that they give you choices. And I don't mind good vs evil choices, but the choice to leave an area or a quest for now and come back to it later. It feels refreshing when stuck somewhere that I don't have to bash my head against a wall or something that just feels tedious. Instead I can come back to that place later with new eyes and motivation. This is something I really miss about old school console games generally.

I bought this little thing way back, like I don't even know how long ago. I am pretty sure it was last year somewhere. But I've been afraid of it, frankly. I just knew this sucker could hog loads of time from me and I wanted to be ready for it. If I start playing a game I want to invest a lot of time in, I want to make sure I have a lot of that time to invest. At the time I bought it I was playing a bunch of other games, and thought I needed to wait a bit with this one. My goal was to finish either Kotor2 or Divine Divinity first, because I think I am good enough to at least juggle two massive RPGs at the same time. When Kotor2 went all emo on me, and after having tried to fix it for what felt like the hundredth time, I decided I deserveda break. Good old fun really, because playing games shouldn't be about fixing them all the time, it should be about playing them. So I finally dared to start up Skyrim. I've only played a bit into it, I'm level 6 or so and have done the first handfull of quests. So far so good.

There are minor things that bother me about it, things only nitpickers would care about (and I happen to be one, at times). I don't know why, but the scandinavian accents everyone is using kinda bothers me. I realize it's to give that "norse" feeling that they clearly want the beginning of the game to have (what with the Nords and all) but for someone who is surrounded by that accent all the time (I probably suffer from it myself) it just sounds weird. There are also some control choices I found counter intuitive, like favoriting items in the menu with the F button, but you don't use those favorited items outside the menu with the F button  but with the A button. Instead you change camera zoom with the F button. Why? Little things that just... yeah ok, let's move on.

Overall I obviously think the game is really fun so far
, it's just the kind of gear collecting-dungeon crawling that I (and most other people) enjoy so much. I was warned by some friends that this game too constains its fair share of bugs and glitches, but since it's a Bethesda game I was prepared for that.

Guild Wars 2
When I last wrote about GW2 I was quite optimistic and had much fun with it. shortly after that, my interest in that game completely died on me though and I can't even remember the last time I logged in. It has to be well over a month ago now. I did have fun with it but I think after a while running around doing nothing I sort of realized that all that was leading anywhere. Comparing it to games like Divine Divinity and Kotor 2 that I was also playing I didn't have a goal, no ending to strive for, and simply discovering the land lost its appeal to me. Not knowing what to do initially seemed refreshing and fun, but soon made the whole experience seem kind of pointless. After ten levels or so I thought I had gotten down the general idea of the game, the feeling of the skills and the surroundings. I realize that it might be like judging WoW after having played through Barrens up to level 10 on one character. Obviously there is loads more to discover for me in GW2 if I want to. But I don't, really.

I think it might have happened when I ran into my first dungeon. I didn't go into it, mind you, because I think I was still way too low level. But I stood outside a while, looking at the people standing there, presumably gathering groups, while also asking for people in chat. And it just sort of clicked with me. I'm not in to this anymore. I've done it in WoW for years and just feel like doing something else for a change. Doing my own adventures now, adventures with a clear goal and not the ever climbing stair of increasing stats and levels into infinity. Besides, just as in WoW I don't know anyone who plays GW2 and so I would have to experience all that with strangers. I could make friends, of course, like I've done in WoW a million times. But right now I am not ready to move from one MMORPG to the next. I think I simply need an interlude of other type of games for a little while. I just don't feel like investing myself in the massiveness that a MMORPG is. We'll see in the future.

And then...
There are always other games I play a little bit every now and then. I just secretly bought a copy of RE4 to surprise the bf. We've played through RE1, 2, 3 Survivor, Code Veronica, Zero and RE1 Remake so far so RE4 feels like the next step. I'm really looking forward to getting started on that! Me and the bf also had a discussion about whether FFVIII is a good FF. He doesn't think so but personally, I quite like it, but I never got very far since my copy kept crashing in the same place. I decided it was time to test it out again, but alas - it's still crashing at that same place. What happens is that it never finishes loading between screens in the Galbadia Missile Base, and overall the loading takes ages even when it does work. I tried different things, avoiding certain areas, opening and closing the disc tray, creating a new save file, but nothing seems to work. Either I chance it and start up another save file, but I doubt that is the problem (since no other game has any issues of this sort). My other option is to buy another copy of the game, and I might get around to that eventually because I actually really want to finish that game.

I recently bought a bunch of old RPGs that are lying in wait for me whenever I finish Divine Divinity, for instance Baldurs Gate 1&2, Planescape Torment and NWN. I'm also pondering buying the old Fallout games. I also want to play the Mario & Luigi games for the DS, I've played Partners in Time and loved it and would like to try Bowsers Inside Story too. Right now I definitely feel like I have more games to play than I have time, but at least I have things to do, whenever I don't end up just not doing anything (as mentioned above). Until next time gamers.

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.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

MoP Disc Priest Healing Guide - Part 1 - Talent Choices

Welcome to Zinn's Disc Priest Guide for 5.2!

I won't claim this to be the ultimate guide for all you struggling (or not so struggling) disc priesters out there, and there are plenty of good resources to go to if you want someone elses information. Here are some suggestions;

Icy-Veins - Very good and simple guide.
Elitist Jerks - More of a discussion forum, of varying quality but good information can be found.
Noxxic -  Similar to Icy-Veins, concise.
HowToPriest - Another discussion forum about everything priestly. Here is their guide on disc priests.

This will be a more personal style guide, with comments and little discussions around skills, talents and stats, to hopefully give you more of an idea not just what you should spec or what spells to use, but why and how you should think about them. I've always thought that the more in depth understanding you have regarding these things, the better you'll be at adapting to new situations. Also, it's interesting facts if you're more interested in the priest class than just the basics! The most important thing to remember about any healing class is that eventhough timing is essential, few other classes require as much quick thinking and decision making as healing because you're not just dealing with the encounter, but also the actions of your group.

Don't let this deterr you, this is what makes healing so much fun! Discipline priests can seem confusing at a first glance, what with their absorbtion techniques and damaging healing spells (although they have gotten company from Mistweaver Monks in that area lately). Beside the standard questions any healer asks themselves, things like - "Which stat is the best?", "When do I best use my cooldowns and how do they really work?" and "Do I spam aoe heals or do I focus big heals?" to mention a few, discpline priests also have to work with questions like - "Do I use mostly absorbtion heals or regular heals?" and "How much should I use Atonement?". I hope to answer these kind of questions, and most other you might have about discipline priest healing in this current content, which at the moment of writing this is patch 5.2 in Mists of Pandaria. I'll gladly answer any questions you might have also in the comment section. In this first part we'll take a closer look at our Talent Choices.

Talent Choices
The proper term should probably be Skill Choices since Blizzard made away with talents as we know them and replaced them with the form of skills that we have now. But I suppose people would get that confused with the more traditional skills, and so we just kept calling them talents. Eventhough I like the new system, I sometimes miss the good old fashioned talents, they just gave a pretty good feeling of progression. The problem with talents however was the talent point inflation that occurred somewhere around the third expansion. The increasing amount of levels forced Blizzard to give us more things to put our points in, and so they had to give us some that weren't overly necessary. I can still remember when discipline had Wand Specialization in the first tier of their tree, which increased wand damage with 5%. Holy had skills that increased the healing by Greater Heal by 5% and stuff like that. In the end we had many talents that didn't make much of a difference, especially considering it cost 5 levels to spend in (and later on 10 levels when they changed it so that you got a tp every other level). Blizzard tried a couple of different systems but in the end decided they'd just give us a few, important skills to pick from and get rid of all the filler points. I use the word "important" because the choices we make now actually make more of a difference, depending on fight and whether you're a pvper or pver. So enough of the history lesson, and let's look at the choices that are interesting from a disc pve healing perspective.

Classic tree. No one played disc in Classic though.

Level 15
Nothing in this tier actually matters much for dungeon or raid healing, so here you can basically choose whatever you like or whichever you think might work best for you solo-needs. Personally I've gone with Void Tendrils, it's kind of fun and handy while I do quests or stuff like that.

Level 30
Here we get our first skills that might actually make a difference. Most people choose between Body & Soul and Angelic Feather, whereas Phantasm is more of a pvp skill simply because there are like no movement impairing effects of significance in dungeons or raids. So which should we go for, B&S or AF?

The big difference between these two is that B&S gives you more control over when, how and who will get the speed boost - this can then either be something you want or not depending on the encounter. More control also means this is something you need to keep more track off, also timing B&S hinges on you not having used a shield just prior since then the Weakened Soul debuff will prevent you from casting it again. If you know someone else in the raid needs a speed buff and you don't want to spend brain power into keeping track of when and perfectly timing a shield, it is way easier to place a feather in the right place instead. Also, a fellow player might not be ready for a sudden speed boost through B&S, while they'll know they're getting one with AF. With AF you give more of the speed boost control over to someone else, in the end you have to decide which one works better for you. In short - B&S responds quicker to situations if you're fast, AF is easier used by people around you (and requires less of your attention overall).

Burning Crusade, where playing discipline was made viable. I first really tried it out in Zul'Aman, and loved it.

level 45
At this level we get a choice of three good skills that all intend to save your mana in different ways. Which you decide to choose will largely depend on the encounter you're at. For dungeons and unless your mana regen sucks ass, Mindbender is probably the simplest because of it's set and forget nature. For raiding, your choice here might require a bit more thinking.

A lot of maths has been done around which of these three skills will provide the most overall mana, but it's important to remember that it really depends. From Darkness Comes Light (FDCL) requires you to be doing point healing, Mindbender requires you to have a suitable target for your little worm to hit on and PW:Solace requires you to be able to hit something (I will continue to call it that, although now the talent is actually Solace & Insanity. The actuall skill is still PW:Solace though). Now, they've changed PW:Solace from how it originally worked - before one of the big problems with Solace used to be the fact that you had to basically pause your healing to dish out some casts to regain mana. This meant the usefulness of Solace depended heavily on how much the encounter allowed you to do this, varying from almost nothing to quite a lot of the time. Because of this I often swapped between Solace and Mindbender (I will explain shortly why I never really use FDCL).

Now that Solace has been changed however, the requirement to pause your healing and spam out some dps has basically vanished. Now that Solace has a cd and a healing component it is a lot more comparable to the Mindbender, which also has a cd - both require a target and will when used every cd return a set amount of mana, so which will give more? You can read some maths on it here and here.

These are some things to consider;
  • Mindbender replaces Shadowfiend, which means if you go for Solace you can have both Solace and the Shadowfiend.
  • Mindbender and Shadowfiend are often preferrably used in conjunction with Hymn of Hope.
  • Solace also procs (ie gives a stack) of Evangelism. 
  • Solace heals, whereas Mindbender allows you to heal as normal when used.
  • Mindbender is affected by haste whereas Solace with the glyph (which you will want if you have this skill), is not.

Simply, Solace is best if you're using Atonement healing and Mindbender is best if you're not. But even if you don't like Atonement healing (I don't use it overly much so far in the expansion) I still recommend always keeping a stack of Evangelism ready to boost your healing with Archangel when needed, and for this Solace will come in handy. A problem I often have with Mindbender is also that I don't have a target for it when I need it, that also will stick around long enough for my Mindbender to get full use of its duration. Solace is just easier to time well, assuming you can spare the gcd. Like I said, most of the time you will want to use a gcd every now and then to keep up an Evangelism stack anyway (which usually is Holy Fire that Solace replaces) meaning you're basically enhancing your regular rotation.

So why not FCDL? I've never been a fan of FDCL, admittedly it is far from awful but it's just nothing like how it worked in Wrath. Back then, if I remember correctly, it was called Surge of Light. The concept was similar, with crit heals having a chance of giving a free, instant Flash Heal, but the proc rate was very much higher - something around 30-50% - and it procced off of any heal. It had some nice bugs like proccing off other priests crits and having the free heal crit occasionally, proccing another free heal. Yeah, it might sound op, and it probably was, but you can see why I loved it so. I can understand the changes they made to the skill, especially since they made Flash Heal so much stronger than it was in Wrath (where it was basically what Heal is now). The problem I have with it now is that it's just too unreliable to feel comfortable in regular healing, not to mention the factor of it requiring me to use spells that are not in heavy use in normal raid healing. Let me put it this way, it's a proc and it's not procced from our most commonly used skills, and it should be pretty clear. The other two choices simply offer more control and in the end probably a lot more mana return.

Straight off, I'd recommend going with Solace. I can see two reasons to want to go with Mindbender instead; 1 - You don't have a problem with your mana regen and are lazy (ie, don't want to use your Atonement) or 2 - the fight just doesn't allow you to use that many gcds on Solace because you need to spam Prayer of Healing the entire fight (a scenario that will rarely happen, so really there is only one reason).

Wotlk talents. These are getting long now. Disc was really good in later Wrath.

Level 60
At this level you'll get to choose your defense talent, it's basically a choice between Desperate Prayer and Angelic Bulwark since Spectral Guise just isn't as cool (or useful) as it sounds. When I first read the description I hoped it would work by shifting me out of existence, thus renderring me impervious to damage for the duration. No, that's not how it works, and if I hadn't been stupid about it it's pretty obvious, since it says that taking damage will actually break the effect (after 3 hits). Even then I thought "direct attacks" still might mean it would work against aoe, but before I make this rant more boring than it already is, you can safely ignore this skill unless you're a pvper. If you're reading this guide that's not what you want to know about anyway.

So on to the interesting ones - Desperate Prayer or Angelic Bulwark? As with the Body & Soul vs Angelic Feather talents, one is leaning more towards personal responsibility, and thus flexibility (Desperate Prayer) whereas the other works automagically and therefor doesn't require you to divert brain power when you probably have the least of it to divert anyway (Angelic Bulwark).

Desperate Prayer is a strong talent and allows you to choose for yourself when you really need it. This obviously means its effectiviness highly relies on your capabilities to use it properly.

Personally, I am a big fan of Angelic Bulwark. It has the drawback of possibly proccing when you don't really need it and then not be off cd when you actually do. But instead it has the benefit of actually saving you from certain death automatically. Desperate Prayer is an after the fact heal, like any other heal, and if you're playing a disc priest (and I dare say you are if you've come this far into this guide) you should know how powerful and overall more useful absorbs are over heals. Angelic Bulwark has saved me from insta-death and even once saved what could possibly otherwise have turned into a complete raid wipe. I even have video proof. It's slightly less flexible, but on the other hand more reliable - at least I think so. So generally I would recommend Angelic Bulwark, but of course there are fights where having the control yourself with Desperate Prayer is more handy. I just haven't noticed it.

Level 75
This is your output level, and the choice here can be a bit more tricky than in the previous levels. All the skills in this talent tier are good, so let's take a closer look at each one of them.

Twist of Fate - This one works in a pretty obvious way, and is a strong skill if you know that you're going to fight something that will have your raid (or more rarely your dungeon group) down below 20% health for long or many portions of the encounter. If you're doing progression raiding or you simply all have shitty gear, ToF will end up being a nice output boost. Obviously this relies heavily on said factor, that you'll be healing a lot of people below 20% of health. This is slightly similar to how shaman "Deep Healing" mastery works, and if you've heard the amount of whining coming from them regarding that you'd think that it's a shitty thing to aim for. The difference is obviously that they don't have a choice, leaving a big portion of their healing reliant on something they are actively trying to avoid (ie having their targets on low health). We, on the other hand, have a choice, and ToF is definitely worth considering for those fights where everyone just seem on the edge of dying all the time. It's also worth noting that damaging an enemy below 20% will also give you the buff (eventhough it clearly says in the tooltip it is easy to forget as a healer). This of course means any low health adds or the last 20% of the boss, making this skill great when used in the right encounters.

Power Infusion - My personal favorite, partly because good old PI and I go way back. To me it's always just felt great knowing I have a special "god mode" button to press for when shit really hits the fan. It has a 2 minute cooldown, which really isn't much and it also lowers you mana usage by 20% which is exactly what you want when you start throwing out extra amounts of healing. For most fights Power Infusion is a safe card to have up your sleeve, with the only real drawback being the same as with Desperate Prayer - it's usefulness is first and foremost based on how skillful you are at using it. Power Infusion puts your output control into your own hands, and with output control is such an important thing to have. As long as you know how and when to time it, and consider the combination of cds you can use (Archangel, Spirit Shell and Power Infusion for the really big blows for example) Power Infusion is a very powerful tool indeed.

Divine Insight - I've never really considered DI overly useful for discipline, let me explain why: DI is procced off of Penance, which has a 12 sec cd but most of the time is used off cooldown (except when there is heavy aoe damage, this matters) and procs being able to cast another Shield on a target that already has Weakened Soul on it. Weakened Soul has a 15 sec cd, where you might be wanting to throw another Shield on your target. When does this happen? Blizzard have long wanted holy to be the aoe healers while discipline where the strong single target healers. In the end, discipline where ever only rarely better at single target healing than for instance Paladins or even Shamans and were mostly put on aoe healing duty because they, just like holy priests, had the pretty awesome Prayer of Healing.

Now, DI will make your disc priest a better single target healer than without it, but the single target healing is still mostly handled better by other healing classes and is in most raid fights I've fought rarely the big problem to deal with when healing. Disc priests as aoe healers is further established since Blizzard gave us the all-might Spirit Shell, a skill so over used that Blizzard has recently felt the need to nerf it. Even with the nerf, Spirit Shell is probably among the strongest aoe healing tools there are in the game at the moment, when used properly. This simply boils down to disc priests very rarely being put on single target healing duty. What you want to have out of this tier is a skill that further boosts your aoe healing, because that is what you are most likely going to do.

TLDR on Divine Insight - Unless you know you're going to be put mainly on tank healing duty, this skill is not as useful to you as the other two ones will be.

Overhaul of the talent point system reduced the size of the trees again.

Level 90
And finally, the last tier of talents. Which one of these you want largely depends on which encounter you're facing and how big a group you're healing.

Cascade - This is the choice of many, if not most, discipline priests (though I base this off of discussions, not statistics). I used Halo briefly, but since I swapped back to 10 man raiding Cascade has turned out to be a lot more useful. What you have to consider is the mechanic of the skills. None of the skills in this tier are "smart" heals like Prayer of Mending, and either one you choose will often end up being mostly overheal. Cascade is medium expensive mana wise and fairly easy to use. It doesn't require overly much thinking, just to remember that the more spread people are the more it's going to heal (as long as people are within range obviously). It is the simplest when it comes to positioning and use, to get the most out of it, and this is probably the main reason it seems to be the most popular choice.

Divine Star - Divine Star is somewhat similar to the paladin heal Light of Dawn, in that it requires people to stand in a line in front of you to be able to get much use of it. If you choose to use this skill you will chime in with the paladins about making sure the raid stacks properly, and it also means this skill is pretty useless whenever they're not. Cascade and Halo have the opposite problem, with being pretty useless when the raid is stacked. Divine Star is the cheapest of the three skills in the tier, and in fights where the raid stacks a lot it might be worth considering. In most raid encounter however, being spread out is more often the name of the game than anything else. Also remember that for stacked groups (or groups that stand somewhat close to eachother) we priests already have a tool - Prayer of Healing - and complementing that might be more interesting than adding to it.

Halo - Halo has one massive drawback, as I realized when using it in my 25 man raid. When unleashing it on a 25 man raid group it has tremendous healing power, if you're positioned in the right place. This might seem like a small if, but it's a pretty big if. The last thing you want to think about when your raid needs big aoe healing is whether you're standing in the exactly right place to use your skill. Both Divine Star and Cascade can also be used as hostile attacks, but both of them are very simple to avoid using so that you accidentally attack a mob you don't want to. Halo not so much. In fact, one of the biggest risks when using this skill is that you will also accidentally break some cc or pull some extra pack standing close by. This means that whenever you want to use it you might first have to re-position yourself to make sure you're not going to hit any mob. I am sure most of you have done runs where an oblivious shadow priest (it's mostly them who end up speccing Halo) has pulled extra packs, this is a risk you run as a healer as well when using this skill. It also makes Halo really hard to use at all in certain fights.

Halo is the most expensive skill out of the three, making it too expensive really to want to use in anything less than a 25 man group. The net average healing per mana just isn't worth it when compared especially to Cascade, or so my experience says anyway.

And now, we have this.

Conclusion - TLDR
So if you simply want a simple answer to the question: What the heck should I spec then? Here is my answer;

15 - Void Tendrils
30 - Body & Soul
45 - PW: Solace
60 - Angelic Bulwark
75 - Power Infusion
90 - Cascade

  • Angelic Feather for fights where you want to give boost control to raid members.
  • Mindbender for when you're lazy or don't use Atonement at all.
  • Desperate Prayer for more self healing control.
  • ToF for fights where you dont' feel like timing Power Infusions or now you'll have a lot of ToF uptime.

Personally, I pretty much run with the same setup for any raid fight I do, and it has worked well for me. Once you're comfortable with your healing style you can tinker around yourself depending on the fight, but the above suggestion is a pretty solid one for most fights you can encounter.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Big Project Underway

The other day a friend asked me if I was still doing priest healing guides, in this particular case he specifically asked for a discipline one since he was playing one but considered himself "noob" at it. He wanted some easy hints and tips on what to think about as a discipline healer and I was honored that he chose me as the target for his questions. But at first I was taken aback. How to priest heal? I can't even remember the last time I did a proper guide on that. The Priest Guide section on my blog hasn't been updated since mid-Cataclysm (shame on me). The only thing I could offer him at the time was some quick tips off the top of my head, but it planted an idea in my brain. Maybe it's time for me to make another priest healing guide?

When I first sat down to write this post there were some things I needed to  clear out for myself before I could get anywhere. First of all, this had to be a discipline healing guide, because I haven't properly played holy since somewhere in early Cata I think (it is true that I have done some holy healing since then, but it hasn't been my main spec for ages). And most importantly - how much could I actually claim to know about disc priest healing anymore? On the one hand I have mained a priest healer since early BC, without any longer breaks to speak of. I don't think I'd blow my own horn too much if I claim to at least have very long experience in priest healing, the changes it's gone through and that I might even by now have a certain feel for the class, sort of making me a Dr House of Priest Healing (ahem). I might use some unconventional methods at times, but they always lead to succesful results in the end.

On the other hand, eventhough the healing class might be the least affected by it, it is also true that WoW is a game unforgiving when it comes to stat weights and "best ways" to gear. In all honesty it doesn't leave very much room for personal preferences -  in the end, whether you like it or not, the game promotes a certain way of playing based on simple (well, maybe not so simple) numbers. Numbers that I can not claim to have full knowledge of at the moment, that I am raiding once every two weeks and especially now that 5.2 is out and things have changed yet again. Where does that leave me?

Because of my interest in priest healing, I do keep track of things every now and then. Nothing like in my golden days, of course, where I would scour blogs and forums and do my own test runs with different stats, talents and skills to see what seemed to work best. I have a rough idea as to what seems to be the way to go nowadays, and it has worked pretty well for my raiding needs. Other than that I can only look at my performance. Although I'm not in a server first progression guild anymore, my guild is far from bad when it comes to raiding (25th of March they had done 5 bosses in ToT). And when I compare myself with the other healers in the guild, I consider myself among the best, especially taking into account my lack of experience of the encounters, my gear mostly being several levels lower and my overall lack of practice with priest healing at the moment. Fortunately my year long experience of priest healing has made most moves hard wired into my brain and I can focus on trying to being as efficient as possible with my skills for certain situations in the encounter rather than struggling with the elementary stuff. This is also where the biggest difference is noticed, it is when I am not ready to use a cooldown properly because I don't know the encounter inside out that I drop behind on the meters, never anything else.

In essence, if I wrote a guide now it might not be old Elitist Jerks material or agreed upon by every priest out there. It should probably be seen as thoughts from a priest veteran, someone who has been around long enough to say "screw stat weights" and give a general idea on how priest healing works, now and probably forever. I'll be like the old, looney lady in the corner with wisdoms of ypnder year, things that modern players might shrug of as crazy talk but that hold truth to them if understood correctly. It won't be mumbo jumbo, it'd be words from someone who knows that eventhough there might be a "best" and "worst", when it comes to healing so much comes down to feeling that it is ok to go your own path, at least somewhat. I've played a priest pretty much since the start, although like I mentioned I started raiding with it early BC, and I can tell you - they haven't changed overly much. I can still recognize myself in the priest, in how the heals work and the way I use them. We get new toys - the Barrier, Spirit Shell, Chakra - we argue which stat is the best (mastery, haste, intellect, spirit, spell power and so on) but the essence is still the same. In this I think Blizzard have really succeeded in keeping priests all about being priests (if that makes any sense) and I can only think that is why I have stuck with them too long. What I loved about priest healing five years ago, I still love about priest healing. And I do love writing guides, so let's get down to business, once again.