This is a follow-up to my previous post on the subject, to look in a bit more detail at actual, not just potential, returns from From Darkness, Comes Light.
As of 1st July 2012 I’ve merged the corrections and the discussion on the various options from here into the previous post to keep it all in one place. The big change is that the recent buff to Mindbender with Build 15799 (1.0% per swing -> 1.3%) it’s a stronger choice now and competitive with the others, although still probably not an automatic go-to since PW:Solace and FD,CL have greater potential.
FD,CL Procs and Regen
In my initial comparison of FD,CL procs I chose to simply treat them as occurring on 15% of casts, and thus attributing 15% of the mana saving (19,500 mana) to each eligible heal.
That’s fine in spreadsheets and for simplifying the analysis, but how can we quantify the randomness? One way is to simulate a lot of encounters and see what sort of range we might expect.
Considering a 5-minute fight, and two usage scenarios, here’s what I get from an arbitrary run of the sim (10,000 iterations):
Bare minimum – 2 casts per minute – Mean saving per fight: 29,253 mana – StdDev: 22,456 mana.
Tank-healing heavy – 20 casts per minute – Mean saving per fight: 295,563 mana – StdDev: 70,406 mana.
The standard deviation (StdDev) is a measure of the size of the variation from the average, and that’s the important figure here. The more statistically-minded will already have drawn their own conclusions, but for the rest of us the short version is this:
If you’re casting FD,CL-eligible heals infrequently you might get lucky and nearly double your returns but you’re just as likely to end up with practically nothing. If you cast frequently you’re better off, but you could still end up losing out on a quarter of the returns you were expecting.
Obviously over a longer fight the numbers will even out a little better, but the majority of the fights do fall into the ~5-6 minute range, at least in Cataclysm.
The point of all this is that because of the huge variations of FD,CL’s procs you really need to be casting a lot of eligible heals to be sure of getting the benefit. When comparing PW:Solace and FD,CL, you should underestimate the value of FD,CL, particularly if running out of mana is likely to be a killer rather than an inconvenience. PW:Solace gives you flexibility that FD,CL does not.
Again, this doesn’t change the conclusion that PW:Solace is better for raid healing and FD,CL only if you’re tank- or single-target-healing a lot, but it does shine light on the massive unreliability you can expect to see in FD,CL returns.
Updated 24th June, see the follow-up post for details. Updated again 1st July, to take account of the 1.0% -> 1.3% bump in Mindbender’s mana return. This changes the conclusions a little: originally Mindbender was barely an advantage over Shadowfiend, now it is a viable option.
For another take on this, Derevka at Tales of a Priest has carried out a similar analysis including presenting the data in some slightly different ways. That’s well worth a read as well; more eyes and more opinions are of course always a good thing for the community, as are different ways of explaining and presenting things.
Obviously it’s going to be situational, there’s no question about that. Each of the talents has a different focus and will help in different scenarios:
From Darkness, Comes Light – Gives you a 15% chance on casting a Smite, Heal, Flash Heal, Binding Heal or Greater Heal to get a free, instant-cast Flash Heal. You can store up to 2 free heals.
Mindbender – Replaces Shadowfiend with a Mindbender. With Mindbender you get 1.3% Mana per swing instead of 3%, but a 1 minute CD instead of 3 minutes. You also get an extra two swings from the Mindbender because it has a 15s duration compared to the Shadowfiend’s 12s. The Mindbender’s damage is around 5.5k per swing (for me at level 88) compared to around 6.5k for the Shadowfiend.
Power Word: Solace – New! Deals light damage to an enemy, but grants 2% of mana back per cast. Priestly Telluric Currents, if you will. (Currently this restores mana even against immune enemies or if you miss, which is convenient).
First I’ll look at Mindbender and compare it to the other two options, then discuss the comparison of FD,CL with PW:Solace. If you just want the short version, then skip to the conclusions.
The graphs below show the amount of mana returned for Mindbender compared to Shadowfiend for a range of fight durations from 3 to 12 minutes. Because Mindbender replaces Shadowfiend, this is the net benefit of taking the talent.
The first shows the best-case situation, where you cast Shadowfiend or Mindbender pretty much on the pull and none of the mana returned is wasted. At level 90 this is consistent with chain-casting anything but Heal. This also assumes a 15% miss chance (healers are likely to have no hit bonus, and 15% is the standard chance to miss a boss-level mob).
Mindbender and Shadowfiend mana returns for a range of fight durations (Level 90, Immediate first cast)
Under this scenario Mindbender generates additional mana, both because of the extra swings and higher mana per swing, and because of the greater granularity (so you can fit more casts in.
If you don’t need the mana in the very early stages of the fight and delay the first casts of both until you’ve opened up a suitable mana deficit, the effect is more pronounced. The second graph shows the effect if you choose to delay Shadowfiend for a minute after the pull compared with waiting 20 seconds to cast Mindbender (in both cases the delay is sufficient to let a sufficient mana deficit build up, even being fairly frugal with mana).
Mindbender and Shadowfiend mana returns for a range of fight durations (Level 90, Delayed first cast)
In this case the greater granularity of Mindbender lets you fit an extra cast in much earlier, opening up a slightly larger gap over most fight durations.
However, remember that the benefit of Mindbender is the difference between Mindbender and Shadowfiend. So the possible advantage of Mindbender over Shadowfiend needs to be weighed against the potential benefit of the other two talents.
Looking at the graphs the gap widens and narrows as the encounter duration changes. For a 12-minute fight the gap is the largest, at 162,180 mana. To compare that to the other talents, consider that PW:Solace gives 2%, or 6,000 mana, per cast. So Mindbender equivalent to 162,180/6,000= 27.03 PW:Solace casts over the course of the fight, which is 2.25 PW:Solace casts per minute over 12 minutes. So if you can squeeze in just over 2 PW:Solace casts per minute, PW:Solace beats Mindbender. Since 2 FD,CL-eligible heals are worth roughly 1 PW:Solace cast, double those figures to see how Mindbender compares to FD,CL.
Let’s look at how the gap looks over the same range of fight durations as before:
Advantage of Mindbender over Shadowfiend, expressed as PW:Solace Casts per Minute
The dotted line is where things used to be at 1%, and the solid line is the current state, including the buff to 1.3%.
While there is a lot of variation depending on the fight length, the range is generally between 1 and 3 PW:Solace casts needed to break even, and typically comes out around 2, on average.
The bottom line is this: if you can cast at least 3 PW:Solaces per minute of the fight then Mindbender is simply the weaker choice. If you’re not sure, check the chart and consider the likely fight length, and decide whether you think you can hit the target number instead.
Mindbender does have other advantages to be aware of though that could change the equation in specific cases:
If your Shadowfiend is likely to get killed, the Mindbender gives you more bites at the cherry. 2/3 of the mana if one Mindbender dies is better than 0/3 if you lose the Shadowfiend. But this shouldn’t be a huge problem. More importantly;
Mindbender is very much fire-and-forget. When the button lights up you just cast and get a nice mana income. No fuss, no bother. Usually encounters aren’t non-stop from start to finish, but if you find yourself really struggling then MB isn’t a bad option
The Mindbender does a lot more damage over the course of the fight. Each SF cast is good for about (depending on crits and misses etc, of course) around 50,000 damage; Each Mindbender cast also accounts for around 50,000 damage but you get 3 Mindbenders to every Shadowfiend, so you’re comparing 50,000 to 150,000. When DPS counts, Mindbender gives an advantage, albeit a small one.
FD,CL vs Power Word: Solace
Power Word: Solace
If you’re not casting single-target heals very often, the choice becomes simpler because you’re not going to see the benefits of FD,CL. But if you’re doing a bit of both, how do you decide?
Let’s get a feel for the numbers first.
Assuming no internal cooldown, FD,CL has a 15% chance to proc from one of the named heals. We can (very roughly) say that each eligible cast you make is worth 15% of the mana cost of Flash Heal, or 2925 mana at level 90.
PW:Solace is worth 2% of your mana per cast, or 6000 mana at level 90.
With those numbers in mind, have a look at your logs or just make an educated estimate of how many times you’re casting an eligible heal in a fight. Divide that by 2 and that’s how many PW:Solace casts you’ll need to squeeze in to come out ahead.
Remember that Evangelism procs from Penance in MoP, so if you’re heavily raid healing then you may not need to cast Smite at all. This means that FD,CL is not an automatic choice for Discipline even if we’re using Archangel liberally.
As a general rule of thumb to get started, if I were going to be primarily raid-healing I’d lean towards PW:Solace to begin with, while if I knew the tank might need more attention on a given encounter I might try FD,CL as my first pick. But the key to maximising this is actually reflecting on your healing style and the number of PW:Solace opportunities in a given encounter and making an informed decision.
For tank healing FD,CL looks like the strongest choice. If you’re able to cast more than 6 FD,CL-eligible heals per minute (and you should be if you’re healing the tank) then FD,CL beats Mindbender. Deciding between FD,CL and PW:Solace is trickier, but bear in mind that you need to fit in at least 1 PW:Solace for every FD,CL-eligible heal you cast. If you’re throwing a stream of Heals and Greater Heals (with PW:S, Penance, PoM and Smite/HF woven in) at your tank then you’re looking at somewhere on the order of 10 PW:Solace casts per minute to break even.
For raid healing PW:Solace should be your first choice. To guarantee to beat Mindbender you need to fit in 3 Power Word: Solace casts per minute on average, but you can often come out ahead with just 2 PW:Solaces per minute.
However, if you’re finding yourself in a ‘floater’ role and you find that you’re casting more than twice as many FD,CL-eligible heals (Heal, Greater Heal, Binding Heal, Flash Heal and Smite) PW:Solace casts, then you might see a greater benefit from picking FD,CL. I’d recommend starting off with PW:Solace and looking for as many opportunities to cast it as possible, and then checking your logs and seeing what’s most appropriate for your playstyle.
Remember that PW:Solace has the most potential if you can find and take the maximum number of opportunities and cast it as often as possible.
Mindbender is valuable for non-stop raid-healing when you aren’t going to benefit from FD,CL but also can’t squeeze in enough PW:Solace casts. Its fire-and-forget nature leaves you free to get back to what you’re doing without much thought and management.
I’ve spent a bit of time in the last week or two playing my Discipline Priest in the Mists of Pandaria beta, and trying to figure out what’s changed and what’s what in the new world order. Of course, this being Beta, it’ll all have changed again next week, so treat this as a snapshot of where things are at. (I actually delayed publishing this until I had time to see the new Spirit Shell changes, more on that below!)
Bear in mind that I’m still only level 86 as I write this, and the experience changes a lot as you level up.
The Gotcha Test
The first thing I do when I log into a beta or PTR is what I think of as the “Gotcha!” test. I take a close look at the HPS, HPM and costs of all our spells. Why? Remember Flash Heal in Wrath? And in Cataclysm? That’s what I’m looking for, a go-to ability that’s undergone a drastic shift. Here’s the list at level 85, at my gear level which is ilvl 404 on Live:
Priest Spells, Costs and Performance (Build 15677)
Notice that the mana costs are all nice neat round numbers. That’s because all healers now have a fixed mana pool of 100,000 MP (except gnomes, who have 105,000 MP thanks to our racial!) and spells cost a fixed percentage of our maximum mana.
No huge surprises in there this time, so I won’t go into too much detail. Most of the spells are where they have been in Cataclysm, which is nice. Flash Heal and Power Word: Shield remain our fast, expensive emergency heals. They have pretty punishing HPM and high costs, but they’re quick. Penance is still earning its cooldown with comparable HPS to Flash Heal but half the mana cost, and Prayer of Healing is still good when you have 3 or more people to heal up.
On the subject of abilities, there’s a new page on the spellbook labelled Core Abilities:
Priest Core Abilities Tab (Build 15677)
This is a helpful little nugget to nudge new players in the right direction when picking up a spec for the first time, or returning to a spec after a while away. It might be nice to draw attention to this tab more obviously, maybe as a tutorial tip, because it’s not even in the Talents window so you could easily overlook it.
While for a while Spirit Shell was an absorb replacement for Greater Heal, that design was rolled back in a recent build in favour of giving us GH back and redesigning Spirit Shell. Personally, I like what they’ve done with the spell.
Spirit Shell is a 15s self-buff on a 1 minute cooldown that turns all the heals you cast into absorbs with their own 15s duration. According to Ghostcrawler it’s been designed to take account of Divine Aegis (by increasing the size of the bubble by your crit chance so if, for example, you have 20% crit chance your bubble will be 120% of the size of the heal), the bubble size benefits from Grace in the same way the original heals would, and the bubbles also scale with Mastery. Note that the bubbles don’t “crit”, your crit chance has already been taken into account.
To put some numbers on this, imagine you hit Spirit Shell, then cast Greater Heal on your tank. Suppose, for the sake of argument, a baseline Greater Heal is good for 50,000 HP.
I have 15% crit chance, so that gives me a bubble of 50,000 * 1.15 = 57,500 HP.
I also have 25.73% stronger bubbles from Mastery, which takes my bubble up to 57,500 * 1.2573 = 72,295 HP.
Add in a triple-stacked Grace for a 30% boost, and my Greater Heal bubble is up to a whopping 72,295 * 1.30 = 93,983 HP.
That’s good stuff!
The current implementation is still a little early. Currently it’s not actually benefiting from any of those extra effects so we’re stuck with the basic heal. There’s also the open question, which Ghostcrawler acknowledged is still one they don’t have an answer for, of how stacking and capping these bubbles will work. Currently the Spirit Shell shields from different heals stack with each other (they create separate buffs for themselves depending on the spell) but casting the same spell twice refreshes the duration but replaces the absorb amount with the latest value, even if it’s lower.
I expect both of these behaviours to change and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the effect end up working more like DA does, where all the heals contribute to a single bubble buff which stacks up to a cap. The developers did point out that they don’t like us feeling like we need to spam something up to a cap (PoH/DA, anyone?), but I don’t think I mind that sort of mechanic. We’ll have to see how it plays out.
The utility of this is centred around preparing for and preventing damage. Know the Elementium Bolt is about to splash down, or your tank’s going to get Impaled? Get those bubbles out there to take the edge off it. The fact that it scales with Mastery means that you’ll get a slight healing boost out of this cooldown as well (Mastery affects the whole bubble, rather than just the DA portion of the heal), but the tradeoff if that you’ll have to have enough damage coming out to take proper advantage of the absorbs.
Rapture, on Beta and on Live, returns a lump of mana when your PW:S breaks; on Live it’s a fraction of your total mana, on the Beta it’s 150% of your Spirit. On Live this is (significantly) more than the PW:S cost to cast, making it an important source of mana regeneration, whereas on Beta the return is less than the cost of PW:S.
If we consider Rapture as a regeneration mechanic, it’s a slightly problematic one. The objections been gone over several times, including in the links above, but they more or less come down to difficulties in getting PW:S to break reliably when the damage is light or unpredictable or cases where you have multiple Disc Priests fighting over opportunities to bubble a single tank.
This unreliability is a problem on Live because Rapture is a form of “active mana regeneration”, like a potion on a 12s cooldown, and it’s a major part of our mana equation – we cast a bubble every 12 seconds to give us the mana we need to do whatever it is we actually want to be doing – and because it’s so powerful we don’t bother with Spirit for the most part. Imagine if your Shadowfiend had a 50% miss chance, or your Hymn of Hope didn’t actually give you any mana back half the time. Oh, wait…
Rapture isn’t trying to be Telluric Currents. You shouldn’t spam PW:Shield when you need mana. Rapture is intended to offset the cost of PW:Shield when the latter is used intelligently.
So instead of thinking of Rapture as part of our mana regeneration, instead we should think of it as a discount on casting PW:S as long as we don’t do it too often and pick a target that’s actually going to take damage. Think of it as a proc like Surge of Light, giving us a cheap PW:S every now and then instead of a free Flash Heal, only it doesn’t proc randomly but activates every 12 seconds instead. I still think there’s a possible issue with PW:S needing to break, especially in the case where you have two Disc Priests fighting over the damage, but you can at least see why that design is there, and that might be an application of the Divine Insight talent (call-ahead!).
Have a look back at the table, and look at the HPS and HPM of PW:S with and without Rapture. Without Rapture it’s still our best HPS ability, but the cost is punishing. Factor in a Rapture proc though and it’s suddenly right up there with our best HPM abilities as well.
There’s still one small wrinkle though, and that’s Meditation. You see, Meditation for Disc Priests is 25%, whereas it’s 50% for every other healing spec. The reason for this is that because Rapture makes PW:S so cheap and so powerful (when we weave it in) we can achieve the same output as the other specs for a smaller mana cost. To balance out this lower cost, our background regen is lowered to match.
The upshot is that if we don’t use PW:S at all, or don’t use it especially intelligently, we’ll end up a little behind the other specs mana-wise. If we use it exceptionally well, we’ll potentially end up ahead. Now the ball’s in Blizzard’s court, and they’ll need to tweak the numbers as the Beta progresses and we hit the level 90 content to make sure we’re balanced.
I’ve not done a talent run-down in a while, so let’s see where we’re at with those.
Priest Level 15 Talents (Build 15677)
Level 15 remains the “CC” tier. Void Tendrils summons a Tendril for every mob within 8 yards of you that roots it for up to 20 seconds; Psyfiend lets you spawn a Psyfiend at a location you choose that fears a mob attacking you every 1.5s; Dominate Mind is Mind Control. Videos of the first two are below for your enjoyment.
Personally I’d go with Void Tendrils as my standard pick, just because fear is often a risky proposition. But I can see a lot of value in the Psyfiend in PvP. Throw it down on a flag or into a tower and watch the fun, or maybe just use it to keep people off you.
Priest Level 30 Talents (Build 15677)
At Level 30 you’ve got the movement talents. Body and Soul is the same ability we’ve known and envied for two expansions, only now it’s available to all Priests regardless of spec. The contender for PvE is Angelic Feather, which lets you place up to 3 feathers on the ground that grant a movement speed boost to the next person to step on them. If you have a known kite patch or need to keep someone moving at speed for a while then Angelic Feather is stronger than Body and Soul, but Body and Soul is more flexible if you just need to get someone moving and don’t necessarily know who it’s going to be. Tailor your choice to the situaion.
Phantasm looks at first glance like more of a PvP choice, although don’t rule it out entirely for PvE either. It makes your Fade remove all movement-impairing effects and makes you untargetable by ranged attacks and immune to movement-impairing effects for 3 seconds. The untargetability might have niche applications (I wonder if it would make you immune to Shrapnel, for example) but the freedom of movement could be handier.
I suspect the choice will usually be between Angelic Feather and Body and Soul for PvE, but it’s nice to have the option of Phantasm as well.
Priest Level 45 Talents (Build 15677)
Level 45 is the first tier where you get to actually improve your output. From Darkness, Comes Light (FD,CL), which still has that extraneous and slightly grating comma, gives you a 15% chance to proc a free, instant Flash Heal when you use (most of) your single-target heals. The list includes Smite, but not Penance or Holy Fire; this may change, I’d certainly expect to see Penance in that list. Given the high HPS of Flash Heal, this is a strong talent if you’re using a good number of single-target heals.
Mindbender replaces your Shadowfiend and deals double the damage and gives back double the mana. Because everything scales off base mana and base mana is fixed, your Mindbender will return 72% of your mana bar (assuming he doesn’t miss) compared to 36% for the Shadowfiend. This extra mana allows you to use more of the expensive spells, and is a great choice if you don’t think you’ll see the benefit of FD,CL, if you’re AoE healing, for example.
And finally we have Archangel, another old friends that’s been opened up to all three specs. This is a straight up output boost for 18s on a 30s cooldown, assuming you’re able to weave in the requisite number of Smites, Holy Fires and Penances to stack Evangelism up to 5. That’s right: Penance stacks Evangelism now, one stack per tick, and causes Atonement heals as well, so you shouldn’t have any trouble getting Evangelism stacked.
In this tier you’re picking what you need. The first two are all about efficiency, the third is about simple output. I suspect we’ll shift from the left to the right as the expansion progresses and mana becomes less of an issue, and at the start we’ll be interested mostly in FD,CL for tank healing and Mindbender for raid healing, although I’ll admit I’ve not sat down and worked through them in detail yet.
Priest Level 60 Talents (Build 15677)
Level 60 is all about taking care of yourself. You get a choice of an instant 30% self-heal on a 2-minute cooldown (Desperate Prayer), a shield for 20% of your HP when you’re damaged below 30% of your health every 90s (Angelic Bulwark) and the new Spectral Guise.
Spectral Guise is an interesting talent. When you hit it you spawn a clone of yourself which your enemies will attack, while you get stealthed for 6 seconds or until your clone (“your true form”) is hit 3 times. You can either use the time to run away or to throw a couple of heals on yourself unimpeded.
Spectral Guise feels more solo- or PvP-orientated than the other two since you don’t often take direct attacks as a healer in raids, but it may be useful to save you from a powerful attack directed your way (again Shrapnel comes to mind), since you don’t share in the the damage your clone takes.
Priest Level 75 Talents (Build 15677)
Here’s where things get really weird, with a jumble of talents. Twist of Fate gives you a 15% damage or healing buff after damaging or healing a target under 20% HP. I can see this possible being useful for handling low-health enrage phases: throw a HF on the boss at 19% and enjoy 15% extra healing for a while, as well as the more orthodox behaviour of rewarding triage-style healing of the lowest people when the raid is weakened.
Alternatively you could go for Power Infusion for 20% faster, 20% cheaper spell for 15s every 2 minutes either for you or for a friend.
The real wildcard is Divine Insight. For Disc Priests this procs from Penance casts and allows your next PW:S to ignore and to not cause Weakened Soul.
I can see two main uses for this. It’d be pretty handy if you needed a quick throughput boost on a single target because it would let you to throw out a PW:S, Penance, PW:S combination, and it would also be useful to let you maximise the frequency of your Rapture-cheapened PW:S casts even if you or another Priest has already got Weakened Soul on your target.
Priest Level 90 Talents (Build 15677)
Until we’re able to actually play with these all we can do is speculate. I’ll link the three options, but reserve comment until they’re opened up on the Beta.
Since the Prime Glyphs have been removed, we’re left with the utility-focused Major Glyphs and the cosmetic Minor Glyphs.
The minors are all more or less unchanged. Shadow Protection went away with the removal of spell resistances, and we got Glyph of the Heavens instead. This one makes your Levitate targets appear to be floating on a cloud. Funky!
As for Majors, a lot are unchanged, but there are a few interesting changes.
Glyph of Dispel Magic – Deals damage when you dispel an enemy, rather than healing when you dispel a friendly.
Glyph of Purify – Heals 3% of max HP when you dispel a friendly. Dispel Magic is now our offensive dispel, while Purify is our defensive dispel/cleanse ability.
Glyph of Fade – Reduces all damage taken by 10% when you Fade, which could be mighty handy.
Glyph of Holy Fire – Makes Holy Fire instant-cast. Doesn’t save you any time if you’re able to stand still, but could add a valuable extra tool to our healing-on-the-run toolkit.
Glyph of Levitate – Increases your movement speed by 10% while you’re levitating and for 10s afterwards.
Glyph of Penance – Allows you to cast Penance while moving, but increases the cost of Penance by 20%. If you need healing on the run this is a good bet. The cost just stops it from being a no-brainer.
Glyph of Power Word: Shield – Similar to the old version, but where the healing used to be a bonus, this time the healing is taken out of the absorb instead.
Just as I started writing this I happened to notice that the previous post was my 100th published post. I also apparently passed the 2 year mark back in March sometime. Shows how much attention I pay to milestones! Anyway, go me!
On topic, I’m finally in the beta. Broadband being what it is down here in New Zealand, with download caps being the rule rather than the exception, I’m not going to be able to download the whole thing until the end of the month, but I am logging in and beginning to explore, so expect to start seeing some beta impressions and commentary as the beta rolls on.
At the moment I’m busy sorting out the basics of the UI and spells. Addons are disabled at this point and /cast appears to be broken or extremely buggy in macros too. Folks, we’re doing this the old-fashioned way!
I’m also a little sad that my Savior of Azeroth title didn’t carry over, but I do still have my Twilight Harbinger so I retain some epeen potential.
I’ll be spending most of my time on Lost Isles-US, where I’m Malevica on Alliance and (when my premade arrives) I’ll grab some variation of that name on the Horde side too so I have the opportunity to test both factions.
I’m also intending to copy over my Paladin tank or a premade Paladin and perhaps other healing classes as well, but time will tell how much testing I get to do on classes other than the Priest.
As always I’ll categorise beta posts and mark them in the title, so you can avoid potential spoilers if you prefer.
Last week, under a non-disclosure agreement, Blizzard was briefing the press and major fansites on Mists of Pandaria, particularly teasing the new features and systems. Now that the NDA is over, that information has hit the internet in a big way. As usual, places like WoW Insider, MMO-Champion and Wowhead News have got mountains of information in one place, so those should be your main reference.
Obviously the blogosphere has been analysing this as well and rather than linking to every post, I’ll just refer you to MMO Melting Pot who have posted a couple of excellent round-ups with enough links to keep you going until the beta arrives.
Here are the things that jumped out at me most, and the reasons I’m looking forward to Mists.
When the trees were first released a lot of people noticed that Discipline had lost quite of few of the abilities we currently enjoy, and were understandably a bit apprehensive about losing some of our trademark flexibility. Originally they said:
Our intent is to make the healing styles between the two as different as possible, while cutting down on the number of rarely-used-yet-core spells that each spec has
A perfectly reasonable position; Discipline rarely uses Renew and neither spec uses Holy Nova much. As much as we like to talk about picking the right tool for the job, when one tool can do every job pretty well the others will tend to get left in the metaphorical shed to go rusty. In theory we can use Holy Nova while running as a group, but in practice it’s usually easier to just run first and then throw out an extra Prayer of Healing instead, and even heroic encounters generally aren’t tuned quite tightly enough that you need to heal that quickly to save a wipe.
As it turned out though the change, at least for Prayer of Healing, has been reverted. Quoting CM Kaivax again:
Prayer of Healing can be used by Holy and Discipline once again. We realized that the goal of making Holy Nova an effective AE healing tool was problematic. It meant that we would have to change Holy Nova so thoroughly, that it was becoming a second Prayer of Healing.
In the current spell design paradigm, instant-cast AoE tends to come with a cooldown or high mana cost as a penalty (see: Wild Growth and Circle of Healing or Healing Rain), and it also has to be flexible enough to be a staple AoE heal for Disc Priests instead of a situational ability (caster-centred counts as situational because it requires control over positioning and its value varies strongly from fight to fight). Put those constraints together and you’re left with either a Circle of Healing lookalike (instant but with a cooldown) or, well, Prayer of Healing. One alternative would be for Disc to only have a situational AoE heal; for a discussion of why that wouldn’t fit too well into the current game, see Holy Paladins in WotLK.
I applaud the aim of the developers to further distinguish Holy and Discipline. I love that each spec gets its own way of going about things and attacks the healing problem from a different direction, and on the whole I’m encouraged by what I’m hearing. I like the sound of Discipline swapping Heal for Spirit Shell (a single-target, medium cast-time, fairly small bubble; what I’ve taken so far is that Spirit Shell is to Power Word: Shield what Heal is to Flash Heal) and I’m looking forward to playing the beta and getting my hands on the talents and new abilities and seeing what I really make of them in practice, rather than just speculating based on tooltips.
Talents and Glyphs
The big news, which isn’t really news but is worth bringing up again, is the removal of the Prime glyph slot. Basically the job done by Prime glyphs is now done by talents instead. Apparently Blizzard intend to expand the range of cosmetic effects offered by the Minor glyphs to compensate.
In Mists, both glyphs and talents are changeable using a new reagent, the Tome of the Clear Mind. If you want to change a talent, you consume one reagent to ‘forget’ one row of the talent tree and you can make that selection again; you clear talents one row at a time, you don’t have to respec entirely just to swap one level of talents.
According to MMO-Champion, Blizzard will “also chang[e] major glyphs in a way they think will surprise and amaze players.” I stand prepared to be surprised and amazed…
Only dungeons since there wasn’t much about raids, except to tell us who the end boss of the final raid will be. I won’t spoil it, for the handful of people who haven’t already been spoiled.
They did also say that Tier 14 will feature 14 bosses split into three instances, which is a pretty good way to start the expansion. I’m actually OK with funnelling players down into one final raid at the end of the expansion, but at the start it’s important to have a good range of equivalent difficulty places to see, especially when you’re gearing up your raid team and you can’t assume a certain gear level like you can in later tiers. Getting stuck on an early gearcheck boss would be a real turn-off, but this way you can swap around and try each of the entry-level bosses and get some gear into the raid.
On the subject of gearing up, they’re talking about a revamp of Valor Points as well. Again, according to Wowhead News, the idea at the moment is to use them like the Crystallised Firestones from Firelands as a way to upgrade the item level of gear. Presumably, instead of saving up 2200 VP for some new legs, you just upgrade your old legs to the current item level. It’s not clear if you can get more than one tier of upgrade out of an item, or if any item will be upgradeable or if there will be limitations by slot (in the same way VP gear has not covered every slot thus far); either way, if the drop rates are kept similar to the current rate, gearing up this way will take a while so you’ll still want drops rather than just getting BiS T14 and waiting to upgrade it.
It’s an interesting change, although I don’t know if it’s as big a gain as it sounds. Under the Cataclysm system you might be looking at a new VP item with an inferior stat mix and that obviously won’t be the case under the Mists system, but on the other hand in Mists if you have a suboptimal piece you won’t be able to replace it with a better VP set, you’re stuck upgrading your existing item or waiting for a raid drop.
At the moment we know about three 5-man dungeons. Scholomance appears to have been given a revamp to bring it up to end-game level and streamline it a bit. Presumably like Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep it will have a low-level normal mode and a high level heroic mode, but it’s not clear. There’s also the Stormstout Brewery and the Temple of the Jade Serpent. For details on those, WoW Insider has a good preview.
Something that was promised to us a while ago is the Challenge Modes, which aim to give experienced players a reason to get back into the 5-man instances and challenge themselves, similarly to the way ZA bear runs were aimed. You are also ranked against your server and your guild, so you can get some friendly competition going (although Wowhead News says this only opens up once you’ve completed all the gold medals).
The “Challenge” in the name is all about speed. The faster you complete the run, the better the reward:
Bronze – Is worth an achievement. Most decent groups with a bit of coordination and practice should be able to reach this level.
Silver – Gets you transmoggable vanity items with no stats but with a vanity set bonus to encourage you to complete the set. This is new gear, not old sets, and you don’t (as far as I can tell) get a free choice. The fact that it’s stat-free stops this system feeling mandatory, something you have to do to get raiding gear.
Gold – Gives you access to a nifty mount.
I quite like the idea of challenge modes and I’ll definitely be taking part in them and trying to grab a good haul of gold medals. The only thing that bothers me a bit about them is that the challenge is all about speed, rather than some other measure of skill. In theory speed is a measure of the whole group’s skill: you need a strong tank to chain-pull, an efficient healer to limit deaths and drinking time, and obviously good DPS to kill the packs quickly; in practice I find that the pressure tends to fall more heavily on the tank to keep the pace high. And if someone disconnects, there goes your gold medal.
I’d have preferred to see some sort of measure based on execution rather than pure speed, like the way some of the dungeon achievements work at the moment. Perhaps a combination score based on interrupts, damage taken (avoiding the bad), as well as the speed of the kill and probably other factors as well. Then again, if you’re pushing for Challenge Modes then I guess it’s assumed you already know those things and don’t need the extra training.
Something I’d not really heard much about before is the Scenario system. These sound like expanded versions of events like the Flamegate area in Hyjal where you get to defeat Ragnaros while questing, the Wrathgate event or the Crucible of Carnage, but with a stronger group focus and with the tasty carrot of Valor Points. They’re also level 90 only, and not quest based. Given that they reward Valor Points, will they become effectively lightweight instances with a different focus or will they be limited to once-through special events?
An example is described by Wowhead News:
Players are tasked to help a Brewmaster find a spice that’s only useful when it rains. At first, players save some villages and buildings. You then help the Brewmaster create the lager as it’s raining, while she’s besieged by Sauroc. In the final phase, you defend the brewery while putting out fires – a giant Sauroc with a huge sword is trying to destroy the building.
Unlike old-style group quests where you had to ask the zone for help; this time there’s a Scenario Finder tool to help you automatically get a group together for a Scenario. The group you make does not depend on having a tank and healer so you can tackle them with whatever players are queueing for the Scenario at that time. I wonder how flexible the group size is, because the numbers of people can vary massively at different times. It’s also not clear if this system is cross-realm, but since it uses instancing there’s no reason why it couldn’t be.
If they can be differentiated sufficiently from dungeons I think this is quite a neat approach to group questing, although I think that not scattering them throughout the levelling process misses an opportunity to get some handy practice at group interaction before the level cap.
I’m quite a fan of professions, and I’m always interested in seeing what we’re getting in the future. Unfortunately the main professions weren’t really covered at this recent event, although there were some interesting teasers for the secondary professions.
Archaeology is getting new items, but it is also getting a faction associated with it, the Lorewalkers. When you turn in Pandaren artefacts you get snippets of lore and cut-scenes. The point, apparently, is to provide a stronger grounding for the profession within the game. Personally I’d also like to see the items either be upgradeable (maybe even through archaeology itself) or new items added as tiers are added to the game. In Cataclysm the equippable items stopped at level 359.
For the chefs, there are four specialisations to work on, and you’re able to work on all of them eventually. Each specialisation is related to a primary stat and presumably opens up recipes that grant that stat. Priests would probably go down the Intellect or Spirit route, depending on what’s available.
On a related note, Fox van Allen at WoW Insider recently penned an open letter to Blizzard describing his views on professions in Cataclysm and what improvements he’d like to see in Mists. It’s an excellent read but way too long to discuss in detail here so I’ll just recommend you read it instead.)
Odds and Ends
On the quality of life front, we’re apparently getting AoE looting. This is something that we’ve been waiting patiently for for quite some time. Apparently Star Wars included it, and magically it turns up in Mists. Still, I shouldn’t complain, it’s a handy feature whatever prompted its inclusion.
There will not be any revisiting of item levels in 5.x. In the past the developers talked about a possible “item squish” because numbers were beginning to grow a little too big to be easily handled: six-figure damage numbers popping up, four-figure stat values on gear and so on. Instead, they’re going with compressing numbers of five or more figures using “k” or “M”. For example, a 120 000 healing crit would display as 120k instead. Similarly a boss might have 435M health.
Something that has a lot of people relieved is the addition of an extra character slot. For some it still won’t be enough, but for the rest of us the eleventh slot is a nice gesture, letting us have a new Pandaren or a new Monk without having to select an existing character to let go.
Obviously at this point it’s impossible to call the expansion a hit or a miss. I’ve skipped over quite a few of the more well-known new features because they don’t interest me much; but just like I don’t feel threatened by the game’s inclusion of Arena, I doubt “my WoW” will be ruined by the addition of Pet Battles. I will say that the addition of challenge modes should give me something new to do outside raiding, and multiple raids per tier along with the possible return of world bosses could provide some well-needed variety to the raiding scene.
Blizzard also hinted that the beta is pretty close, so hopefully I’ll be able to get stuck in very soon and help them make the game as polished as we expect, and of course to report back on how I feel the features are working.