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Problems With The 4.1.0 PW:S Change

Posted by Malevica on May - 8 - 2011

When I wrote my guide to 4.1.0, I commented that most Priests wouldn’t really notice the change because we weren’t blanketing the raid before. This is true as far as end-game raiding in concerned, but as I’ve been levelling my new Priest through the 80s I’ve found myself becoming very aware of the change.
Here we have a classic example of a change to end-game balance having enormous knock-on effects elsewhere in the game.

Solo Shielding

On the positive side, in most of the levelling content game you can bubble yourself and be all but invulnerable against modest-sized groups of mobs; they just can’t break through your bubble. The downside of that is that while previously they had 30s to achieve this, and usually got there eventually, now they only have 15s and quite often they don’t. Every PW:S you cast on yourself costs a ton of mana, and there’s no Rapture to recoup some of that very high cost.

You can of course pull larger groups, but if you do then you run the risk that they will break the bubble and then make short work of you before you can recast it, since by definition if the bubble breaks early then you’re still afflicted by Weakened Soul and can’t re-shield yourself. The balance here can be quite delicate.

So that’s problem number one, shielding while solo is extremely mana-inefficient, and no one likes drinking!

Dungeon Shielding

The next problem comes when you join a dungeon group. There’s two problems here.

First, you have the issue of mobs not having time to break the shield before it fades as described above, which means that most packs are just not capable of giving you any Rapture returns. This makes shielding tanks in instances, especially those before the mid-80s, extremely inefficient and expensive, and you end up having to avoid it.
I have no problem with changing and adapting your healing style as you level in principle, but I’m usually thinking about adding in new spells as you learn them; this is training people out of using a bread and butter spell that’s a standard part of healing at 85, and that just feels wrong to me.

The other problem arises when you try and pre-shield your tank for a pull. You want to do this because it’s a great way of protecting him from the big up-front hit when the mobs all notice him, and stops you getting aggro immediately when your first heal or shield lands in combat. However 15s, while it sounds like a large window, is very easy for a tank to squander; 30s is a lot more reasonable. A shield expiring a few seconds after the tank pulls is a waste of mana, certainly isn’t going to proc Rapture, and when you recast you’re back where you started in terms of threat.


Let’s be clear, I agree with the change in raids at 85, and I accept that that’s where Blizzard have to focus their efforts to balance things. I do think this is one of many really good examples of unintended consequences, where a perfectly reasonable change to one area of the game causes problems elsewhere. (For more, see PvP!)

Unfortunately I don’t have a simple solution. You could attack the problem in multiple ways, but none will solve things completely.

You could make mobs deal more damage, but then you’d need to change every other class’s damage and healing numbers to compensate, either to boost self-healing or to allow them to kill the mob quicker.

A better approach might be to change the spell: You could have a longer duration for most of the game, and then shorten it progressively as you approach 85; Or you could come at it from the other side and weaken the bubble at lower levels, scaling it up to full strength as you get to 85.
You’d have a huge backlash in the community though, whichever option you chose, and you still have the problem of a spell which changes form dramatically as you level up. Perhaps that’s acceptable as long as the usage remains consistent, but I think there’s a risk of confusing players with a mechanic like this.

Really I’m out of ideas at the moment. I’d be interested in what people think could be a solution to this little issue.

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Downranking Power Word: Shield

Posted by Malevica on May - 11 - 2010

Last time around I talked about healing the Lich King as Discipline, and mentioned the idea of downranking Power Word: Shield to maximise mana returns from Rapture. At the time I noted a suggestion, picked up on PlusHeal, to downrank to Rank 12. I’ve since had the opportunity to do a test, and I want to present some results and numbers.


First thing is to push some numbers through a spreadsheet to produce estimated output numbers for a range of ranks. From the spreadsheet I produced comparison tables, reproduced below, assuming 3600 spellpower to represent the amount I typically have when raid-buffed and 4000 spellpower to represent a peak case when, for example, the Ashen Verdict ring has procced.

These assume 4xT10 and the 15% version of Hellscream’s Warsong.

Average absorbs for ranks 11-14 of PW:S, at 3600 Spellpower

Average absorbs for ranks 11-14 of PW:S, at 4000 Spellpower

You can use the graph below (click for a larger, more readable version) to estimate the amount you’ll absorb with your typical raid spellpower. You should use your typical raiding spellpower, so pop open your character sheet during a raid fight if you don’t know it. (This saves me having to produce multiple charts to account for totems, buffs, procs and so on).

PW:S absorbs by spellpower and rank

Read across to your typical raiding spellpower (as shown in your character sheet during a fight) and then read up to see how much each rank of shield will absorb

Then I went through raid logs to get some real data on absorbs. In the recent raid I used PW:S 12 as my primary rank, based on the PlusHeal suggestion. Here’s some WoL extracts: the first is with PW:S Rank 14, the second is with PW:S Rank 12. Note that when these logs were acquired the ICC buff was at 15%.

WoL extract showing absorbs and mana returned from Rapture, with Power Word: Shield Rank 14

WoL extract showing absorbs and mana returned from Rapture, with Power Word: Shield Rank 12


I definitely made some gains using PW:S 12 over PW:S 14, and the mana situation improved subjectively, but the log shows that I could have gained yet more mana back.

In the first case I cast 18 shields at a cost of 11988 mana, and gained 3518 mana back.
In the second case I cast 20 shields at a cost of 13320 mana, and gained 7036 mana back (I have not included the extra Rapture proc from bubbling myself, in case you wonder about the maths. I think it’s better to compare without it).

Even in the better of the two cases I am only getting back around 53% of the mana I spent, and only 40% of the theoretical maximum of 17590 mana I could have got back from those 20 shields.

The problem is that my shields were too close in size to the size of the Infest hits for this trick to be totally effective. Both Infest and the shields varied in size between 7,000 and 8,000 so where Infest was low or the shield was high I didn’t get mana returns. The Ashen Verdict ring proc would easily be enough to rob me of an entire cycle’s Rapture returns.

Looking at the tables at the top, and given my current gear level of ilvl 264 across the board, plus the 277 reputation ring, I would conclude that I should drop further down to Power Word: Shield Rank 11 instead of Rank 12 to get better mana returns while still taking enough damage off the Infest to prevent it ticking on most people.
However, since I didn’t have mana issues with Rank 12, perhaps Rank 12 would be a suitable compromise between giving adequate mana returns and guaranteeing Infest won’t tick on people I’ve bubbled. It’s important to adapt your play to the rest of your raid, so if Infest is a problem for your raid it’s worth spending more mana on higher ranks.

Extra tip for VuhDo users

VuhDo, while being awesome in many regards, has a slight blind spot when it comes to spell ranks. Iza, the author, explains:

VuhDo is not using any spell ranks internally, which leaves it to wow client to choose the apropriate rank for the target’s level. Which should be 14 for rank 80 targets indeed.

Therefore if you want to use a lower rank of PW:S with VuhDo you’re going to need to use a macro instead, you can’t just type “Power Word: Shield(Rank 12)” into the box. So here’s a simple macro to use:

/cast [@mouseover] Power Word: Shield(Rank 11)

All you need to do is create the macro, being careful not to name it after the spell (also likely to confuse VuhDo) and then bind the macro to the keypress or mouseclick in VuhDo’s options.


17th May – Added the chart, clarified the ICC and T10 bonuses being used, and tweaked some phrasing

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