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Spiritual Guidance: The spirit debate

Eliah Hecht

Every Sunday, Eliah or Elizabeth will bring you their thoughts on the Priest class with Spiritual Guidance. Whether it's keeping your fellow players alive or melting their faces, you can read about it here!

This week, we've got a special episode co-authored by your two Spiritual Guidance writers, Eliah Hecht and Elizabeth Harper. In the course of emails around the WoW Insider bullpen, we noticed that there were some differing perspectives on the utility of Blizzard's favorite Priest stat, Spirit. So we decided to sit down and hash it out the old-fashioned way: an IM debate. Both of our mains are priests in a similar situation. We're Holy-specced and raiding somewhere around the middle of Karazhan. So considering how similar are gameplay niches are, it's interesting to note the differences in our opinions. On with the show, and do let us know what your take is.

Eliah Hecht: So. It's going to be a complicated issue, because you've got a lot of different kinds of priests to worry about...Holy vs Shadow, leveling vs raiding vs PvP...My take on it is that Spirit is paramount for all leveling specs, and for raiding holy priests, and not so much for the other spots on the grid.

Elizabeth Harper: See, I'm of a couple of minds on it for leveling. On one hand, you get more benefit from less spirit at lower levels, so leveling, I think you get more out of it. But it's still an issue of practicality -- leveling up, i'll grab spirit if it happens to be on something I otherwise want. But the size of mana and health pools is still more important. (And if you have spirit tap, a little bit of spirit can go a long way)

Hm...I disagree there. I got a lot of my priest leveling philosophy from a particular thread (registration requried) in the forums, and it holds spirit to be the most important stat, and alleges that mana pool and life pool are basically totally irrelevant.

The theory goes like this: When you're leveling, you're grinding much of the time. You'll be constantly losing health and mana by casting spells/getting hurt, and constantly gaining it back by regeneration. Only at the beginning of a grinding session is it going to matter at all what your max health/MP is. After that, regeneration is the key. It's the same argument for raiding priests: raid fights are long enough that having some extra mana in your mana pool is only going to let you cast one or two extra heals, whereas some extra regen, from Spi or mp/5, will get you much more.

I agree with the idea in theory -- but not in practice.

Well, I leveled according to that method and got great results, although I don't really have a point of comparison, so I guess I can't say. But I was certainly able to grind basically indefinitely without sitting down to drink.

Well, the returns from spirit are just so small. It's not enough to keep you going indefinitely on health or mana -- unless you have spirit tap.

And if you do have spirit tap, that's enough to keep you going without specifically stacking spirit?
Hmm, for leveling, I think you can pick up spirit tap without hugely stacking spirit and still get a decent benefit from it.

I guess. What other stats even matter, though, for leveling? Int and Stam are basically useless, because they just increase maxima. Agi and Str are obviously useless. The only competition I can think of is mp/5 and +damage.

Well -- on the flip side of your argument, I say intellect and stamina are great. Let's say we throw the idea of regeneration out the window. That means the amount of time you can fight is limited by the size of your health and mana pool. And if you consider, say, a fight where you get an unexpected add or two, with no time for spirit to work between rounds of combat, that's about what it is.

That's true, but I think unexpected adds probably represent less than 5% of fights. So I wouldn't model my stat strategy around them.

There are places where you can't avoid pulling two or three mobs at once. So while your whole strategy shouldn't focus on it, it is something to keep in mind.

That's true. And for that reason I'd say Spi > Sta > *, since not dying is more important than not being able to cast spells.

Well, i'd argue sta>int>spi>everything else.

What does Int get you really, though? Caster gear tends to have it anyway, and it's not like you're likely to run dead out of mana in one fight. I suppose it does help your crit.

It gives you more spells to cast. It increases your health bar with heals.

More spells to cast within one fight, but across fights, regen becomes more important. And for a priest, at least in theory, Spi is regen.

But spirit's regeneration is so pathetically low that it doesn't generally work that way. You regeneration Spirit/4 + 12.5 mana per two-second tick when out of the five-second rule.

Not with Spirit Tap, which I'm assuming any leveling priest has -- or at least any leveling priest that's concerned about their performance ;)

At least any leveling priest that doesn't want to bore themselves to death drinking every pull.

Word. Alright, so what would you say about the raiding holy priest?

Even for a raiding holy priest I'd say MP5 is stronger than spirit.

I'd say Spi = MP5 > Sta > Int.

But that depends a lot on your casting style.

Right, that's a good point. Spammy priests are definitely going to prefer MP5, since they won't get much chance to be outside the 5-second rule.

If you can arrange to cast in blocks of time, and let yourself jump into the 5sr, you'll find more value in spirit.

Fortunately Prayer of Mending lets me be less spammy, so I can fall back on Spirit like I like to. My build is sort of arranged around Spi anyway, what with Imp. Divine Spirit and Spiritual Guidance.

But then there are fights that have zero downtime.

Hm...there I have to plead ignorance, since I haven't been past mid-KZ. Illhoof is the farthest boss I've dropped and he's the most frenetic; still, I had some time to regen.

That's about as far as I am. But... like.. Maiden? There's absolutely zero time in a Maiden fight when I'm not healing or dispelling, except when stunned.

Yeah, that's true. But I find that if I'm going to win the fight, it goes pretty fast.

True, but it's also a fight where you're getting very little benefit from spirit.

Agreed. And that's why MP5 is as important as Spirit in my schema.

As long as Blizzard makes fights like that, spirit seems like a weak choice.

And (something that just occurred to me) Meditation is being doubled in patch 2.3.

Well, how much spirit does your priest have?

Let me see...hope I didn't sign out in my DPS gear >_<

(ditto that)

Ooh, looks like I did. That's too bad.

Ive got about 350 unbuffed, so 390 self-buffed.

If I remember correctly, it's around 450 buffed, but I could be off on that.

And let's say you're a smart priest with a spirit staff and a +20 spirit enchant, so when you know you need regen, it's pretty easy to add another 60 to that.

So that would put me somewhere in the neighborhood of 500.

So, self-buffed, if my math is right, you get 125 mana every tick out of the 5 second rule with 450 spirit, 137 every tick out of the 5 second rule with 500 spirit.

Right, which is 313 or 343 MP5 (out of 5SR).

So you have the excellent fortune to have 500 spirit. you regenerate 137 mana every 2 seconds while out of the five second rule.

And if you have full Meditation (which I hope you do ;), in patch 2.3, 30% of that is active all the time. Which is about 41 mana per 2, 103 mp5.

Greater Heal rank 7 costs 825 mana. So you have to spend 6 seconds doing nothing in order to cast a heal.

Hm...But my staple heal is GH4 or 3.

I tend to mix 4 and 7. 7 for tanks, 4 for everyone else.

Well, the costs are pretty similar anyway.

But okay, Gheal 4 is 655 mana. That's 4.7 seconds out of the five second rule.

To get one more GH4 per fight by Int, you'd need 65 int. That's a considerable amount.

So...still. You have to do nothing for ten seconds.

Well, you can be casting a spell for the last 2.5s of those 10s, but you're right.

If you don't have the mana, you can't start the spellcast though.

True. But if you're flat out of mana in a raid fight, you're in trouble already :P

I like spirit a lot in theory. I have Spiritual Guidance and full Meditation and still have a lot more spirit than mp5, comparatively. but the amount it regenerates is so low that i feel I'd usually be better off ditching it and going all out mp5.

MP5 is comparatively expensive, thought, isn't it? In terms of itemization points?

It is. But the problem you run into is that there are times when you're playing when spirit works fine. You have good blocks of regen time between casting. But there are times that aren't like that and spirit becomes practically useless. Mp5 is of consistent utility.

Don't you think the improved Meditation is going to help a lot with that?

I do, actually.

I mean, it seems like Blizz is really trying quite hard to make Spirit worthwhile for us.

That means your 500 spirit will turn into about 102 mp5 (in the 5sr; outside is obviously much better).

Which sounds pretty good to me. I mean...yeah. That's a nice chunk of regen. On top of the out-of-5sr regeneration and the (smallish) boosts from Spiritual Guidance and Imp. DS. Honestly, when I look at it like that, it looks a bit overpowered, and I have to wonder if it's going to get nerfed back down a bit before 2.3 goes live.

Even so...I still say it's a weak stat, and poorly itemized for. (I keep thinking about collecting a green set of gear with lots of +spirit... to see how far you could push it.)

Heh. Like any stat, you're not going to do very well if you go purely for it.

Well, I'm saying that on blue and purple gear, spirit is usually poorly itemized. There are a couple of spirit heavy pieces out there, but most of it's int, sta, healing, and mp5.

Well...I've mostly just been going for whatever epics look good, and I think I have fairly high spirit. I still like a proposal I made before BC: Spirit should be the stat that drives crit heals, not Int. That would give Spi a lot more added value for priests. Crit heals aren't all that, but they never hurt.

Hmm, that is an interesting idea -- a way to give spirit a use for healers without making it a must have for other classes. We're seeing Blizzard de-emphasize spirit for Mages right now, for example (with the Evocation change).

Right, and that's something that's been a long time coming...Spi is otherwise basically worthless for them. Druids could share the Spirit-for-crits thing, since as I understand they're also helped pretty well by Spi.

Or make it an across the board thing for heals only. That makes it helpful to healing classes, but the other classes don't care.

Yeah...but I feel that Pallies don't tend to have much Spi, so that would basically be a nerf for them. And they've gotten nerfed enough as a result of Blizz trying to help priests.

I hadn't considered paladins.

(Illumination, anyone? :P )

Yeah :| A good Holy paladin can still out-single-target-heal any priest.

Of course, this deep in the game, I don't think Blizz is actually liable to change a core game mechanic like Int driving crits, but one can always hope.

Well... why not add it to spirit and not take it from int?

Would the game just pick whichever you have more of?. Otherwise you'd have to reduce the amount that Int gave to crit rate, or else priests' crit rates would go way up. You could also make it a talent; I'd probably spend 1 point for it. Heck, replace Spirit of Resurrection Improved Death, and give it the added effect that Imp Death currently has of raising your Spi; call it Improved Spirit or whatever.
Druids have Living Spirit -- +15% spirit for 3 talent points.



So that's one thing Blizz could do to make Spi more desirable for the raid healer. For the 5-man healer, by the way, I think Spi is in the same condition that it's always been in: Int and Mp5 are far more important, since the fights tend to be shorter and sometimes more intense.

Right, just not enough downtime.

And as for Shadow and/or PvP, I really can't say. Not enough experience, though I do plan on making a new Shadow priest, so that might change.

For shadow.. you want some for spirit tap, obviously.

Right, and I'm under the impression that many Shadow priests also have Meditation.

And PvP fights are almost always over before regen comes into play. If you're healing in pvp, you're an early target.

Yeah, that was my guess on PvP as well. From the little AV I did while waiting for BC to come out, and the limited arenaing I've done, Int and Stam far outweigh any regen.

For PvP, resilience, stamina, and intellect, I'd think (though I'm not a heavy PvPer myself).

Yeah, PvP = burst.

Well, we've now spent 40 minutes talking about Spirit. That was fun :)

Good thing we disagree, or else it'd be boring. :)

I like spirit. I've played the Divine Spirit/Spiritual Guidance/Spirit Tap priest...I just don't think it's practical in the end.

I dunno, it's been working great for me. But you have to have certain gear and a certain casting style. And it could definitely be improved.

On Blessing of Kings, ages ago, I think Coriel made a good argument for spirit being a broken stat. What makes games fun is interactivity. Doing things is fun. But spirit does most of its work only when you do nothing.

Oh, that argument. Yes, that was a very good one. BoK is always one of my favorite MMO blogs. I don't remember if I responded on site, but my response is basically that strategizing is also fun, and if part of my strategy involves pausing, that's OK with me. Music is defined by the silence as well as the notes; why shouldn't a casting style be?

Yeah, what I don't enjoy about relying on spirit is sitting back and watching people die while I wait for a regen tick. :/

Indeed. Spirit is great when it works well, and extremely frustrating when you can't afford to take breaks to wait for regen. Like many things, it works best when you don't notice it, when it's just integrated into the way you operate and the end result is that you just don't run out of mana.


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