What is Spell Haste?
Spell haste has 2 components: rating and %. Think of the rating like a points system and the % as the actual spell haste. Below are the common equations for figuring out haste rating, haste %, and cast times:
A common misconception is that for every 1% spell haste you get, you cast 1% faster. This is incorrect. The definition of spell haste is that 1% haste means you will cast 1 additional spell in the time it would normally take to cast 100 spells. Doing some fancy math, you get the % Cast Time Decrease formula you see above. To make things easier, I has graph. As an example, if you have 25% spell haste, you'll actually be casting 20% faster.
It's also important to note that haste is applied after talents are taken into consideration. So your Old Cast Time in the equations above is how fast you cast including things like Divine Fury, Light's Grace, Imp Healing Wave, and Nature's Swiftness. Swiftmend works differently by not affecting the cast time of the original heal, so it doesn't play a part. So, as an example, the Old Cast Time of max rank Healing Wave for a Shaman with 5/5 ImpHW is 2.5 sec since it reduces the 3 sec cast time by 0.5 sec. If a Shaman has NS up and casts Healing Wave, the Old Cast Time becomes 1.5 sec because instant cast spells are still affected by the global cool down (GCD).
The purpose of spell haste is to increase the speed at which you can cast by giving you more casts in a set period of time. The end result is you increase your healing per second (HPS). This is a good way to gain additional burst healing capabilities, since your heals will land sooner. It also lets you get away with being a bit more reactive when it comes to healing your target back up, since in theory you can react faster.
But there isn't a Speed Part 1 about casting lag for no good reason. Lag will work against your haste abilities, and if you're not proactive against it, it'll make haste pointless to even try. Haste gear isn't something you can just slap on and see an improvement. It's an advanced style of play that requires the healer know what they're doing to make it work. So if you've missed Speed Part 1, be sure you go back and understand the concepts before testing the haste gear waters. And if you have extreme lag that no amount of casting addons will help, haste just isn't for you. Sorry. That's how the cookie crumbles.
As haste stands right now, it is limited by the GCD. This means haste will not help you with instant heals or those with a 1.5 cast time including talents effects. In practical use, an increase in HPS means you can either use it for burst damage in an emergency or downrank for mana conservation when you're between crises. You also need to be sure you have any talents that would increase the mana efficiency of your healing. I'm going to get into equipment in a bit, but suffice it to say you're trading haste for other stats stat, and for healers it's primarily mp5 and spirit. It's going to take trial and error testing on your part before you find the optimum combination. Casting faster doesn't help you much if you're OOM.
Paladins and Shamans probably benefit the most from haste right now because they are inherently mana efficient and have the tools available to compensate. A paladin using haste items is traditionally a Holy Light downranker rather than a Flash spammer. They'll use HL rank 4 or 5 with [Libram of Absolute Truth] or [Libram of Mending]. Having one of these is required for downrankers. And you'll have to has math to figure out which is better for your gear situation.
Shaman like haste for a couple of reasons. For one, Chain Heal has a 2.5 sec cast time and, by being one of their main raid heals, there is a direct increase in overall HPS with haste. Shammies commonly downrank as well, which provides some leverage with maintaining their mana pool. They also have additional mana regen capabilities via Mana Tide Totem.
Priests dabble with haste, but in my experience they don't go all the way with it - just a few key items to see an in-game difference. They typically run slightly low on mana efficiency in general, requiring innervates and Shadow Priests during tough healing situations. Priests are also responsible for handling a significant portion of the total healing. Only Heals and Greater Heals benefit from haste, which is merely part of their arsenal. The real question for priests becomes "Is it better in emergency situations to have a ton of +healing and switch to Flash, or wear haste and use max greater heals?" And sorry, I can't answer that for you. It really depends on your gear.
Druids typically don't care for haste at all, given the bulk of their raid heals are instant. Which leads me into...
Patch 2.4 Applications
Right now the proposed Patch 2.4 makes this change:
Spell haste now reduces the global cool down on spells, down to a minimum of 1 second. This change does not apply to melee and ranged abilities. (Source)
So what does that mean exactly? It's being assumed that this means haste now affects not only1.5 sec heals but instant cast spells as well. In other words, we're adding instants and HoT's into the haste mix.
For Paladins, this opens up haste to the Flashing masses. By already being one of the most efficient healing spells in the game, you shouldn't need to downrank, although you may need to mana pot more if you're not in a Shadow Priest group. The changes to Librams in the patch seem like Blizz is trying to shift the balance back towards Lights again, so if anything it'll help the Light downrankers.
Shaman could potentially see a benefit with quicker NS's, but for Chain Heal it'll be same old, same old. The biggest change will be that Heroism/Bloodlust will be a huge boost across the board. A 30% spell casting speed increase converts to 43% spell haste or 675 haste rating. This is almost twice as much haste that you'd get from equipment alone, excluding procs. This is what will enable people to experience a 1 sec GCD.
CoH Priests may want to at least abstractly think about haste for burst situations like RoS where mana is out of your control. For the Imp Spi types, life won't change very much. I would mention Flash Heal, but I hope to goodness that's not a primary spell you're using. PoM and Renew both have a ticking effect that prevents any haste-related spamming, although in theory you could move on to the next direct heal faster. The bottom line for Priests each one will need to determine how much extra mana they nromally have at the end of fights and potentially sacrifice it for haste.
This patch means Druids can finally get in on the Haste Cool Kids Club, but with a slightly different spin. For most resto's, the name of the raid healing game is rolling Lifeblooms. Since haste is actually more casts in the same amount of time, the boon here is sneaking extra LB into the mix. Right now with good latency druids can keep LB's rolling on up to 4 targets, between the GCD and inherent lag, plus assuming you weren't casting anything else. If you could reach a 1 sec GCD, the potential is to keep LB going on up to 6 targets. Reality might fall around the 5 LB mark, though. Even then, that's a lotta HoT'ness.
Up until this point I've just been talking about haste theory with some practical application thrown in for good measure. Equipment is really where the rubber hits the road. First stop? Dashing your hopes and dreams on the jagged rocks of reality. If you want to reach a 1 sec GCD, you need 785 haste rating or 50% spell haste. From a pure equipment standpoint, you won't make it. The most haste you can get from current gear is about 360 or 680 with the trinket proc. This is assuming you're mixing in mail pieces, too.
Now, don't get all misty-eyed just yet. Just because you can't gear up to the holy grail of fast casting, it doesn't mean it's a lost cause. Remember what I said about Bloodlust/Heroism? There's 43% spell haste right there every 10 min for 40 sec per Shaman. So with just a bit of haste gear (109 haste rating), you'll at least be able to live in bliss about once a fight.
So here's a breakdown what you have to work with right now:
Black Morass: Trinket
Heroic Badges: Plate Gloves, Cloth Pants, Mail Belt
Zul'Aman: Cloak, Mail Chest, Ring, Mace, Neck, Mail Shoulders
Mount Hyjal and Black Temple: Cloak, Ring, Leather/Mail Gloves, Cloth/Leather/Plate/Mail Belt
MH/BT BoP Craftable: Plate/Mail/Leather/Cloth Shoulders (Patterns are BoE)
MH/BT BoE Craftable: Plate/Mail/Leather/Cloth Bracers (Patterns are BoP)
I'm going to start with the general healing items and the first stop is trinkets. The [Scarab of the Infinite Cycle] is a good healing trinket of its own merit plus it gives you a chance for 320 spell haste over 6 sec with about a 10% proc rate. Since it's unique, you can play around with different combinations and upgrade the other slot as you go along. This would be a good trinket for just about anyone that wants to try out haste.
For cloaks, you're looking at a trade-off of mp5 and possibly spirit for haste. In the T4/T5 category, [Cloak of Ancient Rituals], you're looking at roughly 25 haste for 7mp5. In the T6 realm of things, [Shroud of the Highborn], you'll get 32 haste for either 20 spi and 11 healing (Priests/Druids) or 11mp5 (Pallies/Shamans). You'll also have to kill Illidan to get your hands on the haste cloak at this item level range. We had this cloak drop a couple of times and we're still not convinced that it's worth the trade-off.
Rings are pretty fun for haste since neither are unique and both have mp5. The ZA one, [Signet of the Quiet Forest], is from the 3rd chest of the timed event. The other haste ring is a random drop from BT, [Blessed Band of Karabor]. What you'll sacrifice for haste in this slot is crit or spirit, depending on which you itemize for, but generally you'll either gain or have about the same healing and mp5. What you'll have to do is determine if you have the spirit or crit to spare, especially if you plan on using two haste rings.
There are a lot of healing necklaces out there, but only one with haste, [Brooch of Nature's Mercy] and since it has spirit, it may not be appealing to Paladins and Shamans. It has a pretty solid +healing but lacks both the mp5 and crit other necks offer. I see it as a viable option for those in the T4/T5 range but question its use if you're a Paladin and have access to [Nadina's Pendant of Purity] from Mother Shahraz.
Only one haste healing weapon is currently in the game as well, [Dark Blessing]. Here are the other healing weapons. (Ignore the wands in that list. They couldn't be helped due to a main hand vs one hand glitch.) Also keep in mind you're comparing a mace + shield/off-hand to staves, assuming you can use them. The most obvious thing this haste mace lacks is any stam whatsoever. If you're currently using [Merciless Gladiator's Salvation], the differences are pretty minor past the stam loss. So I'd say this is a good mace through T4/T5 for Shamans and Paladins. I'm not sure Priests and Druids want to give up the spirit at this level, though. At Vashj and beyond you're looking at losses in mp5/crit compared to other maces, or a serious spirit loss if you like that sort of thing. But assuming those can be overcome, you're really not in danger of tossing this haste mace in the bank until [Apostle of Argus] from Archimonde or [Crystal Spire of Karabor] from Illidan.
At this point if you have a cloak, 2 rings, the necklace, and the mace you'll have a 148 haste rating in the T4/T5 range and a 155 haste rating if you have the T6 range items. You'll only need 4 of these 5 items to reach a 1 sec GCD with Heroism/Bloodlust. There isn't much difference between 148 and 155 haste rating, either mathematically or perceptually in-game. The primary difference is the other increased stats, like more +healing. With a 148 or 155 haste rating, your 1.5 sec or instant cast spells will have a 1.37 sec cast time. Your 2.5 sec spells will be at 2.28 sec. If you have the trinket, a proc will take you to 1.16 sec and 1.93 sec, respectively. This is of course before lag.
The point I'm trying to make is even a relatively small amount of haste can benefit your casting speed. You don't necessarily need a full set to see some improvement, especially if you can't afford to sacrifice the mana regeneration properties of traditional healing items.
At this point I think I'm going to let all this information soak into your brain cells. Next week I'll finish this puppy off by covering the class specific haste items (shoulders, bracers, etc.) plus all the Patch 2.4 haste goodies we just found out about. Hope to see you then!
Marcie Knox has been healing lead for over a year, including old school AQ40/BWL/Naxx. She has suffered through holy priest and now basks in the glory that is healadin. Her pally is currently wishing the T6 shoulders or chest would drop. Like more than once ever. /has Kara mace flashbacks