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The Light and How to Swing It: Holy Shock mechanics


Every Sunday, Chase Christian of The Light and How to Swing It invites you to discuss the finer side of the paladin class: the holy specialization. This week, we discuss my least favorite healing spell, Holy Shock; though I might be changing my mind about that.

I have been going over my guild's World of Logs parses for heroic Sindragosa recently, trying to find any holes in our strategy or areas that we can improve upon. While browsing the statistics, I examined the balance of healing spells I had employed. Our wipes were fairly typical fights by any account, with a 50/50 mix of healing from Holy Lights and Flash of Lights, and the rest of my healing coming from Beacon of Light and Judgement of Light. I noticed that Holy Shock was all the way at the bottom of my healing done chart, below even the Infusion of Light FoL HoT and the Glyph of Holy Light splashes.

I'll admit it now, I have never really been a fan of Holy Shock. My very first character was a paladin that I tried leveling as holy, to take advantage of that seemingly awesome ranged attack, since that was the core weakness of paladins at the time. The concept of healers and tanks had never occurred to me, since I had never played a collaborative RPG before. Once I picked up HS from the talent tree, I found out that it was just a terrible spell that happened to cost 31 talent points. Disappointed, I put my paladin on the bench for several months. After realizing how little I was utilizing it in Icecrown Citadel, I decided to give Holy Shock one last chance to redeem itself in my mind.

First of all, Holy Shock is instant cast -- that is its most important virtue. Outside of the long CD of Lay on Hands, it's our only direct heal that we can cast while moving. I have gotten into the rhythm of using my Judgement spell any time I have to move, as well as using those few moments to refresh Beacon or Sacred Shield. I realized that by not using Holy Shock every time that I moved, I was missing the opportunity to increase my healing done. It's not that I was never using Holy Shock, because if I saw someone dip into the red zone, I already had HS bound to a reaction key to save their life. The issue was that I had a mental roadblock that told me not to use HS, because the mana cost was too high and the healing was too low.

Holy Shock's vitals
Due to the amount of healing done and the speed of doing that healing, Holy Shock finds itself next to Flash of Light when grouping holy paladin abilities. In a raid environment, with Judgements of the Pure active, both spells are simply one GCD abilities. Holy Shock scales with spellpower at a 0.81 ratio, while Flash of Light scales at a 1.0 ratio. This means that for every point of spellpower that I add to my gear, Holy Shock increases by a smaller amount than Flash of Light. However, at our current spellpower levels of around 3,000 SP, Holy Shock will still heal for a greater amount than Flash of Light. Even though its scaling is worse, the base healing value makes up for that deficiency. FoL actually won't overtake HS in term of healing until 8,500 spellpower, which may not even be possible to achieve in the finest gear of Cataclysm. In short, Holy Shock heals for more than Flash of Light.

When we start to look at mana costs, we all know that Flash of Light is so crazy efficient that you can chain cast it for 10 minutes without running out of mana. Holy Shock, on the other hand, is right in the middle of FoL and HL in terms of mana cost. Once I started thinking about the fact that HS actually costs a lot less than a HL, I started realizing that I could add more Holy Shocks into my rotation without worrying about mana issues. I take all the proper precautions in a fight, like meleeing with Seal of Wisdom and using Divine Plea whenever possible to ensure my mana is the highest that it can be. I rarely have mana problems that aren't solvable, and so adding in a few spells that are actually cheaper to cast than a Holy Light shouldn't cause my any issues with my longevity. Holy Shock's mana cost is low enough that we can safely use it without worry.

While the casting speeds may be out of order, Holy Shock can actually fill the niche between Flash of Light and Holy Light fairly well. Obviously its cooldown prevents it from being a bread-and-butter ability, but when using the eponymous glyph, we can work it into our repertoire pretty easily. I've been trying to use Holy Shock for raid healing any time that I would've used a Holy Light instead. A great example is on the heroic version of Blood Queen Lana'thel. There is a constant AoE damage pulse that is unlikely to kill a player directly but we must keep everyone topped off so that her other abilities don't finish them off. If a player is hovering at 50%, I could've previously spent the time casting a Flash of Light which wouldn't have brought them up to full HP. I also could spend even more time and mana using a Holy Light which will do a lot of overhealing, and risk having the player die to some other attack in the time it takes me to cast HL.

Holy Shock has a niche
Instead, I can simply fill that gap with a Holy Shock. Not only do I reduce the chance of that player dying to a Bloodbolt Whirl while I'm casting, it also cost me less mana than the Holy Light option. Once we factor in the perks gained from Infusion of Light on a critical Holy Shock, it's clear that HS fills a specific role: bigger than FoL, and faster than HL, with a mana cost that is right in the middle. While I still won't use Holy Shock to heal a tank unless they are in the most dire of situations (and even then I'm using my Divine Favor macro), I do see the value in using it to help me handle raid healing a bit quicker. It can also help prevent "heal sniping," since the player will instantly be topped off in the other healers' Grid windows.

Holy paladins already favor using the biggest heal possible regardless of mana due to our powerful regeneration and huge base mana pool, so using Holy Shock in place of a Flash of Light every 6 seconds fits into our existing healing mindset. In Cataclysm, when we move to a 3-heal model, Holy Shock will likely find itself in the same position, right between our fast and medium speed heals. Its mana cost has to stay low in order for us to want to use it, so its cooldown will be used to prevent us from abusing it too badly. Since we are receiving this spell as a baseline ability in Cataclysm, I am hoping to see something interesting done with the talent point slot that it used to inhabit. Perhaps some effect where a Holy Shock onto a Beaconed target causes the heal to replicate to several nearby targets? Only time will tell what plans Blizzard has for Holy Shock, but I hope that they keep it in mind when designing the holy paladin healing model. We need to keep an instant heal in our toolbox, and Holy Shock is the best candidate for the job.

The Light and How to Swing It (Holy Edition) is dedicated to helping holy paladins become the powerful healers that we're destined to be. If you're new to the paladin's healing ways, you can learn the ropes with our Holy 101 article. We also have information on how to keep a tank alive, how to heal a raid when necessary and how to beat the GCD. Tanking is a job, DPS is a craft -- but healing is truly an art.

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