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Spiritual Guidance: Reforging, gemming and GCD tactics for 4.0.1 priests

Dawn Moore

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. On Sundays, Dawn Moore covers healing for disc and holy priests while simultaneously battling her shadow priest rival, Fox Van Allen. This week, Dawn has been practicing her peacock pose so she can challenge Fox in Wii yoga.

Now that Blizzard has announced when Cataclysm is being released, we finally know how long we've got left in Wrath of the Lich King to finish what we want to get done (or twiddle our thumbs and play more StarCraft 2). The past two weeks, I've talked about getting ready for patch 4.0.1, and since we've got a bit more time than I expected to cover Cataclysm healing, leveling and more before the release, I'm going to go ahead and tidy up the last of my 4.0.1 advice by updating my recommendations for priest gems, and tackling reforging. I'll be paying some specific attention to the soft haste cap and GCD (global cooldown) so you'll know how to stay min-maxed for the last two months of the expansion.

Reforging? What's that?

I haven't really touched on reforging before now because I forgot to it's really quite simple. All reforging does is add another level of customization to your gear, just like gems. It lets you trade existing stats on your gear for more desirable stats, and it's really quite fantastic for everyone. As the game and our gear changes, we'll we'll be able to adjust our stats to whatever we need. Mana problems starting to subside? Take off some spirit. Upgraded an item and now you're under haste cap? Add a little haste.

To reforge your gear, go to a reforger in any major city and start dropping pieces of your gear into the window that opens when you talk to the NPC. (Be careful to replace gear onto your body or into your bags after you reforge them, so you don't accidentally delete anything.) Each piece of gear you put in the window will have a drop down menu on the left side of the window that displays the possible stats you can convert. As a priest healer, the only stats you should find in patch 4.0.1 that can be converted are spirit, haste and crit (possibly hit, if you looted any hit gear.) When you select one of those stats, another drop-down menu will appear on the right side of the window. In this second menu, you'll find a bunch of different stats you can convert your unwanted stats into. You'll find spirit, haste, crit and mastery, as well as unwanted stats like dodge, parry, hit or expertise.

So what stats should you take off your gear, and what should you put on? Well, it's up to you. I've said in the previous weeks that mana isn't too much to worry about, so you probably won't need to raise your spirit levels. You can lower them if you want, but remember that all healers (even disc priests) want spirit now for mana regeneration. You'll want to be careful about how much you take off all at once, since you could end up overdoing it. You don't want to be that guy who in the middle of a raid has to go back to town to fix something because you're running OOM (out of mana.) Don't be that guy!

Moving along, I'm going to talk about haste and crit a little bit later in the gems section, so lets skip ahead to mastery. What is mastery? Well, if you're disc it's a stat that increases the strength of your shields. If you're holy, it increases the amount of the HoT that is applied when you do any direct healing (note, HoTs like Renew are not direct heals.) There hasn't been too much theorycrafting on mastery yet, though theorycrafter Bob Turkey says it's a bit weak at the moment. I'm inclined to trust Bob, but I'm going to wait a week or two before I give you my own assessment on the stat because I want to see how I and some other priests handle the new talent trees in raids. Both disc's Shield Discipline and holy's Echo of Light are really reliant on how frequently you are using them, and in beta the healing style in 5-mans hasn't lent itself well to mastery being universally strong for both specs. Thus I want to wait and see what happens with healing, and from there Zusterke and I will figure out if we need to play with mastery in mind, or not. Unlike DPS, I don't think healing can always be about what produces the most output, and I want to keep that in mind when we start figuring out what spells are strongest, and how mastery plays into all of it. I'm sorry if that's inconclusive for now, but I want to be sure! (Also, Zusterke: congratulations!)

General gemming

You won't really need to regem too dramatically from what you've had the past few months. You'll noticed some changes as soon as you log in, assuming you have at least one Runed Cardinal Ruby on your gear somewhere. Starting with this next patch, you will no longer actively see spellpower as a stat on gems or gear. (The exceptions to this are weapons and a few trinkets.) Instead you'll just see intellect, and as a result all your old spellpower gems will have magically transformed into 20 intellect gems. Intellect converts directly into spellpower. So if you were stacking spellpower before, intellect is the stat you'll want, but your spellpower gems will automatically convert to intellect gems, so there should be no effort on your part.

If you do want to regem though, I still recommend a balanced variety of stats for the average priest. A little bit of everything (spellpower, haste, and or crit) depending on what you have from gear and reforging. You shouldn't need to worry about regen, especially since intellect now handles mana and spellpower. (As a note, if you had any MP5 before, it will also have transformed in the patch. It's now spirit.) So the big question is still going to be haste or crit? Again, balance. Zusterke always told me that a good way to think of how to get the most out of crit and haste as a priest is to compare your stats to the formula for surface area. Remember back in math class when you'd find the area of a rectangle by multiplying the width by the height? Well, you can calculate HPS from haste and crit similarly. This isn't exact min-max theorycrafting, but it's a quick way to visualize how haste and crit work together and what you're getting when you increase one stat and gimp the other.

If it isn't clear from the picture, increasing the smaller side will give you more total product. For clarity, haste and crit are interchangeable, and can be either a or b. So basically, if you have a lot of haste, you'll want more crit to get better HPS performance out of the haste, and vice versa. This theory applies to general healing, and not necessarily a specific min-max playstyle, like bubble-spam.

The haste cap and GCD

Now let's get to the crux of my article. Last week, Maryse left a comment on my article and asked about the GCD cap for disc priests, given that discos have lost Enlightenment and had Borrowed Time tweaked. Without wanting to do much math (because I don't want to set anything in stone until Cataclysm), I hopped onto the PTR and moved some gear around to get some rough numbers.

Now, disc and holy priests who have been playing over the past year will know that healing styles featuring Power Word: Shield and Renew spam have been very popular due to their effectiveness. As such, there was a big priority placed on getting a player's GCD down to the lowest possible amount at 1.0 second. The base GCD is 1.5 seconds, so to shave off the extra .5, priests would use a combination of haste from gear, gems and talents so that they could maximize the output of a single, instant-cast spell. Disc priests had it really easy by getting a sufficient amount of haste because of Borrowed Time, while holy priests didn't. This imbalance stuck out more when you considered that holy priests still needed so many other stats (like crit), while disc did not.

With 4.0.1, Borrowed Time will be nerfed, so disc priests will need to get a lot more haste than they're used to. To get to get a GCD of 1.0 second after casting Power Word: Shield, you'll now need almost exactly 25 percent haste on your character pane. On PTR, without making any changes to my super-bubble-spammer gear, I had 12 percent haste, so if you're min-maxed for shield spam, you're going to be hurting for a low GCD. Fortunately for me, I have a holy gear set, which after swapping out a few gems, got me easily to 25 percent haste.

To get that as a holy priest, though, is still another story. At 28 percent haste (I have two points in Darkness in the shadow tree), I was able to get a 1.1 second GCD. This was wearing the same holy gear I mentioned in the previous sentence and swapping out a little less than half of my gems to pure haste. I tried to go higher than this by placing a haste gem in every socket and got up to 35 percent haste, but I never reached the golden 1.0 second GCD. So my advice to holy priests? Get to at least 28 percent haste and allocate the rest of your gem slots to other gems. You can get more to decrease your casting time on longer-cast-time spells, but try to stay balanced. If you want to go up to 30 percent haste, that's fine, but don't focus so much on the 1.0 second mark, because you have to compromise too much for it. Renew Chakra lowers the GCD on your Renew anyway, so if you're spamming, you're already way ahead. When you ding 81 in two months, the scaling on all these stats will change anyway, so there is no reason to get married to haste stacking. (Just put the haste down, and back away ...) What you want at 85 is dramatically different than what you want at 80.

The future of spamming

I want to offer sort of a disclaimer given the last section, as it is something I haven't really touched on yet but will in future weeks, when I start talking more about Cataclysm gameplay. Basically, spamming is dead. My buddy Derevka over at Tales of a Priest summed it up pretty well on Twitter the other day, saying, "You are selling yourself way short if that [bubble spam] is all you do in 4.0/Cataclysm ... big time." The new and changed spells that priests, both disc and holy, have are going to trump what you can get out of a single spell, and you'll do much better if you use all the spells you have, rather than one. This means you too, Renew spammers. We'll get more into this in the coming weeks, though, so stay tuned.

So just a quick recap on what to gem: If you're concerned with your GCD being low, follow the haste guidelines I provided (25 percent for disc, 28 percent for holy) using orange intellect + haste gems until you get the numbers you want. Remember that two intellect + whatever gems are stronger than one pure intellect gem and one pure whatever gem. However, when you've satisfied all your other stats, a pure intellect gem will still stack up the most spellpower for you.

Now, we just need to count down to 4.0.1.

Want to find more great tips for carrying out your priestly duties? Spiritual Guidance has you covered with all there is to know. Check out Holy 101 or Disc 101 for an introduction to healing as a priest; for the party-minded healer, check out a priest's guide to tanks.

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