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Spiritual Guidance: Holy priest stat weights revisited

Dawn Moore

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. Dawn Moore covers the healing side of things for discipline and holy priests. She also writes for and produces the Circle of Healing Podcast.

It's been a pretty slow week for priest-related news, so it looks like I'll finally be able to get back on schedule and finish my stat weight series. It's funny how class news always sweeps through like a tornado, grabbing up everything in its path for a short time before disappearing. Personally, I'd prefer something more consistent, but I guess the only way Blizzard could manage that is do away with the other nine classes and change the game to World of Priestcraft. One class, 30 different specs ("paladin" would be one of them), divided up between two factions: holy and shadow. It'd be like the Crusades, or Aion, except not as depressing as both of those were.

If you didn't read my previous article on discipline priest stat weights, let me give you some foundation to what I'll be talking about today. What I've been doing is looking over some common playstyles that priests use, then using the healing priest theorycrafting spreadsheet from the Elitist Jerks forums to try and determine what stats benefit a certain playstyle most. My thinking was since not all playstyles utilize the same set of core spells, there might be a better way for each playstyle to prioritize stats, rather than following one general priority system.

Before we get started, you should keep in mind that intellect is always held in the highest priority for throughput and mana. After that, you'll want to get as much spirit as you possibly can until you feel that mana is no longer an issue. There is no right or wrong amount of spirit, as long as you feel you can get through the fights your raid team is working on without going OOM too early. Remember, heroic-difficulty encounters will always demand more mana from healers, even with the huge nerfs that recently hit The Firelands.

Holy stat weights

For the entirety of Cataclysm, holy priests have been looking at the same basic stat priority.

Intellect > Spirit > Haste > Mastery > Crit

Does it still hold up with all the buffs, nerfs, gear, and different encounters designs? Yes. What about the patch 4.2 crit heal changes? Another yes. What surprised me though was that every form of holy healing prefers this stat priority but one. Holy tank healing, holy raid healing, and variations that combine the two all prefer haste stacking to any other form of gearing. If we refer to the spreadsheet, we see that haste stacking brings the HPS of almost every possible rotation ahead by a landside amount. After that, mastery comes ahead of crit but with a significantly smaller difference than the one between haste and mastery.

There are a few reasons for haste being so strong for holy priests. First, the improvements made in patch 4.0 allowed HOTs to benefit from haste. Second, the general design of the class doesn't create any stat synergy the way discipline does. (For a disco priest, mastery and crit build off of one another, so balancing the two has a similar effect to stacking the one stat the way a holy priest does.)

Finally, our spell rotation is oriented largely around abilities with cast times, so by lowering the cast time of our spells, we see a huge impact on our HPS overall. Of course, we drop instant-cast spells like Circle of Healing or Prayer of Mending when the cooldowns have ticked down, but every other moment we spend casting a Flash Heal or a Prayer of Healing. Those fractions of seconds we shave off pay off and can become one, two, or three extra spells we wouldn't have otherwise had the time to cast.

So to clarify, if you tank heal as a holy priest, raid heal, or do a bit of both in 10-man raids, you want as much haste as you can possible find after you're good on spirit. Additional mastery and crit is fine, but anything you can turn into haste, you should. Haste caps aren't really an issue, since even if you can hit the 1-second GCD, you can still stand to reduce the cast time on frequently used abilities like Prayer of Healing and Greater Heal.

All but one, you say?

I mentioned one form of healing that does not follow the standard stat priority, and that was Renew spamming. Renew spamming still benefits the most from haste but prefers crit to mastery. This is because the holy priest mastery Echo of Light activates off direct healing. The only direct healing Renew can do is through the talent Divine Touch, which adds an initial direct heal for 5 or 10% of the value of the Renew. That means in a Renew spam situation, only 10% of your healing at most can utilize mastery; thus, crit is better, especially since no one is going to exclusively use Renew for their healing.

But wait! Renew spam is terrible. Well, it's not that bad, but it's hasn't been a great way to heal since Wrath of the Lich King. So the fact that it doesn't utilize mastery as well as crit is kind of a non-issue. ... I just figured I'd explain what that "one" form of holy healing was. The more you know, right?

Defining balance

There was one more thing I wanted to touch on before wrapping things up this week. When I wrote my first stat weight article a few weeks ago, there was a question in the comments that I thought was particularly good because it asked for some clarification on something I had repeatedly referenced but not elaborated on or defined. The question came from reader Ayanamilily, who asked "What is meant by 'balance?' Is it keeping the mastery, crit, and haste rating amounts close? Or is it percentage-based, like keeping 12 points of mastery with 12% haste and crit?"

The first response from Justacronk provided a good start to the answer. He said, "As I understand it, you want to balance the rating, not the final product. So 1 Haste Rating = 1 Critical Strike Rating = 1 Mastery Rating."

As Justacronk explains, the individual rating is what should be compared, not the percentages. Hopefully that will fill in anyone who was in the dark about that, but before I finish, I want to tell you that balancing stats doesn't have to be a perfect science. You don't need to break out the beam balance and delicately slide things around until everything is perfectly equal. What you need to do is look at your secondary stats overall and make sure one in particular does not stand apart from the rest. Just use common sense.

Wrapping things up

Priests should be aware that with patch 4.3 on the way, I expect a few minor changes to affect our HPS output and our mana consumption. First, the mana efficiency of Circle of Healing will change a little with the planned change to the Glyph of Circle of Healing. Another potential change is the one being made to Tome of Light, which MMO-Champion pointed out a few days ago in PTR build 14809. If you haven't seen it, it reads as follows.

  • Tome of Light now reduces the cooldown of your Holy Word spells by 30/60%, up from 15/30%.

And that change comes before the tier 13 four-piece bonus, which will increase the duration of Holy Word abilities by 33%. (Did I mention Blizzard upped it to 33% from 20% by the way? Hmm ... I guess not. Well, now you know.) Toss in the mana cost reduction to Holy Word: Sanctuary, and you can be sure holy priest playstyles are going to change a little bit for the better. I would not expect stat priorities to change dramatically even if existing playstyles are altered, but we'll explore things once 4.3 goes live and everything is more cemented.

Oh, and since I did happen to get around to writing the stat weight article this week like I wanted to, I'll save that picture of Fox Van Allen being saved from a space octopus for another time before the end of the year. This will give me more time to polish up the paint on the rocket ship and the sparkles in Fox's shiny hair.

[Also, I want to throw out a final thanks to B.G. and E.H., who sent me screenshots of their priests for this week's article when I was stuck using terrible wireless internet in Atlantic City and couldn't log in to take one myself.]

Spiritual Guidance has the inside line on pre-raid, valor point and raid gear for patch 4.2. Newcomer to the priest class? Look into leveling a healing priest, plus our guides to Discipline Priest 101 and Holy Priest 101.

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