The Light and How to Swing It: How to compare intellect and spirit in Mists of Pandaria

Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Light and How to Swing It for holy, protection and retribution paladins. Every Sunday, Chase Christian invites you to discuss the finer side of the paladin class: the holy specialization. Feel free to email me with any questions you want answered, like why paladins are so awesome.

With Mists of Pandaria coming up on the horizon, many holy paladins are looking ahead to the changes that the expansion will bring. Most of the talent and ability info is still very malleable at this point, and as such, I haven't begun to worry or get excited just yet. One thing that we do know is that in Mists, intellect will finish the transformation that it started in Cataclysm. Intellect is going to become a throughput-only stat, as it will stop increasing our maximum mana.

Today, intellect and longevity are nearly synonymous. Replenishment and Divine Plea are two of our largest mana sources, and they both scale off of our intellect. Most paladins are sporting intellect gems and trinkets, and intellect flasks and food fill up our bags. Holy paladins have been leaning on intellect for a long time due to its versatility, and it seemed like the decision to roll spell power into intellect would permanently ensure intellect's role as our best stat. By decoupling intellect and mana, the developers are changing everything we know about gearing a healer.

Forced to choose

Today, holy paladins are able to have their Conjured Mana Cake and eat it too. Intellect gives us everything we could want out of a single stat. Blizzard's developers are forcing us to choose between the two most important aspects of healing: throughput and regeneration.

While I loved being able to socket my gear mindlessly with Brilliant Inferno Rubies, I understand that creating tension between stats ultimately results in a more interesting gearing environment. Our secondary stats are almost to the point now where all three are balanced, and moving intellect and spirit to that same system makes sense. We need to learn how to handle the balance between intellect and spirit now.

Fixed mana pools for everyone

The key change in Mists is that intellect will no longer provide us with 15 mana per point, effectively fixing the size of our mana pools. While we'll still have mana pools up in the six-digit range, they won't see any increase from tier to tier. Every raiding holy paladin will end up with the same amount of maximum mana. We don't know how Divine Plea, Replenishment, or Arcane Torrent will scale under this model, but my money is on spirit becoming a factor here. As a thought, I wouldn't mind seeing Arcane Torrent grant us holy power points instead of mana in Mists.

Because every holy paladin starts with the same mana pool, the only differentiator in our longevity will be spirit. If one holy paladin has more spirit than another, then they have more longevity. It's as simple as that. Rather than trying to figure out whether one paladin's extra intellect makes up for the other's spirit trinkets, spirit will simply be the first and last word. Need more longevity? Get spirit. It will be as simple as that.

Intellect can still save mana

While intellect itself isn't going to increase our mana pool or affect any of our regeneration mechanics, it can still save us some mana. If the increase throughput that we see from intellect allows us to use fewer heals to get the job done, we've saved mana by using less mana. Intellect allows us to deal more healing per mana point spent, which means that the mana we do have goes further.

How do we figure out what we need more of? If our raid members are dying because they're taking too much damage, we probably need more intellect. If people are dying because we ran out of mana, then we probably need more spirit. Outside of those two simply scenarios, we will have to dig into the details of the encounter at hand and the healing environment in order to figure out whether intellect or spirit is the most effective choice.

What do we stack now?

Holy paladins are going to have some soul searching to do when Mists of Pandaria goes live. We don't have to worry about balancing our throughput stats against our longevity stats today, and so it's going to be a tough transition period for us. We are still going to need intellect to strengthen our heals; it's not going anywhere as our primary stat. Spirit isn't even necessarily getting any stronger -- it will just be the only game left in town when it comes to regeneration.

Today, we prioritize intellect and spirit gear over everything else. Haste, crit, and mastery are merely the secondary stats for us. It's not like we can reforge the intellect on our gear to spirit, since intellect is still technically a primary stat. The question is going to come down to the flex spots on our gear, like enchants, gems, and trinkets. The choice between intellect and spirit is going to be a tough one to make, and I imagine that it will depend heavily on the healing environment we raid in and the specific tier we're facing. I can easily imagine swapping in my spirit trinkets for a longer fight and then swapping back to intellect trinkets for a fight with incredibly heavy incoming damage.

The Light and How to Swing It: Holy helps holy paladins become the powerful healers we're destined to be. Find out just how masterful mastery healing can be, gear up with the latest gear, and learn how to PvP as a holy paladin.