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The Light and How to Swing It: New tools for evaluating holy paladins


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.

DPS classes have it easy. Their only goal is to deal more damage than the other guys. Their existence revolves around a single, immutable metric: DPS. There's no ambiguity when comparing two damage classes, as their DPS speaks for itself. As a DPS player's gear and skill improve, it directly increases their damage done, allowing them to evaluate their performance clearly and instantly.

Evaluating a healer is much more difficult. As their group's damage and skill improve, their healing numbers will actually go down. Healers are relied on the most when a raid is attempting a new encounter and gradually become marginalized as the fight moves toward farm status. As a healer, your best HPS performance might be the very first time you down an encounter. If you're killing heroic Ultraxion in four minutes, your raid simply isn't taking enough damage for you to parse highly. In order to properly evaluate a holy paladin's play, you have to dig deeper.

Begin with the basics

When you first start evaluating your healing parses on World of Logs, there are several easy items to examine first. You want to maintain 100% Judgements of the Pure and Beacon of Light uptime, you want to be using your cooldowns like Divine Plea and Divine Favor on every encounter, and you want to ensure that you're spamming Holy Shock on cooldown. The basics of playing a holy paladin properly are easily divinable from World of Logs, and you should start there first. If you're still finding that you're being outpaced by other holy paladins, then you need to get down to the details.

Pick a difficult fight

If you're examining your healing parses from an easy encounter, like the Raid Finder version of Morchok, you're not going to uncover any useful information. Healers can only heal when there's damage being done to the tanks or the raid. If you want to figure out exactly how well you're performing, you need to push your holy paladin to the limit. The later Dragon Soul encounters like the Madness of Deathwing are a good start, while parses from the heroic fights will be especially relevant.

If you only play your holy paladin in dungeons and the Raid Finder, then there's really not much for you to evaluate. You're never going to push the class to its limits, and so you can't properly evaluate your performance. You can breeze through most dungeons by doling out a Holy Radiance every now and then, or by casting a few Holy Lights, or by unloading a few Divine Lights. Performance evaluation is only really effective when you're trying to squeeze all the healing you can out of the class.

Look for long delays

When we went over the total number of heals that a holy paladin can cast in a fight, we learned that you can basically cast Holy Light forever. With our Dragon Soul-quality gear, there's really no excuse to be dormant during a heroic encounter. There's nearly always someone that's not at full life, and we have mana-efficient heals that we can use to help ourselves stay ahead of the healing curve.

One of the easiest ways to spot underperforming healers is to look for long delays between healing casts. If you use the Log Browser on World of Logs to identify "Spell cast" start times, you can isolate a particular healer's casting habits. I like to dump the resulting times into Excel, and then I quickly examine the number of seconds between each casting entry.

Any delay longer than three or four seconds between casts deserves to be examined in detail. If you're finding yourself not casting for long periods of time, try to figure out what was going on in the encounter. It's fine if you don't cast for a few seconds on Ultraxion, provided that you're using Heroic Will to avoid an Hour of Twilight. However, if you're seeing long delays toward the end of the encounter when healing is the most hectic, then you're hurting your healing potential greatly. You need to be hustling constantly to conquer Dragon Soul's most difficult fights.

Each encounter is obviously very different. Your best bet is to compare your healing delays with that of another holy paladin on that same encounter, which will give you an idea of how other holy paladins are performing. Obviously varying levels of haste are going to cause different paladins to record different delays between healing, which is why you should focus on the longer delays between healing casts. You should be able to explain every single casting pause longer than three or four seconds.

Look for small delays

Once you're done troubleshooting your long pauses, you can start working on your shorter pauses between casts. Assuming a typical casting time of 1.5 seconds, your delay between the start of each cast will be 1.5 seconds if you're spamming that heal. If you wait a quarter of a second between each cast, then you'd see a 1.75-second delay between spells. If you're waiting a full second between casts, your delay will be closer to 2.5 seconds in length.

excel spreadsheet
If you throw out your aberrant delays from periods of low damage, Heroic Will presses, and the like, you can examine your typical time between casts. I throw out any delay longer than four seconds, and then I use Excel to find the average of the remaining casting delays. In my anecdotal research, I find that a delay of 1.6-1.9 seconds is fairly standard for an active holy paladin, while 2.0 seconds or longer is typically the signature of a lazier holy paladin. You really can only use this metric on a tough encounter to ensure that any lulls in casting are mistakes and not simply periods of low incoming damage. For best results, compare yourself with other holy paladins on that encounter as a control group.

I learned one way to reduce my time between heals from playing a rogue for many years: Mash your keys. World of Warcraft has a spell queuing system, where pressing a button right before your current cast finishes will result in immediately starting the next spell when the first one finishes. If you're constantly mashing your Holy Light and Holy Shock button, you can be sure that your next heal is coming with nearly no delay from the last one. If you wait for each spell to complete before casting your next one, you're vulnerable to the latency and reaction times that will reduce your healing output.

Let me know if you enjoy articles like this, with a heavy emphasis on math and parsing combat logs. Playing a healer is so different from a DPS class, which is what makes evaluating our performance so difficult. I enjoy digging deep into the combat logs for ways to make myself a better healer, and so I hope that you find that useful as well. Feel free to post a comment if you have any questions or ideas for how you like to evaluate yourself or other holy paladins, and we can get into the details and examples.

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.

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