Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Patch 4.0.1 Testing - Paladin, Rogue and Warrior

The experience of leveling each of these melee classes is very different than the others. Here's my quick summary of what Blizzard got right and what went wrong in terms of the early levels.

Rogue (Gnome)
Rogues start off well enough. One of the best changes they made is that at low level a one combo point Eviscerate hits for more than a Sinister Strike. At level three you are fighting boars by alternating Eviscerate and Sinister Strike. At seven it was two Sinister Strikes per Eviscerate. At level eight you get Ambush and everything goes pretty wonky. Ambush tends to half-kill things, so Ambush + Eviscerate and auto-attacks are all I used. Sometimes I would be waiting five seconds for stealth to cool down before proceeding to the next mob. I was having so much fun with Ambush that I picked Subtlety at level 10 and proceeded on to Loch Moden. Unfortunately I very quickly started to feel like a one-trick pony. With the early talents in Subtlety I got critical Ambushes as often as I didn't, which meant one-shotting things. When I didn't one shot things a critical Eviscerate would finish them off. When that didn't happen it was amazing how slow and painful it was to finish them off. Fighting two enemies at a time was right out of the question unless I had Evasion up, and not even that secure with it. A 70% dodge chance pretty much guarantees the win against a single guy even without getting to lead with Ambush, but the fight takes a long time and I still take a lot of damage. With Sap at level 12 I got extra flexibility in what I could do, but in Loch Modan, which is rather crowded with Troggs and Kobolds, I was dying an awful lot. Maybe this would have turned out better with Combat, but Rogues felt very weak compared to other classes for almost all applications, except for obliterating single targets for which they were grossly overpowered.

Overall Grade: D

Paladin (Blood Elf)
The Paladin was a tale of extremes. The first thing you notice when you start playing a paladin is that every time you Crusader Strike your enemy (which is every 4.5 seconds), scrolling text appears to let you know that you gained 1 Holy Power. If I were a newcomer to the game in 4.0, rather than someone who is keeping up with all the forums, then by the time I hit level 5 I would figure I had well over 100 holy power and wonder what I was supposed to do with it. When you hit level 9 you finally learn Word of Glory and get your Holy Power bar under your unit frame, plus a brief explanation of how it works. At level 8 I was struggling a lot with enemies. My damage was quite low and it took me a long time to beat things. Word of Glory solved that by healing me for more than my max health. A free max health heal every 13.5 seconds really reverses your fortunes in a lot of battles. The option to instead take a free 75% heal every 9 seconds is handy too. So at level 9 I became totally invincible, but it was still slow to kill enemies. This might be because of the selection of weapons available to me from starting quests (no two-handed weapons from early quests). Since I was using a one handed weapon and shield at level 10 I figured I'd give protection a try rather than go with the obvious Retribution. Protection is an insane mess. I was fighting enemies with around 160-180 health. My Crusader Strike hit for 15-19. My Avengers shield hit for 150-160. I would gather three guys up and one shot them all with the shield, or at least leave them one auto-attack from death. If I got too many guys by accident I always had my instant cast, free, full heals to fall back on. Basically I was invincible, had a 24 second cooldown on my instant-cast three-target instant-death spell, and otherwise was nearly useless. After shaking my head at this for a bit I switched to retribution (only a 17s respec fee!) and tried that out. I ended up still using a one-hander because I got a green from a quest that had significantly more dps than any two-hander I could find. Templar's Verdict was pretty disappointing, doing only a little more damage than Crusader Strike with three holy power (I don't understand why or how, but that's what happened) and so I mostly just stuck with my Words of Glory and hitting people. My damage was quite a bit higher and I didn't have a move that did 90% of my enemies' health on a long cooldown so the game played a lot better. Still, being relatively low damage and at the same time completely invincible is not compelling gameplay. I have to admit that this experience probably would have been greatly improved by simply changing some quest rewards.

Overall Grade: C (if I was grading Prot, I would give it an F)

Warrior (Draenei)
Warriors begin with a new ability called Strike. It costs 20 rage and makes you hit your enemy. It also shares a cooldown with Bloodthirst, Mortal Strike and Shield Slam, so you retire it immediately at level 10. This is a really good idea and solves a problem that exists with several other classes. Warriors are supposed to have a hard-hitting ability to dump their rage into, but the ability they get is chosen by their talent spec. Similarly, paladins are supposed to have a Holy Power dump, but their primary Holy Power dump is chosen by their talent spec. For warriors, the solution was to give you a low level hold-over ability. For paladins, I don't know that any solution was even contemplated.

At level three warriors get charge and at level five they get Victory Rush. Victory Rush now heals you for a significant percentage of your maximum health so you can happily run from enemy to enemy and fight away. Of course at low level health regenerates so fast out of combat this doesn't matter at all, but it was pretty great for getting me through a fight with two enemies, especially when extra enemies added in midway through the fight. Rend has been improved in that it appears to get a tick immediately when applied. This made it useful when first learned even though enemies generally die pretty quickly at level seven. With charge keeping me moving and three different buttons that I actively used in combat, low level warriors are fairly simple, but not boring to play. There is some optimization to do in your button presses, but anyone who just hit their buttons would beat enemies at low level. I had just picked up a couple of one-handed weapons from quests with no two-handed alternative, so at level 10 I chose Fury. Bloodthirst did about 30% more damage than Strike, which seemed like a nice trade-up, but not fundamentally game changing. The small amount of healing from it also helped when I got in difficult situations. Usually I felt a little bit invincible because Victory Rush healing made it so I could beat an unlimited number of enemies in a row. But if I hadn't been careful in the Furbolg cave I easily could have engaged too many Owlbeasts at the same time and died. Every ability seemed to fit its niche very well. Thunderclap, for example, did enough damage that it was worth it to hit it when I was fighting more than one thing, but not worth hitting against one enemy.

Oh, and I don't know how long it's been this way, but they removed the damage penalty from Titan's Grip. I am thrilled.

Overall Grade: A

Friday, September 24, 2010

A factor of 10

I copied Sthenno over to the test realms yesterday just before they went down for the next patch because I wanted to see if the healing from Atonement was affected by Grace or Archangel. The answers were no and no, as I expected. What I didn't expect is that Atonement does not heal for 120% of the Smite damage as advertised, but rather for 12%.

I'm not really sure what to think about this. When they changed it to 120% I thought they were a little crazy, since this makes its healing coefficient per second well over double that of Heal's and with the mana return from Archangel means that Smite will replace Heal for discipline priests with about 4.5k spell power or more - that is, all discipline priests. At 12% I can't fathom how those points would ever be worth spending. With a factor of 10 it should be easy to tell which one is the bug and which one is intended, but to be honest I just don't know.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Some But Not Others

Now we've got a more complete picture of which achievements will be extended with new tiers and which will languish as they are. Here's a quick rundown:

Exalted Reputations: A new tier has been added to 45 reputations
Honorable Kills: A new tier has been added for 250k honorable kills
Battleground Wins: Still have an achievement for 1 and an achievement for 100 with nothing in between and no new tier added on
Got My Mind on My Money: Two new tiers added for 50k and 100k gold looted
Cooking Recipes: New tier for 200 recipes learned
Companion Pets: No new tier, still maxes out at 75 pets collected
Mounts: No new tier, still maxes out at 100 mounts collected
Tabards: No new tier, still maxes out at 25 tabards
Quests: No new tiers, still 3,000 quests completed and 1,000 daily quests completed
Fish: Still just 1000 fish caught to max out

Of course there is a feat for level 85 and 525 skill in various skills. We knew those were coming.

This list strikes me as very haphazard and random. Three different things were done with different multi-tier achievements. Some were left alone entirely, Some were given a new tier that a serious collector can easily have achieved by the time 4.0 hits, and some were given one or more new tiers that feature really outrageous numbers.

It's really disappointing to not have a new mount or pet number to shoot for. 75 is actually a really small number of pets, and 100 will become fairly easy in Cataclysm with the new mounts that are added (for Horde anyway). New new tier of quests or daily quests is quite baffling to me. Presumably they will be adding a very large number of quests to the game, why not ratchet up the high-water mark? I'm glad to see I'll be getting 10 more points for the number of exalted reputations I already have, but compared to what they did with some of the others, it doesn't pose a great new challenge.

Now gold looted and honorable kills are where they got it really, really right. 100k gold is a huge number, and while I don't doubt there are people who have looted that much already, there aren't a lot of them. Similarly, 250k honorable kills is a very big step up from 100k indeed. Just for fun I went and looked at the first player to get the Battlemaster achievement on the armory. He has only about 150k honorable kills. The player that appears to be the world first to get 100k honorable kills1 only had 155k now. 250k is really something to shoot for. I'd try to do similar benchmarking on gold looted but it doesn't show that statistic on the armory. All I know is that I have around 56k gold looted and I went to some pretty extreme lengths to get there.

Of course honorable kills and gold looted are both unlimited. You can always get more. Mounts, exalted reputations, pets and quests completed have caps. For mounts and pets the caps are noticeably lower for some than for others, since many mounts and pets have been phased out of the game. Still, anyone who was able to get 100 mounts in wrath should be able to pull of 120 in Cataclysm. Anyone who got 75 pets in Wrath should be able to get 100 in Cataclysm (100 is pretty easy right now). And leaving daily quests at 1000 seems really low. That number could easily go to 2000 or 3000, if not more. In reality, 10,000 would be more comparable to the 100k gold or 250k honorable kills achievements. It would require only just over a year of maxing out daily quests to get it done from scratch. If you can get 250k honorable kills or 100k gold looted in a year of diligent play I'll be impressed.

New tiers of existing achievements are probably really, really easy to add to the game, so I guess I won't be surprised if there are a couple more in the works. I really hope there are, because right now I don't feel like Cataclysm is bringing with it that much to achieve. New level cap, new skill, new raids, and all excluded, of course.

1. I assume this means he was the first player with 100k kills to log in after the achievement system went live, but still, 100k kills before the achievement system went live and being obviously still active in the game should put you pretty high up in the race.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Patch 4.0.1 Testing - Mage and Warlock

I have started testing the initial leveling experiences for each class on the PTR to get a feel for what they have done to improve the game for new players. A lot of the new features are pretty impressive, including some pretty decent tutorials. I assume that this will be even better with the new cataclysm zones since some of the initial quests are being reworked, but already I'm pretty impressed with how deep they were willing to go into tossing out old ideas to bring in new, better ones.

In this review I don't want to get too hung up on bugs, since bugs get fixed. It's more the intentional design decisions. Of course sometimes bugs have a significant impact on how a class plays and mar my ability to evaluate it properly, but I can still get the gist.

I'm going to be giving each class a letter grade based for the early play experience. What this grade means exactly is hard to say. I would like to say I'm grading based on the current experience and not on my perception of how much they have improved, but I think it would be dishonest to suggest I could completely separate those ideas, so lets say it will be heavily weighted to the current state with some acknowledgement of history. It's also impossible to escape the fact that I just like some classes better than others, but what can you do?

So far I have played Warlock and Mage. My warrior and paladin were both erased when the servers were renewed on Saturday and I'll have to start them again since I don't think I can give a reasonable review without getting to at least level 12 or so.

Warlock (Human)
It was nice to start with a pet right away, even without full control of it. Initial DoTs are quite powerful, allowing you to start two-dotting enemies at level four. Voidwalker is also much improved, as torment is now a strike that does significant damage in addition to increasing threat. At level 10 I chose destruction and was disappointed that Conflagrate is bugged (the damage is very low). Also, it is strange that as destruction Immolate takes over Shadow Bolt as your nuke. There wasn't much cool to look forward to in terms of talents until relatively high level. Mana was a consideration if I ran from mob to mob two-dotting but not really one if I nuked down one mob at a time. Not a huge change from how leveling felt with a warlock before the patch, but warlock leveling was always pretty fun.

Overall grade: B

Mage (Blood Elf)
Fireball is a real beating at level 1, dealing over 30 damage and allowing you to go on two shotting everything until you learn Fire Blast, which does about the same damage as an instant. Very quickly you get arcane missiles and start proc watching, making combat feel much more interactive than it would just spamming one spell. At level 10 I chose Arcane and even without yet having Arcane Blast it felt pretty good. Fights were quite variable depending on missile procs and every now and then a mob be reduced to a health value between Fire Blast and Arcane Barrage and my best action would actually be to just run past them for a second before finishing them off. After the first few levels I always wanted to have multiple attack spells on my bar and had lots of room to make good and bad choices between them. My first couple of talent points weren't that exciting, but the tier two talents were very enticing. Mana became a minor consideration in the mid teens when I found that when monster hunting I would run out of mana slightly before my second Evocation cooldown. So given nearly continuous combat I stopped to get my mana back about every 8 minutes, which felt pretty good. I played to level 21 because I was having such a good time.

Overall grade: A

Monday, September 20, 2010

Profession Perks

They replaced the bonus from Herbalism with something usable and potentially attractive. Rather than putting a short HoT on you, the herbalism bonus now grants you haste rating for 20 seconds once every 2 minutes. So it gives you an extra cooldown to punch, off the GCD. It still heals you for a nominal amount, but aside from soloing I can't see that mattering too much.

But there is a problem coming for profession perks in general, one that will make the former problem of herbalism not having a useful one for raiding seem minor. The issue is that different professions give you different options for what bonus stats you get. Every profession gives you approximately the same amount of bonus stats (or at least they are supposed to) but some give you one particular stat while others let you choose between stats.

Given the relative power of Strength, Agility and Intellect in cataclysm, professions that let you choose one of these stats will be far more powerful than professions that give you something like crit rating or haste rating. Using a parse of an old combat log, it appears that as things stand right now, haste rating is about 81% as good as Intellect for throughput, crit rating comes it at 28% (or practically useless). At the same time, Intellect is almost twice as good as Spirit for mana over a nine minute boss fight. It's more like 130% better if we drop it to five minutes.

Being more than twice as good as the other mana stat and around 25% better than the next best throughput stat at the same time means that getting 80 bonus points of something other than Intellect will always be far inferior to getting 80 bonus points of intellect. Since other classes are going to have similar relationships with Agility and Strength, I expect this means we will be seeing an awful lot of leatherworkers at max level in Cataclysm. Why leatherworking? Leatherworking not only allows give you the bonus 80 stat points in the form of an improved wrist enchant, but it allows you to replace the wrist enchant you would otherwise have taken with the stat you actually want. Sure, the maximum level bracer enchants give 65 haste or critical strike rating, and that is only replaced by 50 intellect, but in the healing priest example, 50 intellect is only barely behind 80 haste for throughput, and it has significant mana benefits as well, making it a fairly clear choice. For most dps classes I expect the 50 Strength, Agility or Intellect to simply be better than 65 of a rating.

This is just another case of how stat imbalance leads to problems. The conversion rates for ratings need another look to make sure we are interested in more than just one stat.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Scaling Discrepancies

I finally got onto the 4.0 PTR last night, so at long last I have the spell coefficients for heals. Of course I could get only an approximation for spells that have actual ranges, but from the approximations it is pretty easy to get the exact value. Power Word: Shield was 6/14 and Renew was 9/14. For all spells that had ranges, the average heal over 10 casts was within 0.05 of a whole number of 14ths (with the exception of Prayer of Mending), so we can assume that the whole number of 14ths is the precise value.

Here we go:
Flash Heal9/14
Greater Heal12/14
Power Word: Shield6/14
Prayer of Mending31.4%

I think prayer of mending is basically a 9/14 and suffering from a 50% penalty because it's an area of effect. Also, currently the coefficient on Power Word: Shield is actually zero, but if you extrapolate what it was meant to be from the Glyph you get the coefficient I gave above. Presumably this bug will be fixed before it goes live.

It also turns out my spell power estimates from earlier were much too low due to two factors. First, priests get a passive ability at level 50 that gives them 5% more intellect. Second, discipline priests get 15% more intellect as a passive bonus. This seems pretty weak compared to the holy priest 25% more healing, but we'll have to see how that shakes out in the end.

These numbers make for some pretty sensible choices between spells:

  • Heal has over double the mana efficiency of the next non-Penance competitor with less than half the throughput.
  • Penance has better mana efficiency by half than the best non-heal spammable option and is close but a little less than the throughput of greater heal, making it pretty much your automatic first button if Heal/Shield is not enough, so you'll cast Flash Heal and Greater Heal only when Penance is on cooldown.
  • Flash Heal is easily the strongest throughput, beating Greater Heal by around 25%, but by far the worst efficiency, around 5/6 of that of Greater Heal.
  • A Prayer of Mending that procs only once is the worst spell you can cast. If it procs twice then it's getting pretty close to - but it still strictly worse than - Greater Heal for both throughput and efficiency, so it's still a great spell, but only when you need it and only when it is going to work.
  • Renew is around the throughput of a Flash Heal with the mana efficiency of a Greater Heal, so you should use it over those when the damage distribution makes doing so possible.
  • Power Word: Shield is always better in mana efficiency and healing throughput than Greater Heal, so it is easily your best non-Heal heal.

It seems like everything in the single-target toolbox has a place.

What's interesting, though, is the change in the way heals are going to be scaling. Notice that the spell power coefficients of all heals have been drastically reduced. Even Flash Heal, now around 64%, was a little over 80% in Wrath. They've stuck with the casting time divided by 3.5 model for most things, but removed the 1.88 multiplier that was added in when healing power was converted into spell power.

What this means for heals is that we can expect approximately half of the strength of our heals to come from the base spell while half comes from our spell power. As some examples, the base amount of Heal averages 4590 when you factor in multipliers from talents. In tier 1 raid gear the non-crit total heal will be around 9017, just under double the base. In final tier this increases to only 10928, meaning the base spell is still 42% of the value of the heal.

Flash Heals base amount after talents is 6887, the Tier 1 non-crit is is 13887. Again, almost exactly double the base. Shields base counting mastery, talents and glyph is 6496. In Tier 1 a shield will be around 12740.

The fact that half of heals comes from the base really skews the way that heals scale compared to offensive spells. I previously noted that only around 13.5% of a Fireball's damage will come from spell power. That means that as we move from tier 1 raid gear to final tier raid gear, and spell power increases by around 42%, the healing a priest does will increase by around 21%, while the damage a mage does will increase by around 36%.

This isn't a problem on it's face, but it becomes a problem when we consider that healers and damage dealers use the same coefficients to convert ratings into game effects. A mage gets 1% haste from 128 haste rating. That's probably going to be a 0.87% increase in damage. If you instead gained 128 intellect, that would likely increase your spell power by around 2.1%, which would increase your damage by 1.82%. Haste is atrociously bad. For a healer the haste does around the same thing but a 2.1% increase in spell power is only a 1.05% increase in healing. That means that haste is more than 80% as good as a spell power, instead of less than 45% as good. For crit things are a little closer together since dps get substantially more extra damage when they crit than healers get extra healing. Even then, it's going to be very hard to make up for the fact that spell power is just a much more powerful scalar for dps, and crit will likely be a bad stat for nearly everyone anyway with the current conversion values (despite the fact that they've been dropped dramatically since the first time I complained about this).

With these drastic differences in their spell power to percent effect conversion and virtually identical haste and crit to percent effect conversion, these ratings have to be either far too good for one or far too bad for the other. Something in these formulae will have to change for stats to make much sense at all.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Just Plain Bad

Brightcape's last blog post pointed me to Wolfshead making a post complaining about how the success of MMORPGs has been detrimental to their quality.

Now I decided to make an entire blog that is nothing but complaining about World of Warcraft, so it probably doesn't surprise you to hear that most of the time when I see other people complaining about World of Warcraft I think they are idiots1. Of course "idiots" is purposeful hyperbole, and I certainly don't think from Wolfshead's post that he is an idiot. But I do think that the complaint that WoW is low-quality (or "too easy", "bad", "stupid", etc.) is a little bit spurious.

I appreciate hellish nightmares of games as much as the next guy. I grew up playing Bard's Tale and Might and Magic (1 and 2, not the new fangled stuff with graphics that look like things) and I've sunk countless hours into playing roguelikes. I stuck with the original Legend of Zelda until I could make it to Ganon in both the first and second quest without picking up a sword (you can't kill him without one, unfortunately) and I've beaten Final Fantasy I with four white mages. I like to think I have a little bit of street cred when it comes to RPGs2.

Oldschool RPGs were unapologetically made for hardcore gamers, the only kind of gamer there really was at the time. It was supposed to be an achievement if you could win them, and it actually was. These games often threw you into a world with very little explanation of what was going on, and expected you to solve puzzles that you didn't necessarily know were there. Sometimes you'd meet a dragon on the first level of the dungeon and die instantly. Even worse, sometimes the dragon would be on the third level after you had a really promising start. There was no one to complain to and no one was going to nerf anything for you. If you wanted to play, you sucked it up and took what the game gave you.

I'll admit that I am a little nostalgic for those games. They were super fun, and the fact that no one makes games like that anymore is sad. But WoW was never one of those games.

First of all, WoW was never hard. People beat Molten Core carrying mages who waited for their first frostbolt to hit before they cast another one. Winning strategies for Twin Emps actually require far less concentration and attention than winning strategies for modern bosses. Sure, no one ever beat unnerfed C'Thun but they only tried for a few months. The first Yogg +0 kill came far later after Yogg's release than the C'Thun nerf came after C'Thun's release, and well after many people had "proved" (as they did with C'Thun) that it was mathematically impossible to win.

Second, it's really hard to make a game like that now. The internet is actually a thing. A game of adventure and exploration can only be so hard if you can go and read exactly what to do. Anyone could go download Might and Magic one on an emulator right now, look up a guide, and win it in 15 minutes without going up any levels.

Third, the decision to make games like WoW just plain makes sense. Many of these games we are nostalgic for were labours of love by a single person or by a small team. The fact that they somehow made it onto store shelves in itself is a small miracle. WoW has a really big development team and millions of players. At some point, they decided that it simply did not make sense to devote more than half their development resources catering to 1 or 2% of their players.

It's the third point that is really getting people, I think. The problem is that no one can come up with a constructive solution. There is simply no avoiding the fact that more developer time devoted to one group of players means less devoted to another. There is also no justifying the idea that the developers of a game with 11 million players should be catering to you instead of to a broader audience.

So faced with the fact that the developers are no longer favouring the few elite gamers with all their time and energy, and in the absence of any real argument that it should be any different, we see the vilification of that design choice. And of course, it comes down to money. The marketing department and the stockholders have taken over the developers and nothing is pure anymore.

It's hard when something you like changes in a way you don't like. What makes it even harder is when you can't even get mad about it. Vilifying the people responsible (greed is a sin!) for the decision makes things easier because it brings the anger back, but there in reality there is no wrong here. They are making sensible decisions that are both making them money and making 10 million or more people happy.

Through all this I have saved my biggest complaint for last. Wolfshead is probably the best expression of the argument that MMOs have become tainted by money that I have read, but certainly not the first. And between everyone who has ever complained that WoW or MMOs are getting worse, not a single one has ever quoted Zarathustra:

That everyone can learn to read will ruin in the long run not only writing, but thinking too.

Such a great opportunity lost.

1. This makes perfect sense.

2. I have no street cred in anything else, of course. A dubious achievement!

Friday, September 10, 2010


That's the amount of talents in the new Discipline tree that literally affect nothing but Power Word: Shield. Tier 4 of the tree is all talents that affect Power Word: Shield. Eight points on one tier dedicated to one spell. Because of this layout, the minimum number of points you can devote to improving Power Word: Shield while going up the discipline tree is 4, and that's only if you spend 2 points in a dedicated PvP talent.

As a discipline priest, having to take talents that support Power Word: Shield doesn't seem like a harsh penalty. It's sort of like having to take talents that support fireball as a fire mage. Of course fire mages don't have talents that specifically support fireball in the new talent trees. Frost mages have 4 talent points devoted to propping up frostbolt, and 2 of those are extremely optional and only borderline useful. Prot warriors have 3 talent points exclusively dedicated to Devastate, one of those being Devastate itself. Retribution paladins have 2 talent points that only prop up Crusader Strike (though there are three more that do nearly nothing else. Holy Paladins have 6 points to prop up Holy Shock. There are 7 talents to prop up Rejuvenation.

So why don't these classes spend a third of their talent points propping up the spell or ability they cast more than any other. It's because those spells and abilities are actually good in the first place. You don't need to spend 13 talent points to make it worth casting the spell that defines your role. For a discipline priest, the spell that the developers are claiming will account for 50% of our healing requires 3 talent points just to get rid of a 4 second pointless cooldown. Flash Heal costs about 50% more mana and looks like it heals for about 50% than the shield absorbs. Plus I can cast it twice consecutively on the same target. Instants are good and shields are good, but having 2/3 the throughput seems like a sufficient penalty. Similarly, I'm going to spend 2 points on a very conditional talent to let me cast it more often on the same target. Again, if I just need the throughput then Flash Heal is better at that anyway. Flash Heal can also critical, by the way, and effectively does so for times two because of Divine Aegis. Shield, on the other hand, even if it lacks the cooldown and the weakened soul, would still not be spammable because it overwrites itself if cast twice on the same target.

Take a spell that you would very rarely want to use and devote 10-13 talent points to it (since the last 2 are actually very bad) and you get a spell you'll want to use a lot. But similarly, force a spec to devote 10 talent points to a spell when they are picking their talents and you have to make that spell bad to begin with.

When I look at the discipline tree now I feel like it still suffers from the same problem it had in Wrath. A great deal of the three is there just to play catch up leaving discipline priests as relatively weak healers any time they are not throwing out shields. In the end the tree worked (mostly because some of the talents were drastically overpowered), but half the time it just hurt that you actually had to spend your points on what you were spending them on. I'm not ready to pass judgement over whether the current tree works since that would be silly (and one of the drastically overpowered talents is still there) but it still has far too many points that are there to turn one spell that is probably the weakest in the priest healing repertoire into the strongest.