Monday, December 6, 2010

My Cataclysm Spec

First of all, The Spec, and then, the complaints.

I've written a lot about Atonement and its ups and downs. But all the number crunching in the world doesn't change the fact that it will only heal you if you are within 8 yards of the target of the Smite. For most raid bosses, that would mean standing well inside of them. For the most part, Atonement will simply do nothing against raid bosses, so I am opting out of the Smite spec completely.

Given that I won't be taking the Smite spec, there is actually very little choice about what I *will* be taking. There are 42 points in the three and I need to select at least 31 of them. Since I am not taking the five points dedicated to Smite, I have to choose 31 out of 37. Reflective Shield essentially doesn't do anything, so I'll rule that out right away, leaving me with a choice of four talent points I don't want.

Many of the talents are simply not candidates for cutting, so I'll focus on the ones that I think I could choose to do without:

Improved Power Word: Shield - Power Word: Shield without a Rapture tick is an exorbitantly expensive and underpowered spell. It is considerably worse than Renew, Penance and Greater Heal for both throughput and efficiency. While it is almost 10% more mana efficient than a Flash Heal, it only about 65% of the throughput. I know as well as anyone that instant casts matter, and that shields are better than heals some of the time, but ideally I want to avoid casting this spell more than once every 14-15 seconds. A talent point for a 5% increase to a spell I cast less than 10% of the time is not a very exciting point.

Mental Agility - I don't actually cast a whole lot of instant spells. If I am casting Power Word: Shield, Renew and Prayer of Mending each once every 15 seconds then it's about 91 mana per second, which is likely a decent investment of talent points, but it's certainly not obviously something you must take.

Inner Sanctum - I think I will mostly be using Inner Fire, not Inner Will, so this would be a 2% spell damage reduction per point. I think this is probably very bad. If I have occasion to need to run faster for a fight and switch to Inner Will then this talent is probably pretty good.

Soul Warding - If I don't want to cast Power Word: Shield more than once every 14-15 seconds, then I probably don't need to cast it more than once every three seconds.

Power Infusion - I have never seen Power Infusion as a terribly useful healing cooldown. I see it more as an external dps cooldown for the raid's casters. For that it is a great talent point. Since I am a healer, I would consider dropping this point if I am not using it for healing.

Rapture - It should be offensive that I am even listing this talent, but, as I say, Power Word: Shield is a bad spell that you don't want to be casting. If you are using it, then Rapture is over 160 mana per second for three points, which seems like it's definitely a good use. But when if I didn't take it and didn't cast Power Word: Shield at all? Right now I'm a fairly convinced that this would make me worse off, but it's hard to be sure without a lot of analysis. Of course, I probably won't do that analysis for reasons I'll explain soon.

Borrowed Time - Going back to not casting shield very often, Borrowed Time might not be doing much. Hasting one spell by 14% every 15 seconds is an average of 1% haste for two talent points, which isn't spectacular. That's not really how Borrowed Time works, though. The 14% haste can be applied to multiple instants - where Penance counts as an instant here - and then to a spell with a cast time. Also, the 14% haste on a Renew is likely a 25% or 20% increase in the effect as well as a 14% reduction in the cast time. Some simple simulations are showing me that this is more than 1% haste per talent point. Still not great.

Strength of Soul - Reducing the Weakened Soul debuff duration seemed like a pretty good idea when Rapture had been reduced to a 6 second cooldown. At a 12 second cooldown, this talent is near useless even if you are casting Heal on the tank.

Train of Thought - It's far from obvious that this talent is a good one to take. How much mana it actually saves you depends on how often you cast Greater Heal. If you are using Inner Focus for Greater Heals on the cooldown then Inner Focus is worth 141 mana per second, which is a really good deal for one talent point. Train of Thought increases this to 159 mana per second, a gain of 18 mana per second, or 9 per talent point. If, however, you are casting three Greater Heals per 30 seconds, then this would increase the mana gain from greater heal to 211. So the two talent points were worth 35 mana per second each. If you are casting five Greater Heals every 20 seconds then the mana gain is 318 per second, and the Train of Thought talent points are worth 177 mana per second, or 88.5 each. The trick is, that they are only worth that additional mana if you were going to cast the Greater Heals anyway. Of course it does make casting those Greater Heals more attractive, so even if you substituting them only because of the talent it will still give some advantages.

Focused Will - 10% of my total health is presumably going to be more in Cataclysm than it was in Wrath. For example, I don't expect bosses with damage auras that tick every 2 seconds to do 10% of my total health. I do, however, expect this to trigger from occasional raidwide AoEs or from having a fire spawn under me. However, it only helps if another hit comes within 8 seconds. Ultimately I find it hard to believe this is going to be good for raiding.

So why did I make the decisions I made? As I indicated above, I think that Strength of Soul is probably going to do nothing useful at all. In fact, Weakened Soul might be a handy timer for me to know when to recast my shield, and reducing it may mean having to pay attention to more information without getting any benefit. There are several talents here that require analysis to figure out how good they are, but my intuition tells me Focused Will is the worst of them. It will depend on the structure of boss fights, and it might easily turn out to be a better investment than Inner Sanctum. For now, I'm going to have to go with my gut and I'll do the calculations when I actually have fight data.

I just trash talked a huge amount of talents and then elected not to pick ones that I thought would have no or virtually no effect on raiding. More importantly, I trash talked every talent that affect Power Word: Shield. Basically, I think Power Word: Shield is a terrible spell that only becomes castable because of Rapture. Assuming Rapture still interacts the same way it did in Wrath with large AoEs that hit the whole raid at once, Soul Warding will probably edge out Focused Will for utility. If they have fixed that bug then I'll probably switch those.

The real reason I take Rapture, Improved Power Word: Shield and Borrowed Time is that I simply can't avoid it. If Atonement isn't going to work on bosses, and I don't want Power Word: Shield talents, then there are only 24 talent points left in the tree. I have to pick something.

So why am I even discipline in the first place? First of all, it's because Penance, Divine Aegis and Grace are all insanely good and Holy just doesn't have anything with that kind of oomph. Secondly, it's because I feel like external tanking cooldowns are too useful to pass up, and Discipline gets two of them.

I'm not going to be writing for probably at least a week, maybe two. When I do come back I hope to have a little bit of data so I can answer a few of the following questions:
  • How much better off am I using Rapture and casting shields than I would be if I simply didn't cast shields at all? (Even though this point is moot because you can't avoid taking PW:S talents)
  • What is the real benefit of Train of Thought? Should you cast Greater Heals instead of Heals when you have it?
  • How good is Mental Agility?
  • How good is Focused Will?
  • How many of my spells are hasted by Borrowed Time and how often is it boosting a Renew?
  • How much damage is Inner Sanctum preventing?


  1. The tooltip for Atonement says 15 yards, not 8. Was there a hotfix that changed the range to 8 yards?

  2. If PW:S is so terrible, why go disc at all? It seems like you're being forced into propping up PW:S; which you barely use. Why not just go into holy?

  3. @Aaron - I looked again today and it apparently says 15 yards now. It was 8, then 15, then it reverted to 8, and I guess it's back to 15. Presumably they accidentally reverted it in some change. At 15 yards it might be usable, but it turns out I never cast Heal anyway, so as a Heal substitute Smite wouldn't be very useful. As gear scales, however, it may become very powerful.

    @lebkc - First of all, Holy spends a lot of talent points not doing anything as well. Secondly, it seems to me that Holy just doesn't have options that compare to the cost and power of the Discipline Greater Heal.

    Depending on how powerful Circle of Healing is, Discipline may be the wrong choice. When I think about our early heroic runs, though, it's hard for me to see how I would have healed those as holy.

  4. I recently moved away from my Atonement spec to the one you outlined above. I was finding myself casting Greater Heal and Prayer of Healing quite often, and finding a real quiet time to allow for smiting was rare.

    Being able to reduce the cooldown of Inner Focus via GH casts is very powerful.

    @lebkc - PW:S is not what defines the Discipline spec. Penance, Grace and Divine Aegis are what really make Disc special and powerful. I am very early into my gearing, and already a 33k GH crit will produce a very large DA bubble (in the range of 18k). Disc is not only viable but powerful without PW:S spam.

    I have been messing around with different glyphs as well, and I've found that glyphing for PoH and Renew has been very worthwhile. I don't miss the extra heal from the PW:S glyph since I use it far less now. And skipping Atonement lets me use the Mass Dispel and Dispel Magic glyphs together. I don't know how game-changing the free heal from Dispel is, but it's nice, and I cast it often enough.

  5. I was actually just realizing that I hadn't redone my glyphs and I should ditch the PW:S glyph for Renew, and probably pick up the Mass Dispel glyph, since I'm sure it will be useful for raiding.

    It does seem weird, however, to spend nine talent points on a spell that you try to avoid casting whenever you can. There just aren't better choices as far as I can tell.

  6. As my gear has improved, I've found myself able to safely use PW:Shield much more often. Obviously not at WotLK levels, but I can throw out 2-3 shields in quick succession and not worry too much about it. With the new PW:S buff coming in 4.0.6 I'll probably replace my Renew glyph with PW:S again, since that heal will be pretty large. Then when the big PW:S nerf comes, I'll reassess.

    Also, something slightly related, I noticed that World of Logs has started calculating overheal for both DA and PW:S. I assume they are attempting to calculate shields that wear off without being consumed. Anyway, it's another great metric.

  7. Unfortunately I think WoL is still pretty out to lunch on Divine Aegis overheal. If you take one of your logs, add up all your Prayer of Healing and all your critical heals and multiply by the size of your Divine Aegis, you'll find its a lot lower than your WoL Divine Aegis absorbs + supposed overheal.

    I think WoL does line-by-line combat log analysis, and from a single line there is just no way to tell what's going on. If you get a Divine Aegis refreshed event and the amount is 5k, you don't know whether that was a new Divine Aegis being stacked on an old on a hit taking off part of a Divine Aegis and leaving some behind. Unfortunately you need to look at previous lines to tell or keep a running record of what has happened.