Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Gearing for Thoroughput

Last time, I covered how to decide which stats to collect to increase your mana regenration. Typically, skill and mana regen will be enough to get you through heroics and the easier raids. Once you start pushing deep into Ulduar, trying ToC or attempting hard modes, you may find that even infinite mana couldn't keep your tanks up. When this happens, you know that it's time to start looking more seriously at thoroughput, however, it's good to at least consider it, even before then.

Thoroughput is loosely defined as the amount of healing you can possibly do in a given space of time without regard to mana. For example, a priest with very low spellpower and haste might heal 2.5k with Flash Heal every 1.7 seconds (no haste, 0.2 seconds lost due to latency) = 1470 HPS, which is very clearly less than my priest which heals 5650 every 1.33 seconds = 4248 HPS with the same.

Maximizing your thoroughput is something like being a DPS; you're looking to cram as much healing into as tiny a space of time as possible. Much like DPS, typically we look at single-target and multi-target HPS differently, despite the fact that both use the same stats. Let's take a look at the stats you use to do this:

Spellpower - All spells (not just healing) increase in effectiveness based on the caster's spellpower and the spell's Spell Power Coefficient. As an example, Flash Heal has a base healing of 1887 to 2193, and a SP coefficient of 0.8068. Thus, a priest with 2500 SP would heal 3904 to 4210 before talents and other buffs. Spellpower will likely be present on all gear you use, and is a fine choice for gems and enchants.

Spell Crit - Crit rating and Intellect both contribute to your spell crit chance. Most spells (including healing spells) gain an additional 50% of their effect when they crit. So, following the above example, the same 2500 SP Flash Heal would heal 5856 to 6315 on a crit. Each 2% crit chance adds on average 1% thoroughput, however, due to the random nature of both incoming damage and crits, average healing isn't always a good thing to measure by. Generally, go for crit for thoroughput only if you have talents like Inspiration and Holy Concentration that improve your crits. Also, never consider crit if your healing spells can't crit (I.E. If you use primarily heal over time effects.)

Spell Haste - This comes from Haste rating and Bloodlust. Haste is an exceptional thoroughput stat, particularly for classes that use zero-cooldown direct heals. Every 32.79 Haste rating is a 1% increase in Thoroughput (as compared with 91.82 Crit rating for the same,) and has the added benefit of speeding up your reactions, since you'll finish that last-second spell that much sooner. The reason we don't all stack haste until we have it coming out of our ears is twofold. The first is that whatever you gained in thoroughput, you also lost in mana consumption; 1% Haste = +1% Thoroughput and +1% Mana Usage. The second is that there is a soft haste cap; no spell's cast time can fall below 1 second, and neither will the Global Cooldown. Thus, for common 1.5 second spells, you cap haste at 50%, or 1639.5 Haste rating. While this may seem so high that the cap is ignorable, certain trinket effects, like that of the Egg of Mortal Essence, and Bloodlust (which is about 1000 Haste) may go to waste if you have too much Haste already. For slower spells, ignore the cap; it's irrelevant. Haste is an excellent way to trade mana for thoroughput, do so only if you can afford the mana.

Spirit - For some specs, Spirit can give Spellpower bonuses. Do not aim to collect Spirit for thoroughput; it will always be inefficient for that purpose. That said, when comparing very similar gear, do not ignore the effect.

Intellect - Much like spirit, Intellect can convert to Spellpower. As above, do not attempt to stack Intellect for thoroughput.

Strength - For PvP healing prot pallies, this is frikkin' broken. Good luck killing one, and absolutely don't try to collect strength for PvE healing, ever.

So, in summary, for a Holy priest: a fair thoroughput piece has SP and Crit, a good thoroughput piece has SP and Haste on it, and an excellent one has SP, Haste and Crit all on one. Weigh your stats differently depending on the talents you have, and the type of healing spells you commonly use. Next post, I'll go over another way to improve your thoroughput-- without spending a single copper, badge or raid lockout.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How to: Mana Regen

Mana: It's what's for breakfast As we all know, healing requires mana. If you run out, someone you're supposed to be healing might very well die. Clearly then, every healer should find a way to not run out of mana. Today I will be explaining how to gear for mana regen, primarily for Holy priests, however I hope to make my explanations broad enough to apply to other healing specs as well.

In general, there are two ways to ensure that you don't run out of mana. The first is to get your mana regen so high that it exceeds your mana consumption. This is reasonable for 5man Heroics, Naxx and parts of Ulduar (IE trash). However, it is more difficult to attain for the more difficult raids or hard modes. Thus, the second option is to have a large enough mana pool that, although you're depleting it throughout the fight, it won't run out before the end. This strategy is viable at all levels of play, and depends on a balance of max mana and mana regen.

Now that we have some goals in mind, let's examine mana stats.

MP5 - The most basic and easily predictable mana stat. MP5 does exactly what it says; you will regen the listed amount of mana over five seconds, every five seconds, for until the effect ends or you unequip the item. MP5 is typically used by any healing spec that wouldn't use Spirit. (see below)

Maximum Mana - Boosted by Intellect and (rarely) +Mana enchants, the size of your mana pool not only allows you to last longer before going OOM during intense healing, but also increases the mana you regen from effects like Replenishment, Shadowfiend or Arcane Torrent. Every class can benefit from the boost to Replenishment, and similarly, there are class spells/talents and racials that also scale to max mana.

Spell Critical - Boosted by Crit rating or Intellect, some classes regen mana based on crit heals, and this will also be useful when you go to look at your HPS. As an example, the Holy Priest talent Holy Concentration scales mana regen to Spell Crit, Int and Spirit. Look for similar talents in your class' healing tree to see if crit is right for you.

Intellect - Increases maximum mana, the effect of Spirit and (slightly) spell critical chance. This is a core mana stat for all healing classes, due to the max mana component, and the boost to spirit and crit add even more benefit for classes that use those. Good for +15 Mana per point.

Spirit - Grants MP5 that is subject to the "five second rule". The amount of MP5 you gain from spirit is proportional to to the square root of your Int times your Spirit. Typically Spirit is a bad choice as a mana stat unless your class has talents like Spiritual Guidance and Meditation.

So, what does this all mean? Gear to match your talents. While MP5 is useful for any healer, Spirit is usually better for Holy Priests, simply due to the talents we have available. When in doubt, go for Int.

If you no longer run OOM on the content you intend to run, then you should stop gearing for mana and start gearing for HPS. Next post I'll examine HPS stats on gear.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Fundamental Theorem of Guardian Spirit

As I mentioned in the first post, Guardian Spirit is all about the tanks and healers, the part of the raid dedicated to keeping everyone alive. However, this does not mean that nothing I write will be of any use to the DPS among us, as you shall see in this post, the DPS also have an important role in ensuring that everyone lives through the fight as well.

"In order for everyone to live through a fight, the healing each person receives must be no less than the damage they take minus their health."

This is just a fancy way of saying that you die at zero HP, however writing it this way makes it more clear just what factors go into successfully healing a raid.

For example, by stating that the healing must be at least close to the damage taken makes it obvious that if the healing team's maximum total Healing per Second is less than the raid's Damage Taken per Second, then people will eventually die, no matter what.

Another consequence is that if the DTPS of any single person is greater than the healing team's combined single-target HPS, then that person will surely die as well.

(Side note: henceforth, I will use the following abbreviations: HP - Heath, HPS - Healing per Second, DPS - Damage Dealt per Second, DTPS - Damage Taken per Second.)

So, clearly it is not only the quality of the healers that decide the success or failure of the healing team, but also the tank's mitigation and HP, and the DPS' ability to mitigate or avoid splash damage.

So, as all good tanks know, while HP is the most visible stat, having low mitigation means that you require ever stronger heals in order to live through a long fight. Others before me have considered the idea of "Tank Points" which is something like:

Tank Points = HP / %DamageTaken
%DamageTaken = ((1 - Mitigation%) * (1 - Reduction%))
where Mitigation is Miss Change + Parry + Dodge
and Reduction is based on Armor and Block

This value comes out to the true amount of attacks a tank can take from full health before needing a heal. The bigger this value, the more time the healers have between the tank coming under attack and needing to have a heal land. Thus, it is important to balance HP with other stats that reduce damage taken, as this will actually lead to a greater Tank Points than HP alone.

As always, it's not just this simple. When the tank and/or the healing team is only lightly geared for the given content, then %DamageTaken can be even more important than Tank Points, because the incoming damage might otherwise exceed the healing team's max HPS. (As long as the tank's health is greater than the biggest hit the boss can deal.)

Along these lines, there is a non-equipment way to reduce damage taken. Every single person in the raid has the ability to simply not be targeted by attacks. Is there a huge line of fire across the room? Don't stand in it. A rocket about to land? Don't be under it. Tail Swipe? Cleave? Impale? Hot Pocket? Avoid it, avoid it, make sure to be on the far side of the permafrost, and cast Ice Block or something. Any damage you take that was avoidable is healing the healers could have used on the tanks. Many tank deaths are due to the healers stopping to heal avoidable damage on each other or the DPS.

This is a rant I've been needing to give for quite a while, if everyone would take it to heart, I swear every guild would be an entire raiding tier forward, or deeper into hardmodes. So install the new FailBot, run out of the lightning nova, and pop Feint right before XT's tantrum, because the leading cause of wipes is everyone dying, and only you can prevent florist fires. (Or insert non-herbalism pun here.)

Note that we are currently not even considering mana consumption; once mana is taken into account, the requirements on the tank and DPS become even stricter. In the coming articles, I'm going to run through the basics of maximizing HPS for healers and getting enough mana to do so.

Warning: this blog occasionally contains descriptions of violence (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and basic mathematics (which may be unsuitable for the majority of WoW players).

Guardian Spirit begins!

Before we begin, I have one thing to say...

First post!

Ahem, now to begin properly. Guardian Spirit is a blog dedicated to those of us that keep those of you that make the boss die alive. It is about both tanking and healing, and will be written primarily from the perspective of the classes that I play. Guardian Spirit is about PvE strategy in World of Warcraft. The majority of my posts will likely discuss non-hardmode raiding, although I am liable to wander off my chosen topic from time to time and write about anything even remotely related to WoW.

With that said, the first real post will be up right after this one.