What Happened, Penance? You Used to be Cool.

With the 3.1.2 server-kiss coming down the pipe soon, Blizz has graced us with a look at the patch notes on the test realm.  Let’s take a look at this…

Discipline

Soul Warding now reduces the mana cost of your Power Word: Shield by 15%. (Down from 30%)

Holy

Divine Hymn now heals for 3024 to 3342 every 2 sec. (Down from 4320 to 4774)

Glyphs

Glyph of Mass Dispell now Reduces the mana cost of Mass Dispel by 35%. (Down from 50%)

Glyph of Penance – Increases the critical strike chance of Penance by 5%. (Old – Reduces the cooldown of Penance by 2 sec)

 

These nerfs, at first glance look horrible.  When I first read them, I could practically hear the teeth of discipline priests gnashing throughout the globe.  It was as if thousands of voices all cried out in unison and cringed at the thought of the beginning of the end of the concupiscent love-affair between Blizzard and ourselves.  But all is not lost!  Do not fret my friends, it is not as bad as it seems!  And we may even get to hold out to patch 3.3 before Blizzard sends us a text message at three in the morning saying “it’s not you, it’s me.”  Until then, stop that incessant gnashing, honestly.

It’s an interesting development process that we are seeing for our class.  Blizzard has been a fan of increased utility of the discipline tree in PvE, and their interest in it has really made our class THE premier tank-healer in the game. (I’m biased, yes, but read on.)  Now, however, it seems as though the ‘honeymoon’ moment is over in our relationship.  When 3.1 rolled out with the spectacular Glyph of Penance, the eight second cooldown (with 2 points in Aspiration) went to six seconds.  Essentially, the rotation went something like this:

/cast Power Word: Shield (instant)(global with Soul Warding)

/cast Penance (1.5 channeling)(6s glyphed cool down)

/cast Greater Heal (3 second cast)(global)  

/cast Flash Heal (1.5 second cast)(global)

NOTE: cast times are base-value.  with haste at ~8%, coupled with borrowed time, Greater Heal really casts closer to 2.2 seconds, thus leaving approximately another 1.5 seconds which would be enough for rebuffing PoM, renew, or another Flash Heal before Penance is ready again.

By throwing out Prayer of Mending (PoM) and Renews if you so choose, the discipline priest can consistently put huge, mana-efficient heals on a single target.  As if this wasn’t enough, Power Word: Shield (glyphed) + Penance (glyphed) procs Renewed Hope AND Borrowed Time AND Inspiration AND Divine Aegis AND Grace x3 (theoretically).  If all of these buffs don’t mean anything to you, the sheer number of stuff we get from two spells that can be recast back-to-back every 15 seconds should tell you something.  Essentially, discipline priests have become, in some respects, a “one button wonder.”  Blizz has noted their distaste for such a role (cough, cough Paladins) and are now taking some interesting steps to rectifying the situation.  Let’s take a closer look at how they are making discipline priests think a little more outside the box…

Soul Warding (30% -> 15% mana reduction)

By putting more cost on PW:S, we can reasonably surmise that the spell was being spammed too readily for Blizzard’s taste.  This talent in particular made it quite possible to allow for an almost endless spam of bubbles on an entire raid.  This was especially important on fights with high spikes on aoe damage, most notably Malygos from Eye of Eternity and really almost all the bosses found in Ulduar.  This was a great utility for mitigating raid damage, especially if the damage spikes were predictable.  So, why up the mana cost?  Is it to try to stop the spamming of PW:S on the raid before aoe damage spikes?

This answer seems to have some holes in it.  When I originally saw the notes, I thought for sure this would be the reason why.  What better way to stop discipline priests from bubbling the raid than by upping the cost?  Well, this falls when you look at Soul Warding which removes the base 4 second c/d of the shield.  Essentially, this part of the talent makes it possible to throw up all those shields on a consistent basis, without it, you would really only be able to cast shields on 4 players before starting over (with 1 second of overlap).   If it was, they could just as easily make Soul Warding only reduce cast time by 2 seconds.

The real reason, I have concluded, has to be with relation to Rapture.

First, let’s take a look at the mana cost of Power Word: Shield.  At it’s highest rank, it costs 23% of your base mana pool.  Taking into account that a level 80 Priest’s base mana pool is 3863, the cost of the spell is 888.49 mana. With 30% reduction with Soul Warding, the cost of the spell becomes 621.943.  With a 15% reduction with the nerfed Soul Warding, the spell costs 755.2165.  

Now, let’s look at the mana returns from Rapture.  Rapture operates in a different way, taking into account your TOTAL mana pool (base + intellect) and then getting 2.5% of the mana back based on your real mana.  For this argument,  we’re going to say you have 20k mana.  When the shield is completely absorbed, you will receive a whopping 500 mana back.

So, this puts the cost of a fully absorbed PW:S with Soul Warding 30% at 121.943.  With each shield taking ~6-6.5k damage before it is absorbed, it is easily the most mana-efficient spell in the game.  But wait!   There’s more!  So far, we have only focused on Soul Warding as the only way that the coefficient of the cost of spells is effected by, however Discipline Priests also have Mental Agility that, when fully talented, takes away ANOTHER 10% of the mana cost from all instant cast spells! 

(60% of 888.49 = 533.094 – 500 = 33.094 mana!)

Now, just imagine priests with mana pools >20k.  An average raiding discipline priest with full raid, food, and flask buffs will have a mana pool of about 23-25k mana, thus effectively allowing them to GAIN mana whilst mitigating damage and effectively meaning that they can end a fight with 90-100% mana!  

Does this seem, perhaps, a little too… efficient? OP? hax? all of the above?  Yeah, Blizzard thought so too.  Now, lets run the same scenario with the new 15% rating.

(75% of 888.49 = 666.3675 – 500 = 166.3675 mana)

Let’s go ahead and try this with a mana pool resting at 23k…

(75% of 888.49 = 666.3675 – 575 = 91.3675 mana)

I predict that a stacked discipline priest in T8.5 gear and minimal raid buffs will easily be able to attain even higher numbers and once again bring the real cost of PW:S around 35-50 mana.

So really, Soul Warding isn’t a nerf as much as it is a necessity for top-end discipline raiders.  However, everyone who isn’t currently in top-end raiding conent will definitely see a hit in their mana regen.

Glyph of Dispel Magic

I have a tough time finding much to say about this.  It is obviously a way that Blizzard expects us to go oom faster.  The problem with this theory is that this is a situational spell at best and that right now I only use it a few times during Ulduar.  With that being said, I doubt that this will have a huge impact on mana conservation.

Glyph of Penance

Penance is, and should be, the bread-and-butter of any Discipline Priest’s arsenal.  When 3.1 was launched I immediately scoured the auction house for this bad boy and ended up paying way too much for it.  Why would I pay 200g for a glyph?  Because, it put me in a situation that afforded me the opportunity to cast a spell that could stack grace 3 times every six seconds as well as healed for almost as much a Greater Heal and costed less than a Flash Heal.  In short, it was sexy enough that I would have spent more.  Now though I feel gypped.  5% critical strike chance?!  Really?!  Was it warranted?  Yes.  It made us a very simple class to play.  Does it make me sad to see it go?  Yes.  It was super-OP and I loved it.  

Does the glyph have any redeeming characteristics now?  Does it have some sort of leaning that Blizzard is trying to point us in? It may.  The current frame of mind regarding the constant battle of crit vs. haste has been a long one.  However, this change may be Blizzard hoping that more people will stack crit to proc the other discipline talents… but this seems unlikely.  The current equations show that stacking haste is always a better outcome towards pure hps and amount of crits than stacking actual crit.

To kind of wrap this all up, I would say that the changes made to the class were a long time coming, and definitely not a huge nerf that we need to be that concerned about.  Even if these changes do effect our ability to regen mana as well as we had in the past, I don’t forsee any problems with ending fights at 70% mana instead of 90%.  Discipline raiding will still be a strong staple in any good guild, and the class will be more interesting to play.

 

-Kenny_D

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