You could kind of see it coming; entries there were light at best. There was no MoP Hunter Guides for many months after the expansion went live. It was getting a bit dusty and tatty around the edges.
But there was a robust and active culture of fellow hunters there that just couldn’t be beat.
He and I didn’t always agree on things. But, you can’t really engage as a writer without, as he says, having an opinion. He’s no BRK, and thus sometimes his opinions were delivered with a bit less subtlety and a lot more noise. Then again, nobody ever WILL be BRK, just as there will never be another Frostheim.
I’m not sure where our next premier site of Hunter Goodness will be. What I do know is that the Hunter class is just too awesome not to have one before too long.
I’ll see you there when that happens, and we might even bump into ol’ Frosty.
When I get ranty, I tend to pound out around 2000-3000 words of pure snark and outrage, then spend several days tweaking and adjusting and, yes, most definitely, deleting. Because even though a good rant is a thing of beauty, my rants tend to lean in a hurtful direction initially, and I have to go back and trim out the potentially offensive stuff (well, if it’s not deserved …).
I mention this not to emphasize the fact that I have trollish tendencies, but to illustrate why, so many times, these sort of things get posted so late in the rant cycle. In fact, I’d say a good 60% or more never get posted at all, simply because I can’t de-toxify them fast enough to keep them relevant.
As it turns out, yesterday’s rant came in just under the wire, though I had no idea at the time that that would be the case. As a rant, it stands on its own, but as a meaningful comment on the current state of the Hunter, it’s already obsolete.
Regarding Stampede: We’re happy with the damage it’s currently putting out in PvP. For PvE, we’re planning to buff its damage pretty heavily, so it becomes a substantially more potent DPS cooldown. We don’t want to give it any more utility than it has now, for reasons we’ve explained at length already.
So this emphasizes what GC was saying about the intended purpose of Stampede1 in the first place – it’s intended as a DPS cooldown, not a utility cooldown, and thus they’re upping the damage to make it “worth your while” My opinion, of course, is that any insta-cast ability that bring even a sliver of additional damage is worthwhile anyway. But more is always welcome.
Readiness is still under heavy discussion, and we haven’t made a final decision on what we’re going to do with it in 5.4. At the moment, we’re leaning towards just removing the ability entirely and giving the affected abilities shorter cooldowns or charges to compensate. If we end up taking that route, we will buff Hunter damage (most likely across the board, not just specific abilities), but as I mentioned, we’re still discussing.
I’m good with removing it, as it reduces the clutter of my startup anyway, and it never worked across the board for all abilities in a consistent way (e.g. Stampede). However, adding “charges” to abilities looks fraught with possibilities, mostly negative. There’s the potential for bugs that don’t get caught on the PTR2, and there’s the potential for complicating an already complicated rotation.
Demonology warlocks, for example, will already know one of these pitfalls with Hand of Gul’dan; it has two charges, both available initially, and both with separate cooldown timers. Do you put both down immediately?3 Do you stagger them, and if so, how much? And so forth.
Ponder-worthy as we move forward.
Murder of Crows vs Blink strike is also still under heavy discussion. Our goal (with all talents) is that active abilities used properly will outperform passive ones. We haven’t decided yet what adjustments we’ll make to achieve that in 5.4.
Generally speaking, an explicit action when compared to a passive ability usually involves some sort of cast time, which is where a passive becomes so attractive for classes with very crowded rotations. In this case, there is no cast time involved, so the passive is actually less attractive if it doesn’t bring damage commensurate with the active ability. I think here they need to shoot for parity rather than supremacy.
I also like the phrase, “talents used properly.” That has to be a dig at someone – who, we may never know.
Scatter/Silencing Shot: We don’t consider interrupts to be mandatory in PvE.4
Now, to clarify, what I am pretty sure Lore means here is that they don’t consider interrupts to be mandatory for hunters. Anyone that’s raided anything at all knows that interrupts of some sort are absolutely, positively, without any doubt, mandatory for the raid.
If a Hunter would rather not take the Glyph of Scattered Thoughts, there are plenty of other players in the raid who could take on the responsibility.
We like Silencing Shot as a Marksman perk overall, but we’re still discussing things. We may end up making a baseline Interrupting Shot that gets upgraded to Silencing Shot if you spec Marksman.
In fact, this has already shown up on the PTR – it’s called Counter Shot. Currently an NPC ability, but available to a PTR Hunter near you starting immediately.
Speaking of spec differences, we agree that Hunter rotations feel cooler when your signature shots do a lot more damage than other shots, and we’ll discuss that some more. That’s part of the reasoning behind the Arcane Shot changes – our hope is that saving up more Focus for a bigger hit will feel better than firing off smaller shots more regularly.
This seems strangely disconnected from my experience as a Hunter, in that I rarely need to “save up” focus for anything, and I rarely lack focus to use my signature shot, thanks to appropriate use of Cobra Shot to keep focus above a certain point5.
Besides, reducing the cost of Arcane Shot seems to be counter to encouraging the preferential use of OTHER abilities. Unless they mean that by reducing the cost here, they’re making focus available for other shots so that they get used more often. Again, I hardly ever delay the cast of my signature ability over focus costs, so I’m not sure where this is coming from.
What I WILL say is that I feel like “Arcane Shot” is a bizarre ability for Hunters, period, now that we don’t use mana.
As to overall Hunter performance and utility, we don’t think the issues are with the Hunter class specifically. Instead, we think that certain other classes are overperforming (in both) at the moment. Fixing those outliers will, in turn, make a good Hunter more attractive for their raid spot. You may have seen some (but not all) changes along those lines on the PTR already.
OH JUST PUT A “KICK ME” SIGN ON OUR BACKS.
Realize that every nerf from now on out will be blamed on Hunters.
Welp. Post-moving, we’re still playing catch-up with the bills. A gigantic phone bill was settled at the expense of cable and internet. It’ll be back on in a couple of weeks, and things should be better from there on out.
Still, I’ve got network of a sort, via a nifty personal hotspot device. And while 4G may be fast enough to play, I fear that would eat up our bandwidth allotment, and I need that for job hunting and snarky blog posts.
Oh, yes, there’s snark, of a huntery sort for once.
This little gem posted on MMO-C provides an exemplary example of hunter tears and forum logic. And Ghostcrawler … well, he answered. I find there to be snarkable material on both sides of this argument.
I want to be up front about something – I’m not attacking the individual that posted this thing. I am attacking the common mindset that generates such posts. It’s a further illustration of how forums disease the mind.
So let’s go.
With the recent 5.3 “adjustment” to stampede1, you have removed any kind of utility from the talent2. Simulating my character with the “normal” settings (all buffs on, 5 min fight, 93 target, yada yada) I would lose 1229.7 (-0.52%) DPS in Beast Mastery spec and 2077.93 (-0.93%) DPS in Survival spec.
That’s “interesting”3. Choosing to sim in a 5-man configuration? As a PvE-er concerned with raid encounters (see below, “Silencing Shot”), HONEST results can only be gained from simulating a raid encounter 4 . This stinks of chicanery and fitting the data to match a theory or preselected opinion. Meesa no approve.
Either way, Stampede now gives us ZERO utility (micro-managing your pets in order to provide buffs your raid did not have during stampede or giving out minor healing through spirit beasts, etc).
Assuming you did bring the spirit beast, I have one word: “macros”.
Regardless of the snark, Spirit Beast is actually simming as a high DPS, so if other buffs are covered, and if you’re BM, look into it.
It is, quite simply, a button we press every five minutes in order to do 0.5-1% more DPS.
A button. Talk about impersonal.
You tell us that you want to deal with hunter’s bars being bloated by too many abilities [...]
Actually, they didn’t. We did, and they said, “maybe, maybe not. We think you’re having trouble counting that high.” Well maybe not that last part. But it would have been funny as hell.
In point of fact6 I think we need fewer buttons, too. But I don’t recall anyone saying they’d do me a solid on that.
[...] – yet you take one of our DPS cd’s, make it pretty much worthless, and call it a day. We don’t even gain anything from making sure we use Stampede during haste buffs anymore, because the pets do not use their specials (energy) attacks anymore. It’s a mindless, and completly unnessecary button.
Fascinating. Having five pets out at once doing DPS of their own – insta-cast, by the way – is considered a net loss to this bloke. I’m no min/maxxer, but even I know that part of a DPS increase is better than no DPS increase at all. It’s math!
1.0 > 0
0.1 > 0
GhostCrawler had a thought on this:
Stampede was never intended to provide utility. It’s a DPS cooldown.
But the thing is, I remember distinctly how the Blizz team (including GC) trumpeted the fact that Stampede would *add* the special abilities from the pets as part of the action’s effect. In my mind, they should say instead:
We screwed up. We went overboard. Sorry.
That’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re wrong and trying to fix it.
But also, this.
You may recall that I have complained in the past that making pets into portable buff machines was a bad idea, something that de-characterized the pet and diminished the Hunter class. Read the above with that in mind, and you begin to see the ultimate trajectory of that change to pets. In WotLK we chose pets based off which did the greatest damage. In Cata and later, the buffs were the thing. Then they added the five-slot stable so that we didn’t even have to make hard decisions on which pet we brought to a raid.
It’s a very sad end result, really.
And here’s the stinger. Crab Man and his ilk comment over and over again how they want to make it so you choose a pet based on how “cool” it is, how it fits in with your idiom and personality. Read between the lines and reflect on past changes, and the ultimate outcome may be this: pets will have no special abilities, and all do the same DPS, no matter what. I hope not, but it’s starting to appear that way.
In 5.4, we no longer have an interrupt, unless we go Marksmanship – the “weakest” of all 3 specs, from a PvE point of view. For a hunter in a guild like myself, the choise between BM and Survival is currently a 4% difference, and if there is not something that makes Surv better on a specific encounter (pet dying to AOE dmg is one – I’ll get to it in a moment), [...]
Let me stop you right there.
You let your pet die? And you have the nerve to complain? Get with the program first! Your pet isyour responsibility. If the raid’s healer is too busy elsewhere, it’s your job to keep the pet up. If you can’t heal it, get it out of there. “Micro managing” again. It’s what leet hunters do.
[...] I will be BM for that increase. Currently, MM is 6% behind survival – a full 10% difference between MM and BM. There’s just no way I’d go MM, even if we needed an interrupt. Taking in any other player would be better, as (and once again, I’ll get to it!) hunters are far from the “top dog” damage wise.
Given what I read, I wonder who IS “top DPS” since so far, every DPS class has had that exact same complaint. What, is it ret pallis and they’re just being quiet about it?
Currently, five of the twelve revealed (out of 14) encounters has interrupts incorporated in them somehow. Is it really fair that hunters will not have an interrupt for this?
You can DPS or you can interrupt. Pick one. The role of the Hunter, as BRK once defined it, is to deliver Massive Quantities of Ranged DPS. Period. You MUST accept that anything else will diminish that. And a true team member will accept that gladly, if it helps the team out.
I remember a vid that I constantly tried to live up to: BRK using Hobbes as a tank on the Moroes fight. I actually got to try that, and it’s not as easy as it looks. That’s giving up the DPS in order to be a team player. That’s what it’s about. Not “I must have moar DPS than the other members”.
Back when I was raiding with the Effers, we had a new mage DPS come in to test with us on Dragon Soul. We were on Blackhorn, and still working on getting the strat down – which requires that DPS switch off to alternate targets during the first phase. For some reason, his assigned targets weren’t dropping, yet his DPS was high. Eventually we figured out it was because he wasn’t handling his targets, and he resented that we insisted that he do so. Had he not quit the guild because “he just didn’t feel comfortable”, he’d've probably been kicked – if not that first night, the following time he failed to pull his weight.
But that’s the thing. They’re not always Patchwerk fights. Sometimes you take the hit.
If you really don’t want to give hunters a silence, atleast give us a PvE interrupt – no silence effect, just an instant interrupt. Spec MM, get the silence? Either way, hunters being the only DPS-class to not have a baseline interrupt is just absurd.
“Just absurd” is not checking up on what other classes have. Hunters are not alone in this. But guess what? With, say, six DPS and two tanks, you have quite a few interrupts that can be brought to bear. 25-mans even more so.
Silencing Shot is tough. As a talent, it will always get chosen. But hunters don’t need more CC so we don’t want to bake it in.
Somebody will have to explain to me how “[Kil'Jaden's Cunning] will always get chosen, so it must be nerfed” squares with the above tweet. Using the same reasoning to get to two different conclusions for two different classes must make more sense when you have a PhD in Oceanography.
Pets – Survivability
From a high end PvE point of view7, you have to realise that a hunter see his or her pet as a singletarget DoT with a travel time. In some cases, the pet provides a valueable buff for the raiding team.
Speak for yourself. I can assure you that’s not how “most hunters” see their pets. Though it might be a convenient way to conceptualize the damage a pet does, to a certain extent, it’s an oversimplification that doesn’t take into account pet management, situational awareness, or hunter skill8.
This makes it so much more annoying that our “DoT”, as one of the very few, has the ability to die, making us spend precious time ressurecting it. Losing out on the valueable buff at the same time, is a kick in the groin.
Here speaks a bloke that has seemingly never played a DoT class. I imagine any dedicated DoT class player would gladly exchange a need to “maintain” a DoT rather than constantly refresh one. Or maybe that’s the same thing. Either way, the proper way to deal with this “traveling DoT” is to heal it, or keep it out of trouble. It’s easier to cast Mend Pet periodically than it is to cast Revive Pet. Hell, if you want to burn focus, macro it.
Pet survivability we can look at, but pets aren’t supposed to be free DPS with no management either.
This time me and the Crab are skoshe. Other classes have to manage their DoTs, and so do we. Our management is just a bit different than others. It’s a “DoT” that’s maintained by some other spell. Oh, wait.
If you’re in a scenario with constantly spawning adds, using Beast Cleave as an AOE is sure to get your pet killed, quickly.
The AOE-damage it does on mobs is simply IMMENSE, and if the tank does not instantly smash everything in the face, HARD, then the pet will get hit instead. Especially in random dungeons is this a common occurence. We can’t control our pet’s aggro – and frankly, I don’t think we should have to when we’re AOE’ing. Controlling the pets position is enough of a task already.
Pet control is a core feature of being a Hunter. This guy has no grasp on what it is to be a Hunter. To him, it’s a box. With his epic ego as in input, and epic epeen as a result. I swear to Mammon. This is the difference between leet DPS and leet Hunters.
Blink Strikes now makes our pets instantly blink behind the target if they’re close enough – this is great!
What is NOT great, is the fact that when I say instant, I mean freaking INSTANT. They teleport to the boss, get a 200K special-attack and a melee swing in, all before my first auto shot has even HIT the boss. If I lead in with a Kill Command, you can add another 150-200K threat hit to THAT (which does not get transferred by MD). Simply put, even if I were to misdirect the tank and spam arcane shot for the first 4 seconds of the fight, my pet would STILL jump to the target and hit it quicker than anything could react, and my MD won’t do jack !@#$ to fix it.
I guess nobody remembers the old days when you WAITED FOR THE TANK TO GET AGGRO FIRST AUGH /haet
Please don’t buff hunter’s focus dump. PTR + T16 2pc will reduce value of special shots and homogenize specs.
Can you explain why it homogenizes specs?
It MEANS: “I haven’t got time to provide numbers, so I’m just gonna use words. Geez!”
Seriously, the term generally implies that one spec is indistinguishable from another. I don’t really see that, though. Each spec has a different “feel” to it – BM being lightest on its feet, MM being a bit more deliberate and ponderous.
This doesn’t really explain how the T16 2-piece will make the three specs operate the same, though.
Does it mean that one spec is better than the other? I suspect just the opposite. I think this guy’s pissed that he can’t find a perfect cookie cutter spec that lets him pwn the meterz. And I suspect that GC would call that Mission Accomplished.
Then there’s this guy, that REALLY gets what Hunter is all about:
Would you ever consider bringing back the arrows/bullets for hunters with an extra quiver just for hunters to store them in?
I love it! I absolutely HATED managing ammo and quivers, but I LOVE that there’s someone out there saying, “I think it made Hunters more Huntery.” Light bless you, sir, Light bless you!
We’d like to do a quiver just for the visuals. Ammo returning is unlikely. There wasn’t much depth to that system.
This is Engineer-ish for “JESUS H CHRIST ON A POGO STICK WHERE WOULD I FIND THE MEMORY FOR THAT??!?!?111”
I was really gob smacked by this though:
Readiness should do more defensive stuff. Masters call and traps and so forth.
Master’s Call, maybe. Traps were one of the big things we wanted to eliminate.
/wipes off monitor
I think it’s time to get the Crab off of the Hunter project. ELIMINATING TRAPS????? That is one of the most … unhuntery … things I can think of. Traps are a signature attribute of our class.
I swear to the Titans … I will reroll as a Monk ….
Okay, let me wrap up.
As you can see, there is intense tension between what it really means to be a Hunter … and what it means to “play the hunter class”, aka just a DPS that happens to be a hunter.
I would like to say that the epeeners and min/maxxers are making vain noises as usual and that the good folks at Blizz are holding the line, but it is patently clear that they are not holding. The possibility that traps are even being CONSIDERED for elimination indicates that there is something terribly wrong with the designers of our class. The continued decharacterization of our pets has lead to the mindset that “pets are a DoT”. This is not right.
It is possible, that there is a paradigm shift about to take place. There were a couple before9, and maybe we’re due another in 6.0 or even earlier. But what I am hearing is not true to the core of what it means to play a hunter.
Hunters are more than what we bring to a raid. It’s a way of life. Ask a hardcore warlock, you’ll see we’re not alone in this mindset. There is, for lack of a better word, a lifestyle that goes with the class. That lifestyle will, however, be ejected if you substitute raiding or PvP in place of all else.
It should never be that Warlock = Hunter = Mage = Ranged DPS. They should not be interchangeable. The whole stated reason for the rework in Cata was to make tweaking the classes easier. So, tweak. Don’t redesign.
We are gamers. We adapt, we overcome. But sometime our patience is tested.
I “Love” how this guy thinks using quotes makes the word “adjustment” seem “snarky and sarcastic”. [↩]
What he is referring to is that pets summoned with Stampede no longer auto-cast their special buffs. They only do damage on auto-cast. [↩]
Trufax: BigRedKitty, in Cataclysm, actually had a stable of all of the same pet, each specced to a different task, such as tanking, healing, pure DPS. That was before our current brain-dead pet talent “tree” implementation, but it hints at what a true master of the craft was capable of given the options before him. We miss you, Daniel. [↩]
I promised my grandmother I’d never use that asinine old phrase. Now I have to go do penance. [↩]
While we were offline, events that affect us all took place. Our guild managed to get its first T141 boss down, without Jasra’s healing touch. The question came up, did they want her back, or a DPS? I was told, get Flora moving.
So move I shall.
‘Undergeared’ is not exactly the most descriptive term I’d use. I still have several greens. ‘Undergeared’ doesn’t seem to be a strong enough term! Dutifully, I drafted a gear plan, and it was unsettling.
Part of the reason for this is the addition of several flavors of random-enchant epics for completing daily heroic scenarios; there is also a random-enchant quest reward from the Darkspear Rebellion. Both of those usually outstrip top-end T15 gear.
So, the Rebellion appears to be the place to be, but there’s a problem – the main quest is a weekly, so once you’ve gotten your 150 bits of various mats, and turned them in, all that’s left is additional collection. It’s rather daunting, the massive and tedious grind that the next few weeks seem to have in store. I’ve bitched about dailies, but this seems to be something designed to convince us that dailies aren’t really so bad, after all.
The other half of this is getting my rotation down; Demonology is just plain odd, with the Demonic Fury resource system. Still, I’ve done my homework, and I have something that’s at least passable, even if I have to look down at the keyboard from time to time. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, thank the Light for WeakAuras and/or PowerAuras.
While Thunder Isle appears to be outgeared by the Rebellion, now, I still have some work there; the Green Fire quest is triggered by a book that drops over there, of all places, so I need to grind dailies there until I get that, at least.
It’s funny how much content is completely irrelevant, though. Sure, there are upgrades to be had from Shieldwall and Thunder Isle, but why waste time there when the biggest payoff is to be found in Northern Barrens? The irony of WoW is that 95% of its content is irrelevant to a raider.
Still, it’s fun to fly the Warlock flag once again. Even if I derp it like a noob.
That is not a typo, we’re not exactly pushign the envelope – or at least not THAT side of it. [↩]
Grimmtooth Actual’s first best love is Grimmtooth the hunter, no doubt about it, but one could argue that the Hunter is so second-nature at this point that it’s more like a Stay-cation than a true diversion. Grimmtooth’s existence at the moment is all about getting things done, from the scrupulous attention to gardening to the grueling slog of dailies.
Warlock’s what comes out when we want to play. I’m not a raiding main, Jasra is, so I’m free to indulge myself as I see fit. I’m not even level 90 yet. And with Grimm and Jas sucking up all the CPU they can, I rarely get to come out and play, so I make the most of it.
I’ve got myself a good adventuring outfit, for example. Black velvet robes are good for shaking down the locals in Stormwind, displaying a decadant sense of evil that the rubes truly appreciate. But they tend to snag on everything. Denim and forest leathers are a lot more appropriate for stomping around in the wild.
Also, I have horns from time to time. While I like the look, it was hell on hats until I figured out to punch a couple of holes in the right place.
But that does bring me to the part of this expansion that I dislike the most about the Demonology spec. Demonform has gone from a hefty buff to DPS to being a whole second spell rotation to learn. It plays hell with my rhythm, let me tell you.
But outside of that, Big D is a blast. I cut through mobs like a hot knife through butter. I use Hefty Voidwalker to gather them up and just beat them to the ground. Even Grimm can’t AoE that well. I don’t even use most of my rotation because the mobs die too fast.
There’s this green fire thing coming up, I’ve heard, once I hit 90. I have some nice prezzys from Jas to wear when I hit that level, too, so it looks like I’ll end this turn at the wheel on a high note for sure, since I’m 89.25 now.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.
Damn, it’s good to be a Warlock.
Been out front of Stormwind lately?
Yep, been patched right up!
Well, almost. The minimap still shows the glowing embers for the gate towers, though, as you can see, they’re just fine now.
Glad to see my tax money going into something other than blowing panda bears up.
As long as I’ve played, I’ve seen a constant flow of envy from other classes. They look at our magnificent demonic steeds, and say "Hey, why can’t we have one?"1 They gaze longingly at our portals and whinge, "why can’t we use them?" They even cried about healthstones so much that Blizz gave them a vending machine for healthstones. I imagine that somewhere out there, someone’s upset that they can’t summon Warlock pets, either.
The most recent outbreak has been over a new quest series in patch 5.2 in which Warlocks go to change our mundane orange fire for green fire, as it should have been all along2. Apparently, some people are annoyed that we get to have all the fun here, and want something like it for themselves. Ignore the fact for a moment that there’s nothing about (for example) mages3 that gives them that "cool factor" like Warlocks, and thus no real REASON to have a special epic quest series. They just want it, because, reasons.
As always, Auntie Flora has worked long and hard to bring a solution to you.
You want all the warlock goodies? Here’s what you do.
I recently stated that Disco was an acceptable leveling build, and I stick by that, but one term in the equation that may need tweaking is "acceptable". Disco leveling is kind of like running a marathon wrapped in bubble wrap. You’ll get there, and you won’t take any damage, but you’ll be covered in sweat and it’ll be next week before you’re done. If that’s acceptable then you’re in for a lot of single-spec goodness in your life.
Unfortunately, I fear this is holding up the guild’s ability to consistently field a team for Heroics, so I switched to Shadow to level up faster. It, too, is acceptable for a hybrid class’ aspirations1, but if you were a fire mage or BM hunter you might feel a bit … hobbled. Never mind that. It’s moved me along a lot faster than I had been moving otherwise.
The funny thing is that some fights are a lot easier if I switch to Disco mode. Shadow isn’t big on mitigation, and mini-bosses often are immune to rooting, fearing, or both. So a build that hits like a truck and heals itself one HP for ever two DP it deals is ideal, albeit slow. That’s fine. The only caveat is the spec switch often takes too long to pounce a rare. Guess I’ll have to be patient.
But let’s talk Disco
For healing, I’m really starting to get a handle on the mechanics of the smite-mode healing approach, and kinda falling in love with it. The biggest problem is mana. In WotLK, I could spam like a Nigerian banker and rarely see the bottom of the mana jar. In MoP, that’s no longer the case, and our mana regen tools have been curtailed as well, so we are driven in a certain direction, and it’s not shield spamming.
There are a few core mechanics at work here.
Direct healing spells, such as Greater Heal and Flash Heal and Renew and Penance all provide us with effective means to top off our target’s hit points, but they offer nothing in the way of regeneration tools on their own. A couple of talents DO link one to another, such as From Darkness Comes Light – this one gives you freebie Flash heals, and I do like this one a LOT for its situational utility. The caveat is that you lose Mindbender and its improved mana regen. So, if you’re having mana management issues, the latter may well help more. You will probably need to try both to gain a sense of where you stand.
In the past, this was our bread and butter. Even in Cata, with the smite-heal mode available, many of us went with the mitigation-heavy rotation, which amounted to a lot of Prayer of Mending and Power Word: Shield spamming. Mana wasn’t a problem, so why the hell not, right?
In MoP, mana’s an issue, so this approach has gone away. Now, PW:S is largely situational, and PoM is more of a supplement than a mainstay. Spirit Shell is a new, welcome addition to the fold, especially if you couple it with Prayer of Healing, but boy oh boy does it eat the manas. Once again, if you spam mitigation all day, you’re going to be OOM well before the final blow.
The infamous "smite heal". This was a largely optional novelty in Cata, though many disco priests made it their mainstay quite effectively.
Here’s the thing. A lot of people will view smite-healing as still a novelty, a vain effort to give priests something to do in the gaps2, even though they’d never crack the top half of the DPS charts.
But, people, that’s not even the point of this mechanic.
Once you crack open the hood, you’ll find a very sophisticated yet straightforward engine driving not the build per se, but, I argue, the very soul of the Disco healing machine.
First, what is smite-healing?
This mechanic forms the backbone of an indirect group healing approach. The three core spells to this mechanic all provide a 100% return on the damage generated. In other words, if I damage an enemy for 1000 points, I will generate 1000 points of healing – unless the healee is myself, in which case it’s 50% return. But still. That’s the other thing. The healee in question will be the lowest-health friendly within 15 yards of the damage target3. This is done via a specialization called Atonement. Holy Fire4, Smite, and Penance generate what is effectively an AoE heal.
Now the hard part.
In the past, Archangel would generate mana when you used it to consume your Evangelism stacks, but now it only increases healing5. So, if you pop your wings, better get another stack started up to help with the mana mitigation.
But here’s the neat part.
Regardless of your Evangelism stacks and Archangel usage, that indirect healing component of Atonement is still there! So you don’t have to be as fussy with those two spells as you might have in the past.
At the (what is now) final tier, we have three very powerful and very Disco-ish talents: Cascade, Divine Star, and Halo. All of these have AoE-ish effects as well, and all do damage and healing. All have a cooldown of 40 seconds or less, so you’ll be using them a lot. At the moment I am prone towards Cascade simply because it is less fussy about positioning. We’ve got enough worries.
Strategy and Tactics
We have an immense toolbox to work with, and even though you might feel you know how to use it based on experience, I assure you that Blizz done changed da game on us.
As with everybody else in the world, we have no rotation to fiddle with, but we do have a priority queue of sorts, especially given the 20-second cooldown of Evangelism. This then is my juggling act.
If I have five stacks of Evangelism and time to generate a stack afterward, pop Wings.
PW: Shield on my main target, usually the main tank (or OT if they swapped).
Keep Prayer of Mending up on all the times. If it is glyphed then the first person that gets healed by it gets extra healing (but you get one less hop); this may or may not be desirable, but given its cooldown it’s often worth it if you’re on the MT.
For low to moderate healing on someone: Holy Fire, Smite6, or Penance on the baddie (e.g. target of my target), depending on what’s off of cooldown. Smite has no cooldown so it’s always available. Otherwise I use one of the other two since they generate more healing7.
On a lot of fights, I have found myself hardly even reaching for the traditional healing tools other than PoM and PW:S – everything else gets smitey-healed.
Toys you don’t get anymore
Here’s the big caveat.
You hardly get any mana regeneration tools. Wings lost that utility, and Rapture’s proc is rather situational, so that effectively leaves you with your shadow pet and Hymn used strategically.
What this means to you is this:
You can’t fling shields like a fool any more. You have to keep them where they’re needed.
Consequently, your group has responsibility to stay out of harm’s way. Prima donna DPSes that expect The Shield to get them by will do less DPS by virtue of being on the floor, counting tiles, and complaining that the healer sucks.
You can’t spam damage spells, either. You must reserve them for when someone needs the heals, or the Evangelism timer is about to blow.
In other words, you must heal with intelligence and moderation. I don’t think this is a problem for most healers, but it might take getting used to if you are, like me, more familiar with the ez mode Disco build of WotLK.
A toy you can have
The hardest part of Atonement healing is the switching between targets to heal and targets to smite. Fortunately, Blizzard has provided us with the facility of macros to help get the job done. A few clever keybinds and you’re off. However, a couple of addons help a lot, as well.
Grid or VuhDo will put your groups’ unit frames wherever you need them. The default unit frames will allow this as well, just not as elegantly or with as many additional features.
Clique makes the binding of mouse and keystrokes to abilities, spells, and other effects a lot easier. You an do this with the default interface as well, but Clique just makes it a lot easier.
The first line just changes the tooltip icon, I chose Smite because reasons.
The second line overcomes cooldown and timer issues in a few ways.
/castsequence dictates that the spells will be cast in the sequence that they are given, so you don’t waste time with spells that are still in cooldown.
reset=10 resets this sequence after ten seconds. Why? Because that is the cooldown of Holy Fire, which gives us the best bang for the buck. Since Penance has the same cooldown, this means that if you only hit one ever five seconds, you’ll never hit Smite, which is by far our weakest component.
However, thanks to the sequence, we don’t have to fixate on timers, thus freeing us up on what to do with our spells instead.
[@mouseovertarget] directs the damage to the target of the unit that you have the mouse pointer hovering over. So if you’re hovering over your tank in Grid, his target will be selected and damaged. Hover over a DPSer, and that player’s target will be smote instead.
Put this into a macro or into Clique, assign it to a key or mouse button, and you’re ready to go!
I am no Matticus or Derveka; truth told, I’m not even level 90. This is based solely on careful observations taken during instance healing, test dummy runs, and a lot of questing. It works for me, up to this point, but I may be kicking Disco to the curb at any given moment if I find it doesn’t work for me. Thus far, I’m seeing nothing to say it won’t.
I hasten to point out, this is with me geared for Disco goodness. I know properly geared Shadow priests do a lot more damage. [↩]
Back in the BC days, the idea of a viable Holy or Disco DPS build was teased at by Blizz, and many of us spent countless hours trying to suss out what that build might BE. We never found it, and I think I’m guessing rightly that there never was one. The best any of us could come up with was some sort of Holy hybrid build that allowed us to muddle through leveling and still do halfway decent heals in normal dungeons.
When the dual spec feature was implemented, that whole concept kind of lost its attraction. We all dual-specced and went Shadow for leveling. Cata killed it completely by locking us in to one spec until max levels, and, of course, MoP has buried it by removing the concept of talent specs completely.
In a way, we’re all hybrids now, as much as anybody is a hybrid, if you take my meaning.
But an odd thing happened in MoP. Disco DPS became … a thing.
Back the truck up
I’m not going to say or even imply that Disco DPS holds a candle to a true DPS class. It’s not even close. But what I will say is that some Disco skills hit harder than expected.
We noticed this when my alter-ego Jazreal was dashing around the landscape with his low-level friends. Since questing in Kalimdor is pretty laughable these days, there isn’t much healing needed, so out of boredom one day he fired off a Penance on some mob. And it fell over. Dead. Kaput. Crispy-fried, Disco-style.
He had discovered that Penance hit like a truck when used for DPS.
Nobody here’s sure, but it appears that this ramping up of Holy Fire, Smite, and Penance’s damage output is a direct consequence of the smite-healy healing style being adopted as the One True Way of Disco Healing According to Blizzard. How do we know this? Well, we don’t know. But we guess, and that is based on how smite-healing heals group members for a value based on the damage done with those three spells. Aaaand, if they’re wimpy, the heals will be, too.
In Cata, this wasn’t a problem because the Evangelism stacks gained were the goal of smite-heals, to regain mana and buff healing in general. Take the mana return away, and suddenly this becomes a much less attractive choice to healers. I have a feeling Disco was in danger of being spec non grata if they hadn’t done something about it. Thus, the group healing effect, and its improved effectiveness, puts a new coat of paint on our favorite set of wheels, and makes it attractive to us.
Non-healy side effects
The big side effect of this is that, suddenly, we have a viable questing / leveling spec on our hands. Oh, certainly, it takes a bit longer than a BM hunter blowing all his cooldowns at once. In fact, it’s like sawing through your opponent with a butter knife. But the thing is, it’s not a struggle, and it’s an extremely survivable leveling spec, too.
As an example, last night I ran into Morgrinn Crackfang in the Jade Forest, an NPC that even gives pure DPS problems1. And the fight took, I don’t know, five minutes or so. But I never dropped below 80% health, and his went down steadily. In the end, Disco won the day. Disco! And I didn’t even have to heal myself. The damage I did WAS my healing.
In the back of my mind, I could hear BRK swearing about how Disco priests were "like cockroaches" when he was playing PvP. That’s kind of how I feel about myself now. Short of a nuclear bomb, it’s hard to kill a Disco priest – and don’t bet on the nuke.
Side note: the addition of Void Tendrils as a talent really, really screams "all specs are DPS specs" to me. You use this to root your target, back off, and smite face until it is dead. Healy specs don’t need root spells. DPS specs do. If you’re a healer and you have something in your face, you need to run to the tank and get it off you2.
There is one slight problem with this approach. Most, if not all, of my keybound action bars have healy spells. Fortunately, the use of a good addon will help3. I use Dominos for my action bars. I have set up the first row of keys (the keybound ones) so that if I hold down shift and scroll, it shows a DPS-based action bar instead. I’m pretty sure this is possible with other action bar addons, as well.
An alternative would be to have two Disco specs with different action bar layouts. But this is so much easier.
But, truly, this is a good thing
Now, I can’t say for sure this little buzz of mine will carry through to the final zones of the continent, but for the time being, I am truly content to healy-smite my way through Pandaria. By not having to faff about with Shadow spec, I don’t have to concern myself with duplicate armor, etc, nor do I have to remember to switch to the right spec when turning in quests4.
The one disadvantage to this, besides the glacial speed of progression, is that if you truly do plan to dual-spec with Shadow, you won’t pick up as much useful shadow gear. But if Disco is going to be your primary, that should not be a concern.
I’m hoping that this is "working as intended" and we don’t see a giant nerf to the damage output of Disco priests. I can easily see them decoupling the direct link between DPS and heals and putting in a multiplier for heals so that x amount of damage got 3x amount of healing, or something like that.
I would not be happy with that, not because of the inconvenience, but because if they truly want to make choices significant, the choice to play as Disco needs to mean more than "I spec disco in instances, but I spend the rest of my life in Shadowform."
At my level, I hasten to point out. I’m sure level 90s blow him away using nothing but dots and harsh language. [↩]
Well technically the tank shouldn’t be letting that sort of thing happen too much, and certainly not often enough to warrant a spot on your action bar. [↩]
What I am going to describe is possible without, as well, but not nearly as easy. [↩]
Under the new reward system, you’re given equipment rewards based on spec, and it’d be a shame to get DPS gear offerings when you’re a healer. [↩]