Choosing Your Attributes

Hey folks, sorry it’s been so quiet around here lately — between family health woes and recovering from being sick myself, I haven’t had two brain cells to rub together! Things should be back to normal now, though.

There are plenty of guides around – my own, and other people’s – that tell you what gear goals you should set, how you should gem, what consumables you should use. The big problem with most of these guides is that they don’t tell you why. They don’t make the relationships between healer stats clear, so people wind up following a set of rules they don’t understand.

If comments on my posts are anything to go by, there are a lot of other-spec paladins learning the ins and outs of Holy, trying to make sense of all the advice. Knowledge is power, so let’s take a step back and look at first principles: your attributes.

1. Spellpower

This is your single most important stat, in the sense that if you don’t have enough of it, all the other stats in the world won’t help. There’s no point having a mana pool that will last for ten minutes of chain-casting if your heals aren’t big enough to keep your tank up.

Spellpower, obviously, increases the size of a number of your spells: Holy Light, Flash of Light, Holy Shock, Sacred Shield, Consecrate, Judgement of Light, and Exorcism. Healing spells have the following Spellpower coefficients:

  • Holy Light: 166%
  • Flash of Light: 100%
  • Holy Shock: 81%
  • Sacred Shield: 75%

What this means is if you have 1500 Spellpower, your Holy Lights will heal for an extra 2490 (1500 * 1.66), your Flashes of Light will heal for an extra 1500, and so on.

2. Intellect (and mana)

Intellect is the new black, as far as holy paladins are concerned. I’ve written about this before in detail, but to reiterate: all the important sources of mana regeneration are either based directly off the size of your mana pool (Divine Plea, Replenishment, Mana Tide Totem) or are affected by the amount of Intellect you have (Illumination-based mana return from heals that crit).

So Intellect has three main benefits:

  • It increases the size of your mana pool, thereby increasing your mana regen
  • It increases your crit chance, thereby increasing both your mana return and your throughput
  • It increases your spellpower (via Holy Guidance), thereby increasing your throughput

Great synergy; there’s nothing about Intellect that’s useless, and that’s why you’ll see holy paladins running around with a 30K mana pool in raids.

3. Crit rating

Crit rating increases your chance to crit, and that has three flow-on effects:

  • It increases your throughput; a crit heal does 50% more healing than a non-crit.
  • It returns 60% of the mana cost of the spell, from the Illumination Holy talent.
  • If it’s a Holy Shock that just crit, it will trigger the Infusion of Light effect, making your next Flash of Light instant or your next Holy Light very fast indeed. This is fantastic for healing-intensive moments and mobile fights. (Note that in 3.1, Infusion will still make FoL instant, but it will increase crit chance on HL instead of cutting 1 sec off its cast time.)

Obviously, crit is very popular with most paladins; including talents, you can get over 40% unbuffed Holy crit chance in Naxx-25 gear.

At level 80, 45.9 Crit Rating gives you 1% chance to crit.

4. Haste rating

Haste is something of the ‘new kid on the block’; it’s something that most paladins haven’t seen on their gear before (unless they were raiding Black Temple and Sunwell Plateau). It decreases the time required to cast a spell, but the way the mechanics work make a lot of people go crosseyed.

I read a fantastic guide to spell haste the other day, but stupidly I forgot to bookmark it, so I can’t link you all to it. So, I shall roll up my sleeves and attempt to explain it myself.

The way to make sense of Haste is in terms of how many spells it will allow you to cast in a given time period. 10% spell haste doesn’t knock 10% off the cast time of a spell, it means that in a given amount of time you can cast 10% more spells. In fifteen seconds, you could normally cast 10 Flashes of Light. 10% spell haste makes each FoL faster, so that you can fit 11 of them into those fifteen seconds.

The formula for calculating your cast time when you have Haste gear is:
[New Cast Time] = [Base Cast Time] / [1 + Spell Haste]

So the base cast time of Flash of Light is 1.5 seconds; if you have 10% Haste, it reduces the cast time to (1.5 / 1.1), or 1.36 seconds. If you have 20% Haste, FoL’s cast time is (1.5 / 1.2), or 1.25 seconds. And so on.

There are a few things to know about Haste:

  • It reduces the Global Cooldown as well, down to a minimum of 1 second.
  • It does nothing to affect your mana efficiency on a per-spell basis, so if you don’t have enough Intellect/mana, Haste just means “I can go out of mana even quicker!”
  • As your Haste rating increases, more Haste has less effect on the cast time of any one spell, but it still increases how many spells you can cast over a given time by the same amount.
  • Haste is multiplicative, so if you have 10% haste from gear and another 5% from buffs, you actually have 15.5% Haste, not 15%.
  • If you incorporate all the haste effects you might get in a raid (Wrath of Air Totem, a Ret paladin’s Retribution Aura, your own Judgements of the Pure talent, et cetera) 20.6% Haste from gear and consumables will get you to the ‘cap’ of 1.0 second Flashes of Light (and a 1.0 second GCD).

At level 80, 1% spell haste requires approximately 32.79 Haste Rating.

Bear in mind that haste has two effects on your healing: a) it increases your overall throughput, by allowing you to cast more spells in the same amount of time, and b) it increases your responsiveness by reducing your cast time, allowing you to get that emergency lifesaving heal off that much faster. As your Haste increases, the effect of more haste on the latter decreases – it still reduces your cast time, just not by as much.

5. Mana Per 5, aka mp5

mp5 does exactly what it says on the tin: you regain the listed amount of mana every five seconds, regardless of whether you’re in combat or not, casting or not, moving or not – the only requirement is for you to be alive. :)

mp5 used to be beloved of holy paladins, back when we were all Flash of Light spammers. Because Flash of Light is much more mana-efficient than Holy Light, crit-based mana return didn’t matter as much, whereas well-stacked mp5 let you cast Flash of Light til the cows came home.

That’s changed in WotLK however; for starters, we need to use Holy Light heavily to keep up with incoming damage, and the mp5 needed to keep up with that would be prohibitively high. Secondly, gearing for Int gives better mana regen and throughput than gearing for mp5.

mp5 is not a bad stat, and there’s no need to ignore an item just because it has mp5. However, taking mp5 at the expense of superior mana return stats – that is, Intellect and Crit – is generally a mistake.

There are a couple of limited situations where mp5 may beat Int and Crit: if you’re silenced a lot, and can’t cast (to cast Divine Plea or regen mana from spell crits), if you have to move a lot, or if you never have a Replenishment buffer in the raid, no access Mana Tide Totem, and are bearing a lot of the healing load so you can’t afford to Divine Plea often.

mp5 may also become more valuable in Ulduar, if the tanks are taking Ridiculous Amounts of Damage™ and we have to heal so hard that we can’t afford to Divine Plea on a regular basis. However, there’s still a dichotomy in that gearing for mp5 probably won’t provide enough regen to compensate for such heavy healing; at that stage, stacking crit is likely to be more valuable (although I haven’t done the maths yet to model that;

So, What Do You Pick?

Most paladin guides you read say “stack Intellect!” with no exceptions or explanations. However, I tend to believe that that’s overly simplistic and not terribly helpful advice without context – these are generally guides aimed at raiding paladins, and stat advice for a geared healer in a 25-man raid group is quite different from guidelines appropriate for a starting healer in 5-mans.

Assuming you’re starting from scratch as a fresh 80, you’ll be running 5-mans and heroics while you’re gearing up for raids. (If you’re swapping from ret or prot as a raider and you’ve picked up a fair bit of offspec healing gear already, you can probably jump to the last stages of this process.)

As a fresh 80, in 5-mans and heroics, people aren’t going to die because you ran out of mana after a ten-minute fight; if the fight’s long enough for you to OOM, your DPSers are probably underperforming. No, in my experience, people generally died in 5-mans and heroics because I couldn’t keep up with incoming damage, or I couldn’t get a heal onto them fast enough after a spike.

As such, you should be gearing for spellpower first; extra mana’s no good if your heals aren’t big or fast enough to keep the tank up. So focus on spellpower until you have a reasonable level of it – as a rule of thumb, I’d say you should stack spellpower until 1650 or so. (Within reason, of course; don’t equip green “of spellpower” gear that has no other stats on it.) You’ll get Crit and Haste as part of this process, as just about every piece of appropriate gear has one or the other on it – sometimes, if you’re lucky, both.

Once you have a reasonable level of spellpower, start diversifying. Make sure your crit and haste levels are up to scratch – 30% holy crit, unbuffed, is a reasonable target for crit, and somewhere around 250 haste rating (8% Haste). This is the point at which you can start stacking Intellect in your gem and enchant selection.

TL/DR! What’s the bottom line?

You need to gear for spellpower first, to make sure you can keep up with incoming damage, before you start stacking Intellect like all the other guides say.

20 thoughts on “Choosing Your Attributes”

  1. Great guide. Spell Power is definitely under rated in the Healadin community and Intellect is overrated. Don’t take me wrong, Intellect is awesome, but its not THAT awesome like some people say. A good balance of SP, Int, Crit and haste is the best way to go.

  2. Very nice article. You are definitely correct about most holy paladins not knowing why they are stacking a certain attribute and therefore being unable to explain it to others which spreads the disease. I’ve seen holy paladins enchanting incorrectly because of this notion that intellect is the single best stat, when there could be a SP enchant which will perform better, point for point, depending on gear level and current stats. As you said in your post, 28k mana does nothing if the tank dies :)

  3. QUestion, so say spellpower is not an issue. you are sitting at 1850 unbuffed. at what point do you chose an intelect enchant over what would be considered a more powerful spellpower enchant, like INt on Bracers or on main hand, instead of the sp enchant? I guess my question is how much spellpower is too much, if it is hurting your other stats from being well rounded, like mana pool and crit? for the record my mana pool is about 21k unbuffed. crit just under 30%. Obviously stat balance is important, but how are we balancing them? BTW Je’Tze’s Bell is OP when it comes to mana regen.

  4. The logic behind not caring about spell power is that “90% of my heals are already overhealing at least a bit, so all spell power will do is give me more overheal.” This comes from raid geared paladins with the mana and crit to support very heavy HL spam. As you get more mana, and more crit, you cast more HL, and because in most cases (unless you run short healers) a HL will heal for more than the person is damaged. Where SP comes in to play is before you can maintain HL spam. As mentioned in the article, running 5-man heroics while gearing, FoL spam is central to your healing

    I have noticed that Ulduar heal plate is hard to find with crit, and almost impossible to find with crit and haste. I agree that crit is more valuable than MP5, but its going to be tricky when your choosing between a nax crit item and an ulduar haste/mp5 item.

  5. I would disagree with you listing SP > Int.

    The way I am used in my raids is the main tank healer. I chain cast HLs hitting around 9k to 16k with a crit rate over 50%. I usually have over 60% overhealing in raids. More spell power just means more overhealing for me.

    I understand you are saying that if you are in blues doing 5 mans you need to have a decent amount of SP. But all your gear will have SP. I think at that level you need to search out Int to start to leverage your talents and to be able to spam HL.

    Adding increases my mana pool, higher crit, more mana regeneration, and more spell power. I even use the 2% Int meta gem. Paladins who spam HL will go for Int over SP everyday.

  6. @Fazulle – Yes, for a raiding MT healer with an appropriately geared cadre of other healers, Int is the way to go. However, there’s plenty of gearing-up one needs to do to get to that point, and applying raiding guidelines to 5-man gearing is problematic, but very few guides acknowledge that.

  7. Great guide! Switched mains from a lock to a pally after WOTLK, and am really enjoying healing Naxx. Regarding haste, at what point do you hit a haste “cap” where you get diminishing returns no matter how much more you stack it. If you ever wanted to do a blog post about logical caps across all stats, I would love to read that too!

  8. Something I thought I would mention: I found as I was gearing up in heroics and raids, that if I focussed on gear with higher int, the SP was there as a by-product. I didnt actually have to run around and think about finding SP like I had to in TBC, if that makes sense.

    I found that it was much harder to get the int stat, and therefore I gemmed and enchanted that way. So, I prefer to gem int, enchant int in priority to SP (where possible).

    So, if I were mentally prioritising stats, I would place SP much lower. Not because you dont need it, oh nonono you most certainly DO need it, but because it is much easier to get itemisation wise.

    I would prioritise like this:
    because gear with all the prior 3 on it will also have decent doses of SP (and it seems to be itemised seperately)

    @lancelet – there is a soft cap for haste on pallies of I think it was 682?? Siha can you remember?

  9. Great article but one little comment:
    The theorycraft about holyshock is out of date. HS no longer decreases HL casttime and this definetly complicates things for using HS. When a tank is getting big hits for example, if he is at 5k hp do you HS giving someone else time to heal or do you HL hoping the tank isnt dead on the floor by the time you finish casting.

  10. Love your work, you’re my favourite wow blog. I hope you’re taking good care of yourself.

  11. I think she is okay. I can see on the right side that she keeps getting new achivements all the time.

    I guess she just lost interest or dont know what subjects to write about

  12. Just stumbled across your site… It’s really cool that you break everything down and explain each stat rather than just say “Get this, get that, because I said so.”

  13. MP5 will be getting huge boost in 3.2, so I’d consider getting some mp5 Ulduar gear instead of passing because of current superiority of crit over mp5 in mana regen for Paladins.

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