Tag Archives: theorycrafting

The Importance of Intellect, Redux

This is an update to this post, taking into account some factors I’d forgotten.

For people who don’t want to follow the math, here’s the conclusion up-front: Given items of equal quality, gearing for Intellect is better than gearing for mp5.

Read on to find out why!

Introduced in patch 3.0.2, there are a number of new/revised sources of mana regen that are based on your total mana, and therefore scale directly with Intellect:

Divine Plea
This is the new paladin spell at level 71; it restores 25% of your total mana over 15 seconds with a 1 minute cooldown (and a debuff to healing done).

This is the new raid regen buff granted by Shadow Priests, Retribution Paladins and Survival Hunters. It “causes up to 10 party or raid members to gain 0.25% of their maximum mana per second” whenever the priest, paladin or hunter uses a particular ability.

In addition, if you happen to raid regularly with a resto shaman, the Mana Tide Totem restores 24% of total mana over 12 seconds.

Doing the Math
To see how these balance out against mp5-based regen, let’s look at the value of 500 Intellect. (Note that I won’t be assuming the presence of Blessing of Kings, as you may not have access to it – and with current gearing levels it’s inferior to Blessing of Wisdom for regen anyway.)

500 Intellect on gear becomes 575 Intellect in play, thanks to Divine Intellect. 575 Int is worth 8625 mana. Assuming regen abilities are used on cooldown, on 8625 mana:

  • Divine Plea can return 2156 mana per minute, equivalent to about 180 mp5.
  • Replenishment can return up to 21.56 mana per second, equivalent to 107 mp5. This is dependent on uptime; 100% uptime is fairly unlikely.
  • Mana Tide Totem can restore 2070 mana every 5 minutes, equivalent to 34 mp5.

500 Intellect therefore gives anywhere from 180-321 mp5, depending on your group composition and the uptime of their regen abilities.

However, looking at the item value of Intellect vs mp5, 500 intellect costs you the same itemisation budget as 200 mp5, which is only 20 mp5 more than the mana return of Divine Plea alone.

Illumination and Crits
That increased intellect has another effect: it increases your crit chance, which increases your mana return from casting spells. This is a lot harder to model, because the mana returns from crit rating are very variable, depending on your spell choice and casting frequency. However, doing some rough napkin math:

500 Int on gear becomes 575 Int in play for a holy paladin; 575 Int equals about 3.45% spell crit, according to this Elitist Jerks post.

Using a very rough casting model (which assumes that you’re using about 60% Flashes of Light, 20% Holy Lights and 20% Holy Shocks; that you’re keeping up Sacred Shield on one target, Beacon of Light, and Judging once a minute for Seals of the Pure; and that your Haste compensates for time lost to positioning), 1% crit chance restores about the same amount of mana, over time, as 10 mp5. This assumes near-constant casting, which is typical of a paladin healer; however, even if you’re spending up to 40% of your time not casting, 3.45% spell crit still provides as much mana return as 20 mp5.

The Bottom Line

Assuming you use Divine Plea on every cooldown, and that you spend at least 60% of each fight casting, gearing for Intellect gives you as much mana return as gearing for mp5. In addition, gearing for intellect gives you extra mana return from Mana Tide Totems and Replenishment if you have access to them (up to 78% extra mana return, in fact). And, finally, gearing for intellect increases your healing output as well, by increasing your spellpower (via Holy Guidance) and your crit rate.

The Caveat

Don’t eschew mp5 completely.

Yes, gearing for intellect is better than gearing for mp5, assuming items of equal quality. However, you’re often not choosing between items of completely equal quality, and you shouldn’t disdain mp5 to the point where you’re discarding otherwise-excellent items just because they have mp5 on them. Mp5 is not a dirty word – it still does the same job it always did, it’s just that now Intellect does it better.

The Importance of Intellect

There’s one side-effect of the game mechanics changes in 3.0.2 and the new spells in Wrath that many people haven’t realised: Intellect is now the primary regen stat for raiding holy Paladins.

This comes from two sources of regen that are based on total mana:

Divine Plea
This is the new paladin spell at level 71; it restores 25% of your total mana over 15 seconds with a 1 minute cooldown (and a debuff to healing done).

This is the new raid regen buff granted by Shadow Priests, Retribution Paladins and Survival Hunters. It “causes up to 10 party or raid members to gain 0.25% of their maximum mana per second” whenever the priest, paladin or hunter uses a particular ability.

Doing the Math
To see how these balance out against mp5-based regen, let’s look at the value of 500 Intellect. 500 Intellect is worth 7500 mana, which means Divine Plea can return up to 1875 mana per minute, equivalent to 156.25 mp5. 7500 mana also allows Replenishment to return 18.75 mana per second, equivalent to 93.75 mp5.

500 Intellect therefore gives 250 mp5, assuming you have constant Replenishment uptime (which is not a given; it depends on the composition of your raids, and your Replenishment buffers’ ability rotations) and that you use Divine Plea on every cooldown.

However, looking at the item value of Intellect vs mp5, 500 intellect only costs you 80% of the itemisation budget of 250 mp5, meaning that if you have ready access to Replenishment, Intellect is ‘cheaper’ than equivalent mp5 for regen.

What if you don’t have ready access to Replenishment? What if your raid only has one shadow priest and no ret pallies or survival hunters, and you’re fighting with 15 other mana users for Replenishment? Well, most of the regen value of Intellect is from Divine Plea; as you can see from the numbers above, you only need a 47% uptime or better on Replenishment for Intellect to become better itemisation value than mp5.

This fact is even more true for Holy paladins, who get spellcrit-based mana return (when healing) from Intellect.

From combat ratings calculations by Whitetooth at Elitist Jerks, and using the example above, 500 Intellect at level 80 gives 3% Spell Crit. The value of this in terms of mp5 is hard to calculate, because it depends greatly on your spell rotations in a level 80 raid – but it’s certainly a significant boost to spell throughput and mana return, which just strengthens the value of itemising for Intellect rather than mp5.

In a very, very rough estimate of modelling the effect of spell crit at 80: assuming a ratio of 60% Flash of Light, 20% Holy Light and 20% Holy Shock, and that you’re chain-casting, 3% spell crit returns mana equivalent to approximately 33mp5. If you incorporated this into the numbers above, you’d only have to have Replenishment 12% of the time instead of 47%. Obviously, this is highly variable depending on your casting rotation and frequency.

The Bottom Line
Assuming you can use Divine Plea on every cooldown, and have at least some access to the Replenishment buff, gearing for Intellect is a stronger option than gearing for mp5.

Vial of the Sunwell

As I just mentioned, I picked up the [Vial of the Sunwell] last night in Heroic Magister’s Terrace, and I’ve been trying to assess its value.

A brief attack of theorycrafting (hello, Excel spreadsheets) later, and here’s what we’ve got:


  • Healer is a paladin
  • Healer uses approximately 75% Flash of Lights and 25% Holy Lights
  • Healer is chain-casting
  • Trinket is used every time the cooldown is up


  • On raw numbers, given the assumptions above, Vial of the Sunwell is worth 15 mp5 and approximately 55 +heal.
  • Apart from raw numbers, this trinket has some particular strengths:
    • Triggering the “Use:” effect doesn’t activate the global cooldown, meaning it stacks nicely on top of your regular healing rotation, and can either be macroed into your regular healing macro, or be used when you need burst healing to supplement your heals without eating a GCD.
    • Unlike many trinket effects you can ‘charge it up’ ahead of time; the Holy Energy buff (which represents the collected energy, and stacks to 20) has no duration. This means that you can charge it up with 20 rank 1 heals before a fight starts.
    • Edit: As Matticus just pointed out to me in chat, the effect of the trinket isn’t suppressed by silences, so it’s great for use on fights with silence effects and big damage, like Gruul and Nalorakk.
    • Note that the effect can crit, for 3000 healing.


  • The figures aren’t wildly different for paladins with different casting rotations. Chaincasting 100% Holy Light lands somewhere around 47 +heal; chaincasting 100% Flash of Light equates to around 58 +heal.
  • Keeping the same casting rotation, and instead assuming you’re only casting 75% of the time instead of chain-casting, the value of the trinket rises to an equivalent of around 72 +heal.
  • It is important to note that this trinket doesn’t magically do more for you just because you’re casting less often. These numbers are equivalents to give you an idea of the end effect of the trinket, compared with other alternatives you might equip.

The Alchemist’s Stone

Healing trinkets can often be difficult to analyse, because they offer stats and effects that you don’t typically find on other items. MK of A Dwarf Priest said it best: “you should carry multiple trinkets and select based on your needs for the given encounter.”. That’s an excellent post analysing healing trinkets, incidentally, and I recommend it for all healers. Of course, if you’re a pally or shaman, a lot of the numerical rankings won’t apply as we get zero benefit out of Spirit, but the overall listing and analysis is excellent.

So, let’s take a look at the numbers on one much-misunderstood trinket: the Alchemist’s Stone.

Alchemist’s Stone
Binds when picked up
+15 Strength
+15 Agility
+15 Stamina
+15 Intellect
+15 Spirit
Requires Alchemy (350)
Equip: Increases the effect that healing and mana potions have on the wearer by 40%. This effect does not stack.

This is very much an all-rounder trinket. From a healadin perspective, though:

  • +15 Str and +15 Agi are irrelevant.
  • +15 Stam is nice for survivability but doesn’t affect our efficacy.
  • +15 Spi is only relevant if you’re getting innervated, which is pretty unlikely.
  • +15 Int is useful. It provides +150 mana, and equates to 0.21% spell crit (or the equivalent of 4-5 Spell Crit Rating) and +5.8 spelldamage and healing.
  • +40% output on healing and mana potions.
    • As far as I know, this works on any health/mana potion that shares a cooldown with healing and mana potions – so it works on Healing and Mana potions of all strengths, Bottled Nethergon Energy, Mad Alchemist’s Potions, and all those other lovely potions. (See this post for a summary.)
    • Looking at a Super Mana Potion (or instance-specific equivalent), their range of mana return increases, with this trinket, to 2520 – 4200 mana. This is an average return of 3360 mana per potion, or an equivalent of 140 mp5 if you’re chain-potting (compared to equivalent 100 mp5 for chain-potting without this trinket).
  • Therefore: this trinket is worth: 15 Int (approx 4.5 Spell Crit rating, 5.8 Healing, and 150 mana), and up to 40 mp5 if you’re chain-potting.

Note that the mana return from trinkets like this scales down sharply on fights where you’re not taking a potion on every cooldown. Also note that, like mana return on spell crit, it’s not true mp5 – true mp5 mana regen is passive, and valuable because it returns mana without you having to cast or drink a potion. I tend to work things out in terms of mp5 because it provides an easy mechanic for comparing two items – but if you do that, you must remember that an mp5 equivalent is only equivalent as long as you’re meeting the conditions – chain-potioning for this trinket, chain-casting for spell crit, etc.

Upshot: Minor benefits to healing, spell crit and mana pool. Up to 40 mp5 depending on frequency of potion use.
Use: Fights where you’ll want to chain-chug mana potions.

And now let’s take a look at the upgraded version! The recipe for this trinket will be available in patch 2.4, from the Shattered Sun Offensive quartermaster at Exalted reputation.

Redeemer’s Alchemist’s Stone
Binds when picked up
Requires Alchemy (350)
Equip: Increases healing done by up to 119 and damage done by up to 40 for all magical spells and effects.
Equip: Increases the effect that healing and mana potions have on the wearer by 40%. This effect does not stack.

So, this variant loseWeight Exercises the +15 to all stats, in exchange for a big +heal boost that makes this trinket worth it regardless of your potion use – this is on par with Tier 6 trinkets. As a bonus, it retains the same potion boost as the previous version.

Upshot: +119 healing, up to +40 mp5 depending on potion use.
Use: Anywhere, particularly healing-intensive situations where you’ll be throwing big heals and relying on mana potions rather than mp5. Great for progression fights.

Gems for Healadins

I’ve made myself something of an expert on Jewelcrafting, ever since I wrote a levelling guide for jewelcrafting during the TBC beta (which is now somewhat error-prone thanks to Blizzard changing recipes and skill levels around; I’ll redo it someday).

There are a number of gem options that are suitable for healadin pallies, but you should make your choices carefully. Let’s look at a few of them:


The A Team:
[Teardrop Living Ruby]: red. +18 healing.
[Luminous Noble Topaz]: red, yellow. +9 healing, +4 int.
[Royal Nightseye]: red, blue. +9 healing, +2 mp5.

The three cuts above are all popular with paladin healers, and with good reason. Choosing between them is mostly a matter of personal taste, personal playstyle, and sometimes restrictions on gem color to activate a meta-gem or socket bonus.

[Dazzling Talasite]: yellow, blue. +4 int, +2 mp5.
[Gleaming Dawnstone]: yellow, +8 spell crit.

Both of these are decent second-string contenders, the talasite more so than the dawnstone. You wouldn’t want to focus on using either of these to the exclusion of the better gems, as your +heal would just fall too far; however, they can be useful to boost a problem stat (particularly the talasite) or to meet gem color limitations for socket bonuses or meta gems.

Do not, on the other hand, use [Lustrous Star of Elune]s. Compare them with [Royal Nightseye]s or [Dazzling Talasite]s; you loseWeight Exercise 9 +healing or 4 +int, for what? One measly mp5. Don’t do it. (Also, do not even think of using a [Sparkling Star of Elune]. You will be fired from the paladin club. Seriously.)

Picking Your Gems

Unfortunately, for most holy paladins, there’s no One True Rule for picking gems to put in your healing gear. (The exception is for paladins in a decent amount of T6-level gear, who are advised to stack pure +healing gems, as they don’t generally have mana issues.) Instead, you should consider how fights generally tend to work out for you. Are you desperately throwing mid-rank Flash of Lights while desperately counting the seconds til your potion cooldown refreshes? You might want to add some +mp5 or +spell crit gems to extend your mana longevity. Are you having to use inefficient Holy Light spam just to keep a tank up? Throw in some pure +healing gems to increase your healing output, allowing you to use a more efficient spell rotation. None of the good pally healing gems is a bad choice; it’s just a matter of knowing your personal healing style and how it meshes with the rest of the raid team.

Now, if you look at this Elitist Jerks thread (which is some excellent healadin theorycrafting, if unfortunately aimed at players who have access to the best of the best gear), the poster sets up a system allowing you to numerically compare the value of different gems.

If you put a point value to the gems comparing blue vs epic, say 18 pts for a blue to equate it to healing, you get the following level calculations:

1 healing = 1 pt
1 mp5 = 4.5 pt
1 int = 2.25 pt
1 spell crit rating = 2.25 pt

Because mp5 can only be applied in whole values however, the actual worths of mp5 on epic gems is greatly diminished because of the other stats you are loosing.

This is a really interesting system that’s good for comparing gems at a glance, but one of the big problems with it is that it gives +Int more Lose Weight Exerciseing than it deserves (because Int is magnified 10% by the Divine Intellect talent, and also contributes spell crit (from basic game mechanics), and damage and healing (from the Holy Guidance talent)).

Systems like this are tempting, because it gives you one easy answer: Gem A is categorically better than Gem B, because the formula says so, so there. If you pick your gems based on this system you’ll wind up with a huge mana pool because of the way it favours +Int, and that will contribute to your spell crit and +heal — but, in my opinion, not by enough to warrant the loss of mp5 or +heal directly. Instead, you really need to examine your playstyle and the effects of that playstyle, and decide on gems for yourself. (Which is not to say you shouldn’t socket gems with +int on them; I’ve used quite a few. Just don’t use them to the exclusion of everything else.)

Why Purple Isn’t Always Better (But Sometimes Is)

There’s a strong temptation to make use of the epic gems that you get in Heroic instances. However, most of them aren’t that great, and are definitely inferior to using more appropriate rare gems.

Let’s look at a couple:

[Blessed Tanzanite]: red, blue. +11 heal, +6 sta.
[Durable Fire Opal]: red, yellow. +11 heal, +4 resil.
[Soothing Amethyst]: red, blue. +11 heal, +6 sta. (This one’s actually from a Karazhan quest to kill Nightbane, not a Heroic drop.)

Don’t they look great? Look at that awesome +11 heal! And they’re epic!

…Yeah. And look at the other stats. +6 sta? +4 resilience? Useless to a PvE healer. (Unless you’re specifically gearing up a stamina set, of course, but as a general rule you shouldn’t be consciously sacrificing healing power for stamina unless your survival is more of a progression stopper than your tank’s is.) Leave the stamina and resilience for PvP healers, and stick with PvE healer stats.

On the other hand, there are some really really nice epic gems that are very suitable:

[Iridescent Fire Opal]: red, yellow. +11 heal, +4 spell crit. From Heroic Hellfire Ramparts.
[Rune Covered Chrysoprase]: yellow, blue. +5 spell crit, +2 mp5. From Heroic Shadow Labs.

These are both very tasty, because you don’t find spell crit on healer gems when you’re looking at the BoE gems from jewelcrafter cuts. (Don’t believe me? Check the chart!)

(There’s also [Luminous Fire Opal], [Royal Tanzanite] and [Dazzling Chrysoprase] from Shattered Halls, Slave Pens, and Old Hillsbrad heroics respectively. You should recognise all three as being epic ‘upgrades’ of the cuts recommended above in the ‘Choices’ section.)

Meta Gems

There are two reasonable options in the meta gem selection (although many helms these days don’t actually have meta sockets).

[Bracing Earthstorm Diamond] – this gem is a lot easier to get now that the prerequisites have been relaxed (now it only requires more red gems than blue; it used to require more yellow gems than blue as well, which was very hard to juggle). However, it still requires some jiggery-pokery to get it working, and the reduced-threat bonus isn’t nearly as appealing for paladins as it is for other healing classes.

The most popular choice is [Insightful Earthstorm Diamond]. The Int bonus is nice, the proc goes off a lot, and the activation is easy to manage. It’s an all-around winner.

Socket Bonuses

Socket Bonuses tend to act like a homing beacon. You see your shiny new shoulders with two yellow sockets, and you think “omg, must socket yellow gems!” and before you know it, you’ve put in two [Luminous Noble Topaz]es without actually checking to see if you need more int – or would mp5 suit you better?

There are some socket bonuses you just don’t need. For instance, I just picked up [Crystalforge Pauldrons] – two yellow sockets and a +4 stam socket bonus. I really don’t care about that 40 health, so I’m under no obligation to socket yellow-compatible gems in there. On the other hand, you better believe I stuck to the socket colors for my Mask of Introspection – the socket bonus is +9 healing; that’s half a rare gem right there!

In other words: yet again, there are no hard-and-fast rules. Look at the socket bonus and decide if it’s worth getting, then look at the gems you’d put in to achieve it, then decide if you’re sacrificing too much for the socket bonus to be worth it overall.

In defense of Protection Paladins…

Just a quick post tonight, because I’m very tired and have been extremely busy for the last week:

Although I play a holy paladin by choice, I was really happy when 2.0 (and then TBC more so) made Protection a truly viable paladin spec, and I still get rather frustrated on behalf of my tanky brethren when people dismiss the utility and usability of paladin tanks.

Zen, a protection pally from my guild, has a very informative and well-written tankadin blog, and he recently made a post dispelling some of the old myths about tankadins. No, pallies don’t take too much damage; yes, they have enough health.

Go read! It’s good stuff – and next time someone’s trotting about the tired old line about warriors being the only real tanks, you’ll have ammunition to dismiss them. The raiding community has already accepted that feral druids can do the job – now they just have to broaden their minds and accept paladins too. (I shudder to think of the drama once Death Knights hit the scene…)

Theorycrafting: Divine Illumination

In the comments on my Holy Paladin introduction post, where I discussed various talent specs for a holy pally, Raquel disagreed with my decision to leave Divine Illumination out of the “bare minimum” spec. Now, I’ve been thinking about picking DI back up again, so let’s take a bit of a look at it.

Divine Illumination is the end talent of the Holy tree for paladins, not to be confused with Illumination or Divine Intervention (which is the usual ability indicated by the ‘DI’ abbreviation). Divine Illumination “reduces the mana cost of all spells by 50% for 15 seconds”, and is on a 3 minute cooldown. (Note that this effect does not apply to Lay on Hands; you still drain all your mana when you blow LoH regardless of this spell.)

Now, the actual mana savings of Divine Illumination are really dependent on your own casting rotation, and the situations under which you’re healing. Obviously, you’re going to get a lot more use out of it in fights where you’re frantically chain-casting your biggest heals just to keep the tank up than you are when you’re leisurely throwing Flash of Lights in a controlled environment.

That said, let’s do a bit of hypothetical numbercrunching. I’ll use my own spell rotation for this, which tends to be approximately three Flash of Lights and then a Holy Light – on average, that is; obviously it’s situational, but over the course of most (progression and newly-on-farm) fights I throw about 25% Holy Lights, 75% Flash of Lights.

Now, again, assume a chain-casting situation, which means that during the 15 seconds Divine Illumination is up, I’m going to wind up throwing 2 Holy Lights and about 6 Flash of Lights – theoretically 7 Flash of Lights, but there’s always a bit of latency (especially for us Aussie players), having to move around, whatever.

So, 2x Holy Lights = 1680 mana and 6x Flash of Lights = 1080 mana, for a total of 2760 mana used in that fifteen seconds. A 50% savings is 1380 mana – in other words, Divine Illumination saves me 1380 mana every 3 minutes, or 460 mana per minute (on average). That’s an equivalent of 38.3 mp5, which is pretty huge for one talent point.

Obviously, that’s not the same as mp5; it’s a mana savings, not a mana return, which means that – just like mana return on crit heals – if you’re not casting, you’re not getting the benefit of this talent. And, like other cooldowns, if you don’t use it, you don’t get the benefit, either. Use it every time it’s up, unless it’s a spiky-damage fight where you know you’ll be throwing out a string of big heals before the cooldown will be up again.

That said, for progression fights where you’re chain-casting or close to it, Divine Illumination certainly looks like it’s worth the talent point – provided you remember to use it.

The Holy Paladin: Introduction

Time and again, I see posts in various WoW communities asking for information about how to gear up and spec a holy paladin. Rather than repeat the same information over and over again, I thought I’d do a series of posts discussing the issues.

First up is an examination of the roles of a holy-specced paladin. The holy paladin can fill two main roles: DPS (don’t laugh!) and healing. This article from WoW Insider addresses holy paladin DPS (the so-called “shockadin” build) very well, so I’ll leave the DPS issue aside for now and talk about the much-loved healadin.

Patch 2.0, in December 2006, was a godsend for healer paladins; previously we made good healers in a support role (such as raids, and off-healing in PvP and instancing) but we just didn’t have the oomph to solo-heal anything unless we were dramatically overgeared. 2.0 changed that for the better, and in the post-Burning Crusade world, paladins are popular and widely-accepted main healers for raids, 5-mans and PvP.

Talent Choice

Here’s my ideal “core” healadin spec:

40/0/0: The Bare Minimum
This build has the absolute minimum you want in Holy as a main healer. Looking at the talents:

  • Divine Intellect 5/5: +10% Int = a bigger mana pool and more spell crit.The only choice on this level.
  • Spiritual Focus 5/5: 70% chance not to loseWeight Exercise casting time off heals while taking damage. Extremely useful, and a much better choice than the other talent on this level (Improved Seal of Righteousness – which is a fine talent for a bit of DPS viability, but you wouldn’t want to take it instead of Spiritual Focus).
  • Healing Light 3/3: +12% healing throughput; essential for a serious healer. A no-brainer.
  • Improved Lay On Hands 2/2: Reduces the cooldown on Lay on Hands by 20 minutes and gives the recipient a 30% armor bonus for 2 minutes. This one is less essential, but it’s still very useful – Lay On Hands is useful as an “oh shit” move in boss fights, and the armor boost can provide a big edge to a tank who’s not already at the armor cap. This one’s mostly in the spec because it’s the best choice for the last 2 talent points at this level, though.
  • Illumination 5/5: Crit heals refund 60% of their mana cost. This is THE key healadin talent; don’t leave home without it.
  • Improved Blessing of Wisdom 2/2: adds 8mp5 at level 70. Very nice, but not essential: if you’re always going to have access to Imp BoW from another pally, you can spend the two points elsewhere if you want.
  • Divine Favor 1/1: 2 minute cooldown, the next Holy Light, Flash of Light, or Holy Shock is a guaranteed crit. A great use of one talent point; it’s really nice to be able to guarantee a crit heal when you need it most.
  • Sanctified Light 3/3: An extra 6% crit chance for Holy Light (the big pally heal). Given the value of crit heals for a paladin, this one’s a no-brainer; see a later post for a discussion of the impact of crit heals on mana regen.
  • Holy Power 5/5: Adds 5% to the crit chance of all Holy spells. Even more of a no-brainer.
  • Light’s Grace 3/3: After casting a Holy Light, the next Holy Light casts in 2 sec instead of 2.5 sec; the buff lasts 15 seconds and is a rolling effect. This one requires some finesse to use (“priming” yourself with a low-rank Holy Light to get the buff up before combat, throwing a Holy Light of appropriate rank every 15 seconds to keep the buff ticking, etc), but it’s very handy and allows for significantly improved healing throughput.
  • Holy Shock 1/1: Instantly heals a friendly target or damages a hostile one. Actually not an essential talent for healing – it triggers the GCD, so it’s an inefficient use of 1.5 seconds of healing time compared with a Flash of Light – although it can be handy to hit the target with some healing now rather than at the end of the spell, if their immediate survival is an issue. Also useful for off tanking (for threat generation) and soloing, so it’s worth taking for its utility value, IMO.
  • Holy Guidance 5/5: adds 35% of your Intellect to your spell damage and healing. A big boost to efficacy that only gets bigger as you gear up.

Key talents I didn’t include:

  • Aura Mastery 1/1: increases your aura range to 40 yards. Nice, especially for positioning-crucial fights, but not essential. Potentially worth taking if you have a spare point, but take a look at the kind of fights you’re regularly doing and decide if it would make a difference first.
  • Divine Illumination 1/1: reduces the mana cost of all spells by 50% for 15 seconds, on a 3-minute cooldown. Again, not a bad talent – I haven’t done the numbercrunching on it it to see if it’s worth taking because I simply don’t have the talent points for it, so it’s not even an option, but I suspect it’s probably a pretty decent use of a single talent point if you have one spare.

    (Tangent: I used to have this spell back when crit heals were free (not just 40% of normal mana cost as they are now) and would trigger it + Divine Favor + Holy Light for a mana _refund_ on the Holy Light. The mechanic was: Holy Light is cast at a mana cost of 440 [usual cost is 880 but Divine Illumination halves it], spell crits due to Divine Favor, Illumination refunds 100% of the original mana cost of the spell, ie 880 mana. Net result: one free crit heal plus a free 440 mana, enough for two extra Flashes of Light.)

Once you’ve got this basic build, you can spend the other 21 points as you see fit. Mine are all in Protection to make me an OT (as I generally need to AoE tank trash in Karazhan and Zul’Aman every week). Here are some suggestions for the 21 points:

  • 40/21/0 Main Healer/Offtank: This is my spec. The 21 points in Protection are primarily to make me a better tank (Redoubt, Toughness, Anticipation, plus Improved Righteous Fury is essential for a tank), with 1 point on Blessing of Kings for utility’s sake and 2 points in Guardian’s Favor because Blessing of Protection is, quite frankly, awesome for clothy-rescue in both PvE and PvP.
  • 43/18/0 Main Healer/Raid Support: This one’s intended purely for PvE raid healing, with no expectation of ever tanking. It adds Divine Illumination and Purifying Power on the Holy side for improved mana longevity (remember how mana-intensive being a cleansebot can be!) and Blessing of Kings and Improved Concentration Aura on the Protection side for raid utility. And Guardian’s Favor again because I just love Blessing of Protection, and you should too.
  • 45/0/10 Main Healer/Solo DPS: This is a hybrid of the core main healer spec with elements of the DPS spec recommended in the WoW Insider article, with six points spare. You can spend them where you like, as there’s nothing accessible that’s particularly compelling. (Just a note: holy paladins do their DPS with a one-handed caster weapon. Their DPS comes from spell damage, not “white damage“, so the effect of improved strength is negligible; similiarly, the DPS talents of the Retribution tree generally rely on a high-DPS two handed weapon that dishes out lots of white damage, so are wasted on a holy paladin DPSing with a caster sword and shield.)
  • 42/19/0 Main Healer/PvP Healer: I feel that I’m rather going out on a limb with this one, because I’m still learning a lot when it comes to PvP, but this is what I’d take if I were going that route. 4 points spent on getting 10% stun and fear resistance, 2 points for Guardian’s Favor (because there’s nothing like BoPing your mage friend just when the rogue is tearing into them – remember a BoPped target can still cast spells, just not physically attack! – and the improved cooldown on Blessing of Freedom is very nice), Improved Righteous Fury is actually useful for the damage reduction in PvP where threat doesn’t matter, and the improved cooldown on Hammer of Justice is handy for getting people off you while you wait for a hand from your DPSers.
    (Note that this spec is assuming you still want to keep the standard ‘core Holy spec’ to be a PvE healer first and foremost, and that the PvP healing is just a sideline. If I were making a pure PvP healer spec it’d be a bit different.)

The above are just a few variants on the 40/0/0 Bare Minimum core spec, providing options for whatever playstyle you prefer. In upcoming posts, look out for a discussion of gear and buff choices, theorycrafting about mp5 vs spellcrit vs +heal, suggestions for playstyle and lots more pally fun. :)

(When you consider that the blog is called Banana Shoulders, and I started off talking about paladins in my very first post, this has been a long time coming!)