Thursday, March 4, 2010

Int vs SP and HL vs FoL – Let the Theorycrafting Begin!

Before we begin, let me toss out a couple of disclaimers.

First – someone will probably disagree and post something awesome from EJ. Personally, I’d love to see it and I welcome any discussion on this. Second – I really hope someone points Mr. Christian at this (or one of the other blogs like it), as it seems he still needs to learn that we have more than one button to push. Finally – this is some napkin math done during lunch, so if I miss something, please point it out.

The basic debate

There is a big section of Paladin healers out there who think that a) we should only be spamming Holy Light, and b) that Intellect is the only gem for us. While this is certainly a safe bet (make sure you get enough ‘off’ gems to make your meta work), it’s definitely not the only game in town.

A growing collection of Paladins are making the shift to Spell Power, relying on the faster (and more efficient) Flash of Light to carry the load. This is a perfectly fine way to set yourself up, though it can lead to some issues if higher throughput is required.

I’ve found that a balanced approach works better, but here’s a look at the numbers.

Base stats

Since Spell Power, Crit, MP5, etc. are all static stats, we need to break down Intellect to see what benefits we receive from it. I pulled this info out last year, and the only thing that has changed is the return from Replenishment.

100 Intellect will net us

· 126 Int (with Divine Intellect and BoK)

· 1897 Mana at the start of the fight

· 39.5 mp5 from Divine Plea

· 18.97 mp5 from Replenishment

· 4.7 mp5 from Arcane Torrent

· 25.3 Spell Power

· 0.759% Crit

Because of these returns, it’s easy to see why many Paladins simply stack Intellect over everything else. Much like Reaganomic’s post regarding Christmas Tree gemming, it’s easy to get caught up in searching for those ‘perfect’ gems to match set bonuses. In addition, because of our high spell coefficients, it may not always be necessary.

Cost plus coefficients

As a Paladin, our three main healing spells are Holy Light, Flash of Light, and Holy Shock. Even though we have an arsenal of supporting spells (Beacon, Sacred Shield, various Hands of XYZ), those aren’t spells that we spam. We put them out as needed, and refresh BoL and SS when they expire.

Holy Light

Touted as our “Big Gun”, Holy Light has the following properties.

· Cost: 29% of base mana, or 1275 mana

· Coefficient: 166% of our Spell Power

· Base Healing: 4888 – 5444

· Cast Time: 2.5 seconds

Flash of Light

Our faster, spammable, heal.

· Cost: 7% of base mana, or 307 mana

· Coefficient: 100% of our Spell Power

· Base Healing: 785 – 879

· Cast Time: 1.5 seconds

Holy Shock

Our only true instant, this also has a 6sec CD (5sec with Glyph).

· Cost: 18% of base mana, or 791 mana

· Coefficient: 0.81% of our Spell Power

· Base Healing: 2401 – 2599

· Cast Time: N/A – Instant

Armed with these numbers, we can determine HPS and throughput – though there are still many variables concerning mana return (Judging every 8/10 seconds? Getting JoW procs?) which cannot be considered.

In my current un-buffed raid gear, I have the following stats to work with.

· 2805 Spell Power,

· 30.86% crit (without Holy Talents)

· 770 Haste (over the softcap of 680)

· 216 mp5

This means my highest (non-crit) spells will hit for the following (not counting the bonus healing from Healing Light or any other talents/effects). Holy Light – 10,100, Flash of Light – 3684, Holy Shock – 4871. A point per cost shows Holy Light at 8 points per mana, Flash at 12 points per mana, and Holy Shock at 6 points per mana.

Now none of this will come as a surprise to any raiding Paladin. It’s been known for a long time that FoL is by far the most efficient spell in our arsenal, its only drawback has been a lower throughput vs. HL. With the expectation that Paladins act as “tank healers”, and the perception that we have infinite mana pools, it’s easy to see how we fell into the “Spam Holy Light” trap.

Break free of the chains!

Over at there is a great post talking about gemming for SP over Int, and using FoL as your mainstay. He essentially covers the finer aspects of this build - mine has more math.

Before we look at gear, let’s look at what we gain by swapping gems. Assuming you don’t go for the Christmas Tree effect, and instead swap each +20Int gem (Brilliant Kings Amber – BKA) for +23SP (Runed Cardinal Ruby – RCR), you can see a marginal increase in SP at the cost of mana and longevity. As I listed above, 100 mana (five BKA) will give you 25 SP, effectively reducing your swap by one SP gem. So for a gain of 92 SP, you will lose 1900 mana and .75% crit (plus the mp5 from DP and Replenishment).

In my current gear I have twenty BKA, so I could gain 360 SP at the cost of 7600 mana, 3% crit, plus 233 mp5 (from DP and Replenishment). That 360 extra spell power will simply raise my top non-crit FoL to 4044 (about 4400 with talents, 8800 crits). While that is a big boost to your FoL hits, you are sacrificing the gas in your tank that you will need if you have to switch to HL spam. Swapping out your INT trinkets for SP will bump you up quite a bit more, again at the cost of longevity.

But you said I could be free

This is where smart playstyle, knowing your healing team, and keeping multiple gear sets comes in handy. When we’re 2 healing 10man ICC, I know that I can’t afford to be caught short on the HL output. My heal partner is a Disc Priest, so I’m counting on him to mitigate and offset a lot of the incoming damage, but I have to be there for the big heals when they’re needed. On the flip side of that coin, in 25 mans I have a larger healing team to work with, so there’s always someone who can assist on the tanks. By putting a BoL on the tank taking damage, I can literally spam FoL on the raid and keep the tank from folding.

The problem only comes into play when I have to kick it into overdrive. Being down 7600 mana (just from the gems) means I don’t have the horses in the stable when I need them. Sure, my FoLs are hitting like trucks every second, but that oftentimes isn’t enough. This is where having a good synergy with your other healers really has to come into play. Being able to lean on each other, and trust that jobs are covered (plus snagging an Innervate if you need it) is a great help. Let’s face it, Divine Plea’d Holy Light’s are less effective than regular Flash of Lights.

You also will need to glyph and spec for a heavy FoL build, picking up Glyph of Seal of Light, Glyph of Flash of Light, and using the 51/0/18+2 build. It certainly can be done, and you can put up some impressive numbers with it – it’s just not for the faint of heart.

Finding a middle ground

Personally, I hold a solid middle ground between a full FoL build (with tons of SP gems, trinkets, etc) and a HL build. I swap out my trinkets for SP over Int, and my libram for the PvP FoL bonus. I use my PvP gloves for an extra 2% FoL crit, and use the 51/2/18+2 build and glyphs. I don’t regem for two reasons. One, I do 10 mans where having the HL heavy Int build is beneficial and two, because I want that extra Int as a cushion in case I need some extra healing legs.

This method may be frowned upon by some – I mean why not go full hog wild with the SP gems as well? Honestly, as soon as I have an effective 2nd set of gear, I will. I certainly don’t have a problem with keeping multiple sets of gear around to play with, and it’s not like I need the triumph badges for anything else.


In the end (or TLDR for those folks so inclined) either build will work for you – if you let it. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but don’t gimp your raid in the process. Far better for you to be a reliable HL nuke machine than an erratic FoL bomber. Work with your other healers to see if this playstyle will mesh with your current setup, and be prepared to catch some flak from uneducated raiders in PuGs. Remember, in order to get the most from the FoL build you pretty much have to go all in – trinkets, libram, glyphs, spec, etc. If you’re not getting 8-10k crits regularly, your HPS will suffer and your tanks will as well.

Go big, or go home.


  1. Great post. I enjoyed the math that wasn't in the post. Do you find that the flash of light build is more gear dependent than the holy light build that most do? Meaning that to be effective you have to have the higher level gear. I could imagine that there it would be a lot more work at the lower level of the gear spectrum for the flash of light build. Do you think if you are going for a middle of the road kinda of build that a 52/5/15 would work?

  2. Yes - this build is slightly higer for gear requirements, for a couple reasons. First, if you don't have enough haste - you can't land them fast enough. Second, if you don't have enough SP - they won't hit hard enough. Finally, not enough crit means they won't hit hard enough.

    You also don't have the mana pool that you do with a pure Int setup - so if a 5 man goes dodgy at lower gear levels (or worse a raid) you won't have the legs to finish the encounter.

    The reason you need 51/x/18+2 is to pick up all the crit you lost from the SP. A 4000 point FoL hitting for 4200 probably won't make the difference, but a 4000 point heal critting for 8160 (assuming 2 points in Divinity) means a lot more. Crit is also still a viable mana return tool.

  3. Very informative through the discussion is abit outdated. In a few months when cataclysm hits, SP and INT will be merged. I think this will most likely force paladins(wheither you are HL or FOL specced) to have a combined HL/FOL. What do you think?

  4. @Sumadin - Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your view), we're still playing WoTLK with INT being a viable option. Once I can start seeing numbers from patch 4.0 (or whenever the release the changes prior to Cataclym's launch), I'll update accordingly.

    I think Paladins are going to be pretty well worked over, as so many things will have to change. I am fairly certain that Blizzard doesn't want a third expansion where Paladins do nothing but stack INT - but I'm not privy to those changes. I think that with larger health pools, and heals not getting much bigger (relitively speaking) the dev team is really pushing for all healing classes to make smart decisions based on the situation. I know that with my current gear, and 4 other healers in the raid, I can simply spam FoL forever - without concern about a tank folding.

    If you look at out t10 set bonus - the horrible bonus it is - it seems to accentuate this point. If Light's Grace is already up, and you're rocking HLs out, you probably won't hit Holy Shock - it's actually a HPS loss. If you're rolling FoLs however, and need to quickly sift gears - the .3 sec off the cast will bring your HL in fast enough to make a difference.

    Until then - this information is still what's needed to make decisions going into ICC.

  5. I really dislike the t10 4pc bonus for a couple reasons. 1) I stack INT and haste and the effective cast time reductions ends up around .1 seconds or less in my progression gear. 2) I use Shock for emergencies and movement and would hate to use it for any sort of 'rotation', similar to why I dislike the new libram.

    When I last looked at "Flash Spammer" builds from various progression guilds in t8, I saw a lot of them matching socket bonuses with a focus on SP through red/orange/purple gems. This allowed them to pick up on various socket bonuses (might not be valid with epic gems) and scraping up a little bit of INT as well. T8 was also a wonderful set to work with a high SP build.

    I have lately been spending a lot of time setting up for the Valithria fight (down now after 20 attemps) and looking at alternate gear sets. I can't justify a spec change from my 54/17, but I did regem some pieces to pure SP gems, use a high SP weapon, swap trinkets, etc. I have found that it is barely worth regemming my old 245 gear to SP gems. The net gains after INT to SP conversion on the new 264 gear is coming out to less than 1 epic gem in most cases. Compare the crafted legs in pure INT (any flavor, I run the plate) to Failing Light in pure SP and you'll see what I mean. I'm a little short on resources at the moment too, so I am holding off on further regemming unless I pick up extra 264 gear.

  6. I'd like to start by saying I liked your post.

    btw: " 126 Int (with Divine Intellect and BoK)" not sure what math your using but mine would be calculated a bit differently.

    Divine int = 10%; bok = 10% therefore 5 x 20 int gems net us 100 x 1.1 x 1.1 = 121 int (24.2 sp)

    But anyways.. working off your numbers it's interesting to note that...

    "So for a gain of 92 SP, you will lose 1900 mana and .75% crit (plus the mp5 from DP and Replenishment). "

    What would that equivate to in HPS I wonder... and so I did a simple calculation to reverse the crit to give base healing to get even amounts in terms of hps.

    [your sp/crit #s btw] 92 sp vs 0.75% crit assuming you don't oom

    HL = 166% sp -> 92 sp x 1.66 = gained heals.
    so what would that equivate to if 0.75% crit was worth it I wonder...

    92(sp) x 1.66(coeff) = 0.0075(crit) x HL(normal) x 0.5 (remembering crit only gives us 50% more healing)

    HL(normal) = 92 x 1.66 x 2 / 0.0075 = 40725 HL
    -the crit would be 61088

    Doing the same thing with FoL ....
    FoL(normal) = 92 x 1 x 2 / 0.0075 = 24533 FoL
    -the crit would be 36800

    Doing the same thing with HS...
    HS(normal) = 92 x 0.81 x 2 / 0.0075 = 19872 HS
    -the crit would be 29808

    So anyways... if you're never having mana issues, SP seems to be the way to go (unless you have insane heals to begin with)

    Lemme know if my math is completely off (btw I would be working with 23sp x 5 - (121 x 0.2) = 90.8sp as the difference.
    Also, crit would be 0.726% (so both would have been scaled down)

  7. @Anonymous - Your math looks right I think. The 126 I got from INT is from the Paladin thinktank section on EJ.

    I am basically running two different sets of gear at this point. I still have a couple of INT gem pieces for my SP set - but another week or two of solid ICC runs and I should have full 251+ in SP and INT sets.

    One isn't better than the other, it's situational. A lot depends on your healer synergy. I was in an ICC PUG the other night and had to go back to full HL spam, just because the tanks were dying. In our 10mans, I run the FoL build.


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