So a little after one week from the release of Cata, and we're heading in for our first raid. I don't know which one we're doing, though I'm assuming we'll be going after Wyrmbreaker and perhaps Tol'Barad. I honestly don't even know what raids are available right now. This is a little different than my traditional stance, where I try and know everything before I step into the instance. I've really enjoyed seeing the bosses fresh, without having seen videos and writeups before hand. It is really nice when the tanks know though, so they can prepare me for some big AoE or heavy spike damage.
Dealing with the Holy Power change
To be honest, I haven't really felt the hit on this. I guess I wasn't really abusing the Light of Dawn AoE as much as I thought, becuase I didn't really notice a change. Yes, it's tougher to have the three charges available whenever I want them, and there are certainly times when it would have been nice to have even the reduced LoD available. What this has forced me to do however is to play a bit more as Blizzard intended, and to use more than just two or three spells for the fight duration. I find myself thinking three or five heals ahead, trying to line up my AoE's effectively, and making sure I use my procs efficiently.
To date I've only done a few of the instances on Heroic mode, but I've really found them enjoyable. Shadowfang Keep was a reall buster, especially the first boss fight. Making sure I had three HP stored up to help recover after the Strangulate, timing Judgements, etc. I even got to do a bit of CC using a glyphed Turn Evil during the Commander fight. This is a component that I think a lot of healers miss out on. Just because my primary responsibility is healing, doesn't mean that I can't contribute to the overall encounter. Even if it's something as simple as using my Arcane Torrent as an interrupt, or changing a glyph so I have an instant cast fear. These things combine to make the overall healing easier. By using my own CC, the DPS can focus on killing their target, and the group takes less damage overall.
I have had a few PUG mishaps with heroics. Such as zoning into H:Vortex and having no lock, no shaman, no hunter, and no Ret pally. So our CC vs the elementals was virtually zero, and our tank was folded before we even got out of the gate. This was an instnace where I just didn't have the horses to pull him through the damage being done, even by shifting into high gear. I wound up getting blamed for letting the tank die, and I just zoned out to work on my mining for a while. I don't mind working hard every pull to make sure the tank stays up, but there's a limit to the abuse I'll take for it.
Being able to fly in the old world certainly makes leveling this beast better, along with the extra skillups you get from smelting the ore. The XP is just an added bonus that I'm sure I'll really appreciate once I get back to herbing/mining Cata level nodes, since my Warlock is now my primary gatherer instead of my main. /sadface I have to level my Engineering though, because those goggles are just damned sexy. I will probably have to break down and spend the JPs on a new helmet though, simply because I haven't gotten lucky with any drops. Oh, and being able to track herbs AND nodes at the same time? Absoloutely wonderful.
Mastery, Val'anyr, and reforging
I still haven't reforged any of my gear. At this stage I'm not entirely sure what stats I like and which ones I can drop. Spirit is delicious, and I'm trying to find the break between Haste and Crit. Obviously the advantage of Crit is that your overall HpM goes up, providing you get any crits in there. It's tough to break away from the mentality that I need to be rolling Holy Lights, and if I have enough Spirit and Crit, a single large spell should do the trick. Of course without enough haste it may not get there in time, but that's why we have 100k+ health pools. I'm also fairly in love with our Mastery the more I run. It's the reason I still use my Val'anyr, and knowing that 25% of the heals I land while the buff is up become shields is really nice.
I'm still not 100% certain on the HOW of our Mastery though. With the Val'anyr, the shields will stack until you reach 200k in shields, and you don't lose any of the shielding ability. To the best of my knowledge however, our Mastery doesn't stack, instead it refreshes. What I mean by this is say you cast a 20k heal on your target. As a base, you wil get a 10% shield (2k) that lasts for 8 sec. Now assuming that doesn't get instantly wiped out, but say, only 1500 of it goes away, your next heal will refresh that shield back up to 2k. The exception to this is if your heal is larger than 20k, which would then give you a larger base shield to refresh off of. Once the shield falls off (through time or damage), you start over again.
The best analogy I read about this was if you think of the heal as a bucket, you can always refill the bucket, but the bucket can only get bigger, not smaller. While this isn't as impressive with 12k Holy Light hits now, as our spell power and crit go up, and our overall mastery rating - these shields should get fairly substantial. Granted it takes about 180 points in mastery to raise it up enough to get another 1.25% in shields, but it's something worth playing with I think. The issue now is that even if I reforged all my gear with say, haste, I'd only pick up about 3 full points in master - giving me close to 14% in shields instead of 10%. I'll have to do some more math to determine if the percentage of shield increase is worth the cost, or if it is instead better to have a higher crit/haste percentage and count on your spellpower to make the shields grow. More math will follow, though I have a gut feeling on this. Hopefully I can get some logs in our upcoming raids and dungeons to help work this out. I'd be interesting to see what kind of numbers we see.
While I have managed to pick up a decent BoE caster sword, I'm still sticking with my legendary from two (three?) tiers of content. I did the same with my Thunderfury back in BC, the proc was just too good to give up. I imagine that we'll see a similar round of nerfs hit the Val'anyr in the near future. Of course I might just stumble on something so tasty that I can't pass it up. The upside of this is I feel comfortable passing on any caster maces that might drop for the druids/shaman/priest in our group. I did a quick WoWhead search and came up with one epic caster sword, and one blue caster sword (from Heroic dungeons). There are two 359 (epic) caster maces, one 346 from rep, one from blacksmithing, and two from heroic 5 mans.
For my fellow casters there are about the same number of daggers as there are maces, with a comprable number of shields (though most of them are PvP related). Fortunately I can go straight to 359 with a crafted healing shield, even if I am going to pay out the nose for it. I'd rather that than use some funkified off hand that would be better served in the hands of another caster.
This post has been worked on for most of the day now, so I'll wrap up with a goal of having some raid numbers on absorbs and mana usage - and hopefully a nice screenshot or two of some raid kills.