Thursday, September 11, 2014

Rethinking Spirit Part 2

In my last post I made the assertion that Spirit could be viewed as a kind of regen haste. In this post I'd like to expand upon that idea and dig a bit deeper into the way regen haste influences our game play as healers.

Our common metrics for evaluating healing spells are not influenced by spirit or regen in the same way that they are for other stats. Heal per Mana, Heal per Cast, and Heal per Cast Time ignore Spirit and thus can not be used in order to evaluate the value of Spirit in our day to day healing.
This begs the question of what metric is useful for evaluating Spirit and more importantly how are we to think about Spirit in order to move away from the common "Spirit until you are comfortable" advice that is so common today and into a world where a hard value for Spirit is feasible.

Our journey begins in the Proving Grounds where a young and eager Holy Priest is furiously attempting to acquire his Proven Healer title. That priest is of course myself.

Having achieved Gold Healer not once but twice on two separate characters I was fairly confident that the influences and knowledge base I had taken into the challenge would hold steady as I approached the next challenge.
Countless tries later and having halted at wave 19 I have come to a much better understanding of the finer points of the lessons my unwitting mentors taught me and also a clarity of the purpose of what Spirit adds to the Priest's healing abilities.

Hamlet and Dayani are unquestionably great healers. Each has attained Proven Healer on all five healing classes and each have shown time and time again the depth of their knowledge and the extent of their healing experience. It is from this vantage point that they provide us with lessons which are intended to make us better healers.
So are they wrong in what they say?
The short answer is no. Carefully reading what each says about healing theory and practice reveals that the underlying principles are sound. It is this advice that helped me to achieve Gold status and to become an unquestionably better healer than I was before I began to read each of their blogs.

What I have come to understand however is that their advice fails to take into consideration the proficiency of the healer that is listening (or reading I suppose). Both Hamlet and Dayani heal at a level much closer to perfect efficiency than that of the new or simply unskilled healer. Certainly there are healers out there who are closer in proficiency and perhaps even a few who surpass but for, I dare say, the majority of us, and certainly for myself if I humble down and cease to speak for others, we operate at a level of efficiency that is much lower. All of that is to say we make many more mistakes over the course of a healing session.

And this is what Spirit allows for, mistakes. Even among the highly proficient mistakes will occur and mana will be wasted. Before we talk about the importance of this safety net for less proficient healers it is worth noting that another benefit of Spirit for highly efficient healers is the greater allotment of mana with which to use in stabilizing damaged players. At lower amounts of Spirit these healers may be ok with a player sitting at at a lower percentage of total health than they are when they have more mana to allot to healing over a given amount of time.
For less proficient healers, like myself, Spirit is a safety net for the inevitable mistakes that will be made. Given enough time and energy I could and would be able to overcome my mistakes and eventually get closer to this ideal standard which Hamlet not only talks about but shows as reality in his Proven Healer series. Our world is not an ideal world however and thus newer or less skilled players will inevitably make choices when healing that will cost them more mana and see similar if not worse results.

Encounter time varies from group to group and gear level to level and as such is not an ideal situation to explore the mana regen phenomenon. Proving grounds, on the other hand, is a highly predictable environment. The Endless test has a set of 10 waves that only varies by the amount of damage that is put out. Each group of 10 waves lasts for 10 minutes and each individual wave within the set is the same. Thus wave 4 and wave 34 only differ in that wave 34 deals out 30% more damage than wave 4.

At the end of each 10 minute set the player is given a chance to drink and thus reset their mana bar to its initial state. This allows us to determine a baseline amount of mana that each healer has available per wave and then discuss the effects of adding Spirit onto this.
At 0 spirit the regen amount is 1,200 mana per second which comes to 720k mana over the 10 minute set. Add in our initial 300k mana and we have a base of 1.2m mana for each set. Just as healing which has no damage to offset is overhealing, mana which has no loss to off set can be thought of as over regen and over the course of a set some time will undoubtedly be spent at full leading a small amount of over-regen but this is largely negligible.  

I would like to pause here and state that I have not had beta access and thus will not discuss the new Warlords healing paradigm within this post. Once I am able to heal in the new environment I may revisit this topic with those changes in mind.

Back on topic we can begin to see the real value of spirit once we come to understand it more as a concrete number and less as some mythical gut feeling as many currently do. Just as 425 haste translates to a 1% decrease in cast time, 106 Spirit translates to roughly 1% faster regen of base mana. Each wave will have some bounded set of damage which needs to be healed (the reason that damage is not a single number is the inherent randomness of entity placement which leads to variable amounts of damage taken). More experienced healers will choose more efficiently when converting mana into healing while less experienced healers will spend more mana for similar gain and will also likely generate more waste as overheal. Ideally you would want to be cognizant of this wastage and correct the behavior on the next attempt. In reality adding Spirit allows the healer a larger margin of error in order to continue pushing forward.
An extra 5k mana translates to a roughly 50% increase in regen time which gives just over one extra mana bar per set.

The current problem within the healing community seems to be this misinterpretation of the importance of HPM and that the goal of anyone wishing to improve as a healer would be to constantly increase the amount of healing done per mana spent. Its almost as if we have this backwards currently and thus when we go OOM we blame a lack of mana instead of poor spell selection. This is a topic that has been covered in much greater detail and much more eloquently.

To sum up, striving to achieve the type of healing that Hamlet talks about should certainly be our goal as healers but until then we can pad our mistakes by using Spirit to increase our regen amount in set intervals. Unfortunately few of us think about Spirit as having a 1% rating point or even more loosely how mana regen and Spirit work at all. If we could take a more methodical approach to how much Spirit we add we would have to guess or just add until comfortable. In return we could begin to reallocate those points to the throughput stats as we began to understand why and where that Spirit was helping us and worked to eliminate its necessity.        

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