Thursday, July 14, 2011

et tu, enlynn?: mastery build

I imagine you've already seen some hullabulloo about the changes in 4.2 to mastery. Buffs, yes. Changes, yes. But enough changes to warrant a dramatic playstyle and gearing change for Firelands?


I read the Holy Paladin: Mastery thread over on the Blizzard forums and thought to myself that going Zaroua's route was probably a great idea for 25 HM raiders. But, I'm not a HM raider, not yet. We're shooting to get normal modes down for Firelands but it didn't happen in T11 and quite frankly we had enough on our metaphorical guild plate without them. So I did think, when I read through this, that it didn't apply to me.

Then I saw that Rohan had joined the Mastery Club. Again, HM raider.

And then Adgamorix threw in his vote and I realized something: tank deaths on Shannox were wiping us. Back-to-back Arcing Slashes and melee attacks in .12 seconds were dealing 120k and 95k damage faster than my UI could display it. And if this build is supposedly very good for crazy ass spikey tank damage like this, then why wasn't I at least willing to give it a try?

I spent some justice points and got 4 pc set bonus (not so much for the bonus, but the two pieces with mastery were the best deal for the JP I had). I reforged and regemmed (all my Reckless became Artful), and picked up the pieces of gear with Mastery from the Firelands Rep Guys (vote: pathetic or not pathetic that I don't even know the faction I'm grinding for right now?).

I cobbled together a 23% bubble with hardly any effort. Previously, I had 77 mastery (so basically a 12% bubble).

And so after almost 50 attempts at Shannox over the last few weeks, we went in last night and killed him the second time. Our RL takes full credit for the first wipe, but the second pull was beautiful, pitch-perfect, and the loot flowed.

My meters were borked. According to Skada, my bubbles were... 44k. Which is actually the bubble I had on the MT when we pulled (which is crazy). I was disheartened, but I had several healers whisper me saying they felt the difference, that whatever I had done was a good thing.

Fortunately, WoL has the story. But I'm going to drag this out and first talk about my healing before, since I think that's important. Here's a picture of last night, a very-close Shannox attempt. My assignment is the same for both: Luxinterior, Shannox tank. He, I believe, made some minor to his gear over the weekend but I'm fairly certain the only change between last night and tonight was me.

Before, my haste-stacking paladin self:

Lots of Word of Glory, and lots of Divine Light spammed on my Beacon target (Lux) to generate Holy Power. Holy Radiance popped just about every Magma Burst, and I made a point to be inside the raid when it happened to maximize my AoE healing.

And now, with Mastery:

I made radical changes to my healing style. Beacon of Light jumped to my highest healing done because I set it on the other tank and basically forgot it for the fight. But check out my bubbling- a solid fifth of my healing done.

But did you catch the overheal on my direct heals? Oi.

A thought on Holy Radiance: Because my goal for this fight was to spam Holy Light on the tank the entire fight whether or not he needed it, I spent less time positioning myself to help with AoE. The numbers here are deceiving, because not only did I get less in-range ticks with this change and those ticks healed for less, but I was off by myself or sometimes just in the melee. I used Holy Radiance 10 times for both samples, but the data can't be compared because I behaved differently.

I might have lost a tick with the haste I lost, but I didn't lose any intellect so in theory each tick would have healed the same if I had played the same.

What didn't change

Judging on cooldown, plea and trinkets early and often, hitting AoE heal button every XX seconds in response to AoE pulses. Tank healing like it's going out of style.

I healed for a bit less overall with a mastery build, however, my ranking within my raid didn't change. The healing done page looked fairly similar for both in terms of what other healers were doing.

What did change

Everything else! Who I healed and what spells I used. I went from favoring Divine Light to being afraid of it. I lost several hundred spirit to make this change, pigeon-holing me into favoring Holy Light and using DL and Flash of Light for oh-shit moments (even that oh-shit moment that I used an instant-cast FoL while running ended up being 100% overheal because others beat me to it). Beacon became a fire-and-forget buff on the other side of the raid instead of an active tool to help me raid heal and generate Holy Power while keeping my assignment up.

(BTW, raise your hand if you forgot Infusion procs insta-cast FoLs again! Cause I sure did till last night).

Beacon probably deserves its own post since I find I'm using mine differently than other paladins in the raid. But before I derail entirely, I had to mention the Beacon change because it did change how I healed the tank. When Beacon isn't on my assignment, I am restricted. With a mastery build, I am further restricted to healing my target. Raid healing with this setup doesn't heal my target, and those raid bubbles aren't likely to get absorbed in a fight like Shannox. Also, time spent not healing the tank is time not spent building up bubbles. So this build really, really pigeon-holes a paladin into one thing and one thing only: spamming Holy Light on the tank whether or not he needs it.

Pardon me. I could have sworn I just heard a skeleton screaming "Bone Storm!" from across a chamber of ice.


This build is effective for crazy tank damage fights. I can not deny it. For 25 raiders and both 10 and 25 HM raiders, I can see why stacking mastery would be a benefit to the raid for specific fights.

However, (and of course there's a however), a paladin really ought to take a long look at her playing habits and raiding roster. There are a lot of situations where a mastery build would be a great idea, but I also believe there will be a lot of situations where a haste-spirit build would be stronger.

After Shannox, we went and did a few attempts on our next boss target, Lord Ryolith, and holy cow had we not gotten Shannox down I would have felt useless for Ryolith. Heavy raid damage fights are not not friendly to the mastery build. (However, after comparing myself to the other holy paladin in my raid, I could have tried a lot harder so the verdict is most certainly not out yet for how best a mastery build paladin can use her abilities in this kind of fight. I'll post more once I figure it out.)

Should you go mastery? If and only if you play with a regular group of folks so you can be a designated main tank healer and work with the rest of your raid to help you get the most effectiveness out of this playstyle. I'm not so sure that 10 regular modes require a stacking setup, either, my experiences with 10s isn't near as great as 25s, but I just don't see the tank damage as crazy enough to warrant it. 10's, to me, seem to encourage staying general (ie, flexible) instead of going specialized, and with 10 mans that loss of spirit to focus on mastery is going to hurt.

But in 25s (even regular), volunteering to be that paladin might not be such a bad idea, especially if your group is solid enough that it's just assumed you're going to be one of the main tank healers. Does your 25-raid need 2? I have no idea. I'm not going to recommend that the other healadins in my raid make the switch.


If my snark earlier was not obvious enough, spamming a heal on a person whether they need it or not... is not FUN. I have squirmy feelings about casting with no regards to overheal. I half-wonder if we're going to see nerfs since the mastery build encourages spam-casting that goes against design intent.

Did I mention it's not fun? Sure, it felt real good to get the boss down but being a Holy-Light-Metronome (too bad paladins can't be Gnomes, har har!) will get real old, real fast. I mean, I'll do it, I like getting bosses down just like any other gal, but I lost a lot of flexibility to gain tank healing stability. Especially since I got feedback from the other healers saying it made their jobs less stressful. For me, sticking with a mastery build will be taking one for the team.

And a HM raider will have different experiences, since they will have a lot less overheal.

TLDR, for real this time

If you're struggling with keeping up tank damage that, by the logs, looks impossible to heal, going with a mastery build might be the ticket to downing those bosses.

But I would say, if you don't heal with a steady raid group, if your raid roster is constantly changing and your focus within the raid is different every night, then a more balanced approach might be better. And if you value your flexibility within your raid group, then you probably will not enjoy this specialist build.


  1. It's an interesting spec and I'll be posting my two cents on this in the next couple of days on my blog, since I have one paladin healing 25-man Firelands content with essentially the base-level mastery and then I have another paladin healing 25-man Firelands content with a good deal more, because the gear was an upgrade over other stuff.

    As such, my WoLs look very different for them both despite a very similar playstyle. And it shocked the hell out of me.

    Thanks for this personal look -- and your stating your dislike of it, too! I find it really interesting and helpful. :D

  2. After a series of infuriating wipes to Shannox last night, I am to the point where I am going to try this strategy out. Great post, Enlynn, and I'm glad to see a new post on Bubblespec... it's been too long.

  3. Pallies are op.


  4. Kurn, I'm excited to hear what you have to say about mastery, especially with two entirely different raid groups.

    Fannon, thank you. It has been too long. Let us know how Shannox goes for you. I wonder if it's possible just to beef up your mastery without a full-fledged changeover, if that would be enough. :)

    Raz, this is not a macro.

  5. I think a half-assed approach to mastery will merely result in small shields, slow spells and weak regen. If mastery is truly going to shine those bubbles need to be as big as possible.

    My plan moving forward is to create a second spec geared specifically towards single-target healing, and have a second set of gear (where I can) gemmed and reforged to favour Crit and Mastery. That way I can flip back and forth between them as needed.

    It will mean, however, that doing my dailies from here on in is going to be painful - sadistic dentist with dull tools painful.

  6. Our first week's attempt on Shannox was a wipe-fest. After our second week, he is now a one-shot boss. I have not changed anything from one fight to the next, ether healing styoe or spec.
    One thing I have noticed though, is that if your tanks stay out of Immolation traps, they don't take any big hits from Shannox, oh, and of course, they have to drop their stacks. We are using the 'keep the MT and OT far enough apart so that when he throws the spear the stacks drop off' tactic. Works just fine.

  7. I look forward to hearing how it goes for you, Fannon! Keep us posted. :)

    AliPally, our tanks were actually doing a pretty good job of avoiding things-to-be-avoided. We couldn't figure out how to deal with the unavoidable damage, specifically, the 120k Arcing Slash happening .12 seconds after the 55k melee hit. I think now that we have this down the first time, it will be easier here on out.

    Though I have to say, I just did Shannox 10 with my alt today, and pretty much everything I said about mastery really is for 25 mans. We had no problems with tank deaths in 10s, that damage is very healable.

  8. I also did some research with Mastery, but came to different conclusions then you. I really don't think its a viable spec, or rather... I wouldn't bring a Mastery-focused Paladin in over one who could do more then one role.

    You mentioned you focused entirely on tanks while Mastery specd... probably because you literally couldn't do anything but that (you lacked haste to pick and chose targets anywhere). Try limiting yourself with a haste build to just one target and you'll probably generate pretty good numbers too ;p

    I go a bit more in depth on if you'd care to check it out.

  9. Your analysis is interesting, Feya, but I'm not entirely sure I'm sold on how ineffective I am. Sure, I complain, but it's a bit of hyperbole.

    A haste stacking paladin has a 1.8 or a 1.9 second cast Divine Light or Holy Light. How much haste is required to reach 1.8 with 25-raid buffs?

    Compare that to a 2.0 second cast DL/HL with a 25% mastery bubble.

    The real reason I think the mastery build focuses tanks more than the raid has nothing to do with haste, in my opinion. It's how the player is using Beacon and what spells the player is casting. See my posts on Beacon of Light, Tower of Radiance, and my second Mastery post.

    When I was using the haste/spirit build, I felt more comfortable Beaconing my tank and helping out on the raid. When the tank needed a big heal, I would cast it right on him to generate Holy Power, which fed my raid heals (and allowed me to raid heal).

    With a mastery build, Beacon of Light seems better off as a fire-and-forget buff on the other tank. But since you don't have LoD and direct heal transfer to your tank, you have to spam him a lot. Furthermore, the mastery build encourages spamming to build up bubbles even when the tank damage isn't bad. That's why Beacon of Light does more healing for me in my mastery build than it does when I use Tower of Radiance, trading holy power for half-a-heal.

    I still feel pretty awkward on fights like Ryolith and Beth, but at the same time, I'm still very much holding my own against the raid healers. Most of the time, I "outheal" (said tongue-in-cheek) our haste-healadin, in phase 2 as well. But to be honest I felt pretty awkward in those fights before, likely because I also raid 10s on a holy priest and the difference in toolkit just doesn't compare.

    I would have left a comment on your site but Enlynn doesn't have a wordpress account. I'm not sure we would come to the same conclusion looking at Eloderung's parses (and I don't feel comfortable calling someone out and saying they don't know what they are doing).

    You said a mastery build can't perform simple triage, but that's wrong.

    It's not a matter of can, in a guild like Eloderung's I'm going to bet that the raid healers are entirely aggressive. Top end guilds very often have stricter assignments, and if you weren't in the channel when they devised their strategy, how can you say that he's incapable?

    Rather, I think they have strict healing assignments: likely Eloderung agreed to stay on tanks when the shit hits the fan, allowing the other healers to perform that triage. That's teamwork of the highest order and takes a lot of trust.

    I doubt that a top-end guild paladin is INCAPABLE of triage. I don't buy it.

    Because I perform triage as needed, too. A life-saving heal is going to be between 10-30k health, so even if I "save" 10 lives it's going to be a minority of healing. These kinds of quality heals don't show up on the meters without going to a second-by-second parse of the log.

    Thanks for stopping by, Feya. I do agree with you on the FoL build. I ended up using it for one fight in Icecrown and it was pretty clunky... though I guess I also disagree about how FoL was a spamfest. It was no more a spamfest than a holy light build. If you were a tank healer in wrath, you couldn't stop casting

  10. I've some new insight on the matter, and realized I took a very aggressive con-stance against the mastery builds. I need to sit down and write the full post out, but i've been a bit busy outside of WoW.

    Talking with Eloderung on the official forums, he mentions he never uses holy light on the tank hes healing. Its a waste of Crit, its a waste of Beacon, and its generally just a waste for him. Remember the full amount transfers to the tank, so to maximize the crit effectiveness you need to heal everyone BUT the tank. This gives you for every holy light crit, 4x the healing power on holy light, versus a haste paladins 2-3x on a normal non-crit divine light.

    Its pretty amazing how I never considered the ramifications of the changes to beacon (and how holy light isn't impacted by the 50% heal cut) coupled with the changes to crit and getting 200% heals. Sort of eye opening to me.

  11. Ever since I read your latest comment, Feya, I've tried to incorporate less HL and more DL into my healing. Before, I was afraid to go overboard since my mastery build had a lot less spirit in it, but getting some FL gear has put me back in a comfortable place. Holy Light is more reliable for Beacon (and crits are ridiculous), but DL isn't so bad, if HL would do the job than so would a halved DL.

    Holy Light full-transfer on beacon is pretty ridiculously good. Actually, it's very ridiculously good.