5.4 Level 45 Talents

“Never before have so many said so much about so little to so few.”                         – not Winston Churchill


The forums have been busy discussing and rehashing this talent tier since the release of 5.4.  A couple changes to our talents and the way Illuminated Healing interacts with our spells made this talent tier far less clear cut than it had been prior to the patch.  Additionally there was a change to Sanctity of Battle that allowed haste effects to modify the cooldown on Holy Shock.

So functionally, what changed?  Well, that’s easy to answer.  Eternal Flame can no longer extend and refresh our Illuminated Healing shields since IH does not proc from the heal over time component anymore [nerf].  Sacred Shield has charges for holy and can be applied to up to three targets [buff].  Selfless Healer now gives a charge of Holy Power on Judgment and applies the buff to Holy Radiance [totally rewrites the script, buff].

In practice how big a change this makes to you, individually, in your raid will vary quite a bit.  There are very different approaches to talent selection and gearing based on your raid size and healing comp.  Before we get to that though, let’s look at how each one of these talents needs to be framed with secondary stats and what the playstyle really is.

Selfless Healer

Advantages:

Of the three talents in this tier, Selfless Healer is by far the most mana friendly.  By reducing the mana cost (and subsequently the spirit overhead) of our basic set of abilities we can spend a lot more itemization points on mastery (and haste) than with other talents.  Because of the mastery stacking potential, SH provides a really nice cushion of absorbs for your raid to mitigate incoming damage.  The majority of the spells you cast for maximum effectiveness are instant cast which also gives a lot of mobility to SH which is really nice during a raid tier that requires a lot of movement with damage going out.  Using Light of Dawn as the primary finisher means that it’s very likely to do effective healing since it’s a smart heal.

Disadvantages:

A downside to Selfless Healer is that Light of Dawn which is our preferred Holy Power spender only transfers 15% of its healing to the Beacon of Light target.  SH uses a blanket approach to healing and is weaker when it comes to single target healing overall but specifically is weak when it comes to the passive healing via Beacon.  The most obvious disadvantage, to me, is that SH is mindless and boring.

Playstyle:

The idea of having a rotation as a healer is appalling to me, but if you want to play Selfless Healer, repeat after me: Judgment, Holy Radiance, Holy Shock, Light of Dawn.  You’ll want to use your level 90 talents as they become available.

Judgment – Builds one stack of Selfless Healer buff, gives one charge of Holy Power
Holy Radiance – Consumes one stack of Selfless Healer buff and builds one Daybreak Stack, gives one charge of Holy Power
Holy Shock –  Consumes one Daybreak stack, gives one charge of Holy Power

(If you’re playing along you know we now have three Holy Power.)

LIGHT OF DAWN!! – consumes three Holy Power

Use Selfless Healer When…

Selfless Healer is much stronger in 25m than in 10m.  In 25m raiding there are a lot of smart heals being applied to the raid, you’re going to have a mix of absorb healers (Discipline Priests, Holy Paladins) and direct healers (Restoration Druids, Restoration Shaman, Mistweaver Monks, Holy Priests) and given that our direct heals are weak compared to those of the classes mentioned above, it is advantageous to play to our strength as an absorb healer.

Thok the Bloodthirsty’s Acceleration makes casting extremely tricky (and annoying) at high stacks and having access to the instant casts of Selfless Healer makes it the preferred talent for many Paladins in both 10m and 25m formats.

Glyph Synergy:

Yes, I know Glyph of Light of Dawn exists and with a Light of Dawn heavy rotation it might seem like a good choice.  Let’s do some quick math though…  If Light of Dawn hits six players for 100 each for a total of 600, and the glyph modifies this to hit 4 for 125, you get total healing of 500.  The glyph is bad and an overall healing loss.  If you’re in 10m and think you won’t have 6 in range, position yourself better and don’t use the glyph.

My glyph suggestions for Selfless Healer: Glyph of Hand of Sacrifice and Glyph of Beacon of Light are pretty much mandatory for all talent choices.  For the third spot you have an option. Glyph of Divine Protection is very good on fights with physical damage so but it’s terrible the rest of the time.  If the fight does not have physical damage you can take Glyph of Divinity for an extra mana cd (very helpful for the lesser geared player) or if nothing else seems remotely useful, I’ll go with Glyph of Flash of Light just because it stands a chance of being something close to life saving if the stars align.

Stat Priorities:

Spirit to taste is a mainstay in the first position.  When I’m reforging I dump almost all I can, but don’t forget that you do need some to function.  Depending on the fight and Mana Tide Totems, I’m safe with around 10.5k but can do fine getting rid of every last bit I can which puts me around 9.7k  You can go out of mana with this build even though it’s the easiest on your mana pool so keep your eyes open.

Mastery is undisputed as your primary stat for Selfless Healer.  After you’ve figured out how much (little) spirit you need, you want to dump every bit you can into mastery.  This means full reforging and ignoring socket bonuses unless you’re getting MORE THAN 80 int per non-mastery gem in an item.  What this means is that you don’t use Artful to pick up +80 int but you do use one Artful and one Fractured to pick up a +120 int bonus (Greatbelt of Living Waters) as an example.

Haste is now better than just offering a small reduction in cast speed with the Sanctity of Battle change and stacking haste will speed up the number of cycles of the rotation I posted above you can do in a given period of time.  Realistically, Selfless Healer is based mostly on instant spells so the benefit to faster cast times is less important than the cooldown reduction of Holy Shock and Judgment.

Crit isn’t bad.  It’s really not.  You may hear people talk about it being garbage if you wander around the forums but that’s a massive exaggeration.  Crit just isn’t as good as the other options we have so it’s put in last place.  Your raid won’t die if you have a little bit of crit on your gear.

tl:dr Stat Priorities for Selfless Healer

Mastery>Haste>Spirit>=Crit

Gems pure Fractured unless you can get more than +80 int per non-Fractured gem.

Eternal Flame

Advantages:

Eternal Flame is a lot stronger when it comes to real healing instead of the blanket absorb style of Selfless Healer.   It also transfers 50% of the direct heal and the HoT to the Beacon of Light target.  An often overlooked benefit to Eternal Flame as well is its increased effectiveness when cast on yourself with each HoT tick being 50% more effective and 50% of that transferring to the Beacon. It is far superior for tank healing than the other two options in this tier.

Disadvantages:

Taking Eternal Flame means you will burn through mana like crazy.  It is very hard to be effective without a pretty substantial mana pool.  I’ve heard of people running 14-14.5k spirit but I’m a lot happier with 16k or more even with legendary meta gem.  Without the meta gem you may need to go higher.

With the 5.4 changes to Illuminated Healing, Eternal Flame lost a lot of its power since the HoT no longer adds to nor refreshes the duration of the shield.  What this has led to is a lot more overheal with no upside.  Prior to 5.4 we accepted the overheal because it made the likelihood of the shield being consumed much higher.  With that interaction gone, we just get the overheal with no upside.

You are hard casting a lot more with Eternal Flame than with Selfless Healer or Sacred Shield so you do suffer from reduced mobility as well.

Playstyle:

Your holy power builders are going to be Holy Radiance and Holy Shock and you’re likely going to have an HS/HR/HR/EF type rotation for much of the fight, weaving in your level 90 talents as available.  EF’s playstyle is less rigid feeling that SH and allows for excellent spot heals.  You want to make sure to always have full 3 pt EF on your tanks, yourself, and anyone else that’s taking predictable damage due to a debuff or because you know (and love!) your raid members that thinks fire is a buff.

Using your cooldowns slightly ahead of damage will allow you to get EF HoTs up on as many people as possible for the shield from the initial heal and have the HoT rolling on them and feeding into the Beacon target.

You should be using EF as your primary finisher and using Light of Dawn sparingly or not at all even during times of raid wide damage.

Use Eternal Flame When:

In general Eternal Flame is stronger in 10m raiding than in 25m raiding because you can keep it up on a higher percentage of your raid, you have fewer healers working to keep your tanks alive, and you’re less likely to be competing with lots of smart heals that will beat you to the heal in a 25m environment so you get to be the smart healer instead.

The one fight in Siege of Orgrimmar that is mandatory for Eternal Flame is Malkorok.  The Ancient Barrier mechanic allows Eternal Flame to function much as it did prior to 5.4 by enhancing and refreshing the fight specific shield the way it used to effect Illuminated Healing.  Discipline Priest shielding and our shields are not useless in this fight as they are consumed, but being able to utilize our true heals is much stronger.

In 25m, you can also feel pretty comfortable using Eternal Flame on Spoils of Pandaria since that environment is closer to a 10m than a 25m because of the split raid, but I wouldn’t consider the talent mandatory here.

Glyph Synergy:

For Eternal Flame you should use Glyph of Hand of Sacrifice and swap the other spots between Glyph of Protector of the InnocentGlyph of Divinity for the mana return, Glyph of Beacon of Light, and Glyph of Divine Protection depending on the situation.  I would strongly recommend keeping the Beacon glyph as much as possible since it allows such fluid Beacon swapping, but with the increased mana needs from EF, Divinity becomes almost mandatory as well.  Working out which combination works best with which encounter is something that might require some forethought and experimentation.

Stat Priorities:

Spirit is still going to be your first priority as with any healing spec, you’ll want to take spirit into consideration first but as I mentioned above you need a really deep mana pool to make EF work well.

Haste is probably the most highly controversial stat as it applies to paladins this tier.  The theorycrafting world put the haste breakpoint charts together last year. The most quoted comes from Totem Spot and is a great list of all applicable breakpoints for all healing specs.  The one for Holy Paladins looks like this:

TotemSpot Haste Breakpoints

What this says is that with the 5% raid haste buff, the Eternal Flame hot portion gains an extra tick of healing at 3506, two at 7170, and three at 10,867 haste rating.  Early in the expansion it was possible to get the 3506 breakpoint but mastery was so strong that most people ignored it since the itemization was better spent on mastery.

With the current tier and the relative devaluing of mastery, and the increase in haste’s value due to the Sanctity of Battle changes and the overabundance of secondary stats because of the increase in item level, attaining these higher breakpoints has become more feasible prompting the discussion about stat balance.

Mathematically, haste is a very good stat and given a healing environment where every tick of each EF is effective healing it pulls ahead of everything substantially in terms of raw output.  Because haste also allows you to cycle through your rotation faster it also consumes mana at an accelerated rate.

At the breakpoints it is a HPS (heals per second) increase and the HPM (heal per mana) remains constant.  Your mana consumption per minute in combat increases however.  This leads to potentially needing to sacrifice something to feed the spirit needs of the spec. In this case you have to sacrifice mastery since the haste breakpoints are fixed haste ratings.

On its face this seems like a simple decision to go for the highest haste breakpoint you can get and go crazy with millions of EF ticks and fast as heck heals.  The real raiding world is not so simple.  Realistically we’re already healing in a very high overheal environment.  It is not at all unusual in 25m to see overhealing numbers over 75% overall.  When you’re in an environment like that all those delicious extra EF ticks go to waste and all those itemization points you took to reach for whichever haste breakpoint you went for and if you had to sacrifice mastery to feed the mana monster you’re not necessarily doing your raid any good.

Mastery is the answer to the problems of haste stacking.  While extra ticks of EF can go straight to overheal and not do anyone any good, more mastery will create larger shields on targets to absorb incoming damage.  Although mastery shields can go unused and contribute to overheal as well, they’re far more likely to be consumed and protect the raid from incoming damage.

Crit is still good with EF but not as good as the other options.

tl:dr Stat Priorities for Eternal Flame

Spirit > Haste (to the closest breakpoint you will get without going out of your way to get any of them) > Mastery > Crit

Sacred Shield

Advantages:

Sacred Shield can be used when you have a very few people taking very predictable damage.  On a fight like General Nazgrim you could put Sacred Shield on the Sniper’s or Assassin’s targets.  It’s use in Siege of Orgrimmar has been extremely limited to non-existent, however.

Disadvantages:

When looking at an overall toolkit, it is important to have a package that works well together and Sacred Shield just doesn’t seem to fit.  It doesn’t use our mastery at all and all of our gear this tier has a ton of mastery on it.

The 6 second proc refresh makes it awkward even in situations when it should be good.  If a minor tick of damage consumes the shield it could very likely be down when the big damage is incoming and it’s needed.

Lastly, we’re left with not much to spend our Holy Power on.  It seems senseless to use Word of Glory just to consume Holy Power, but Light of Dawn is pretty lackluster without mastery and if we’re using Sacred Shield we want as little mastery as possible.

Use Sacred Shield When:

I can think of no situations when you would want to take Sacred Shield over Selfless Healer or Eternal Flame as a Holy Paladin.

Wrapping it up…

I hope that answers some of the questions you might have had about how to approach the Level 45 talents as a Holy Paladin.  As always I’m happy to discuss, amend, rethink any of this so tweet me @IntPlate or leave a comment here!