Mana management is a huge part of our game now in Mists of Pandaria. Gearing, gemming, enchanting, and spec choices will be pivotal in how your longevity impacts these first few raids— particularly since so many of these fights are much longer than we have typically seeing in Cata and even WotLK. Endurance will be just as important as our raw output– or will it?  To find out that answer you should be asking yourself these questions:

1. Am I spec’d into the most appropriate regen model for this fight? Are you struggling to find gaps to fit your PW: Solace in? Are you getting fewer than (in aggregate) 8 Solaces per minute? Would Mindbender work better for you? What about FDCL?

2. Are you using your potions at an opportune time? Are there a section of the fight where a Potion of Focus would fit? (eg. Phase Transitions with Elegon)

3. Hymn of Hope – is there a place where you can cast it, maximizing the number of healers who will benefit?

… and perhaps the most important question:

4. Am I getting spirit from the most appropriate sources and sacrificing throughput stats appropriately to do so?

Hamlet, of EJ Druid fame, wrote an interesting post on this topic (here). While I don’t agree with 100% of the finer details on his post, the fundamental point and the spirit of the post is true:  Just because you think you need more spirit doesn’t mean that really is the case; you could just need to play better. I think that Hamlet, in very much his fashion (and is why I like him), is very matter of fact and delivers this important message in a manner that could be expanded upon and discussed. So let’s do that…

What Hamlet briefly touches upon, but I think needs more expanding and really is the crux of the argument we should be understanding is “itemization budgeting”. Gems now have an itemization budget with a 1:2 ratio of Primary Stats to Secondary Stats. This means that a gem with 160 Intellect, could be budgeted at 320 Spirit. (ie. Brilliant Primordial Ruby vs Sparkling River’s Heart). There is, at least, some reward for using a secondary stat over a primary stat: double the stat. Does that mean this is inherently superior? No. This can make the decision to gem one way over another a bit clearer– or, perhaps more explicitly, whether or not you want to break or match a socket bonus. Weigh your options.

Other items, such as food, do not enjoy that 1:2 budget. Mogu Fish Stew vs Steamed Crab Surprise are 300 to 300. In situations where it is a flat trade off, the answer is less clear. Is a 1:1 trade off worth the lost intellect?

Hamlet makes a good point and boils down his flask choices to additional mana over the course of the fight. Lets look at that example in another way: A 300 spirit food, grants you ~170mp5. Over the course of a 10 minute fight, that is an additional 20,400 mana. Which is about 3 more Renews over the course of the fight. Or 300 intellect impacting every single one of your spells— more importantly your efficient  and low overheal spells.

Of course, little spirit gains (from foods or flasks) here and there can add up,and over the course of a fight can result in thousands and thousands of additional mana… but at what cost? A lot of the answer revolves around gameplay. Are you playing your priest as well as you can? Are you overhealing a lot? Can you be more efficient? Can you improve your overhealing? Those answers alone could mean you could gain raw throughput (via Int or even Haste/Mastery in some situations), improve the spells effective healing, and actually heal for more per cast allowing you to use the existing mana you have more effectively.

The answer is even less clear for Discipline Priests since Rapture’s impact on PW: Shield’s HPM is directly correlated to the amount of spirit you have. One PW:S per Rapture is incredibly mana efficient… that is clear, even with very little spirit.  The real question is, what happens to your HPM if you cast a 2nd or 3rd PW:S within that Rapture CD?  This answer does vary depending on the fight (if the Shields will be fully absorbed) as well as your Mastery and Intellect levels since that too, affects the HPM by increasing the amount the shield absorbs for.

Now, by no means am I saying to NOT gem and gear for Spirit– this is where Hamlet and I diverge in opinion. Keep an eye on the budgeting and the throughput that the spirit costs you.  Know when and where to pull back from spirit. Know what the COST for using a spirit gem/food/flask is. Me? I am still using my Spirit Flask, however, now that I am Pandaren I have started using 300 intellect food. (Epicurean also grants me an additional 300 intellect from that… so I am comparing 600 spirit to 600 intellect). Why? Because the gained throughput, is outweighed by the regen from that 600 spirit.

Are you starting to feel comfortable with your regen or perhaps are you feeling like you need more oomph in your output? That is when you should be pulling out of low item budget spirit sources such as your food and flask– and, likely, before that point.

It is a fine line to walk… and this has always been our trade off as healers: Regen vs Throughput. I urge you to read the post Hamlet put up however please keep perspective when gemming, buffing, and gearing your priest. There is a certain amount of “gear your priest to preference and playstyle” involved here—- but that perhaps begs the biggest questions in this post:  Could you be playing better?  Are you working the best you can with the resources at your disposal?

“It’s not the size of your mana pool that matters.  It’s how you use it.” – @HamletEJ