I spent a good deal of time in beta last weekend. I got myself to the current level cap (which is only 86), and did a good deal of questing. (Which, for the record I did completely as Atonement spec… Instant Holy Fire from the glyph is a lot of fun. More importantly 40k smite hits are purely delicious) More importantly I did some dungeon runs in Temple of The Jade Serpent, one of the new 5 mans, and healed as both Holy and Disc. I do, however, want to first tackle Disc healing since it seems to need the most amount of work.

In case people missed it: both Holy and Disc have their own “filler spell”.  Holy has Heal and Discipline has Spirit Shell (SS). I won’t call it our “triage” spell… because well, we saw how long that lasted in Cata!  This is pretty much a mana nuetral spell (at 85 it costs 2,000 mana) and with fairly attainable spirit levels, you can pretty much chain cast this spell and never run out of mana… even with Rapture removed from the game, with some minor reforging back to spirit my MP5 was fine. That said, there are some fundamental issues with the spell, as is. Now, of course, this analysis has only been done and tested at level 85 and 86 on the beta servers.

In its current form,  I am not a fan. First off it has SUCH A LONG CAST TIME… The base cast time for Spirit Shell is 3 seconds. While GHeal and even Holy’s regular Heal enjoy a baseline 2.5 sec cast time. This does seem like an oversight and will (hopefully) be address in a future beta build, but even with that issue getting addressed there are other fundemental concerns I have with the spell.

My issues with Spirit Shell are the the fact that it cannot crit (nor can the 80% heal at should the shield expire) and as a result scales with only Spellpower and Mastery. Additionally, it is affected by neither Grace nor Archangel. It also will only scale up to its 20% Priest’s HP as a hard cap. (Tested both with no items equipped and with full T13) Consecutive casts will stack the absorb (up to the cap) and reset the duration of the shield. With a fairly fairly low % of HP as the cap, we could wind up having interesting statweights. (Remember  Mastery doesnt increase the 20% cap) It will depend on where SP and HP land at lvl 90, but we could wind up having Spirit Shell be very easy to cap, while Holy doesn’t get restricted in that manner.  (Of course, Mastery will increase Divine Aegis for the GHeal, and Penance heals we critically heal on, and the baseline POH DA’s– not to mention PW:S’s absorption so Mastery will be vital for Disc in MOP; however, lets not dive into hard statweights before level 90 and the class gets more polished)

This presents a fair amount of inequity between the two specs for our “mana nuetral” spell. With mana management being a major focus for the developers in MOP, this inequity poses a potential problem. (Your mana pool is fixed as intellect will NOT increase your pool). In current T13 gear, it takes me 3 casts to cap 20% HP (yes… at a 2.57 cast time with my T13 haste, thats ~7.7 seconds to create a ~30k bubble. Yawn) On the other hand, Holy’s heal, at 2.5 sec base cast time (hasted to 2.29 in T13 gear) in the same 3 casts (6.9 seconds and is critable) for ~10k per hit and whatever stacks of Echo of Light have been generated. This means Holy can scale with both Crit and Mastery and  baseline “heals” for the same amount. Unless Blue is trying to draw a line in the sand and state that pre-emptive healing is that superior to raw healing (which I doubt), there are inequities that need to be addressed before this spell can go live.

The alternative argument would be to Atonement heal or GHeal if I wanted to raw heal with scale.  However with mana being such a limited resource (100k, regardless of Intellect; Spirit will be king for recovering mana)— chain casting Smites and Holy Fire will not be something we will likely be able to do with much regularity as they are much more expensive than Spirit Shell).

I think we will see Spirit Shell get a number of passes before it goes live as it is a new spell in our toolkit, and frankly is one of the more unique spells in the game. I would imagine we would see the cast time reduced to 2.5 seconds, as well as something to address scaling– even something as simple as increasing the HP cap to DA’s 40% and allowing it to Critically “shield”.  I am sure the development team is watching this spell and listening to feedback– so I’d expect to see a number of changes before MOP goes live.