My Guild Leader used this phrase last week, and it got me thinking about how Zero Sum applies to a raid as a whole and to each of us individually. Calling mana a Zero-Sum Game is a great way of illustrating a practice we all should be using.

The general gist of what we need to keep in mind with Zero-Sum Mana is: Unless you hit 100% mana at any point of the fight your cooldown usage should generally be as soon as possible.Try to think of your mana pool in terms of the whole length of the fight, not just as the number that shows on your character pane. Ask yourself, “how much mana is available to me cumulatively throughout the fight?”.  Using your restorative cooldowns will increase your fight-duration mana pool… not just your current total available mana.

As Priests we have 2 Types of Mana Cooldowns: Potions and Non-Potions.  Potions, of course, are the easiest to understand- you can use ONE Mythical Mana Potion or Potion of Concentration per encounter (assuming you don’t die and are battle rezzed).

Non-Potions are a bit more complicated:

– Hymn of Hope (HoH)

– Mana Tide Totem (MTT)

– Shadowfiend

– Arcane Torrent (Blood Elf racial)

– Innervate (if you are being fed one, and is dramatically different if from a Resto/Boom/Feral)

Rule #1 – Know Your Cooldown Durations
All of these non-potion abilities have a cooldown and can be used multiple times in an encounter. So the question is when do I use these abilities to get the most out of them? You first need find out how long you expect the fight to be. If you have done the fight before, you should have a rough idea of how long the fight is for your raid team. Alternatively, you can look on World of Logs and see what the average time for “Fight Duration”. (Here is a link to WoL’s Spine of Deathwing and you’ll see the Median and Average duration for Kills and Wipes). You know now, that an average Heroic 25-man kill is 725 seconds, which is a good starting point to know how many Shadowfiends, Torrents, etc you can get off during that time.  The sooner you use the ability the sooner it comes back off cooldown.

I hate watching a video and seeing something short, like Arcane Torrent, sitting off cooldown for more than a few seconds. Or a shadowfiend sitting there for 2-3 minutes into a fight. If they were used when available, they’d be nearly off cooldown already!

Rule #2- Know How Much Mana You Gain
You need to know how much each of these abilities will grant you (even if its roughly). Abilities like MTT can vary based on spirit levels of the shaman, your int levels (Remember the spirit regen formula takes that into account), and if you are out of range of the Totem. Hymn of Hope is complex as it can increase your mana pool, and you are never guaranteed to be given a single tick from HoH. Abilities like Arcane Torrent and Shadowfiend are predictable, and you should know what amounts of mana you’ll be getting back. For example: Shadowfiend will, under normal circumstances, provide you with 30% of your mana pool back. (inclusive of temporary int bonuses from enchants or procs) Additionally, Shadowfiends provide additional melee swings (and thus more mana restoration) when under the benefits of Heroism/Bloodlust.

Rule #3 – Never Waste Restoration

Now that you know how much mana you get back from these cooldowns. You don’t want to use one and then have part of it go to waste! You do not want to use Shadowfiend if you will cap out at 100% mana as any extra melee swings after 100% are wasted. (Same for Replenishment ticks, or even Rapture restoration) Me? I tend to use my Fiend as soon as I hit 65%-70% mana as to ensure I don’t hit 100% mana and waste a 3% restoration swing. As soon as you know that your restorative ability will not be wasted- use it.  (see rule #1)

I personally CRINGE when I watch videos with someone sitting at 50% mana and they have both Fiend and Torrent off CD. USE IT! Its not going to waste! Use it!

Rule #4 – Timing Around Other Raider’s CDs

If you know your Shaman is about to place down Mana Tide, and you are sitting at 70% mana, you might want to hold off on Shadowfiend until after MTT goes out and you can use fiend at a later time. (or perhaps you could have used it earlier in the fight?)  Keeping an eye on when MTT is coming off CD from your neighboorhood Shaman is important – there is a DBM plug in that works for this as well as ORA3. If you have multiple priests in your raid, you might want to stagger (or stack,depending on the fight) Hymn of Hope. Most fights in DS you’ll be lucky to get 2 off… coordinating with your fellow Priests is important.

 Rule #5 – Timing Around Fight Mechanics
You do not want to be caught with your pants down using a cooldown that puts you out of commission for a few seconds. (ie. Hymn of Hope, Concenration Potions) This was the context in which my RL brought up “Zero Sum” in the raid.  You do not want to use Concentration Potions towards a latter part of a fight since it puts you out of commission potentially during a high healing period. Those mana potions should have been used earlier, provided you would not have hit 100% mana. Remember…. the only two points in time that your mana levels are important are at 0% and 100%; anywhere in between there your mana is a resource that is available to you to use.

Of course, certain fight mechanics will have you waiting to use certain cooldowns (ie. Yor’sahj and his Blue Slime) to work within the mechanics of the fight. Play smart!

Common Misconceptions

But Derevka, I was holding onto my Shadowfiend/Torrent/Potion so I could get mana back when I really needed it! — No, no, no! Again, remember how Zero Sum works. So long as you have more than 0% and less than 100% mana your restoration shouldn’t be squandered.  Use it…

I didn’t need the mana back, I’m ending the fight with surplus mana! Again, no. You could be trading off that extra mana for high HPS/low efficiency heals. (Maybe PWS spam a bit more? Or stack Serendipity via Flash Heal?) Alternatively you could reforge away from spirit for more throughput. Getting off multiple Shadowfiends also can assist your raid by increasing Raid-DPS. (perhaps on a difficult Burning Tendon DPS check?). Or perhaps get off multiple Hymn of Hopes to assist your fellow healers mana levels (or arcane mages).

The biggest thing to keep in mind is that your mana pool is dynamic. Remember to view your available mana dynamically: view it as Fight-Duration mana… not just a static “How much do I have right now?”. Be forward thinking and predictive. Zero-Sum!!