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Spiritual Guidance: Priest gems for raid roles

Every Sunday, Spiritual Guidance takes a step into the light to reflect on the subtleties of healing for discipline and holy priests. Your guide, Dawn Moore, enjoys bubble wrap, bubble milk tea, Bubble Bobble, watermelon bubble gum, water bubbles in space, and dolphins blowing bubble rings. She is lukewarm toward bubble spamming.

I have a 6140 gear score.

Don't get excited though; I just said that to rile some of you up. I loathe the concept of the gear score addon, and I actually had to look it up just to know what mine was.

The real reason I bring up my gear score is to give you, my fair readers, an idea of what kind of gear I typically work with as a player. If you have no idea what that number translates to, it is full 264 item level gear with a few 277 level items sprinkled in. So for the most part I have a fantastic set of gear. If I walk into a PUG 5-man, most players will glance me over and immediately feel at ease about their fate for the next 15 to 20 minutes. This is ironic though, because despite the quality of my gear being well above average, I am currently rocking a gear set far worse for healing heroic dungeons than I was 3 tiers ago.

Why, pray tell, is that? Because my guild and I have spent the last three weeks working on the heroic Lich King encounter and I've been slowly optimizing my gear for the past month in preparation for this one, single fight. How's my mana regeneration? Pathetic: I get all of my mana return not from trinkets, flasks or mustache-twirling meta gems, but from carefully timed Power Word: Shields and the Rapture trick. What about haste? Awful: my GCD isn't even close to 1 second if I cast two spells back to back. My sole purpose in the Lich King fight is to cast one spell, on as many people as possible, for about 10 minutes straight. As such, all my gear, gems, enchants, and glyphs are selected to work in this fight alone, even if it cripples me in every other aspect of the game.

And it is quite crippling. I used to love spoiling myself with haste. I loved the 1 second GCD; but now, because of my gear, I find myself having to smash my buttons frantically and repeatedly in the easiest of 5-man dungeons, because my inner sense of timing is all thrown off to what I'm accustomed to. I have trouble healing Halls of Reflection! (If you could hear me, there was a cry of shame in that last sentence.) So, what are we going to talk about today? Gems.

That was obvious before now, right?


For those of you who read along each week, you'll know I typically have issues telling people precisely what to do. I like to steer clear of the "here is some information that allows you to not think" path. (I have an even bigger issue trying to present my way of doing things as "the one true way.") This week though, I am going to gingerly approach giving more direction than normal. The inspiration for this comes from an application my guild received this week from a very peculiarly gemmed priest. He had selected a variety of gems that were by no means wrong for a priest to have, but it was impossible to understand the logic he had applied when he slotted his gear sockets. Was he a tank healer? A bubble spammer, like me? Did he share some of his gear pieces with his shadow offset? We couldn't figure it out, and neither could he really.

So, in an attempt to help priests who might be lost in a sea of options, I decided to write this short guide. I ask that you take everything into consideration for your own personal needs, and not blindly try to follow what I say exactly.

Holy caster
The holy caster is a priest who uses Circle of Healing and Prayer of Mending at every possible instant she can. The rest of her time is spent healing raid damage through the use of Flash Heal (sometimes made instant by Surge of Light), or Prayer of Healing when she has a full stack of Serendipity ready. This traditional holy priestess would like the following gems:
  • Quick King's Amber (or Reckless Ametrine) As a caster you'll benefit almost indefinitely from haste, but don't go overboard. Shoot for about 25% haste (that's about 800 haste rating.) With full raid buffs you'll get an extra 8%. This won't give you a 1 second GCD (it's about 1.2 seconds), but it is a reasonable amount of haste to have as a baseline. I don't recommend trying to get down to a 1 second GCD since it would require something around 1400 haste (with raid buffs.) This is just too absurd an amount to try for at our gear level. To attain it, most of your gear would have to have haste on it; you wouldn't be able to just gem for it. In doing this, you would short yourself crit, which is still a valuable stat even though you shouldn't need to gem for it. (For crit, you'll find yourself anywhere between 20% and 30% from gear. As long as you don't go below that amount - it would be hard to - you'll be fine. I personally like to stay on the high end of that range though.)
  • Runed Cardinal Ruby Every healer can benefit from more spellpower. There is no cap to the effectiveness of it. When you feel sufficient on haste, pick up as much spellpower as you like.
  • Purified Dreadstone Since holy priests can socket blue gems without throughput remorse, feel free to activate your good socket bonuses when they call for a blue gem. A good socket bonus, in my opinion, is anything that grants at least +7 spellpower (+9 is better). Socket bonuses with spirit or MP5 bonuses can be activated at your discretion.

Holy Renew spammer The holy Renew spammer plays just like the holy caster, except he fills in his time between cooldown spells, like Circle of Healing and Prayer of Mending, with Renew. This priest will find he likes the same gems as the holy caster:
  • Quick King's Amber (or Reckless Ametrine) Though haste doesn't affect a priest's heal over time spells, aim for at least 25% haste to get your GCD down. Every Renew you cast will keep you locked in your global cooldown, so it's important that you get it down to a reasonable amount so you can get off as many casts as possible between your Circle of Healing cooldowns. According to the lovely theorycrafters at PlusHeal.com, who were conveniently discussing haste earlier this week, 26.09% is the percentage you want to get 5 GCDs off during your Circle of Healing cooldown. (6 GCDs within in a 6 second cooldown isn't possible, due to human and hardware delays.) Those of you who loathe my use of rounded numbers for haste calculations should enjoy that thread.
  • Runed Cardinal Ruby For the same reasons as the holy caster, grab as much spellpower as you can when you're satisfied on haste.
  • Purified Dreadstone Once more, the reasons a holy caster would like this gem are the same for a Renew spammer.


Discipline caster
So you're one of those lucky dogs still healing a tank, are you? (Do I sound bitter? I'm not bitter.) Er... anyway, the discipline caster keeps up tanks and other allies through a full palette of abilities including Power Word: Shield, Penance, Flash Heal, Prayer of Mending, Renew, and sometimes big daddy Greater Heal. Since the discipline caster's diversity of spells will benefit from all major caster stats, he would probably like the following gems:

  • Quick King's Amber (or Reckless Ametrine) Just like the holy caster, you'll want around 800 haste rating(25%) in order to cut down your GCD, and hasten your cast spells and Penance. The haste buff you receive from Borrowed Time is not guaranteed to always be available when you're stuck focusing on a tank, so you shouldn't skimp on haste as a caster.
  • Smooth King's Amber (or Potent Ametrine) STOP! Before you socket this gem, examine your gear. How much crit do you currently have? Ideally, one should never have to gem for crit, as there is an abundant amount available through the raw stats of your gear. However, it is essential that tank healing discipline priests land crit heals as often as possible to handle the current content, so sometimes you may decide to gem this stat. How much crit you have to start will determine how much crit you need. You want to have over 30% crit on your character pane. 35% would be fantastic, but difficult to attain.
  • Runed Cardinal Ruby Spellpower contributes to your shields as well as your spells, so after your haste and crit are in a good place, stack on the spellpower gems.
I've said it before, but don't concern yourself too much with blue sockets or socket bonuses as disc. They're usually more burden than benefit, but if you must get a spellpower socket bonus for some obsessive reason, use either the Purified Dreadstone or Royal Dreadstone.

Discipline shield spammer
I am the walrus I am the bubble spammer. The epitome of cog in the machine shining star of progression raiding. I bubble, therefore I have a raid spot am. Function over fun futility, success over self-respect something less important than success. (I'm not bitter.) The majority of a shield spammer's time will be spent casting Power Word: Shield. On most encounters, Prayer of Mending is also kept on cooldown. The occasional Penance is ideal for spot healing the raid.
  • Runed Cardinal Ruby This is all you will ever need as a shield spammer. You don't need haste, because with raid buffs, talents, and Borrowed Time, the magic number for haste is about 5%. (If that doesn't add up to you, it's because you have to multiply. Don't ask me to multiply for you.) 5% is far less than you will have on your gear's base stats, so you don't need to gem for it. For mana return, you can regen mana through Rapture and properly timing your use of bubbles on most fights. If not, priest cooldowns and a potion will get you through most encounters with just enough mana to spare. Bubbles do not crit, so crit is also useless, save for proccing teeny tiny Divine Aegis bubbles off the heal from Glyph of Power Word: Shield. Exciting, huh? (I'm not bitter.)
I understand the roles I listed above are extremely generic. If you have your own way of doing things, don't feel like it's wrong. Priests are excellent for filling a hybrid role in raids, and I encourage that, if your raid team calls for it.

I did not mention what to gem for if you want more mana regeneration. Why? Because as you get past the point of needing those shiny 101 guides I have linked below, you will find you really do not need to gem for regen. Not at this point anyway; Cataclysm may be a whole different story. For now, this information should get you through the rest of Icecrown Citadel, Ruby Sanctum, and anything else Blizzard has in store for us before we see our experience bars again.

Want to find more great tips for carrying out your priestly duties? Spiritual Guidance has you covered with all there is to know. Check out Holy 101 or Disc 101 for an introduction to healing as a priest, or assess yourself for advice on how to improve yourself as a healer and raider.

Filed under: Priest, (Priest) Spiritual Guidance

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