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Spiritual Guidance: Mindbender vs. Power Word: Solace

Spiritual Guidance Priest healing in the Mists of Pandaria beta
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. Dawn Moore covers the healing side of things for discipline and holy priests. She also writes for LearnToRaid.com and produces the Circle of Healing Podcast.

It's just my luck that two days after I wrote my last installment of Spiritual Guidance, a brand new level 45 priest talent appeared on the Mists of Pandaria beta. The new talent, called Power Word: Solace, is a damage-for-mana ability that players can cast on enemy targets to receive 6,000 mana in return. It has a 1.5-second cast time, costs no mana to cast, doesn't have a cooldown, and always returns mana, even if the damage portion of the spell misses its target.

The arrival of a new talent like this always raises a lot of questions. How does Power Word: Solace stand up to the other level 45 talents, Mindbender and From Darkness, Comes Light? Is it better or worse than either of those two talents? As a healing priest, what talent will I want to choose?

Well, first off, it's important to remember that the new talent system is specifically designed to put an end to cookie-cutter talent specs. Talents will now be balanced with one another in such a way that no one talent is better than the others overall. One talent might end up being better than another in a specific scenario where the mechanics of the situation complement it or just clash with the other two options. In that sense, Blizzard is right on mark with Power Word: Solace. Let's compare it to Mindbender so you can see how.

Mindbender vs. Power Word: Solace

Before Power Word: Solace, Mindbender was basically just a numerical upgrade of Shadowfiend. It had a 3-minute cooldown like Shadowfiend and served as an improved version by simply returning more mana per attack than Shadowfiend did. Through the various builds, it has had the amount of mana it returns per attack reduced and the duration increased by a few seconds. In its current incarnation, it returns 1.3% mana per attack and has a 1-minute cooldown and a 15-second duration.

Now when you compare Mindbender to Power Word: Solace, it's important that you remember that Mindbender replaces Shadowfiend in your spellbook. On the other hand, players taking Power Word: Solace do not lose Shadowfiend, so if you're comparing the mana return of the two talents, Shadowfiend must be tied into your calculations. Let's take a look.
  • Mindbender returns 4,000 (1.3%) mana per attack and will attack 10 times before despawning. That's 40,000 mana per cast and per minute.
  • Shadowfiend returns 9,000 (3%) mana per attack and will attack eight times before despawning. That's 72,000 mana per cast, or 24,000 mana per minute.
With Power Word: Solace returning 6,000 mana, it will be necessary for you to cast the spell 2.667 times per minute for Power Word: Solace and Shadowfiend to be evenly matched with Mindbender on mana return. This regen comes at a cost, though. Every time you use Power Word: Solace, it will cost you a GCD, and that's not always something you can spare when things are hectic. In a 3-minute period, Mindbender only requires three GCDs to produce 120,000 mana, where as Shadowfiend and Power Word: Solace would require nine GCDs to produce the same amount. In a situation where you're GCD-locked (something that happens frequently in heroic raiding), Mindbender will be the obvious choice.

Granted, I've had no trouble finding time to cast Power Word: Solace on the beta so far. Most encounters offer several downtime phases when there isn't a lot to heal and you can easily switch to casting offensive spells for a while without reprecussion. In situations such as these, Power Word: Solace dramatically outstrips Mindbender's static mana return.

Mindbender also suffers from the less obvious disadvantage of requiring a target for longer. To produce 120,000 mana over 3 minutes, Mindbender needs three 15-second intervals of time where the boss is targetable and in range. Shadowfiend only requires a single 12-second interval and eight additional GCDs for Power Word: Solace. This detail might seem unimportant, but it really adds up if your Mindbender is continually delayed by 15 seconds here or 30 seconds there. Add phases where targets die before your Mindbender can get a swing off or roleplaying phases where the boss can't be targeted can create unfavorable circumstances for using Mindbender on cooldown.

What about From Darkness, Comes Light?

Comparing From Darkness, Comes Light to the other level 45 talents is a fair bit trickier than comparing Mindbender and Power Word: Solace, unfortunately. The trouble comes from the fact that the talent isn't really a mana regeneration ability and the fact that it works off a degree of randomness.

Fortunately, Derevka over at Tales of a Priest worked out a method for comparing the three talents mathematically, which you can read up on at your leisure. My take on it? Well, my thoughts basically echo something Derevka already said in his post, which is that the talent is designed for a very specific type of healing (tank healing, really), and that alone makes the situations in which it would be better than the other two options quite rare. I honestly don't think there will be many situations where you'd be tank healing from the start to the finish of the fight as a priest -- at least, not in any situation where your choice in talents is going to make a big difference. Obviously, you can do that in many 5-mans.

Changes to Chakra

In more recent news, holy priests got a bit of a stir this last week when a new beta build went live that turned the increased crit chance on single-target spells in Chakra: Serenity to a straight-up 15% buff to single-target spells. Since the patch went live on beta servers, I've been sleeping through every 5-man dungeon I've been in. That extra 15% really makes a huge difference, and I was able to get through most dungeons casting nothing more than Heal and the occasional Holy Word: Serenity, Flash Heal, Greater Heal, or Prayer of Healing to catch up. Mana became a non-issue, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how holy single-target healing will handle in a raid now.

Unfortunately, with great joy comes great sorrow. The latest patch also removed the 15% buff to Renew that was granted by Chakra: Sanctuary. It's hard to say right now how much of an impact this will have on holy AoE healing, but I do think holy priests will probably make out just fine. Renew seems like it's getting wedged into a single-target healing role while the new level 90 talents take on the role of filler between Circle of Healing and Prayer of Healing. Both Divine Star and Cascade are getting plenty of use in 5-mans and raids, and I don't see much reason to have Renew get in the way of that, especially once I get my tier 14 four-piece bonus.

Oh, did you hear about that yet? Well, then!

Tier 14 set bonuses

Late last week, the tier 14 set bonuses for priests (and all other classes) were revealed. The bonuses for holy and discipline priests are as follows.
  • Two-piece Reduces the mana cost of your Flash Heal spell by 10%.
  • Four-piece Reduces the cooldown of your Penance spell by 4 seconds and reduces the cooldown of your Circle of Healing spell by 4 seconds.
I can't say much about the two-piece bonus. Flash Heal is not a spell I found myself using very often, so shaving off the mana cost doesn't mean much to me. I'd rather have a cheaper Greater Heal or Prayer of Healing, just because I found myself using those spells a lot more in both specs.

The four-piece, on the other hand, is pure gold. I don't think I've ever valued Penance or Circle of Healing as much as I do on beta right now. I find myself using Penance on every cooldown, and though Circle of Healing doesn't quite demand that same type of usage in small groups, the spell is so efficient at the moment that I find myself falling back on it more than I did in the past. That 4 seconds is such a significant amount of time in the game that I'm pretty sure I'll cry when I have to give this bonus up for upgrades in tier 15.

Come to Spiritual Guidance for the inside line on current healing gear and trinkets, as well as advice for healing in Dragon Soul. Newcomer to the priest class? Look into leveling a healing priest, and consult our guides to Discipline Priest 101 and Holy Priest 101.

Filed under: Priest, (Priest) Spiritual Guidance

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