Monday, October 6, 2008

Soloing shadow priest - Mana regen and spirit

Today we make a brief foray into theorycrafting land, take a look at how shadow priests regenerate mana after solo fights and try to figure out just how much downtime we have between fights. I know it's probably not the brightest idea to write up something like this less than 2 weeks before patch 3.0, but from all I've seen so far I don't see any changes that will effect this. If there are... Well, guess I'll have to make a new post then. Or not. Deal with it. /grin

UPDATE: As pointed out by The Gaming Diva, this can relate to non-shadow priests as well, as long as they get Spirit Tap. Good thing it's a 1st tier talent.

The Basics

First off, why am I writing this? Well, I tried to find some analysis about mana regeneration for priests soloing their way through Azeroth, but didn't find anything. It seems to me like other than leveling specs (which are also hard to find sometimes), there is usually a lack of information on how to actually play the different classes while leveling - much less in depth anlyses and theorycrafting. So I couldn't find the information I needed and had to go through the math myself (joy of joys), and figured I might as well post it here, right? This way at least I can read it on my PC at home when the laptop I'm writing this with is off. =)

So, let's start from the basics, and lay down some assumptions for our leveling priest:
  • Being the fragile creatures that we are, we wouldn't want to risk breaking a nail hitting a mob - that means most* of the damage we will be dealing will be through spells and our wands.
  • One of the first talents** we will be getting, if not the first is Spirit Tap. Since our main down time will be caused due to having to regenerate lost mana, this is arguably the most important talent in the shadow tree for a leveling solo priest.
  • The general fight sequence will involve starting with Power Word: Shield, followed by some face melting and finally wanding the last 5 seconds or so to make the best of Spirit Tap.
Now, Wowwiki teaches us that mana regeneration outside the Five-second Rule is linear to our spirit - double your spirit and you double the mana regenerated. That means that Spirit Tap, coupled with lots and lots of +spirit on our gear, lets us regenerate a lot of mana after the fight if we're "not casting". It also means that 50% the regular mana regeneration at double spirit lets us keep casting at the usual "non-casting" regen rate - so while we try to end with wanding to get the double regen, with enough spirit that may not be such a big issue.

The Numbers

By now you must be thinking "how can this be a theorycrafting post if there's no number crunching?", and I agree. So for now, let's take a look at Alierah as an example. Here's a screenshot of her Armory profile:

According to this, Alierah gets 189 mana every 5 seconds when not casting. With Spirit Tap active that rate would double to 378 mana, and over the 15 seconds of Spirit Tap she can regenerate 1134 mana. That means that assuming I end the fight with 1134 mana less than my total, I'll get back to full in 15 seconds. But is that enough?

Well, let's see - my usual fights consist of shield, Shadow Word: Pain, 3 Mind Flays, and wanding the rest of the way. With the current ranks I have and with 3 points in Focused Mind that means I use 355 + 385 + 3 * 115 = 1085 mana. That's kind of nice - it means that Spirit Tap by itself is enough to recover my mana, limiting my downtime to 15 seconds between fights. Cool.

Is That All?

No, it isn't. If that was all, I could have just said "Spirit Tap is cool" and have been done with it. But now that we've covered that, we can go ahead and start playing around with it. For a start, let's try to see what happens if we have take downtime between fights.

So I just killed a mob, and gained ST for 15 seconds. However, instead of the usual 1134 mana, I will only get half of that back - 567 mana beacuse I'm already casting again. That's a little harsh, as it means I'll run out of mana after 5-6 mobs. But that's not entirely true, you see. How long do you actually spend wanding that mob down? Exactly 5 seconds? I doubt it. In my case, it usually takes around 10 shots to finally kill the mobs. With my current wand speed being 1.90, and not having any haste, that means 19 seconds wanding (sure doesn't feel that long, but hey, who am I to argue with numbers?). Round it up to 20, and it means you get another 15 seconds of good-old mana regeneration during the fight, giving us another 567 mana and making the total regenerated mana per fight 1134 again.

Now that's cool. At this rate, it means that using this rotation I can keep on going indefinitely. And if you add it all up, you find that killing the mob takes around 40 seconds. A mob every 40 seconds? Yup, definitely cool.

Does it actually work in practice? Well, for the most part, yes. Since it implicitly assumes fighting only 1 mob at a time (maybe 2, if your shield can take it), there is some downtime for looting and getting to the next mob. And of course, some mobs are tougher than others ("tanks") while some are more fragile (casters, usually) - so you have to adjust the rotation to fit the mob. Sometimes you'll need 4 Mind Flays, and sometimes only 2. And you know what? Waiting 15 seconds for your mana to fill up completely once in a while won't kill you.

Of course, this is very gear-dependent, but I don't think my gear is "uber" in any way - I don't buy things off the AH, and only make do with what I can make or find on my journeys. Then again, I just got out of Sunken Temple with some nice upgrades. Still, I think it's pretty "average" gear all in all.

Wrap It Up Already

This is starting to get a little long now, so let's start wrapping up. First, just to "cover my ass" - my current gear also gives me 4 mp5, which is not affected by Spirit Tap, but does show up in the mana regeneration info on the character sheet. Still, the difference isn't that big, and I didn't feel the need to make the calculations even more complicated than they already are. Well, OK, that's a lie. I just thought of it halfway through the post, and didn't feel like going back and fixing it since that would have ended up with even more mistakes.

Now, there's still a lot to of "unexplored" territory here - what's the "cap" for having no downtime? How much spell damage equates to 1 spirit (since doing more damage means having to cast less)? Who's still reading after this wall of text?

For the Spirit "cap", I don't think there's a good answer that would work for everyone since we all have our personal rotations and fight sequences. For spell damage, I might just write a post about that as well, once I get into Outlands and start seeing a lot more spell damage gear. As for who's still reading... Well, you tell me.

* I say most, because just 2 days ago I ran into water elementals who were immune to my wand's frost damage. Good thing I keep my staff skill relatively high (why do you think Blizzard put critters in the game?)

** The first 5 talent points often go to Wand Specialization, delaying Spirit Tap for a couple of levels. That's fine. Also, Wand Specialization seems to have been dropped in the beta, so I expect this to become a moo*** point anyway.

*** "It's like a cow's opinion - it's "moo"". Yes, I liked "Friends" and I'm not afraid to admit it.


Gaming Diva said...

I have a level 37 Holy priest but have maxed out the points for Spirit Tap. It's a good talent to have when leveling. I don't have a lot of downtime.

Tal said...

Good point, I'll add something about holy priests as well.