Are all healing class masteries created equal?

The healbot army at the Pleasure Palace.

I bet you are wondering the same thing that I am.

Are all healing masteries created equal?

I had a chat with a few super awesome bloggers to see how this new stat that Blizzard introduced with Cataclysm is fairing with the healing masses.

But first, what is Mastery?

Mastery was entered into the game to give all classes a new stat that provided something beneficial to your specific spec, whatever that spec is.

Blizzard defined it as:

The Mastery bonus that was unique to each tree will now be derived from the Mastery stat, found on high-level items, and Mastery will be a passive skill learned from class trainers around level 75. In most cases, the Mastery stats will be the same as the tree-unique bonuses we announced earlier this year. These stats can be improved by stacking Mastery Rating found on high-level items.

But what did we end up getting with each healing class? And do they all stack up to provide a good or beneficial benefit to the healer? How does this stat and it’s buff affect your raid team in 10 mans? What about 25 mans? Is it different?  Let’s walk through the healing masteries and where they stand today.

Types of Masteries

We pretty much ended up with two types of healing masteries, one that includes a proc or spell effect of some sort which can be clearly measured in our fight logs, and the second which affects pure healing throughput. First, lets tackle the proc type. There are only 2 masteries that have a spell effect, they are holy paladins and holy priests.

Holy Paladins –> Illuminated healing

Illuminated Healing. This places an absorb shield on anyone that we heal for 10% of the heal, shield lasting 8 seconds until it is either absorbed or simply falls off. In patch 4.1, the duration will be increased to 15 seconds and will be in line with disc priest shields duration. Most people believe that this mastery was intended to replace our old Sacred Shield from Wrath but to be honest I just wish I had the original Sacred Shield for placing on our tank. How does this proc really help us?

Well in general, I see it as one of the weakest of all of the healing masteries at the moment. Kurn explains it more here, WoWInsider here, Blessing of Kings here, and EJ theorycrafing here. But how does it weigh up?

It’s loaded with problems.

It has several problems. First of all, in its current form, the shield doesn’t stack. It either refreshes in duration or is replaced by a bigger shield (by a bigger heal being cast). What this actually works out to is lots and lots of tiny shields that are either used straight away (like when you are healing a tank) or they fall off the targets and are considered as wasted or overheal in your logs, not very helpful in the overall scheme of things.

Secondarily, the mastery benefit does not transfer through my Beacon of Light target (in most logs, my no 1 “heal”), nor Protector of the Innocent. While I admit it may become overpowered if it worked with both, but the alternative we have now isn’t working.

Mastery is there to make our main specialization better – but simply Illuminated Healing just doesn’t cut it. Paladins are widely advised to reforge both crit and matery to the much more beneficial and sexy stat, haste. If Blizzard continues to make no more fixes to the mechanics of it, I estimate that it will only become slightly better than crit after 4.1 drops, but will still be miles behind haste in benefit.

The third problem with this mastery, our tier gear is loaded with it. Mastery appears on both the chest and gloves. It seems they want us to make use of it ;-)

But, it doesn’t account for much throughput.

In my own Cho’gall log from last Sunday tank healing I see that Illuminated Healing was up 61.5% of the fight and accounted for 6.1% of my healing (absorb) with 38%  overheal, my guess because it just fell off without being used. If my calculation is right, please correct me if it is not, that’s under 4% healing. That’s pretty terrible. Granted I was not using mastery-heavy gear, but still. I had a mastery rating of 10.5 which is 13% shield.

Another thing to take note of in your healing team, paladins who are tank healing  in both 10s and 25s will benefit a lot more from mastery since the are typically casting bigger Divine Lights on the tank, and it will result in bigger shields from Illuminated Healing. Tanks are taking a beating so those shields are often actually absorbed. Paladins who raid heal will find it provides less than half of the throughput.

Patch 4.1 changes abound.

Patch 4.1 will change both the duration (up to 15 seconds) and in addition, Illuminated Healing has been increased to provide 1.5% effect per mastery, up from 1.25%. The time increase will help so that not as many of the shields are wasted and dropped off (see above my 38% overheal/drops) and of course, the increase in shield size (on average base 10% –> 12% base) will proc larger potential heals. But we’ll continue to go for throughput, and that means haste, not mastery.

So in one way it remains to be seen exactly how much it will end up being buffed, but my prediction still stands that Blizzard isn’t done with “fixing” our mastery just yet. I can hope, right?

Holy Priests –> Echos of Light

Enter our first guest blogger for this article, and a big huge THANK YOU to the stunning Oestrus, from The Stories of O and resident holy priest goddess. She was kind enough to provide us with her view on the state of the holy priest mastery and whew am I thankful.

The mastery for holy priests is called Echo of Light.  Echo of Light causes a heal over time effect to be placed on an ally, equal to a certain percentage of healing that was done by a direct heal that the priest cast on them.

The benefit from Echo of Light increases or decreases in value, based on the priest’s healing assignment.  When judging its effectiveness, the size of the raid is not usually a concern.  Typically, you would determine how effective Echo of Light was by its uptime (how much of the encounter that Echo of Light was present on someone) and how much healing that it did.

If a priest is tank healing and focused on one person specifically, they should have a high uptime on Echo of Light (at least 75% or better) and it may or may not heal for very much, depending on how much damage your tank is taking and how fast that damage is being reacted to.  When a priest is raid healing, their AOE heals can cause Echo of Light to be present on any number of targets.  This will also ensure a high uptime, but also increases the chance that most of the healing from Echo of Light will be overheal.  HW: Sanctuary is notorious for this and that is one of the reasons it is not seeing as much use in raids as of late.

The standard way of thinking is to start stacking mastery after a priest reaches at least 12.50% haste (fully raid buffed).  However, this has shown to be a personal choice and is often based on a number of factors.  Some encounters seem to favor mastery, such as those where your raid will be consistently taking damage and may not always be at full health.  This gives Echo of Light the opportunity to tick down and will provide healing that will actually make a difference and that will not go straight to overheal.    The choice to stack more mastery also depends on your raid composition and specifically that of your healing core.  If you tend to run with more healers or your healers tend to react well to incoming damage, your raid may be topped off quickly and there won’t be time for Echo of Light to do any real healing because everyone will already be healed to full.

If you decide to stack mastery and want to re-forge your gear to get more of it, I would start by taking any excess haste that you have and re-forging it into mastery.  In the rare event you find yourself with a piece or two with crit on them (like some of your tier pieces), you can turn that into mastery, too.  If you end up not going with your 4 piece bonus (for whatever reason), you can find some really strong off set pieces that focus on mastery, which may be just what you are looking for.

You can read more about my thoughts on Echo of Light, including how it stacks and how much it actually heals for here.

Thank you so much for the great input O! Very well put! You can find her on twitter or at her blog.


Next up, the Masteries that are based on pure throughput.

Resto Shaman –> Deep Healing

Enter our second guest blogger for this article, and again, big huge THANK YOU to Alacranmex, from Stand in the Blue Circle and resident resto shammy king. He was kind enough to provide us with his view on the state of the totem taunting resto shaman mastery. I have a special place in my heart for resto shammies, EternalHeals was my first ever healer in TBC. One of these days I’ll get her past 81 ;-)

In 4.0, all specs in the game were given a new secondary stat, Mastery.  Restoration Shamans were given a Mastery called “Deep Healing“.

The Resto Shaman Mastery Deep Healing is one of the most difficult stats to determine the value of because it depends on two things:  (1)What heals you heal with and (2)How much health the person receiving the heals has.  Because of this, many shaman have avoided the stat in favor of the old reliable Haste and Crit while deeming Mastery to be “too situational”.

Deep Healing’s value in 10’s vs 25’s

Critting with single-target direct heals provides regen (Improved Water Shields), throughput (Ancestral Awakening), and helps to maintain uptime of an important 10% physical damage buff on tanks.  Due to the fact that 10’s Resto Shamans rely on single-target heals more than AoE heals, in 10’s Restoration Shaman tend to prefer crit to mastery.

Determining the value of mastery based on whether the bulk of your healing done is direct or indirect might have been seen by Blizz as compelling but for many players it is downright confusing.  Even the WoW Insider columnist was confused by which spells were considered direct when they wrongly implied that Healing Rain was not affected by Mastery in a recent restoration shaman post.   Thankfully, the arrival of patch 4.1 ends the confusion by changing Deep Healing to include all heals.

Getting the “Feel” for Mastery

My current and favorite gear setup is for Mastery.  I just recently reforged, regemmed, and swapped as many items as I could to have the most Mastery possible while maintaining the 916 Haste breakpoint and 2,200 Spirit.   Now that my INT and SPI levels have improved with ilevel upgrades, I don’t miss the regen very much from crit.   According to the logs, my physical damage reduction buff has a pretty good uptime on tanks even with 5% less Crit.

The part that I like best about Mastery is that my throughput is there when I need it the most.  In a game based on RNG procs, the binary Crit mechanic is one less thing that I have to worry about.  And until we get an throughput cooldown, stacked Deep Healing is quite potent when paired with Nature’s Swiftness and Tidal Waves in desperate moments.

There is an ongoing discussion going on in the Shaman community of Crit vs Mastery (mostly 10’s) and Haste vs Mastery (mostly 25’s).  In my normal 10’s, I have tried to stack them all:  over 20% Crit, over 2005 Haste, and over 16 Mastery.  You should try all of them and discover which one you like the best.  The truth might be that each playstyle feels a little different but I didn’t notice much of an actual performance gain or loss with any of the setups.

For me, my gear and I are anxiously awaiting 4.1’s arrival.  My favorite stat is going to get even better and I won’t feel silly anymore for using all of those indirect heals.

Thank you so much for the great input! You can find him on twitter or at his blog. I think I will level up my shaman now :D

Resto Druid –> Symbiosis

Enter our next guest blogger for this article, and again, big huge THANK YOU to Beruthiel, from Falling Leaves and Wings druid blog and tree extraordinaire. She was sweet enough to provide us with her view on the state of the resto druid mastery. Thank you! This inspires me to pick up my druid again :)

Druid mastery is called Symbiosis. The tooltip for it tells us that it “Increases the potency of your healing spells by 11.6% on targets already affected by one of your heal over time spells. Each point of Mastery increases heal potency by an additional 1.45%”. What that means is that any target that is already affected by a rejuv, regrowth, lifebloom or wildgrowth will receive increased healing from any other heals they receive. So for example, if I have a lifebloom on a target and then cast a rejuv on that same target my rejuv will become more powerful as a result of my mastery.

There is actually currently a pretty big debate over the value of druid mastery that has been raging since the stat was introduced.   Unfortunately if you are looking for a very clearcut, simple answer on druid mastery, you aren’t going to find one. Let me attempt to simplify the debate (i.e. provide Beru’s “cliff notes”) so your head doesn’t explode following the pages upon pages of back and forth on the topic over at EJ (head explosion is a very real danger! I was exposed to this for weeks and almost lost my head as a result!).

The basic problem is as such: There are several “haste breakpoints” for druids, with the first one being 915 and the next “key” one being 2005. To reach the higher haste breakpoints you have to make certain gear choices and reforge away a lot of other stats into haste. This means that in a lot of instances you are going to be reforging mastery off of your gear to create additional haste. Which means that the big question then becomes is haste > mastery?

Unfortunately the answer isn’t easy to find, partly because there is no clearly definable way to actually view how much healing is being attributed to our mastery. Unlike paladin and priest mastery, you cannot go into WoL and just look through your healing done to see how much healing of your healing can be attributed to your mastery. Even using the expression editor, with both the druid mastery and symbiosis spell IDs, you will not (easily) find these numbers. This makes it very hard to quantify exactly how beneficial mastery is for resto druids.

Ugh. So how do you determine if Mastery is good for you?

Well, there are a few tools that you can use to do this. The first, and probably best, one that I’d recommend is to do download a mod called Druid Mastery. This mod was created specifically to help druids better understand how much of their healing is affected by mastery. It tracks your combat log, specifically looking for heals that are affected by mastery, and then it will compare your mastery healing versus your total healing. This is by far the best tool to tell you how mastery works for you.

The other two tools that I’d recommend looking at are Tree Calcs and Tangedyn’s Resto Spreadsheet. The reason that I’ve provided you with two different spreadsheets is because Tangedyn’s sheet puts a higher value on mastery, and focuses on mastery as a primary stat for resto healing.

That’s great, Beru, but I just want to know if I should favor mastery.

Fair enough! Let me see if I can break it down for you a bit. First and foremost, your number one goal is to get to 915 haste to reach your first breakpoint. Everyone, regardless of raid size or assignment, wants to reach this breakpoint. However, once that is done, the question for you then becomes Mastery or Haste. And there are a few things that you need to consider when making this decision.

  • What is your healing assignment?  Due to the way that our mastery works, it becomes more valuable if you find that you are tanking healing more often than not.  This is because druids who are primarily tank healers will almost always have another HoT running on their primary healing target.  As such, if you find that you are tank healing more often than not mastery is going to be a better stat for you than haste.  That isn’t to say that haste isn’t still valuable to you, faster heals are always a good thing, but you probably want to think about it before reforging mastery off of your gear.  Haste will start to surpass mastery the more people that you need to heal – which means that if you find you are assigned to primarily heal the raid you will likely find more benefit from reaching your WG haste breakpoint.
  • Do you primarily heal in 10s or 25s?  Please note that regardless of raid size, you should still consider the first point above, as it is applicable to both raid sizes.  However, reaching the 2005 wildgrowth breakpoint diminishes in value for 10 mans, just because the value of wildgrowth as a whole diminishes in 10 mans compared to 25s – not to say that it’s not still valuable for 10s, just that it’s likely to be a more important tool in the arsenal of the 25 man raider.  Therefore trying to reach the higher haste breakpoint isn’t as important in a 10 man raid setting.  Additionally, it is more likely that you will already have a HoT running on a greater number of people in a 10 man raid than in a 25 man raid, which means that mastery’s value increases.  There have been several 10 man raiders who have tested both Haste and Mastery – and almost universally I’ve seen them indicate that they found mastery to be a much more beneficial stat for them.  Conversely, I’ve seen 25s raiders who have indicated that they opted to focus mastery over haste and are still very competitive.
When push comes to shove, it is ultimately up to you to determine what works best for you and for your raid team.  Personally, I have favored haste.  However, keep in mind that I am primarily raid healing in a 25 man setting and for me that was the better choice.
Is there any way to maximize my healing via mastery?  Yes!  And it’s important that regardless of if you opted mastery or haste, you can always get some benefit from optimizing your mastery heals.  The simplest answer is to make sure that you have another HoT on your target before casting a heal.  Now, obviously, this isn’t always going to happen, but there are a few “tricks” that you can use to improve mastery.
  • Lifebloom and Rejuv – when you are tank healing, or even just stacking your lifebloom on a tank, you can increase the healing done via mastery by simply staggering your LB stack with a rejuv.  What I mean is this: set up your cast sequence to go LB1, Rejuv, LB2, LB3.  This will allow both your LB and your rejuv to be affected by mastery.  Additionally, make sure to refresh them while the other is up to ensure that you continue to receive the mastery benefits from them.
  • “Chasing” Wild Growth.  This can actually be dangerous if not done smartly.  That being said, another thing that works well for raid healing is to WG and then “chase” your WGs with a subsequent rejuv.  This gives your rejuvs the extra benefits of mastery.  The reason that I say that this can be dangerous is because you should not just blindly rejuv everyone with your WG.  If they don’t need the healing it’s both a waste of mana and your resources to continue to heal them.  However, if you play smartly and think through your rejuvs this can work very well for you.
I hope that this was able to clarify some questions for you regarding Symbiosis.  While there is a clear cut “mastery is awesome/terrible” line for some of the other healers, druids aren’t so lucky!  The only real way to find an answer to the “is mastery good for me” question is to play around with it versus haste and see how it works in your raid setting and with your healing team.  Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions, and Good Luck!

Thank you so much for the great article Beru! You can find her on twitter or at her blog.

Disc Priest –> Shield Discipline

The last throughput stat is a little bit different. The discipline variety of healing priests is built around shields, its a staple of their playstyle. While not as much as in our shield-spamming history of Wrath, in Cataclysm we still rely on our shields for mana regen (Rapture) and big mitigation. Disc priests regularly use their shields, both Power Word: Shield and Divine Aegis no matter what.  The difference in play-style is how OFTEN the shield is casted and the role of the healer.

Disc Mastery is simple!

How the mastery works is fairly simple, it increases the amount absorbed by our shields, period. End of story. It started as a not so good stat at the start of this expansion but due to recent changes in base healing of our shields, our shield’s are now much more powerful, and as such the stat has become much more viable to consider.

Play-style options abound.

The challenge with disc priests and this mastery are two-fold. First, there are two different playstyles of disc, one centered around archangel and Atonement smite healing and one that skips these talents entirely. Both are good, neither are “wrong”. One of the beauties of discipline as a spec today, is the variety of playstyles and difference in raid size.

In a typical 10 man team, a disc priest will be a tank healer and not a bubblebot. Disc excels at tank healing now, even more than we did in Wrath. I was a main tank healer as disc then and now, I still am in my team. In this specific case, most priests will want a balance of mastery and crit for pure tank healing. Remember crit gives bigger heals on that sexy tank of yours plus it will also proc bigger Divine Aegis bubbles. Both are yummy for this reason. However, it’s very rare to see a bubblebot these days in any team size, due to the mana cost of keeping up that play-style and in a 10 man, due to the lack of buffs (and innervates) you probably have in a larger team.

But in a 25 man raid team, disc priests will often find they aren’t the only disc priest. In this case, there’s a lot more variety of play-styles available. One can be the “bubbling priest” and one can be the “prayer of healing” priest. And these two different priests want two different stats. If you find yourself bubbling more than most, mastery will be a welcome stat to focus more on. If you are spamming prayer of healing most often because someone else is a bubbler, you’ll probably favor haste more than other options for quicker casts. If you do both, again, a balance of stats should be your aim.

Shields = Throughput

Without bringing hard numbers and spreadsheets into this thread to calculate HPM or HPS, a disc priest’s shield (in general) is pretty efficient, especially with mastery taken into account.  My discopriest shields each absorb just over 30,000 (mastery increases the absorb nearly 40% right now for my rating), that’s just shy of what 1 greater heal does. With my playstyle, I tend to keep my tank bubbled, penance on cooldown, greater heal when needed and I only throw out additional shields where it will save someone’s life. Otherwise if I need to bubble lots of people at once for damage, I switch to Inner Will to do that.

Looking at logs from my last run with my priest, it was a 2% wipe on Cho’gall urgh. I ran Atonement spec (the fact that atonement accounted for only 8% of my healing is an entire other discussion, think I’ll try a non-atonement on my next attempt) and I ran with Inner Will the entire time due to mana conservation. But, Power Word: shield and Divine Aegis were still both of my top 2 with 18.9%  of total healing each.  Considering that mastery would boost that, I find it a very relevant stat now.

My advice for other discopriests out there is to take a long hard look at both your role in the raid team and your particular playstyle and go for a balance of the important stats or find the one particular stat that will help that style and run with it. I still love disc, and I love it even more now that we have more variety in what we have to choose from.

Happy Healing Healbots!

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