Last night was the guild's first foray into Ulduar as a 25 man team. Unfortunately, we've been hit pretty hard by attrition and by people leaving for another guild experience. Understandably, bringing in our top 25 wasn't in the cards, and in some cases, the level of attentiveness and inexperience was painfully evident.
That being said, I'm happy that Uld25 is not a pushover instance for the majority of guilds. I don't necessarily like chain wiping, but I like the fact that there's a bit of a challenge involved and people have to pay attention. It truly separates out the good players from the terrible. Will the vast majority of the average guilds kill Yoggy before Icecrown Citadel comes out? Time will only tell.
For our Uld25 jaunt, I walked into the raid as a Deep Holy spec. I ended up speccing 18/53/0, skipping Imp Fort (another Priest had it) on the Disc Tree and making sure I picked up 3/3 Mental Agility. On the Holy side, I went all the way down to Guardian Angel and made sure I picked up Divine Providence, Serendipity, Holy Concentration, Surge of Light, Holy Reach and Healing Prayers. I skipped Test of Faith and Improved Renew. I'm sure you can fill in the rest of the talents.
To be clear, the goal of this spec was to maximize raid healing and ensuring that my spells didn't run me dry in seconds flat. The main issue with this spec is that Guardian Angel is the 51 point talent, thus forcing the player to either choose between the 'Get Out Of Jail Free Card' or Mental Strength. I'll highlight mana issues later on after I get through the performance of the spec.
As for Gear, I replaced as much of my high Crit/no Spirit gear with my low Crit/high Spirit gear as possible. It was rough realizing that much of my gear was optimized for Disc and the fact that I've been relying on Mental Strength to bump my mana pool up for Replenishment abuse. The goal of replacing non-Spirit gear with my old Spirit heavy pieces was to try to maximize my passive regen from Holy Concentration procs. I believe that even with swapping out 5 pieces of Disc gear, I still had ~25% unbuffed Holy Crit. Not bad, but not great either.
Glyph-wise, I rolled with Glyphs of Guardian Spirit, Flash Heal, and Circle of Healing.
So how did the spec play?
Really, really well for the 2 bosses the raid encountered: Deconstructor & Razorscale.
The nature of the spec is to spam instant spells, but also to keep up a Serendipity stack. What this means is that between Circle of Healing, Prayer of Mending and using Surge of Light Procs to raid heal (I was not assigned to Tank heal), Flash Heal was liberally used to set up for some huge Greater Heals or Prayer of Healings. I found that I didn't utilize PW: Shield as much, thus allowing the Disc Priest to freely shield whomever they needed to. Sadly, Renew seems to be a very situational heal, unlike the 'go to' nature of Rejuvenation for a Resto Druid. and was cut out of the build prior to go time. My testing showed that Empowered Renew was pretty poor and as such I didn't rely on it at all.
Serendipity seems to be one of the hidden gems of 3.1, as it allowed me to send out 1.7 second cast time Prayer of Healings/Greater Heals with virtually no substantial amounts of haste gear. Prayer of Healing, when used with Holy Reach, Divine Providence and Healing Prayers, ends up being reasonable in cost with a huge radius. As long as people were grouped up intelligently (melee with melee, casters with casters) and positioned with their groups, I could always hit everyone in the group.
Mana wise, the build was reasonably okay. My only gripe is that aforementioned trade off between Guardian Angel and Divine Providence for Mental Strength as this build could definitely benefit more from Replenishment. Unsurprisingly, the throughput of this spec is enormous. Circle of Healing is nearly aways able to proc a Surge of Light for that quick spot heal (aka getting hit twice by Frostfire Bolts from Razorscale) and a easily refreshable Serendipity 3 stack can be huge for that emergency single target or AOE heal. In those situations where I needed to just sit and spam Flash Heal, I could sustain it reasonably well. I did run the risk of running oom earlier than I expected, however, those situations were usually caused by people not paying attention to the Light/Gravity Bombs or players who liked to grab aggro before the tanks during the add phase of Razorscale.
Adjustments: In my mind, there are 2 reasonably good Holy raid healing specs. The first is the one I showed with Guardian Angel. The second is a 24/47/0 build that grabs 4/5 Mental Strength and sacrifices 5/5 Divine Providence and Guardian Angel. The benefit of the first spec (GA), is that with the Glyph of Guardian Angel, you can either save a Tank or save the Raid, by allowing more healers to focus on the Raid instead of the Tank. 10k critical Flash Heals are amazing and go a long way towards shifting healing responsibilities on the fly. If the GA target doesn't die, you get to do it again one minute later.
The second spec gives up a lower cooldown to Prayer of Mending and Cheaper AOE heals for more mana. 4/5 Mental Strength is 12% more mana, so for someone with, say... 17k mana, you're looking at a gain of ~2k mana. That 2k Mana is approximately 25more MP5 from Replenishment, which definitely helps in this day and age of lowered oo5SR regen. In addition to those perks, this second spec also benefits from more mana returned from Shadowfiend as well as from Hymn of Hope such that mana should be less of an overall issue than with the GA spec. This spec could even Glyph for Prayer of Healing and further improve the strength of its AOE heals.
Which one do I prefer? I really like the fluidity of the GA spec over the Mental Strength spec. This is mostly because I really like Guardian Angel. I'm not entirely sure of the gemming strategy for Deep Holy, but I suspect that I'll aim for ~30% Crit unbuffed and ensure that I have a good amount of spirit in every slot. I'll keep testing and tweaking and praying that Blizz will lower Guardian Angel to the 41 point talent slot. that would be amazingly awesome.