What a headache, right?
Before I get into the detailed explanation, if you are looking for the TL;DR version, here you go:
- Those that have very little personal survivability and don't expect their teammates to take much damage should spec Focused Will/Blessed Resilience.
- Those that have issues surviving but expect that their teammates may share in the damage fest should spec either Pain Suppression/Spirit of Redemption or Guardian Angel/Spirit of Redemption.
- Those that don't expect to take that much damage should look into Penance.
For those who have the iron stomachs to read further, here we go! (Warning! This isht be looooooong)To elaborate on the TL;DR version, lets look at the 3 different factors and their effects to determine wether the Priest has no chance of survival, a poor chance of survival or a decent of survival. Notice, there's no good or excellent chance. That's because Priests have never had that luxury. Yes, I'm bitter like that. The 3 factors that affect survival are are Gear, Comp and Metagame.
Use the super-complicated-yet-accurate-to-the-nanometer analytical scale below as you analyze the 3 factors.
The simplest indicator of survivability is gear. The fact remains that if you're wearing all PvE gear or you're in leveling gear (aka: BAD PvE gear), your survivability will be non existant. With that said, we'll assume that the minimum attainable gear will be the full Frostsavage Set. If you need help figuring out how to gear up, check out my previous post. The survivability benchmark that has been thrown about has been somewhere in the 750-800 resilience range. At that level, you should be able to endure the initial CS > KS from a rogue with a Bubble up.
- If you have the minimum attainable PvP gear set, you pretty much still have no chance for survival, but the marginal resilience will help you against splash damage if you can get peels. Mark yourself on the left side of the scale.
- If you have more gear than the minimum set, but are under 750-800 resilience, your survivability is poor, but you should be able to take a couple of hits. Mark yourself in the middle of the scale.
- If you are over 800 resilience, you've got decent survivability. Mark yourself on the right side of the scale.
Comp or Composition, refers to your team and in correlation, your bracket. However, in this section, we're looking at our team, not our opponents. What we're specifically looking for is your teammate's survivability and survival skills. There's a huge difference when playing with a tunnel visioning Rogue wearing no resilience and a Death Knight who knows how and when to use LOS.
Rate your teammates:
- If you are playing with classes that have been branded as 'hard to kill' (Death Knights, Warriors who know how to LOS/reflect, etc) or teammates who are wearing a lot of PvP gear (800+ resilience) and/or classes that have personal immunity type effects, your teammates get a decent survivability rating. Unfortunately, that makes you a much juicier target, lowering your survivability. Move your rating to the left or keep your rating the same if you feel that you won't always be the primary target.
- If you are playing with easy to kill teammates (Warlocks, Shamans, another Priest) or teammates wearing very little PvP gear or don't have immunity type effects, your teammates get a poor survivability rating, which will increase your survivability... sometimes. Keep your rating the same or move it to the right if you feel very confident about your kiting and peeling skills.
- If you are playing with a Paladin who knows how to apply Blessing of Protection, your survivability increases. Move your rating to the right.
Metagame refers to the types of teams you're expecting to face. Back in S3 and S4, playing in the upper brackets, one could expect many many Warrior/Druid teams and as such, Priest/Mage teams did well, if they could get to that bracket. In today's environment, there are many many comps out there as the top tier comps have yet to be defined (exception: DK/Paladin).
Rate your expected opponents (the metagame):
- You expect a lot of Rogue teams and your teammate does not have have a physical peel a la Kidney, Hamstring, Scattershot, Blessing of Protection, etc and/or you expect a lot of all DPS/high burst/multiple melee teams. This lowers your survivability as Rogues are often your bane. Pure magic peels aren't as reliable in that first 30 seconds of a match due to Cloak of Shadows, Vanish, Prep, and the possibility of a teammate dispel. Move your rating to the left
- You expect a lot of Rogue teams and your teammate has a physical peel and/or you expect a lot of drain teams. This will likely increase your survivability as your teammate can peel for you and the incoming damage is less bursty. Move your rating to the right.
So how did you do? Ignoring gear for a moment, common compositions in this current environment such as Rogue/Priest, Ret Paladin/Priest, and Rogue/Mage/Priest often place the Priest on the far right of the scale, whereas teams such as Warlock/Priest and 4DPS/Priest often shift the Priest to the far left or middle of the scale. Using those comps as guidelines and understanding your Battlegroup's environment, your placement on the scale should be fairly accurate. How does this translate into spec?
Well, currently, there are 3 popular specs out there which, lo and behold, somewhat translate into the various degree of life expectancy.
Focused Will/Blessed Resilience/Lightwell/Spirit of Redemption: This build focuses on personal survivability at the cost everything else. Blessed Resilience and Focused Will help you stay afloat and combined with Lightwell (which you can used while stunned), one can generally stay alive with some reasonable peels and LOS. The downside to this build is that it has no uber 'save me!' abilities such as Pain Suppression or Guardian Angel, heals are anemic and the mana efficiency of this build is in the gutter. You won't have the longevity to win out long drawn out drain style matches, but against high dps teams, where you don't have to worry about your teammate getting bursted, this is a winner. Spirit of Redemption can offer some late heals (which, with the soon to be fixed glyph, can lead to 45 second+ Angel heals) if and when you get brought down. This build is pretty must restricted to 37/34/0.
Pain Suppression/Spirit of Redemption or Guardian Angel/Spirit of Redemption: These specs are largely interchangeable in my view as they offer increased healing output/damage prevention output while giving up either Focused Will or Blessed Resilience. The Pain Suppression build is more mana efficient whereas the Guardian Angel build has more healing output at the cost of mana efficiency. With the uber 'save me!' abilities, these specs are generally used if the Priest wants the post death healing of Spirit of Redemption in conjunction with increased healing/damage prevention as teammates are expected to take some serious damage. Common builds are 50/21/0 and 14/57.
Penance: This deep Discipline spec utilizes Penance and gives up the option to get Spirit of Redemption. This spec is very mana efficient as Penance has a very high healing per mana ratio, especially if the Priest takes Rapture. In addition, Penance offers huge burst healing, even if it is only allowed to tick twice before cancelling, to avoid interruption. Unfortunately, self heals for this spec are fairly weak, and the Priest using this spec generally utilizes either superior pressure, team peels, and/or superior gear to avoid or withstand incoming damage. This spec still have a 'save me!' ability in the form of Pain Suppression and typically, with high resilience Priests, Pain Suppression offers more bang for the buck than Blessed Resilience as non-crit damage becomes a greater issue. Common builds are 60/11/0 or the myriad of 5x/y/0 where y does not exceed 20. (Oh noes! Algebra!)
So, looking at the various characteristics of the builds, it becomes clear that the builds can correlate reasonably well to the three positions on the scale.
- Those that have very little personal survivability and don't expect their teammates to take much damage should spec Focused Will/Blessed Resilience. This correlates to people who found themselves on the far left of the scale.
- Those that have issues surviving but expect that their teammates may share in the damage fest should spec either Pain Suppression/Spirit of Redemption or Guardian Angel/Spirit of Redemption. This correlates to people who found themselves in the middle of the scale.
- Those that don't expect to take that much damage should look into Penance. This is for those people who found themselves on the right side of the scale.
Hopefully this little analysis has helped determine where you stand with your spec. It's not 100% accurate, but it should give some insight as to the various factors that go into deciding a spec. Keep in mind that top players will likely not find this of much use as their coordination and communication can often supercede comp mismatches or gear inadequacies, thus allowing them to utilize a spec that would get mid level or beginner players killed.
As always, try stuff out and see what works for you.