It’s My Party and I’ll Spec How I Want To!


You’re the one who sits in front of your computer.  You’re the one who has to look at the back of your toon’s head all night (or day).  You’re the one who has to put the gold into gems, enchants, and glyphs.  You’re the one doing the necessary rep grinds.  Most importantly, you’re the one paying $15 each month to play the game you enjoy.

Hence, you’re entitled to play how you want to play, right?  Keep in mind that it doesn’t mean people are always going to want to play alongside you.  If you’re a chain-pulling DPS Death Knight, it might be tough for you to find dungeon groups.  If you’re a mage who is trying to mass-bandage people in battlegrounds instead of DPS, expect to get laughed at.  Most of us strive to play our characters in a way that helps and benefits a raid, battleground, or arena team.  We’re going to look at things from a raiding perspective.

If you’re an aspiring raider, two guys named “Min” and “Max” always come into the conversation pretty quickly.  Wikipedia describes this practice as:

…the practice of playing a role-playing game, wargame or video game with the intent of creating the “best” character by means of minimizing undesired or unimportant traits and maximizing desired ones.

Obviously, this doesn’t only have to do with spec, but also relates to gear, gems, enchants, and spell/skill rotation.  How beneficial is it to tweak all of these to get the most desired output from your character, whether it be healing, DPSing, tanking, etc?

PvP vs. PvE vs. Hybrid

If you really want to be effective in a raiding environment, leave your PvP spec, or your “hybrid” spec at the door.  Although it is perfectly viable to heal in a PvP spec (I usually do it after Wintergrasp), you’re lacking in true PvE potential if you’re not specced properly for raiding.  Taking talents such as Improved Ghost Wolf or Reflective Shield are not effective for raiding in the slightest.  The points you spend in talents like those are much more useful in talents that boost your raiding skills/spells.

Granted, you may be able to find yourself in a guild that doesn’t mind you being a hybrid spec.  Perfectly fine.  Just don’t be too upset if your raid spot is handed over to someone with a pure spec.  Keep in mind that the effort you don’t put into raiding has to be made up by the other raiders.  In effect, you run the risk of making their job harder.  It can be handled for a while, but there’s an often-reached breaking point.

Rusty Cookie Cutter

The term “cookie cutter” usually refers to a globally accepted spec to accomplish a certain job.,,, and are all great places to get yourself a “cookie cutter” spec for whatever role you’re filling.

I usually reserve using a spec like those for when I’m first learning a new playstyle.  As a Discipline Priest, I’m not too familiar with Holy.  I lined myself up a “cookie cutter raid healing” spec, and learned the mechanics of that style that way.  The more I get comfortable with the abilities, buffs, debuffs, etc., the more I can tweak the spec to what I need, as well as what the raid needs.

If you’re joining up with a raiding guild that’s new to you, take a look at what kind of role you’re going to be filling.  If it’s foreign to you, start with a “cookie cutter” and go from there.

Juggling Stats

At a certain point in gearing, you reach a point where you can start adding on a certain stat over another.  For tanks, it’s the defense cap.  For DPS, it’s the hit cap. (Remember the expertise cap, too.)  For a healer, this point basically involves being able to keep your assignment up comfortably without running out of mana.  From there, you can stack:

  • Haste – Faster heals
  • Spellpower – Consistently bigger heals
  • Critical Strike – Chance for bigger heals / Chance for bonus procs
  • Mana/Mana Regen – Longevity

Each method serves a purpose.  Whichever path you choose, you essentially keep the minimum amount of everything else to function as a healer, and maximize what your goal is.  If you lose your ability to keep a target up or sustain mana in a fight, you’ve “min’d” too much.

The Good

If you min/max correctly for the role you’re filling, then you’re incredibly good at your job.  If you’re a tank-healing Discipline Priest in consistently short fights, and you gem into a higher Critical Strike Rating, then Inspiration and Divine Aegis are gonna stay up on the tank most of the time, making the other jobs easier.  If you’re a Resto Shaman healing the raid with a lot of AoE damage, and you gem for Haste, then you’ll be firing Chain Heals off like mad.

It also makes it easy to judge your gear upgrades.  You know what you’re aiming for, and you know what stats you don’t really need to focus on.  In fact, you may have some stats you may be able to start scaling back on to accomplish your goal.

The Bad

You go too far, and you lose versatility.  If you’re gemmed out for big heals, but don’t have longevity, you’ll be tapping out quickly.  If you’re stacking mana, but don’t have a lot of spellpower to back it up, you’re going to have a tough time lending a hand in short fights that pack a lot of punch.

A lot of us know the value of being able to think on your feet.  A good raider needs to be able to pick up the slack when someone goes down.  If you’re a one-note player, you’re going to have a tough time switching around.  A raid leader needs to fill specific roles in a raid, but he/she also needs people that can adapt if circumstances change.

Thes’s Solution

Staying within the role of your spec, do what you can to make yourself a well-rounded player.  As a Discipline Priest, my primary role is to keep the tanks alive.  However, if my target isn’t taking any damage, I’ll throw some HoTs and Flash Heals on the raid to help everyone else out.  It would be unwise of me to try to work my spec and gear to be a full-blown raid healer.  It’s a waste of my talents and spells, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help out when needed.

What do I do? I hit a point where I got comfortable with my mana pool and regen.  I could easily get through longer fights with my mana cooldowns (and keeping up my end of the healing).  I started swapping out my Brilliant King’s Amber gems for Luminous Ametrine gems.  This lets me keep my mana efficiency while upping the power of my heals.

If you need something more specialized for a long fight or for nuke heals, start building an alternate set of gear that’s more gemmed/enchanted for the task.  With all of the options for getting gear out there, it shouldn’t take that long to build a “special set”.  It’s an easy way to avoid being a one-trick pony.

Remember: Raiding is a team effort.  You have to put a lot into it if you want to get a lot out of it.  Cutting corners with spec/gear, or maxing TOO much of a certain stat can runs the risk of putting you on the standby list real fast.


Follow me on Twitter: @Thespius

21 thoughts on “It’s My Party and I’ll Spec How I Want To!”

  1. I like the point at the end where you are mentioning having different gear sets. As a holy/shadow priest, I think I almost have too many different gear sets (all set up using ItemRack thank god). For instance, off the top of my head, here are the gear sets that I have saved:

    1. Holy
    – Well rounded set for holy, includes a decent balance of Crit & Haste.
    2. Holy (Haste)
    – Haste heavy set so that I can throw heals like a mad man.
    3. Holy (Mana Regen)
    – For those cases where longevity is an issue.
    4. Holy (Intellect)
    – Heavy in Intellect, for fights that require longevity with reduced mana regen (General Vezzax)
    5. Shadow
    – 5-man instance running
    6. Shadow (289 Hit)
    – Raid instance running where a Draenei is not in the group
    7. Shadow (263 Hit)
    – Raid instance running where a Draenei is in the group

    I also have a couple other gear sets set up for various miscellaneous things such as fishing, and a fun one to see what the highest Hit % I can get is (with the various pieces of gear I have right now, I believe I can get up to somewhere around 45% Hit).

    The only major problem with all of these gear sets is the amount of bag space it takes up, but there is always a price to pay, and that is the price of being versatile.
    .-= Spazmoosifer´s last blog ..Circle of Healers =-.

  2. @spaz One of the reasons why I like you, bud. Although I could never have THAT many sets, I’ll tend to switch around my trinkets depending on what’s needed. I have mp5 trinkets, haste trinkets, crit trinkets, and pure spellpower trinkets. I have a random attack power trinket, too, which is funny. I think I’ll start throwing that on for when I’m wanding Icehowl after he crashes into the wall. jk

  3. @Thes Yeah, I did some playing around w/ Rawr and the gear that I know I have, and apparently I was a little off w/ my “Max Hit Rating” set…I can only get up to 838 Hit Rating, which Rawr reports as 34.95% (though it does say something like 120.95% in Shadow, which confuses me a bit). Let’s just say that when Cataclysm goes live, I don’t think I’ll have to worry about hitting things 😉

    Really, it isn’t an overabundance of gear, it takes up just over one full bag (and some random bag slots in my bank for that Nostalgic gear).
    .-= Spazmoosifer´s last blog ..Circle of Healers =-.

  4. Great post! As a disc priest I also have a huge conversation in my head going on about crit or haste. This did help me out 🙂 And evrything you’re saying is so true D: Everytime I see a pvp-specced [insert damage class here] in ToC (most times it’s a hunter some DPS higher than the tank claiming he forgot to switch back from mana aspect… in every – single – bossfight..) I just want to quit raiding 🙁 But hopefully those people read your post too 🙂
    .-= Nanuki´s last blog ..AION vs WoW =-.

  5. I’m with Spaz here. For tanking I’ve got an EH set, a block set, and an avoidance set – plus all the resist gear from lvl 80 (at 70 it was worse). I’ve got PvP ret, PvE ret, mp5 PVE healing, PvP Healing, and ToGC FC healing.

    I’m a gear packrat.

    As far as specs go – yeah, you can spec how you want to, but remember synergy. Our hunter has a Surv off spec for nights when our Retadin can’t show. Everyone has multiple specs for raiding and PvP – it’s just the way we roll.
    .-= adgamorix´s last blog ..Next Stop – Insanity =-.

  6. @honorshammer which is exactly what the rest of the article (including the paragraph right after that statement) is all about! =D

  7. A good post and many points with which I agree so I’m going to (try to) make a more interesting comment by pointing out something I disagree with. “Pure Specs” or “Cookie cutter builds”.
    Let’s go over a few Holy talents and see what doesn’t cut the cookies:
    – Healing Focus? A talent shunned by many, loved by many. who is right? Both have valid arguments.
    – Improved Renew? If you spam heals on the raid, this is probably your weakest throughput talent.
    – Divine Fury? If you don’t use GHeal, forget about it.
    – Improved Healing? Even weaker than Divine Fury
    – Inspiration? Everyone loves it… but is it useful when you’re only healing the dps?
    – Holy Reach? 1 point or 2? Both options are considered in min max specs
    – SoL? 1 or 2 points? Both options are considered in min max specs
    – Spiritual Guidance? It seems so normal to take all points in it but dropping 1 point and putting it in Blessed Resilience might prove better (not even many people know this)
    – Blessed Resilience? It’s more a pvp than pve talent… but it provides more throughput. How does it weigh against other talents?
    – Body and Soul? People love it, others neglect it. Both options are considered in min max specs.
    – Test of Faith? Commonly accepted as a terrific talent, but how often does it need to trigger to beat Blessed Resilience? Quite a lot!
    – Empowered Healing? Does a holy priest really need to focus in single target healing?
    – Healing Prayers? Awesome manasaver, but what if you could get more throughput instead or don’t need the mana?
    – Empowered Renew? 1 point is worth a lot.. how much is the rest worth?
    All of these questions I have encountered on PlusHeal at some point in time. These are genuine questions made by people trying to min max.

    Then we go on to gear: more int or more spirit? There is a balance somewhere but which should one prefer? If you have more int, that’s fine… you could get more regen than any other priest! But… if your fiend dies or you don’t have the time to pop HoH you’re a dead man. If you stack spirit, you’re solid, but you’ll never have a chance on getting as much regen as that int stacker. What happens to this balance if you find yourself assisting on tankhealing every now and then?

    Let’s go over throughput: crit makes you more flexible, haste a stronger healer, SP helps both but haste is a stronger throughput stat.
    How do you measure the value of flexibility or utility?
    So how do you define a min max spec for holy priests? Or gear? How do you, as a raidleader or guildleader, check if your guildie is min maxing or just min maxing in a different way than you?

    I know only 1 way to truly know if a guildie is bringing his A game or not… and that’s by delving so deeply in his/her class mechanics and _his/her_ playstyle, and gear, that one understands his/her choices to a point where one can predict them. Only then, based on that knowledge, can one track back and see how such a player enriches (or not) the team. I have yet to see 1 raidleader go to such depth for his raidmembers. Most raidleaders don’t even bother going that deep and base themselves only on their own experience or ‘rules defined by guides’ such as EJ and Ensidia. Yet both give different directions so does it depend on which one your RL took to be judged a min max or a worthless spec?
    This raises the counter question to your ending statement: who is cutting the corners? 🙂

  8. @Zusterke

    I definitely appreciate your breakdown of Holy Talents. My intent was to not get so talent-specific. My references to Reflective Shield (no raiding priest should ever take it) and Improved Ghost Wolf (in most cases, Ghost Wolf can’t even be cast) allude to talents that really serve zero raid benefit whatsoever. This includes DPS talents involving reduced disarm or fear affects against you.

    As I stated, “cookie cutter” specs are a good place to start. A good raider should put thought into his/her spec depending upon playstyle. “Pure spec” refers to a spec that is focused on raiding or focused on PvP. “Hybrid spec” is self-explanatory.

    The guild that Lodur and I are a part of have class leaders, and those leaders look at our specs and gear. If I have valid reason to use Healing Focus or another questionable talent, then it’s “gravy, baby”. However, if I tell them that my raid spec includes talents designed for PvP survivability, I would expect them to tell me to respec.

    Basically, raiding specs vary, as they should. There shouldn’t be one “ultimate spec”, in my opinion. However, there are obviously bad choices, and that’s what i mean by cutting corners. Most raiding guilds will take issue with a “hybrid spec” of someone who doesn’t want to pay the cost to respec between raid and pvp.

  9. I think I want Zusterke’s babies. Or at least to play in his raid. 😉

    Great post as usual, Thespius. And as always, WOM commenters make this place awesome.

  10. wow, as a tank I’m accustomed to have a few sets of gear (resist/ avoidance/ EH, and I used to have a block set)… but didn’t realise a healer could have up to 7 sets (understood, not all unique gear pieces, but a specific mix of gear some bits different). Much respect!

  11. I definitely understand your point Thespius 🙂 It certainly is a valid one. A healing priest with spirit tap could raise an eyebrow in a raid I suppose 🙂
    (and yet I bet we could devise a usable strategy around it)
    The opposite is true as well, however. It could be that a player has a min maxed spec and yet he’s not “min maxing”. To give an example: I had a holy priest recruit specced into single target healing and Renew. Yet his playstyle comprises (almost) only AoE heals. I’m focused on AoE healing and he’s using even fewer single target spells than me. I’m not going to make a problem about that but is he “min maxing”? IMO: no. If a more exotic talent would be chosen but the player knows how to utilise it in a raid to make it a (small) benefit… then I’d prefer that over a player who’s not using the talents he specced for.

    One more thing: I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hammer you with holy talents! (I did throw a wall of text at you didn’t I? My appologies!)
    I only wanted to give as example how more than half of our talents could be subject to debate if you weigh things carefully. Min Maxing is, imo, for a large part a mindset rather than something measurable by gear or specs. Your post and comment hint in that direction so I definitely agree but the “gear and talent” aspect are not always accurate measures 🙂 Of course, the intent behind it is crucial, as you mentioned, but I would classify exactly that as mindset.

  12. I’ll admit it, I -hate- that “it’s my $15, I’ll do what I want” excuse. With a passion! Sure, do what you want, but not when it’s costing me and my raid team time and heartache, thanks. LOL

    @ Zusterke: Are there really that many lazy raid/healing leads out there? (Serious question, no snark or cynical nature implied!) I always take it on myself to know exactly why each of my healers is using a specific spec or gearing strategy and to research how it’s effecting the rest of our team. It makes me sad that other leaders don’t do the same. : / How do they get by without it?
    .-= Codi´s last blog ..Worthy causes =-.

  13. Players have the right to spend their talent points and get whatever gear however they want. It’s their 15 bucks a month and they’re entitled to it.

    But as the bench boss, it’s the player’s $15 vs the $15 x 24 other raiders who’ve invested their points wisely and acquired the best possible gear for the content we’re doing.

    So as I always, you can spec however you like. But in the end, I get to pick who gets to play ball and who gets to be the bench warmer ^^.

  14. @ “I’ll do what I want for my money!” – I usualy tell those people fine, do what you want, but don’t expect me to be playing around you. I don’t want that for my money. Which is very often followed by insulting and rants falling on my head how cocky I am. Double standards, eh? 🙂

    @ Cookie-cutter specs: As was said, those are all great. As long as person thinks about it a bit. I’ve seen countless applications in which the question – Please explain your spec and glyphing, be as detailed as you like – was: It’s EJ spec. And EJ here being the better example. Of course, I understand that EJ has some great theorycrafters, and can provide you with the best talent point breakdown, but in the end, you should customize the spec to your liking and your guild needs (coming from 10 man raiding only guild, so for us the most utility and versatility is always the best choice). I almost went through the roof the other day seeing a ret paladin specc’d 10/5/56 claiming “it’s the only valid spec”. D’oh. As well, even informations on sites like EJ and the likes are often outdated – Resto Shaman thinktank comes to my mind.

    @ GearSets – it oftentime surprises me that people go all “wtf” when I say – lemme switch to haste gear, or mp5 gear. Half or more of my bags is filled with glyphs, gear and gems 🙂

  15. @Codi: let me put it this way… if a priest with a 30/41 holy/disc build present himself… would you accept that or would you doubt his talent choice?
    Would you be willing to redo the maths and study this new style to find its strengths and weaknesses before judging it? Or would you ask him politely to ‘just take a pure spec’? 🙂
    Would every RL you know do that? Some of these exotic builds may not have been tested sufficiently by the great public so it’s unlikely you’ll find info on them easily.

    It’s not about RL’s being lazy. It’s about tradeoff: they too have a lot of work and their knowledge, while great, may have its limitations. In the end they have to make a choice about who to bench and you bet that exotic builds will have a smaller chance of getting a raidspot. Not because they aren’t equally good but because they deviate too much from the known and commonly accepted cookie cutter builds.

  16. That is the mentality I have about my priest. I bought the game, I paid for the game, I am paying for the game every month. I am going to play however I want. I think a lot of people on WoW take it way too seriously and/or are MMO over-achievers. Sure you risk not finding parties, but those who get all pissy over someone who is just playing a GAME, don’t look so cool either when you get an outsiders perspective.

    Me… I made my own build, it looks like a remix of the cookie cutter holy. But I wanted to heal, I’m not going to consider Shadow or Disc. If I wanted to be a DPS, I’d make a mage or DK. If I wanted to buff, I’d make a shaman.

    You ultimately play for you. And if you end up doing some spec that you’d rather not do but do anyways because “everyone else is doing it”, tsk tsk to you.


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