The Rise of the Bubble Spamming Holy Priest

17 Feb

I came in from an enjoyable night out with friends to find the wonderful Matticus pondering holy priest talent specs over Twitter.  He mentioned that 10/31/0 was going to become a preferred spec and that the developers were to blame for this.  I went over the math in my head and set aside 6 points for Mental Agility and Twin Disciplines, but the remaining 4 points were a mystery to me.  Was he taking Evangelism and ArchangelInner SanctumI wasn’t sure where he was going with this.  I was intrigued and he is Matticus, so I decided to probe a bit further.

Matticus then sends me a link to a World of Logs report for the guild <Cuties Only>, which is considered to be a “top tier” guild and what appears to be the breakdown of heals from one of their priests for a particular boss kill.  The log looked a little something like this:

You can see that said priest is using Circle of Healing, which is very clearly a holy priest talent and yet they are topping the meters with Power Word: Shield.  I figured it was just for this fight and it surely couldn’t be a consistent theme throughout the entire night of attempts.  To my surprise, it was.  This priest topped the meters on three different encounters and came in at #2 on two additional kill shots.  How did this happen

There are a number of factors in play that would cause this play style to be successful and to become popular.  The first variable that caused this to happen was the blue post that came out yesterday, announcing the change to Body & SoulThe increased mana cost of PW: S was meant to prevent discipline priests from relying on bubble spam to get them through fights and from falling back into bad habits caused by Wrath.  The developers didn’t want to discourage holy priests from using PW: S, so they added something to Body & Soul to lower the cost of it.  This change lowered the cost of PW: S to about 3,000 mana.

Now add Glyph of Power Word: Shield to the equation, which also heals your target for 20% of the absorption amount.  Place 10 points into the discipline tree, beginning with Mental Agility and Twin Disciplines and place the last 4 into Improved Power Word: Shield and Soul Warding.  These talents increase the damage absorbed by your shields by an additional 20% and then reduces the cooldown of your shields by up to 3 seconds.  You can see how this is starting to look mighty appealing.  On top of all that, the heal that comes from Glyph of Power Word: Shield is capable of triggering your mastery.  If you are throwing that many shields out there, this would cause Echo of Light to have an insanely high uptime, as seen in the log above, where that priest had a near 100% uptime on that particular attempt.  Throw in the substantial tools that we already have for raid healing and you have the makings of an extremely well rounded raid healing powerhouse on your hands.

We know how this method of healing is possible, but now we need to determine if it’s meant for you.  Should you be healing this way, as a holy priest?  That depends on where you are at, regarding content.  From looking at the logs, these were all hard mode attempts.  Hard modes seem to favor absorption effects and damage reducing abilities, so I’m inclined to say that this style of healing would only really shine there.  If we are going by just the numbers, I can reach the same heights in regular modes by healing the way I usually do, by using the tools I already have and not relying heavily on PW: S to get by.  I don’t feel that I need to resort to this method to do well.  My opinion may change once I start doing hard modes and my guild isn’t too far away from that being a real possibility.

I guess my only real issue with this is that I wish people would give up the ghost already.  The developers have been very clear about not wanting bubble spam to be present, in any capacity.  They took very quick and drastic steps to take this away from discipline priests and I would imagine that it wouldn’t be long before they did the same to holy priests, if this play style became popular.  I don’t understand people who think they’re being slick or crafty by doing the same thing and wrapping it up in different packaging.  It’s like people who quit smoking by smoking electronic cigarettes.  You’re still smoking something and basically just gave up one addiction or dependency for another.

In closing, I think bubble spamming as a holy priest definitely has potential.  I can see why others may be inclined to do it.  Do I think this is something everyone should do?  Definitely not.  If it works for you and you feel you are getting results out of it, by all means.  Personally, I would like to see how this plays out a bit more before I decide on this for myself and I would like to see how I keep up with healing in hard modes with my current playstyle before I choose to embrace this or not.


20 Responses to “The Rise of the Bubble Spamming Holy Priest”

  1. Mishaweha February 17, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

    “I don’t understand people who think they’re being slick or crafty by doing the same thing and wrapping it up in different packaging.”

    I’m guessing they aren’t feeling ‘slick or crafty’ (okay, maybe a little). They just find that shields are now a very effective tool as a holy priest, and are using that to their advantage. Just because the devs are trying to discourage the it’s use like that, doesn’t mean you have to take the honorable approach and say ‘I won’t heal like that even though it’s still efficient in this case’. If it still works to bubble spam without killing your mana, and it keeps people alive, you should do it. It’ll at least show the devs they need to come up with a better hotfix and/or design solution.

    But it is an interesting point that bubbles could (can? did?) become an important part of holy healing. When I read about the healing fixes (mostly because of the Shaman stuff. >.> ), I was wondering if there would be any change to holy healing, since it sounded like they were trying to make it so it wouldn’t change anything for holy priests at all.

    • Oestrus February 17, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

      Hullo Mishaweha,

      I would question how the shields are holding up (no pun intended) in regards to the other tools that we as holy priests have, which I feel are already quite nice. I would be curious as to why this priest or others felt that what they were doing was better than what we already have been doing. I never said I absolutely wouldn’t try it. I do recall ending my post by saying that there is potential there. Overall, I feel like that style of healing would be better suited for hard modes and I’m not there yet. When I do start those, if I really felt like my current way of doing things was lacking I would absolutely try this out. For regular modes, I think this style is not for me.

  2. Ttrinity February 17, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    Ahhhh, with these changes, we truly have our first hybridish healing class. Talents reach down far enough to make this happen. Perhaps I will give it a whirl tonight in a heroic to see how it stacks up.

    • Oestrus February 17, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

      Hey there Ttrinity,

      Thanks for stopping by! I have viewed your blog a few times and I have some people that I follow on Twitter who RT you often. It’s good to see you on my page. It’s definitely interesting – that’s for sure. It’s still fairly new and I would like to see more about it, from people with a wide range of exprience before I really decide on it for myself. Right now I’m not terribly sold, but I’m not opposed.

      Please let me know how it goes.


  3. Zinn February 17, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

    Wow that is really interesting. I will have to test it out!

  4. Harvey February 17, 2011 at 3:25 pm #

    You know, I was just reading about this 10/31 build on EJ in the disc priest compendium…

    What I don’t understand is this nerf to disc priest bubble spamming and a buff to holy’s bubble spamming. It’s ok for a holy priest to do it, but not a disc priest?

    I think that blizzard is certainly trying to reestablish healing niche’s for all classes/specs. I suppose the change in bubble spamming to holy only reinforces the raid healer role for holy, and tank healing for disc.

    I don’t normally intrude on healer wavelengths, but Gneiss is 84 and is a lovely healer. I’m just a little peeved that my only viable group bubbling is PoH/DA. I thought myself quite clever having both up when I knew big AE damage was coming out.

    • Oestrus February 17, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

      Fancy meeting you here, Fog!

      Well, the thing is that I don’t think this was intended. I’m really wondering how popular this trend will become (if at all) and how fast Blizzard will respond to it (if at all). I would like to think it’s a fluke or a neat loophole. I seem to recall them being very vocal about not wanting bubble spam, period.

      You’re totally right. It shouldn’t be OK to condemn one spec for doing it and allow another to do it. It’s also not OK to make changes that reinforce one idea (that holy priests were meant to be raid healers) and then give them a slew of buffs that are counter to that (all of the tank healing spell upgrades to Chakra). Definitely a lot of mixed messages being put out there.

  5. Lunarsoul February 18, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    This is just the wrong way of doing things. Now Holy is the new sexy bubble spam spec? Where did Blizz go wrong?

    I did have a couple of suggestions that I mentioned on my blog. I think the easiest fix for this would be:

    1. Get rid of Soul Warding- The talent makes it possible to bubble spam. And since we would lose the ability to spam bubble in PvP, change the talent into a dispel resistance talent that can be attained by Holy and Disc PvP priests.

    2. Revert the mana costs back to their original costs- Seriously, as if priests weren’t struggling enough with mana, Blizz raises the cost of Disc’s signature spell that it now has a lower HPM than Greater Heal with 3 stacks of Grace. On top of that, it now costs more mana to cast PW:S than what the return from Rapture gives making the Rapture talent a bit pointless now.

    3. Buff PoH for Disc only- The DA procs from PoH are great, but if no one takes damage, the DA is wasted. What Disc priests lack is pure throughput compared to Holy. Since bubble spam is no longer an option, PoH needs to be the spell used, but compared to Holy priests, its relatively weak in comparison.

    As of right now, Disc priests are really only good for tank healing and even then they won’t be using PW:S anymore due to Rapture being so weak in comparison to the cost. I’d rather put the Rapture points into Surge of Light where you can get a free Flash Heal.

    • Oestrus February 18, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

      Hi there Lunar,

      For the record, I did try to leave a comment or two on your blog, but your comment format is kind of strange and I didn’t have much luck. It ended up being a bit too much work for me. But I did try!

      Anywho. Let’s address your ideas, one by one.

      1. I like the idea of changing the talent into something, but I’m not sure I agree with making it a PVP talent. I also hate the idea that so much thought needs to placed into “Is this too much/not enough for PVP purposes?” I know nothing can be done about that, but it would make things much easier if we didn’t have to worry about balancing the needs of PVP with PVE. I’m also not sure I agree with reducing the cooldown aspect of SW completely.

      2. Having something as your signature spell and having something that you use the most, to the exclusion of all other viable tools in your toolbox are not mutually exclusive. That was the problem. Yes, discipline priests shield and yes they are (or were) quite good at it. But a lot of them did nothing else. That is the issue. It’s the few ruining it for the many, but it was enough for Blizzard to put the kibosh on the whole thing. As I mentioned, I rarely used PW: S and the mana cost had nothing to do with it. I just felt that it wasn’t doing enough for me, given my style of healing and how I am geared or specced. I don’t feel adding something to Body & Soul to reduce the cost was necessary.

      3. Discipline priests have never been about throughput. Discipline priests were always about absorption and preventing damage, mitigating damage. Discipline priests can still bubble, they just can’t shower the raid in bubbles. They can still use PoH, they just can’t bombard the raid with it and at the levels a holy priest could. It’s a study of extremes.

      I admit that I have almost no experience playing a discipline priest, so I’m ready and willing to be corrected if any of my assumptions or observations were wrong. I can only safely comment on things from a holy standpoint and I’m open to discussion on those, too.

      • Lunarsoul February 18, 2011 at 4:56 pm #

        Thanks for the quick response O!

        The problem with PW:S is that even with the the raised mana cost, we will eventually outgear this “bandaid” hotfix. It seems like a temporary solution to a problem that has affected the entire spec. Blizz knows this, and I’m surprised we haven’t seen a Blue post about a more permanent fix for it. Also, as I already mentioned, Greater Heal is actually more efficient than PW:S now and with Rapture returning less mana than what PW:S costs, it seems like PW:S has lost all its gusto. On the other hand, PW:S has become so efficient for Holy that it actually trumps Heal as far as HpM now.

        I agree with you about PvE vs PvP balancing. It just seems like it would be SO much easier if there were 2 separate talent trees for every spec, 1 for pve and the other for pvp. Unfortunately, raising the mana cost isn’t the right solution. If Blizzard doesn’t want us to blanket the raid with shields, they need to impose a longer cooldown on the ability, otherwise there will always be people who exploit the extreme mitigation that Disc provides.

        I do Random BG’s from time to time. I’m definitely no arena junkie, but something priests really need is dispel protection. Our shields are the only thing that stand between us and that nasty DK or Warrior. A mage running around spamming Spellsteal and never goes oom because of Mage Armor is just one of the problems that priests are encountering in PvP. Dispel resistance would help eliminate the need to “multi-shield” people in PvP. I think it would be a fair trade off.

        My solution to PoH for Disc priests was mainly so that Disc can become a competitive raid healer again. Without bubble spam, Disc is once again seen as a “tank only” healer. Prayer of Healing isn’t powerful enough to warrant Disc being a raid healer, especially after the recent nerf.

        It’s just a sad day in the Disc world. *tear*


      • Lunarsoul February 18, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

        PS. I don’t know what the heck is wrong with my comments section. LoL.

  6. Lilitharien February 18, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

    Honestly seeing this as a Discipline priest outrages me a little, and I don’t even play that much anymore (and certainly not in a raiding capacity)!

    Besides that, it’s an interesting route to try, and I’m glad to see your blog is flourishing. 🙂

    • Oestrus February 18, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

      Hey you! Thanks for the praise. It is certainly coming along nicely!

      Are you upset for similar reasons that were mentioned here or for different ones entirely?

      I’d be curious to hear more.

  7. Carlos February 19, 2011 at 12:42 am #


    * Body and Soul no longer reduces the mana cost of Power Word: Shield (the hotfix made on February 16 to provide this additional benefit has been reverted).
    * Rapture now returns 2/5/7% of maximum mana when Power Word: Shield is consumed, up from 2/4/6%.

    Teehee! As a Discipline Priest, I love these changes!

    • Lunarsoul February 19, 2011 at 11:39 am #

      The Body and Soul change was necessary. PW:S was too powerful for Holy priests.

      The Rapture buff was also necessary. I’m wondering if this is enough to make it worth casting PW:S again in PvE. Any type of additional mana return over the cost of PW:S would be helpful. It should help alleviate a little of the pressure in PvP as well.

      • Carlos February 19, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

        Oh, if you are a Discipline Priest, casting PW:S is always worth it. Casting*, not spamming.

        • Harvey February 23, 2011 at 12:28 pm #

          Thank the lord Blizzard came to their senses.

          Also, the “signature” ability for disc priests isn’t bubble – it’s penance. The two of which in conjunction is what makes disc awesome.

          My priest is hardly geared and my bubbles absorb 23k damage. It’s ridiculously AWESOME. But the merits of a disc raid healer are few.

  8. Kro March 21, 2011 at 2:39 pm #

    Hi O,

    I’m not sure if they have fixed this yet but the idea is certainly interesting. As a new disc priest in cataclysm I never saw the glory days of bubble spam. I’m interested in trying this holy spec if its still viable, thanks for pointing it out.

    Also, I take offense to your comments about electronic cigarettes! They are an amazing tool that allow folks to continue enjoying the benefits of nicotine while giving up cancerous toxins and tar. Now as the offended party I must insist you change the name of this post as stated in the terms of service!

    J/K, Like the blog!

    • Oestrus March 21, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

      Good afternoon!

      I believe it was fixed within a day or so after this post was written. Blizzard picked up on how OP this had the potential to be very quickly and most people weren’t surprised that they didn’t see this coming and even allowed it to take place. But it was nice while it lasted!

      I would think a holy priest could still in theory do this, but I would imagine it would be mighty tough on their mana. Granted, I haven’t had tried and am not aware of other holy priests who have tried. The idea mostly got put to bed once Blizzard reverted the changes.

      Ha! I laughed out loud @ your comment about the cigarettes. Easily the highlight of my day.

      Thank you for the laughter and the compliment.



  1. Getting The Most Out Of Body & Soul In Blackwing Descent « The Stories Of O - February 28, 2011

    […] & Soul has been getting quite a bit of attention recently, first as a key component to becoming a bubble spamming holy priest and then due to the release of the 4.1.0 patch notes.  On the PTR, it was rumored that Body & […]

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