Why a flash of light set-up is viable (and why you should never play it)

December 22, 2009 at 7:16 am (Paladin healing)

Why its viable

I think it can be concluded – with some reservations – that a flash of light spec can be used successfully at this point in the expansion.  The simple reason for this is the way that spellpower has scaled and what that means for Flash of Light, Holy Light and especially sacred shield.

Flash of light has a spellpower coefficient of about 100%, Holy light sits at 170% or so and sacred shield (after some nerfing) is about 75% or so.

At low levels of spellpower the difference in base heal amount between FoL and HL is much greater (relatively speaking) than at higher amounts (where the coefficient matters much more).  Wouldn’t that mean that HL benefits more from stacking spellpower (ie the exact opposite of my point)??  No because you can’t stack SP and still spam HL.   The other drawback is that HL overheals more and more the more spellpower you add (except in certain circumstances set out below).  You can stack SP and cast FoL though.  

FoL’s greatest problem this expansion has been its inability to keep up with tank damage (and, in my view, this is STILL true).  With enough spellpower this would be less of a factor.  Where is that point though?

It seems like the answer to this is about 3k+ (this is unbuffed) – which basically means a full suite of best in slot gear + epic sp gems + 2 excellent SP trinkets + the best pvp libram.  Essentially you are getting 700+ spellpower more than an int based HL caster.  This means your sacred shield absorbs so much more each proc and so on and so forth.

Having looked into logs etc from some of the best paladin healers in the world I think its impossible to ignore their view that FoL is now viable.  That does not mean you should do it.  Just because its viable doesn’t mean its a good idea.  I was to emphasise this point, because I strongly disagree with the people spouting FoL as an alternative playstyle.  The average player (not being an elite player) will NEVER be as effective FoL as they would be HL.

The strength of the setup is that it can provide a continuous stream of mid-level healing, it can put out more raw HPS (only in short bursts) and it gives stronger mitigation.  The draw backs are simple.  It doesn’t provide the same average HPS (in this case I mean raw, not effective HPS) as a HL setup meaning that you really need an additional tank healer to dig you out of the consecutive hard hits hole (and its no good pretending that you can reactively cast HL there – reactive healing means dead tank).  It also provides less raid healing (the eHPS boost from the Sacred Shield hot is the thing that makes the spec viable).  In fact you could go so far as to say it requires a second, HL specced paladin to provide deep slow heals and a second SS buff.

Why you shouldn’t play it

You need a long list of things for FoL to be a viable spec for you.

  1. Low latency – the FoL setup requires a continuous stream of healing on the tank.  The crux is to literally spam heals – you need your FoL hot ticks to be as close as possible to a second as you can get them.  Latency is a killer here (unlike HL where you are not bouncing right on the GCD).
  2. A second, HL specced paladin – someone could potentially convince me that a disc priest could fill this role.  I don’t believe its true but its not impossible.  I think in any event the priest is a much better option as a bubble machine backing up a HL paladin than the reverse.  Oh and btw, if that paladin doesn’t turn up one night – yeah your now a liability to your raid team.
  3. A full suite of B.i.S gear – you need a LOT of spellpower to pull this off.  That means the best gear money can buy.  Meaning you have to beat the current hard modes to get gear to play this way (somewhat counterintuitive)
  4.  A superb team of raiders – your not casting any heals on the raid in this setup, so your raid healers (and by extension) your raiders need to be top draw.  If you find yourself channelling HLs through beacon you probably don’t have the team for it
  5. Exceptionally high situational awareness – FoL is not strong enough to heal with the whole time, you need to be aware of the times when you’ll need to cast HL and be pre-emptively casting then.  You’ll need to track beacon and SS as well as light’s grace to ensure that if you need the HL its there.  You need to be monitoring all the boss ability cooldowns to know when a big heal may be needed.
  6. Exceptionally high spatial awareness – this one takes a little bit more thought.  Basically the aim as a FoL specced paladin is to keep the continuous stream of heals up.  This means moving as quickly and as efficiently as possible.  Remember you can’t continually rely on HL to dig you out of a damage whole – you need to stay on top of the damage taken vs healing received or the whole thing goes to pot.

Take a quick look at that list.  Do you have everything on there?  Damn sure know that I don’t.   I also know with ironclad certainly that the vast majority of people talking of themselves as a FoL specced paladin on places like plusheal (which I unfortunately do not rate as somewhere paladins should go) are simply shortchanging their raids.  They wouldn’t have ANY of those things most of them.

Which is the biggest trouble with theorycrafting for healers.  With dps its reasonably easy to give a max dps setup and what you might call a buff setup.  With healing how you heal depends SO much on how your healing team heals.  For example, the other paladin that I heal with takes something like a 54/17 spec without BoW but with improved conc aura.  He does this because I take BoW.  He probably sticks more closely to the tanks than I do – which is why my eHPS on twins is so much higher than his.  I used to heal with a druid whose primary healing technique involved keeping the raid out of dangerously low health situations – my job?  to save the raid when they got into those situations.

This has gotten somewhat off track.  In any event I think the point is this – don’t point to statements by holy paladins from ensidia saying that they stack SP as evidence you can blindly do the same (THINK about it).  Oh and FoL STILL sucks!

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