I didn’t get to play this weekend – Real Life takes precedence – so I’ve no comments that way. So instead of talking about other things, let’s talk about theory.
Specifically, let’s talk about the 5 second rule – aka FSR or 5SR. It applies to all users of mana. Actually, it applies to everyone, but you only see it mentioned amongst the mana users. In simple, it goes: Spirit starts recovery of health and mana 5 seconds after you finish combat. Nobody pays attention to health recovery – thus the flurry of bandages and food after a fight – so I’ll ignore it in this post as well. Your dps’rs also ignore mana regen as well – drink instead of food. So why does everyone think it matters to priests? Mainly because they’re ignorant, or paying attention only to instances. And in instances, it really only matters to healing priests. I’m going to talk about more than that, though, so bear with me.
Every ranged class uses mana. That’s all the spellcasters plus hunters. Rogues and Warriors can just ignore this section. You use mana at the rate you choose – look at your spells and see what they cost. If you’re grinding or otherwise doing near-constant battle, you will eventually run out of mana. A lot of people learn to pay attention to damage (or healing) per mana so as to get the most effect out of what they use — which is where the DoT (damage over time) tends to rule. It’s worth noting before I go on that we can optimize for damage per second or damage per mana, and the better we are at one the worse we are at the other. Anyway, by paying attention to the 5SR we gain more mana efficiency. Here’s the deal.
5 seconds after the last time you touched the mana pool (I’ll explain that more fully in a minute) your spirit starts regenerating. You get 1 mana for every 4 to 5 spirit you have, plus a bit more dependent on class, added to your pool every two seconds. So if you’ve got 100 mana and you’re a priest or a mage, you get 25 (100/4) + 12.5, or 37.5 mana every two seconds. Six seconds gives you 112.5 mana — enough for one more spell.
For most players the key to effective use of the 5SR is to be ‘useful’ without touching mana. This is why a lot of casters finish combats with their wands. Priests in particular like the technique – a dot (SW:P), a hammer (MB), a shield or renew, and dot to finish, repeated ad nauseum. Hunters who’ve worked at mastering mana control will shift to no-mana shots for the last few seconds and let their pet be the big finishers. (Note this is especially true now that mend pet is an HOT instead of a channeling spell).
Before I continue with priests in instances – the difference and reason spirit and mana management matter – I’ll mention a couple of things about “touching” a mana pool. In most cases, the timer for five seconds starts when the spell is ‘cast’. That is, if it’s a 1.5 second cast time (like Mind Blast), the timer starts when the mindblast goes off. If you cast a DoT, the timer starts when the DoT is cast, not when the DoT finishes doing its effect. So your mana starts regenerating even while the SW:P is working. As to channeling, it depends. If the channeling is five seconds or less, the timer starts when the spell begins. If channeling lasts more than five seconds (Tranquility being an example) the timer gets s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d — mana regen starts when the channel is done (unless you interrupt it again).
Now we can look at the tactical use for priests in instances. As a heal-priest, we want to last the whole fight regardless of length. Where possible, then, we want to spend as much time as possible in a regen state. This is why the frisbee – the Prayer of Mending – and Renew are so popular; they let us catch our breath and start regenerating. Tossing both up front mean the tank loses health a little slower. So we wait till T is down to between 1/3 and 1/4 health and then pop a handful of spells to bring them up near full, finishing again with the delays (Renew and PoM). Burst-pause-burst, with the right talents and length of pause and other timing, means we can finish the battle with almost as much mana as we had at start.
This, by the way, is the single biggest reason I hate it when players besides the tank take damage – pull aggro and get beat upon. Because if I’m only healing the tank and can get the timing right, the tank’s desire to take on the next party because of his rage is matched by my full mana pool and readiness to continue — it’s the mage’s need to drink that slows us up. But if I’m having to save everyone, I don’t have a high level of mana, and we slow down. Or die – that’s happened a time or two when the mage or the rogue didn’t want to wait for the healz to be ready. [shrug]
On the practical side, you can do some things to get an idea of what the timing is like. For example, figure out what your “normal” healtime is going to be like — say, two greater heals and a renew. Get out a timer of some sort that shows seconds. Cast the two GH and Renew on yourself and start timing how long it takes till a) you see the mana bar start recovering; and b) when you’re back to full mana. Doing this a few times – and varying it with other “normal patterns” (a flash? only one GH? Got Frisbee?) will give you some feel as to what you can do to maximize your mana efficiency when you are the party’s healer.
And don’t forget it when you’re grinding, either. Because if you haven’t got your mana, you haven’t got anything.