Since the days of Cataclysm Beta and through the launch of the expansion, “Mastery” has been a trigger word of sorts for Resto Shaman across the globe. With the heaping amounts of negative feedback proffered by both druids and shaman in early Cata testing, the concept of “bonus healing on lower HP targets” was reduced from something new and shiny to something distasteful and surrounded in misinformation. When Mastery was launched in 4.0.1, Resto Shaman avoided it like the plague. And despite a significant bump in value in 4.0.6, some players still go out of their way to shun our newest stat and exclude it from gear sets. Well today I’m here to set the record straight, to lay down the law, and tell you everything you ever wanted to know (and then some) about Resto Shaman Mastery. So set aside some time and some brainpower, because this is going to be a doozie.
The quick back-story
Last year at around this time, the buzz was high about Blizzard’s newest WoW expansion. We had been given a brief preview of the classes, enough to whet our appetite and entice us with things to come. At that point, Mastery affected Resto Druids and Shamans in a similar way, with both classes’ benefits deriving from player HP. From the class preview for Resto Druids in April 2010:
HoT Scale Healing: HoTs will do increased healing on more wounded targets. The mechanic is similar to that of the Restoration Shaman, but with HoTs instead of direct heals. In Cataclysm, we anticipate druids using a greater variety of their spells so there is a distinction between healing and HoT healing.
Now bear in mind that this was the original design of Resto Druid’s Mastery, not the one that went live in the patch before Cataclysm launch. In late September, our tree friends’ Mastery was changed to net them a blanket increase of all healing done to targets which already had a hot on them, and there was much rejoicing (here, here, and here, to name a few).
But, while Resto Druids leaped about in joy, Resto Shaman sat in our corner and grumbled loudly, because our Mastery remained the same, increasing healing done based on the target’s HP value. And as I mentioned previously, when Mastery went live in 4.0.1, Resto Shaman in the throes of Wrath turned their back and shunned Blizzard’s latest addition to gearing. If there ever was a time where players made up their minds about Mastery, for all those months to come, I think this was that time. Mastery, at that point, became a dirty word for us Mana-Tide toting shaman, an unknown immeasurable force best avoided.
So what exactly does it affect?
The amazing thing was, at that point, very few of us understood the nuances of how Mastery interacted with Resto Shaman healing. Misinformation, formulated during that time period and perpetuated since then, has contributed to a number of players simply not grasping the basics of Mastery’s benefits. So, let’s set about clearing the air a little.
As of 4.06, Mastery operated under the following conditions:
- It affected all single-target heals, including HW, HS, GHW, and UL
- It affected select multi-target heals, including Healing Rain and Chain Heal
- It affected all of Chain Heal’s jumps
- It affected all of Healing Rain’s ticks
- It affected ONLY the initial hit of RT, it did not affect RT’s hots
- It did not affect Cleansing Waters’ heal, ES or HST
- It did not double-dip on AA, meaning that AA’s heal was 30% of the initial heal with no Mastery bonus applied
As of 4.1, Mastery will operate under these new conditions:
- It will affect all single-target heals, including HW, HS, GHW, and UL
- It will affect all mutli-target heals, including CH and HR
- It will affect all of CH’s hits (Source)
- It will affect all of HR’s ticks
- It will affect BOTH the initial hit of RT and the subsequent hot ticks (which will vary based on target HP at the time of the respective tick)
- It will affect HST and ES
- It will not affect Cleansing Waters’ heal
- It will not double-dip on AA, meaning that AA’s heal will be 30% of the initial heal with no Mastery bonus applied
- Mastery is applied linearly, with the full benefit being applied at 1% HP and no benefit being applied when the target is at 100% HP. That’s it. It’s not based on anything else. Period.
- With 0 Mastery rating on gear, you will still receive a 24% bonus, because all level 85 Resto Shaman have a base Mastery rating of 8. So your minimum healing increase will always be 24%.
- No other stat will increase Mastery rating. (I know, duh).
- Mastery absolutely, unequivocally, affects Chain Heal. (See this great analysis by Jadiera).
*whew* Now that we’ve got that all out of the way, we can get into the “meat and potatoes” of it all—Mastery’s Valuation.
Mastery’s Valuation – The Base Theory
When you get down to it, Resto Shaman these days are interested in one thing and one thing only when it comes to Mastery—just how valuable is it? For the first part of that answer, I’m going to turn to someone who I think did some of the best work on Mastery to date, in an under-the-radar post that cropped up on MMO-Champion a few months ago and which served as the impetus for some of my own evaluation—Drhay. Instead of paraphrasing our discussions (and in the process, likely butchering some of the genius of his analysis), I asked Drhay if he’d like to take on the task of giving us a fresh perspective on our newest stat. Here’s what he had to say:
We shaman have slowly (and somewhat blindly) navigated our way through the introduction of mastery in Cataclysm. Initially we all said ‘mastery sucks, ignore it.’ Slowly, some theorycrafting was done that showed otherwise, but many theorycrafters had a difficult time reproducing each other’s values. A couple months back I set out to resolve the issue and try to shed some light on what is really happening with mastery.
First, my assumptions:
- Your only real stat choice is between mastery and crit. This assumes you have reached some acceptable level of spirit and haste, and now have the extra points to play with.
- You have a base value of 8 mastery and 10% crit before adding any rating
Now a plot which should hopefully explain mastery’s value in the most accurate way you’ve seen to date. First I need to explain what everything on this plot is, before going into what it means. The y-axis is the fractional increase in healing, calculated as (Heal (m or c + 179) – Heal (m,c)) / Heal(m,c). It tells you what percentage your heal will increase by adding 179 mastery (blue lines) or 179 crit (red line). The x-axis is how much of your available rating points you’ve stacked in mastery. i.e. 0 means all of your rating is in crit, 1 means it’s all in mastery, and 0.5 means you have equal rating in both.
Now, what does all this mean?
- If you think of haste as 1:1 healing increase, so that 1% haste = 1% more casts = 1% more healing, then haste has a value of 0.01 on this plot. As you can see adding mastery rating instead of haste is more increased healing for a target HP% less than about 60-65%. This is why we should never see haste stacking as a way of life for resto shaman in Cataclysm. Mastery will be more valuable in a lot of situations, as we’ve already seen in this current raid tier with fights like Chimaeron.
Vixsin’s note: I disagree slightly on this point, but I chose to leave it in because I think it’s a good counterpoint to my Haste-Mastery tension theory.
- Mastery suffers from diminishing returns, which means that the more of it you have, the less valuable it is to add more. Think of how much 5 dollars would mean to you if you were a billionaire. Crit actually increases in value slightly as you get more mastery (as crit heals are affected by mastery). What this means is that the lines for crit and mastery will intersect somewhere. So if you are on the right side of the intersection, adding extra crit would be more extra healing. On the left side, mastery would be more valuable. Since the intersection occurs near 0.5 mastery stacking, the simplest explanation is that if you heal someone on average at about 70% HP, the best possible throughput comes from spreading your rating points into crit and mastery equally.
- This intersection only occurs when the target HP% is around 65-75%. Below this, mastery is ALWAYS more valuable than crit and above this, crit is ALWAYS more valuable than mastery. In between they always have an intersection.
In the interest of transparency, I am including the Mathematica program (in PDF form) that I used to calculate all of this. This is for you theorycrafters out there who are trying to reproduce my results, or prove that they’re wrong in some way. A huge thanks to Vixsin for maintaining a great site and allowing me the opportunity to contribute to it.
Mastery’s Valuation – The Corroboration
Now, if you’ve learned anything about me by now, it’s that I generally don’t take “facts” to be facts, just based on someone’s statement or some fancy charts. (Although I do like fancy charts). If someone tells me that Mastery is the next best thing to sliced bread, the first thing out of my mouth will be a question: “why?” So, about a month ago I set out to test Drhay’s theory about Mastery breakpoints with some analysis of my own. Given that I’m no math whiz, I chose to take a more rude approach to the problem, and instead of setting Mastery and Crit equations equal to each other and solving for HP, I applied a brute force calculation to determine just how HPS would behave under the effects of Mastery and Crit.
The first series of data I looked at centered around single-target heals, which benefit from both a crit bonus (150% of the base heal) and AA’s bonus healing (28.6% of the base heal, and yes this the actual contribution from AA) thus making the total potential of a crit heal on a single-target spell = 1.5 x 1.286 = 1.929 or 192.9% of the base heal. To calculate the total potential heal based on a target’s HP, the calculation becomes:
where Mastery Bonus = (-1 x % Mastery x Target HP) + % Mastery
Average Heal = Probability of a Crit Heal x (Base Heal x Mastery Bonus x 1.5 x 1.286) + Probability of a Non-Crit Heal x (Base Heal x Mastery Bonus)
So, in basic terms, the Total Heal determined by this formula is a function of two variables—the target’s HP value and the percent of your available stat that you’ve allocated to Mastery (or similarly, to Crit). Mathematically speaking, the size of the heal only matters in determining the final value, so whereas Drhay canceled it out in his equation, I left it in just to be able to demonstrate the healing gain. So, with target HP and stat allocation identified as variables, I then calculated the expected heal, for 0% Mastery and 100% Crit (out of 2000 points available), for 99% HP down to 1% HP. I performed this same series of calculations 10 more times, each time increasing the amount of Mastery by 10% increments, until I had a series of values based on 100% Mastery and 0% Crit. Plotting the heal values gave me the following chart:
There are a couple of things that I’d like to point out about the above:
- The values here represent the relative value of Mastery and Crit in a single-target environment. In other words, this only applies to HW, HS, GHW, UL, and RT.
- You want to pay less attention to the values of the y axis (estimated heal) and pay more attention to the behavior of the data set.
- The series appear to have a pivot point based around 70% HP, meaning that if HP is greater than ~70%, Crit will provide more throughput and if HP is less than ~70%, Mastery will have more throughput.
It’s that last point that I’d like to talk about a bit more, since it actually bears discussion—you’ll notice that the lines in the chart above actually “twist” at around 70%. They don’t, in fact, precisely intersect. This is because as you gain more Mastery, the break point where Mastery and Crit are equal actually moves. That’s right, the more Mastery you get, the lower your breakpoint will be. I realized this when I moved onto the second step of my analysis—calculating the Return on Investment per point of Mastery. In other words, how much + healing are you getting for each point of Mastery rating you have? To evaluate this, I took the same data set that I used to calculate the preceding chart, and divided each estimated heal value, at each value of HP, by the amount of Mastery it took to achieve that heal. The plot of these values yielded the following:
So, as the Mastery contribution increased (Series 1 is no Mastery, Series 10 is 100% Mastery), you can see the shift to a lower breakpoint value. This means that as you invest more points into Mastery, the breakpoint at which Mastery provides more throughput than Crit actually decreases. Does this matter in the larger picture of the stat valuation? Not really, because no healer in their right mind would refuse to heal a target above or below a breakpoint simply because it was ideal for their gear set—but it’s at least worth noting that the point at which Mastery > Crit isn’t a static value.
The next logical step was to look at this behavior in terms of the two other major spells in Resto Shamans’ arsenal—Chain Heal and Healing Rain—which do not benefit from AA. So, I redid the calculations, this time using only the 1.5 modifier for crit, and this is what I came up with:
Again, I did the same plot as before to determine the return on investment for each point of Mastery. This time, I carried the values through a little bit further, in an attempt to graphically identify the point at which a combination of Mastery and Crit would produce a 0 HPS gain. And this is what I came up with:
Whereas for single-target healing spells, the break point hovered around 70% HP, we can see that the breakpoint of AOE healing spells is much higher, placed at around 84% HP. So for AOE healing spells, it then becomes that Crit has greater throughput above ~84% HP and Mastery has greater throughput below ~84% HP.
That was easy, wasn’t it? (heh)
But what about Haste?
You might have noticed by this point that Haste hasn’t even entered into the debate yet when it comes to the evaluation of Mastery as a secondary stat. Drhay mentioned it briefly in his discussion (it’s one of the points on which we differ), but it’s not factored heavily into stat evaluation because, quite simply, haste is heavily tied to mana when it comes to HPS gains. As Stassart explained in the Resto Shaman EJ thread, when talking about the evaluation of haste compared to crit:
(2*0.01/128.05701)/(1.5*0.01/179.28) = 1.87
1 haste rating provides 1.87 times the throughput of 1 crit rating
However, you’re forgetting the value haste has on mp5.
1 haste rating = -0.78 mp5 (chain heal) to -1.75 mp5 (healing surge) (at the soft haste cap)
(-5*(4404/2.21)*0.01/128.05701 = -0.78)
(5*mps*1%/(rating per 1%))
So for chain heal raid healing it would take 1.87 crit rating to provide the hps of 1 haste rating, but then it would take 1.1 spirit to equal the same mana regen at that hps (0.14 = -0.78 * 0.86x). So 1.87 crit = 1 haste + 1.1 spirit for chain heal (12% more effective to stack crit than haste+spirit)
For healing surge healing it would take 2.2 spirit to equal the mana regen at the same hps. So for healing surge spam 1.87 crit = 1 haste + 2.2 spirit (71% more effective to stack crit than haste+spirit)
So, ultimately, as Stassart stated, the value of haste is greatest when mana is not an issue. At its best, in an environment where mana concerns are nonexistent, it will be almost twice as powerful as crit. This lends further support to the Resto Shaman stat cycle that I attempted to illustrate in my recent Tier 11 BiS post, where haste takes over as a preferred stat once your gear is sufficient enough to sustain ABC (Always Be Casting) healing
But, when mana is an issue, as it is during progression content, haste then takes a back seat to both Crit and Mastery *after you’ve hit a haste threshold and gained an additional tick of each hot*. (For those interested, the next closest breakpoint for haste is 2005 haste, at which point a glyphed RT will gain another tick. HR gains another tick in the early 3000’s, and Earthliving holds out until ~4000 haste.) Thus, your healing gains won’t be as easily achieved as you progress to higher levels of haste.
Conclusions, I has them!
So, what’s the end result of all of this analysis? In the world of Patch 4.1, we can safely say that:
- For single-target healing, your approximate breakpoint where Mastery > Crit is going to be around 70% HP. If the target is lower than 70% HP, Mastery generates greater throughput.
- For multi-target healing, your approximate breakpoint where Mastery > Crit, is going to be around 84% HP. If the target is lower than 84% HP, Mastery generates greater throughput.
And while I would love for this to be the long and the short of it, it so happens that Blizzard is looking to throw a wrench in all this math come Patch 4.2 (Firelands release):
All healing critical strikes now heal for 2 times a normal heal (+100%), up from 1.5 times a normal heal (+50%). (Source)
So, if in fact this increase in bonus healing goes live, and Mastery’s value remains as it currently stands, you can expect to see Resto Shamans’ Mastery/Crit thresholds in Patch 4.2 change significantly:
- For single-target healing, your approximate breakpoint where Mastery > Crit is going to be around 50% HP. If the target is lower than 50% HP, Mastery generates greater throughput.
- For multi-target healing, your approximate breakpoint where Mastery > Crit, is going to be around 70% HP. If the target is lower than 70% HP, Mastery generates greater throughput.
Ultimately, what I think it’s critical for Resto Shaman to understand is that Mastery’s benefits are heavily contingent upon the HP of your raid group. And in Cataclysm, Blizzard has at least demonstrated that, on progression content, controlling raid HP is more a function of doling out “just enough” healing as opposed to the “keep him topped” state of Wrath. So, it is highly likely that your healing targets will be sitting at lower levels of HP because your team cannot afford to top players off. (Again, this is *progression* content we’re talking about here).
But, with the proposed changes in 4.2, and the resultant drops of those Mastery/Crit thresholds, I do think we’ll see more pressure on shamans to increase their crit levels, especially in 10-man environments where single-target spells see very heavy usage. In 25s, I think we’ll see more of a favoring to Mastery (for shamans who consistently raid-heal). Add onto this that we’ll also be approaching the second notable haste threshold for Riptide, and it seems like Resto Shaman stats will be in for a bit of a shake-up when Firelands kicks into gear. Personally, I can’t wait.