Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Smiting Thy Enemies: A Brief Look at the Infamous Holy DPS Spec

Art from the Smite card of the WoW TCG, by Clint Langely

If you're a priest, you've no doubt heard about it. You've seen the posts, you've heard the laughing, and you may have even tried it. Yes, I'm talking about the Holy DPS spec that priests have been trying to make work since Surge of Light became a talent.

Today, we'll briefly explore the world of the smite spammer and its history in TBC. What is smite spec? What does it involve? Does anyone use it? Is it viable? And the question everyone always asks, why not just go shadow?

What is "smite spec" and what does it involve?

Smite spec, or the Holy DPS spec, is a talent build that traditionally drew from both the holy and discipline trees to create an alternative to shadow. The talents that make smite spec what it is are:

(Note: Silent Resolve used to include a +hit component that has since been removed.)

These are the bare bones talents that were an absolute requirement to smite spec. From here, priests often chose between two routes: the healer/dps hybrid spec and the pure dpser. The hybrid priest went deeper into the Holy tree, picking up healing talents that would allow them to almost seamlessly switch from dps to healing in combat if the proverbial feces hit the air circulation unit. The pure dps priest went further into the Discipline tree, picking up talents like Power Infusion to boost spell power (a talent which has since been changed multiple times, and is now a haste boost and mana cost reduction spell) or Focus Power.

What rotation does Smite spec use?

While it depended on what route the smite priest took, the rotation usually involved some variation of Shadow Word: Pain -> Holy Fire -> Smite Smite Smite Smite -> Holy Fire. Holy Nova was the Smite priest's AoE spell, and it really shined on Kara trash. Additionally, Holy Nova could proc the Surge of Light effect, giving the priest that free smite spell. Depending on haste, one might include more or less smites in the rotation. Some priests used Shadow Word: Death, and others omitted shadow spells altogether.

What kind of stats did Smite priests look for?

The perfect piece of gear had intellect, spirit, and spellpower. Crit was more important than haste, until crit hit about 30%, when DPS from Surge of Light was calculated to be inefficient. Haste, priests argued sadly, was just a quicker way to go out of mana in smite spec. Because many smite priests took spirit talents, they were one of the few DPS classes that rejoiced at the sight of spirit on their gear.

Did anyone ever actually RAID with it?

Yes and no. It was a top DPS spec for heroics in TBC, and was excellent for the first half of Karazhan. I ran it in heroics and Kara for a while, but ultimately switched back to 100% healer. One priest, Dr.Healarious, formerly known as Priestease of Aerie Peak, raided Smite all through SSC, TK, and Mag. I actually spoke to her one day and asked her advice on speccing Smite, and she giggled and told me (as I apologized profusely for bothering her during a BT run) that she actually had a lot of people making alts on Aerie Peak to ask her about it. So, the interest DID exist among the priest community.

You can check out Priestease's 5/6 SSC video here.

Advantages and Disadvantages Argued in TBC

Advantages and arguments made by those who wanted to raid smite included:
  • Ability to immediately switch to healing without being as gimped as a shadow priest, prot pally, etc.
  • Being specced into Divine Spirit (at the time, there was no mainstream Disc spec, and many guilds made sure to have both an Improved DS priest and a Circle of Healing priest)
  • Awesome DPS in the right atmosphere and with the right class combos.
Disadvantages and arguments made against smite included:
  • The smite priest was the new OOMkin, running out of mana quickly and not lasting through longer encounters (in this case, anything above Lower Kara) without innervates, chain potting, or an Alchemist Stone.
  • Pure DPS classes did more DPS.
  • Shadow provided slightly less DPS when well geared, but lasted longer and provided mana regen, healing aides, and shadow damage modifiers.
  • Improved Divine Spirit could be provided by a healer easily without taking a lower DPS hybrid spec.
  • Required the right combo (boomkin, shaman, etc).
Essentially, the argument was "Why take a smite priest when we can get an actual healer to heal, a pure DPS class to pump out the big numbers, and give our hybrid dps spot to a class with more utility, such as a shadow priest?"

Any mention of the spec usually started fights or bans on forums, and most smite priests rerolled healing for raids and smited for heroics. Very few smite priests made it to TBC end-game, and even then were targets of ridicule. The last time I checked Priestease's armory on her new server, she was CoH holy.

In Conclusion

I've tried my best to sum up the basics of what Smite was in TBC. Obviously, talents have changed since then (and hopefully I have not confused new tooltips with old ones), regen mechanics have changed, more classes use spirit, and chain potting is now out of the picture.

Priests who turned to smite usually did so out of boredom of shadow or healing, or because they liked a challenge and wanted to prove that min-max theorycrafted builds should not limit players' enjoyment of raiding. I personally enjoyed the struggle to make Smite work more than the actual spell spamming, since it lacked variety in the actual casting rotation.

Smite has become an excellent leveling option for healers today with the addition of Flash Heal to Surge of Light, and SoL is even kept at 80 for the procs it can gain off of AoE heals, but as a DPS spec, it has fallen somewhat off the radar.

Or has it...?

Next time: Smite and WotLK - Where does the spec stand today?


Luthvian said...

if you're going to be looking in to this a lot further, one of my former guildmates actually does raid as holy dps, she has her own blog as well, if you want someone to bounce ideas off of.

not trying to steal the spotlight, just reaffirming that you're not alone :D smite spec has facinated me for a while, pity leveling my priest is so frustrating.

Fuyuko said...

Thanks!! I was going to ask you again for her name the other night and forgot. I've been wanting to try smite again, especially with the glyph, and could use any input at all. =D

I can always level your priest for you. >:-D

Averna said...

Dude, your insane guide is awsesome. I'm submitting it as a highlight to wow insider. I hope you get featured!

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