Understanding Mana Pools and Mana Efficiency in Mists of Pandaria

How to make the best and most efficient use of your fixed size mana pool in Mists of Pandaria.

For those that do not know, when Mists of Pandaria launches casters will have pre-set mana pools.  For a little more information on that and other important changes check out our: 5 important changes coming in MoP. This article however focuses completely on mana pools and using mana efficiently in MoP, starting from mana pools and mana costs, and moving on to how to make the best use of this now fixed resourse.

Fixed Mana Pool in MoP

mana boost by spec
Classes that have multiple specs can get base mana boosts.

As a caster your mana pool will be pre-set by your level and your talent spec.  For example at level 85 all players that have a mana pool will have 20,000 mana.  This is them modified by your talent spec.  Looking at the Paladin class as an example if you are Protection or Retribution your mana stays the same at 20,000, however if you are Holy part of the spec is an extra 400% mana granting you a total of 100,000 mana.

Some classes that are considered mana based casters in all specs, such as Priests, Mages, and Warlocks, start with a base mana pool of the caster value. This is a small difference that becomes very important later on.

The mana you can expect per level from 85 and above is as follows:

Level
Base Mana
Caster Mana
85
20k
100k
86
24k
120k
87
32k
160k
88
40k
200k
89
50k
250k
90
60k
300k

Mana Cost

Spells costs are listed as a percentage of the casters base mana pool.  Remember when it was mentioned earlier that Priests for example had a base mana pool of the higher number and that it would be important, here is why.

mana cost by class
Classes that use base mana and get a boost have very different mana costs as shown here with a priest heal and a paladin heal.

Since a Priest at level 85 has a base mana pool of 100,000 and casts a spell that is listed as having a casting cost of 10% of their base mana pool, the spell will cost 10,000 mana.

Compare that to a Holy Paladin that has a base mana pool of 20,000, but really has 100,000 mana due to the bonus 400% mana granted from choosing the Holy spec. If the Paladin casts a heal that costs 10% of base mana the spell will only cost 2,000 mana.

Therefore, you should expect to see vast differences in the costs of spells between classes.  Based on the examples above a Holy Paladin healing spell that did the exact same thing as the Priests would be listed as costing 50% of their base mana pool.  This would mean 50% of 20,000 at level 85, or a total of 10,000 mana.

Meaning you should not panic when looking from one class to another for mana costs.

Intellect and Spirit – Pre MoP - The argument for this change

Right now intellect is king for all casters.  It grants bigger heals or damage, a larger mana pool, and affects the mana regeneration rate of spirit.  While you do want / need some spirit gear, intellect is the number one stat until you a large enough mana pool that you are good for fights. Once you have enough mana, then you worry about regeneration with spirit.  However since intellect affects mana regeneration through spirit as well, it gets really complicated and many people just stack Intellect.

I know that this is a vast over simplification, as truly savy players maximize the effects of spirit vs. intellect all the time, and shift stats back and forth to gain the most benefit.  However, if viewed as a fresh level 85 character in leveling greens and you are going to buy your first epic gear, intellect wins by at least a factor of 2x until you have lots of it. 

All that to say that Intellect was the best, and everyone wanted it as a priority.  Blizzard viewed this as not being fun and decided to change it.

Intellect and Spirit – Post MoP – The effect of the change

Once MoP launches intellect will only affect your healing power and spell power, meaning it allows bigger heals or more damaging spells.  It no longer affects mana regeneration or mana pool size.  Spirit on the other hand still only effects mana regeneration rate, but is no longer tied to intellect to determine how much.

What this means is that casters will have a real choice to make.  I see two obvious setups that would work stat wise, and obviously you could hybrid them as well.

Casters could choose to focus on spirit and haste to have numerous fast spells that hit for or heal for less than the next option, but due to the increased frequency would be comparable or better depending on spell choice.

Casters could also choose to focus on intellect and mastery to cast spells that do much more damage or healing.  This pairing works well since almost all caster mastery bonuses increase spell damage or healing.

How to use mana efficiently in Mists of Pandaria

A lot of this comes back to old school WoW strategies, from way back in vanilla WoW or even in the Burning Crusade where mana was much more limited that it became in WotLK and Cataclysm.

Mana efficiency is going to be based on two critical things and three if you are a healer.  They are as follows:

  1. Mana Regeneration – How to maximize mana regeneration based on spirit, glyphs, abilities, interactions, and more.
  2. Spell Choice – Choosing which spell to cast based on mana costs, interactions, and the situation.
  3. Triage – Learning when you NEED to cast something and when you don’t.
mana regen from spirit in mop
An example of mana regen at level 85, Spirit is granting about 1.13 mana per spirit.

Mana Regeneration comes in a few ways to players.  The main way is through spirit, which grants just over 1 mana per 5 seconds while in combat at level 90 under the new system. This means that is you have 5,000 spirit you will get back about 5,000 mana every 5 seconds from your spirit, and then depending on your class, talents, and abilities players will get about 50-80% more than that, meaning about 8,000 mp5 given 5,000 spirit.  The numbers are still in flux in the beta so it makes it hard to provide hard and fast numbers.

mana regen from water shield
Abilities like water shield grant extra mana regen.

Mana regeneration is also gained through abilities, procs, glyphs and more.  Just a few examples of what I mean can be seen by looking at Priests and Paladins. Priests can gain mana from their Shadowfiends, Hymn of Hope, and Rapture. Paladins meanwhile have Divine Plea to return mana, can cast free heals granted from their Holy Power, and use the Glyph of Illumination which grants 1% mana after a critical Holy Shock.  Each class has their own mana regeneration options and it will be critical to learn to use them to the fullest.  This means not waiting until you need them, but using them early, at say 70% mana instead of 10%, to top your mana back up early and get the cooldown timer restarted for when you need the ability again.

Spell Choice is the next thing to consider as critical to using your mana efficiently.  There are many different spells available to each and every class, however which you use and at what point makes a huge difference to your mana. 

This is fairly easy to see when looking at heals that can be cast.  A Paladin healer has two heals that are 2.5 second cast time, the first is Divine Light which is a huge heal, the second is holy light which is a much smaller heal.  Divine Light heals for about 17,000 +150% of your spell power at level 90, Holy Light heals for only about 8,500 health + 78% of your spell power. If you had say 10,000 spell power this means that each would heal for about 32,000 health and 16,000 respectively.  The important difference between the two spells though is their mana cost which is 36% or 12.6%, so to heal about twice as much you need to spend almost 3x the mana, as your spell power increases though the bigger heal will get even bigger eventually healing for potentially three or four times as much.  You need to look at each and every spell and learn what they cost for what they do and make intelligent decisions all the time.

The last factor to consider is triage, meaning what do you really need to do.  This is easiest to see with healers, but applies to DPS as well.  This can mean two things the first is seen from the example used above.  If a player is hurt but just a little, say 20,000 health lost, should you really spend 36% of your base mana to heal them past full, or should you spend 12.6% and heal them just under their full health.  The second option is much better and much more efficient.

The second part of triage is evaluating whether you should heal them at all.  Again if someone took a 20,000 damage hit, do you even spend the 12.6%?  If they have 200,000 health total and you are low on mana, it is pretty safe to just ignore them.  If it is the tank that took a big hit, then casting your big heal for 36% mana is probably a great thing, even if you are low on mana.  Triage can also mean looking at the group and making the decision that player A as DPS does 3x the damage that player B is doing, therefore you heal player A if you are low on mana, but ignore player B, since they are not really helping out anyway. 

Conclusions

Using mana efficiently was a critical part of the game way back in vanilla WoW and Burning Crusade, but shrunk in importance through the expansions.  With a limited mana pool coming in Mists of Pandaria, making intelligent calls on when to cast something, what to cast, and on who will be critical.  It will also be important to carefully consider the balance between bigger spells by focusing on intellect or the ability to cast more spells before running out of mana by focusing on spirit.

While the change to a fixed mana pool may not be my ideal way to force players to consider stats other than intellect, it does work. While many players may be upset about it at the start, once they get used to the way you need to manage mana it really does work quite well.

Maybe most importantly by forcing players to work from a finite amount of mana really makes players consider what they are doing.  This in turn makes players more aware of what they are doing, and leads to them becoming better players.  This is of course assuming that Blizzard manages to balance the spell cost between all the classes correctly, which may take a few patches to balance, but will likely be pretty accurate.

 

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