The third encounter in Mogu’shan Vaults, wherein players fight Gara’jal the Spiritbinder, has an interesting buff mechanic called Spiritual Innervation. This is a buff that is acquired by entering the Spirit Realm and receiving heals. The buff makes you more powerful in some nebulous way. And that’s about all that anyone knows about it – you get it from being healed and it’s totally important to get it in order to defeat the encounter.
Well, that wasn’t enough for me. And since Overanalysis is about to become my legal middle name (“Hi, I’m Dayani Overanalysis Dedralie, nice to meet you” has a certain ring to it), I have decided that it’s time to take a closer look at Spiritual Innervation.
I haven’t figured out everything yet – I am still working on a few minor mechanics, and I am lacking data from Monk healers and many DPS classes – but I’ve figured out enough to draw some conclusions, and enough of you have been finding me by searching for Spiritual Innervation tips. So here’s the story so far (including a link to the updated WeakAuras Spiritual Innervation tracker):
Who Cares How Spiritual Innervation Works? We Just Care that it Does Work!
I started looking into this because there is a lot of conflicting information about this buff out there. My guild was about to start working on Heroic Gara’jal attempts and I was keen to figure out what the best way of stacking Spiritual Innervation would be. (I like to secure spots in progression fights by having a thorough understanding of the fight’s mechanics and the best way to utilise them to our benefit, since I am still behind in gear and learning how to perform at so high a level.)
So I Googled for Spiritual Innervation and found the following “information”:
- You get 1 stack for an instant heal or 2 stacks for a cast-time heal;
- You get stacks based on how often the target is healed;
- You get stacks based on how large the heal is;
- Overhealing does not increase stacks;
- There are diminishing returns on spamming the same heal;
- HoTs do nothing;
- HoTs give a stack upon application but nothing when they tick;
- HoTs refresh the duration of the buff when they tick but don’t stack;
- There is a 22-stack cap;
- There is a 26-stack cap;
- Don’t use throughput CDs; and
- Do use throughput CDs.
I pretty much came away more confused about the ability than enlightened. And some of the conflicting recommendations seemed important to investigate: the behaviour of HoTs, for example, or whether diminishing returns existed. These are things that could affect the healers we choose for the fight and how we prioritise our healing in the Spirit Realm.
Equipped with my WeakAuras for both DPS and healers, Mik’s Scrolling Battle Text, Bandicam.com‘s recording software, and a very helpful Zorinne@Dath’Remar, I began gathering data both from LFR Gara’jal (where we could be assured that our mucking about wouldn’t jeopardise the fight) and from a 10man normal-mode raid with the Dath’Remar guild Ancient Ones. LFR data was used solely to hammer out the mechanical concerns of the buff, while the normal-mode data was used to derive numerical information like how much healing is required to generate a stack.
Because the DPS buff is displayed in a much cleaner and easier-to-understand format, I chose to gather my data by watching Zorinne’s video recording frame-by-frame and correlating incoming heals to size of stacks, as reported by the WeakAura. I recorded the duration remaining on the Crossed Over buff, the size and spell name of each incoming heal, the number of stacks Zorinne had after receiving each heal, and whether or not that heal refreshed the duration on Spiritual Innervation.
In LFR, I also had Zorinne play an entire fight with the character sheet open, to correlate the tooltip-stated Spiritual Innervation buff with what was actually happening. This was mainly to identify whether the buff capped out at 22-26% as stated, or whether it kept increasing. The WeakAuras display had already been noted to have no obvious cap, so I was keen to see if it was making shit up or if the tooltip is a lying liar.
The recorded data was entered into this spreadsheet, which I will continually update with more data, and more thorough analyses, as I get around to it. Currently, my hard data only contains information for Druid, Paladin, and Priest healing, but I hope to include Shaman and Monk healing, as well as other sources of healing, once the information becomes available to me.
Is the WeakAuras Display Accurate?
For the most part, yes.
The WeakAuras code simply reads a number that Blizzard is storing behind the scenes. For DPS, this number is divided by 4, and then rounded up, to determine the displayed “% damage increase/% stats increase” information on the Spiritual Innervation tooltip. For healers, this number is simply the mp5 value provided by Spiritual Innervation.
The WeakAuras code does the required calculations (X/4 or X) depending on your spec and displays that information for you. It does not, however, round up the number. So for DPS, your WeakAuras number may always be slightly off from the Blizzard tooltip, but I believe it is essentially accurate.
The only discrepancy comes in when WeakAura’s stack reporter exceeds 22%. This is because Spiritual Innervation reaches a point somewhere between 20-22% where the benefit derived from additional healing tapers off. This WeakAuras code cannot account for the change in equation and continues to report stack increases following the equation for sub-20% stacks.
How do I know this? Well, I had Zorinne do an entire LFR Gara’jal attempt with his character sheet open, and recorded the increases in Haste and Mastery while healing him to a reported 164 stacks. There is a very marked difference in the rate at which his Haste and Mastery rise, occuring somewhere in the 19-23% stacks zone:
For healers, the correlation between mp5 displayed by WeakAuras and the mp5 displayed on the Blizzard tooltip is always dead accurate. Sure, it may read 14408.8 on the WeakAuras, and 14409 on the Blizzard tooltip, but it’s pretty clear that the WeakAuras code is directly reading the Blizzard tooltip information.
The mp5 buff for healers does not seem to have a cap – I have gotten up to 114k mp5 in LFR, and both the WeakAuras display and the Blizzard tooltip were in agreement. As far as I can tell, it stacks cumulatively in the same way as the DPS buff does, but it does not suffer from diminishing returns in the same way that the DPS buff does. This buff is harder to correlate – especially since if I run the recording software myself, I lag like crazy and can’t chain my heals together properly – but I will look deeper into this at a later date.
Is the Blizzard Tooltip Accurate?
Not even a little – at least, not for Shadow Priests.
Let’s go back to the Blizzard tooltip for Spiritual Innervation for my Shadow Priest friend. The tooltip plainly states that it will increase Haste, Critical Strike chance, and Damage by X%, and Mastery by X.
Zorinne’s pre-Spiritual Innervation Character Sheet showed he has a raid-buffed Haste of 25.34%, a raid-buffed Critical Strike chance of 13.04%, and a raid-buffed Mastery of 30.00.
Throughout the entire LFR encounter, Zorinne’s Critical Strike chance increased once – when he received a Windsong proc that raised his Critical Strike rating by 1500. No matter how many stacks of Spiritual Innervation I piled upon him, his Critical Strike chance simply did not move. I can only conclude from this observation that, for Shadow Priests at least, Critical Strike chance is not affected by Spiritual Innervation.
Haste and Mastery were increased on his Character Sheet, rising as the Spiritual Innervation buff rose. However, it was not exactly the relationship that the tooltip described. For example, at 4.7 stacks, Zorinne’s Mastery rose from 30.00 to 39.3 (approximately double the increase you would expect from the tooltip’s reports – 4.7 x 2 = 9.4). His Haste rose from 25.34% to 31.81% – not the (1.2534 * 1.047 – 1 x 100 =) 31.23% value that would be expected.
This trend held as stacks got increasingly higher. His Haste at 19.3 stacks was 52.56%, when it was expected to be 49.53%. His Mastery at 26.6 stacks was 69.97, when it would be expected to be … considering the diminishing returns, somewhere around 52.
And what about that claim that Damage is increased by the same percent? I had a very close look at Zorinne’s Mind Flay ticks when he had 164 stacks of the buff and again after that buff fell off. Mind Flay deals extremely consistent damage, so any increase a single tick of Mind Flay under the Spiritual Innervation buff would be wholly attributable to this flat Damage increase. However, with or without the buff, Mind Flay ticked for 14782.5 damage, showing that no flat Damage increase was present.
What does this mean exactly? Not a lot. Damage will still increase as Spiritual Innervation increases. It’s possible that Shadow Priests are bugged or broken right now, or that the change to Critical Strike doesn’t show up on the character sheet but still takes effect, or that the tooltips are wrong for every class. Without access to a number of videos of a variety of classes gaining buff stacks with their Character Sheets open, I simply can’t say anything more concrete than that.
However, it does seem that healing DPS players beyond the 20-ish stacks mark is futile, as the gain from subsequent stacks suffers severe diminishing returns.
What Heals Work?
For a list of spells and their known behaviour, refer to the “TLDR” table above.
In general, any direct heal – whether instant or with a cast-time – will apply stacks of Spiritual Innervation. Most ground-based healing effects also work – Healing Rain, Efflorescence, and Holy Word: Sanctuary were observed to give stacks.
HoT effects do not apply a stack upon application, unless they deliver direct healing upon application (such as Holy Renew, Riptide, and Restoration Rejuvenation). The individual HoT ticks, depending on the size of the heal they deliver, can also provide stacks.
Some HoTs – Rejuvenation in particular, but probably also Enveloping Mist – provide enough healing per tick to assign stacks every time they tick. Other HoT effects – including Holy Word: Sanctuary and Efflorescence – apply stacks only after several ticks have passed, resulting in a cumulative healing total equal or greater than a tick of Rejuvenation. HoT ticks which increase the buff stacks also refresh the buff’s duration, whereas HoT ticks that do not increase the buff stacks also do not refresh the buff’s duration.
Another interesting property of HoT effects is that when these effects fade, if the HoT target is still inside the Spirit Realm, they will lose a small portion of their Spiritual Innervation stacks. This decay can be as small as 0.2 stacks or as large as 2.2 stacks, and does not seem to be correlated to how many stacks the HoT originally provided. I observed this behaviour with Rejuvenation, Wild Growth, and Echo of Light HoT effects, but not with ground-based HoT effects such as Efflorescence, Healing Rain, or Holy Word: Sanctuary.
Once the target leaves the Spirit Realm, their Spiritual Innervation stacks are fixed, and will neither rise nor decay for the remainder of the buff’s duration.
How Much Healing Makes a Stack?
This is a much more difficult question to answer, and I am only able to answer it in generalities right now:
Approximately 20-30k healing will generate a single stack of Spiritual Innervation.
The most repeatable numbers I found in my data were Rejuvenation ticks (16350 healing yielded 0.7 stacks, for a healing-per-stacks ratio of 23357) and Healthstones (83502 healing yielded 3.8 stacks, for a healing-per-stacks ratio of 21974). However, I had one instance of a 44k Flash Heal yielding only 0.2 stacks (a healing-per-stack ratio of 215k) and several extremely low healing-per-stacks ratios from various HoT ticks, and I have not yet managed to explain the variation.
So what is the best way to deliver this healing? I plotted three sets of healing spells against the stacks they yielded, to attempt to determine whether the cast time of the heal made any difference in the number of stacks it generated:
You can see here that the correlation between the amount of healing these spells did, and the amount of stacks they generated, is roughly linear. Dealing a certain amount of healing generally tends to provide the same amount of stacks, no matter how you deal it. Specifically, there is no difference whether you use Flash of Light or Divine Light – you will generate the same number of stacks per healing dealt.
I would recommend using your fast, inefficient heal (Flash of Light, Flash Heal, Healing Surge, glyphed Regrowth, Surging Mist) to generate stacks, simply because the speed at which you can cast these spells will mean you can heal more players to full – enabling them to leave the Spirit Realm and apply their Spiritual Innervation damage buff to the boss – more quickly. However, if you have procs that reduce the cast time of your slow, large healing spell (e.g. Tidal Waves/Greater Healing Wave, Infusion of Light/Divine Light, Serendipity/Greater Heal) such that it is equal to or lower than your fast, inefficient heal, use the larger heal instead.
One interesting thing to note is that instant-cast spells appear to generate proportionally more stacks per healing dealt than cast-time spells. Note that the pink trendline, corresponding to instant casts, has the same slope as the other two trendlines for cast-time spells, but a higher intercept, indicating that these heals may be more effective at stacking the buff than an equivalently-sized cast-time heal. However, I only have 9 instant-heal data points in my entire data set – most of which are Healthstone – which is much too small a sample to draw definitive conclusions from.
I did not include HoT effects in this analysis because they are, well, weird. There seems to be some minor “binning” going on behind the scenes – heals that are too small by themselves to generate stacks are lumped together and can generate stacks in aggregate, as shown by the Efflorescence examples above. This may also be operating on cast-time heals, since there is variance in the amount of stacks generated by identically- or nearly identically-sized spells. While this is interesting from a statistical/mathematical point of view, it shouldn’t affect how you choose your spells in the Spirit Realm.
Diminishing Returns on Sexiness?
There does seem to be some diminishing returns occuring on the amount of healing required to generate a stack. It is loosely correlated with the amount of healing the player has already received in the Spirit Realm, but it is also correlated with the amount of time the player has spent in the Spirit Realm.
Totalling up the cumulative healing received by a player and graphing it against the stacks gained from that healing shows a slight trend of diminishing returns:
Heals delivered to players who have spent more than 20 seconds in the Spirit Realm tend to generate stacks at a rate of 28-30k healing per stack, rather than the 20-25k healing per stack seen in the early stages of the Spirit Realm phase.
In the several attempts where Zorinne received no eligible healing at all except the heals he cast on himself after the 20-second mark – in particular, see Sheet 10 of the linked spreadsheet – those spells still delivered a 28-30k healing-per-stacks ratio. I reiterate: He had very low Cumulative Healing – less than 100,000, which on the previous graph would typically produce a healing-per-stacks ratio of approximately 24k – yet still saw anomalously high healing-per-stacks ratios from these spells.
This indicates to me that – if there truly are diminishing returns on stack generation – it is far more likely that they are based on the time spent inside the Spirit Realm, rather than the amount of cumulative healing received. It’s just hard to separate these two variables out entirely, since of course, in order to receive a high cumulative healing total, you must have been receiving heals for a long period of time.
Here it is, the short and sweet information you’ve probably all been looking for:
- Save any splash-healing or DPSers’ raid-healing cooldowns for healing up the Voodoo Doll targets and raid “upstairs”. They will do more good there.
- It is not really worth stacking up your DPSers beyond 20-ish stacks, or approximately 500k healing per player.
- Although there is no apparent cap on mp5 gains, you probably don’t need to obtain more than 20k mp5 from Spiritual Innervation in order to successfully complete the encounter.
- The less time you can spend in the Spirit Realm, the better. Your healing, and your DPSers’ DPS, are needed urgently “upstairs”! Some of this is dependent upon your DPS cleaning up the adds efficiently, but it is also dependent upon the healer generating stacks as quickly as possible.
- Avoid HoTs, small healing spells such as Heal or Nourish, and ground-based effects, as these simply do not deal enough healing to generate stacks and are a waste of time. The only exception to this is Swiftmend/Efflorescence, but that is because Swiftmend is so good, not because Efflorescence is desirable.
- If you can heal up all the Crossed Over targets without using splash healing/passive healing abilities like Healing Stream Totem, ground-based effects, or AoE smart heals like Wild Growth and Circle of Healing, do so. Your GCDs are much better spent on your 1.5-second base cast-time spells. Of course, losing anyone in the Spirit Realm is awful and, on Heroic mode, will almost definitely cause a wipe, so do what you need to do to keep people alive.
Overall, my recommended strategy is:
Do anything you can just before entering the Spirit Realm to buff your next few heals. Once inside, heal yourself first to start your mana-regeneration buff rolling, then spam your fastest, high-throughput heals on the DPS that have Crossed Over with you. Once you are happy with their stacks, heal yourself a few more times until you have 15k+ mp5 from Spiritual Innervation. Then, GTFO.
Druids: Glyphed Regrowth is excellent here. While Living Seed may or may not grant stacks (analysing Druid healing is difficult with all the simultaneous HoT ticks), it will still contribute to healing those players up, and when there is heavy damage inside the Spirit Realm, this can help save lives and prevent you from being unable to reach the 90%-healed mark to let your DPS leave. Pre-Rejuvenate yourself, and Swiftmend as soon as you enter the Spirit Realm to get your mp5 buff going. Incarnation: Tree of Life and Nature’s Vigil are both excellent throughput CDs that can be used to improve your stack count in the Spirit Realm; however, many Druids may find that Heart of the Wild allows them to contribute significant DPS in the first 45 seconds of the fight, which may be more beneficial to the success of the encounter.
Monks: Faithful commenter Lithelily saves the day again! Glyphed Uplift spam sounds like the way to go for Monks in the Spirit Realm. Save TFT/Uplift for “upstairs”. I still need more data before I can make more specific recommendations about the efficacy of other spells, though.
Paladins: Not that this has anything to do with the Spirit Realm, but please, take Sacred Shield and use it on the Voodoo Dolled tank. Your co-healers will thank you. Now, back to the Spirit Realm recommendations: Just before going down, cast Beacon of Light on yourself. Save up Holy Power as well, so you can WoG yourself initially for a quick mp5 hit, then Holy Shock and Flash of Light the other players. Glyph of Flash of Light will increase your stack generation speed. Guardian of the Ancient Kings is pretty useless down here, and I don’t like Holy Avenger myself, but if you are good at Beacon-swapping you can generate a lot of Holy Power this way and use WoGs as your healing spell instead. Avenging Wrath and Divine Favor will both improve your performance in the Spirit Realm.
Priests: From Darkness, Comes Light is an excellent talent for this fight. Phantasm and Glyph of Fade are also great for preventing damage from the Shadowy Minions, and Fade is off the GCD, so feel free to use it as you enter the Spirit Realm and on CD. Psyfiend and Void Tendrils cast while in the Spirit Realm can also prevent raid damage, so this is something to consider doing perhaps as you are about to leave the realm. Holy Priests should be in Serenity Chakra and use a Binding Heal/Binding Heal/Greater Heal rotation to heal up players in the Spirit Realm. Disc Priests may wish to stack Grace on their Realm partners before going down, and then use Flash Heal and Penance for healing. Archangel will improve your performance in the Spirit Realm and should be readily available each time you go in.
Shaman: Healing Stream Totem, Healing Tide Totem, Ascendance, and Ancestral Guidance are useless for gaining stacks of Spiritual Innervation, and are best used “upstairs”. Before going down, pre-cast Riptide (for Tidal Waves) and Unleash Life on yourself. Immediately upon entering the Spirit Realm, cast Greater Healing Wave on yourself to start your mp5 generation – you’ll probably be OOM from healing upstairs – and then go to town with Healing Surges on your allies. If you do not need the extra boss DPS from Primal Elementalist in order to complete the encounter, you could use your Primal Elementals as healing throughput CDs down here, or you could take Unleashed Fury, which will make your Greater Healing Wave at the start of the Spirit Realm phase put you up to approximately 20k mp5. Elemental Mastery is also a great choice of talent for this fight, as the additional Haste will help you stack the buff more quickly, allowing your DPS to leave the Spirit Realm and get back on the boss.
I don’t feel like I’ve adequately answered all the questions I have about Spiritual Innervation. I am still working on the following aspects of this buff:
- What Monk heals affect Spiritual Innervation stacks?
- Does the Shaman Mastery effect work toward more stacks or just faster stack generation?
- Exactly how are the stacks derived? Are there “bins” that, when filled up by incoming heals, increment the stacks? Do heals have a base number of stacks they provide + additional stacks based upon that heal’s size? This will take very complicated analysis, for which I will likely have to purchase a new version of MS Office 😛
- Are the DPS Spiritual Innervation tooltips inaccurate for other classes, or just Shadow Priest?
- Do instant-cast heals really generate more stacks-per-heal than cast-time heals? Or is this just an aberration caused by my very small number of data points?
- Is the mp5 represented on the Blizzard tooltip / WeakAuras display actually accurate?
If you would like to help, you can do so by providing me with videos of your Gara’jal attempts while running a WeakAuras to monitor your buff stacks and a combat text mod to show the identity of each spell that heals you as well as its healing amount. Remember to unconsolidate HoTs since individual HoT ticks and their timing can be very important.
Also helpful would be screenshots of, say, LFR Gara’jal attempts where you have some stacks, you are mousing over the Spiritual Innervation buff to show what the buff claims to do, and your character sheet is open so I can see whether you are actually getting the stated buff to your secondary attributes. I will of course also need to know what your Haste, Critical Strike, and Mastery ratings are without Spiritual Innervation in order to make the appropriate comparisons.
If you are interested in providing this information, please leave a comment here and I will contact you privately through the e-mail address you provide in your comment.
Thank you for reading my ridiculously overwrought analysis of Spiritual Innervation! 🙂