Hello again, friends!
I’m dusting off the old blog to talk about the level 60 talent row of Auras for Holy Paladins in Battle for Azeroth. Aura of Sacrifice has changed drastically, Devotion Aura had some minor tweaks, and Aura of Mercy remains pretty much the same, but do these changes mean there is any choice between the three? Unfortunately, probably not. Devotion Aura seems to reign supreme in Battle for Azeroth. Let’s take a closer look at the changes (with lots of graphs!) to see how they compare. Feel free to skip to the end if that sounds too boring.
For the most part, Devotion Aura’s function is the same. It’s still a passive damage reduction that is shared between all players within 10 yards, and the Aura Mastery effect is still 20% damage reduction for all allies within 40 yards. The only real difference is that the passive damage reduction was lowered to 10% (from 20%), but it’s no longer split evenly between allies. In Legion, when you were by yourself, you received the full 20% damage reduction. With one ally in 10 yards, you both received 10%. When split between four players, everyone received 5% damage reduction and so on. In Battle for Azeroth, you’ll only have 10% damage reduction when you’re by yourself, but instead of splitting evenly when shared, the shared value scales down at a slower rate.
From the graph, you should see that Devotion Aura in Legion was clearly superior up to about five players within the aura (you plus four allies), but in Battle for Azeroth, the damage reduction will be larger overall once you’re within range of at least five other players (six total) and is increasingly better the more allies there are near you.
The newer version of Devotion Aura’s passive effect outshines the older version by a huge margin when we’re able to stack with the entire raid. Realistically, if we’re standing in melee, we’ll likely only have between five and ten allies within ten yards, but there will definitely be fights in Battle for Azeroth where a large part of the encounter is spent stacked with the whole raid group. In either scenario, the new passive for Devotion Aura is stronger than it was before.
The Aura Mastery effect for Devotion Aura is completely unchanged and will be just as strong at mitigating large raid-wide damage mechanics. We’ll go over the Aura Mastery effect for Devotion Aura when we compare the other auras later in this post.
Aura of Sacrifice
Our beloved and overpowered raid cooldown has been replaced with Devotion Aura’s edgy cousin. But before we get too sad about the Aura Mastery effect, let’s go over the passive component first. The good news is that the only change there is a buff. The passive is exactly the same as it was in Legion except that it now reduces the damage being redirected by half. That’s pretty nice!
In Legion, it was hard to quantify exactly how much transferring 10% damage from nearby allies was actually worth. The power of a spell like Blessing of Sacrifice is in its ability to cauterize some of the damage to allow us to heal through more damage than we would otherwise. The net total healing doesn’t change, but since we have to leverage cast times for healing, it’s beneficial to sacrifice some of our own health to keep someone else alive long enough that we have time to heal them through the damage. Aura of Sacrifice’s passive effect in Legion didn’t really do that. Sacrificing 10% damage up to 75% of our health was never really enough to have that same effect. We couldn’t turn that damage transfer into anything meaningful, so it was mostly just transferring the healing to us instead of being dispersed among nearby allies. Maybe there’s some small advantage (namely during Divine Shield or while Prydaz was active), but it was mostly negligible.
In Battle for Azeroth, however, that damage is reduced by half. That means that we’re able to completely mitigate 5% of the damage of nearby allies as long as we’re above 75% health and the incoming damage isn’t large enough to drop us below 75% health. That’s a very large caveat there at the end. We can’t redirect any damage while we’re below 75% health, so the effect is pretty useless if we take spike damage instead of small, consistent damage. It’s definitely not completely useless, but it’s also not as simple as having a guaranteed 5% damage reduction.
While having 5% damage reduction for all nearby allies would be better than Devotion Aura once you’re near at least 4 other people, it’s very unlikely that you would get the full 5% the entire time. In a completely perfect scenario, Aura of Sacrifice’s passive would be better than Devotion Aura’s passive, but that’s just not realistic. The problem is that I have no idea how unrealistic it is.
It’s a little hard to not get lost in the weeds when trying to talk about how the passives of Devotion Aura and Aura of Sacrifice compare, but I still want to try to give some context. Imagine that we have the same max health as anyone within 10 yards of us and we’re all completely healthy when damage happens. When the damage is relatively low, Aura of Sacrifice does pretty well, but as soon as damage gets to around 20% of max health, it begins to stagnate and Devotion Aura pulls ahead.
Aura of Sacrifice overtakes Devotion Aura at 4 nearby allies (5 total) but has a point where it can no longer mitigate any more damage because too much damage would push you below 75% health, so Devo wins outside of those boundaries.
Aura of Sacrifice can be better when we’re near 4 to 9 allies, but it has to be perfect circumstances for it to stay that way. Any large hits (anything over 20% of our health) mean that Devo outperforms. The Goldilocks zone for Aura of Sacrifice is a little too narrow, and the advantages are very slim. To top it all off, we don’t have Righteousness (passive 15% increased health) anymore, so being at lower health can be more of a risk.
Aura Mastery With Aura of Sacrifice
Alright. This is a tough pill to swallow. The Aura Mastery effect of Aura of Sacrifice is pretty much just a niche version of Devotion Aura. It does mitigate 30% damage (compared to Devo’s 20%), but it requires some outside help to get the full benefit.
Like the passive, we need to be above 75% health for any damage to be redirected to us. Any circumstance where we might want to use a large raid cooldown means we’re going to be taking more than 25% of our health in damage, so we need some external cooldowns to ensure that we’re above 75% health. The two best options are Divine Shield and a Protection Paladin’s Blessing of Spellwarding (most raid-wide damage is magical, and the damage transfer from Aura of Sacrifice is magical as well); however, we can’t stand inside of a Spirit Link Totem or our health will likely be equalized to below 75%–even with Divine Shield or Blessing of Spellwarding. Also, Divine Shield is a 5 minute cooldown (lowered to 3.5 minutes with Unbreakable Spirit), so we would have to hold Aura Mastery for the cooldown of Divine Shield if we needed it twice in a single encounter. And even then, we would lose the utility of Divine Shield for any other part of the encounter.
Other external cooldowns can be layered on top of our Divine Protection to provide some assurance that we stay above 75%, but we’ll likely need multiple external cooldowns for any mechanic where the extra 10% damage reduction would actually be worthwhile. For example, if we were trying to stay above 75% health through an ability that did just 50% of our max health, we would need our own Divine Protection (20% DR), Ironbark (20% DR), and Blessing of Sacrifice (30% DR) from another Paladin just to stay above 75% health from the initial hit alone (we would be at 77.6% health); and that’s before we take any of the redirected damage from Aura of Sacrifice. Even with all of these damage reductions, we would still be taking another ~32% of our health in damage from Aura of Sacrifice. Basically, we need to use an immunity for it to be effective.
As far as I can tell, the only time you would really need 10% extra damage reduction would be for a mechanic that is almost killing your entire raid (or at least the poor specs that don’t have much for personal damage reduction), and in that situation, you have to give up quite a bit to make sure that the cooldown is even effective at all. There were never any fights in Legion where a Discipline Priest’s Power Word: Barrier (25% damage reduction) was required over Devotion Aura for some mechanic on a boss fight, so it seems very unlikely that there would ever be a time where Aura of Sacrifice would be needed instead of Devotion Aura.
Maybe I’m completely wrong. Maybe there are fights where most of the damage falls within the Goldilocks range, and the passive from Aura of Sacrifice reduces more damage than Devotion Aura. And maybe that same encounter allows you to use Divine Shield with Aura Mastery only once every 5 minutes (giving up Rule of Law for Unbreakable Spirit is a pretty big loss), but that seems like a purely hypothetical scenario and not very practical. I’m going to stay skeptical until I see evidence of that perfect encounter.
Aura of Mercy
Aura of Mercy is exactly the same as it was in Legion. All talents had their spell power coefficients reduced by a factor of four in the stat squish (e.g.: Bestow Faith went from 600% to 150%, Holy Prism went from 200% per person to 50% per person). Aura of Mercy went from 15% every second to 7.5% every two seconds.
A big problem with Aura of Mercy is that it isn’t affected by Haste or Mastery. We definitely won’t have as much power from secondary stats as we did in Legion, but not gaining any benefit from two of our four multipliers is still a pretty big deal. Similar to Legion, Aura of Mercy’s strength will be lopsided toward the beginning of the expansion and fail to scale into later tiers.
Let’s start with the comparison of the passives of Aura of Mercy and Devotion Aura. One significant drawback for Aura of Mercy is that it’s limited to only three players where Devotion Aura and Aura of Sacrifice have no limit. In order to talk about Aura of Mercy versus Devotion Aura, we have to start talking about real damage numbers and not just percentages. Let’s take one of Security’s logs from Mythic Uldir testing on Beta as an example.
In this log, we see that non-tanks have taken an average of roughly 4,000 damage per second (DTPS), and our shining hero, Mafre, has 7,253 Spell power, 23% crit (1,227 rating), and 6.17% versatility (525 rating). That means we can compare how much Aura of Mercy would heal per person and how much Devotion Aura would mitigate per person (effective HPS).
Aura of Mercy appears to do very well up until there are 7 allies near us (8 total), but kind of like Aura of Sacrifice, Aura of Mercy only works well if the damage is fairly low and smooth. If you take 1,000 damage every second for 10 seconds versus 10,000 once over 10 seconds, the DTPS is 1,000 for both, but the damage from the 10,000 damage spike is more likely to be healed up from other healers, and Mercy won’t have the opportunity to heal some of the damage. If the damage is inconsistent, Aura of Mercy doesn’t fare as well either.
As you can see from the timeline of damage taken, there are spikes of damage in the beginning, a big lull where Aura of Mercy isn’t doing much, and then much higher damage taken toward the end. If we isolate that end section where the damage is higher, we see that Mercy isn’t nearly as effective as Devotion Aura.
Here, Mercy only barely catches up to Devotion Aura at exactly 3 allies in the aura before Devo takes over again and is twice as effective at 10 players.
The true graph of this encounter is probably somewhere in the middle of these two. Mercy would definitely have been more effective healing at certain points of the fight, but the section where you really need the extra healing is where Devo completely outshines Mercy.
But this is only one fight and the DTPS will vary drastically where your Intellect and secondary stats will probably be fairly similar across all encounters in a single tier. In order to get a good judgment for when Mercy might be better, we can track the ratio of average DTPS to your Intellect (Spell power) multiplied by your critical strike chance and versatility. The average DTPS needs to be less than half of your SP * crit * vers for the passive from Mercy to be better than Devotion Aura, and less then one-third to be safe.
And again, all of this is with the best possible scenario of consistent, low damage across fewer players.
Aura Mastery With Aura of Mercy
The first thing we need to discuss is how Aura Mastery with Aura of Mercy doesn’t heal for nearly as much as a typical healer’s raid cooldown. During Aura Mastery, Aura of Mercy heals for one-third to one-fourth of a normal healer’s cooldown. To an extent, this kind of makes sense; Aura of Mercy’s healing is spread out over the course of the fight through the passive healing it provides, so its burst healing during Aura Mastery is very small. The problem is that it’s just way too small. Look at how it compares to other healer cooldowns in a 20-player raid setting:
Aura of Mercy: 1,200% Spell power
Divine Hymn: ~4,300% Spell power
Tranquility: ~4,740% Spell power
Healing Tide: ~3,360% Spell power
Revival: 4,000% Spell power
All of the other healer cooldowns (except for a Discipline Priest’s Power Word: Barrier, which is effective healing through damage reduction) heal for roughly the same, but Mercy heals for three to four times less. Healer cooldowns are expected to keep the raid alive through the roughest damage of an encounter, and Mercy just can’t do that. Aura of Mercy heals for 60% Spell power per person over 8 seconds. That’s half of a Flash of Light per person over 8 seconds!
In the logs I linked earlier, one of the raid-wide damaging abilities for Mythrax is Imminent Ruin. In one particular instance, the entire raid takes 1.37 million damage from Imminent Ruin over 10 seconds; that’s roughly 68k damage per person, or about 40-50% of players’ max health. The Resto Druid uses Tranquility to heal for 682k, and one of the Mistweaver Monks uses Revival to heal for 471k. If Mafre had used Aura Mastery with Aura of Mercy in that same situation, it would have healed for 112k; that’s less than one-tenth of the total damage, or about 5% of a player’s max health.
In that same situation, Devotion Aura would have mitigated ~274k damage and Aura of Sacrifice would have mitigated ~411k. Devotion Aura isn’t quite to the level of other healers’ raid cooldowns, but it’s also going to depend on how hard a mechanic hits. A similar ability that deals closer to 75% of a player’s max health in damage would mean that Devotion Aura would mitigate ~450k total damage, Aura of Sacrifice would mitigate ~675k damage, but Mercy would still heal for the same measly 112k.
Devotion Aura and Aura of Sacrifice have the potential to heal for as much as other healers’ cooldowns during Aura Mastery, but Aura of Mercy is just too far behind. There’s too much reliance on healer cooldowns to counteract raid-wide damaging abilities for Aura of Mercy to be a viable option. Any possibility of using Aura of Mercy’s passive healing to gain an edge over Aura of Sacrifice or Devotion Aura is completely negated by the unbelievable weakness of its Aura Mastery effect.
That’s a Lot of Graphs, But What Does It All Mean?
Any time we think about our row of auras, we have to remember that a lot of the power is in the passive effect, but the main draw will always be how powerful they are with Aura Mastery. How much the passive matters will depend on the encounter.
There’s no clear-cut answer for which aura’s passive is outright better, but Aura of Mercy and Aura of Sacrifice can contend with Devotion Aura when the damage is relatively low and consistent, and the number of allies within 10 yards stays between 5 and 10. Devotion Aura outpaces the other two when we’re near fewer allies and is significantly stronger when we can be grouped with most of the raid. There are limitations to the effectiveness of the passive of Aura of Mercy and Aura of Sacrifice, but Devotion Aura will always be effective and likely outperform in most realistic situations.
Aura of Sacrifice with Aura Mastery can be a very powerful damage mitigation tool if the raid needs it, but we have to give up a lot in the process. Taking Unbreakable Spirit over Rule of Law to lower the cooldown of Divine Shield is a throughput loss, and using Divine Shield without Unbreakable Spirit means we’re potentially limited to one use of Aura Mastery per fight. Outside of Divine Shield, Blessing of Spellwarding, or Life Cocoon layered on top of several other external cooldowns, it’s nearly impossible to make Aura of Sacrifice be as effective as Devotion Aura.
Aura of Mercy with Aura Mastery is almost laughable at how little it heals compared to Aura of Sacrifice and Devotion Aura. And the power gap is only going to get worse later in the expansion because it doesn’t scale with Haste or Mastery. If the raid group is relying on healers’ cooldowns to make it through difficult mechanics, Aura of Mercy will never be enough.
In the end, Devotion Aura should be the default choice for almost every raid encounter. Aura of Sacrifice has potential, but it requires a very specific type of damage pattern (low, consistent damage for the passive and a few very large damage spikes for Aura Mastery) to be better than Devotion Aura. Aura of Mercy might have some advantages in easier content, but for higher-end Heroic and Mythic progression raiding (and likely higher Mythic+ keys), it should probably never be considered an option.