I was in the midst of this big post with much math and I decided that something a little simpler and down to earth would be a good idea.
– First things first –
Before you go into the process of dealing with your gems, gear, enchants or other expensive changes, I recommend that you always look at what you’re casting and when. With the current level of content, mana is rarely an issue, as there is more regen now on gear than in previous tiers. After that, I’d suggest looking at your spec. Sometimes (especially during respecs) important regen talents can get skipped. Some glyphs are also good for helping that little bit that you might need.
Also, keep in mind that ending the fight with more than 5% of your mana is a rather big waste. I know that seeing that blue bar creeping down there can be scary, but if you’re really close to the end of the fight, just hold on until the end. Having enough for in use of emergencies is fine; having enough to heal for another full minute is pushing it.
– Things for all classes –
Runic Mana Potions: This is my biggest weakness, by far. Mana potions should be used in all difficult fights. Breaking myself of the habit of keeping them “just in case” is one of the hardest things I’ve done as a healer. By using it by default in progression fights, I’m able to gear harder towards throughput which decreases the amount of “just in case” moments that I have. If you’re having a hard time convincing yourself to use potions regularly, I suggest getting a few Dark Runes for those -truly- problem moments. You’ll recognize those from Vanilla days and possibly from those Vezax hardmodes.
Insightful Earthsiege Diamond metagem: I know that I sound like a cheerleader for this thing, but it really is a healer’s best-friend. It blows away all the other metagems for mana regen and gives you generally more “bang for your buck” than anything else for that slot. I suggest changing this little guy out before your other gems because you’ll lose less and gain more.
Stand in melee and hit the boss: This only works when you have a paladin in your raid group (highly likely) and when you standing in melee wouldn’t endanger yourself or others. Even if you don’t cast mostly instants, it’s possible to take a swing between casts, so long as you aren’t in a phase that requires constant flat-out casting. The mana return on taking a couple of swings now and again can be quite noticable.
Darkglow Embroidery (tailors only): Generally, I prefer this thread over the Lightweave because I have an intense dislike of throughput procs. Mana return procs you can model for and plan around, but having a throughput proc when you don’t want it instead of when you do just annoys me. (Granted, my tailor is a Disc priest and spellpower procs are the most annoying things when you’re bubble spamming. Getting that “a more powerful spell blah blah” message makes me so mad.)
Mighty Rhino Dogs/Spiced Fried Herring: There are fights that need just that little extra push in the regen area and changing out what you eat is a cheap way to get it. I don’t suggest gearing towards always using this food, though, as you’ll be missing the beauty of having it specifically for difficult fights. For you Spirit using classes, I suggest staying away from food that gives you Spirit. You’ll get far less regen than from the MP5 food and you won’t get nearly enough spellpower to make it up. You’ll just be losing large amounts of budget by trying to stay on the fence.
Change your trinkets: This is a blog post in and of itself, but not all mana regen trinkets have the same strength. Trinket slots are great because they allow for quite a bit of flexibility and style. Do some research on which are better than the others and pick them up. Switching around your trinkets depending on the fight you’re on is an old, wonderful trick and well worth the pain it is to lug around several different choices.
I do -not- suggest using Flasks of Pure Mojo, as it is very underbudget for a flask. The correct budget would be 54-55 MP5. I’m not really sure what Blizzard was thinking with this thing, but it’s not worth losing that budget on it. Stick to those Frost Wyrm flasks. Well, unless you’re a paladin, but more on that later.
– Class specific –
Druids: You have Innervate, what more could you need, right? Many times, druids are asked to pass along their Innervates to other people, especially to people that they have just battle rezzed. If this is a regular occurence for your raiding group, you might want to consider picking up a glyph for it. That way, when you give it away, you still get a little something for yourself. Spec wise, make doubly sure you’ve picked up Revitalize. I’m not kidding. The amount of mana you get from it when you’re rolling Rejuv on groups that include yourself is massive. 15% chance to proc on every tick to give you 1% of your total mana. That’s massive. If you’re doing a fight where there are slight lulls or times when healing is less frantic but you can’t stop casting altogether (this is most fights, really), switch in that Idol of Awakening you have hopping around your bags since Naxx. Yes, you -can- change idols during a fight! You will lose the bonus spellpower from the Black Willow idol, but you can just switch it back when things pick up again. Let’s not forget the oldest trick in the Tree regen book, of course. That would be casting a single Lifebloom when you get an Omen of Clarity proc and letting it bloom for the free mana back. It doesn’t -just- work on Vezax!
Shaman: For you guys it is less about tricks for when you are running out of mana and more about preventing yourselves from getting to that point in the first place. One of the biggest issues I see shaman having is in keeping up their Water Shield during fights with lots of AoE damage. It is -vitally- important to keep that bad-boy up. A trick I use is that if I ever have a GCD or am moving at all, I will recast it without even caring if I still have a charge or two left on it. Those fights where you feel you don’t have a free GCD can really suck for it, but sometimes you just have to make that decision to have mana for the end of the fight. There are some great add-ons that will track your shield’s uptime, too. (I use PowerAuras. The combination of sounds and giant graphic really works to alert me.) Another key ability you need to work with is Mana Tide Totem. I like to drop it as soon as I hit 75% mana, in the hopes that I’ll be able to drop it again at the end of the fight. Those things seem to be common knowledge, but here’s a tip that you might not see much: bind your Tidal Force to all your cast-time spells. Crazy idea, I know, but shaman get mana back from crits, so maximizing the number of times you crit can really help your regen. I used to be one of those people who saved Tidal Force for when I needed a burst of heavy healing, but doing that meant that I wasn’t using it often at all. Using it as a regen tactic makes far more sense to me, as you can use it to its full potential. Like druids, you could also switch to using your Totem of Forest Growth during lower healing portions of fights, but the mana saved won’t be as great for you as for your Tree friends. Still, it’s nice to have that option, since you can switch totems back and forth during combat.
Paladins: Of all the classes, healadins have the most tools at hand to deal with mana, so it really comes down to using each bit to its maximum potential. One of the big issues I often see is timing the use of Divine Plea. Some people try to use it as little as possible, stacking MP5 on their gear to make up the difference. However, by using little tricks to help out while Pleaing, you’ll not need to do that. The 2T10 bonus is really handy here, as you can simply macro Divine Illumination to your Plea; you won’t be as nerfed by the Plea and your HLs will cost less during your heavy spam time. If it is on cooldown, using Avenging Wrath during your next Plea is great, too. I do -not- suggest making a macro for that one, as using AW means you won’t be able to bubble for a time. It needs to be a conscious choice to use it so you don’t screw yourself up if you’re using other cooldowns. Unless you need them for specific fight mechanics, popping Divine Sacrifice or Hand of Sacrifice (let the other healers know you’re doing so!) can offset the healing reduction from Plea quite nicely, too. Macroing your Divine Favor to a spell or two so it’s always on cooldown is a great trick. (I used to only macro it to Holy Shock, but I’ve since moved on to macroing it with Holy Light, too, since I need the mana more during “sit and spam” fights more than movement ones.) Healadins can use Lay on Hands on themselves for a short boost of mana, although it causes Forbearance so keep an eye on your timing. Using Glyph of Divinity means that you can get twice that amount at the same time as you give another healer a mana boost. This is a favorite trick of mine! Another little trick that can add up to big savings is cast Judgement of Light/Wisdom on cooldown. (Only use Light if someone else is using Wisdom.) Not only do you get mana from the Judgement of Wisdom on the mob, but it procs your Seal of Wisdom for extra mana back.
Priests, Disc: Discipline is full of great mana saving tools that are very easy to use, so it is very much about using those effectively. One of the most important things is that you need to know what kind of damage to expect in each fight and when. Trying to keep an entire raid bubbled is very costly to your mana, especially given the 12 second cooldown on Rapture. It isn’t so bad if the damage is a constant, so that you’ll be getting the proc every 12 seconds, but it is in a single burst, your mana will be hurting. Keeping Rapture always on cooldown by putting a bubble up on the tanks is really a key part of regen for Disc priests. After that, it is all about making sure you are using Inner Focus effectively. Macroing it to Divine Hymn and Prayer of Healing are both musts, of course, but in many fights neither of those spells will see any use. Knowing that, I like to keep a separate hotkey for it, to be used in conjuction with a Penance on the tank. Planning your uses is really key, as you can keep it on cooldown for the first half of a fight, planning on using your Diving Hymn near the end with it. A very, very simple trick is using your Shadowfiend just before Heroism is cast. As it is considered a pet, casting Heroism after you summon it will make it attack faster and return more mana. Popping Heroism is planned out by the raid, so knowing when you should use your pet is really key. While it isn’t really so much a trick, I like to bubble before casting Hymn of Hope. You know, just in case!
Priests, Holy: First off, all the tips from above about Inner Focus, Shadowfiend and Hymn of Hope apply. Added to that, Holy priests have this great little proc called Surge of Light that needs to be used effectively. Having an add-on that will keep track of the procs is a great idea. Keeping Holy Concentration up at all times is also really key in making sure you don’t run out of mana. Try not to waste mana using Circle of Healing to heal only a single person, as a good Empowered Renew can do just as well. (I see that happening more than I care to mention.) One of my favorite tricks is to use Guardian Spirit constantly. It is a very cheap ability to use and the glyph means that it can be used at will without it not being around to save a tank’s life. I especially like it when I know that certain people tend to take longer to “get out of the fire” than others, so it alleviates some of the pressure in keeping that person alive. Using GS and then an Emp. Renew is a great, and very cheap, duo.
– More knowledge means less regen needed –
I’ve never been a fan of stacking regen stats as, really, it isn’t needed. Knowing how your class regenerates mana and what you can do to maximize that while still stacking those throughput stats is really the key to be a grade-A healer. We all have fights where our mana is taxed, so don’t feel that struggling now and again is any sort of reflection on skill. Heck, difficult fights -should- tax our mana, as well as our throughput and our nerves! It is in how we react to those taxing situations that shows what kind of player we are.
One of the best pieces of advice I could ever give to someone is “look to your skills first and to changing your gear second.” Or perhaps I should say that after your skills comes looking at your communication! Talk to your other healers to coordinate things like when to drop Mana Tide or when to have your priests use Hymn of Hope. See if you can work your healing assignments so that your Trees will always have a rolling Rejuv on your healers. Make some plans about when the best time may be for your healadin to pop Divine Sacrifice. As the group becomes more efficient, so will each member of that group.
If you have any additional tips or tricks when it comes to mana usage, please let me know! I love hearing what other people do to get the most out of their raiding experience.