Priests In Cataclysm
I’ve been wanting to talk for a while about the new talent tree previews that Blizzard released last week. There are a lot of little changes though, and a few big ones, so I wanted to spend some time reflecting before screaming and whining about not wanting to dps sharing my opinions. A few notes before I get to it. For simplification, I am listing the benefits assuming one is maxing out a particular talent. I’m ignoring talents that got shifted around in such a way that it doesn’t impact an end game raid spec significantly. I’m also assuming that the way spells scale for spellpower or mana just isn’t something we can comment on until we really see how the Cataclysm stat shifts work out – so changes to Inner Fire, Borrowed Time, and Desperate Prayer are ignored. I’m also ignoring PvP implications and talents that just don’t get into a PvE build. As a final note, it should also be understood that I can only translate these changes to the current content, and we still don’t have a clue what raiding in Cataclysm will really be like.
- Twin Disciplines – This 5% buff to instant spells now includes Power Word: Shield
- Improved Power Word: Fortitude – Gone. Yay! Two points that every priest in the universe can stop spending for a necessary raid buff.
- Penitance: Increases the crit chance of your Smite and Penance spells by 15% – Okay…I like my Penance…and there isn’t another compelling place to put the points.
- Atonement: When you deal damage with Smite, you instantly heal a nearby low health friendly target within 15 yards equal to 45% of the damage dealt – Huh. Again, there’s no compelling place to put points if I…errr…ever thought I would cast Smite.
- Meditation – Gone. Passive mana regen is now going to be part of mastery.
- Evangelism – When you cast Smite, you gain Evangelism, increasing the damage done by your Smite, Holy Fire, Holy Nova, and Penance spells by 4%; reduces the mana cost of those spells by 6% for 15 seconds; stacks to five – Err…hmm. I seem stuck putting two points into this or Atonement. Blizzard? Should I be taking the hint here?
- Archangel: Consumes your Evangelism effects, instantly restoring 3% of your total mana; increases your healing done by 3% per stack (i.e. 15% with five stacks); allows you to channel Penance while moving; 15 second cooldown – Interesting. Okay, casting Smite is starting to sound a little better now. I like mana returns. I like increases to healing done. I like two Penance casts while moving. Weak smile.
- Enlightenment: Increases your total mana and total health by 6% – Replaces a 6% buff to Spirit and Haste as well as Mental Strength (15% increase in Intellect).
- Power Word:Barrier: Summons a holy barrier on the target location that absorbs damage done to friendly targets within it each time they take damage; also prevents spellcasting interrupts from damage; last 25 seconds or until it is fully absorbed; 3 minute cooldown – There are a lot of nifty implications for this – and it’ll require some thought and strategy as to the best way to use it. Shield a tank alone when they’re taking insane damage to smooth out a Festergut inhale? Shield the melee group for maximum absorption? Shield the spellcasters on a damage aura fight since they’re squishy and might need the interrupt relief? I find it particularly interesting that it will have reduced absorption per person the more people are in the group; this gives you some unique strategy for using it as a blanket AoE heal or as a cooldown to smooth out a smaller group’s sustained incoming damage spikes. This is good times.
- Soul Warding – The cooldown on Power Word: Shield is only reduced by 3 seconds instead of 4. Well, Blizzard is clearly making a point that you should be casting something between shields not just spamming them on the raid. I was fine with them saying they wanted to do something to encourage a broader use of the Priestly toolbox…but I was hoping they’d do that by making the toolbox more appealing on certain fights – not by nerfing or making it impossible to choose shields.
- Focused Power – Gone. Two boring points to increase healing by % not needed anymore.
- Renewed Hope – No longer maintains a constant 3% damage reduction for the entire raid. Mope.
- Rapture – No longer restores power to your target. I can’t say that this will be a big deal with all the regen changes.
- Focused Will – No longer increases crit chance by 3%; not viable for PvE.
- Grace: Your Flash Heal, Greater Heal, and Penance spells bless the target with Grace; increases your healing on the target by 4%; stacks to 2 (for 8% increased healing); lasts 15 seconds; can only be active on one target – Hmmm. What I wanted was Blizzard to let me keep Grace on two or three targets so I could benefit from Grace while healing all of the tanks. What they did is still cool though. There’s a 1% loss to the bonus healing; however, it only requires two stacks instead of three. This will make it a lot easier to rebuild and benefit from Grace when switching targets. I think this will be a net gain for me.
I think a number of the changes in the holy tree are quite exciting for disc priests. Taking into account the 51 points needed in the disc tree to get the mastery bonus, you could have as many as 25 points to play with in holy. To get what I’d like out of it takes 24 points. At present Disc Priests generally take 13 or 14 points into Holy to max out Inspiration, and pick up Desperate Prayer (if they find it useful). There are a couple really lovely new options for those extra points, as well as one thing that is notably missing.
- Holy Specialization: Increases the crit chance of your holy spells by 5% – Gone.
- Empowered Healing: Your Greater Heal spell gains an additional 30% and your Flash Heal, Heal, and Binding Heal gain an additional 15% of your bonus healing effects – Yay for a buff to our sustainable single target throughput.
- Improved Healing: Reduces the mana cost of your Lesser Heal, Heal, Greater Heal, Divine Hymn, and Penance spells by 15% – I’m not generally a fan of mana reductions in this time of plentiful mana, but I think this could be key to sustainable tank healing in Cataclysm.
- Healing Prayers: Reduces the mana cost of your Prayer of Healing and Prayer of Mending spell by 20% – I’m not wild about this one, but it isn’t useless, and seems the best place to put points in the tree to continue on to…wait just a minute. If I had Deliverance hasted Prayer of Healing like I do in Holy now, I bet I’d actually use that spell more.
- Deliverance (formerly Serendipity): When you heal with Binding Heal or Flash Heal, the cast time of your next Greater Heal or Prayer of Healing spell is reduced by 9%; stacks up to three times; lasts 20 seconds – This is beautiful. Keeping a hasted Greater Heal or Prayer of Healing in my pocket will be lovely to balance out Penance being on cooldown when I need a big heal. I can actually see adding Greater Heal into my rotation on a regular basis. Along with Borrowed Time, we’ll have a lot of flexibility to have hasted spells when we want them.
- Spirit of Redemption – Blizzard, are you really going to give me angel form? I’ll love you to death and have your babies. Alternatively, if you take this away from me, I’ll sneak into your bedroom late at night and do as rogues do. Take your pick.
Implications for Damage Doing
I’m not really sure what to make of this without seeing how it scales. There is a dps talent added for Shamans, Druids are no longer confined by a healing form, and Paladins have always been able to Judge and melee the boss for mana. It’s hard to tell without seeing how these numbers are going to scale what Blizzard’s intent was, but they have set the stage for making healer dps common in raids. Cringe. It could be they intended these talents for leveling or doing dailies in a healing spec. It could be that they were intended to boost PvP flexibility, and it seems likely that they will. But after looking over the tree more, it sure seems like Blizzard has balanced it so that raiders will take these talents. I certainly hope that this isn’t a cue to healers to dps a boss in a raid.
I don’t want to. That is what shadow is for. Or my mage. If I wanted to dps, shockingly, I’d play a dps. When I’m healing a raid I have plenty of things to look at and keep track of. I’m really quite fine trying to manage 25 green bars while trying not to dwell in fire. I don’t need to work in targeting the Big Bad, and smiting him occasionally to manage a stacking time sensitive buff. I promise I’m not bored. I will say I know healers who will love this, but a lot will not.
More importantly, the healing and dps mindset is just so different. I don’t like keeping both in my head at once. This became very clear to me as soon as I tried healing the tanks/raid on Valithria. When the raid isn’t taking damage I like to throw some preventative shields out there and anticipate what’s coming next. I do not enjoy spamming one button at the boss (while doing everything I normally do) and pray I’m not halfway through a cast when the tank I’m healing takes a spike of damage.
Second Thoughts on Damage Doing
Since it seems I’m stuck with them anyways, these talents are starting to grow on me. Archangel is pretty kick ass (mana regen, increased healing, and Penance on the run makes for an amazing button to hit when things are going wrong). Atonement is a smart heal on someone close by every time I Smite the boss. Maintaining Evangelism requires one Smite every fifteen seconds, and it takes 1.25 minutes to “slow stack”. So I could maintain full stacks of Evangelism all the time to keep Archangel as an “Oh Shit” button ready anytime. Or, I could plan to use full stacks of Archangel for the couple critical places in the encounter I know I’d like it for both the healing and mobility perks. Alternately, I could Smite and Archangel every fifteen seconds, giving me a constant increased bonus to healing and every Penance channeled while moving.
Hrrrrmph. There are certainly a lot of interesting options here, even for a girl who hates the idea of dpsing. I don’t think I can make a final decision on this until I see how it scales and what the healing needs of Cataclysm encounters are like. Maybe I just need to think of Smite as a sort of Beaconed smart heal that reflects off the boss and pretend I’m not doing any dps?
To start with, I don’t feel like Blizzard succeed in its goal to make the talent tree more flexible. There is still a fairly obvious cookie cutter spec, with very little room left over to pick and choose interesting things. Oh look! I’m still trying to decide whether to dump a point into Improved Renew or Spell Warding to get down the Holy tree. But in place of flexibility in the tree, we get several interesting new toys to play with: Power Word:Barrier, Deliverance, and Smite/Evangelism/Archangel. All three of these add an interesting flexible mechanic to our already diverse toolbox. I think the best part of this is that each one can be used differently from fight to fight to address boss mechanics and healing needs. Adding more strategy to healing choices sounds like fun to me. What I’ve loved about my Discipline Priest more than any other healer is the challenge and versatility that comes from having such a broad range of spells to utilize throughout a fight. Yay for more of that!
We gained Spirit of Redemption. I cannot begin to say how awesome I think this is. Crosses fingers.
We also get some super nifty buffs to our single target healing. Yay Blizzard! I have to admit I was skeptical seeing the class previews explaining how Disc was going to be stronger on single target healing with no mention of how that would happen. We get a Grace that stacks more quickly. We get bonus healing and mana reduction to all our major direct heals. We get 15% more crit to Penance – and could theoretically channel it while moving on every cooldown. We also get Deliverance along with our existing Borrowed Time to hasten our big heals. I think these will go a long way to putting Discipline back into the running for tank healing.
So, what did we loose? Blizzard did remove a number of passive talents that were not interesting at all and simply buffed stats and should be replaced with gear and mastery. There are only two things that seem significant to me. We lost Renewed Hope. I’m sad about that; I thought it was a nifty buff to bring into a raid. However, I can’t argue that a passive damage reduction just because I showed up to the raid is exactly interesting to play. Nor do I think that many (non-hardcore) raid leaders think about that when choosing a healing team. Finally, we lost our ability to cast infinite shields. I know, I know. A one second cooldown on shields isn’t that big of a deal. Especially with Borrowed Time hasting our next cast. I think this mechanic might make shield-cast-shield-cast-shield-cast the new bubble spam for raid healing – we’ll just have to see what the fights are like. I’m sure I’ll miss having my shields so handy, but I’m looking forward to trying something new.
Overall, I’m really excited to try this out.