Priests in Cataclysm
I haven’t posted about the state of Priests in Cataclysm since Blizzard announced 31 point talent trees. Things can change very quickly at this stage in the beta, and I imagine you’d all get bored reading about how x talent went up Y% after going down Q% last week. But I would like to give some of more general thoughts on the State of the Priest.
I still can’t decide if I like the whole idea of a 31 point tree
I do like the idea of having less boring filler talents, and understand how that meant less talents altogether. While we haven’t seen the numbers tuned yet, I’m not convinced I’ve seen enough of those filler talents rolled into passives for each spec. In particular, if I spec into healing, I want my heals to be a lot stronger than a dps class throwing out a heal…and that doesn’t look as true right now as it used to be. (Maybe I’m just being a little too possessive? I can seen some raiding benefits if a dps was better able to step up to heal in a dire emergency or for a particularly strenuous moment in an encounter.) There was a blue post out recently addressing whether a Ret Paladin in holy gear might do better than a Holy Paladin…and that just scares me.
I know some people have complained about being required to put the full 31 points into a tree before being able to spend points in other specs, but I don’t mind that. I think it gives a little more leeway to put more interesting things in the lower tiers, so that you don’t have to hit 40 before it starts getting interesting. On the other hand, I feel a lot more limited in terms of what I can get out of a complementary tree. I really wouldn’t mind a few more points of flexibility there.
I’m seeing a distinct lack of meaningful choices in the tree. I keep finding the cookie cutter raid spec without trying too hard. There are a few points here and there that could go into increased throughput or increased mana regeneration…but that’s really it? Honestly, I’m annoyed because Blizzard promised this to us. It’s not the end of the world though. While I’d enjoy being able to spec to differentiate my character from other Disc Priests…that’s not ultimately what will make the game fun for me.
Discipline is All About Shields…errr…DPS?
I’m getting mixed messages on this whole concept that healers can (should?) dps to get mana returns. I don’t often find myself bored in any situation where mana would matter. Is Blizzard planning on me getting bored more often? I find it distracting to attempt to toss out dps while healing. I suppose it’s more “fun” than twiddling my thumbs waiting for the five second rule to give me mana, but that isn’t saying much. I think it will be very helpful for leveling and soloing, and I’m sure some people will get excited to use them as best they can during raids. I just truly hope it will end there, and healers will not be expected to pick up those talents or use them in progressive content.
Except, every new build in the beta keeps nudging Discipline in that direction. (I find it interesting that hasn’t seemed half as true for other healers.) It feels like half the tree affects DPS now. (Let’s be reasonable – it’s more like a third.) It’s the only love that Blizzard has given the spec, and I’m taking that as a sign. As much as I might hate the idea, Blizzard has sure made the concept of damage to heal interesting. They promised me interesting. I can’t argue with that part. So let’s take a look at the changes related to damage doing:
Atonement When you deal damage with Smite, you instantly heal a nearby low health friendly target within 8 yards from the enemy target equal to 40/80/120% of the damage dealt
This looked like a fairly mediocre waste of three points until they upped the healing conversion from 45% to 120% in the last weekish. This is pretty stunning honestly. Based on some PTR testing (thank you Tsark), Smite is healing for a decent amount at a very reasonable mana cost. WTB some beta testing at 85. There are huge mana benefits to doing this, and more importantly – this is a smart heal. I’m getting the strong impression that this is the filler spell for Discipline instead of Heal.
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); Lasts 18 seconds with a 15 second cooldown
Blizzard moved Guardian Spirit well out of my reach…but these are my very own wings. (Fine, Holy can double dip on wings. Damn them.) That mana return is going to be nice if nothing else, particularly if you just need to cast cheep smart heals to get it. The beauty of this is you can use it constantly as a mana return even if you only throw out a single Smite to get the mana bloom. Alternately, you can stack up the plus to healing for that moment you really need it. Or…you can roll it constantly. I have to say I love the flexibility of this. I can see myself changing how I use it from fight to fight, and that is truly an interesting mechanic.
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%; Lasts 15 seconds and tacks to five
This isn’t so thrilling…but taking two points in it is required for Archangel. Nothing will stop me from getting wings! Archangel seems well worth the three points if you’ll be using Smite on a regular basis.
Train of Thought You have a 50/100% change when healing with Greater Heal to reduce the cooldown of your Inner Focus by 5 seconds; you have a 50/100% chance when casting Smite to reduce the cooldown of your Penance by 1 second
The reduced cooldown on Inner Focus is nice of course, but I’m not sure I’d invest the points just for that. I’m salivating over the changes for Penance on the other hand. One second cooldown reduction on Penance doesn’t sound like much. But it is. Oh, it is. First off, Penance is our best spell. It’s easy on the mana, is almost instant with good haste, and hits like a truck. Yet another hint from Blizzard that Smite is our new Heal.
Surge of Light You have a 3/6% chance when you Smite or Heal to cause your next Flash Heal to be instanc cast and cost no mana but incapable of a critical hit
Hrmmm. I don’t think I’ll take this. There’s just too much else around that is shiny or required. A six percent chance of a proc on a spell I’m still not entirely sure I’ll use frequently is too much of a gamble. But Blizzard made a point of putting it in reach.
Glyph of Divine Accuracy Increases your chance to hit with Smite by 18%
Finally, this is the chance to fix hit rating for all that Smiting. Unfortunately, last I checked, you still can’t get this glyph on the PTR. That in itself makes it really hard to test out an Archangel centered Discipline build. I’m somehow doubting I’ll get the healing conversion for Smites if I can’t even hit the boss. Fix this please, Blizzard! Discipline Priests everywhere want to see how this works!
Wait…What Happened to Our Shields?
Most of the talents relating to absorption have stayed the same. We’re keeping this as a core part of our identity. They aren’t as powerful. That’s the bad news. They just aren’t the 15K powerhouse they are in ICC right now. But the mana cost on shields isn’t bad really. It’s more than Heal, and less than anything else except Penance. Will I still use them frequently for prevention? Sure. Will I spam them on the raid anytime I start getting bored? No chance.
Power Word: Barrier Summons a holy barrier on the target location that absorbs damage done to friendly targets withing it each time they take damage; While within the barrier, spellcasting will not be interrupted by damage; Lasts 25 seconds or until it absorbs its limit; 3 minute cooldown.
Oh look it’s a shiny! It’s definitely a pretty spell, even on a cooldown. We should be able to use it once or twice on each boss fight at critical moments. I hear it breaks quickly though – so it’s going to be better for preempting burst damage auras and boss effects or protecting people who are grouped up when Things Go Terribly Wrong, rather than real deep healing. We won’t know until we see the fights. I’m hardly going to whine about this one though.
It seems like everyone is getting nerfed such that they can’t bounce back and forth healing two or three tanks at once – whether that is Beacon of Light’s reduced mirror effect, or Druids limit of single Lifebloom target, or any of the other changes. I get the feeling that instead of assigning a couple healers to tank heal, we’re going to see more of assigning X person to Y tank. How do Discipline Priests stand? Well, there is one big change in how we do things:
Strength of Soul When you heal a target with your Heal spell, the duration of the Weakened Soul debuff on the target is reduced by 4 seconds
This is amazing. I haven’t done the math on it, but it’s going to be a great tool to get a cheaper, instant powerful absorb back on the tank more often. This is a fix to making our most iconic spell really work for tank healing.
So, What Will Discipline Priests Be Doing in Cataclysm?
I have to say I’m not really sure yet. Holy has been getting some flashy fun mechanics and changes, while Discipline keeps getting these little bitty changes, that seem pretty momentous when they start adding up. I have to admit I’m a little jealous. Discipline is finally starting to get that synergy that Shaman have had for so long. Power Word: Shield creates Borrowed Time giving spell haste for direct heals. Direct heals stack Grace, increasing single target healing. Smite reduces the cooldown of your Penance. Smite stacks to increase your burst healing done; it’s even flexible depending on how you want to spend your Archangel. There’s a lot there.
Our identity as single target spot healers still seems strong. It does seem like it’s fighting a bit with our dps skills though. If I’m assigned to a tank, I might be hard pressed to find cooldowns to keep my Evangelism up. If I’m raid healing, some of my single target love (Grace and Strength of Soul) could go to waste. With how people will be hanging out at lower life instead of topped off in overheal land…will it feel right to use filler to dps the boss and throw out a few smart heals? Is it fun for our filler spell to be smart or does that just mean I won’t even know who I healed? Does that make me flexible or complicated? I wonder how much raid leaders and healing leads are going to appreciate the fairly lame dps we’re doing. Absorbs were finally put into the combat logs. (At least Shields were.) This whole dps thing just seems like another way for a lay person to completely misunderstand Discipline. Oh, the fun.
Life Grip…errr…Leap of Faith
I almost forgot. We have one more new toy.
Life Grip You pull the spirit of the friendly target towards you, placing them in front of you; 40 yard range; 1.5 minute cooldown
I’ve always hated Blizzard’s reasoning for this spell. Save the Stupid DPS (who is standing in fire) isn’t a mantra I can get behind. On the other hand, there are tons of possibilities. I can’t say much for Cataclysm raiding, but in ICC, this could be fun. Pulling the second melee spore into range or back again on Festergut. The same for a diseased person on Rotface. Getting everyone together in the dream on Valithria to pop the first spore. Grabbing the off tank out of melee range to get them right next to an Ice Block on Sindragosa – priceless. I don’t even know where to start on Lich King.
I don’t want to hear about uses for saving someone stupid. Except when they’ve disconnected and are stuck in the bad. There are a ton of fun interesting ways to play with the current mechanics to make strategy more efficient. I sure hope this is still true in Cataclysm.