The State of My Priest (4.0.1 Edition)
I didn’t have as much issue with this as I would have thought. The most important addons I use to heal were all up and (mostly) working for our first Wednesday night raid: Clique, Dominos, DXE, OmniCC, Pitbull, Power Auras, and Quartz. A beta of Grid was released and was working well so I decided to stay with that rather than switching back to Vuhdo. (Hint: Go directly to the WoW Ace site for pre-release updates.) It was a little awkward with out plugins, but workable. I quickly checked “on” the most critical debuffs in the Center Icon. (I have custom debuffs for everything in ICC, but I generally display them using GridIndicatorIconBar.) I turned on the standard box displays for Power Word: Shield, Weakened Soul, Prayer of Mending, and Renew. GridStatusRaid debuff has been a bit buggy, but I hear this version might be working. And that was it. Grid was a lot more simple and clean than I’m used to, and it wasn’t too challenging to heal fights I know so well without every single bit of information I’m used to. Things I definitely missed: mana bars and raid icons.
Most of the major plugins for Grid have been updated (if only as a beta version) at this point. I am saddened that my beloved GridStatusPWShield appears not to be in development. (This allows you to see timers for Shields and Weakened Soul color-coded to show how quickly it will expire just like GridStatusHots does for everything else.) I spent quite a bit of time experimenting with replacements… But wait! I noticed just recently (after an hour of trying to figure out how to turn off that lovely shield monitor on my druid when the addon wasn’t even loaded) that PWS and WS functionality has been rolled into GridStatusHots. I am thrilled.
Another issue I’ve run into is in creating Power Auras for the three Holy Word spells. It’s a bit annoying since I’m still trying to get used to them, and they are each on a different cooldown. For some strange reason, I can’t get them working. But wait! Derevka comes to my rescue! Just today, I reworked all of my Power Aura settings into a beautiful spiral of circles to show every meaningful cooldown I have. The goal is to get more used to casting the new spells and using them effectively on each fight. There are 12 for Discipline and 11 for Holy. Geez. I’m trying to embrace the complication of the priest right now. I can only hope I won’t find all those indicators distracting.
There are two non-healing addons I’ve been surprised to find that I miss a great deal – RatingBuster and DrDamage. The benefits of simple numerical comparison between the stats on two items of gear is obvious. With all the changes to mechanics and spells, I’m pining after the ability to mouseover a spell and see how much it actually heals for with my gear, how many ticks it has, and what the mana efficiency is. If it isn’t updated soon, I’ll have to find the time to test every spell out by hand. Meanwhile, I turned on a mod for scrolling combat text, so I can get a better feel for what is effectively healing (or not) as I play. Unfortunately I’m finding scrolling combat text obnoxiously distracting on many 25 man ICC fights.
Yes, I have played around a little with reforging. I took the four pieces of gear specifically for my “bubble spam” set, and shifted the spirit to mastery. I can’t seem to run out of mana as a Disc priest now no matter how hard I try, and picking up another 7% to absorbs increases my happiness.
I have not yet bothered to reforge to balance out my haste. I use a single haste set for Discipline tank healing and Holy…and they both have different hate cap needs. With Holy I’m looking for that extra Renew tick…while with Disc I’m looking for that extra Penance tick. (Also, I hear that extra Penance tick is broken right now.) Throughput is not a problem doing this level of content, and I’m still experimenting with mana consumption for Holy. So I’m waiting another week or two, playing with the mechanics, and seeing which spec I’ll be playing more and want to fine tune my gear around.
For Discipline, I’m going with a 31/3/0 build. I wanted to try out a lot of the new talents, even if I wasn’t convinced they’d be useful at present. Much of this is obvious. I opted for haste over mana returns because my haste is a bit low still and mana is infinite. I might shift around Inner Focus, Train of Though, and Strength of Soul depending on my priorities.
For Holy, I’m liking 3/31/2. There doesn’t seem a lot that’s up for decision here. I’m just filing things in where needed to progress, again taking haste over mana returns.
- Penance – Reduces the cooldown by 2 seconds. This is a staple Discipline glyph. I know two seconds doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a great glyph now. It’ll be even better at 80. Penance is a comparatively strong, quick, mana efficient heal at 85. You’ll want to use it every chance you get.
- Power Word: Shield – Instantly heals shielded targets for 20% of the absorb. While we won’t be blanketing shields as much as we used to, this has always been a great glyph for Disc. Beyond the actual heal amount, this allows your shield casts (which don’t count as heals) to proc trinkets and assorted healing effects.
- Prayer of Healing – Adds a HoT to your Prayer of Healing targets, healing them for another 20% of the heal over 6 seconds. I always liked the idea of this glyph, but I never felt like the long cast time of PoH and the current state of overhealing made it very useful. I am trying it out now in both specs now, and think it’ll be a very decent glyph in Cataclysm.
- Power Word: Barrier – Increases healing under the barrier by 10%. I can’t make up my mind about this one. On one hand, shields are intended to be preventative, and PWB breaks quickly in a raid. This makes throwing it up just after heavy damage a more appealing option – to keep people stable and boost AoE healing to get them back to full. Interesting.
- Renew – 10% to Renew. A solid Holy choice if you favor a Renew Holy style.
- Guardian Spirit – Reduces the cooldown by 30 seconds. I really miss the old glyph. I liked feeling like a “wasted” GS didn’t rob you of your cooldown for the full time period. I might use this for fights where I foresee the tank needing help with cooldowns multiple times, however this feels like a very situational choice.
- Lightwell – Adds five charges to your Lightwell. I have trouble imagining this glyph truly shining. But right now it’s useless; I’m still trying to train my raid to touch the Lightwell at all.
- Flash Heal – Plus 10% crit on targets below 25% health. This is useless in current content, but I could see it being a strong option for progressive encounters in Cataclysm.
- Holy Nova – Reduces the cooldown of your Holy Nova to half a second. I’m still trying to figure out how best to use Holy Nova nowadays, but I’m trying this out to see how I like it.
- Divine Accuracy – Hit cap for Smite. A must have for an Atonement Smiting priest.
- Circle of Healing – Heals one more target. Need I say more?
- Dispel Magic – Adds a heal to your dispels. I’d consider this for specific fights if I was assigned to dispels. I’m not though, so I doubt I’ll use this much.
- Fear Ward – Reduces the cooldown and duration by a minute. Very situational, but I’d use this on Blood Queen or another relevant predictable fear fight.
- Phychic Scream – Enemies will cower in place now. A must have for crowd control in Cataclysm, but not so useful right now.
- Spirit of Redemption – Increases the duration by 6 seconds. My raid leader calls this the “fail angel”. As much as it can be embarrassing to die (and to have everyone in the raid see the wings and know it was you), it’s nice to make that death be as meaningful as possible. Besides, there are not a lot of non-situational compelling options for Holy. Why not?
- Fortitude – Reduces mana cost by 50%. Helpful for mid-fight rebuffs.
- Shadow Protection – Increases the duration by 10 minutes. Eh.
- Shadowfiend – Restores 5% of your mana if your cute shadowy pet dies. I don’t generally find this to be a problem now that pets take reduced aoe damage.
- Levitate – No more feathers. Why not?
In summary: Power Word: Shield and Penance still feel like requirements for Discipline; choose between Power Word: Barrier or Prayer of Healing depending on your style. Renew and Prayer of Healing are the strongest Holy prime glyphs. Consider Guardian Spirit, Lightwell, or Flash Heal depending on the fight and your raid. Divine accuracy and Circle of Healing are the winners for Discipline and Holy respectively. Fill in the rest however you prefer for your situation. There simply isn’t much to say about minor glyphs; it’s the same choices we’ve had for months. Only Fortitude and Shadowfiend have a chance of (barely) affecting your performance in a raid.
I have to admit that the initial bugs where Atonement wasn’t healing consistently really turned me off my first tries with this spec. I want to like it…really I do. But it’s feeling underpowered and clunky right now. Maybe I just need to get used to it? Maybe I needed to fine tune my Power Auras to show the buffs and cooldowns better? I’ve done that now, and it still feels a bit awkward. There were a couple fights I didn’t feel like I was consistently in range of a dps target. For instance, healing the off tank on Blood Princes or on Gunship. There were times it wasn’t appropriate to dps the boss (say, when managing transitions on Putricide.) There was the distinct lack of satisfaction in not healing very much…and doing it brainlessly. As much as smart heals are nifty, having a default heal be non-targeted isn’t an engaging process. I’m honestly just not sure I can really get used to the dps feel of this.
I also just can’t get over how wimpy my shields are. Shields are hitting for maybe 2/3rds what they were a couple weeks ago, and I’m having trouble swallowing that. Shields are such a core part of Disc…having them hit like soggy noodles isn’t helping how I feel. I don’t need to spam them, but I’d rather have harder hitting shields that sucked my mana dry, than lame ones. Sure, this will scale better with mastery and intellect, but that’s not making me feel better now. Also, I simply must set up a Power Aura for my Barrier cooldown. (Done!) I cannot ever seem to remember to cast it.
I still prefer playing Discipline on fights with a lot of direct spot healing and little aoe (like Saurfang). Mana feels limitless, and I haven’t bothered using mana cooldowns. I’m reserving judgment on how much I’ll enjoy the spec for now.
Chakra is fun. I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews, but I’m enjoying it a lot. I really love the idea of having the flexibility to shift one’s synergies mid-fight to accommodate the encounter. It’s going to take some experimentation in raids trying out particular states on different fights to gauge what will work best. I’m finding the spec engaging and enjoyable to play. I wish I was convinced it was balanced well. It feels like the much of the problem is with cast times and renewing various Chakra states using State of Mind. Most of the complaints I’ve heard about this mechanic is how it feels like we’re getting forced to spam a particular spell to artificially maintain a state we need for our throughput. If Blizzard does reduce the cooldown on Chakra to 30 seconds as it is now on beta, this concern would evaporate. One could maintain one’s throughput with Chakra, and still cast what was needed at the moment.
- Renew is laughably easy to maintain with it being instant cast on a half second cooldown. You can almost keep it up 100% of the time accidentally and spend most of your time healing as you like. It’s the most forgiving state, and I see why many healers are using this as their default.
- Prayer of Healing is a lot harder because of the cast time. It’s never been a good spell to spam anyways. It can be rather nice on Decimate for plague wing trash or for aura heavy fights like Blood Queen…but it’s situational. Sanctuary is brilliant though, so I’m giving it my best. I wish this state was tied to a different aoe spell or combination. It seems like there should be excellent results using this on many of the fights where we all stack up and there is lots of raid damage. (Hi Sindragosa!)
- Heal is…well…we aren’t there yet. I like the idea, but the current content doesn’t support using Heal as a mainstay. I have found the Heal Chakra useful when tank healing though. In that case, I’ll use heal as a filler spell when the tanks are topped off and don’t need healing – just enough to keep the state going – filling in the rest with boosted direct heals, Prayer of Mending, and Circle of Healing.
Update: All the recent reworkings of Chakra on beta are leaving me to think that Blizzard agrees this still needs some balancing. I refuse to go more in depth on this until it is more settled.
The Circle of Healing cooldown feels too long now. I know they increased the cooldown for Wild Growth as well, but that still feels fine when I’m playing my druid. Circle of Healing is just a bit painful to wait for. I can’t explain why. Speaking of which, it feels like Holy Priests have an overwhelming amount of aoe choices: Circle of Healing, Prayer of Healing, Prayer of Mending, Holy Nova, and Sanctuary. Plus Divine Hymn. I like big toolkits. It just started to feel like a little much. WTB theorycrafting on the priority here.
Of course there’s also Lightwell. Blizzard has tried hard to revive this spell, and I’m determined to give it a fair shot. The increased clicky distance and ability to retain your dps target are promising. I did make some attempts to use it appropriately this week, and was relieved to notice that some people actually clicked on it. There’s still a long ways to go, but it seems worth some time to invest in it. I’m concerned that some people received nothing but overheal from clicking on it, but that quick topping off definitely won’ t be the same issue in Cataclysm. I was pleased that when I mentioned where I was planning on putting it down in advance of a pull, my raid leader was enthusiastic and encouraging, reminding people to use it mid-fight. Here’s hoping this under-loved talent gets a little more opportunity to shine. I think I might start sending guildmates who click on it cupcakes. (Everyone needs more Happy.) I’ve been meaning to post a bit of helpful information and some macros for my guild. (Note to self: try out some macros this week.)
I need to work on using the Holy Word spells more often. (I’m sure tracking the cooldowns more efficiently will help.) I need to get a little more comfortable so that using my cooldowns comes more naturally. I need to remember I have Body and Soul talented. I find playing Holy on the fights with Malleable Goo distressing. I know I shouldn’t be getting hit with it, but it’s scary to have my toolkit break down so much if I make a mistake. Discipline is a lot more forgiving with instant cast shields. Mana can also be a bit tight when things get hectic. That’s a little concerning at a time when other healers aren’t having difficulties. Ultimately though, I’m enjoying Holy more on most fights.
We’ve been clearing ICC (Heroic but for LK), RS, and Ulduar on 25 man on my Priest. I’ve also done various bits of things on alts. I have to say that aside from some very silly bugs (like Putricide sending out 25 Malleable Goos), raiding has worked extremely well. The biggest impact bug we noticed was projected textures not projecting. This made fights like Lady Deathwhisper, Sindragosa, and Hodir much more…interesting. Sure a few things took longer than normal (mostly do to addon issues and disconnects), but there were very few wipes. Some fights even seemed significantly easier due to the dps increases (Saurfang for instance).
Healing as a team has worked itself out with much less fuss than I imagined. I know Holy Paladins are flailing right now. I know they had to be nerfed since they felt “required” on a number of progression fights…but I don’t think the solution was nerfing them into the ground and burying them alive. Druids and Holy Priests feel a bit overpowered right now, and Shaman seem well placed. It might not be the greatest balance, but it adds up to people getting healed and bosses getting downed. I can hope it will work itself out for level 85, but it’s certainly hard to tell.