I'm going to cheat.
I'm going to dip back slightly into 2008 to the point where Wrath of the Lich King came out. Priests everywhere had high hopes for their class. We were coming off an expansion where Circle of Healing Priests and Resto Shamans were the king. Since then, the other healing classes have been improved where they could hold their own in raids and compete.
Wand specialization removed
Yes! I jumped for joy when I discovered this useless talent had been removed from the Discipline tree. It was then replaced with the new PvE staple talent: Twin Disciplines. The only time I really used wands at the end game level was when I was regenerating my mana.
Lightwell became more useful
I am not a Lightwell fan. There's just something about an ability that requires other players to interact with it in order to be useful. Seriously! Players had to find it, then click on it in order to use it. But I will credit the blues on this. They did their best to try and make the spell interesting. They dropped the cast time, increased the number of charges, and increased the amount of damage needed for the effect to break.
Oh, and let's not forget that they dropped the cooldown to 3 minutes.
A valiant effort but I don't think it was enough for it to see widespread use by Holy Priests. Just for kicks though, I'm going to grab Lightwell anyway and start giving it a shot in Icecrown Citadel.
Circle of Healing became smart
Just before the debut of Wrath of the Lich King, the developers made Circle of Healing a smart heal. It would automatically target players nearby who were lowest on health regardless of their party. At that point, priests became an extremely attractive class to raid heal with.
Circle of Healing hit with a nerf bat
Circle of Healing was deemed too powerful. Either the smart heal had to change, or a cooldown had to be added between spell usage. There was a lot of criticism about this change. "No one's going to play a priest anymore." "Great, now we suck.""I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of Priest voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened. "
Several months later, priests continue to be sought after and brought into raids to heal.
Levitate castable on others
Actually, this change was two fold. When glyphs were added, one of the new minor glyphs was Glyph of Levitate which removed the reagent cost of Levitate. I didn't have to slaughter any birds to fulfill my desire to walk above water or to safely jump off a cliff to avoid a Horde shadow priest trying to fry my brains.
Fissure in Obsidian Sanctum changed colors
Okay, this wasn't a major change that affected priests. Even though the void zone changed from red to blue, I still noticed players had a hard time seeing and staying out of them. Evidence that it had nothing to do with colors!
Hymns had been redesigned
Divine Hymn: Anyone still remember what this spell used to do? It was originally a PvP-esque spell. It incapacitated nearby targets and healed friendly targets. I remember using it in the original form during arena to try to knock out opposing players. That changed in 3.1.0 when Divine Hymn single handedly became the best healing spell in the game. Continuing the trend of smart healing spells, Divine Hymn became a channeled healing spell which would automatically target the players with the lowest health.
Hymn of Hope: This former priest racial turned a baseline ability accessible to all Priests. After 3.1.0, it turned into the mana equivalent of Divine Hymn. Yes, a channeled spell that restored mana raid wide for several seconds to players with the lowest mana.
Prayer of Healing castable on anyone
Prayer of Healing used to only heal up the party of the current priest. It was changed later on so that it could be used on any player within the raid. Not only that, it would continue to heal the target's party as well. That gave a great tactical edge to a healing priest since healing leads could set group specific healing assignments without having to position priests in certain groups.
Prayer of Healing then gets nerfed
Of course, it was (like Circle of Healing) deemed too overpowered and the healing coefficient was scaled back down even further. Although given the choice between being able to target any party with Prayer of Healing versus extra healing oomph, I'd go for the any party.
Body and Soul talent
Feel like going for a run? With Body and Soul, your Power Word: Shield gave you the ability to run quicker for several seconds. It's impractical since most PvP priests go down the discipline tree and Body and Soul is too far down in Holy. From the PvE standpoint, I've only seen it used specifically on the Anub'arak encounter in Trial of the Grand Crusader. I'm always willing to say that it's a must have to stretch out the kiting but I'm sure there are guilds who have done it without the use of this talent.
To be fair, the addition of dual spec wasn't strictly limited to priests. But it allowed us an extraordinary amount of flexibility in our roles in the game. We had the ability to go shadow and destroy stuff or switch to holy and discipline in order to heal. Granted, we had the capability to do this any time. Having dual spec just made the overall process cheaper and easier to manage. Priests didn't have to hearth back to town to change specs and curse if they screwed up a talent point somewhere.
Shadow Priests had their utility levels reworked. Instead of providing a flat mana return, Replenishment gave back mana based on the mana pool of players. They were one of the first classes to do so along with Ret Paladins and Hunters. Warlocks and Mages joined them later on. This buff continues to be one of the most sought after buff and just about every 25-man raid has someone providing them (who is hopefully a Shadow Priest)!
Another new iconic ability for Shadow Priests is Dispersion. This all-in-one spell causes the player to take reduced incoming damage, remove all snaring or stun effects and regenerate their mana back.
2009 brought in some great times and changes to the Priest class. Some of updates were a pleasant surprise while others were anticipated well in advance and frowned upon. Cataclysm promises even more Priest changes to come and even though Arthas isn't dead yet, I'm really looking forward to 2010 already.
What were your favourite Priest changes? What didn't you like?
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