BlizzCon 2010 is over, and that means it's time to get back to work. I'll let you guys know, though, that I definitely did a lot of healing priest advocacy while at the convention. I even met a Blizzard developer who works on trash and critter spawning. So if we're lucky, we'll see a fox spawn nerf, and skunk spawning will get its long-needed buff.
Anyway, the Cataclysm expansion is just a little over a month away and testing on the beta has gotten pretty serious with all the new raid content available. There's also a new patch being tested on the beta that should interest holy priests. Join me after the jump, and I'll fill you in on the details.
Summarizing beta patch 13221
As I said in my opener, a new patch was released on beta. If I were to rate the magnitude of this patch in fruit, I'd call this a papaya for holy priests and a grape for discos. (Did I mention I met Fruit Dealer?) The following list of changes is courtesy of MMO-Champion.
- Inner Fire now increases spellpower by 531, up from 425.
- Holy Nova affects target within 10 yards (tooltip fix).
- Binding Heal base healing increased by 20 percent, from 3,295-4,237 to 3,959-5,091. Now costs 28 percent of base mana, down from 29 percent.
- Prayer of Healing now costs 26 percent of base mana, down from 36 percent of base mana.
- State of Mind no longer affects Renew; it affects Prayer of Mending instead.
- Chakra no longer works with Renew and no longer costs mana. Sanctuary (Prayer of Healing, Prayer of Mending) now increases healing done by your AoE spells and Renew by 15 percent (formerly, it only increased AoE spells by 10 percent).
- Revelations now has a 40-second cooldown.
- Rapid Renewal (Tier 4) *New* Reduces the global cooldown of your Renew by 0.5 seconds.
- Tome of Light is now a tier 3 talent, down from tier 4.
- Prayer of Healing Chakra (Sanctuary) is now much easier to manage by having Prayer of Mending added in as an activator and refresher of the state. Since Prayer of Mending is always kept on cooldown, you'll be able to use Prayer of Healing as more sparingly.
- Sanctuary is now a lot more powerful with Renew being added in to the buffed spells. It's like having two Chakra states in one and will likely become the Chakra state of choice for holy priests. (The percentage buff being increase is also a small but appreciated buff.)
- The .5 second GCD reduction from Renew Chakra being made into its own talent means holy priests will receive a shortened cooldown on Renew all the time, regardless of Chakra state.
I have a lot of things to say about the changes in patch 13221, but if you aren't keeping up with priests outside of my column, you're going to be confused. Let me give you the rundown: Raid testing on the beta started two weeks ago, and it hasn't been pretty for holy priests. We're starving for mana in raids and coming in last on the meters. We have low regen, low starting mana, more expensive spells, weaker heals and no mana-restoring talents (like disc's Rapture.) Zusterke made a spreadsheet to exemplify some of this, and while I'm not going to pick it apart for you here, you may check out a copy of it if you're interested. If you want to see some fights in action, our friend Kinaesthesia has been posting a lot of beta kill videos from his point of view on vodka's YouTube channel.
Possible solutions to the problems above are making holy priests more efficient by either lowering the costs of their spells or raising the amount of healing done by the spells. Surge of Light could also be restored to its old self so it procs off crits again or just adjusted to proc off of more spells. It's hard to say if buffing Surge of Light will be enough, though.
Zusterke also suggested fixing spirit regen across the board so that other classes have a reason to take it, since right now intellect is far too good for healers, because the regen is on par with spirit but it also gives throughput. Zusterke suggests that making spirit more powerful as a regen stat will let holy priests (who benefit most from spirit) catch up to other classes in the process.
So those are the basics of what has been discussed the past few weeks. The new 13221 beta patch addresses some of these issues, and all in all, we did get buffed. Whether we were buffed enough still needs some testing; so far, it's looking like we're still behind. The issue I really want to pull apart right now is how we were buffed.
I'm going to be honest and say I'm pretty upset with these changes. On one hand, it's great that Sanctuary (AoE Chakra) is now easier to use -- but on the other, it's lame that we now have a single Chakra state that we can just settle into and never drop unless we're questing or healing 5-mans. If you think about it, we basically just had our playstyle from Wrath restored to us. What did we spend the last year casting? AoE spells and Renew. What does this new Chakra state encourage us to cast? AoE spells and Renew. The clunk is eliminated, but in the process we traded a cool and truly unique way of healing for a slightly more complicated version of Shadowform. And you know what's funny? We asked for this.
I have reported numerous times in the past weeks that Chakra felt clunky. The reports came from forums, blogs, comments and numerous priests who I trust in opinion and ability. The problem is that in the time I have spent on beta, I honestly didn't ever feel that way. At times I wondered if my dissenting opinion was based in truth, on blind optimism, or was just the result of my own personal bias toward playing difficult or underpowered classes. I didn't want to say things were fine when I was the only one who felt that way, so I just kept my mouth shut and acted as an elected official should: advocating for his or her constituency. Now I feel like an idiot.
I know everyone said Chakra felt clunky, and maybe it was, but honestly, what should it have felt like for what it was? It seemed to be working as intended and I liked it. I liked that we had to choose between one or the other, and that in theory by choosing one, we would become very powerful at one thing. It was sort of like a compromise -- but not really, since the Chakra states didn't make our other spells less powerful. They just gave us a choice about how we wanted to buff ourselves.
Using the different stances was like a puzzle. We had to decide when and what to use and then also figure out how to get from one stance to another when the direction of a fight changed. The setup time of switching between states did cut into our HPS (even after we were practiced at switching), and that gave other classes an edge on output, but that could have all been fixed with some simple number adjustments or maybe a temporary spellpower buff for the first 10 seconds of Chakra that allowed us catch up. Instead, we complained about the mechanics of Chakra itself and got another tier 10 quick fix. The fix removed the interesting complexity and replaced it with an easy-to-use, all-in-one solution.
I'll admit my argument is a bit unusual -- complaining about being buffed -- but I can't imagine I'm the only one who liked the difficulties Chakra presented. I just want the game to be hard and, in turn, rewarding. I truly dread that every other healing class is going to end up in the boat that disc priests ended up in ICC: mindlessly pushing a few buttons and moving with the raid in response to whatever is on the ground. It's just not fun over time and a difficult playstyle that can't be mastered in one or two weeks would give us something to have some fun with. Now I'm worried it's going to be gone.
Worries about Chakra
When Chakra was first announced, I remember my biggest concern was whether or not holy priests would need to be in Chakra stance to be competitive with other classes, or if we would be balanced outside of a Chakra state and the smart usage of Chakra (and its original three-of-a-kind mechanic) would be what allowed us to creep up on the meters and give other classes a run for their money. I was concerned that we'd have to use Chakra to be competitive, and that if we did, we'd be forced into using a very difficult-to-manage mechanic.
That is exactly what happened, but since Blizzard also ended up making Chakra much easier to use, no one really complained ... until the raid testing started and it became apparent that Chakra was necessary to do as much healing as we were doing (and that still wasn't all that much). But the problems we've had the past week in beta had nothing to do with Chakra's mechanics; they had to do with numbers, and I think Blizzard would have resolved those without much feedback from us. As I've said before, they know how their game works better than us.
I'm not a game designer, but in my mind, I imagine the root of our problems right now comes from making Chakra a requirement to be competitive healers. If say the numbers we were pushing out right now (which, as displayed by some of the best priests in the world, are low) were the balance before Chakra, then I'd say we'd be at a perfect place to work Chakra in. But I don't know if that's even feasible at this point, since Chakra has been reworked so many times. People were also so vehemently against the three-of-a-kind mechanic, it would be hard to sell to people who really like the Chakra that currently exists on live servers.
Back to the point
Now that I've looked that gift pony in the mouth, I should get back to the actual state of holy priests on beta. As I said, we're having some problems. As usual, I'd recommend everyone not panic. Blizzard already mentioned that holy paladins (who are particularly insane numbers-wise with their passive healing aura) would be getting scaled back, and I expect holy priests to either get buffed or other classes to get nerfed. There are several options to fix us, and none of them require any dramatic overhauls like what I suggested in my rant.
Keep in mind that just because Kinaesthesia is at the bottom of the meters in a vodka raid doesn't mean you will be. Most of the beta kill videos you're seeing are coming from guilds with amazing players, and the disparity between player skill is very small. That's rarely the way things work for the rest of us, especially if you play primarily in pugs -- and while no, this isn't the most reassuring way to look at the situation, it's still something to keep in mind. Not being slotted because your class is underpowered is a reality that affects very few of us, and you still have the ability to outplay other players around you, even if you're working with a crutch. Not to mention, meters aren't everything, remember? (It's always funny how quickly we forget this sometimes.) I expect balance issues to be ironed out in live, even if it takes Blizzard a little longer to pinpoint the best solution.
As for how to deal with these new changes, I'm going to wait to see if they all push to live. It's still possible Blizzard might decide this was a bad idea and toss it out in another build. Cross your fingers if you're with me, and if you're not, then tell us in the comments why this new change to Chakra is better.
As a sort of addendum, I apologize if this article is somewhat scatter-brained in execution. Part of me is still suspect on if and how this beta build will go to live, and if it does I'm not sure when it will happen. It will definitely affect how we play, and at that time I'll try to give a less spastic address on how to cope with the changes and then some.
Want more tips for carrying out your priestly duties? Spiritual Guidance has you covered. Check out Holy 101 or Disc 101 for an introduction to healing as a priest; for the party-minded healer, see a priest's guide to tanks.