Here's one of the larger healing changes coming up in patch 4.2. It'll affect all healers for sure, since it affects the critical strike of heals. We first learned Blizzard was contemplating this change several weeks ago in a Dev Watercooler post.
I'll go over my thoughts about the proposed healing changes for patch 4.2. I also had the opportunity to try out some of the new raid encounters on the PTR in Firelands. Think you're ready for the upcoming healing challenge?
Big change for druids
Another significant change comes to druids. The mastery has been completely gutted and changed to something else.
From my understanding, many druids were unhappy with Symbiosis straight from the beginning. It looks like this new mastery just might be able to help resolve some of the issues that players had before. But this is one strong mastery, since it affects both direct healing and HoT components. The overpowered factor might be there, but we'll have some time on the test realms to play with it and see if druids will consider investing additional points into mastery. I don't expect the mastery bonus number to be final, but it certainly is an extremely attractive secondary stat.
Shaman take a hit
Poor shaman. They took a slight hit to one of their iconic abilities, as well as the main reason why raid leaders bring them into raids.
The only reason I bring Joe Perez into my raids is largely to benefit from his Mana Tide totem. But with this nerf, what shall I bring him into raids for now?
Just kidding, Joe! The renamed Water Shield talent continues to emphasize critical heals for shaman as a way for them to regain mana. The wording on it isn't the clearest, but it appears to be affected by the critical hits of other spells like Chain Heal or Healing Surge, with different coefficients.
The change to Mana Tide indirectly affects the other classes, since the bonus has been reduced. Plan to reforge or change your augments accordingly if you need to compensate for regeneration. I'm hoping it isn't too big of a deal, though. If you've been skimping on regeneration potions or consumables, you may wish to consider switching back to it.
Remember, the best solution to lack of mana regeneration is to bring in really hard-hitting DPS. The quicker bosses go down, the less healing you need to do! If you don't have such hard-hitting DPS, that's alright. Nowadays, we just need to find a way to win such as reminding all players to avoid all avoidable damage.
Some slight mana cost adjustments are coming in for paladins, but I don't think that'll significantly impact their play much. After all, isn't it expected by now that paladins get nerfed in some fashion every patch? (I'm kidding!)
Priests stay level
No significant changes. Why? Because we're amazing just the way we are. Honestly, I think we're in a decent shape right now. There's that bug fix about a cancelled channeling spell when clicking on Lightwell, but it's just a bug fix.
What's ahead for healers in Firelands
From the limited healing I've done so far, I can tell you that healing will be just as fast-paced as it is right now. In fact, it might be a little too hard. I expect the difficulty level to be dialed back ever so slightly. The gear advantage is practically gone, and your group will need at minimum Zul'Aman or Zul'Gurub level gear to even make the cut. This isn't the raid you want to bring a freshly blue-geared level 85 into at all.
Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to mess with any trash or anything, so I can't comment much about that. The new bosses will certainly give healers a workout -- and not just in the healing department, but also in the coordination and awareness factors. Judging by set bonuses, expect to dish out more raid healing. If you have items from heroic raids, you'll be in good shape to start, but that isn't necessary.
Need advice on working with the healers in your guild? Raid Rx has you covered. Send your questions about raid healing to firstname.lastname@example.org. For less healer-centric raiding advice, visit Ready Check for advanced tactics and advice for the endgame raider.