A while back Spiritual Guidance looked at the various upgrade options for priests in patch 5.2. Today we'll be discussing which of those upgrades you want to take, depending on whether you're a discipline or holy (the weighty topic of shadow will be covered next week). Discipline priests in particular saw some big changes with the release of patch 5.2 and will want to adjust their strategy for selecting new gear from here on. Since we're already talking about disc, let's start there.
Most of you probably know the basics. When gearing, don't take intellect downgrades and be sure to mostly select gear with spirit on it for mana regeneration. How much spirit do you want? There's no hard, set number to aim for; the goal is to find an amount that allows you to get through most encounters without running out of mana too early. This will be different for everyone so just go with what feels comfortable, remembering that you can always supplement a shortage of spirit with consumables (food and flasks) for fights that are more stressful on your mana pool than most others. (Rememeber that it's not necessary to gear for that one tough fight, and then be running surplus mana the rest of the time.)
With that said, let's look at what has really changed: secondary stats.
Critical strike rating is the new hotness
Prior to patch 5.2, disc priests were being advised to prioritize mastery. After the patch, the new front-runner for discipline secondary stats has become critical strike rating. Why? Several reasons. First off, Power Word: Shield can now crit. A critical Power Word: Shield will now absorb for double. (Double bubble!)
Beyond that, the most obvious reason to take crit is that it increases our likelihood to cast critical heals. Of course, a critical heal is always nice, but the latest changes to Divine Aegis in patch 5.2 make it even nicer for us disc priests. Ghostcrawler explained it best during PTR.
The final reason for prioritizing crit is that Spirit Shell no longer scales with mastery. The significance of this being that Spirit Shell used to scale with both mastery and crit, but now only scales with the one. (Mastery does indirectly affect Spirit Shell by boosting the power of your regular heals.) For a while there were also some issues with crit not scaling properly but those were fixed.
So now you understand why we want crit, but how much do you want? Derevka of Tales of a Priest and HowToPriest.com recommends maintaining a balance of all three stats, with favor toward crit, then mastery. He specifically suggests you keep your mastery numbers within 5 to 10% of your critical strike rating. The reasoning behind that is that mastery is still a good stat for our overall toolbox, buffing Power Word: Shield, Divine Aegis, and now our normal healing spells.
Haste, by the way, is held in the least priority because it doesn't keep up with the output of mastery and crit in most situations. That's largely because all haste does is reduce the cast time of our spells. And while reduced cast times are nice, we have a couple ways to work around a lack of static haste as disc priests. Obviously we have the option of taking Power Infusion as a talent for haste on demand, but should we skip it in favor of Twist of Fate or Divine Insight, we've still got the secondary ability, Borrowed Time. And with the new, reduced mana cost of Power Word: Shield in patch 5.2, we should be free to utilize Borrowed Time a lot more again.
So crit, mastery, then haste. Capisce?
Holy priests and tumbleweeds
If you're a holy priest you've probably noticed there haven't been a lot of changes for us with the release of patch 5.2. The new Glyph of Binding Heal is probably the most exciting thing to happen, and that's not even a holy change. Anyway, your strategy for selecting gear is going to be the same as it was before, prioritizing haste up to the 4,721 breakpoint (4,253 if you're a goblin). The next haste breakpoint (7,425 for a fourth extra tick of Holy Word: Sanctuary) is within reach this tier, but not really worth the amount of haste you'd have to stack to get it. It's pretty easily attainable for shadow priests though, if you frequently switch between healing and DPS. After that, your next most desirable stat is mastery, then crit.
And that's it. No, really, that's it. Second patch, same as the first.
What about tier gear?
You shouldn't have much trouble picking out upgrades now that you know your new (or not so new) stat priorities, but what about tier gear? What about trinkets?
As usual, I recommend grabbing your tier bonuses if you can get them without too much of a headache. The four-piece bonus is solid for both specs, improving upon two favorite spells, Penance and Circle of Healing, with smart healing from Golden Apparition. (Grumbul of HowToPriest.com notes that the bonus increases the throughput of those spells by about 30%.)
As for the two-piece, I think it's worth it whether you're holy or disc. Sure, we all know that Prayer of Mending is prone to bouncing off a target once and then dying a sad and unfulfilled life on some hunter, but that doesn't change the fact that the spell absolutely comes to life during heavy AOE damage phases. This two-piece is going to get the most exercise during those moments, and honestly, that's when you need extra healing the most. If the bonus goes unused for 75% of the fight, but keeps your raid alive when all hell breaks loose, it's worth it.
Holy priests, by the way, get a lot more from the two-piece if they take Divine Insight.
Trinkets are a bit tricky this tier. Many healers are reporting low throughput from trinkets with heal and absorption procs. The trinkets have been buffed a little since they were first tested on PTR but many healers are preferring their heroic tier 14 trinkets. That's not to say the new trinkets won't be an upgrade for you, though. If you're currently wearing raid finder and normal mode trinkets from tier 14, you'll probably still see a benefit from upgrading to the new trinkets.
Assuming you mostly keep to normal modes and LFR, aim to pick up Horridon's Last Gasp and the valor trinket, Soothing Talisman of the Shado-Pan Assault this tier. The static intellect on both those trinkets will give you solid output and a bit of mana regen translates into more spells you can cast.
After that, Lightning-Imbued Chalice is a good stand-in until you can get Horridon's Last Grasp. Your other options are Inscribed Bag of Hydra-Spawn and Stolen Relic of Zuldazar, which are roughly on par with one another but overall neither one is desirable in the long run. They may be a good regen upgrade in the short term, but do your best to replace them when you can.
Spiritual Guidance is WoW Insider's source for priest information. For information on playing the class, check out our Mists of Pandaria guides for discipline, holy, and shadow. For getting geared up, check out our guides for pre-raid gear and patch 5.2 valor and raid drops.