1) Fear Ward for Shadow: Even though Fear Ward become usable by all races in the tail end of 2007, Shadow Priests in Shadow form were unable to use it. This changed in Patch 2.4 (the Fury of the Sunwell). While it didn't have a major effect for Holy or Disc Priests, Shadow Priests were quite happy since they no longer had to switch out in order to cast Fear Ward and then switch back to Shadow to resume the melting of faces.
2) Holy Nova turns into a baseline spell: This former 11 point talent became trainable for all Priests. Desperate Prayer replaced its position on the talent tree. Humans and Dwarves were no longer the only race with access to it as now every race could use it.
3) Priest racial abilities removed: Many different Priest racial abilities were removed from the game. Others turned into talents or became trainable. Many players were disappointed or downright angry with the changes . Fast forward a few months later and its back to business for the Holy Priests.
4) Leveling Holy is easier: Especially when Holy Fire's cast time was reduced to 2 seconds.
5) Spellpower unification: There used to be separate items for spell damage and healing. A healer weapon had +healing and DPS casters had +spell damage. Earlier in the year, spell damage and healing stats were removed and a new stat known as spellpower was introduced. This would affect both damage and healing spells. As a side effect of this, Mages, Warlocks and Priests found themselves competing against each other for certain pieces of gear. The end result means more gear being used and less gear being sharded or vendored.
6) Discipline becomes even more viable as a raiding spec: Discipline was often seen as a PvP only spec for the extra survivability it offered for Priests. Some guilds have started including Discipline Priests in their raids.
7) Introduction of new 51 point talents:
- Penance: The staple of Discipline Priests
- Guardian Spirit: The castable cheat death for Holy Priests
- Dispersion: When things are about to go really bad for Shadow Priests.
8) Inner Fire is a must use: Although certain Priests (such as myself) had a bad habit of not using Inner Fire in the past, the change that gave it a spellpower buff component renders it a must buff for any Priest.
9) Circle of Healing became "smart": Circle of Healing used to be a spell that affected party members only. Now it can work on any target in the raid group of the Priest. In addition, a very important change was introduced: Circle of Heaing no longer healed summoned Snakes from Snake Traps. Thank goodness.
10) Crits all around: Prayer of Mending and Mind Flay can now crit. Priests everywhere jumped for joy since it meant more "on crit" effects could trigger.
11) Lightwell: The often ridiculed "lolwell" became vastly improved. It's cast time was dropped, the charges were increased, and the cooldown use was lowered. But is it being used? Yes but it isn't a must have ability. I've seen its use by other Priests in various runs but it does not appear to be popular.
12) Wand Specialization removed: Arguably a top useless talent in the game is removed. Twin Disciplines replaces it.
So what's next?
Perhaps the biggest upcoming change is that Circle of Healing will be hit with a 6 second cooldown between uses. You can read my reactions about it. For the most part, I'll be shrugging it off and adapting.
All in all, 2008 was a big year for Priests. I wouldn't want to say that it was a great year. That's entirely your perspective. But no one can deny that the year changed a lot of things for our class.
Who wants to take a stab and predict what other changes will be in store for 2009?