Spiritual Guidance: Levels 80 to 85 as a priest, plus recent beta changes

Dawn Moore
D. Moore|11.15.10

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Spiritual Guidance: Levels 80 to 85 as a priest, plus recent beta changes

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. Dawn Moore covers healing for discipline and holy priests and makes the occasional StarCraft 2 reference. If you ask her, she'll tell you disc priests are like sentries and holy priests are medevacs.

There is a lot to cover in Spiritual Guidance this week, so I'll be diving right in to the content. I was going to outsource my creative introduction to Mr. Fox Van Allen, but he wanted to be paid entirely in red M&Ms, so we'll just have to do without.

We'll be covering two topics today. The first will be to cover the latest build released on the Cataclysm beta earlier this week. There were some large changes made to AoE healing that affect both holy and discipline priests in different ways. Second, I've written up my advice on leveling from 80 to 85 as a healing priest.

Beta build 13277
  • Prayer of Healing base healing value has been increased by 20 percent, from [ 3,026 - 3,198 ] to [ 3,632 - 3,838 ].
  • Holy Word: Sanctuary's healing effectiveness now diminishes for each player beyond six within the area.
  • Tome of Light is now a tier 3 talent, down from tier 4.
  • Rapid Renewal is now a tier 4 talent.
  • Power Word: Barrier duration reduced to 10 seconds, down from 25 seconds. No longer absorbs a given amount of damage, now reduces all damage done to friendly targets by 30 percent. While within the barrier, spellcasting will not be interrupted by damage.
  • Divine Aegis now also procs from all heals from Prayer of Healing.
  • Grace now increases all healing received from the Priest by 4/8 percent, up from 2/4 percent.
These are the changes priests got. You'll notice right off that Holy Word: Sanctuary got scaled down in effectiveness. Every other healer received a similar change, so don't freak out. The reason for this change (and many others on the list) has to do with how players were healing raids in the beta. There weren't any caps on how many people most of these AoE spells could heal, so the most effective way to heal your raid was to have all the healers use their AoE abilities in the same place, then have the raid group up in that area. Holy priests didn't perform so well on the meters against other classes using this healing model, due to a combination of lower base healing, mana shortages, and the general demands Chakra requires to upkeep. Disc priests fared even worse because their AoE "heal" took the form of Power Word: Barrier, which just didn't equate to the constantly available AoE heals other healers had. Further, since Cataclysm has made every healing class a viable tank healer, there was no real min-max reason to bring a disc priest to just tank heal, when every other member of the raid could do that and raid heal.

So that's what a lot of these changes are about. Blizzard clearly wants all the healing classes to have to rely on more than just AoE healing abilities, and I'd say that's a good choice if they want to keep healing fun for all of us. I am slightly concerned the changes will adversely affect the difficulty of 10-man and 25-man healing (namely, 10-man healing could potentially become easier, since the diminish won't hurt a 10-man raid as much as a 25-man raid), but that's not really something we need to discuss here. You can explore this topic more with Mattwell (that's a nickname he got doing the Circle of Healing Podcast) in his Raid Rx column.

Looking at the new Power Word: Barrier

I do want to clarify that the changes to disc are definitely positive, but the new Power Word: Barrier (which is basically an AoE Pain Suppression) strikes me as absurdly overpowered. It's really cool -- don't get me wrong -- but I think if the ability stands, we'll see strategies for encounters where multiple priests are taken just to rotate the use of Power Word: Barrier. I'd anticipate a nerf of some kind, either to the percentage of absorption it does or the length of the cooldown. Alternatively, the developers could reduce both the cooldown and percentage of absorption a whole bunch so we could use the ability say ... once every 30 seconds, and in doing so, be given more control over our spell and cooldown usage.

I think this last suggestion would be the most ideal, since cooldowns like Pain Suppression aren't really all that fun to use in raids anyway. Some 75 percent of the time that I use Guardian Spirit or Pain Suppression, it is in time with a certain boss mechanic in the fight, and my turn to use it is decided by the raid leader, not me. I find using Pain Suppression in PvP to be a lot more fun, since you, the healer, decide when you might need it. Sometimes you're right, sometimes you're wrong -- but even if the cooldown is a waste, it's a lot more fun to get to make that decision rather than being the slave to some encounter mechanic. We should have the flexibility to make our own decisions in combat; having another Pain Suppression would just mean waiting for the predetermined time in a fight to use your ability and hoping you don't screw it up.

Prayer of Healing receives another buff

Finally, the Prayer of Healing buff and the change to discipline's Divine Aegis to effectively give us a group-specific, shield version of Wild Growth. The buff to Prayer of Healing (this is the third major one, the previous ones being a big reduction in the mana cost and a .5-second reduction to the cast time) will help both specs out a lot, since holy uses it for maintaining Chakra: Sanctuary, and disc doesn't have too much synergy with the spell on its own. I'm pretty notorious for hating on Prayer of Healing because of its poor cost-effectiveness and the fact that it's usually unnecessary (using a spell to heal five people when only three of them need healing is a terrible waste) -- so imagine my surprise that the spell now seems like a viable tool for our toolbox. The combined changes might even make me love it like I loved it in Ulduar, where the tier 8 two-piece bonus basically made you proc four to five Divine Aegis soap bubbles without a special new design mechanic. It was the 3.2 nerf that led to the rift between Prayer of Healing and me; maybe we can reconcile in Cataclysm. It's going to have to stop wearing those skinny jeans, though.

Anyway, the Divine Aegis, Prayer of Healing change is pretty nifty for disc. It's not quite what I wanted (read: new ability), but I expect it to be pretty fun to use. I hope that mastery scaling on Divine Aegis won't make it too powerful -- Zusterke, where are you? Do math for me! -- so we don't end up shield-spamming again, but I have some faith that Blizzard will be keeping an eye on that if the ingredients for disaster are there. I'll fill you in on the math and how well the changes work in actual execution later.

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