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Spiritual Guidance: Don't panic

Dawn Moore

In many of the more relaxed servers on the list of US and Oceanic reams, Spiritual Guidance by Dawn Moore has already supplanted the great as the standard repository of all healing priest knowledge and wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects. First, it is slightly easier to access; and second, it has the words DON'T PANIC inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover.

Last week when I entered the inner sanctum of, his holiness, High Priest Matticus approached me hurriedly. Before I could say a word in greeting he asked me "Dawn! Have you seen the priest changes?" I stared at him curiously for a long moment, waiting for his words to make sense. "Priest changes?" I wondered; I had been in the field all day and was unaware of any official announcements regarding our shared class. A short and confusing exchange followed before I was finally provided with a link to the leaked Cataclysm talent build currently being used on alpha.

If you're not interested in seeing anything unofficial you shouldn't click the link.

Not long after this conversation with the high priest, I found there were also two e-mails in my inbox regarding the leaked talents. Both requested my opinion on the talents, so that is what I've decided to discuss this week.

In storytelling there is something called the rule of three. When you go to the theater to see a film or play, the director intends for you to watch from beginning to end with no or little interruption. You can't rewind a section in a film as you would reread a chapter in a book; instead, a script delivers information three times so that the average person can recognize a pattern and draw a connection between story points across the span of the film. This can work for anything, such as establishing a character's name or more complex things, like getting the audience to see the connections in L.A. Confidential right when the director wants you to. In today's Spiritual Guidance I have already presented you with a rule of three pattern already, and now I am going to execute the reveal:

Don't panic.

This was my first response to the alpha talent build I saw earlier this week, and it's the most important opinion and advice I want you to take away from this article today. There are going to be a lot of changes popping up in the next few months, from official and unofficial sources; I implore you all to keep a level-head.

There isn't even much to panic about at this moment, as it's obvious that the talents MMO-Champion dug up are incomplete. Let's look at this a little. First, there are no signs of mastery bonuses. The other major hint the talent builds aren't done is that if you try to arrange a PvE discipline spec with the current tree, there is no way to get down to the 6th tier without taking a traditionally PvP oriented talent. Blizzard wouldn't do that intentionally. More than likely this talent build was just tossed together to test a couple of new abilities, and give alpha participants something to work with while testing the game.

That all said, there was still quite a bit of information to be drawn from the tree.

  • Chakra and Power Word: Barrier were both added to their respective trees.
  • Many talents have been condensed or moved for easier or more exclusive access in the various trees. Discipline priests will have access to more healing throughput from the holy tree, while holy priests will no longer be able to easily grab Soul Warding.
  • Focused Power has changed from offering throughput, to decreasing cast time of Mind Control. It was also moved to the 2nd tier of the discipline tree; this will allow holy priests (and even shadow priests) nearly baseline access to quick Mass Dispels. Gone will be the days of having a discipline priest as your primary dispeller in fights like Hodir or Faction Champions.
  • The holy talent Body and Soul will also proc on targets you use Life Grip on. This offers huge PvP utility, but I'm not sure how Blizzard plans to use this in PvE. If you've already pulled a target out of danger, they shouldn't need a speed buff on top of it, right? Who knows what Blizzard has planned, but the combination of the two sounds like a lot of fun.
  • Holy has been given some new, clearly PvP talents.
  • Old PvP talents like Blessed Resilience or Focused Will have been changed to indicate they are clearly intended for PvP.
  • Soul Warding now requires 3 points. This seems odd to me; maybe it's a filler to balance the amount of points you can currently spend in each tree for the alpha.
  • Serendipity had its name changed to Deliverance and was reduced from a 12% stacking speed reduction to 9%. This makes me wonder if Blizzard is going to pump up Greater Heal and Prayer of Healing, or if this is a development change aimed to work with Chakra. It also makes me wonder if there is another plan for an ability called Serendipity.
  • Grace got nerfed by 1%. I expected Grace to be the means to which Blizzard would improve Discipline single target healing, so I guess I was wrong on that suspicion.
Holy PvP Typically I try to avoid a somber or whiny tone, but I have to admit I'm a bit disappointed in holy's PvP talents. The majority of the added or changed talents have to do with personal damage reduction, which sounds a lot like discipline's existing PvP talents. Blizzard has talked for a long time about making holy a viable PvP spec and I have supported them when they reiterated that desire in the recent class preview; but while I support them, I was hoping that holy would offer a dramatically different play style in PvP than discipline. I know that it's too early to tell what the future of PvP will be, but from the sounds of it, holy will play a lot like discipline in PvP: rooted.

Presently, healing priests don't have any form of disable or escape after Psychic Scream. That means once you get caught by another player you aren't going anywhere unless an ally can peel that player off you. A lot of discipline PvP right now involves healing through damage that's right on top of you, rather than getting away from it. Since I get to enjoy that healing tank play style as disc, I would prefer to see holy take an entirely different approach to PvP so that the differences between them aren't just what spells are cast. I would love to see holy priests get a real disable (remember when Divine Hymn used to have a stun?) and an escape or two. Make the contrast between the classes in PvP dramatic: disc can continue to be easy to catch and hard to kill, but make holy hard to catch, and easy to kill. Perhaps give Guardian Spirit a Hand of Freedom utility? Or just give us a personal Hand of Freedom or Blink; play up that angelic quality of the holy priest and have them slip through the fingers of enemies on heavenly wings.

They can even use this existing game graphic:
Power Word: Barrier Moving along, a preview of Power Word: Barrier was added to the discipline tree.
Power Word: Barrier
Rank 1/1
Requires 3 points in Improved Power Word: Shield
Requires 20 points in Discipline talents
65% of base mana | 40 yd range
0.5 sec cast | 3 min cooldown
Summons a holy barrier on the target location that absorbs 293.25 damage done to party or raid members within it each time they take damage. While within the barrier, spellcasting will not be interrupted by damage. The barrier lasts for 15 sec or until absorbs 1955 damage.
It's only a 20-point talent so I can foresee it having great potential at lower levels. As an absorb ability, I'm not quite sure how I feel about the cooldown (especially when compared to 10-second duration and cooldown of Healing Rain that shaman are getting) but if the ranks and scaling of the ability are anywhere close to the scaling on current discipline priest shields, I can see the justification. The non-interrupted spellcasting on the other hand gives the shield a huge tactical advantage (especially in PvP) and warrants the cooldown. Can you imagine pairing this up with a Bloodlust on the battlefield? Blizzard already said in their Twitter developer chat that they want success in PvE and PvP to be more about how good you are at strategy than your group composition, so I'm eager to see how Power Word: Barrier fits into that equation.

Chakra I've saved the meatiest of information that came from the leaked talent tree for last: Chakra.
Rank 5/5
Requires 35 points in Holy talents
When you use Prayer of Healing, Renew or Heal 3 times in a row you will enter a Chakra state empowering you for 20 seconds. You can only be in one Chakra state at a time.

Prayer of Healing - Increases your AoE healing by 2/4/6/8/10% and reduces the cooldown of Circle of Healing by .5/1/1.5/2/2.5.

Renew - Increases the periodic haste effect of your Renew spell by 3/6/9/12/15% and reduces the global cooldown of your Renew spell by .1/.2/.3/.4/.5 seconds.

Heal - Increases the critical effect chance of your Heal spell by 1/2/3/4/5% and your Heal has a 20/40/60/80/100% chance to refresh Renew on the target.

Smite - Increases your total damage done by Shadow and Holy spells by 4/8/12%.
This talent is a lot to swallow as the tooltip is a small novel. This talent is so unique that I wonder if Blizzard intends for it to be the new, tree-defining talent for holy priests. I really do love the concept of Chakra (save for the name) as the idea of being able to drop in and out of different styles of game play has a great appeal. The damage dealing focus sounds especially sexy for roasting Fox with my divine fury. Still, I'm extremely hesitant to pass a judgment on Chakra until I can test it first hand in real content. I have quite a few worries right now. (Remember: Don't panic!)

I was talking with another holy priest about Chakra earlier this week and we agreed it had some similarities to the tier 10 4-piece bonus; not in the sense that it does similar things, but in that it's a very complex, player-dependent ability that has the potential to be amazing if properly executed or so-so if not. Blizzard is going to have to put in a lot of care and time into testing this ability in PvE and PvP to make sure it has a place in the game. As it stands, I don't see how it fits into their current triage philosophy, where they want you to make harder decisions on what spells to cast. An effect that requires a player to cast three spells back to back in order to get a buff doesn't sound like what Blizzard is shooting for.

It makes me wonder: is the buff from Chakra just going to be a circumstantial perk? Think of how you use Serendipity right now; the benefits are either planned or happen through normal play. For Greater Heal, Serendipity functions more smoothly since both Flash Heal and Greater Heal are single target oriented, but with AoE healing it's different. Let's say you know you're going to need a Prayer of Healing soon (say for an Infest.) You may try to cast Flash Heal instead of your other spells so that by the time you need Prayer of Healing, you've got a stack of Serendipity ready. That's great in a plan, but say you're in a bind and you need Prayer of Healing: you're not going to cast three Flash Heals then cast Prayer of Healing - if you needed it then, it would be faster to just cast it at the normal speed. This is the potential problem I see with Chakra. If you're going to try and plan Chakra into your game play then it defeats Blizzard's goal of adding triage back into the game by forcing players to cast three of the same spell just to use it. If it's going to be a circumstantial perk, it seems like a needlessly complex version of Serendipity that is going to add more weight than support.

For a moment though, let's humor the idea that Blizzard might want Chakra to deviate from the triage philosophy they've been discussing. Maybe they want us to get "in the zone" in order to effectively do our jobs as AoE or single target healers. If that's the case, then it seems unfair that holy priests would need ramp up time to be comparable to other healers, especially when that ramp up time requires constant upkeep (notice the buff only lasts 20 seconds at a time.) Suddenly playing holy priest would be like juggling a shadow priest DoT rotation. I know it kind of makes sense, as it would be a tax for our versatility; but I want to make sure that if we pay that tax in set up time, that we are compensated by being just as comparable to other healers. No more jack of all trades, master of none - If I spend the time ramping up Prayer of Healing or Renew, I want my Circle of Healing or Renews to be just as strong as shaman's Healing Rain or druid HoTs. If I set up Heal three times, I want my single target heals to be on par with a paladin or disc priest. It's a lot to demand but I don't want my class to be overly complex while so grossly underpowered that they come to raids only as a support class to other healers.

With that rant now out of my system, I have faith that Blizzard is going to stick to their triage and mana management philosophies. I don't know precisely what role Chakra is going to play but I think Blizzard will find out early on if it's going to work or not, and if it doesn't they'll fix it. We don't need another tier 10 4-piece bonus; something that started out as a great concept but wasn't executed perfectly and had to be fixed with an effective but boring solution. We also don't need another talent that is on long term "we'll fix it when we figure out how" like Lightwell. Instead I hope Blizzard will take their time with this one and make it "just right."

So that sums up my present thoughts on the leaks. If I've worried you at all, remember my original advice: Don't panic. There is a long way to go before Cataclysm.

Want to find more great tips for carrying out your priestly duties? Spiritual Guidance has you covered with all there is to know. Check out Holy 101 or Disc 101 for an introduction to healing as a priest, or assess yourself for advice on how to improve yourself as a healer and raider.

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