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Spiritual Guidance: Latest beta talent builds for priests

Dawn Moore

Each Sunday, Dawn Moore combines a bitterness for canned meat, the occasional groovy beat, and massacred references to classic literature into Spiritual Guidance, a healing guide for priests.

These days everybody is in the beta. Let me just tell you who. My mother is in the beta. My father is in the beta. My auntie is in the beta. My best friend is in the beta. My cat is in the beta. My goldfish is in the beta. My neighbor is in the beta. My postman is in the beta. I just wanna be -- Oh! Hi. Dawn turns down her music and folds her hands in her lap, Alistair Cooke style.

Another beta build is upon us, my friends. With it comes my obligatory recount and reflection for priests, paired with my even more obligatory, jading references to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Things still look hopeful for priests in the next expansion, despite there not being many available ways to test the strengths of the class right now. Reports tell me that soloing as a disc or holy priest has taken a turn for the worse since the health of world mobs has been increased. I suspect Blizzard will try to tweak that in the coming weeks, based on what they've said about wanting to give healers more ability to solo.

Various reports from the 5-man healing experience are conflicting. Some have said priest healing is fine and properly tuned. Others state that it's weak. Most of my reporters made mention that mana wasn't a concern though. It's probably too early to know if that will hold true in raids or PvP.

From an outsiders perspective, nothing especially monumental has happened since I wrote about the 31-point talent trees, but Blizzard continues to trim off the fat from the new, skinnier trees:

  • Power Infusion finally showed back up in tier 3 of the discipline tree from it's hiatus (apparently it was a bug that it ever disappeared.)
  • Heavenly Voice, the talent which was supposed to add a self-heal to Divine Hymn and reduced the channel time for Hymn of Hope has been removed entirely; and after the devs went through all that trouble to give it a nice name! It's an appropriate move though, since in the new model the talent was a bit lackluster in comparison to others.
  • Empowered Renew is to now be referred to as Divine Touch though no other adjustments have been made to it. This slight change mimics the change of the talent Serendipity to Deliverance. I guess Blizzard is is trying to reinforce our class flavor. (*cough*Chakra*cough*)
  • The new Desperate Prayer will no longer cost mana. This change comes after the spell was made into an exclusively holy priest ability and had its cooldown reduce from 2 minutes to 45-seconds.
More things worth mentioning (because I either missed them previously or was recently informed about them):
  • Holy Concentration is now stated as only proccing from a critical Heal, Greater Heal, and Empowered Renew. Previously, the talent procced from Flash Heal and Binding Heal as well. An interesting choice, since both spells are "emergency" type spells.
  • Archangel: The buff you receive that increases your healing based on the number of Evangelism stacks you consume, has the same duration as the cooldown of the talent ability: 15-seconds. This means if you keep rotating in Smite, you can always keep your Archangel buff up to some degree.
  • Borrowed Time was supposedly down from 25% to 15% haste in the beta (thanks zdave) but in the latest build the talent is missing from the discipline tree. Whether this is another buggy display error, or if it's gone for good is unknown. I hope the poor thing isn't lost somewhere, cold and alone. If it is, I hope Divine Accuracy is there to look out for it.

    If it is gone though, this will mean disc priests need to start picking up haste again; shouldn't be much to ask since we'll be doing a lot more casting in Cataclysm than we were at the end of Wrath. Still, the removal will have an interesting impact on disc play style. We'll still have incentive to shield targets before casting, due to Renewed Hope, of course, but maximizing GCD usage through play style will no longer be possible. Quite a shame. I hope it comes back.
  • Binding Prayers: This talent helps cut down the cost on Binding Heal (nice, considering the earlier note I made about Holy Concentration.) It also gives a Binding Heal-like effect to Desperate Prayer by healing the lowest health member of your raid or party within 40 yards for 50/100% of your Desperate Prayer healing. This is an extremely fascinating talent to me. I often find myself in fights that just don't call for Desperate Prayer, yet I like to take it for "just in case" moments, and other fights where it's essential for self-preservation. Yet I'm always bothered that it goes to waste. Now, every time you have one of those moments where a player is hanging by a thread, you can use your own heal to heal him, in addition to any other instant cast heals you've got.
A couple weeks back, the WoW developers hosted another Twitter Q&A chat and made a few interesting statements about priests at the time. Since we're talking about everything else, I figured we might as well go over it.

Q. Will Holy priests get some fun talents, like Evangelism and Archangel in the Discipline tree? At the moment it will be expensive for Holy to take those.
A. While we still have a ways to go in design on the talents, we want Holy to be able to also do an Archangel sub-specialization if they wish. In some ways it may be stronger than the Discipline main specialization version.

Q. Some of the new talent trees for healers seem to emphasize a style of "mana regeneration by dealing damage." Is that intentional? If so, why?
A. Yes. In almost any situation, there are periods where heals are not urgently needed 100% of the time. Today, you probably just cast heals anyway in case someone takes damage, since mana doesn't matter much. But if mana did matter, the "right" thing to do would be to do nothing. Talents such as Telluric Currents provide an active way to recharge mana while contributing damage.

I grouped these posts together because previously (before the 31-point talent preview was released) Ghostcrawler's statements seemed to imply that the direction Blizzard was taking with talents like Evangelism and Archangel was "these talents are to make your soloing go easier." At the time many players, myself included, were thinking "whoa, this would be interesting if it was actually part of our job as healers!" I made the comparison at the time to the Disciple of Khaine, a healing class in Warhammer that combines melee combat with healing, by acquiring the blood of enemies and using it as "mana" to cast heals. Well, Blizzard was listening to us (or Ghostcrawler was pulling our legs) because it seems now every healer is going to have some form of mana regen through damage. Pretty cool, huh?

This means the holy tree will be needing an equivalent talent or two (possibly by tweaking Holy Concentration or Surge of Light again) to be on par with all the other healers. I have a suspicion though, that the talent might work with the Smite stance of Chakra somehow. Whatever it is, holy priests should keep their fingers crossed for something cool.

Q: Will Leap of Faith get some sort of secondary buff? Pulling a high aggro target to a clothie healer seems dangerous.
A. This ability is intended to save party and raid members from imminent danger, such as pulling someone out of a fire that would otherwise kill them. It does not need a secondary buff.

It won't remove movement impairing effects, at least not innately. That's the kind of thing we might add as a glyph or talent, but you have to be careful about this sort of thing because then the spell would likely be used as a snare-break and not for its main purpose. Likewise, once you mess with threat, that precludes using it on some targets, and again, we don't want priest to feel like they have to use it like a Hand of Salvation instead of to actually move allies.

These two statements made about Leap of Faith, AKA "Life Grip" are rather self-explanatory I think. I'm fairly satisfied with the answers, and excited that a glyph might give us the option to remove movement impairing effects (read: Wheee! PvP!) The glyph would be especially interesting for holy priests, who already have the incorporation of the new Body and Soul to look forward to.

At this point, I think there isn't much mystery to how Life Grip will work, but rather how it will be used. What potential will this spell have in the future of PvE? My imagination is dreaming up these Zelda-style, multi-level platform encounters where your off-tank and a couple DPS hold off a hoard of naga, while your raid scurries to the next phase of the encounter on an upper level (the DPS and healers would have to, of course, do this while fending off the assaults of aerial mobs. Why do you think they gave us Smoke Bomb and Healing Rain?) As the raid is almost to safety, the priests turn back and Life Grip their allies back to the party -- just before the bombs the engineers set up earlier, go off and seals off the choke point! Then later, when you're all fighting on the back of Deathwing himself, Shadow of the Colossus-style, Deathwing has an ability that periodically shakes off members of your raid. Priests would have to be ready to Life Grip their allies from mid-air. (*girlish squeal*)

What? I can dream.

As more beta information comes out Spiritual Guidance will keep you posted. Also, if you're in the beta yourself and notice any priest related details I didn't recount here, feel free to send them along to me at Oh, and before I forget: don't panic.

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; for the party-minded healer, check out a priest's guide to tanks.

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