You'll quickly see from the numerous bullet points below that there are a lot of changes. Since the gravity of each change varies quite a bit, I thought I'd divide everything up into three categories, so you can better process the information. The categories will be small changes, PvP changes, and big changes. Small changes are tiny tweaks that won't change the way you play, gear, or spec too much. PvP changes are adjustments aimed at PvPing priests that won't usually impact PvE but could possibly come in handy during certain PvE situations. Finally, big changes will affect gameplay or talent selection.
This patch note analysis is up to date as of Jan. 16, 2011.
- The duration of Levitate is being increased to 10 minutes from 2. Not game-breaking and not too much more useful for combat scenarios, since the spell will continue to break on taking damage. Ideal for doing your fishing daily!
- The mana cost of our buffs (Power Word: Fortitude and Shadow Protection) is being brought in line with Mark of the Wild to balance the cost of in-combat buffing. Apparently, the cost of druid buffs were about right. Now if we could just get the developers to balance Divine Hymn to a feral druid's Tranquility, we'd be set ...
- Desperate Prayer now heals the priest for 30% of his or her total health, up from the previous flat value. Anyone already using this talent will see a big improvement in the amount of healing it does. People who don't see the value of self-healing will probably continue to feel that way but should keep in mind that Desperate Prayer is instant-cast and very mana-efficient.
- Serendipity now has visual and audio alerts for priests using the built-in UI, much like Chakra and Archangel have.
- The tooltip for Rapture has been adjusted to reflect a change that was hotfixed. The tooltip will now correctly read that it energizes you with 2/4/6% instead of 1.5/2/2.5%.
- The tooltip for Atonement has also been adjusted to reflect a change that was hotfixed. The tooltip will now correctly read that Atonement affects a friendly party or raid target within 15 yards instead of 8 yards.
- Pain Suppression cannot be dispelled anymore, and it will no longer grant its target increased resistance to dispel mechanics.
- Blessed Resilience has had the healing buff on it increased to 15/30%, up from 5/10%. It will also now proc when the priest is critically hit.
- Focused Will has had the damage reduction buff on it increased to 5/10%, up from 4/6%. It will also now proc when the priest is critically hit.
- The cooldown of Holy Word: Chastise has been raised to 30 seconds, up from 25. It has also been debugged.
- The health of Lightwell has been increased by 50%. Apparently too many other players were picking on the poor dear.
- Glyph of Pain Suppression is being turned into Glyph of Desperation, which will extend the current effect of the glyph to Guardian Spirit. This means you'll be able to use Guardian Spirit while stunned.
- The talent Strength of Soul will now cause priests to be temporarily immune to silences, interrupts, and dispels for 2/4 seconds after using Inner Focus.
- The mana cost of Power Word: Shield has been increased by approximately 31% but its effect has been increased by 208%. This change is great for disc priests, who were already using their shields less anyway. The buff will really help our output while the mana cost will continue to penalize players trying to shield spam. The question is, will Soul Warding still be viable? Time will tell.
- The mana cost of Penance has been increased, too -- this time by 7%, while healing is increased by 20%. This buff enforces that Penance is a cooldown ability (which should make it a valuable part of our toolbox) while still keeping true to the mana model Blizzard is trying to maintain.
- Renew now costs 17% of base mana, down from 21% of base mana -- a good change for holy priests that should make Renew a bit more valuable without making it spammable.
- Holy Concentration is being scaled back from granting 20/40% addition mana regeneration in combat to 15/30%. This is a much-needed nerf, considering how overpowered holy priests are right now when it comes to mana. Being overpowered was fun while it lasted!
- The Glyph of Spirit of Redemption is going away and being replaced with Glyph of Prayer of Mending. This new glyph increases the healing done by the first charge of Prayer of Mending by 60%. This is great for disc and holy priests who had lackluster choices for our major (middle tier) glyphs.
- Surge of Light will be able to proc from Flash Heal and Greater Heal, giving holy and disc priests huge incentive to take the talent. Flash Heals that consume the Surge of Light buff will also be able to crit now.
- Grace can finally be active on multiple targets at a time. This is a huge win for disc priests, who have long argued that Grace was a clunky mechanic. Keeping Grace on multiple targets means it will be easier for disc priests to keep multiple targets alive, since we won't have to stack Grace from nothing each time we switch a target. When paired with group healing spells like Prayer of Healing or Binding Heal, Grace might be something you want to start keeping track of on your raid frame like Weakened Soul.
- The talent Strength of Soul will now allow Greater Heal and Flash Heal to reduce the duration of Weakened Soul. Previously only Heal triggered this effect. This, in addition to the Power Word: Shield changes, will give discipline priests a lot of incentive to take Strength of Soul.
- The effectiveness of Prayer of Healing has been reduced by 15% -- not too surprising, since the spell is currently very overpowered, especially for holy priests under the effects of Chakra: Sanctuary. The patch notes also imply disc priests will be getting a slight buff by getting bonus absorption from Divine Aegis for any critical heals Prayer of Healing does, but this sounds more like debugging.
- To ease the blow holy priests are taking from the Prayer of Healing nerf, we'll be getting a buff to Circle of Healing in the form of 30% increased effectiveness.
- There is also a change being made to Guardian Spirit which I need to get more clarification on. The note reads that Guardian Spirit's absorb can no longer exceed 200% of the target's maximum health. This could be one of two things. First, it could be the fine print for the hotfixes from Jan. 6, 2010 which adjusted the cap of Guardian Spirit for level 85. It could also be Blizzard's way of countering the use of Guardian Spirit for abilities that players shouldn't be able to Guardian Spirit their way out of. I'll see if I can find the answer soon.
- Chakra states will now last 1 minute, up from 30 seconds. This will make it easier to use and manage Chakra. A little bird told me the talent State of Mind (which increases the duration of Chakra whenever you cast the trigger spell of your current Chakra state) is also going to get a tweak.
- There are some other small changes to Chakra which effect how it is triggered or refreshed. For the Chakra: Chastise state, you'll now be able to trigger this state with Mind Spike in addition to Smite. For the Chakra: Serenity state, you can now trigger and refresh this state with Flash Heal, Binding Heal, and Greater Heal. Also while in this state, you will be able to refresh Renew on your targets with the spells Binding Heal and Holy Word: Serenity. These are good changes, since they allow holy priests more options on how to enter their desired state. If Heal is not the spell you need to be casting, you have some other options that are fast or large and won't make you feel like you're getting off track to get on track.
Got any extra questions about these changes? Let me know in the comments, and I'll do my best to fill you in on any details I might have missed.
Want more tips for carrying out your priestly duties as a disc or holy priest? Check out Spiritual Guidance: Discipline and Spiritual Guidance: Holy. Newcomers to the priest class will want to look into Discipline Priest 101 and Holy Priest 101. For getting gear, check out the pre-raid gear guide for holy and discipline priests.