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Spiritual Guidance: Patch 4.1 to usher in big Chakra and Atonement healing changes

Dawn Moore

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. Dawn Moore covers healing for discipline and holy priests, while her archenemy Fox Van Allen dabbles in shadow and karaoke at PAX East. Dawn also writes for and produces the Circle of Healing Podcast.

It's been two weeks since we first examined the upcoming priest changes for patch 4.1, and in that time, many more changes have piled up. To keep things interesting around here, I figured we'd talk about the changes over a plate of cookies.

Previously, we discussed the changes to the duration of Power Word: Shield, the tiny buff to Divine Aegis, and the huge change to Dispel Magic, so check back a couple weeks if you want to read about those changes. This week I'll be looking at a huge change to the mechanics of Chakra, the sort of return of Atonement healing, the nerf to Power Word: Barrier, and the tweak to our four-piece raid set bonus.

A buff for Chakra

So starting out, let's talk about the good news. First on the table is that the duration of Chakra has been removed, and the state you choose will last until canceled. Sporting Chakra: Serenity? It's there until you cancel it. Chakra: Sanctuary? Same thing. This makes your Chakra buff a bit like a stance, except you'll still have to activate the state you want using your trigger spells. You also will still not be able to switch between two stances in a short period of time -- the cooldown of Chakra remains a 30 seconds, unless you pick up State of Mind.

This is a positive change for holy priest healing output, since you will no longer need to spend an extra key press or spell you may not need to keep up your healing buff. Once you're in the stance you want to be in, you can play naturally and heal with the spells you want to use. Good, right?

Unfortunately, I think this change removes a bit too much of the complexity that the priest toolbox offers. Personally, the old 1-minute duration seemed fine to me -- no worse than a kitty druid maintaining her Mangle -- but since it's been changed, I guess the developers felt maintaining Chakra was either too penalizing on output or too difficult for players to handle. This really surprises me, though, because this new Chakra model fringes dangerously close the "fire and forget" model of spell that Blizzard developers said they wanted to avoid.

Well, either way, once this change goes into effect, we'll be needing a new set of macros for canceling Chakra. If you send me a good one (note: I hate writing macros), I'll toss it into my final 4.1 guide in a couple weeks.

A nerf for Power Word: Barrier

Time to splice in some bad news: Power Word: Barrier will be hit with the nerf bat. The spell will now have a 3-minute cooldown, rather than 2 minutes. It also will reduce damage on the targets under it for a tiny bit less, going from 30% reduction to 25%. Such a sad day for disc priests and probably 10-man raiders who were counting on those short cooldowns to make up for the lack of raid diversity.

Based on these changes and the changes other healers are getting, this fix seems to be largely about balancing disc priests with other healing classes. (So if you're not a disc priest, you can smile a little knowing smirk right about now.) The 2-minute cooldown was just too generous, and in the right raid setup, you could see a pair of disco priests countering almost every major boss ability, no matter what it was.

The return of Atonement healing

Several small changes are being made to the discipline tree to bring back Atonement healing.

  • Atonement now works with Holy Fire in addition to Smite.
  • The direct damage portion of Holy Fire can now trigger Evangelism.
  • Holy Fire damage has been increased to be approximately 30% higher than Smite.
  • Glyph of Divine Accuracy now also affects Holy Fire in addition to Smite.
Basically, this change gives Atonement healing priests a little extra bite to weave in with Smite spam. Overall, I think the change is interesting but probably a bit underpowered if it's trying to compete with Strength of Soul's extra shield output. That may not matter, though, since Holy Fire is unique in the priest toolbox, unlike Heal and Smite. Mechanically, it hits with an initial burst, then a HoT that's more like a druid's Regrowth than anything. Consider also that while it only heals for about 15k (Greater Heal heals for about 20k), it costs less than half the mana of a Greater Heal. Holy Fire also has a speedy 1.5-second cast time (if you get Divine Fury) and a 10-second cooldown. Once you add in the buffs from Evangelism, Archangel, and Glyph of Smite, we have quite a unique spell on our hand.

So what does this mean? Well, first it means that the theorycrafters are going to have to do a bit of work to see how much you can squeeze out of this style of healing. Second, I think that we're going to have to consider that Atonement healing is not a replacement for healing all the time, just a stand-in when the conditions are right. It feels optional right now, and though the Holy Fire changes are going to affect it, I think Blizzard still intends to keep it optional for players who just want to cast healing spells.

Tier 11 set bonus changes

The developers also made some changes to the discipline/holy tier gear by removing a somewhat excessive requirement from the discipline priest tier bonus.
  • The current healing priest 4-piece raid set bonus no longer requires a target to be under the effects of Weakened Soul for the priest to receive the spirit bonus. Instead the benefit will be granted each time the priest's Penance spell heals a target.
Lylirra explained the logic behind this change.

This is feedback we've seen quite a bit, and it's good. With the changes to Chakra in 4.0.6, we realize a lot of players feel that the Holy 4-piece set bonus is currently much stronger than its Discipline counterpart. We don't disagree and it's something we've been actively discussing changing in 4.1 (for example, we're considering potentially removing the Weakened Soul requirement on Penance targets in order for the Spirit bonus to apply).

Overall I don't think anyone will complain about this fix. The previous conditional was very rigid and pigeonholed discipline priests to healing just a few targets in order to always maintain the spirit bonus.

Tying up the loose ends

There were also a few miscellaneous buffs that I don't think need much explaining.Confused about any of these priest changes or have some thoughts of your own about them? Hit up the comments with whatever is on your mind.

Spiritual Guidance has the inside line on pre-raid gear, valor point and raid gear, and healing strategies for bosses such as Atramedes and Chimaeron. Newcomer to the priest class? Look into Discipline Priest 101 and Holy Priest 101.

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