A look at the two-piece set bonus
Following the trend of tier 11 and 12, the latest healing priest tier shares at least one set bonus that is similar in design to the bonuses belonging to the other three healers. This time, all four healers are looking to get a 10- to 15-second buff whenever they cast a particular ability. For the duration of the buff, all spells cast by the healer will have their mana costs reduced by 25%. The duration of the buff depends on the cooldown of whatever the trigger ability is, which for discipline priests is Power Infusion and for holy priests is Lightwell. Since Power Infusion has a 2-minute cooldown, their buff will last for 10 seconds, while holy priests will get a 15-second buff for the 3-minute cooldown of Lightwell.
Right now, I can't say I have any complaints about the healing priest two-piece bonus -- or at least, not one that I don't think any other healing class wouldn't have. Usually I climb on a soap box if one set bonus seems a little better than another, but in this case, I don't think any particular healing class has a slightly better version of the set bonus. I'd say they all suffer from the same shortcoming.
What's the shortcoming? You're put into a situation where you have to choose between using your cooldown abilities when it's most appropriate in the fight to or using your abilities as soon as you can to maximize the uptime of the mana cost reduction buff.
Overall, I don't think that's actually a terribly compromising decision for healers to make, but it is a decision to make all the same. Personally, I like that we're left to choose, since healing is largely a game of decision making anyway. (If you don't like making decisions, you're playing the wrong role, I'd say!) Choosing between optimization of strategy and optimization of mana will definitely vary from fight to fight. Honestly, I think this two-piece bonus will make things interesting, since how much mana you have or need can often affect your strategy.
Looking at it from a priest's perspective one more time, though, I foresee a bit of angst from some holy priests who don't like taking or using Lightwell to use their two-piece. Being a biased lover of Lightwell, I can't say I sympathize terribly with their plight, but I'll tip my hat in their general direction.
Focusing on four-piece bonus
The four-piece bonus is where things start to go all SNAFU on us. It's not that bad, mind you, but I'd definitely say there are some four-piece bonuses that are better than others. Not wanting to complain too much, let's just look at ours.
To put things simply, the four-piece set bonuses increase healing priest output situationally. For discipline priests, we'll have a 10% chance whenever we cast Power Word: Shield for that shield to absorb for double the original value. 10% isn't high, but 100% more is so ... not too bad. For holy, things aren't quite as messy with proc rates; instead, holy priests just receive a flat 20% cooldown reduction to all their Holy Word abilities, which is ... good? Well, let me explain what I said earlier about this being situational.
Unless tier 13 encounter design is going to vary drastically from the previous tiers for healers, both holy priests and disc priests don't stand to reap much from their four-piece bonuses on every fight. There is a chance to get some use from them on every fight, yes, but some styles of healing are going to be better suited than other for getting a lot for the bonuses. Holy tank healers are going to get a lot more out of a 3-second reduction of Holy Word: Serenity than holy raid healers are going to get from a 8-second reduction to Holy Word: Sanctuary. Why? Because when you're tank healing, you're cycling in Holy Word: Serenity constantly. Raid healing doesn't require the same of Holy Word: Sanctuary, however, and since I only use that ability in very specific situations, the 20% reduction to the cooldown doesn't mean much to me.
On the plus side, if you're willing to disregard resilience gear, holy priest PVP will be a lot more interesting with a 24-second cooldown on Holy Word: Chastise. Post-raid Battlegrounds, anyone?
Discipline priests are in a better situation (as usual, sadly) with Power Word: Shield always being used, regardless of healing style. That said, a playstyle that involves more usage of Power Word: Shield (read: not one where you're just maintaining two shields on the tank and the off tank) will yield more output because there will be more opportunities to proc the additional absorption bonus. That means depending on the situation you may have more opportunities to increase your output than others.
Now, I'll be the first to admit I find the four-piece bonus for holy a bit uninspired, but I have to remind myself that 1.) set bonuses aren't supposed to be game-breaking, and 2.) we've still got a really cool two-piece bonus. I guess it really will depend on encounter design for now. It's possible that there will be a huge demand for Holy Word: Sanctuary or Holy Word: Serenity that I don't know about yet -- hell, maybe Blizzard plans to have us use Holy Word: Chastise in raids for a change. That could be interesting. We'll just have to wait and see.
So there you have it. Hopefully, we'll get to see what our gear looks like later this week. In the interim, you should be excited for the continuation of my stat weight series next week. I didn't see too many questions in my last article about holy stat weights, so be sure to send them to me before the end of the week. Also, be sure to share your own thoughts on the tier 13 set bonuses, if you have any.
By the way, is it just me, or do mages always get their gear previews really early in comparison to everyone else? The developer who works on mages must really be on top of things or something. I wish the priest developers were like him. I mean, they can take all the time they need, but this anticipation is killing me.
Spiritual Guidance has the inside line on pre-raid, valor point and raid gear for patch 4.2, as well as priest healing guides for the early and final bosses of The Firelands. Newcomer to the priest class? Look into leveling a healing priest, plus our guides to Discipline Priest 101 and Holy Priest 101.