Looks like there are some big changes in store for priests on the patch 5.2 PTR. Blizzard released a PTR patch note preview late last week and I'm honestly a bit baffled by some of the changes. Keep in mind, I am not often baffled.
The biggest change is that Power Word: Solace is being redesigned. The talent will now replace Holy Fire in the player's spellbook, but interact with other priest spells and abilities just as Holy Fire does. The new version of Power Word: Solace will be instant cast, cost no mana, and restore 1% of your maximum mana on cast. Surprisingly, the patch note preview makes no mention of redesigning Shadow Word: Insanity, the shadow portion of the talent.
Now it's no shock that Blizzard decided to redesign this talent. A quick glance at WoW Popular will tell you that almost no priests are taking it (in fact, it looks like more of us are taking Dominate Mind than Power Word: Solace). Shadow priests certainly aren't taking the talent, and most healers will tell you it returns too little mana per cast to be worth it.
Measuring up to the competition
How does the mana regen for this new talent measure up against everything else? MMO-Champion's data mining of the patch shows the new Power Word: Solace retains Holy Fire's 10-second cooldown, meaning players can only use Power Word: Solace six times a minute, which will cap the amount of mana you can get back at 6% per minute. Now if you read my last article on talents, you'll know that on live servers a priest has to cast Power Word: Solace 10 times per minute and use Shadowfiend on cooldown to match Mindbender for mana by the minute. This new talent, however, can never match Mindbender for mana as it works currently. See why I'm baffled? Why would I take a talent that consumes more of my time than Mindbender does, but can't ever return more mana than Mindbender?
Perhaps the developers mean for the shortcoming to be made up in other ways though? That could be the case for discipline. See, if Power Word: Solace starts interacting with other spells like Holy Fire does, that means Power Word: Solace will now heal you and your allies through Atonement. Healing and mana return at the same time ... That's kind of cool I guess. But this redesign is also affecting Glyph of Holy Fire. The glyph will no longer make Holy Fire instant cast, instead it will increase the range of Holy Fire, Smite, and Power Word: Solace by 10 yards. So if you were a discipline priest who took the Glyph of Holy Fire to incorporate an instant cast smart heal into your healing every 10 seconds, you're losing that, and the only way to get it back is by giving up Mindbender.
As for holy priests, there's really nothing to justify taking this new talent over Mindbender anymore. The only interaction holy abilities even had with Holy Fire was Chakra: Chastise reducing the mana cost and cast time. That will still work on normal Holy Fire, but since Power Word: Solace has no mana cost or cast time there's no gain.
So like I said, I'm baffled by this initial redesign. The talent is not bad as it is right now, it's just not ideal in every situation. Mindbender on the other hand, always works, even if Power Word: Solace has the potential to be better on occasion. And being that we are creatures of habit (some of us, anyway), I would not be surprised if the majority of healers parked themselves on Mindbender and saw no point in moving ... Not when Power Word: Solace requires as much time investment as it does. Afterall, having more mana as a healer isn't like having more DPS as a shadow priest. It's not something you need to maximize, especially as gear improves.
Of course, I do understand that balancing Power Word: Solace has been difficult this expansion. I just think buffing it a tiny bit right now would probably make it a lot more appealing than redesigning it for one spec. Obviously the mana return granted by the redesigned talent can be tweaked, but I'd much prefer the existing mechanic to this newly proposed one.
And seriously, where is the Shadow Word: Insanity change?
Angelic Feather wants to be popular
In addition to Power Word: Solace, two other unpopular talents are also being changed ... Maybe with the aim of getting us to use them? Angelic Feather is having its duration increased to 6 seconds, up from 4 seconds while Body and Soul is being simultaneously nerfed to a 3-second duration, down from 4 seconds. (Angelic Feather is now the Tonya Harding of priest talents, by the way. Nerfing the competition to get ahead!) It's strange though, because I thought Angelic Feather was a pretty good talent to begin with. The fact that it has no mana cost is a huge perk when you compare it to the expense of Power Word: Shield. Plus you can use it while silenced in the fog on Imperial Vizier Zor'lok. Actually, it's quite good in most of Heart of Fear, especially on Blade Lord Ta'yak when you're afflicted with Weakened Soul from disc priest heals during the gauntlet.
Anyway, Dominate Mind is also getting a little buff. The cast time has been reduced to 1.8 seconds from 2.5 seconds, meaning it might get a little more use in PvP.
Disc is getting nerfed and buffed
Finally, Spirit Shell is being nerfed a bit. The spell will no longer benefit from mastery, which means all the mastery stacking we've been up to won't get us quite as far as it used to. Honestly, this seems like a fair enough nerf to me, since it's a bit silly that so many of disc's core spells benefit so greatly from a single stat. The nerf will make it so Spirit Shell now only benefits from critical strike rating, though the patch preview ensures that the spell will now interact with Divine Aegis properly.
Disc priests will be getting a small buff to their mana regen though. Rapture will now provide mana equal to 250% of the priest's spirit (up from 200%) but it will no longer be affected by short-duration spirit bonuses (like buffs from trinkets). This does nerf the amount of mana you could get back from Rapture at times, but you'll probably get more in the long run and it frees up your playstyle a bit if you were trying to time your shield use accordingly.
Spiritual Guidance is WoW Insider's source for priest information. For information on playing the class, check out our Mists of Pandaria guides for discipline, holy, and shadow. For getting geared up, check out our pre-raid gear guide.