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Spiritual Guidance: Prayer of Healing and secondary stats for Mists of Pandaria healers

Dawn Moore

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. Dawn Moore covers the healing side of things for discipline and holy priests. She also writes for and produces the Circle of Healing Podcast.

I trust you all remember that three weeks ago, Blizzard developers stated that Prayer of Healing would no longer be available to priests of every spec. The spell was to become an ability exclusive to the holy tree, and in order to provide the discipline tree with adequate AoE healing, the developers were working on redesigning Holy Nova.

Well, as of earlier this week, it looks like discipline will be keeping Prayer of Healing in Mists of Pandaria after all. The developers made this statement on Tuesday.

Kaivax -- Talent update: Priests
Prayer of Healing can be used by Holy and Discipline once again. We realized that the goal of making Holy Nova an effective AE healing tool was problematic. It meant that we would have to change Holy Nova so thoroughly, that it was becoming a second Prayer of Healing. Remember: we aren't even in beta yet, and we want to retain as much opportunity as possible to respond to player feedback throughout the rest of this process. Things will change for priests, and every other class, over the coming weeks.

So there you have it. Anyone who was dreading change can breathe a sigh of relief, and anyone who was looking forward to the change can sulk in disappointment. I could have gone either way myself, though I'll admit that I miss the days of a more useful Holy Nova. Unfortunately, when asked about the future of the spell in MoP, developers responded that they did not currently have any more plans to update the spell for Mists of Pandaria. Bummer. Overall, though, I guess I'm not too surprised.

While I doubt Blizzard was having trouble coming up with ideas for a new AoE spell, I'm betting the trouble was in trying to fit something new into the existing design scheme. There aren't many ways to redesign an AoE heal at this point that can effectively work in the current healing model and be unique among what's already here. Anyway, Blizzard went on to say this about the discipline spe.

There is some speculation that Discipline is intended only as a PvP spec or only as a tank-healing spec. Neither of those is our design intent. Both Holy and Discipline should be effective at group healing or single-target healing, and if we do our jobs right, both can have a role in PvP. The main difference between them is that Discipline relies more on absorption mechanics, such as Power Word: Shield, Power Word: Barrier, Divine Aegis and the new Spirit Shell. Holy priests should place more emphasis on heals over time and have more area healing mechanics (e.g. Circle of Healing, Holy Word: Sanctuary), but those are intended to offset the incredible benefit of absorbs and not to make Holy the only option for handling AE damage. We see both in use a lot in PvE in Cataclysm, and we intend for that model to continue.

Now that we're sticking with Prayer of Healing, I'm not sure many people will agree with the developer's stated intent. Prayer of Healing is a wonderful spell, but I wouldn't want it as my only AoE heal when spells like Wild Growth and Circle of Healing are out there. I had hoped a Holy Nova redesign would address what discipline currently lacks in AoE healing (the capability to respond quickly), but I guess we'll just keep operating as we currently do when it comes to AoE. I guess the developers could still play with the coefficients or absorb values a little to adjust when and how often we use the spell, but I think the playstyle will largely remain as it is now.

Oh, I guess I should also mention to any priests who were hopeful that this may be a sign that Blizzard be coming around on its decision to take Binding Heal away from disc priests: The developers basically said anything is possible but that they'd like the two specs to play differently still. So I guess for now, we're still out Binding Heal, but there's a little sliver of hope.

I doubt we'll get the spell back, though, just because it's not necessarily something that discipline needs to succeed. Binding Heal has always been something that makes being a priest (be it holy or discipline) easier but not something we need to get by. If Blizzard is really trying to distinguish the two specs more than it presently is, this is about all it has left from what has already announced. Obviously, Blizzard can still come out and change something else or take something else away, but losing Divine Hymn and Renew isn't really going to distinguish discipline from holy more. We barely use those spells as it is right now, so losing Binding Heal is about all we can get changed to further distinguish us unless the developers up and decide they want to take away ... I don't know, maybe Flash Heal? That would really change things, if that's what the devs are after.

A commentary on secondary stats

In other MoP-related news, Blizzard released some general comments about secondary stats like haste and crit.

Zarhym -- Question about stats
One of our design philosophies is: simple to learn, difficult to master.

We don't believe in obfuscating information just to create a barrier between players who understand the rules and those who don't. We do like to have lots of depth to our systems however, and we're totally fine with veteran or knowledgeable players knowing a lot of nuance, exceptions, and tricks to the basic rules. To use an older example, armor penetration wasn't our most shining moment in item design. At the base level, it was pretty easy to understand (physical attacks do more damage). However, the way a point of armor penetration rating translated into damage was mathematically complex. And to make matters worse, it was such a good stat that it made sense to stack it even if you didn't understand the mathematical basis for why it was a good stat. Armor penetration was difficult to learn (what does it do?) but easy to master (it's overpowered). You can make similar examples with "capping" block for paladin and warrior tanks.

On the other hand, haste and crit aren't that hard to understand. Haste is "you can do more." Crit is "you do stuff bigger, but not 100% of the time." The depth comes from deciding if your play style is more about doing lots of stuff, or about occasionally getting bigger heals and hits. If you're intolerant of randomness, then crit might be unappealing. If you run out of mana a lot as a healer, then spending mana faster through haste might be unappealing. Both stats can impact rotations as well, depending on individual spec mechanics. These are the types of stats we feel add a decent amount of depth to the system in terms of how you want to build your character, yet they're quite easy to understand on a fundamental level.

From a priest's perspective, I'd like to see where this goes. Throughout the expansions, there has usually always been one right secondary stat for each healing class that might have changed from tier to tier but, overall, numerically produced the best results. Recently, with the addition of mastery, I'd say we've finally been able to start viewing stats as something healers can customize for encounters. A little more mastery might be good of extra damage, or a little more haste could be ideal when you're constantly trying to swap between two roles in the raid.

I'd like to see this continue into MoP, myself, and possibly go a bit further by improving upon reforging. (This way, we wouldn't be lining the pockets of our servers' jewelcrafting monopolists with gold.) I think Cataclysm was actually very successful when it comes to secondary stats for healing priests, especially discipline priests who never saw a clear or universal benefit to stacking one stat. One fight here or there might have benefited from this or that, but for the most part, you weren't wrong if you balanced everything and forgot about it all. Holy had a more clear path for stat stacking but one that I think could be argued from fight to fight. Like I said in last week's article on how to increase your HPS as a holy priest, there certainly are times when mastery can be more useful than haste, even if haste beats out everything else in a bell jar.

I myself wouldn't mind if Blizzard started moving away from stats in general. I'd love to see holy go more in the direction of discipline, where a nice balance of all the secondary stats is a perfectly acceptable way to gear, so that the emphasis on correctness becomes more about skill and in-combat decisions than who is up to date with the latest theorycrafting. For healers, there are enough other decisions to make after stat choices that I think we can't comfortably do without and still be challenged. Healing priests in particular are going to have so much to think about as it is, with all the viable talent options we'll have in MoP.

What's else is in store for priests in MoP?

I don't think I can squeeze anything out of the stone this week concerning the future, but fortunately Blizzard's MoP press event is coming up really soon. We should be drowning in more exciting news soon, and before long, the beta should be starting too. Have any questions or concerns about what was discussed this week? Let's hear them.

Come to Spiritual Guidance for the inside line on current healing gear and trinkets, as well as advice for healing in Dragon Soul. Newcomer to the priest class? Look into leveling a healing priest, and consult our guides to Discipline Priest 101 and Holy Priest 101.

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