I came in from an enjoyable night out with friends to find the wonderful Matticus pondering holy priest talent specs over Twitter. He mentioned that 10/31/0 was going to become a preferred spec and that the developers were to blame for this. I went over the math in my head and set aside 6 points for Mental Agility and Twin Disciplines, but the remaining 4 points were a mystery to me. Was he taking Evangelism and Archangel? Inner Sanctum? I wasn’t sure where he was going with this. I was intrigued and he is Matticus, so I decided to probe a bit further.
Matticus then sends me a link to a World of Logs report for the guild <Cuties Only>, which is considered to be a “top tier” guild and what appears to be the breakdown of heals from one of their priests for a particular boss kill. The log looked a little something like this:
You can see that said priest is using Circle of Healing, which is very clearly a holy priest talent and yet they are topping the meters with Power Word: Shield. I figured it was just for this fight and it surely couldn’t be a consistent theme throughout the entire night of attempts. To my surprise, it was. This priest topped the meters on three different encounters and came in at #2 on two additional kill shots. How did this happen?
There are a number of factors in play that would cause this play style to be successful and to become popular. The first variable that caused this to happen was the blue post that came out yesterday, announcing the change to Body & Soul. The increased mana cost of PW: S was meant to prevent discipline priests from relying on bubble spam to get them through fights and from falling back into bad habits caused by Wrath. The developers didn’t want to discourage holy priests from using PW: S, so they added something to Body & Soul to lower the cost of it. This change lowered the cost of PW: S to about 3,000 mana.
Now add Glyph of Power Word: Shield to the equation, which also heals your target for 20% of the absorption amount. Place 10 points into the discipline tree, beginning with Mental Agility and Twin Disciplines and place the last 4 into Improved Power Word: Shield and Soul Warding. These talents increase the damage absorbed by your shields by an additional 20% and then reduces the cooldown of your shields by up to 3 seconds. You can see how this is starting to look mighty appealing. On top of all that, the heal that comes from Glyph of Power Word: Shield is capable of triggering your mastery. If you are throwing that many shields out there, this would cause Echo of Light to have an insanely high uptime, as seen in the log above, where that priest had a near 100% uptime on that particular attempt. Throw in the substantial tools that we already have for raid healing and you have the makings of an extremely well rounded raid healing powerhouse on your hands.
We know how this method of healing is possible, but now we need to determine if it’s meant for you. Should you be healing this way, as a holy priest? That depends on where you are at, regarding content. From looking at the logs, these were all hard mode attempts. Hard modes seem to favor absorption effects and damage reducing abilities, so I’m inclined to say that this style of healing would only really shine there. If we are going by just the numbers, I can reach the same heights in regular modes by healing the way I usually do, by using the tools I already have and not relying heavily on PW: S to get by. I don’t feel that I need to resort to this method to do well. My opinion may change once I start doing hard modes and my guild isn’t too far away from that being a real possibility.
I guess my only real issue with this is that I wish people would give up the ghost already. The developers have been very clear about not wanting bubble spam to be present, in any capacity. They took very quick and drastic steps to take this away from discipline priests and I would imagine that it wouldn’t be long before they did the same to holy priests, if this play style became popular. I don’t understand people who think they’re being slick or crafty by doing the same thing and wrapping it up in different packaging. It’s like people who quit smoking by smoking electronic cigarettes. You’re still smoking something and basically just gave up one addiction or dependency for another.
In closing, I think bubble spamming as a holy priest definitely has potential. I can see why others may be inclined to do it. Do I think this is something everyone should do? Definitely not. If it works for you and you feel you are getting results out of it, by all means. Personally, I would like to see how this plays out a bit more before I decide on this for myself and I would like to see how I keep up with healing in hard modes with my current playstyle before I choose to embrace this or not.