This weekend, I was one of the 26,000 people in Anaheim, California to attend BlizzCon 2011. I was there bright and early on Friday morning, for the opening ceremonies and for the preview panel that came shortly after that. As expected, the trailer for the next expansion, Mists of Pandaria was released and there was much discussion afterwards about upcoming changes to our characters and many of the systems or mechanics, at large.
I was particularly interested in the proposed changes to the talent system. To me, this is one of the most needed and noticeable changes that was brought up in the panel that morning. For those leveling new characters, you will still choose which spec you want to focus on once you reach level 10. You will still receive a few talents or abilities at that level, which will fit into the grand scheme of things, with regards to what your chosen spec is meant to do or how it should perform. After that point, you will choose your talents from one talent tree. There will no longer be a clear cut holy, discipline, and shadow tree. Each tier of the new talent tree will give you a couple of choices and you will only be allowed to choose one, per tier. These talents also do not come with any ranks.
With the release of Mists of Pandaria, you will receive one talent point to use at levels 15, 30, 45, 60, 75, and 90 (which is what the level cap will be increased to). Let’s take a look at some images of the proposed talent choices for priests and my thoughts, criticisms, and predictions for each tier.
As I mentioned earlier in this post, there are no clear cut talent trees anymore. You will find that each tier of talents will include things that used to belong solely to one tree that now a priest of any spec can possibly enjoy. You will see talents that were in one tree merged with talents from another tree to create a whole new talent that you could choose to put a talent point into. I was pleasantly surprised by this and I feel like this new system goes a long way towards creating a versatile healing priest, which is something that many priests struggle with (myself included). We will have to incorporate aspects of all of our trees to make ourselves the best healers we can be. I am certainly up for the challenge and I hope that other priests are, too.
This first tier seems to focus on a priest using various forms of crowd control. I don’t foresee us being asked to crowd control much in raids or dungeons, but I do see some of these abilities being used in an emergency, like if you suddenly end up with aggro. Or they could be extremely useful in PVP situations. I see these three talents as being more personal preference talents and not being something that will drastically affect your game play, otherwise.
Void Tendrils are very similar to an AOE root that druids are also going to be receiving. Like the druid version, damage dealt to the roots or tendrils can terminate the effect. This reminds me of the enhanced Earthbind Totem, which shamans can use to create a similar rooting effect. It works really well and I’m glad to see other classes getting a chance to use something like it and hopefully with the same effect.
Psyfiend seems similar to a shadowfiend, except this minion will stay in one place and constantly use Psychic Scream on a single target. It doesn’t sound like you will be able to choose the target or assign it to fear a specific enemy. The tooltip itself is very vague, stating that it will only prefer to go after targets attacking you or your allies. I wonder if the psyfiend is something that an enemy can target, like the Void Tendrils, and if doing so would cancel the effect early. I’m also curious if the psyfiend will fear the same target repeatedly or if it will swap targets, if more than one enemy is attacking you or your allies.
Psychic Scream is something we already have in our arsenal and actually saw some use early on in Cataclysm. I remember using it in 5 man Heroic dungeons, due to how difficult they were when the expansion first came out. I also remember glyphing for it for Cho’gall, to help out with breaking the Worship effect on those that were affected in the raid. If I had to choose one of the control type talents in this tier, I would probably choose this one. It doesn’t come with any fancy gimmicks. It does what it has always done, what you will most likely need it to do, and that is what really matters to me.
This next tier of talents seem to revolve around abilities that increase your movement speed or the speed of others and allows you to remove movement impairing effects on yourself.
First up is an old favorite, Body and Soul. From being holy for so long, I am a huge advocate of this talent and I am pleased to see that now every priest can potentially enjoy what it can do. So far, it looks like Body and Soul will remain exactly as it is now, with the movement speed increase still coming from both Power Word: Shield and Leap of Faith and with the actual increase remaining the same. That is good news on both fronts.
Path of the Devout is something new and increases your movement speed by 25% while using Levitate. I see this being more of a fun talent, since you can’t give this effect to someone else and since it’s very rare that you will manage to keep Levitate on through the entire duration of a fight. Levitate is usually something silly that you cast on yourself or others in between pulls and not necessarily something that gives you a real advantage in groups or raids.
Phantasm hasn’t changed much from its current showing in the shadow tree. By using Fade, you can shed all movement impairing effects on yourself and then be immune to additional effects for 3 seconds afterwards. The only problem I have with this one is that, like Path of the Devout, you can only use this on yourself. Don’t get me wrong – it’s great for getting yourself out of a bind. It doesn’t do anything for other people, like a tank, who I feel may be more prone to suffering from movement impairing effects and who would be at more of a disadvantage, if they had those types of debuffs on them. I think Phantasm would be great for PVP, but I would choose Body and Soul over this or Path of the Devout, if I had to choose something for my everyday PVE activities.
This tier consists of an old favorite, with a new name, an old favorite that hasn’t changed much, and a completely new spell that could be added to your repertoire.
From Darkness, Comes Light is basically just Surge of Light. It functions exactly the same as it does right now, with certain single target heals having a chance to proc a free, instant cast Flash Heal. Surge of Light was a very polarizing talent in Cataclysm that neither healing spec seemed to have much interest in. Holy priests typically aren’t asked to tank heal too often, so they weren’t using the spells included in Surge of Light enough to enjoy the free heals, while discipline priests only had so many talent points they could invest into the holy tree and viewed other talents as being more important. I don’t see this talent becoming any more important or desirable than it is now.
Divine Star is something new and will allow you to fire a star out in front of you, which will travel 20 yards and do damage to enemies and healing to allies that are in its way. Then, the star will fly back to you, and do damage or healing to enemies or allies that are again in its way. I have two concerns about Divine Star. First, I wonder how line of sight will affect this. Let’s say you throw the star out and then are forced to get behind something that would normally prevent a spell from being cast because you are not in sight of your target. Will this prevent the star from coming back to you?
Second, I worry about heals that require your allies to be in the right place at the right time. I know shamans kind of had this problem with Chain Heal only reaching so far and every healing class has had issues with their zone heals, like Efflorescence or Holy Word: Sanctuary, at some point. The neat thing about Divine Star is you can sort of steer where the star goes and who it will heal on its way out and then back to you. You can toss it out in one direction and then move, to be in line of some other people who may need healing. I am curious to see how wide the Divine Star effect will reach. I know it goes 20 yards in front of you, but will it heal people in a straight, narrow line? Will it have a nice amount of width, in order to heal people who may be standing next to someone else?
Archangel appears to have made the cut, but I feel like I can’t really talk about the future of this talent without discussing Evangelism, because the two do go hand in hand. Right now, you can only gain stacks of Evangelism from using Smite, Holy Fire, or Mind Flay. You can gain up to five stacks and then consume them all with Archangel. The effects of Archangel are increased, the more stacks you have of Evangelism. With a full 5 stacks, you will receive 5% of your total mana back, and a 15% increased healing buff, for 18 seconds. This comes with a 30 second cooldown.
The new Archangel would give you a 25% increased healing buff, with a full 5 stacks of Evangelism and no mana regen. The 30 second cooldown will stay the same, but there is no mention of whether this effect will last for the usual 18 seconds or not. I wonder if the prerequisites for gaining Evangelism will remain the way they are now. Will you only be able to get Evangelism from doing damage or will you be able to get stacks from healing spells, too? We don’t know yet. At first glance, I don’t like that the mana regen portion of Archangel has been removed. I do like the buff to throughput, but it seems like a hard bargain, especially at the start of a new expansion, when you don’t necessarily outgear something enough to be frivolous with your mana.
Based on what I know so far, I would probably go into Mists of Pandaria with From Darkness, Comes Light, if only for the initial Heroic farming to gear up for raids and then I would probably take Divine Star over Archangel. Mind you, this is just because I feel like I know more about Divine Star (as much as I can, at this point) right now and I don’t feel like Divine Star is missing something, without another talent to support it. Once I know more about Evangelism, I may change my mind.
Your choices for talents at level 60 revolve around keeping yourself alive. I was really happy to see that just about every class will have the opportunity to put a talent point into something that will help keep them alive. I think it is a really great idea to put more focus on the player, regardless of their class or role, and to have them do their part to stay alive longer. I would much rather see cooldowns like this spread out across the board, rather than just seeing them all go towards healers, who usually end up being solely responsible for getting their group members out of tight spots during an encounter.
Desperate Prayer does not appear to have changed at all, which is good. It is already quite lovely and doesn’t need to be fixed or altered in any way. I am glad to see the developers appear to be leaving it alone, for now.
Angelic Bulwark is a new talent, which I hope will tie into other things that increase the strength of your shields (like Shield Discipline).
Final Prayer looks like it has some potential. If you are attacked and fall below 30% health, you will generate a shield around yourself that will absorb 20% of your total health, which will last for 20 seconds. I think this is a neat way to give yourself some time to heal yourself back up to full, if you suddenly lose a lot of health and need time to recover. I hope that the shield generated is for 20% of your total health, when fully healed, and not 20% of your total health that you have remaining. I am pretty sure it would work like that, but you never know.
Twist of Fate contains bits and pieces of Test of Faith, from the holy tree, and Mind Melt, from the shadow tree. I can see a talent like this being useful, especially in earlier tiers of content, where you don’t outgear everything just yet and where people aren’t necessarily guaranteed to be topped off all the time (in keeping with the triage style of healing that was briefly practiced after Cataclysm’s release). However, once that happens, or depending on how well the healers you run with react to incoming damage, a talent like Test of Faith starts to decline in usefulness, as people spend less time being at 25% or lower health to get the benefit from this talent. I would take this talent, but only in the beginning of a new expansion and only if I were doing more than just tank healing.
Power Infusion will now be available to all priests. It appears that it will remain the same as it is right now.
Serendipity is primarily a holy talent that can now be picked up by discipline priests. Like Surge of Light, this was another hotly debated talent that priests could never seem to agree on. I wrote a post about Serendipity a while back and highlighted some ways to get the most out of it. It is a moderately useful talent, but I don’t feel it holds up well against Power Infusion or even Test of Faith. I’m tempted to say that I would choose Test of Faith first and then Power Infusion, only because I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to use Power Infusion (since I was primarily holy, until recently) and so I have sort of learned to get by without it. Ultimately, though, I think Power Infusion would win out, if I had to choose between any of these three talents in this tier.
They certainly are saving the best for last. In my opinion, these three possibilities are each nothing short of game changing. You could hear the sounds of awe throughout the discussion hall, as Ghostcrawler was going over these new talents and what each of them can do. Let’s dig into them ourselves, shall we?
Vow of Unity basically takes the effects of Binding Heal and applies it to any heals that you cast on a friendly target. I don’t see any sign of a duration on the tooltip, so I wonder if this is only temporary, or if this will work sort of like Beacon of Light does for paladins. I think knowing how long this effect will last will determine how much I might want to invest a talent point into it. It also depends on you taking damage, as well. If you’re not in any real trouble, then you could just get away with using Binding Heal and not having to resort to blowing a cooldown on this to heal yourself and the tank (or any other individual needing your attention).
Void Shift is a very interesting new ability that we are potentially being given. It’s important to note that you are not swapping health points with a target, you are swapping percentages of health with them.
Let’s say your tank has 250,000 health and you have 150,000 health. He falls down to 10% of his health, while you are at 75% of yours. You cast Void Shift, he goes back up to 75% health, which is 187,500 (up from the 25,000 he was reduced to). On the other hand, you will go from the 112,500 that you were at down to 15,000 and will then receive a heal for 25% of your total health. Hopefully, this is total health that you would have had, if you were fully healed and not 25% of the health points that you are currently sitting at. Even if Void Shift heals for 25% of your total health, fully healed, that still may not be very much.
Going back to the previous scenario, if you fall down to 15,000 health and then receive the 25% heal, you are only getting back 37,500 health, which would leave you at 52,500 hit points. You could very well heal yourself back up from that, especially with a little help from Final Prayer, but you may also die before you get a chance to do that. One would argue that it is better that you die, instead of the tank. You could also use Spirit of Redemption, if you do end up dying early and that way you are still able to put out some healing before you die permanently. Void Shift has the potential to tie in nicely with many other talents, both new and old.
Based on the tooltip, it sounds like the effects of Void Shift are permanent. It is not like you would swap health percentages and then the effect wears off and you go back to where you were at. I also like the sound of this, because if you were to die shortly after doing this, it doesn’t seem like it would cause the effect to wear off on the tank and put them back in dire straits. You could still use your cooldown and know that your death wouldn’t change anything. That gives me an enormous feeling of peace of mind.
Vampiric Dominance reminds me of a talent called Surging Flames, from the Purifier soul in Rift. I remember thinking how great it would be for a talent like this to make its way into World of Warcraft, specifically for discipline priests. This talent is basically a re-vamped version of Vampiric Embrace (no pun intended) and now includes healing spells, in addition to damaging spells. This talent could be quite powerful, for both tank and raid healing, and would be a good fit for both discipline and holy priests. Depending on whether or not Echo of Light stays in the picture, (word is that it might be getting scrapped in the next expansion) it would be nice to see a HoT placed on each target that received some of the splash healing from Vampiric Dominance.
As of right now, I’m leaning towards Void Shift being the talent of choice here, followed by Vampiric Dominance, and then Vow of Unity. Void Shift seems extremely powerful and I get a feeling that it is going to see a lot of testing before the expansion hits and that it may not end up working the way that we are seeing it in these previews. Vampiric Dominance has the potential to really shine here, too. I think what you choose in this tier will really depend on your particular healing assignment for each encounter.
The developers did say that they wanted players to be able to change specs with the ease that they would be able to change glyphs, so it may not be that unusual to see people having a different spec for each fight in a raid instance. I remember Lissanna saying something over the weekend about us bloggers potentially having to do individual suggested specs for each boss and not looking forward to that. I have to say that I kind of like that idea. I think something like that opens up more room for discussion and goes a long way towards making our talent choices seem less static or set in stone, which was also the goal of the developers. They wanted “cookie cutter” specs to become less common and this could very well accomplish that.
Overall, I’m quite happy with what I have seen, so far. I realize that anything that has been revealed could change at any moment, but I am feeling quite positive with the direction that healing priests are going in and hopefully will continue to go in Mists of Pandaria. I look forward to seeing the lines blur between a discipline priest and a holy priest and seeing each sort of enjoy some of the benefits that the other provides (i.e. holy priests getting more cooldowns, discipline priests getting more raw throughput that isn’t just from absorption effects). I will be taking part in the beta, so I hope to provide some input on these changes and to do my part to making priests the best that they can be in the next expansion.
Feel free to leave a comment about what talents stood out to you or which talents failed to impress you. Are there any talents you would like to see make the cut or get removed, in favor of something else? Let’s talk about it!