The other day I was one of the lucky ones who received a Beta invite during the final wave of invites that Blizzard sent out. I had heard a lot about what was happening with discipline, but I wasn’t hearing too much about holy. This worried me a little bit. While most of what I’m curious about involves our level 90 talents (which we can’t try out at this time), I still managed to do some questing, heal the first available instance a couple of times, and do some playing around on my own with our new talents and abilities for a while. Here are a few things that stood out to me, in no particular order:
Triage healing is back
Triage healing is the style of healing that the developers tried to make a new way of life for healers in Cataclysm that really only lasted as long as it took us to gear up for T11 raid content. Once we started equipping epic quality gear that mentality sort of went out the window. Triage healing is fine when you are the only one responsible for keeping a party up. But when you are in a raid with five other healers and each of you is practicing triage healing, people are going to end up being topped off whether you like it or not. It also doesn’t hold up well as a method of healing once you have the gear to support being able to top people off frivolously in certain settings. When you are wearing nothing but Heroic quality blue gear or you are coming into Mists of Pandaria with 100,000 mana (as most of us are) every mana point counts. This will be even more true given the fact that Intellect is not going to increase the size of our mana pools like it did before. I predict the triage style of healing will last a little longer than it did in Cataclysm, which will of course mean that tanks and DPS will have to play smarter in the long run, because we simply won’t have the mana to keep them up through mistakes or other kinds of accidents.
For the first few times that I healed Temple of the Jade Serpent I didn’t find mana to be a problem. I did have to use my shadowfiend (which now comes with a 4 minute cooldown) and I did use Arcane Torrent on cooldown, but I didn’t have to use a mana potion, or ask for any other kind of outside assistance. I healed the instance like I would heal any other 5 man right now. I spent my time in Chakra: Serenity. I used Renew as a spot heal for when individual DPS got low on health. I used Prayer of Healing for when the whole party was taking damage. I made sure to drop the Lightwell, which is a fantastic tool for times when you are trying to be thrifty with your mana. I admit that I didn’t get a chance to use Void Shift, mostly because nobody in my party was really in any sort of jeopardy where I felt I had to use it. Overall, the experiences that I had in Temple of the Jade Serpent didn’t take me outside of my comfort zone and I felt that I was able to shift back into that triage healing mindset rather easily.
New toys? For me?
Our revamped talent trees come with some new things for us to play with and even a few old favorites that work a little differently than you may be used to.
In the first tier we have Void Tendrils, Psyfiend, and Dominate Mind. The first two talents seem like talents that you would use in a PVE setting when Fade fails you and you have the unwanted attention of some mobs. Dominate Mind is more of a form of crowd control that we have always had at our disposal, with varying degrees of success (e.g. Mind Control). Void Tendrils seems to work more along the lines of how most tanks would prefer that a healer respond to unwanted aggro. The tendrils allow you to root the mobs in place and then run towards the tank. Psyfiend works more like Psychic Scream, which is the way that you should not go about responding to having enemy targets locked on to you. Using any kind of fear effect will cause the mobs to most likely run all over the place, which makes it harder for the tank to pick them up and to reestablish aggro, and could even possibly lead to those mobs pulling more mobs. Because you can’t target who Psyfiend chooses to cast fear on, you can’t glyph for it to make them stay in place when under the effects of fear (like you can with Psychic Scream), and because it lasts for 30 seconds, I feel this is the more dangerous option for PVE. Dominate Mind is still highly unreliable and breaks far too easily, much like Mind Control always has, but has been redesigned to allow you to potentially control the mind of any enemy target, except for Mechanical type creatures. This is a welcome change from the “humanoids only” clause that Mind Control now comes with.
Our second tier of talents now includes Body and Soul, Feathers From Heaven, and Phantasm. Body and Soul remains the same as it is now, while Phantasm takes what is now a talent that is only found in the shadow tree and makes it available for all priests (with a little bit of an extra kick). Feathers From Heaven is a lot like the Wild Mushroom: Bloom spell that druids have. This spell allows you to drop up to three feathers that friendly targets can run through or near and pick up a temporary speed boost from. The effects of the feathers do not stack, so if someone decides to run through them all, they won’t get the benefit of moving even faster. Feathers From Heaven does not use a global cooldown, so it is possible to drop all three feathers rather quickly and then go back to doing whatever it is that you needed to do (which will most likely be healing). I think this talent is kind of neat and I haven’t quite dismissed it the way that some other priests that are currently in the Beta have.
The talents that you have to choose from once you reach level 45 are From Darkness, Comes Light and Archangel. Divine Star was temporarily moved down to this tier, but was recently bumped back up to the level 90 tier, so there is a hole where our third talent in this tier should be. From Darkness, Comes Light (the comma in that one really bothers me) is what we currently know as Surge of Light. With two talents points invested in it, Surge of Light currently gives you a 6% chance when you cast Smite, Heal, Flash Heal, Binding Heal, or Greater Heal to cause your next Flash Heal to be instant cast and cost no mana. This talent didn’t quite make much of an impact outside of 5 mans and even then we could take it or leave it. In Mists of Pandaria, you will now have a 2o% chance to cause your next Flash Heal to be instant cast and cost no mana. That is quite an increase! I noticed that this talent was triggering a lot more when I was healing in the Beta and it felt really nice. We have already established that Binding Heal currently gives you a 6% chance per person healed (for a total of a 12% chance) to trigger Surge of Light. This means that provided it stays that way in Mists of Pandaria, which it feels like it is, you will now have a 40% chance to trigger the talent, which is quite nice. Evangelism is going to be an ability that every priest will have available to them, which means Archangel is a talent that you may want to consider picking up. The only reason I would have taken Archangel, the chance to get 1% mana back for each stack of Evangelism, has been completely removed in Mists of Pandaria. It now just gives increases your healing done. That’s not bad, but I think taking out the opportunity to get mana back when we are going to need to watch our mana pools and how we use our mana really caused this talent to lose some value to me.
The level 60 talents include Desperate Prayer, Void Shift, and Angelic Bulwark. Desperate Prayer is something most holy priests know and love in Cataclysm and won’t be changing at all in Mists of Pandaria. Void Shift is something that I haven’t tried out for myself yet, but allows you to swap health percentages with a friendly target and then it heals the target with the lowest health for 25% of their health. The important thing to remember about Void Shift is that it lets you swap health percentages, not health points. So if you are at 75% health and your tank is at 20% health, you bump him or her up to 75% health and you go down to 20% health. Angelic Bulwark is also something that I haven’t tried out yet, mostly because I’m not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, Angelic Bulwark can proc at least once every 90 seconds, which beats Desperate Prayer’s 2 minute cooldown. Desperate Prayer also requires you to remember to use it, whereas Angelic Bulwark triggers automatically once you reach a certain percentage of health and gives you the time to get healed back up to a reasonable amount of health again. Angelic Bulwark temporarily shields you from incoming damage, which allows you or someone else the time to react to that and heal you back up, whereas Desperate Prayer just heals you when you need it most. No muss, no fuss.
Our fifth tier of talents gives us Twist of Fate, Power Infusion, and Divine Insight. Power Infusion really needs no introduction. Divine Insight is what we now know as Serendipity and works exactly the same as it does in Live. Twist of Fate is a twist (no pun intended) on what we now know as Test of Faith, but it now gives you 15% increased damage or healing done to targets at or below 20% health. I don’t like this. Kelesti pointed out to me that this talent is probably going to function better as an Execute type talent for shadow priests than it will as any sort of beneficial healing talent for holy or discipline priests and I agree with her on that. I think unless you are healing a niche fight where people are going to be low quite often, having someone be at 20% or below shouldn’t happen that often where you need a talent to increase your healing when it does. It doesn’t feel right to me.
A few small repairs
In addition to some new talents and spells that we have received, I was pleasantly surprised by some changes that were made to a few of our older spells or spells that we have had for quite some time. Lightwell now comes with a base 15 charges and you can glyph for it for an extra 2 charges. I think Lightwell is going to really shine at a time when we are going into an expansion where mana efficiency is going to be so important to us. You really can’t get any more mana efficient than Lightwell. Mass Dispel can now remove up to 100 harmful spells from a friendly target or 100 beneficial spells from an enemy target, which is a noticeable increase from the up to 10 harmful or beneficial spells (1 harmful or beneficial spell from up to 10 people) that it can dispel now. Purify removes all harmful magic effects or diseases on a target, up from the 2 harmful spells or 1 disease that Dispel Magic or Cure Disease would normally remove.
Overall, I am happy to finally be in the Beta and to be able to test things personally and to see what works for me. I’m excited to try out our level 90 talents and see what the upcoming raid content is going to look and feel like. I’m anxious to be able to submit feedback and changes that I think could positively affect my playing experience and that of other holy priests. I’ll be sure to blog often about things that I experience, so feel free to check back often or leave a comment about what you’re experiencing and we can compare notes.