Finally, after months of impatience and complaining, Alpha is here and we know stuff. I honestly am a little surprised. I figured I would be freaking out at this point – either too excited for coherent thought, or devastated that priests were going to be unplayable next expansion – but most changes were either expected or pretty minor. And though there were some changes I’m not too keen on, they’re a far cry from the end of the world.
The Chakra and Sanctuary Change
Healing Chakras have been changed to only buff their pertinent spells by 10% and make their exclusive abilities a lot stronger. Now. while having less of a penalty for casting spells outside of your Chakra is absolutely a good thing, the fact that there’s still a penalty means the ability is still problematic. The only way I can ever see the current implementation of Chakra working and feeling really satisfying is if they can make casting spells in the right Chakra feel like a bonus (i.e. balancing it so that priests are a little stronger than other classes when casting spells appropriate to their Chakra), or simply make the stances be tied to the Holy Words and nothing else (which was suggested by Derevka, I believe). The latter would be boring but functional.
Honestly, though, I would be much happier if they just turned them into short throughput cooldowns that share a CD. (And give us Serenity permanently and tie Sanctuary to our Lightwell so we can pretend we’re druids! Although, then again, we can’t reposition that at will, so it might be a terrible idea. ><)
The other thing to note here is that Sanctuary has been massively buffed. Which essentially means we now have Healing Rain. I know it’s been said a lot that Sanctuary is not meant to be Healing Rain, but I can’t help but think that there isn’t much of a different niche that an AoE circle can fill. It has to be something that provides enough healing to be worth the cast in both mana capped situations and GCD-capped situations. While I wouldn’t say it wasn’t necessarily worth the cast currently in a period of heavy AoE damage, it certainly wasn’t much of a heavy lifter either. (I’ll confess I even forgot it for a couple of Malorok kills; I know, I’m a terrible priest). Ideally, I’d like it to be something expensive enough that you would only cast it where there really is a lot of damage going on and people are liable to be stacked, instead of something that you just keep down whenever you’re in Sanctuary Chakra. But, hey, as long as it doesn’t become 50% of our healing done (in the style of current Shaman Healing Rain), I’ll be happy.
The Atonement and Smart Healing Change
Atonement now heals for 25% less. This is, as far as I’m concerned, something that absolutely had to happen. Not necessarily because the smart healing component of Atonement was too good (though it was), but because its interaction with Divine Aegis made it entirely too powerful. As your crit inevitably went up (and as it will again in Warlords), it meant you could cover the entire raid with crit bubbles and get all the benefits of shields (effective health, less spiky damage) while bypassing their biggest drawback – the fact that if there’s not damage incoming, your resources have been wasted – due to smite spam being absurdly cheap.
This change, coupled with the fact that smart heals only heal a random injured target as opposed to the most injured target means Atonement will likely only be a good choice for stacking Evangelism and periods of very low raid damage, which is honestly much more in-line with the original design intent for Atonement i.e. give discipline priests something to do while they would ordinarily be twiddling their thumbs, instead of having them spam it all encounter because ‘DA, lulz’. My only question is whether this is enough of a nerf, something that we won’t know until we see some actual numbers.
The Stuff We’re Losing
Rapture and Void Shift are gone. I can’t say I’m too happy with either of these losses. I thought Rapture was an excellent mechanic that made it so spam shielding wasn’t much of an option (until we got ALL the mana regen at the end of the expansion, that is) while casting our one shield on the tank didn’t feel punishing. I expect the reasoning for this might be that it’s one of those mechanics that required an external addon to track so you could perform adequately, but I still worry that it’ll will either mean we’re back to being shield spamming machines (the new perk that lowers Weakened Soul time doesn’t exactly alleviate this concern), or that with the proposed mana changes we will only cast Power Word: Shield very rarely.
Void Shift just makes me sad ’cause I thought it was a fun ability and appreciated having a second tank cooldown. I thought that the risk inherent in it (I’ve killed myself with it more than a couple of times) made it so it wasn’t completely broken, and -let’s face it- nothing is more satisfying than combo’ing it with your Desperate Prayer. The worst part is I’m not really sure why it’s going away. The only feasible reason I can come up with is PvP. In which case, I bite my thumb at you, PvP. (The more pressing question, however, is how am I supposed to be able to get rid of tank Chomps as disc in the proving grounds? D:)
Other Bits and Bobs
Honestly? I expected them to talk more about how they’re making absorbs less effective. An across the board nerf to all absorbs? Worse scaling for passive absorbs? Shorter duration for effects like Spirit Shell? Or longer cooldowns maybe?
I’m thinking it’s probably the former, which I’m not too sure I like. I honestly think that Power Word: Shield and Spirit Shell are alright in their current incarnations. Spirit Shell is only really good for predictable spike damage. In fights where the damage is unpredictable or constant it’s, at best, overheal protection and, at worst, a gamble that is not worth it if you don’t have the mana to sustain possibly useless PoH spam. Though I suppose a longer cooldown wouldn’t be terrible.
The talents look alright. The only one that really piqued my interest is Words of Mending. Clarity of Will seems meh for disc (do we really need an other absorb?). It seems like it’ll be a nice boon for Holy in terms of stacked up fights, though, to smarten up Prayer of Healing some. Saving Grace just looks entirely too situational, but I will withhold my judgment until we’ve seen more of what kinds of damage patterns to expect in Warlords.
Finally, who thought it was a good idea to give priests an incentive to cast Lifegrip in the middle of fights? I’m looking at you, Improved Leap of Faith; you have finally given me the excuse I needed to troll people in farm fights under the guise of trying to save them (‘well, your health looked really low and I figured I could really use that extra 50% healing when I brought you up. I’m woefully sorry it interrupted your Chaos Bolt’). Not that I would actually do that. 🙂