First Holy Nova. Then Lightwell. As of 2.0.1, Circle of Healing is the top-tier Holy talent for Priests. Notice a trend? All these talents have been considered...um..."less than optimal" by many vocal members of the priestly community. And folks have tried to defend all three of them by pointing out that they are nice to have in certain situations. Well, today Drysc plays the "situationally useful" card with respect to CoH over in the WoW General forums: "[CoH] has some amazing tactical uses; that you can sit (likely well) out of harms way and send heals to a group of players. To equalize some of that ability the healing potency isn't as strong as a normal prayer of healing maybe, but I don't think it's anything to be scoffed at either. I would be surprised if the talent was completely overlooked in strategies for future dungeons and encounters, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was relied on for more than a few".
Basically, what I'm reading Drysc as saying here is "yes, CoH is fairly useless right now, so we're going to try to design some encounters around it so Priests don't feel too bad about having it." I'm not a designer, but honestly, that doesn't seem like a good skill-designing strategy to me. Wouldn't it be better just to fix CoH so it wasn't restricted to only healing people in the same party, or else raise the healing/lower the mana cost?
But that's just my perspective. I'm pretty sure I'll be speccing 14/37 for raid heals. What have you guys found? Is CoH worth taking even when it means you've got to skip Meditation and Inner Focus, or is it just another lolwell?
Some numbers, for the curious: rank 3 (top rank for a 60) CoH costs 500 mana and heals for 380-420, affecting your target and any of their party members within 15 yards of them. It's an instant cast, which is its biggest real advantage. Its mana efficiency is significantly below 1 healed per mana (hpm), which I think is unique for a priest heal; Greater Heal 5 is somewhere around 3 hpm, Prayer of Healing 5 very close to 1 hpm, and Flash Heal 7 and Renew 10 both around 2 hpm (these are all without taking any +healing or talents into account). Of course, both CoH and PoH get much more efficient if you end up hitting multiple damaged targets with them.