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Spiritual Guidance: Holyform and lesser Holy talents

There are a few things that have been desired by the players ever since WoW began. Rideable pets for hunters, player housing, guild banks (now in the game! yay!), and additional classes (one coming in Wrath of the Lich King) are a few examples. Here's one more, close to my heart since I have a Holy priest main: Holyform. The dark side of the Priest talent tree has a form; why not the light side? It would supplement our legendarily bad 21/31/41-point talents with something that was truly compelling for the dedicated healer, and of course it would look awesome.

Well, Wowhead and WOWDB now have entries for a spell called, indeed, Holyform, as shown above right. It's hidden in the data files for the 2.4 patch; note that it is not currently trainable by priests on the PTRs. It could be there for any number of reasons: it could be an NPC spell, it could be an ability usable only during the Kil'Jaeden fight, like the Kael'Thas legendaries, or it could just be a cruel joke. The most compelling explanation I've seen is that Blizzard is distributing some of the Wrath patch files early, to lessen the initial download, and this is going to be the new 51-point Holy talent. Please let that be it. Update: comments are reporting that this is an NPC spell in Sunwell. Too bad.

I referred earlier to our traditionally terrible 21/31/41 point talents. Just how bad were they? Well, if you've only just joined the Priesting ranks (welcome!), it may not seem that bad now. We currently have a decent Spirit of Redemption, an almost universally maligned Lightwell, and an occasionally beloved Circle of Healing. One thing that might set off red flags is that each of these spells has a not-so-loving nickname. Respectively: Improved Death, Lolwell, Circle of Terrible. I did not make these up.

Now Improved Death is not quite so bad as it used to be. It's gone through two prior incarnations. Originally, it caused the player, upon death, to be resurrected for 21 (?) seconds and pulse out waves of AoE healing, kind of like a healing nova. There was no player control during SoR at that time. The next iteration, implemented in the first form of patch 1.10 and moved to the 21-point slot, was much like the talent is today, but without the passive Spirit buff: free, targeted heals for 15 seconds. Due to lag, it was nearly impossible to get off as much healing as was done during the old, automatic SoR days, and no-one seemed to like this much. Finally, by the time 1.10 hit the live realms, the passive bonus of +5% to Spirit was added, and this was what finally made me, as well as, I'm sure, many others grab the spell, since I love me some Spirit.

At this point, I would like to mention Holy Nova, currently a middling-quality 11-point talent. Waves of threat-free healing to your friends and pain to your foes sounds like a nice idea, and it has saved my bacon a few times, but the mana cost is tremendous, and for a priest focused on efficiency as I am it's hard to bear. I usually skip the talent in favor of more points in bread-and-butter healing talents like Spiritual Guidance or Healing Prayers. But at least it's only an 11-point side talent; originally, it was the 31-point Holy talent! Yes, that's right, the pinnacle of our tree. Pathetic.

Ah, but what replaced it in the 31-point slot, you ask? A talent so obscurely useful that it was reasonably suggested that its best use would be in playing hide-and-seek: Lightwell. A glowy stack of bandages. I even kind of like it in theory: drop a widget and the DPSers can heal themselves, without me having to take my attention away from the tanks. It is also very mana-efficient. However, two things kill it for me: the heals break on damage, and it's too easy for people to accidentally grab multiple charges from it (multiple charges don't stack). If the number of charges on it was increased, I might actually pick it up. Probably not though. When this survey was taken, Lightwell was the single most skipped 31-point talents: three quarters of priests with at least 31 points in Holy did not take Lightwell. Enough said.

Then came Burning Crusade, or more accurately, the "Before the Storm" patch, which came directly before BC, and with that patch came new talents for all. Each talent tree now goes to 41 points deep, which means we get a new top talent. The coveted Holyform? Not so much. Some sort of smart targeted heal? No, but we got that in Prayer of Mending, so that's OK. Even an enhanced Levitate would have been better than what we ended up with, a crippled, targeted Prayer of Healing called Circle of Healing. This made it clear what Blizzard had decided Holy priests were for: group healing.

Now before you CoH-lovers jump all over me, the talent is not nearly so bad now. You have to admit, though, that when it was first introduced, it was distinctly underwhelming. Since then, its mana cost has been reduced, its range increased (I think), and the amount it heals for increased as well. Still, it's pretty unpopular; the double restrictions of only working on one group and only working within a 15 yard radius make it very situational at best. In the above-mentioned talent-skipping survey, CoH was the most-skipped 41-point talent, with over four fifths of Holy priests not taking it.

Finally, Wrath is going to give us ten more points of talents, meaning a 51-point talent. What if it was the Holyform that we see above, or something like it? In case you don't feel like scrolling up, here's the summary: increases heals by 25%, reduces melee damage taken by 20%. It may seem a bit overpowered now, but remember how awesome the 41-point talents were when BC came out. We'll need everything to be turned up to 11, as it were, for level 80. Overall it seems pretty balanced to me. Increases the size of our heals, which is the hallmark of Holy, and reduces physical damage to give us a bit more survivability. Interestingly, it does not keep us from casting Shadow spells, although with 51 points in Holy we probably won't want to too much. I would like if it increased Holy damage as well as healing, to help soloability, but honestly, I'd take it as-is in a heartbeat.

So looking back on this somewhat depressing history, and at this latest bright rumor, I beseech you again, Blizzard: give us something awesome. Give us something that will make us shine, make us stand out as the avatars of light we are meant to be. Make raid leaders want us for our healing potential, instead of just trying to get us to switch to Shadow. Give us something that will make us excited about speccing deep, deep Holy. Give us, in a word, Holyform.

Filed under: (Priest) Spiritual Guidance, Priest, Talents, Wrath of the Lich King

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