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Priests in Wrath: Analysis of Alpha talents

I would like to take a moment to talk about the leaked Priest spells and talents from the Wrath friends and family alpha. We have decided not to keep this information on the site for legal reasons, but there are many other places on the internet to find it, such as this wiki (which, by the way, seems to have been semi-locked to prevent recurrences of Tuesday night's rampant vandalization).

Note that these are alpha leaks (for those not conversant with software testing, alpha comes before beta, and beta comes before release), and most of these talents and spells will change before Wrath goes live. Some of them will probably not be recognizably the same, or even there at all. Nevertheless, it's certainly something to talk about in a game that, in my opinion, has had far too little change over the past couple of years.

As far as the deepest ranks of each tree, I'm not ecstatic about them -- there's no Holyform -- but it's certainly not the slap in the face we're used to getting. Rapture actually looks really nice, although it's probably not going to get this die-hard Holy player to go deep Disc. Penance I don't quite understand -- it basically looks like a channeled Holy Shock -- but I think I'm just not quite processing the use for it.

Divine Providence looks underpowered to me, no question about it. My benchmark for talents is 1%: if it boosts your healing/damage/mitigation by 1%, it's a good talent. DP only fits that bill if fully half of your healing is done by group heals, and although I recognize that WotLK may change the healing game, I just don't think that's going to end up being the case. As far as Guardian Spirit, that looks interesting. On a 3-minute cooldown, and for a non-huge mana cost, it seems like a good spell to slap on the tank when things look like they might go wrong -- a sort of emergency super-renew. This might be the talent that finally pulls me all the way down Holy.

Growing Pains is a talent with two faces. My current best theory is that the first half of it meant for people who switch to Shadow after having been raid healers; the talent would further boost the current 30% of +healing that is converted to +damage. The other side of it basically means never having to recast SW:P, which should save shadow priests a load of mana on boss fights. I guess that makes it a likely grab for anyone that deep in the tree. However, the final talent makes me question whether you would want to go that deep in the tree. Can someone enlighten me as to what the purpose of Dispersion is? You basically become invincible and can't do anything for 6 seconds, and get 36% of your HP and mana back. It's like a combination of Evasion and a Major Dreamless Sleep Potion. But what is it for? Does it help survivability in PvP? Is it a panic button when a boss gets angry at you? I just can't tell. Help me out in the comments, please.

Serendipity looks, frankly, awesome. Mana back on overheals would make me a happy, happy raiding priest. Obviously it depends what the percentage is, but the talent certainly has potential. Kindling Soul, combined with Dark Spirit, spells interesting things for shadow and spirit; traditionally, spirit has not mattered all that much for shadow priests, but that might be set to change. I have a long history of being happy when they make spirit more powerful, and indeed, I am happy here. The wording of Kindling Soul -- specifically, that it refers to spells in general and not shadow in particular -- make me suspect it's in the Discipline tree, and not in Shadow, which would lead to good synergy between the trees, as well as the possibility of applying that spell to non-shadow builds.

In fact, that would be a nice talent to have for a healing priest -- crits would boost your spirit, possibly proc Inspiration, and now proc Divine Aegis as well. A renaissance of spell crit for healers? And there are more healing goodies in here, oh yes. Grace looks like our version of Healing Way. Test of Faith gives us more power on low-health targets, adding in some crit with its new improved effects. Mark of Divinity is another spell that seems meant for slapping on the tank, so that when you need to spot-heal party members, you're also helping to keep the tank up; I just hope it lasts a while and doesn't need to be reapplied all the time. And finally, Divine Hymn is straight-up confusing. The ultimate panic button?

The question I'm left with is what this all means in terms of Blizzard's vision for the Priest class. This has changed throughout the three and a half years the game has been running. Here's the oldest version I can find of the Priest class description, from Blizzard's classes page in November of 2004:

Priests lead the many faiths spread throughout the disparate lands of the world of Azeroth. In Kalimdor, Night Elf Priestesses revere the moon goddess Elune, while Dwarven priests in Khaz Modan deliver the message of the Light to their people. In the ruins of Lordaeron, the undead priests of the Forsaken, their faith twisted and tainted by their tortured existences, spread a dark interpretation of the Holy Light. Regardless of their faith, however, all Priests share in their ability to manipulate the minds of those who turn to them for spiritual guidance.
Available to: Humans, Dwarves, Night Elves, Undead, Trolls
Type: Primary Healer
Standard Bars: Health/Mana
Available Armor: Cloth
Available Weapons: One-Handed Maces, Daggers, Staves, Wands
Comments: The most sought after class for any group

This text remained until August of 2007, when it changed to the following:
Priests are the masters of healing and preservation, restoring their wounded allies, shielding them in battle, and even resurrecting their fallen comrades. While they have a variety of protective and enhancement spells to bolster their allies, priests can also wreak terrible vengeance on their enemies, using the powers of shadow or holy light to destroy them. They are a diverse and powerful class, highly desirable in any group, capable of fulfilling multiple roles.
Available to: Humans, Dwarves, Night Elves, Undead, Trolls, Blood Elves, Draenei Type: Primary Healer
Standard Bars: Health/Mana
Available Armor: Cloth
Available Weapons: One-Handed Maces, Daggers, Staves, Wands
Comments: The most sought after class for any group

It has been the same since then. Although the flavor text changed to reflect somewhat more the range of Priestly abilities, and of course Draenei and Blood Elves were added to the allowed races, there's not that much difference between the two blobs of copy. This is deceptive, since the role of the Priest changed significantly from original WoW to BC.

Back in the day, priests were the premiere healers. We kept raids up, we were the healer of choice for a 5-man, and we died very quickly in the battlegrounds, unless we were Shadow. There were, of course, no arenas at the time. Then BC came along, and we slowly adjusted to the new realization that Shadow was viable in PvE, Holy was best in PvP, and we were no longer going to be the best healers in a raid. That honor, at least Alliance-side, went to paladins, who could out-heal us any night of the week. It took us a little while to get around to it, but at least I have finally accepted that priests as healers are now on much more of an even footing with the three other healing classes. Paladins own efficiency, Druids have an arsenal of HoTs, Shamans -- well, I'm not sure what exactly sets Shaman healing apart, but it must be something -- and Priests dominate the group heals. Between Prayer of Healing, Prayer of Mending, Lightwell, and Circle of Healing, we've got it covered.

Which brings me back to my question: where is this going in Wrath? Looking at the new abilities available, I'd say it's going both back to the old way and more in the direction of the new way. We have an ability we can slap on the tank to heal him when we heal the rest of the party, which reinforces our role as group healers while at the same time letting us help keep the tank up. We have a talent to get mana back on overheals, which should help us gain significantly in efficiency. We have a talent that boosts Binding Heal, CoH, PoH, and PoM -- all our multi-target heals besides Lightwell. But we also have a talent that enhances multiple heals to the same target. And the most unusual healing ability, in my view -- that is, Guardian Spirit -- is obviously a single-target group/raid ability. So we're diversifying, and getting stronger pretty much everywhere in the healing game.

Meanwhile, both Holy and Shadow are making strong gains in PvP. Persecution is essentially Blackout for Holy. Mind Sear gives Shadow some very interesting AoE utility. Improved Shadowform -- which really should be called Improve Fade -- should dramatically bump up survivability for Shadow. And again, what the heck is up with Divine Hymn?

I would at this point like to reiterate my warning that these are alpha talents -- very early stuff -- so most of the conclusions I've made are probably unfounded. Certainly you should not expect to see anything in the alpha survive unchanged to retail Wrath of the Lich King, and it wouldn't do to get too upset about any of this. That's what betas are for.

For more on Priests, be sure to read our recently resurrected Spiritual Guidance column. And for raid healing in general, Marcie's got your prescription right here at Raid Rx.

Filed under: Priest, Talents, Wrath of the Lich King

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