The Q & A for Priests just came out. The first section had Ghostcrawler cover a brief history and the Blizzard perspective of Priests. We used to be the absolute top of the line healer many years ago. At the present, we have been balanced to become on par with the other healing classes (Druids, Paladins, and Shamans). The crustacean one is bang on when he states that Priests have a wide variety of spells to respond to nearly any situation.
Let's get straight to it then. What do healing Priests have to look forward to?
For one thing, there won't be any mana buff changes. Our pet Shadowfiend will not be providing us with any extra mana. If the Replenishment nerf happens to push us over the edge, I wouldn't be surprised if Blizzard looks at Shadowfiend later on to increase the return on mana.
One thing that Priests will have to look forward to is that the way the combat log handles absorption mechanics will be improved. Perhaps this will help prove the legitimacy of Discipline Priests in raids. The change made in the patch will show how much damage is left on an absorb effect before and after damage. Addons should be able to figure out that information.
After underscoring the difference between Discipline and Holy, GC continued to move on towards Greater Heal. The biggest liability of Greater Heal is the cast time. A lot of fights involve quick spike damage or unpredictable sources. Flash Heal on its own is fast and strong enough to get players out of the red zone. Even though Flash Heal isn't as efficient as Greater Heal, our mana regeneration is high enough for it to not matter. A healing spell that was directly between Flash Heal and Greater Heal is an intriguing idea. But then would Greater Heal ever be used at all?
Then we moved on to the defensive cooldowns Divine Hymn and Pain Suppression. GC stated that they were considering a mechanic to turn Divine Hymn into a Heroism or Bloodlust type spell in terms of when it can be used. Heroism, for example, uses a 5 minute cooldown on the spell but a 10 minute debuff where players cannot benefit from its effects. I wouldn't mind seeing that. I know I've been in encounters where I could only use Divine Hymn once every second attempt. Would be nice if I was able to use it on every attempt. No improvements will be coming to Pain Suppression. Why? Because "It's really good".
Is there a way to improve Lightwell? It turns out there isn't much that can be done. The onus is on the players to make use of it. Lightwell is a cool spell and I've seen many positive examples of it. The simple fact is that the majority don't utilize it. That's why it continues to get scoffed at.
What about different types of armor buffs? GC provides two just for fun examples like Outer Fire and Inner Shadow to complement Inner Fire. Perhaps Outer Fire increases mana regen rate while Uber Fire increases critical strike chance. That would be another interesting dimension to add. For the time being, we will just have to be content with Inner Fire as it is.
One of the last points concerns our Dispels missing on bosses. It's going to continue happening. Bosses are 3 levels higher than us and since we're not usually packing hit gear, there's going to be a chance that our Dispels will not land.
All in all, the Priest Q & A introduces a few interesting ideas that the development staff have considered. As always, there is nothing concrete in our future for the time being. Nothing given to us but at least there's nothing taken away either.