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Cataclysm Talent Preview: Discipline priests

Last night, Blizzard unexpectedly released an extensive talent preview from Cataclysm for select classes. Priests were among those classes, and as the resident healing priest, I will be walking you through the preview for discipline (as well as holy) talent by talent.

The preview confirms the full details on the long-awaited discipline ability, Power Word: Barrier. A new talent called Archangel was also unveiled. Hit the jump to check it out.

Please keep in mind that while the preview analysis for both holy and discipline are separate articles, I will be discussing the talents in both trees from the perspective of both specs as necessary. Holy priests will find things to read in the discipline article, and vice versa.

Since I'll be looking at everything talent-by-talent, you may want to look up the preview build I'm discussing. You can find the talents calculator from the preview at Wowhead.

Discipline Talent Tree

Tier 1 (Left to Right)
  • Unbreakable Will (5 ranks available) Reduces the duration of stun, fear, and silence effects done to you by an additional 6/12/18/24/30%.

    No changes here. (What better way is there than to start out a talent preview analysis than with a talent tier that has no changes?)
  • Twin Disciplines (5 ranks available) Increases the damage and healing done by your instant spells and the damage absorbed by your Power Word: Shield by 1/2/3/4/5%.

    No change. (It was pointed out to me the tooltip for this ability changed to mention that PW:S benefits from the extra 5%. However, PW: S has always benefitted from the bonuses offered by Twin Disciplines before now, so the tooltip has simply been written to reflect that. Thanks!)
Tier 2 (Left to Right)
  • Penitence (3 ranks) Increases the critical effect chance of your Smite and Penance spells by 5/10/15%.

    When I wrote about the leaked talent trees previously, I wondered to myself where Holy Specialization had gone. This is one place that talent seems to have been divided. It will be a nice buff to Penance, though I am not sure it is needed. Even though a few crit talents are being moved around, you'd have to have terrible luck if most of your Penance ticks aren't already crits. Currently, I usually see two out of three ticks crit.

    From the Smite side though, disc looks to be getting some of its old offensive capabilities back from TBC -- great for PvP, an unknown for PvE at the moment. You'll need these talents to move on to Evangelism in tier 4, assuming that's what you want. More on that further down.
  • Improved Inner Fire (3 ranks available) Increases the effect of your Inner Fire spell by 15/30/45%.

    No change save for the removal of the charges, which we knew was coming.
  • Focused Power (2 ranks avaialble) Reduces the cast time of your Mind Control spell by 0.3/0.5 seconds, and your Mass Dispel cast time is reduced by 0.5/1 second.

    Previously discussed. Currently, Focused Power sits in tier 6 of the discipline tree and grants throughput and reduced cast time on Mass Dispel. Now, the throughput has been replaced with utility and the talents moved to tier 2. This will allow greater accessibility to the utility for both holy and shadow priests.
  • Martyrdom (2 ranks available) Gives you a 50/100% chance to gain the Focused Casting effect that lasts for 6 seconds after being the victim of a melee or ranged critical strike. The Focused Casting effect reduces the pushback suffered from damaging attacks while casting priest spells and decreases the duration of interrupt effects by 10/20%.

    No change.
Tier 3 (Left to Right)
  • Atonement (3 ranks) When you deal damage with Smite, you instantly heal a nearby low-health friendly target within 40 yards equal to 15/30/45% of the damage dealt.

    Yay! Priests get a splash effect heal ... sort of. I'm not sure on the value on this talent yet. It seems like it will lend itself well to PvP or questing, as it should buy you some time before casting a heal on your party (or yourself) when you're trying to focus down an enemy target. Its utility will depend on how strong and fast your Smites are versus how strong and fast the incoming damage is.
  • Inner Focus (1 rank available) Instant - 1.5 min cooldown - When activated, reduces the mana cost of your next spell by 100% and increases its critical effect chance by 25% if it is capable of a critical effect.

    The cooldown is being halved from 3 minutes to 1.5. This change is long overdue in my opinion, so I'm pleased to see Blizzard feels the same way. Currently you can usually only get one to two uses of Inner Focus per fight, meaning most of us are sitting on this ability to pair it with Divine Hymn. Now we'll be able to think of using it for mana efficiency and those "I need a crit heal now" moments. Add in disc's Aspiration and it's another savvy cooldown for our toolbox.
  • Improved Power Word: Shield (3 ranks available) Increase the damage absorbed by your Power Word: Shield by 5/10/15%.

    No change.


Tier 4 (Left to Right)
  • Evangelism (2 ranks available) When you cast Smite you gain Evangelism, increasing the damage done by your Smite, Holy Fire, Holy Nova and Penance spells by 2/4% and reducing the mana cost of those spells by 3/6% for 15 seconds. Stacks up to 5 times.

    Cute name, given the nature of the talent. (Am I the only person who would call Evangelism cute?) Looks like a great talent for disc damage in PvP and solo content. Past that, we'll have to wait until we get into beta to find the PvE utility in upper-end content. Ghostcrawler (lead systems designer) has said already that we'll probably want to shy away from damage talents in our healing specs, but come on -- you know we're all going to be trying it.
  • Mental Agility (3 ranks available) Reduces the mana cost of your instant cast spells by 4/7/10%.

    No change.
  • Improved Mana Burn (2 ranks available) Reduces the cast time of your Mana Burn spell by 0.5/1 seconds.

    No change.
Tier 5 (Left to Right)
  • Archangel (1 rank available) Consumes your Evangelism effects, instantly restoring 3% of your total mana and increasing your healing done by 3% for each stack. Also allows you to channel Penance while moving. Lasts 18 seconds.

    This talent intrigues me. There was a hybrid class in Warhammer called the Disciple of Khaine, which I enjoyed playing quite a bit. The idea was that you had to do damage to heal -- brilliant concept, except it wasn't executed all that well. I still love the concept though, and while I doubt Blizzard is trying to go for that with disc (after all, unless there is a reason for disc to deal damage, how would you use this talent in PvE?), it makes me get rather starry-eyed at the thought. I really would love to be able to cast Penance on the go in a raid (the way shamans will be able to cast on the run on cooldown), but it seems unlikely that we'll have an opportunity to be stacking up Evangelism in PvE past solo questing. At the very least, this kind of talent will be an excellent choice for leveling.
  • Enlightenment (3 ranks available) Increases your total mana and total health by 2/4/6%.

    In addition to moving up from tier 6, Enlightenment has lost its 2/4/6% increased spirit and haste and exchanged them for increased mana and health. Kind of boring, but I suppose we'll be wanting the extra mana in the new mana management model.
  • Power Word: Barrier (1 rank available) Requires 2 points in Improved Power Word: Shield - 13383 Mana - 40 yd range - 0.5 sec cast - 3 min cooldown - Summons a holy barrier on the target location that absorbs 293 damage done to party or raid members within it each time they take damage. While within the barrier, spellcasting will not be interrupted by damage. The barrier lasts for 15 seconds or until it absorbs 1955 damage.

    Previously discussed. As I said before, the cooldown is questionable when compared to shaman's Healing Rain, but if it scales nicely into the higher levels, I'll be swayed. As it stands, the spell has huge tactical benefits with the elimination of pushback, and given the game that I have envisioned from the various talent previews in the last couple of months (that is, a game with more area and movement play), I think Power Word: Barrier will have its place in PvE (and of course PvP) in Cataclysm.
Tier 6 (Left to Right)
  • Reflective Shield (2 ranks available) Causes 22/45%% of the damage you absorb with Power Word: Shield to reflect back at the attacker. This damage causes no threat.

    No change.
  • Soul Warding (3 ranks available) Requires 1 point in Power Word: Barrier - Reduces the cooldown of your Power Word: Shield ability by 1/2/3 seconds, and reduces the mana cost or your Power Word: Shield by 5/10/15%.

    So looks like I was wrong when I said that I thought the extra ranks added to Soul Warding were just filler. Oh well; this talent has been moved down from tier 5 and had its ranks increased from one to three. Curiously, the new incarnation of the talents only reduce the cooldown on Power Word: Shield by 3 seconds, as opposed to the current 4 seconds. This makes me wonder if Blizzard is going to lower the Power Word: Shield cooldown to 3 seconds, or if this is what they meant when they said disc priests were going to have to use more than PW: S in Cataclysm. If it's the former, then no worries. If it's the latter, I'd say that's a really lame fix -- and this is coming from me, the optimist. Here's why.

    When I read we'd be using more than our bubbles, I kind of figured it would be because we'd want to use other spells to maximize throughput and efficiency, not because we were going to be forced to. I remind you, Blizzard, that you created the ability for us to shield spam by introducing Soul Warding, then propagated its usage with the encounter designs in ToC and ICC. We could shield spam in Ulduar, but we didn't because it wasn't effective to do so until the structured chaos that was Algalon. Cool idea for one boss; not so cool for the next two tiers. Please don't think any of us ever wanted to be stuck pushing the same button over and over again; I know you watch Lost.

    You know raiders (tricky bastards that we are) are going to min-max our roles to the crumbs. So if you didn't want us to shield spam, don't design fights that can be approached with a single method of healing for six minutes. Create fights that are fun to design and fun to heal, and you won't need a one-second cooldown on Power Word: Shield.


Tier 7 (Left to Right)

  • Divine Aegis (3 ranks available) Critical heals create a protective shield on the target, absorbing 10/20/30% of the amount healed. Lasts 12 seconds.

    No change save for moving up from tier 9.
  • Power Infusion (1 rank available) Requires 2 points in Enlightenment - 3294 Mana - 30 yd range - Instant cast - 2 min cooldown - Infuses the target with power, increasing spell casting speed by 20% and reducing the mana cost of all spells by 20%. Lasts 15 seconds.

    No significant changes have been made to Power Infusion, but instead of requiring the five points from Mental Strength to take this talent, the preview states it will now only require two points of the new Enlightenment. I'm not sure if the two is intentional, as opposed to three (which is the maximum rank of Enlightenment), but we'll see.
  • Improved Flash Heal (3 ranks available) Reduces the mana cost of your Flash Heal by 5/10/15% and increases the critical effect chance of your Flash Heal by 4/7/10% on friendly targets at or below 50% health.

    No change.
Tier 8 (Left to Right)
  • Renewed Hope (2 ranks available) Increases the critical effect chance of your Flash Heal, Greater Heal and Penance (Heal) spells by 2/4% on targets afflicted by the Weakened Soul effect, and you have a 50/100% chance to reduce all damage taken by 3% for 1 minute to all friendly party and raid targets when you cast Power Word: Shield. This effect has a 15-second cooldown.

    No change.
  • Rapture (3 ranks available) When your Power Word: Shield is completely absorbed or dispelled, you are instantly energized with 1.5/2/2.5% of your total mana, and you have a 33/66/100% chance to energize your shielded target with 2% total mana, 8 rage, 16 energy or 32 runic power. This effect can only occur once every 12 seconds.

    No change.
  • Aspiration (2 ranks available) Reduces the cooldown of your Inner Focus, Power Infusion, Pain Suppression and Penance spells by 10/20%.

    No change.
Tier 9 (Left to Right)
  • Focused Will (3 ranks available) After taking a critical hit you gain the Focused Will effect, reducing all damage taken by 2/3/4% and increasing healing effects on you by 3/4/5%. Stacks up to 3 times. Lasts 8 seconds.

    Previously discussed. The extra spell crit on Focused Will was removed, making this talent much more clearly designated for PvP.
  • Pain Suppression (1 rank available) 1647 Mana - 40 yd range - Instant cast - 3 min cooldown -Instantly reduces a friendly target's threat by 5%, reduces all damage taken by 40% and increases resistance to Dispel mechanics by 65% for 8 seconds.

    No change.
  • Grace (2 ranks available) Your Flash Heal, Greater Heal, and Penance spells bless the target with Grace, increasing all healing received from the Priest by 2/4%. This effect will stack up to 3 times. Effect lasts 15 seconds. Grace can only be active on one target at a time.

    Gone are the days of taking one talent in Grace. Each rank of these talents no longer increases the chance to apply Grace, but instead increases the stacking healing effect buff. Previously the buff was a static 3% that stacked up to three times. With the new Grace, you'll be able to stack a total of 12% increased healing on your target.

Tier 10
  • Borrowed Time (5 ranks available) Grants 5/10/15/20/25% spell haste for your next spell after casting Power Word: Shield, and increases the amount absorbed by your Power Word: Shield equal to 4/8/12/16/20% of your spell power.

    The absorption bonus has gone down from 8/16/24/32/40%, but otherwise, Borrowed Time remains intact. I'm curious if the alteration has anything to do with the possible addition of a second shield (stronger or weaker) that Blizzard talked about in the class previews, or if the missing plus absorption is just going to be picked up by discipline's mastery bonus.
Tier 11
  • Penance (1 rank available) Enemy: 30 yd range - Friendly: 40 yd range - 3294 Mana - Channeled - 12 sec cooldown - Launches a volley of holy light at the target, causing 394 to 439 Holy damage to an enemy, or 1201 to 1354 healing to an ally instantly and every 1 second for 2 seconds.

    The base healing and damage numbers have changed on this talent, with the healing going down and the damage going up. I doubt this is a nerf, seeing as they're redesigning so much, but we won't know for sure until later.
Afterthoughts

At this moment, I feel like the trees still feel very weighed down with healing and damage buffs. Blizzard already addressed this, saying that trimming the fat is a matter of perspective. I see where they're coming from, but I think it's largely a case of being burdened by the rather cemented aspect of the game, where we receive one talent point per level starting at level 10. They can't really slim down the trees and funnel those buffs into mastery without changing that system. If they did, they'd have to design 70 talents per tree that "did something," and that isn't feasible given the amount of staff dedicated to WoW (not to mention balance issues and the clutter it would create for us as players). That said, Blizz, darlings, you may have over-hyped mastery a little. I forgive you, though.

For now, I can't make many more conclusions until more information is released. I'm curious if Archangel is going to affect discipline's gameplay as a healer? What about the usage of Power Word: Barrier in PvE? What will define discipline as it grows up past its adolescence as a PvE spec? Will all of these changes make players want to PvP more? Those are my thoughts for now; any more major conclusions may take a few days of stewing. Check back in with Spiritual Guidance on Sunday, where I may interject any loose ends I've missed here. Or I may talk about bunnies.

Next, check out the talent preview analysis for holy and Fox Van Allen's shadow analysis.
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will destroy Azeroth as we know it. Nothing will be the same. In WoW.com's Guide to Cataclysm, you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion. From goblins and worgens to mastery and guild changes, it's all there for your cataclysmic enjoyment.

Filed under: Priest, Analysis / Opinion, Cataclysm

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