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Cataclysm Talent Preview: Holy priests

If you didn't already know, late Wednesday evening, Blizzard released a new and thorough Cataclysm talent preview for select classes. Among those classes was the priest class, and as WoW.com's healing priest, thus I have been charged with providing you with a talent-by-talent breakdown for the holy tree. (There is also a preview analysis for discipline.)

The preview's biggest highlight is Chakra, but there are a few twists and turns in the tree that are well worth a look. Hit the jump and we'll get down to business.

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.

Holy Talent Tree

Tier 1 (Left to Right)
  • Holy Focus (2 ranks available) Reduces the pushback suffered from damaging attacks while casting any Holy spell by 35/70%.

    There is a slight change here. Instead of reducing pushback on healing spells, it now affects any holy spells. This would include our offensive holy spells like Smite and Holy Fire. I'm a little curious about this one; obviously this talent has its place in PvP but in PvE, pushback has been used rather inconsistently this last expansion. There is a low-tier pushback talent in the shadow tree as well, so it makes me wonder what Blizzard's plans for pushback are in Cataclysm.
  • Searing Light (3 tanks available) Increases the damage of your Smite, Holy Fire, Holy Nova and Penance spells by 4/8/12%.

    It looks like these talents have been moved up from tier 4 and had an extra rank added to them. The original scaling was 5/10%, now we're looking at a total of 12% without the current prerequisite of Divine Fury. I'd say Blizzard's goal is to make it easier to level a priest starting out (we see this in the discipline tree, too), with all the focus on buffing damage.
  • Divine Fury (5 ranks available) Reduces the cast time of your Smite, Holy Fire, Heal and Greater Heal spells by 0.1/0.2/0.3/0.4/0.5 seconds.

    No change other than moving up from tier 2. Its location means that you'll be forced to take at least three points (if not all five, depending on how pushback is handled in Cataclysm) if you want to go further into the tree. I currently have a labored relationship with this talent in both specs, and if you check out the poll I had in my latest Spiritual Guidance column, you'll see I'm not the only priest with mixed feelings on Greater Heal. Still, Blizz has promised we'll be using Heal and Greater Heal more in Cataclysm, so I hope it will make being force-fed this talent worth it.
Tier 2 (Left to Right)
  • Divine Accuracy (2 ranks available) Increases the chance to hit with your Smite, Holy Fire, Holy Nova and Penance spells by 10/20%.

    A new talent offering low-level priests some hit options to our spells. I am curious if this will reduce (if not eliminate) our need to take hit stats on our gear. Holy magic already has no spell resist, so this could be having our cake and eating it too for priests who want to explore a Smite spec in their existing healing gear. Absolutely amazing for PvP gearing.
  • Empowered Healing (5 ranks available) Your Greater Heal spell gains an additional 6/12/18/24/30% and your Flash Heal, Heal, and Binding Heal gain an additional 3/6/9/12/15% of your bonus healing effects.

    At the moment, Empowered Healing is a not-so-mandatory talent in tier 8. By moving this up in the tree and adding in bonus healing for Heal (our supposed "bread and butter" heal in Cataclysm), I'd say it's going to become a mandatory set of talents, much like Divine Fury. Very clever Blizzard, very clever.
  • Spell Warding (5 ranks available) Reduces all spell damage taken by 2/4/6/8/10%.

    No change.
Tier 3 (Left to Right)
  • Desperate Prayer (1 rank available) 3706 Mana - Instant cast - 2 min cooldown - Instantly heals the caster for 4995 to 5876.

    I'm guessing that there is no change to Desperate Prayer, as the numbers written here are much too high to be baseline.
  • Improved Renew (3 ranks available) Increases the amount healed by your Renew spell by 5/10/15%.

    No changes to this talent except it has moved down from tier 1. This won't do much for holy priests, but disc priests no longer have much decision making to do concerning this talent.
  • Inspiration (3 ranks available) Reduces your target's physical damage taken by 3/7/10% for 15 seconds after getting a critical effect from your Flash Heal, Heal, Greater Heal, Binding Heal, Prayer of Healing, or Circle of Healing spell.

    So, I am hoping that the text on this talent preview is a mistake. Previously, you could proc Inspiration off of Prayer of Mending and Penance. I'm not too concerned about the removal of Prayer of Mending, but if the proc is taken away from disc's Penance, I'd like to know the reasoning. Does Blizz not want disc priests to be able to quickly stack up Inspiration on our targets because of Penitence? It's not like having 15% crit on one heal is going to stop us from taking crit gear and casting Flash Heal. We'll see where this goes.


Tier 4 (Left to Right)
  • Healing Prayers (2 ranks available) Reduces the mana cost of your Prayer of Healing and Prayer of Mending by 10/20%.

    No change.
  • Improved Healing (3 ranks avaialble) Reduces the mana cost of your Lesser Heal, Heal, Greater Heal, Divine Hymn and Penance spells by 5/10/15%.

    No change.
  • Blessed Recovery (3 ranks available) Requires 1 point in Spell Warding - After being struck by a melee or ranged critical hit, Blessed Recovery heals you for 5% of the damage taken over 6 seconds. Additional critical hits taken during the effect increase the healing received.

    The current Blessed Recovery scales at 5/10/15% per talent point and rests in tier 3. I'm guessing that the scaling not being listed in the preview is a simple mistake and this talent will remain largely the same, save for the prerequisite of one talent point in Spell Warding. I'm not a big fan of this talent already, so I hope for its sake that Blizz means it when they say you only need one prerequisite talent point in Soul Warding. If not, and linked talents continue to require you to max out the above ranks, I'm pretty sure Blessed Recovery just became worse.
Tier 5 (Left to Right)
  • Holy Reach (2 ranks available) Increase the range or your Smite and Holy Fire spells and the radius of your Prayer of Healing, Holy Nova, Divine Hymn and Circle of Healing by 10/20%.

    No change except moving down from tier 4.
  • Spirit of Redemption (1 rank available) Increases total Spirit by 5% and upon death, the priest becomes the Spirit of Redemption for 15 seconds. The Spirit of Redemption cannot move, attack, be attacked or targeted by any spells or effects. While in the form the priest can cast any healing spell free of cost. When the effect ends, the priest dies.

    No changes have been made to this talent, however I'd like to point out that disc priests, for the first time ever, are going to have the option to take Spirit of Redemption and Penance. I eagerly await the animation of Spirit of Redemption casting Penance. Don't let me down Blizzard! Don't cop out and just have Penance shoot out of the angel's chest; give the girl some new animations. When was the last time you took her out, complimented her on her shroud and made her feel like a woman? (Even if they don't make a new animation, laser heals out of her ... ahem ... presents some hilarity. Sounds like a certain Lady Gaga video.)
  • Deliverance [PH] (3 ranks available) When you heal with Binding Heal or Flash Heal, the cast time of your next Greater Heal or Prayer of Healing spell is reduced by 3/6/9%. Stacks up to 3 times. Lasts 20 seconds. **PH. Will likely need to be replaced or updated**

    Previously discussed. This is the new Serendipity, with the haste buff reduced from 4/8/12% and moved up from tier 8. This, combined with the change to disc's Enlightenment, makes me wonder if Blizz is trying to make it hard for priests to get haste. Not a bad move, considering how some priests have neglected the stat during WotLK. Still, the PH (placeholder) notation makes you wonder what's in store. I rather enjoyed Serendipity as a player, but its similarity to Chakra (casting three of a kind) might be a reason to scrap it. The name change is still making me wonder if there is a new spell or talent that will be using the name Serendipity, as I've always liked the name for a priest ability.
Tier 6 (Left to Right)
  • Surge of Light (2 ranks available) Your spell critical strikes have a 25% chance to cause your next Smite or Flash Heal spell to be instant cast, cost no mana but be incapable of a critical hit. This effect lasts 10 seconds.

    The current Surge of Light scales 25/50%, so I assume again that the scaling not being present was just a small mistake. With that assumption, this ability remains intact.
  • Holy Concentration (3 ranks available) Your mana regeneration from spirit is increased by 16/32/50% for 8 seconds after your critically heal with Flash Heal, Greater Heal, Binding Heal or Empowered Renew.

    No change other than moving up from tier 7.


Tier 7 (Left to Right)
  • Choir Leader [PH] (2 ranks available) Your Divine Hymn also heals you for 10/20% of your total health during its duration, and the channel time of your Hymn of Hope is reduced by 10/20%. **PH Name. Will likely need to be replaced or updated.**

    I stated previously that I'd like to see more done with hymns, and this is definitely a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, it leaves me wanting for more than just flavor. Why not a temporary buff or aura effect while your master musician priests inspire the raid with Divine Hymn? I like the idea of this talent, I just don't want to see it become another Body and Soul-like talent that occasionally helps the raid but usually just benefits the priest. It's really hard to get min-maxers to take talents like these because the raid can generally go without the extra benefits and it doesn't necessarily increase your output. Upping the tempo on Hymn of Hope is a good move, as I have on more than one occasion used Power Infusion so I could get back to healing faster, but I fear that utility alone may not be enough to get priests to take this talent. I'll give it to Blizz that this has great potential in PvP, but I'd rather not see it become solely a PvP talent. Oh and Blizzard, an idea for the name placeholder: Rhapsode (or rhapsodist), one who "sews songs together."
  • Lightwell (1 rank available) 6177 Mana - 40 yd range - 0.5 sec cast - 3 min cooldown - Creates a Holy Lightwell. Friendly players can click the Lightwell to restore 8634 health over 6 seconds. Attacks done to you equal to 30% of your total health will cancel the effect. Lightwell lasts for 3 min or 10 charges.

    No change, save for linking it as a prerequisite to Chakra, which I honestly love. Disagree if you like, but I don't think Lightwell needs a change. Blizzard has expressed some interest in changing it (while retaining the player interaction) and I had some suggestions regarding that; but it doesn't need to be fixed. What it needs are smart and creative players who will find brilliant uses for it. By linking the talent to Chakra, and thus forcing us to take it, Blizzard has (quite purposefully, I'm sure) created a Lightwell think tank.

    If we all conclude it's still useless after having every holy priest in the game sit on it, then we can start talking changes. Until then, props to you Blizz.
  • Blessed Resilience (3 ranks avaialble) Critical hits made against you have a 20/40/60% chance to prevent you from being critically hit again for 6 seconds.

    Discussed previously. By removing the throughput options from the current talents, the debate on whether or not to take Blessed Resilience for your PvE spec is officially over. A welcome change for PvE, but I wonder if the change makes these talents a little lackluster for aspiring holy priest PvPers now?
  • Improved Holy Nova (2 ranks available) Reduces the global cooldown of your Holy Nova spell by 0.25/0.5 sec., and increases its critical effect chance by 25/50%.

    OK, in concept, this is just sexy. When I first read it I got very excited, but after some thought, I'm not sure many holy priests look to Holy Nova the way disc priests do. Circle of Healing trumps Holy Nova in throughput and effectiveness by not being specific to the priests group or location, after all. Still, the increased crit chance means you can use it to force a Surge of Light proc if it's not up already; that is amazing from a PvP standpoint for damage. Imagine chaining Holy Nova and instant cast Smites in an arena 5s team. In PvE, the need for quick and reoccurring Surge of Light procs seems less needed (and likely to lead to overhealing and mana waste), but I'd still say it's worth giving the talent some experimentation time. (It's too bad Holy Nova can't proc Inspiration, though, as that would be a great way to buff up before incoming damage. You'd round up your party, spam Holy Nova once or twice, and within a (normal) GCD, everyone has Inspiration and you can scatter or brace for impact. Again, I'm dreaming; but I'd love to see the game require that kind of teamwork, coordination and min-maxing of buffs to survive.)
Tier 8 (Left to Right)
  • Body and Soul (2 ranks available) When you cast Power Word: Shield or Leap of Faith, you increase the targets's movement speed by 30% for 4 seconds, and you have a 50% chance when you cast Cure Disease on yourself to also cleanse 1 poison effect in addition to diseases.

    Discussed previously. Having Leap of Faith apply Body and Soul is definitely a good way to get more priests taking the talents, and I hope to see fights that demand this kind of playful utility. Body and Soul hasn't quite received the love and attention it deserves since its introduction, and I'm eager to see Lifegrip breathe some life into this talent.
  • Chakra [NYI] (5 ranks available) When you use Prayer of Healing, Renew or Heal 3 times in a row you will enter a Chakra state empowering you for 20 seconds. You can only be in one Chakra state at a time. Prayer of Healing - Increases your area-of-effect healing by 2/4/6/8/10%, and reduces the cooldown of your Circle of Healing by .5/1/1.5/2/2.5 seconds. Renew - Increases the periodic haste effect of your Renew spell by 3/6/9/12/15% and reduces the global cooldown of your Renew spell by .1/.2/.3/.4/.5 seconds. Heal - Increases the critical effect chance of your Heal spell by 1/2/3/4/5%, and your Heal has a 20/40/60/80/100% chance to refresh the duration of your Renew on the target. Smite - Increase your total damage done by Shadow and Holy spells by 4/8/12%. Starting at Rank 2 - Increases spell power by 10% of your total spirit. Rank 3 changes the talent to Spiritual Guidance - Increases spell power by 15/20/25% of your total spirit. * NYI. See the descriptions above.**

    I discussed this talent at length previously and my concerns with Prayer of Healing still stand, but otherwise I'm still digging this talent, provided encounters in Cataclysm somewhat align with the style of healing that Chakra is going to birth. Blizzard has made some additions since the alpha leak by compressing the Spiritual Guidance talent into Chakra. This means Chakra is officially mandatory if holy priests want to keep cashing in on the 25% extra spellpower from spirit.
  • Thriving Light [NYI] (2 ranks available) Reduces the duration of Wound effects on you by 15/30%, and reduces the damage taken by bleed effects by 10/20%.

    A straight-up PvP talent to fend off warriors. Very cute (I hate warriors in PvP), though I still would like to see some more creativity applied to holy priest PvP to distinguish it. Maybe if Blizz tossed in a "reduces chance to be slowed by x%."
Tier 9 (Left to Right)
  • Empowered Renew (3 ranks available) Your Renew spell gains an additional 5/10/15% of your bonus healing effects, and your Renew will instantly heal the target for 5/10/15% of the total periodic effect.

    No change.
  • Circle of Healing (1 rank available) 10706 Mana - 40 yd range - Instant cast - 10 sec cooldown - Heals up to 5 friendly party or raid members within 16 yards of the target for 1813 to 2000.

    10-second cooldown, up from 6? OK Blizzard, you've got my attention. I had originally envisioned Chakra allowing us the chance to apply four to five buffed Circles of Healing. Now you can expect ... two. Blizzard had discussed this previously, saying that the Circle of Healing cooldown was so short that it made Circle of Healing feel not so special. By spacing out the time between casting Circle of Healing, they wanted to give priests the options to cast more spells. Not a bad idea and quite preferable to the possible one-second PW:S cooldown, which leaves you little time to do anything between your powerhouse ability. Overall, I'd say this is a Circle nerf, but given it won't be implemented 'til Cataclysm, it's impossible to consider it a holy priest nerf until we can compare ourselves to other healers. The buff Circle of Healing will receive from Chakra might be a huge counterweight to the cooldown too, but I'm doubtful since having the AoE Chakra buff up isn't always going to be feasible. My one hope right now is that other classes are properly adjusted to balance this change.
  • Test of Faith (3 ranks available) Increase healing by 4/8/12% on friendly targets at or below 50% health.

    No change.


Tier 10
  • Divine Providence (5 ranks available) Increases the amount healed by Circle of Healing, Binding Heal, Holy Nova, Prayer of Healing, Divine Hymn and Prayer of Mending by 2/4/6/8/10%, and reduces the cooldown of your Prayer of Mending by 6/12/18/24/30%.

    No change.
Tier 11
  • Guardian Spirit (1 rank available) 1235 Mana - 40 yd range - Instant cast - 3 min cooldown - Calls upon a guardian spirit to watch over the friendly target. The spirit increases the healing received by the target by 40%, and also prevents the target from dying by sacrificing itself. This sacrifice terminates the effect but heals the target of for 50% of their maximum health. Lasts 10 seconds.

    No change.
Afterthoughts

As I said in the discipline analysis, the trees still feel very weighed down with healing and damage buffs, but for understandable reasons. It's a shame, too, because I would have liked to see the developers condense more talents and add a new, lower tier of talents to all three trees in addition to abilities like Chakra or Power Word: Barrier. The new talents definitely add new flavors to the trees, but they're embedded at odd places. (Did you notice Archangel and Power Word: Barrier are both 20-point talents, while Chakra is a 35-point talent? This discrepancy echos the existing 41-point talent Circle of Healing vs. the 51-point talent Penance issue where both talents are weighed equally, yet one spec must invest further along to get it.) It's understandable given Blizzard's goal to improve leveling, but I think for an MMO to remain an MMO, there need to be places to get that massive social aspect to the game. In WoW, those aspects are highly centered around level cap, and thus there need to be motivators to progress players toward the end game. Right now the major motivator to get to 85 is Lifegrip, and with that being baseline, I feel like level cap is a little lacking.

Those thoughts aside, I mostly have questions at this point. Will Chakra be a necessity to stay competitive? What about the Radiance mastery -- what will we see from that? Will holy PvP play out differently or similarly to disc? Where did Serendipity go? Be sure to check in with Spiritual Guidance on Sunday, in case I have an epiphany between now and then. Also, be sure to check out the talent preview analysis for discipline, as well as 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.

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