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Cataclysm Beta: Healing priest talents and abilities

As the Perseids scattered across the night sky and some 500,000 people shuffled off to see Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, the priests who stayed home last night were treated to their own entertainment, courtesy of Blizzard: a new patch for the Cataclysm beta. A new patch, with big changes for priests.

Everything you thought you knew has been defenestrated.

At least, with Chakra it has. The big news of the build is that Chakra got redesigned. Probably not a surprise to some; it was a bit of a surprise to me. (I regret never getting to try out the original incarnation of it for myself. Sigh.) Anyway, here is the redesigned Chakra from the patch.
Chakra
Instant, 1 min cooldown
When activated, your next Heal, Renew, Prayer of Healing or Smite spell will put you into a corresponding Chakra state. Lasts for 30 sec.
  • Heal -- Increases the critical effect chance of your Heal spell by 10%, and your Heal refreshes the duration of your Renew on the target.
  • Renew -- Increases the healing done by your Renew spell by 10%, and reduces the global cooldown of your Renew by 0.5 sec.
  • Prayer of Healing -- Increases the healing done by your area of effect spells by 10% and reduces the cooldown of your Circle of Healing by 2 sec.
  • Smite -- Increases your total damage done by Shadow and Holy spells by 15%.
This should resolve all the complaints of the old Chakra's being "impractical" or "clunky." It's definitely going to be far easier to get started, and the big problem of "ramp-up time" is gone. Now, though, I'm wondering if you'll be locked into one Chakra state after activating it. (Someone who knows, leave a comment for us, please!) If so, you'll need to pick your Chakra state wisely, based on your knowledge of the fight's mechanics and what's coming next. If you play reactively, you might get stuck in the wrong stance and not get the full benefit of the buff for the spells you need to cast. Granted, this does support the idea that good strategies and preparation are going to be what lead to success in Cataclysm, something we've been speculating on for a while now.

If you'd like some further info on Chakra, Derevka over at Tales of Priest (who is in the beta) wrote up a nice summary on the build, and more importantly, posted a nice video you all will want to check out. He linked it to me this morning; it's shiny.

Moving along, the other big news in addition to Chakra is that holy priests get a new ability to replace Desperate Prayer when they spec into the tree. Though, Ghostcrawler (lead systems designer) says you won't be getting it at level 10 like you would have gotten Desperate Prayer (more on that below). The new ability looks something like this:
Sanctuary
5 min cooldown
You sanctify the ground, causing all allies to be healed for 525 to 619 every 2 sec and have all threat from enemies reduced by 90%. Enemies within the sanctuary who attack allied targets within the sanctuary will heal the targets for 5% of their total health instead of dealing damage. Lasts for 15 sec.
At this rank, you can think of it as half a Circle of Healing every 2 seconds for 15 seconds, except there is no cap on how many friendly players it can affect. (Circle of Healing caps at five players, or six with a glyph.) No clue on the range of the ability yet, nor the exact mechanics on the threat reduction, but for now, the spell sounds extremely powerful when you round it up with the rest of the holy priest toolbox, Divine Hymn, Circle of Healing, Prayer of Healing and Sanctuary. I'm sure every holy priest is saying, "Yes, please."

My first thought on Sanctuary is that this ability delivers a Power Word: Barrier-like ability to the holy tree, which seemed necessary given the speculation on Cataclysm raid encounters and PvP. (I also thought the whole thing sounded a lot like the AoE heal holy pallies were begging for a while back: a healing version of Consecration.) The long cooldown certainly seems warranted for raiding and PvP, but I'm not sure how this ability is going to be implemented. I'm quite curious how the threat mechanics will work and whether it will be in the interest of a tank to stay out of it and build a threat lead, or hop in it for the heals and immunity. This will largely depend on if the damage conversion to healing will work for bosses or not, and if so, will it be just melee attacks or all attacks? If it works against everything (or even most things), holy priests are looking at a tactical, raid-wide shield wall that may even trump a Power Word: Barrier with shammy rain inside. The healing effect would just be icing on top. When I know more, I'll let you all know.

By the way, I guess this is what Blizzard meant when they said holy priests could reverse damage in the new talent tree introductions:
By now, some of you may have thought, "Hey, what about Desperate Prayer?" Worry not, it's still around. Ghostcrawler says it will be back in the talent trees. That means discipline priests will continue to have access to it. Whether the reduced cooldown (45 seconds, down from 2 minutes) will stick around as it goes back to the tiers is unknown.
Ghostcrawler
Desperate Prayer isn't gone. It's just back in the talent tree. We don't have a new level 10 Holy ability in this build (it's not Sanctuary).
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That's the biggest news out of the latest build. There are more details, which I'll toss into a future Spiritual Guidance when I can get them from a more reliable source. Until then, hearts and heals.

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 worgen to mastery and guild changes, it's all here for your cataclysmic enjoyment.

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