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Spiritual Guidance: Priest changes in build 12984 and Life Grip video

Do draenei dream of space travelling sheep?
Every Sunday at WoW Insider, you'll find Spiritual Guidance, a guide to healing as a discipline or holy priest. Priestess Dawn Moore will bring you the latest in news, discussion and advice for priests in the World of Warcraft while simultaneously battling her shadow priest rival, Fox Van Allen. This week, Dawn has been training an infantry of super-perceptive aerial assault sheep to counter the Dark Shrine she spotted Fox warping into WoW Insider HQ earlier.

The latest build for the Cataclysm beta was the big news yesterday, thanks to ol' B at MMO-Champion. The news hit sometime in the night while most priests were nestled all snug in their beds, but High Priest Matticus and I were up late drinking chocolate malts and playing wall ball, so we got a head start on the information ... which we promptly used to write about pets and shaman.

Last week, I said I'd be finishing my Cataclysm roundup this weekend, but since there were quite a few changes in this latest beta build (which I'm guessing will affect the release of patch 4.0.1), I think it's better if we discuss the details of the changes before we try to summarize them. There was also a super-exciting (though entirely superficial) change with this patch as well ...

Leap of Faith, also known as "Life Grip," got a brand new animation! Check out the video after the jump.


This new animation comes just a week or so after we got our new animation for the discipline talent Archangel, which also uses the angel wing imagery. I'm actually not a big fan myself (I have a completely irrational dislike for cliché), but I think Blizzard did a nice job with it -- and it sure beats the recycled Death Grip animation we had before.

Anyway, if you've sated yourself watching the video a few times, let's go ahead and move onto the rest of the changes. Thank you again to MMO-Champion for getting this information to us the other night.

Discipline
  • Focused Will Talent was reworked to no longer proc from critical hits. It also no longer grants a healing buff. The tooltip now reads: Whenever you are victim of an attack equal to damage greater than 10% of your total health, you gain Focused Will reducing all damage taken by 4/6% lasting for 8 sec. Stacks up to 2 times.
  • Grace Now stacks up to three times, up from two times.
  • Atonement Now heals for 40/80/120% of the damage dealt by Smite, up from 15/30/45%.
  • Archangel (Evangelism) Tooltip was clarified: Lasts for 18 sec.; 15-sec. cooldown.
  • Inner Sanctum now reduces spell damage taken by 2/4/6%, down from 5/10/15%.
The discipline tree seems to be getting buffed overall. The change to Grace means we can get up to 12 percent bonus healing on our target (up from 8 percent), and the huge raise to the values on Atonement mean we'll still be able to heal the tank while we restore our mana. This change might even make Atonement a mandatory talent for disc priests, but I'm going to hold my judgment on that for now since the scope of testing on beta is rather small. I'd like to see how it holds up against the pacing of raid environment, as well as PvP.

Speaking of PvP, Inner Sanctum and Focused Will both got some changes. Just last week, we saw Inner Sanctum turn into a PvP talent, so I'm surprised to see it getting nerfed so soon. I guess it needed to be scaled back for balance. As for the change to Focused Will, and Blessed Resilience in the holy tree, I honestly can't give you a solid comment yet because I haven't done much (read: any) PvP testing in the beta yet. I poked around Arena Junkies and a few other sites looking for some discussion but came up short, so this week, I'm putting BGs and arenas (assuming they're functional) high on my to-do list. I'd like to see how hard enemy players are hitting for so I can decide if these changes were buffs or nerfs and what the new uptime on these talents will be with the changes. From there, I should be able to gauge how valuable these talents are for survival in PvP. I'll keep you posted.

Holy
  • Leap of Faith Now costs 13% of base mana, down from 32%. Now has a 40-yard range, up from 30 yards.
  • Holy Nova Now affects friendly targets (previously all party and raid members). Base healing increased by 33%, but the healing is now divided among the number of targets healed.
  • Heal The base healing value has been reduced by 25%. Mana cost raised to 9%, up from 6%.
  • Holy Focus (Passive) *New* Reduces the pushback suffered from damaging attacks while casting any Holy or Discipline spell by 70%.
  • Revelations (Holy Word: Aspire (Renew)) base healing value reduced by 5%.
  • Blessed Resilience revamped -- Whenever you are victim of an attack equal to damage greater than 10% of your total health, you gain Blessed Resilience, increasing all healing received by 5/10% lasting for 10 sec.
  • Twirling Light is now a rank 3 talent, down from rank 4 and is now named Surge of Light and revamped -- You have a 3/6% chance when you Smite or Heal to cause your next Flash Heal to be instant cast and cost no mana but incapable of a critical hit.
  • Lightwell now restores {((2878.1+(SpellPower*.308))*3)*1.25} health over 6 sec.
  • Improved Healing is gone.
  • Trinity (Tier 2) *New* When you Smite three times in a row, your spell haste will be increased by 5/10% for 12 sec.
In addition to the new animation, the changes to Leap of Faith are welcome buffs. Obviously, the range will give us more flexibility in using it, and the mana cost will ensure that not only will it not cost too much to save other players, but that we're less likely to run into a situation where we can't cast it because we're OOM. A good change overall -- and did I mention it has a new animation?

Next up is the rework to Holy Nova, which, make no mistake, is a pretty big nerf. The change to targeting doesn't really do much more, since Blizzard already changed the spell to be raid-wide on the beta a few builds back. This change mostly just affects healing situations like you'd find in Tol Barad, when there may be multiple raid groups of the same faction on the field and you find yourself working with players in another group. With the targeting change, you won't need to find a way to merge groups for ... healing with Holy Nova. This seems like a good way to segue into explaining the nerf.

Currently on live servers, Holy Nova can only heal within your party or group, so you can never heal more than five players with the spell. This was changed on the Cataclysm beta, when Holy Nova was made raid-wide, giving it a ton more utility in BGs and raiding. Previously on the beta, I could heal multiple targets for about 2,000 health each at level 85. (Keep in mind that I have 70k health at this level, so that's not a whole lot of healing.)

[The following paragraphs have been rewritten since the original hour of publication to include some impromptu math and some general hosing down of a stupid writer.]

Now instead of hitting players for a static value, the coefficient of the spell changes as more targets are added. The amount of healing you do per target will decrease but the spellpower coefficient will go up, and thus, so will your healing output. So you're not getting completely screwed like I originally thought we would be (which I blame on ... something.) Without a full raid at my disposal, I was able to observe the spellpower coefficient going up the more targets I took on. .79 for 1 target, .95 for 2 targets, 1.1 for 3 targets, 1.4 for 4 targets, and 1.5 for 5 targets. (You can be sure Zusterke will have fun toying with that.) At level 85 I was doing around 2700 healing on 1 target (myself) and 1000 healing per target when I had 5 targets. So not too bad, but I wonder how small it can get, and at what point the coefficient might stop going up. We'll need to do more testing!

Ultimately, I'm not very pleased with this nerf, since there is going to be a point where the amount of healing you're doing per target is so small that it won't be able to have much affect. What good is high throughput when people are still dropping dead? In the past Holy Nova always served me by giving me a way to catch up when things were falling apart. With these new numbers and health pools I don't think it will be able to anymore, even if you spam it 4 times in a row. Maybe Blizzard has a grand plan for how the healing part of this spell is going to be implemented in the future, but I honestly can't see it. If this is supposed to be an AoE heal, what kind of raid damage are we supposed to heal with it? Can this spell even handle the damage from a ticking aura? Are tiny amounts of damage going to consistently be the difference between life and death? We just got Glyph of Holy Nova, which will let us spam it faster, but spamming anything in Cataclysm is dangerous for mana. I wonder if maybe the glyph was made more for soloing rather than group play? After all, the damage hasn't been nerfed. Whatever the plan is, this nerf still stinks.

Moving along -- Heal, Lightwell and Holy Word: Aspire were all nerfed. Lightwell and Holy Word: Aspire only got small percentage tweaks, which I'd account to balancing, but the change to Heal really makes me wonder what Blizzard's plan is. I wrote about an identical change that shaman got, and one commenter suggested that the nerf happened because Heal was just too good. Was it really too good? It certainly is cheaper in comparison to everything else, so in that sense, I get the motivation behind the cost being raised. But lowering the amount of healing just doesn't sit well with me. Heal already healed for so much less than Flash Heal (about a third less) but had the exact same cast time as Greater Heal. I thought Heal was supposed to be our our normal heal; the foundation of our toolbox that was between Flash Heal and Greater Heal. Instead, we get this weird creature of a spell which is honestly just not fun to cast.

It's hard for me to say that, because I regard myself as a rather patient player, so maybe it's just the bitterness of Holy Nova's nerf affecting me. There is no big reward for being patient or instant satisfaction for spending a lot of mana; it's an indirect gain. Now, I love mana management and I love decision-making, but this doesn't feel like much of a decision. It feels forced. The cost of using our other spells is so huge that we must use this one, and this one is slow and small and acts primarily as a filler to help us get to our next spell. For holy, it's a cheap but slow way to refresh our Renew. For disc, it lets us get closer to a new Power Word: Shield. But does the anticipation of a new shield or the saved resources of a new Renew offset just how painfully un-fun it is to sit through those long cast bars and dinky heals? It's a huge loss in momentum every time I switch to using Heal, and it makes the playstyle seem like some sort of WoW version of the gun fights in Mirror's Edge (check out that link for nice beats). I suspect a tweak to the cast time would fix this, but who knows?

I know I'll deal with this. I know I'm probably just spoiled on Wrath's healing and romanticizing vanilla's healing. But I'm really starting to wonder if other people are going to find this fun. There is so much discipline and patience required, which could be enough to drive a lot of people away. I guess time will tell -- so until then, let me remind you guys we have a new animation for Life Grip! (Must save this from being the most depressing Spiritual Guidance ever.)

On the plus side, though, Surge of Light is back, after it went backpacking in Europe or something. (Between Surge of Light, Twirling Light, Deliverance and Serendipity, I'm wondering if our talents are suffering from an identity crisis in all these beta patches. Maybe this is a cry for help?) The return of the talent comes at a great time for us, given the Heal nerf; we'll want all the free healing we can get, and the new proc should work out OK even if it seems kind of low.

We also got a new talent for holy priests, which will tie in nicely with Archangel when you can grab that at level 85. Trinity will help you finish off the last two of five Smites you'll want to cast to get your best mana return from Archangel and help you get back into healing after your DPS downtime.

Supposedly our other new ability is Healing Focus, which is actually just the return of an existing talent on live that was "iced" (or whatever that means) when we went to the 41-point system. I say "supposedly" because I still haven't actually found it in the game yet, but maybe it'll pop up next patch, since it doesn't appear to be implemented yet. I honestly hadn't thought much of it until now, since the talent hasn't seen much use in Wrath outside of PvP. I wonder if this means we can look forward to more pushback in Cataclysm? Granted, if the ability is passive, we probably won't notice the pushback either, so what am I talking about? I think I just ran out of mana or something.

Want to find more great tips for carrying out your priestly duties? Spiritual Guidance has you covered with all there is to know. Check out Holy 101 or Disc 101 for an introduction to healing as a priest; for the party-minded healer, check out a priest's guide to tanks.

Filed under: Priest, (Priest) Spiritual Guidance, Cataclysm

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