Just over a week ago, Blizzard unveiled its plans for the next expansion, Mists of Pandaria, and with it will comes a new talent system to simplify things dramatically. In the case of healing priests, it looks like we might be changing the way we view ourselves from now on, since only our spells will distinguish us from one another, not our talents. Before you know it, discipline priests will be tank healing with Serendipity and holy priests will be casting Power Infusion on themselves to call down torrents of healing. It's ... [Pandemonium joke goes here].
We better take a look at the talents before things get too furry.
Our first set of talent points offers three options for crowd control. I know many healers don't think it's their place to CC, but what many healers also don't think about is that CC is another way to protect our allies. So let's really look at these talents, shall we?
First, the familiar Psychic Scream will send five targets within 8 yards of the priest running off in different directions for 8 seconds. Void Tendrils roots all enemy targets within 10 yards for 20 seconds, which actually seems like a much more powerful rendition of Psychic Scream when paired with the Glyph of Psychic Scream. The difference is that now your stationary CC won't be limited to five targets and will last for way longer (Glyph of Psychic Scream was 3 seconds), and you can keep damaging your enemies since breaking CC requires damage to the tendril. Finally, Psyfiend lets you summon a ... well, a Psyfiend, which will cast Psychic Scream (which I assume will follow the same rules as our own) on one target every 2 seconds over 10 seconds within 40 yards, preferring anything that is attacking you or your companions. It's like having your own hunter to cast Scatter Shot on anything that is trying to eat your face.
Now the reason I've spelled out all these talents for you when they're clearly written above is so you can really see how different they all are -- the range and area of the CC, the duration, how they can be broken. Now, I want you to think of Cho'gall in the Bastion of Twilight. Do you remember how when your allies started to Worshipping Cho'gall, the best CC to hit them with was Psychic Scream? Back then, even we healing priests were encouraged to help out. The reason for that was because of how Psychic Scream works mechanically. Lots of friendly allies all clustered on top of each other would suddenly be under Cho'galls control and at risk of stacking the Twisted Devotion buff on him. Psychic Scream was perfect because it was an AOE CC with no targeting was required. Just hit the spell, and anyone afflicted with Cho'gall's Mind Control would be interrupted.
What's brilliant about these new talents options is that we now have three distinctly different ways to CC our enemies, which allows us to pick something optimal for the fight instead of hoping the right class and the right CC exists inside the raid. From a healing standpoint, maybe this isn't a big deal, but I think it will be called upon as another way to increase the survivability of our raid in the near future. A healing priest who knows how to quickly and accurately CC will be the most valuable and versatile.
Level 30 brings movement changes, which again offers us three different ways to increase our movement in and out of combat. Phantasm will finally give us healing priests a way to escape movement-impairing effects -- great for both PVP and PVE. Path of the Devout will let us get around 25% faster, provided we aren't taking damage. Finally, Body and Soul will work just like it does now, sans the poison and disease clear.
Personally, I think this is the most exciting change of the new talents. Being able to use any of these abilities regardless of specialization is so huge. No longer do disc priests have to sigh woefully as their holy brothers sprint by. No longer is the Glyph of Levitate "useless" in combat. Rejoice!
Going back to being serious again, though, I can think of a bunch of fights where I'd have preferred Phantasm to Body and Soul simply because shedding the debuff I had would have removed the need to move faster. In fights where I needed neither, Path of the Devout would have been a nice way to get around. Having options means you can better tailor your abilities to each fight, making you like some sort of customized, pimped-out priest with a blue, crushed velvet interior ... or something.
This talent tier restores a bunch of existing talents that are usually situational in their usage, making this a sort of weird, throwaway tier if you're a healer. (Shadow priests have a lot more to get excited about here.) Surge of Light remains unchanged, though now it looks like you'll never have to choose between it and all those X percentage to Y abilities talents again. Archangel is mostly unchanged, only losing the mana restoration component in this new version. Both these abilities are sort of dependent on what type of healing you're dong or what you're up against, so I'm guessing the cookie-cutter route will be taking this new talent, Divine Star.
This new area-based ability heals and damaging targets in some sort of projectile path. It's like a Holy Nova boomerang, which I guess is cute since we already have a healing Frisbee (Prayer of Mending). Depending on how the ability is cast, I think it could be quite successful just based on how Light of Dawn has worked out for pallies. I guess we'll have to wait until beta to see exactly how it works, though.
This tier is unquestionably dedicated to self-preservation. First, Desperate Prayer makes a comeback without any changes. After that, we've got two new options to keep ourselves alive. Angelic Bulwark makes us more resilient when we shield ourselves, and Final Prayer is some sort of Ardent Defender-inspired shield that will automatically protect priests when they get too low. Looking at both, I like that you can again pick one or the other based on the fight. A fight that has constant raid damage would lend itself to Angelic Bulwark, while Final Prayer is ideal for a fight that periodically has one big ability that your raid might try to combat with a raid cooldown. Mind you, Angelic Bulwark may not be so great for holy priests, since a 30% increased effectiveness to a teeny-tiny shield doesn't mean much.
As far as new content goes, this tier isn't all that exciting, since we've seen most of these talents before in some fashion or another. What's exciting is basically what I said in my intro: holy priests casting Power Infusion on themselves to dish out Prayers of Healing at top speed ... discipline tank healers utilizing Serendipity alongside Penance to kick pally tank healing in the face for the first time ever. Being able to have one or the other is phenomenal, and that's really all there is to it.
Priests are becoming more and more like holy paladins, it seems.
We're also getting an interesting new sort of defensive cooldown called Void Shift, which allows us to swap health percentages with an ally. So if you're one of those pro priests who never take damage, you can instantly bring the tank up to 100% if he's at 10%. If you know how to use it right, it will basically allow healing priests two tank cooldowns every 3 minutes -- that is, if Blizzard allows us keep Pain Suppression and Guardian Spirit and doesn't force them to share a timer. I'd still fancy Void Shift inferior to either of those abilities.
It should also go without saying that Void Shift also has endless potential for antagonizing anyone in your raid you don't like. It really makes me wonder, though. Between this and Leap of Faith, the developers are giving priests a considerable toolbox for troublemaking. It's like they think we're upstanding and responsible members of a party or something.
End of the line
Well, it looks like we're out of time this week, but we'll be back to discuss more MoP content next week. After looking at all of this, I think Oestrus fielded the most interesting question to me thus far: Will we be keeping Chakra, or will it simply be a one-expansion wonder? Hmm ... That's definitely something to consider, given the consolidation.
If you have anything you think needs some discussion for next week or want to flesh out some thoughts on what we've talked about today, leave a comment.
Spiritual Guidance has the inside line on pre-raid, valor point and raid gear for patch 4.2, as well as priest healing guides for the early and final bosses of The Firelands. Newcomer to the priest class? Look into leveling a healing priest, plus our guides to Discipline Priest 101 and Holy Priest 101.