When Tier gear is spoiled for a new raid patch, there's always tons of speculation and commentary on the new bonuses you get for collecting 2 or 4 of the 5 possible pieces of gear in the set. In fact, it is common for the masses and the theorycrafters to get the developers to change a Tier bonus before it goes live or tweak a bonus where the original bonus announced is not great or does not work well. For every single class and role within that class, Blizzard is challenged to come up with 2 new bonuses every single raid tier, and they try to mix in a lot more than just passive 5% buffs to a spell. So in my short time seeing the endgame, I've experienced firsthand the joys of Tier 7, 8, 9, and now 10. Now there were a lot of things grabbing my attention for frost emblems, including the tier 10 stuff. In fact, I started by saving up 95 emblems for the headpiece. But then I looked at the tier bonuses and it was just more efficient for me to make much more needed changes with my next emblems to the belt slot, although cape and trinket were also huge upgrade possibilities. I just could not justify even getting a second piece of tier 10 for the admittedly good Flash Heal bonus over the bigger bump in stats from the belt. So perhaps I'm not one to talk about Tier. However, this week Blizzard also let out on the PTR (public test realm) for Patch 3.3.3 a new 4-piece set bonus for healing priests. Here's the rundown currently.
OLD BONUS - Your Circle of Healing and Penance spells have a 20% chance to cause your next Flash Heal cast within 6 sec to reset the cooldown on your Circle of Healing and Penance spells.
NEW BONUS - Priest Tier-10 4-Piece Healing Set Bonus: This bonus now increases the effectiveness of the caster’s Power Word: Shield and Renew spells by 5%.
My jaw hit the floor when I saw this proposed change. Why, you ask? Well because until the past two weekends, I had not been raiding. So when healing a 5-man heroic that you overgear usually, you get into habits to make things more convenient or easy. For me, it was running discipline spec with Power Word Shield, Renew, and Prayer of Mending as my main weapons with Penance when I need a big heal. Thus, I am not exactly efficient but I cover most damage coming in without needing to rely on being reactive. So if there's two spells I cast an absolute ton, it's PWS and Renew. If this change goes live, this set bonus would be a real boon to my play style in 5-mans, which is what I do most of the time.
To be fair, the most effective raid healing as discipline does not use renew. Hell, even holy spec priests do not use renew a lot, especially when a druid is around. Rejuvenation is more efficient on mana by saving overheals and is just plain better than renew, even with holy talents boosting renew. Thus, the key spell for both specs is Flash Heal. However, that has already been boosted in the two-piece bonus, so we have to have some placeholder match for PWS and it's renew. The upshot is that for regular raiders who maximize their healing output, the new four set bonus is actually a downgrade! This may be hard to believe, but the blog universe has pretty much confirmed that those who have the 4-set bonus now know it boosts them more than a passive 5% bonus to PWS and Renew. Of course healing is not always about thoroughput, but when it is, that's when you need to shine. Put bluntly, when you are at your best, the old bonus is better.
So why is blizzard proposing a change then? Well for one, a lot of people are not saavy with macros and add ons that would allow them to know every time the old 4 piece bonus procs. Thus, they waste a lot of golden opportunities to use the bonus and that indeed makes a passive bonus more appealing. I myself am just getting in the hang of using two very powerful trinkets with an equip benefit and a use benefit every 2 minutes or so. But with a simple addon, you can have some indication on par with the light flashes that happen when a holy-spec priest has a free Flash Heal proc waiting. So that's no excuse, but the masses appear to be complaining or like me, just not buying tier 10 with their emblems. Although I had other reasons for upgrading elsewhere in my own gear progression, I can see if Blizzard sees very few priests using the 4 piece healing bonus then there must be something wrong. So they make a change. Or at least propose to make a change.
So even though this change favors the casuals and my own playing strategy, in the week of commentary that has passed since the announcement, I've gone from excited to totally against this change. Part of this is principle. Sometimes Blizzard makes tweaks that do not work, but that does not mean we should get our way as a playerbase every single time something happens that is minor, such as a tier bonus flopping. If something truly flopped, maybe you revisit it in a future tier. To make a change halfway into the heat of the ICC raiding cycle that completely changes the Tier-buying game makes everyone in favor of the change throw up their arms in disgust as all their precious emblems to date have been spent elsewhere. And if the normal person plays about as much as I do, then they only have 2-3 pieces of frost emblem gear so far. In time, we will all get the gear we want with the frost emblems, but for some people this change makes them feel awful about choices they made on old information. Usually tier bonuses do not change except in drastic circumstances, and the priest nation is now dealing with the potential consequences of that drastic action.
This is like pulling the rug out from under someone, and not unlike the changes to frost orbs. However, where frost orbs were not a huge deal, the end tier gear in an expansion is a big deal. Plus it is actually a downgrade for the best priests in the game. While the masses rejoice, they rejoice for a change they never got to experience before the change. This is like catering to the uneducated masses in politics, which happens but leads to very bad results usually. So although it is just a tier bonus, priests just got nerfed. And the tier bonus that went live in 3.3 is in fact not the tier bonus that people will go away into Cataclysm with. This is a bad change any way you slice it, and one I hope does not hit priests or any other class in the future.
Priest Tier 10 Changes...yay or nay?