Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cataclysm Changes - Priest

Late last night the Priest changes were release at a time which only benefits Oceanic realms. But there was a lot to digest, since we have two healing specs in one class here. As a priest main, my only hope was to stay more versatile than other healing classes (because unlike the other three classes, we cannot tank or put out two very distinct types of DPS) and for Power Word Barrier to come back into the fold. Shielding is a cool mechanic, but only having one shield in PWS is not all that interesting after a while.

Well let's start with the new spells for both discipline and holy. The only low-level change for both is Heal, which will bring the priest back in line with the shaman changes we heard yesterday. Basically Blizzard wants a big heal which is Greater Heal, a fast but inefficient heal in Flash Heal, and a mid-range heal when you do not need the speed or the power in Heal. The current Lesser Heal and Heal are useless, so I think this is a good change that will make all the healing classes at least similar on a baseline level. Especially for priests, there's a ton more.

Healing priests will also get Mind Spike at level 81, which will be a nice quick damage dealing spell that does not require you to ramp up like normal shadow DPS. I think this will be competitive with Smite if you are discipline, but Smite is probably still better for holy. Not that important of a spell, and shadow really got nothing but this so kind of disappointed for them.

Inner Will is learned at level 83 and it is good and bad. The good is that Inner Fire now has another option and both of these have no charges. The bad is that Inner Will is very situational by only boosting run speed and mana cost of instant cast spells. This could be good for a shield-happy priest, but those are supposed to go out of style in Cataclysm with mana conservation being key. I cannot see you using Inner Will very much over the armor buff and spellpower buff of Inner Fire.

And now the bomb drops. The level 85 ability for all priests is called Leap of Faith, but it will forever be known as Life Grip or LG. LG is essentially a death knight's death grip for friendly targets. This has a 45 second cooldown, but it will be used to pull people out of fire, out of aggro, and out of focus in PvP. This seems like a perfect counter to death grip in PvP, and I'm happy that priests got what is probably the coolest ability in the game for their own needs. Plus this will be so much better than Levitate for screwing with people. However, I see many priest bloggers terribly unhappy because not only are DPS characters not allowed to dispel anymore, but now priests will be expected to save bad DPS from themselves. I don't see it like that. Bad DPS will still not be healed or life gripped. Sorry. If you are stupid, we'll let you die. Plain and simple.

Speaking of dispels, priests don't change as they will still dispel offensive magic and diseases with defensive magic (which every healer can dispel now). Mass Dispel and Abolish Disease are gone like a shaman's totem, which is kind of sad but fair. Also divine spirit is gone but who cares...less candles to buy.

With the simplification of stats, they are now making heal over time effects benefit from crit and haste stats. Haste will not shorten the duration but give more ticks, which is nice. Another interesting thing Blizzard said is that Greater Heal will probably be the tank-healing heal of choice. And apparently discipline priests are not being successful tank healers enough (what?), so they are considering adding a more powerful PW:Shield for tank use only essentially. I still cannot imagine a discipline priest not relying on PWS and Penance to the detriment of everything else since G-Heal is not currently talented by discipline. Maybe this will change in Cataclysm to for Greater Heal over Penance. This will be a very interesting development.

Now we get to the spec-specific abilities. We'll start with discipline, which Blizzard hopes to improve for single-target healing. I feel like discipline is just simply better at that already, but maybe not. They are indeed bringing PW:Barrier into the game at long last. This will be like the Healing Rains of Shaman but with the obvious priest twist of being preventive. The discipline mastery top ability will be Absorption, which will improve all shield strength. This is an obvious development choice for the shield spec, and while it is not original, it is good.

For holy, they claim that holy should be more interesting to play (it's already pretty close in my opinion), and that holy should be better in PvP. One new talent for holy will be called Chakra and will put the holy priest in an improved healing state if they cast Prayer of Healing, Heal, or Renew three times in a row. This sounds like when you need to put through more thoroughput or focus on one task, you will be better at it. Adding another layer to the biggest set of healing spells any class has already. Chakra is another good change. The holy top level mastery is called Radiance, which will add a small HoT effect to targeted healing spells. This is a nice benefit that will make top level holy priests feel a bit more like they can compete with divine aegis for discipline.

So while the overall changes for priests are not as groundbreaking as shaman healers, the changes are mostly good and interesting. And I suspect Life Grip will be the talk of the town for Cataclysm abilities like Death Grip was the signature of death knights early on. So two classes in for the healer changes, and so far I have to say kudos. I wish shadow priests did not get such a shaft, but maybe everyone else changing will make shadow priests interesting and unique somehow.

Next up are druids tomorrow. Thankfully we only care about the tree parts over here, but that class will likely be thick with changes due to fitting all 3 or 4 roles (if you count ranged and melee DPS separately). See you then!

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