Note: I wrote this post before the 13277 build, and I should know better than to wait with a post like this when the changes are being made continously of course. There are still some thoughts here I'd like to vent.
I've had some time now to test priest healing thoroughly since my last post on the matter. Back then I only had a general idea about how priest healing seemed to be, and fortunately I wasn't all wrong. Let's see how things seem to look now.
I wasn't completely correct in my month-old prediction that Flash Heal would go out the window in 4.0. In fact, as a disc healer I use it about as much as before eventhough it is much costlier. But mana is still not an issue for disc healers, and so I can afford using Flash Heals whenever I need them. I can use them more as a holy healer than I initially thought as well. Definitely not as much as a disc healer, and more about that in a further below, but way more than I thought I would. My initial testings with Flash Heal must've been under some extreme conditions to set me off by that much. Well in fact I think it was in PoS with a greatly undergeared tank and I was really busting my ass off healing since I hadn't figured out my healing arsenal back then either. Panicking priest healing a panicking tank are probably not the best circumstances for test healing. In any case they make for glum conclusions. So I'll correct myself here and say that Flash Heal is definitely usable. Alot even. And the same goes for the "Flash Heals" of other classes as well, seeing as holy priests are having the most mana issues at the moment it seems like most healers can afford their fast and costly heal whenever they need it. We'll see how this turns out in Cata though.
Just from one day to the next it suddenly seemed like my barrier sucked a little less. Was the cast time removed? Was the cooldown lowered? Maybe everyone knew about this except me, but I'm as happy as the rest of the disc-healing community about those changes of course. I still don't think PWB is an awesome skill (not awesome enough to be our end-talent) but it is significantly better than it was some weeks ago. Removing the cast time means we can use it on the run, something that really bothered me when that wasn't possible. Reducing the cooldown simply means we can use it more often. Now even twice a fight instead of once. It wasn't good enough to warrant a 5 minute cooldown, and I'd even say it could use a 2 minute cooldown. It is better now, but still not that oomph-spell I'd like to have as the crown of my talent tree.
Note: PW:B has been changed in the 13277 build into something quite awesome, so seems Blizzard agreed with me on this one.
Overall disc healing didn't turn out to be what I wanted it to be. I had high hopes for Smite-healing, which didn't turn out much as I thought it would. I wanted it to be the core of our healing, but since Archangel doesn't even affect our absorbs, and mana isn't an issue I see little use in smiting when healing right now. My second prediction was that the lack of changes to disc-healing would make me dislike it, but fortunately I was wrong about that as well. In fact I feel like smite-healing brings just enough change to keep disc healing interesting. Honestly, not much has changed. You can easily go on healing exactly the way you did before the patch. Archangel has given us an infinite mana pool but that wasn't much of an issue pre-patch either. On the other hand those extra healing from the Evangelism buff is good to keep active, so trying to keep it up during fights is what keeps me busy now, not because it is neccessary but because I want to master it just in case that actually turns out to be important in Cata and/or Blizzard fixes the abovementioned issue. Knowing when to smite and when to not smite is the only half-tricky thing about disc-healing right now.
We're not owning the meters anymore either. Don't worry, we're not down there with paladins and holy priests. But nothing can beat a skilled druid it seems, on the other hand that has long been the case. I am glad to see Rejuv getting a mana cost nerf since it annoys me that they win healing done just by spamming that one spell. Then again, spamming my shield is what made me win the meters pre-patch. And as long as everyone lives by the end of the fight everyone wins, right?
Holy healing feels underpowered right now. It has great potential and is great fun, but in one way it feels like Chakra isn't the buff to our healing its supposed to be but rather a necessity to keep us on-par with the other healers at all. And holy priests have the most mana issues right now. Surge of Light, which used to be a great tool for mana management has been nerfed into uselessness. Seriously, I can have that thing proc a handful of times during an entire ICC run, and I use Heal quite often. Please return it the way it was Blizzard! It's worthless now. Ok, I am using disc gear with disc stats which means I have basically no spirit, making talents like Holy Concentration rather poor. But I'm not sure more spirit would make big enough of a difference. For some reason Disc got all the mana management tools (worth using) and holies were left out. Bah!