Unless some alien race decides that this week is a good week to start taking over Earth, we can be pretty certain that patch 4.1 is being released on wednesday (or tuesday depending). I actually thought it would take another couple of weeks, don't ask me why. Blizzard manages to time their big patches with something else I've been looking forward to as usual, this week I am hoping that my Super Mario World and F-Zero that I ordered from Germany will arrive. We'll see who wins out of the two (probably WoW as always).
There are a couple of features that I am looking forward to a little extra in this patch, for example I intend to start burning through instances like there was no tomorrow (aliens attacking?) with my dk, maybe even my warrior, due to the new Call to Arms. I like tanking - I just need a little more incentive to stand the douchy pugs. Maybe this will be enough, we'll see. Also as I wrote about earlier, I am really looking forward to the tank heirlooms! I don't actually have the JP to buy anything yet, but on the other hand, I don't need any until they decide to actually implement the server wide BoA transfer, so there is still time. And of course, I am eager to get to try out the new ZG/ZA instances!
What is new on the priest front? Not much, a little tweaks here and there, but still worth of making a mental note or two about.
They want us to dispel less
Some have got it into their minds that priests won't have dispel anymore. I've tried explaining that it would be silly for Blizzard to give dispels to all healers, only to then remove it from priests. It is true that priests won't be able to dispel others, but Holy and Discipline get a new passive to circumvent this, which means it will only affect spriests. They've made it so that spriests can't dispel anyone but themselves, which I figure is mostly because of pvp-reasons, but it will affect us in pve too of course. Although they did give all healers the possibility to dispel, I can imagine this being a slight strain on serious 10 man guilds, who already are being pushed by pretty harsh set-up requirements for some heroic modes (which I might write a little more about up ahead). I don't see this as a big problem, but there are still some things to keep in mind here. Dispel is expensive, and in tougher content, mana doesn't grow on trees. Being able to resort to a dpser for dispelling is useful in many situations, not only because of strained healer mana pools, but because of lack of gcds and in some cases even range. There's a but here though, as there usually is. They haven't actually said anything about Mass Dispel, so I can only assume that it will work as usual for spriests, actually allowing them to dispel magic if really needed, but to a (lot) bigger cost.
"Absolution (new passive) enables priests to use Dispel Magic on up to 2 harmful effects on friendly targets."
"Dispel Magic can only be used on the casting priest as a baseline effect."
They want us to Smite more
I belong to the group of priests who don't like Atonement-Archangel-Evangelism. It's not awfully bad, it's just not very good either, and therefore I don't think it is worth the trouble. Back in late Wrath, when they released the new Cata glyphs I remember how I pondered the usage of Smite in Cata. I was very optimistic to say the least, so maybe my aversion for Smite is simply because I was so disappointed that it didn't turn out to be everything I wanted it to be. There were some things I were sceptical to already back then however, using Holy Fire as part of the healing rotation was one such thing. With the glyph it would increase healing done of Smite by 20% as long as the dot was up, which is no small sum. But there were several issues around using Holy Fire. First of all, it didn't heal anything in itself, which meant we spent mana and time on not healing just to boost our healing. That doesn't have to be a bad thing, Shamans have a similar thing in Focused Insight which has its usages. Secondly however, we had nothing which would increase the hit of Holy Fire, since Divine Accuracy only increased the hit of Smite. This meant we could spend mana and time on not healing, only to actually not get the debuff we needed to buff our Smites. Blizzard have realized the problems with Holy Fire and buffed it in several ways. It will now deal more damage, will be affected by Divine Accuracy, can proc Evangelism and will heal through Atonement. It won't solve the issue about the dot duration being really short however, shorter than the cooldown on Holy Fire actually. And it won't solve the overall issue about AAE being an iffy way to heal. These changes won't have me smite-healing anymore than before, but for all those priests actually using Smite as a way to heal, this is very welcome news.
"Atonement now works with Holy Fire in addition to Smite."
"The direct damage portion of Holy Fire can now trigger Evangelism"
" Glyph of Divine Accuracy now also affects Holy Fire in addition to Smite."
"Holy Fire damage has been increased to be approximately 30% higher than Smite."
They're making priest healing slightly more comfy
They're actually going to fix a couple of things that have been rubbing me the wrong way. For instance, although I like the idea around Chakra, I don't like how they have it work. Having to reapply it constantly annoys me, and they've made several changes to it since early Cata to make it less of a hassle - from 30 sec dur/cd with talents to increase duration based on cast to what we have today, 1 min dur/30 sec cd and no possibility to increase duration. Now they'll finally make it an aura instead of a buff, which means we're in the stance of our choice until we decide to change it, instead of having to reapply it constantly. Thank you! It might actually make me a lot more willing to go holy in raids.
Something that was way less of an issue, but nonetheless a welcome change, is making Inner Fire/Will into permanent buffs (until cancelled). Since I mostly raid on my priest and therefore can count on dying at least once within a 30 minute period even when we have a good raid going, I've rarely had to think much about my Inner Fire/Will buff running out. I've always reapplied it as a reflex when running back from a wipe (I always forget to do it if I get ressed though). I do remember it being slightly more trouble when I was leveling my priest however, and I can imagine priests who do dailies and stuff are happy. It's a small but nice change.
We're also seeing that they're making our big cooldowns more worthwhile. As I've mentioned before, the problem about pulling out a Divine Hymn was usually that we never ever actually got all the ticks from it. Having to interrupt it by moving is a lesser issue because personally I think that it's part of some healing skill to identify the best time to use it without having to interrupt it prematurely. Another issue that we had less power over however was the fact that basically all raid bosses have some sort of raid damage that shortened the duration of our channeling, which meant we rarely got everything out of the rather expensive spells. Druids had the same trouble with Tranquility. Now they're making all three of these skills - Tranquility, Hymn of Hope and Divine Hymn - pushback protected, and slightly more worth the mana.
Having the holy priest accidentally shield the tank will now be less of an issue, since we'll be able to remove the duration from other priests shields through Renewed Hope. Although come to think of it, most of the time it was actually the holy priests complaining about the disc priests shielding the "wrong" targets, since it removed their ability to use Body & Soul on them. I don't see how this change will make much of a difference with that problem, since we still need to throw 2-3 Heals on the target for the debuff to go away, which usually is way too much time for any Body & Soul to still be useful in tight situations. Nonetheless, it makes the RH talent a lot better, since it allows for several disc priests in the same raid!
"Inner Will and Inner Fire now last until canceled."
"Chakra now lasts until canceled, up from 1 minute."
"Priests now innately have 100% pushback protection from damage while channeling Divine Hymn and Hymn of Hope."
"It is now possible to remove Weakened Soul effects that were a result of another priest's Power Word: Shield through Strength of Soul.
They're nerfing discipline
There was loads of discussions regarding what Blizzard could do to make shields less overpowered without nerfing them too much. One suggestion thrown around the bloggosphere and various forums was to reduce the duration of the Shields, since that would require a lot more planning without actually reducing the effectiviness of each shield. Even if I personally still think that shields are too expensive to be spammed throughout a fight, I will admit that there are times when I do get a little spammy with the shields. My group on Rohash just before the shield on heroic mode is one example, since it allows me to focus more on the Wind Blast than healing and let the shields to the job (and I will miss being able to do that...). Apparently shields were somewhat of a problem however since they're smacking them rather hard with the nerf bat, reducing duration from 30 to 15 seconds. This won't require a little more planning, but probably a lot more than we think right now. I do look forward to this change with modest enthusiasm however, since I always like changes that can sort the wheat from the chaff healing wise. I might sound elitist, but I mean that spamming shields isn't difficult, but identifying the right targets and when to pop a shield is. The right amount of difficulty could hopefully lead to added fun! Here's to hoping.
To compensate for the nerf to shields, at least to some degree, they're buffing Divine Aegis. DA is a tricky one. In easier content it wasn't very useful because it didn't last long enough to make much of a difference. In tougher raid content where people are taking damage constantly it's more useful however, actually I can question whether the extra seconds will make much difference because most DA procs are rather small and quickly absorbed. Still of course, I won't look a gift horse in the mouth, I am glad for this change as well.
They're also nerfing the allmighty Bubble. Boo. I realize it might be a little too good, and they're making the same nerf to Divine Guardian (which on the other hand really is an imba skill). Unfortunately it feels like Blizzard nerfs it because they don't want to make disc priests a requirement for difficult fights, but I feel like they really should nerf the fights rather than the bubble (or perhaps both) in that case. If that many raiders feel like the bubble is the make or break of the fight, then it's partially because the bubble is good, and partially because the fight is very hard (they wouldn't care about the bubble if the fight was manageable without one). They should look into both of those problems (and maybe they are!).
"Power Word: Shield duration has been reduced to 15 seconds, down from 30."
"Divine Aegis duration has been increased to 15 seconds, up from 12."
"Power Word: Barrier's cooldown has been increased to 3 minutes, up from 2, and its effect has been reduced to 25%, down from 30%."
They're buffing Surge of Light
Haha, no. Just kidding. They're adding Binding Heal to the proc-spells, which won't make much of a difference. It's still a pretty shitty talent.
"Surge of Light can now also trigger from Binding Heal."
They're buffing Holy
It's always fun to see Blizzard buff something by as much as 35%, because it really says a lot about how bad the spell must've been before. Kind of like they're doubling the damage on Feral Cat Swipe. Sanctuary did need a buff though, since it had more requirements than any other ground heal, longer cooldown, was costly and didn't heal very much. It does have the longest duration out of all ground heals, but considering how much people move around, that's not really a very good pro. I'd rather have a short duration ground heal that heals for more, than a long duration ground heal that heals for less - which unfortunately was the role designated for Sanctuary (shamans got the former). Hopefully Sancturay will feel like it does some difference when we place it now, even if people don't decide to stand in it for full duration.
"Holy Word: Sanctuary healing done has been increased by 35%. In addition, it has a new spell effect."
Overall we're getting some tweaks here and there, some more needed than others, most of them welcome. It'll be interesting to see how the shield changes affect us, but I'll stay optimistic on that one, I think it could force some thinking into disc healing, which honestly it has been moving away from more and more.