|The only Vanilla pic that is left of me!|
I've played priest since early Vanilla. Although I did try out resto druid, shadow priesting and warlocking inbetween, what really stuck with me was healing as a priest. I love it, always have. I'm not sure what got me to like priest healing so much specifically. I think it's because it's always felt like a solid and thought through class. Like Blizz devs designed priests first, and then modelled all the other healers to fit that. Although I actually think that might even be true originally, the feeling has stayed with me throughout the years. While most healers have yo-yod between OP-ness and hitting rock bottom, priests have always been pretty good. We've been awesome occasionally, but we've never sucked (except perhaps briefly in early Cata). Overall I think Blizz have managed to keep their design choices for priests at a pretty high standard, and off the top of my head I can't remember ever being especially concerned about priest healing. We've always had our role.
But something has happened. I don't feel comfortable in my priest role anylonger. I still love what I do, but something just feels... off. Maybe an incident that happened the other day could best describe my feelings. Me and a couple of guildies decided to run a bear run. We did a warm up in ZG before queueing for ZA. Once we were done with ZG however, I asked if it was ok that I switched to my holydin instead. Now let me compare these two characters. We've got my main - Zinn, whom I've played for approximately 100 days, ever since Vanilla, of which the vast majority has been spent healing. My holydin has been around since BC, sure. But 80% of my 33 days played have been spent tanking. I only started healing in Cataclysm. Zinn outgears my holydin by more than 10 gear levels. And I still feel like healing ZA/ZG is a cakewalk on my holydin, compared to my priest.
I know there are differences between the classes. I know some healers have an easier time doing certain things than others. But does it have to be this much difference? I have the gear. I have the experience. I have the skill (hopefully by now). I will admit that I have done those instances more often on my paladin than my priest, but after having done one trillion billion instances, I think I've got the hang of it generally on any healing class.
I won't be unfair enough to say that priests suck just because I am seriously struggling in the ZA/ZG heroics. I will say that I think disc priests were a little too nerfed (and I'll get to more about that in a sec). When discussing this dilemma with Love, he mentioned that he had the same problem, but with the two other heal classes. He mains a druid, and often heals in raids. He also heals heroics with his resto shaman. He has little trouble keeping people alive on his shaman but has to bust his ass off with his druid. The same relationship between the characters exist there - he started healing as resto shaman in Cata, he's healed as resto druid since Vanilla. Same gear difference as with my characters. Yet again I would lean towards blaming the class rather than the player. I will put a disclaimer right here - saying something is more difficult doesn't mean it is impossible. It doesn't even have to mean it is difficult, just more difficult than the comparison. But in this case, I actually feel it is significantly more difficult.
Let's look at these healing classes in raids. Shamans and paladins struggle generally, while priests (especially holy atm) and druids rock (the meters anyway, but it depends a lot on the fight of course). I think there should be differences between classes, but something is wrong when I don't want to do something, not because I don't think I can't handle it - but because I don't think my class can. I can understand why druids and shamans struggled so long to get their own raid cooldown. Maybe it's only right that priests get into this situation, so that shamans especially can point their fingers and say "now you know what it feels like". When even my gear and skill won't make up for the drawbacks of my class - something aint right.
Unfortunately, this has spread to my raiding as well. Nerfing my shields has put me in quite a pickle. Shielding is a core part of my healing rotation. My shields affect many of my spells, provides me with mana refund and haste. There is no question about whether I have to use the shields or not. But I can't use them as much as I used to however, which means I have to resort to my other heals a lot more. That wouldn't be a problem, if it wasn't for the fact that it has made gearing a freaking nightmare. Gearing towards Shields means going for mastery. Shields and DA are completely unaffected by crit, and only slightly affected by haste. But all my other skills are completely unaffected by mastery, unless you count my critted heals DA procs. Mastery, haste and crit all affect different portions of my healing, and boosting one means nothing for the other. Even if we remove crit from the calculation it's giving me a headache.
Stacking Mastery means sacrificing haste, which means slow Heals and Greater Heals. In heroic content, I seriously feel like I am falling behind with my 2.2 casts, when both paladins and shamans can haste their skills, and even druids have some sort of haste source and loads of instants. Disc have nothing like that. Oh wait! We have the shield. Too bad it was nerfed and is far from as usable as it used to be. I don't feel like DA fills the gap, since I don't want crit - because crit is worthless for my shields and DA. See the evil circle of evil here? I need a stat to boost a skill which in itself doesn't benefit from the stat.
Stacking haste means sacrificing mastery, which means smaller shields. Considering that shields and DA still make out some 30-40% of my total healing, that is a big sacrifice to make. But it still means I'll be buffing the remaining 60% of my healing.
As you can see, the problem basically is that disc use two vastly different sources of healing, and they make out just about 50% each of my total healing done. I know you'll say to get the perfect balance, but it just feels like bad game design to have to choose stats that are only half as good as they are to everyone else. The problem isn't the choice, but that the stats are basically incompatible. No matter which stat I choose, it is pretty much worthless for half my healing. Why Blizzard, Why?! They said Cata was going to be the expansion of easy gearing and stat weighting, removed spellpower and armor penetration and whatnot - and I've never had more trouble finding a good way to gear myself.
Do I feel like just going holy would solve my problems? Well, it definitely would solve my gearing issues. Unfortunately, my raid loves me for my PS and Bubble, so I'll probably won't be able to go holy there. And honestly, I think holy have about as much trouble keeping people alive in ZA/ZG as disc do, for much the same reasons that resto druids do - hots won't do the job, and the rest of our heals are too slow (or in druids case, too weak).
For now I've decided to grab the bull by the horns, juggle my stats around and see what fits me best. We're currently fighting Nefarian 25 hc, and I feel like that's a good fight to get a general feel on stat weights, since it requires a little bit of every kind of healing style - aoe, single target, shielding and direct healing. I reforged all mastery I could find into haste (something I've done before, but I reverted back for whatever reason, I can't even rememer at the moment), giving me some 13% unbuffed armory haste (meaning, that is what my armory shows) and 16,5% unbuffed in game haste (no idea why there is such a big difference). In a raid that is approximately 20%. Yes, well above the renew cap, but I don't use renew anyway (generally). But it did get my Greater Heals into a comfort zone, without sacrificing my shields too much - they currently absorb 30k damage, which feels alright. I think I'm a haste-oholic, in which case I'm clearly playing the wrong class at the moment.