Patch 4.2: The Future State of Holy Priests

Patch 4.2 is out on the PTR and we are getting some first-hand looks at the new encounters.  Surprisingly, Priests have been touched very little on the PTR and there are no significant changes or abilities that have been tweaked so far. Is this a good thing? Not necessarily. Some talents still need to be redesigned or changed to make them more attractive, specifically State of Mind in the Holy tree.

I loathe State of Mind. It use to be a mandatory talent for Holy Priests back in 4.0, but Blizzard has made it pretty useless for PvE since then. I won’t go into detail about how it needs to change, but Oestrus has a great post on how to fix State of Mind and you can find my thoughts about it and how it could be changed on her page.

Other than a few talents here and there, Priests have been doing good for this tier level throughput-wise. We are still on par with most healers and if played smartly we still have the ability to top the charts. But there are some concerns about Priest scaling with the next few tiers that have some worried about our viability in future raids. I completely agree with Tomaj in his assessment that Holy Priests and Restoration Shamans will be left in the dust in the next few tiers if something isn’t done. This will be mainly because they don’t scale with Intellect as well as other healers. But we’ll have to see what our numbers are looking like in the Firelands before we grab our pitchforks and torches and march upon Ghostcrawler’s office.

For 4.2, stat priority will most likely be similar to our current priority, even with the change to 200% critical heals. Crit will be more attractive, but will still be valued less than Haste and Mastery.

The Haste vs Mastery debate will still continue into 4.2, although I have a feeling Haste might take the lead. Why? Because of the high amounts of Spirit that will be available. More regen means we can cast more spells in an encounter which results in more HpS. Having the Haste to cast these extra spells is very important.

My stat priority prediction for 4.2:  Intellect>Spirit>Haste>Mastery>Crit

I’ll have to do some testing on the PTR to confirm this, so until then it’s still a tossup.

Overall I’m pretty happy where Priests are in the game and how we are stacking up in 4.2. Other than a few lackluster talents and a small scaling issue, Holy Priests are looking to be competitive against our fellow healers. We also have nice 2 and 4-piece bonuses to look forward to as well.

I’m really excited for 4.2. I have a feeling we will see it drop on Live realms by the end of June/early July at the latest. I will be making a loot priority guide for both Disc and Holy Priests soon. I’m just waiting for Blizzard to finalize their boss/vendor loot tables.

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The Benefits of Gnome Racials

After having a somewhat comical conversation on Twitter with a few fellow bloggers and reading O’s new post, I decided I wanted to write an article weighing the benefits of being a Gnome Priest.  Cataclysm introduced the concept of Gnome Priests and Gnome racials integrate very well with the class.

In general, racials don’t “make or break” a Priest. They are merely perks for being a particular race. Some are good for PvE, others are good for PvP. I’ve noticed that Blizzard has tried to implement all of them to be utilized in both PvE and PvP to some degree and each race has some form of PvE and PvP racial utility.  This is a good thing. It causes people to not shy away from a particular race based on interests.

Gnome racials are very straightforward and are integrated well with the lore of the Gnome race.  4 out of the 5 racial traits are useful for Priests in some shape or form.

Shortblade Specialization- I’ll get the useless one out of the way first. This increases your expertise rating with daggers and one handed swords by 3. Unless you plan on stabbing the boss to death, it’s fairly useless for Priests.

Arcane Resistance- Increases Arcane Resistance by 1 point per level. To be honest, we haven’t seen that much Arcane damage in Cataclysm. The only fight I can see it being useful is Omnotron Defense System when Arcanotron is active. We mostly have been seeing Fire, Shadow, and Nature damage in most fights.

Engineering Specialist- 15 skill point bonus to Engineering. Engineering has always been the more “PvP” oriented trade-skill compared to others, but Blizz has done some major work to make it more competitive for PvE.  This helps out with the skill a little bit.

Expansive Mind- Now we are getting to the good stuff.  This increases your mana pool by 5%.  It use to be Intellect, but Blizzard replaced it with Mana for Cataclysm.  This means at 100k mana, you will have an extra 5k tacked on.  The extra mana increases as your mana pool increases, so it scales with gear. This also causes it to scale with Replenishment and Rapture, increasing your mana regen during fights.  This racial is very tasty for Discipline Priests in particular, since they scale extremely well from Intellect.

Escape Artist- Escapes the effects of any immobilization or movement speed reduction effect.  From a PvE standpoint, this is a very good racial. Anything that gets you out of snares so you can “get out of the fire” faster is a major plus in my book.  The faster you can get moving, the faster you can get back to healing the noob hunter who always stands in the purple void zones.

Overall, Gnome racials are pretty competitive with other Alliance racials. In fact Gnomes are probably one of the better options (if not the best) for healing Priests in PvE.

Remember, there are no BAD options as a race for a healing Priest. Some are more competitive that others, but all of them have their perks.

To Smite or Not to Smite? That is the Question.

Cataclysm has brought quite a few new things to WoW.  One of the things I was fairly skeptical about was the new “Smite-to-heal” or “Atonement” spec for Discipline priests.

For those of you who don’t know, there are 2 separate PvE specs for Discipline: Strength of Soul and Atonement.

Strength of Soul

Strength of Soul builds are fairly straightforward and are currently the most popular build for most Discipline priests.  It’s the spec most people are familiar with.  It revolves around the talent Strength of Soul and works by weaving in your single target healing spells with Power Word: Shield on the target.  With the change in 4.0.6, SoS builds have become much more powerful due to the Strength of Soul talent reducing the duration of the “Weakened Soul” debuff that is left on the target after casting Power Word: Shield.  This causes Power Word: Shield to be cast more often, resulting in a higher HpS.

Here’s a basic Strength of Soul build: 31/8/2.  The 2 points in Darkness can be switched around to Surge of Light depending on your preference.

Pros: High single target HpS, ability to spam shields (to a degree)

Cons: Mana efficiency, weak AoE heals

Tip: Power Word: Shield is your friend in this spec.  Every time the Weakened Soul debuff wears off the tank, cast it again.

Atonement

The Atonement build has been both praised and frowned upon by the priest community. Some people think the ability to heal from DpS is a new, fresh idea while others are completely turned off by the idea and believe healers should heal. Either way the spec is fairly controversial.

Atonement works by casting Holy Fire/Smite on an enemy target.  The result is a healing effect that looks similar to Word of Glory that heals a nearby party/raid member for 100% of the damage done.

At first I was fairly skeptical.  The main issue I had with Atonement was that the healing aspect wasn’t reliable to the tank.  Instead, Blizzard designed it as a smart heal which heals the lowest health party/raid member. The problem is while most of the time the tank is the one being hit, they are not ALWAYS the lowest at any given time. This causes the heal to be unreliable. Not being able to pick and choose who to heal is the control that the spec lacks, and this causes people to shy away from it.

On the flip side, Atonement has a couple things that Strength of Soul doesn’t offer or isn’t as good at with the primary being efficiency.  Smite and Holy Fire (recently buffed) scale incredibly well with Intellect.  With 5 stacks of Evangelism, my Smite spell costs around 500 more mana than my Heal spell, but it heals for significantly more and has a .5 lower cast time.  This equates to more HpS compared to Heal and makes Smite a very efficient “filler” spell.  With 9700 spellpower, I get 23-24k critical strikes with Smite depending on procs.  Being .5 seconds faster to cast, Smite becomes almost as powerful as Greater Heal with a much more generous mana cost.  On top of that, any extra damage buffs (Arcane Tactics) or debuffs (Critical Mass) you  or the boss have scale with Smite as well increasing it’s damage and healing.  With a mana pool of 126k, I find I regen mana faster than I can spend it on Smite.  This is mainly due to the high scaling of Replenishment for Discipline priests.

Another benefit to Atonement is a talent called Archangel.  This talent is on a short 30 second cooldown, gives back 5% mana with full stacks, and increases your healing done by 15% for 15 seconds.  This talent makes Atonement priests better raid healers than SoS priests.  The 15% healing buff is a nice cooldown that can be used for some Prayer of Healing spam during heavy raid damage. This also makes your Divine Aegis absorbs a little bigger as well.

For 10-man teams, the Atonement spec isn’t very good. This is mainly because you have less healers looking after the tanks.  You need more control than what it offers especially because you will most likely be assigned to tank heal and Atonement doesn’t reliably heal the tank.

For 25-man teams, Atonement is AMAZEBALLS.  With 5-6 healers backing you up, you can usually Smite away and end up topping the meters mainly because you don’t have to think who needs healing at the time.  Atonement heals the lowest health raid member, so the throughput is always guaranteed when you cast (as long as the target is within 15 yards of the enemy target) and has much lower overheal compared with other healers.

This is the Atonement build I currently use: 31/7/3. Again, you can take points out of Darkness and add them elsewhere if you wish.

Pros: High HpS, better raid heals, more utility (can tank or raid heal), extra DpS on boss for faster kills

Cons: Atonement heals don’t reliably hit the tank

Tip: Smiting is fun, but don’t forget to use your other spells too. Penance, Power Word: Shield for Rapture, Greater Heal, etc. all should be utilized as well.

Between the 2 specs, I prefer Atonement.  I just think it’s so much more fun and it’s such a different way of healing rather than mindlessly spamming single target heals.  Both specs do very well and have their place in raids.  I think of the SoS spec as mainly a tank-healing spec, while I consider Atonement to be more of a tank/utility spec.

My First Raid Night With My New Guild and How I Felt Like a WoW Virgin

The title says it all.  Last night was the first night raiding with my new home on Elune.  We ran a 10-man team to do some farm content so our 25-man can tackle the progression content the next day.  This was my moment to make a good first impression.  This was also the first time I have raided as Discipline in Cataclysm.  I’ve been mainly Holy through all of Cataclysm and haven’t played Discipline since ICC, and Discipline has a different play-style than what Holy offers.

So here’s the math:

New Guild + New Spec + First Impression= One Freaked-Out Priest

It basically felt like a PuG run to me.  I had no idea how durable the tanks were.  I had no clue how reactive my fellow healers were to incoming damage.  I had no clue how raid aware anyone was.  I felt completely blind-folded.  I felt like a virgin getting ready for his first one-night stand.

And it was completely exhilarating.

All these things take time to get a feel for.  Over time, I’ll feel more comfortable and more confident with my raid team.  I’ll learn to trust my tanks and other healers to get us through the encounter.  I’ll trust my dps to manage adds and be aware of their surroundings.

Overall, I think the night went really well.  I even experienced a boss I had never done before, Chimeron, and we 2-shotted it.  I have to say that Chimeron is the absolute worst fight I’ve ever encountered as a healer.  Seeing raider healthbars at 10% and trying NOT to heal them is a nightmare.  It goes against the Healing Code of Conduct.

Tonight we will be doing our 25-man and I’m assuming we will start on Atramedes and work our way to Nefarian.  I’ll have to brush up on my Nefarian fight because I’ve never attempted it before.  I’ll also have to talk to the raid leader on the “Crackle” cooldown rotation that they use.

Keep those health bars high!

-Lunarsoul

>Preventative vs Reactive Healing: A Discipline vs Holy Discussion

>As some of you already may already know, I have recently moved to a new guild.  I was looking for “greener pastures” and I believe I have found one.  Undying Resolution of Elune has welcomed me with open arms (thanks to a certain Druid) and I’m already signed up for raids for next week.

In my last guild I was Holy for 99% of the time in our little 10 man team. We ran with a Disc Priest and a Resto Druid as well.  After having a Vent interview with a few of the officers, they let me know they have room for a Holy or Disc Priest for their team and that they do already have 1 Holy Priest (who use to be Discipline).

I decided to pry a little deeper into the makeup of their healing team.  It seems they usually run with 6-7 healers give or take.  This includes:

1x Holy Paladin
1x Holy Priest
1-2x Restoration Shaman
2-3x Restoration Druid

So now the question is, what would a Discipline or an additional Holy Priest bring to the table for this raid team?  Do they need more Preventative or Reactive healing?

Holy
Holy is a Reactive healing specialization with a few powerful cooldowns to help bolster and stabilize the raid.  Holy’s Mastery, Echo of Light, is about throughput and it causes all of the priest’s healing spells to be even more potent.

Holy Cooldowns:

Guardian Spirit- The crown jewel of the Holy tree.  This spell prevents a person from dying by sacrificing itself and instead healing the party/raid member for 50% of their health.  It’s the ultimate Reactive cooldown.  When glyphed, it has a 2 1/2 minute cooldown

Lightwell- Once called “LoLwell” back in Wrath, this spell is no longer a laughing matter.  The amount of healing this spell provides for it’s miniscule mana cost is extraordinary.  It just requires raid members to be a little more proactive and click it for the healing effect.  It has a 3 minute cooldown.

Holy Word: Serenity/Sanctuary- This spell varies depending on our Chakra state.  Serenity is a very mana efficient single target heal, similar to a Holy Paladin’s “Holy Shock.”  This spell is usually available when a Holy Priest is tank healing and is used to bolster the healing on the tank through an extra 25% critical strike chance for 6 seconds.  It has a 10 1/2 second cooldown when properly talented.  Sanctuary is a ground AoE healing effect similar to a Shaman’s “Healing Rain.”  It’s affected by our Mastery and is used to help stabilize the raid during heavy damage.  Sanctuary is also the longest lasting healing ground effect in the game.  It’s mana cost is quite steep and if not used correctly, it can be a waste of mana.  It has a 40-second cooldown.

Circle of Healing- One of the most powerful raid heals in the game and what Holy Priests are most known for, Circle of Healing is a healing cooldown  that is used to heal multiple party/raid members for a large amount.  What makes it so powerful is that it’s instant cast and can be used on the move.  It’s on a 10 second cooldown.

Discipline
Discipline is a Preventative healing specialization that specializes in preventing damage to tanks and the raid.  Discipline’s Mastery, Shield Discipline, enhances the Preventative healing aspect of the specialization and protects the raid from incoming damage.

Discipline Cooldowns:

Pain Suppression- The most powerful Preventative cooldown in the game. Pain Suppression reduces 40% of incoming damage.  It’s best used when the tank is about to take serious damage.  3 minute cooldown.

Power Word: Barrier- It has recently been nerfed, but is still an extremely valuable cooldown for raids.  It reduces 25% of incoming damage to everything that is inside it for 10 seconds.  3 minute cooldown.

Power Infusion- Surprisingly, this is more of a Reactive cooldown than a Preventative one. It increases your casting speed and reduces the mana cost of spells by 20%, greatly increasing your throughput for a short time.  On a short 1 1/2 minute cooldown.

Inner Focus- Another Reactive cooldown.  This spell causes your next Flash Heal, Greater Heal, or Prayer of Healing to be free of cost and have an increased 25% chance to critically strike.  It’s on a 45 second cooldown but can be reduced through talents and by casting Greater Heal.

Archangel/Evangelism- This cooldown is available with an Atonement specialization.  It temporarily increases the potency of your healing spells by 15% and restores 5% of your mana. It’s on a relatively low 30 second cooldown.

Penance- The bread and butter Discipline spell.  This is an extremely mana efficient single target heal that is channeled.  When glyphed, it’s on a short 10 second cooldown.  It’s used to effectively heal and stack Grace on a target.

Shared Spells for Holy and Discipline:

Divine Hymn- A channeled heal that is used for emergencies.  It increases the healing received by affected party/raid members by 10% for the duration.  It’s most potent form is in Chakra: Sanctuary where the 15% bonus to AoE healing is applied to the spell.  While it’s not as potent as a Druid’s Tranquility, the extra healing effect somewhat makes up for it’s lackluster throughput.  For Discipline Priests, it proc’s Divine Aegis when the heals critically strike the raid member.  It’s on a lengthy 8-minute cooldown and is used once per fight.

Hymn of Hope- A channeled spell that restores and increases a few party/raid member’s mana pools for a short period of time. This spell is best used in combination with Shadowfiend for our personal maximum return.  5-minute cooldown.

Prayer of Mending- This spell is the most unique spell for Priests.  It’s primarily cast on the tank and proc’s up to 5 times, bouncing to different raid members when they take damage.  It has a short 10 second cooldown.

Desperate Prayer- You have to put a point in for the ability, but it’s available to both Discipline and Holy Priests.  Discipline Priests will find it a little harder to find the point to put it in, however it should be in every Holy Priest’s arsenal.  It is instant cast, free of mana cost, and heals the Priest for a considerable amount.  2 minute cooldown.

Power Word: Shield- A Preventative spell that absorbs a certain amount of damage.  While the spell itself is not technically a cooldown, the debuff it leaves on the target causes it to be cast only once every 15 seconds on the same target unless you are properly spec’d into Strength of Soul in the Discipline tree.  This spell is invaluable to Discipline Priests and helps proc their mana return through Rapture.  It also benefits from Shield Discipline, increasing the absorption amount.  Holy Priests will find considerably less use for this spell, as there are more mana efficient alternatives.  However, Body & Soul gives a unique utility to the spell for Holy Priests.

Now, looking at the raid teams makeup we can see that the only Preventative healer currently on the raid team is the Holy Paladin.  Discipline Priests and Holy Paladins have long been the staples in preventative healing through the use of powerful cooldowns.  This Holy Paladin is likely a tank healer, mainly because that’s where they shine the most.

Druids and Shamans are considered Reactive healers, like Holy Priests.  They are about throughput and their Mastery revolves around it.  Those healing classes/specializations lack tank cooldowns, but really shine with raid healing.  That’s not to say they can never tank heal, because they most certainly can.  But there are other healing classes that are better equipped for the job, especially for Heroic modes.

So that’s why I chose Discipline.  Currently, the raid lacks a Disc Priest and they bring A LOT of utility to raids.  While I love Holy, a second Holy Priest wouldn’t really be needed for this raid setup.  A second Holy Paladin or a Disc Priest would be preferred for their preventative healing.

And who know? Maybe I will get a wild hair and try an Atonement specialization!

>T12 Set Bonus: A Disappointment

>T12 set bonuses were revealed yesterday and I have to say the priest bonuses are currently underwhelming.

First of all:

2-piece Bonus- Your Flash Heal, Heal, and Greater Heal spells cause you to regenerate 2% of your base mana every 5 sec for 15 sec.

Anything that increases our mana regeneration is a worthwhile bonus.  According to Kurn, this ends up being a gain of 412 Mp5 or 1236 every 15 seconds. Sounds great right? For tank healing, yes it’s fantastic. For raid healing, it’s a letdown.


Priests who tank heal as Holy or Discipline won’t see an issue with this bonus. The raid healing Holy Priest will find the bonus underwhelming, mainly because they rarely cast single target heals.  Holy Priests who raid heal mainly utilize Prayer of Healing/Circle of Healing and usually spot-heal with Renew. I can see this being less of a problem in 10-mans where Holy Priests will help out the tanks when needed, but in 25’s where their AoE healing specialty is cherished, we don’t use single target heals with cast times very much.  Even just casting a “Heal” every 15 seconds would be a waste because the “Heal” spell costs more mana then what you regen back.

Fix: Have the bonus proc off of Penance and Circle of Healing instead.  Good Discipline and Holy Priests will always have Penance and Circle of Healing on cooldown and it makes the bonus more attractive to raid healing Priests.

4-piece Bonus- You have a chance when you cast a helpful spell to summon a Cauterizing Flame. Friendly raid and party members can use the Cauterizing Flame to be instantly healed for 4625 to 5375. Lasts for 45 sec sec or 10 charges. After using the Cauterizing Flame, players cannot benefit from it again for 10 sec.

Anything that requires raid members to “click” something to be healed isn’t a good bonus. It’s essentially a second Lightwell or Healthstone.  While I like Lightwell and value its addition to raids, it’s hard enough to get raid members to click the Lightwell as it is and the mechanic is unreliable depending on how aware your raid is about their own health bars and even what they are carrying in their bags. They don’t need to be looking for ANOTHER type of “Healthstone” to be looking for while they are moving out of the fire.  On top of all this, the healing component is pretty low.

Fix: I’d rather have the bonus proc automatically, like Althor’s Abacus or something similar. Have it heal 5 party/raid members and make it benefit from our Mastery (similar to a second, weaker Circle of Healing).

As it stands, if the 4-piece is not changed I won’t be taking it.  It’s too unreliable. On top of this, the Shadow 2-piece set is looking like a tasty option for healing priests.  With the 75 second cooldown reduction on Shadowfiend and with 2 points in the Shadowfiend cooldown reduction talent, we will see a Shadowfiend cooldown of 2 minutes and 45 seconds.  This is a more valuable option over a mediocre “Healthstone” bonus.

>Greener Pastures

>I love my guild. I’ve been with them for quite a while, almost 2 years. I’ve made quite a few lifelong friends and we’ve had some great times together.

Band of Brothers of Caelestraez is a guild that that was originally part of Gamblers, a much larger and progression-oriented guild. I was only in the guild for maybe 2 weeks before the split happened. To be honest, I can’t even remember what the issue was, but a very serious argument broke out between a few of the officers and it resulted in Gamblers losing a very valuable raid leader. This particular raid leader was the one who actually recruited me.

It was like a domino effect. One after the other people left the guild. I also left the guild because I held no loyalty to the person that was in charge. My loyalty was to my recruitment officer. I quickly whispered him and he said he was making his own guild with progression in mind. I immediately asked for an invite and thus I was the first unrelated member of Band of Brothers.

And thus the recruitment crusade began. We started out small, with a generic 10-man setup. We did some Ulduar, but didn’t get very far. When ToC came out we did much better. We managed to clear the content before ICC came out. By the end of Wrath, we were 11/12 HM and had our lovely undead drakes. We also had a second 10 man running in addition to a 25 man team on the weekends.

This is what I loved about our guild. There was always someone online, always something happening. Logging on was a joy.

With the introduction of Cataclysm all of this ended. With the new “same lockout” scheme that Blizzard implemented, it caused our 25 man team to crumble making us a 10-man only guild. This seemed ok at first because we still had our 2 10 man teams going. But slowly and surely one of them crumbled. Lack of leadership from the raid leader and laziness was the main cause of this group to split. Some people had RL to go back to. Others left the guild in search of a better experience.

But my team held on strong. We stayed together with only a few minor hiccups in our lineup, but we never crumbled. Unfortunately, boredom and RL has taken a toll on the team. Hardly anyone logs in anymore and if they do it’s just to raid. Our raid times have been cut by 1/3 to a mere 2 hours a night mainly due to some new schedule conflicts with team members.

Personally I feel my team should be 12/12 normal right now, but because we raid only 6 hours a week, there’s little chance for progression, so we are currently 8/12 Normal. If we have a sour night (which we all do) it seriously hampers our progression and causes bad feelings. We talked about changing the days of the week, but unfortunately RL strikes again with scheduling. People either work or have school or need to sleep. We just can’t win.

It’s not that we haven’t made progress, because we have. It’s just I don’t enjoy raiding with my team anymore. I don’t have that thrill of logging on and getting excited for raid night. It’s almost like an old married couple when they lose that “spark”. I honestly think its time I go my own way.

I have already spoken to my Co-GM and she understands where I’m coming from. I’m sure she spoke to the GM (her husband) to let him know I’m thinking about moving to a different guild.

So if you are in a guild that is in need of an uber Priest or Holy Paladin please let me know! I’m open to faction changing as well. 10-man is ok, but I would like to start trying 25-man as well.

Feel free to leave a comment. You can also reach me on Twitter at @LunarthePriest.

Thanks!

Lunarsoul