It’s been two weeks since 3.1 came galloping out of the gates and in that time a lot has happened. New talents were introduced and old ones were bid a fond (or not-so-fond) adue. Spells were buffed and some were nerfed and some became completely new reinventions of themselves. Oh, and you may not have noticed, but our entire mana regeneration system was revamped as well. Yeah, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks.
Through it all I’ve been watching and evaluating. I’ve tested my spec’s limits and tried my hardest to maximize my abilities as a healer while dealing with what Blizzard has given me. Through it all though, I’ve had a general sense of well being and trust in the fact that holy priests would not be getting a nerf and I feel I can easily say that 3.1 has been very kind indeed to the priest class. In fact, I’ll go over some specific points in what has changed, whether for the better or not.
Let’s start with a what a lot of people thought would be a huge change for the priest class and would cause much game quitting in frustration. The out of 5 second rule (o5sr) mana regen’s contribution from Spirit was severely nerfed, lowering the total’s by close to 40% depending on how much mana you were stacking. I myself saw my total drop from bout 900 to close to 544 with the nerf. However, while doing this, Blizzard changed the mechanics of all the major mana regeneration talents, causing them to counteract this change and keep your inside of 5 second rule (i5sr) mana regen number the exact same. I don’t know about other classes, but this worked as intended with the priests.
Now, in addition to the change to Meditation, which was buffed to give 50% mana regen while i5sr, Holy Concentration had a major revamp. Before the change, this talent would give us two free casts of Flash Heal, Greater Heal or Binding Heal every time it procced. Basically this meant that Holy Priests could slip o5sr very easily while still keeping their HPS going. With the nerf to o5sr however, this talent became next to useless as is except for the occasional free spell. So they changed it that now it procs on any crit heal and causes you to regen an additional 50% mana while it’s active.
What does this mean? Well, when I’m raid buffed I generally have about 400 i5sr regen and about 30 to 35% crit bonus. This talent is almost always procced which means during raids I’m usually sitting with a 600 i5sr regen. Before, priests would have to dance, constantly stopping for a few seconds to allow a couple of huge regen ticks to get in there and it worked perfectly if you were good at timing. Now, priests have become sleek and aerodynamic, able to keep up sustained heals for minutes without pausing for breath or running oom. I’d say we got a buff in mana regen department.
Holy priests are quickly becoming the thugs of the healing world with the amount of numbers that they can put up in heals. Though we’ll probably never be able to beat a paladin in comparable gear with single target heals or a druid at HoTs, with the buff to Circle of Healing this last patch (40% more healing), we’re finally pulling even with shamans in the department of raid heal. As a holy priest, we also received a buff to Renew and I will tell you right now that yes, Renew is a useful spell, and yes, I use it often. This buff makes it able to keep pace with some of the Druid’s HoTs and combine that with an up front heal that can crit and proc for you, and you’re got a spell you actually want to cast.
Combine the buff to Renew with the improved CoH and not to mention that we can now ad a spirit buff to ourselves (finally) and you’re going to be seeing massive numbers on the Recount. I’ve noted in raids that I’m beginning to top the charts consistently and have even been able to best our two powerhouse druids on a couple of bosses in sheer healing amount. With the sheer amount of crazy raid damage you see on a lot of the bosses in Ulduar, AoE healers are really shining right now and plenty of priests are stepping up to the call. Once again, this area is a buff for priests.
I’ve already posted a little bit on the new Serendipity, but I feel it’s such an important change to the spec, that I figured I’d go ahead and mention it again here. This new talent effect is an excellent and welcome change to the priest’s arsenal. This spell basically gives you up to 3 stack of 12% haste buffs to Greater Heal or Prayer of Healing for every Flash or Binding Heal you cast. When we were in Naxx, there was almost no incentive whatsoever to cast Greater Heal unless you were in a situation that specifically called for it. The problem was that the spell had a long cast time and though it hit for a huge number, flash heal was your bread and butter when on raid healing.
Finding myself on raid healing often, I almost never used this spell. However, with the ability to gain a haste buff on it, I find myself checking my buff bar quite often and trying to hit up a GHeal whenever I’m fully hasted with the Serendipity buff. It’s also encouraged me to cast a few quickened Prayers of Healing when they were called for, but with such a huge mana cost, I try to be careful not to throw those out there too often. I won’t call Spell Weaving a buff, per se, but it definitely accomplishes what it’s intending, which is to get us to cast our less used spells more often.
I’ve already mentioned that Circle of Healing got the big buff this patch, but I glossed over the fact that Prayer of Healing is now new and improved. Before 3.1 it was a spell pretty much reserved for five mans or times when there’s massive raid wide damage going on. However, with the change to make it a targetable spell that will then cast on whoever you target’s full group, this spell has once more become extremely viable. You combine this with the fact that Serendipity now hastes it in order to deal with that monster cast time it has, and I would say that Blizzard has done a fantastic job convincing us that this spell is cool after all.
However, my favorite new healing spell of all time and forever has got to be Divine Hymn. If you haven’t taken the time to examine this new spell that is made of pure sexy, what it does is heal the three closest raid members for about a Greater Heal’s worth of HP every 2 seconds for eight seconds. Every time it ticks, it finds new raid members to heal, and it’s a smart ability which means that it finds the lowest health person to do it to first. It does this up to 12 times and also leaves behind a 15% buff to all healing that person receives for 8 seconds. This is the ultimate raid healing spell and can literally save a wipe if you know when to use it. Understandably, it has a 10 minute cooldown, but is still an extremely powerful spell.
Those are the major points of the changes right now, but honestly, looking at all this, I don’t see how you can think the spec has not been changed for the better. We’re now more mana efficient than before, we cast bigger and faster heals. Though I won’t say we have complete superiority over the healing totals in Recount, I will definitely say that any decently geared holy priest has a chance to top the charts consistently. I’ve actually moved up from almost always being 3rd or 4th to regularly being 2nd or 3rd during my guild runs because of these changes. But how have the changes been treating you, gentle priests of yonder? Do you revel in the changes as I obviously do? Or do you yearn for the days of patches past?