Confused by the priest talent preview

So I just found out that the official Cataclysm talent preview for druids, priests, rogues and shamans is out. I haven't really been following the Cataclysm news all that attentively because I don't want to spoil myself too much and thus ruin any surprises that the expansion might bring, but I figured hey, new info about my favourite class is something that I should check out.

My main impression after reading what WoW.com had to offer on the subject is a feeling of - disappointment is almost too strong a word because I wasn't exactly excited about the upcoming talent changes to begin with, but I can't help feeling somewhat underwhelmed. I thought Blizzard said that they wanted to get rid of all the "boring" talents that just give you passive increases to your damage and healing, fold them into the mastery trees and fill up the now empty slots in the talent trees with more "fun" stuff that actually changes our gameplay? Because that didn't really happen, and a lot of those "more damage and healing" talents are still there. There's a bit of discussion in the WoW.com comments about this, with people trying to figure out if we might have misunderstood what Blizzard was trying to tell us, but mostly people seem to agree that the preview doesn't really live up to what was promised.

Now, I won't go over the whole thing in detail because long lists are boring, you can read it in its entirety elsewhere if you really want, and most importantly, most of it is exactly the same as the current talents anyway.

The most major change that is worth noting in my opinion is that there are suddenly a lot of new talents specifically empowering smite, most of them in the disc tree but some in low holy too. Penitence (disc tier 2) increases smite and penance crit chance, Atonement (disc tier 3) heals someone near you when you do smite damage, Evangelism (disc tier 4) gives a stacking damage buff to smite and the other holy damage spells, Archangel (disc tier 5) consumes Evangelism stacks for a healing buff and allows you to cast penance on the move. In the holy tree you mostly have the same talents affecting smite that also do it right now, but with the addition of Divine Accuracy (holy tier 2) which increases your hit chance with holy spells. The new Chakra talent (more on that later) also has an "option" for smite to increase your overall damage if you're smiting a lot.

The big question that comes up when looking at these changes is simply: why? Is smite spec meant to make a comeback as a valid PvE damage spec? I consider that unlikely to be honest, because there still aren't enough talents to empower it, not to mention none at all in the higher tiers. It also wouldn't really fit with Blizzard's decision to make every tree focus on one role for the mastery system to work, which was part of why they scrapped the whole concept of letting death knights tank and dps in all three trees. Making discipline and holy into secondary dps specs would go completely against that. Not to mention that a smite-smite-smite dps spec wouldn't fit Blizzard's ideal of an interesting dps rotation either.

It's noteable that especially the new talents in the disc tree seem to encourage a combination of both damage and healing, seeing how Atonement does some healing while you smite and Archangel increases your healing afterwards. But again, why? Are they worried about healers being bored of doing nothing but healing and inviting them to do some damage in-between heals? When you think of how we faceroll heroics right now and how a geared healer's mana pool is nearly bottomless, that suggestion doesn't seem entirely crazy (though you could still question whether healers really want to dps while healing), but considering that Cataclysm is supposed to gimp our mana regen massively, I don't see us as having the mana to spare to throw in five smites between each heal and I have a hard time imagining that Blizzard just forgot about that themselves.

So what's left? I can only think of soloing and PvP. The new disc talents in particular sound like they could make a disc priest an even more powerful force to reckon with in a battleground. Then again, disc priests were already good at PvP, so why make so many talent changes particularly tailored to them becoming even better at it? It just doesn't quite add up to me.

Compared to that, the other changes in the two healing trees seem comparatively minor. The promised power word: barrier is coming for disc, Serendipity is being renamed to Deliverance for some reason. Choir Leader is a funny name for a marginally useful new talent that affects our hymns, and Improved Holy Nova reducing the global cooldown of the spell makes me wonder how the mental image of spamming holy nova as fast and maniacally as possible is supposed to fit into the slower and more mana-conscious healing world of Cataclysm.

Chakra still sounds like a cool concept - the effect it has on the heal spell sounds great for tank healing, the renew portion will be useful for raid healing I guess, and I can appreciate the smite damage increase for soloing I suppose, but the prayer of healing portion still sounds ridiculous. Nobody casts prayer of healing three times in a row. Ever. Because even when there is massive raid damage going on, throwing around CoHs, ProMs and Renews is still more effective than spamming ProH non-stop. I just can't see this one happening.

And Thriving Light with its bleed damage reduction just has me shaking my head - an obviously purely PvP talent in tier 8 of the holy tree? Is that really going to make PvPing as holy any better?

The shadow tree looks even more unexciting than the two healing trees I'm sorry to say. There's a new talent that gives a damage increase to the mastery-related shadow orbs (woo?) and Mind Melt is being changed to introduce a synergy between the new mind spike spell and mind blast (we'll see how that pans out). Shadowy Apparition is the only new talent that sounds vaguely amusing, though it remains to be seen how effective it is.

All in all there seem to be fewer changes than there were going from BC into WOTLK - which doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing if you like the way priests play now, but as far as exciting new content previews go it's a bit of a letdown.


  1. If you check out the shaman talents, they seem to encourage us to shock targets in between healing... Which also very much confuses me. Holy paladins always had to judge one hostile mob in order to get their haste buff, but that hardly shows up on the dps chart, even if they're really spamming it. Are they expecting all healers to do some very, very low damage now? If so, what exacty is the point? Is that Ghostcrawler's solution for making healing more interesting?

    Personally, if I wanted to DPS, I'd be playing a DPS character. I don't want to have to flail around trying to find the DPS target in between trying to keep the raid up. My whole UI isn't optimized to work that way, the whole point of it is to be able to a) stare at Vudho bars and b) make sure there isn't bad stuff on the floor under my feet. If you want to really, really annoy me, force me to interupt spells or cleanse things off the boss while healing. It makes me want to choke the dps.

  2. I think Blizzard ran into the inevitable problem: we gain a talent point every level, so we need 60-something points to spend, but not every single point can revolutionize the way we play. We could instead gain a point every other level or every five levels, but that's possibly more boring than 1% damage to frostbolt.

  3. Blah, blah, and thrice blah.

    Firstly, why re-name serendity from something cool to something lame and how on earth do Blizzard think we're healing to believe we'd be firing off 3 PoH in a row. Ye Gods. That would take forever anyway. I never cast PoH unless I'm 3 stacks of serendipity (mourn) deep.

    Sorry, this is just pointless grumbling.

    And the smite thing is just genuinely weird - I suppose they're trying to make questing in a healing spec a less painful which, honestly, I do appreciate although smite-smite-smite-die-of-boredom is not my idea of fun.

  4. I was trying to decide whether I would play a priest or a druid come Cataclysm, and after seeing these previews, I've changed my mind. I'm totally going to be a disc priest. I know I'm playing one now. I'll probably level a new one.

    I've been campaigning for Smite DPS for YEARS, it always makes me sad when Blizz says they have no intention of making it viable, and when I heard the plans for masteries in Cataclysm I completely lost hope. I thought "well, no chance now that you'll be able to spec specifically for Holy DPS."

    This is like a dream come true for me. I might not get my pure Smite DPS spec, but I get the next best thing -- being encouraged to contribute to the DPS with my smites while healing. It makes the way I play while leveling already (toss HoTs on my fiance the tank, then smite smite smite until he actually needs heals, sometimes beating some of the actual DPS on the meters) remain viable at endgame, something that always makes me sad when I reach 80 and have to focus on heroics and doing nothing but healing.

    "considering that Cataclysm is supposed to gimp our mana regen massively, I don't see us as having the mana to spare to throw in five smites between each heal"

    Archangel's other effect (which you forgot to mention above) gives you back a percentage of your total mana when you use up those charges. The way it's worded, I can't tell if it's 3% or 3% per stack, but it might end up being a sizable amount of mana, and if it is 15% of your total mana if you have all five stacks, it could end up being a pretty nice mana regen mechanic.

    Toss out a smite whenever you have a free second, since our heals are supposed to be more tactical and less spammy. Whenever you think you're going to need to heal soon, use up those charges to get a chunk of mana back and a huge healing buff for a short time... or if you don't need that burst, just keep smiting and enjoy the stacked +20% damage and -30% mana cost buff.

  5. @Klep: I kind of figured that would be a problem, but I trusted them not to make such promises if they hadn't thought of something to get around that (truly lots of new talent ideas, really halving the number of points or whatever). Apparently I overestimated them in that regard.

    @Kiryn: I actually left out the mana cost reduction intentionally because I read it as "3%, meh" - though you're right, if it stacks that's quite a sizable reduction. Nonetheless, casting heals and smiting in-between will still put more strain on your mana pool than just healing, which simply doesn't add up with their announced plans of making healers hard-pressed for mana.

  6. It's just a preview, I'm sure things will change again and again. Note also some weird things like Improved Moonkin Form not requiring Moonkin Form as a requisite or Improved Shadowform not requiring Shadowform too. I'd say these trees are too "alpha" still.
    About the smite/shocks: I think it fits what Blizz has been saying before: healing won't be so frantic, players will have larger hp pools so we don't have to heal like crazy, leaving spare time to throw other spells in. And what can you do if you don't need to heal/decurse/cleanse? Dps, no matter how small amount is. It's something we're already making thanks to overgearing heroics. If no one requires healing I just drop some chain lightning, flame shock/lava burst with my shaman, hurricane with my druid (here's a cost in gcd due to the shapeshifting) or shadow word:pain/death with my priest.
    This way the healer won't need to be there doing nothing, waiting for someone's life to drop enough to spend mana in a heal (and I'm sure we'll end overgearing content again, so they will have more spare time)

  7. I actually think that using offensive spells during healing can make things tons of fun, I try to always dot an add or two when I have the tanks topped off and bubbled, now I am going to actually be rewarded for it. I like to see how much DPS I can put out when I am healing... not top the meeter but if I could match a tank that would make me proud. I think the changes sound interesting, at least for the Disc side of things!

  8. "Nonetheless, casting heals and smiting in-between will still put more strain on your mana pool than just healing"

    Smite isn't such a horrendously expensive spell that casting it five times, with each one 6% cheaper than the last due to the stacking buff, would be more than 15% of your total mana pool. It would probably be considerably less.

    I'm convinced that if you had the time to spare to toss out some smites and clear the stack on every 5th one, that you'd be rewarded for it with extra mana. That appears to be the intention here, anyway.

  9. Totally agree re:wth happened to the radical talent tree changes. Looks like they fiddled the edges a bit.

    Empowering smite? That's wierd!

    BTW I cast PoH three times in a row in 10 man heroics with some regularity (i'm thinking Marrowgar and Festerface for starters). Perhaps i'm an exception to the rule tho.

    Personally i'm still waiting to see what the changes to health pool/mana regen area are like. Thats likely to be the the radical change from Wrath. Maybe :-)

    Gobble gobble.