It started with the character selection screen. Did you notice that your characters don't just stand idle all the time anymore? I squealed in excitement when my priest suddenly started doing random casting animations - yes, I'm easily excitable.
I was pleased with how crisp and clean my UI looked upon logging in... probably because all the usual addon clutter had been disabled as "out of date". I took the opportunity to change my screen's layout a little after updating my addons, getting rid of some old ones and reorganising my action bars. I was actually quite happy with how Blizzard removing some abilities freed up some bar space on all of my characters; on more than one of them things had started to get a bit messy and crowded by now.
First order of the day was to see my class trainer and get my talents sorted out. I really liked the changes they made to the spellbook. Reminders that you need to see your trainer and no more worrying about spell ranks = win. The new, larger talent panel was very nice too. You get a much better overview of your talents with all three trees next to each other, and no longer should newbies end up putting all their points into the "front" tree just because they are oblivious to the other two talent tree tabs.
When the devs originally announced their plans to slim down the talent trees, I was very much in favour. Still, I hadn't really followed the actual development of the new trees since then, so I was curious to see how things had worked out in practice. In all honesty... I think they actually did a good job. I hadn't read up on other people's suggestions for new talent builds and decided to just try and build my own on the spot. It was an interesting process and really made me think. There were only one or two talents that were purely there to increase numbers, and I did feel that I had to make interesting decisions along the way. It wasn't just a priest thing either, as I felt the same way when I worked out my hunter's and my druid's talents later on. I don't know how well the new talents will actually end up working in play, but the process of talent selection itself felt considerably improved to me.
Glyphs were in a similar boat, though the way the auction house went haywire on my server, with glyphs suddenly going for several hundred gold, was a bit annoying. I could see what Blizzard tried to achieve with the prime/major/minor system and I think they managed to pull it off. It seems to me that swapping out glyphs depending on the content will feel much more natural now - and I like that Vanishing Powder made a comeback! When I first read that, I was so confused and wondered why they were bringing back rogue reagents!
Looking at my gear, I noticed that I had lost several socket bonuses due to intellect gems turning red. I replaced them with haste instead, as I was relatively low on that anyway, what with most of my current healing coming from instant cast spells. I figured that with Heal being supposed to increase in importance again, some more haste would be good.
My guild decided to do a Naxx run tonight to give people a chance to get a feel for the changes to their class and give The Undying another shot. We borked up the achievement in more than one way, though Thaddius bugging out and deciding to pwn the tanks with ball lightning even though they were standing right in front of him certainly didn't help. We also discovered one of those funny random issues that patches sometimes cause, in this case the Shades of Naxxramas suddenly freezing into bizarre statues upon death instead of dissipating as usual.
Buffing was a slightly confusing affair to me. I know priests have been asking for Inner Fire to drop its charges for ages, but actually seeing it without them felt strange. I kept thinking that I had been worn down to only one charge somehow and as a result felt the urge to refresh it over and over again. Not needing candles anymore and automatically buffing the whole raid with Fortitude and Shadow Protection was handy as well, though I was confused why the candles were still white (unlike the hunter ammo, which had turned grey). Does anyone know whether they still have a use of some sort? Shadow Protection lasting two hours now made my jaw drop a little. And my Fortitude kept getting overwritten by our warlock's stupid imp and his Blood Pact. With the loss of the talent for improved fort, my buffs aren't even as good as those of a pet. Woe is me.
Being rather impressed with the new default raid frames, I wanted to give healing a shot with just the default UI and Clique installed, instead of using my usual Healbot setup. It was... not quite as good as I had hoped. Don't get me wrong, the new frames are a vast improvement over the old ones, but they still aren't quite customisable enough for me. Spotting debuffs took me way longer than usual for example. I'm not sure whether I'll just go back to Healbot or try to find some sort of addon that just lets you customise the new default frames some more (to make them change colour for example).
And healing itself... was slightly awkward. In hindsight I think that I would have done just fine if I had continued to heal in the same way as I have for the entirety of this expansion, but I was both worried about mana regeneration being a problem as well as strongly convinced to teach myself how to use my new abilities. The results were rather underwhelming, though I'm not sure how much of that was me just not getting the hang of the new spells yet, the new healing system being designed for Cataclysm content, not WOTLK content, or due to genuine problems with the design that still need tweaking.
Take the new/old Heal spell. We've been told everywhere that this will be our bread and butter healing spell in Cataclysm. It's also been advertised as a "medium" heal, which might have given me a wrong impression maybe, but basically I was hugely disappointed with how it was both really, really slow (the same speed as Greater Heal) and healed for absolutely piddly amounts (about half as much as a Flash Heal). Its only advantage is that it's dirt cheap, but I find myself wondering just how dire the mana situation will have to be for anyone to really prefer Heal over its alternatives most of the time. Maybe 2.5k heals per second are going to be the norm in Cataclysm, but in the current content that just doesn't cut it. Even while running freaking Naxx-10 in ICC-25 gear I felt that Heal just did so little as to be nearly worthless. Since I didn't really have mana problems either, I think I'll just go back to using Flash Heal instead until Cataclysm actually comes out. When my mana really runs low, we can talk again.
Chakra was... weird. I didn't like the strange geometric patterns around my feet that were the spell animation for being in a Chakra state. I also forgot to use it most of the time; it's only on a one-minute cooldown for heaven's sake! I have to admit that triggering the different Chakra states, remembering their effects and then using Holy Word in whichever form it changed into was a bit much to take in at once. Being the only healer in our raid and having to be very versatile, I also felt that I couldn't really take as much advantage of the Chakra states as I would have liked. For example I would trigger the Heal one to focus on the tank, just to have an AoE hit the raid the next moment or the other way round. Maybe this will work better in Cataclysm content if it is indeed less hectic and more strategic, but right now I really had a hard time seeing the benefits, other than that it gave me more buttons to press and some flashy new spell animations.
I wasn't really happy with the new Surge of Light and Serendipity either. I miss being able to use surge procs to smite, and the fact that it now only procs off Smite or Heal is annoying. (I think I got about five procs throughout our entire Naxx run, and I tried to use Heal whenever I could.) And Serendipity just feels weird when I'm not supposed to use Flash Heal that much anyway. Why am I being rewarded for repeatedly casting a spell that I'm only supposed to use in emergencies now? Errr, just weird.
Still, I'll continue to practice with the new abilities and see how it goes. At least I know that many other classes and specs are in the same boat.
January in Review
3 hours ago