I've been trying to practise the new holy healing style some more, but I'm having a hard time finding environments where this feels in any way meaningful. We're all pretty tired of ICC and only go there occasionally now, and in any lower tier raid we're simply ridiculously overgeared. It's even worse when I queue up for a random heroic - you can't practice healing when nobody needs any. I kind of envy the damage dealers for being able to practise on a target dummy.
Still, I'm starting to understand this whole Chakra thing a bit better now. Unfortunately, better understanding has not resulted in bigger appreciation so far. In fact I only found myself increasingly frustrated during our Ulduar run last night, feeling as if my own spells were conspiring to make me heal more inefficiently.
I admit, a large part of it is probably just me struggling with the more generic changes. For example my two most used spells before the patch were Circle of Healing and Prayer of Mending, both of which have had their cooldown increased significantly (or rather, in the case of PoM, the holy talents that used to reduce its cooldown have been removed), so my muscle memory keeps trying to make them go off when they are not ready. I also miss my frequent Surge of Light procs and hate having to actually stand still to cast Flash Heals. Give me my mobility back, damn it!
But back to Chakra. So you have these three Chakra states, which are triggered by using it in conjunction with either Heal, Renew of Prayer of Healing; you can extend their duration by using the same spell again; and they give you an extra spell to play with plus a more generic healing boost to your existing spells.
I think Heal Chakra is the one that sounds the most solid right now, to make priests better single-target healers when this is required. Unfortunately Heal is completely and utterly useless in current content, so it's not really viable to keep this up. I reserve judgement.
Renew Chakra is easy to keep up and seems to be the "default" for many people, but it's also kind of boring. I love Renew but the reduced global cooldown kind of encourages you to do nothing else but spam that one spell really fast so as not to waste the bonus (or at least cast extra Renews when they are not needed, just to keep the buff up).
Prayer of Healing Chakra gives you a boost to all your AoE heals and reduces the cooldown of CoH by two seconds (which still leaves it at two seconds more than it used to be, woe). It also gives you access to the very interesting Holy Word: Sanctuary, which I haven't had a chance to try yet but which is apparently awesome. From the sounds of it it's also seriously unbalanced though - just like all the new "area" heals - because their effectiveness varies so greatly with the size of your raid. If your puddle of healy goo on the ground heals for one thousand damage and you have a party of five stand in it, it's pretty lackluster in terms of throughput. If you have a raid of ten, it suddenly doubles in efficiency, and if you can get a whole twenty-five-man raid to stack inside of it it's insane! I reckon Blizzard will have to implement some kind of "cap", like they did for AoE damage, so that the effect on the individual is diminished once you go over a certain number of targets. Otherwise it's just going to be crazy.
Anyway, my main beef with this Chakra is not the Sanctuary, it's the Prayer of Healing trigger, because it's such an extremely situational spell that I think it's rubbish to encourage people to cast it just for a bonus to their healing. In ICC I use PoH on Precious and Stinky's Decimate, just before Festergut expunges his gas, and maybe during the Blood Queen's air phase, and that's it. It's good if you want to wind up a big burst heal just before everyone takes a large chunk of predictable damage, but as soon as the AoE damage keeps coming more steadily, a mix of CoH, PoM and Renew is much more effective, while also allowing you to maintain your mobility and not causing too much overheal. Standing still to chain PoH is just asking for mana problems and something bad to hit you while you're rooted to the spot for ages.
So what does this leave us with? One Chakra that is currently useless but may be useful later, one that is kinda boring and spammy, and one that is interesting but requires pointless overheal and wasting of mana to access the most fun bonus spell of the lot. Sorry, but I don't think that's going to excite me even once I get more used to utilising it.
Last night I was browsing the official forums for other priests' opinions on Chakra, and minds seemed to be about equally divided between those who thought that it was the greatest thing since sliced bread and skeptics like me. I got rather annoyed though when some Chakra fans started accusing anyone who criticised the spell of supposedly being too stupid to use it and simply hating complexity. Give me a break. The large and complex toolbox has always been one of the main things that attracted me to holy priest healing, but there's a difference between having a large toolbox and trying to work with a bent hammer just because it looks different and having twenty different screwdrivers but being unable to find them because they are all buried somewhere behind the sofa. To me it seems like the Chakra system is shaping up to be more like the latter situation to be honest. Or, as a EU forum poster put it very aptly when responding to the question whether Chakra was fun: "it's about as "fun" as stances are for warriors, except stances where you have to rub your stomach and say "Mississippi" every 4s".
In fact, I think the problem is quite similar to the problem Tam sees with discipline's new smite spec: smiting is supposed to increase your healing, but at the same time casting Smite by its very definition equals not healing, which is an obvious Catch-22. Likewise Chakra is supposed to make our heals better, while at the same time encouraging us to waste mana on heals that might not be needed or choosing spells inappropriate for the job just to maintain our improved healing status. Confused much?
Also, the more I think about it, the more I can't help but wonder what exactly is supposed to be the point of Chakra. When I first heard about it I thought that it was supposed to be a sort of healing cooldown, a bit of an "oh shit" button to increase your healing output when needed. However, for that it requires too much faffing about to set up, while not being powerful enough and having too short a cooldown. In fact, with the cooldown supposedly getting lowered even further, down to thirty seconds, it seems that Blizzard wants us to maintain some sort of Chakra state pretty much at all times. But if we're balanced around having Chakra bonuses up at all times, why do we have to hit all these buff buttons anyway just to stay on par with other healers? It just doesn't quite add up to me.
I really want to like it but I can't help feeling that it's more trouble than it's worth, increasing the spec's complexity by a huge chunk for only very limited benefits.