After I ranted about the 4.0 changes to holy priests for the umpteenth time back in October, I did end up going through with my plan of switching to raiding with my resto druid until the end of the expansion. It was the right choice; I had fun again and our raids went very well. We even got Glory of the Icecrown Raider (10 player) at last! Better late than never I say.
It wasn't until the other night that I finally dared to give my priest a whirl again, since we needed a dispeller for the Lich King fight. (On a side note, Blizzard restricting disease dispelling to only two classes has been such a nuisance on this fight. They should have changed Necrotic Plague's classification to magic or something.) I was hopeful that the changes to Chakra had improved things, but I was still a little uneasy.
Fortunately my fears turned out to be completely unfounded. The 4.0.3 changes have really made a massive difference and a lot of abilities sync up a lot better now.
For example I'm glad that they removed the Renew Chakra state. It was too good to use anything else a lot of the time, and doing nothing but spam Renew was boring. Not to mention that it tried to occupy the same niche as ProH Chakra, which was just awkward. The only thing I'll miss is Holy Word: Aspire, which I rather liked and would have loved to keep for Heal Chakra, instead of Holy Word: Serenity. A second HoT for tank healing would have been awesome.
The new thiry second cooldown on Chakra, combined with a thirty second duration, also helps a lot, because it allows you to have Chakra up at all times without weaving useless spells into your rotation just to extend your current Chakra state. The thirty second cooldown also makes it more realistically versatile - most bosses that switch between doing different kinds of damage don't take a whole minute to do so, meaning that with the one minute cooldown you sooner or later ended up with the completely wrong Chakra and nothing you could do about it. With the reduced cooldown I found that switching Chakra state to adjust to the fight actually felt fluid now instad of clunky (though I still realised every now and then that I chose the wrong one after a few casts - but that's just a matter of practice).
ProH Chakra getting activated by Prayer of Mending as well now is a godsend. No more spamming of unneeded ProHs just to boost my other AoE spells! The associated Holy Word: Sanctuary being on a longer cooldown made me a little sad at first, seeing how it's probably the coolest new spell that holy got with the talent revamp, but after a bit of consideration I decided that I actually like it. It makes it more of an extra healing boost that you use strategically at a certain point in time instead of something that you spam on the ground whenever the raid is clumped up and taking damage.
I even ended up using Heal every now and then! The throughput buff for priests was quite noticeable and Heal is actually on par with the other classes' cheap heals now. On fights with relatively low tank damage it's quite a useful way to preserve mana really. On heroic Deathbringer Saurfang for example my mana actually lasted longer than before 4.0, despite of the regen nerf, because I used a combination of Heal and rolling Renews (with the occasional Flash or Greater to cover spikes) until the soft enrage, which helped me save a lot of mana.
I'm so happy that being a priest is fun again! I feel ready to take priesting to the new level cap now and actually look forward to perfecting my use of Chakra and its associated abilities. (And never mind Archangel as holy, I'd probably rather go for something like this.)
Biased game news reporting
2 hours ago