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WoW: Cataclysm Priest Preview - A Review Sam's avatar
It's time to pray!
All attempts to nail down the release date of of World Of Warcraft: Cataclysm have so far ended in failure, with Blizzard content to dribble out information at a rate designed to keep twelve million players hooked like the cash filled carp we are. Lately though, the trickle of news has become a veritable stream, with the class previews arriving over the next week suggesting that the latest expansion pack might not be as far away as some of the more pessimistic community members have suggested.

Given the comprehensiveness of the previews, it is probably a good time to declare it open season on Cataclysm and begin stoking anticipation levels by reviewing the intentions for each of the classes, starting with a deconstruction of the priest proposals.

New Priest Spells

Heal (Level 16)
"While priests already have a spell called Heal, the existing version becomes obsolete at higher levels, which is something we intend to change in Cataclysm. Introduced at a low level, the "new" Heal spell will functionally work much like a down-ranked Greater Heal did in the past, adding more granularity to your direct-healing arsenal. If you need to heal someone a moderate amount and efficiency is an issue (making Flash Heal the incorrect spell for the job), then Heal is what you want to use. Heal is intended to be the priest's go-to direct-healing spell unless they need something bigger (Greater Heal) or faster (Flash Heal). We will be following a similar philosophy with all the healing classes."
Sam's avatarSam:
I was disappointed that Blizzard standardised the mana cost of lower ranked spells in the first place because it closed the gap between run-of-the-mill priests and those who grasp the need for efficiency. While the return of Heal doesn't quite provide the range of options afforded by the multitude of ranks, it should go some way towards giving skilled priests another way to differentiate themselves from the riff-raff.

Mind Spike (Level 81)
"Deals Shadowfrost damage and puts a debuff on the target that improves subsequent Mind Spike damage. The intent of Mind Spike is to fill a niche missing in Shadow DPS, though it may be occasionally useful for healers as well. Mind Spike provides a quick nuke to use in situations where the priest doesn't have time to set up the normal rotation, such as when adds are dying too fast or you have to swap targets a lot. Spamming Mind Spike will do about as much damage as casting Mind Flay on a target afflicted with Shadow Word: Pain. The idea behind the debuff is that when you cast Mind Spike, we expect you to cast a lot of them; we don't intend you to fit it into an already full Shadow rotation. It also provides Shadow with a spell to cast when locked out of the Shadow school. (School lockouts will no longer affect both schools for multi-school spells.) 1.5-second cast. 30-yard range. No cooldown."
Sam's avatarSam:
While I fully appreciate the need for an offensive spell in the priest catalogue for trash and adds that die before Shadow Word: Pain has even ticked, the description of this ability hardly fills me with wild enthusiasm. As other classes others don't seem to have this gap in the same way, it seems a bit unfair to fill it with a new high level spell instead of delivering new functionality with a more exciting ability.

Inner Will (Level 83)
"Increases movement speed by 12% and reduces the mana cost of instant-cast spells by 10%. This buff will be exclusive with Inner Fire, meaning you can't have both up at once. Inner Fire provides a spell power and Armor buff; Inner Will should be useful on a more situational basis."
Sam's avatarSam:
The fact that Inner Will is mutually exclusive to Inner Fire is slightly reminiscent of the aspect system that hunters have and although I can see a few situations in PvE where healing on-the-go might be useful, this ability has clearly been designed for PvP scenarios. Regardless of the motives behind its creation though, it is nice to see Blizzard creating abilities that allow for on-the-fly decision making rather than promoting a more rigid system based on having a certain talent setup.

Leap of Faith (Level 85)
"Pull a party or raid member to your location. Leap of Faith (or "Life Grip") is intended to give priests a tool to help rescue fellow players who have pulled aggro, are being focused on in PvP, or just can't seem to get out of the fire in time. Instant. 30-yard range. 45-second cooldown."
Sam's avatarSam:
While admittedly not the most original mechanic Blizzard could have come up with, I can see plenty of potential raid saving situations for Leap of Faith, not to mention at least a couple of mischievous pranks. Being able to shout at an idiot mage for not noticing that he's standing under a blizzard is one thing, but being able to yank him out of it myself would be an excellent addition to any medical repertoire.

New Abilities & Mechanics

HoTs & DoTs
"All HoTs and DoTs will benefit from Haste and Crit innately. Hasted HoTs and DoTs will not have a shorter duration, just a shorter period in between ticks (meaning they will gain extra ticks to fill in the duration as appropriate)."
Sam's avatarSam:
As anyone who is regularly assigned as a raid healer will know, this is a long overdue change that should finally not only increase overall efficiency, but a give priests more of a choice when it comes to styling their ideal equipment configuration.

Shadow Word: Death
"We want to bring back Shadow Word: Death as an "execute" -- something you do when the target is at 25% health."
Sam's avatarSam:
Bringing Shadow Word: Death in line with Execute and Kill Shot should give the ability a new lease of life by providing an appropriate situation for the spell in exchange for its current role as a rotation filler with an easy to ignore gimmick.

Tank Healing
"While we want to keep the priest's role as a well-rounded healer, we also want to make sure the class is a viable tank healer, which is something priests moved away from a little in Wrath of the Lich King. Greater Heal will probably be the tank-healing spell of choice, though we've also discussed giving Discipline a second shield so that they have a small shield to cast on lots of different targets, and a big, more expensive shield to cast on a tank or anyone else taking a ton of damage."
Sam's avatarSam:
I'm a firm believer that every healing class should be able to take on every curative role within a raid given a certain combination of talents and equipment, so I'm glad that Blizzard are intending to bring priests back in line with other tank healers in Cataclysm.

Divine Spirit
"Divine Spirit and Prayer of Spirit will be removed from the game. As Spirit will be the primary mana-regeneration stat, we don't want it to vary as much between solo, small group, and raid play. Blessing of Kings and Mark of the Wild will not boost Spirit either."
Sam's avatarSam:
I can't think of any reason why someone would see this change as anything other than a good thing because as well as reducing the amount of people nagging you for buffs, it also means that different play styles, depending on the amount of spirit you have, are no longer required.

Mana Efficiency
"Mana will be a bigger consideration for all healers. We aren't trying to make healing more painful; we're trying to make it more fun. When the cost of a spell isn't an issue, then casting the right spell for the job is less of an issue because you might as well just use your most powerful spell all of the time. We are, however, getting rid of the five-second rule, because we don't want to encourage standing around doing nothing. We're also going to cut back on the benefits of buffs such as Replenishment so priests (and all healers) don't feel as penalized when those buffs aren't available."
Sam's avatarSam:
For the same reasons I support the movement to bring Heal back, I am looking forwards to seeing efficiency playing a larger role in differentiating between priests who manage their mana pool and those who spam heal, although I can see that removing Replenishment might make some classes less desirable for raid compositions.

New Talents

Discipline Single-Target Healing
"We want to improve Discipline's single-target healing capacity. One key is to make sure shielding isn't always a more attractive option than healing."
Sam's avatarSam:
Playing Discipline can be very rewarding due to the more diverse skills available to keep a raid alive and improving these talent to cover single targets should prove to be a good move as long as they don't step on the toes of Holy Priests.

Holy PvP Healing
"We want to improve Holy for PvP healing. One way to do this is to make sure that Heal's throughput is similar between both specs."
Sam's avatarSam:
I would imagine these talent changes will revolve around making Holy Priests less of an easily target while they are standing around and keeping their team alive, possibly in the shape of some defensive mechanisms or speeding up the cast times or group heals.

Shadow Rotations
"We want to improve Shadow for short fights and reduce its susceptibility to school lockouts."
Sam's avatarSam:
While Shadow Priests can be devastating, it does take time to set up a rotation that is easily disrupted by the shadow school being locked out. Therefore, when it comes to short PvP skirmishes, trash packs and solo play, such a change is really going to reduce the frustration caused by feeling a bit useless.

Shadow Word: Barrier
"Discipline will finally be getting Power Word: Barrier as a talented ability. Think of it like a group Power Word: Shield."
Sam's avatarSam:
I can think of a million and one encounters where Shadow Word: Barrier would be the most valuable spell a Priest can cast, mostly ones where, for some unknown reason, players find it impossible to notice AoE damage effects.

Holy Empowered States
"We want to make Holy a little bit more interesting to play. One new talent will push the Holy priest into an improved healing state when he or she casts Prayer of Healing, Heal, or Renew three times in a row. The empowered state varies depending on the heals cast."
Sam's avatarSam:
I would disagree that playing a Holy Priest isn't interesting if you are doing it right as nothing beats the feeling that you have everything under control and are using your mana efficiently. However, I was always told not to look a gift horse in the mouth and so I will gladly receive any empowered states that Blizzard wish to dish out.

Passive Shadow Boost Reduction
"Since the Shadow tree has a lot of passive damage-boosting abilities -- something we're trying to avoid in Cataclysm -- we will need to replace several of the tree's talents. One idea is to play off of the new Shadow Orbs mechanic (see Mastery section below), possibly allowing you to consume an orb to increase damage from Mind Blast or reduce Mind Spike's cast time."
Sam's avatarSam:
If you read between the lines, this sounds like they are going to nerf the passive abilities and replace them with a system that will require Shadow Priests to work for their bonuses. Given that I felt that Shadow rather than Holy is the least interesting talent tree to play, adding some variables into the rotation is more of a benefit than a disadvantage.

Misery Changes
"Misery will no longer affect spell Hit chance. We want players to be able to gear themselves around a Hit cap that isn't variable depending on group composition."
Sam's avatarSam:
I fully support the removal of hit chance from buffs because it was becoming a logistical nightmare having two sets of differently gemmed and enchanted equipment to use depending on whether a certain class in your raid or group.

Mastery Bonuses

Absorption (Discipline)
"Improves the strength of shields such as Power Word: Shield, Divine Aegis, and Power Word: Barrier."
Sam's avatarSam:
This further cements Discipline as the 'Shield Tree' which provides a nice differentiation between itself and Holy, but seems a little at odds with Blizzard's desire to improve single target healing for the specialisation.

Radiance (Holy)
"Your direct heals add a small heal-over-time component to the target."
Sam's avatarSam:
There have been a number of trinkets that have provided this ability in the past and going from their performance, I'm predicting that Blizzard might struggle in finding the sweet spot between overpowered and inconsequential.

Shadow Orbs (Shadow)
"Casting spells grants a chance for Shadow Orbs to be created that fly around you and increase your shadow damage. This will help lower-level characters feel more like "Shadow priests" before they obtain Shadowform."
Sam's avatarSam:
On its own, the introduction of Shadow Orbs appears to be little more than a cosmetic change, but when put into context with Blizzard's intentions to make the tree less passive to play, their existence suddenly makes a lot more sense.

All in all, it appears that there are some interesting changes on the horizon for Priests, but the preview does seem to be centered around filling cracks where abilities have been missing from the various trees rather than introducing new capabilities to keep both veteran and novice players entertained. This being said however, I can appreciate that having a well balanced class is vital for the enjoyment of both the PvE and PvP element of WoW and that perhaps abilities should just been seen as the medium for which to enjoy the new challenges posed across Azeroth. Tags: cataclysm, world-of-warcraft