Tuesday, 8 February 2011

A look at Holy Healing after 4.0.6

Disclaimer: this is based purely on released patch notes so far and may be subject to change

With 4.0.6 seemingly just around the corner, I've been having a read up on what it'll mean to me in both Shadow and Holy builds. I have to say up front, I'm a big fan of where the priest is at the moment, I can't really speak for Disc, but from both a Holy and a Shadow point of view they're both extremely fun specs to play, whilst not the easiest, definitely great fun. Who wants easy anyway? Easy is for wimps. I'm concentrating on Holy here, if I pull my finger out I'll get a shadoo version written some time tonight / tomorrow morning too

Whilst I'm definitely a fan of Holy healing, that's not to say there can't be improvements made, improvements can always be made… so firstly, why do I think Holy is such fun currently? I think it boils down to two things, firstly Chakra which allows you to 'specialise your mechanics' on the fly to suit the situation; the art of choosing which Chakra state to be in at any given time and predicting which one you'll need next is a fine art. Secondly, the choice and variation of spells, I don't believe there are any other classes which have such a variation of spells; this is daunting at first, especially when combined with Chakra but means that the way one Holy priest goes about healing will almost certainly be completely different to the next. My normal healing style is with Serenity active (direct healing) with a Renew on the Tank (plus up to two others) being renewed by Heal with Greater Heal and Flash Heal used sparingly depending on how hard the panic button is being pushed, with the odd Prayer of Healing to top up the Party. I'll occasionally use Sanctuary, depending on the situation, and obviously Prayer of Mending and Holy Word: Serenity as the situation dictates, I also tend to throw the occasional Power Word: Sheil around as a fire and forget spell to protect people who've been slapped if the tank is taking big damage too. Lightwell tends to be a boss fight only spell for me but is still an important tool.

I'm going to go through the changes I feel are relevant in the patch notes posted on MMO champion here in the order they appear.

Power Word: Shield mana cost increased by 31% with its effectiveness more than doubled, this is a huge change which will change how I use PW:S drastically, because of the mana increase I won't be using it where I don't think there's a good chance of it being needed, the changes to Renew (detailed below) mean I'll probably be using that as the fire and forget spell of choice. The increased effect makes it even more useful as a pre-fight cast to be used just before the pull (have a look at this blog post for more on pre-casting).

Renew mana cost reduced by 24%. There's been a lot of, well, complete arse written recently about Renew not being viable anymore because of the mana cost, the fact is it's use has changed, it may not be viable to use Renew whack-a-mole Wrath style to heal everyone in a 100 mile radius but when combined with Serenity it is pretty much a free heal. The very fact that in some fights you can have 3 or even 4 Renews rolling on continual (free) refresh by throwing out heals on rotation make it exceptionally powerful. The reduction in mana cost won't have much effect on this use, other than extending your mana pool and giving you a bit more of a buffer, it will however make it more viable as a fire and forget heal where you just need to top someone up a little.

Prayer of Healing effectiveness reduced by 15%, you didn't expect it all to be good news did you? What Blizzard giveth with one hand they taketh away with the other… seriously though, if you're healing style is anything like mine, this won't make much difference. Yes there are some fights where you need to top everyone up quickly, and that will be more mana intensive, but under normal circumstances I can't see it affecting me too much.

Chakra now lasts 1 minute Amen! One of my (minor) gripes with Chakra is it runs out too soon, having to re-click it and then (in some certain circumstances) switch from the big or fast heal you're spamming to standard Heal to reactivate it can be fatal. On the flip side, a 1 minute length might be too long for some fights (Forgemaster Throngus anyone?). Whilst you can currently right click the buff to cancel it, it's a 30 second cooldown so it's pointless doing so. Leaving the the cooldown at 30 seconds might be a good idea, but I'll settle for a 1 minute duration, I think.

Binding Heal and Holy Word: Serenity now refresh Renew, more Renew lovin, thanks Blizzard. (Not that I ever use binding heal, and the later will normally be combined with another direct heal shortly after, but nice all the same).

Binding Heal, Flash Heal, and Greater Heal can now trigger Chakra: Serenity this was my only Major gripe with Chakra, when the brown stuff has hit the fan and you're dishing out the big heals, the last thing you want to do is have to drop off to a lesser heal, much more useful and a massive improvement.

Circle of Healing effectiveness has been increased by 30%. I almost never use CoH due to its mana intensity, this, combined with the PoH nerf make it sound almost viable, though I'll reserve judgement till I get to have a play.

Desperate Prayer now heals the priest for 30% of their total health – stop standing in crap and you won't need this anyway. I might bind it to an action key now so I can hit it in a hurry if needed, rather than have it languishing on my secondary bars.

Guardian Spirit: The absorb/heal from this ability can now never exceed 200% of the maximum health of the target. No biggy really, if your tank was taking this much damage chances are you're boned the second the effect lapses anyways…

Holy Concentration now increases the amount of mana regeneration from Spirit while in combat by an additional 15/30%, down from 20/40% even more reson to tear up and burn all of your Spirit gear… err, sorry, still in Shadow Priest mode. Bit of a ball-ache this, but again, nothing to be overly concerned about, Blizzard have already stated they don't want players sat there scratching themselves in inappropriate places for large durations of the fight in order to regen mana. I won't be massively surprised if in combat mana regen is removed completely at some point (Innervate and other 'specials' withstanding).

Surge of Light can now also proc from Flash Heal and Greater Heal, and can now also critically hit. Previously a bit underpowered, nice buff adding longevity to the mana pool again.

Glyph of Spirit of Redemption has been converted into Glyph of Prayer of Mending, which increases the healing done by the first charge of Prayer of Mending by 60%. This I like, an extra 6 seconds floating with wings isn't to be sniffed at, but as you get better, less and less useful (unless you have suicidal tendencies). 60% increase to the healing of the first charge of PoM is awesome, if used correctly (on the tank generally) it means that your total number of heals needed will be reduced, thus extending your mana pool further, who needs mana regen??

And there you have it, all in all some great tweaks to the Holy Priests arsenal, without too much of a reduction. Personally I don't care too much for in combat regen, I know others will bitch and whine about the nerf, but at the end of the day you just need to get on with it. This patch, in my view, is aimed to bring priests back to the fore in healing whether it be in instances, tank or group healing in Raids.


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