In the week since 3.1 was released I’ve been focused on getting the guild pumped up, leading raids, learning new bosses, figuring out dual specs, and recruiting, not to mention the new fishing daily and Argent Tournament quests. In fact, it was only today that I sat down with the Armory, Elitist Jerks, and a pen and decided that it was time to work out exactly what happened to holy priests with this patch and what I was going to do about it.
A couple of months ago I wrote about how my mana regen in mostly Naxx-25 gear was kind of silly. And it was! There was little consideration for regen mechanics, and mana pots were some archaic concept that we joked about in the healer channel. Fortunately — and unfortunately — Blizz was paying attention to that, and nerfed the 5 second rule into oblivion. My o5sr regen was decreased by 40%, and, oh man, do I feel every single percent. Ideally this will get better with Ulduar gear, but for now it’s back to mana pots, mana flasks, and any other tricks. Another interesting effect of the change is that I feel quite lost without a source of replenishment. Whether it’s heroics or just farming old instances for mounts, all this Int isn’t doing me a whole ton of good without a shadow priest or ret pally or someone similar around.
Along with the changes to mana regen came changes to our spells and talents. I’ve said before that one of the great joys of playing a holy priest is all the options we have in our toolkit, and I’m exceedingly pleased to see that pattern continue in 3.1. Prayer of Healing is targetable, Renew is vastly improved, and wonders of wonders, I actually have Divine Hymn on my hotbar. There are a few different play styles available to holy priests now, and the talents to suit it.
I was always an unrepentant Renew spammer in Vanilla and TBC raids, and I missed that in WotLK. (Renew was grossly inefficient and just not quick enough to be worth it after 3.0.) I quite happily sunk six points now into Renew and Empowered Renew, and use it much as I suspect a Discipline priest would use shields — bored? throw some Renews around! Prayer of Healing has become pretty outstanding, although I admit I’m still training my brain and my fingers to use it as often and as correctly as I should. And I was never one to fuss too much with the o5sr tricks (Clearcast! Inner Focus! Trinkets! Surge of Light!), but I am entirely diggin’ the new Serendipity. Weaving Flash Heals and Prayer of Healing has already proven to be very nice, and will only get better the more I get used to it.
So what of Greater Heal, our eternal staple of heals? If your healing style includes GHeals, then it’s supported by both the old and new talents. If it doesn’t, though.. now, since 3.1, you can free yourself from all your old talent point ways! Let go of Divine Fury, or say goodbye to Improved Healing. The new math even shows that Empowered Healing is not as essential as it once was, depending on what spells you usually use. (Remember, if you want to tank heal, you should probably go Disc and do it right. Holy priests are for raid healing now.)
Tonight I’m going to respec to something like this, if not exactly that. I’ve given up Inner Focus, Improved Healing and Empowered Healing in favor of Healing Focus, Body and Soul, Test of Faith, and most of Blessed Resilience (for the healing bonus, not the damage reduction, natch). It’s a very, very, very “raid healing”-oriented spec, with bonuses for Renew, PoH, CoH, and PoM, and reductions to GHeal and Flash Heal. I’m a little concerned about giving up Inner Focus and not 100% convinced about the usefulness of Body and Soul, although the brainiacs over at EJ say it’s a good choice.
We’ll have to see how it plays in Ulduar, but I’m initially pretty intrigued. Ghostcrawler promised a long time ago that healing Priests would be made more interesting to play in 3.1, and by golly he may just have been right.