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Spiritual Guidance: Patch 7.1.5 changes for healing Priests

The patch 7.1.5 PTR launched early last week, and along with it came the usual datamining. This early on in the PTR cycle, everything is of course subject to change, but I think the overall changes and tone are important to discuss. We can glean information about what Blizzard is thinking about our class based on the changes they’ve put in. The numbers will continue to be tweaked throughout the PTR’s duration, but the large changes will likely remain.

Of our two specs, Holy sees the most updates with this patch, showing us what Blizzard thinks is missing. In this case it appears to be use of AOE spells. Discipline has few updates, with a spell adjustment here and there, and I assume Blizzard is relatively pleased with its performance and gameplay so far.

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Holy spell and talent changes

Holy has an eye toward AOE in these changes. As a quintessential raid healer, Holy obviously knows its way around AOE healing, but as players are wont to do, they figured out a better use of their spells. Holy has more or less devolved into a single target spec due to efficiency. Not to say that Holy can’t AOE, but spamming individual Flash Heals on the raid has often proven to be more efficient than Prayer of Healing.

Prayer of Healing

Prayer of Healing is one of the more controversial changes, surprisingly due to a tooltip change. The basic change is pretty straightforward. Prayer of Healing’s range has been buffed from 20 to 40 yards, and spellpower buffed from 200% to 250%. The controversial part has to do with the removal of the word “injured” from the tooltip.

“A powerful prayer that heals up to 5 injured allies within 20 yds of the target for (200% the target and the 4 nearest allies within 40 yards for (250% of Spell power).”

This, of course, caused a panicked reaction that the smart heal component was removed, putting Prayer of Healing back to how it was in previous expansions when it was limited by group. However, the panic appears to be unfounded and early testing shows that it may just work like Monks’ Vivify, with the smart heal component baked in.

The rest of the changes, the buffs, are solid. Right now Prayer of Healing needs to hit all five targets to be worth casting, and increasing the range and power gives you more oomph and more targets to choose from. This makes it worth casting on its own, rather than how players were doing it: only casting Prayer of Healing after Sanctify when they had Power of the Naaru buff.

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Holy Word: Serenity

Every time patch information is datamined, Warcraft Devs put out the notice not to trust everything you see as it may be an incomplete picture. Looking at Holy Word Serenity and Symbol of Hope proved just that. If you were to go off datamining alone, it would appear Serenity lost its 60 second cooldown (making it incredibly OP) and Symbol of Hope became channeled again (which would ruin the spell). In reality, these are just victims of tooltip changes.

Serenity’s cooldown was changed from a flat cooldown timer to charges. This has to do with the new Honor talent that provides 2 charges to the spell. In order to accommodate the talent, the base spell had to be changed to a single charge rather than just a spell, thereby “removing” the base cooldown in initial appearances. So, no big change to Holy Word Serenity, it just appeared there was one.

Discipline talent changes

Shadow Covenant

Other than a few number adjustments, this is the lone major Discipline change. This talent is relatively unused — for good reason — and these changes will not likely put it back into use. The cast time was removed and it’s now instant. Shadow Covenant also does not replace Power Word: Radiance any longer. The healing is nerfed to 450% from 550%, but absorb is also decreased to 225% from 275%. However, it’s probably still not worth taking. The absorb it places on players just makes it harder for other healers, skewing their healing in a similar way that bubbles of old did. On top of this, it doesn’t have any interaction with Atonement, our main AOE healing. And the other two talents in that row are just too useful to give up. Grace is too good in dungeons, where single target reigns supreme, and Purge the Wicked is great for raids and AOE.

Masochism

Masochism now reduces all damage you take by 10%, in addition to removing the DOT on yourself from Shadow Mend. Unfortunately mobility from Angelic Feather is just too useful and 10% damage mitigation doesn’t compare.

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Minor changes

  • Piety: Reduces Prayer of Mending cooldown in addition to applying Serendipity when it bounces. Formerly it only applied Serendipity. This will encourage a lot of use of Prayer of Mending as well as Sanctify for AOE.
  • Benediction: Prayer of Mending has 40% chance, down from 50%, to leave Renew every time it bounces. Benediction has seen a resurgence lately on farm fights when Apotheosis isn’t as needed and this nerf is likely a preemptive change in order to mitigate the Piety buff.
  • Guardian Angel: Cooldown of Guardian Spirit reduced from 90 seconds to 60 seconds if it isn’t consumed. A decent buff, but Light of the Naaru and Symbol of Hope are just more useful.
  • Symbol of Hope: Buffed an additional 2 seconds, from 10 to 12 seconds. The “channel” part of the tooltip reported in the datamining is likely just a tooltip error, as the previous spell also had a “channeled” component in there at one point.

All in all, the Holy changes are interesting, since it could push toward fully AOE playstyles. If Nighthold has a lot of AOE damage, we may see playstyles with Enlightenment/Piety/Benediction becoming viable, and solely raid healing through Prayer of Healing/Prayer of Mending/Sanctify. Heavy use of Prayer of Healing and Sanctify will be very mana intensive, which could bring Apotheosis back to the forefront — especially on mana regeneration fights.

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Desperate Prayer returns

Praise the heavens, we have our personal cooldown back. I honestly can’t imagine why they had to remove Desperate Prayer from our base spells in the first place, leaving us in a dangerous position of no personal and no mobility while other classes kept theirs. I always thought putting it as a talent where we had to choose between personal mitigation and mobility was a mistake, and it seems as if they finally agree.

Well, sort of. The replacement talent is another mitigation spell: Perseverance, which reduces damage by 10% when you cast Renew on yourself. Unfortunately it looks mediocre and you’ll probably still take Angelic Feather. Having mobility is still far more useful than damage mitigation, and it’s only 10% at that.

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Legendaries, new and old

There are changes to quite a few legendaries across the board, but we’re mainly concerned with the Priest-specific one. Phyrix’s Embrace, the Holy legendary ring, has been slightly buffed. The duration and healing bonus of Guardian Spirit has been increased by 50% and the healing bonus will continue the full duration even when Guardian Spirit is consumed on killing blows. It’s not the most amazing legendary around, but it’s at least a little better and more useful if you only have the one.

Patch 7.1.5 also brings three new legendaries for healing Priests, one each for Discipline and Holy, and one for all healers.

Roughly every minute and a half, you’ll get ~15 seconds of DPS freecasting. This is decent, but not overwhelmingly great. It should help a bit with mana issues, but you’ll probably want to go with the other Discipline legendaries if you have them.

This is a nice set of gloves. Tracking the buff will be paramount to making the most use out of the legendary. It seems antithetical to the AOE spell changes on the PTR, but it will definitely be helpful for single target healing situations and provide some interesting triage if multiple people need healing but some have the buff.

  • Velen’s Future Sight: Increase all healing done by 10% and causes all overhealing on players to be redistributed to up to 3 nearby injured allies, for 10 sec.

Holy’s mastery, Echo of Light, tends toward a lot of overhealing just by virtue of being an automatic HOT. This trinket will be great for Holy, making Mastery more efficient and you won’t have to worry about Serenity critting for 2 million and overhealing on people.

The trinket doesn’t exactly play to Discipline’s strengths, but it’s a great deal better than the Mists of Pandaria legendary cloak that didn’t work at all with absorbs. Atonement playstyle works with burst healing inside raid-wide damage patterns, so it’s rare that you’re going to have any significant amount of Atonements on people who don’t take damage. However, it will offset overhealing if you happen to mistime the damage windows, giving you more leeway.

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Feathers and macros

One more change, which was technically with patch 7.1, but still important to mention. There are new macro conditionals. This is particularly exciting for us because of Angelic Feather, not to mention our other reticule spells. If anyone has ever had their feathers inadvertently stolen while running somewhere, or somehow put a feather on the chandeliers instead of on the ground, this change is for you. This also works with any of our other targeting reticule spells: Mass Dispel, Holy Word: Sanctify, Power Word: Barrier.

For feathers, this macro will self cast:

/cast [@player] Angelic Feather
/stopspelltarge

For other spells, simply replace [@player] with [@cursor ] and it will cast where your cursor is:

/cast [@cursor] Mass Dispel
/stopspelltarge

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The PTR numbers will most likely see adjustments in the coming weeks/months as they fine-tune during testing, but this is basically what you can expect for the patch. I expect it to come roughly around the same time or before Nighthold so we don’t have sweeping class changes in the middle of progression.

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