Spiritual Guidance: Holy and Discipline Priests in Legion
We received our class preview for the upcoming Legion on Tuesday. The second class to be reviewed, most of the responses have been relatively positive. We have some much needed changes shown and I’m cautiously optimistic. Given the proclamations I’ve seen about bringing old Priest alts out of retirement, these changes seem in the right direction.
Class Fantasy: The Light and the Balance
Holy is taking its place as the quintessential healer, the epitome of the Light. This seems to be the baseline for what people think of when they think “Priests” with glowy hands and golden swirls of power. From a gameplay perspective, this is beautiful and perfect, everything I imagined Holy to be. However, from a lore perspective, it is also very Human-centric. The devotion to the divine, their resolute faith and spirit, can apply to just about any race, but as I wrote last month, the worship and use of the Light is not universal among Priests in lore. Hopefully the preview blurb was merely generalized to appeal to Holy as a whole and that racial diversity will pop up in the yet unnamed class halls. The inclusion of tri-spec makes Holy’s unwavering opposition to Shadow a little humorous, since in game we will be able to change from Holy to Shadow at will.
Discipline is a little more maverick, playing fast and loose with the Light and Shadow to get the job done. Unlike Holy, they don’t mind a bit of Shadow here and there, as long as the end result is the same. This class fantasy, while quite interesting, doesn’t feel as intuitive as some of the others. Whereas the other classes likely had their fantasy worked out and then based mechanics off that, I feel that Discipline went the opposite: the desire to reduce the gameplay Absorption problem created the focus on Atonement, which then provided a class fantasy of balance and healing through pain. Nevertheless, it creates an interesting lore perspective.
What this actually means in game
Holy comes to the forefront as a true healer. We excelled at burst healing back in Wrath of the Lich King and it looks like we’re going to have some nice cooldowns to go back to that in Legion. Holy sorely needed some love, having fallen to the wayside in Discipline’s shadow (pun intended). Chakras, while good in theory, just became annoying and their removal is somewhat of a relief. Most Priests just stayed in a single chakra for the length of the fight anyway. Stance switching was possible, but the chakras felt clunky even before the cooldown was lowered in Warlords.
The focus now seems to be on two short but powerful Holy Word cooldowns: Serenity and Sanctify. Serenity will provide clutch single target healing, and the wording of “absolutely massive amount” in the description seems to indicate a Lay on Hands type of heal. Sanctify is our powerful AOE spell, a large upgrade from its current iteration. These two spells, combined with our new passive of Serendipity, create gameplay that’s much more intuitive. Your single target heals (Flash Heal, Heal) will lower the cooldown on Serenity and your AOE heals (Prayer of Healing, Prayer of Mending) will likewise lower the cooldown on Sanctify. In a sense, you get rewarded for using the spells you need. My one concern is that Holy Priests will forgo Serenity and spam cast for Sanctify, similar to the Renew/Circle of Healing/Sanctuary setup we have now.
One huge change is that group-based targeting has been removed from Prayer of Healing. This is something that has plagued Priests for years. Yes, there is a benefit to knowing exactly who the spell will heal, but the cons outweigh it. Even if you are lucky enough to have complete control over your raid’s groups, it quickly becomes annoying to micro-manage. I often put tanks and melee in a single group and cast Prayer of Healing on them 90% of the time because they are the only ones usually guaranteed to be near each other at all times. But even then, with tank swaps running out, or someone dead, or someone kiting, I can end up with several groups each of only 3 people near each other, wasting the spell’s full potential.
Last but not least, included at the bottom of the Holy preview is something Holy Priests have been asking for years: Holy Form. As the counter to Shadow, it makes sense that we would finally receive a corresponding form. We know that these class previews aren’t meant to provide a complete list of every spell, but I can’t help but wonder where Circle of Healing, Binding Heal, and Divine Hymn come into play, if at all. Circle of Healing may make an appearance through talent choices, perhaps as an upgrade from Prayer of Healing or Holy Word: Sanctify. It feels odd not to have it as baseline, since it has been a defining spell of Holy since Burning Crusade. Binding Heal might be gone, given its lack of mention with Serendipity, or it might be considered an AOE spell rather than single target especially considering the widespread use of its glyph. I hope Divine Hymn remains rather than replaced by Apotheosis, simply because it’s nice to have one large raid-wide cooldown.
Say hello to our old friend Atonement, who is making a triumphant return despite being shelved for the majority of Warlords of Draenor. Atonement first made its appearance in Cataclysm though it didn’t see much use until Mists of Pandaria, where smart heals reigned supreme and we were left to DPS our merry little hearts out with a shield here and there. As always, we find sweeping changes to Discipline playstyle in an attempt to balance it in relation to other healers, while still trying to keep its unique niche of absorbs. The difference between Legion’s Atonement and previous iterations is that it will not be completely passive “DPS and go” like before. We will have to actively place Atonement buffs on players by using certain spells (Plea, Power Word: Shield, Shadow Mend), and our DPS will only heal those players rather than any of the lowest health players. Healing will not be split between Atonements that are out, so theoretically you could place as many as you wanted. Given its relatively short buff of 15 seconds, we will likely find a balance between spreading Atonements on the raid and dpsing to keep the buffs active.
This could provide some interesting gameplay, though I hope it doesn’t fall into “Jack of all trades, master of none.” In smaller groups such as dungeons or Challenge modes, it will really shine, though it remains to be seen how it will interact in larger raids. It’s not uncommon for healers to DPS in high level progression to min max and it would certainly solve the need for extra healing without completely sacrificing a full DPS spot.
Now, on to everyone’s burning question, what’s happening to shields? Notoriously hard to balance, the solution this time seems to be limiting the amount of shields through a 6 second cooldown on Power Word: Shield itself rather than through the Weakened Soul debuff (which has been removed!). This leads to more controlled shielding and will also require precision. Do you want to shield someone taking damage who already has an Atonement buff from being previously shielded, or do you want to shield someone new in order to add another Atonement? A new cooldown, Rapture, will briefly allow us to return to our bubble spamming ways either with spam shielding the entire raid for massive raid damage or repeatedly shielding one tank to help with heavy tank damage.
We also have several new spells, though one of the more interesting is one we will share with Shadow: Shadow Mend. This looks to be a pretty nice tank heal, since the damage it gives will dissipate fairly quickly while tanks are taking hits. Like I said with Holy, the list of spells on the preview page is only meant to be an example rather than an exhaustive list, but I would not be surprised to see Prayer of Healing as a deliberate omission with Power Word: Radiance taking its place. We have long had a lot of natural crossover with Holy and Discipline spells, and Legion will want to continue Warlords’ goal of making the specs feel different through separate spells.
Class Artifact previews have also made an appearance and let me just say how happy I am that we get staves. I figured that Anduin’s mace Fearbreaker would show up or that we’d get stuck with some sort of one-hander that didn’t feel as epic. Priest healing seems to be defined by channeling our Light and power through an awesome staff but, like I thought, we had to have a little creativity applied to our artifacts since the lore lacks a precedence.
Keeping with the pure Light, Holy’s artifact weapon is Tuure, Beacon of the Naaru. Forged from a Naaru beacon crystal, we wield the ultimate power of the Light through this revered artifact that protected the fleeing Draenei from the Burning Legion. Given that it was “lost to Legion forces on an invaded world” I suspect we will go in search of it or find it in the Broken Isles.
Discipline wields Light’s Wrath, a fitting name for those in the balance. However, I can’t say I’m exactly keen on the idea of handling a weapon that was created by the Scarlet Crusade. They have already proved what happens when “the ends justify the means” goes too far. Hidden by the Kirin Tor because of its unstable and dangerous power, perhaps we will find this artifact in the depths of the Violet Hold.
That’s all for exciting news following BlizzCon. Hopefully we get some information about our class halls in the near future.
Please consider supporting our Patreon!
Join the Discussion
Blizzard Watch is a safe space for all readers. By leaving comments on this site you agree to follow our commenting and community guidelines.