To recap then, these are the highlights:
- Vampiric touch now grants replenishment to the ten players in a raid with the lowest mana. This buff regenerates 0.5% base mana every second 'while you deal damage'.
- Shadow weaving: we get the same effect for three talent points, but it no longer buffs the damage of other players.
- Misery: for three talent points, this now increases spell hit against the target by 3%.
The changes to vampiric touch are absolutely the right thing for the spell. As long as it was linked to damage done we were never going to be allowed to scale properly as a class. Wrath will be a world where no class will have the monopoly on mana regeneration and that, believe it or not, is a good thing. I'm still concerned that the improved water elemental is overpowered, but now I can stand shoulder to shoulder with hunters and paladins on an equal footing — at least, where mana is concerned. The only question mark over this spell now is how exactly it works — the wording is odd, to say the least. If we put vampiric touch on the target and did nothing else, would replenishment tick 15 times (every second for the duration) or five times (only when we deal damage)? Let's hope it's the former, otherwise we're going to end up tying ourselves in new knots trying to get the most out of this spell.
The shadow weaving nerf goes hand in hand with a similar change to improved shadow bolt, which also no longer buffs the damage of other players. Taken together, you can see that Blizzard is trying to break the co-dependency of locks and shadow priests. I don't have an issue with that, but given that this talent was nerfed from 15% a couple of patches back specifically to manage warlock damage, it seems very petty not to give us that 5% back. But at least they dropped it to three talent points, which is a marginally better investment cost for this unremarkable talent.
And now we come to the tear-jerker. Misery was a mediocre talent before, but it was unquestionably a buff for the raid; now, it's worthless. That's because the whole point of this reorganisation of buffs and debuffs was to ensure raids would not need to stack particular effects — just as now, all classes will be striving to reach their personal hit cap in Northrend. The minute they do, this talent is rendered obsolete. It also adds to our scaling issues of course, because while it might help a raid in the early stages, nobody is going to be raiding high-end instances 3% short of the hit cap. 5% was 5% though, at any level.
Before we give up hope entirely, we have to remember two things. The philosophy of this reorganisation is to ensure that no class or spec is essential for a raid. What that means in reverse is that any class or spec should be viable. We absolutely have to believe that our functionality will be improved in other ways to balance these nerfs.
And that brings us to the second thing, which is that Blizzard has said repeatedly that they are not done with the class yet. The coffin lid may be closed, but the nails are still missing. If you have a beta key, I hope you are doing everything possible to put shadow priests through their paces and provide solid evidence to Blizzard that we are simply not prepared for the brave new world of Northend.