4 February 2009

My state-of-the-priest address: holy

The paint isn't even dry on patch 3.0.8 and already we're looking at "exciting changes" for priests in the pipeline. (You saw that comment right?) And from the look of recent blue posts, we can expect news on 3.1 class changes any day now.

What exactly it is that constitutes "exciting" largely depends on your hopes and dreams for the class, but I'm going to be bold and say I don't care about the little things. What I want is vision. I want innovation.

We all have a view about what works and what doesn't. There are annoying talents and spells that nobody uses and bugs that won't go away and we rail impotently against them on a daily basis. We'll always have these in one form or another. Some will be fixed, some will be removed, others will spring up in their place.

Sometimes they drive me mad, but today I am feeling philosophical. Today, I am going to blithely skip over every frustrating foible I have ever encountered and talk about where our class is going.

And because there is a lot to say on the subject, even by my own verbose standards, I'm going to split it into three posts, starting with a potted look at holy.

This is all pure, uneducated speculation of course. I really have no more idea what the class needs than anyone else who plays it (arguably less!) But I'm going to go out on a limb because, well, it fills a post. And because I'm excited and want to write about it. Indulge me :)

If you play a priest, please let me know what you think. And if you don't, what do you think of holy priests? Does my view match yours? What are your hopes and predictions for patch 3.1? And if I can keep up a stream of questions for this long, do you think I have a future in talk radio?

Holy moly!

Holy priests are going through a bit of an identity crisis. The game's most versatile healer can perform any healing assignment thrown at it, but when you line priests up against the other classes, it's likely not to be first choice for any.

Or at least, that's the perception of some, who have taken this insecurity, together with the circle of healing nerf, as pronouncement that holy is no less than dead.

I can't tell the extent of these strong feelings. Holy priests seem as profuse on my server as ever — and as capable. But the class didn't get an awful lot of attention during Wrath development, and while some people saw that as a token of the priest's strength, others felt overlooked. With lots of shiny new toys in discipline, no doubt some holy priests have turned their backs on holy — perhaps for good.

The lack of a natural role for holy priests is a difficult issue to tackle. If you strengthen priests for one particular assignment, you would have to balance it in other areas, and nobody wants that. Not to mention that any rise in priest fortunes would undoubtedly be met with a corresponding decline for another class.

What we need, I think, is to boost the confidence of holy priests, and maybe give them a little more sparkle and polish to boot. Cue devs.

We know the devs are looking at a couple of things. They have talked about the concept of spell rotations for healers — not the dps-paradigm of 'press 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3' but a system which encourages you to line up spell sequences for added benefit. This already happens with discipline — power word: shield-penance-greater heal provides a massive burst of healing thanks to talents that deliver added haste and crit potential. Shaman too have a range of talents which boost the value of one spell when another is active on the target. We could see more of this for holy.

We also know that prayers are heading for a bit of a makeover. The only one that currently sees a great deal of use is prayer of mending. I hope to see more prayers, and changes to existing ones. One possible outcome for holy priests could be a range of prayers with greater utility that work themselves more easily into bread 'n' butter healing. (I'd also like to see a 'dark' prayer for shadow priests, who sometimes feel a little excommunicated despite their own strong, albeit alternative, faith.)

So broader group utility could help secure a priest's spot in a raid without the need to re-balance healing potential, while a better designed healing strategy could help priests feel like their class is distinct and valued.

Might it even be enough to tempt the AWOL Dralban back to WoW? We live in hope. Come back to us Dral!

More amateur divinations and ill-informed sweeping generalisations coming soon! Hooraah!

1 comment:

Curare said...

I like the idea of a 'dark' prayer for shadow priests! The dark side needs more flavor.

I am only a level 56, but if I were going to change the class to make it more competitive with the other hybrid healing classes, I might make a hybrid priest more feasible. Give holy more damage or shadow more healing, or make the shadow and holy trees work better together. Priest seems to be the only class where two of the trees seem to work against each other (in the sense that you can't cast holy spells in shadowform).