I’ve spent a good amount of time on Beta for over the last few days since the last build, and I must say I am rather impressed at how well the game looks and runs. For those of you who have done PTR or Blizzard Beta testing in the past, you are familiar with the fact that the world servers constantly crash… that isn’t happening this go around. Point 1:  Blizzard.

After logging in for the first time, I made my way to Stormwind through the handy portals in Dalaran and… OMG… you can mount anywhere in the world now! Standing in the Auction House on a Amani War Bear? Allowed. Sitting in the Inn on your Proto Drake? Allowed. It certainly was a treat to fly from the Mage Quarter to the AH Steps in Stormwind… no more snaking around the canals and realizing you missed your turn! Heck I was inside the Bank on my drake! (Protip: to get to Hyjal, there is a NPC that will port you there from the steps of the bank!).

But enough about flying around Stormwind, that isn’t why you came here— there is more than enough Beta Coverage showing you how the world has changed… lets go into the priest stuff!

All of this information is based off of Beta Build 12644 and, of course, is subject to change.

Stat Impressions:

This is what my priest looks like versus what is on Live.

Even though I am in my Disc spec, you’ll see I have a lot of Spirit Gear equipped; (My Holy Spec Gear) Spirit is our regen stat…. even as Disc spec. In the same gear on Live (with Inner Fire Up and in Disc Spec), I have 3701 Spellpower— on Beta 4101, this is directly related to the increased Intellect amounts. Also take a look at my HP and Mana Levels: 35,870HP/33,628 Mana— in the same exact gear on Live (unbuffed) 31,693HP/24,610 Mana. A dramatic tilt… considering what Blizzard has said about Tank HP levels, we shouldn’t be surprised to see our numbers move as well.

One of the most interesting things, and something I am still struggling to fully understand the impact is the change in the mana regen “While Casting” (live) and “Combat Regen” (beta). On beta my combat regen is the same as my out of combat regen… when compared to my Live “While Casting”  it is through the roof! With our spell’s mana costs scaling up as we level, I am sure this amount of Combat Regen won’t seem as OP at 85 as it does at 80.

All MP5 gear has been converted to spirit, at what seems to be a 2 spirit : 1 mp5 ratio.  I would imagine that Disc Priests that currently have very little spirit gear should consider getting a few pieces if they can. Without spirit gear, your regen will bottom out come Cataclysm. I put on my Sanctified T10 Shadow Set (minimal spirit in comparison to the healing set) and my regen was cut in half… You know those ever so tasty Haste & Crit items (that have 0 spirit)?  Yeah, those might not be so tasty come Cata.

Dungeon Impressions:

I’ve been able to run both Blackrock Caverns and Throne of the Tides using the LFD system… First, the dungeons themselves are impressive looking; and have added some really cool graphics to a number of mob abilities.

One of the hardest things with the Beta Tool is the LFD system working cross-realm. Nearly every time, I am the only US based player and the rest of the people in my group are EU players. Why is this a hurdle?  Well, sometimes you have language barriers… but more importantly party chat only works if you are in the same Server. I can’t talk in Party Chat with anyone from the EU. That makes understanding trash packs, or boss mechanics a bit more difficult. You can, however, talk in /say… but sometimes that can be challenging.

The beta does not allow you to use AddOns; for those of you who know me know that I love my AddOns! However, the improved Raid and Party frames are much better than the ones we’ve had in the past. As you can see, the new frames are very HealBot/Grid/Vuhdo reminiscent. Each role is clearly defined with an icon, so you immediately know who the LFD system has assigned as your tank, and you can see buffs/debuffs on each player frame. (see my Inner Fire buff). It does also show “Incoming Heals” which should be handy with the new world of Flash Heal, Heal, and Greater Heal. The customization of this frame is limited, you can select to only show your buffs or debuffs you can dispel, however the placement and size of those indicators are lacking.

I am sure the purists out there will regale the new frames, and duly so… they are much much better and provide a lot more information than the old frames do… however, I still see myself using an AddOn that will provide more customization. And yes, Ava – this means you still have to finish the Grid Post. (Ava edit: FML)

Healing these dungeons has been tricky. The trash packs haven’t been overly difficult, & only a couple that the groups I was with required a CC of some sort. However the damage output the bosses have been doing is nothing to scoff at.  I’ve healed these dungeons as Discipline, and have been using mouseover macros to heal as well as weave Smite in my rotation to try to stack Evangelism to 5 to then be able to use Archangel. However, with the numbers that our heals are hitting for and the amount of damage a tank can suddenly take… smite has been hard to justify to put into our rotation. As much as I like weaving smites in between my heals and popping my Archangel wings… it can be tricky and outright dangerous to your tank’s well being!  I think this is directly related to the fact that Priests have yet to have their ‘pass’ by Blizzard Development. The numbers we are healing for are far too low, which pretty much require us to heal how we’ve been healing all of Wrath– spam.

What do I mean by that?

My Flash Heals have been hitting for 9-15k , and my GHeals for a 12-20k… regular Heal has been hitting for 6-10k. Wait… what? How is Flash Heal clearly the Go-To heal? Because we haven’t had our pass yet! Blue has made a few comments not to worry about numbers just yet for our healing… which I find a little amusing and hard to accurately beta test— but it is reassuring that they know our heals aren’t where they need to be (or should be!).

Talent Tree Impressions:

Discipline still feels very bloated to me. Not in the ‘If I want X I have to give up Y‘… but in the, ‘How can I show up to a raid w/o these 2 talents?’. For example, Inspiration is a great talent… but is it worth 3 talent points? Even more so since you are forced to give up crucial Disc talents to get it. Atonement, even ignoring the issues with attempting a smite rotation, heals for around 1500-2000; not worth it for 3 points. Then add in the fact that I am lamenting the loss of Borrowed Time

Holy…. oh Chakra… what the eff? I know I have been a very Negative Nancy about Chakra since they announced it… and my point still stands.  Casting the same 3 spells in succession like that just seems clunky. Prayer of Healing… 3 times in a row (at least in a 5 man) just is obscene. Renew… would be ok, but the last beta build nerfed Renew by taking Empowered Renew and turning it into Divine Touch. (which is the same as Empowered Renew, but without the spellpower bonus… ugh). The other issue I have with Chakra is that there is a substantial ramp-up time required to get into your ‘healing state’. This means you’ll likely see priests spamming spells to trigger Chakra to get into the “improved state” prior to boss pulls, or for example you’ll see priests spamming POH prior to AOE damage hitting so they have POH Chakra up… which is not beneficial to the raid, and counter to the new methodology of healing/mana conservation. I would much rather see Chakra be a cooldown like Tree of Life form. Buff yourself with Chakra and consume the buff with the next spell cast– entering into a healing state based on the spell you consumed it with. (ie. Consume it with POH, you buff your AOE heals for the next 15 seconds… consume with renew, buff your renews for the next 15 seconds).

I don’t want to get too deep into my ‘concerns’ with the priest trees as we haven’t had our real pass yet; we’ll get our turn.  (not to mention the several bugs I’ve found with Chakra, Renew, and PoM) The next build that has a good overhaul I expect to see some pretty significant changes to the priest trees… then we can dive into specs and talents a bit more. Right now griping about our trees and talents seems a bit premature… that is, unless this IS the final cut. (which I highly doubt).

Overall Impressions:

The beta is clean, and I like the way the world seems to have evolved.  Short of the few quests that are bugged, most of the quests are enjoyable and bring back some of the NPC’s you fondly remember from Vanilla… complete with Baron Geddon and “You are the bomb!”. Over the next several weeks you’ll see posts from from me should have substantially more beta information, in addition to some great posts that Ava is working on with content from Live.

If you have any questions or certain topics you’d like investigated on the beta servers feel free to email them to us via the blog, or ask on twitter!