WotLK Priest Talent Review

Here’s an in depth look at the proposed priest talent trees in Wrath of the Lich King.  I’ll cover what is new, what has changed, which talent builds and synergies to look forward to, and give an outlook of the class from a talent perspective.  (Hopefully I’ll also be answering some of those FAQs about the new talents.)

Standard disclaimer: WotLK is in early beta.  I guarantee things will change between now and release.

Things That Have Changed

Discipline

  • Silent Resolve
    Now only requires 3 talent points to get the full effect (down from 5).  Also, it now decreases the chance of your spells being dispelled by 30% (up from 20%).
  • Improved Inner Fire
    This will now also increase the healing bonus of your inner fire buff by 10% per rank, in addition to the armor bonus.  (The Inner Fire spell has been changed to award a bonus 120 +heal at max rank).
  • Mental Strength
    Now increases your intellect by 3% per rank (up from 2%).
  • Focused Will
    The increased healing effects bonus of this talent was decreased to 3% per rank (down from 4%).

Holy

  • Lightwell
    Changed to not break on damage (unless damage > 30% of your health).  Number of charges increased to 10 (from 5). Casting time reduced to  0.5 sec (from 1.5 sec).
  • Empowered Healing
    At max rank, will increase the bonus healing effects of greater heal by 10% and flash heal/binding heal by 5%.  (This is down to half of its current values).
  • Circle of Healing
    Now affects any raid member, as opposed to just party members.  Will “smart heal” by selecting the players with lowest health first. Given a 6 second cooldown.

Shadow

  • Spirit Tap
    Now only 3 talent points (down from 5) to get the same effect.
  • Shadow Focus
    Now also reduces the mana cost of shadow spells by 2% per rank.  The number of ranks has been reduced to 3 (from 5), but the spell hit awarded is still 1% per rank.
  • Shadow Resilience
    Has been completely changed.  Now it will reduce physical damage taken by 2% per rank (still two ranks).
  • Shadowform
    Now has the added bonus of reducing your threat by 30% while in shadowform.
  • Shadow Power
    Has had the crit bonus reduced to 2% per rank (down from 3%), but now also increases the critical strike damage bonus awarded by 10% per rank (50% at max rank). This finally lets shadow priests do double damage on critical strikes.
  • Vampiric Touch
    Mana regen through this talent is now only 2% of the shadow damage you deal (down from 5%).

New Talents

Discipline

Twin Disciplines – Tier 1
5 ranks – This replaced Wand Specialization.  Increases your spell damage and healing by 1% per rank.  This is an excellent talent choice for any priest talent spec!

Rapture – Tier 8
5 ranks – Returns 0.5% per rank of the healing done by Greater Heal, Flash Heal, and Penance back as mana.  Also, returns 5% of the damage absorbed by Power Word: Shield, per rank, back as mana to you.  The PvP benefits of this talent could be quite substantial.

Aspiration – Tier 8
2 ranks – The cooldowns of Inner Focus, Power Infusion, and Pain Suppression decreased by 10% per rank. Aspiration should have aspired to more; this is a lackluster talent and not worth taking.

Divine Aegis – Tier 9
3 ranks – Creates a shield on targets you heal that lasts for 12 seconds and will absorb 10% of the healing done, per rank.  This is a great addition to the damage reduction arsenal for PvP.

Grace – Tier 9
2 ranks – Will give your targets a “Grace” buff (that is susceptible to magical dispel) after receiving a Greater Heal, Flash Heal, or Penance heal from you. Grace, per rank, reduces the damage taken by 1% and increases the healing received by 1% on that target.  The Grace buff can stack up to 3 times, making this another solid choice for the PvP healing arsenal.

Borrowed Time – Tier 10
5 ranks – You can think of this talent as “More Improved Power Word: Shield” if you wish.  For each rank, the cooldown of your PW:S spell is reduced by 0.1 seconds and the amount of damage it absorbs is increased by 4% of your bonus healing. Note: this does not affect the Weakened Soul debuff.  This talent looks okay for group PvP healing, and stacks with the Improved Power: Word Shied Talent.

Penance – Tier 11
1 rank – New spell.  3 second channeled. If cast on an ally, it will heal them up to three times for a small amount.  If cast on a hostile target, it will damage them for an even smaller amount up to three times.  Everything about this talent is strange.  It is another healing spell, but in the discipline tree.  It can be used to do damage or to heal.  It is channeled.  It isn’t spammable (10 second cooldown!).  It appears to want to be another “fast heal” option. It has more heal-per-second and heal-per-mana potential than Flash Heal, but the channeled aspect of it makes you either: 1) Really thankful there are so many PW:S improving talents in this tree or 2) Really wary of the LoS issues and spell pushback issues this could create for you in PvP.

Holy

Serendipity – Tier 8
3 ranks – If your Greater Heal or Flash Heal ends up being more than 50% overheal, this talent will refund 20% (per rank) of the spell’s cost. What a phenomenal PvE healing talent.  It synergizes with spell crit, too (an unusual concept for a holy priest!).

Improved Holy Concentration – Tier 9
3 ranks – Increases the chance of entering Holy Concentration by 4%/3%/3% (for a total of 16%, or once every 6 heals, when summed with Holy Concentration).  Increases your spell haste by 20% (per rank) for your next 3 heals after entering Holy Concentration.  This should be a requisite for any PvE healing build. Do not pass this up!

Test of Faith – Tier 9
3 ranks – For your targets under 50% health, your healing is increased by 5% per rank and spell crit chance increased by 4%/3%/3% (each rank).  It’s like the Crystal Spire of Karabor up and became a talent.  At a first glance, this feels a little weak for how high it is in the tree, but the overall increase to healing power over long periods of time (such as raids) is quite measurable.  Works well with Serendipity.

Divine Providence – Tier 10
5 ranks – The amount healed by Circle of Healing, Binding Heal, Holy Nova, Prayer of Mending, and Prayer of Healing is increased by 2% per rank.  Yes, this is less of a talent than Spiritual Healing.  However, the benefit is heavily felt with Circle of Healing, making raiding CoH priests really lust for this.

Guardian Spirit – Tier 11
1 rank – Summons a guardian to “watch” a target for 10 seconds.  If the target would have taken a killing blow during that time, the guardian “dies” healing that target for 10% of their (max) health and saving them from death.   While the guardian is active, healing on the target is increased by 40%.  This spell has a 3 minute cooldown.  The Guardian concept seems like a useless pet gimmick to a certain extent.  Let’s just call this what it is: an instant-cast buff that give a fast, emergency heal if a target is going to perish, else just increases the healing done on the target by a very substantial amount for 10 seconds.  This spell has flexibility.  It can be an “oh shit!” button, or a handy helper during boss enrages.

Shadow

Improved Spirit Tap – Tier 1
2 ranks – Critical strikes from Mind Blast and SW:D increase your spirit by 25% per rank and increase your mana regen by 25% per rank for 8 seconds.  Given the changes to Vampiric Touch, shadow priests are in need of more options for mana regen.  This talent, available so low in the talent tree, is a good step in the right direction in that regard.

Improved Shadowform – Tier 8
2 ranks – This gives Fade a 50% chance per rank of removing movement impairing effects while in shadowform.  It also gives a 35% chance per rank of avoiding interruption while casting shadow spells.  This talent is great for PvP and pretty good in PvE, too.  Fade’s new found usefulness in PvP gives us hope for the revival of shadow PvP in WotLK.  And one of the main concerns for shadow priests in both PvP and PvE, spell pushback, is also addressed.  Bravo!

Psychic Horror – Tier 9
2 ranks – Gives a 50% chance per rank to cause targets affected by your Psychic Scream spell to flee in horror for 4 seconds per rank.  Seems confusing, I know.  What it means is that even if the fear effect on the spell is broken, the horror effect will still keep enemies fleeing.  So, no one can ultimately trinket out of it. Tremor totems won’t work on it.  Will of the Forsaken won’t work.  Fear Ward won’t work.  It makes Psychic Scream do what it’s supposed to do for the whole duration. This is a must for shadow PvP.

Pain and Suffering – Tier 9
3 ranks – Gives your Mind Flay a 33% chance per rank of “refreshing” SW:P on your target.  It also reduces the damage you take from your SW:D by 20% per rank.  This is one of the more controversial new talents as it is easily misunderstood.  The word “refresh” is a little misleading here; the word “extend” might be more appropriate.  When your SW:P gets “refreshed”, it does not start ticking all over again from the beginning.  Time is just added to the end, extending it back to its full duration of 18 seconds.  The 3 second interval between DoT ticks is not interrupted.  This talent is essential for PvE for the SW:P refreshing alone (saving mana and time).  The damage reduction on the SW:D is nice as the ability to one-shot oneself with backlash damage appears to be greater in WotLK.

Twisted Faith – Tier 10
5 ranks – Increases your shadow spell damage by 6% of your spirit per rank. Increases the damage done by Mind Flay and Mind Blast by 1% per rank for each shadow damage over time effect on your target (SW:P, VT, DP).  This is a solid “meat and potatoes” essential DPS-upping talent.

Dispersion – Tier 11
1 rank – For 6 seconds, reduces damage taken by 90% and regenerates 6% of your mana and health per second.  You can move, but cannot attack or cast.  Dispersion has a 5 minute cooldown.  If Evocation, Pain Suppression, and Renew had a baby, Dispersion would be it.  The PvP benefits are quite obvious, and the cooldown appropriately limiting.  It’s not necessary for PvE, but worth trying out.  In PvE, it could have its benefits as an “Oh Shit!” button, a useful thing to pop during boss phase transitions (free big mana potion!), or a better-than-a-bandage self-heal.

A First Look at Talent Builds in WotLK

**Note: Wowhead updated their talent calculators at some point, so the builds linked are no longer accurate.  See comment below**

Discipline

  • 53/18/0 – Healer PvP
    As in TBC, 18 points in the holy tree are necessary to pick up key talents: Holy Concentration, Imp. Renew, and Imp. Healing.  The other 53 fall into the Discipline Tree, with which we have a fair amount of flexibility.  Many of our survivability talents center around our Power Word: Shield spell.  There are plenty of “dispel fodder” talents available, such as: Blessed Recovery, Inspiration, DS, and the changed Silent Resolve is very nice.  A major drawback is that most of the talents are oriented around group PvP play, as opposed to small-time (2v2 arena) or solo play.

Holy

  • 14/57/0 – PvE Healer – Deeeeep Holy
    Going deep into the holy tree is no longer at a cost to mana efficiency.  Options in upper tier holy talents for mana return allow for less reliance on the discipline tree for such efficiency.  Deep holy builds will remain the primary builds for most priest healers in raids, despite the loss of spammability of Circle of Healing.  Lightwell, given its improvements, may be situationally useful given the trend in raid encounters to have multiple smaller groups spread apart.  The changed Empowered Healing talent leaves something to be desired but still remains an essential part of this build.
  • 23/48/0 – PvE Healer – Holy w/Imp DS
    Raids may still want to have a Imp. DS priest at their disposal for the extra buff.  You can have both Imp. DS and CoH now, but by having the 23 points in discipline for Imp. DS you will lose out on some of the upper tier talents in the holy tree that improve upon CoH and other healing spells. Again, Lightwell may prove situational.  Serendipity can be switched out for Test of Faith as desired.

Shadow

  • 14/0/57 – PvE Shadow
    Just like in TBC, raiding shadow priests will want to go 14 points into the discipline tree to pick up Inner Focus and Meditation, both essentials for mana efficiency.  The 57 points in shadow will allow you to have most every DPS-increasing talent available. Imp. Shadowform is recommended due to the resistance to spell pushback that it grants.  Spirit Tap becomes essential due to the mana regen feature added onto it in the form of Imp. Spirit Tap.  Vampiric Embrace, remaining unchanged, stands to be quite powerful at level 80.  Improved VE, while not popular now, may become a key benefit shadow priests bring to raids.  Dispersion is hit-or-miss for PvE, and can be skipped over if desired in lieu of an extra point in Imp. MB.
  • 13/0/58 – Shadow PvP
    Shadow PvP has potential in WotLK.  Talent builds for it have more room for personal customization than in PvE.  The 51 point talent, Dispersion, is a must, but the points in the discipline tree are very flexible (Silent Resolve remains a “must”).  Given the addition of new PvP-aiding talents in the shadow tree (Imp. Fade, Imp. Shadowform, Dispersion), high-reliance on discipline isn’t as essential as in TBC. Twisted Faith is chosen over Twin Disciplines, as there is a higher possible damage-return and a slight bump in spell damage from it.

Overall Talent Analysis

Discipline

  • It is nice that Blizzard has put forth the effort to further define the focus of the discipline tree, long lamented to be haphazard and containing a hodge-podge of talents.  Synergies now exist within the tiers of its talents, but mainly centered around one single spell; the discipline tree is quickly becoming the Power Word: Shield tree. New talents like Rapture and Borrowed Time emphasize this focus. However, making discipline the “PvP healer” tree allows for better PvP survivability options than in the past.  Deep discipline priests will remain a coveted group PvP healer.  Priests healers will easily be able to spend 50+ points in the discipline tree in PvP talent builds.
  • In PvE, Discipline still scales poorly.  Is it worth it to have a priest in a raid spamming PW:S on people?  Doesn’t look like it (not even with the PW:S synergies with other class abilities, like with arcane mages).  The overall healing power lost by speccing deep in the disc tree is, at the juncture, the final nail in the coffin of deep disc raid healers (who, IMHO, had little viability beyond T4 content anyway).  It’s going to be “go holy or go home” for raid healing unless adjustments are made to how the talents stand now.
  • Disc/holy PvE DPS builds don’t appear to scale nearly well enough into WotLK to remain even feasibly viable for raiding.

Holy

  • The holy tree, as it stands now, is the least touched transitioning from TBC to WotLK.  Some nice throughput/regen hybrid talents were added high into the tree allowing for less dependence on the discipline tree for mana efficiency.  As the focus of the disc tree was honed and narrowed, the holy tree was as well.  PvE priests can now feel more comfortable speccing deep into this tree.  As great as some of the new talents look, however, the PvE healing improvements for priests are still not on par with some of our other healer counterparts. The cooldown on Circle of Healing is going to sting a bit, leaving ambiguity with regards to our AoE healing ability.  There is a great deal of balancing left to be done before WotLK goes live and I feel relatively hopeful that holy priests will remain a “solid” healer, in the end.  PvE healing builds should all have at least 44 points in the holy tree, as it looks now.
  • Holy smite spam builds do not scale well enough into WotLK compared to other DPS classes to make them PvE viable for group play.

Shadow

  • Shadow priests were synonymous with mana regen in TBC.  In WotLK, many classes have their own ways to regen their mana, rendering the party-wide mana regen from shadow priests near irrelevant.  This certainly will not cause shadow priests to lose raid spots.  There are still two big benefits that a shadow priest will still bring to a raid: Misery and Shadow Weaving (which, by the looks of things, will benefit Death Knights, as well).  As Vampiric Embrace was not (yet) nerfed again, we can see them bringing substantial health regen to raids as well.  Moving into WotLK, we see PvE shadow priests going from worrying about just spell damage and spell haste stats, to having to balance Spirit, Crit, Spell Damage, and Spell Haste.  Personal mana regen is much less of a concern, due to the talent changes and additions.   Shadow priests won’t be topping any DPS charts in WotLK, but remain the same DPS/utility stronghold they were before.
  • Shadow PvP stands to make a bit of a comeback in WotLK.  While not the most viable PvP spec compared to other classes, it remains much improved, notably in the area of survivability (thanks to Psychic Horror, Dispersion, Imp. SF/Fade). Balancing throughput with survivability may remain an issue.
  • Shadow PvE DPS builds will see at least 54 points in the shadow tree.  PvP shadow builds will need at least 51 points in the shadow tree to get Dispersion.
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14 Responses

  1. Great analysis, thanks a lot. I like your optimism for shadow priest raid spots and hope it bears out. I’m not a hardcore raider so probably won’t see a lot of 25-mans, but I do wonder if shadow priests will bring enough to justify a spot in 10-man raids where debuffs are less important. I think a lot depends on how well we can compete in damage output, and how important shackle will be as crowd control. But you might be right about vampiric embrace – with the increased threat reduction, improved ve could be one way to go.

    Just a couple of comments on your post. The shadow focus nerf is bigger than you suggest: the talent currently awards 2% hit per point, not 1% as you state, so we are loosing a total of 7% hit. And I’m not convinced that improved shadow form will be worth the points for a raiding shadow priest. The effects will be great in pvp but pretty worthless in instances. Spell pushback would have been nice but not if we only get it during fade.

  2. Your pvp disc spec is seriously horrible. To start with you have imp fortitude over martyrdom. Imp fort is totally useless in good pvp gear you will have plenty of stamina, and fortitude like most of our buffs is eventually dispelled anyway. You dont take Divine spirit which is nice as you have said for cannon fodder

    No power infusion which made me laugh and 3 points in Englightnment. Again its not stamina we struggle with our gear has plenty of it and spirit in pvp doesnt really work. The only thing left on there is int which you will pick up from Mental strength. Oh and you have 3/3 blessed recovery which is rather useless. Ok it heals 25% of the damage taken but when you counter in a 50% MS debuff or aimed shot debuff or wound poison or any other healing reduction effects they may be in wrath there isnt alot of point. Its only good for 1 point as a cannon fodder for buffs

  3. @Merlot – You get the spell pushback resistance all the time, not just during Fade.

    @Yoie (and others) – The talent calculators have changed, so what is being linked isn’t the build I made. Yes, I had Power Infusion and 1/3 Blessed Recovery. I don’t have the time to go back and update every time Wowhead updates the calculators (hence, the note at the top of the post!). I will throw in a note before the talent builds section letting people know it has already changed (and the linked builds are accordingly messed up).

  4. DP, thanks for your in-depth analysis! While I’ve been trying to stay focused on BC content as we start to put parts of SSC on farm status and slowly move into TK/MH, I confess to a bit of curiosity regarding Priesting in LK.

    Rest assured I’ll be using you as a valued resource as release approaches (and I share your view of a Dec/Jan date) and afterward.

    Keep up the outstanding commentary!

  5. Re: spell pushback. Are you sure? The wording is terrible if it is. The current talent tip on the official site reads:

    “Your fade ability now has 100% chance to remove all movement impairing effects when used while in shadowform, and gives you a 70% chance to avoid interruption caused by damage when casting any shadow spell while in shadow form.”

    The “and gives you” refers gramatically to the “fade ability” – even if that’s not what the writer intended.

    I’ll have to ask someone with a beta key to test it :)

  6. Merlot, if you don’t believe me, would you believe shadowpriest.com? See this post: http://shadowpriest.com/viewtopic.php?f=54&t=14892

  7. Sorry, I believe you now, and thank you :)

    I shall take my campaign for plain tooltips elsewhere!

  8. Yeah, it really isn’t clear at all. wtb grammar!

  9. The PVP disc build is going to depend a lot on how Penance works out I think. Wish I had a beta account. If it’s good then Aspiration then may be very handy as it drops the cooldown from 10s to 8s.

    There’s so much good stuff in the disc tree now it’s really hard to choose. Yoie failed to notice Enlightenment now has an extra 5% damage/healing. That’s nice but to get Power Infusion you may have to give it all up. Divine Aegis is another possible pass. Holy priests might want to start stacking crit but I still don’t see it being worthwhile for disc.

    Focused Will seems to be nerfed even more than you mentioned, looking at the latest trees it seems to be half as good as the current talent for the healing bonus. Might make Blessed Recovery more tempting. In any case with Silent Resolve bumped up and so many tempting talents to choose from, I’d be really reluctant to spend talent points on anything just for dispel fodder until it’s proved necessary.

  10. […] that doesn’t mean I’ve gone all ostrich; I’ve read a bit of stuff about Priest Talents and Hunter Pet Trees, but I haven’t gone all gaga over the beta. That said, there is a major […]

  11. If a straight Holy DPS Smite build is not as viable, and with few damage boosters deep down the Holy or Discipline trees, how about a build like this for PVE and occasional PVP?

    http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/info/classes/priest/talents.html?tal=350322313000012230010000000000535120202005200000000000300000000000000000000000000

  12. Please update your post regarding Dispersion. As of 3.0.3, it doesn’t regen health nor to move during the 6 sec period. It may not be dispelled which isn’t important.

  13. Wotlk holy priest is not Tbc holy priest anymore. Its diferent in any way.
    To start, we are the best raid healers at the moment (since shamans are nerfed and druids must sweat to catch us).
    I´ve tried some builds in holy tree and i made one that im very satisfied with.

    http://eu.wowarmory.com/character-sheet.xml?r=Bloodfeather&n=Shadoom

    Since i rarely use the greater heal, i decided to nerf it on the tree and boost aoe heal some more.
    I got great results in Ulduar.

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