Mists of Pandaria is going to be bringing massive changes to all classes and specs, and in the case of Shadow Priests, this will be both fixes that should have never been required, on top of the fact that we're moving towards a third resource required, Shadow Orbs (possibly Evangelism for Disc/Holy). From what we've been told, this will no longer be RNG proc based, and instead will be given to us in a constant proc based spell, probably through Mind Flay still.
Of course Holy and Disc Priests will be getting some love as well, but unfortunately they'll come more cookie cutter spec than a Shadow Priest will for certain tiers, and vice versa. I'd love to see which spells have been given as baseline and which are spec specific, but unfortunately Blue Wizards are keeping the scrolls tightly sealed in the vault of madness, along with various ideas they crafted for the World (of Warcraft) to experience but later decided to use them as paper weights.
Now a lot of people will argue that cookie cutter specs will still be around, which is always going to be true when you can only pick a limited number of anything from a large pool of things, but in the case of Priest 5.0 talents, they're going to be encounter specific cookie cutter specs, meaning you'll actually have to know your talents and constantly change when dealing with progression, be it leveling or end-game. Hopefully this means people will learn to read their talents instead of picking random ones or following the current flavor of the month spec. So what changes are we going to be seeing? Keep reading and find out!
Tier 1 is all about... crowd control? That's right! We actually have an AoE crowd control besides Psychic Scream now, which is wonderful news right off the bat. Although Void Tendrils is just an AoE root, PvE will see exceptional uses for this when dealing with either running mobs or non-spell casters, while PvP will use this to a wonderful anti-flag carrier tactic as most people tend to group up on whoever is running the flag. Now Psyfiend is a new and interesting ability. Like Shadowfiend, we'll be getting a new summon to assist us. PvE, this is probably not the best ability to use unless it can be glyphed like Psychic Scream, in PvP, this will be the main ability to use whenever you're not dealing with something immune to fear as it will practically spam fear over and over, making anyone not paying attention to waste their trinkets. And of course the normal Psychic Scream with the same effect as it is currently.
Tier 2 - Level 30
Tier 2 is pure movement utility. Body and Soul will be a nice addition when you need to move quickly or lack another Priest to help someone else move quickly, be it out of the fire or towards a mob. Path of the Devout is a new talent and good if you're needing to move quickly over water or anything on the ground, but unfortunately only works for yourself. Phantasm is the utility of wonders depending on the situation. For PvP, it's a free 'get out of snare free' card, especially when you deal with Unholy Deathknights and have to run over a patch to get away. PvE settings can be used if mobs start using a lot of snare against you, but it probably wont happen much and you'll just use fade as an aggro dump as usual.
Tier 3 is where the encounter decisions really shine. From Darkness, Comes Light is a wonderful power for all three specs. On the healing side, you get the good ol' Flash Heal for free as you do now from Surge of Light, which is no real change. On the shadow side of things, you have a 6% change of using your Mind Blast for free. It's too early to tell if this will negatively impact DPS or not, but no one will really complain for a free burst. Divine Star is another new talent, whether or not you're going to be able to use this effectively as a Shadow Priest is again, too early to tell, but with a spark that will go healing and doing damage at the same time will be very helpful to any group as long as you don't break any crowd control. Archangel gives us a glimpse on the changes to shadow orbs and evangelism, possibly the third resource for each spec. The increased healing and damage has been reduced to roughly 15%, possibly higher depending on the cap for shadow orbs and evangelism.
Tier 4 - Level 60
Tier 4 is the survivability selection, so not much to say here. Mostly a choice of which you want for PvP, Desperate Prayer working as it does now. Angelic Bulwark is hinted more for Disc than Holy, sometimes for Shadow, but someone you would use when getting ready to take damage. Final Prayer is our emergency 'don't die' shield, although it wont save you from massive damage, it will give you some time to heal up or run quickly.
Tier 5 - Level 75
Tier 5 is our burst utility selection. Twist of Fate works for both healing and damage, giving you a buffer to make sure the tank doesn't die when they hit an inch of life, or the burst to knock the boss down that extra nudge during the final burn phase or trying to beat the enrage timer. Power Infusion still works as it does, and gives either yourself or an ally a burst of speed and reduction of mana. This is better saved for a heavy hitting casters or healers who need to keep someone up. More than likely this will be used on yourself, especially for healers who have massive damage to heal through, though it has it's uses for Shadow. Serendipity is still working as is, except double reduction in both cast time and mana cost. For Shadow, it works as Mind Melt does now, without the addition of extra damage from SW:Death.
Tier 6 - Level 90
Tier 6 is another wonderful utility selection, but highly situational for the first two. Vow of Unity creates a link with one person of your choice, healing you 20% of what they gain and take half of the damage they do, however if they take damage up to 30% of their health, the vow automatically breaks. This is wonderful if a tank is going through a rough phase. Void Shift is one of those talents I had to do a double take on. You swap health percentage with one friendly target, meaning you could save someone from near death, or be the result of someone dying. After the effect ends (of which it doesn't say how long it is or how the effect ends) you are healing for 25% of your health. And finally, Vampiric Dominance. Thank Sargeras the Blue Wizards finally decided to fix this. Not only does it do all damage, but it's a smart heal as well, making sure that the three allies closest to near death are saved. A lot of current heals do this, and I'm glad it's moving that way instead of everyone gaining random heals and what not, although I am worried that it's not just from single target damage anymore.
I'm glad they've decided to mix PvE and PvP talents and move more towards utility talents than more damage, though it still feels certain tiers will always have that go to talent for every encounter. It does feel like they've actually put effort into making sure each talent will have their uses and almost force you to change talents on the fly during certain encounters in dungeons and all encounters in raids. Of course most of the talents are more tuned for PvE, but this is expected, and of course will be altered in various tactics to become a powerful tool in PvP.
Will we see these talents before the actual release of Mists of Pandora? Of course we will! Blizzard seems to always release part of the content for the next xpac before the actual release happens, giving us a month or so to play with the talents as is. This will for sure hurt me in that teasing way, as I will have to wait to drool over Vampiric Dominance.
Holyzyro can be reached here.
Holyzyro can be reached here.