Posted by Ceon - March 22, 2013, 18:50
There were a number of changes to Discipline in patch 5.2.0. The most notable been two essential glyphs becoming baseline, Focused Will stacking to 30% damage reduction and healing buffs in the form of Penance and the revamped mastery. However, there was one particular change that has inadvertently created issues and injected a number of weaknesses for Discipline Priests in PvP. This was of course the change to Divine Aegis—a passive effect that previously placed a shield on the target of a critical strike, absorbing 30% of the amount healed plus mastery.
Divine Aegis was changed in patch 5.2.0 to:
Divine Aegis now causes critical heals to apply an absorb shield on the target for 100% of the amount healed instead of healing for twice as much. In addition, it grants Power Word: Shield a chance equal to the Priest’s critical chance for the shield to absorb twice as much damage.
This means Disc Priests no longer provide double the amount of healing when they crit unlike the other healers. Instead, a critical heal remains the same as if it hadn’t crit and a shield is placed on the target equal to the amount healed plus mastery. We’ll come on to why this is a weakness in a moment, but let’s look at why this change was implemented first.
The reasoning for this change was highlighted in the Patch 5.2 Class Review:
In raiding particularly, Discipline priests were using an effective but boring “rotation” of casting almost nothing but Prayer of Healing (with a guaranteed Divine Aegis) while using Spirit Shell on cooldown… [We] redesigned Divine Aegis so that Prayer of Heal spamming would no longer be the right answer for every situation.
They went on to say the decision to change the Discipline Mastery to also provide plus healing was to keep mastery competitive with critical strike chance.
This suggests Blizzard believed Discipline Priests, prior to the Divine Aegis change, to be viable PvE healers—though perhaps somewhat overpowered with Prayer of Healing—and PvP wasn’t a factor when the decision to implement this change was made. They did at least consider the implications of Purge by making it so Divine Aegis can no longer be dispelled, but there are other problems with this change in PvP. Indeed, while absorbs provide effective healing in the constant damage environment of a raid fight, the nature of health pools in PvP is vastly different.
Why it’s a Problem
Of course this Divine Aegis can be effective in PvP. For example, where a team mate is taking constant damage or where a critical strike provides a team mate with more effective health, especially immediately prior to the Priest been crowd controlled.
However, topping people off in 3v3 arena is very important and is normally a solo effort unlike in raids. Furthermore, there are a number of regular occurrences in PvP where this proves to be a burden. Rather than explain them in a dull fashion, let’s assume a Priest is playing RMP and take an actual look at some of these occurrences:
- Switches: The enemy team is unloading damage on to a Rogue, the Priest begins healing the Rogue and the heal crits topping him to 60% health and providing a Divine Aegis shield. However, the enemy team spots an opportunity and switches to the teams Mage. The Divine Aegis expires on the Rogue and he is still at 60% while the Mage also requires healing.
- Forcing the Enemy to go on the Defensive: The Mage and Rogue go on the offensive and force the enemy to play more defensively for a period. The Rogue is sitting at 85% and needs topping off. The Priest hits a critical strike on the Rogue; this brings him to 95% and creates a Divine Aegis shield. This would have topped the Rogue off under the previous mechanic, but under this new model the Priest needs to cast a second heal in order to accomplish this.
- Resets: The team goes for a reset, but the Rogue is at 75%. The Priests manages to hit a critical strike and the Rogues health now sits at 85% and receives Divine Aegis. He manages to stealth and opens on the enemy team. The enemy switches to him and the Divine Aegis absorbs a bit of the damage, but expires before been fully utilised.
Essentially there are three major problems and hopefully these, somewhat poor, scenarios highlighted them sufficiently. Firstly, the Divine Aegis component can be partly utilised or completely unutilised as opposed to the consistency of topping off a health pool, effectively wasting resources. Secondly, the lack of 200% critical strikes makes topping off a team mate more difficult. Thirdly, this requires the Priest to cast more heals and, therefore, spend more mana in order to top off a team mate. This third reason is particularly troublesome in conjunction with Disciplines regular poor mana longevity in PvP.
Necrotic Strike vs. Disc
The reasons set out above aren’t the only implications of this change. The interaction of the new mechanic with other abilities, particularly Necrotic Strike proves to be very burdensome for Priests.
The inability of Power Word Shield and Divine Aegis, two mechanics Discipline Priests are balanced around, to count towards the Necrotic Strike saw the ability become very powerful against Discipline Priests specifically. With Renew been lacklustre, Discipline Priests essentially have Prayer of Mending and the glyph of Power Word Shield as their only instant heals and this glyph is no longer taken in Mists of Pandaria. This means Penance and Flash Heal are a necessity to clear Necrotic Strike.
With the 25% casting slow and the addition of Mind Freeze, Strangulate (or Asphyxiate), Ghoul Stun and Death Grip, Necrotic Strike proves especially challenging when casting heals. Furthermore, with the plethora of get out of jail free cards in the form of Desecrated Grounds, Lichborne and Icebound Fortitude, it’s difficult to peel a DK stacking Necrotic Strike. This is without even considering the utility of the DKs team mates. Finally, while it doesn’t clear the Necrotic Strike debuff, the extra survivability Power Word Shield provides has been weakened by the possible presence of a dispel provided by the Glyph of Icy Touch.
However, the Divine Aegis change has intensified this issue and has made a challenging situation a complete nightmare to survive. The lack of double criticals makes clearing the Necrotic Strike debuff much more difficult and requires even more casting. A possible solution to this issue is to make mechanics that absorb damage count towards clearing Necrotic Strike. For example, if a 60k Necrotic Strike was present and a Power Word Shield worth an 80k absorb was cast, the shield would clear the debuff and place a 20k shield on the target.
Possible Solutions to the Divine Aegis Change
The initial suggestion would be the reversion of the change in its entirety and reducing the amount of healing done by Prayer of Healing if it’s too strong in PvE. Indeed, a reversion wouldn’t negatively impact the spec in PvE. However, with Blizzard also redesigning the Disc Priest mastery as a result of this change, it’s hard to imagine them simply reverting it. Therefore, let’s look at some other suggestions of how this change could be maintained, but these new resulting weaknesses extinguished.
In my opinion, the best way to combat these weaknesses would be to add a new ability along the lines of this:
There are two separate versions of this listed and both have their strengths and weaknesses. The version to the left would form part of you’re the normal rotation similar to Prayer of Mending. It wouldn’t increase the effective healing of Disc Priests, but simply provide the class with the ability to somewhat switch back to the old double critical mechanic where required. In fact, an ability like this shouldn’t benefit from Mastery and Grace to prevent it from double dipping nor be capable of a critical strike.
The ability on the right would be a cooldown more akin to Desperate Prayer. The addition of Power Word Shield and the fact it wouldn’t consume either Power Word Shield or Divine Aegis on the target, would provide Discipline Priests with a form of burst healing when required. This could be cast immediately after a critical strike or right after placing Power Word Shield on a target. This should benefit from Mastery and Grace and be capable of been a critical strike.
The version on the right would affect PvE balance by slightly increasing the healing potential of Discipline Priests. However, Discipline does seem to lack effective emergency cooldowns. Indeed, Barrier is still practically useless in PvP and utilising Void Shift (a six minute cooldown) still means you or the target needs healing. In fact, if the Divine Aegis change is reverted, it would still be beneficial to see the ability on the right implemented. Furthermore, to go slightly off on a tangent, Blizzard should consider making Divine Hymn baseline for Disc Priests, but offset this change for PvE by making it share a cooldown with Power Word Barrier.
While in no way intended to tone down Discipline Priests in PvP, the change to Divine Aegis and critical heals has unfortunately had this undesired effect. The difference between health pools and damage in raid environments and rated PvP is vastly different. The constant threat of switches and the necessity to top off team mates makes the Divine Aegis change a burden in PvP. This has also increased the effectiveness of Necrotic Strike, an ability that was already particularly strong against Discipline Priests. While it’s unlikely this change will be reverted, there are ways to maintain this change and this post has attempted to make suggestions.
Do you have a different opinion on this matter or your own suggestion on how to fix this issue? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.