Priest Progression

Take a long, last look at these talents before they're obliterated

Take a long, last look at these talents before they're obliterated

[Warning: contains mild spoilers about Priest talents in Cataclysm]

Leveling up healers in MMOs is usually pretty tough going. They are, after all, designed to heal which is not a very helpful mechanic for trying to solo and I’ve often wondered why so many designers insist on flooding healers with dozens of heals at low levels but few ways of defending themselves and inflicting damage. Surely it would make more sense to start off with fewer heals and more damage and then slowly acquire more and more healing abilities as one progresses?

Turns out I’m not the only one who’s frustrated by this and it’s actually one of the reasons that I don’t play healer classes very often. My Cleric in Everquest was a toothache to level, my Inquisitor in EQ2 wasn’t much better and my experiences with the Priest class in WoW (I’m onto my second one now) are about as pleasant as a prostate exam. Funnily enough though, just as I was planning to write this article today, I saw the overhaul that the Priest talents are getting with Cataclysm and I gotta say, I’m impressed.

Out of all of the classes I’ve leveled up in WoW, Priests are definitely the slowest, most boring and most difficult. If you’re going Shadow spec then things start to pick up around level 40 but until then, no matter what you do, they plod through the low levels, something which seems very counter-intuitive to the point of progression in MMOs. Surely leveling up should get harder, not easier? Right now I’m trying out the much acclaimed Energizer hybrid-spec but even then it’s proving quite weak compared to my experiences with other classes. I never really understood the point of having to “struggle through” lower levels by any means necessary just to try and reach a point of power.

Aside from trying to make the Discipline tree more interactive, it seems like Blizzard have recognised these issues with the Priest class and are trying to resolve them with the talents overhaul in Cataclysm. And it looks good, very good in fact. They’ve shifted a lot of the Holy spell offensive talents into the earliest tiers of the Holy and Discipline talent trees and even added some nifty new mechanics such as automatically healing nearby allies whenever the Priest inflicts damage with Smite. Overall, by the time a Priest is level 30, they can increase the damage of Smite and Holy Fire by 12%, decrease their casting times by 0.5 secs, increase Smites crit chance by a whopping 15% and allow it to instantly heal a nearby ally for 45% of it’s damage.

Low level Shadow talents get a boost too as Shadow Weaving is moved into the 2nd tier (down from the 4th) and a new first tier talent is added that reduces the pushback suffered from damage when casting Shadow spells. These are changes are certainly nice but I get the feeling that the leveling spec of choice will be a Disc/Holy hybrid one as the changes are more beneficial to low levels.

Although many may hate these changes, I think it’s great to see such a radical overhaul of the Priest talent system. Frankly, it just isn’t working well enough as it stands. Now if only other games could follow Blizzard’s lead and overhaul their healers’ progression. Yep, I’m looking at you, Everquest 2.


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  1. stnylan says:

    Heh, one man’s meat is another’s poison. I am only an occasional WoW player. I have a warrior, which I hated levelling. I am now levelling a priest, and I am having alot more fun. I read all the hate about the priest at the lower levels, and really I just don’t get it. It seems to me, on my recent experiences, they are fixing something that is not broken.

  2. Magson says:

    You had trouble with an INQUISITOR in EQ2?


    Um.. . . you’re doing it wrong?

    Okay, I’m totally kidding. I’ve got another friend who duo’d a quizzie up to 30 or so and deleted, and frankly, up until about level 32 I considered it marginally playable at best. But then they added in AA’s. . . .specifically the Battle Cleric line. Between the 100% melee crit you could get, the STR line making you immune to interrupts and the BC line making your major attack spells into combat arts. .. . it was a breeze after that. My 1st toon to 70 when that was the cap was my inquisitor, and then she was my raid toon for the next couple of years.

    Sadly, the guild I was in imploded and as a result I’ve not really played that character very much since then, but the quizzie will always have a nice soft spot in my heart.

    FWIW, EQ2 wardens also have very nice solo capability very early on. On my warden I would take on white ^^^ named mobs and not think anything of it starting at about level 20, and the levels up to there only took a couple of hours. At level 50 I was taking on orange-con solo mobs and wouldn’t even need to heal myself, where any other toon I had would struggle to survive such a fight.

    2nd look at EQ2 healers?

    • Gordon says:

      I tried the Battle Cleric line and it was indeed awesome (I played on PvP and I just loved smacking my opponents in the face with my Ogre Inq… only problem was the lack of snare). Another thing EQ2 had going for it was the fact you could lock your adventure exp and spend some time just accruing AA points to make yourself more powerful at low levels. I could easily imagine the Battle Cleric line being a viable solo build by going down that route although it would take a good 20 or 30 AAs before it happened.

      I haven’t played EQ2 in a while but if I ever go back I’d probably check out the Warden class. The Mystic also gets a melee AA line which could be fun. I will definitely never try a Templar though. My buddy played one and they seemed incredibly painful to level :)

      • Magson says:

        Melee Mystic is quite fun. Defiler is one of the “bore the mobs to death” classes. I’m told it can do awesome dps “later” but mine’s level 59 now and it’s more fun to watch paint dry than to solo on it. I’ve also never tried a templar and have no desire to. I’ve got a fury that I have also raided with, but like the inquisitor began to languish once the guild it was in imploded after RoK was released.

        Yes, I have 5 healers in EQ2, and don’t feel like I’m a glutton for punishment for having them.

        FYI, quizzies have a root, but it’s got a 30% break chance, so it’s not very good. They also have a fear/mez combo spell so you can make someone run away and once the fear breaks they are then mezzed so they can’t move then either. I’m sure it’s not 10s of each in pvp like in pve, and tbh I only (rarely) use it for add control in pve, but it’s another tool for you to catch a runner (so long as he’s not got a dot on him to break the fear/mez, anyway).

  3. Xenovore says:

    Quote: “…no matter what you do, they plod through the low levels…”

    Having leveled a priest to 80 in WoW, I must agree with Magson: “You’re doing it wrong.” While leveling a class like a hunter is certainly faster, I found leveling my priest to be incredibly easy and nearly as fast, even at the lower levels.

  4. John McKesky says:

    My only problem the class.. is its BOORING. I get tired of having to sit back and only “help”. I sometimes wish that they would just add a little more healing to other classes so that you could have groups without a healer, ie if 5 of the other classes shared in the healing, it could be done all without a dedicated healer.

  5. rowan says:

    I struggled a little with my priest (fourth toon) at first, but then she really started to kick some ass, and she has been my main for 3 years.

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