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Holy Priest Dragonflight Alpha - First Look

· 32 min read

Patch 10.0 is the introduction of the Dragonflight expansion, and with it an overhaul of the baseline spells & talents available.

This page is intended to be a bit of a quick-reference to help answer some of the easier questions for this patch, as well as point you in the right direction for some of the common questions. As always, if you have any Holy Priest related questions please visit us in #holy on the Warcraft Priests Discord and we'll be more than happy to help you out!

What's Changed?

The big change we're reviewing here is the new talent tree. Baseline, you have a small amount of spells, as you level you gain talent points you can spend in your tree to unlock additional spells and enhancements. This was first announced and discussed in the WoW Dragonflight Talent Priest: Priest post on WorldofWarcraft.com.

Baseline Spells

For a Holy Priest there are no new baseline spells you wouldn't be familiar with from Shadowlands. The following spells are available to every Priest at max level:

When set to the Holy specialization, you also get a few extra baseline spells. These are also familiar spells carried over from Shadowlands:

Talent Tree TL;DR

This is long. You don't want long, you just want info. Everything in this section is covered in a bit more detail in the rest of this post:

  1. Old spells unpruned including Mind Blast, Shadowfiend, Mindbender and Shadow Mend. Sadly they don't work with Holy Words.
  2. Both talent trees lack choice because they are far too linear, have too few talents and don't have a compelling reason to head in different directions. The bare minimum abilities we've had in Shadowlands exist in the tree, many interesting, fun or situational borrowed powers from previous expansions have been left out completely. More talents added, more choice nodes and more links between nodes would be very welcome.
  3. Talent points make Healing compete with Damage/Utility which really ruins choice when you actually want to maximise your healing. You will actually struggle to find places to put your talent points if your focus is healing, and it's not because you have an overwhelming amount of interesting options.
  4. There's a few new spells including Holy Word: Life which is neither a Holy Word, nor does it restore much life, and Divine Word which is just Chakras 2.0.
  5. There's not enough returning spells that have any meaningful impact. Adding some boring passive conduits alongside our regular baseline kit and talents doesn't add any exciting or compelling new ways to play. This is somewhat a repeat of #2 but this really can't be stated enough. Give us some compelling choice, please.
  6. If you liked BfA Holy Priest you'll like Dragonflight Holy Priest as they'll have most of the same spells and abilities and play in a similar way for the mostpart.

Unfortunately our character is built in the talent tree, and for the game to be fun and interesting, our character has to have fun and interesting spells. This means this post is largely negative as the current talent tree fails to hit the mark when it comes to providing compelling choice, fun/interesting abilities or any real imagination or creativity at all. Someone threw together all of the existing abilities and talents from Shadowlands, added some conduits we only use because the rest of the conduits suck, broke up Harmonious Apparatus into 3 talent points for some stange reason and finally added two new spells, one of which is such a copy/paste that is even currently shares a cooldown with the spell it was copied from. Add to this bringing back two abilities from WotLK that literally noone asked to have back, and here we are, Dragonflight Holy Priest.

Priest Class Talent Tree

The tree is separated into two parts, the first is the Priest Class talent tree. At maximum level you are provided 31 points to allocate throughout the tree. The tree itself is broadly themed, with the left section being more holy-focused, the center being more discipline-focused and the right hand side being Shadow-focused. While in theory this seems like a good idea, it does present some issues when it comes to having to decide between throughput (healing or damage) and utility/survival, which we'll go into further below.

The only mechanic of note in the class tree, is having to spend 8 talent points in the top third to progress to the middle third, then having to spend 20 points in the top two thirds, before being able to progress to the bottom third.

Left - Holy Themed

Like most of the Priest Class Tree, the left side feels like there was a lack of inspiration at design time to find compelling or diverse talent options. Available towards the top are Prayer of Mending and Renew, not only to Holy but also Discipline and Shadow. There are a couple of nodes that increase the potency of these spells:

It's good to see some easier access to PoM/Renew enhancing talents, typically this cast has been a bit of a dead spell. All 3 combined alongside some good Prayer of Mending usage means there will be a healthy amount of passive healing gained not only from the Renews on people, but also from the added Renewed Faith healing. With the exception of Focused Mending it's very likely these talents will be locked in, as traditionally Prayer of Mending has been incredibly mana efficient and these talents further amplify that. With that in mind, they're all fairly minor healing increases still, with current tuning. One thing of note is at the time of writing, Prayer of Mending Rank 2 from Shadowlands is not present, resulting in Prayer of Mending having a cast time, instead of being instant-cast.

The other early talents are a bit more supplementary.

Taking Purify Disease will depend on if you actually need it for the disease dispel, or if you need it to path further into the center of the tree towards Power Infusion. If you're only worried about healing throughput, then you're unlikely to want Improved Smite as it leads nowhere in the tree. Englightenment should be an easy choice in all forms of content where Mana is our limiting factor, especially if the Prayer of Healing playstyle makes a return.

The middle section offers some very weird choices in the context of the existing tree design. 4 talents that are not only DPS-focused, but half of them require you to be shielded to benefit from them.

On their own, these talents aren't explicitly bad design, but the shield ones in particular would much better themed for the central Discipline part of the tree. Particularly as we have no real incentive to cast Power Word: Shield as it's a horribly inefficient spell for Holy Priest. Couple that with some really undertuned values on these talents and it's hard to see why you would specifically take them, let alone play around them.

The bottom section again has more throughput talents.

The "Improved" Renew talent is a straight forward filler talent. Unwavering Will is the return of an interesting Legion legendary power. Reduced cast time of our fillers should be really strong, and may even incentivise using powerful instant cast heals like Holy Word: Serenity and Desperate Prayer to quickly top yourself up to resume casting at increased speed.

The final talent in the column is Holy Word: Life. In an attempt to be the antithesis of Shadow Word: Death, this lacklustre copy/pasted spell - sharing the same mana cost, cooldown and charge system as SW:D, wound up rather confused. It's not a Holy Word, and has no interaction with Holy Words, it also has a rather high threshold so it will trigger the negative portion more often than not. In a situation you want to "save" someone with an emergency heal on the move, missing slightly because they used a personal or another healer triaged them results in taking significant damage yourself. This is not a kiss/curse combination that makes it compelling. Not to mention it kind of overlaps with Holy Word: Serenity in covering the big single target triage heal. Ideally, the opportunity cost of pathing to the bottom of the tree and spending the talent point, combined with the cooldown would enough of the "curse" portion, and the "kiss" portion could compliment positive gameplay in a positive way, such as healing yourself or reducing the cooldown when used on a player under 20%. Overall it's a fairly lazy copy/paste without thought of gameplay interactions for a brand new ability.

Overall the talents themselves aren't bad, the main complaints are around where they're located. They're nearly all healing throughput focused, besides the dead talents around increasing damage through PW:S. Well, in reality, they will likely decrease your damage, but many of them feel like they're missing from the Holy Priest talent tree, which we'll get to later.

Middle - Discipline Themed

The middle of the tree is primarily the utility portion. The upside to this, all the utility is in one place, so if you have something you really want towards the bottom of it, you get to pick up a lot of the utility spells basically for free. The downside is, all the utility is in one place so if you don't really want something towards the bottom of it, you're giving up throughput to take some utility.

Starting off we have the only choice node in the entire Priest tree. You can grab either Body and Soul or Angelic Feather. Given we have been taking Angelic Feather for close to 10 years now, it's unlikely this will actually be a "choice" at all for Holy, unfortunately. Next up is Dispel Magic which will be taken in all forms of content, primarily because of what it links to. Despite it not being useful in raid very often, it's exceptionally strong in Mythic+ and PvP and nothing will change this in Dragonflight.

Power Infusion is still here in Dragonflight, love it or hate it. This will be a mandatory choice for all Priests, the only decision will be how you path to it.

The center section focuses very heavily on the various utility buttons we're used to seeing baseline:

In any build that focuses on healing throughput, you will likely end up delving down into this part of the tree at least a little. With the lack of talent points available and the number of throughput talents elsewhere in the tree though, the theme of giving up utility for throughput continues. Seldom used but "priest" staples like Leap of Faith and Shackle Undead are unlikely to see a lot of use. Leap of Faith is one talent point that will likely be saved by a lot of Priests unless there's a specific mechanic you need it for. While everyone has their favourite Life Grip save story they love to tell, it's hard to justify taking it when it's directly competing against other throughput talents.

It's nice to see supplemental options to add to our rather lacking defensive toolkit appear, unfortunately there are only two. Angel's Mercy isn't bad, but still suffers from the RNG component which makes properly timing it in a raid encounter to specific mechanics unreliable. Further down we get access to the old Shadowlands conduit Translucent Image which provides us with some much needed DR, and will be particularly valuable for people pushing bleeding-edge content. Again, though, it's very deep into the "Utility" tree which means you're trading throughput for more utility. The issue is not that the talent itself is bad, just where it's placed on the tree.

The remainder of this talent tree section is heavily Discipline focused.

The only compelling argument that could be made to venture this low, is to grab Mindgames. While one of the more iconic covenant spells to carry over from Shadowlands, it is also a fairly boring new ability to have for Holy Priest, and definitely seems aimed at more Discipline and Shadow, outside of some niche usage like PvP.

Overall, this section of the tree has some good utility and survivability in it. Unfortunately there are no interesting "Do I want to take X or Y to improve my defensive capability" or "do I want to take X or Y crowd control ability" choices here, you're just deciding do you want to head down into this portion of the line for a specific utility spell/defensive, or put your points elsewhere and do more healing/damage.

Right - Shadow Themed

Most of this section of the tree is focused around the spells that Discipline and Shadow have typically shared, like Shadow Word: Death, Mind Blast, Shadow Mend and Shadowfiend. This creates a bit of overlap with the toolkit available to Holy Priest, leaving the more interesting talents to be the ones focused around increasing healing done and Mana return.

Previously, Flash Heal was replaced by Shadow Mend for Discipline and Shadow. Shadow Mend returning to Holy is quite lacklustre, as it has no effect on our core passive Holy Words. The only real benefit would be to use it to proc Masochism on yourself for the damage reduction. As Taming of the Shadows doesn't work with Masochism, it's essentially a dead talent.

The talent worth talking about is Twist of Fate. Conveniently placed right above more talents we'll likely want, this is a great healing bonus and will be quite easy to keep decent uptime. It's not interesting enough to talk about for long, though. We just like healing/damage increases!

The center section of the Shadow side is split into two, a small bit for Mind Control and a bunch of talents relating to Shadowfiend.

Having to spend points on Mind Control is sadly pretty unlikely outside of specific situations you know ahead of time you'll need it. While there are some cool interactions in Mythic+, particularly with Bolstering or some mob buffs, overall it will probably be a skip. Dominant Mind combined with Puppet Master seems like it could have some niche use on specific encounters but it's unlikely to be that useful, especially in Mythic+ as the buff is Mastery which doesn't contribute to our damage at all - while also locking a mob out of being attacked for 30 seconds.

Getting access to Shadowfiend will likely be a staple in all builds. The extra passive damage in Mythic+ and the additional mana especially for Raid when coupled with Improved Shadowfiend is really attractive. Given there isn't much other choice in the tree, and you're only really sacrificing some utility/defensives for it, this makes it a fairly easy choice. Not only that, as we head further down the tree, there are even more talents to enhance our new shadowy friend.

Being able to juice up our shadowy friend with Mindbender is great, providing us with more regular mana return. Rabid Shadows continues the trend, granting some extra attacks which mean, you guessed it, more mana. Shadowflame Prism while more DPS-focused still has a mana return component, with the spells used to proc it costing less mana than we should get back from the extension. Likely something to play around with when you want the added damage.

Overall the Shadow side of the tree probably has the highest increase in throughput for the least investment. Lots of mana returned is great for us as we can dump mana easily with expensive and high HPS spells like Prayer of Healing and Holy Word: Sanctify. It's not ideal that a lot of the spells in the upper part of the tree have no synergy with the rest of our kit, but it's still early days and may change as we get closer to launch.

Summary

Overall, the talents themselves are primarily things we already have access to, which takes away from a lot of the potential excitement in trying new things. There also isn't really anything here that's build-defining or you're able to play around, but that is to be expected from a shared class tree.

There are a few issues that plague the tree and could really use some attention before launch.

  1. The layout of the tree really feels forced and linear. If you compare it to the Druid, Shaman or Evoker trees, they have many more talents, more width to the tree and more horizontal connections. This allows for more variety in how you build and opens up a lot more choice. In these trees you can take the section of the tree "themed" towards your healing spec, then make a decision on other themed aspects of the class you think compliment you, while picking up utility along the way. This is in contrast to the Priest tree where the throughput is directly competing against utility/survivability.
  2. Lack of choice nodes further exacerbates the issues mentioned above. There is only one choice node in the Priest class tree, and that choice for Holy Priest at least is a non-choice. We don't use Power Word: Shield and nothing in Dragonflight looks to change that, meaning Angelic Feather will continue its theme of being our decade-old must-pick "choice". It's no surprise that Shamans are having a hard time deciding where or how to play the new talent tree when their class tree alone has ten choice nodes vs our one.
  3. Lacklustre capstone talents are another problem the tree has. Part of making interesting choices is being rewarded with a compelling outcome. There isn't really any compelling final traits in the Priest tree. Holy Word: Life being neither a Holy Word or really restoring much life isn't overly attractive, it's main redeeming factor is that it's only one point after a genuinely interesting and gameplay altering talent in Unwavering Will. Crystalline Reflection is not only poor for Holy but locked before some even poorer talents. Mindgames is uninteresting and will likely only see play if it works out mathematically beneficial to do so - it has no true impact on your role or playstyle. Shadowflame Prism is one capstone that may be considered and is a nice option to have for increasing our damage in some situations, unfortunately no real benefit for our role of Healing.
  4. No synergy with the Holy Tree is an issue we haven't really made it to yet, but there isn't anything that impacts the core of our class found here. Starting the tree with Prayer of Mending and then Renew fits thematically with the tree in a similar style to the other healing classes, however there are no interactions in the Holy tree that build upon them. You can't "build into" Renew or PoM or emphasise them in any way, beyond a couple of points in the class tree. As an aside it's also weird that Discipline mastery will result in Disc potentially having more potent Renews than Holy will, and Shadow will heal for the same (and cast it in Shadowform).

Holy Priest Talent Tree

The Holy Priest talent tree is thematically broken up into two main parts, the left two thirds which is mostly improving your healing, and the right hand third which is focused on improving your damage, with a bit of mana return thrown in. While breaking things up in this way might sound like a good idea at a glance, as we go through and look at the tree closer, you will quickly see that having to choose between healing or damage in such a significant way only creates a compelling choice in a situation where you really value the added damage.

The upper third of the tree contains spells you'd be familiar with, the Holy Priest basics.

Each fork follows the theme of a Holy Word. Left has Prayer of Healing into Holy Word: Sanctify for an AoE theme. Then presumably into Spirit of Redemption because standing still long enough to cast Prayer of Healing will probably get you killed, or because it unlocks one of the most iconic Holy Priest fantasy spells we have before other desirable talents, one of the two. Center is the single target focused Holy Word: Serenity, and now that you have both Heal and Flash Heal, paths you towards what has become a staple with the single target playstyle in the last couple of expansions in Trail of Light. Finally, the right has Holy Fire into Holy Word: Chastise despite no interaction between the two.

Holy Fire is presumably here above Holy Word: Chastise as nearly the entire right hand side tree is based around Holy Fire. Unlike the healing spells where Holy Word: Serenity and Holy Word: Sanctify are the ultimate healing spells for their purpose, Holy Fire is much more impactful than Chastise. Holy Fire has ends up with a whopping 9 talents that directly mention it, juicing it up to be significantly more powerful than the Holy Word that unless you eventually talent into it, is not even affected by this single target nuke. Unfortunately it looks like Chastise has been overlooked for any kind of power increase yet again, likely because it contains a component of CC which is considered quite powerful in PVP. More on this later as we work down the tree.

There isn't anything significant of note in the upper third, besides being heavily shoehorned into taking a number of talents further down the tree. It does however ensure we retain our core Holy Words and the spells that trigger them, so in that way it makes sense. If you're wondering where Renew and Prayer of Mending are, you were forced into them in the Priest talent tree so you still have them, don't panic!

The next third of the tree reintroduces more familiar favourites, firstly the left hand side which is mostly Healing focused.

First we should probably talk a bit about Afterlife, and by extension Spirit of Redemption. Our angel of shame is an incredibly iconic spell. Sadly when people see it these days in Raid or Mythic+, it's a mark of failure, not a visual indicator that Holy Priest in your group is about to "Heal from beyond the grave", to steal a tagline from our specialisation description. Rather than include the Afterlife features into Spirit of Redemption, to make it properly usable - we get the same talents we've had previously. There is no Xanshi, Return of Arcbishop Benedictus to pair it with, no Spirit of the Redeemer. Just the same old Spirit of Redemption without a way to reliably proc it at a useful time. This feels like a big missed opportunity.

The rest of the spells here aren't overly exciting, it's pretty much all standard spells you would have had in any non-Flash Concentration build previously in Shadowlands. The exception is finally getting access to Light of the Naaru alongside our other Holy Word cooldown reduction talents.

To the right of those we have a mix of some utility and mana return. Being forced to choose between utility and throughput yet again isn't great, and if you're focusing on maximum healing your choices are significantly limited here too.

The only new spell here is Holy Conductor which continues to build on Surge of Light, sort of. Requiring the target to have Renew or Holy Fire really doesn't make it that attractive. The major potential upside is helping to offset the mana cost of Holy Fire when trying to increase damage output. The biggest complaint with Surge of Light and nearly all the other abilities in this area of the tree, are that none of their weaknesses have been addressed and they are still quite plain. Surge of Light is still only healing spells and Smite, which alongside a lack of Chastise CDR from most of our damage spells, continues to punish us for casting anything but Smite as a filler. Psychic Scream continues to be target capped, and Psychic Voice does nothing to reduce this. Binding Heal for some strange reason has returned. Hopefully it's just a typo and the Binding Heals from the last half of Shadowlands is coming back in its place.

Overall given this is the utility section of our tree, it ended up being relatively lacklustre. Not only is most of this just previously baseline for most builds, but you are now forced to choice between this utility and throughput when picking your talents, which is not a compelling choice at all.

If you're wondering why there hasn't been any insane commentary on how everything ties together, that's because it doesn't. There's virtually no new talents up to this point, and everything we have seen has no new interactions. YOu also don't have a great deal of choice due to not only the pathing, but the small number of nodes. Below is an image to properly display the issue.

Illustration of the severe lack of choice in the Holy Priest talent tree

This is 19 points spent, and it takes essentially everything you could want for Raid/Mythic+ baseline. Sure you might want Censure or Shining Force for Mythic+ or some specific raid scenarios, or maybe you want to pick up Holy Conductor - but the point here is you can pick up ever talent except for 3 just to progress further down the tree. There is no meaningful choice here at all.

Never fear, there must surely be plenty of choice in the bottom third of the tree for our remaining 10 points. Starting with the left side:

It's quite unlikely you will skip this side of the tree for Raid as the two new talents Piety of Mana and Gales of Song will be a solid throughput increase. They then lead into Lightwell, which presuming it survives being deleted for being terrible again, may or may not be a worthwhile choice - it will come down to tuning as to whether or not you press then ignore this incredibly engaging spell once every 3 minutes. Piety leads into Rune of Healing which will be quite strong paired with all the other Holy Word CDR effects. It's a pity that Harmonious Apparatus was split into 3 legendary powers, and after looking at some other spec trees it's also rather confusing. Individually these powers aren't that strong - the legendary was barely even used all of Shadowlands. Continuing the trend of not very strong bonuses, we have been blessed with our least-bad potency conduit from Shadowlands in Resonant Words for the low-low cost of 2 points.

Continuing the trend of giving us weak borrowed powers from a previous expansion but charging us a bazillion talent points for them, the center of the tree is built in a similar way.

So presuming that Lightwell is tuned to the point we want to press it once every 180 seconds, that consumes 5 of our 10 available points in the bottom of the tree. Holy Word: Salvation in Raid, and/or Apotheosis in Mythic+ are also must-have points, so that's 6 out of 10 now. The new spell Divine Word is quite strong, interesting and fun. Finally. It only took us two entire talent trees of abilities to get something new, interesting and fun. To path to Divine Word we need either 2 in Resonant Words or 2 in Holy Oration, both minor increases.

Divine Word is finally a cool looking spell. It's an adaptation of the old Chakras years ago. The premise is you press once a minute to empower your next Holy Word, and then empower abilities related to that Holy Word for a short duration afterwards. It will allow you to set up some nice burst healing, particularly in Mythic+ where you can prepare with Renew on your party members, get a big Holy Word: Serenity and then some nice burst healing from Heal / Flash Heal for a short duration. The healing zone left by Holy Word: Sanctify may be good, depending on tuning. It does look neat though so regardless, it will have that going for it.

Including the talent point for Divine Word, we are now at 9 out of our 10 available points in our "what talents are actually useful for raid" tree. It looks like this:

Illustration of the severe lack of choice in the Holy Priest talent tree, again

This leaves us with a whopping one flexible point to spend on either Rune of Healing, Rune of Mending or one of the other fringe talents. Yes this does presume that Lightwell will be worthwhile, if it's not you gain a second point you can throw into likely the other "Rune of" power you didn't take before.

The right hand side has some DPS focused abilities which you can try and argue are healing increases as well through Surge of Light. While technically true, these healing increases have to beat out the other options in the left hand side of the tree, which in raid is pretty unlikely. Mythic+ though where damage is valued much higher, there is a lot more room to move around. So, when healing doesn't matter, you have some flexibility. Again we are forced to decide between Healing or Damage/Utility which really doesn't give much compelling choice or interesting decisions. Most other specs make that decision each GCD, do I cast a healing spell or a damage spell - you will be making this choice before you even leave a rested area and get anywhere near combat.

Summary

Overall, the Holy Priest tree is super underwhelming. It mostly has things we already have in Shadowlands, while still managing to miss some of the fun borrowed powers that could have been included. The tree is very linear and is vertically split between healing throughput and damage/utility. This makes a lot of the "decisions" a non-decision when you're building for actual healing throughput, which is, you know, your actual role. It's nice to see some improvement to the damage toolkit, but only seeing one new healing ability is very disappointing.

  1. The layout of the tree results in a significant lack of choice, as you are forced pick up the majority of talents to just path down the tree further. Not much more to say about this one, really. Why utility/damage is fighting against healing throughput is a complete unknown, as it really reduces any meaningful choice when trying to build around our intended role - healing.
  2. Lack of choice nodes continues to highlight the lack of decision making freedom in the tree. Only have 3 choice nodes, of which one is absolutely a non-choice. The Divine Star/Halo node gives some actual choice, but the Apotheosis/Holy Word: Salvation destroys the chance you can use Apotheosis in raid for third expansion.
  3. Lightwell is back and is again another indication that the dated WOTLK talent trees were used as inspiration. Lightwell was removed for a reason and simply re-adding it with all the issues that caused it to be removed really highlights the lack of creativity shown in the Holy Priest talent options.
  4. No Synergy with the class tree despite abilities like Renew and Prayer of Mending which have previously been iconic Holy Priest spells being over in the Priest Class tree. One talent for each of those abilities are all that exists. Granted this does keep the theme of there being very little inter-ability synergy too - something partly caused by our passive Holy Words mechanic giving our fillers and Holy Words some cross-interaction by default.
  5. No interrupt is a pretty big deal for Mythic+, especially as more healer trees are being released with interrupts in there for all of them.

Suspected Bugs

Below is a list of things that are suspected to be bugs or unintended behaviour. Not a lot of time has been spent looking for bugs yet, as things are likely to change dramatically and it's still early in the alpha/beta process.


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