So I took a look at the Priest talents for Cataclysm, and I have to say I am seriously underwhelmed.
They said that they’re wanting to give people a little more variety, a little more in the way of “fun” talents – but really, they’ve just reduced it to the epitome of cookie cutter.
As it stands at the moment, I’m really unhappy with how Holy is looking.  Almost every talent is something to give you more throughput, and even Surge of Light isn’t really going to be a talent you’ll be able to take.  (On a personal side note, they’ve officially killed Smite spec as of right now, which makes me a very sad panda.)  As well, it’s not even a talent that even does anything for healing.  In addition, it seems that Inner Focus will be completely inaccessible for Holy (and Shadow) Priests, which is a terrible idea by design.  In a world where healers are supposed to be concerned about their mana, I would think they would at least want Holy Priests to be able to access Inner Focus, especially given Chakra, and how they’re trying to work Prayer of Healing.
Some specific concerns:

  • Chakra
    With Chakra, Holy Priests are forced into spamming spells over and over.  This is bad because it reduces how dynamic Priests are as healers.  Priests are currently the most versatile of healers in the game, and this will pretty much remove that from the game.  Priest healing is all about finding the right tool for the job, given the extensive toolbox that Priests have at this time.  By giving us Chakra, the choice in finding the right tool is pretty much taken away.  Prayer of Healing is not a spell Priests generally spam, unless there is consistent, heavy AoE damage.  Right now, that limits us to…  four encounters out of twelve in Icecrown Citadel.  By the way, it was also said before that we were trying to get away from extreme raid damage.  Wonder whatever happened to that?
    Currently, there’s also a lot of change between spell usage even with heavy raid damage.  For example, during BQL, I might use Prayer of Healing x2, Prayer of Mending, Circle of Healing, Renew on tanks, repeat.  I’m not spamming PoH constantly, or else I’d go out of mana extremely quickly, and my effectiveness as a healer diminishes greatly.  In addition, if I have a Surge of Light proc (which is incredibly likely, especially in 25-man), I’ll use a Flash Heal in between to top someone off.  While I might spam Renews occasionally, it’s not my focus.  My focus is trying to make sure as few people die as possible.  Spamming Renew or Flash Heal or Prayer of Healing doesn’t get the job done.  Chakra assumes that it will.  As well, Chakra does pose a problem with GCD-capping for Renews.  Right now, Holy priests are pretty hard to GCD-cap with haste, but who knows how much that will change in Cataclysm?
    An idea for improvement would be to enter a different “Chakra” state for each different type of heal.  Example, Prayer of Healing, Circle of Healing, Holy Nova and Binding Heal would go together.  Renew and Prayer of Mending would go together.  Flash Heal, Heal and Greater Heal would go together.  Smite, Holy Fire, Devouring Plague, Shadow Word: Pain, Mind Blast and Shadow Word: Death would go together.
    Possible tooltip idea:

    When you cast three spells of the same type in a row, you will enter a Chakra state empowering you for 20 sec. You can only be in one Chakra state at a time.
    When you cast three spells that heal multiple targets in a row, the cast time of your Prayer of Healing is reduced by 10/20/30%, the cooldown of your Circle of Healing is reduced by 5/10/15%, the spellpower bonus of Holy Nova is increased by 6/13/20% and your Binding Heal heals one additional target for 5/15/25% of the total healing done. (This would make Binding Heal heal a third target for essentially 50% of the amount healed of one of the targets of Binding Heal.)
    When you cast Renew or Prayer of Mending a total of three times in a row, the global cooldown of your Renew spell is reduced by 0.1/0.2/0.3 seconds and the healing done is increased by 2/4/6%, and the healing of Prayer of Mending will also cause the target to be Renewed, healing 1400 damage over 15 seconds. (Using Renew (Rank 14) tooltip as an example.)
    When you cast three single target heals in a row, your Flash Heal, Heal and Greater Heal will have a 20/40/60% chance to refresh the duration of your Renew on the target, and also increases the critical strike chance of Flash Heal, Heal and Greater Heal.
    When you cast three damaging spells in a row, the damage of all your Holy and Shadow spells is increased by 3/6/9%, and increases the critical strike damage bonus of your damaging Holy and Shadow spells by 16/34/50%.  (Okay, the last part is totally me hoping to salvage smite spec, but still, even for a leveling priest, this would be extremely helpful.)

  • Inner Focus
    Inner Focus is a tremendous help in certain encounters where mana is extremely sensitive (take, for example, Lich King, Blood-Queen Lana’thel or Festergut in current content).  While many priests say the only real use is to macro to Divine Hymn, I disagree.  I find it actually a lot more useful to macro to Prayer of Healing, since I use that a hell of a lot more frequently than I ever use Divine Hymn.  In addition, if I’m soloing, I tend to also stick it with Smite or Holy Nova, since it helps keep me that much more conservative on mana, even if it isn’t a whole lot.  I would have to say either we need more talent points (holy priests also would need another point to fill out Test of Faith, at minimum, unless we can afford only having two points in Chakra, plus another for Inner Focus).
  • Surge of Light
    Surge of Light, the way it’s currently worded, is extremely lackluster for any content whatsoever.  Since it seems it will no longer work with Flash Heal, then it becomes useless for Holy priests.  It is supposed that it would work well with Evangelism and Archangel from the Discipline tree, but this raises a couple of problems.  First, it totally screws over any Chakra procs.  Secondly, Improved Inner Fire would likely be more efficient in terms of throughput.  Third, it is useless for Smites if you aren’t able to get Atonement – which Holy priests can’t, at the moment.
    The only way I can really see to improve this is to continue to have it work with Flash Heal, but even then, since Flash Heal doesn’t even work with Chakra, or really anything else, it’s pointless anyway.
  • Deliverance/Serendipity
    Don’t know why we’re even changing the name here.  At any rate, this talent in its current iteration is absolutely horrible for PvE content.  It’s also not likely to see much use in PvP, either, but that remains to be seen.  Even if we were to work this into Heal instead of Flash Heal, it again screws over Chakra and makes the whole talent counter-intuitive.  Besides, Binding Heal is something most priests rarely use in PvE (some don’t at all).

Overall, I think we broke Holy priests here.