So, has everyone had a chance to give 3.1 a shot? Ulduar achievements anyone?
I had my own list of things to test and try with 3.1 coming, and was finally able to do some good BG testing late night after I had sorted out my specs. No, I haven't had an opportunity to try out Ulduar, but with the rate of content release, I'm sure I'll have a ton of opportunities to try my hand at the new raid.
First things first, after dealing with the unstable server for a bit (Kel'thuzad is a notoriously old server, and as such, frequently has server related issues), I was able to try out the new dual spec feature. Seriously? 3 thumbs up. This is a definite improvement and the implementation of it is fantastic. I, like many others, didn't quite appreciate having to scrounge around for glyphs, and at some point, I wished I was still an inscriptor so that I could make a killing on selling glyphs. It honestly would have been like Black Tuesday (when Arena Season 3 hit and Arena Season 1 epic gear was purchasable via honor) with profits easily in the thousands. I've recently spent about 16k gold on a Nobles Deck and another Kirin Tor Ring, so witnessing money making opportunities that I can't exploit make me a sad panda.
Ah well, such is life.
For my Priest, I selected a Disc PvE spec and a Holy PvP spec. My ultimate plan, assuming I keep raiding with the Priest since the guild is top heavy with Druids, is to have 1 PvE and 1 PvP spec. If I decide to switch to the Druid for raiding, I'll probably go with two PvP specs on the Priest, likely having both a Disc spec and Holy spec or two Disc specs but for different brackets. It's all up in the air as of right now, so we'll see where this all goes when the guild settles down and people start staking their raid spots through committment and participation.
The Discipline PvE spec is a pretty tried and true 58/13/0 spec and one thing I noticed is that a lot of the bloat that was inherent to the Disc Tree was lessened through the paring down of several talents and moving various key talents around as well. I noticed that a majority of the points were spent on both low level talents and high level talents with a few here and there in the middle. I believe that the reduction in talent points necessary to max out Mental Agility and Enlightenment as well as the removal of Divine Spirit and it's improved versions have helped immensely to that end. However, after fleshing out my spec, I had a random talent point just hanging around so I just threw it somewhere and called it done.
One of the new changes to Disc is the stacking of Divine Aegis bubbles. If I read the patch notes correctly, DA bubbles can stack up to 10k (125 x level) in damage mitigation. This value is determined by total healing, not just effective healing (overheal counts, too!). This alone puts a huge emphasis on Crit and Spellpower and, in my opinion, devalues Haste. With my Crit gear on, my Priest is looking at an over 33% Holy Crit rate, which, with a flasked Spellpower value of well over 2500 leads to some very big and very frequent crits. It's not uncommon to get 3 crit Penance ticks in a row or back to back crit Greater Heals.
In fact, it seems as though Blizzard is encouraging the use of Crit across all healer types as the go-to stat along with the obvious (Spellpower). Living Seed (Druid) and Ancestral Awakening (Shaman) both got the similar treatment as well in 3.1, with their additional healing mechanisms taking the gross healing into consideration instead of just the net healing amount. Even the Priest Holy tree received a nudge towards Crit with it's change to Holy Concentration, which allows for a 50% boost in Spirit based mana regen following a crit heal. Unfortunately, I'm not entirely sold on gemming/gearing for Crit for a PvE based Holy build. We'll do some more research at a later time on that.
The reason why this is interesting is because the opposite is very much true for PvP. With the release of the new Wintergrasp rewards, specifically, the new trinkets (Platinum Discs/Titan-Forged Runes for 25 WG marks each), Haste has been the golden stat for pulling out some crazy throughput to overcome class weaknesses. For example, Priests stack haste for fast Mana Burns, quick Holy Fire/Mind Blast swaps and to lower the GCD to get casts off in an emergency. Frost Mages are in the same boat as they frequently sport huge amounts of haste to overcome the cast times of Frostbolt and as a side benefit, the possibility of a double Shatter off of 1 freeze effect.
Is this emphasis on Crit for PvE and Haste for PvP a good thing across all of the healers? Possibly, however, I'd really like Blizzard's Developers to look at the relationship between Crit, Spirit, Intellect and mana regen across all of the healing classes if they are truly going down this path, because as of right now, there is an inequality in the gearing strategy because Paladins and Shamans have their regen tied to Crit + MP5, whereas Priests and Druids have their regen primarily tied to Spirit; Dreamstate Druids also function off of Intellect, Disc Priests have the now nerfed Rapture and Holy Priests have Holy Concentration.
All that being said, I've greatly enjoyed testing these new talents and adjusted talent trees out quite a bit and now that 3.1 is out, my plan is to look at how the changes have affected the various specs for both Priests and Druids and their performance. Now that I have a Feral set, I'll be able to start talking to that as well, but probably from a PvP perspective because my guild is so melee heavy that it'd take a miracle for me to obtain a spot on the DPS side of the house.
So, stay tuned. Next up is likely some stuff about Resto Druids...at least until I can get my grubby paws on a Glyph of Guardian Spirit and actually decide on a Holy PvP spec.
Edit: Holy cow. Y'all must have been bored while waiting for the servers to come up. I saw a near 500% increase in traffic yesterday, most of it looking for 3.1 Druid stuff. Good lord.