So here we are, with my second part of looking at and evaluating old tier bonuses. Let's get right to it.
Tier 4 - Incarnate Regalia
Obtained from: Tokens from Gruul's Lair and Karazhan
Incarnate Regalia was the first set to be obtained entirely from tokens. This was Blizzards first try with having tier drops rely less on luck, because back in Vanilla you could be left out of tier just because it never dropped for your class. Another reason for this change was that Blizzard implemented 10 and 25 man raids, where you could expect a couple of classes to be missing, as opposed to the 40 man raids where you knew that nearly any tier drop would go to someone in need. Indeed, I still feel like one of the biggest issues with the current tier system, eventhough we have tokens, is that some get their tier way faster than others just because of luck - but that is probably unavoidable as long as tier tokens will only count for a couple of classes a piece. Blizzard also made some changes to how the tiers looked, giving us fewer pieces and fewer set bonuses.
2 pieces: Your Prayer of Healing spell now also causes an additional 150 healing over 9 sec.
Then: Yet again, we see the infacy of what was later to become a standard feature of some sort - this time it's the Prayer of Healing glyph. Prayer of Healing wasn't used as much as it is today (it sometimes makes out some 30-40% of my healing, not counting DA), and still had the same issues that it had in Vanilla, namely that it was only castable on the priests own party. I don't remember exactly how much hp people would run around with in BC, a rough estimate would be 7-10k for a caster, which means 150 healing over 9 sec sounds very little.
Now: The glyph that this mechanic turned into in Wrath is usually considered one of the must-have glyphs for both specs of healing priests, mostly because of how often PoH is used.
4 pieces: Each time you cast Flash Heal, your next Greater Heal cast within 15 sec has its casting time reduced by 0.1, stacking up to 5 times.
Then: Here we have the original version of what would later become Serendipity. Greater Heal was something of a standard heal back then too, but if I remember correctly we were still able to downrank then which meant we could use lower and faster ranks of GH, which were affected by spellpower in the same way the max rank was (which meant holydins could use rank 1 Flash of Light for basically no mana cost but all the spellpower gain, that was crazy). I am unsure if we had any talents to lower the cast time of Greater Heal however and the usefulness of this set bonus was probably similar to the one Serendipity has today - when you spam Flash Heals it's usually because you need to dish out fast hps and a faster Greater Heal is quite welcome then.
Now: The usefulness of Serendipity is debated - personally I don't use it often but like mentioned above it's one of those talents you're happy to have when you need it.
Tier 5 - Avatar Raiment
Obtained from: Tokens from Serpentshrine Cavern and The Eye
Yet another full token set (they all were in BC), Avatar Raiment is often considered among the coolest looking priest sets, and I have to agree. Especially if you managed to get the head and shoulders in combination - they really got this tier to make you look so very priestly. I am guessing this will be one of the gear combos we'll see many priests run around with after transmogrification enter the scene.
2 pieces: If your Greater Heal brings the target to full health, you gain 100 mana.
Then: Like mentioned, Greater Heal was much then as it is now - big, slow, mana efficient (even more so back then than now) and considered among our base heals. This was probably a decent way to increase the mana efficiency of Greater Heal some more.
Now: It's an interesting mechanic to reward a healer for topping someone off (something I wish they'd still have today so I don't have to stand around and wait for a heal when tanking). Blizzard have since tried to move away from mechanics that reward us for healing when X is at some certain healing pool because they noticed that that in fact influences our whole way of healing, rather than just be a bonus when something occurs. Eventhough we're back to the mind set of having to constantly top people off in raids, that wasn't initially the idea in early Cata, where Blizzard hoped to give healers more leeway and time for choices. I like the idea of this mechanic, but I am unsure how well it would work in practice.
4 pieces: Increases the duration of your Renew spell by 3 sec.
Then: This was just pure good - a longer duration on Renew meant having to cast it less often which meant more mana saved for other spells. Renew was used as often by holy priests back then as it is now, but I am unsure how useful this was for disc priests. Although I actually did play disc back then, since BC was the expansion that made disc healing somewhat viable, I would think that this set bonus favored holy as much then as it would now.
Now: This would still be a very useful set bonus, although nowadays most people rather want more ticks from their renews than a longer duration. But who says we can't have both? Haste for the extra tick and a set bonus like this for longer duration. Disc would need some equivalent though, perhaps extra duration on shields or DA?
Tier 6 - Vestments of Absolution
Obtained from: Tokens from Black Temple and Mount Hyjal
Vestments of Absolution was the first set to have different names between the healing and the shadow set (Absolution Regalia). It was also a set that went back to the 8 pieces we saw from tiers in Vanilla, although Blizzard still only designed two different set bonuses. Tier 6 is also considered among the better looking priest tiers, although it differs greatly in esthetics from tier 5 - being dark and low profile as opposed to tier 5 light and high profile style. Blizzard were definitely on a role when they designed the BC tiers if you ask me.
2 pieces: Reduces the mana cost of your Prayer of Healing ability by 10%.
Then: Prayer of Healing has always been among our costliest spells, for obvious reasons. Reducing the mana cost of it would have made priests very happy without being too overpowered, like it might have been to lower the mana cost of some more frequently used spells like Greater Heal or Flash Heal.
Now: Although of course a very boring set bonus, I'd love to get this today because of how often I use PoH. On the other hand I think tier bonuses should be more of a "fun" style (which probably is why I love 4 set tier 12 so much) rather than overpoweringly good. I really didn't like the 5% crit bonuses that tier 11 had for example.
4 pieces: Increases the healing from your Greater Heal ability by 5%.
Then: Yet another set bonus to provide pure throughput, but with extra healing rather than extra mana. 5% isn't very much, but probably balanced enough to be a good set bonus.
Now: This is very similar to the 2 set bonus - boring but useful. Fortunately we've got this through talents nowadays instead of in our tiers.
Wrath of the Lich King
A new expansion came with yet again new ideas for tier designs. This time around Blizzard implemented tiers that came in both a "normal" and a "heroic" version, they were basically the same only the heroic version had more stats on them. They were also acquired from the same raids only, you guessed it, heroic tier came from heroic mode.
Tier 7 - Heroes' Regalia & Valorous Regalia of Faith
Obtained from: Naxxramas and Archavon (VoA)
All the tier 7 were remakes of the old tier 3 sets, since you got them from Naxx which was a remake of the old Naxxramas. This too was one of the better looking priest tiers. Tier 7 was the first tier set I managed to completely collect, the closest I'd been before that was tier 4, so it holds a special place in my heart.
2 pieces: Your Prayer of Mending will jump an additional time.
Then: Prayer of Mending is one of my favorite spells, which I have ranted about before plenty of times. It has worked the same way ever since it was implemented in BC, although initially it didn't have a cooldown (which was far too op of course). It's just one of those spells that provides, and I think everything about it is so well designed - it's not too good, but still good enough, it doesn't feel spammy but you can use it on cooldown, regardless of situation you can always toss out a PoM. Enough of the love declartion though - adding a jump to it would be very useful during aoe situations, and less useful any other time. I love this set bonus, but looking at it objectively I'd have to say that the extra healing from it is actually very low.
Now: Massive aoe bursts are more common now than ever (or so it feels anyway). Nonetheless, I rarely get full use of PoM before I toss out another one, partially because the PoM Glyph rewards throwing out new PoMs all the time. I don't like to say it, but I still don't think that this set bonus would be very useful to us.
4 pieces: The cost of your Greater Heal is reduced by 5%.
Then: Wrath saw Flash Heal become the main heal of both disc and holy, and at least towards the end of the expansion I don't recall using Greater Heal much at all. Why bother when Flash Heal had way higher hps and mana wasn't an issue? This might've been a decent set bonus in early Wrath, but honestly I think it was too weak even then to be considered a good 4 set.
Now: We all know what happened to Flash Heal in Cata, and Greater Heal has definitely taken its place as much as it can. Reducing the mana cost on GH by 5% is still something I'd consider weak for a 4 set bonus though - not to mention that it's rather uninventive.
Tier 8 - Valorous Sanctification Garb & Conqueror's Sanctification Garb
Obtained from: Tokens from Ulduar and Emalon (VoA)
Also good looking! Hey Blizzard sure knew how to make nice priest tier back in them days.
2 pieces: Increases the critical heal chance of your Prayer of Healing by 10%.
Then: Blizzard had fixed one of the biggest drawbacks of Prayer of Healing, that of it only being castable on your own party, in early Wrath. This meant it was becoming as useful as it is to us today, and an added 10% crit to this spell must be considered a rather strong 2 set.
Now: As I've said plenty of times before, because of how much we spam PoH in current content, any buff to that spell would be considered really good. Although it's a boring bonus I'd definitely not turn down the prospect of a 10% straight up crit bonus to PoH.
4 pieces: Casting Power Word: Shield also grants you 250 spell power for 5 sec.
Then: Shielding was never something you did often as holy, so this would interestingly enough be one of the few bonuses that would be better for a disc than a holy priest. 250 spellpower back then was a nice buff, and this would actually have most holy priests try to weave in a lot more shields in their healing than they otherwise would've. These kind of set bonuses are interesting because they force you to change the way you heal just to accomodate the extra buff (as long as that would be the best course of action of course). Some enjoy to have to rethink their healing styles, some think it's annoying to have to completely change what they do just because of one set bonus. I'm probably somewhere inbetween.
Now: Like I just said, I stand inbetween when it comes to these kind of set bonuses. I don't mind changing the way I normally heal as long as it makes sense - casting extra shields as holy might not feel entirely natural, kind of like having this kind of buff but with Renew would feel wrong as a disc. But on the other hand, if it is beneficial i.e you gain more throughput by using the set bonus, then why not? Whatever it takes right? In any case, it definitely would spice things up a little.
Tier 9 - Conqueror's Zabra's/Velen's Raiment and Triumphant Zabra's/Velen's Raiment
Obtained from: Tokens from Trial of the Crusader and Koralon (VoA).
This not only had different names between specs, but between factions too. The question of course has always been - who the heck is Zabra? Esthetics wise, this, tier 10 and 11 are among the worst priest tiers.
2 pieces: Increases the healing done by your Prayer of Mending spell by 20%.
Then: One of my all time favorite set bonuses, it was so good that I kept it for as long as humanly possible even when we had moved on to ICC. This is 20% extra to every jump, and an overall really nice boost to healing done. In my opinion one of the best designed set bonuses there ever was.
Now: I'd completely love to get this set bonus back, although it might actually be considered too good in its current state. 10% wouldn't be too much to ask for though? PoM POWER!
4 pieces: Increases all healing you do by 5%.
Then: Tier 9 was overall given some very good set bonuses, first the 20% to POM and now this. 5% extra healing to everything you do? Yes please. I don't remember however whether this affected our shields and DA, if I know Blizzard right it probably didn't. But still, any healer would like this kind of set bonus - boring but extremely good.
Now: See above, this set bonus would be insane. I doubt many set bonuses since have had this much impact on our overall healing output as this set bonus did (Cauterizing Flame as comparison seems to be about 1,5% extra healing on average).
Tier 10 - Sanctified Crimson Acolyte's Raiment
This time, Blizzard thought it would be enough to just put a little "heroic" tag on the heroic gear instead of giving it another name. Maybe that is for the best, who cares what the gear is called after all?
2 pieces: Your Flash Heal has a 33% chance to cause the target to heal for 33% of the healed amount over 9 sec.
Then: Considering how much we used Flash Heal back in late Wrath, I always did consider this a rather good set bonus, it was basically a ~10% increase to Flash Heal output (if my math isn't all wrong) which is very good for a 2set bonus.
Now: We use Flash Heal way less than we used to, on the other hand it has become a lot stronger than it used to be too. I still don't think we'd have much use of this set bonus, but I wouldn't mind seeing a version of this on some other skill - like Greater Heal. But maybe the holy mastery is too similar for Blizzard to go that way.
4 pieces: Increases the effect of Power Word: Shield by 5% and Circle of Healing by 10%.
Then: The first set bonus ever to actually try to accomodate both specs, unfortunately it fails on one major point. Shield is available to both specs, while CoH is available only to holy, meaning holy has the benefit of both bonuses while disc only has benefit of one. Ah well, Blizzard will never get that entirely right I suppose. Both bonuses are very good though, and even balanced towards eachother.
Now: This would be considered a good set bonus now too, although perhaps 5% to shields is slightly better than 10% to CoH, considering CoH has a cooldown. It's a boring set bonus however, and I am glad everytime Blizzard think of something else than these straight throughput bonuses.
And that's that folks. All the tiers and set bonuses we've had up until Cataclysm. It makes me wonder how far it will go? Kind of with the Final Fantasy series. Will we have Final Fantasy 30 and tier 32 in ten years? Though I think we'd have gotten a new huge mmo by then. We saw some interesting mechanics early on which Blizzard obviously liked much enough to give us as talents or glyphs, and I am happy they did. Those mechanics were often good enough to not be wasted on only ever being some tier set bonus. One can always argue what the idea behind set bonuses is supposed to be - on the end it is meant to offer the wearer a stat boost (every set bonus is some kind of stat bonus when broken down), that just isn't obtainable through off-set gear. Overall I think Blizzard has succeeded with this mission, although I would've preferred it if they skipped the pure stat gains alltogether (like 5% extra crit and such). We get plenty of those from every other gear, set bonuses are supposed to hide the boring stat gains in fun mechanics. Which set bonus would you like to see make a come back?