Four set tier 12 is the first set bonus I've been longing, and working really hard, to get since 2 set tier 9. Not because it is awesomely good, in fact I haven't checked up on its healing output (there is seriously a void regarding the information on this set bonus, but that's matter for another post), but because it seems like fun! And fun is why we play this game after all. In any case, it made me reminisce about old tiers I've had and didn't have but wished I did. What kind of set bonuses did they have, and were they any good? How has the idea of set bonuses for priests changed over the years? Let's take a look shall we?
Since there are quite a few by now, I've decided to focus on the pve tier sets.
There are many things unique about the old Vanilla tiers that Blizzard decided to change with upcoming expansions. First of all, there was no dps tier - if you wanted a tier set you had to heal. This was true for most multi-role classes, where warriors only had a tank tier, druids only had a healing tier and so on. Hybrids could also have funny combinations of stats, with intellect and strength being on the same items. Back then, Blizzard only made tiers for one spec or for the class as a whole (regardless if that class could fill several roles), and everyone else had to gather other kind of gear. What the reasoning behind this was, I have no idea. Did Blizzard design an entire spec and then not think it would be a viable end game spec, or did they just think shadow would be fine with off sets? I have no idea. Let's just be happy they realized that it wasn't a good plan.
Another unique property of the old tiers, although not necessarily a bad one, was that they had more pieces and therefor also more set bonuses. Tier 1 had no less than 8 pieces, and 3 set bonuses. Why they decided to change this I can only imagine - probably because it was a lot of work to design three decent set bonuses. What with them releasing tiers in an ever faster pace (or so it feels anyway), most of us probably wouldn't get to smell the highest set bonus until it was time to trade it for the next one anyway.
Tier 1 - Vestments of Prophecy
Obtained from: Molten Core
3 pieces: -0.1 sec to the casting time of your Flash Heal spell.
Then: Flash Heal used to be one of our bread and butter spell, before Cataclysm that is. In modern terms, this would be like giving .1 sec reduced cast time to Heal or Greater Heal. It does convert into a decent amount of haste, back when haste didn't even exist, and for the first set bonus it's an ok one.
Now: Although we use Flash Heal more and more now, we don't use it often enough for this to be noticed much. Perhaps on fights like Baleroc where spamming out as many Flash Heals as possible usually is the point of the fight. But considering most of us already have a decent amount of haste and the cast time of Flash Heal already is low we wouldn't find much use for this set bonus.
5 pieces: Improves your critical strike rating by 28.
Then: Tiers were among the few items in the game that provided secondary stats like haste (above) and crit. Priest specifically didn't have any special need for crit, no more than they do now (bigger heals, proccing Inpiration). 28 crit rating converts to roughly 2% crit, which wasn't awesome even back then.
Now: Back in Vanilla, we didn't have fancy stuff like "ratings". This item probably provided 2% crit straight off. Unfortunately, having gear that gave straight stat increases meant that you could actually cap yourself eventually, and it also made it difficult for Blizzard to introduce better than previous gear - an item that gave 2% crit at 60 would do so even at 85. So they introduced the rating system, with the explicit intention to make old gear less and less useful the higher level you got. And of course, that means this set bonus isn't very useful to us today, since it would give about .15% crit, and crit being our least wanted stat too. But looking at it as a crit bonus (instead of focusing on the numbers), we can see that is something Blizzard has continued using throughout the tiers. Tier 11 had crit bonuses as 2 set, and I am sure we will see more of crit in the future tiers as well - maybe it's just one of those stats that is fairly easy to balance.
8 pieces: Increases your chance of a critical hit with Prayer of Healing by 25%.
Then: Yet another crit bonus, this time looking like what Inner Focus would be if it were a set bonus. The difference of course being that it is a permanent 25% buff to your Prayer of Healing. Prayer of Healing used to have a couple of crippling drawbacks back in the day, most importantly that it only healed the priests own party (remember, this was back when you had 40 man raids divided in 8 groups). It meant that it was very useful when doing dungeons, but to get the most out of it in raids you probably would want to swap around priests to cover as many groups as possible (the kind of swapping we still do today to accomodate PoH, although for slightly other reasons). A strong bonus mostly limited by the spell itself.
Now: PoH has become one of our most frequent used spells. On some fights I feel like I do nothing but spam PoH. Imagine having a 25% straight off crit buff to all those PoH? Pretty insane huh? This set bonus would indeed be really good for us still today, in fact it would be better for modern priests than it was for priests back in Vanilla.
Tier 2 - Vestments of Transcendence
Obtained from: Blackwing Lair
3 pieces: Increases your Spirit by 50.
Then: Back in Vanilla, spirit only counted for out of casting regen, which meant to benefit from it you had to stop casting for at least 5 seconds and wait for your mana regen to kick in. This was something commonly used by healers of course, like I said, it was the only way to regain mana during a fight (except of course there was no cap to using mana pots, so you could chug as many as you liked on 2 min cd). Spirit was still about as important a stat back then as it is now, and this was probably considered a rather strong set bonus - 50 was a big number back then.
Now: This is a pure stat bonus, something that was uncommon back then, but we see on every gear nowadays. Blizzard have tried to make set bonuses special and set apart from regular gear in that they provide stats but in a "funner" manner than just raw stats (the Cauterizing Flame is an excellent example. Eventhough spirit is among our most important stats, and we'd do well with a chunk of spirit at any time it's not likely Blizzard will design tiers with these "boring" set bonuses again.
5 pieces: When struck in melee there is a 50% chance you will Fade for 4 sec.
Then: Wait what? Fade? As far as I remember, pve priests weren't hit much more in melee than they are now, and we had regular Fade back then too. If we ever did get aggro, which happens, we could just Fade. Why would we have even more aggro after that? The only time this would be useful is... no wait, I can't think of any time. It's not good for pvp nor pve. Blizzard did a couple of wonky set bonuses like this one back then, before they had decided that each spec, role and arena would get their own kind of tier. Like I mentioned above, it's like they realized somewhere that they had a lot more content than just pve healing, and thought they had to accomodate all the other priest types out there as well. But in nearly any setting this set bonus is very weak.
Now: This set bonus is about as useful to a pve priest now as it was back in Vanilla, ie not. We're not supposed to be hit much in melee and this does basically nothing to improve our healing.
8 pieces: Your Greater Heal spell now also heals for 315 over 15 sec.
Then: Adding a hot to Greater Heal isn't such a bad idea at all - we're seeing a predecessor of Holy Mastery here. Until Cata, priests only ever had Renew as a hot, and hots have always been very useful. Greater Heal was also an often used spell, and I can imagine that this was a very good set bonus indeed.
Now: If we look aside the fixed bonus healing, because that is of course far too weak to be of use to us today, the idea of a hot to a heal is a very good one, and I am glad they gave us this kind of healing through the Holy Mastery. If they had done something else with the Holy Mastery, I'd have loved this kind of set bonus myself.
Tier 3 - Vestments of Faith
Obtained from: Unavailable (used to be old Naxx I think)
2 pieces: Reduces the mana cost of your Renew spell by 12%.
Then: Holy was the spec to be if you wanted to raid back in Vanilla, and if I remember correctly Renew was a pretty commonly used spell back then too, about as it is used today. Reducing the mana cost of that spell by 12% would be an awesome set bonus (consider too that this is only the 2 set bonus!), fitting of one of the most hardest to get tiers.
Now: As we've seen with later tiers, this set bonus would be skewed in favor for holy of course. Eventhough using Renew is far from taboo for a disc priest, it's usually not used very often and this bonus wouldn't end up to much for a disc priest. For a holy priest however, this would be a really good bonus and something I wouldn't mind to see the return of in later tiers (as long as there is an equivalent bonus for disc of course).
4 pieces: On Greater Heal critical hits, your target will gain Armor of Faith, absorbing up to 500 damage.
Then: It's always fun to see how mechanics that were later implemented in the game, often started out as set bonuses. Here we have another one - do you recognize Divine Aegis in its infacy? It has a fixed value, but 500 damage back in Vanilla was far from shabby. The only real drawback is that it only affects one spell, but like mentioned, GH was much used in Vanilla. Depending on your crit this could've been a really powerful set bonus, much like how crit influences the power of DA today.
Now: For disc this would basically be like an extra Divine Aegis, maybe an extra strong DA on your GH crits, and why not? This would definitely be useful for holy as well, but considering this mechanic has already been thoroughly implemented in the game, we probably won't see anything like it again.
6 pieces: Reduces the threat from your healing spells.
Then: Like I already said regarding tier 2 5 set bonus, threat has just never been that huge of an issue for priests. This feels like the kind of bonus you'd throw in because you have to have something and you don't want to use up all your good ideas on one tier. This should've been the 2 set bonus if anything.
Now: I can see this being a decent set bonus for those healing classes that currently actually have some issues with threat, most notably resto druids. Priests have always been able to rely on fade, and it has done a great job throughout the last six years. I can't even remember the last time I thought "gosh darn, if only fade had a shorter cooldown" because of my massive threat.
8 pieces: Each spell you cast can trigger an Epiphany, increasing your Spirit by 60 for 30 sec.
Then: With a 5% proc chance, this would have roughly 1 ppm, or an average of 30 extra spirit overall. And remember what I said about spirit? Only useful out of casting. This makes this bonus actually weaker than 2 set tier 2, which I find very odd indeed.
Now: Proccing spirit is what has become our trinkets today, we see this kind of mechanic all the time. With the proper amount of spirit this is a good bonus, which DMC Tsunami can attest!
Next time - BC and Wrath bonuses! (Pictures from wowpedia.org)