Shields Down

It’s been a week since the Zandalari rose, and playing a priest, the biggest change I noticed was how they nerfed Power Word: Shield.  For those who don’t play WoW, here’s the basic run down of PWS:

  1. Instant cast, you don’t have to wait precious seconds waiting to charge it up to cast it.
  2. Damage absorption, it’s a shield that absorbs so much damage, so it’s like getting an extension to your HP.
  3. It fades after 30 seconds and needs to be reapplied.
  4. Weakened Soul, a debuff that prevents you from reupping the shield for 15 seconds.  If an enemy can tear down your shield in under 15 seconds, you are vulnerable; if it takes more than 15 seconds, you can recast PWS to bring it to full strength again.
  5. Prevents interruption, spells can be interrupted by an attack, channel spells like Penance especially; PWS can keep attacks from hitting you to make sure Penance heals/hits all three times.
  6. Upgrades: PWS can be upgraded to reflect the damage back to enemies that attack you, and to give a heal effect when cast.  Add to that the Divine Aegis which is a small shield spell that can appear after a heal, and you can end up with double shields, although DA is very weak compared to PWS.

Now some call this spell a game breaker, and I have seen some players use this with other healing spells to make themselves nearly invincible; but this is a priest we’re talking about here, they’re made of paper, and for magic dependent classes, “stun lock” is a death sentence.  Too bad Unbreakable Will doesn’t go all the way to 100%, really too bad it doesn’t exist anymore.

Patch 4.1 changed the duration to 15 seconds, the same as the Weakened Soul effect, so now unless you are watching the countdown timer on your shield, and are ready to throw it up the instant it wears off, there is a brief period where you are vulnerable to attack.  There are ways of reducing the WS effect so you can use PWS faster, but it’s not passive.  With this change, it seems like PWS is meant to be put up when you need the boost, not to be put up and kept up constantly.

Now that I’m level 83, and have Cataclysm level gear—my iLevel went from 170 to 280 just by running through Mt. Hyjal—I can see why PWS should be used this way.  My HP and Armor are several times what they were back in Northrend, and while PWS is also stronger, it hasn’t kept up.  However, for most of the game, PWS was more powerful than I was, effectively doubling my HP; it wasn’t just a helpful boost, it kept me alive.  That it would outlast the WS effect so that I could keep reupping it was crucial for me getting through Azeroth.

It’s only now that I’m 80+ that PWS becomes a sometimes spell.  My HP can withstand attacks without too much worry—especially with Inner Fire boosting my armor the extra 60%—and the main benefit of PWS is to take the pressure off until I can heal, which reduces WS thanks to Strength of Soul, or to blast something with Penance.

So, the nerf to PWS wasn’t as bad as I feared when I first read the patch notes, but if I was still a level 70 in Northrend when this happened, I’d have to switch classes to something else.

On a side note, I’m not level 85 yet so I haven’t done any of the new Zandalari content yet, instead I went back to Northrend for the Argent Trounament dailies and was doing Grizzly Hills and Zul’Drak; so I’ve been up to my armpits in ice trolls, scourge trolls, and the still friendly Zandalari trolls.

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