Seri sez: The Disciplined Healer

October 30, 2008

Since patch 3.0.2 went live, the Discipline tree has been getting more attention. Some have embraced its new PVE potential, while others dismiss it as once and forever the realm of the PVP Priest.

Deny it if you will, but Disc is back for PVE in a big way. Re-tuned with a focus on damage prevention, the Discipline Priest now shines not only as a tank healer but as what I like to call the ‘oh shit healer.’ I’ve been raiding as Disc since 3.0.2, and while I would like to try out the new Holy tree some day I have to admit I’m kind of liking it where I am.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and tweaking of my recommended spec since the patch went live, based on my own experience and community discussion. I could write a whole other post about the Disc talents and why they are nifty (heck, maybe I will) but for now I’m going to limit myself to suggesting another spec: 56/5/0

The biggest changes here are dropping Reflective Shield (self-only as of 3.0.2) and dropping Divine Fury in favor of Enlightenment. (Thanks to Sinuviel over at PlusHeal for pointing that out to me.)

So! Let’s talk turkey, and I don’t mean the Thanksgiving kind. As a Disc priest you are most likely to be tasked with tank healing. For most healers, this means replenishing the water in the bucket before it all leaks out. For the Disc priest, it also means slowing the rate of leakage!

This is not a one-button healing spec; a good Disc priest will use all the tools at their disposal for maximum effect. What spells will you be using the most? Prayer of Mending, Renew and the four “P’s” of Discipline: Power Word: Shield, Pain Suppression, Power Infusion and Penance.

Shield your tank whenever possible. Not only will it mitigate some damage, it increases your effectiveness as a healer. With proper talent selection, you’ll have an increased chance to crit when healing someone with the Weakened Soul Debuff (Renewed Hope), you’ll get mana back from damage absorbed by the shield (Rapture) and gain up to 25% spell haste (Borrowed Time) on your next spell after casting PW:S.

Don’t be afraid of Pain Suppression. Tank threat is through the roof right now, so you’re not going to create a dangerous situation unless you’re throwing it on them during the initial pull. If your tank is in trouble, use Pain Suppression. Otherwise, just toss it on your local aggromonkey as needed.

Power Infusion; It’s not just for DPS! Infusing yourself is a great way to make those emergency heals land faster and cost less. It doesn’t invoke the global cooldown, so use it whenever you like. Add it to your Greater Heal macro or something.

Use Penance. It is an awesome spell for fast responses to damage spikes, but you’ll want it in your normal healing rotation too. A lot of the time, you can keep a tank up with nothing but PW:S, Renew, Prayer of Mending and Penance with the occasional Flash or Greater Heal thrown in. Eventually you’ll get a bit of a rotation down.

Speaking of rotations, for most situations I usually start with Penance once my tank starts taking damage, following up with Renew and PW:S. If needed, I’ll toss in a hasted FH or GH (courtesy of Borrowed Time) and/or a PoM, then should be about ready to Penance again. After that, I just watch my tank while my spell cooldowns are ticking and toss Flashes and Greaters in where needed.

Depending on the amount of incoming damage you’re dealing with, you may need to adjust your strategy. When you’re casting multiple instant cast spells in a row, the time you spend waiting on the global cooldown is time that your tank isn’t getting incoming heals. If incoming damage is high, you may need to limit yourself to one instant at a time between Greater Heals/Penance, or even chain cast Greater Heal/Penance until the spike is over. (Power Infusion can be very helpful in these situations!) Above all, be flexible and adapt to the healing needs of your tank.

If you find yourself assigned to raid healing, you should talk with your raid leader or healing lead. As a Discipline priest, tank healing is where you’ll shine so if your raid team doesn’t need you to tank heal they should perhaps re-evaluate whether or not Divine Spirit is reason enough to gimp a raid healer.

Personally, if I’m tasked with raid healing I consider it license to Smite. *wink*


  1. My largest two problems with switching to Discipline from Holy for a number of years is that I have to regear myself from a Spirit-focused set to something higher in Crit, Haste, and Intellect, and that my healing leader persists in assigning me to raid healing. Drives me bonkers, but I get pigeonholed into the same roles of the Holy priests and I’m unable to contribute to the raid as effectively as a result. The gear isn’t too much of an issue; we’ve returned to Black Temple and I’ve been picking up some lovely gear that the caster DPS picked up before and is coming my way. I’ve been slowly chipping away at my healing leader, but it’s been too slow for my preference.

    Overall, Discipline is love, pure and simple. It’s so much fun and so very satisfying to use the vast majority of my abilities again!

  2. I’m a badly behaved Disc healer, perhaps. I’m using the same spirit-heavy gear I had been using before, so I can only imagine that as much as I like this spec now I’d like it even more if I had more crit/haste. I have a few haste pieces and I’ve found myself using my haste gear more and more.

    Sadly, if your healing leader won’t slot you for tank healing you’re probably better off going deep holy. But work on him/her, if for nothing else than for the opportunity to tank heal at 80!

  3. It isn’t that spirit is bad for Disc (due to Meditation). It’s just that Disc doesn’t get a bonus to spellpower from spirit. Three things combine to make Int more valuable to Disc priests than spirit. 1) crits > MP5 through Divine Aegis. 2) Disc’s awesome new Mental Strength talent seriously boosts Int (but not crit rating). 3) Replenishment and Shadowfiend mechanics now regenerate mana based on a % of your mana pool, so boosting that means greater gains over the course of the fight.

  4. Oh, I definitely don’t advocate throwing the baby out with the bath water. Spirit will always be important for Priests, and I’m still reading/thinking about the gearing needs for the new Discipline tree. That may be a topic for a whole other post sometime. 🙂

  5. My problem with Disc is that it is more suited to tank healing and I vastly prefer raid healing! I plan to level as disc or at least mostly Disc so I’ll get a chance to play with it, but I cannot imagine preferring it over Holy.

  6. Different strokes for different folks, that’s the beauty of having more than one viable talent tree for healing. 🙂

  7. Why I love Disc – doing a HUGE favour for a friend I got summoned while in BG to heal Kara. (I told them I was all PVP and had never done Kara before- but they were desperate lol) I got there for the Opera fight (sh%#$tting bricks nervously) and to my surprise it wasn’t hard at all. The tools I have made it not only easy but interesting. Variety to do shield, penance and whatever I felt like was awesome. I don’t think I even used a gheal. I get bored easily and with the new Disc abilities I’m constanlty amused. Mana was never a problem even with my instance craptastic gear.

  8. The one priest in my guild who has gone Disc is clueless. He spams Holy Nova and thinks it’s better raid healing than my CoH. He keeps telling all our deep holy priests that they should stop gemming spirit and gem all crit. Infact, one of our holy priests took the DPS T6 shoulders for the 17 crit on his advice. And this is the spec he’s using. To heal in BT. As a PVE only priest. http://www.wowhead.com/?talent=bVhruhxtb0sifRz0xL
    And he told ME I couldn’t spec right because I didn’t put any points in Silent Resolve.

    Okay, and, breathe…

    The upshot of this rant is that I’m still wary of Disc priests. Half of them are PVP healers who don’t know how to heal in a raid situation and the other half are new to the spec and didn’t bother to actually read up on it. Or read their talents. Or look at the stats on the crit/hit gear they keep trying to take from the mages.

    Okay, I’m done now. I promise.

  9. “This is not a one button healing spec”. Is there such a thing as a one button healing spec or is this just a jab at CoH priests? I am CoH and I always use all of my heals. I can tank heal with the best of them. CoH is just great for MH, BT and SW because of all of the raid damage. Other healers hate on CoH priest only if they are meter readers. Priests can do any healing job. That is the main reason that I rolled one and made her my main.

  10. @ Missmedic – Variety is, indeed, the spice of life. Viva la Discipline! 😉

    @ Dae – Well, he got most of his talent points in good places even if he did fail in several very specific areas. I hope your Holy Priests aren’t taking his advice. Send him to me, I’ll straighten him out! (snarkcraft@gmail.com or PM Serianna @ PlusHeal.com)

  11. @Seri: See, that’s the thing that bugs me the most. The guy is an officer so most of the newer priests do listen to him. They all assume that because he’s an officer, he must be right.

    Promised I wouldn’t rant… must stop typing…

  12. @ Dae – Rant freely, sister. And while you’re at it, e-mail me an Armory link. >.>

  13. I got to be an MT healer the other day as we were short healers. Had I known ahead of time I may have tried Disc out. We had 2 priests and 3 druids. One of the druids can’t heal her way out of a wet bag so not sure how much she counts. Sorry that was mean, but true. Anyhow we put a priest and a druid on the tanks. I got to be the Priest on the tank as our other priest is a good healer, but cares more about meters than assignments. Might as well put him on raid as he is going to heal everyone anyhow. Anyhow…all cattiness aside….tank healing was not so bad, just felt odd to me after being a raid healer forever!

    In the expansion I plan to stick to 10 mans, at least at first. Not sure what I’ll end up deciding is the best spec for me , and for our group. I will end up trying it all though.

  14. @ Dae — Don’t bother the armory link. Seri’s an accomplished Armory Stalker. I logged in this morning to a chat window linking me to your CL.

    I was Very Confused (spec and gear didn’t look -that- bad, I mean, I could see the logic behind it, at least…) until she told me to catch up in this thread and what your officer is advising for the holy priests.

    I /sigh at him.

  15. ZOMG outed!

  16. @ Elvenmoon – No, that wasn’t intended as a jab at CoH Priests (though many of them do fall in to the trap of being a one-button healer). I was thinking more about any spec that would necessitate a Priest spending most of their tank healing time stopcasting Greater Heal–which is pretty much what you do when you don’t have the deep Disc mitigation talents (and Penance).

    I have a lot of love for Holy/CoH and feel it is definitely the most versatile ‘I can heal anything’ spec. I just feel that if I’m going to be stuck on tank healing duty (which is both stressful and boring at the same time, somehow) I like using lots of buttons.

    Sorry for the belated reply, you got caught in the spam filter! You wily person. 🙂

  17. Great article. After leveling to 70 as a holy priest, I switched to discipline for PVP when my guild stopped running instances pre-expansion. After going disc, BGs became a heck of a lot more fun, and I managed to collect most of the Season 2 Mooncloth set.

    With WotLK on the horizon, members of my guild have been coming back to the game, but instead of switching back to my holy spec, I decided to try and heal as disc. I was amazed how well the spec does in PVE, even while wearing PVP gear. I can effectively heal in PVE with the same gear and spec that I use for PVP.

    One thing I noticed was that the ‘oh shit’ healing potential dramatically improved my situational awareness during a fight. If I tossed a PW:S at the tank, followed by a hasted GHeal and a Renew, I had time to look at what was going on (instead of just looking at health and casting bars) before topping the tank off with Penance.

    It seems to me that the dics priest’s improved PVE healing viability has come at the cost of some PVP survivability. Most dps classes got a nice boost to their burst damage capabilities in 3.0.2, and instead of getting better defense against burst damage, disc priests got better at PVE healing. (Instant cast self heal in the 3rd tier of the holy tree. WTF?) Although I will miss priest tanking in PVP, I am really excited that I can heal both PVP and PVE without having to visit my class trainer. (Does anyone else go to the same trainer every time, or is it just me?)

    So don’t be surprised to see some of us PVP disc priests in ur raids, healin ur tanks, at least until Blizz turns us back into the dps sinks we used to be.


  18. @Jov and Seri: Ooh I can’t hide anything from you two. Nice detective work. Anyway, it wouldn’t be so bad if he kept the little fumbles with gear/spec to himself, but he shares them with the other priests. I’d feel better if they were willing to listen to someone else’s opinions, but every time I say “But look how much spirit and int you’re losing!” I get told “But it has crit on it!”

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