Don’t Panic: Disc Priest Tips for Cataclysm

Healing as a Disc Priest in these early days of the Cataclysm expansion can be cataclysmically horrifying.

The average LFD group is explosively bad: DPS refuse to utilize crowd control. The tank pulls seven mobs as though he’s an overgeared ICC Kingslayer running Mana Tombs with every buff in the game. No one will stop for you to drink.

You’re running out of mana every two mobs and the group keeps pulling, oblivious to your panicked squeals for mana, mana, mana! Bars are dropping. You pop triage heals on the DPS, even though you can’t spare the mana, because you know you’ll wipe for sure without that strangely tough hunter because your tanks’ health is dropping faster than a brick on fast-forward and he’s vying for the title of World’s Biggest Dick anyway.

The ‘lock Life Taps six times in quick succession, the tank pulls the boss while you’re counting the seconds on your Shadowfiend cooldown and sobbing softly while whacking the last three mobs feebly with your stick, and then it happens:

You wipe.

And then the group boots you.

I wish I had more encouraging news for you, gentle discos, but the best I can say is that we’re not alone. Every healer I’ve talked to is going through this same agony. Tanks are squishier, DPS are slower, your mana is nonexistent, and somehow in LFD all those problems add up to THE HEALER SUCKS!

I feel your pain. Hell, I’m living your pain!

We’re all in this together, all embattled and embittered and embarrassed in these bludgeon-fests, but here are a few tips that may assist in that horrifying slog we’re facing these days. They’ve helped me regain my sanity- what little remains, that is- and I hope they do the same for you:

1. LFD? LFG!

The LFD tool is an odd monster. It at once impersonalized the leveling experience and yet exposed you to far more content. Blizzard certainly took the impersonalization to heart: just look at the new guild system for confirmation that they really, really want you get to know players on your realm at least a bit better.

The lone leveler got hit with the nerf bat in terms of guild achievements and rewards, but perhaps- perhaps!- the extreme difficulty of healing right now is intended to do the same thing.

I have to be honest with you guys, now: I have not finished a single random LFD instance since Cataclysm began. I’ve been kicked (“You suck!”), I’ve ragequit (“You guys suck!”), I’ve been in the fetal position and crying too snottily to seize hold of my mouse (“I suck!”).

And then there are guild runs.

I moved my main priest to another server (to act as temporary financial support to a low-level alt), and ended up in a new guild about two weeks ago. I don’t know all of my guildmates very well, but I *do* know them better than my LFD-sponsored Ipwnunoobz tank.

When I need to stop for mana, they stop. We pull cautiously and steadily. We make good time, because we don’t wipe. No one yells. No one curses (there is excessive /mooning of bosses, however). No one pitches a fit.

If you haven’t yet, or if you’re not in a guild that runs instances regularly. do seriously consider getting in with a guild to run with outside the LFD Disaster Relief System.

I can highly recommend Mortem Vitae Sequens on A-Farstriders, Waypoint on A-Medivh, Tsu Tain Guu Faitaa on H-Drenden, and Business Time on A-Moonrunner. If those guilds are aren’t hiring, I know each one would be happy to recommend a good one on-server.

2. Dress for Success

It’s tempting- oh, so tempting- to gear up as a Shadow Priest, run a few quests in Vash’jir and Mount Hyjal, and in the meantime queue up as a healer for a few (invariably disastrous) PUGs through the Looking For Group tool.

Do not do this. If you’re picking up gear with Hit and chucking the gear with Spirit, well- you’re gonna have a bad time.

Now is the time to commit to running in Spirit gear with no Hit as a dedicated Disc Priest instance healer (or partner-in-crime of a tankish questing friend).

If you can’t bring yourself to do that, admit to yourself that you’d really like to see those new areas while you level, dropping Spirit gear for Spellpower and Intellect (and Hit), and level as a  Shadowpriest, may the gods forgive me for saying it.

3. (Key)Bound for Glory

Go into the game. Hit ‘Esc’. Select ‘Macros’.

Creating macros is easy, and it’s awfully nice to have a pre-programmed little ditty that you can slap out at the beginning of LFD. It might not make any difference, but you’ll feel like you at least made the effort.

Just select ‘Create New…’ on the Macros screen, select an attractive icon, and type in anything you’d normally type in the chat screen. Once done, pull the icon(s) to your quickbar and press at will.

My own goes something like this:

/p Hi, everyone! I’m Liala and I’ll be your healer for this evening’s run.
/p Healers are really low on mana right now, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, so I’m going to have to ask for a few more mana breaks then we’re all used to. I promise I’ll make it as quick as I can.
/p Deeps, I’m really sorry, but I’m probably not going to be able to heal you as much. Please don’t hesitate to use bandages if we’re getting creamed. That’s it! Thanks for reading!

Then I have a few macros that I’ve always had:

/p Mana break after this mob, please.
/p Focusing on tank heals, please bandage at will.

Employ your macros to give your tank a verbal heads-up whenever possible, and reap the rewards of a happy tank.

4. Get Right Back To Where We Started From

We all want to get ahead, to see the new instances, to see the new content!

The last thing on Azeroth any of us want to do right now is go back to the Lich King or any of those Heroic Wrath instances we’ve run ten thousand times, but there is, I swear, benefit to doing so.

Queue up for a random Lich King Heroic and run it paying complete and total attention to your rotation.

Running these suckers is a great way to familiarize yourself with all the new bells and whistles we Disc Priests have without stressing the hell out over everyone dying all over the place. No matter how much I read or study or crunch numbers, I find nothing ever, ever replaces the actual experience of playing with a new build.

Since healing should be cake, you’ll be able to take stock of your new talents without being terribly distracted.

Try out new rotations. Pay attention to the numbers that are popping up as you heal, and check out which spells give you the biggest results and how much your mana bar sinks with each. Get used to using Inner Focus and Hymn of Hope and Barrier, and whatever else you haven’t been using lately. Try out the new Smitespec and see if that fills you with joy (and wings).

Whatever else you do, remain calm and remember we’re all right there with you, bitching about our tanks and DPS in the ethereal super-reality that all Disc Priests share. Your QQ is our QQ. Godspeed.

For more information on gear and builds, check out:
Cataclysm Disc Priest Builds (Shieldspec and Smitespec)
Gearing a Disc Priest: 80-85
Gearing a Disc Priest: The Beginning Raider (85+)
Cataclysm Disc Priest Gems and Reforging
My current build on the Armory

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45 thoughts on “Don’t Panic: Disc Priest Tips for Cataclysm

  1. sarah says:

    THANK YOU!!! ty ty ty ty for voicing what i’ve been venting to my bf (who also happens to be my MT) about since i started running dungeons. I’ve been lucky in my groups (knock on wood), most understand the healer issues and don’t mind the occasional wipe. Still, its nice to see something like this posted on the interwebs for more players to see :) <3

    • I’m so glad it struck a chord! :D It’s tough out there for a priest! Phew. So very, very tough. But I have complete faith that we’ll see this little rough patch through and come out on the other side with our pride and massive egos very much intact! Keep the faith! /lighter

      • Chylla says:

        Check out Chylla on Baelgun, Weaver <–guild name, on Wowarmory… I found a disc spec that rocks, hardly ever get under half mana. Just remember bubble, heal, heal bubble on ur tank, and bubble renew the stupid ass dps.. and max ur mastery @ least it works for me :)

  2. Rades says:

    I like your greeting and “heads up guys” macros! I’d actually change the “heads up” ones to /s though. In the midst of combat, I find /p gets overlooked or missed a lot, but /s is just as noticeable in the chatlog AND is visible in the game world, so I always /s things that I desperately need noticed.

  3. Zelmaru says:

    An option for those who want to be able to solo without hit gear – pick up the smite hit glyph (which you should have if you are using smite disc spec). You will hit all the time with smite, and that should be adequate to use while questing. No +hit gear required.

    As for guild groups, YES. Even if you have 3 guildies and you have to pick up 2 pugs, usually you can keep them in line if you’re the majority. Hell, even having a guildie partner in your group, just ONE PERSON, will help.

    Last night, we zoned into some instance that none of us had ever seen (vortex thingy) and proceeded to one-shot it, though we did pause to alt-tab and read a quick blurb on the bosses. If you pull in a controlled fashion, use CROWD CONTROL, and generally take things in a rational manner with normal people, it’s not TOOO HARD to do these instances at all. On the other hand, for that to develop in LFD, the poorly trained morons have to relearn how to play and quit acting like coked-out ferrets.

    • I don’t have the smite glyph yet, but I keep meaning to pick it up; and certainly that’d be a delightful leveling spec should one be so inclined!

      And I really don’t think you should be so insulting the the coked-out ferrets of the world, Zel. >:(

  4. TheGrumpyElf says:

    I hate to say it but your story at the beginning made me chuckle. Maybe it is because I can understand it and there is a certain amount of relief that can be had in knowing that I am not alone.

    I have not started leveling my Disc Priest yet. That starts tonight. Worked on DPS and Tank so far. Mainly because I do not look forward to what healing has in store for us.

    I mostly try to go with guild only when I heal or tank. DPS matters less, I’ll DPS for people I do not know.

    When I heal in a random I don’t tell anyone anything. If I sit to drink and they charge ahead that is their problem, not mine. They will have the repair bill and I won’t.

    One of two things will happen. I get kicked and instantly get back into another random or they learn and never do that again. I win both ways.

    • Rades says:

      You should probably mention if you’re sitting to drink. I know tanks should always have an eye on their healer’s mana, but it’s definitely understandable for them to be preoccupied, even stressed, thinking about the logistics of the next pull. And of course, if you’re not actually low on mana but drinking just to be safe, you should also mention it as the tank might look at your mana at the end of a pull and assume you are good.

    • Good luck with the coming discwork! It’s still as fun as all get out, and hey- you can always go PvP and get out your serious post-PUG aggression! :)

  5. Snack says:

    I’m honored that Waypoint was worth mentioning in your blog post!

    And it’s fantastic to run with people who don’t impersonalize you with your class instead of calling you by name – except you keep calling me “the stupid one” in guild chat and that’s really hurtful! =(

  6. Achloryn says:

    I just want you to know that if you run into a worgen druid tank by the name of Vaerron from Azgalor… you’re in good hands.

    I play at odd times and my guild is still in the space where people are either A – too paranoid to run heroics or B – already have premade groups (or at least their own tank ready to run with), but I can promise you i’m no retarded tank. I watch my healer’s mana, eat/bandage between pulls, make sure everyone understands the fight, mark shit for CC…. you’d love running with me. I’m extremely cautious, and healers usually tend to love me for it.

    Just a heads up.. not all pugs are horrific. ;)

  7. Tinkertoytank says:

    I’ve never knew how much harder priest healing was now! As a paladin (ret/tank) I find it helpful to give the healer a hand once in a while, it’s a group effort in the wonderful world of LFD system, yet most see it as an easy run because quoted from a DK “heroic instances should only take 15 minutes”. I find guild runs the most fun because it gives you a chance to not only be able to make mistakes, but have fun with it! My guild has been together for 4 – 5 years and we are a family guild, we’ve all been thru so many wipes that we joke about it every now and then, unlike in the LFD where it’s one mess up and someone quits! Back to the whole paladin think I believe that if you have the power to heal, and it’s not hurting your dps DO IT. With the crusader buff (to non-paladins it’s 300% increase to your holy light heal) pretty much I can heal 20k non crits and 33k+ crits, maybe my ret mastery proc’d and we finished a mob HEAL WHO NEEDS TO BE HEALED I can’t stress that enough. Anyway not trying to make this “Paladin Action” the place to go where paladins go lolret, I’ve played a priest to 40ish playing disc before the 4.0.3 cata release! It was pretty easy to smite heal (not sure if that’s still around) but it was pretty much a carry (I blame BoAs), thanks for the post about this DA I’ll work softer on the priets I group with (even if the guild priest tends to play his warrior more now!). Long comment, fail typing, english class sucked, and buh-bye!

  8. Tyben says:

    I’d like to mention that shadow priests convert spirit to hit. For example, in my full healing set but in shadow spec, I am hit capped even for bosses. So you shouldn’t have to worry about hit gear in any case.

  9. Endyme says:

    I’ve been leveling my disco priest as shadow (I turned to the dark side, light forgive me!) because a) I’ve always wanted a shadow offspec and b) I heard it’d be a wee bit easier and I’m all for that. So far, so good. But when I do instances, I prefer to go to what I love, which is healing. So I keep my disc set as up to date as I can and the spec all specced out and I can switch easy peasy.

    But yeah, the mana….it goes away so fast. I’ve only done 2 instances that weren’t full of guildies, and even those, it was only the tank we PuG’d. We had to kick the first tank we got because they refused to stop for drinking breaks, just charged on in willy nilly with no CC (they even asked “What is CC?” when we mentioned it) and it’s hit me that things are WAY different for everyone in Cata. Everyone’s having to relearn things, or learn new things. Insances are hard again.

    I really do need to make a macro that says “Hey, I’m drinking because I need mana, if you charge ahead before I get up, your death is not on my hands. Have a nice day, kk!”

  10. Honeystout says:

    Thanks for this post! Even though I am still leveling and haven’t yet felt the pain of new instances and heroics, I’ve heard/read horror stories, so I’m sure I’ll be back here in a few weeks looking for moral support :)

    And thanks for the macro ideas! I can usually bang all that out at lightning speed, but why do that when you can have a macro?

  11. Sweetpeå says:

    Amazingly written! Straight-forward, encouraging and awfully truthful thread! I’ve come to quite the same conclusions. Your descriptions of the LFD horrors fit perfectly. Priests aren’t doomed! Neither are healers – but LFD will certainly make you feel as though you can’t go on. I’m going to recommend this to my healing friends! This is a must read for all Cataclysm healers who’ve lost hope or are feeling a lot of pressure!

  12. I am totally late to the game here, but thank you! Thank you so much!
    I just switched to holy at the request of my guild leader and kept thinking I must be really really bad at it because everyone seems to be made of glass and now I know it’s not just me being horrible at healing.

  13. Rigor says:

    For me it wasn’t too bad with my new priest because I dropped some gold to get a full set of Cata gear at 77. I’ve only had one group not finish the instance and that was me leaving, so I suppose people are figuring things out a little more now. Funny, I still don’t see anyone CCing, except for me using psychic scream+glyph on any group biggern than 3 mobs.

  14. Stepup says:

    Thanks for this post. I’m glad to know Im not the only one struggling. I just hit the gear score avg to qualify to run Heroics last night and jumped into my first one and after two bosses was kicked from the group. That’s never happened before and was really frustrating. The last fight I was in was typical…the Tank was at three quarters health (my focus was to keep him up as he took huge amounts of dmg) , two dps at half health, Im was taking damage myself at 30% health I had 30% mana left and the boss was less than 50% down. I cast PoH and was killed just after casting it. I mean I’m sure I need better gear, more spirit, and probably a more efficient rotation but it seems I’m a long way from being anywhere near proficient. What a bummer, I wont take it personally but I went from being an effective player (my raid group cleared ICC) to being an ineffective one. Healing was fun in WOLK and learning the necessary movements etc made most of the raid bosses a real challenge. Mana was sometimes an issue, but it wasn’t anything like this. I’ll give it a few more tries but I’m not gonna play a game I fail at.

  15. vesha says:

    hello. I am a tank, a prot paladin, however I was once a priest, though holy, and I must admit I find the musings, here, hilarious (perhaps only as that I know them all too well). I thought to comment that I thoroughly enjoy your descriptions on tanks as it emphasizes the “what NOT to do” as I tank (though I wouldnt despite the fact) … your partners in crime, the “good” tanks, equally share your woes.

    see you on the killing fields.

    vesha

  16. Jeff says:

    Ok, wow… you said it perfectly.

    I was the main healer (disc) for several top guilds running 25 man raids throughout the years, and often I heard compliments about what amazing heals I had. I used to run my level 80 “tankless” heroics. I was #6 on my server for my class. I healed like a beast.

    Now, I can’t even finish one of these new heroics because I just don’t have the heals or mana pool to pull off some of these boss fights. Hell, I’m running out of mana on some of the trash pulls! Talk about humbling.

    And I felt like such a failure… being called “scrap healer” before being booted from heroics. I had spirit food, flasks, used all my CDs… you name it. I’ve even entertained leaving WoW (especially after hearing I might have to actually smite up to 5 times in a fight to gain mana or heal better like some kind of fail DPS while worrying if I have the time before the melee dies).

    I’m glad I’m not alone. I even found myself setting up a macro on healbot to apply bandages to people I did “Leap of Faith” to. It’s just that bad.

    I’m glad I’m not alone. Thank you for your article.

    • It’s so ungodly brutal right now. But I have to say that running with even one buddy or guildmate makes all the difference.

      (Also, don’t tell Blizz I said so but SPIRIT STILL SUCKS! Steal the mage gear.)

    • And hey, at the very least we’re learning to squeeze the very last drop out of our healing! Right down to… bandages.

      Sigh.

      The shame.

      • Jeff says:

        Ya, I called that macro “Leap of Bandages”:

        /cast [target=hbtarget] Leap of Faith
        /use [target=hbtarget] Heavy Embersilk Bandage

        LOL I thought it was ingenious. Of course I have to click CTRL-ALT-Middle Click twice… and they run right back into the AOE before the bandage works… of course before hitting life tap a few times. *sigh*

        because your tanks’ health is dropping faster than a brick on fast-forward and he’s vying for the title of World’s Biggest Dick anyway

        That made me laugh so hard, I had to paste it into WoW chat. It’s not just Mal’ganis anymore…

  17. Tam says:

    Your macros are WAY more polite than mine :P

  18. Sacrosanct says:

    THANK YOU!!!!! You actually made me smile, nod, laugh and almost cry as I read this post. I’m ashamed to say my finger even hovered over the delete button on my priest this evening it’s been that grim since cata for me!

    I’ve gone from being a really quite confident disc priest who has been playing WoW since 6 months from UK launch, to a complete insecure mess who can’t make it through a heroic, or heal through a small group of mobs without someone dying or having a go at me for needing to drink/requiring the dps CC.

    I’ve even re-spec’d to holy now at the suggestion of my guild who don’t believe that disc priests currently have a place in their raids due to all the issues… but I miss my disc build. I like my bubbles, and I love all the little tricks of the class that whilst might not see us at the top of the healing recount, we know contributed more to a raids success that they probably will ever realise.

    You’re a star.

  19. Chris says:

    Seriously; this was an awesome read!
    Healing has a l w a y s been my cup of tea. Since day one. But I’ve never felt so incredibly crappy like I do now.
    I was on a break from wow and just came back. Dinged 85 yesterday and I’m still doing normals. Had some really horrendous runs (pugs) where the tank dropped like a brick (like you said) in space. This has been in situations that it didn’t matter whatsoever if I played safe (mana wise) or just spammed my fast and big heals like a madman on uppers.
    And of course “you can’t heal for sh*t!” or “don’t buy chars at ebay you f*****g moron!!!” and comments like that followed.
    I’m a somewhat modest guy but I know it’s not lack of skill. It’s the really nasty gray zone between the ding and the gear, and I hate it.

    So… this read felt really good.
    I’m not alone.

    Thanks!!!!

  20. marie says:

    I was nodding my head the whole time reading this. I’ve usually been a holy priest but then I started playing my -other- priest (level 74 disc/holy) more, and forgot how to heal holy. So it was a bit new for me to be doing disc at level 85 when I decided to stay permanently disc. I love the headsup macros idea, thanks! And it really is comforting to know that I’m not the only one struggling with mana. I came away from a chain of failed dungeons the other day feeling like I must be the worst healer alive, and thinking never to play with my priest again (even though I LOVE my priest). Then I met a very patient PUG group thru LFG (yes they actually exist!) who made sure that I keep my mana topped up between pulls. We made it through with no deaths on the last 2 bosses of Lost City, though everyone was less than 30% health :P

    Having that sort of a group and reading posts like this made me feel less alone and fail. I’ll continue to work on my healing and be awesome heals one day! <3

  21. Chris Morales says:

    This hit really close to home.
    Been trying to heal heroics as a disc priest for a few days now. Still no completely finished ones, though we made it all the way to Assan last night only for me to be inncesantly statoc clinged. :(.

    I hope our bubbles get buffed, its like it only takes 1 hit to dissapate the bubble..
    and in Pvp we stand no chance/

  22. Nick says:

    Hi guys, I also love my priest but am extremely annoyed at how it is in Cata, and I love/hate that other people are feeling the same! I just needed to vent like everyone else on here.

    1- I am sick of everyone blaming the healer! I can only spam like 8 flash heals and then im almost out of mana lol. And tanks come in with no dodge etc and expect me to heal them! Dps stand in goo and expect heals, and the huge health pools mean i need a crap load of heals to top someone off.

    2- Greater heal used to completely heal someone, now it does didly! It is embarrassing after a wipe when people are on half health and expect you to heal them then you chuck a greater heal on them and it adds like 1/10 hp to them! lol. I feel so ashamed. (plus then i need to drink lol)

    3- Divine hymn sucks balls and should be our uber heal but can barely heals people

    4- Groups INSISTING that we do commander springvale, which is almost impossible as a disc. Then the tank points the purple wave shit at everyone.

    5- And today the SHIT fire mage (8k dps) needed my spirit cloak in zulgurub. Saying he “needed it for enchanting”. FM(wow preist)L. Who needs to disenchant!!!!!!!! I got absolutely no support from the group. So next time the tank pulled I watched them all die then left. hehe. Seriously we are so ripped off.

    One positive thing i have found in five mans is smite healing. It does more than heal and uses less mana. Plus i am helping kill stuff. I even had a higher dps than a tank today lol.

    Also (im almost 100% sure) we are ll shadow as well. And what blizz did to them is so sad. They are TERRIBLE at pvp now and so shit at dps. Why wreck one of the the most fun classes is beyond me. And believe me i would know i sompletely levelled my priest as shadow in battlegrounds lol. And dominated.

    Ok thats me. Hopefully we will get better soon.

  23. Deimos says:

    Poor shamans

  24. hi says:

    This turned up in Google when I searche for “Disc healing is hard in cata” LOL. I tried to heal my first Cata pug and I was like , whoa, this is tough. I have not played in a while and so I ignored spirit gear, that was a big mistake, but ya awesome post. I think im just going to go SP to get the gear, it’s so much easier it’s not even funny.

    ps. I got booted out of my first pug as healer even though I healed through 3 bosses and no one died, and there was no resting, lol.

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