The Discipline Priest Rotation in 4.06 & 4.1: Raids and Instances

Some very major changes came down the pipe for Discipline priests in WoW’s 4.1 update. Our bubbles got stronger, but  don’t last as long. Prayer of Healing got a nerf; Renew got a buff. Prayer of Healing gives a better Divine Aegis bonus. It’s time to re-examine the rotations we use in instances and raids.

I’m not usually one for a ‘rotation’ guide, but as I’ve been leveling a mystifying druid lately- and desperately looking for such a thing as I do (a bear can be a warrior tank OR a rogue?!)- I’ve come to look more kindly on the idea of looking at someone’s rotation with associated explanation. As such, these are not hard rules about what you must be casting, but rather a starting point to get you comfortable enough with your arsenal of spells to build upon.

For reference, my spec and current gear is here on the Armory.

INSTANCES, NORMAL OR HEROIC

1. When you zone in, cast Inner Will on yourself, and Power Word: Fortitude and Prayer of Shadow Protection on your group.

2. Before the tank begins to run (or as he’s running, if he won’t give you a ready check), cast Power Word: Shield and Prayer of Mending on the tank.

3. When the tank begins to take 15%+ damage, hit Inner Focus and then Greater Heal. Keep Power Word: Shield up on the tank at all times. Try to keep Prayer of Mending up on the tank; it’s useful to have your sound on for this, as you can hear the jingly-shoosh noise it makes as it jumps from target to target. When the noise stops, I reapply the Prayer of Mending.

For big heals, use Penance. For small heals, use Flash Heal or Renew. Personally, I never, ever use Flash Heal and would be hard-pressed to find it on my quickbar, but we’re all supposed to shun Renew (I LOVE IT!).

Every time Inner Focus comes back up, hit it and use Greater Heal on the tank.
Every time Pain Suppression comes up, use it on the tank.
Every time Power Infusion comes up, use it on yourself.

Don’t be afraid to apply a Renew to the tank if the group as a whole is taking heavy damage and your attention is split; it will give you a small buffer of heals if you look away from the tank’s health for longer than you should.

4. As you’re keeping your bubble and PoM up on the tank, watch to see who else in the group is taking damage. In a good group that’s the tank and possibly yourself; in a great group, it’s just the tank! Back in reality, though, it’s probably going to be you, the tank, and another melee DPS.

Put a bubble on the melee DPS who is taking the damage, and possibly a Renew for insurance. Use Penance on the melee if they’re taking a lot of damage, but hopefully you won’t have to do that too often.

If you’re taking a lot of party-wide damage, don’t be afraid to put out a few more bubbles. We’re not back to the Wrath days of being able to spam Power Word: Shield on every group member all the time, but it’s still our best tool. Trust your Prayer of Mending to hit lots of targets, healing as it goes, if you’re taking a lot of group damage, and keep it up at all times.

If you can spare it, use Inner Focus and then Prayer of Healing as your big group heal, but don’t expect miracles. It’s slow and it does not do a whole lot of healing. At best it’ll keep everyone alive long enough for Penance and Renew and PoM to make the rounds to pick everyone back up.

5. Keep the tank alive, and then yourself alive. If the tank goes down and you have a tough melee DPS like a DK, they are now the tank. Treat them thusly.

RAIDS

1. During the buffing/eating/waiting for people to pee phase, buff the group with Power Word: Fortitude and Prayer of Shadow Protection. Use Inner Will on yourself.

2. Ask for healing assignments. Druids and shaman should be on the raid; discipline priests and paladins should be on the tanks. Holy priests can go either way*.

If you’re running 10 mans, you’re going to be running with two or three healers.

If you have two healers, one of you should be assigned to the tanks and one to the raid. Ask to be assigned to the tanks (unless your other healer is a paladin, which is going to suck for everyone).

If you have three healers, a healer each should be assigned to the tank and off-tank, and the third should be on the raid.

If you’re assigned to the raid despite the maximum amount of QQ you can generate, don’t panic and see below.

*Disclaimer: I’m going to get a lot of crap for this in the comments, and I’d like to  deflect some of that by recognizing that (a) Paladins are not crap raid healers, as much as I dislike them as people, (b) discipline priests used to be perfectly fine raid healers, but now we simply are not, and (c) if you have no druid or shaman you are not completely screwed, just mostly screwed.

3. Don’t forget to flask and eat.

4. TANK HEALING: On the plus side, tank healing in raids is much easier in lots of ways than healing an instance because in theory you’re going to be focusing on one person; at the same time, it can be more challenging because you don’t have complete control over the healing of the raid that you have in an instance.

This leads to a healer-centric phenomenon that I think of as the Savior Complex. You’ve slogged through 85 levels of misery, the lone healer of your group, and you’ve become conditioned to save EVERYBODY ALL THE TIME! The fate of the world rests on your shoulders!

The problem with trying to save everyone in a raid is that you simply can’t, of course. You have to actually trust other healers, those useless bastards, to do their job. It’s incredibly difficult to let go of the fear that everyone will die if you don’t heal them, but let go of it you must.

If you are healing both tanks, three people exist in the raid: the main tank, the off-tank, and you.

You cannot spare the mana to assist anyone else in the raid, with the possible exception of a bubble every now and then on the raid healer. If the boss gets loose and starts savaging a DPS or two with no regard to the tank waving his hands up and down, sure: you can jump in and start healing that DPS. The raid has just gone all weird, and no one’s going to blame you for wiping it.

However, there’s a big difference from the boss actually getting well and truly loose and really focusing on a DPS, and occasionally turning around to playful maul a DPS with his amusing razor-sharp claws just for the fun of it. The only way to know the difference is to run the fight a few times, or watch a few different versions of it on YouTube. (“Is he hunting down that deeps or just playing? Oh, just playing- Magmaw, you fool for comedy!”).

Until you get a feel for that part of the fight, just focus on your assigned tank(s) and self. No one else.

When the tank begins to take 15%+ damage, hit Inner Focus and then Greater Heal. Keep Power Word: Shield up on the tank at all times. Keep Prayer of Mending up on the tank at all times.

For big heals, use Penance. For medium heals, use Heal. For small heals, use Renew.

Every time Inner Focus comes back up, hit it and use Greater Heal on the tank.
Every time Pain Suppression comes up, use it on the tank.
Every time Power Infusion comes up, use it on yourself.

Keep a bubble up on yourself and possibly on the other healers if they need it.

5. RAID HEALING: You’re not completely screwed, believe it or not, if you’re assigned to heal the raid. Take a deep breath and remember that these guys aren’t going to be taking nearly the damage that the tanks will.

Before you start, look at your raid composition and mentally or physically separate out all the melee DPS. Melee DPS are warriors, DKs, rogues, druids dressed up like cats, and paladins.

I physically move them in my raid frame box to one side (the right, if you must know), leaving myself and the other ranged casters on the left.

The melee DPS will be taking the most damage in most fights, generally because they draw aggro away from the tanks more easily than ranged DPS.

Once you drag all the melee to one side, you’ll see when the fight starts that they’re taking most of the damage among the DPS, and that one or two of them is taking most of that damage. Occasionally a big damage-taker turns out to be something weird like a warlock; in that case, I drag the warlock over to the right with the melee and mentally treat him as a melee for the rest of the raid.

You will not have the attention or mana to heal the other healers in this raid. You also do not have big, raid-wide heals that will incidentally keep them going.

You must warn the other healer(s) that you will not be able to heal them. This is more important than you might think, as some people (paladins) will not be paying attention, not to mention it’s just plain polite.

Now that you’ve effectively erased both tanks and any other healers from your mind, you’re facing a situation that’s actually not unlike healing an instance. You’ll get one (or two) DPS who routinely draw aggro; treat them as your new tank. Bubble the most aggro’d DPS and apply Prayer of Mending religiously (ho ho ho).

For big heals, use Penance. For medium heals, use Heal. For small heals, use Renew.

Every time Inner Focus comes back up, hit it and use Prayer of Healing on the group.
Every time Pain Suppression comes up, use it on your most aggro-ing DPS.
Every time Power Infusion comes up, use it on yourself.

Pray.

IN CONCLUSION

4.a brought the strength back to our bubbles, and I love it for that, but, like you, I hate it for the nerf to the length of bubbles. Disc is a tough spec to master, but so worth it as it just gets stronger and stronger with gear.

If you find yourself really struggling in instances or raids, do ask yourself: is my gear really good enough for this? What can I improve? Is my build all that it can be? Disc priests are extraordinarily gear-dependent- perhaps more than any other class- and it’s impossible to hide behind bad gear in our spec.

Soldier on, noble discos, and keep those bubbles popping!

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30 thoughts on “The Discipline Priest Rotation in 4.06 & 4.1: Raids and Instances

  1. Yay! Thank you for this. :D

    Picked up Disc healing again last night on my level 61 priest. While Outland dungeons are pretty simple and nothing to stress about, I believe that it’s important to get into good healing practices early, rather than being inefficient and only realizing it at level 85.

    I will try your rotations in future dungeons and hopefully they will stick in my head by end-game. :D (Actually, it’s more a matter of “hopefully my keybinds will stick in my head by end-game.” xD)

  2. Criamond says:

    Thanks for the info. I leveled to 85 as holy/shadow spec and after some aborted dps attempts in heroics when I didn’t feel like healing, dropped shadow and changed to disc. Disc has been great for PvP, and lately have been trying to heal instances with it as well, since to be honest, Holy healing is kinda boring to me now. I’m hoping your insights here will help me drop Holy altogether.

  3. zelmaru says:

    You forgot when we’re supposed to smite (HAHAHAH)

    I can has macros?

    /cast inner focus
    /cast greater heal

    And then…

    /cast [target=charactername] Power Infusion
    /cast Power Word: Shield

    Or macro power infusion to another frequently used spell. Whateva!

  4. Noooo! I don’t wanna tank heal!

    Okay, given my raiding team, I’m probably not going to have to, but this begs the question…
    What’s the place of a disc priest in a 10 man with a holy pally and either a resto druid or shaman? I tried holy, I hated holy, and I was not good at holy. In ICC, I was bubblespam woman, and occasional face-melting. Now I’m almost full-time facemelting, simply because I can’t justify my being included in the healing team over the druid or shaman. Any ideas/suggestions?

    • I’m sorry, I’m sorry! And these days it is- yes, it is!- possible to raid heal… but that bubble nerf in 4.1 might put the kibosh on that caper (good lord, I need to take a break from the Orc Detective).

      If you have a holy pally and a druid (or shaman) on heals in a raid group, you are- and I hate to say this- probably for it. You won’t be able to raid heal as well as the druid or shaman, and your best bet is to displace the pally. For that to work, though, you’d need to really be interested in tank healing, which may or may not suit your play style.

      Otherwise, I’d say your best bet is to be the tank or off-tank healer on a particularly heal-intensive fight, with the pally on the other tank.

      Good luck, and let us know how it turns out!

  5. TheGrumpyElf says:

    Thanks for the how to. I got my Priest to 85, got it heroic geared and then left if there. Have not played it since. Now that some fixes have been made I am going to pick up on it again.

    BTW, love the PoM line, don’t hear it, reapply it, the Prayer of Mending sound is my favorite sound in game.

  6. Jasyla says:

    Always interesting to see how other people heal. I do it very differently (I love Flash Heal. Fast = good).

    One spell I find is often ignored is Binding Heal. It’s great for increasing your output when multiple people are taking damage(as long as you are one of them, obviously).

    Also, for raid healing, it’s always good to cast a PW:S before every PoH for the haste, and make sure your parties are set up to maximize the effect of PoH.

  7. Deana says:

    Oh yeah, disc is BACK. The amount of absorb healing we do is crazy. But then of course so are the health pools. I was outhealing pally heals over 2 to 1 because of shields. This is a very power heal spec now. I am so in <3 with my priest I (ahem) started another. Good blog. Thanks, Disco.

  8. Rezznul says:

    “… if you have no druid or shaman you are not completely screwed, just mostly screwed.”

    Or, you have me in the raid, just the former. :D

    It’s so nice to have a Disc priest to team up with, I love it. :)

  9. Furrgie says:

    Thank you so much for this post!!!! I never played a healer untill cata came out and rolled a worgen priest and went disc becuase I was playing with a rl noob who wanted to be a pally and we were supposed to lvl together. Needless to say, he got his ps3 fixed and quit playing and I had chosen disc so I could do dps and heal him at the same time. I continued to lvl the toon, ignoring my main, and now Im hooked on disc healing. Have found your site very helpfull through goodtimes and bad.

    Any chance you could do a post on disc healing macros, if you already havn’t.

    Thanks again!!!
    Furrgie

  10. Ameara says:

    Thank you for this guide! It saved the day when this Shadow priest was required to heal a 4-man Crucible of Carnage today. We all survived! :)

  11. Ihra says:

    Wait so…is archangel/atonement dead as a doornail with 4.0.6? Or you just prefer this way?

  12. Airheart says:

    I am also interested in Smite. Do you use it? if not why not? Is cheap to cast, gives you mana back not much but some, Give you a boost to healing if needed, and also heals your lowest target in the group. In 5 man heroics it is my main go to spell. I keep 5 stacks up and if the Sh!t hits the fan wambo I have a 15% increase to heals, a boost to my small mana pool and can usually heal through the crap. I am amazed at just how much our spells cost when you hit level 85. I was healing dungeons at level 83,84 and never had to stop to drink. Now that im at 85 and healing the same dungeons I’m stoping to drink every 5-10 minutes. Hope that will change when I get some better gear :) Great post have been looking for something like this for some time now. Keep up the great work

    • Gilliam says:

      It definitely does get easier once you starting farming some gear from dungeons and factions. At gear level 349 (no raid gear) the only time I have to drink in a heroic dungeon is after a boss fight, or a terrible pull. The mana return from AA may seem small at first, but I receive almost 5k mana back from it now. That’s equal to a mana potion every minute. Add in Rapture procs for 6k and you’ll see your mana bar wiggle back full most fights. Power Auras are a great tool to keep track of these. With an easy focus or assist macro you can weave in Smite easily.

      • Great insight on the SmiteSpec! I’ve all but abandoned it myself, but it’s a style issue more than anything. I hope it’ll continue to be a viable Disc Priest option, and look forward to a little more tweaking on Blizzard’s part.

    • I don’t use the SmiteSpec any more, though I had it off-specced until last week. It just didn’t suit me, but I recommend this guide from Righteous Orbs if you’d like to know more about it.

  13. elapo says:

    so, what with the duration of PW:shield coming down to 15 sec? how bad d’you think it’ll be?
    I don’t want to be forced to go holy :(

    btw: do paladins even have to look at their own health? i mean, their self-healing is retarded OP, due to 1 talent in the first tier of their holy tree >.>

  14. Holyshinto says:

    So I had one concern with your guide. You recommend Pain Suppression on the tank every CD while in 5 mans. Now, I certainly see the upside of your tank taking less damage, but you must consider the other side of this argument as well, the instant 5% threat loss. Unless your tank has an ungodly amount of threat on EVERY target or your DPS just totally blows, you’re asking for trouble. Sure, you save some mana from the tank not getting hit as hard, but if he loses threat to a DPS who then starts getting facerolled by an add he now has been tagging instead of assist targeting, you’ve just increased your mana usage by a ton. I can actually see this being more beneficial in a raid where the tank should have a massive threat lead to begin with.

    For myself, I use Pain Suppression more like a pally tank would use Hand of Salvation, to reduce threat AND lower the dmg taken of a “hot” DPS or as a secondary Fade for myself should the need arise. I would say if you are considering using this on your tank, be sure you are running a threat meter like Omen so you know what to expect in terms of threat loss.

  15. Trip says:

    Good work. A few things:

    1) Penance should be used on CD if you’re having mana problems, although the insta-Grace and pret a porte healing is certainly a boon for “oh shit” situations.
    2) I would say the same for Pain Suppression, though I’m really glad to see you advocating the Power Infusion-on-CD school of thought, tempered by logic, of course.
    3) Renew, aside from in a supplementary role, is useless in raid content as Discipline. You need its glyph slot, you’re not stacking to the haste soft cap because mastery is absolutely critical, and Heal, with the Strength of Soul implications and the fact that, at my gear level, anyways, one actually gains mana spamming it. And, finally….
    4) PW: Barrier is a strategic device. Think phase two of Cho’gall or phase one of the AC. With the glyph and your raid healers’ AoE healing, it is hands-down its most mana efficient use, as well as (almost) always being the best use of a CD.

    A few devices:

    1) Use Power Auras for Penance, Prayer of Mending, and Power Infusion as they’re all being used on CD (or, in Penance’s case, almost always).
    2) An aura tracking Rapture’s ICD is nice too, although rare will be the time that it’ll have any impact on your casting in a raid. Useful for pre-healing/decisions regarding regeneration cooldowns.
    3) Use an IF macro for Inner Focus with Greater Heal, Flash Heal and Prayer of Healing. It has no global cooldown, and theorycrafting has established just how. Much. Effing. Mana it saves.
    4) The Hymn of Hope/Shadowfiend is a pretty common tactic; use

    /cast Shadowfiend
    /petattack

    to cut out the ridiculous step of finding the “attack” button. Such a dumb attribute for a pet that just up and disappears after a few seconds…

  16. Luiz says:

    I must say the humor is awesome. “There’s three people in the raid.”, I loved it!

    On a more serious note, I find it quite difficult tracking PWS. Possibly I’m not focusing on either the raid or the tank, but on both instead (and so I end up performing like crap). 5man’s are fine as of now (smite healing quite a nice job with the benefit of debuffs on the mobs), LFR’s… not quite that fine.

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