Not everyone dedicates the entirety of their Warcraft life to the incomparable experience of being a Discipline Priest.
I can’t explain it, but there it is.
Recently the difficulties associated with playing an alt- long-forgotten, rolled to fill some raid niche that evaporated, miraculously reaching the level cap by picking flowers- were brought home to me when I picked up my dusty mining druid and determined to shape him into a lean mean healin’ machine.
Things went badly. Okay, more than badly. I didn’t know what to spec, I had no idea what a healing rotation even looked like as a druid, and I was- to my shame- booted out of my first pug after two rounds of trash.
To my delight and pathetic gratitude I stumbled upon Tree Bark Jacket’s wonderful Resto Druid Cheat Sheet. Specs immediately become clear, spells made sense, and I stopped wearing cloth.
I asked Keeva of Tree Bark Jacket if I could steal her layout to similarly assist those 85 Disc Priests who needed similar help -the short, sweet version of How To Disc- and she graciously allowed me to lift whatever I could carry.
May this be of some use to you in your new- or continuing- journeys as a priest.
These builds are now active in patch 4.0.3. You can add onto them- without respeccing- in Cataclysm, when the level cap increases to 85 and you can pick up the last four talent points. Consider them a starting point for experimenting with all the fun new elements of the disc priest!
This build includes many talents familiar to WotLK disc priests, including Improved PW:Shield, Grace, Rapture, and Divine Aegis, among others. I’ve also picked up a few new talents:
Darkness: Improves spell Haste by 3% (Shadow)
Power Word: Barrier: Summons a barrier in a certain location that shields any friendly target within it.
Soul Warding: Reduces cooldown on PW:Shield by 2 seconds.
This build should feel very familiar to current Disc Priests. For variation, I’d recommend dropping 2 points of Veiled Shadows (Shadow; reduces cooldown on Fade and Shadowfiend) for two ranks of Inspiration (Holy; increases healing of Holy heal spells).
Prime: Glyph of Penance, Glyph of Power Word: Shield, Glyph of Power Word: Barrier
Major: Glyph of Mass Dispel … and the rest currently suck for us; try Dispel Magic and Holy Nova, just for giggles
Minor: Glyph of Shadowfiend, Glyph of Fortitude, Glyph of Shackle Undead (I’d switch this one out with Glyph of Levitate, but it’s a personal preference)
SAMPLE BUILD #2: The Smite/Shield Hybrid Disc Priest (aka SMITESPEC)
This build is highly experimental; Blizzard clearly wanted PvPing Disc priests to do more damage through the use of Smite, as you can see from the inclusion of a number of new talents (Evangelism, Archangel, and Atonement). This might also be a nice leveling build, enabling a dedicated Disc priest to heal through 5-man instances and solo quest without changing specs. New talents include:
Evangelism: Increases the damage and decreases mana cost of Smite, Holy Fire, and Penance each time you cast Smite (or Mind Flay).
Archangel: Consumes your Evangelism effect so that, rather than increasing the damage, etc., of your next Smite (see above), restores a percentage of mana and boosts your healing effects.
Atonement: Heal a nearby target (or yourself) for 80% (40% for yourself) each time you Smite.
For a possible variation, I’d consider dropping 2 points in Darkness (haste increase) for two points in Veiled Shadows (Shadowfiend and Fade cooldown reduction).
Prime: Glyph of Penance, Glyph of Power Word: Shield, Glyph of Renew
Major: Glyph of Mass Dispel, Glyph of Divine Accuracy, Glyph of Smite
Minor: Glyph of Shadowfiend, Glyph of Fortitude, Glyph of Fading (all that Smite-ing’s going to be generating threat that you’ll have to control much more than the Shield build)
Don’t be afraid to play around with the new talents; good luck and have fun!
WoWphiles made the tactical error of inviting Liala from Disciplinary Action on to their show to discuss the changes to the Discipline Priest class in 4.0. We had a great time talking about disc healing and you can check out the podcast in its entirety at the WoWphiles site (and once and for all answer the burning question: is Liala really a burly northern Canadian woodsman or a Japanese schoolgirl?).
WoWphiles is inviting three spec experts per episode until they get through them all. This, the first of their podcast series, explores Disc Priests (with yours truly), Survival Hunters with Bliky from One Man Raid, and Protection Warriors with my personal Prot guru, Linedan from Achtung Panzercow.
If you’ve already listened to the show and would like more information on the topics I discussed, please check out:
In the interests of science and complete impartiality (Disc roolz!), I imposed on a fellow guild healer, Anna, to convince those spastic disc priests among us to give an off-spec Holy build a try. Her reasons are awfully compelling, and if there’s no Anna in your own guild– well, an offspec Holy might be just what the doct- … er, healer ordered. Thanks, Anna!
Liala posed me the question, rather, suggested to narrow this post down, “Why would I off-spec into Holy if I have a Discipline spec already?” Rather than focus on talent differences, which WoWWiki, Tankspot, and other places have flow-charted for your use, I’m going to give you a more practical reason.
The obvious reason is to inflate your epeen. Holy priests will always have bigger numbers than a Discipline priest. Greater Heal crits for 20k or more aren’t uncommon in ICC, even without using all the buffing talents (if you max Empowered Healing, 25k is much more likely). While there are fights where shielding is better than healing (such as shielding before decimate, or Anub-Arak in ToC), there are a few fights where it’s alllllll about the green numbers (Dreamwalker). But if your epeen IS squirting out green maybe you should get it checked out.
Wait I think I had a point here…
Shortcomings of being Holy:
Expect to lose your big single-target power. Holy can single target pretty well, but will play it much tighter with much less wiggle room than Disc. can. Tanks don’t appreciate hovering at 40-60% for long periods of time, even if you have it under control.
Expect your mana pool to shrink. Holy priests rely on their rapid mana regeneration rather than replenishment to keep casting heals. The pure intellect, low spirit gearing of Disc. priests will result in a quick OOM if you are in a healing intensive fight.
Expect it to be harder to get into groups if you decide to main this. Unless you are guilded and can have that committed spot open, most PUG groups and PVPers will mock you for being Holy. Be prepared to deal with it.
Advantages to Holy in PvE:
Enjoy the ability to make it look like a lot of work without actually doing anything. In five mans, with a sufficient amount of spellpower, prayer of mending and the occasional Renew will be enough to carry you through most of the launch-Heroic dungeons, so if you like taking 30-40second breaks at times, be merry!
Access to a wide range of smart heals. Prayer of Mending and Circle of Healing, along with intelligently timed Renew and Surge of Light procs, allow you to keep your overhealing at a minimum (and anger your fellow healers, always a plus. In fact I’ve managed to keep Liala’s overhealing in Disc over mine in Holy on quite a few fights, at which point she asked me to write this column and politely thanked me for settling the abortion issue for her. THAT’S why we have Desperate Prayer *taps her own forehead* See? Always thinking ahead)
Most importantly, a Disc Priest is pretty locked into their “style” of healing. It’s mostly about spamming PWS, and Renew when called for, and usingPenance, PoM, and Flash of Light to pick up the difference. Holy Priests, on the other hand, depending on how they choose to gear and cycle spells, can alternate between being weaker versions of a Disc. Priest, Druid raid healing, Shaman tank healing, or Paladin healing, or being a mix of all four, as they generally are. If a situation calls for it, rotations can be 1) Keep Renew on, Flash Heal x3, Greater Heal for tank healing, 2) Apply PWS and Renew to all raid members before a major burst of incoming damage, 3) Use PoM at the right time to blink it between two tanks taking shared damage, mimicking two earth shields, 4) With a highly stacked crit rating, use Empowered Renew, Circle of Healing, and Prayer of Mending on a target taking massive damage, possibly proccing a Surge of Light on each cast for bursty, paladin style heals, or 5) Use a combination of Holy Nova, Circle of Healing, Prayer of Mending, and Prayer of Healing to burst heal a raid group spread over a wide area that almost no other class can match, with perhaps the exception of Tranquility.
Obviously a Holy Priest will usually fall between these extreme healing styles for the greater part of any fight. Part of the mastery of Holy is learning which spells to use, in which sequence, will net the greatest benefit. Holy is more forgiving than Discipline for not anticipating damage early, this is true, but true experts in its use are thinking ten, twenty, thirty seconds ahead so they can line up the appropriate self-buffs in time so that Surge of Light is up, Prayer of Mending is off cooldown, and Serendipity is stacked to the max when they really need it. Holy does not possess as many cooldowns as Discipline, so the lack of OSHIT buttons must be compensated for.
But if you’re willing to practice, all in all Holy healing is just more versatile. Disc focuses on amping up three or four key spells to extremes, while Holy buffs about seven or eight major spells to lesser degrees, with the expectation that you’ll use them all, even on trash fights, in rapid succession.
PvP Holy is full of the same pros and cons that PvE comparisons have, with a few additions.
You will take more damage, and therefore much easier to die. Rather, you’re given more chances to die than Disc. priests are, since Disc has that nice cushion PWS gives for a brief moment.
Holy has slower heals-per-second/absorption-per-second than Disc does, at least in small scale fights. You probably shouldn’t trade in your shield for dueling, 2s, 3s, or maybe even 5s. Holy PvP is mostly suited to large scale, 5s and Battlegrounds and Wintergrasp.
On the plus side, 3seconds off PoM’s cooldown is invaluable, Empowered Renew, Circle of Healing, and Holy Nova can be spammed to proc Surge of Light for more instant healing. It’s, again, not as strong as a Disc. shield, but it can be kept up consistently, without that nasty 15second cooldown.
Holy is not as susceptible to dispel mechanics as Disc. (but it still hurts!)
Holy has some neat utility for allies in Body and Soul. Giving your allies a mini-sprint can give them a chance to get away from the fire long enough to get that extra heal off, or catch up to that BLOODY COWARD WARLOCK who keeps running in circles around your paladin friend. The ability to cleanse poisons off yourself doesn’t hurt either against Hunters and Rogues.
Finally, to dispel the myth of being squishy, Blessed Resilience is not credited enough where it’s due. Against classes that hit small and often (Rogues, S-Priests, DW-DKs, Affliction Locks) gaining immunity from Crits can destroy their entire strategy, making that ticking, little white damage almost a non-issue.
Again, your biggest heals are slow and easily interruptable, so in small groups this won’t excel, but if you plan to random BG a lot, or just camp Wintergrasp for a weekend, you might consider going Holy for grins.
In summary, it’s really all about taste. Discipline is definitely more user-friendly, but Holy has a subtlety to it that not every priest is man enough to tame. It’s like the difference between the corner hooker and the geisha. One is more talented and varied in personality and looks, while the other has a more direct, effective path to what you want. It’s personal taste and should be selected partly on the company you’re keeping.
As you work on creating your character, you’ll find yourself faced with a dizzying array of numbers and acronyms. Buzzwords fly around like mosquitos in August: Stam, Haste, spell Crit and holy Crit, Spirit and nerfed Spirit.
It can all get a little confusing.
QUICK STATS CHEAT SHEET
Intellect: Size of your mana pool & strength of spells
Haste: Spell casting speed.
Crit: Chance to cast a more powerful than normal (critical) spell.
Spirit: Mana and health regeneration rate
For a standard, endgame level 85 discipline priest build:
Intellect > Spirit > Haste (to 22%) > Crit
If you’re having trouble running out of mana:
Spirit > Intellect > Haste (to 22%) > Crit
FINDING YOUR STATS
The Blizzard-run WoW Armory will be a powerful ally in figuring out the whys and wherefores of your character statistics, otherwise known as your stats. When you log into or just visit the armory, you’ll search for your own character name and choose the correct realm for your personal ‘Ihealunoobz’.
You’ll find your base stats section here:
Also known simply as your ‘stats’, your base stats include the six main combat components of your character: strength, agility, stamina, intellect, spirit and armor.
Strength (STR): Increases your melee power, block power, and parry rating.
What Strength Means for Disc Priests: Nothing.
Agility (AGI): Increases your ranged attack power, armor, weapon critical hit rating, dodge, and armor rating.
What Agility Means For Disc Priests: Nothing.
Stamina (STA): Stamina determines your available pool of health.
What Stamina Means For Disc Priests: In the theoretical world of PvE raiding or instancing, your health pool won’t be an issue. You’re a clothie, at the back and squishy as hell, protected by a die-hard phalanx of plate-wearing warriors whom you trust to throw their dying corpses in front of enemies to protect you.In reality, however…When one is running PUGs for leveling or profit, frequently the discipline priest finds that he or she is at the mercy of a tank with very low aggro-holding abilities. And almost all raids these days have at least two bosses with guaranteed, uninterruptible area of effect damage spells (bone spikes, anyone?). In either case, it’s very nice to stand up to slightly more abuse than an average cloth wearer.
Staying alive means more time healing, less time running, and less money spent on repairs.Because of all that, I tend to stack Stamina to an unseemly degree. And if you’re running PvP battlegrounds or arenas, it is, of course, a no-brainer.
Intellect (INT): Intellect determines your available pool of mana, your chance to score a spell critical strike, and mana regeneration.
What Intellect Means For Disc Priests: Intellect’s powerful effect on your mana pool is, to me, deeply reassuring. Perhaps it’s the placebo effect, but just a small increase in my mana pool really calms me down in large fights. In case you were curious, Intellect also determines the rate at which your weapon proficiencies increase, so feel free to order a Knuckle Sandwich.
Spirit (SPI): Health and mana regeneration.
What Spirit Means For Disc Priests: Spirit is a tricky stat for discipline priests. Holy priests are far more dependent on spirit, as their more-powerful spells take longer to cast and require more mana. Disc priests, on the other hand, have an arsenal of lightweight and fast-casting spells, mainly of a preventative nature, with far lower casting costs.We’re less likely to have mana issues, and as a result I tend to give up increases in Spirit for increases in Intellect. When I do find myself running out of mana more often than I’d like, I prefer to increase Intellect- and grow my available mana pool- over Spirit.
Armor (ARM): Physical damage mitigation.
What Armor Means For Disc Priests: While I always enjoy the opportunity to be slightly less squishy (see Stamina), I tend to let Inner Fire and party buffs fill my armor needs.
Your spell stats include the six main casting components of your character: bonus damage, bonus healing, hit rating, spell critical chance, haste rating, and mana regeneration.
If a different set of stats than the one pictured here is displayed on your WoW Armory page, click the left or right arrows (next to the word ‘Spell’ in the picture).