So you've decided to level as a healing priest? If you also intend to do so partially by questing; congratulations, you've chosen what probably is the most tedious class/spec to quest with. I thought I'd make a little write up on how to gear, glyph, spec and heal with your lowbie healing priest, starting out today with Discipline and moving on to Holy another day (maybe tomorrow if nothing else comes in the way). Note that this is focusing on healing while leveling and will differ to what's optimal in endgame.
What is disc all about then?
A brief introduction to what you're about to experience could be a good start. I love priest healing, I have done it for the last 4 years (ish) and I'm still not bored one bit. Whenever a new expansion comes and I have to level my main I've so far always leveled her has a holy smiter (I'll get into this spec in my post about holy healing). On the other hand I've never ever leveled another priest beyond level 70. Considering I am an altaholic this is extraordinary. I have tried, a couple of times, both as shadow or as the aforementioned smiter, but I must tell you - lowbie priest questing can be really boring. Why is this?
Although Blizzard have made considerable changes to the mana using classes, they still have alot of issues. Paladins and hunters (hunter will soon get rid of their mana anyway) have mana problems too, but since they do alot of physical damage they're not completely left in the shit when they oom. Warlocks can convert health into mana, and even though life tap sucks pretty badly it's better than not having it (at least I think so). Also, warlocks have their pet who can continue doing damage (and usually also tanks them) even when they themselves have gone oom. Mages have huge mana issues at low levels, but they get Evocation at level 20 which at least is some help. Priests on the other hand, and especially healing priests, have nothing to help them with their mana issues until they get their Shadowfiend at level 66 (!). There are some talents that help you out somewhat, and I'll get to that soon, but overall mana is a real issue for a questing healing specced priest. The only ones who come close in mana in-efficiency are boomkins/resto druids who get their Innervate at level 40. I might've scared you off for good now, and maybe you really should consider leveling your priest as shadow instead (at least to level 40, then you can dual spec). But like I said, there is a reason I main a priest healer and if you really want to get to know everything about it, the best thing is to start as soon as possible.
So discipline, what's that all about? What makes discipline so interesting is their unique way of healing with damage absorbtion as main healing style instead of the regular "heal once the damage is done" healing style of all the other heal classes. As a discipline healer you can heal ahead of the damage, something no other healer can do. This is your trump card and in many ways it makes discipline healing alot easier than the other classes. The drawback of course is that it also can make discipline healing more boring. Blizzard have tried to not make discipline a shield spammer, but in the end this is how disc priests turned out. In endgame healing there are some fights where you don't do anything else than spam shields, and in most fights this will definitely be your core healing. Fortunately for me, I find endgame raiding challenging and intense in other ways (keeping track of game mechanics for example) which means that even if discipline healing can be repetative, it's still an interesting challenge to get it done right. I also have high hopes that Blizzard have made some changes to this healing style in Cataclysm!
In lowbie instances however, this healing style quickly becomes drably. Yet again though, it's a matter of taste - if you like neat and easy this is perfect. If you prefer to have more tools to work with, this will become tiresome.
For questing Discipline has several good talents that make things a little easier. First of all - the shield! Yeah, it will be one of your most important spells when you're questing as well. With a talent like Reflective Shield, shielding yourself will be part of your dpsing rotation. Discipline lacks some of the talents in holy that make you do more damage and give quicker casts with Smite, but instead you get talents that increase your mana regeneration and overall haste (which in the end are better since they affect all skills.)At level 40 you'll get Power Infusion which is great for both healing and questing. Your dps rotation won't differ at all from holy, and I doubt there is much difference in killing effectiviness. One thing disc can do slightly better than holy (but still not as good as most other casters) is killing several mobs at once. Since you'll have a powerful shield which also does damage, it'll be easier to fight several mobs. I usually don't use dots unless I am fighting several mobs, and as a healer specced priest you usually won't want to aggro that many.
Your dps rotation will be really simple and look something like this;
Shield - Holy Fire - Smite, Smite - Holy Fire as soon as it is off cooldown - Smite whenever Holy Fire is on cooldown - Wand mob to death the final percentages, or use Shadow Word:Death as a finisher (which you won't get until level 62 though).
Healing in instances will as mentioned focus on using shields. On lower levels Renew will still be a good spell (even if you haven't put any talents into improving it) and can be used as a filler. Otherwise you'll use Lesser Heal/Heal/Greater Heal whenever someone is taking alot of damage (this shouldn't happen all too often) and Flash Heal if you just want to top someone. Shielding isn't useful on targets that don't take continous damage, so if for instance the warlock is life tapping it would be better to throw some sort of heal on him.
- Shield - Anyone who is taking damage
- Lesser Heal/Heal/Greater Heal - Anyone who is taking more damage than your shields can handle or to top someone off who has lost alot of hp but who isn't currently taking damage.
- Flash Heal - Same as Lesser Heal/Heal/Greater Heal, less mana efficient but faster.
- Renew - To top off someone who has lost a little hp.
- Prayer of Mending - Once you get this it'll be one of your best heals. Only jumping once it's about as mana effective as a Flash Heal.
Gear & Stats
Gearing a disc priest is really easy. As you might have figured out - at lower levels you'll want intellect mostly, and all the spellpower you can come across. Even in endgame these are your two most important stats. At lower levels spirit is an ok stat, and not something you have to avoid, unlike in endgame. Spirit doesn't do much for you as a disc priest, but is a decent stat for any lowbie caster.
Important stats (in no particular order, because at low levels you'll want these equally much, at endgame spellpower is more important).
- Spirit (only when lowbie)
- Stamina (as always, it's good to be able to survive a blow or two, especially when leveling).
The ones you should take
- Twin Disciplines - isn't an awesome talent, but still better than the alternative, Unbreakable Will. Although reduced duration on stuns, fears and silence is good, it's only useful when you're stunned, feared or silenced. You won't be this much in regular instances. Straight buff to all your instant spells is pretty decent. That would be your dots, shields, renew and Prayer of Mending once you get that (at level 68).
- Improved Power Word:Fortitude - PWF is one of your best buffs, so improving it is very good.
- Improved Inner Fire - Inner Fire isn't awesome until it provides you with spellpower (rank 8 at level 71), especially not when doing instances where you shouldn't be hit. When questing it does lower your physical damage by quite some, so it's nice to increase the amount of charges on it (charges will be removed in Cataclysm, thank god). If you don't intend to do any questing at all, you might have more use of putting those two talent points into Unbreakable Will (but that means you would have to respec at level 71).
- Meditation - Increased mana regeneration will be your best friend. You need every drop of mana you can get.
- Improved Power Word:Shield - You're going to be a shield spammer, so you would want to make your shields as good as possible, this talent is part of that and also prerequisite for one of the most important talents as a disc priest - Soul Warding.
- Mental Agility - Reduces the mana cost on your shields (and renew and dots, see Twin Disciplines), which will synch very well with Rapture later on.
- Reflective Shield - You won't use this as endgame healer, but it's awesome when leveling. I really recommend getting this. If you don't intend to quest at all it might still actually be good, because in lowbie instances these kind of crazy tools actually make a difference.
- Mental Strength - Yet another talent that will synch with Rapture, and also Divine Aegis. The more intellect you have the more gain you get from skills like Replenish (which you don't have personally, but someone in your party might). High intellect is one of the discipline priests trademarks (more intellect = more crit and more regen).
- Soul Warding - Speaking of trademarks, this is it. This talent is the key talent that will allow you to be a shield spammer, so a definite must have.
- Focused Power - Yet another talent that increases your damage and healing straight off, which is nice. The reduces mana cost on Mass Dispel isn't useful for you now, but will be later on when raiding.
- Enlightenment - With this talent and Borrowed Time later on you won't need much more haste as a disc priest. The spirit is just a meaningless bonus :P
- Power Infusion - Whether you use it on yourself or someone in your group, this is a personalized Bloodlust (with reduced mana cost on spells as a really nice bonus) and an awesome buff. The cooldown isn't too long so this is a great tool to use when you need to push alot of healing.
- Renewed Hope - More crit synchs with Divine Aegis which is one of your most important talents. The reduced party damage is really nice too, there is alot of "healing" in that.
- Rapture - One of the most important talents a disc priest can have. If used correctly this can return insane amounts of mana (that is under very special conditions though). when you cross a certain amount of intellect, Rapture procs will actually return more mana than your shields cost to cast (unfortunately they have a cooldown to it now, it didn't use to have that!).
- Aspiration - Reduces the cooldown on some of your more important skills, and you want that of course.
- Divine Aegis - Combined with the shield, Divine Aegis will eventually turn into one of the biggest part of your healing. And it is passive in that it is applied when you crit (even Glyph of Power Word:Shield crits) with a spell. The more crit you have the better!
- Pain supression - The disc priest "oh shit" tool. Even though it reduces threat on the target by a small amount (for some reason) it is most often used on tanks (in pve that is).
- Grace - When doing instances you'll mostly heal the tank and the occasional life tapping warlock. For this Grace is a great talent. Actually Grace only becomes less useful when 25man raiding, since you rarely get the role as the tank healer then.
- Borrowed Time - Yet another butter and bread talent of disc priesting. Improves your shields, and by giving tons of haste when shielding it also improves all of your other spells.
- Penance - Eventhough alot of people think this spell is what being a disc is all about, it's not used that much when healing actually. When doing instances it's probably used alot more than when raid healing, but there is no denying that Penance is an awesome heal. Even with low haste it's a really fast and big heal, and that's always useful.
- Holy Specialization - Synchs with Inspiration and Divine Aegis.
- Divine Fury - You won't use this in endgame. If you're questing it's great since it reduces cast time on your two most important dps spells. If you're not questing you should go with Spell Warding instead.
- Inspiration - A great talent, because it reduces physical damage taken of your targets who've gotten a critted heal from you considerably. Unfortunately, Inspiration does not proc from Glyph of Shadow Word:Shield crits. By the time you're high enough level to take this however you'll probably be doing more than just shielding in instances.
The ones you could take - these talents are more of a matter of taste and depends a little on how you play.
- Inner Focus - A talent that becomes more useful later on. You probably won't use this much on lower levels. Most priests actually don't spec this at all, but I like it in combination with Divine Hymn (which is crazily expensive otherwise). But since you don't get Divine Hymn until level 80 you probably won't find much use for this talent.
- Improved Mana Burn - Quite useless for instance healing, but rather useful if you intend to quest alot (and even more useful if you intend to ocassionally pvp).
- Focused Will - Most endgame priest spec this because it increases crit with 3%, and hopefully you have realized by now that crit is a really good stat for disc priests! But as a lowbie you could place these talents somewhere else for now.
- Improved Renew - You won't use Renew at all in endgame, but when doing instances it's quite useful, as mentioned above. Therefore you might want to improve it.
- Healing Focus - Pushback can be really troublesome, and this is a talent I recommend you to take, especially later on when aoe damage becomes more and more common.
- Desperate Prayer - Many priests don't spec this, but I find it to be a great tool for survival. It's instant and it's a big heal, so it's like a personalized Nature's Swiftness+Healing Touch/Healing Wave macro! It has saved me -many- times when raiding, and I think it could be very useful when questing, or even instancing. You never know when you want a big instant heal on yourself.
- Glyph of Power Word:Shield - If you're taking any glyph, this should be it. It should be the first glyph you take.
- Glyph of Flash Heal - Makes the use of Flash Heal a little less costly.
- Glyph of Smite - If you intend to focus more on questing than instancing (which would be silly, since that sucks ;)), this is a nice glyph to make dpsing a little easier.
- Glyph of Penance - A must have glyph of any disc priest, since it improves one of your best spells.
- Glyph of Fortitude - Since you'll be casting alot of this spell, and it's rather expensive, this is a nice glyph to cut the cost somewhat. That way you won't stand oom when the tank does the first pulls.
- Glyph of Shadowfiend - Once you get this bugger, this glyph to improve him somewhat is nice.
- Glyph of Levitate - Removes the reagent cost from Levitate, which means you don't have to schlepp a bunch of Light Feathers around. And don't have to worry about accidentally being without one when you're falling towards the ground in 100 km/h.