In short, it's pretty much as it was pre-patch, only more. Shields are extremely good (so good I am smelling an incoming nerf), Penance is worthwhile and disc might just have climbed from last on the throughput lists to second at least.
Healing wise it hasn't changed much. We pretty much will go about doing things as we have before, we'll only notice that we do it better. My shields have gone from some 10-15k absorbs to nearly ~40k absorbs (30k outside of raids). Combine that with Strength of Soul (which in pve works exactly like before) and you can pop a new shield on your target every ~7 seconds at least. That does give some nice hps on the right type of fights.
I'll expand on the "right fight" a little. Shields have become our best and most awesomest spell overall. That also means we will shine the most on the fights where we can expect people to take damage and be able to keep shields on them. Maloriak is a great example. We have three targets at least that will take continous and definite damage - the three tanks (25man). Keeping shields on them and rolling Heals to reshield will prove to be extremely effective. On fights where we don't get to use many shields, our healing does become notably less effective - like if you're put to heal a group on Chimaeron. Only before a Massacre will you know that someone of your assignments will take damage for your shields to soak. During Feud shields are too slow to be used, they're still not supposed to be used for aoe-healing. Shields have become good enough for a little "spamming" though. If we know more than the tank will take damage and Prayer of Healing won't be usable (because people are too spread out), using shields is a good subtitute. One example are the platforms on Nefarian, especially in 10 man.
I argued that the nerf to PoH will be most notable to Disc healers since we don't have CoH to fall back on. And PoH is noticeable less effective now. I remember doing a heroic and when using PoH I thought "what the heck, why doesn't it heal anything? Ah right, the changes...". It's not really that bad, but you can tell that it heals for less, but I don't think anyone of us thought we wouldn't notice a 15% nerf. Disc aren't supposed to be good aoe healers, so I think the changes are ok considering how strong we have become at single target healing in return. This does mean however that if disc healing ever were supposed to be put on tank healing duty, this is that time. Our healing throughput is lowered significantly at any time that we can't use our shielding effectively. That being said, PoH is still one of the best aoe heals in the game, and now if they could only make it "smart" instead of party-bound I'd be really happy.
Pros of disc healing 4.0.6
- Extremely powerful singletarget healing. Best of all healers now?
- Absorbtion will always be the most effective way of healing since it actually "removes" damage instead of "repairing" it afterwards like conventional heals.
- Although we're not awesome at healing on the run, we're still probably not the worst at it. Shields are instant after all.
- Relies heavily on Shielding. Any assignment or fight setup that requires us to do something other than shielding will gimp us.
- Still not very good at aoe healing (but still decent enough).
I know meters don't say it all, but they do give a good example of how disc has changed. We used to be at the bottom of healing done, because our throughput wasn't very strong. Our heals were mostly slow and/or small and still aimed towards single target healing, which just didn't make us able to deal with any healing role very well. We are still aimed towards single-target healing, but have become alot bigger heals.
These logs from a run through BWD the other day can stand as an example of the "new and improved disc priest" (yes I will spam you with logs because I love analysing them myself ;) ). If you find numbers extremely boring, you can jump this part. The other priest on the meters was holy.
|Magmaw - Loads of aoe healing and movement gets PoH and Shields up there.|
|Omnotron Defense System - Less running means more Heals which mean more Shields!|
|Maloriak - Very little running, many tanks taking damage making Shields extremely effective.|
|Atramedes - Lots of moving around, and Heal drops off the charts at once. Oh look, Holy Nova made it up on top 8.|
|Chimaeron - Some small point healing (I was assigned a group and not the tanks) and nuke aoe healing. Wait what?! I'm nearly at the bottom of healing done?|
|Worldoflogs, overall healing for the raid. I'm not at the bottom anymore!|
|Worldoflogs, skill usage. PoH and Shields at top. Take a moment to check out the overheals (I assume 12% overheal on shields mean they expired without being fully absorbed or something).|
Because disc healing has changed somewhat, there might be a reason to give some Prime Glyphs a re-check - which ones do we want to use?
Glyph of Penance:
Old - Was said to be one of the no-brainers, especially back in Wrath where Penance was a really powerful spell. In Cata and before 4.0.6 however, Penance was rather weak. As a commenter said it - it used to be on par, or better than GH, but now it's just not cutting it. Although that was true, Penance was still one of the few skills we had so glyphing it was still recommended. Do the best you can with something bad.
New - Penance is pretty much back where it was in Wrath, the big difference being that most of us had some 10% more haste (at least) back then and Penance used to shoot off like a rocket. It's still really slow, but post 4.0.6 it doesn't feel like your target might die while using it. Before the patch, the ticks of Penance were so small, and the spell so slow, that it couldn't be used to save anyone as it could back in Wrath. That has fortunately changed somewhat and although Penance still isn't the save-button it was in Wrath, it at least feels worthwhile now. Because it had been so weak pre-patch I often used it even when the tank had taken very little damage. That was one of the things I had to change post-patch!
Glyph of Prayer of Healing:
Old - Not only was PoH pretty much the only aoe-heal we had as disc (barely counting Holy Nova), it was also very powerful compared to most other healing classes aoes. Buffing it with 20% was making a great spell even more awesome, especially since PoH usually is one of our most important spells in raids.
New - As I said before, nerfing PoH means nerfing the glyph. But PoH still is our only aoe-heal and we still use it as much in raids, so in a way we need that 20% buff even more now. Overall this glyphs seems about as strong as Power Word: Shield glyph (this one being slightly better), so it depends on where you want to put that little extra oomph.
Glyph of Barrier:
Old - The Barrier is situational, but usually used when the shit really hits the fan. That is also usually when you could use 10% extra healing.
New - Not much has changed regarding the Barrier, if we wanted the glyph before the patch we have as good a reason to want it after.
Glyph of Power Word: Shield:
Old - Before the patch our shields were so weak that 20% healing from them turned out to be pretty much nothing in the end (kinda lika Empowered Touch talent for holy). This was one of the glyphs I decided not to use, in favor of Barrier, PoH and Penance instead.
New - Improving the Shields by ~200% means improving the glyph by 200% and that does sound very good in theory. But we have to stop a moment and think about how we use the shields. In most cases we use the shields as pre-emptive healing, that is part of what make disc healing so wonderful. And although alot of shields will be placed on targets that have taken damage, a whole lot will be placed on targets that haven't, making a big portion of the glyph heal overheal. We want our shields up on our target asap because of Renewed Hope. We could save our shielding for when our target has taken enough damage to fit those 5-8k, but damage is never that low in raids, and you want to get your Shields-Heals rolling if you're the tank healer. Waiting out on such a small heal as the glyph heal just isn't an effective way to heal. The glyph heal should be seen as a bonus, not something to actually change your healing for. For heroics I'd go with this glyph over Barrier, but for raids I'd probably go with the Barrier one instead.