Sunday, January 9, 2011

Discipline Priest Healing Heroics

So I've finally got around to writing this post. It's not that I didn't feel like it, I just really wanted to get the hang of disc healing before I tried to say anything about it. There is alot to think about when disc healing, and as many of you will know by now, my first try at it didn't go very well. Fortunately that was more due to bugs than stuff actually working as intended and just suck. Disc is doing great now (at least in comparison to what it used to) and most importantly, it's loads of fun.

Disc vs Holy
Yeah I know I just said disc is doing great, and I stand by it. I'll still tell you that if you had to choose and wanted to go the easy way, go holy. Holy has two things going for it that makes it an easier spec right now - better mana regen and better aoe healing. That doesn't mean you'll wipe as soon as there is some aoe damage or go oom after every fight in a heroic, definitely not. But holy is easier when handling these areas. Also I think the holy mastery kicks ass (leaves a hot on everyone based on all your heals) while disc mastery doesn't kick as much ass. Hots is the shit, and disc don't have very many of them. But, if you preferred holy I suppose you wouldn't be here! And don't worry, changes are coming around the corner.

Good things about disc healing
One thing I really love about disc healing is that I don't have to think about which Chakra stance I am using. Although I like the chakra mechanic, not having to bother with it does feel like going on healing vacation. Also, disc is loads of fun, seriously. Keeping track of synergies and cooldowns will make sure you'll never bore. There is alot of potential in disc healing. The healing style of disc healing is more fun than holy imo. Casting Greater Heal and Penance is alot more fun than that wimpy Heal that holy have to use all the time. I've always liked shields more than I like renew. I realize this is a matter of taste, but there is a little more oomph in disc healing than holy healing.

Bad things about disc healing
Like I mentioned, you quickly notice some problems with disc healing when it comes to aoe damage. If there is high aoe damage and you have to run, you've got a big problem. The best thing you can do is spam Holy Nova and hope you've got time to throw a Prayer of Healing soon. Another suggestion is applying shields to everyone, but remember now that we have 1 sec cooldown on our shield, so it's not as spammable as it used to be. Another issue, that fortunately is really minor but bugs me endlessly nonetheless (it's always the little things right?) is how your char turns toward your Penance target. This is rarely a problem, but when you're totally used to being able to face any direction and healing you'll get annoyed by the fact that Penance actually forces you to face a certain way. Fortunately it doesn't force you to face a certain direction to be cast, that would be insane. But it will spin your character around, and in some fights this really becomes a problem. I remember how much this bugged me in the last phase of Yogg-Saron where you have to look away when he does his mad cackle. Every other healer could use their heals as they liked, but I had to make sure to time my Penance between the cackles, or my characters would start facing Yogg-Saron in the wrong moment. I said it was a minor problem, but yet again so unecessary!

Evangelism and Archangel?
Contrary to what I had hoped for, this isn't going to be part of your base healing rotation. Smiting is a bonus, something you'll do only when you have time for it. I have accepted this, and once you do you'll see the benefits from it. You won't use Atonement often, actually you can go through any heroic without ever using it. You don't gain that much from the Archangel buff, and even if you did there are few moments where you'll have time enough to get a 5 stack to use it properly. That being said there are moments where Atonement is just frickin awesome. Anytime your target takes additional damage is such a time. Suddenly Atonement goes from a clunky, tiny heal to a, albeit still clunky, huge and great heal. I've mentioned it before, but on a fight like Halfus, who takes like 100% extra damage or more depending on how many dragons you kill, Atonement suddenly becomes the best point heal ever. So although the situations where atonement shines are few and scattered widely, they do exist. And the rest of the time it can keep us occupied when we feel like we have little to do. Overall I don't feel like this combo is worth the 5 tp it needs, and I personally don't use it.

Inner Fire vs Inner Will
What I said in my post about holy healing pretty much goes here as well. Although we have slightly less instant heals when disc, the main reason to use Inner Will over Inner Fire is for the extra run speed. Especially since we don't have a talent like Body & Soul, you will learn to love Inner Will. I use it alot when instance healing since most boss fights require me to run around. I've written a little about this in another post as well, but it's even more important with fast positioning as disc than with holy, because our best heals come with a cast time.

Disc healing is alot about maximizing the use of different synergies that we have through our talents. The way you talent will affect this alot of course, but here is the talent spec I've based this on. Either you agree with me on that spec or not, what we really have to look at is the synergy between Renewed Hope, Inner Focus and Train of Thought, because that will be what you'll base most of your healing on.

Renewed Hope - Increases the crit chance on targets affected with Weakened Soul debuff by 10%.
Using a shield on your target before healing will increase the chance you'll crit a heal which also increases the chance that you'll get a Divine Aegis shield on the target. Although this doesn't necessarily mean that you have to throw a shield on anyone who's taken some sort of damage before you heal them, it definitely means that you'll want to keep your main healing target (usually the tank) shielded. Shielding will also proc Rapture for you, so shielding one target is actually very mana efficient.
Inner Focus - Reduces the mana cost of your next FH, BH, GH or PoH by 100% and increases the crit chance by 25%.
More chance to proc Divine Aegis, and more mana efficiency with free casts!
Train of Thought - You have 100% chance when you heal with Greater Heal to reduce the cooldown of your Inner Focus by 5 seconds (also lets smite reduce cooldown on penance, but you won't use this as often).
Greater Heal is only slightly less mana efficient than Heal, and by using it in combination with Inner Focus it actually becomes as mana efficient. The only drawback of it that it isn't lowered by Prayer of Healing. I really hope they change this to make disc aoe healing better.

How mana efficient is spamming GH and Inner Focus you ask? Well I tried some number crunching and got some interesting numbers. But I warn you, I am completely daft when it comes to numbers and this is merely a rough estimation than anything worthy of EJ.

Inner Focus has 45 sec cooldown and each GH cast will reduce the cooldown by 5 sec. Depending on haste we have to take into account the time we use casting the spells (in which the cooldown will tick down as well). Testing shows I need 6 casts before I get a new Inner Focus (2,2 sec cast time). If I get one free GH or PoH (they basically have the same mana cost) every 6 casts, and GH costs roughly 5,500 mana that would be about 1800 mp5. But it's not that easy. The faster we want Inner Focus off cd, the more casts we have to use. That means that eventhough the mp5 of Inner Focus goes up the more GH we use, so does our mana consumption. Even if you didn't understand anything of what I just said you can rest assured that for most healing situations in heroics, mana won't be a big issue for you. Like I mentioned, Inner Focus will also increase the chance for Divine Aegis and Inspiration procs which also increases your mana efficiency indirectly. As long as you remember to use it, it's great.

Strength of Soul - Will make your Heals (and soon also Greater Heal and Binding Heal) lower the duration of the Weakened Soul debuff on the target by 5 seconds, allowing you to use shields more often.

At lower gear levels using Strength of Soul becomes tricky. Until they have changed it so that GH/BH works for it as well, you might find that Heal is just too weak, and the shields are just too expensive to use this synergy to the max. This will become a great synergy later on however, as your gear improves. When you have decent mana regen and decent spellpower you will find this to be the core of your healing rotation.

"Rotation" is merely used as a word to indicate in which way you should prioritize your spell casting. Eventhough healing has become more rotation like now than it ever was (due to us trying to keep up buffs and stuff) it's still mainly situation based. The main portion of your healing in heroics will be based around the synergies described above. Choose Inner Fire or Inner Will depending on how much you have to move around.

  • Easy damage on tank and group - Keep Shield up on tank, use Penance each cooldown to keep Grace up on tank. Roll Heals and use Greater Heal whenever damage spikes. Use Inner Focus each cooldown (you can keep it up eventhough you don't expect to cast a PoH/GH immediately). If the group takes moderate damage simultaneously, use PoH.
  • Medium damage on tank and group - Same as above, might want to use PoM as well depending on damage type (ie if everyone take continous damage or not). Save Inner Focus for PoH casts.
  • Heavy damage on tank - Same as above, consider using Pain Supression and/or Power Infusion.
  • Heavy damage on group - Keep PoM up, keep Inner Focus on cooldown, spam PoH. Consider using Power Word: Barrier if the situation allows it, ie people are standing fairly close to eachother. If people aren't stacked it's still worth using on a few targets though. Should use Power Infusion for faster and cheaper PoH.

Skills, and when to use them
In some cases we use our spells just as we would when healing as holy. There are big differences in main spell usage however. (This is subject to change, and I intend to update it when it does).

  • Heal - Your basic heal..
  • Greater Heal - Your basic heal, when the target takes slightly more damage. Unlike Heal it's not effective to spam unecessarily, both because that would mostly lead to overheal and because the mana cost don't allow us to combat regen it back up while casting as with Heal. It still should be used whenever there is room for it and as often as possible in combination with Inner Focus.
  • Flash Heal - Is fast but very costly. Should only be used in emergencies.
  • Prayer of Mending - Alot of healers are using it like they did in Wrath, aka always keep it up on the tank. PoM heals for about 1/4 of a Greater Heal and costs little more than half which means it's little less than half as efficient when bounced on only one target. You should try to limit the use of this for fights when you know at least two players will take continous damage. Most trash pulls won't require you to use PoM. It is pretty safe to use for most boss fights however.
  • Prayer of Healing - Your main aoe heal and used quite often for healing both in heroics and raids. Basically costs as much as greater heal, and heals for about half (per target). As long as more than two people have taken damage this skill is more efficient than Greater Heal (given that everyone is within range for the heal). Should be used in combination with Inner Focus as much as possible, even over Greater Heal.
  • Binding Heal - About as mana effective as Greater Heal and should be used whenever you and another target have taken enough damage to fit this.
  • Shields - Far from as used as it was back in Wrath, but still part of our core healing. Should be up on the tank all the time, and can safely be used on any other target taking moderate to heavy damage.
  • Barrier - Is a great skill that should be used whenever the tank or raid is taking a little extra damage. It has a really short cooldown so don't be afraid to use it.
  • Power Infusion -This used to be reserved for a good caster dpser of the group, now you should see it as one of your most powerful healing cooldowns. I nearly never use it on a dpser anymore, as good healing is almost always more important (and more difficult) than good dps. Use it whenever you intend to spam some heals for better mana management and healing throughput.
  • Divine Hymn - Extremely mana efficient and works wonders in heroics when people are taking heavy damage.


  1. I'm just wondering why Disc doesn't use Heal? It seems like for priests that is the basic spam heal spell that would be most mana effecient.

    Forgive my ignorance, I've just got my Priest up to 60 and I'm trying to learn the techniques to heal when I'm 85

  2. @misterjones
    It's a great question, since it's about the core of disc healing. This is how I've thought about it anyway;

    Heal is actually not a very good spell. It's slow and small. But it is also cheap. You are definitely correct when you say that it is our most mana efficient spell (not counting spells like Lightwell), and once you get enough spirit you won't even loose mana from using it (you regen as much mana as it cost while casting). Mana efficiency is one important aspect of healing, but it won't matter much if our most mana efficient spell won't keep people alive. The healing throughput of Heal is... well quite sucky tbh (especially before you've got a nice amount of haste). But when healing as holy we have many benefits from using Heal. It allows us to be in Chakra: Serenity which gives us the Serenity heal (awesome heal that), increases the crit chance of our direct heals by 10% and refreshes Renew. So even if Heal isn't very good, we use it when healing as holy because of all the extra goodness we get from being able to be in the Chakra:Serenity stance.

    We get none of the above buffs when using Heal as disc. So then we've got a bad heal (albeit still mana efficient), and no bonuses. So instead we look at Greater Heal. It's not as mana efficient as Heal, but not far from. When combined with Inner Focus it becomes just that - a Heal times three (healing thorughput wise and mana cost wise). Inner Focus allows us to use Greater Heal, which has more throughput than Heal, and bringing it down to the mana efficiency of Heal (at least damn close to).

    We have to look at the synergies of each tree, and holy benefits from the usage of Heal while disc benefits from the usage of Greater Heal instead.

    Hope you got some answer to your question :)

  3. Yeah but what about heal reducing the CD on power word shield? If you take the talent then heal reduces the cd by 5sec ( i think). Not the cd to cast PWS but the weakened soul i think it is called. So for that it is usefull. after i shield i heal x2 and can instantly recast shield if need be which in cata dungeons I find VERY useful.

  4. @Nrthrnlights
    The Heal+Shield synergy by reducing cooldown on Weakened Soul is indeed not a bad combo. However I feel like the Weakened Soul crit buff+Inner Focus+Greater Heal with Train of Thought is a better combo.

    Like I explained for commenter misterjones, Heal is actually a rather weak spell. Even when holy I often feel like it doesn't cut it to handle the damage to a tank in a heroic, and have to throw in bigger heals. We have alot of bonuses from it and to it when being holy, but only one - that of lowering Weakened Soul debuff, when being disc. This buff is only useful if we want to cast alot of shields, which I don't think we want to do (mostly out of mana efficiency).
    My Heal has a HpM of 4,5, GH 3,8 and Shield 2,6. This is not taking into account the free GH I get through Train of Thought which increase the overall hpm of GH. It won't be as mana effective as Heal, but close enough, in my opinion.

    But, they will change shield efficiency in the upcoming patch, which may, or may not, make shield "spamming" more viable. I will test it when it comes and see what I think. Until then GH and Inner Focus has served me better in heroics.

    A big part of what makes healing so wonderful is that you can tailor it somewhat to your playstyle however, and if you think Heal+Weakened Soul+Shields work better, it probably does.