Monday, January 24, 2011

Impressions on Discipline Healing Raids

The other day I decided it was time to stop being a wuss and give discipline healing a real, honest try in raids. How could I call myself a dedicated priest healer otherwise? I had been chickening out from it for too long, and now that I heard changes where coming around the corner I realized this was as good a time as any to get an idea of how disc healing works at the moment, so that I at least know what difference the improvements (as I hope they will be) have made. It's not quite this simple of course. In a 25 man there are 24 other people to take into consideration. I don't know how many would jump with joy when I announce that there might be some wiping, but at least I am getting the hang of discipline healing! There is no denying discipline is performing a little less good than holy right now. But wait a minute, is it really?

I hadn't planned for it initially, but when my raid started we decided to begin with Halfus, the one boss where discipline really, really shines and actually outperforms most other healing specs. And once he was down I thought I'd be a little wild and crazy and try discipline for a fight that is rather movement and aoe-heavy, Valiona & Theralion. When things didn't go miserably bad (for one the Engulfing Magic was no trouble at all when playing disc since we don't have any hots up) I decided to stick with it and see how far it could go. I ended up doing entire Bastion of Twilight and Argaloth as a bonus, and I must say... I loved it. Yes you will end up last, or at least further down, on the healing done meters. But who cares? Discipline is a strong healing spec, and I am ashamed I ever doubted it. Ok, before I go religious on you let's see if I can take a step back and look at this objectively. What where the good and the bad things?

That's a disc priest kicking ass

The good things
There are a couple of things I really enjoy with discipline healing, when compared to holy healing. As I have mentioned before, not having to keep track of your chakra stance is one of those things. Also discipline healing comes with a little more oomph. You actually do feel like you'll save someones life when throwing those Penance and Greater Heals, instead of just throwing a bucket of water on a blazing fire like holy is doing with their Heals. Unlike holy I can actually save someone from the brink of death without having to spam my mana pool out. My initial impression was that discipline aoe healing was alot less good than holy, but that's not entirely true. It wouldn't suprise me in fact if Prayer of Healing is better, yes you heard me right, when cast by a discipline than by holy, thanks to all the Divine Aegis procs (don't forget to glyph it). We can cast just as many PoH when being disc as when being holy, so there is no difference in the amount of healing that spell can do in a fight depending on spec.

And let me get to the best part of it all - the bubble (aka Barrier). Can you imagine how much damage it prevents when you throw it on ~20 stacked people who each take some 10k ticks per second on Cho'gall? I'd like to see another healer beat those hps. Unfortunately the barrier won't show on any meters, since it prevents damage, and you won't get any of the glory (unless you tell people about your awesomeness). Timing and placing of a Barrier really makes a huge difference and is one of those defining factors between a disc who knows what to do and one who isn't so sure yet (I placed one on the wall while raiding so I'm still probably in the latter category). Another impression I had from discipline was that it was way less mana efficient than holy, I oomed faster it seemed. It couldn't be further from the truth. When raiding now I spammed heals like there was no tomorrow and still rarely went under 70-80% mana on most fights, and that's not even bragging. They placed me away from the mana tide group (we were 6 healers) since I obviously didn't need it. With buffs like Power Infusion I can decide for myself when I want my own little Bloodlust for those heavy to heal moments (and it also eases up on mana consumption).

The bad things
There are a couple of things I feel like I lack, or like I really could've needed in some situations when playing disc. But none of these are horrible, none of them are things that make the spec useless or puts it into situations it can't handle. For one I miss my lightwell. But people suck at using it anyway, so that doesn't matter much for overall healing. Secondly I miss my Circle of Healing, but on the other hand I can just spam Holy Nova instead, problem solved. A poM and a shield here and there... there's plenty to do! Thirdly, and this is the worst one, I miss my Body & Soul. No more slacking around for me and saving my own ass in the last minute by using B&S to get out of fire. But if all the other healing specs manage so will I. Overall these are mostly due to me being more comfortable with holy healing right now.

So how come holy still outperforms disc?!
Holy is easier. I have been saying it over and over. You don't have to know much about holy to do a good job, just know to use CoH each cd, PoM each cd, keep your lightwell up (which people use for you) and spam PoH and you're set. And remember to keep the right chakra. With the extra mana regen holy have they don't even have to think much about mana! Discipline on the other hand is about keeping track of Inner Focus, knowing when to best use it, when to best use Barrier, using shields when necessary but not otherwise, using Power Infusion at the right moment (love that spell btw). No it's not that tricky either, but it's trickier. And like I said, don't forget alot of what we discipline priests do doesn't even show up on logs! But there is another thing. Unlike holy priests, the signature discipline priest spell Barrier, scales better the more people use it. There is no other healing spell that works like this. Barrier reduces damage taken by 30% for 10 seconds, and will also make anyone in it will not have their spellcasting interrupted. This is independent on the amount of targets. You can have 100 people take 100.000 damage each and the Barrier will still reduce damage taken by 30% for 10 seconds. Add a player and the Barrier just scales straight up in effectiviness. Add to this the glyph that increases healing taken by anyone affected by 10% and things go mindboggling. But it also means that the discipline priest is alot more efficient in 25 mans than in 10 mans. In a 10 man you can hope to have some 4-8 people within the Barrier, depending on fight. This can easily reach above 20 people in a 25 man. That will more than double the effectiviness of the Barrier, and easily make it the most efficient "healing" spell in the game when used at the right time. If we could only calculate the amount of damage such a barrier could reduce, I am sure discipline priests would be  alot higher on the meters than they are now. Why not try to find out?

Caustic Slime does 322000 damage per target (4) on 25 man. That is 1288000 damage split on 25 players, which is 51520 per player, sounds about right? What if we could reduce that damage by 30% for two slime bursts?
1288000 * 2 = 2576000
2576000 * 0,3 = 772600

A well timed Barrier would prevent nearly 800.000 damage over 10 seconds. That's 80.000 hps exactly when you need it, yeah baby.

Blizzard knows of this and it is therefore they're not giving discipline huge buffs but moderate ones to make the spec a little more user friendly.

Discipline doesn't shine until there are many enough people to feel the absorbtion love. But discipline is definitely not far off from holy, and if you're playing a dedicated discipline priest I can only say, don't think less of your spec - it holds awesome potential. After the raid the other day I was excited enough to exclaim "I'll never go holy again!".

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