Monday, October 7, 2013

[5.4] Discipline Healing Basics

Penance: It's what's for breakfast.
Remember last week when I promised a Discipline basics post? Well, here we are.

  1. Gearing
  2. Enchants
  3. Gems
  4. Glyphs
  5. Talents
  6. Rotation
  7. Buffs

As of patch 5.4, Discipline priests desire the following stats:
  1. Intellect
  2. Spell Power
  3. Critical Strike
  4. Spirit (until enough, see below)
  5. Mastery
  6. Haste
Experienced healers from other specs or patches may notice something odd here: I have Spirit listed below Crit. This is no mistake, Crit is extraordinarily strong for Discipline, particularly with rising levels of Mastery (like we have all over our tier 16 set.) It directly produces additional absorbs, rather than healing, and increases the likelihood of refreshing old absorbs. Both effects go a long way to reducing overheal and they buffer your raid against mistakes. Attempt to collect an entire set of gear with Crit on it (except tier, obviously.)

This priority assumes you're wearing 530+ gear. If you're a fresh level 90, prioritize Spirit over Crit until you have enough mana to last an entire fight. On the subject of just gearing up, the healer 4-piece tier-14 bonus is amazingly powerful, particularly for Atonement DPS and movement fights. It's about as good as LFR tier 16 gear.

New priests (and non-priests) often have an issue with what is and isn't Discipline gear. In general, Hit rating provides almost zero benefit for priest healers. Do not take Hit gear. On the other hand, gear with neither Hit nor Spirit is not only useful for Disc, but even something you will specifically want. If you wore Spirit in every slot, you would have way too much mana. Non-Hit, non-Spirit gear is fair game.

Legendary Capes

Jina-Kang is the default healer cloak. Use this on fights where raw healing output is important.

Xing-Ho has been getting a bit of attention around the blogosphere as a viable cape for Disc healers. It offers an amazing 20-25k DPS on most fights, and can trigger Twist of Fate semi-automatically. The extra Crit (vs. Spirit) on it is also a point in its favor. It is a viable, albeit situational choice. Consider carrying both capes and swapping them out like talents.


You'll want to enchant your gear before heading into a raid. Use the following enchants, unless your profession gives you a better one:

Be sure to fill your sockets. If you can't afford rare gems, buy cheaper uncommon gems instead. In general, the lower-quality gems you're using, the more important it is to match the socket color. (Socketed items come with a Socket Bonus, some bonus stats you get for filling the sockets with gems of the same color. You are not required to socket gems that match the color; sometimes filling in with other gems is better.)

The DPS legendary meta may look tempting, but between GCD capping 1.5sec casts and instant spells and needing way more Spirit, it's actually worse than the 3% crit metas!


With the new (actually, it's getting kinda old, can I still call it "new"?) glyph system, most glyphs are situational and/or a matter of taste. Still, I can offer some recommendations:
  • Penance - This is the only glyph I'm going to list as mandatory. While it does have obvious value on movement fights, I'm going to quote what another priest once told me, because he said it best: "It's not so much that you need to move while casting Penance. It's just that once you do, you'll never want to go back."
  • (Holy Fire) - Optional: Helpful if you would sometimes be out of range, and want to use Atonement. Useful in particular on Kor'kron Dark Shamans.
  • (Inner Fire / Inner Sanctum) - Optional: Both provide a multiplicative 6% damage reduction to either physical or magical damage. Consider using one or both if you're taking a lot of damage or dying on a fight. Note that even though Inner Sanctum uses the Inner Will icon, you have to use it with the Inner Fire stance to get the damage reduction.
  • (Binding Heal) - Optional: Greatly increases the HPS and HPM of Binding Heal. Consider using it if you find yourself casting Binding Heal a lot, and there are other injured targets that can use the healing. Beware, the heal is NOT smart: it picks the closest player to your target that's not at full HP. It doesn't prioritize heavily-injured targets.
  • (Weakened Soul) - Optional: Great if you have multiple Disc priests in the raid, or if you cast PW:S a lot. If you're playing the bubble-spamming style (not recommended), consider this glyph mandatory.

Level 15 Talents
  • Void Tendrils is the only talent from this tier useful in a raid. Of note, it can be used to immobilize General Nazgrim's adds (and reveal the assassins), Seigemaster Blackfuse's bombs, Garrosh's adds, and tends to work well on trash, too.
Level 30 Talents
  • Body and Soul is the default movement talent for Discipline. It is strong because it attaches a free sprint to a healing spell, and a good healing spell to a sprint. Basically, its advantage is that it allows you to both use it and produce some healing in the same global cooldown.
  • Angelic Feather, on the other hand, offers twice the total movement distance per cast, and the ability to repeatedly use it on the same target (usually yourself.) It is powerful for heavy movement fights, particularly Thok the Bloodthirsty and H Lei-Shen.
Level 45 Talents
  • Solace and Insanity is nearly-mandatory for Atonement DPS. Its inherent mana return is smaller than Mindbender, but it removes the cost of Holy Fire, making it nearly twice as good for mana. The reduction in Spirit needed to remain mana-stable contributes more damage than Mindbender does directly, too.
  • Mindbender grants less mana than Solace and Insanity if you're casting Holy Fire on every cooldown anyway, but more otherwise. If you're not keeping Holy Fire / Solace on cooldown, every cooldown, this will serve you better.
  • FD,CL can be useful for bursty random-single-target or tank damage, however, the fights in Siege of Orgrimmar don't cater to this, except perhaps Thok the Bloodthirsty, where the instant procs will let you ignore the frequent spell interrupts.
Level 75 Talents
  • Due to the extremely-frequent and smart nature of Atonement heals, and the fact that Atonement double-dips on the buff, Twist of Fate is of surprisingly-high value on virtually all progression fights if you're using Atonement. Even if not, the recent buff to its uptime, and the huge number of add fights in SoO makes this a great talent overall. You do, however, need to pay attention and hit the dying adds to trigger it. Combos well with Solace, Divine Star and/or the DPS legendary cape.
  • Power Infusion offers less total throughput, but can be better if you can make good use of the burst to deal with specific fight mechanics. Its strength lies in the control of its uptime.
  • Divine Insight offers an extra PW:S opportunity after every Penance. This has similar applications to From Darkness, Comes Light.
Level 90 Talents

All of these talents have been heavily buffed in 5.4: they all now hit the entire raid (range permitting) and do not suffer diminishing returns. Additionally, the shift to Crit over Spirit means the typical overheal from these talents leaves behind many large shields on the raid. These talents will form a huge portion of your healing, make sure you think about how to use them well.
  • Divine Star hits all targets within a narrow 30-yard long rectangle in front of you for about 60k healing, twice. Of note are the low mana cost, poor AoE, low cooldown and multiple hits. The shape of the AoE limits its usefulness to stacked fights. The other factors make it great at maintaining Twist of Fate and stacking Divine Aegis on your raid. I strongly recommend this talent whenever your raid's strategy permits its use.
  • Cascade is pretty automatic, and will almost always hit the entire raid, regardless of positioning. It loses effectiveness if your raid is close together, however. It is best used on fights where the raid is very spread out, such as Siegemaster Blackfuse.
  • Halo is the big and bursty version of Divine Star. Its long cooldown, huge healing per cast, and superior AoE make it effective for countering large raid damage bursts, particularly when Spirit Shell is not applicable. Use it whenever you need immediate, unpredictable healing on lightly-spread fights. Notably, it is great for handling Immerseus' adds, as it instantly slows everything in the burst, DPS and Healing adds alike. Beware that it does maximal healing at 24-28 yards, keep this in mind; targets in the center will miss the heal.

As a healing spec, Discipline priests must be fluid and adapt to changing circumstances. Here, I'll list a set of tactics to apply to 4 different common healing situations.

Filler (Light or no incoming damage.)
When the raid could use your damage more than your healing, use Atonement spells to help the DPS attack the enemies.
  1. Penance (Offensive)
  2. Holy Fire / Solace - Note that if you find yourself casting this a lot, you should probably spec into Solace and Insanity.
  3. Divine Star - If you're specced for it, shoot this at the thickest crowd of enemies and players you can find. It'll stack shields on them, protecting them for when the damage starts up again.
  4. Smite
When one player is taking constant heavy damage, Atonement is often too weak or unreliable to do the job. You'll need to cast heals directly at the player. The spells marked in italics have a long cooldown and should be reserved for extremely intense damage.
  1. (Void Shift) - If the player is on the brink of death, you can give them your health bar. As you inherit their health percent, this is not to be used lightly. Often ignores healing prevention mechanics (but not on Malkorok!)
  2. (Pain Suppression) - Note that this is off the global cooldown. You can and should use another spell immediately after. Use for intense damage.
  3. (Spirit Shell) - Similar to Pain Suppression. This is usually reserved for AoE healing, but it's about as powerful as Pain Suppression at saving a single target. Cast immediately before Flash Heal or Greater Heal if you're going to use it.
  4. (Power Word: Barrier) - Can be used for a single-target if everything above is on cooldown.
  5. Inner Focus - Similar to Spirit Shell, but only boosts one spell instead of 4-7 spells. Cast immediately before Flash Heal or Greater Heal.
  6. Power Word: Shield
  7. Penance
  8. (Flash Heal) - Expensive, but more powerful than Greater Heal. Use if the incoming damage demands it.
  9. Greater Heal
Note: Some priests use Heal. Don't; it's terrible. If damage is so light that you can Heal, then you should be using Atonement instead. The same idea applies to Renew.

Here's where most of the healing demands in normal-mode SoO are. Whenever there's multiple people hurt, hit them with one or all of the following until they aren't all hurt anymore.
  1. Divine Star / Cascade / Halo
  2. (Power Word: Barrier) - Similar logic to Pain Suppression for single-target healing.
  3. (Prayer of Mending) - If the injured players are taking frequent periodic damage, this will bounce around. If not, it might not go to full use.
  4. Prayer of Healing
Shields Up, Captain
Often, a better way to deal with AoE healing as Discipline is to shield against it in advance. You can use the following methods to ward you raid before the bad things happen.
  1. Spirit Shell + Prayer of Healing - Combine with Inner Focus and Archangel, if available.
  2. (Power Word: Barrier)
  3. Power Word: Shield (with Rapture available)
  4. Power Word: Shield - Given spare mana, you can PW:S the entire raid if you're caught without a cooldown and large damage is incoming.
  5. Overhealing - With high levels of Crit and Mastery, casting overheals can also stack shields. Use this as a last resort in case you run with multiple Disc priests and thus PW:S is not available.

Using Archangel

Archangel provides a potent (particularly so with current tier) healing boost on a short cooldown. Use it as often as possible, particularly in conjunction with other healing cooldowns. In order to do this, you need to use Atonement spells to stack Evangelism. Try to at least fit in Holy Fire / Solace on cooldown, and consider making some of your Penance offensive ones. Note that the "10% crit" from the new tier is actually "2% crit per Evangelism spent." You'll want to stack it to 5 before use most of the time.


Make sure you have the following buffs on you. These are all buffs you can supply to yourself.

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