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Discipline Healing Tips

Posted by Malevica on December - 15 - 2010

From following the EJ Discipline Compendium discussion, and from occasionally painful experimentation, I’ve settled on some basic tricks for getting started with Discipline healing in Cataclysm.


I’ve settled on a 33/8/0 spec, although the two points in Inspiration probably ought to go in Veiled Shadows Darkness instead. I’ve taken Inspiration to help the raid out.

Those two points have come directly from dropping Strength of Soul, and I’ll explain why.

Power Word: Shield is either used on the raid to mitigate predictable damage spikes, or on the tanks to keep Weakened Soul up. In both cases, reducing the duration of Weakened Soul can actually be a disadvantage, which is why I’ve not taken any points in Strength of Soul at all.

What’s more, with Train of Thought and Inner Focus macro’d to Greater Heal, the HPM of GH and Heal are essentially the same. As long as it won’t be overhealing, GH is the heal of choice because you need fewer casts and less cast time to put out the same healing, leaving you more time to think, or to do other things.
Limited Heal casts also reduce the value of Strength of Soul.

Early theorycraft suggested putting one point in Strength of Soul and using one Heal in the rotation in order to make the best use of the Rapture internal cooldown, but all that achieves is making PW:S closer to mana-neutral. It’s not necessarily wrong, but it’s not a big win either, and that point can be used elsewhere.

Raid healing

As much as it pains me to say it, you’ll probably find it easier to just suck it up and go Holy. I succumbed last night and the difference when I’m dealing with multiple targets is night and day.

(Cue the best part of an hour resetting all my bars from Shadow, trying to figure out how to make Holy Word: Chastise work, and setting up VuhDo and PowerAuras again.)

If you’re stubborn like me and really want to stay Disc, or you need to fill in the raid healing role in a pinch, here’s some basic rules:

  • Prayer of Healing heals for basically the same as Heal on each target, but costs just under 3 times as much. So if 3 or more people will benefit from the healing, use PoH. Remember that PoH can be used with Inner Focus to save you a chunk of mana, and you can use it with Power Infusion to speed up the cast and reduce the cost significantly.
  • If only one or two people will benefit from the healing, stick to Heal/Penance. It’s slower, but more mana-efficient.
  • If you can foresee damage PW:S isn’t a bad spell to use, especially if you can make use of the Rapture internal cooldown every 6 12 seconds. You certainly can’t spread this around the way you used to though, Rapture is what makes PW:S remotely practical.
    (Incidentally, I’m looking for a decent internal cooldown monitor, preferably without having to install ForteXorcist. Suggestions welcome.)
  • Renew is quite situational. It’s not as mana-efficient as Heal/Greater Heal if you have time to cast them (for me, 2.4HPM for Renew with Inner Will vs 3.33HPM for Heal), but it’s good if you’re on the move a lot and especially if you glyph it and drop a couple of points into Improved Renew (if you’re focused on raid healing, there are points you can free up.) [Edited, thanks to Aventera for the experience].

The thing that makes Disc more difficult in a heroic dungeon, where you’re filling both the raid and tank healing roles, is that unless you’re very good at anticipating damage you’ll probably end up using much the same tools as Holy for raid healing, only they’ll all be weaker than their Holy equivalents.
Add to that the fact that you’ll have 20% less combat mana regen and probably won’t have Replenishment to make use of Disc’s bigger mana pool, and it’s not an easy ride at all.

Oredith on PlusHeal summed it up neatly:

[Disc is] definitely viable, but you’ll work harder to make it so. If you decide to go that route, no one will fault you, but just keep in mind that there’s a path of lesser resistance.

Tank healing

Tank healing is a little more straightforward for a Disc Priest. Here’s my simple decision rules:

  • Start with Prayer of Mending and Power Word: Shield before combat, as always.
  • Get Penance on cooldown as your opening heal.
  • Keep Weakened Soul on the tank, and keep Penance and Prayer of Mending on cooldown.
  • If you can use Smite/Atonement, use that as your filler with Greater Heal when you need a catch-up.
  • If you can’t use Smite/Atonement (because the tank’s too far out or the melee are stealing your Atonement heals) use Greater Heal as your filler spell, waiting to cast it until it won’t be wasted. If the tank just isn’t dipping far enough to justify a Greater Heal, either just regen some mana or look for someone else to help out.

I intend to keep persisting with Discipline, feeling it out and refining my technique. It’s more work than Holy though, so I’ll be using both specs, following that path of lesser resistance, depending on what’s best for the fight. Ultimately, my guild comes before my attachment to a single spec.

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Categories: Advice and Strategy

10 Responses so far.

  1. Zinn says:

    I’m a little ashamed that I gave up on disc. But holy was just so much easier, you know. So I fled. Reading your post has given me some hope on disc, and it seems interesting in any case. Especially the Inner Focus – GH combo. I think my problem was that I tried to raid heal as disc, and that just didn’t work at all. I didn’t want to try to find my footing with disc healing mid raid so I simply chose to go Holy, where I at least have some clue as to what to do to be useful and not oom instantly, and I sorta got stuck in it. Thanks for giving me a thread to hold on to with disc healing, I was completely lost ^^

  2. Tyben says:

    I use SexyCooldown to monitor Rapture, because it is lightweight and easy to set up to show only the Rapture ICD.


  3. Zelmaru says:

    I feel like inspiration is a good discipline talent for tank healing and I would be hesitant to let it go. Lose a point from empowered healing instead? Maybe ditch power infusion? I’m not particularly impressed with train of thought, but that’s just me.

    • Malevica says:

      I actually think I’d prefer to just learn to live without Veiled Shadows and Darkness rather than lose Inspiration. I think it’s strange to try and tank heal and not take it. But the cookie-cutter builds seem to leave it out (although those builds include 2/2 Strength of Soul, which is looking less and less optimal as time goes by).

      • Zelmaru says:

        I ended up leaving out Strength of Soul since, by my logic, if I’m sweating bullets about “omg when can I re-bubble the tank?” then I’m not going to be hitting the tank with HEAL, I’m going to be hitting the tank with penance, gheal, and the kitchen sink.

  4. Aventera says:

    Basically, you are wrong about raid healing as disc. Of course you should only be using PoH when there are 3+ targets taking damage. Of course it costs quite a chunk of mana. But the reality is that the playstyle is the same as holy. What holy priest would use CoH or PoH when only two people take damage? Furthermore, CoH is just as strong for a disc priest as a holy priest, maybe more so. The difference is that PoH always procs divine ageis. To get that level of bonus for holy you have to be in the PoM Chakra. You have to be. If you throw in the glyph of PoH in there then the spell becomes extremely powerful for disc.

    And on top of that, the way healing is designed now, disc priests should be using all their cooldowns… including power infusion as you hinted at. Basically disc priests have power infusion, borrowed time (bubble the tank in between PoH), inner focus, and archangel to help AoE heal. If you were to pop all of those cooldowns on at the same time, that is some serious raid healing going on. AND, you dont even have to worry about targeting a sanctuary down on the ground there which is vital time lost. I find the ebst strategy is to do one or two of those things at a time per massive raid healing. Or i use barrier and take it easy on that wave. All raid healing is very predictable and you can easily pop cooldowns to help.

    Additionally, tossing out renews can be a very good strategy for disc. In fact, disc renews can be just as powerful as holy renews especially if you glyph and take the two points at the start of the holy tree. What are you losing by not going holy on your renew? The tiny 1k heal that you get from the third level of talents. The reduced GCD for renews. What does the mean for a priest? Almost nothing. You should NOT be rolling renews on the raid so a reduced GCD means almost nothing and the tiny heal is irrelevant. Its a marginal buffer which can be more than made up for with bubble if someone is in trouble. On Atramedes, I make a specially tailored spec that incorporates the two extra points in renew, extra power to inner will in the second tier of the disc tree, and pop inner will for basically the whole fight (no archangel in this spec). My renews and bubbles with the occasionally penance are perfect for keeping the raid alive as I run around the room like a chicken with its head cut off. Plus of course the occasionally PoH + CD’s spam.

    I also disagree with your use of veiled shadows instead of darkness as the last two points. While veiled shadows will have some utility, the reality is that for most fights you still will not be able to use shadowfiend twice. I would more than consider making a utility spec with it in for key fights but not for the majority of the fights. Darkness can make the difference between a renew4 and renew5 for a disc priest and it will help your throughput on every spell (including that AoE PoH spam!!!).

    Your analysis of the SoS is spot on though. It has marginal utility in raids. What it does accomplish is that in tank healing you can bubble the tank more often which will result in greater throughput on the tank. However, the way that I usually play as a disc raid healer, I keep my penance for tanks and emergencies, heal when only one or two people take damage, and then do other things liike PoH, smite, renew, and bubble. The lack of heal on key targets means that SoS gets little use. But again, on tank healing, SoS is fine because even without weakened soul on the tanks (for that one heal cast when it falls off) as long as you have grace on your tank, the crit (from renewed hope) and healing buff still apply so weakened soul doesn’t mean anything. Reduced weakened soul only becomes problematic if you want big heals on a target that doesn’t have grace (but a quick penance can change that really fast).

    Also, rapture is incredibly easy to keep up. Bubble tanks. Bubble the tank, when that falls off, bubble someone else. There should be a bubble somewhere the entire fight and I guarantee you it will get broken. Is that a perfect solution? No. I am probably missing some rapture occasionally. But it is a good mantra to live by. Plus, bubble only counts as overheal if it doesn’t pop. Absorbs are not wasted throughput so there is no reason to bubble a raid member that will take damage soon if only for a rapture proc.

    I guarantee you that played properly using all CD, disc priests can maintain a level of raid healing comparable to holy priests. When it is all said and done, maybe a sanctuary, CoH + PoH rotation, lightwell, and AoE Chakra state might make Holy a little more powerful for AoE healing, but I assure you that you won’t be losing much. It is all about playstyle and what you like. Holy healing is not necessarily the path of “less resistance” but if you know what you are doing with disc, I find it to be very easy to work with.

    I would also like to add that the use of situational specs is extremely powerful in cataclysm. There’s no more cookie cutter specs that work well in all situations. Sometimes it is better (like my atramedes spec) to do something different for the sake of helping you and your raid out.

    If you want to continue talking disc priests or anything priest related shoot me a message at avantera12@gmail.com

    • Malevica says:

      Thanks for your comment, it’s great to hear from someone with a lot more experience than me. There’s a lot in there, so let’s go paragraph by paragraph.

      First, thanks for pointing out that DA procs from all PoH. I hadn’t spotted that. D’oh!

      However, Disc gives me 6.2k * 1.3 = 7.9k from a PoH or 9.1k with Archangel up (where some of that is absorb), while Holy gets me 7.8k + 1.3k = 9.1k in Chakra: Sanctuary, or 6.9k + 1.2k = 8.1k when I’m not.
      For the absorb portion of the Disc PoH to be effective you need the damage to be ongoing because DA only lasts 12 seconds, and if that’s the case then as a Holy you’d be in Chakra: Sanctuary already, so that’s not a penalty.
      The numbers are much the same, but the healing from Echoes of Light is arguably more useful, since it goes onto the bars sooner and doesn’t depend on the damage profile as much.

      We need to be careful of the sort of use we’re talking about here. For repeated casts using PW:S between PoH casts slows you down, but when you’re talking about a single predictable cast this is a nice boost. PI is a bit of a red herring though because it’s only usable for 15s every 2 minutes. Of course it’s great when you can use it, but it’s not something you can just add onto PoH and treat as typical output.
      As always, Disc wins on infrequent, burst healing.

      You’re quite right about Renew though. It does need speccing for and glyphing for, but that’s nothing that Disc can’t do just as well as Holy. Although that “tiny 1k heal” is a 10% bonus, which isn’t insignificant.
      I was writing quite generally though, and I’ll accept that I undervalued it for situational use.

      Point taken about Veiled Shadows too. I will add an edit into the post, because your report has added to my own doubt about the value of it. It used to be 2 minutes when I last played on the Beta, which was a much more useful place for it to be.

      I think we agree on SoS. Perhaps I’m overly concerned about keeping WS up when in fact it doesn’t make much difference, but that doesn’t change the conclusion much, I guess.

      We are going to have to agree to disagree on the “path of less resistance” though. 🙂 Holy needs to get into Chakra: Sanctuary and they’re pretty much sorted. Disc needs to pre-emptively get BT up, make sure DA will still be up when the next damage occurs so as not to waste the proc, maintain a 5-stack of Evangelism to pop Archangel, use a 2-minute cooldown, in order to keep up. I’ll be using some of the extra tricks you’ve suggested though.

      You’re spot on about situational specs. It’s a tricky mindset to get out of though, when there have been definite “right” and “wrong” choices for so long.

      Thanks again for some extremely valuable comments.

  5. Pyrox says:

    Hi there,

    Very usefull last two posts guys. But i would like to add that following the stealth priest buffs last night, i find i am not having to worry anywhere near as much about casting PoH as disc. Rapture now gives me back between 5-6K mana every 12 seconds instead of the usual 2.5K it did the other day.

    I hve SoS and i sheild the tank every time i can. Shield > Heal > Heal > Shield etc etc . I know i wouldnt get Rapture proces half the time but a 12K shield absorb thats instant cast for me beats anything else a priest has in their arsonal.

    I havn’t been holy for a very long time as the play style of disc fits me like a glove, ok its hard work… but its what we wanted wasn’t it 🙂 A challenge. But i ran 3 herocis last night with guild back to back and i can’t think of 1 boss fight where i didnt have atleast 20% mana left once boss was down. Yes we know the encounters but wow, the change to Rapture has set disc back as a real viable healing spec again! Aslong as you keep FH to a min when the tank is getting battered…. then mana shouldn’t be to much of an issue, just don’t try and chain spam 1 spell… it still wont work lol.

    I got rid of my CD timer for Rapture, i found it was making me think twice about casting PW:Shield, which i dont want to happen… if i think i should use it… i should be using it. We use pretty much every other spell we have on CD, so why not shield also.

    But after being kicked from a few Heroics lately before we even get going just for being a Priest (lol at that) i am so happy with these slight tweeks to Rapture that disc is as good as any other healer now, with or without the DPS being total d*cks hehe.

    Personally, go back to Disc and enjoy it once again. Stack int and spirit / crit and you should be fine. flask up if u have to and at 90K mana in a heroic you should be getting plenty of mana back from your shields that 4-5 PoH per fight isn’t going to kill you like it once did.

  6. ashlee says:

    I use Ingela’s Rupture to view my Rapture CD

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