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Atonement, or Not Atonement?

Posted by Malevica on April - 16 - 2012

That is the question. Which I got via email today!

Clearly there’s not One True Answer for every player in every type of content at every level of the game, so let’s look at the Big Three: levelling, heroics and entry-level raiding, and hard-mode raiding.

I’m also going to conflate Evangelism/Archangel with Atonement here and deal with them together; you could take one without the other, but you probably shouldn’t.



The emailer said they they’d levelled as Atonement all the way through to heroics and I cannot recommend this approach enough. If you ask me “Holy or Disc for levelling?”, it’s got to be Disc all the way, baby!

Whether you’re soloing or instancing Penance is amazingly powerful, and an Atonement spec is the icing on the cake: you’re in a great position to take on more mobs at a time while questing because you don’t have to trade off as much DPS time to heal yourself up, and in instances you’ll often find yourself not needing to directly heal the tank at all, just bubble and then Holy Fire and Smite to your heart’s content. Those tedious dungeons will just fly by!

Bonus points are available for topping the DPS charts, although you’ll probably have to wait for a boss for a chance to beat the tank.


Heroics and Entry-level Raiding

Here’s where things might be a bit more open, albeit only a little. Holy Fire/Smite/Atonement’s place in the max-level Discipline arsenal is two-fold:

  • A cheap-ish, medium-throughput, spammable heal; and
  • A means of preparing during lulls for a higher damage phase to come.

My answer to the “Atonement or not Atonement?” question in entry-level content is “Atonement, unless it’s really not working for you”. Let me explain why.

Consider the alternative, which tends to be some variation on this 31/8/2 spec. The main difference is that the 5 points in Evangelism, Archangel and Atonement have been moved into Strength of Soul, Train of Thought and 1 into Inner Sanctum to make up numbers. What that buys you is more frequent Power Word: Shields on your direct healing target (SoS reduces the duration of Weakened Soul when you use your single-target heals) and greater mana efficiency if you cast a lot of Greater Heal (Train of Thought will make Inner Focus come off cooldown sooner).

Notice that both of those talents only really make sense if you’re casting a lot of direct heals on a single target. If you find yourself doing that a lot, then knock yourself out and go grab an Atonement-free spec, but I’d wager you’re probably not.

While you might occasionally run into Lolarthass the Frost DK who didn’t get the memo telling him that no, Death Knights can’t tank in any spec any more, and especially not without some sort of tanking gear, and you might have to spam Greater Heals on him to keep him from being flattened by every trash mob he staggers drunkenly into, generally tanks will be able to hold their own and you won’t need to work too hard to keep people alive. In that scenario Atonement serves as a mana-efficient way to keep the group going through the moderate-to-low damage and the extra DPS you do will help speed things along nicely.

If your tank is complaining that you appear to be too busy DPSing and not healing, feel free to educate them on how things work for Discipline Priests these days and carry on doing what you’re doing. If you’re not wiping and no one’s dying (and the Moonkin isn’t spamming Rejuvs like there’s no tomorrow), then you’re probably doing it right.
And if your tank is insisting that Disc is a PvP spec (yes, it still happens) I suggest you /facepalm ostentatiously, /sigh deeply and drop group. It’s probably for the best.

In LFR the story is similar. Even if you want to be a dedicated tank healer, I strongly suspect you’ll not find enough tank damage to heal to justify the investment in that playstyle. LFR is dominated by raid damage at the best of times, and in a 25-man raid you’re likely to find yourself working with Earth Shields and Beacons of Light specifically placed on tanks as well as smart heals and Efflorescence that get aimed at the mêlée, so most of the healing tanks need is already being covered.
In my opinion, you’re better off practising weaving Greater Heals and Prayers of Healing in with Smites and Holy Fires and learning to read the encounters to find the best times to build Evangelism and to pop Archangel. That’ll prepare you better for the more difficult tiers of raiding.

But! Always bear in mind that Atonement remains a medium-throughput spell; you can’t just smite-spam and hope to top the meters, and it’s certainly not the solution to every healing problem, you need to get clever about things even in entry-level content. You will need to break out Greater Heals when your tank(s) are taking a beating, you will need to keep Prayer of Mending going when there’s regular damage (the whole of the Madness encounter, for example) and you will need to throw out Prayers of Healing when the group takes damage. Atonement is there to act as filler while you conserve mana and to build Evangelism stacks for when you need them later.


Hard-mode Raiding

When it comes to heroic (or progression) raiding, there’s a very strong case for taking Atonement on every encounter. In fact, Derevka made that case back in December.

The short version is that a 15% boost to your healing for 18 seconds every 30 seconds is just too good to pass up when the content is stretching your healing team’s throughput, and the added DPS you can contribute is invaluable when you’re bumping up against enrage timers. And there’s essentially no penalty if you know the encounter well enough.

Damage profiles on most raid encounters are cyclic, meaning that there are clear peaks where you need extra output and convenient troughs where you can build up Evangelism in preparation. If you’re progressing through heroic raid content you should be adept at reading encounters and spotting these phases and planning your Archangel use accordingly. You should also sense when you’re OK to Smite and when you should switch to “real”, targeted heals instead.

Ultimately, what sets the great healers apart from the merely very good is their in-depth encounter knowledge which allows them to pick the right abilities to use at the right times. For Discipline Priests timing Archangel is a huge part of that.

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Search Term Fun

Posted by Malevica on September - 9 - 2011

Blatantly stealing a great idea, and if I could remember where I’ve seen this done before I’d give proper credit to the person who inspired me!

I thought I’d take a look through the more popular search terms that have brought people to my blog recently, and hopefully highlight some of the answers I have buried away in obscure corners of the site, or provide answers to questions I’ve not addressed directly before.

Disc Priest Stat Priority

I got a lot of searches for this or similar questions. I’m not sure there is a short answer to this one, other than “it depends on what you’re doing”. It really does depend on what you’re doing, whether it’s tank healing, raid healing, 10-mans or 25-mans.

In 25-man raids I was typically assigned to raid healing, and for that I really wanted Mastery and Haste since my rotation was generally PoH-heavy with PW:S interspersed as dictated by my mana. In 10-man raids where I’m assigned to a tank I still want Haste so I don’t panic quite so much at the enormous gaps between heals, but I prefer Crit over Mastery because apparently (as far as my reading seems to be telling me, although I do want to follow this up) my use of Divine Aegis is lower as a single-target healer and getting more crits on all my heals (and the boosted DA shields that come with them) is more valuable than boosting the DA portion directly.

The best advice I’ve read, and I happen to agree with it based on my gut feeling, is to carry Spirit on as many pieces as you can since it’s still our best secondary stat; after that don’t be afraid to grab Haste where you can regardless of your role and raid size until you feel comfortable with your cast speed, but focus on stacking either Mastery for a raid healer or Crit for a tank healer.

This gives the rough priority: Intellect -> Spirit -> Crit (tank) = Mastery (raid) -> Haste.

However, the above priority absolutely is not set in stone. If you’re feeling like you’re slow to react and it’s causing you problems, then by all means grab some more Haste. I know I’ve felt sluggish on some encounters so I’ve gemmed a couple of Reckless Ember Topaz and reforged some of my remaining Mastery to Haste instead of Crit. Especially with reforging available you can try different combinations and see what works for you, your playstyle and your raid’s needs.

[Strength of Soul] vs [Train of Thought]

An interesting question. I currently have a few specs that I use, the main ones are Archangel specs and they differ in their application and in whether or not they take SoS and ToT.

If I’m tank healing I tend to use a 32/8/1 tank-healing spec which takes both Strength of Soul and Train of Thought. ToT is great when using Greater Heal a lot, because I have Inner Focus bound to GH and PoH so I use it every cooldown and it saves a lot of mana. SoS is great in this spec to allow me to maximise my Rapture returns by making sure to throw a direct heal on the tank every 12s, or throw shields on more frequently for higher throughput.

If I’m more involved in raid healing I drop SoS in favour of points in either Soul Warding or Darkness since I don’t cast many direct heals, but although the benefit is fairly small I’ll generally keep ToT in there. I like the reduced Penance cooldown I get from spending time Smiting either to get and keep Evangelism up or just to heal the melee or the tanks during slower phases.

Cata Haste Hots

My very old post from the Cataclysm Beta about how haste affects HoTs, DoTs and some channels (not Penance), is still the most visited page on my blog on a day-by-day basis.

Here’s the summary version, but I’d invite you to read the original post if you want to understand the theory, it’s still as true today as when I wrote it back in the day.

  • The total duration of your HoT, DoT or channel does initially reduce with haste as the tick intervals get shorter.
  • When you get enough haste to fit an extra half-tick into the nominal duration you get given a whole extra tick and the duration jumps up to it’s nominal duration plus half a tick.
  • If you cast a HoT while under a haste effect, such as Borrowed Time, all your ticks will be hasted, not just the ones that go off while the buff is active. However, the spell tooltip and the HoT buff you get both (misleadingly) update as soon as the haste effect fades.
  • Haste rating per 1% Haste = 128.11

So for a 12s Renew with 3s ticks, you get an extra tick when you get enough haste to bring the duration down to 10.5s (i.e. 12s – 3.0s/2), and the duration jumps up to 13.5s (i.e. 12s + 3.0s/2), and you get 5 ticks instead of 4.

The haste points to get an extra tick for each HoT are:

HoT Name         Breakpoints at (total haste):
Penance         25%, 75%
Renew         12.5%, 37.5%, 62.5%, 87.5%
Rejuvenation         12.5%, 37.5%, 62.5%, 87.5%
Regrowth (HoT)         16.666%, 50%, 83.333%
Lifebloom         5%, 15%, 25%, 35%, 45%, 55%, 65%, 75%, 85%, 95%
Wild Growth         7.15%, 21.43%, 35.715%, 50%, 64.285%, 78.57%, 92.855%
Riptide         10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, 90%

As to whether a given breakpoint is worth going for or not, that’s a question for your class guides to answer. HPS increases linearly with haste, there’s no jumps there; the advantage is that a longer HoT needs refreshing less often, leaving you with an extra GCD or even two to do something else, and less mana required to keep the HoT refreshed.

Vuhdo Smite Macro Hostile Target

Quite a few people are looking for macros for Smite macros. I did post a few in my Smite Healing Tips post. There’s information there on making various Smite macros, from one which will Smite your target (if it’s hostile) or your target’s target (if it’s friendly, for example a tank), through a macro which will Smite your focus or let you make your target your new focus and Smite that if you press a modifier key, to a macro which will find something hostile in front of you and let you Smite it until it’s dead, then pick something else automatically.

I also included a section in there about how I set up VuhDo to show targetoftarget for the Main Tanks and bound Smite to my hostile left-click for hassle-free Smiting from the raidframes.

I’m working up to doing a UI post soon, just as soon as I’m happy enough with my UI to show it off. I’ve been saying that for at least a year though, so don’t hold your breath!

Cata Disc Priest Guide 4.1

I’ll assume this searcher was a bit confused, since Rage of the Firelands has been out for several months now.

Anyway, I don’t have a current (4.2) guide up at the moment. The closest I have is my old 4.1 guide. There’s not much that’s changed since then, but it’s not been updated since April so use with caution. An updated Discipline how-to is on my list of things to do, but I really can’t give any sort of definitive timeline.

In the meantime, by way of 4.2 disc priest guides, I’d recommend Zelmaru’s 4.2 guide or the 4.2 disc guide at Manaflask.

Penance Not Turn Me

You probably want this post about stopping Penance turning your camera.

Unfortunately, as Zinn pointed out in the comments, there’s no way to stop Penance actually turning your character. I presume this is because the developers aren’t willing to let Penance be cast while facing any direction on a hostile target, but they do want it to be castable in any direction on a friendly, and there’s some limitation in the tech that means the only way to implement two rules for a single spell was to make it turn you to face your target when that target is friendly.

It is a pain, for example when running out of fire you have to make extra sure that you’re definitely facing the way you think you’re facing after Penancing a team-mate or you might get a big surprise. Maybe 5.0 will fix it…

Healing Ascendant Council

This, and the rest of my mostly incomplete and horribly outdated Cataclysm raid guides can be found in the Cataclysm raid strategies section in the menu above.

I may, now I have more inclination to write them, get around to posting some more up-to-date guides, although I suspect I won’t bother for Firelands since other people have got that covered.

At this point I’ll throw out a recommendation for Beru’s healing video guides, which mostly cover heroic modes. I figure you’ve already seen the basics over at Tankspot, Icy Veins, Learn to Raid or your site of choice. Beru writes the Falling Leaves and Wings Druid/healing blog, but although there’s a Druid slant to them the guides are useful to any healing class.

And finally…

I Can’t Type h

Amazingly, not one but two people searched for this. We’ll leave aside the apparent paradox of using the letter “h” in a search about not being able to type “h”. We’ll assume that these people have used a different computer to search and aren’t suffering from either an inability to recognise certain letters or a fear of typing them.

My advice to you folks would be twofold: First, check for the presence of dirt/crumbs/fingernail clippings/jam/hair/insects trapped under your “h” key and preventing you from pressing it down. I use one of those “air duster” cans to blast this sort of stuff out, but a vacuum cleaner or just your own breath will work.

If that doesn’t shift it, maybe your keyboard really is just wearing out. If you’ve worn out your “h” key specifically, then maybe you should take less damage!

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Categories: Advice and Strategy

The First Cataclysm Raid

Posted by Malevica on December - 14 - 2010

Last night, less than a week after Cataclysm went live, my guild mustered up a 25-man raid and advanced upon the Bastion of Twilight.

Ill not keep you in suspense: we didn’t manage to kill any bosses. We were not, as they say, Prepared!

We did learn an awful lot though and I’m pretty sure we’ll get our first kill on Thursday when we go back, once we’ve got a bit more gear and experience under our belts.


My experience of the instance is still extremely limited, but I like this sort of trash. Pulls of 10 mobs make you think very carefully about what CC you have and where it needs to be applied, but there are also some genuine AoE packs mixed in to provide a bit of welcome relief.

The first few pulls were pretty messy, but it didn’t take long for everyone’s tired old CC muscles to tone up again and pretty soon we were taking down the trash without incident.

Halfus Wyrmbreaker

We got to the first boss after about 45 minutes of trash clearing, and had a look at the buffs. We had the Storm Rider, Nether Scion and Time Warden active, which is a pretty nasty combination for the first week.

Our best attempt was 39%, so we have a way to go but the strategy and execution feels pretty good now. We’ll test it out on Thursday and see, by which time we should have got a bit more gear and practice under our belts.

One lesson that came out of the Wyrmbreaker attempts is the need for communication. We were taking out the Storm Rider first, because his Shadow Nova was extremely disruptive, but we were still losing tanks despite having 4/6 healers assigned to them and only the boss and one add active.

It eventually transpired that the tank healers were switching off their assignments to cover the raid; that was why we were losing the tanks, rather than because the tank healing load was so excessive. Once we realised what was going wrong, we pulled the Time Warden along with the Storm Rider, which dropped the raid damage hugely. Even though we had 3 tanks engaged now rather than 2, they were staying up much more easily because the tank healers could focus much more on their assignment.

So healers: don’t be afraid to say if you are finding yourself healing outside your assignment a lot, it’s vital for the raid leader and/or healing lead to know where the stresses are being applied, and you probably know that better than they do.

Disc Healing

I’ve read mixed opinions on Smite healing from early experiences. From watching other healers, I definitely agree that Holy is the ‘path of least resistance’ at the moment, but I’m a stubborn sort so I’m sticking with Disc for the time being.

At the moment Disc is lacking in ‘throughput’ at current gear levels. The trouble is that with the 5-7% crit available from blue gear we’re not seeing much Divine Aegis, and without a lot of Divine Aegis procs we’re not getting much of a benefit from the Mastery on our gear either. With Disc’s absorbs being low, we’re having to heal more to make up for it, and that’s costing a lot more mana.

Holy, on the other hand, scales quite a bit better at this end of the raiding spectrum.

I intend to stick with Disc for a while though, but I’ll be swapping my offspec back to Holy again and learning how to work with the Chakra mechanics.

While I’m talking about Disc healing, Smite still seems to be suffering from range problems. 8 yards just seems to be a bit too small. I shouldn’t have to keep nagging my tank to move closer to the boss, especially when some bosses are (or have been, at least) twitchy and will overcompensate if you move too close to them.
This isn’t a problem on trash, generally, but bosses have much bigger hitboxes.

Mana and healing in general

Disc’s current shortcomings aside, I clearly have a lot to learn about the new healing model as well! I reforged as much spirit onto my gear as possible, but I still managed to chew through it very quickly, especially on the early attempts, and I’m certainly struggling to last through a 6-minute fight. That will improve though, once I get a few more 346 items to replace my 333s and below.

It’s quite difficult after two years of WotLK to get used to being stingy with heals, but it really is important not to heal when it’s not needed. I’ve put the /stopcasting back into my Greater Heal macro (which also fires Inner Focus on cooldown) so I can both boost throughput immediately and interrupt a cast if it’s going to be wasted, and I’m trying to stick to Smite/Heal/Penance until the tank is under 50% and actually needs that Greater Heal.

The thing is, you really do have to trust that the tanks aren’t going to fall over in the next 5 seconds, that you have the throughput to dig yourself out of the hole, and that your other healers are going to be landing heals as well so it’s not all on your shoulders.

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Northrend any more!

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Categories: Anecdotes

Atonement and Penance Bugs – Updated

Posted by Malevica on October - 14 - 2010

Having made a post with tips and tricks for healing with Atonement, it appears to be bugged at the moment and isn’t healing at all.

It was working last night in ToC, but not this morning. It appears that it was bugged in the first version of 4.0.1 so that it was healing every target within 8 yards rather than just one. As a result it’s been hotfixed, and that hotfix appears to have removed all the healing from Atonement.
Hopefully it’ll be back to normal soon!

Reference: PlusHeal

Update: Atonement seems to be fixed as of the evening of the 15th of October, at least for me on the EU servers.

Also, Penance seems not to be gaining extra ticks from haste, although other HoTs are working as expected. This is different behaviour to beta, so I suspect it’s a bug that will be fixed in due course. Hopefully!

Reference: A comment by Kirke on my 4.0.1 guide, and my own in-game testing. Thanks for the report.

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Categories: Uncategorised

Smite Healing – Tips

Posted by Malevica on October - 14 - 2010

I’m not going to go into the whys and wherefores in this post of using Smite and Atonement as part of your healing toolkit, but there are a couple of tricks that I wanted to share that might help the potential Smite user, based on some playing last night.


First up is a macro suggested by Andy in a comment on the 4.0.1 guide.

#showtooltip Smite
/cast [@targettarget, harm] Smite; Smite

It’s a more failsafe version of just having Smite on your bars. If you have a hostile target selected, it’ll just cast Smite. If you have a friendly targeted, e.g. a tank, this will cast Smite at their target instead.

If you want absolute control over your Smite target, you could use a focus macro. This one’s borrowed from our trusty CC macros:

/clearfocus [modifier:alt]
/focus [@focus,noexists]; [@focus,dead]
/cast [@focus,exists,harm] Smite;Smite

If you don’t have a focus already, this macro will set your target to your focus and then Smite it (assuming it’s an enemy). If you do have a focus, the macro will Smite it. And if you hold down Alt, the macro will change your focus to your current target, and then Smite it.

I’d assume you’d probably have the boss as your focus, and just hit this button whenever you want to cast Smite.

This next macro is good for when you want to Smite something, but don’t want to use your focus for it. This is probably a better choice for soloing because it’s not as controlled as the first.

/targetenemy [noexists][dead][help]
/cast Smite

If you don’t have a target, this macro will act as if you’d hit Tab, and then cast Smite on that target. It’ll work up to 40 yards, exactly the same as Tab. While you have a target, this macro will continue to Smite it without any target switching.
If you have a dead target (or your target is friendly), the macro will then pick a new target and Smite that.

[This is a slight update on the one I posted on PlusHeal, with the conditionals linked more efficiently]

The three previous macros are really actionbar macros, just taking the targeting out of the equation to some extent. The following macro can help you integrate Smite with a click-healing setup:

/cast [@mouseovertarget] Smite

You can add this to your click-bindings, so you can click on a tank and the macro will cast Smite on their target (hopefully the boss). I chose not to go this route, because I ran out of mouse button bindings (I need a tidy-up!), so I’m using VuhDo directly, as I’ll explain below.


Here’s how I have VuhDo set up (using the auto-generated test names, since I didn’t get any screenshots in last night’s ToC):

The raid is in the middle panel, pets in the right, and main tanks and my focus in the left panel. Next to the main tanks are small red squares, which are target-of-target frames showing what the tanks are targeting. Instead of using up a regular click binding for a dedicated macro, I used VuhDo’s facility to bind separate spells for hostile targets and I have Smite set up for a hostile target.
So I click on the target frame to Smite it, and move my mouse across a little to cast a direct healing spell on the tank himself when I need to.

I don’t know if you can do a similar trick with Grid or Healbot, but I would imagine it’s possible (Grid can do everything, after all!). Perhaps someone else knows of a suitable guide.

The other thing addons can help with is watching for a 5-stack of Evangelism so you know when to cast Archangel to get that mana back. I’m using PowerAuras for this:

The top icon will pop up when I have 5 stacks of Evangelism, I’m below 85% mana, and Archangel is castable, and the number over the icon is the time remaining, so I can refresh the stack up or consume it if it looks like falling off.

This PowerAura is a linked set of three, which I’ve included below in case you want to adapt something to your own needs:

Archangel Castable:

Version:3.0.0W; icon:ability_priest_archangel; buffname:Archangel; x:-244; bufftype:7; owntex:true; mine:true; combat:true; size:0.2; y:5; texmode:2; timer.h:1.56; timer.Texture:WhiteRabbit; timer.enabled:true; timer.cents:false; timer.y:5; timer.x:-247

Mana below 85%:

Version:3.0.0W; bufftype:9; threshold:85; off:true; combat:true; texmode:2

Evangelism at 5 stacks:

Version:3.0.0W; icon:Spell_Holy_DivineIllumination; buffname:Evangelism; x:-244; customname:Archangel; stacks:5; texture:54; mine:true; customtex:true; combat:true; size:0.2; y:62; timer.h:1.54; timer.Texture:WhiteRabbit; timer.enabled:true; timer.cents:false; timer.Relative:CENTER

I use the Evangelism one as the main Aura, and require the previous two to be matched as well for it to be displayed.



Finally, this is a bit of a repeat, but if you want to use Smite much, make sure you’re using the Glyph of Divine Accuracy to make sure they land!

Also, if Smite is something you use a lot, the Glyph of Smite will be a big boost. If you Smite infrequently, then a 20% boost for 12s is probably a waste of the time you spend putting HF up, but if you’re tank healing it will probably be a good way to go.

Thanks to Sytax in the comments for his input. Glyph of Smite isn’t actually a dramatically good choice, as I’d first thought, primarily because of the newly reduced 7s duration of Holy Fire (which I hadn’t noticed when I wrote the post), meaning you can only get 4-5 improved Smites in that time, depending on your haste (assuming the last cast gets buffed by when you start casting rather than when you complete the cast). However, it’s not by any means useless either.

Below 22% total haste, even if all you do is Smite, you will see little difference between the two, with a tiny, tiny increase from the glyph. Between 22% and 50% haste, which is where we’ll all probably live, you’ll see a small increase in throughput from the glyph, and another small increase above 50% haste.

Here’s a graph, showing the effect of increasing total Haste %:

This assumes you Holy Fire, cast Smite until HF is off cooldown again, and the cycle starts over. I normalised the numbers it so that a “normal” Smite is worth 1 Healing point, and so a Smite improved by the glyph is worth 1.2, and I simulated over 300s, which is probably overkill, but at least averages things out nicely.

Good luck with the Smiting!

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Categories: Advice and Strategy