Penance Priest

Discipline Priest Blog

Hope your summer has been fantastic! Mine certainly has.

This isn't exactly a "closing up shop" post... just touching base during this amazing period of transition for me. See, First Life has taken every possible turn for the better, and all cylinders are firing at full speed. It's hard to even consider going online at the moment, because there are simply so many incredible opportunities opening up right now. There's nothing to escape from, and no way to see a three-hour raid holding a candle to community building, or developing wonderful and significant relationships, or refining and actualizing my life's purpose. Yes, it sounds grandiose, but there you go. Raiding has taken a distant back seat for the moment.

Luckily, this is the perfect time to be taking a break from the game. Not much needs to be said that hasn't been hashed out a million times over the last month or so. It's just a major lull in the WoW adventure.

I expect to return come Cata. Whether or not I'll be as passionate or committed to the Priesthood remains to be seen.

In parting, I had planned to offer my retrospective analysis of the WotLK experience. But instead, I'll leave you with a post that Beaute, my former GM, wrote on the Azuremyst realm forums earlier this summer. She's as insightful and intelligent as anyone I know. Here she distills one key dimension of what happened with this expansion in a way that only a perceptive, cool-headed GM could.

I think my biggest gripe about this expansion is the exact opposite of my BC gripe.

In BC, our server had about 3-4 guilds alliance-side (at any point) who were hitting the more difficult raids. Those guilds had trouble recruiting people because they were so far behind gear-wise. When those guilds did the end of Karazhan + Gruul & Magtheridon (and needed full Karazhan gear), almost everyone else was on the first few bosses in Karazhan (and still partially in blues). When those guilds were on SSC / TK, everyone else was in Karazhan gear, etc. Mid-level guilds had to implode because, by the time the 3-4 guilds got to MH & BT, they couldn't take applicants to the raids as the applicants were so, so, so undergeared. Several members of our guild never got credit for Illidan on their mains as they had to bring healers & rely on their knowledge of the fight so we could clear the instance.

In an attempt to rectify this imbalance (among other reasons), Blizzard brought us WotLK where everyone can get gear almost immediately. While it has been a blessing to be able to recruit people with gear that will allow them into the current instance, it has basically removed the need for guilds. Many people have confided that they prefer pugging rather than being "expected" to show up at a certain time & they can do that in this expansion & see most of the same content.

As someone who has been an officer of my guild since it was formed in January 2007, I can say that trying to recruit in this expansion has been the least pleasurable aspect of this game in the 5 years I've played it. Many people are arrogant. There are more small & unprogressed guilds. Everyone is running with bare bones crews, it seems. And, worst of all, the general chat in the most progressed instance is AWFUL. Seriously, it's bad.

tl:dr summary - BC had too much gear disparity. WotLK has not enough. Recruitment sucks. So does ICC general chat.

Enjoy the colors, those of you still in places that have fall beauty! I miss the northeast already, but I think Cali and I are in for a long love affair :)

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I so totally shouldn't be doing this.

I'm writing on a hotel wireless, in the beautiful desert, awaiting my sunset photo op in Canyonlands. Rough, I know.

But Jessabelle upset me. She just posted on trinkets, and did it all wrong. It's ok, she's still a very good priest, and a cool lady. We all make mistakes.

Here is my trinket list. All but one are in my bags at all times. I hope this helps with your own gearup plans, even as we're in the denoument of a long hard road through Arthas' world.

  • Time-Lost Figurine. I got this the first week I hit 70, while helping a friend farming his Sha'tari Skyguard rep. It used to be fun to run Shadow Labs while disguised as an Arakkoa. Now, well, it's still the best disguise in the game IMO.
  • Vanquished Tentacle of C'Thun. Because who doesn't stop and stare at a tentacle in the Dalaran bank?
  • Figurine - Ruby Hare. I don't PvP much nowadays, but when I do, the mobility boost is just too much fun. Call it the luxury of being human, and the price for not being an engineer.
  • Sif's Remembrance. I just need 9 more people and I'll be able to Herald. Until then, I have a bag in my bank filled with 226s.
  • Discerning Eye of the Beast. Holy Nova + Discerning Eye + Skellies in Culling of Strat = infinite mana. I don't use this as much as I used to, but definitely if I get Strat right after changing specs.

If you need to shard Solace or PLD to make room for one of these, don't hesitate.

-- disappears back into the Utah desert --

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One of the most exciting blue-tinted things I read in a while came from Wowhead’s exclusive interview with Ghostcrawler. It’s a great interview, so if you haven’t read it, go to it.

Here’s what got me all jazzed.

...really what we're trying to do—and with like, the passive talent trees we're putting into Cataclysm, we're trying to give ourselves better tuning mechanisms to be able to make easy changes. One of the things we're often up against is: Say we're going to make a patch. We want to, for example, buff mages. We have to do something that both does what we want it to do, and, you know, isn't buggy. It's not a good time to mess with, you know, "Hey we're going to add a new talent", or "We're going to put in this untested tech that makes this other thing proc" or whatever, because then we're just going to be fixing our own patches over and over again. So we have to be so strategic that we often can't make the changes that we really want to make, and we know "this is still going to leave Frost Mages underpowered in PvE, but we can't do anything else—we just physically, technically can't make the change we want." So what we're trying to do in Cataclysm is build in a lot of hooks to let us constantly tweak, and when we see something is too low we can dial it up a little bit, or dial it back a little more.

I’m a professional programmer, so I know how challenging it can be to tweak a complex system. Once you have something that works – and the definition of “works” can sometimes be quite sloppy, but hey – making changes to it is far more difficult than most people realize. Everything is tied together, and the more complex the system, the more delicate the connections.

So it looks like at last, for real and for true, Cataclysm will fix it. They just need to man the dials, and we’re good to go. *fingers crossed*

Deceive. Inveigle. Obfuscate.

Let’s be honest. Blizzard lies to us. It’s just a fact of life in an organization that has to work 24/7 just to prevent global riots. It gets a little extreme sometimes… remember how they were telling us for months that shadow was in a really good place, despite the mountain of data showing the contrary? They weren’t simply ignoring us; they said repeatedly that there was no problem. Eoy blogged about it, and Blizzard continued to deny. Then one day, out of the blue, shadow got a huge buff. No warning, no discussion. Suddenly we were competitive again.

I’m sure there are many reasons they don’t always let on that they’re looking at buffing some spell or class. First is the obvious, which is that it opens the door to everyone to whine about perceived deficiencies in their own favorite ability. Second, it’s such a complex system that even if Blizzard wanted to buff an ability or a class, there’s no guarantee that they could pull it off gracefully.

The more tweaky-hooks they put into the system, the easier it will be for them to make changes. And the less they will need to lie. There will be fewer instances in which Blizzard says “we can’t do that.” It will be more “we don’t want to do that,” and that’s a good thing.

Yes, I am a very optimistic person. I really do hope and expect that Blizzard will be far more responsive to real complaints, as they were (eventually) with shadow priests and frost DKs, even if both of those specs lingered at the bottom for months.

Aren’t you going to say anything about the new talents!?!1?

Yes yes, I’m getting there! In fact, that’s the whole point.

Honestly, I don’t really have much to say. It’s all “in theory” right now. Until we’ve played with it, what can be said beyond “I’m excited” or “I hate Smite” or other unsubstantial comments?

Here’s my unsubstantial response: I’m very excited! But I love change, and welcome the disorienting feeling of being a nub again, having to relearn everything. I hope you do too!

You see, there seem to be two basic objections to the new talent tree for healing priests. The first is, in a word, Smite. And the second covers a lot of ground related to balance: How much mana will we regen from Archangel? How much dps will we be doing with Smite? How much indirect healing with Atonement? What about talents that were removed, like Holy Specialization…are they nerfing our crit? Those sorts of things.

(Well, there is a third objection, one that I don’t see enough discussion about. Which is why the HELL is Improved Holy Nova so deep in the Holy tree? This is grave mistake, one that I hope Blizzard rectifies before it’s too late.)

The whole balance issue is one that will be tweaked until it works exactly as planned. Smite not putting out quite as much damage as they wanted? *Tweak*! Not enough regen? *Tweak* This is also obvious in the masteries; if abilities aren’t performing properly, or classes are imbalanced, they have a knob to twiddle to adjust these things relatively easily. They could even implement nonlinear scaling so that as you get more mastery from gear, the three masteries grow at different rates.

Oh, and don’t bring up PvP. It is, and always will be, an impossible balance to strike. Unless they implement Arenawell Radiance (which they damn well should), or some other debuff that tweaks coefficients when you step into PvP, balancing abilities for PvE and PvP will remain stormy and frustrating.

My big questions for Cataclysm are about creativity. Since we all know Blizzard is trying to encourage us not to shield spam (because we love shielding so much!), will we be given new fixed rotations? Like, five Smites, then power-heal for 10 seconds, then back to Smiting? Or will we be given room to breathe, room to be dynamic and creative again? Will encounter design follow the new philosophy of talent design, which (in theory) reduces the need to min-max in favor of choice? They say Smiting will be optional, but really? Once we get in there, will it become clear that there is really a best way, bringing us back full circle to cookie-cutter specs and rotations?

I’m as curious as everyone else about how it will feel in Cataclysm.  But I’m not concerned about the balance issues. The new “CWFI” system (not such a good acronym, I’m afraid… will Cataclysm fix that?) will be used to adjust the numbers so that the big-picture changes don’t leave one class desperately behind.

As for Smite, it’s a big change. We don’t know what encounters will be like. We don’t know how much idling time we’ll have. But surely if Blizzard wants us to be Smiting, it will be obvious, and eventually, natural.


With this I bid you a temporary farewell. In about a week I begin a cross-country move, followed by lots of other stuff that will keep me mostly away from WoW and away from writing. Who knows, but it won’t surprise me if I’m away most of the summer.

So have a great one!

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I’m not a big fan of yellow sockets. They throw me for a loop. And from looking at other disc priests, it seems there’s plenty of disagreement about what to put in your yellow sockets.

Here’s what I’ve got in my yellows right now:

2 runed
1 reckless
1 luminous

And I just socketed over one potent. What gives?

Lucky for me, I’m only interested in one thing at the moment: 25-man bubble-botting discipline. Poor Dawn, having to recommend gems for all purposes, all playstyles. I have it easy!

But first, a blog post

I wrote my last post right after giving up on guilds on my server. The one guild of interest to me hadn’t responded to my app after two weeks, so I interpreted that to mean “no thanks.” Well, the day after I posted I got a tell from their recruitment officer, and 15 minutes later had a ginvite. Many thanks to my future wife for going to bat for me. (She doesn’t know it yet, shhh.) So now I’m back to raiding, doing 7/12 hard modes. Sweet!

And my move across country is pretty definite, but won’t happen for another five weeks. So I have some quality raiding time before…well, I don’t know what will happen then.

Stats for bubble bots

Wait, haven’t we covered this before?

Why yes, yes we have. I apologize if this is redundant for you. The following analysis only applies to 25-man bubble-spamming disc priests. No other healing scenario lends itself to this kind of oversimplification. Under normal circumstances, you’ll be casting 9 shields and PoM, rinse & repeat. Obviously you’ll cast the occasional Penance, or Pain Suppression, whatever. So this is not exact, but it gives a fine approximation, which is enough for our purposes.

Do not try this for holy. Do not try this for 10-man disc healing. Or for any other healing spec. Healers are not like DPS classes; we cannot be reduced to Patchwerk-style simcrafting.

Haste: Because of the way Borrowed Time works, bubble-spamming disc priests need about 150 haste rating to reach the soft cap, which is where your GCD hits its minimum of one second. You probably had this much haste the day you hit 80 and are scary past that now. Therefore haste has zero value for a bubble bot.

Crit: Power Word: Shield can’t crit. But its glyph can. So you get 20% value for crit. PoM bounces can crit, of course, but you get five bounces (at most) per nine shields. So we’ll boost the value of crit by half to 0.3. Good enough for science.

Spell power: Your shields grow by about 1.5 hit points for every point of spell power. (Yes, that’s where all of our talent points are going!) This is our super-stat for super-sized shields.

So, to sum it up:

Spell power = 1.5
Crit = 0.3
Haste = 0

And you can fill in your own stat weights for intellect & spirit.


I’ve been using Halion for the last week or so. It matches nicely with my other crit/haste gear, of which I have a ton. It also looks awesome.

The thing is, once I got it I started OOMing on every fight, 10 or 25, with or without replenishment. (That’s because I’m always casting!) Even doing my best to abuse the Rapture bug, I still popped more mana pots and begged for more innervates than I have in a long time. Thanks to Matron for indirectly kicking my butt.

So I gemmed full luminous in all my red and yellow sockets. And did not regret it one bit, despite the insane amount of conformism and peer pressure amongst disc priests to gem runed only, ever.

What’s the numeric value of luminous? It only has value if you need the mana. If you don’t, it’s obviously the wrong gem to use. In fact, last night I got a new staff, Heroic Dying Light. It has so much additional intellect, and an ungainly amount of spirit, that after using it for a few fights (including LK25) I’ve decided to drop my luminous gems for runed. So far so good. (And yes, I am still always casting!!)


There are two reasons to socket haste: First, haste is an excellent stat for 10-man tank healers. If you do both 10 and 25 seriously then reckless is a viable gem to use.

The second reason is that haste is the best yellow stat for shadow priests. Any piece of gear you share with shadow will likely have reckless in it.

For bubble-bots though, haste is useless. If those two conditions don’t apply to you, reckless is kryptonite. Don’t touch it.


Crit is also an excellent stat for 10-man tank healers. And for bubble-bots, well, it’s not terrible, but it’s still not very good. It has about 1/5 the value of spell power, which means you’d need an unreasonably good socket bonus before using a potent gem for your bubble-spam role. Bottom line: probably not.

(This article is required reading if you want to know the relationship between crit & haste for disc priests.)


As you can see, a lot depends on what you do when you’re not bubble-botting. If you have more than one job, you’ll need to prioritize your gemming towards one or the other.

And remember, gemming is a minor component of your healing!

Full-time bubble-bot: You have only two choices. Runed or luminous.

Bubble-bot / 10-man: You have three choices: Runed , luminous, or reckless. Potent is also acceptable.

Bubble-bot / Shadow: You have two choices: Runed or reckless.

Ah, the flow chart!

Blue sockets?


Exercise for the reader.

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Cataclysm is coming

No matter where you stand on the changes to priests, or any other class for that matter, rest assured that Cataclysm will be a huge upheaval. We’ll have at least one more go-to spell (the return of Heal, filling the gap between Flash and Greater). We’ll have Power Word: Umbrella. And of course, Life Grip. Those are just a few key abilities, to say nothing of an entirely new way to play: how we manage mana, how the encounters are designed, how we will be affected by larger health pools, how we navigate a new set of stats on gear, etc.

If you think back to the time period before WoLK dropped — probably around summer ’08 — we had the same tingling sensation, knowing big changes were coming. This is the calm before the storm.

Other than airy rambling, what I’m saying is this: enjoy yourself. Our spec is mature, well-defined. It’s not perfect, and it’s certainly not perfectly balanced. It has come a long way, as have we. Enjoy the comfort of playing something you know and love,  knowing that change is around the corner. Almost like spring semester as a senior; let’s make the best of the time we have before the Cataclysm, when we will have to relearn, well, not quite everything, but a whole lot.

The expansion is probably six months away. And for many of you, there’s a lot to do between now and then. Not so much for me. It’s already feeling like it’s winding down.

The guild

I haz none. The group I joined in December turned out to be, how shall I say: a very bad match. I gquit after we killed the Lich King in March. There are no compelling options on my server at the moment, which leaves me in a bit of a pickle.

For now, WoW is pretty easy mode for me, since pugs still don’t usually get very far. I don’t see apping across realms to be a good idea at the moment, so I’ll hang out until the big reset this fall, and in the meantime, have fun pugging with smaller friendly guilds.

And yes, I do look forward to ten-man raiding. A lot.


Ok, because I’m in limbo, I decided to play around with my spec. Why? Because our role as discipline is polarized. In 25-man content, we do little more than bubble bot. And in 10-man content, we can’t bubble bot; there just aren’t enough bodies to bubble. Instead, we do it all. You might call it tank healing, but really, it’s man-handling the entire raid.

 So? What about it? Have a look at a spec I’m playing with. This is all in the context of the above section: I’m not doing much hard-mode content, just playing around as an overgeared, 15%-buffed mercenary priest.

I’ve dropped some talents that are borderline useless in 25s (Grace, Improved Flash Heal), filled up on my GH potential (omg 5/5 Divine Fury and 2/3 Improved Healing) and PoH potential (Holy Reach and the glyph), mainly for 10-mans.

If you’re doing hard modes, you should be ignoring me about now.

The moral of the story? If you’re overgeared for content, boosted with a 15% gimme buff, and feel like futzing around, now is the time.  I’m enjoying some creative tinkering with no particular goal in mind, and no pressure to min-max myself to perfection.

On the move

On a more personal note, I’ll be moving next month. Across the country, to a new city, where I know few people, starting a new job. So it’s definitely the end of an era for me personally. My playtime will be affected, as will my blogging. Don’t be surprised by periods of inactivity! There is less to write about nowadays, and with the move coming, my attention will be elsewhere. Once I land, the process of starting a new life will take precedence over fantasy-game escapism. Hang tight though, I’m not closing up shop.

About the name

Since I snuck into random territory, I thought this would be a good chance to introduce the original Paolo. I’ve had numerous people in-game ask me if I’m named after this-or-that Paolo from real life. (Actually, they ask me if I really AM this-or-that Paolo.) I suppose that’s the price for picking a toon name that is very common in the world-at-large. I suspect DethBludXXNite does not get the same treatment.

The inspiration for the name comes from Mary Fahl, who is one of the bestest, most beautifulest singers around. I was listening to her music a lot back when I started this guy. Her EP Lenses of Contact has a song called “Paolo,” and while it’s not her best song, the name was in the right place at the right time, and it stuck. Her earlier band, October Project, is even better.

Instead of linking “Paolo” here, I’ll give you “Breathe,” a taste of her “coming soon” DSoM tribute record. Enjoy!

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There is a little-known secret among disc priests.

We all know the two basic principles of the discipline spec. First, that our greatest value is our ability to mitigate, whether it be from our shields, our crit-bubbles, or our passive quasi-aura. Second, our direct heals are pathetically small. This is why bad raid leaders everywhere continue to fire disc priests from their raids when we register near the ret pallies and shadow priests on any healing meter that doesn’t count absorbs.

But I’m not here to tell you that there’s a secret way to combat this. Bad raid leaders are bad. Apparently they missed the patch notes from 3.0.2, which came out, like, a YEAR AND A HALF AGO. Sheesh.

No, I’m here to teach you a secret way to maximize your output. Yes, I know you’re already doing great, and I know that when you factor in absorbs (hooray World of Logs!) that you end up at or near the top of the meter.  I’m here to challenge you to pump out more healing (and shielding) that you thought you could in a given fight.


Always. Be. Casting. This is the ABC of discipline priesting. And it seems to be a well-guarded secret!

This is a mindset you learn as a damage-dealing class. Any time you’re not casting, you’re leaving dps on the table, so to speak. Shadow priests learn to spam Devouring Plague and Shadow Word: Death when they’re running so they don’t waste precious seconds getting from orange to green. But healing classes have been trained the opposite way. We might shield pre-emptively, but we also stand idly when there doesn’t appear to be anything more to do.

Think about it. Every global you don’t cast a spell is a potential loss of 10 to 30 thousand points of healing/mitigation, maybe more. How many globals do you spend moving without casting?  Or waiting, just regenerating mana, subconsciously living in the BC-era world of dodging the five-second rule? If you idle for just six globals a minute, you’re looking at a 10% reduction in your output. You might as well be healing in your Ulduar gear. Or be healing through a minor Mortal Strike debuff.

“But wait,” you say, “I only pause when there’s nothing to heal!” Well, dear friends, disc priests are the best in the business at healing people who are already at full health. We spam bubbles. Bubbles are instant. They’re our most valuable function in a raid, our most powerful spell.  

And after all the bubbles have been spammed—and I do mean all—we spam direct heals.  Because with our high crit rates, even direct heals turn into more shields. And when you’re on the move, if Weakened Soul is on every raid member…what then?  Of course PoM is on CD (isn’t it?), so you suck it up and toss out your only remaining instant, our weakest heal: Renew. Renew is terribad for disc, just awful. But it’s better than doing nothing.

Have I managed to rile you up yet?

Ok, fine, I’ll back off Renew. But that’s as far as I’ll go.

I have to confess, this post was 100% inspired by something Matron wrote over on PlusHeal a couple of weeks ago. For reference, he’s the GM of an 11/12 hard-mode guild, so scoff at your own risk. It was part of a discussion on how disc priests should gem. Remember that he is speaking about a 25-man progression context, in which disc is a raid healer shielder, not healing the tanks. Tank healing in 25s is best left to our bacon-loving friends, at least until Cata. Ok, here we go:

The #1 way to increase throughput is to cast more spells, not gem SP.

The popular advice to “gem INT if you have mana problems” and “gem SP if you don’t have mana problems” is the worst advice given on these boards. If someone is casting fewer spells than they should of course they’re not going to have mana problems, and what individuals take away from the discussion is a feeling that because they don’t have mana problems they should gem throughput. That’s absolutely incorrect.

You can go OOM on most every encounter in ICC, even with the best gear and using all your mana cooldowns, by simply spamming PWS, which will provide the most HPS for your raid as disc.

The challenge of any role is to cast more of your best spells/abilities. To do this you must support yourself with int/regen.

Rather than saying “if you don’t have mana problems gem SP,” instead we should be advising people that “if you don’t have mana problems you need to cast more spells until you do have mana problems”... pushing people towards a state of OOMness will increase their throughput much faster than advising them to socket an extra 100-150 SP.

The INT that people socket won’t even make much of a difference in terms of regen; again gems are only going to provide 150-200 stat points. However, advising people to socket SP if they don’t have mana problems tells people that their current level of casting is acceptable/optimal, when in reality 99% of priests aren’t casting using every gcd.

He clarified a few posts later:

Again, gemming INT or SP won’t make that much of a difference either way. We’re talking at most a 5-10% difference in mana pool or shield size. What makes the most difference is how many spells people cast, which I believe is a playstyle/practice better supported by focusing on regen/INT...

My feeling is that it is easy enough to go OOM by simple pro-active shield spammage, disc’s bread & butter; you don’t have to get fancy to go OOM…

Basically there are a ton of reasons/encounters for constant PWS spam. If you’re not taking these opportunities and you’re losing out on the meters, but you “don’t have mana problems”, gemming for SP is not going to close the gap with other healers. You’re playing incorrectly, not gemming incorrectly. In reality gems matter very little for us.

I am as guilty as the next guy for giving gemming advice like that. However, my own gearing strategy has its bedrock on hybrid trinkets and an overpowered regen meta (sorry Dawn!). But as Matron said, the issue he’s poking at here is not so much gem choice as playstyle choice.

Try it out next time you raid. Challenge yourself to waste fewer globals. Fight the urge to wait for anything. When there’s no one to shield, Flash your neighbors to put up more Divine Aegis. Use Penance every cooldown, assuming you can risk not having it available for emergencies for a few seconds.

Treat yourself like a dps class who has to do everything he can to squeeze out another drop of damage. You might just discover a whole new level of play.

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Fair mage.

Delicate, like a flower.

Perhaps you are a gnome.

Even better.

Oh my, is it CC time again?

Would you mind —

That Vrykul could hurt us so.

Such big weapons! So fast! And so many of them!

Is turning one into a sheep too much to ask?

You, good mage, are the hero

Of this small but important moment.

Chaos! Vrykul abound, uncontrolled!

Only one wanders in circles

On four legs.

Smoke! Fire! Blizzards! Whirlwinding warriors!

Who could keep track in the madness?

/cast Holy Nova

“Who broke my —”

So sorry, mage.

I do not know how the sheep broke.

Nor why it ran straight to you,

Executing swift judgment for your offense.

Surely the sheep breaker should have

Drawn its ire, and not you?

I mourn.

Good-bye, fair mage. Good-bye.

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