Penance Priest

Discipline Priest Blog

So I got me to thinking the other day: why the hell am I in mostly quest blues? Gearing up to entry-level epics has been nothing short of frustrating. I don’t have many heroics I’m interested in running…I’m not badge farming…reputation farming…what gives?

Rewind: The road to 70

Within an hour of hitting level 70, I had eight epics.

That’s right: three BoP primal mooncloth items. Two BoE whitemend items. And I had saved up enough honor for three more PvP epics, including the healing mace, cuffs, and a ring. All enchanted and ready to go.

Snap your fingers, and I went from 69 to uber.

Buying your way to uber

All those level 70 starter epics came without ever having to worry about a random drop. There are four ways to get gear that are non-random:

  • crafted items
  • faction rewards
  • PvP honor gear
  • Badge/emblem gear

Yay Blizzard…giving people ways to work for upgrades that don’t require raiding. And even if you do raid, you can neutralize the sting of the RNG with these purchasable epics.

Stats for discipline

Refresher course: Disc loves crit.

Oh, and mp5 please. We get no bonus from spirit like holy priests, so point for point, mp5 is usually superior, if only by a little. And while Rapture rocks the house, and Replenshment, well, replenishes it, you still need your own regen.

Haste? Sure. After everything else is filled, I won’t reject haste. But it’s last on the list.

Here, my friends, is the perfect discipline item. If I could wear Lattice Chokers all over my body, I would. Until I can get all the items on this list. Unfortunately, most of them require running 25-man raids, which I really don’t enjoy.

Oh, and no, I’m not planning to drop 8k gold on the Signet of the Kirin Tor. If that’s for you, awesome.

Window shopping

Let’s see what non-random upgrade gear we priests can wear, shall we? With one exception, I’ve omitted anything with hit rating.

-=-=-=-=-=- PAOLO’S THREADS -=-=-=-=-=-
Epic gear crafted while-u-wait

Moonshroud robe, gloves. Spirit.
Spellweave robe, gloves. Haste, spirit.

-=-=-=-=-=- IVRENNE’S EMBLEMATIC EMPORIUM -=-=-=-=-=-
Exclusive gear for heroes. Hours by appointment.

Lattice Choker of Light (neck). Crit, mp5. Woot!
Elegant Temple Garden’s Girdle (belt). Spirit, mp5, yellow socket.
Handbook of Obscure Remedies (offhand). Haste, spirit.
Ward of the Violet Citadel (offhand). Crit, hit.
Egg of Mortal Essence (trinket). Haste.

-=-=-=-=-=- CHAMPION’S HALL -=-=-=-=-=-
Gladiator survival gear
(Closed until further notice.)

-=-=-=-=-=- LOYALTY REWARDS PROGRAM -=-=-=-=-=-
You show us love, then we’ll sell you the goods.

Belt of Dark Mending (belt, Ebon Blade exalted). Haste.
Robes of Crackling Flame (robe, Kirin Tor exalted). Haste, mp5.
Sandals of Crimson Fury (feet, Wyrmrest exalted). Haste, blue socket.
Signet of Hopeful Light (ring, Argent Crusade exalted). Haste.

See a pattern?

There is exactly one piece of crit gear for healers (Lattice Choker). The Ward of the Violet Citadel, with its points in hit rating, is clearly aimed at dps casters, but I will still probably get it because of the lack of other viable options for that slot.

All I can say is that I hope this list is terribly outdated very quickly.

But for now, I will continue to grind heroics hoping for the right drops. And Naxx of course, but that will be much slower.

In which he digressed radically from the stated mission of priesting, and veered into the more interesting territory of leadership and integrity.

Ah, the craziness that is raid leadership. There is too much to say to capture it all in one post. Or one blog, devoted entirely to raiding. Or one blogosphere.

Failure #1: “We don’t take pugs”

I spent several months in a casual guild. More accurately, “a casual guild that raids.” Ok, so failure is built right in, but let’s ignore that for now.

One time in TK we had to pug a healer. Twenty four guildies, one pug. It seemed that folks kind of knew him, so he wasn’t a complete stranger. Loot reaver drops T5 shoulders, and because we had a pug, our GM said that anyone who needed it (guild or pug) should roll, rather than using DKP. Pug priest wins the roll, and the guild’s main tank, who had been saving DKP for months for those shoulders, seethes, since it was a warrior/priest/druid item.

After the raid is over, seething turns into full-on hissy fit. Spreads to other guildies. GM turns hissy fit turns into new guild policy: No. Pugs. Ever.

“Wow,” I said to myself. “How come this only became an issue after the pug won? Shouldn’t loot rules have been clearly articulated and acknowledged by all beforehand? Maybe even discussed, before the GM announced a final policy? Shouldn’t our MT have been ticked off before the run? At the policy, not the result? Or shouldn’t he at least have accepted the fact that loot rules would be different because we needed to pug a healer to do the run?”

Failure #2: “No, we really don’t take pugs”

Fast forward a month. Casual Guild that Raids is having a hard time filling SSC on Saturday night. Really hard time. Nineteen…ok, now twenty…twenty-one…and that’s it, we hit the ceiling of people that even vaguely qualify for SSC. And this is not a raid on farm, or an easy-mode post-nerf walk through the park. Twenty-one is not enough. Desperate phone calls to offline guildies commence.

I’ve been politely whispering to the RL that I have two friends I play with a lot, a mage and a hunter, who are not only geared enough for the raid (far more geared than most guildies), but are skilled players. Team players. Know how to run out of the fire. Have offered to pass on loot, just willing to help. I believe I had enough clout to make my recommendations carry some weight.

“I’d rather take some half-dead guildie than wipe ‘cause of some pug.”

Hard to describe the amount of spit required to say the word “pug” in that sentence as it came thru on vent.

Okies…begin planning an exit strategy from Casual Guild that Raids.

Alternate Universe: This time, with Leadership

Original TK raid goes down without a pug. We can live with 24.

Or – we get a pug to fill slot #25. GM announces that, like it or not, we need to fill a slot with a guest healer, and therefore they have a right to roll on loot, within certain reasonable and stated bounds. This is the price we must pay to make this happen. Guildies surrender, because they want to do the raid rather than not.

Loot reaver drops T5 shoulders. GM acts on the stated policy, allows priest to roll. And lo, the pug priest wins. Grats from all, perhaps even with an acknowledgement that in some way he deserved such good luck for helping us out. Main tank bites his tongue, hopes for better luck next time.

GM gives two epic gems to the top DKP, the one who would have won the shoulders, as a consolation. The warrior, while not as happy as he would have been with shoulders, realizes that the GM did the best job under the circumstances.

In the words of my mentor & personal life coach Arthur Fonzarelli, I was wr/

It's not that I can't say it because I'm too proud. Well, that's part of it. But it's more that I was right!

Right about the spec that I love to play, the one that for reasons unknown caused me to start blogging. And wrong to think that a min-maxed hybrid spec designed for better soloing would be anything other than totally unpleasant. I'd rather be having my teeth cleaned, thank you very much.

The franken-spec discussed in the last post was indeed a dps powerhouse (for a priest buid, anyway). But I like to level not only by power-questing, but by instancing. Heck, I built this toon to heal, not grind, so questing -- even with a build designed specifically for that purpose -- just feels wrong. And playing that build in Nexus made me feel like I was level 50 all over again. Without a killer shield and (of course) Penance, my healing profile was almost entirely the usual suspects: Flash Heal, Greater Heal, Prayer of Mending, and Renew. Basically, I felt totally gimped. Not that the build isn't strong enough to heal (it is), but it was flat out BORING. When I first started this toon, EgoPriest was my hero. (I still love her, btw.) She wrote a post on what spec to use for leveling that I followed very closely. After making her case for various specs, she got plenty of engaged, heated responses. And more than her original recommendation (shadow for leveling, btw), it was her response to one commenter that still sticks out in my mind as the most relevant piece of advice I've ever read about this game.

The best spec is the one you enjoy playing, always.

There you have it. Meanwhile, I've gone back to deep disc, albeit with some alternate talent points that would make no sense in a raid setting (Reflective Shield, for example). I won't link the build just yet, as I'm not quite satisfied with it, but suffice to say that I'm holding the disc tree to 51 points so I can pick up Spirit Tap and Divine Fury.
Just for a while, I promise! But for level 70 penance healing build just stinks for grinding. Let me rephrase that, cause I wrote it backwards: grinding & leveling stink, my build was perfect :) So for now, inspired by everyone's favorite priesty blogger, I respecced into a hybrid dps/healing build designed for leveling. After I realized that my penance build wouldn't work (after about, oh, 3 mobs), I actually considered returning to the dark side. Whew, that was close. Here is my current franken-build, totally off the map for anything but fast holy leveling, and being able to respond to the overwhelming number of invites to heal instances. Many of the talents were picked just for mana regen purposes, which means I'll be wearing a lot of my old spirit gear, stuff I almost sharded when I went Penance (and started stacking crit). A few key talents: Shadow
  • Spirit Tap: In case you holy people forgot how delicious this was while leveling...It's the downtime killer.
  • Divine Fury: Oh how I missed this with my Penance build. Even better for dps, since it affects HF and Smite.
  • Desperate Prayer: Again, I just missed having this one!
  • Searing Light: Lolsmite may be dead, but for leveling? Easy talent pick.
  • Surge of Light: No-brainer, and an anchor point for this build. This is as far as I went into holy. It forces a balance between spirit gear and crit gear, which is something I'll be tinkering with for sure.
  • Divine Spirit (Improved!): Divine Spirit is obviously for the sweet regen. I had dropped Improved from my Penance build, just because the spell power buff doesn't stack with the shammy totems (which are more powerful anyway). But for soloing/leveling, Improved DS is back.
  • Power Infusion: I got addicted, what can I say? My elesham leveling buddy won't mind. It's hardly a key leveling talent though, and picking up all 5 points in Mental Strength might seem overkill just to get this shiny toy. You could put points into Spiritual Healing instead, but I leaned more towards the dps side than the healing side with this build.
There you have it! So far it's working, and I'm not getting funny looks yet.
For posterity, here is my gear at 70 just before I install Lich King. I have other gear I swap in & out, but this is the main daily healing gear. Thanks to wow-heroes for a great presentation:

Final tally, unbuffed:

8431/11430 (health/mana)
522/606/247 (stam/int/spi)
1113 spell power
21.20% holy crit
129 (8%) haste (plus talents)
342/144 regen

Gems used are all combinations of spell power (red), crit (yellow), and stam (blue). Wow-heroes gives me a score of 766 (gear) + 107 (enchants) = 873.

We'll see about leveling, whether I switch my build to something with a lot more focus on regen (e.g., spirit tap), or if just using my spirit-based gear will be sufficient.
Every time I do a raid with another priest, I come to the same conclusion. A raid leader would either need to be nuts, or really clever, to take a disc priest over a holy priest. Here's the first thing anyone will see when they look at our performance in Recount. Here "S" is a CoH holy priest with about the same gear level as me (with a totally different stat profile of course). "B" is another CoH priest, not only lower gear quality, but out to lunch, so pay no attention. All charts are from a partial run of TK with a decent quality pug. And while it's instructive, I wouldn't draw too many conclusions from this data set! (Oh and if you're not familiar with Recount, it's basically the add-on to track battle stats. Bars are color-coded by class, so the white bars are the priests, green are the hunters, etc. And of course the window title indicates what graph you're looking at. So in the graph at left, it's showing that "S" did 2.09m in total healing, and I did 862k.) Thanks for coming Paolo, you've been...a really nice guy. Keep practicing! Mitigation you say? Yeah, ok, whatever, would be great to see you do more healing though. Meanwhile, as long as we're waiting for loot to be distributed, might as well have a look at some other pages in recount, just for kicks. Oh interesting! He sure kept himself busy doing...whatever it is disc priests do. Since it wasn't healing, maybe he was...buffing everybody? Hmm. But he cast about 25% more spells than CoH man, for what that's worth, even though CoH is instant-cast, and "S" is probably spamming it most of the time. Anyway, at least it seems he wasn't afk, so I can't boot him for that. Wait a second, I thought we had three priests. Why weren't the others doing any dispelling? We have all sorts of magic debuffs to get rid of...damage increasers, sleepers. Not sure exactly how to measure the value of this, but damn, he seems to be pretty attentive to the raid. So how do I score this guy? Seems seriously engaged, using all his tools, attentive to the raid. Supposedly he has some awesome buffs, but who knows, can't see those in recount either. And he says he does a ton of mitigation...yeah, ok, probably. His 13% haste (with talents, plus haste procs) doesn't show up anywhere on the charts. But one thing that does show up is that his heals hit for less, at least 15% less. And his overall healing done is less than half of what our CoH healer does, no arguing with that. So? Do we bring a disc healer or not?

Here's reason #1 why I love the penance spec.

Check out the recount data from a recent raid. This was a TK pug, not a lot of leadership, so healing assignments were pretty lax. And being a 25, things were sloppy all around. (It's my least favorite number, 25, by a long shot.) Being a pug, and with many people never having done TK before, we only got down 2 bosses, with a single attempt on a third. In other words, this ain't the most representative sample, but it will do.

Here is my recount profile:

And the profile of "S", a CoH priest with similar gear level (very different stat profile of course, since I'm a crit stacker atm):

The CoH priest was pretty on the ball. I've seen profiles that were 90% CoH, even more. I've also seen recount data for me that was almost perfectly evenly split amongst the top 5 or 6 spells; Flash Heal was definitely the main spell for this discombobulated pug.

Look at the number of casts for each of us, in addition to the pie charts. I'm using all my tools, all the time. He's using spells in exponentially decreasing frequency. Granted, I should have been PoM-ing more often, and probably renewing as well. But for now, that's not the point. The point is that the spec both encourages, and even forces a degree of engagement and creativity that I have not experienced before as a priest.

And an engaged player is more valuable to your team than a bored or unhappy player. Which is what I was during that brief "let's try CoH" phase of my career. I'm not imposing that experience on other CoH-ers, but certainly many of them are people who were forced to respec because of the demands of T6 content, not because of the pleasure of the playstyle.

Next post will be another analysis of the same raid. But it will be more of a QQ on "Why a raid leader would still not want to take me, even if I'm a better player than the CoH priest."

This blog was mis-named. It should have been "Divine Aegis Priest," but the marketing folks told me it has no snap. Divine Aegis is, I believe, the defining talent for disc priests. Penance is pretty, not to mention awesome. But DA is awesomer. (And it's pretty too.)

The 30% additional damage mitigation is huge. DPS classes have had various versions of critical strike damage bonus talents (e.g., Ruin for warlocks, and now Shadow Power for spriests). DA acts as our equivalent of a critical heal bonus.

The math is simple, but worth considering. Let's say you have a heal that hits for 1000, crits for 1500. The DA shield adds an addition 30% of that, or 450 mitigation, bringing your net to 1950. This is essentially the same as a 100% critical heal bonus.

Divine Aegis: Increases your critical heal bonus by 100%. Like, omg.

Once I really grokked the power of this talent, I began stacking crit. I bought Xiri's Gift, and Wristguards of Tranquil Thought, stuff no holy priest would be caught dead in. I started wearing shadow gear, like my Corrupted Soulcloth Pantaloons. My crit rating is over 24%, before you start factoring in Renewed Hope, consumables or raid buffs.

Consider: Prayer of Mending - 5 chances to crit. Penance - 3 chances. Prayer of Healing - 5 chances. Flash/GH/Penance - crit chance probably augmented by Renewed Hope. PW:Shield/Flash - you're spamming these, so you're probably critting like crazy with 'em.

(That's a key point btw. Disc priests have become spammers, like pallies. We don't dodge the 5sr as much as holy priests do, at least in my experience, especially now with Rapture. So while you can't rely on crits to do your healing for you, if you really are spamming, and multi-shotting with PoM and Penance, the crits are going to be constant. Still not as reliable as +heal bonuses, but almost!)

Don't get me wrong: all priests will be stacking crit to some degree by level 80. Shadow priests can now crit on Mind Flay, and Shadow Power gives them a 100% critical bonus. Holy priests have Surge of Light (which is awesome now) and of course Holy Concentration.

The theorycrafters will keep us informed once they figure out the right balance of spellpower/haste/crit/regen. And while I listen carefully to the smart guys, I also play by feel, which is perhaps not the min-max-iest way to play. For now, feel is telling me that crit is worth as much as spellpower for a disc priest, at least at my level and for my play style.

Aegis bubbles everywhere! I am a living HMO...prevention is more powerful than the cure.