Penance Priest

Discipline Priest Blog

Disc priests are defined by great spells that have cooldowns. Holy priests are free to cast most of their bread & butter spells as they like (oops! CoH got the nerf). But we are limited (if you like to think of it that way) by spam-preventing cooldowns.

Penance without a cooldown? Lol, way overpowered. Power Word Shield? Also, it’s just too good. Power Infusion? Please.

So let’s not think of cooldowns as limitations, but as inherent parts of the spells themselves. Blizzard could have slashed Penance’s healing coefficient and let us cast it as we please. Instead they kept it powerful, but ensured that we cast it less often.

These interlocking cooldowns form a rhythm. The disc rhythm involves juggling our abilities and using them when they’re up.

We are like drummers, the true kings of polyrhythm. In honor of us, the Disc Drummer Kings, I offer you this set of solos by three of the true masters. Off-topic but killer.

Ok, so maybe we’re not quite Steve Gadd. But we are defined by the inherent rhythm of our skills, and we are only as skilled as our ability to manage those rhythms.

(And yes, I have played both a shadow priest and an affliction lock. Disc has no monopoly on spell juggling. Perhaps affliction is the Dave Weckl, and shadow the Vinnie Colauita of time management?)

Most of us have developed a strong sense of the “pulse” of the GCD. That 1.5-second tick has been driven into our fingers. But the longer pulses — 8 seconds on Penance, 15 seconds on Weakened Soul, etc. — do not come naturally. Steve Gadd might have the ability to “feel” the multiple pulses happening simultaneously, across multiple targets, while the world is crashing around him. Not me. I need to see them on the screen.

Key cooldowns

The most important cooldowns you need to manage are:

  • Penance (8 seconds)
  • PW:Shield (4 seconds)
  • Prayer of Mending (10 seconds)
  • Power Infusion (96 seconds)
  • Weakened Soul (15 sec)

And other cooldowns you need to have in mind:

  • Pain Suppression (2 min, 24 sec)
  • Inner Focus (2 min, 24 sec)
  • Fade (30 seconds)
  • Shadowfiend (5 minutes)
  • Inner Fire (10 minutes)

How important is managing your cooldowns? Well, just look at the first four spells above. If you don’t get fired up just thinking about using them, you probably haven’t played discipline for very long. Those four spells are powerhouses in your arsenal. Using them wisely is the key to success.

Seeing the pulse

I use three separate tools to ensure that I’m always aware of when my abilities are up. That’s right, three.

  • Text, in your face. Mik’s Scrolling Battle Text (MSBT) is a full-featured combat text addon. It shows everything: incoming damage, outgoing heals, experience & reputation gains, the works. I have mine set to splash a message when key abilities are off cooldown. BAM: “Power Infusion is Ready!” Displayed just under my toon in the center of the screen, information goes straight into the brain.

  • Icon, also in your face. GhostPulse will put up an icon to show you when an ability comes off cooldown. I have the icon shifted to the side a bit, near my raid frames. My eyes are darting back and forth between the screen center and my raid frames, so the pulse icon will assault me if I’m looking in that direction. This is totally identical to the information and timing of the shouts from MSBT, just in a different position on the screen, and in icon form instead of text. If you’re interested in a lean & mean user interface, skipping either GhostPulse or MSBT is certainly a good option. (MSBT, for better or for worse, is far more than a cooldown management tool; GhostPulse is a one-trick pony.)

  • Always-available list of cooldowns. I will often be too busy or distracted to register the flash of information from #1 or #2. If I ever need to know the status of a cooldown, I have a list of the key abilities that is always on screen, provided by CooldownWatch. Did I miss the notice about Power Infusion coming back up? No problem…quick glance to the CW list to see if it’s up, and if it’s not, how long until it comes back up. When an ability is ready, it doesn’t drop off the list; that wouldn’t be as easy to read in the heat of the moment. (“Negative information” — or the absence of an item in a list — takes more brain cycles to parse than the presence of an item with “zero” as its cooldown time remaining.)

    There are many addons like CooldownWatch. I think it’s a masterpiece.

Bonus tool: tracking Prayer of Mending

PoM is a unique beast. It has three separate internal counters, forming its own jagged multi-rhythmic heartbeat:

  • The number of bounces remaining
  • Time left on the 10-second casting cooldown
  • Time left on the 30-second maximum wait time before the buff fades

As I mentioned in my previous post on tracking buffs & debuffs, I have an indicator in my Grid frame to show who’s holding the bouncing band-aid. However, tracking the three counters falls under the banner of cooldown management; far more that I would ask Grid to handle.

The addon I use for PoM is called Broker_PoM. It’s a data broker, which means you can use any of the data broker display addons as a host. I use ButtonBin and wholeheartedly recommend it as a broker display. Here I’ve set up the PoM broker in its own Bin, and placed it adjacent to the CooldownWatch pane.

It shows who has the buff, but also how many bounces are left (4), how many seconds are left (proportional to the number of dots after the name, from one to five), and when PoM can be re-cast (the text turns white when PoM is off cooldown). The bounce counter is most important, but all of the information is displayed incredibly well. Kudos for a fantastic display.

Wrapping it up

Here’s a full screenshot of my UI in action during Naxx10. I’m not submitting it to the design committee for awards. And as with many things in this game, it’s a work in progress. (Click for enlarged version.)

All of these cooldown-tracking addons amount to a lot of redundancy. A lot of redundancy. But I can’t imagine a more important part of game play, especially for disc. You must be aware of the status of your cooldowns at all times. This is a “whatever it takes” type of situation. In my case, having the information shown in three places is what it takes.

For me, this is one time where I must defend my assertion that addons make me a better player. Of course one can heal as disc without them, but I just can’t imagine being as efficient. We’re talking about using your best abilities…to the best of your ability. And knowledge is power, baby.

Meanwhile, can someone convert my WWS parse into a drum solo please?

As a healer, you need to be aware of a tremendous amount of information. I’d like to show you how I get at that information. In particular, this post will look at how I use Grid to display the status of buffs & debuffs on party members. This isn’t a post that will try to convince you that Grid is better than Healbot, or that addons are better than no addons. I’m just here to show you how I get mission-critical information. If you can get it another way, fantastic.

But just to be clear though, Grid is better than Healbot, and addons are better than no addons.

Grid is tricky to set up; it took me a few weeks to adjust once I moved over from Healbot. There’s a thread on EJ that can help you with that (read: don’t ask me for help!), but the best way to learn Grid is just to play around. I had Healbot and Grid running side-by-side until I felt totally comfortable with Grid.

And by the way, if you do use Healbot, you can do at least 80% of what I’m about to describe, and it will be much easier to configure than Grid.

Sample raid frame: Tank

Here’s what a tank might look like:

  1. Aggro
  2. Renew timer (only for my own renew)
  3. Power word shield active, Weakened soul debuff active
  4. Grace (# stacks)
  5. Inspiration

Other than Inspiration, those are all immensely useful when it comes to making snap decisions. I just like to know when Inspiration is up. Divine Aegis? Not shown because it also doesn’t affect my decision making. Of course I like to know when it’s up, but those shiny balls are kind of hard to miss. Don’t need raid frames for that.

Aggro: If this little dot ever moves to another raid frame, you can bet they’ve got a shield coming as fast as I can pop one. Followed by a scold. (Hmm…nice macro idea… /cast Power Word: Shield, followed by /y Aggro monger! Stop taking what isn’t yours!)

Renew: If the fight is tough, or has periods of silence (Maexxna), my awareness of this little ticker is paramount. I don’t have much interest (for now) in seeing others’ hots, but that could be arranged if it becomes important.

PWS: Seeing PWS and Weakened Soul is top priority. I can see when another priest has shielded their target as well. In fact, depending on the situation, I might ask them to leave the shielding to me. During the time span of the Weakened Soul debuff, I’m locked out from using my own shields, which are likely to be much stronger. In a two-tank fight, I’m often able to main-heal one tank while still putting shields on the second tank.

Grace: Like renew, if the fight is tough, I’m trying to keep up Grace at all times. There’s a Grid plugin just for this, by the way. It’s able to show not only the number of stacks, but the time remaining on the buff. I’m not showing this at the moment; I just don’t need to get that granular.

Inspiration: As I said, it’s not really essential. It just gives me a warm feeling to know it’s up.

Sample raid frame: Everyone else

Here is another frame, just me this time, to show a few other pieces of useful information:

Prayer of Mending: This is an interesting one. Knowing who’s currently holding the bouncing ball of healing is useful, and that’s as much as I’ve asked Grid to display. But there’s more to know as well. I use a data broker called Broker_PoM for that. It shows four things in a compact and easy-to-read frame: who’s got the ball, how many bounces are left, how many seconds are left, and indicates when the cooldown is up and it can be recast. (Managing cooldowns will be the subject of Part Two of this post.)

All this other PoM detail could be embedded within the Grid frame, but I like to have only the most immediate and essential information shown there.

Power Infusion and Pain Suppression: These two buffs share a location in the layout. That’s fine, because I haven’t yet put them on the same target except myself (typically during emergency procedures when I’m the last man standing). But I don’t need the raid frame to tell me when it’s an emergency.

Frame colors for emergencies

My raid frame (above) is colored orange. This is an emergency medical condition requiring immediate attention. In particular, it means my Inner Fire buff is down.

Yes, I consider this an emergency, which is why the frame turns such a vivid shade, one that will grab my eye even during heated combat. It’s on a class filter, so I can see when the buff fades off any priest. (And given how significant a spellpower boost it is, I will not hesitate to ask priests to refresh Inner Fire if it does go down.)

I also use colors for other emergency conditions. The entire frame turns blue for a dispellable magic debuff; brown for a disease; and purple for specific custom debuffs.

Knowing when Inner Fire goes down is a terrific addition to the interface. The spellpower bonus represents a significant portion of my overall throughput, which is why I use a vivid color that will grab my eye even during heated combat. I have it on a class filter, so I can see when the buff fades off any priest. It’s not exactly my job as a healer to remind other priests that their buff is down, but I do like to ensure that everyone is running their A-game at all times. They generally appreciate it, because they know that I’m a team player, and I’m not calling them on it to tell them how bad they are, but to make sure our team is running at full capacity.


Also used: GridIndicatorCornerIcons, GridIndicatorCornerText, GridIndicatorSideIcons, GridSideIndicators, GridStatusGrace, GridStatusHots, GridStatusMissingBuffs
Grid thread on EJ
Broker_PoM (and ButtonBin, my favorite data broker display)

Paolo: I need a gem please.

JC: Sure, what kind? We got red, blue, green, you name it. Attack power, intellect, what do you need?

Paolo: Um, this. (Reaches under his Bauble-Woven gown, into his back pocket, sorts thru several crumpled pieces of scrap to find the one he wants, and hands it to the JC.)

JC: (Tilting his head, trying to read what’s on the paper.) Say what?

Paolo: I need a gem.

JC: This isn’t a gem, noob. This is a profile of how you might look someday when you shed your noobish skin a few times. Not today though. Today you can have one gem, which means one stat, two if you ask nicely. But you cannot have “0.3 spellpower, 0.25 intellect, 0.25 crit, 0.1 haste, and 0.1 spirit.”

No, I’m not going to try to convince you that I have better numbers for you to plug into Lootrank. Theorycrafters will do much better than I will at producing stat ratios on the optimal end-game gearset.

And I’m also not trying to compare buying a single gem with designing a plan for your end-game gearset. I was just having fun.

No, this is a little more real-world. When the theorycrafters tell you to weigh crit by 0.25 and haste by 0.15, that doesn’t mean that the next piece of gear you should get must have those stats in that ratio. You meander. The next piece of gear might be all crit. Then the next might be all haste. Etc.

The stats behind the stats, and Disc’s strengths & weaknesses

All of the stats you find on equipment end up translating into one of two fundamental healing abilities:

  • Throughput: the ability to pump out more heals per second (HPS). Aka “hit harder.”
  • Longevity: the ability to heal for longer fights without going out of mana. Aka “last longer.”

That’s pretty much it. Some stats translate in an obvious way: more spellpower, for example, will make you hit harder, while more mp5 will let you last longer. Other stats have a more complex response: crit, for example, gives you more throughput, and some extra longevity as well (via Rapture procs on Divine Aegis). In fact, most stats have some crossover — even spellpower will increase your longevity a bit via its impact on Rapture regen.

Disc’s strength is its longevity. Rapture rocks, and our other mana-saving talents are wonderful as well. Our weakness is throughput. Holy priests hit harder, that’s just the way it is. Both the low throughput and high longevity are inherent properties of the spec.

And as you’ll find when you start playing at 80, you desperately need to address your weaknesses more than you need to advance your strengths.

More on the individual stats

Here are how the stats affect your throughput & longevity. Green is a positive effect, red negative, and the stronger the color, the stronger the effect.
















Look at that…only one red cell. Keep that in mind: haste is great for throughput (more heals in a shorter amount of time), but bad for longevity.

The three phases of Disc gearup

Enough chitchat. Here’s the point.

As you gear up, you will go through three phases during which your priorities, and the resulting gear choices, will shift.

Phase One: You just hit 80, and are rocking maybe 1300 spellpower. You simply cannot keep a tank alive through heroic anything, and Patchwerk is your worst nightmare. You need help.

Stack spellpower until it hurts. Regen (either intellect or mp5/spirit will work) is a close second, but gem and enchant for pure spellpower, because throughput is your biggest weakness. Avoid haste at all costs. Take crit any time you can, but do not trade any spellpower options for crit. You will be getting int along the way without particularly trying.

TLDR: Spellpower >> Intellect > MP5/Spirit > Crit

Phase Two: Oddly enough, even though you’ve been focusing on throughput, it’s your longevity that has benefited the most. And you now are feeling confident with longer fights, even if you’re still having difficulty with spike damage.

Start backing off regen items. Continue to stack spellpower, and focus on building up a solid base of crit, aiming for 25-30%. Continue to treat haste like a disease.

TDLR: Spellpower > Crit

Phase Three: Stack haste. Get rid of regen items to the degree that you can. Now you can, if you like, gem for intellect.

TLDR: Haste > Spellpower >> Int

A final note on throughput & longevity

The reason you should focus so aggressively on throughput is because of the huge number of third-party support options for longevity. In other words, here are some buffs that you can get from various classes:

Strong longevity buffs: Pally, Shammy, Mage, Shadow Priest (or ret pally)

Weak longevity buffs: Pally, Druid, Warlock (in the absence of a mage)


Strong throughput buffs: Shammy, Druid

Weak throughput buffs: (none)

Hence you must take care of your own throughput.

Example: Glyphs

You of course have Glyph of PWS and Glyph of Flash Heal. If not, please return your disc membership card as you exit the building. But what of your third glyph?

During phase one, it’s an easy call. Renew. Yes, the evil HoT, the anti-disc spell that procs of none of our delicious cookies. Well, the glyph turns your renew into an HPS machine. It will now hit for harder each tick, and you have it up on the tank at all times anyway (don’t you?). Yes, you’ll have to cast it more often. But we’re interested in HPS right now, and the tradeoff we’re making (wasting a GCD more often) is easily worth it.

During phase two and phase three, playstyle choices are more relevant. You can glyph for dispel magic (there’s a ton of it needed in Northrend) or for Holy Nova (another formerly-hated spell, now finding its uses), Prayer of Healing. Your choice.

Example: Cloak

On the assumption that you are willing to dump 800g or so into an epic you won’t replace anytime soon, get a Wispcloak made the day you hit 80. It has as much spellpower as you could hope for, and 20mp5 is crazy for a cloak. If you’re a tailor, put on Darkglow for extra regen.

By the time you hit phase three, you should seriously consider spending another 800g or so to get Deathchill made. The loss of stats, including the regen, is perfectly acceptable at this level. And haste is now something you are seeking, because regen is no longer an urgent issue. And instead of putting on Darkglow, get it hasted.


At this point you should understand this philosophy well enough to navigate the talent choices you have. How should you relate to Enlightenment? Improved Renew? Improved Divine Spirit? Absolution? Those are a few of your negotiable talents, and based on what we’ve been talking about, they are the ones that will shift around as you gear up. Play around with them as you progress.

Paolo: I need a gem please.

JC: Sure, what kind? We got red, blue, green, you name it. Stamina, defense rating, spirit, what do you need?

Paolo: I just hit 80 bro. What’s the fattest spellpower gem you have?

JC: Excellent choice my friend. Wanna heal H.VH?