Penance Priest

Discipline Priest Blog

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?

(6) Comments

  1. "Posts from resto shammies & holy pallies will be promptly deleted." D: But I am a holy pally AND a disc priest!

    But I love you for this post. I shall link it in all it's deliciousness, and pretend that someone other than me reads my blog. At least I'll be able to find it when my baby priest hits 80. XD

    1/09/2009 5:41 PM Seneca

    While I can appreciate the effort and thought you put into this, I have to disagree about Haste. It has yet to find its way into my heart, mainly due to the fact that all it could possibly affect is my Flash Heal (which is quite fast enough) and my GCD (which doesn't really need managing). As endgame Disc, you need to find a good balance between throughput and longevity, but not one at dire expense of the other.

    Sacrificing things for Haste might be a burden on your average Joe's longevity, but not an issue at endgame due to our near-infinite mana pool. That is the point you are pushing across. However, there is so little to be gained from Haste that it just doesn't have a place. You will only really start seeing a huge increase in throughput if you stack it to ungodly amounts, but you'll be sacrificing way too many stats and bonuses for that to happen. Find your balance, is all I'm saying.

    1/13/2009 1:27 AM Paolo

    Sounds good to me. I think a penance priest who had zero haste but massive crit would be a force for sure. So for completeness, consider Phase 3, alternate version: crit, crit, and more crit. I have no hesitation about recommending that on equal footing with my original suggestion.

    (Not being a theorycrafter myself, more of a feelcrafter, I don't have much ammo with which to debate you. Except this:)

    By the time any engaged and intelligent player reaches what I've been calling phase 3, they should have achieved some form of mastery of their class. They should be able to swap out gear and consumables appropriate to the situation, understand the direct and indirect benefits of the different stats, respond to inter-class mechanics, etc. And most importantly, they should be learning directly for themselves, from their own experience, as much as they learn from theorycrafters and pundits.

    Phase 3 is the beginning of true creativity. Find out what works for you. You should be fluent enough in the language of priesting that you know what gaps there are in your skills and in your gear for any given encounter.

    Play hard!

    1/13/2009 2:00 PM Dan


    Hey man, thanks for putting this together. I'm rather new to the disc game, I really only used it in B.C. for some pvp. I'm really loving the new spec, loving re-gearing and taking a different look at what I'm doing. I'm really only partially finished gearing and learning, so I'll be back for more tidbits and information later. Just thought I'd let you know that you've helped a great deal already. Thanks!

    11/25/2009 3:16 AM Janne

    Might be a dumb question, but here goes anyway:

    Is the glyph of Penance totally useless?

    i'm still in the leveling phase of my disc priest (lvl75 atm) and often find myself using penance every time it's available while healing instances.
    Would i be better off glyphing for Pw:S and spamming one more flash heal while waiting for penance?

    -Ekthyl of KulTiras(EU)

    11/25/2009 10:38 AM Paolo

    @Janne: It's a close call, glyph what you prefer. Flash heal for mana reduction (and it will be your bread & butter spell), Penance for a bit more oomph. Shield won't be quite as good in 5mans as it is in larger raids, because you're limited by Weakened Soul. The one thing I'll say in favor of the Glyph of Penance at your level is that it will help you get used to the rhythm of the cooldown, so it will be more ingrained in your fingers when you hit 80.


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Posts from resto shammies & holy pallies will be promptly deleted.

Just kidding :)