Penance Priest

Discipline Priest Blog

(The limb upon which I step grows thin and weak. It begins to creak under my modest weight, threatening to send me to the lions roaring below. Fade…levitate…don’t fail me now!)

Graduate-level? That’s right. This is not a guide for the fresh 80, although if that’s you, hopefully you will find it interesting nonetheless. For reference, here is the short and long form of Disc Stats 101 for the Up & Coming:

A: Stack more spellpower and intellect.

There you go. See you in a couple of months.

This is also not a guide for the PhDs among you. You’ll know what you need better than I could ever tell you. Go read another analysis of the HPS and HPM of Greater versus Flash Heal and report back to me.

This is a guide for the rest of us. Geared enough to be confident, smart enough to be willing to adjust to changing situations.


First of all, this guide wouldn’t be needed without the Great Penance Nerf of ’09. Simple as that. Prior to that, our HPS (yes, I said it) was excellent. But with the extra time between casts of the best healing spell in the game (I said that too), our healing has changed. I’m no longer able to comfortably keep up a tank the way I used to. Other healers have been buffed, we’ve been nerfed. I’m not here to complain, but to discuss how to adjust, by selecting the proper stats for your gear and gems.

Second: any playstyle recommendation is totally dependent on the context. Are you over-geared for the content you’re in? Are you running with druids or with pallies? Are your other healers shit-hot at what they do, or do you end up carrying some of their weight? And on and on…I’m convinced that when you add up all of those factors for any group and for any encounter, there actually is a single correct response to the situation. By that I mean there is a correct gearing plan and a correct spell selection. But because the factors are so many, it’s impossible to nail down a single overarching recommendation. You just need to be smart and flexible.

Third – and last comment before we get started – the days of min/max are behind us. You can ignore everything you read here and anywhere else and still do well for the most part. If you enjoy improving your play (as I do), and don’t build computer simulations to evaluate specs and spell priorities, then read on.

Ok. Let us begin.

A few priests to consider

Wandering the hallowed halls of the interwebz I stumbled across a few priests that caught my eye. These are all folks with Algalon under their belts, in the top echelon of the priesthood. These are not necessarily the top three priests in the world, but they’re obviously smart, creative, well geared, and in the top strata of what they do. All values are taken straight off armory, so no buffs.  I’ve linked their profiles, but who knows what changes they will have made since I saw them.

Priest Spellpower Crit Haste Intellect
















Oh my. One stacked crit beyond what most people consider normal. One is an unabashed intellect stacker. And one stacked spellpower and haste. Who do we listen to?

The rest of this post is about the stats you can stack, why you would stack them, and why you’re nuts if you don’t do as I say.

On haste

Haste is sexy. As in, crazy sexy cool. As much as we love to see our crit bubbles, the feeling of a Greater Heal flying off your golden hands at light speed is just…awesome.

There is a lot of discussion about the haste cap for discipline. I won’t rehash the numbers, except to say you can easily find plenty of wrong information. The truth is that with 5% haste from gear, your GCD is capped at one second while under the influence of Borrowed Time and normal 25-man raid buffs. See here. The same one second cap applies to the cast time of Flash Heal.

That’s a soft cap. You can stack haste well beyond 5% and get plenty of benefit:

  • Any time you aren’t casting with Borrowed Time up
  • Any time you don’t have a full set of hasty raid buffs
  • Any time you’re casting a Penance, Greater Heal, or Prayer of Healing

These are real possibilities, which is why haste is not hard-capped. Every point of haste always decreases the cast time of Penance, GH, and PoH. So depending on your spell-casting priorities, you may receive tremendous benefit from haste well beyond the 5% soft cap.

Why stack haste? If you’re on full-time tank duty, in a stressed environment (meaning you can’t be raid-shielding to activate BT as much as you might like). You’ll benefit from haste on most of your Flash Heals…any that don’t immediately follow a shield. And (the limb creaks ominously) your Greater Heals will be significantly better. A haste gearset goes very nicely with a Greater Heal build. GH can be a very good spell, despite what we’ve come to believe, especially if you adjust your spec to include Divine Fury and Improved Healing. And with haste on your side, your heals will actually be useful, and not just overheal.

In other words, there is a new style of discipline tank healing – GH plus haste – and it’s on the rise. You may be a GH hater, but leave it open for now. It’s a viable solution to our tank-healing woes.

Problems? Well, even with a lot of haste, we’re not paladins. Your heals still might not land fast enough. And they certainly won’t be big heals either relative to what a pally can put out. But haste will put you back in the HPS game for sure.

On crit

You know about crit. Not much to say here, except to remind you that as of 3.1, Divine Aegis bubbles will stack. You get a maximum cumulative bubble of 10k. Since DA bubbles are 30% of the original heal, you will get 10k protection for every 33k of critical healing you do. (Only crit heals count towards that, of course.) If you’re on tank duty, spamming everything you’ve got, there is no way you’ll keep up with that.

Some quick math, which you’re welcome to skip. Let’s say you’re doing 1000 hps. If your crit rate is 100%, that means you’re healing for 1500 per second, all crit, giving you 450 protection from DA. Scale those numbers however you want; there’s no way that you’ll be overshooting the 10k cap on DA while on a boss. A reasonable number for DA protection per second would be on the order of 1000.

That’s my new benchmark stat, by the way. Divine Aegis protection per second: DAPPS. “Maximize your DAPPS as a disc priest.” Meme it up.

Why stack crit? To boost your DA mitigation, of course. Your DAPPS will scale linearly with your crit rate. More crit also means higher uptime on Inspiration, but that should not be an issue; it will be up nearly 100% for any reasonable values of crit on a spamming tank healer.

A  disc priest’s shields and DA bubbles are the heart and soul of our spec. We are the best mitigators in the game.  It would seem that our unique value to a raid would be in direct proportion to the strength of our mitigation. And there are two ways to increase your mitigation: get more spell power, and get more crit.

Oh, by the way, spell power

Power Word: Shield does not benefit from haste (except via a lower GCD). It does not benefit from crit (except that the glyph’s heal can now crit). It does not benefit from intellect. The only way to increase the size of your shield is to add spell power.

To the degree that shields are part of your rotation, you need to be boosting your spell power. For a long time, it was the only stat I gemmed.  You can’t go wrong stacking spell power.

Of course, spell power helps all of your spells, not just shields.

On intellect

(The sound of snapping wood fills the night air. Guttural growls from the beasts below spark adrenaline rushes of fear. I could still turn back…)

As far as I’m concerned, intellect is a special-purpose stat. Of all the fights in the game, of all the different types of groups and healing teams, there are relatively few that require mana pools bigger than what you get from the gear you receive when you’re playing level-appropriate content.

There, I said it.

If you’re a PhD, you might argue with me, saying that 99% of the fights you’re working on require massive mana pools because of the dps requirements of hard mode Yogg, etc. Great. But if you’re at that level, what are you doing here?

All disc priests love their intellect. Some stack int for the sheer joy of the massive mana pool we get from Mental Strength. Some love to be the last person still healing in long fights. Some like to have a huge insurance policy for when things go horribly awry. And some believe that because intellect is related to crit that in fact it’s not merely a regen stat, but a combo regen+throughput stat.

It’s not. It takes 167 intellect to give you 1% crit. That’s eight epic gems. If you’re trying to get crit rating, do not stack intellect. If you’re using the additional crit benefit of intellect to justify stacking it, you’re deluding yourself.

You should power-on the intellect if and only if you are mana starved. It is a regen stat, and it is our best regen stat without question. If you end fights with half your mana and with shadowfiend off cooldown, you do not need more mana, and therefore you do not need to stack intellect. However, if you’re doing fights that require constant spamming of your biggest heals, and you struggle to last long enough, intellect is the clear choice.

On spirit & mp5

Every time a discipline priest slots a gem with mp5 on it, a new death knight is born.

Every time a disc priest uses more than one purified gem, a rogue starts an arena team.

Every disc priest who uses a spirit trinket (one exception) has secured themselves a dossier and an active case at the Internal Affairs department at Discipline Central Oversight.

If you need mana, get more intellect. Or, for more modest mana boosts, use one of a few solid trinkets that will extend your mana pool more than you probably think. Use a single purified gem to activate your meta. Otherwise, do not justify using any blue-tinted gem with issues of regen or even socket bonuses.

I’m watching you.

My role in 3.2, and its gearing implications

In 3.1, I found my role to be a supportive tank healer and a supportive raid healer. I could be assigned to a tank, but still shield the raid a tremendous amount. This allowed me to keep up Borrowed Time (and my 4-piece bonus). But in 3.2, I’m finding a lot less time for shielding. To make myself useful, I’m leaning heavily in the direction of a major increase in DAPPS. This is something that no other class can do. I could stack haste, but I’ll still never approach the sick amount of healing done by our druids and holy pallies (with whom I share tank duties).

So my gearup plan for 3.2 is a massive buildup of crit first, spellpower and haste second. I will be solidifying my unique role as a mitigator, rather than trying to close the unclosable gap in HPS.

In conclusion

  • Spell power is always good. It boosts your healing spells and your mitigation.
  • Intellect is usually bad. If you need more of it, you’ll know it, but do not listen to anyone trying to tell you it’s the überstat for discipline priests. You should have plenty on your gear already for what you need. Intellect does not add any (significant) throughput; it is purely for longevity, and it excels at its job.
  • Haste is fun and fantastic for burst tank healing. It will improve your throughput and ensure that you run out of mana sooner.
  • Crit will boost mitigation (which we now call DAPPS) and of course your overall HPS.

Next up…

A crit-oriented gearup plan for 3.2. That is, if I survive the fall and evade the lions awaiting below…

(20) Comments

  1. 9/08/2009 2:20 PM Sinespe

    I love you, Paolo.


    *cuddles this post*

    9/08/2009 3:39 PM Martin

    Great post. Since 3.2 I have got myself completely confused. I have gemmed Intellect completely, specced Divine Fury and Improved healing and still couldnt prevent some wipes in ToC 5 man HC. Every time I reach for Peanance it's not there :(

    Might just follow your lead and go for DAPPS. Should I then drop DF and IH?


    9/08/2009 3:50 PM Paolo

    @Sinespe: Sorry, my heart belongs to Amber. But I added your blog to the sidebar us proud bro.

    @Amber: Careful.

    @Martin: H.ToC is tough. If you're not ready for Naxx25 or Ulduar10, you're stretching it to do h.ToC unless you're being carried. That goes for all 5 of you. As for the spec...I can't say. Some excellent priests spec DF+IH at the expense of Improved Flash Heal or Focused Will. I did as well, but have since moved my IH points back into IFH. YMMV of course.

    9/08/2009 4:58 PM Martin

    I'm ashamed to say I'm 13/14 Ulduar 10 and 12/14 Ulduar 25. But yes i wiped :(

    9/08/2009 6:15 PM Sinespe

    We know how to play Baseball, by the way. It's a game played by girls, called "Rounders".

    9/08/2009 9:17 PM Critfur

    Im glad to say i have this in my bookmarks, amazing post again man, this really is something that i'll be showing to the other discipline priests in my guild


    Interestingly, I'm gearing heavy crit while retaining the supporting role. I felt I needed to adjust SOMETHING when I got shoved back into a MT heal role, and I just was NOT getting haste on gear. In fact, I was losing it as I got upgrades.

    Hopefully I will not stay in the MT role when we get back to 25s-I'm actually relishing the support role. That and when I'm not support on Ignis, people die in the damn pot!

    9/09/2009 10:37 PM Cassie

    Hmmm Discipline is my offspec and I tend to play it quite infrequently in raids. But I'm always the first to beg for an innervate - that's wearing heavy sp/crit gear.

    I think it's much more likely that I'm not playing the spec right to conserve mana though :)

    9/10/2009 4:00 AM Maebius

    Interesting post. I must sadly admit I birthed a few Death Knights and rogue arena teams in my past, but am sloooowly re-gearing myself. Our guild is still at 10-man Ulduar up to crazy cat lady, and struggles on Ignis, so not uber-elite yet.
    Still, we have fun! I'll see if I can convince my brain to re-gem spellpower, seeing as I am usually MT or OT healer, and very very infrequently raid heals if our paladin bacon-healer joins us for a run.

    9/10/2009 4:00 PM Jessabelle

    ahhhhh this post is killing me, because I'm doing it all wrong.

    I think part of my problem is that I am trying to use the same approximate set of gear for both my Holy AND my Disc specs. And what's pissing me off, is that in some weird twisted screwed up turn of events, I'm having NO mana problems as Holy and running out very quickly with Disc.

    This cannot be. It makes no sense. Must regem obsessively and test. :::runs off and creates a new spreadsheet::

    9/14/2009 3:37 PM Heather

    Thank you for a great article, also love the sarcasm regarding disc priests gemming for MP5/spirit.

    9/20/2009 4:25 PM Peter

    Thanks boss - I was stacking a combo of SP and Int, but I'll likely switch to full SP now. I rarely run out of mana since I manage it pretty well.

    9/25/2009 3:03 PM Karl

    Interesting read. The int argument is a nice one, however im finding that i want just enough Int to be able to make my PW:S free on rapture return, then i feel i have enough Int.

    Spell Power should always come first. You kinda failed to mention that our heals need SP, not only PW:S :P. When gearing from fresh content, go for hybrid gems until you hit your goals, then stack to deviate and stack straight SP or Crit or which ever.

    Balance is always the key!

    However thats how i feel. Excellent blog tho. really nice and profressionally done!

    btw, is that 5% haste cap from gear alone? or are you factoring in raid buffs? (shammy totem ftw?)


    9/25/2009 4:13 PM Paolo

    @Karl: Thank you for the comments!

    Balance is not a goal in and of itself, but a means to an end. I think the three uberpriests demonstrate that imbalanced profiles have the potential to work very well. (Remember, this was not a guide for new priests.)

    And I did mention about spell power! I did! (Last line of the section.)

    The haste soft-cap is reached with 5% haste from gear only. Talents and raid buffs bring us to the actual cap. See the link I posted in the article for more details.

    As for int: I feel I have enough when I end the fight with 10% mana. Usually I end with far more than that, and I don't have a single gem with int on it. If you're on raid-shielding duty it will require far more mana than tank-healing duty, so adjust your mana requirements to suit your needs.

    10/02/2009 1:00 AM Nymarie

    I keep trying to post this.

    I pretty much agree with everything said here. On the forums I get grilled a lot for my gems. But I basically fill in wherever my guild needs me so I have a healthy balance of these stats.

    I only recently started stacking Intellect due to hard modes. First time I ever went oom after using cooldowns was on ToGC25.

    10/02/2009 11:36 AM D.R. Eisenbarth

    Another excellent article... I'm so glad I found this blog today. I just re-gemmed last night... back to my jc tonight.
    Actually, the best thing about your site, the articles make me think. I actually prefer to try out things myself rather than try to conform to some spec or guide then play monkey see monkey do.
    I'm in a family guild and pretty much run heroics every night.. not much raiding ever, but I have no problem healing Htoc 5man.

    We have enough folks for 10man content but our casual style means we get together maybe 1 nite a week and wait around 1 hour to attempt raids for 2 hours... lol.
    Ony10 was fun but terminal.. maybe we'll get her over the weekend..
    Again - great blog... thanks.

    Gölgatha US Malfurion

    12/19/2009 3:32 PM robbertdf

    So i've always been said that intelect is THE thing to gem, never gem for crit/haste/spi. cuz int gives mana pool + crit. as you said, not that much but stil. I've been told to get 1500 intelect and then start gemming spellpower, for my shields mostly it gives 2 things. Now i'm in a 10man raiding guild and i mostly heal together with a holy pala or if 3 healers needed a resto druid aswell. Lets say i'm not rly a raid healer or a tank healer. Okay i mostly focus on tanks but i heal the raid when ever i can. So i cant rly say i'm a tank healer or a raid healer, i just do both. On anuberak i focus on tanks and ppl with penetrating cold.
    Below is my armory link:

    I must say i'm quiet happy with my mana pool (2800)atm, also my crit is good enough imo, so why gemming for even more crit? Haste is 11,59% without even gemming for haste, so i'm allrdy way over the soft-cap. 338/603 mp5.. I guess i could get some more but the most mana regen comes from my shields and becaus of my big mana pool; replenishment etc. I guess i could get some more spellpower (2374) but as i said, i've been told to get atleast 1500 intelect, then focus on spellpower, so thats what i'll be doing with my new gear, gem for spellpower and not get under 1500 int. So my question to you: am i doing things wrong, picking out the wrong gear, gemming wrong? I'm confused since when ever i think i know what i need to do, everyone tells me to do something else.

    Greetings Pyra

    12/21/2009 12:36 AM Paolo

    I don't understand the recommendation you're getting about 1500 intellect. Here's my recommendation in a nutshell: get as much mana as you need, for the fights you're working on. Get as much of that mana from gear, and if you're still struggling, then gem luminous (spell power/int) or even brilliant (full intellect). After you have enough mana, gem full spell power.

    I don't have any fixed threshold for when you swap from int to spell power. It's too subtle, and it interrelates with too many other factors to nail down a single number that's accurate for all priests in all situations.

    Also: I do not recommend gemming for haste or crit at all. Those should come from gear. The gem slots are used more productively on either spell power or intellect.

    1/20/2010 10:14 AM Paolo

    FYI: My comment in the post about mp5 gems is a bit outdated. MP5 actually provides a bit more regen than spirit. But it doesn't matter, since you're only going to be slotting one purple anyway (right?).

    One other thing on the side of spirit -- it is way better than mp5 for both offspecs (shadow & holy). For that reason, not to mention the fact that regen isn't a big issue, I only use spirit gems, never mp5. But I rescind my death threats for those of you using mp5 gems!

    Lastly: if you've gotten this far, please head over to my post on Intellect. In which I retract everything!


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