Penance Priest

Discipline Priest Blog

Per the rules of this questionnaire, I can’t really forward it on. My apologies, but I only read priesty blogs! So I shall break the rules. Raesa, tag, you’re it. (And thanks to Fuubaar for the link.) And here are the tallies of the webring questionnaire.

Post this questionnaire, with your answers, on your blog. Pick the healing class you know most about (or is the focus of your blog) for the questionnaire, and then send it over to another healing blogger you know and love who heals with a DIFFERENT class. Include a link to the blogger who sent you the questionnaire, as well as a link to the blogger to whom you are sending it.

  • What is the name, class, and spec of your primary healer? Paolo, disc with shadow leanings.
  • What is your primary group healing environment? (i.e. raids, pvp, 5 mans) Hard to say now. It had been 25s, but time commitments are forcing me more towards 10s. Also, because I’m no longer able to raid regularly with my guild, I’ve been leading pugs (10 and 25), which means I need to reserve 50% of my attention on any given fight to raid leading. (Which is a whole other kettle of fish!)
  • What is your favorite healing spell for your class and why? See URL.
  • What healing spell do you use least for your class and why? Divine Hymn. I love it but generally forget to use it except for fights that I’ve trained myself for (like XT).
  • What do you feel is the biggest strength of your healing class and why? Toolbox variety. Other classes have big toolboxes too, but ours covers the field like no other.
  • What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your healing class and why? Honestly, I can’t think of one. That’s not a copout, really! A skilled, well-geared, creative disc priest can do just about anything. I no longer refuse assignments “because I’m disc.” There are of course classes that do jobs better than discipline, but I don’t consider that to indicate a weakness of the class. However, because of the versatility, disc is no longer a top-shelf tank healer or a top-shelf raid healer. Again, not necessarily a fundamental weakness.
  • In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best healing assignment for you? Floater. Tank assist with raid support. This role doesn’t work at the beginning of each gear reset, when you really need to pick a role and run with it. But midway and later in each patch, floating is the best use of disc. Now, that could be because I run in two types of groups: guild runs (in which the other healers are disgustingly good) and pugs (in which the other healers are disgustingly bad). I’m either making my partners’ jobs easier, or covering for the weaknesses of pug healers. (Disclaimer: I just ran Toc10 with a holy priest and holy pally, and I outhealed them both. Before you count absorbs. So I’m more than a bit cynical about pug healers on my server.)
  • What healing class do you enjoy healing with most and why? Trees, no two ways about it. Holy priests are not too far behind. The synergy between disc priests and trees is perfect.
  • What healing class do you enjoy healing with least and why? Pallies. Because I do both raid and tank healing, I prefer to run with other healers who can also do both, allowing us to dynamically adjust. Pallies are the worst at raid healing (in most situations), and all other classes can serve both roles.
  • What is your worst habit as a healer? Straying from my assignment on progression fights. I can get overconfident, and have to really focus when I’m on tank duty on difficult encounters.
  • What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while healing? Other healers who aren’t prepared. See my post on Kel’Thuzad…I still routinely run into healers who use DBM to tell them who has Incinerate Flesh, or who have no idea who has Penetrating Cold. Also, priests who do not immediately pop Inner Fire when it drops.
  • Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other healers for PvE healing? No question about it.
  • What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a healer? Honesty. I usually know when I gave it my all, when I made the right choices. I check meters occasionally if I’m curious about my spell choices. But I have no idea what my HPS (or DAPPS) is or should be on any given fight. Like asking a guitar player how many notes they play on average during a two-chorus solo…those numbers are not only meaningless, but really meaningless. In other words: to answer this question, we need to define “performance” – and that has very little to do with numbers, and it has only a bit to do with whether or not the boss went down and the tank lived. (Succeeding at a boss fight is far too dependent on group play to use it as an indicator of my personal performance.)
  • What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your healing class? I can’t think of one. Gone are the days when people still believed disc was for pvp, or that disc was a dps spec. I no longer have to explain myself to pug leaders.
  • What do you feel is the most difficult thing for new healers of your class to learn? It  depends on how they got their start. Priests who are learning disc from a long time being holy have a hard time giving up Renew and picking up Shield. Priests who are learning disc from other healing classes have a much more natural learning curve through the spec. They have a hard time getting comfortable with the big toolbox, but that’s pretty hard for everyone. And all new disc priests have a hard time thinking offensively (e.g., Power Infusion, dispels).
  • If someone were to try to evaluate your performance as a healer via recount, what sort of patterns would they see (i.e. lots of overhealing, low healing output, etc)? I have no idea. Assuming they didn’t miss the Big Obvious (factoring in absorbs), I really wouldn’t know what they would see in terms of overhealing, HPS, etc. Simply because the notion of evaluating performance via Recount is 99% flawed as a question! To clarify: when I run with other disc priests, I never know beforehand what I would expect to see from their healing profile on any given fight. I only compare it with my own profile, filtered through Honesty, Flexibility, and Creativity.  
  • Haste or Crit and why? Both.
  • What healing class do you feel you understand least? This is the only healing class I’ve played, the only one I have any grasp of. I’m pretty stupid on pallies, druids, shammies, rogues, mages, warriors, and hunters. And holy priests.
  • What add-ons or macros do you use, if any, to aid you in healing? Grid/Clique for healing & dispels. Information displays are provided by CooldownWatch, MSBT, GhostPulse, DBM, Quartz, and Shadowed Unit Frames. I have a ton of macros, but mostly they’re just simple ways to bind multiple spells to one key (via shift/control/alt). The only macros of significance are for PI and PS, covered here.  
  • Do you strive primarily for balance between your healing stats, or do you stack some much higher than others, and why? Linking again to my long-winded answer and its followup. TL;DR: Balance is not a goal in and of itself. For tank healing, there is no limit to the amount of spell power, haste, or crit I would take, so I end up looking balanced in the end.

It's not your fault. You're not the original sinner. Your motives were pure, of that I'm convinced. But times have changed, and your services are no longer providing the benefits to the community that they once were. In fact, quite the opposite.

So I will have to put you on notice. You have one month to clear out.

Your only other option is to help us clean up this god-awful mess. The mess begins and ends with:

“LFM Ulduar10, 2300 required…”

Am I geared enough to ...

Stop. Stop right there. Look carefully at this simple question, so innocuous, so common, so flawed. Let's turn it inside out: “If I have X gear, then I will be able to down Y boss.” It sounds weird when you put it that way. We all know that gear does not kill bosses, people kill bosses. But answering the question “yes you have enough gear to down X boss” is feeding that very wrong idea.

Gear does not kill bosses. People kill bosses.

How much spell power do I need to ...

You're not listening.

How much mana ...

No. Not answering.

What gear score do I need to …

Wow-heroes, pack it up.

The Gevlon Experiment

If you haven't already heard about Gevlon's experiment, go read it now. A few months ago, he and his merry band of misfits re-geared themselves in heroic blues and cleared Ulduar. It wasn't pretty, but they did it. Full clear.

Be honest: the first time you heard that – perhaps it was now – didn't it shock you? Impress you? And make you question your own obsession with gear as a ticket to higher-level content?

I'm a fan of Gravity's response to the matter, in which he created a graph to illustrate the wide range of gear requirements for each raid. Because we all know that gear is not totally irrelevant. Just less relevant than many people think.

I know you know that gear isn’t enough

But if I hear one more person asking if they have enough spell power or mana or crit or haste in order to do this or that raid…

/shakes fist
/pummels people who actually try to answer the question earnestly
/quits trying to bring sanity to this crazy crazy world

Scratch that last one. I’m in it for the long haul.

One year ago, Blizzard unvelied a massive overhaul of all the classes, including new 51-point talents. We were still level 70, weary from long months of hard raids, looking forward to Wrath of the Lich King (which was about a month away), and eager for something new and exciting.

We got unified spell power. We got barbershops. We got super-easy-mode nerfraids on which to test out our new talents.

And by golly, we got Penance.

This brought the hitherto unfocused discipline tree into relief. It went from bitter toddler to vibrant teenager overnight. From a PvP-only tree whose top-tier talent was about survival, to a PvE-focused tree whose top-tier talent was clearly the best single-target healing spell in the game.

It was so fresh and novel that it almost felt like a completely new healing class. To this day, it still does.

Looking over some of my old posts—especially this one, in which I listed the gear I was wearing the day I installed Lich King—reminded me of just how exciting that time was. I had completely revamped my equipment from spirit-based holy gear to a full crit-based set (almost spirit-free) that I had been building for shadow. Somehow I scraped together a ridiculously high 21% crit, and was totally wild-eyed as I watched the soap bubbles pop around the raid, as they did so often from PoM, Penance, and PoH.

We've had a long year, with ups and downs just like every other class. But I can safely say, one year later, I still love it.

Thank you Blizzard!

My warlock is level 73 now, and I haven't played him in months. But he's never been anything other than affliction, even when common wisdom said that there were much better leveling specs. The slow-burn style of using damage-over-time spells to devour and destroy your target really hooked me. I still find dots thrillingly demonic; a far more insidious way to kill than the dull and obvious BAM-BAM style of shadow bolting, or other direct damage spells. Like choking instead of stabbing.

I have a dark spot inside, I'll admit. It's why my first toon was a warlock in the first place.

Ok, back on track. Nightfall is one of those talents that you either love or you think is a waste of talent points. Me, I love it. What happens is that you're doing your thing, minding your own business killing some bad guy or other, then suddenly you proc a free shadow bolt. Afterwards, you go back to doing whatever you were already doing. No fuss, no muss. You aren't building your rotations around it, and when it procs you don't lose your focus. Just bolt & back to business.

What's the point, you ask? Is this now a warlock blog? Hardly. But I wanted to bring up Nightfall in the context of our new, hot-off-the-press, still-in-development T10 set bonuses.

The two-piece goes like this: After your Pain Suppression wears off, your target has 10% increased healing received for 10 seconds. Sure, sounds good -- softens the hard edge of our badass tank-saving cooldown.

The four-piece bonus is what's making people all hot around the collar. Your Flash Heal has a 15% chance to reset the cooldown on Penance.

There are two ways to look at this random proc.

1. Facerolling your way to tank-healing victory

On one hand, you could see it as a suggestion (or a push, or a demand) to adjust our tank-healing to the faceroll rotation of Penance/Flash/Flash/Flash. Your Penance might be up again after five Flashes, or maybe the set bonus will proc and you'll restart the rotation sooner.

The math on this is ugly. (Who wants to know about mean time to success on bounded geometric distributions? I mean, other than me?) Suffice it to say, if you do the faceroll tank rotation, you'll shorten the cooldown on Penance about 1.3 seconds on average. That's not much. Your HPS will go up, but not necessarily in comparison to a more robust tank-healing system than includes shields, Greater Heal, and PoM as needed. Those spells aren't part of our set-bonus rotation.

In other words: do not use this set bonus as a playstyle-changer. The Penance/Flash rotation will not work well, I can promise you that. It just doesn't provide enough benefit to warrant such a radical adjustment to your playstyle. And if you've recently broken your four-piece T8, you'll know what I mean when I say that you do NOT want your natural healing responses dictated by a set bonus.

2. Nightfall

Ah, the pieces are falling together. You see, the way I envision the four-piece set bonus (assuming it goes live in this form) is much more like Nightfall. You'll be on your merry way, healing the tank in your favorite instance, and BAM, Penance is up! Ooh, a cookie! Omnomnom, and back to business.

This is a set bonus. A bonus. Bonus. It is not the game-changing playstyle-affecting gear-choice-dictating hell that we went through in T8. (Yes, I really hated it, despite how good the bonus was.) Everyone loves a nice little boost here and there, even a moderate boost like the T9 two-piece. And personally, I love how this proc will work as a random blast, like Nightfall. We'll see what it's like in practice, of course, but in theory, yum.


A PvP-playing friend of mine once was commenting on why he thought I loved PvE so much. One factor is that there's a bit of the gambler's thrill involved. Will my loot drop from this boss...? Will I win the roll...? You wait with bated breath. After having executed whatever skill-maneuver was needed, you rely on the luck of the dice to determine whether or not you win that coveted item.

I'm sure this neuro-psycho-chemical reaction is not unique to me. You could dumb it down to "random procs are fun!", and that's true, but I think they're a key part of the appeal of the game. And it's an area in which Blizzard has certainly excelled.

I alluded to this a few weeks ago, but I think it deserves a little more room to breathe. Incoming philosophical treatise.

One of the beautiful things about the min/max world of Burning Crusade is that it forced you towards perfection. There was often room for creativity, but not a whole lot. You needed full consumables. The correct spec. The right balance of stats on your gear. The right set of down-ranked spells. If you were serious about raiding, there was no “well it works for me.”

In Lich King, we all know that raiding has gotten easier in the extreme. I’m sure you could heal Naxx in a 0/0/0 spec, agility gems, and no consumables. The gap between correct and well it works is largely irrelevant because so much works.

From one perspective, this is a great thing. It’s a game FFS, not a challenge to survive for ten days in the wild using only a paper clip and a roll of duct tape. Having a margin for error is what makes a game playable by mere mortals, and not only by the elitist jerks among us.

This is not a lament for the good old days of WoW. Not at all. My issue here is that by allowing the “well it works” folks to succeed, the distinction between right and wrong has been lost. The fact is that right and wrong still exist, although right is no longer required to succeed. Wrong works just fine. Which makes wrong start to look like right.

I strongly support finding a way to play that you love, even if people (like me) tell you it’s wrong. Playing your way might be technically wrong even if it’s morally right. What I do lament (and strongly so) is the “well it works” folks giving any sort of advice whatsoever. Enjoy the game however you play it (and I truly mean that). But it’s important to know that there is still a line between what’s technically correct and what merely works because Blizzard has softened the edges so much. You may, in fact, be doing it totally wrong, but your apparent success makes you believe that you’re doing it right.

There are many levels of the game as well. Advice for beginners may be perfectly irrelevant for advanced players. And the experience and advice that advanced players have to offer may be totally wrong for someone at a lower level. There are also different raid roles (tank healer & raid healer, primarily), and very different advice applies there too. The context you’re in is 100% relevant, and determines the choices you should make. That context includes the your gear level and the gear level of your mates, whether you’re running with pallies or druids, whether you’re attempting content below or above your gear level, etc.

So there are indeed multiple ways to be right, but that does not negate the fact that there are still many ways to be wrong.