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.
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?