I first met Matron on the Plusheal forums. I believe it was in a heated debate about the viability of Greater Heal for tank-healing discipline priests. I was only a provocateur, but he was debating with gusto against some staunchly anti-GH forces, and doing it calmly, articulately, and convincingly. I was impressed, and continued to pay attention to his posts on that site. After I posted my article on stats for tank healers, he PM’d me, asking if he could quote my blog in his rebuttal, to be posted in an undisclosed location, perhaps public and perhaps not. This made me both eager for dialogue and nervous as hell. When he failed to make good, I took it upon myself to write the article I suspected he wanted to write himself, on intellect for disc priests.
So, the inaugural entry in this Q&A series belongs to Matron. He’s not only a world-class discipline priest, but he is the guild leader of Ladies of Destiny, an endgame progression guild on Scarlet Crusade. He is also one of the authors of the new LoDBlog, which offers an endgame perspective on current raid and class mechanics.
PP: How long have you been raiding?
Matron: I’ve been raiding with LoD since summer 2005. We started in ZG, which served as a great introductory raid. I’ve raided seriously as almost every spec imaginable, even holy dps in Vanilla WoW.
PP: What level of content are you at now? Do you normally raid at the edge of progression? How many hours per week do you raid?
Matron: We’ve cleared ToGC 25 man, so we’re focusing on clearing with 50 attempts left and waiting on ICC. LoD didn’t start as a progression, or even raiding, guild but over the course of time we’ve built ourselves into an endgame progression guild. We’re not competing for World Firsts or anything like that, but we’re consistently raiding the most difficult content that the game has to offer. We’re scheduled for 4 nights of raiding, 16 hours total, but with the new limits on attempts being introduced and the general lack of new content it becomes a challenge to fill those hours. One thing we've started to do is to run two regular ToC 25 runs each week, splitting mains between the two runs, for more chances at weapon/trinkets so that everyone can be in BiS for ICC.
PP: Do you lead raids? How does that affect your healing during a raid?
Matron: Yes I’m the raid and guild leader of LoD, leading our 25 man raids. I’d like to say that leading doesn’t hurt my personal healing, but it certainly does. Any time you have to concentrate on anything but your main role in an encounter it’s going to hurt your performance. Directing the action and pushing your personal performance will always be in conflict.
On the other hand leading a raid does force you to pay attention to everything, meaning that you know when and where everyone will be at all times. This greatly helps anticipatory healing, which is the major strength of the disc spec. Because I’m the person that tells people to go into the Yogg brain room I know exactly which ten people to make sure have PWS on them at those times. This raid awareness extends to runs that I’m not leading, such as some of our 10 man endeavors or even PuGs. In those runs, without having to lead, I’m able to really push my performance, in part because of my experience leading other raids.
It’s a mixed bag really.
PP: Name some of your favorite fights to heal. They don’t have to be from current content.
Matron: Chromaggus – The 2nd to last boss in BWL. I found healing in Vanilla WoW a lot more interesting because of down ranking. All of your spells were similar in effect, single target heals, but varied in mana cost and amount healed. I had 7 single target heals on my bar (2 ranks of Flash Heals, 2 Heals, 3 Greater Heals). Chromaggus was a looong encounter, on the verge of 10 minutes, and he had so many abilities that you couldn’t settle into simply spamming one size heal. There were enrages, frenzies, and breathes that forced you to ramp up your healing at various times. However you had to find a balance where you would be able to keep the tank alive, but also maintain mana over a long encounter. I really enjoyed a straight stand still fight where mana management, heal selection, heal canceling and oo5sr regen were the important components. Now most fights are one flavor or another of “don’t stand in fire” and all the heals are “one rank fits all.”
PP: Your favorite raid?
Matron: My favorite instance of all time was ZG. Back in the early days of WoW guilds weren’t as organized with recruiting or set schedules. We’d just have people online each night and everyone was really excited to work together on this new instance. Because it was everyone’s first raid we all learned the game and our classes together. ZG had some interesting boss mechanics and an awesome jungle/troll atmosphere. I remember every first kill in ZG feeling like a holiday. I wonder if people have the same “first raid” feeling, now with Naxx or Ulduar completely changing the way they look at the game. ZG and the people I met when I first starting raiding, are probably most responsible for my love of WoW.
PP: Your meta gem. Have you tried others?
Matron: I’m currently using ESD, but, I actually think IED is a lot stronger choice for a meta gem. At the time I socketed +25 SP / +2% intellect I was using dual intellect trinkets and really wanted to see how high I could push my mana. When I upgrade to my next helm (the 258 T9) I’ll go back to 21 int and mana regen.
PP: Do you change glyphs for certain fights? Do you change gear?
Matron: I haven’t changed glyphs in a long while. Disc choices are very limited. I change gear more for HP reasons than any other. For heroic Twins + Faction Champions I sometimes equip some extra stamina gear to give myself wiggle room; when attempting to clear with 50 attempts left in ToGC any death is a bad death.
Swapping gear when speccing holy or disc works sometimes, but only if you have two pieces which are equal ilvl and very specific for each spec. In ToC there really isn’t a huge selection of gear, so often times your ToC gear is BiS for both specs. There are only a few slots where you can drop spirit to pick up a second throughput (crit/haste) or disc friendly stat, gloves off Anub > T9 gloves for example.
PP: Renew? Greater Heal?
Matron: Renew when I’m tank healing, though it’s hardly a priority.
Greater Heal, hell yes! People like to think that flash heal has destroyed GH’s viability. Nothing is further from the truth. GH, when specced for it (which I am), is more HPS and better HPM than FH. I think it’s a HUGE mistake for priests to ignore the GH talents if you’re attempting hard modes. Algalon, Anub, Thorim, Council, and I can only assume a few ICC encounters have very hard hitting tank damage. People like to say that FH is just so much faster and easier to use, but GH gets hasted down with borrowed time to a very reasonable cast time, sub 1.8s. A lot of spells make you choose between HPS and HPM, GH beats FH in both. I could do paragraphs on greater heal…
PP: Do you heal as holy, or full-time discipline?
Matron: I used to swap back and forth per encounter, back before I realized that disc was such a valuable raid healing/absorption spec. Now I’d only switch if another disc priest was in the raid and we were bumping WS debuffs too much.
Discipline is such a strong raid healing spec, every raid’s first priest should be disc.
PP: How do you evaluate a new discipline priest?
Matron: Healers are always tough to judge, because your output is dependent on your raid group. A DPSer will do the same dps in one raid as another, but a healer in a bad group is going to look a lot better than a healer in a good group. Until you’re healing against the people you’re trying out with, meters and logs don’t mean much (though you should be topping your guild's meters before you apply elsewhere).
Disc is especially difficult to evaluate, because the effectiveness of each disc priest is reduced when another disc priest is added to the raid. So having two disc priests joust for PWS applications doesn’t really show you the maximum output of either one. Basically, if I were recruiting a disc priest, I’d let them be the only disc priest and I’d check to see that they were beating the other healers in HPS (counting shields). I know that no meter shows shields exactly, but you can get a good idea from them. A disc priest SHOULD be competitive in combined HPS with other healers.
PP: Do you do all of your own theorycrafting? If so, where (if anywhere) do you share it? And where else do you look for good information or suggestions?
Matron: I suppose you could say I do most of my own theorycrafting, most of it is simple math that any high school student could do. Obviously I’m often helped when people share experiences or new findings. But a lot of experiments you can do on your own. EJ is the most valuable resource, and has been for some time, but that’s not really easy reading for most people. Since the summer I’ve been trying to right some misconceptions on the plusheal forums, having long arguments about the value of meters, HPS, and GH. Most of my recent theorycraft comes from those discussions.
PP: Overall, what is your experience of the discipline priest community?
Matron: Well, I think that you have all types within the community. I’ll say that I have been surprised by a few things, most notably how many people have limited experience or success with raiding yet still preach their methods as gospel. To me, that’s a dangerous situation. Someone asking a question might not know which person to listen to and if the “bad ideas” get repeated often enough people start to believe them.
Phrases such as “GH is too slow,” “The extra healing from GH compared to FH isn’t needed,” “Disc priests are for single target healing,” “If you never go oom then it’s time to stack SP” are all easy for starting players to latch on to and accept as “truths.” But they hurt their development as players and probably doom them to a certain level of raiding for the rest of their careers.
This isn’t the new player’s fault, it’s difficult to navigate the jungle of advice and pick out the pearls of wisdom.
Sometimes those pearls are a little too complex for a newer player and they need an easier to digest message, with accurate information. Even though a lot of the bloggers/posters in the community might not have the experience, I think many do a good job of finding that good advice and presenting it in a “noob-friendly” manner.
I’d think the ultimate goal would be a platform where smart, accurate information was presented in a way everyone could understand. I’m not sure we’re quite there yet, but I see people working towards that. That’s one of the main reasons we’ve launched LoDBlog.
My ultimate pet-peeve is the person that uses the excuse, “Well my way works fine for the content I’m doing.” That may be true, but I think the majority of people searching for this information want to be the best they can be and not just “good enough.” This person effectively wants to put an end to the discussion for no other reason than sheer laziness.
PP: And from left field…You’re stranded on a desert island with an undead rogue you’ve never met. Fight to the death, or partner up despite the communication barrier?
Matron: They’re a rogue! Screw the communication barrier, if you think that’d be my biggest problem with him then you’ve never pvped as a priest! I’d kill a human rogue too! Well… unless there was a desert island 2v2 bracket, then maybe we’d talk.
PP: Thank you very much for taking the time!