Penance Priest

Discipline Priest Blog

Hope your summer has been fantastic! Mine certainly has.

This isn't exactly a "closing up shop" post... just touching base during this amazing period of transition for me. See, First Life has taken every possible turn for the better, and all cylinders are firing at full speed. It's hard to even consider going online at the moment, because there are simply so many incredible opportunities opening up right now. There's nothing to escape from, and no way to see a three-hour raid holding a candle to community building, or developing wonderful and significant relationships, or refining and actualizing my life's purpose. Yes, it sounds grandiose, but there you go. Raiding has taken a distant back seat for the moment.

Luckily, this is the perfect time to be taking a break from the game. Not much needs to be said that hasn't been hashed out a million times over the last month or so. It's just a major lull in the WoW adventure.

I expect to return come Cata. Whether or not I'll be as passionate or committed to the Priesthood remains to be seen.

In parting, I had planned to offer my retrospective analysis of the WotLK experience. But instead, I'll leave you with a post that Beaute, my former GM, wrote on the Azuremyst realm forums earlier this summer. She's as insightful and intelligent as anyone I know. Here she distills one key dimension of what happened with this expansion in a way that only a perceptive, cool-headed GM could.

I think my biggest gripe about this expansion is the exact opposite of my BC gripe.

In BC, our server had about 3-4 guilds alliance-side (at any point) who were hitting the more difficult raids. Those guilds had trouble recruiting people because they were so far behind gear-wise. When those guilds did the end of Karazhan + Gruul & Magtheridon (and needed full Karazhan gear), almost everyone else was on the first few bosses in Karazhan (and still partially in blues). When those guilds were on SSC / TK, everyone else was in Karazhan gear, etc. Mid-level guilds had to implode because, by the time the 3-4 guilds got to MH & BT, they couldn't take applicants to the raids as the applicants were so, so, so undergeared. Several members of our guild never got credit for Illidan on their mains as they had to bring healers & rely on their knowledge of the fight so we could clear the instance.

In an attempt to rectify this imbalance (among other reasons), Blizzard brought us WotLK where everyone can get gear almost immediately. While it has been a blessing to be able to recruit people with gear that will allow them into the current instance, it has basically removed the need for guilds. Many people have confided that they prefer pugging rather than being "expected" to show up at a certain time & they can do that in this expansion & see most of the same content.

As someone who has been an officer of my guild since it was formed in January 2007, I can say that trying to recruit in this expansion has been the least pleasurable aspect of this game in the 5 years I've played it. Many people are arrogant. There are more small & unprogressed guilds. Everyone is running with bare bones crews, it seems. And, worst of all, the general chat in the most progressed instance is AWFUL. Seriously, it's bad.

tl:dr summary - BC had too much gear disparity. WotLK has not enough. Recruitment sucks. So does ICC general chat.

Enjoy the colors, those of you still in places that have fall beauty! I miss the northeast already, but I think Cali and I are in for a long love affair :)

I so totally shouldn't be doing this.

I'm writing on a hotel wireless, in the beautiful desert, awaiting my sunset photo op in Canyonlands. Rough, I know.

But Jessabelle upset me. She just posted on trinkets, and did it all wrong. It's ok, she's still a very good priest, and a cool lady. We all make mistakes.

Here is my trinket list. All but one are in my bags at all times. I hope this helps with your own gearup plans, even as we're in the denoument of a long hard road through Arthas' world.

  • Time-Lost Figurine. I got this the first week I hit 70, while helping a friend farming his Sha'tari Skyguard rep. It used to be fun to run Shadow Labs while disguised as an Arakkoa. Now, well, it's still the best disguise in the game IMO.
  • Vanquished Tentacle of C'Thun. Because who doesn't stop and stare at a tentacle in the Dalaran bank?
  • Figurine - Ruby Hare. I don't PvP much nowadays, but when I do, the mobility boost is just too much fun. Call it the luxury of being human, and the price for not being an engineer.
  • Sif's Remembrance. I just need 9 more people and I'll be able to Herald. Until then, I have a bag in my bank filled with 226s.
  • Discerning Eye of the Beast. Holy Nova + Discerning Eye + Skellies in Culling of Strat = infinite mana. I don't use this as much as I used to, but definitely if I get Strat right after changing specs.

If you need to shard Solace or PLD to make room for one of these, don't hesitate.

-- disappears back into the Utah desert --

One of the most exciting blue-tinted things I read in a while came from Wowhead’s exclusive interview with Ghostcrawler. It’s a great interview, so if you haven’t read it, go to it.

Here’s what got me all jazzed.

...really what we're trying to do—and with like, the passive talent trees we're putting into Cataclysm, we're trying to give ourselves better tuning mechanisms to be able to make easy changes. One of the things we're often up against is: Say we're going to make a patch. We want to, for example, buff mages. We have to do something that both does what we want it to do, and, you know, isn't buggy. It's not a good time to mess with, you know, "Hey we're going to add a new talent", or "We're going to put in this untested tech that makes this other thing proc" or whatever, because then we're just going to be fixing our own patches over and over again. So we have to be so strategic that we often can't make the changes that we really want to make, and we know "this is still going to leave Frost Mages underpowered in PvE, but we can't do anything else—we just physically, technically can't make the change we want." So what we're trying to do in Cataclysm is build in a lot of hooks to let us constantly tweak, and when we see something is too low we can dial it up a little bit, or dial it back a little more.

I’m a professional programmer, so I know how challenging it can be to tweak a complex system. Once you have something that works – and the definition of “works” can sometimes be quite sloppy, but hey – making changes to it is far more difficult than most people realize. Everything is tied together, and the more complex the system, the more delicate the connections.

So it looks like at last, for real and for true, Cataclysm will fix it. They just need to man the dials, and we’re good to go. *fingers crossed*

Deceive. Inveigle. Obfuscate.

Let’s be honest. Blizzard lies to us. It’s just a fact of life in an organization that has to work 24/7 just to prevent global riots. It gets a little extreme sometimes… remember how they were telling us for months that shadow was in a really good place, despite the mountain of data showing the contrary? They weren’t simply ignoring us; they said repeatedly that there was no problem. Eoy blogged about it, and Blizzard continued to deny. Then one day, out of the blue, shadow got a huge buff. No warning, no discussion. Suddenly we were competitive again.

I’m sure there are many reasons they don’t always let on that they’re looking at buffing some spell or class. First is the obvious, which is that it opens the door to everyone to whine about perceived deficiencies in their own favorite ability. Second, it’s such a complex system that even if Blizzard wanted to buff an ability or a class, there’s no guarantee that they could pull it off gracefully.

The more tweaky-hooks they put into the system, the easier it will be for them to make changes. And the less they will need to lie. There will be fewer instances in which Blizzard says “we can’t do that.” It will be more “we don’t want to do that,” and that’s a good thing.

Yes, I am a very optimistic person. I really do hope and expect that Blizzard will be far more responsive to real complaints, as they were (eventually) with shadow priests and frost DKs, even if both of those specs lingered at the bottom for months.

Aren’t you going to say anything about the new talents!?!1?

Yes yes, I’m getting there! In fact, that’s the whole point.

Honestly, I don’t really have much to say. It’s all “in theory” right now. Until we’ve played with it, what can be said beyond “I’m excited” or “I hate Smite” or other unsubstantial comments?

Here’s my unsubstantial response: I’m very excited! But I love change, and welcome the disorienting feeling of being a nub again, having to relearn everything. I hope you do too!

You see, there seem to be two basic objections to the new talent tree for healing priests. The first is, in a word, Smite. And the second covers a lot of ground related to balance: How much mana will we regen from Archangel? How much dps will we be doing with Smite? How much indirect healing with Atonement? What about talents that were removed, like Holy Specialization…are they nerfing our crit? Those sorts of things.

(Well, there is a third objection, one that I don’t see enough discussion about. Which is why the HELL is Improved Holy Nova so deep in the Holy tree? This is grave mistake, one that I hope Blizzard rectifies before it’s too late.)

The whole balance issue is one that will be tweaked until it works exactly as planned. Smite not putting out quite as much damage as they wanted? *Tweak*! Not enough regen? *Tweak* This is also obvious in the masteries; if abilities aren’t performing properly, or classes are imbalanced, they have a knob to twiddle to adjust these things relatively easily. They could even implement nonlinear scaling so that as you get more mastery from gear, the three masteries grow at different rates.

Oh, and don’t bring up PvP. It is, and always will be, an impossible balance to strike. Unless they implement Arenawell Radiance (which they damn well should), or some other debuff that tweaks coefficients when you step into PvP, balancing abilities for PvE and PvP will remain stormy and frustrating.

My big questions for Cataclysm are about creativity. Since we all know Blizzard is trying to encourage us not to shield spam (because we love shielding so much!), will we be given new fixed rotations? Like, five Smites, then power-heal for 10 seconds, then back to Smiting? Or will we be given room to breathe, room to be dynamic and creative again? Will encounter design follow the new philosophy of talent design, which (in theory) reduces the need to min-max in favor of choice? They say Smiting will be optional, but really? Once we get in there, will it become clear that there is really a best way, bringing us back full circle to cookie-cutter specs and rotations?

I’m as curious as everyone else about how it will feel in Cataclysm.  But I’m not concerned about the balance issues. The new “CWFI” system (not such a good acronym, I’m afraid… will Cataclysm fix that?) will be used to adjust the numbers so that the big-picture changes don’t leave one class desperately behind.

As for Smite, it’s a big change. We don’t know what encounters will be like. We don’t know how much idling time we’ll have. But surely if Blizzard wants us to be Smiting, it will be obvious, and eventually, natural.


With this I bid you a temporary farewell. In about a week I begin a cross-country move, followed by lots of other stuff that will keep me mostly away from WoW and away from writing. Who knows, but it won’t surprise me if I’m away most of the summer.

So have a great one!

I’m not a big fan of yellow sockets. They throw me for a loop. And from looking at other disc priests, it seems there’s plenty of disagreement about what to put in your yellow sockets.

Here’s what I’ve got in my yellows right now:

2 runed
1 reckless
1 luminous

And I just socketed over one potent. What gives?

Lucky for me, I’m only interested in one thing at the moment: 25-man bubble-botting discipline. Poor Dawn, having to recommend gems for all purposes, all playstyles. I have it easy!

But first, a blog post

I wrote my last post right after giving up on guilds on my server. The one guild of interest to me hadn’t responded to my app after two weeks, so I interpreted that to mean “no thanks.” Well, the day after I posted I got a tell from their recruitment officer, and 15 minutes later had a ginvite. Many thanks to my future wife for going to bat for me. (She doesn’t know it yet, shhh.) So now I’m back to raiding, doing 7/12 hard modes. Sweet!

And my move across country is pretty definite, but won’t happen for another five weeks. So I have some quality raiding time before…well, I don’t know what will happen then.

Stats for bubble bots

Wait, haven’t we covered this before?

Why yes, yes we have. I apologize if this is redundant for you. The following analysis only applies to 25-man bubble-spamming disc priests. No other healing scenario lends itself to this kind of oversimplification. Under normal circumstances, you’ll be casting 9 shields and PoM, rinse & repeat. Obviously you’ll cast the occasional Penance, or Pain Suppression, whatever. So this is not exact, but it gives a fine approximation, which is enough for our purposes.

Do not try this for holy. Do not try this for 10-man disc healing. Or for any other healing spec. Healers are not like DPS classes; we cannot be reduced to Patchwerk-style simcrafting.

Haste: Because of the way Borrowed Time works, bubble-spamming disc priests need about 150 haste rating to reach the soft cap, which is where your GCD hits its minimum of one second. You probably had this much haste the day you hit 80 and are scary past that now. Therefore haste has zero value for a bubble bot.

Crit: Power Word: Shield can’t crit. But its glyph can. So you get 20% value for crit. PoM bounces can crit, of course, but you get five bounces (at most) per nine shields. So we’ll boost the value of crit by half to 0.3. Good enough for science.

Spell power: Your shields grow by about 1.5 hit points for every point of spell power. (Yes, that’s where all of our talent points are going!) This is our super-stat for super-sized shields.

So, to sum it up:

Spell power = 1.5
Crit = 0.3
Haste = 0

And you can fill in your own stat weights for intellect & spirit.


I’ve been using Halion for the last week or so. It matches nicely with my other crit/haste gear, of which I have a ton. It also looks awesome.

The thing is, once I got it I started OOMing on every fight, 10 or 25, with or without replenishment. (That’s because I’m always casting!) Even doing my best to abuse the Rapture bug, I still popped more mana pots and begged for more innervates than I have in a long time. Thanks to Matron for indirectly kicking my butt.

So I gemmed full luminous in all my red and yellow sockets. And did not regret it one bit, despite the insane amount of conformism and peer pressure amongst disc priests to gem runed only, ever.

What’s the numeric value of luminous? It only has value if you need the mana. If you don’t, it’s obviously the wrong gem to use. In fact, last night I got a new staff, Heroic Dying Light. It has so much additional intellect, and an ungainly amount of spirit, that after using it for a few fights (including LK25) I’ve decided to drop my luminous gems for runed. So far so good. (And yes, I am still always casting!!)


There are two reasons to socket haste: First, haste is an excellent stat for 10-man tank healers. If you do both 10 and 25 seriously then reckless is a viable gem to use.

The second reason is that haste is the best yellow stat for shadow priests. Any piece of gear you share with shadow will likely have reckless in it.

For bubble-bots though, haste is useless. If those two conditions don’t apply to you, reckless is kryptonite. Don’t touch it.


Crit is also an excellent stat for 10-man tank healers. And for bubble-bots, well, it’s not terrible, but it’s still not very good. It has about 1/5 the value of spell power, which means you’d need an unreasonably good socket bonus before using a potent gem for your bubble-spam role. Bottom line: probably not.

(This article is required reading if you want to know the relationship between crit & haste for disc priests.)


As you can see, a lot depends on what you do when you’re not bubble-botting. If you have more than one job, you’ll need to prioritize your gemming towards one or the other.

And remember, gemming is a minor component of your healing!

Full-time bubble-bot: You have only two choices. Runed or luminous.

Bubble-bot / 10-man: You have three choices: Runed , luminous, or reckless. Potent is also acceptable.

Bubble-bot / Shadow: You have two choices: Runed or reckless.

Ah, the flow chart!

Blue sockets?


Exercise for the reader.

Cataclysm is coming

No matter where you stand on the changes to priests, or any other class for that matter, rest assured that Cataclysm will be a huge upheaval. We’ll have at least one more go-to spell (the return of Heal, filling the gap between Flash and Greater). We’ll have Power Word: Umbrella. And of course, Life Grip. Those are just a few key abilities, to say nothing of an entirely new way to play: how we manage mana, how the encounters are designed, how we will be affected by larger health pools, how we navigate a new set of stats on gear, etc.

If you think back to the time period before WoLK dropped — probably around summer ’08 — we had the same tingling sensation, knowing big changes were coming. This is the calm before the storm.

Other than airy rambling, what I’m saying is this: enjoy yourself. Our spec is mature, well-defined. It’s not perfect, and it’s certainly not perfectly balanced. It has come a long way, as have we. Enjoy the comfort of playing something you know and love,  knowing that change is around the corner. Almost like spring semester as a senior; let’s make the best of the time we have before the Cataclysm, when we will have to relearn, well, not quite everything, but a whole lot.

The expansion is probably six months away. And for many of you, there’s a lot to do between now and then. Not so much for me. It’s already feeling like it’s winding down.

The guild

I haz none. The group I joined in December turned out to be, how shall I say: a very bad match. I gquit after we killed the Lich King in March. There are no compelling options on my server at the moment, which leaves me in a bit of a pickle.

For now, WoW is pretty easy mode for me, since pugs still don’t usually get very far. I don’t see apping across realms to be a good idea at the moment, so I’ll hang out until the big reset this fall, and in the meantime, have fun pugging with smaller friendly guilds.

And yes, I do look forward to ten-man raiding. A lot.


Ok, because I’m in limbo, I decided to play around with my spec. Why? Because our role as discipline is polarized. In 25-man content, we do little more than bubble bot. And in 10-man content, we can’t bubble bot; there just aren’t enough bodies to bubble. Instead, we do it all. You might call it tank healing, but really, it’s man-handling the entire raid.

 So? What about it? Have a look at a spec I’m playing with. This is all in the context of the above section: I’m not doing much hard-mode content, just playing around as an overgeared, 15%-buffed mercenary priest.

I’ve dropped some talents that are borderline useless in 25s (Grace, Improved Flash Heal), filled up on my GH potential (omg 5/5 Divine Fury and 2/3 Improved Healing) and PoH potential (Holy Reach and the glyph), mainly for 10-mans.

If you’re doing hard modes, you should be ignoring me about now.

The moral of the story? If you’re overgeared for content, boosted with a 15% gimme buff, and feel like futzing around, now is the time.  I’m enjoying some creative tinkering with no particular goal in mind, and no pressure to min-max myself to perfection.

On the move

On a more personal note, I’ll be moving next month. Across the country, to a new city, where I know few people, starting a new job. So it’s definitely the end of an era for me personally. My playtime will be affected, as will my blogging. Don’t be surprised by periods of inactivity! There is less to write about nowadays, and with the move coming, my attention will be elsewhere. Once I land, the process of starting a new life will take precedence over fantasy-game escapism. Hang tight though, I’m not closing up shop.

About the name

Since I snuck into random territory, I thought this would be a good chance to introduce the original Paolo. I’ve had numerous people in-game ask me if I’m named after this-or-that Paolo from real life. (Actually, they ask me if I really AM this-or-that Paolo.) I suppose that’s the price for picking a toon name that is very common in the world-at-large. I suspect DethBludXXNite does not get the same treatment.

The inspiration for the name comes from Mary Fahl, who is one of the bestest, most beautifulest singers around. I was listening to her music a lot back when I started this guy. Her EP Lenses of Contact has a song called “Paolo,” and while it’s not her best song, the name was in the right place at the right time, and it stuck. Her earlier band, October Project, is even better.

Instead of linking “Paolo” here, I’ll give you “Breathe,” a taste of her “coming soon” DSoM tribute record. Enjoy!

There is a little-known secret among disc priests.

We all know the two basic principles of the discipline spec. First, that our greatest value is our ability to mitigate, whether it be from our shields, our crit-bubbles, or our passive quasi-aura. Second, our direct heals are pathetically small. This is why bad raid leaders everywhere continue to fire disc priests from their raids when we register near the ret pallies and shadow priests on any healing meter that doesn’t count absorbs.

But I’m not here to tell you that there’s a secret way to combat this. Bad raid leaders are bad. Apparently they missed the patch notes from 3.0.2, which came out, like, a YEAR AND A HALF AGO. Sheesh.

No, I’m here to teach you a secret way to maximize your output. Yes, I know you’re already doing great, and I know that when you factor in absorbs (hooray World of Logs!) that you end up at or near the top of the meter.  I’m here to challenge you to pump out more healing (and shielding) that you thought you could in a given fight.


Always. Be. Casting. This is the ABC of discipline priesting. And it seems to be a well-guarded secret!

This is a mindset you learn as a damage-dealing class. Any time you’re not casting, you’re leaving dps on the table, so to speak. Shadow priests learn to spam Devouring Plague and Shadow Word: Death when they’re running so they don’t waste precious seconds getting from orange to green. But healing classes have been trained the opposite way. We might shield pre-emptively, but we also stand idly when there doesn’t appear to be anything more to do.

Think about it. Every global you don’t cast a spell is a potential loss of 10 to 30 thousand points of healing/mitigation, maybe more. How many globals do you spend moving without casting?  Or waiting, just regenerating mana, subconsciously living in the BC-era world of dodging the five-second rule? If you idle for just six globals a minute, you’re looking at a 10% reduction in your output. You might as well be healing in your Ulduar gear. Or be healing through a minor Mortal Strike debuff.

“But wait,” you say, “I only pause when there’s nothing to heal!” Well, dear friends, disc priests are the best in the business at healing people who are already at full health. We spam bubbles. Bubbles are instant. They’re our most valuable function in a raid, our most powerful spell.  

And after all the bubbles have been spammed—and I do mean all—we spam direct heals.  Because with our high crit rates, even direct heals turn into more shields. And when you’re on the move, if Weakened Soul is on every raid member…what then?  Of course PoM is on CD (isn’t it?), so you suck it up and toss out your only remaining instant, our weakest heal: Renew. Renew is terribad for disc, just awful. But it’s better than doing nothing.

Have I managed to rile you up yet?

Ok, fine, I’ll back off Renew. But that’s as far as I’ll go.

I have to confess, this post was 100% inspired by something Matron wrote over on PlusHeal a couple of weeks ago. For reference, he’s the GM of an 11/12 hard-mode guild, so scoff at your own risk. It was part of a discussion on how disc priests should gem. Remember that he is speaking about a 25-man progression context, in which disc is a raid healer shielder, not healing the tanks. Tank healing in 25s is best left to our bacon-loving friends, at least until Cata. Ok, here we go:

The #1 way to increase throughput is to cast more spells, not gem SP.

The popular advice to “gem INT if you have mana problems” and “gem SP if you don’t have mana problems” is the worst advice given on these boards. If someone is casting fewer spells than they should of course they’re not going to have mana problems, and what individuals take away from the discussion is a feeling that because they don’t have mana problems they should gem throughput. That’s absolutely incorrect.

You can go OOM on most every encounter in ICC, even with the best gear and using all your mana cooldowns, by simply spamming PWS, which will provide the most HPS for your raid as disc.

The challenge of any role is to cast more of your best spells/abilities. To do this you must support yourself with int/regen.

Rather than saying “if you don’t have mana problems gem SP,” instead we should be advising people that “if you don’t have mana problems you need to cast more spells until you do have mana problems”... pushing people towards a state of OOMness will increase their throughput much faster than advising them to socket an extra 100-150 SP.

The INT that people socket won’t even make much of a difference in terms of regen; again gems are only going to provide 150-200 stat points. However, advising people to socket SP if they don’t have mana problems tells people that their current level of casting is acceptable/optimal, when in reality 99% of priests aren’t casting using every gcd.

He clarified a few posts later:

Again, gemming INT or SP won’t make that much of a difference either way. We’re talking at most a 5-10% difference in mana pool or shield size. What makes the most difference is how many spells people cast, which I believe is a playstyle/practice better supported by focusing on regen/INT...

My feeling is that it is easy enough to go OOM by simple pro-active shield spammage, disc’s bread & butter; you don’t have to get fancy to go OOM…

Basically there are a ton of reasons/encounters for constant PWS spam. If you’re not taking these opportunities and you’re losing out on the meters, but you “don’t have mana problems”, gemming for SP is not going to close the gap with other healers. You’re playing incorrectly, not gemming incorrectly. In reality gems matter very little for us.

I am as guilty as the next guy for giving gemming advice like that. However, my own gearing strategy has its bedrock on hybrid trinkets and an overpowered regen meta (sorry Dawn!). But as Matron said, the issue he’s poking at here is not so much gem choice as playstyle choice.

Try it out next time you raid. Challenge yourself to waste fewer globals. Fight the urge to wait for anything. When there’s no one to shield, Flash your neighbors to put up more Divine Aegis. Use Penance every cooldown, assuming you can risk not having it available for emergencies for a few seconds.

Treat yourself like a dps class who has to do everything he can to squeeze out another drop of damage. You might just discover a whole new level of play.

Fair mage.

Delicate, like a flower.

Perhaps you are a gnome.

Even better.

Oh my, is it CC time again?

Would you mind —

That Vrykul could hurt us so.

Such big weapons! So fast! And so many of them!

Is turning one into a sheep too much to ask?

You, good mage, are the hero

Of this small but important moment.

Chaos! Vrykul abound, uncontrolled!

Only one wanders in circles

On four legs.

Smoke! Fire! Blizzards! Whirlwinding warriors!

Who could keep track in the madness?

/cast Holy Nova

“Who broke my —”

So sorry, mage.

I do not know how the sheep broke.

Nor why it ran straight to you,

Executing swift judgment for your offense.

Surely the sheep breaker should have

Drawn its ire, and not you?

I mourn.

Good-bye, fair mage. Good-bye.

These are big ones, people. We’re not talking about minor tweaks, like adjusting the spell coefficient on Penance. We’re not even talking about big tweaks like the recent haste buff to shadow. These class changes are shaping up to be a sizable earthquake.

My metaphor is unfortunate. I don’t think the changes are all bad. They’re just BIG ones. Our go-to heals will be different. Our buffs will be different. Our inter-class mechanics will be different. Our mobility, dps rotation, mana management, ohshit buttons… did I miss anything?

There will be a lot to test, a lot to change before putting in a report card. In general though, I like the direction, I like the creativity, and I like the size of the change.

And with any shift of this magnitude, there are two major processes that are guaranteed to happen along the way. First, the class-specific abilities will need to be tweaked. How much will the new Heal spell heal for? What’s the cooldown and threat-adjustment mechanic on Leap of Faith? What is the relationship between the current PW:Shield, the new PW:Barrier, and the possible inclusion of a new, smaller shield, especially in relation to Weakened Soul? With the right tweaks, Blizzard will be able to give us a dynamic, fun, and powerful class.

The second process that will happen is the inter-class balancing act. If they are going to make every healing spec into a viable, multi-shaped “peg” to fit into each raid “hole,” there will be a long series of adjustments to coefficients, cooldowns, and talent boosts. The skill and artistry of the game-designing team shows itself here more than anywhere. The 10-dimensional math puzzle they’ve created isn’t solvable in a single, perfect solution; but it has some very creative possibilities that they don’t seem scared of tackling. I mean, look what they’re doing for mobility: they’ve released previews for two healing classes, and both of them have mobility boosters. Different, not equal, but still parallel upgrades. Nice job… to be continued, I’m sure.

But wait, there’s more! There’s a third bonus process: encounter design. It’s not as separate from class-design as you might think. Blizzard designs encounters around the capabilities that we have, at least to some extent. We will have interesting opportunities to Life Grip that go far beyond yoinking suicidal hunters out of the fire. We will have challenges to our mana pools that we haven’t experienced in years. We will have moments when the mobility boost of Inner Will becomes an obvious and exciting choice. We will see progression encounters which will test your spell selection, and you will only pass if you get a 90% score or better.

The earthquake will shake things up a LOT. Do not expect all the pieces to land perfectly where they should be. It will take time, and it will be frustrating.

But honestly, I’m very excited about the magnitude of the changes that Blizzard is implementing. It’s a huge project. As GC has said, a game designer needs to learn how to kill his “babies.” We players need to learn to let go of those babies, even ones we’ve grown quite fond of.

Bottom line? HELL YEAH. The changes are big but not a complete gutting of the class(es). It’s very hard to comment on specifics so soon; mechanics have barely been revealed, and are subject to more big adjustments. It will take some time to grok the new talents and see how they can be best used in practice. Folks will get very creative with new mechanics, as they always do. We’re in for quite a ride!

One of my most ecstatic moments in game was an hour-long AV back at level 59 in April 2008. I had twinked myself out, fine-tuned my spec (deep disc even back then!), and bought some great Outland greens. This match was particularly epic, featuring some great come-from-behind teamwork Ally-side. Yes, Ally teamwork…believe it.

I wrote this account right after the match. It really needs some editing, but I find that anything I try to do just ends up gutting the urgency and authenticity that was expressed in the moment. Enjoy!


Most battles in the Valley are won or lost before they even begin.

You enter the starting gate to prep for battle. You probably don’t know a thing about your fellow soldiers: Do they understand how the Valley works? Are they skilled at their job? And most importantly, do they know how to fight as a team?

But even more than all of that, you are at the mercy of the balance of power. The numbers, pure and simple.

This day we started out far behind. Our twenty to their thirty-five.

This battle was lost before it began.

When you start out at such a deficit, you’re hard-pressed to catch up. Sure, over the first 15 minutes or so you might get a trickle of new soldiers. But by then it’s usually too late.

We missed our initial push to kill the captain, so most of the team ended up back at the starting gate. By then, the enemy had killed our captain and had their full force on the road past Icewing Bunker. We were trapped, unable to move forward. At the bottom of the hill we fought for twenty long minutes, and through sheer force of will, or perhaps with divine intervention, we were able to push them back to Stonehearth Graveyard. And we took that graveyard with relish, and deep relief.

With our captain dead and one tower lost, our side was down hard. We had 200 reinforcements to their 400. In a situation like that, most teams will just lay down and surrender. Not today; our team had a desperate will to win.

Now with a forward graveyard, we were able to mount something resembling an offense. A few soldiers slipped past to Iceblood Garrison and mounted a small insurgence. Most of us were caught in a knot on the Field of Strife. And a large cohort ended up back at the defensive starting gate.

All three groups managed to hold ground. Defense protected Dun Buldar with more strength than the numbers would suggest. The forward group took Tower Point. The group on the Field of Strife made very slow progress forward, not past the field, but at least not being pushed back.

While all this is happening, attrition is wearing down reinforcements on both sides. We’re somehow losing ground more slowly than they are. By 45 minutes in, we’re down 100 to 200.

Tower point changed hands, and changed hands again. We recaptured it at minute 50, with reinforcements fading, 80 to 30. Capturing the tower is not enough: it needs four minutes to burn before it falls. Worth 75 reinforcements, it is the one and only key to victory in today’s battle.

It’s now two minutes later, with two minutes until the tower burns. Reinforcements at 70 to 22. If we can hold for two more minutes, the battle is ours. Most of our team turtles up at Winterax. The one and only goal is to protect the tower…and to stay alive. Only for two minutes more.

Soldiers shouting on comm for the timer…“how long to Tower Point!?” Thirty seconds to fall, with reinforcements now at 65 to 12.

At five seconds to fall, five seconds to victory, we lost the tower. Reinforcements are 60 to 8. Our last hope is gone.

Most of the team is still at Winterax. Shouts go like wild over comm…“Get to Galv!” We’re a short ride from their captain, still alive after surviving our initial attempt. No more than a dozen of us brave the ride across the Field of Strife to Iceblood Garrison. Never in my days in the Valley have I seen Galv go down so quickly, or with so few of us fighting. My own healing spells were shelved for this brief moment of desperation. For this moment, I am no Holy Priest. I am a soldier.

Well, at long last, it seems that the time has come to move on. I've grown pretty tired of one-button bubble-spam, as you probably know. After my QQ last month, I decided to take it slow, and not rush into any decision I might later regret. Now it's pretty clear where my future lies.

I'll be starting a new blog shortly called DispersionPriest. Stay tuned for the dark side.

This tool is years old!! No update is coming though, I'm long out of WoW :)

Here's a little tool, something that I've wanted to do for a while but never quite got around to. It's the javascript equivalent of one of my posts: I start out with the intention to write something nice and simple. Then I get fascinated and pulled in deeper than I planned. Oh well!

It's a calculator for Power Word: Shield. The simplest way to use it is to plug in your spell power and hit calculate. You can also add a “booster,” which is used to mimic the T10 set bonus (5%) and/or the ICC zonewide bonus (5–30%).

(Until I see math indicating otherwise, I'll assume that those bonuses are applied after the normal shield value is calculated. Please link if you've done or seen this math!)

You can also compare two shields. E.g., how much of a boost would your shields get from an additional 100 spell power? The comparison shows both hit points and percentages.

The formula and some useful resources are below.

Spell power:
Boost: %
Spell power:
Boost: %

Here is the formula. For simplicity, I've assumed you're fully talented into all relevant talents.

PWS = (Base+(SP*(coeff+BT)))*(1+TD)*(1+FP)*(1+IPWS)

Base = 2230 for max rank
SP = your spell power
Coeff = 0.8068 (the spell power coefficient)
BT = 0.40 (5/5 Borrowed Time)
TD = 0.05 (5/5 Twin Disciplines)
FP = 0.04 (2/2 Focused Power)
IPWS = 0.15 (3/3 Improved PW:Shield)

Now, whether or not the formula is working as intended is an open question. The comments and bug reports on the WowWiki page are very interesting. That page also lists some tips for using PWS, as well as the history of PWS in patch notes. Highly recommended reading.

Also, Zusterke has a full-featured priest spell calculator. It does much more than this page ever will, including the ability to take less than full ranks of the relevant talents. It also does all priest spells, and works for (gasp!) holy priests too. It's a fantastic resource.

It seems to be a good time for a review of this class-defining talent. I’ve seen many questions about it recently and tons of misunderstandings about how it works. So I started writing a little “hey guys, don’t forget!” piece. It kind of got out of hand. Honest…this really did start out as a simple article, but once I got going, I realized how much there is to talk about! It’s a simple talent, but once you start thinking it through, you’ll see how valuable it is to understand its nuances and implications.

Also, as you’ll see, you can’t really discuss Divine Aegis without including Inspiration and Grace in the mix. They’re all secondary effects of your healing spells.

In fact, I confess. This isn’t an article about Divine Aegis. It’s really about taking your understanding of discipline to a higher level.

There’s a little bit of math in here, but it’s junior high school stuff. No rocket science, I promise.


First, the definition of Divine Aegis:

Critical heals create a protective shield on the target, absorbing 30% of the amount healed. Lasts 12 sec.

Here’s the update to the talent that made us go all a-flutter back in 3.1. It’s an old change at this point, but I still see people forgetting about it:

Divine Aegis effects will now stack, however the amount absorbed cannot exceed 125*level (of the target).

You can stack DA bubbles up to a max of 10k hp on a level 80 friendly. That was big news; before that change, DA was binary (on or off), and confusion was rampant about how it worked in practice. (I.e., what happens when you crit several times in a row?) The 3.1 version of Divine Aegis also takes into account overheal, which makes it just… mwah.

I’ll be using that word (“binary”) quite a lot. It’s just fancytalk for an on/off switch, something with no gray area. Shadowform is binary (you’re in it or you’re not), as is pregnancy, a coin-flip, and whether or not you’re Chuck Norris. There is no gray zone in binaryland.


Here is the definition of a very related talent, Inspiration, which you are not allowed to skip, ever, ever, for any reason, go Inspiration or go home:

Reduces your target's physical damage taken by 10% for 15 sec after getting a critical effect from your Flash Heal, Heal, Greater Heal, Binding Heal, Penance, Prayer of Mending, Prayer of Healing, or Circle of Healing spell.

The same damage-reduction buff is provided by resto shaman in their Ancestral Healing talent.

One more talent, not entirely related, but relevant for our purposes here. The tank-healing disc priest’s wannabe scaling talent, Princess Grace herself:

Your Flash Heal, Greater Heal, and Penance spells have a 100% chance to bless the target with Grace, increasing all healing received from the Priest by 3%. This effect will stack up to 3 times. Effect lasts 15 sec. Grace can only be active on one target at a time.

Only a few spells will proc Grace, but once it’s up, the healing bonus will benefit all of your healing spells. (But no one else benefits; just you.)

I haven’t forgotten that this is supposed to be an article about Divine Aegis. Sort of.

Secondary healing-effect matrix

I wish I had a catchier name for it. Let me know if you come up with one.

Let’s look at which of these secondary effects can be applied when you cast a healing spell. Entries in the table marked “crit%” will only proc when you crit, so not every cast of Flash Heal will proc Inspiration, for example. A “yes” in a column means every cast will proc the effect, not just criticals.

  Divine Aegis



Flash Heal




Greater Heal





crit% (*)

crit% (*)

Yes (*)

Binding Heal

crit% (*)

crit% (*)



crit% (*)

crit% (*)



crit% (*)

crit% (*)



crit% (glyph)







Entries with an asterisk (*) have multiple chances to proc. Other than Penance, these are multi-target heals, so each target will only get at most one application of each effect at a time. Penance, however, can proc multiple times on the same target.

Power Word: Shield cannot proc Divine Aegis, although the heal from the Glyph can. The DA bubble will be 30% of the 20% heal from the glyph. It’s not much, but it’s there. (Also, it's currently bugged so that it only procs DA on shields you cast on yourself.)

Remember the different natures of these three effects. This is important!

  • Inspiration is binary; it’s either up on your target or it ain’t.
  • Grace is a three-step platform. It has zero, one, two, or three stacks on your target, for 3%, 6%, or 9% increased healing.
  • Divine Aegis is a gradual scale from zero to 10k.

You know what? Just because I think it’s really important, I’ll make a graph.

Divine Aegis scales with ____

Quick! Fill in the blank.

If you said “crit,” you’re right!

If you said “spell power,” you’re right!

If you said “haste,” you’re still right, but the relationship is a little more complex. Haste is one of the best stats for a tank-healing disc priest, and certainly speeding up your spell-casts will speed up the application of DA bubbles. But spell power and crit will be easier for us to analyze, frankly, and haste’s effect on DA is more diffuse. We’re not going to get into issues of boss-swing timers, or how fast you can build up DA to its maximum vs. how fast a boss can clobber that bubble. For now, we’ll focus just on maximizing the DA bubble through spell power and crit, and try to assess which stat will have a bigger impact on your DA mitigation.

Average DA per cast

Let’s start with some basic calculations to figure out an average amount of DA mitigation you get for every spell you cast. We’ll use Flash Heal as a reference.

Crit Heal Size = (base heal size) * 1.5
DA Bubble = (crit heal size) * 0.3
Average DA per cast = (DA bubble size) * (your crit rate)


Average DA per cast = (base heal size) * 1.5 * 0.3 * (your crit rate)

The last line is the one that’s the most interesting. Average DA per cast shows the average amount of bubbly protection you get per cast. You won’t get a DA bubble on every cast, of course. This is just an average.

So, how do you raise your average DA per cast? More spell power, and/or more crit. Our next job is to figure out which is better, if your goal is to maximize this mitigation effect.

Spell power vs. crit

If your base Flash Heal hits for 5000, that means you’ll crit-heal for 7500. When you crit, a DA bubble will be created for 30% of that amount, or 2250. And if you have a 40% crit rate, your average DA per cast will be 900. That means: on average, every time you cast Flash Heal, you will see 900 hp of DA mitigation applied to your target. To build up 10k of mitigation (the max we can have at any one time), it will take approximately eleven casts of Flash Heal. Odds are some of that DA bubble will have been chipped away in the time it takes you to cast that many spells.

Now, consider how much your spells benefit from stacking spell power versus stacking crit. Again, I’ll be using Flash Heal as an example. I’m definitely going to ignore the bonus crit from Improved Flash Heal, and I will also ignore bonus healing effects such as Grace and Guardian Spirit.

We’ll take a nicely-geared ICC priest as our baseline, then see what happens when we add a crit gem versus what happens when we add a spell power gem.

The baseline priest will have 3400 spell power and 40% crit rating (raid buffed). Priest “A” will add a single smooth king’s amber; priest “B” will add a single runed cardinal ruby. Let’s peek at what happens, shall we? We turn to Zusterke’s excellent Spell Calculator, which, while it’s a work in progress, is awesome.


With crit gem

With SP gem

Flash Heal




Crit heal amount




Avg FH amount




DA amount




Avg DA per cast




Total Avg Heal + DA




WHOA NUMBAHS!! Let’s go through them slowly.

The first three rows show how much your Flash Heal hits for, not including Divine Aegis. The base heal, the crit heal, and an average that includes your crit rate. So our baseline priest will see an average Flash Heal of 5966, which assumes that 40% of his casts will crit. The average heal amount is in the blue-tinted row.

The next two rows show how much DA mitigation we can expect. The first row, “DA amount,” shows how much of a DA bubble you’ll see when you crit. The next row, tinted orange, shows the average amount of DA per cast, which we discussed above.

If you add the two tinted columns together, you’ll get the total amount Flash Heal will hit for, including DA mitigation. This total is in the dark gray row.

As you can see, using a crit gem will increase the size of your DA bubble more than it will if you use a spell power gem. (This is in the orange row.) However, the spell power gem will increase your average heal amount more than the crit gem will (the blue row).

The net effect? Both crit and spell power will benefit you. Crit has a bigger effect on DA, while spell power has a bigger effect on your base heal. Overall, spell power is more powerful.

Chances to proc

In every discussion I’ve seen about Greater Heal, someone makes the point that two Flash Heals have more chances to proc Divine Aegis than a single Greater Heal. Do you see the flaw in that thinking?

I sure hope so! DA is not binary. It scales. So while GH takes twice as long to cast as FH, it also has twice the average DA per cast. Over the long haul, they will create very similar amounts of DA mitigation. One will create smaller shields more often, the other will create fewer, larger shields.

(That’s a quickie generalization that doesn’t take into account Divine Fury or your use of Borrowed Time to accelerate GH, nor does it take into account the crit bonus from Improved Flash Heal. I’m merely debunking the idea that “chance to proc” is relevant at all when it comes to Divine Aegis.)

The other two secondary effects (Inspiration and Grace) both work on a chance-to-proc basis. Inspiration is binary, and can be applied by any direct heal. Grace is stair-stepped. So if you need to apply Grace quickly, you need to cast more spells (or use Penance for a triple-shot).

Here’s that graph again! So simple, but it shows so much.

Smooth vs. spiky DA

Here again is our formula, which illustrates how DA scales with spell power and crit rating.

Average DA per cast = (base heal size) * 1.5 * 0.3 * (your crit rate)

As a thought experiment, I’m going to go to the lab and create two Frankenpriests. The first one will be monstrously oversized in the spell power department, but barely have any crit rating at all. This means he will almost never crit, but when he does, the DA bubble will be tremendous because of his super-sized spell power. Spiky DA.

Frankenpriest #2 will have insane amounts of crit, but just a tiny bit of spell power. He’ll be critting on every cast, but each DA bubble will be small. Smooth DA.

Over the long term, the DA protection these two deformed priests provide might very well be equal, or close to it. However, Frankenpriest #1 will be creating huge bubbles (rarely), and Frankenpriest #2 will be creating a large number of tiny bubbles.

Which is better? Well, as long as you’re not overshooting the 10k cap (in between boss swings), either should be fine. Just get your DA up as high as you can, as quickly as you can.

But certainly having a higher crit rate is one way to take the RNG out of the equation. If you had 100% crit, you would never wonder if you got a DA bubble. You’d have one every time. So the higher your crit rate, the less of a factor RNG will be for your tank heals. And we all know that bosses don’t kill tanks; RNG kills tanks.

So in a sense, the smoother DA profile (higher crit rating) is better for maximizing your mitigation. Marginally. If you go telling anyone I just advised you to stack crit, I will deny it vehemently.  Because tank healing is not only about Divine Aegis. If at any point your tank’s green bar dips below 100% -- and it certainly will – the priest with more spell power will be helping more. Go back up to the blue row in my chart above. Spell power is still the way.

Short story: Get tons of crit on your gear, and gem for spell power.

In sum

I’m exhausted! We just covered an entire semester of Disc Priest University in under 2500 words. Your summary is this:

  • Divine Aegis is good.
  • It scales with spell power and crit rating.
  • DA scales better with crit than with SP, but overall, you benefit more from SP than from crit.
  • DA protection is not binary; it can scale up to 10k of mitigation at any time.

I was speaking with Jessabelle last week about why I haven’t started my own guild. She wasn’t the first person to ask, or the fifth. And it’s something that I struggled with quite a bit over the years. I always knew why I didn’t want to do it, but recently I learned some interesting vocabulary that helps define the territory. It comes from a fantastic book on small business called The E-Myth, by Michael Gerber.

The myth

We all believe that small businesses are started by entrepreneurs. Well, it turns out that this isn’t true; not for the vast majority of businesses. Usually, the person who starts a business is a technical expert of some kind – a programmer, baker, seamstress, accountant, you name it – who experiences what Gerber calls an “entrepreneurial seizure.” One day you wake up frustrated with your job, with your boss, with your lack of success, and decide to strike out on your own. This fit of urgency is irresistibly logical, full of emotional intensity, and holds the promise of an incredible future. Freedom and success are right around the corner!

The problem is that technicians aren’t business people. They start their business, then realize that they don’t have any idea what they’re doing! They’re top-notch bakers/accountants/programmers, but don’t know the first thing about marketing, management, bookkeeping, or any of the other skills you need to have to be a successful businessperson. In short order, their lack of business skills turns a venture that was intended to be the key to their freedom into a ball and chain.

Great technicians do not automatically make great business people. They can of course become great business people, but they rarely start out as such. And more to the point, the desire to start a business does not mean that one has any idea what one is doing. You’re just a fantastic baker in the midst of a seizure, that’s all.

Your guild

Did you start your guild in this way? Were you an excellent raider, stymied in progression, unsatisfied with the social environment, or otherwise looking for more than your guild was providing? Did you decide you could do it better on your own? Did you partner with another good friend and excellent raider to share the burden that you somehow knew you didn’t want to bear alone?

You brought your friends in. You recruited. You proved your worth. You built a name or yourself and your guild.

And then the management questions came up; issues that had nothing to do with building a synergistic raid composition, or your max-dps rotation. Issue like loot allocation. Officer promotions. Inter-personal tension. Guild bank management. How hard to push people, when to back off. Paying attention to individual and group morale, with all its subtle manifestations.

What about cliques? Did you see them form? Did you let them happen, or intervene to ensure they never got too solidified? Or did you just hope for the best, staying hands-off because, well, you just aren’t in this to get enmeshed in personal problems?

How did you handle ensuring you had a large enough roster, but not too large? How & when to bench people? If you’re a 25-man guild, how do arrange 10-man groups? Do you rotate in those who don’t fit into the neat 10-man packages?

None of this has anything to do with being a great raider. You can know everything about your class – heck, you can know everything about all the classes – and still fail at people. I don’t mean to make it sound tragic or anything. It’s just a completely different skill set from whatever it is that makes you a great player.

Management comes naturally to some. Most of us struggle with it. And most people who start guilds aren’t interested in management, don’t want to deal with the challenges it brings. They want to have fun. They want to raid. But they don’t want to pay the price for “owning their own business.”

The “G-myth”

This has nothing to do with the casual/hardcore spectrum. Every guild, no matter how casual, is a collection of people. And if your guild is to succeed, by any normal definition, it must satisfy the people in the guild. Obviously, the guild must meets its goals (amount of progression, for instance), but it must also find ways to navigate the people-issues I raised above. If you progress but don’t bring your people with you, your guild will never thrive, which means it will never reach its potential. If it were a business, it might make money, but it would never be successful.

Is your guild a success? Not just in terms of the number of bosses downed, but as a guild? Are your guild leaders more than raid leaders, but people managers? Do they inspire greatness in those around them? Do they create an environment of team spirit, of positivity, even when the going is tough? Do they appropriately reward greatness and punish failure along the lines that you would expect, given the nature of your guild? Do you feel completely essential to your guild’s success, its character, its growth?

Do you love your guild?

I'm nothing short of thrilled to be proved wrong!

This just in from GC:

Discipline priests specialize in single-target heals and damage prevention. They are nonetheless fairly well rounded and have some fun tools, such as Power Infusion and Pain Suppression.

They are awesome and in some cases borderline overpowered. :)

I actually can't argue with disc being OP. Shield spam is pretty damn strong, not to mention unique. However, that stuff about specializing in single-target heals and being well-rounded...


(Edit) GC did a lot of posting yesterday. I find this one particularly interesting as well.

I'll admit that paladins as the best MT healer is still a little bit of cruft left over from the older model. Unless we were willing to really nerf the crap out of them and reduce everyone's mana regen, it's going to be hard to dislodge them too much from that role. Really though what we're going for, and what we'll emphasize even more in the future, is "bring healers" not "I must have a priest."


(Edit 2) This one made me smile. Except for the fact that he suggests pallies need buffs (for raid healing) but not nerfs (for tank healing)...that's just silly.

Yeah, as I said in another thread just now, I think the paladin is an outlier. It's okay for healers to have things they are slightly better at or slightly worse at, but the paladin is too firmly cemented into the role of MT healer. We don't want building a raid to be "Okay, grab a paladin and another healer." It should be "Grab 2 healers, preferably different ones." This doesn't mean paladin nerfs are incoming, because some of the problem is the nature of healing right now (huge constant swings, unlimited mana, much spamming, little coordination), and the other half of that is making sure a paladin on raid heal duty didn't feel gimped.


(Edit 3) And perhaps the most interesting and promising post I've ever seen from GC. It's too long to quote in its entirety; click the link for the full story. Excerpts below:

Q: Its ok for paladins to be "required"?

A: You misread. I was acknowledging that it feels like that now, but it's not okay. (No offense to the paladins.)

Lightwell isn't okay either. We don't want to turn it into a totem, because the class already has plenty of spells that require little interaction. We're not entirely sure what we'll do yet, but we still like the basic idea (creating something and it does the healing) so we aren't going to just scrap it.

« Back to QQ #1

It will be difficult to make this seem less directly related to my current situation than it is. What I mean is: this is a private QQ and a public QQ. Both a philosophical argument and a more personal argument. I actually have a proposal at the end of this rant. So bear with it.

Preliminary disclaimer: this is not about loot. It’s about loot policy. We all know that getting loot is part of the motivating factor for playing the game. If you raided all of ICC25, then all of ICC heroic, and were victorious the whole way through, you would feel like you beat the game for sure. But if you got no gear along the way, your gnawing sense that you were being carried would get stronger and stronger. That you weren’t living up to your potential. That you were in fact more of a burden than a player. If your toon is not evolving, getting slightly but consistently more powerful with every raid week, it becomes a psychic knot. It feels awful, and it has effects on your performance, your relationships, and your interest in playing the game. Whoever says that loot isn’t important might be correct if they’re attacking gear-score whores. I just hope you don’t miss the deeper point: loot is in fact quite important.

As I’ve said before, I believe loot council is the best loot distribution method available. That is, if it’s run by philosopher kings and/or enlightened officers. I have not met a single person who fits this description. Therefore, in practice, it runs the gamut from merely awful to the absolute worst.

The quality of a LC is limited by several factors, including but hardly limited to: (1) the integrity of the council members; (2) the degree of team spirit on the council and in the guild itself; (3) the data systems used for tracking loot distribution, including a way to measure the amount of upgrade a piece represents; (4) clear rules regarding performance and its affect on loot; and (5) delicate care for the individuals in the raid, as well as for the raid itself.

Integrity: This should be obvious. We’ve all heard stories of loot councils in which council members grabbed high-value loot for themselves, or gave it to their friends. That’s just the most obvious example of a lack of integrity. While integrity is tied to team spirit (below), it is so vast and multi-dimensional that it can’t really be narrowed down to a simple bullet-point. There are more situations than you could ever codify in some rulebook of loot allocation. Integrity itself must be the rulebook; you need to be truly trustworthy to be a loot councillor. And that’s no small feat.

I’ve been in the position many times of having to make a loot allocation decision that had no easy answer, and which would most definitely anger or hurt someone who did not deserve their fate. It’s hard stuff. Most people I know have small cojones when it comes to making hard decisions, such that they’ll reliably take the easy way out, rather than make harder, gutsier, riskier calls. Our true character is on the line when it comes to stuff like this. We all know it. Challenging situations bring out the devil and the saint in us; those with more integrity are more likely to show their saint than their devil when the going gets tough.

Team spirit: First of all, if your guild is missing this, you should be looking for a new guild. And if your officers are missing this, run for the hills. It’s a team sport, and if you don’t have a team-spirited team, there’s no loot distribution “trick” that can fix it for you. Certainly a LC needs to have its eyes not on the individuals, but on the team. Where will this piece of loot benefit us the most? This is so obvious it surely doesn’t need to be said. But it always needs to be said.

Data systems + upgrade measurements: That’s fancytalk for “spreadsheet.” The LC needs to track who was given what, and when. It needs to track when people missed raids. It needs to track the degree of each upgrade –  getting a new ring with a 19-iLevel jump is very different than getting a new 19-iLevel pair of pants, or a trinket.

If a loot council is looking at any single piece of gear in isolation, it’s doomed to failure. Consider two mages, one decked out in Ulduar (226) gear, the other in ToC10 (232) gear. Every piece that drops will be a bigger upgrade for the Ulduar mage, so unless you’re tracking distributions as a holistic upgrade model, with team spirit, and a lot of integrity, the ToC10 mage will get gear only after the Ulduar mage is fully ICC geared. This is a stupid-obvious example of one of the problems that data systems should be in place to help solve. No system is a replacement for integrity, intelligence, and care, but those qualities without a data system cannot be channeled and used properly.

Performance: If there is ANY rule that affect how loot is distributed, it must be articulated clearly so everyone knows what to expect. Will missing a raid lower your loot priority? By how much, and for how long? How about dying to fire? Lower dps? Will brown-nosing change your priority? Being an officer? Donating to the guild bank? These types of rules are often in place but unspoken until the moment they’re used. (See integrity, above.) Personally I’m seriously opposed to a lot of these policies, but that’s not the point: if these policies will be in place, they must be explicit.

Care for the individuals: At any point along the way, you need to be aware of what’s happening on the other side of the council’s walls. Has one of your raiders gone three weeks without a drop? Maybe they should get the next one even if it isn’t the highest benefit for the raid. Maybe, just maybe, that will keep your raiders happy. And that’s in the loot council’s hands. Is it paying attention?

Between all of these criteria, there has to be some way to prevent imbalanced situations. Just as an example, I looked at our guild’s healing core. In that group, you have people with this many main-spec LC-assigned drops: 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 7. (Which one do you think is the officer?) Maybe I’m wrong about my presumption that fairness forms some portion of the policy. But in case I’m right, I have a suggestion.

The proposal: Limit loot council to non-armored pieces: rings, necklaces, trinkets, cloaks, weapons and offhands/shields. Use EPGP for anything with an armor class.

Let’s say your raid has an abundance of clothies, but only two holy pallies. (Pretty typical, I suspect!) In a pure EPGP system, the pallies would have less competition, and would spend fewer points on armored gear than the clothies, leaving them freer to bid higher on shared gear like rings or trinkets. Implementing a hybrid system where a LC handles shared gear would ensure that your clothies, leather, mail, and plate wearers all have an equal shake at that stuff.

It also allows the LC to shift the loot balance if too many mail pieces have dropped recently (for example). So even if a ring might be a great benefit to a resto shaman, the LC can rebalance loot distribution as it sees fit.

The meta-point: Running a guild is not the same as leading a raid. There is a whole other set of skills that very few people have; skills that are about humanity, fairness, and development of team spirit. And no, leading a guild is not about group hugs. But integrity (in the way I’m describing it here) has absolutely nothing to do with being soft. It has to do with doing the right thing.

« Back to QQ #1

Tank healers, skip to the next QQ! This one is not applicable. This is for bubble-spamming raiding discipline priests.

Let’s look at the stats on our gear.

Stamina, intellect, spell power: More is always better. These stats are on every piece of gear you’ll equip, and they scale with iLevel. As you gear up, you really don’t have any choice – you’ll get higher and higher values of spell power and intellect.

Haste: The hard cap for bubble-spam is 150 haste rating. Since we’re almost always affected by the haste bonus from Borrowed Time, we need only a tiny amount of haste from gear before our GCD hits the 1 second hard cap. After that, haste will only affect the casting time of your long-cast spells (GH, PoH, Penance, DH). Realistically, you get capped at 150 the moment you hit 80. Because of the GCD cap, the value of haste is nearly zero. It’s not actually zero, but the value drops precipitously at 150. To paraphrase my old probability professor (discussing asymptotes), the value of additional haste on our gear is so close to zero that we might as well just call it zero.

Spirit: This is a mana-regen stat. Holy priests get a spell-power conversion talent, but we get only regen. Spirit holds zero value if you don’t need any additional regen; having more regen is just wasted mana. So there is a regen “cap” of sorts. In ToC25 or ICC gear, you should not have significant mana problems (perhaps none at all), so spirit has nearly no value for us. You can’t (and shouldn’t) get rid of it from your gear entirely. But it’s highly unlikely that adding spirit to your gear will change anything about your capacities, even marginally. Another wasted stat. (FYI: I will lump mp5 in the same category here…it’s present on some gear, especially shared gear like rings and cloaks, and it also provides zero value if you do not need mana.)

Crit: Our direct heals can crit: Penance, Flash, Greater, Divine Hymn, and PoH. Shields cannot crit. The heal from the Glyph can crit, but the heal is only 20% of the size of your shield anyway. So crit benefits your shield only 20% as much as it benefits your healing spells. Of the stats listed here, crit is by far the best, although it is gimped by nearly 80% for shield spammers. The more you cast direct heals (like PoM), the more benefit you’ll get from crit.

Ok, so all our gear will have stamina, intellect, and spell power. Then we’ll get two of the three other stats as well – either crit+spirit, or crit+haste, or haste+spirit. Two of these stats have zero value, and one has about 20% of its nominal value.

Contrast this with gear for a shadow priest, for example, who will receive less value from spirit on gear than from crit. But all three stats offer some real dps benefit. None of them are wasted, none are as gimped as crit rating is for discipline priests. And the only capped stat for shadow priests is hit rating.

Ergo: gearing for discipline is currently broken. On gear that’s supposedly designed for our spec, we receive less value per point of iLevel upgrade than any other spec in the game. If there were a piece of gear that had stam+int+double spell power, that would suit our needs just fine. But since that won’t happen, we’re stuck with getting approximately half the benefit from upgrades that another caster gets.

On to QQ #3 »

Happy Monday everyone! Especially in New Orleans. Awesome game, just awesome.

Ok, to the heart of the matter. I’ve been one of the most staunchly anti-QQ forces I know, both in this blog and in the forums I haunt. Typically QQ is a sign of some sort of failure: failure of understanding, failure to play with the right people, failure to adjust to changes in game mechanics, failure to listen, etc. I hate the inner experience you have when you’re complaining. I also hate the feeling of reading others’ (usually irrational and aggressive) complaints. It just feels gross, and it’s a self-perpetuating phenomenon: it riles you up in the wrong way.

It’s a life question more than a game question: with all of its complexity, is life basically good but with bad stuff that happens? Or is life basically bad but with some good stuff that happens? If you take the latter position, you’ll QQ morning noon and night. If you take the former position, you might QQ, but it will be within a framework of positivity and forward motion. I strive for this philosophy.

However, not all QQ is just emo-ranting. I will be presumptuous and assume that there is more than some merit in the QQ that I’m collecting in this post. That, and it’s also a rant.

To spare you from repeated assaults, I’ve put in three QQs into a triple post. Aren’t I nice? I have a chance to get it all out of my system at once, and if all goes well, you won’t have to read QQ every post for the next three weeks. I’ve put each one in a separate post, just to allow the dialogue to make some kind of sense.

Here we go! It’s long, meandering, and has some intense moments. Brace yourselves.

Is Discipline Fun?

I made the mistake of looking at an old post of mine. It was the second post I ever wrote, called “Why Disc is So Much Fun.” I was still trying to figure out what the hell I was going to blog about, and I definitely hadn’t developed much of a writing style. In it I compared the Recount profiles between two priests, one discipline (me) and one CoH. (This was in 3.0.2, prior to the release of the Lich King content. We called Holy priests “CoH” priests back then.) Here are the graphs, just so you can see them without clicking through.

The bubbling joy I experienced with discipline was not only its novelty, but its versatility. Back then, I expressed my love for the spec because it “forces a degree of engagement and creativity,” which is displayed very nicely in the healing profiles above. I was using every tool at my disposal. The creativity and versatility were the source of the thrill of discipline healing.

Well, as you saw in my last post, discipline’s role (at least in 25-mans) is much more well-defined than it was in those frothy days, when we were all finding out how the new spec would work out. We’re now officially bubble spammers with a wee bit of tank support. The more I play 25s with an excellent team, the more I realize just how narrowly focused the tree has become. There are exceptions of course, and certainly in 10-man raids bubble spam isn’t really much of an option anyway, so there’s more room for creative play in that setting.

Here’s a graph from our raid last Tuesday, covering 7 bosses. I removed the Glyph of PWS and Divine Aegis from the graph, since they aren’t spell-casts. There are 662 shields and 17 ticks of Penance in the graph. And a single Divine Hymn out-healed my entire use of Penance for the night.

I’m thinking about renaming my blog “FUCK YOU BLIZZARD.” If our ridiculous and broken one-trick pony-of-a-spec doesn’t get fixed on day one of Cataclysm’s release, I’m folding my healing robes and burning them. Yes, I know discipline has a powerful role in raids. Yes, I know GC recently declared that discipline “is in a good place at the moment,” which means it’s unlikely to get fixed. That doesn’t mean it’s fun to play. It’s not. I don’t play discipline for its function. I play(ed) it because it rocked, because it “force[d] a degree of engagement and creativity.” It revitalized my interest in healing, which had gotten rather dull at the end of BC. The chart above shows the current state of affairs: there is an absolute and total lack of engagement and creativity. Props to those who still enjoy discipline. Seriously. Meanwhile, I’m begrudgingly bubble-spamming my way to glory, hoping for the change that I do not expect to arrive.

On to QQ #2 »

Since we have agreed that (by and large) tier gear is for chumps (or early adopters, you poor things) (or 10-man tank healers, ok?), that leaves many of us with emblems to burn on other upgrades. What do you want to spend them on? Which cloak? What about the trinket?

Well, as we all know, there are different needs for different occasions, so as beautiful as that black dress might be, you’re definitely not going to wear it out to dinner with my folks. In other words, there is no single absolute recommendation for anything (except in the negative). Everything always depends on everything else – the gear you’ve already got, the gear you have access to, your role in raids, etc. I know my caveats get boring, but they bear repeated repeating.

Nevertheless, I’ve decided to at least comment on the current emblem purchases, since emblems do you no good in your pocket. I’ve also listed some of the other (non-emblem) options that you will be considering. See the full 3.3 gear list for details. A case could be made that this is not in fact a real post, but just a rehash/reorganization of that list. To that I say poo.

Lastly, I’ll include my own gearup plan, which is finally becoming focused.


Drape of the Violet Tower, Volde's Cloak of the Night Sky (50 emblems)

Violet is nicely itemized for disc. If you don’t have a 264 cloak, and don’t expect to get one, this is a great solution. But if you have an offspec that you share gear with, Volde will definitely be better for you, since both holy and shadow prefer spirit to mp5. Cloaks were the first emblem purchase for many priests.

Competes with VDW25, Saurfang25.


Circle of Ossus (60 emblems)

Haste gear is too easy to come by this expansion. If you already have a 245 belt, I wouldn’t bother with this. Even if you have the nice haste/crit 232 from HoR5, I’d still pass on this badge belt. It’s nice for holy priests, and not so exciting for disc.

Competes with Putricide10, Marrowgar10, Festergut25, Marrowgar25.


Ermine Coronation Robes, Meteor Chaser's Raiment, Crimson Acolyte Raiments (95 emblems)

Ok, here is where things get interesting. Chest! You’ve got three badge options, each costs 95 emblems. Ermine has crit/spirit, MCR has crit/haste, and T10 (shadow!) also has crit/haste. Only buy the shadow robe if you’ll be upgrading it with tokens; the 264 version is nearly identical in stats to MCR, and if you’ll be upgrading it to the 277 version, woweezowee. (That’s my current plan.) If you’re a strict shield-spammer, Ermine is probably a good bet; spirit is crap, but it’s better than the haste on MCR once you hit the cap. (The haste cap for shield spam is 147, which you get practially by walking through the door.) MCR (and the shadow tier robe) is perfect for tank healers. Tough choice.

Competes with Sindragosa10, Blood Princes10, Blood Princes25.


Gloves of Ambivalence, Gloves of False Gestures (60 emblems)

Same issue here. You have a great set of crit/spirit gloves and a great set of crit/haste gloves. Both are delicious; depends mainly on your raid role (tank or bubblespam).

Competes with T10, Rotface10, Blood Princes25.


Crimson Acolyte Hood, Crimson Acolyte Cowl (95 emblems)

Two tier pieces. Crit/spirit (healing tier) and crit/haste (shadow tier). Same dilemma, largely determined by your raid role and offspec.

Competes with BQL10, Saurfang10, Gunship25.


Crimson Acolyte Shoulderpads, Crimson Acolyte Mantle (60 emblems)

Crit/spirit vs. crit/haste. Sound familiar?

Competes with Festergut10, Trash drop.


Crimson Acolyte Leggings (95 emblems)


Competes with Festergut10, VDW10.


Purified Lunar Dust (60 emblems)

PLD just got a spell power boost, which brings the trinket up to par for its function. If you don’t have Solace and at least one other solid trinket, you should definitely consider this as a very respectable purchase.

Competes with Solace, Marrowgar10, Gunship25. (The BQL25 trinket is better for PvP than PvE IMO.)

Crafted gear

Lightweave Leggings, Leggings of Woven Death, Sandals of Consecration ($$$$)

Don’t spend your emblems on these just yet. If you have the gold to burn, get them ASAP. But emblems are just too useful a commodity, and in too short supply, to spend on these expensive items. Your benefit-per-emblem is low.

The Paolo Plan

For what it’s worth. As you can see, I don’t really have urgent plans to spend my frost emblems. After I buy my last piece of shadow tier gear I can think about upgrading gloves or maybe cloak.

Head & shoulders: Aiming for two-piece T9.258. I have the 245s, and we should start killing Anub on heroic this week. I doubt many other raiders will be as committed to T9 as I am, so I have a decent shot at getting the 258 tokens. If I couldn’t upgrade to 258, I wouldn’t plan to keep T9.245 gear. (No frost emblems needed.)

Legs, boots: crafted. I already have both of these, and have openly admitted my insanity for purchasing the hit boots in my last post. I still think it was the right move. So sue me. (No frost emblems needed.)

Chest: Shadow tier, used for both shadow and discipline. With the amount that I’m playing shadow, this makes perfect sense, as the chest will be upgraded to 277 at some point. I could also have made a case for using the shadow shoulders for healing, but the T9 head & shoulders look like keepers for me. (Frost emblems already spent – no more needed.)

Gloves: False Gestures for 60 emblems. Not in a huge rush, as Lifeless Touch are still quite strong. After I complete my shadow 4-piece set (OMG!) these will be my next purchase.

Bracers: Bejeweled are not in urgent need of upgrading. Rotface25 drops nice bracers, but not really worth spending capital on at this point.

Cloak: My Ony25 cloak is still excellent. (See a pattern? All those 245 crit/haste pieces are winners!) Upgrading is a low priority; my last emblem purchase will be Volde if I haven’t gotten one of the other 264 cloaks.

Belt:  I have Heroic Cinch. I’ll upgrade to one of the boss-drop crit/haste belts, but nothing else.

Trinkets: Solace (I have already). If I don’t get Solace (heroic) or Abacus, I’ll eventually buy Lunar Dust. But no rush for me on this.