Penance Priest

Discipline Priest Blog

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.