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.