Penance Priest

Discipline Priest Blog

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.

(33) Comments

  1. 4/20/2010 5:43 PM Walter

    i agree that if you play like a dps class, then you will have nice a "hps". but i would say, that this is just to push the healing stats.

    maybe i dont top the healstats like a other disc priest, but i dont realy like this shield spam playstyle.

    for instance .. my disc priest collegue (who is sometimes playing shadow) always urge me, that i should cast way more shields in phase 1 of arthas ... but i dont know why, there is no dmg to be excpeted till phase 2, it just pushes the heal stats in recount/skada?!

    i rather try to predict incoming dmg (or vuhdo tells me who is in the target ^^)

    of course in fights, where there is more dmg incoming, i use every gcd.

    but i have to say, that i dont have any experience in ICC 25 HC. just 25er NH and 10er HC.

    altough i dont agree on everything, nice post and nice blog! =)


    4/20/2010 6:26 PM Anonymous

    Why in the world would you not shield during phase 1 of LK to minimize the damage from Infest?!

    You seriously don't shield spam during phase 1?

    4/20/2010 9:48 PM Dawn Moore

    *thumbs up* This is an excellent, excellent follow up to the gemming post I did this week. I'll be linking it in next weeks column (whether it matches the topic or not.)

    And no worries about the meta - the idea behind that post was just to get people to think about their meta instead of just mindlessly socketing something someone tells them to. I feel the same way about int gems.

    4/20/2010 11:20 PM Askevar

    Strangely this is the way I've played my disc priest since the day she hit 80. :) My main's a tank so disc priesting seemed the best way to experiment with the healing side of WoW

    4/21/2010 12:57 AM Anonymous

    I'm interested but not yet convinced. Perhaps because we tend to take more healers with us than a serious guild would include. So maybe this constant-casting strat is for a better-class-of-raiding-priest.

    On the Saurfang fight I will cast constantly, shield spamming the whole raid (and inevitably need the mana-regen services of my Fiend) when I'm not helping keep the tanks up -- because it's a useful thing to do. But not every phase of every fight is like that.
    There's no point for instance, shield spamming on Stinky, Decimate is gonna reduce otherwise rosy raid health to 15% regardless of shields. And if I've got active shields and hots on tanks and my tiny dots on the doggie - there are long seconds pre-Decimate where I really don't have anything useful to cast. And it needs to be useful, what with the new mana-famine that has been mooted for Cata I wouldn't want to get into the habit of casting heals that won't count for anything but a meter.

    Nonetheless, thanks for the post, I will focus more on maximising my activity than I have been, and see how it goes.

    4/21/2010 5:22 AM Walter

    yeah, i forgot infest ^^
    but that is not really a problem in phase 1, so i just shield one group (maybe a second) and bt-poh another. i am not the only healer there, coh is also very effective for infest.

    phase 3 is a different case, there infest is a bigger problem, and of course in this phase i am quiet spamming shields.

    4/21/2010 10:35 AM Paolo

    You said "this is just to push the healing stats." Exactly. The article was about pushing yourself to take it to the limit, which is an attitude you see among top raiders. But anyone can push themselves! You don't have to be in a top 10 guild to strive for excellence, of course... And if you prefer to play more casually, that's totally fine too.

    Thanks for the kind words :)

    See my comments above to Walter. If you're running with extra healers, there's no need to push yourself this way. Hard-mode raiders need to run with as few healers as possible, which is why every healer has to pull a TON of weight. It's not just about looking good on a meter; it's about beating the encounter.

    4/21/2010 1:15 PM Anonymous

    Walter: Ahh OK, I didn't realize you were only talking about 10-man. I'm used to 25-man attempts on LK where I bubble spam like nowhere else. I'm typically still assigned to MT heal so this is the only place where my assignment is drastically changed.

    4/21/2010 1:44 PM Anonymous

    xeppe5678: Using your example of Stinky, bubble spamming is -very- useful in that fight, especially around the Decimate. It protects the raid from dying from the ticking DoT damage while the other raid healers heal them up.

    I'm sitting here, trying to think of a fight where mass shield spamming wouldn't be useful and the only fight I'm coming up with in ICC is Gunship. Even that is because the fight is so darned easy!

    Marrowgar: Bonestorm
    Deathwhisper: P2 frostbolt volley and ghosts
    Saurfang: blood boil
    Festergut: AoE pulses
    Rotface: slime AoE pulses, slime pools and disease ticks
    Prof Put: green slime explosions, slime pools, bouncing green slimes and orange flasks
    Princes: empowered fireball and empowered vortex
    BQL: AoE pulses and everything else
    Dreamwalker: fire skeleton pulses (and because you're probably one of two healers left to heal the raid)
    Sindy: P3 AoE pulses
    LK: Infest, infest, infest!

    4/21/2010 2:45 PM Wikwocket:

    Great post! For a long time I've tried to play by, "If you're not running out of mana, gear/gem for throughput." But I like Matron's version, "If you're not running out of mana, cast more." I think this advice takes precedence and forms a context to the gearing advice. In other words, first look at your play style, to ensure you are contributing as much as you can. Afterwards, adjust your gearing to support your play style.

    4/21/2010 6:18 PM Anonymous

    @Codi: I've tended to do it after the Decimate, so Decimate, then my PoH lands then Shield, Shield, Shield whoever in the raid is lowest, Penance on whichever tank is lowest. We have occasionally lost someone, so I will try shielding before it hits - thanks.

    4/22/2010 4:45 AM Panzee

    I think I kind of understand the logic behind this post I am always bubble spamming when able to. I tend to not have mana regen issues and in those rare circumstances where I know I will have to I use my regen CD's as optimally as possible.

    There is no way you can argue that gemming SP is better than gemming Int where you need the mana. That being said spamming bubble constantly trying as hard as possible to go OOM isnt the best way to play. Healers are trying to heal as much as they can but still have enough mana to cover mistakes, whether that be a healer dying, someone taking unecessary damage or just plain old mistakes.

    I have timed my bubbleing on LK perfectly and I have 25 bubbles up at all times in PH1 to start with, and with me on removing plague duty I tend to loose 5 players by the transition. Depending on the healing set up I can keep this up into and throughtout PH2 picking up the few people I missed in PH1 during the first transition ... Come the second transition I tend to get close to being OOM at this point in the encounter but as stated above optimising your CD's will keep you in sufficient mana.

    The important thing to remember is that should a tank or healer die, have defile, be picked up by a Valk etc etc I need to be ready to assist tank healing. I would be no use if I was not balanced properly and ended up going OOM just as I was needed.

    Id say people should in generaly stick to the current gemming. Over stacking INT can be good but all we get from it is regen, and a miniscule amount of crit. I would rather players gemmed the SP once comfortable with there regen and mana pool and learn to use there CD's more effectively. Most of the fights arent long enough to go OOM assuming you use your CD's correctly, and the one fight which is (LK is easily doable without going OOM so long as you and your other healers co-ordinate your regens effectively.) Blindly gemming INT is not the way to go.

    4/22/2010 9:56 AM Anonymous

    Great post. I totally agree. People are always asking me about what gear to use and its often very small differences between their choices. I tell em similar stuff.

    Using global cool downs and knowing when the have the entire raid shielded is far more effective than worying over one piece of gear having 6 more SP but 8 less haste.

    Glad to see im not the only one that doesnt agree with Dawns opinions on meta gems. :-) If you have too much mana, you're probably not healing hard enough (or have too many healers in raid).

    Matron usually has good advice.

    Gobble gobble.

    4/22/2010 10:27 AM Paolo

    If you downrank your shields correctly, and studiously avoid shielding the tanks, you should be able to end P1 with FULL mana by abusing the Rapture bug. You should also NOT be on dispel duty for P1. There's so little healing to be done (except the tanks) that your shaman is probably tabbed out surfing the web. If you're trying to cover too much yourself, people will die for sure.

    Also, I think you misunderstood. This article had very little to do with gemming int. The point was that while gemming SP will increase your throughput, playing more aggressively will increase it far more. As BobTurkey said (just below your comment), gear choices are much less significant than we like to think! And most disc priests play far more passively, reactively, and conservatively than we will normally admit :)

    And no one is suggesting to remap all of your keys to PWS. You still have a big toolbox. Even though one of your tools is better than the others, that doesn't make it the right tool for every job all of the time.

    4/22/2010 2:03 PM Panzee


    Ye I know about the downranking trick but TBH im only going to do that when I need mana as I said so long as people mange their regen CD's properly it really isnt needed.

    As for the Dispelling I know I shouldn't be on it but im a bit of a control freak and I prefer to do it myself that way I know its getting done properly lol.

    Also I tried to cover most things from the post the gemming I probally put to much weight into. I was just that it was mentioned in the post so I felt I should respond to it. I agree that tehre are Disc priests out there who dont take an active role / view of healing and play like paladins healing DMG rather than pre-emptiing the DMG and mitigating as much as possible, however, at teh same time pushing your self to a state of OOM ness isnt the answer either. Sure it might look good on the meters but if you are going OOM you wont have sufficient mana to deal with problems which might arise, basically its a balancing act.

    4/23/2010 5:41 AM Sinespe

    Thief, scoundrel, etc.

    (Hi Paolo)

    4/23/2010 9:56 AM Anonymous

    Nice post Paolo.

    As a Disc Priest and hardcore shieldspammer, fully gemmed for SP, I have no problem going OOM during every ICC fight. I don't waste a single GCD, every GCD is used for a shield/PoM.
    An example, check

    How do I solve the OOM issue?
    - 1x Runic Mana Potion
    - One or more Innervates
    - A strategic Shadowfiend

    The strategic Shadowfiend is key to restore your mana pool completely:
    - HoH & Shadowfiend have great synergy, use them together.
    - Your Shadowfiend likes Heroism/Bloodlust, pop it when the RL announces a Heroism/Bloodlust countdown.
    - If you don't feel comfortable channeling HoH, use PS & BT/PI.

    4/23/2010 10:16 AM Paolo


    I have been busted. Busted, yes, that thing you did when you called me out, you called me out just then, I know you did. I can tell, from the way you challenged me, that I was busted.

    I am the world's biggest Mamet fan. You caught me!

    4/23/2010 6:51 PM Sinespe

    Mamet *is* rather fantastic.


    4/23/2010 7:40 PM Erika Haas

    I would just like to say I love your blogs. I've been playing a priest since launch and any time anyone questions anything I say I point them in this direction and say "I'm not the only one who things this way."

    My question for you now is how do you feel about having 2 disc priests in a raid? I'm looking for a new raiding guild, and my deal breaker has always been having another actively raiding disc priest. But the guild that I think I would like to join wants to run 2 disc priests. I've done it in the past, it never really works out so well. But I mean, Paragon can do it.. and no I'm not saying everyone should be Paragon, but still.

    How do you feel about having 2 disc priests in a raid? Can it be done effectively if we're both bubbling the raid?

    4/26/2010 10:24 AM Paolo


    Two disc priests *can* work. But it takes partnership, coordination. I've withdrawn guild apps when I found they had active disc priests (/wave vizs!). And the last guild I was in insisted they would make two disc priests work. Which they did for all of two weeks, before the other guy switched to holy most of the time. I felt pretty bad about that, since he also loved disc.

    For specific fights (LK is the obvious example), having two disc priests is fantastic. But that's the exception more than the rule.

    Also, it depends on how serious the guild is. If it's more in the casual direction (as opposed to hard core) then there's more room for flexibility. From a min-max perspective, two disc priests in the same raid is not usually a good move though. Now, if Renewed Hope would stack, that might be a different story...

    4/26/2010 10:59 AM Aur


    Actually covering the raid in shields is useful on Lootship as well. The bubbles soak up any axethrower and rocket dmg on the raid, as well as save the dps that is mindlessly AOE'ing the adds before the tank can grab them.


    Excellent article BTW. I have always played this way, and still gear\gem for maximum throughput. I am a firm believer that ending an encounter with a half-full mana bar is simply a waste. Personally, I dislike the old stand around and wait to heal model, which is one reason I love my disc priest so much. There is always something to do as disc. We were given small, fast, efficient heals for a reason - and that is because we are built to spam, not twiddle our thumbs until we think there is something worth healing.

    4/27/2010 7:38 PM Erika Haas

    Can we get married? lol

    4/27/2010 7:50 PM Paolo

    You'd have to go holy. But otherwise, what an offer!

    4/28/2010 11:28 AM Anonymous

    Okay, I'm not a level 80 and never have been, so maybe there's more to this than I get... but you want us to overheal to look better on the rankings? Is that what this is about? Because that's what it sounds like to me. DPS casting all the time makes sense, because they're always being useful when they do. But a priest? What good is going OOM and spamming heals people don't need OTHER than to your rankings?

    4/29/2010 4:22 AM Tel

    @ Diana

    You've missed the point of a Disc Priest. Your main role is damage reduction and as sometimes damage can be unpredictable a shield on dps is often not a wasted heal. I have to admit I don't tend to play by the above style as I have no concern for healing meters at all unless its obvious someone is not pulling their weight and people are dying. I am our MT healer and so I have to gem SP but that doesn't mean to say that if my tank is topped up and shielded that I won't throw a shield on the raid. As for regen, if I shield spam then I will go OOM but as you learn the fights you learn ways of overcoming this.

    4/29/2010 9:41 AM Paolo


    Overheal isn't bad for disc priests because of DA, which will stack mitigation bubbles even when you overheal. Often I'll spam the tank before a pull to build up a nice DA bubble.

    Also, more generally, healing meters aren't evil. If you're trying to be the best you can possibly be, one of the visible results will be higher numbers on the meters. And whether you're in a competitive raid environment or not, how could doing more healing be bad? Isn't that our job? :)

    5/01/2010 4:42 PM Anonymous

    Ah... less confused now. Shields I get-- I never thought spamming shields was a waste-- but I had forgotten about DA, which is kind of silly. >.<

    And no, don't think healing meters are evil... just don't see them as a primary motivation for strategy as a good thing, if that makes sense.

    5/03/2010 12:41 PM That kid with all the problems

    I like this a lot. Although, I would still say spell power is better to gem than intellect because even when I play to go oom, it's nothing a mana CD or an innervate doesn't fix.
    Heck, the only fight where I'm spamming and I actually "worry" about my mana is HM dreamwalker and that's because bubbles don't reliably pop for mana rturn. But my normal solace and PLD fix that.
    Great post!

    -Coia (Lothar)

    5/04/2010 12:35 AM Miisery

    @Paolo I do have an ele shaman ;).

    What is your toons name?

    5/13/2010 11:33 PM Nymarie

    However much I dislike Matron and his guild, I agree on the CAST ALWAYS thing. We don't spam the same spell, but continuous SMART casting as a Disc priest is a good way to go.

    However, his stuff about gemming...I'm not so sure on. I guess he means that the gemming won't exactly increase your hps unless you're already doing the smart constant casting.

    And yes Paolo, I'm back. But still not raiding much.

    5/14/2010 12:05 PM Sthenno

    I just wanted to mention that Renew is not bad anymore.

    We all got used to thinking that Renew was bad because in Naxx we had 2k spell power. 2000 * 1.88 + 1400 = 5160. For shield, (2000 * 1.21 + 2230) * 1.15 * 1.2 (if glyph works) = 6417. Twin Disciplines and Focused Power affect both spells equally, so I'm just ignoring them.

    But the fact that Renew gets 1.88 of our spell power and PW:S gets 1.21 makes things look different when we have 4.5k spell power with all our raid buffs up.

    With 4.5k spell power Renew heals for 9860 while PW:S shields/heals for 10839. If you put the talent points in Imp Renew then Renew heals for 11339 (and what are those talents points doing for us otherwise?), actually beating out the shield in raw healing/shielding.

    Since instants don't eat Borrowed Time, Renew doesn't hurt your cast speed in most situations. Realizing that Renew had silently crept from uncastably bad to decent was key to some early Blood Queen wins because I could make a meaningful contribution to raid healing without putting weakened soul on people. This meant that I could always put shields on the Pact of the Darkfallen targets right away. Being able to heal while actually saving the ability to shield for when it is needed instead of doing it preemptively has been really helpful.

    To be fair, I raid 10-player strictly, and I realize things are very different for 25-player raids, but I think with the spell power totals we have these days its time to get Renew a second look.

    5/18/2010 12:54 PM Nate

    The reason for stacking spellpower is because LK25 HM Infest isn't a joke like normal mode. It absorbs all of your bubble and more sometimes even with pallies doing a Sac rotation. The intent is to reach the magic number to where your shields will be able to take care of the infest without relying on raid CD's.


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