Discipline raid healers are very much in demand at the moment and this is in no small part thanks to the nature of their healing. Unique amongst all other raid healing classes, the discipline priest uses shields rather than direct heals to provide preventative healing rather than reactive healing. On certain encounters, such as the Lich King for example, this ability to predict and occasionally completely prevent incoming damage makes the discipline priest even more desirable. Although previously thought of as a tank healing build by those not in the know, discipline priests are raid healers first and foremost. While they can and do provide ample support on tanks to help out and in fact can excel at this too, it is not their primary focus and so they are essentially being wasted if forced into this role. This article will take a brief high-level look at all the things a discipline priest will need to know in order to start healing in a raid environment. It will not go too deep into the details but should cover enough to give anyone a helping hand when just starting out with a Discipline Priest.
The first thing you will need to sort out in order to effectively heal a raid is your talent build. The basic talent build for a disc priest after Patch 3.3.5 is Discipline 54/17/0 although some of this can be changed according to personal preference. In order to get to Inspiration for example, most people will take the pushback reduction from a single point in Healing Focus and the overall spell damage reduction of five points in Spell Warding. If this doesn’t take your fancy, and/or if you happen to use Renew or Greater Heal a lot, you could put points into Improved Renew or Divine Fury instead. The three talent points currently in Focused Will could also be reassigned somewhere else if you feel you have enough crit. For those that like an extra panic button, a talent point may also be placed in Desperate Prayer.
It is imporant to remember that while there are recommended ways of assigning talents and of playing your priest, healing can be a very personal endeavour and many people do find their own style which differs from the norm and yet works just as well. A discipline raid healing build is a fluid thing and can be adapted to your own healing style pretty easily. You should try not to remove points from the lower half of the discipline tree as much as possible however, since this is where the most powerful talents are.
Once you have your talents all set up, it’s time to think about Glyphs. There are only a few to choose from really:
- Glyph of Power Word: Shield – An extremely powerful glyph that adds a heal to your shield ability. Since discipline priests are usually assigned to shield spam, you may find the heal from this glyph alone can easily reach about 10% of your overall healing.
- Glyph of Penance – Reduced cooldown on one of our primary spells? Yes please. This glyph makes Penance much more useful to say the least.
- Glyph of Flash Heal – A large 10% mana reduction on Flash Heal may sound lovely, especially when considered with the 2pc Tier 10 bonus which adds a 33% chance to Flash Heal of applying a HoT that heals for 33% of the healed amount over a few seconds. Then you remember that we’re discipline and not holy, we don’t really use Flash Heal much anyway. So what does that leave us with?
- Glyph of Prayer of Healing – Although not used too much in most fights, when cast under the influence of Borrowed Time after casting a shield, PoH can be extremely useful when the raid damage is extraordinarily high. Add the 20% HoT on there and you have a relatively useful spell. While this still won’t be likely to give you the group heal throughput of a shaman or resto druid, it will still help the other raid healers get everyone topped up again after a big hit (think Whiteout for example).
In terms of Minor Glyphs there are none that will actually help you heal so take whatever you like. Personally I use Glyph of Fading since I Fade a lot, Glyph of Fortitude since I buff a lot and Glyph of Levitate since there’s nothing else I like.
In essence, for most raid environments the discipline priest has a straight-forward job: spam shields on the raid. Initially this may mean trying to shield everyone, but in 25 man content you will have to be a bit smarter. For example, you will always need to try and make sure that you shield those that need it first and foremost; those that are actively taking damage or are about to and especially those that are low on health and still taking damage. As you get to know each fight better, you will learn who needs shielding and when, until then use your best guess. On top of shield spam, on those fights with a lot of raid damage you will also need to use Prayer of Mending on every cooldown. If there are no other priest healers in your raid then you can probably just fire it at the tanks, otherwise you should pick a DPS that you know will need a heal soon to ensure the heal goes off.
You will also need to provide tank healing support, which basically just means helping the tank healer out when the tank takes spike damage. If you see the tank going down too fast, throw a shield and penance in his direction. In extreme circumstances (tank healer out of action for a while) you may need to follow up with Flash Heal and/or Greater Heal spam for a bit. You can probably leave a renew on there too just for that bit of extra help. Don’t forget about the raid at this point though and try to maintain decent healing on them throughout.
Should your shield not quite soak up the damage and you happen to need some stronger healing on the group, use alternating shields and Prayer of Healing as mentioned above. With the 25% haste from Borrowed Time, and especially if you have it glyphed, PoH can really help get the raid topped up again quickly. If something goes horribly wrong or if there is predictable heavy damage incoming you can use Inner Focus with Divine Hymn for some extra powerful raid heals, but remember this has a long cooldown so can only be used once per raid boss usually.
Discipline priests have it pretty good when considering how hard some healers have it really, but we still need to be smart when it comes to mana management. We do have 15% extra intellect from Mental Strength, and we also have some abilities and talents at our disposal, but on long fights you will notice it is still quite easy to run out of mana completely. Once you get to high gear levels, it is important to start gearing/gemming for regen. Our number one regen stat is intellect so getting split SP/int gems can be quite handy at this point. Spirit helps too but not as much and given the choice between spirit and pure MP5 go for the MP5. Until really high gear levels (very large mana pool) spirit just won’t be able to compare.
We should always be receiving little boosts to mana through Rapture and this can be encouraged along. For example, many discipline priests will use a lower rank shield on the Lich King encounter so that Infest will just break through it. The priest will also avoid shielding the tanks so as not to put Rapture on cooldown prematurely. When shields are broken on multiple DPS and healers at once, Rapture actually stacks and returns a nice big chunk of mana.
Aside from Rapture, our primary spells for mana regen are Shadowfiend and Hymn of Hope. Since the shadowfiend works on a percentage of the priest’s mana pool size and hymn of hope increases that pool, using them simultaneously can return an amazing amount of mana. Because of this, the use of fiend+hope should be saved until you are practically out of mana completely.
Practice, Practice and Practice
This post has covered many of the basics but some things you just have to learn as you play. You should now be able to fill in your talent build, buy the correct glyphs and have a basic idea of which spells to use and when in raid encounters. The rest comes with experience and there’s nothing as fun as getting stuck in and figuring things out. Roll a discipline priest and you won’t regret it, that’s for sure!
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