Archive for the “Priest” Category

I recently stated that Disco was an acceptable leveling build, and I stick by that, but one term in the equation that may need tweaking is "acceptable".  Disco leveling is kind of like running a marathon wrapped in bubble wrap.  You’ll get there, and you won’t take any damage, but you’ll be covered in sweat and it’ll be next week before you’re done.  If that’s acceptable then you’re in for a lot of single-spec goodness in your life.

Unfortunately, I fear this is holding up the guild’s ability to consistently field a team for Heroics, so I switched to Shadow to level up faster.  It, too, is acceptable for a hybrid class’ aspirations1, but if you were a fire mage or BM hunter you might feel a bit … hobbled. Never mind that. It’s moved me along a lot faster than I had been moving otherwise.

The funny thing is that some fights are a lot easier if I switch to Disco mode. Shadow isn’t big on mitigation, and mini-bosses often are immune to rooting, fearing, or both. So a build that hits like a truck and heals itself one HP for ever two DP it deals is ideal, albeit slow.  That’s fine. The only caveat is the spec switch often takes too long to pounce a rare.  Guess I’ll have to be patient.

But let’s talk Disco

For healing, I’m really starting to get a handle on the mechanics of the smite-mode healing approach, and kinda falling in love with it.  The biggest problem is mana. In WotLK, I could spam like a Nigerian banker and rarely see the bottom of the mana jar.  In MoP, that’s no longer the case, and our mana regen tools have been curtailed as well, so we are driven in a certain direction, and it’s not shield spamming.

There are a few core mechanics at work here.

Direct healing

Direct healing spells, such as Greater Heal and Flash Heal and Renew and Penance all provide us with effective means to top off our target’s hit points, but they offer nothing in the way of regeneration tools on their own.  A couple of talents DO link one to another, such as From Darkness Comes Light – this one gives you freebie Flash heals, and I do like this one a LOT for its situational utility.  The caveat is that you lose Mindbender and its improved mana regen.  So, if you’re having mana management issues, the latter may well help more.  You will probably need to try both to gain a sense of where you stand.

Mitigation

In the past, this was our bread and butter. Even in Cata, with the smite-heal mode available, many of us went with the mitigation-heavy rotation, which amounted to a lot of Prayer of Mending and Power Word: Shield spamming.  Mana wasn’t a problem, so why the hell not, right?

In MoP, mana’s an issue, so this approach has gone away. Now, PW:S is largely situational, and PoM is more of a supplement than a mainstay. Spirit Shell is a new, welcome addition to the fold, especially if you couple it with Prayer of Healing, but boy oh boy does it eat the manas.  Once again, if you spam mitigation all day, you’re going to be OOM well before the final blow.

Indirect Healing

The infamous "smite heal".  This was a largely optional novelty in Cata, though many disco priests made it their mainstay quite effectively.

Here’s the thing. A lot of people will view smite-healing as still a novelty, a vain effort to give priests something to do in the gaps2, even though they’d never crack the top half of the DPS charts.

But, people, that’s not even the point of this mechanic.

Once you crack open the hood, you’ll find a very sophisticated yet straightforward engine driving not the build per se, but, I argue, the very soul of the Disco healing machine.

First, what is smite-healing? 

This mechanic forms the backbone of an indirect group healing approach. The three core spells to this mechanic all provide a 100% return on the damage generated. In other words, if I damage an enemy for 1000 points, I will generate 1000 points of healing – unless the healee is myself, in which case it’s 50% return. But still.  That’s the other thing. The healee in question will be the lowest-health friendly within 15 yards of the damage target3. This is done via a specialization called Atonement. Holy Fire4, Smite, and Penance generate what is effectively an AoE heal.

Now the hard part.

In the past, Archangel would generate mana when you used it to consume your Evangelism stacks, but now it only increases healing5. So, if you pop your wings, better get another stack started up to help with the mana mitigation.

But here’s the neat part.

Regardless of your Evangelism stacks and Archangel usage, that indirect healing component of Atonement is still there!  So you don’t have to be as fussy with those two spells as you might have in the past.

At the (what is now) final tier, we have three very powerful and very Disco-ish talents: Cascade, Divine Star, and Halo. All of these have AoE-ish effects as well, and all do damage and healing. All have a cooldown of 40 seconds or less, so you’ll be using them a lot.  At the moment I am prone towards Cascade simply because it is less fussy about positioning.  We’ve got enough worries.

Strategy and Tactics

fittychangedthegameWe have an immense toolbox to work with, and even though you might feel you know how to use it based on experience, I assure you that Blizz done changed da game on us.

As with everybody else in the world, we have no rotation to fiddle with, but we do have a priority queue of sorts, especially given the 20-second cooldown of Evangelism.  This then is my juggling act.

  • If I have five stacks of Evangelism and time to generate a stack afterward, pop Wings.
  • PW: Shield on my main target, usually the main tank (or OT if they swapped).
  • Keep Prayer of Mending up on all the times. If it is glyphed then the first person that gets healed by it gets extra healing (but you get one less hop); this may or may not be desirable, but given its cooldown it’s often worth it if you’re on the MT.
  • For low to moderate healing on someone: Holy Fire, Smite6, or Penance on the baddie (e.g. target of my target), depending on what’s off of cooldown. Smite has no cooldown so it’s always available.  Otherwise I use one of the other two since they generate more healing7.
  • Direct healing spells as needed on appropriate targets.  If you can get a Borrowed Time proc in prior to Greater Heal, so much the better. For heavy group damage, popping Borrowed Time via PW: Shield then Spirit Shell + Prayer of Healing goes a long way towards saving much bacon. I rarely get those three strung together right, however.  I’m not the most dexterous of healers. :)

On a lot of fights, I have found myself hardly even reaching for the traditional healing tools other than PoM and PW:S – everything else gets smitey-healed.

Toys you don’t get anymore

Here’s the big caveat.

You hardly get any mana regeneration tools. Wings lost that utility, and Rapture’s proc is rather situational, so that effectively leaves you with your shadow pet and Hymn used strategically.

What this means to you is this:

  1. You can’t fling shields like a fool any more.  You have to keep them where they’re needed.
  2. Consequently, your group has responsibility to stay out of harm’s way.  Prima donna DPSes that expect The Shield to get them by will do less DPS by virtue of being on the floor, counting tiles, and complaining that the healer sucks.
  3. You can’t spam damage spells, either. You must reserve them for when someone needs the heals, or the Evangelism timer is about to blow.

In other words, you must heal with intelligence and moderation.  I don’t think this is a problem for most healers, but it might take getting used to if you are, like me, more familiar with the ez mode Disco build of WotLK.

A toy you can have

The hardest part of Atonement healing is the switching between targets to heal and targets to smite.  Fortunately, Blizzard has provided us with the facility of macros to help get the job done.  A few clever keybinds and you’re off.  However, a couple of addons help a lot, as well.

  • Grid or VuhDo will put your groups’ unit frames wherever you need them.  The default unit frames will allow this as well, just not as elegantly or with as many additional features.
  • Clique makes the binding of mouse and keystrokes to abilities, spells, and other effects a lot easier. You an do this with the default interface as well, but Clique just makes it a lot easier.

The macro I use for smitey-heals looks like this.

#showtooltip Smite 
/castsequence [@mouseovertarget] reset=10 Holy Fire, Penance, Smite, Smite, Smite

The first line just changes the tooltip icon, I chose Smite because reasons.

The second line overcomes cooldown and timer issues in a few ways.

  • /castsequence dictates that the spells will be cast in the sequence that they are given, so you don’t waste time with spells that are still in cooldown.
  • reset=10 resets this sequence after ten seconds. Why?  Because that is the cooldown of Holy Fire, which gives us the best bang for the buck.  Since Penance has the same cooldown, this means that if you only hit one ever five seconds, you’ll never hit Smite, which is by far our weakest component. 

However, thanks to the sequence, we don’t have to fixate on timers, thus freeing us up on what to do with our spells instead.

[@mouseovertarget] directs the damage to the target of the unit that you have the mouse pointer hovering over.  So if you’re hovering over your tank in Grid, his target will be selected and damaged. Hover over a DPSer, and that player’s target will be smote instead.

Put this into a macro or into Clique, assign it to a key or mouse button, and you’re ready to go!

Final thoughts

I am no Matticus or Derveka; truth told, I’m not even level 90. This is based solely on careful observations taken during instance healing, test dummy runs, and a lot of questing. It works for me, up to this point, but I may be kicking Disco to the curb at any given moment if I find it doesn’t work for me. Thus far, I’m seeing nothing to say it won’t.


  1. I hasten to point out, this is with me geared for Disco goodness.  I know properly geared Shadow priests do a lot more damage. []
  2. We already have that, it’s called Hymn of Hope. []
  3. In 5.1, this increases to 40 yards! []
  4. Allow me to point out its DoT component which, yes, generates an HoT. []
  5. I’m uncertain if that boosts smite-heals as well. Anyone? []
  6. I highly recommend glyphing this for 20% more healing. []
  7. You may question using Penance here. But the beauty is that this approach doesn’t fixate on a single target, rather whoever needs it, and I consider that a great gift from the Makers. []

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Back in the BC days, the idea of a viable Holy or Disco DPS build was teased at by Blizz, and many of us spent countless hours trying to suss out what that build might BE. We never found it, and I think I’m guessing rightly that there never was one.  The best any of us could come up with was some sort of Holy hybrid build that allowed us to muddle through leveling and still do halfway decent heals in normal dungeons.

When the dual spec feature was implemented, that whole concept kind of lost its attraction. We all dual-specced and went Shadow for leveling. Cata killed it completely by locking us in to one spec until max levels, and, of course, MoP has buried it by removing the concept of talent specs completely.

In a way, we’re all hybrids now, as much as anybody is a hybrid, if you take my meaning.

But an odd thing happened in MoP.  Disco DPS became … a thing.

Back the truck up

I’m not going to say or even imply that Disco DPS holds a candle to a true DPS class. It’s not even close.  But what I will say is that some Disco skills hit harder than expected.

We noticed this when my alter-ego Jazreal was dashing around the landscape with his low-level friends.  Since questing in Kalimdor is pretty laughable these days, there isn’t much healing needed, so out of boredom one day he fired off a Penance on some mob.  And it fell over. Dead. Kaput. Crispy-fried, Disco-style.

He had discovered that Penance hit like a truck when used for DPS.

Healy applications

Nobody here’s sure, but it appears that this ramping up of Holy Fire, Smite, and Penance’s damage output is a direct consequence of the smite-healy healing style being adopted as the One True Way of Disco Healing According to Blizzard. How do we know this? Well, we don’t know. But we guess, and that is based on how smite-healing heals group members for a value based on the damage done with those three spells.   Aaaand, if they’re wimpy, the heals will be, too.

In Cata, this wasn’t a problem because the Evangelism stacks gained were the goal of smite-heals, to regain mana and buff healing in general. Take the mana return away, and suddenly this becomes a much less attractive choice to healers.  I have a feeling Disco was in danger of being spec non grata if they hadn’t done something about it. Thus, the group healing effect, and its improved effectiveness, puts a new coat of paint on our favorite set of wheels, and makes it attractive to us.

Non-healy side effects

The big side effect of this is that, suddenly, we have a viable questing / leveling spec on our hands. Oh, certainly, it takes a bit longer than a BM hunter blowing all his cooldowns at once. In fact, it’s like sawing through your opponent with a butter knife.  But the thing is, it’s not a struggle, and it’s an extremely survivable leveling spec, too.

As an example, last night I ran into Morgrinn Crackfang in the Jade Forest, an NPC that even gives pure DPS problems1. And the fight took, I don’t know, five minutes or so.  But I never dropped below 80% health, and his went down steadily. In the end, Disco won the day. Disco!  And I didn’t even have to heal myself. The damage I did WAS my healing. 

In the back of my mind, I could hear BRK swearing about how Disco priests were "like cockroaches" when he was playing PvP.  That’s kind of how I feel about myself now. Short of a nuclear bomb, it’s hard to kill a Disco priest – and don’t bet on the nuke.

By the way? Neither Fangcracker Battlemace or Leggings of Forgotten War – both which dropped – are suitable reward for a Disco priest, Blizz. I am le disappoint.

Side note: the addition of Void Tendrils as a talent really, really screams "all specs are DPS specs" to me.  You use this to root your target, back off, and smite face until it is dead. Healy specs don’t need root spells. DPS specs do.  If you’re a healer and you have something in your face, you need to run to the tank and get it off you2.

Mechanical issues

There is one slight problem with this approach. Most, if not all, of my keybound action bars have healy spells. Fortunately, the use of a good addon will help3. I use Dominos for my action bars. I have set up the first row of keys (the keybound ones) so that if I hold down shift and scroll, it shows a DPS-based action bar instead. I’m pretty sure this is possible with other action bar addons, as well.

An alternative would be to have two Disco specs with different action bar layouts.  But this is so much easier.

But, truly, this is a good thing

Now, I can’t say for sure this little buzz of mine will carry through to the final zones of the continent, but for the time being, I am truly content to healy-smite my way through Pandaria. By not having to faff about with Shadow spec, I don’t have to concern myself with duplicate armor, etc, nor do I have to remember to switch to the right spec when turning in quests4.

The one disadvantage to this, besides the glacial speed of progression, is that if you truly do plan to dual-spec with Shadow, you won’t pick up as much useful shadow gear.  But if Disco is going to be your primary, that should not be a concern.

I’m hoping that this is "working as intended" and we don’t see a giant nerf to the damage output of Disco priests. I can easily see them decoupling the direct link between DPS and heals and putting in a multiplier for heals so that x amount of damage got 3x amount of healing, or something like that.

I would not be happy with that, not because of the inconvenience, but because if they truly want to make choices significant, the choice to play as Disco needs to mean more than "I spec disco in instances, but I spend the rest of my life in Shadowform." 


  1. At my level, I hasten to point out. I’m sure level 90s blow him away using nothing but dots and harsh language. []
  2. Well technically the tank shouldn’t be letting that sort of thing happen too much, and certainly not often enough to warrant a spot on your action bar. []
  3. What I am going to describe is possible without, as well, but not nearly as easy. []
  4. Under the new reward system, you’re given equipment rewards based on spec, and it’d be a shame to get DPS gear offerings when you’re a healer. []

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Ever since I started running instances with the guild again, I’ve been running into a memory problem: I couldn’t remember which binding I had assigned to my dispel set up for in Clique.  I’d see error messages like "Invalid target" and wonder what I’d just hit.  Then I’d open Clique up after the fight and go "I could swear I hit that combo."

A couple of days ago I realized what my mistake was.

Tooltip for Dispel Magic:

Dispels magic on the enemy target, removing 1 beneficial Magic effect.

Contrast to the older version – the one I was bound to:

Dispels magic on the target, removing 2 harmful spell from a friend or 2 beneficial spell from an enemy.

So Dispel Magic only works on the Bads, then. What replaces it, and Cure Disease?

Digging through the spell book, one sees Purify.

Dispels harmful effects on the target, removing all Magic and Disease effects.

It’s actually two spells in one, making and it isn’t limited in the number of debuffs it’ll remove – it removes all of them. The tradeoff? It’s on an eight-second cooldown now.

So don’t be Derp Priest like me1. Square your binds up before things get real.


  1. To be fair, I don’t remember this being part of the "things that changed" text, or called out in WoWHead. Even if it was, I’d’ve probably missed it due to the sheer volume of information. Derp derp derp. []

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Resuming healing after two or so years’ idle time is a scary adventure.

There has been some semi-serious talk of me coming back as the team’s "main" on Alleria and letting our long-suffering GM return to her Mage – especially now that Frost is viable, and she’s a big Frosty-head. Nothing’s written in stone yet, but prior to The Patch, we ran a lot of Heroics to get me back into the groove.

It was utterly terrifying. I haven’t healed in anger for the entire Cataclysm expansion.  Most terrifying of all was the mana regen, or lack thereof.  It’s hard to get the hang of Smite Healing when that blue bar is the center of your existence.  Back in the LK days, I could practically ignore it. Not so much, now.

Jasra 2.0 – code name "Jazreal" – is a young Night Elf priest on another server, rolled to run with some friends, and I’ve gone Disco with him as well. At his level, Smite Heals isn’t yet a thing – hadn’t gotten the talents yet – but the mana issue was still there.

Last night, Jaz made his first attempts at healing since the patch dropped, and the mana regen was amazing.  That blue bar was almost irrelevant; the mana flowed like water. And – assuming your tank is not specced Feral – Disco priests don’t seem to have much trouble keeping everyone alive, either.

I’ve yet to go out myself since the patch, but the changes are very encouraging.

The only thing that bothers me is the whiffs of unhappiness that I am hearing regarding the mana cap at max level.  So, the OP-ness of Disco sub 30 may not carry over to Disco at 90.  Whether you need to conserve mana due to low regen rate, or due to having a very small mana "tank", makes no difference.  You lose a lot of flexibility.  In my guild, which usually two-heals, flexibility is a must-have.

The Disco healing skillset is very different now.  A lot of abilities have been migrated to higher levels, such as Renew1 have been moved to higher tiers.  Poor Jaz has Flash Heal and Penance2 and PW: Shield and that’s about it.

A log of healers are complaining about such changes; having to "learn it all over again, every single expansion" is a burden to some.  A lot of people would probably complain if there WASN’T any change, either. "Blah blah blah Blizzard is just coasting blah blah blah".  Blizz can’t win that game, so they shouldn’t play it, IMO.

I personally don’t mind the changes. These games are a series of puzzles to solve. That’s one of them.

If I only wanted to look at the scenery, I’d play Second Life instead.


  1. Which I realize isn’t considered a proper part of the Disco rotation, but I don’t care. []
  2. By the way, I love how Penance "locks" you on to your target and keeps you facing it even after you stop casting. []

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Name?

Shadow.

Surname?

Fiend.

Profession?

Minion, type 4.

Aye, times are tough for you types, ain’t they?

Well, the paycheck’s still coming in, but the writing’s on the wall.

New guy, isn’t it?

Yeah. A real go-getter.

All show, no go?

Oh, he’s got the right stuff, for sure. Quite frankly, we’re outclassed.  Gotta be honest.

How’s he doing that?

Well, first of all, he flies!  I can barely slither, and here he comes flying?  Can’t hold a candle to that!

How’s that happen?

I’m guessing the Twilight types left a few bits of research lying about, and the Temple had a look.

That’s a right shame, it is.

Well, at least I have time to find a new gig.

Well, right. What’s your qualifications?

Well, I studied in the twisted nether. Majored in Hit-and-run Tactics and Ignoring Masters’ commands. Picked up a nice Disco spec in Karazhan and romped around Northrend for a while. Spent most of my time recently in Shadow spec questing about. Seen Alien about 1,344 times and it keeps getting funnier EVERY SINGLE TIME I see it.

Hm. Yes. Very good.  The computer’s coming up with some nice candidates.

Great!  What you got?

Well, we got this walk-in part in Westeros that pays pretty well.

Cold there, isn’t it.

That it is. Hm. Do you have a hairnet?

I don’t  have hair.

Right, that would be a no.  How are you with numbers?

Um, not bad.

Right. Okay, luv, I’ve got a few options here.

Yes?

First, we have several entry level openings in the food service industry.

That’s not really my gig, though.

Exactly right, I thought the same. So, we have several middle-management openings in the Banking industry to do with Derivatives.

I have principles.

Oh, that is unfortunate.  Well, there’s one other possibility other than Oblivion, but I doubt you’d like it.

I’ve an open mind, lay it on me.

It’s in your field of expertise, but it’s a huge change of pace.

Come on, out with it.

Sorry, sir, of course.  Was just trying to prepare you.

I am prepared.

Warlock minion.

Warlock minion?

Warlock minion.  Type 2. A promotion, actually.

I was not prepared.

Sorry, luv, I tried to soften the blow.

I do appreciate that.

… Think they’d waive the hairnet?

I’m sure they would.

Well, let’s get the ball rolling then!

Right, sir. I’ll need you to sign here …

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Ever since we resumed after our short hiatus, Grimmtooth’s been doing all the raiding and I’ve been mostly taking a break – and we’ve been doing well.  Last week they took the first three bosses of ICC with little to no problem, but stalled on our progression boss.

Grimm’s been watching how the team performs and couldn’t help but think that he, being low DPS to the rest of the group, might be part of the problem. Saurfang is, after all, a DPS race more than anything.  So, we dropped him, dropped our holy priest, and he brought in his ICC-geared hunter and I took Grimm’s place.  That gave us an additional 1000 DPS, which is kinda like having two mages with Mirror Image up ALL THE TIME.

And he went down -  we even got the achievement for getting him down before we got two of those debuffs.

It was good to be back in the healing saddle again so as to not lose the touch. It’s even possible that I bring more to the table heal-wise than the other priest, but since there are no accurate meters for that, there’s no way to tell. Pure HPS he was ahead of me, but we all know how healing meters lie – even shiny new ones like Skada.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Last night, they introduced potential changes to priests in Cataclysm. I wish to share my thoughts on some, but not all.

  • [The new] Heal is intended to be the priest’s go-to direct-healing spell unless they need something bigger (Greater Heal) or faster (Flash Heal). That was already the case, but they did a bad job of it, and due to perversions of game mechanics, some of us don’t even touch the ‘heal’ family of spells except in corner cases.  For example, making lesser and greater heals consume equal resources is kinda dumb. Fix that or continue to see Disc priests do strange and daring things with the arsenal.
  • Leap of Faith (level 85): Pull a party or raid member to your location. Dumbest. Idea. Ever. Let’s let alone whether or not it breaks aggro. Let’s not concern ourselves on whether its range is less or more than your healing ranges. The core concept is rescuing people from being stupid. If you’re a tank, I will die if I pull you. If you’re a DPS, JUST MOVE, KEH?, If you’re a healer, I might yoink you so I don’t have to do your job too, but otherwise this will never ever be on my action bar.
  • All HoTs and DoTs will benefit from Haste and Crit innately. I mostly like, but I have a question about whether the effectiveness will be reduced for higher frequency. Otherwise this looks like a Free Lunch, and there ain’t no such thing.
  • We want to bring back Shadow Word: Death as an “execute” — something you do when the target is at 25% health. Wanting isn’t doing. Make it happen, cap’n.
  • While we want to keep the priest’s role as a well-rounded healer, we also want to make sure the class is a viable tank healer, which is something priests moved away from a little in Wrath of the Lich King. EXCUSE ME?
  • Greater Heal will probably be the tank-healing spell of choice, though we’ve also discussed giving Discipline a second shield… – Something about a big shield for tanks, small shield for others. Listen … guys. I don’t shield people that don’t need it, and when they need it they really really need it. I won’t use a lesser shield any more than I’ll use Lesser Heal now, as things stand.
  • Mana will be a bigger consideration for all healers. We aren’t trying to make healing more painful; we’re trying to make it more fun. Because being impotent and useless at the end of a boss fight is my idea of fun, too.  Seriously, if one spec becomes better than another at mana regen or conservation, it will become the defacto standard. Period.
  • We want to improve Discipline’s single-target healing capacity. One key is to make sure shielding isn’t always a more attractive option than healing. Wanting ain’t doing … again. And, guys? Shielding is a trademark of this spec.  On the other hand it’ll make epeen meters easier to read.

Trying not to sound negative, here.  As before, the proof is in the pudding.  But mainly it looks like Discipline as we know it will be gone, and what we have learned in WotLK is mostly gone. Well, that is interesting, but I’d like to see improvement over reworking whenever possible. Reworking is kinda lazy.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Last night the sweetie’s account got suspended for spamming. She changed the password, but when she logged in, she was cleaned out, her toons deleted, and several new toons created on other servers. She may or may not bother to get Blizz to help her restore her account. I know the feeling – if the same happens to me, I might be tempted to call it quits, too. Meanwhile, I’ve ordered a couple of authenticators.  We’re pretty sure there’s no keylogger involved.

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