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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Discipline raiding spec thoughts and review

Every Sunday (usually), Spiritual Guidance will offer practical insight for priests of the holy profession. Your host is Matt Low, the grand poobah of World of Matticus and a founder of PlusHeal, a new healing community for all restorative classes. This week Matticus is going to try to shed some light on the Discipline spec in a raiding environment!

I'll admit it. I've been Holy my entire life. I'd only go Discipline just to have some fun in PvP on the weekends in order to grab myself some extra Arena points for PvP gear and what not. In the past, I did try to go all out Discipline because we had some many Priests. Variety is the spice of life right? As time went on, my Guild slowly started losing to Priests to real life until I was the only one remaining. The guild could not afford me to experiment any longer and I switched back to the comfort of Holy.

Over the past weekend, I had a chance to try out Discipline in full with the new spells and expanded tree on both live and beta servers. How did it go?

Black Temple is slowly being rotated out of schedule. We've started to devote our main raiding days to Sunwell (and I'm happy to say that we took down Kalecgos, Brutallus, and Felmyst over the past week since the nerf hit). Black Temple would now be held on off nights allowing social players and alts to have a crack at it. This meant I could switch out to an experimental spec. I opted for the 56/5/0 build which I suggested a few days ago.

Key Glyphs

I had to make sure I picked out the right Glyphs that would benefit me the most under this spec. The various Scribers in my guild were hard at work power leveling and several of them were at the point of almost maxing out.

  • Glyph of Power Word: Shield: Without a doubt, this Glyph was my first pick overall. The amount of emphasis that Discipline placed on casting Shields, it wouldn't hurt at all to snap this one up.

  • Glyph of Flash Heal: I figured this would be the next best Glyph to use to help ease up on mana issues. The main issue here is lack of selection on Major Glyphs. I could've gone for the Glyph of Renew, but I realized that Renew would immediately get overwritten by the colossal amount of healing done by the other players. I would gain more from Flash Heal than Renew. This will be a different story at level 80. I'll definitely pick up the Renew glyph then (when the 3rd slot unlocks).

  • The Theory

    From the talents and the spells now at my disposal, I quickly determined that I'm nothing more than a super single target healer. One lucky mage gets a Power Infusion (which is up every 1.6 minutes) as often as possible. The main key spells I would use most often is Flash Heal, Power Word: Shield, and Penance. I deliberately laid off the Renew (same reasons as I alluded to earlier) unless I felt it was absolutely necessary.

    The Trial Run

    So to make it interesting (and fast), we ran Black Temple on Saturday with 5 healers. Technically, we ran it with 4 healers since one of them was the master looter. I'm not trying to show off or anything. I just wanted to emphasize that I'm trying to stress myself and the other healers as much as possible. The side effect of having this many healers is that mobs simply died too fast. In the race between DPS and healer mana, DPS won by a wide margin.

    I found that I ended up using Penance every possible chance I could (partially because it looks cool). Greater Heal was hardly ever used because Penance felt quicker. I noticed I did have to work with the cooldown of Penance and it's something I'm not used to. Otherwise I resorted to Flash Heal (because it's the cheapest heal I have). Mana didn't feel like an issue at all but that's most likely due to the fact that we blitzed these mobs down.

    Here's the last question. I can just about hear it from everyone who wants to know.

    Which is the better raid healing spec?

    Honestly, the jury's still out on this one. I'm inconclusive at this point. I can see how well Discipline can work. The potential is there. There's a few things holding me back from providing a solid opinion.

    1. Level 70 raiding is not an accurate measure. It's not. With all the instance nerfs, I can't tell false positives from positives (wait, does that even make sense?). At level 80, the raids didn't last long enough for me to get a feel for it. Most of the raids I participated in had leaders who requested me to respec to Holy. When I went Discipline, raids started to randomly fall apart. Sigh.
    2. Gear is not optimal yet. A big difference between the gear we have now at level 70 compared to the gear at level 80 is the lack of crit. Yes, I know, level 80 gear is way different. On beta, my Priest has a whopping ~24% crit (which is pretty high for a Priest). Right now I'm barely pushing 12%. In other words, I'm testing level 80 specs in level 70 raiding situations without level 80 gear. I need to be at 80, actually in Naxx with the appropriate amount of gear. You'd be surprised. A lot of the cloth gear at that level has crit stuff littered all over the place.
    With the way buffs are now (raid wide) and among some of the other various changes since the patch, Blizzard appears to be trying to provide the player with the choice of what they want to bring to the encounter instead of what the encounter requires the player to bring.


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