Making the Switch: Holy to Disc

This is a guest post from Seriah, a PlusHeal community member

Priests are the main healing class in WoW, the official site even says so.  But to some people on the outside looking in they might not know that there are different mechanics in the individual Priest trees.  Having leveled and raided as Shadow and Holy I recently made the change to Discipline – it always looked like a fun tree and the new changes in LK sealed the deal for me. I’ve had experience in all forms of Priesting, but by no means am I claiming to be an expert on the class – just well experienced.

The intent here is to share my experience as a new Discipline Priest with everyone, especially anyone considering the switch be it because they think it looks like a fun change of pace or if you just hate the CoH nerf that much. I’ll attempt to walk you through what would happen if you dropped the Holy hat and picked up the Disc one – starting with your talent points.

Like with any spec there are those talents that you simply have to have, nothing fills that category better than the 3 P’s for Disc talents:

  • Power Infusion
  • Pain Suppression
  • Penance

Penance is absolutely the best healing spell I’ve ever had experience with – yes, more than CoH.  PI and PS are great too, especially since there are so many bosses that frenzy now when they’re at 20%.  How to spend your talents is a different article in itself, this is a brief overview of what you can expect from a cast sequence and mechanics point of view.

Hopefully you have a decent about of crit, be it by talents or gear, because once you start to see Divine Aegis (DA) in action you’ll love it.  Before a pull you’ll still want to do the usual PoM on the tank, but now you’ll also want to pop Power Word: Shield (PW:S) on him so the weakened soul debuff will show up – yes this is a good thing because you should be talented into Renewed Hope. 

When the pull starts, PoM will bounce with a crit (if you’re lucky) wrapping a DA bubble around the tank and giving you time to hit renew with no sense of urgency at all.  As long as incoming damage is minimal, you can stick to Flashes, Renews, and PoMs and be fine. The fun starts when the damage spikes.

On those big pulls where no one likes to CC anymore or on bosses that can hit like a whole fleet of trucks is where you’ll see those damage mitigation abilities of Disc healing really shine.  Keeping a full stack of Grace on the tank helps, and since they’re probably getting beat on a good bit that shouldn’t be too terribly hard.  PoM every time it’s up and say a little prayer so that it crits for a DA proc. 

Watch the cooldown on Penance. It hits 3 times during your channel and if you’re really on a roll with the luck and it crits all 3 times you can easily see 12k healing in less than 1.5 sec. there’s no one that can touch your HPS on hastened Penance.

That’s all fine well and good, but what if you get pushed to raid healing? 

First of all, if that happens you probably want to have a chat with your raid leader about the setup, if they still want you on raid duty then you can’t go wrong with shields and flashes, penance if they really need it.  Pain Suppression also works nicely here, if you have an overzealous DPS that can’t seem to watch Omen to save their lives, literally. It’ll reduce their threat, usually enough to let a tank get above them again, and if that doesn’t work then at least they shouldn’t die from the Iron Fist that giant is about to drop on them so the tank can then taunt.

If you’re doing heroics, and at this point most of us are, then you’re going to have to deal with group damage. The best way to do so is with Divine Hymn if you’re not in a fight where damage is constantly coming in.  If it’s a constant high damage fight you can shield yourself for the haste and to avoid interruption and pop off a Prayer of Healing.  Yeah, it’s 1800 mana, but it beats casting flash heal 5 times.  Of course if you’re on the move there’s always Holy Nova as well – which I’ve learned to not hate now.

So there you have it, a basic analysis of what you can expect as a Discipline Priest.

In short remember the 5 P’s of Priesting:

  • Power Word: Shield
  • Power Infusion
  • Pain Suppression
  • Penance
  • Prayer of Mending

23 thoughts on “Making the Switch: Holy to Disc”

  1. Great post, and it mirrors a lot of things that people are talking about on Plus Heal. I was actually thinking of doing just what you did and writing up an article for a guest submission here, but you beat me to it. Hmm… maybe I should steal your idea for a Disc talent tree article… 🙂

  2. Glad to see you give some love to Disc! It’s always been my favorite tree, but was really lacking for PvE in BC, so I used to be holy. But as soon as 3.0 went live I went straight for disc and never looked back. Well, actually I did try out holy in both heroics and raids, but just wasn’t enjoying it that much. Disc is soooo fun to play with =)

    And agreed on penance being the best healing spell. Ever. If you need to save someone, it starts healing as soon as you cast – first tick goes of instantly. And it’s also channeled, which means you can cast it if you know the damage is still coming in. All in all, I think this is the most fun I’ve had with my priest. And I’ve been playing since release =)

  3. Allindra,

    You can use your Holy gear and be quite effective. Where Disc differs is that you are helped by +crit, since Divine Aegis procs off of it. Also you aren’t helped as much by spirit as holy in terms of raw spell power. So if you have some items that boost +crit in addition to your Holy set, then you might find those more useful, though not required. Overall though, the same Holy Gear is going to be just fine since the Int and mp5 are still major stats for both trees.

  4. Thanks for the love guys 🙂 I’ve already started penning an article on detailed Disc. talent point spending and if there’s high enough demand for an article on gear options that could probably be out in a week or so as well.

  5. Thanks for the response on my comment.

    For obvious reasons as holy I’ve been stacking spirit onto everything I have, but, while I don’t have a ton of crit on my gear it has enough and a good amount of mp5.

    Only reason I’m not going to try disc just yet is that I’m currently raiding 10-mans with two holy paladins, and I’m needed for the AOE heals. 😛 Plus, they’d hate me if I was rolling on their gear before them.

  6. While there is a lot of good information here, some of it is somewhat incorrect.

    There is next to no time when Renew should be used as Disc. It doesn’t tie in to any of your abilities and is mana and time inefficient.

    Also, mp5 is not a major stat for disc and neither is spirit.

    And I would strongly suggest not going with the information “Dwarf Priest” has on her blog for stat weights as they are really messed up.

  7. @Cal: Care to suggest what is then? It’s okay to point out something is wrong and incorrect. What’s not okay is not following up with anything else that would contribute to the discussion.

  8. Take the step, you won’t regret it. Discipline is just so much fun, fun, fun. I’m smiling at the raids again. All that boring CoH spam is thrown oout the window and I really don’t care that the other priests and druids top the meters with their instant area of effect heals. Soon enough they will be brought a bit closer to the rest of us anyway – hurray for the CoH/Wild Growth nerf. Seeing that I can easily be on par with the paladins at about the same healing assignments while also providing all the damage mitigation and the oh shit!-abilities I don’t feel bad at all with the healing capabilities as discipline. Now I only wish that the move to discipline becomes a even broader movement so that Blizzard get to evolve this into something even better. Sure horde paladins and death knights in all their glory but the discipline priest is a sleeper hit. It could prove to be the best new contribution to playstyle in PvE this year. If we also could get some tiered gear with setbonuses aimed at us, lower cooldown on shields and a group damage mitigation ability instead of a group heal ability… there is so many ways to turn this into such awsomeness and still not stray from being a priest to the bone I barely can wait for what’s around the corner next because of all the exitement.

  9. Oh and about the spirit vs mp5 comments above: The only reason spirit is of less value to us as discipline is because we do not utilize it’s extra benefits that it gives priests specced into the holy tree (they gain up to 25% of their spirit as extra spellpower). We still have the meditation talent that let us regenerate 30% of our normal mana regen while casting (we do not however get extra time not casting with increased regen because of the lack of other clearcasting than Inner Focus). What this means is that spirit is still good for us. It’s not just that much better than pure mp5. A holy priest takes an item that provides equal amounts of regenerated mana from spirit over an item that gives the same amount from mp5 any day because it also gives them healing. For a discipline priest it doesn’t matter. The items would be equally good.

    Since we tend to cast frequently there is not much time to regenerate mana when not casting and that means another stat also becomes very handy for us – intellect. Having a large mana pool from start that you slowly empty until it’s dry can be as good as having a smaller one that you fill up along the way. That is especially true when the big mana pool also gives you benefits in the shape of more crit (which proccs our supersweet shields) and larger manareturns from Rapture. My guess is that this is what Cal was referring to above without giving any explanation. And in that sense he would be right. Intellect is the prime mana-stat of a discipline priest. It doesn’t however redeem spirit or mp5 worthless.

    P.S. I’ll save the number crunching for another time but this should give you the general idea for the reasoning at least. D.S.

  10. @Cal: Sorry. Totally disagree with the comment on Renew. A good healer never takes ANYTHING off the table. Yes, it’s true that renew doesn’t play in to our strengths as a Disc healer, but sometimes on fights where you need to move a lot having a HoT is a lifesaver. The hunter took a bad shot? Pop a renew on him and forget him and get back to the tank. A little bit of mana inefficiency and a GCD is worth it to not have to shoot a 1.5 or longer timed heal at a dpser. Or if you’re in a fight with a lot of movement, toss up a renew on the tank while you’re moving to help keep them topped and make your job easier when you can stop and start healing again.

    Remember it’s not always about the raw numbers but about playing to the situation.

  11. @Jamison : I understand your reasoning but honestly Renew is a distant 5th for spells you actually use. You don’t put talent points in Improved Renew, You don’t Glyph Renew, it doesn’t proc any Disc abilities you have, it doesn’t give Rapture returns.

    Need to cast on the move? PW:S, PoM, Both will provide a bigger heal (or mitigate more damage) than a Renew will.

    I’m not saying Renew is useless, but it has simply scaled worse on the road to 80 than every single other ability you have. There can be a time and place to use it, but in general those are few and far between.

    In regards to my mp5 and spirit comment, mp5 is ok until you hit the break even point with your INT. Off the top of my head that is around 1500 INT raid buffed at which point spirit will return more mana than mp5 will point for point. 1500 INT is an easy number to reach. I don’t even have my BiS from heroics much less raids and I’m sitting over 1000 INT and buffed am over 1200.

    Disc priests want INT and SP primarily. You want about 20% unbuffed crit and a fair amount of haste. Beyond that its mainly personal preference and playstyle that will dictate how you gear. In general though, you will never select a gear upgrade based on how much mp5 or spirit it offers.

    Its also a common misconception that Disc healers should be stuck on Tank duty. To pigeon hole us like that is doing a disservice. While we can excel at keeping a Tank up, we can also excel at just about every other healing duty you throw at us.

  12. I was interested in Cal’s assertion that there is a break even point for spirit over MP5. Based on my math, what I am seeing is that:

    1. There is a break even for OFSR regen at Int = 1287, no matter what your spirit is (e.g. at that point, adding one point of spirit has the same mana regen as one point of MP5)

    2. For a disc spec, where you expect to be IFSR all the time, the break even point — assuming you spec’ed into meditation — is more like 10,000. However, Blizz doesn’t budget the same amount of weighting for MP5 as for spirit. If we look at the gems avail in game today, the blue-quality spirit gem is +16 and the blue-quality MP5 gem is +6. So we might make an assumption that Blizz is weighting spirit at a 2.67 ratio to pure MP5. If you make that assumption and work the algebra again — asking at what point does adding 2.67 points of spirit equal adding 1 point of MP5 for IFSR regen, I get a number around int = 2010.

    So my conclusion is that there is a break even, but it is pretty far away — having int of 2010 works out to something like a 34K mana pool.

    If someone wants to check my math, here is the starting equation:

    MP5 = 5*sqrt(int)*spi*b

    where b = level 80 coeff, 0.005575 The formulas you see on wowwiki have another term in the equation, but it only equals 0.005, so it I am dropping it because it is in the roundoff error

    Further assume that we are always inside the 5 sec rule, so the actual MP5 is 30% of the OFSR MP5 above. Finally, assume that we’ll see about 2.67 points of spirit on equivalent iLvl items for every point of MP5 (use my gem example above: we could either gem for +6 MP5, or +16 spirit).

    So solve this equation for “int”:

    .3*5*sqrt(int)*spi*b + 1 = .3*5*sqrt(int)*(spi + 2.67)*b

    The left side of the equation is just the IFSR mana regen, plus 1 point of MP5. The right hand side fo the equation is IFSR mana regen, when you add 2.67 points of spirit.

    1 = .3*5*sqrt(int)*2.67*b

    int = (1 / (.3*5*2.67*b) )^2 which is approx int = 2010.

    Usual disclaimers apply, and it is late and I am doing this in a hurry. But, my conclusion is that if I am spec’ing to be in the five second rule all the time (e.g. I care more about IFSR mana regen then OFSR mana regen), then all other things being equal, I would never choose spirit over MP5.

  13. Based on:

    0.3* 5 * 0.005575 * Spirit * Square_root ( Int ) = Mp5

    1520 INT is the value where a 16 spi gem beats the 6 mp5 gem while casting. If you can get any FSR time the value of mp5 is even less.

    At 1000 INT, 1 spirit = .881 mp5 out of the FSR. 1000 INT is nothing, that is the “I’m still getting gear to go to Naxx” stage. I have 1 item from Naxx and only some of my heroic BiS and I’m personally at 1141 INT unbuffed.

    Assuming Kings and 5/5 Enlightenment, at 1716 INT SPI is better than mp5 regardless of FSR.

    1000 INT for DIsc is actually 1150 due to MS. so assuming Kings and 5/5 Enlightenment 1 point of Spirit is 0.005575 * 5 * sqrt(1150) * ((0.3 * 0.95) + 0.05) * 1.1 * 1.05 = 0.3657 mp5.

    mp5 is not affected by anything, while spirit is affected by both talents and buffs.

    My point is that you should not be picking gear based on spirit or mp5, ever. But if you have to, depending on your INT, you would pick one or the other if that is the only differing factor.

    When it comes down to it, if you are having mana issues, you should be looking to get more INT not mp5 or spirit.

  14. @Cal

    Point taken about the importance of int, I don’t think anyone here would disagree that int is king for the disc spec.

    If someone is serious about min/maxing all of their stuff, they will care about the MP5 vs. Spi issue, if only because you’ll be slotting an Insightful Earthseige Diamond for your meta slot, and it will require you to slot at least one blue gem.

    So, I feel like I’m missing something here. I agree with your formula —

    0.3* 5 * 0.005575 * Spirit * Square_root ( Int ) = Mp5

    but still don’t see where you get the 1520 INT from. If 1520 is the break even for the 16 spi gem vs. the 6 MP5 gem when inside the five second rule, then if I plug all of those numbers in, they should be equal. What I get is:

    5.216 !- 6

    If I plug 2010 in, I get

    5.999 ~= 6

    Either way, I don’t see myself getting to those kind of int numbers (1500 or 2000). I am sitting at about 1080 right now with a mix of heroic gear, Naxx 10 pieces, and Naxx 25 pieces (the Naxx pieces are not BiS for Naxx). Without raid buffs, that puts me at a little under 20K mana pool. What I’ve found is that is enough to get through all of the raid encounters I’ve seen so far w/o going OOM. I’m using the scenario of healing the offtank on Patchwerk in Naxx 10 as my “worst case” — but I’ve only been through about three and a half wings of Naxx on normal or heroic so maybe I’ll change my mind. However, it seems like 20K mana is some kind of sweet spot for Rapture to proc and return mana. So I’ve started to prioritize gems and enchants as I get new pieces for spellpower, crit, and haste instead of pure int.

  15. Just to touch on the value of Int, between every point invested getting +15% from talents and +10% from Kings, it’s unbelievably huge for disc priests. The vast majority of our mana regen is from Rapture, and spirit-based regen is relatively minimal in comparison (even at 30% in combat). A larger mana pool translates into more mana from:

    – Replenishment
    – Rapture
    – Mana Tide
    – Shadowfiend
    – Divine Hymn (not a joke when it restores 500 mana / tick)

    I’m sitting unbuffed at just over 20k mana, and in raids top just over 25k w/ buffs. With just replenishment running, I’ve yet to run OOM (have cleared all current content except 25-man Malygos, hopefully going down this week) and am never in group w/ resto shaman’s totems nor do I ever get an innervate. Unbuffed crit is about 22%. I think 20% is ‘enough’ but when I build my haste up further (currently only about 6.5% from gear) I’ll try to drive that more towards 25% to keep more of that delicious Divine Aegis up.

    Any thoughts on consumables? Haven’t done the theorycrafting because I’m terrible at it, but I’ve been using the old Flask of Distilled Wisdom on progression content and loving it.

  16. Reading this, I found some information conflicts with what I’ve been reading elsewhere. However, given the date of this article, it’s quite likely that changes have occurred since it was written. I was especially interested to read that you recommend that disc priests should be tank healers and not raid healers, whereas a recent, very comprehensive article on the Elitist Jerks forum states that disc priests are most certainly not tank healers and are much more suited to raid heals.

    Readers of this article may wish to review the one at EJ to ensure that you’re getting both sides of the story (the EJ article goes into a massive amount of detail and is possibly the best priest healing document I have read).


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