Category Archives: Priest

Out of the Comfort Zone

jas-disco-look

It may come as a surprise to some that I am painfully shy around a bunch of strangers. This is why LFD has always been a bit of a turnoff for me.  Oh, I used it for a while when it was introduced back in WotLK, but I was still very concerned about the negativity one might encounter.

When I started healing, that went up by a factor of, I dunno, a bazillion? Being a DPS in a dungeon group is one thing – there’s three of you, and if you’re not the top of the ladder that usually just gives the others something to preen about while they bask on their sparkle pony in front of the AH.

But as a healer, you’re generally in a position of Great Responsibility™ and the least little fuck-up will probably result in a wipe. What’s that saying? “Nomi covers his mistakes up with mayonnaise. Priests cover their mistakes with dirt.”  Well, something like that.

I had been patiently awaiting my guildies to return to the game after the Christmas break. Unfortunately, like last expansion, they never did. Lives to live, that sort of thing. We were reenacting the pre-Legion doldrums, and me with a full quest log of stuff that I needed to clear up in dungeons. So what’s a priest to do?

That’s right … tighten your shorts, pilgrim and sing like The Duke. We’re going in.

Now, the surprising thing is that so far, Heroics haven’t been too bad. I’ve had two deaths in something like ten runs, and one total full on gonzo brain fart that resulted in me being, well, not kicked, but left to rot while the rest of the team completed the final boss.

So I’ve learned something important. A toon well equipped from almost daily Emissary runs can hold up pretty well in Heroic dungeons.  This will be instrumental in getting me to take my other toons in as well.

The other takeaway is that I’ve been driving the Priest around as primarily DPS as I solo’d my way across the island. But that’s different from healing. So I’m still learning the ropes on that. My biggest takeaway on that was that Power Word: Radiance is pretty frigging awesome since it keeps me from having to spam Plea every 10 or so seconds across five bodies. I hit two bodies (usually the tank and me), and Power Word: Radiance takes care of the rest. That realization has been very useful.

The other thing is getting an opening sequence down.  Is it more important to have a DoT ticking on the boss before lighting up the tank with Atonement? Or the other way around? I guess it depends on the tank – a squishy one is gonna need the Atonement lit first, then you can start a DoT up to get the heals flowing (unless you have to Shadow Mend just to keep him up). So far I’m going with Plan A in most cases.  The really squishy tanks tend to be more cautious. The ones that benefit from Plan A generally go in guns blazing anyway. So I tend to light up the boss then tickle the tank.

Is that legal in Kaledori law? Or do I need a lawyer?

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Yes, THAT Menethil

jas-port-110It never ceases to amaze me at how much it bugs me that people lump Disco and Holy together in the same bag. Even “professional” bloggers have that problem.

I can only assume that that’s a viewpoint that originated back in WotLK when Disco was viewed as the poor girl’s healing spec that people rolled so they didn’t die while questing, or something stupid like that.

I mean, look at our spell book and something should jump out at you. Are you looking at it? Did the thing jump out at you? No? Let me help: we have more spells in common with Shadow than Holy. Ain’t that a hoot?  Sure, it’s a close thing, and you have to ignore the talents for it to really jump out, but even Disco talents bias towards Shadow more than Holy, slightly.

I’m not drawing any conclusions from that other than the misguided practice of lumping Holy and Discipline should stop and go home. NOW.  I mean, we don’t even heal things the same way, any more.

Our shared workspace, the Netherlight Temple, is pretty nice, though, and so far it’s proven to be the most efficient of the order halls I’ve seen. One big room, everything’s in easy walking distance, no smegging multi-level mazes to negotiate or hellish terraces to ride around on your hellsteed, just a nice big work area arranged sensibly.

And while Shadow, Holy, and Discipline may be three completely different sorts of people, we can all agree to that and work together harmoniously – even if Disco doesn’t get its special room off to the side like the others do. C’este la vie, as Grimm is known to say – must be Dwarvish for “balls” or something.

Unlike the Hunters that Grimm was talking about, we priests seem to have a pretty good cross section of the leading lights (or shadows) of the priestly ways.

Moira

Being this tall makes it hard to take good pics of people that short. Sorry, Moira.

I was delighted and surprised to see that Moira, queen of the Dark Iron (it says that right on the tin!) was lending a hand in a leadership position. I am somewhat surprised she isn’t keeping a closer eye on her kin back in Ironforge, but maybe her pop inspired her to do more than sit on her stony throne.  I wonder who she got to babysit little Dagran? I see another kid with parent issues if she keeps this up. Why is it so hard to be a mother and a queen and a practitioner of the dark arts, for crying out loud?  Did anyone give Varian crap for that? I think not.

Callia

The missing heir. Also, does this camera make my boobs look big?

But before I met Moira, I met this lady, who was last seen married off to the Lord of the Black Dragonflight, though that was fortunately never consummated or even formalized, since “Daval Prestor” conveniently disappeared shortly after the battle of Grim Batol.  We’re still not sure where she’s been hanging out since then, but fortunately she avoided her father’s fate.

And yes, when you are introduced for the first time, she looks at you and sighs, “Yes, THAT Menethil” before giving you the rundown of the Disco priest amenities of Netherlight Temple. It occurs to me that that sigh might also be because she probably ran the show before this upstart Elf came along and shook things up.  But she turns around pretty quick and gets quite enthusiastic about our work. She’s been a stout ally and I’m glad she’s with us.  Sorry about that kingdom, though.  That’s gotta suck.

Eight Weeks a Priest

jas-disco-lookOn the ass end of normals, I was starting to think that Disco wasn’t going to cut it in raiding. Oh, our lovely GM was going to roll with her Holy priest so we’d be able to supplement each other (her with the frisbee, me with the shield), but I still felt massively overwhelmed.  Then, I started running world quests and took a break from instances for a couple of weeks, and something weird happened.

I didn’t suck in my first Heroic.

Gear ain’t all dat

Props where due, and gear be true, but I think I also learned a few things on the way to my first Heroic. First and foremost,

Fuck Shields.

In my experience so far, shields are now about as effective as a fire mage’s ice shield. Meaning: cool story, bro, but when you gonna put food on mah plate?

Shields are, by and large, a dangerous distraction and you should probably not worry about them. You have more important things to cast.

Thing One: Atonement

Atonement is the thing, and there are two quick ways to get it up on one of your homies. The first is to cast Power Word: Shield on your homies, but you get only one of those unless you burn Rapture.

Or, you can cast Plea on each of your posse, as long as your posse be numbered five and no more. More than five, and the mana costs start to soar. Shadow Mend then becomes more efficient in mana alone, but may I point out, if I may, the 1.5-ish second cast time (haste modifiers notwithstanding).  Your call, but beyond the 5, you might stick with Plea or you might not. My respectful suggestion: experiment.

Thing Two: Rotation

The big thing here seems to be to have Atonement up and cooking and then to clobber the bad guys to generate healing for all Atonement-wearers.  There are a couple of approaches I have found effective.

First, if facing multiple baddies, then your job is to [a] get Atonement up on all your toons, and then [b] hit as many of the baddies with Purge the Wicked (you did take that talent, right? Fine. Use Shadow Word: Pain. But you better have a damned good reason for this poor choice in talents) to get the DoTs pushing the HoTs onto your posse.  At some point, switch back to re-applying Atonement (Plea) then repeat the whole sequence.

Alternatively, and I do mean secondly, if facing a single target, then after you lay down your Atonements (Plea), you refresh Purge the Wicked (or the lesser thing), then lay down one to three damage abilities, depending on your cooldowns.

In my personal experience, this is how it works out.

In any of the above sequences, if Mindbender comes online (you did take that talent, I hope?) then you fire it off immediately. Between it and Purge the Wicked, that’s your entire HoT strategy, kapich?

Thing Three: Exceptions

I have found the above to be pretty effective except in the case of squishy tanks. When you have a squishy tank, your best bet is to bail and let a Holy priest take over. But if that is not an option, then lay into the shields (just for looks and buffs, really) and blow Shadow Mend on the tank like it was your own life depending on it. Don’t forget to keep your DoTs up even then, because they will apply additional healing to El SquishAlot even as you pause to take a shot (as the Disco Priest drinking game involves taking a shot any time a squishy tank pulls more than a tank made of bricks would pull).

Shadow Mend looks very, very inviting during crisis points, and I strongly urge its use whenever things go south, but the key to Disco is to avoid those OhShit! moments as much as possible.

Thing Four: Antici-

Old!Disco was all about Mitigation. New!Disco is all about Anticipation. You have to front-load your posse with Atonement, get those DoTs ticking as soon as possible and in as many quantities, as possible, and then keep everything rolling.

Disco of the past was all about prevention. Disco of the day is all about preparation. It isn’t about mitigating the enemy’s blows. It’s about having the healing for those blows in place before they happen.

-pation

I have yet to heal a raid in anger (LFR doesn’t count) but past experience seems to indicate that what I am learning in Heroics will carry forward into Mythic and Real Raiding. Everything I’m working out right now is core to the spec. All those abilities I am weeding out will no doubt have use in corner cases as we go forward, but in a very fundamental way, Disco healing is reduced to around a half dozen abilities applied in the right sequence.

To Recap

  1. Keep Atonement up on the posse using Plea
  2. DPS the enemy during the Atonement cooldown
  3. React to heavy damage with extra direct heals
  4. Use shield if desperate, but don’t count on it being very useful.
  5. Always keep someone with more aggro than you alive.
  6. Refresh Atonement just before it expires (Weak Auras is an excellent aid).

RIP

A moment of silence, but it appears that the Enemy Grid addon encountered an insurmountable compatibility issue, and no longer can be the target of key presses. You might as well uninstall it and learn to use nameplates more effectively.

Going to Blizzcon? See you in Cali!

In the morning, wheels up at 8 AM and me and Missus Grimm are on our way to Anaheim for my first ever (and probably only) Blizzcon. I’m both /excite and /nervous. What if I can’t find my twitter friends? What if I do and they hate me?  All the usual introvertish traits come out to dance.  Fortunately, my sweetie is the perfect wingman.  I’m sure we’ll have a blast.  If you’re going, look for the short round dude with the graying goatee. Even if it’s not me, I’m sure he’ll appreciate the shout-out.

I’ve got the tools, but …

jas-disco-look

Maybe you’ve seen this quest …

01-quest-text

The critters in question look like this …

02-kitten

And they run like the dickens when you get close …

03 Kitteh runs!.jpg

So why can’t priests use their natural talents for this quest?

04 Mass Completion.jpg

I mean, seems like it would be a nice nod of we got to use Psychic Scream to just gather up a bunch of them and be done. Consider it a Priest Perk.

Is that too much to ask?

Disco without the Disco

jas-disco-lookDisco priesting has always carried with it two trademarks.

First, that we shielded, well, everything. Even bosses.

Second, that we flung a Frisbee around like it was going out of style. It put the “Disc” in “Disco.”

So sit down, mah healaz, ‘cause they’ve shaken that up a bit.

You see, Legion healing for Disco priests is nothing like any of that. It’s a whole new ball game.

And I kinda like it.

Fundamental(ist)s

First, let’s get the fundamentals down.

  1. Keep Atonement up on all friendlies
  2. Damage hostiles
  3. Toss a shield on something important when required.
  4. Burn cooldowns.
  5. Rinse
  6. Repeat

That simple formula is the heart of the new Disco spec. While we have a couple of shielding spells, the heart and soul of the new Disco is all about Atonement healing, which means keeping the Atonement buff up on your party / raid members, and then beating the snot out of anything that cons red and has aggro on the tank.

I kid you not, it’s that simple.

Regarding Addons

As an experienced Disco healer, you no doubt have a few addons and macros constructed to help you do your job. Just delete them. Or reset them. You need to rebuild from the ground up. Renew is gone, two expansions back. Shields are gone, other than PW: Shield and PW: Barrier. All the direct heals are now the purview of the Holy priest. AOE heals, other than the  lame-o Halo, as well.

I guarantee, no matter what healer addon you are using, you’re gonna need to reconfigure it so massively that you might as well scratch the config now. Same for Weak Auras, other than some cooldowns. Those you can keep, or adjust, whatevs. Just configure WA to let you know when key cooldowns are available, such as Mindbender and Pain Suppression.

Weapon of Choice

I have to admit to a certain Grid2 bias. I have tried, and used, Vuhdo. It works great as a healing addon in Legion, and it is largely unchanged from its past incarnations. In a way, it’s the same as it was in WotLK, with the only substantial changes being in the addition of support for new spells, buffs, and debuffs as they occurred in the game. But it’s a bit more than I want from a healer addon.

Grid2 does require the addition of Clique to match the functionality of Vuhdo that we’re using, but I’m content with it since  it’s a lot more focused on the job at hand.

Anyway, it is with great relief that I see that Grid2 is getting updated. Though – as of now – it still lacks direct support for Legion (1). Still, it is possible to configure Grid2 to work in the four areas of vital interest to a Disco priest.

  • PW: Shield – this is already supported directly.  Create an icon that shows if the target is shielded. Showing the cooldown is extremely helpful as well.
  • Atonement – this is the Big Kahuna. You want an icon that shows if the unit has Atonement up, and a countdown is also useful. You will need to add tracking for Atonement yourself, Grid2 does not have it built in yet, but does support user-added spells and abilities. See below for details on that. This will assist you in supporting your goal: always having an Atonement icon visible on all of the team members you are supposed to keep alive.
  • Debuffs – These are already supported in Grid2 as well. Purify only works for Magic and Disease types of spells, so configure an icon in one corner to show if those are active on the character. If you’re assigned decurse duty among the  priests, or if it’s your group, you’ll be expected to do something about it if that little ol’ icon lights up.
  • I also add an around-the-frame outline to indicate who has Aggro. Grid offers a few ways to track aggro, including ‘banzai’ and regular flavors.  You can read a bit more about it here (miss you, Zel!).  It’s especially important to know if someone suddenly inherits the aggro since you may need to react to that with a shield or something.
  • And finally, I usually have an indicator to show who I currently have targeted. Always helpful.

A lot of people go the route of also having a Weakened Soul indicator, so they don’t waste time trying to shield a target that still has the debuff.  Myself, I just use WeakAuras to show an indicator when PW: Shield is available and castable on the target, since I’m watching for other auras anyway.

Time to Atone

With that in mind, the main thing during non-critical phases is to keep Atonement up to keep a steady stream of healing coming in on each of your party.

  • PW: Shield is the most benign method of applying Atonement, but it has the same cooldown as Atonement, so you will have to find another way for the other team members.
  • Rapture lets you lay down shields without cooldown for a limited amount of time, and it has a long cooldown, so once you burn that (and do so wisely), you’ll need other ways.
  • Plea is your next go-to for Atonement up to five or so applications, at which point it is a real mana hog.
  • Subsequently, Shadow Mend takes a bit longer and applies a bigger heal, but at less cost than Plea with five or more Atonements up.  Shadow Mend brings its own issues since it also does damage to the recipient. Therefore, it is imperative that if you use Shadow Mend to apply Atonement, you then have to make Atonement work hard for you by laying down some damage.

Beat ’em Up

Always remember: in all ways, Atonement without DPS is USELESS. DPS without Atonement is futile.

Shadow Word: Pain (or its talented counterpart, Schism), will let you dot up a bunch of mobs if you’re fighting a group, all which applies healing to Atonement-buffed targets.  You want to use it on the main boss, at least, because it will enhance both Atonement healing and damage.

An addon that might help with dotting up groups is Enemy Grid, which will give you a Grid(2)-like presentation of mobs to dot up. Note, I have not yet determined whether this is more hazardous than tab-targeting, so proceed with caution. But the theory is that when the tank pulls a group, this will let you quickly get some dots rolling. Mouseover Schism FTW.

Atonement healing crits come from critical damage, so every time you do a DPS crit, you will do a heal crit as well on any party member with Atonement applied. Make a note of that.

About that Grid2 Atonement thing

Here’s how to add an Atonement indicator to Grid2.

First, create a new “AOE Heals” status of “Atonement” …

grid2-atonement-config

Then, create a new Buff “status” called “Atonement” … (this step may not be necessary so feel free to skip it and/or play with it.)

grid2-atonement-buffThen, create a new indicator called “Atonement” and tie it to that status.

grid2-atonement-indicatorAnd then tie it to some sort of indicator. I tied mine to the top left position, as an icon, but feel free to try variations that make you hum show tunes in a happy manner.

To Summarize

I know a lot of people have said that Disco healing Ain’t All Dat. I am not yet advanced enough to say for sure in that area, but I am observant enough to know that the new Disco is a different beast. What was once an option (smiteyHealz) is now mandatory if you want to tread the Disco path. It is complex, it is not easy, but once we hit raiding, it might just prove to be a real useful addition to the healing team’s toolbox.

The important thing is to remember that Atonement is the center of the Disco healing universe now, and that means you have to maximize DPS as well. You’re not playing by Holy’s rules any more. Your focus isn’t mainly the health of your charges, it’s the health of your charges five seconds from now. Think ahead, keep your buffs up, and remain calm. You got this.

I do admit at this moment that I am having a hard time getting comfortable with it. It feels clumsy, inelegant, frantic, right on the edge of failing at any given time. It’s hard to say whether that is the spec or my incompetence.  It will take many dungeon runs – and many deaths of my charges – for me to be able to say for sure.

May the Light watch over us all.


(1) – I note that Grid (the original) is also still being updated, so if Grid2 ever gets abandoned, I’ll check that out. A bit more work, but much more in my wheelhouse.

Legionary Priests

jasra-port-2.jpg

Blizzard released a preview of what Priests will look like on 2015-11-09, which you can find here.

Some Background

Jasra, my Priest, is not my main main, but has been my raiding main from time to time. Originally rolled as a Disco priest back when smiting and whacking things with a mace while keeping the shield up was the way to level. When dual spec came up, I embraced Shadow as the second spec.  I’ve had a hard time reconciling the Disco healy spec with the Shadowy DPS spec from a bad RP point of view, but recently I’ve started to warm up to the concept. The Insanity aspect of Shadow merges well with the Pain-oriented motif of Discipline when I look to Morticia Addams for inspiration. It’s working marvelously in my head if not elsewhere.

At any rate, my main gig with Jas has been the healy (and later healy-smitey) aspect of Disco, though I haven’t healed in anger for two expansions now. Even as DPS, Jas rarely gets called into action, though she has seen a little more action in that respect than as a healer.

An Overview

So, looking at the general concepts for the three specs — and good news, everyone, there are still three specs!, we get this.

  • Holy is the spec you think of when you think Healer. There is no hybridization here at all. Holy priests come to the party to heal, and you better be ready to be healed.
  • Discipline – Or, Disco, as we often call it. This is another healing spec, but one that addresses the task in an odd way. For example, it has a damage component that, while you damage your enemies, also heals your friends. In addition, there are things like damage mitigation and ways to help your party endure its trials without necessarily providing succor. While the article linked above does not specifically call out Pain Suppression, it’s pretty much part and parcel to the entire Disco idiom.
  • Shadow – A DPS spec that has strong links to The Void and the Old Gods, balance on the knife’s edge of insanity at all times, with greater insanity giving greater ability.

While the concept of “hybrid” healing is so four expansions ago, Disco kind of falls into that slot.

Disco the Hybrid

A long time ago, we had the concept of the Holy Hybrid, a kind of healing spec with damage components, as played by Holy priests.  Disco priests actually didn’t have a seat at that table even though today they kinda “own” the whole concept of damage-linked healing.

Which is to say, we have elements of both Holy and Shadow in our rotation now, in some cases the abilities are even named the same (looking at you, Shadow Mend).

My biggest objections at this point are twofold.

  • Smite-healing never seemed to have much of a natural flow, yet this new spec refresh really seems to be revisiting the Cata mode of healing that so many of us hated. I have to say it: there are those that like to heal, and those that like to DPS, but there are few that like to do both at the same time, or do one to do the other. I won’t say it isn’t going to work until I see it, but it really feels like it’s as charming as a road accident and twice as ugly.
  • What the HELL? Why is Prayer of Mending a Holy only spell now?  Is it just me, or is Disco kinda synonymous with the Healy Frisby?

Shadow the Dual Spec

We knew that the motif of Shadow was going to be insanity, which I dig. And most of the way through reading about Shadow, I was pretty happy. And then we got to this.

Reaching maximum Insanity will transform Shadowform into Voidform, giving the Shadow Priest access to stronger Void magic […]

[…]

When you reach 100 Insanity, you enter Voidform, transforming your Mind spells into Void spells, and increasing your Shadow damage by 30%.

[…]

Voidform causes your Insanity to constantly drain, faster and faster, until completely drained, and Voidform ends

Seen enough?

Looking this over, I was reminded very strongly that someone at Blizz stated that they wanted very much for Shadow to no longer appear as a poor cousin to Afflocks. And then they turned right around and turned Shadow into a poor cousin to Demonology Warlocks. I mean, the different forms is there (Voidform versus Demonform). The different abilities for each form is there (Mind Flay vs Void Flay, etc).

This, in my opinion, is not a great idea. In an era where they are trying to simplify things a bit, to reduce the button bloat, this is an extraordinarily bad idea. I mean, I’ve been campaigning vigorously for Demon Warlock to get rid of those alternate abilities completely, so in what universe am I going to be cool with doing the same thing to Shadow priests?

(Spoiler alert: NONE).

If asked, I would suggest that instead of adding new alternate abilities, they simply empower the base abilities during maximum insanity. And call it something other than Voidform. Call it, I dunno … “Maximum fun”.

Howls of Despair

While I am 80% happy with Shadow and 60% happy with Disco, there is a huge contingent of unhappy Shadow priests out there, and that’s surprising to me since until these changes were related, I didn’t know there were a lot of dedicated Shadow priests out there. But they’re out there, and they’re pissed. I’ve seen two or three of them announce that they’ll be using their boost to roll a fresh new Afflock and abandon their Shadow priests altogether.

A new look

The last change that surprised me wasn’t mentioned in that article, but instead at the panel that discussed the Artifact weapons. Turns out, Shadow priests will no longer be using a staff. Instead, they’ll be using a dagger (and offhand, presumably) as their main stat stick.

And of course, this is the weekend that Terestrian’s Stranglestaff dropped for Jas in Kara, completing her Insanity/Old God themed transmog.  The irony is inches thick and made of marzipan, it appears.

Madness … takes its toll (exact change only, please)

[…] our credo: Sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc. ‘We gladly feast on those who would subdue us.” Not just pretty words.

— Morticia Addams

At this time, the upcoming (in Legion) resource for Shadow priests is labelled “Insanity”, which has made role-playing and mogging for my Shadow spec a lot easier.

For the longest time, I’ve had issues locking on to “the fantasy of” my class. Since they, too, seemingly wielded Shadow magic, I often looked to Warlocks as a handle to hold on to, however unrelated in origin they might be (Shadow Priests, for example, predate Warlocks on Azeroth. But they’re a lot easier to get a handle on from an RP perspective.).

But the new resource flipped some switches and caused the class to sprout all sorts of handles. So now, at least mog-wise, I have a bit of a role model.

Basically, I’m going for this.

One of the highlights of Morticia’s outfit is the low-cut slinky dress. To that end, the Warlock Arena Season 11 piece, (by way of Cynwise), would have been perfect. Unfortunately, it can only be purchased by Warlocks, much less worn by or used as mog fodder by. So back to square one.

The good news is that I did find the Thistlefur Robe via MogIt, and it is pretty much everything I want it to be.  For the head piece, I’ve elected Circlet of Transcendence, and for my stat stick, Terestian’s Stranglestaff (There’s a similar looking quest reward in Vash’jir, but who has time for that nonsense?).  That leaves the shoulder piece.

I was dearly hoping for some sort of raven-feather pauldrons, but to date all I’ve found are Druid (leather) pieces. There are a few spikey variants but I really don’t feel this addresses the Shadow idiom properly. Raven feathers would be ideal, given the one or two raven-oriented spells we have, but something tentacle-y would work as well. Until I find something more appropriate, though, I guess I’ll go with the Pauldrons of Transcendence piece, if for no other reason than it goes with the head piece and we all know Onyxia was a little wobbly in the attic. Her dad certainly was affiliated with the Old Gods, so it’s fitting.

Anyway, her’s the projected trajectory for the two selves of Jasra at the moment.


The RP-breaking part of WoW in this situation is dual-spec. Jasra the Disco priest inhabits the same body as Jasra the Mad. While many will agree that anyone that volunteers for healer duties is absolutely insane, that doesn’t really work well in this particular RP dichotomy. Well, that’s on me, I suppose, especially when you realize that even being able to swap specs at all is kind of RP-breaking.

So I should probably shut up and go back to grinding Apexis dailies.

Oppa Disco Style

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’ aspirations ((I hasten to point out, this is with me geared for Disco goodness.  I know properly geared Shadow priests do a lot more damage.)), 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 gaps ((We already have that, it’s called Hymn of Hope.)), 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 target ((In 5.1, this increases to 40 yards!)). This is done via a specialization called Atonement. Holy Fire ((Allow me to point out its DoT component which, yes, generates an HoT.)), 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 healing ((I’m uncertain if that boosts smite-heals as well. Anyone?)). 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, Smite ((I highly recommend glyphing this for 20% more healing.)), 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 healing ((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.)).
  • 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.

Killing them softly

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 problems ((At my level, I hasten to point out. I’m sure level 90s blow him away using nothing but dots and harsh language.)). 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 you ((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.)).

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 help ((What I am going to describe is possible without, as well, but not nearly as easy.)). 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 quests ((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.)).

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." 

Priesty PSA: Dispelling

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 me ((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.)). Square your binds up before things get real.