Category Archives: Priest

I have doubts, mate

jasra-logoThe past couple of weeks, I’ve been tap-dancing around a subject that seriously pains me.

To wit: do I suck as a healer?

Let me lay the background on you. On my first three LFD Heroics, everything seemed to be okay. Keeping people alive wasn’t a big deal, and the 2nd one was especially awesome.  The tank was so good, I could have stuck to DPS.

And then I got a string of bad ones. All of them sucked. Everybody died. In some case the baddies were easy to spot – the assholes that stood in the bad and then yelled at me for not dispelling them, that sort of thing. 

But as a whole, it was a trend, and I started to have real doubts.  Maybe … it was me. Maybe I was just that bad in this expansion. I mean, I didn’t feel any different, but maybe the rest of the game picked up and moved on, and I didn’t Get The Memo.

I was sad.

I had been avoiding running more, to be honest. Any excuse not to, I was taking it. I thought, maybe I’ll skip over Heroics and go right into LFR.  Safety in numbers, that sort of thing. Nobody will notice a really sucky Disco priest in among a crowd of 25 or so, right?  I mean, I was low.

So tonight’s run was a real conundrum. See, I had that quest that requires you to go into Tol Dagor and get that fourth key, in the Jaina Is Trapped quest line.

I could have wimped, and run it in Normal difficulty, but I felt dirty in that scenario.  So in I went.

The first bit was pretty good.  The tank was a Brewmaster Monk, very aggressive yet rarely below 50% even when he ran off into the boonies. But then we got to the last boss and toons started dropping like flies.

I don’t know if they were just standing in bad and expecting me to protect them, but both hunters and the ret Palli went down.  Now it was just me, the tank, and the Boss.  And for the next few minutes I shielded, healed, ducked, covered, and dodged like never before.

And we prevailed.

Everybody in the team was like, “Wow, that was awesome” and stuff like that.  I was humbled and stoked all at the same time. We rezzed our fallen, no harm no foul, and all was good.

It reminded me of that time when the Bunnies were raiding Naxx and it was me and the Palli we called Spartacus doing the Safety Dance with Heigen. We took it almost all the way to the enrage timer as we danced our way to fame and fortune. It was an epic win, and this one felt the same.

So after tonight’s adventures, I’m willing to try a few more to see if maybe I just had some bad luck.

Amazing what one good night will do for one’s attitude.

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How to Disco: BfA Prepatch Edition

anduin-poseToday, WoWHead released a guide to changes that will take place in each class in the BfA pre-path on July 17. Not all guides are created equal, and by that I mean that the rest of the guide owners are probably PISSED at Bendak, who pretty much overachieved on all levels for the BM Hunter guide.

The Disco Priest guide is a little less thorough.  I’m not hating – Bendak sets a high bar to clear on any occasion. That aside, I feel like a little bit of fleshing out is in order.

Say Goodbye

Light’s Wrath is gone, of course (I actually approve of this as it means we’ll get more choices on weapons and stuff), and with it are its abilities.  That means that our massive healing nuke is gone.

The other biggest change you will notice is that the Global Cooldown now applies to a number of spells. What this means is that you won’t be able to cast a spell on Global Cooldown until the Global Cooldown cools down. This is not true for all spells, so pay attention to the spell descriptions.

Spell Changes

Another significant change is that only three spells will lay down Atonement now.  We also lost one spell (Plea) that applied it instantly.

Before this expansion, my favorite rotation was more or less this:

  • PW: Shield on myself; then PW: Radiance to spread out Atonement; then again, to get another 5 people covered, then Evangelism to extend Atonement for all 11.
  • Keep DoTs up on the boss (SW: Pain and Shadow Squid), hammer the boss with Penance and Smite until it was time to lay down PW: Radiance again
  • PW: Shield where it was needed, mindful of its cooldown.

It was a pretty simple rotation, but it got me through LFR fairly well.

The new rotation will be changed due to changes in the various spells used.

  • PW: Radiance is relatively unchanged.  It is one of our Atonement spreaders.
  • Evangelism is relatively unchanged.
  • PW: Shield doesn’t have the limitations we had before; it is now our defacto spam. It applies Atonement to whatever it shields. In effect, Rapture got baked right in.
  • Shadow Mend is relatively unchanged.  It also applies Atonement.
  • Penance is relatively unchanged, however, is now generally better spent as a direct heal than Atonement healing. Unfortunately, it does not spread Atonement when used directly.
  • SW: Pain (or Purge the Wicked) is relatively unchanged, and I think that Penance still spreads it when used for damage. This of course will also increase your Atonement healing.
  • Smite is still Smite, with its damage component and its shield component.
  • Halo is unchanged, and is still an optional damage / heal AE spell.
  • Holy Nova is now also a Disco spell, giving us a ‘native’ AE spell that relieves us of having to choose Halo over something more interesting. It also applies to Atonement healing, but only the FIRST target struck does so – additional targets struck by Holy Nova do not provide Atonement healing.  I think this is rather shabby.
  • Rapture now increases the duration of all bubbles by around 7 or so seconds. In my opinion, this improves it massively.

So basically it boils down to:

  • PW: Shield on myself; then PW: Radiance to spread out Atonement; then again,
    to get another 5 people covered, then Evangelism to extend Atonement for all
    11.
  • Keep DoTs up on the boss (SW: Pain and Shadow Squid), hammer the boss with Smite until it was time to lay down PW: Radiance again
  • PW: Shield where it is needed. Cooldown isn’t so relevant now, so anywhere you see a need, drop it.  Use Rapture on CD to extend that.
  • Save Penance for big heals unless fairly certain that it won’t be needed for that, in which case share the love via Atonement.

You may notice that Shadow Mend isn’t top of the list.  I tend to only use it in emergencies.  The long cast time and odd pain/pleasure dynamic makes it far less than a winner to me.

Stats

As before, Spell Power is the primary component of all of our spells.  Only PW: Shield varies on that, in that it also improves on Versatility. I’m pretty sure Crit will feature in a lot of the calculations, but those are your two main stats of interest.

Conclusionish

As has been the case for ever, my main concern is in how clumsy healing can be.  It requires a lot of direct or mouseover targeting, which means one hand mousing while the other is keying the commands required. During high-movement fights, healers are at a huge disadvantage when compared to others. PW: Radiance was a good step in the right direction in this regard, giving us a way to propagate Atonement without making it about as clumsy as an elephant on a high wire.

However, it appears that Blizz did not expand on that theme, and instead moved us away from that mode of operation. I mean, I’m kinda glad that we’re moving more towards bubblePriest mode, but it does require a lot of mousing around to get the shields distributed around, which is dependent on a lot of things, not the least the clumsiness of the wielder Smile

I am also bitterly disappointed that yet again, Disco priests don’t have the Frisbee.   I mean, what is Disco without the Disc? In my mind, I see the Frisbee as method #4 for spreading around our Atonement Goodness.

But overall, this looks like a very viable spec going into  the new expansion. As always, it will require a bit of play time to learn for sure where we stand.

Oh, and also? New expansion, new mog. While I loved the look of the silver haltertop and skirt I affected in Legion, it had a couple of real issues.

  1. It was a skirt, making running problematic. Remember, sometimes it isn’t whether you’re faster than the monster. But it matters if you’re faster than at least one other person in your party.  As Flora and Illume have proven before, nothing beats a good pair of jeans for adventuring.
  2. No pocketses, precious. What is this, anyway?

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?

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.