How to raid heal as discipline

v3.2.2

Ok maybe the title is a bit pretentious, but I thought I might post about how I raid heal as a discipline priest.  I’ve raided with a number of discipline priests and read the advice of a lot of others and there seems to be a few mis-conceptions about discipline priests and their value as raid healers and effective methods for raid healing.

I’ve spent most of the last 12 months raiding as a discipline priest and the majority of that has been executing raid healing assignments.  The methods I use seem to work fine so i’m going to share them. As usual this is all my opinion.

Talents

Your talent build as a Discipline priest is fairly constrained. All effective discipline priests (PvE) have fairly similar builds perhaps with a bit of fiddling around the edges.  Check out TalentChic or WowPopular or whatever it is currently called to see what i mean.  This is the build I am currently using.  I use this for both raid and tank healing.

Glyphs

  1. Glyph of Power Word: Shield – Mandatory.  You will be casting a lot of shields.  Something like 50%+ of all casts.  There is no good argument not to take this glyph for a spell you are casting all the time.
  2. Glyph of Prayer of Healing – Strongly recommended.  Discipline priests are one of the weaker AoE healers and this helps.
  3. Glyph of Penance – Recommended, but not mandatory.  Unlike tank healing, where you would be mad not to take this one, raid healing has less use for Penance.  The only other real option is Glyph of Flash Heal, but you will cast even less Flash Heals (in most combats) that you will Penances.

Scenarios

These are the sort of raid make-ups which are very common and for which this advice/lecture is aimed at.

A) 10-man raid healing – 3 healers are common in 10 man raids.  Usually someone (anyone) will be assigned to tank heal.  A holy paladin is perfect for it, but if you don’t have one of those any healer is capable of doing it.  This will leave two other healers, you the discipline priest, and one other raid healer.  The other is ideally a resto shaman, resto druid or holy priest.  In scenarios where there is no other raid healer (e.g. 2 healers only) or the other raid healer is a holy paladin or another discipline priest my advice will still work, but it will require you to cast more ‘green bars go up’ spells.

B) 25-man raid healing – 5 or 6 healers is common.  My advice below excels in this situation.

How to raid heal as discipline

Some of this will be telling you how to suck eggs, but hopefully some people will learn something from it.

Raid healing generally is a fairly twitching play style and discipline probably more so due to the high number of instant casts, haste and the preventative nature of the beast. The ‘killer app’ of discipline raid healing is of course Power Word: Shield (PW:S).  At tier 9 gearing level Power Word: Shield effectively adds a temporary 8k health to the target.  Even if they are currently at maximum health. This is the spell that allows you to do something none of the other healers can.  You can effectively ‘heal’ damage before it occurs by preventing. 

Your mindset when raid healing as discipline should not be to make green health bars go up.  You should instead be focused on shielding damaged players to prevent death and allow the other raid healers time to do their ‘green bars go up’ healing thing.  I am not suggesting never casting anything but PW:S but instead that normal healing is not discipline priests strength and where possible it should be left to the other healers.  Here is some suggestion on how to do this effectively.

Pre-shield any target that gets agro. This may prevent their death.  Most raid frames will tell you who has agro.  Immediately cast PW:S on them.  This may provide the target with an additional 3-6 seconds in which a tank can taunt off them or they can otherwise lose agro.

React to raid damage depending on its magnitude.  Raid damage is generally sustained in two main patterns that are relevant:

1) Raid wide damage that hits every player.  Discipline are less suited to dealing with this sort of damage then suitably set up holy priests, resto shaman and resto druids.  We do not have the throughput they do.  We are however capable raid healing in this situation.  I suggest a healing strategy such as PW:S a target then Prayer of Healing a group.  Repeat.  Don’t forget Divine Hymn.  This should be used most boss fights.

2) Grouped raid damage with a limited number of targets.  Examples of this include chain lightning or a melee range only stomp.  In this situation I always shield first if possible.  PW:S is our fastest heal and shielding the targets will both provide a small heal and also hopefully prevent death from follow up damage.  Once the targets are shielded you can use Penance/Flash Heal or even Prayer of Healing to make their green bars go back up.  Usually one of the other raid healers will have already done this.

I always consider tanks as valid raid healing targets. If they are the most at risk following raid damage I will heal/shield them as if they were a non-tank.  Provided I am not putting anyone else at risk by doing so I never think twice about healing them.  Some consider this heal sniping, but I figure a dead tank isn’t much use to the raid.

There are also a number of other valuable things a raid healing discipline priest can do.

If you’re the only discipline priest maintain PW:S on the tanks. Unless you have a raider needing emergency healing thus demanding your GCD you should easily be able to maintain PW:S on your tanks.  PW:S on tanks is very rarely wasted and this will assist your tank healers.

Keep Prayer of Mending (PoM) in circulation. This is an awesome raid healing spell.  Try not to over-write another healers PoM.  If things are quiet maintain this on your tank.

Maintain Renew on tanks if possible. This a is lower priority, but usually you can mitigate a bit of the risk to the tank healers by maintaining Renew on the tanks.

Pre-cast PW:S before expected raid damage. In fights like Anub phase 3 (ToC), Twin Valkyrs (ToC) and Kologran (Ulduar) you know raid damage is coming.  You can often prevent large chunks of this by shielding one or two groups before (or during) the damage arrives.  This is global cool down (GCD) intensive, but if you are not using them for anything else, very effective.

Keep Power Infusion on cool down. Don’t waste it at the start of the fight when DPS are sometime threat capped, but after the first 20 seconds or so cast this on your favorite Mage, Elemental Shaman, Boomkin or Warlock.

Notice I haven’t discussed Penance or Flash Heal yet?  They are minor actors when raid healing normally.  Don’t be afraid to use Penance or even Flash Heal if you’ve already cast PW:S and PoM on a target and they are still at risk, but these two spells aren’t generally heavily used when raid healing.  The other raid healers cast bigger more powerful healing spells, often with a smart healing component.  Discipline priests can’t and shouldn’t be competing with them in the ‘green bars go up’ healing stakes.  Our weapon is PW:S.  However, if you are two healing 10-mans you will use more Penance/Flash Heal.

Another wall of text.  Seems to be the season for it.  Comments welcome as always.

Gobble gobble.

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15 Responses to How to raid heal as discipline

  1. nimofnagrand says:

    Nice write up – I love the “green bars go up” spell reference!

    I have a question – why do you have 5/5 Divine Fury in your spec over say Spellwarding?

  2. elyxaar says:

    I’m fairly selfish with Power Infusion I have to admit, but I do find it useful to pop it on myself when I need to throw out some PoHs. Extra haste AND mana cost reduction \o/

  3. Hikari says:

    I hate to disagree because you’re my favorite turkey, BUT… no fan of PoH. Huge waste of mana. PW:S is my PoH. :E

  4. jessebel says:

    His guide to raid heal as discipline is correct, PoH is the only tool beside PW:S useful in that situation.
    I have the same glyphs and almost same build as Bob, and it works very good for me.
    Hikary usually I end fights with mana not using my mana regen cooldowns (beside arcane torrent) and in some situations PoH is a very powerful tool, for example Twyn Valkyrs 10 man HC. In that case I found myself often casting PW:S->PoH, another target PW:S->PoH…
    When I’m not busy with PoH I cast, PW:S->Penance->PoM on tank.
    This keeps the raid alive and me topping healing meters (if u also add the dmg absorb), using only my shadowfiend.
    p.s.: of course for that fight I use PoH glyph + T8.5 first set bonus.

  5. passy89 says:

    Really helpful, thanks. Can’t wait to read your theorycrafting thoughts when 3.3 is out. (;

  6. sparklefreeze says:

    Really helpful writeup here. Time to refer every Disc priest on my server here. I’ve about had it with them.

    I’m very big and generous with the PW:S and Renewed Hope is always 100% up. I also pre-empt damage mostly on melee as in the case of targeted AoEs.

    1 difference is that I very rarely cast PoH when raiding as Disc. I find that I cannot sustain PoH spams w/o using my mana regen spells. That is perhaps because of my holy mindset of ‘topping up bars’ at work. I admit it is hard when raiding as Disc to top the raid to say 75% and leave it to raid healers.

    @nimofnagrand – I also chose to invest in Divine Fury over Spell Warding because unlike most Disc priests, I do tend to use a GH once in a while, mostly when mitigating a huge inc damage. I do find GHs viable combined with the Borrowed Time buff.

    Spell Warding is lower on my priority because.. how do I put this.. but Disc priests shouldn’t be dying to raid damage anyway? Surviving was never even a vague concern to me and I put those talent points into Improved Renew since I do use that quite a bit even as Disc.

  7. ls says:

    Yeah this is useful, thanks. It mostly describes what I do in 10 mans. I tend to do a little more FH than you suggest, in part because we usually do 10 mans now with 2 healers.

    I wonder what people have to say more about Power Infusion … i could probably find the point … but are the returns that great if you pop it on a boomkin, lock or mage?

    curious ….

  8. wantedpriest says:

    We have been running 25s with a couple new (and slightly undergeared) healadins lately, so I have been moved from tank healing to raid. Good advice Bob.

    I stack a lot more regen than most Disc Priests, so I can pretty much bubble/PoM continously and PoH as necessary without going OOM. If you are regularly assigned to raid heals, you might want to shift your gear focus from throughput to regen.

    Raid healing as Disc can be a lot of fun though once you overgear the content. (Just don’t look at recount.) Encounters that are tough on healers can become stupid easy with a Disc Priest on raid bubbles.

    Vess

  9. harteofuldaman says:

    Don’t ignore the power of a Disc/Holy dual spec! Switch as needed to match the fight and/or raid composition.

    When tank healing as Disc, also keep a Renew going and a triple flash heal for Grace when Penance is on cooldown. On a single target, you can easily keep all of the above going at once.

  10. BobTurkey says:

    Thanks for the comments all. I was wondering how this post would go over because after writing it I re-read it and it made me sound like an Elist Jerk 😉

    @nimofnagrand – 5/5 Divine Fury is actually a left over from pre-dual specs when I used to quest as discipline. I haven’t bothered changing out to Spell Warding yet.

    @Hikari – Yeah PoH does take a lot of mana but once your target has weakened Soul you can’t use it. Also discipline priests are often bound by the global cool down. PoH is faster than 5 PW:S. Besides as jessebel says mana is rarely an issue.

    @passy89 – Funny you mention that, i’ve just started drafting those posts. They take a while to write.

    @Is – I have no idea how great Power Infusion is for DPS. But they get upset when I change to Shadow spec and they don’t get it anymore 🙂

    Gobble gobble

  11. ls says:

    Interesting what you say about power infusion. I don’t usually see a boomkin go low on mana, and we know locks can’t, but mages can…. so it’s hard to see where then 20% reduction in mana cost is helpful. And 20% haste buff…. for 15 secs…. how much can you really get out of that…

    I wonder what others have to say. Have you theory crafted it, Turkey?

  12. BobTurkey says:

    Uptime = 15s/100s (96s Power Infusion CD + 4s slack) = 15%

    DPS increase = 20% haste * 15% uptime = 3% DPS increase.

    Assuming a 5k DPS does their thing at a constant rate.

    Extra DPS = 5000 * 3% = 150 DPS.

  13. ls says:

    Over a 6 minute fight that’s 54,000 HP.
    Not much at all.

  14. ls says:

    Hey — what about putting points in Reflective Shield? I know it sounds crazy, but if you put two points in it, any shield with return 44% of the dmg absorbed. Let’s say you put it on the tank, where you know the shield will be fully absorbed. If my shield, with current gear, gives 8k health, then we can expect 3.5k dmg dealt in return. With a 14 second CD we can expect, what, 14k dmg per minute? Over a 6 min fight that 84k dmg. That’s already more than Power Infusion on a 5k dps over a 6 min fight, which is 54k. And that’s only if you put it on the tanks …

  15. BobTurkey says:

    @Is – Reflective Shield currently only works on shields cast on yourself. When I started I thought exactly what you wrote and was disappointed to be told it don’t work like that 😦

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