Discipline Evolves. The new Raid Healer

October 13, 2009 at 3:36 pm (Being a Hero, Circle of Healing, Divine Hymn, Flash Heal, Grouping, Healing Mechanics, Penance, Power Word: Shield, Prayer of Healing, Prayer of Mending, Raiding, Rapture, Renew, Trial of the Champion, Ulduar, User Interface)

I’m taking a break out of the FAQ series because a couple of things came together for me recently. What I want to talk about this week is two things. The first is the evolution of the Discipline Priest’s role in a raid since 3.0 launched. The second is to go a little theoretical and talk about what a modern Discipline Priest has that makes them the most powerful healers in the game.

Discipline as a viable raid spec really came with Patch 3.0 with the introduction of three talents. Penance, Borrowed Time, and Rapture. Before these talents Discipline had poor mana, poor healing, and no real niche. Rapture brought the Mana, Penance the Healing, and Borrowed Time has let us find our niche.

Priest Evolution

The emphasis from very early on was on Discipline as a Tank healing spec. PW:S, Grace, Renewed Hope and Inspiration provided the mitigation, whilst Borrowed Time and Penance gave quick healing necessary to heal tanks up. For a long time therefore Discipline Priests have been the Tank Healers.

Holy Priests on the other hand have been the traditional Raid Healers. Circle of Healing, bigger Prayer of Healing, larger Prayer of Mending, and better HoTs make the the obvious choice for healing larger numbers of people.

This simple Distinction is naïve, and it’s beginning to change. There is talk in the back rooms of Forums. Priests are talking late at night in the Orgrimmar Drag when the Paladin’s aren’t listening. Things said only in /whisper… Have you heard? Come closer. Discipline is becoming a Raid Healer.

That is madness. Holy has bigger, faster, smarter spells which heal more targets. Why would Discipline ever be a Raid Healer? Well, it is all because of Power Word: Shield.

Traditionally a Raid Healer was easy to spot because they could heal a lot of people at once. Resto Shaman, Holy Priests and Resto Druids are the obvious examples. Chain Heal, Wild Growth, Circle of Healing. Power Word: Shield is not at all like these spells. It’s single target and it doesn’t really heal for that much. So why do I say it’s good? It’s because of the unique way it heals.

XT as an example

Let’s take an example like XT-002 because he’s a lot of fun and he’s fresh in my mind. He has a high damage raid wide ability called Tympanic Tantrum which is on a cooldown and is relatively predictable.

Now imagine I’m a Holy Priest with my Circle of Healing. I know XT is going to cast Tympanic Tantrum and I’m ready for it, as soon as he casts it I start my healing. Circle of Healing, Prayer of Mending, Prayer of Healing, Renews, Flash Heals, Divine Hymn, whatever I can do do the maximum amount of healing. In some cases, Holy Priests can do around 12,000 healing per second for this part of the fight. 8 seconds later it’s all over and I’ve done maybe 96,000 healing

Now lets take a Discipline Priest, a Discipline priest can probably only do around 6,000 healing per second for this part of the fight. So she would only heal maybe 48,000 in those 8 seconds. However, the Discipline Priest has a unique advantage. Just like the Holy Priest, the Discipline Priest knows that XT is going to cast that Tantrum. Unlike the Holy Priest however the Discipline Priest can do something about it long before XT starts to cast. Thirty seconds ahead of time that Discipline Priest can be casting Power Word: Shield on as many people as possible. In thirty seconds, with Borrowed Time speeding things up, that Discipline Priest can shield every single raid member.

When that Tantrum goes off the first 8,000 damage on each player, (except maybe the tank and a few other’s with shields already broken), will be absorbed by the Discipline Priest’s shields. Twenty five raiders, 8,000 each. That means 200,000 damage absorbed. Then we add whatever healing the Discipline Priest is able to do during the 8 seconds of the Tantrum, you’re probably looking at something like 220,000 healing done total for that tantrum.

The point here is that the Discipline priests Healing per Second is always much lower than the Holy Priests. The difference is that the window of opportunity for the Discipline Priest is much much larger. It’s the Tortoise and the Hare. The Holy Priest knows that the Tantrum is coming, but apart from casting a few Renews she only has those 8 seconds of the tantrum in which to do her healing. During the time before and after the Tantrum the Holy Priest isn’t really pulling much weight, there is not a lot to do. The Discipline Priest on the other hand does less healing per second, but because she is able to start healing long before the Tantrum starts she is able to heal for much much longer before it hits. She moves slower, but she’s always healing unlike the stop-start Holy Priest. Her healing per second is less, but she has more time to heal.

XT is a single example. There are many many other similar fights which allow a good Discipline Priest with good knowledge, or a good raid add-on like Deadly Boss Mobs or Bigwigs, to do the same thing.

In Ulduar you have Razorscale, Ignis, XT, Kologarn, Auriaya, Hodir, hard mode Freya, all have big raid wide attacks. On a smaller scale many bosses do similar things but only to the melee group. For example, in Trial of the Crusader Gormok the Impaler does a very predictable 15 yard AoE. These smaller scale abilities are none the less very conducive to a Discipline Priest shielding.

Is it just about looking good?

I think some people would say, why bother when a Holy Priest could have done it? Is it just about looking good on a healing meter?

Honestly, there probably is some of that. In a very easy fight mass shielding is a great way for the Discipline priest to do a lot of healing and get to feel good about themselves. That’s not really an admirable thing, but it’s understandable. Nobody likes healing easy fights because there isn’t a lot to do. Mass Shielding is a way to keep busy, and to look good.

However, in a difficult fight it would be a foolish mistake to not do something just because the Holy Priest could probably heal it. The advantage to a Discipline Priest mass shielding is that it keeps your raid overall more healthy. Nobody’s health drops as much because the damage is prevented before it happens. This means there is less chance of people being killed by a combination of abilities going off together. Also it makes the most of the down-time in between boss abilities. The Tympanic Tantrum is by far the most dangerous of XT’s abilities. It makes much more sense for a Discipline Priest to spend the time before them preparing the raid for that than it does having an extra healer twiddling their thumbs trying to top off a player here or there.

It shouldn’t be about who does the healing, it should be about everybody covering their assignments whilst contributing as much as they possibly can. If mass shielding is the best use of a Discipline Priests time, and it buys the Holy Priest extra time to make sure everybody is topped off and healthy then that’s what should be done.

Obviously this is a matter of practice. It’s up to the raid in question to decide if the Discipline Priest is spending their time as best they can. If you are finding the Tantrum difficult then this is a good solution. On the other hand, if you find the Tantrum easy but you are losing players to other abilities during the fight, or the Tank is dying, then you need to reconsider. It’s a matter of being responsible.

As a raid leader, I know that there are places where a Discipline Priest can be a tremendously powerful raid healer. I wouldn’t do it in every fight, and in some cases it will still be better to have them tank healing if that’s the more important role. Yet in certain fights, with certain abilities, or certain raid compositions, Discipline Priests are the most powerful raid healers in the game.

So from nothing before 3.0 Discipline is now a fantastically flexible Tank and Raid Healing spec with a unique niche and a unique style. What an exciting time to play Discipline!

Tip: If this is a role in your raid you want to adopt a couple of things to bear in mind. 1, it’s only really a viable role in 25 mans. In 10 mans you have to be more flexible than this, you can do it, but you have to be ready to do a lot of other things as well. 2, you need Deadly Boss Mobs or Bigwigs and you need to learn the fights well. 3, Haste over crit, but bear in mind you will be under the effects of Borrowed time a lot so you only need enough haste to get your Global Cooldown down to 1 second with Borrowed Time. 4, know which fights it doesn’t work on. Twin Valkyrs is a perfect example of a fight which mass shielding is much less effective than traditional raid healing. Be prepared to step asides in fights which aren’t conducive.



  1. BobTurkey said,

    Very true. Thats what i do quite a bit as a raid healer, especially in 25s.

    Gobble gobble.

  2. Christine said,

    hi nice blog. and i do agree overall “It’s a matter of being responsible.” in any spec you are playing in this game.

  3. Anne said,

    Hey, congrats on your blog is well done and information is very well structured and presented.
    Can you propose a build for raid healer, mainly holy, level 80, priest?
    Also, which add on should I use to heal in raids, its difficult to heal without an addon.
    Thanks a lot.

  4. SpotHeal said,

    For raiding as Holy I’d point you to an article I’ve written at: https://spotheal.wordpress.com/2009/08/18/holy-talent-spec/

    The thing you really need most as a healer in raids is an addon for helping you see everybody’s frame so you can see and heal them easily.
    The popular ones are PerfectRaid, Xperl, or Grid. Grid is probably the most popular but it’s very very minimalist. Xperl is very flashy, Perfect Raid is much more limited but it’s very simple. You can find all of them through Google very easily.

    Thanks for all the compliments guys.

  5. Eric said,

    Wonderful post. I was a disc shield spamming raid healer for 3.1 and 3.2 content, and everything you said was right on, EXCEPT the bit in the end about haste > crit.

    It turns out with shield spam anything over 4.7% haste on your gear is wasted.
    That’s right, it only takes 4.7% haste to get to 1 sec gcd with disc spec and shield spam.

    4.7% is so easy to get, you don’t even need to try for it.

  6. SpotHeal said,

    4.7%? I’ll have to go do the math, but that sounds low.

  7. Urghana said,

    I’d recommend VuhDo as the healing addon.

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