Discipline Healing Guide and Discussion

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To start, I believe that in the current state that discipline priests in primarily i346 gear or higher who correctly prioritize their healing can, with some knowledge of predictable damage, heal equally or better than all other classes providing they use the proper spec and healing rotations. This varies by encounter, as discipline really shines in constant, raid wide AoE situations where Divine Aegis from PoH can be fully utilized, whereas Holy Paladins have cooldowns on AoE healing but are capable of much larger bursts. One caveat is that at lower gear levels, it is difficult to maintain healing for long periods of time due to our major regeneration talents scaling directly with our mana pool.

The below information is by no means exclusively of my own derivation, but rather has been taken from discussions with priests on my own server, on several forums (most importantly the forums at EJ), and testing done within the body of this thread (Special thanks to Khendra). The purpose of this thread is to provide a concise summary of helpful healing tips to those who are struggling to heal through heroic content and early raids. I'm not sure how Sticky Maintenance is dealt with, so please continue to "like" this thread if you find the information useful.

Ideal Spec:
There are two extra points which I put into darkness, but some prefer to place in soul warding to reduce cooldown on PW:S. Those concerned about longevity could potentially place those points into Veiled Shadows.

How to Heal Efficiently:
There are three basic healing styles for discipline which depend on the type of incoming damage, and are as follows. If you cannot heal the encounter with these strategies, you cannot heal that encounter at your current gear level OR you have DPS taking unnecessary damage. These rotations are produced by examining the efficiency of each heal in your repertoire, and considering the types of raid damage.

Efficiency (highest -> lowest; no overheal):
Divine Hymn > Prayer of Mending > Prayer of Healing > Penance > Smite (i346+) > Greater heal = Heal = Binding Heal = Smite (i333) > Binding Heal > PW:S >

Smite scales very well with gear, and at raid quality gear outstrips Greater Heal and Heal.

heals which have very poor mana efficiency given the spec and glyphs listed include flash heal, renew, and holy nova. These can be used situationally, but there are often better choices.

1. Low, predictable damage:
Main heal: Smite (Atonement) + Penance + PW:S for Rapture ONLY. + PoM if sufficient AoE to benefit. At high gear levels, Smite will outstrip Heal in efficiency when combined with effective Evangelism management (see bottom of post)

2. High, single target damage (3 or fewer targets in raids):
Main heal: Greater heal (making use of Train of Thought for reduced Inner Focus) + Penance + PW:S for Rapture ONLY, + PoM

3. AoE Raid damage:
Main heal: Prayer of Healing (Inner Focus) + PW:S for Rapture ONLY + PoM. This is a good time to use Power Infusion.

Inner Fire vs. Inner Will
Because the above healing strategies utilize very few instant heals (PW:S every 12 seconds, PoM in AoE situations, and the very occasional renew) Inner Fire provides superior efficiency compared to inner will and should be used in almost all situations. Inner will can be situationally useful for the movement speed, and in fights with a large amount of movement, however.

Miscellaneous (but very important) Healing Points:
1. Use Power Infusion on yourself exclusively, typically to boost throughput during AoE phases and increase your efficiency when you know you will cast a series of high mana cost heals (PoH/Gheal).
2. Renew is a low-efficiency heal, however can be sparingly used to top up raid members when you must focus most of your attention on tanks.
3. Make use of Pain suppression. It is very useful to give yourself breathing room to top a tank back up OR can be used to "catch up" by allowing AoE healing of the raid when the tank is still taking substantial damage. PoH will keep a pain supressioned tank alive, where one would normally die.
4. with Train of Thought, at i346 greater heal has the same efficiency as heal. For this reason, there is no reason to ever use heal, as you can be doing similar healing with Smite while adding damage.
5. Fade is a wonderful skill which will set your agro to 0 for the duration of the spell. Whenever you have adds on you, Fade and stand in Concecrate/DnD/Tclap range. This will allow you to keep damage on the tank and not yourself, making use of the tanks higher avoidance values to minimize healing.
6. Power Word Barrier is an excellent ability that can be used to mitigate large amounts of raid/group damage and can also be used as a tank healing cooldown if placed around the tank.
Important Regeneration Mechanics:
1. Rapture (3/3): Returns 6% of your maximum mana when a shield is completely absorbed or dispelled. This cannot occur more than once every 12 seconds. This is discipline's most important regeneration mechanic and should be used on cooldown. However, becuase of PW:S's low efficiency, it is not prudent to cast PW:S when rapture is on internal cooldown. A mod to track this cooldown can be found at curse: http://wow.curse.com/downloads/wow-addons/details/ingelasrapture.aspx
2. Archangel: Returns 5% of your maximum mana and increases healing by 15%. Use this to increase the efficiency of smite healing AND proc archangel before predictable AoE damage for substantially increased healing.
3. Hymn of Hope and Shadowfiend: Both should be utilized on cooldown, and must be utilized to maximize healing longevity. Hymn is substantially more difficult to use given that you must channel and therefore not heal, so save it for periods of low damage. If shadowfiend is used directly before hymning, more mana can be obtained due to your increased mana pool. Throwing Pain supression on the tank before Hymning can ensure that you have time for a full hymn without having to prematurely cancel to heal the tank. In addition, Hymn benefits from haste, and should be used following PW:S for borrowed time.

Important note for heroic healing: Mastery typically is less useful in heroics given that divine aegis procs on non-tanks will fall off unused. In this situation, Mastery > Crit > Haste

Mana Tide and Core of Ripeness
This is such an important synergy that it is worthy of it's own section. The combination of Mana Tide (increases spirit by 350%) and Core of Ripeness (+1920 on use spirit) allow for the regeneration of approximately 45-50% of your mana pool (spirit dependent) every 3 minutes. This is a game changing mechanic which eliminates mana dependence for priests above i346 gear level in raid environments. If you raid with a Restoration Shaman, this is a mandatory first item pick-up, and will remain best-in-slot until a time at which mana is a non-issue. If you do not raid with a Restoration Shaman, I would suggest finding one.

Important Macros
Inner Focus should be macrod into both Greater Heal and Prayer of Healing in order to fully maximize the effect of Train of Thought. This following macros will use Inner Will on cooldown. A current bug will prevent you from deriving benefit from Inner Focus when it comes off cooldown mid-cast, therefore spamming Gheal and PoH can reduce the effectiveness of IF. An alternative is to manually track IF using Power Auras. What is more efficient will depend on your playstyle and attention.

#gettooltip Greater heal
/cast Inner Focus
/script UIErrorsFrame:Clear(); UIErrorsFrame:Show()
/cast Greater Heal

#gettooltip Prayer of Healing
/cast Inner Focus
/script UIErrorsFrame:Clear(); UIErrorsFrame:Show()
/cast Prayer of Healing

Archangel Usage Strategies:
Use of Archangel is a difficult decision because you must trade 5 stacks of evangelism for the Archangel buff. As a rule of thumb, if you are smiting, you should keep your evangelism stack and put off using Archangel until you are going to swap to a different healing strategy that cannot benefit from the mana efficiency.

Evangelism: 5 stack of evangelism provides: 20% increased damage to Smite (and penance, but we don't use this for DPS), and a 30% mana cost reduction to both spells.

Archangel: 5% of maximum mana, and 15% increased healing.

Effective Utilization of Archangel:
1. You are about to switch from a low single target damage phase (smite/atonement) to a burst AoE healing phase (PoH/PoM) and no longer require the reduced mana cost of smite. Pop Archangel (and power word barrier, and Power Infusion) and begin Prayer of Healing spamming with 15% increased healing.
2. DPS burn phase with DPS modifiers (more for raiding content, but think Rahj's recharge in HoO) Pop Archangel for the DPS increase, and immediately reapply Evangelism with smites.
3. The tank is about to take a lot of damage. Pop Archangel and Power Infusion and start laying down your Gheal/Penance Rotation.
Stat Weights for gear decisions
Discipline Priests benefit most from Intellect, given that our regeneration mechanics scale off of total mana. Spirit is the next most important stat, followed distantly by all of the secondary stats. This means find trinkets with intellect on them, and make sure all items have spirit as a secondary stat.

The following stat weights are rough approximations given full Tier 11 359 gear without factoring in borrowed time, utilizing a single-target healing rotation. In addition, please keep in mind that stacking one secondary stat will raise the value of alternative stats due to synergy with the other secondaries

    Intellect 0.94
    Spirit 0
    SP 0.77
    Critical 0.47
    Haste 0.41
    Mastery 0.24

    Intellect 4.20
    Spirit 3.36
    Spell Power 0.80
    Critical 0.48
    Haste 0
    Mastery 0.25

These weights suggest that reforging to critical strike is the correct choice for maximizing throughput and sustained healing. Haste is a very close second, followed distantly by Mastery. Keep in mind that the value of haste increases (in a complicated and non-linear fashion) with Multi-target healing as your mastery increases, as crit is not required to proc DA, however overall Crit is superior. Problematically, this makes switching between discipline and holy specs difficult as Holy has opposite stat weights.

Optional Healing Strategy: Mouseover Macros

Healing is a task which at times requires very quick reaction times in order to ensure that you keep you tank (or a bad dps) alive when they take damage unexpectedly. Traditionally, three actions must take place before you can heal a player taking unexpected damage. First, you must click on that player's unit frame. Second, you must press the keyboard or mouse button which you have heal bound to, and third, you must depress that button, as blizzard polls the release of the button as having ordered an action. Together, these actions take between 100 and 500ms. In order to reduce the amount of time spent targeting and ordering actions, and therefore increase your throughput, mouseover macros eliminate the need to click a specific action bar before you cast a heal. Instead, you must have your cursor hovering over the unit frame (or the player itself) who you wish to heal. The one caution is that this necessarily prevents you from 'clicking' your action bars. Rather, you must have all heals bound to keybinds.

The following macro will attempt to cast the spell attached to it on your mouseover target, and if that does not exist, will cast the spell on yourself:

/cast [target=mouseover,exists] "Spell"; "Spell"

With no quotations around the spell's name, for example:

/cast [target=mouseover,exists] Greater Heal; Greater Heal
Think something is up with your spec link... not loading for me here....

That Rapture addon looks like exactly what I wanted. Thanks for that.
This is by far my favorite, most acurate Disc guide. Some things you want to correct are:

"2. High, single target damage (3 or fewer targets in raids:
Main heal: Greater heal (making use of Train of Thought for reduced Inner Will) + Penance + PW:S for Rapture ONLY, + PoM"

Instead of Inner Will, I think you mean Inner Focus.

A few things/tips I would like to see added are:

Hymn of Hope before Shadowfiend increases the amount of mana you get back from Shadowfiend. Hymn of Hope stacks as well (in our 10man progression, we sometimes have our Spriest start using HoH and than I start using it right after). Also throwing a cooldown on the tank (Pain Supression) can be a great way to ensure you get to channel Hymn of Hope the full duration without fear of the tank dying.

Smite clarification. I know that you touch on this a bit, but "Divine Hymn > Prayer of Mending > Prayer of Healing > Penance > Greater heal = Heal > Binding Heal > PW:S > Smite" - I think you should clarify that Smite can actually be more mana efficient than GHeal/Heal when combined with Atonement and high gear levels.

Fade can be used before you get aggro- it puts you at 0 threat for the entire duration you are faded.

*Matter of preference* I love having Veiled Shadows in my specs. For every 10man so far, I have been able to get two Shadowfiends off. Typically I pop the first one early and than it is up against during the last phase of bosses. I love using Hymn of Hope with my second Shadowfiend.

Lastly, the timing does not always work but PW: Barrier + Divine Hymn can be especially amazing since Barrier prevents spell pushback.

Awesome guide though :) it's not often you see such a good post on these forums. /like

Edit: Also might want to touch on the Inner Focus bug, where if you use Inner Focus right after using a spell that could benefit from it, Inner Focus is consumed + put on cooldown. I try to throw in a Penance/PoM/Shield before using Inner Focus to be safe.
12/21/2010 1:30 PMPosted by Widgét
You might also want to add that Atonement only has an 8 yard range and there will be times when it wont heal anyone and/or pets.

All right except it's 15 yards as of today.
You might also want to add that Atonement only has an 8 yard range and there will be times when it wont heal anyone and/or pets.

All right except it's 15 yards as of today.

Really? :-D stealth change + confirmed?

Nevermind, see it on mmo-champion. It's about time!! I've been complaining about it since the beta. I'll change my original post, thanks =)
Great guide, I like the distinction on when to use Atonement vs GHeal/ToT that a lot of other guides miss. I've previously tried to heal with GH/ToT as the "filler" in all situations but I found that I had to let the tank get quite damaged in order for it to be worth it, which left me struggling to catch up if I then needed to switch to group healing before he was topped off, so will definitely have to try this.

1. Low, predictable damage:
Main heal: Smite (Atonement) + Penance + PW:S for Rapture ONLY. + PoM if sufficient AoE to benefit. Heal has higher efficiency than smite, but Archangel makes up for this with 5% total mana return in most situations.

One criticism thing I've seen elsewhere is that Atonement healing doesn't proc inspiration - do you find that relying on penance to crit is enough to keep it up?
What's with all this BS Smite specs?

Because smite works and it is an efficient way to heal- albeit does take some time (and skill) to get used to. Coupled with archangel (+15%) buff, it is an incredible way to burst heal for heavy damage periods.

If you are going to be intolerant or close-minded, please do not show your ignorance.
The inspiriation thing with Atonement does suck, but I like how Smite reduces the cooldown on Penance- when my tank starts dipping even a fraction, I throw a Penance at him, which usually does crit at least once.

I'm still in love with Smite healing. Even before it was buffed to 15yards, I found it extremly useful in raids. There are almost always periods of low damage where you could Smite and than have Archangel ready to use when the damage starts again. Archangel + PI + PoH spam is pure love.
I was having a decent time just healing with an adapted/modified version of my Wrath playstyle, but I made the adjustments suggested here by adding Atonement, Evangelism and Archangel and I'm already noticing some improvements.

It was rocky at first and we wiped a bit while I got the learning curve down, but now it feels not unlike a caster remix of the DPS/heal style of my Disciple of Khaine from Warhammer.

Good on you, sir.
Thank you!

I have been a disc healer for my whole healing career. : ) I was going oom so quickly in cata that I was tempted to give up. I tried a holy spec by suggestion of my guildies, but it just didn't feel right.

Thank you for this guide. I love disc and am happy to get some good information on it. I still have a long way to go to heal a heroic, but at least I feel like its a starting point. Ive been experimenting with the smite/archangel stuff. Great post.

(I wouldn't mind having my spec/gear peeked at by someone to correct my mistakes. Sorry if this is the wrong place for that sort of thing but I'm open to guidance of any kind. ; ) )

More Disc Priest changes in today.  Looks like Atonement is going to benefit properly from healing modifiers after all (read: Grace, Archangel, Mortal Strike). 

Pretty good change if you ask me. I'd be curious to know which was more efficient now, Smite at full Evangelism stacks or Smite with no stacks with the bonus from Archangel. I'll have to check on that when I get off work. 

I'll wager that Atonement becomes just as efficient (if not more so) than Heal now that it benefits from Grace and Archangel. I'll have to wait on some math to be sure however. 

Another thing to think about is that Penance is more efficient with full Evangelism stacks than with the benefit from Archangel (not more throughput mind you).  So blowing Archangel every time you get five stacks isn't always ideal. Continuing to Smite to maintain Evangelism may be the most efficient route for Disc right now. 

I've said it since the beta and I'll say it again.  Knowing when to keep your stacks up and when to pop Archangel is what separates a good priest from a great one. 

Good to see folks are starting to enjoy the spec as much as I did on the beta :)

Good guide. 
Both specs on EJ use Strength of Soul and suggest heal be used as a priority. Is there a reason your guide deosn't suggest that and/or a reason you don't use it personally? Just curious.
Best summary guide I have seen so far. Roughly matches what I have discovered via a very painful process of trial and error.

One thing in reference to stat weights, specifically related to heroics, as I have not raided at all.

I find myself craving crit's and with the synergy IF, DA, and WS/DA buffs. I have been using this priority:

INT>>>>>SPI (to around 1.8k-2k)>>>crit>>haste>mastery.

There is no math or scientific basis for this, but just feel.

I think I am around 17% unbuffed ATM and want more.

I think mastery is very weak btw, made weaker the less crit you have. Which automatically makes CRIT>>Mastery. right?

Have you or anyone else tried stacking Crit or had the same thoughts?

edit: I use the exact spec posted with 2 points in darkness and I use FH glyph instead of PW:B glyph.
Thank you all for your comments. I have added two sections on effective Archangel Usage and Mandatory Macros for Inner Focus.

I have also updated the section on Shadowfiend/Hymn to include suggestions about pre-use Pain supression and the synergy between Hymn and Shadowfiend. In addition, I added a note about the scaling of smite with gear, and that it can be the most effective healing strategy at high gear levels. Special thanks to Widget and Fatherfranz for your suggestions.

Now, to answer a few specific questions which I believe don't fit directly into the above post, but are very valid nonetheless

1. Smite and Inspiration:
With 12% crit on gear (and I have reforged out of crit in some situations) I find that combined with Renewed Hope (+10% crit on targets with either Grace or Weakened Soul) that my Penance crits at least once, and is sufficient to keep Inspiration up.

2. Strength of Soul: The specs on the main thread in EJ suggest taking Stength of Soul, however if you read the remainder of the posts (daunting, so I will summarize), priests have shifted away from taking strength of soul for two reasons. First, Greater Heal has identical Efficiency as Heal when Train of Thought is considered (math in the EJ thread, 2nd page if you are interested). Therefore, there is no reason to use Heal. Second, PW:S is a less efficient spell, and therefore you only want to be using it to proc rapture or as an emergency tool to prevent a low raid member's imminent death. Therefore, ideal PW:S usage is every 12 second. With that said, Weakened Soul is a 15 second debuff and therefore It is feasible that you would want to reduce those 3 seconds. However, when you consider that most tanks will stack avoidance due to high effective health, there is a strong possibility that the first hit is parried, dodged, blocked or absorbed by the tank, introducing a delay in the rapture effect. For this reason Train of Thought is not an effective talent choice.

3. On Smite healing, and it's inclusion in the ideal disc spec:
While is was obvious the person questioning smite healing was not interested in helpful discussion, i think it is useful to write briefly to explain why I choose to include it in order to head off similar future posts. Smite is the healing style that I use BY FAR the least of the three that I listed. However, it is more a question of maximizing your utility given that the discipline tree is populated with many other lackluster talents. As you can see by my spec, I take the bare minimum 21 points in discipline. What you lose in taking archangel are (2/2) Strength of Soul, (2/2) Soul Warding, and 1 point in the Shadow tree to go into the talent of your choosing. I described above why Train of Thought is a poor choice, and given that you are only using PW:S every 12 seconds or so, Soul Warding also seems superfluous. I find myself in very few situations where I have just shielded the tank, and therefore cannot shield a low raid member who dies as a result of my 3s PW:S cooldown.

Therefore, you lose 1% spell haste or 30s on Shadowfiend in exchange for a very efficient healing strategy in periods of low damage, and more importantly for me, the ability to do high amounts of burst damage during phases with damage modifiers where smite damage can actually make a difference. This utility is worth the above tradeoff for me. However, I have played with non-smite specs before and those specs are just as viable in most situations.

Thank you everyone for your comments and questions, hopefully this was helpful in answering some of them.
Thank you, I am excited to try this out once the maintenance lifts.

I do have some questions though:

1. What is this Hymn of Hope/Shadowfiend synergy you talk of? I have heard this several times.

2. I am more of a visual learner, any chance you can post a vid or a ghetto flowchart?
I find myself craving crit's and with the synergy IF, DA, and WS/DA buffs. I have been using this priority:

INT>>>>>SPI (to around 1.8k-2k)>>>crit>>haste>mastery.

I think mastery is very weak btw, made weaker the less crit you have. Which automatically makes CRIT>>Mastery. right?

Knuggit, Mastery is very weak in heroics, and your stat weights seem accurate. Because damage is sporadic on non-tanks, any Divine Aegis procs on non-tank players typically fall off before they can be utilized. This means that while crit affects all heals equally, mastery only affects critical heals on the tank, raising crit above mastery.

Haste is really just a throughput stat, and has nothing to do with efficiency since greater heal = heal in terms of healing per mana anyways. Each person will have their own sweet spot between efficiency and throughput.

Now, with that said, in raid environments with constant AoE damage that ticks consistently throughout the fight, mastery becomes incredibly powerful, as PoH will proc divine aegis on every hit or crit. If fully utilized, priests can put out larger AoE healing/absorb numbers (~21-24k HPS) than any other class, while maintaining reasonable efficiency. The importance of this cannot be understated. I will make a note about this distinction in the OP.

1. What is this Hymn of Hope/Shadowfiend synergy you talk of? I have heard this several times.

2. I am more of a visual learner, any chance you can post a vid or a ghetto flowchart?

Taropaste, I update the OP with a bit more information on Shadowfiend/Hymn Synergy. Since Hymn increases your maximum mana, and shadowfiend returns a percentage of your maximum mana with each hit, using them together will produce a larger mana return than using them separately.

On the flip side, I find that using shadowfiend early on some fights gives the me chance for a second fiend, whereas if i waited for the time when I could benefit from both at once I would not be able to make use of two (some 10M fights are very long, 10+ minutes). Use is relaly about the feel of the fight, in the end.

Finally, no chance of a video currently, no time!

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