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Guest Post – Suzushiiro’s Take on When to Disc or Holy

This weeks post is a guest post by Suzushiiro, from BigCrits. (see my Previous post about Stoneybaby’s project, BigCrits). Stoney warned me about this one… perhaps, too little too late! HALP!

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This is Suzushiiro, resident pro Holy/Disc Priest and comic relief character of the guild/show about the guild Big Crits, gracing this blog with my presence to teach you nubs a thing or two about Priest-ing. Today’s discussion topic is how to handle a Holy and Disc dual spec, so those of you who run shadow for their second spec might want to change the channel for the next few minutes.

You real healers still with me? Good.

I’m writing about this because in my ICC experience the choice of Holy vs. Disc hasn’t been as much of a no-brainer as I thought- there have been a few times where I’ve swapped specs after a few wipes and thought “wow, what was I thinking being that other spec for this fight?” It’s not nearly as simple as ”Holy for raid healing, Disc for tank healing and Infest.”

To start, let’s go over the major differences between the two specs:

+Stronger, spammable bubbles
+Stronger single-target hps, especially ‘burst’ hps due to PW:S and Penance
+Pain Suppression
+Power Infusion
+Generally superior meter cheese-ability as spellpower/ICC buff increases
-Does not ‘stack’ very well with other Disc Priests due to Weakened Soul

+Stronger Renew, PoM, PoH, Divine Hymn
+Circle of Healing
+Body and Soul
+Guardian Spirit (especially when glyphed)
-Lightwell (okay this is just here because I felt obligated to give Holy a minus as well)

Some elaboration on the above list:

-Re: Disc and meters, while it’s true that Disc pulls ahead on meters relative to other healers as their shields absorb more due to the fact that they’re sniping more and more of everyone else’s heals before the damage happens, I’d argue that this doesn’t actually make them better at healing, just better at meters. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with meter cheesing if people dying isn’t a concern, mind you.

-While they’ll pretty much never make or break a spec choice, the difference between GS and PS is worth elaborating on. PS is nice because the survivability boost applies to the entire effect duration and doesn’t “pop” like GS does. GS is nice because it will definitely save the tank in the case of a KB (though not if there’s another KB two seconds later) or you get 58.33(repeating, of course)% of the cooldown refunded, assuming you glyph it (and honestly, what the hell else are you going to glyph?) Again, nothing in current content (aside from Dreamwalker) is something where the difference is significant, but still, it’s worth keeping in mind for the future.

-CoH is great, but its primary advantage of being smart and cross-group is more significant when there are more groups for it to heal across. When you only have one or two groups to worry about (ie 5s and 10s) that advantage becomes less of a big deal since PoH is more likely to hit everyone it needs to and it’s easier to cover everyone with bubbles. On top of that, 5s and 10s are when you usually (well, always in a 5) need to tank heal, even if it’s only the occasional emergency “oh shit pally DCd” heal, while in 25s it’s entirely possible to go an entire raid without even touching the tank  (or *only* touching the tank.) So Disc definitely has a big advantage over Holy in 5s and 10s to the point where it’s only in fights with constant heavy raid damage (BQL, Sindragosa) that Holy pulls ahead.

So to summarize-

You should lean towards speccing Disc if:
-You are tank healing
-There is no Disc Priest present already
-You are receiving bribes for power infusions from your DPS casters
-You are in a 5 or 10-man
-There is some gimmick to the fight that favors PW:S (Infest)
-The fight favors strong single-target healing (especially burst single-target healing- ie “OH SHIT THE REST OF THE RAID IS OKAY BUT [dude] IS GOING TO DIE IN 2 SECONDS”)
-You want to cheese meters
-There is some mechanic that favors PS over GS

You should lean towards speccing Holy if:
-There is already a Disc Priest present
-There is a gimmick in the fight that makes Body and Soul useful (Rotface disease)
-There is a mechanic/gimmick that favors GS over PS (Dreamwalker, though only for the first Holy)
-There is a large amount of constant raid-wide damage going out

Obviously, how you weight these factors when they conflict is up to you. You should take a look at your roster and the content you’re concerned with, figure out what you’re usually going to be doing what for, and plan your gearing accordingly. My guild runs with a dedicated disc Priest, for example, which means that I’m Holy more often than not, so I optimize my gear for Holy and don’t worry too much about how sub-optimal my gear is for Disc. Were the situation
reversed I’d optimize for Disc. If I was the only healing Priest in my guild I’d go for a more middle-of-the-road set.

The strength of the healing Priest has always been their versatility. With LK giving us a second viable PvE healing tree and 3.1 giving us the ability to easily switch between the two we’re more versatile than ever, but with versatility comes the need to know when and how to use which of your wide variety of tools. So don’t be a scrub and do it wrong, because I hate it when other people make my class look bad.


Written By: on June 16, 2010
  1. This post is still making me giggle. You are almost as obnoxious as me.


    On a serious note, I disagree with a few points, such as a reliance on B&S for holy, and not having more than one disc priest in a raid. But I could take up entire posts on those topics, so why steal your thunder?

    Great way to lay out the simple pros & cons. Thanks so much for your post!

    1. Well, part of what inspired me to make this post was the realization that the answer wasn’t always holy when you had a disc in the raid already.

      And I’ll admit I take B&S more for the fun factor than for the raid usefulness, though I think it does come in handy enough to be worth the 2% heal sacrifice.

      1. I totally agree…. besides when wiping to HLK ALL NIGHT LONG… i can run back faster! :)

        1. Fuck that – I’m putting the hunter on follow while I go get another beer.

  2. I <3 Suzu… when I read the intro paragraph i thought Ava wrote it… your humor is quite similar.

    Thanks for the guest post. :)

  3. I’ll have you know I read this entire thing with my hand covering my face, Suzu!

    Good post, but docking 10 for not waxing poetic on the merits of a good Lightwell in every raid. ♥

  4. I want to note how hard it was for me to read this informative and well-articulated post with the image of Suzu singing in vent in my head. Needs more sing-song, imo. And perhaps more cowbell.

    No, but seriously, great post. This is someplace I will likely direct future priests who are looking into healing with both specs or considering which one to spec into.

    My only request would be perhaps more discussion of ways to get middle-of-the-road gearing. For example, I suspect haste would end up being a good stat to gem for, since it’s great for Holy and great for non-bubble-spam Disc, and since you can likely go Holy to be a better raid healer than bubble-spam Disc in a number of fights (infest et. al. excepted), then the fact that you’re wasting itemization for those few encounters is perhaps worth it. But that’s just a first impression.

    1. Well, I didn’t want to derail it into a “how to gem as holy and how to gem as disc” thing, since that’s a little bit outside the scope of the post.

      Were I particularly worried about opitmal disc itemization I’d probably gem crit instead of haste for yellows and maybe even blow off blue socket bonuses entirely since spi is only really good for holy. Or maybe I’d just go 100% red gems in everything. I’d also adjust my BiS list a bit to swap some of those spi/haste pieces (such as the neck and weapon) for spi/crit or crit/haste.

  5. Not knowing a ton about priests myself, other than my spriest I am leveling, as a RL and GM I found this useful in deciding what role I need. I relinked it from my guild’s forums, definitely good info.

  6. COH trivializes infest on 10 man LK if the group stacks up. Its instant and castable on the move. Disc may be better than Holy for 10s, but Holy is no slouch.

    1. I can see that on normal, yeah, since Infest’s top end is 7.4k and CoH hits for about 5k non-crit. On heroic, not so much, since infest hits for 11-13k there.

  7. Being a holy priest since forever, I always devour any new take on Disco priesting, hoping it might eventually show results. I was quite surprised though when you mentioned that disco is better in 5 and 10 mans. I find healing 5 mans much easier as holy, though that might simply be due to my lack of experience with the “lesser” ;) spec (plus the sub-optimal gemming).
    It might be worth trying to heal ICC10 with another disco priest just to compare the results, but I have to admit to some skepticism.
    What I’m going to write next is not meant to offend, since you appear to know what you’re about but I’m genuinely curious:
    Did you actually do an extensive comparison of logs or are the above statements assumptions (about 5 and 10 mans) with superficial log browsing?

  8. I don’t think it’s fair to say that raid heavy fights are where holy pulls away. In fact if you check Kamigami’s WoL parses you’ll see disc ahead in every AoE heavy fight except for Sindy 25 HM.

    Holy will only pull dramatically ahead when raid damage is strong enough to allow PoH to work its magic on 5/5 group members consistently. Speaking anecdotally, even if there’s strong raid damage if I’m going up against a holy I’m still going to be hitting the majority of it (putting up a 10K damage shield and a 2K+ spot heal on a raid member per GCD) and I’ll be doing it a tad haphazardly at times also screwing up PoH hits since you will rarely get a full hit on 5/5.

    I think part of the problem with the perception of disc as raid healers is that not only are we terrible at topping up the raid, we honestly don’t care. Someone sees raid frames with 70% of the raid with a 5-8K health deficit on Val10 and thinks “wow the disc priest is struggling” while in reality the disc priest is cruising along penancing the tank with the larger health deficit spamming bubbles on the GCD on the entire raid, spot healing with Glyph of PW:S and just protecting them from damage while LoTP or JoL or VE or HS or more bubble spam glyphing heals them back up to full eventually.

    The other part of the perception is that some disc priests are just downright terrible and give the rest of us a bad name. Disc priests require you to know your fights and the damage profiles of those fights extraordinarily well, know when you have to go nuts on your bubble spam for raids, know when it’s time to start helping on the tank, react quickly to spot shield dots, react quickly to spot shield potential agro pulls and randomly targeted spells (target of target how I love you especially on Lady Deathwhisper and her frostbolt). This is while all the time keeping a rough eye on the field on some fights so that you can mass dispel competently (glittering sparks I’m looking at you) if necessary.

    One of the things that I personally love and have come to adore as a disc priest is that we have most of the power of a single role biased spec (i.e. holy pally tank healing, or a resto anything) while being able to change our role on a dime. Disc priests who know what they’re doing don’t need assignments. If the pallys are struggling with the third tank they’ll get penance up and keep hammering them with flash keeping up DA and grace, stop for a few seconds to bubble the bone spike targets then go right on back to healing that third tank. Bone whirl starts up and they go full raid bubble spamming stopping idiot DPS from being owned by coldflame. Fester? Bubble spam first two stages, full tank healing with CDs for the third. Bubble spam as much of the raid prior to pungent blight for rapture cheese if you’re a bit low on mana.

    Holy priests are great. I love them. They’re great raid spot healers and make sure I can stay disc but I wouldn’t consider us weaker than holy by any means.

    You are entirely correct in that 2 disc priests are worse than useless trying to work together though. I hate it.

    1. @Catrah

      2 competent disc priests can and do work well together – the key is ‘competent”. They have to understand how to set up their unit frames to see and read each others shields, and communication between them is important. Throwing 2 typical PuG disc priests together, however, probably won’t work well.

      You are correct in disc as a raid healer – played well, they most certainly are not weaker in AoE fights.


      I find I prefer a heavy hasted disc set for healing HICC10, and we always 2 healed it with me as that and a Pally (or a shaman). I fight the preventative with the quick heals most comfortable, and the PI is always a nice touch. Derevk, however, prefers to go as holy and pairs with a holy pally. I’m hesitant to say one is better than the other – it comes down to your style and raid make up.


      Crit starts to lose it’s direct effectivity once you pass 40% or so – I’m not a bubble monkey so I favor haste for the pure thruput. Some people stack the crap out of red gems, but with TOO much, you start to affect your rapture abilities.

  9. Lightwell is not a minus. >.> Your DPS not knowing how the fuck to use it is the minus.

    1. In it’s current form, it is a minus. Currently it’s on the GCD, and on tight DPS progression fights, it’s not feasible to ask them to stop and click something. Most everything at this point is trivialized by over gearing and ICC buff, so it doesn’t seem like an issue – but it is. Try dropping it during H LK progression if you’re doing that and see if it gets used.

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