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A 4.0 & Cataclysm Disc Update

As promised, now that Ava is retired, Tales of a Priest continues on with coverage of both priest healing specs… I even included a gratuitous horror movie reference! That being said,  I spent some quality time on the beta last week, and I had the chance to join a couple of 10 mans/25 mans to do some raid testing — time to see this stuff in action! Overall, I was fairly unimpressed with how Disc handled in that beta build, however, there is good news! The build that dropped earlier this weekhas some great improvements to the Disc tree, and I feel they actually play to Discipline’s advantage and after testing those same encounters again I was pleased to see that Discipline was working better than the previous week after diving back into those same 10/25 mans.

First and foremost, there seems to be an undocumented change for Archangel that I’ve yet to see posted by a Blue or on World of Raids/MMO-C in the beta builds. Was this a stealth/undocumented change or is this simply a bug? Given the number of other mana restorative talents that have been nerfed, I am betting that this one was intentional but just accidentally overlooked in patch notes.

Triggering Archangel only restores 1% of your mana per stack (down from 3%). The most you can restore is 5% of your mana (down from 15%). This means, even fully Evangelism stacked (in full T11), you are operating at a net loss. (Of course the restore will scale as your mana pool increases, while the smite cost stays the same- but a nerf none the less). ZOMG! WTF BLIZZ?! Nerfing our mana!? CMON!?!?!

Wait… let’s not be too hasty here. Let’s stop and take a look at this.

The main purpose of popping your Evangelism stacks is to allow you to kick up your raw healing— when you need to actually heal and not PW:S or Smite-heal through Atonement. This is further supported by the fact that Archangel has a modest cooldown: only 30 seconds. Archangel’s cooldown is not so long that it is restrictive, but it is long enough to force you to THINK before you mash your Archangel keybind instead of just triggering it as soon as you hit 5 stacks. You should be asking yourself: “Am I going to need to switch to Flash Heal/GHeal/Penance/PoH/etc, now?” If the answer is “yes”, then you probably should trigger Archangel. “Think before you press a button” is the mantra that is Cataclysm– get used to it.

But Derevka!!! If that is the case, why have it restore any mana at all?

The mana restoration is the “quid pro quo, Clarice”. It is what you get in exchange for having only the “smart healing” component of Atonement. Smiting will allow you to essentially heal for the same amount as a regular Heal – you just give up your targeting abilities of who is getting that heal. The mana return that Archangel provides is the “give back” for not being able to select your targets.

Smite-to-heal is a great concept. However, in practice, I found the healing that Atonement provided very unpredictable. One of the first things you need to be comfortable with in Cataclysm is: SEEING RAID MEMBERS NOT AT 100% HP T ALL TIMES. As a result of sub 100% HP raid members, this does affect how Atonement will act since it will heal targets that you might not have wanted it to select. (ie. a melee and not the MT) Remember, if you NEED the tank to be healed… heal the damn tank. Don’t just spam Smite and hope Atonement selects your tank– be smart with your spell selection. For me, I am still not overly excited about Atonement healing, and am strongly considering skipping AA and getting more throughput/survivability talents instead. (eg. Inner Sanctum, Inspiration, Darkness.)

I did create a Power Aura for Evangelism/Archangel with is available on the new Power Auras page here! Check it out!

Grace received a buff as well. Grace’s bonus healing was doubled to 4%/8%, allowing the Discipline Priest added bonuses when we focus direct healing on a single target. Will this be enough to increase Disc’s throughput to be a Primary Tank healer? Maybe… However, many Disc specs wind up skipping Inspiration for capping off all the other Disc throughput toys… you might see Disc’s with a tough question to ask themselves: “What do I give up for Inspiration?”.

Finally, the latest build also really augmented Disc’s raid healing.

1. Prayer of Healing’s base healing is increased by 20%

2. Divine Aegis now procs from all PoH Heals

The Divine Aegis/POH guarantee is a huge buff to Discipline raid healing. Disc priests no longer have to crit with POH to apply DA. This immediately provides a 30% throughput increase to POH by automatically DAing those targets. Discipline was missing something like this as Disc’s raid healing was phenomenally weak, especially since Raid Bubbling isn’t viable with Cataclysm’s mana conservation theme. I know I am already reveling in Borrowed Time -> POH healing. (remember POH has had its base cast time reduced in an earlier patch)

Couple the improvements to Disc’s POH healing with the change to Power Word: Barrier, and you’ll start seeing Disc being able to be a fantastic raid stabilizing healer. Barrier has lost the “X Damage absorption” effect and is now a 30% Pain Suppression for 10 seconds for all those who stay under the Barrier. (Reminds me of Divine Guardian). In a Twitter conversation with Suzushiiro, he brought up a good point and speculation: Will this be restricted like Death Knight’s AMZ? If not, you could see Priests using this as an additional tank CD and not as a true ‘Raid CD’.

Overall, I think Disc is still a bit weaker than it should be – I think PW: Shield is a bit under-tuned. (even when you weigh in Mastery) However, I do understand the need to keep PW:S where it is: if they buff it too much it reinforces the “bubble monkey” role. We cannot allow Disc to get back to the mindless PW:S spam. It is a great spec, and has a lot of potential especially with all the changes that have been introduced to Disc over the last few patches. These changes are allowing Discipline a chance to shine, however, it is ultimately up to the player to decide when to press what button. Discipline, especially in late Wrath of the Lich King, was just one button healing… these changes really have brought back many spells into Disc’s arsenal.

I still think I’ll be playing Holy primarily, as I am really having a lot of fun with the two Chakra states, but I need to do some more Raid Testing with the new build to really decide my preferred healing spec– I do think Discipline needs a bit more throughput to be where it should be.

What do other people think of these new changes? Is it enough?

Written By: on November 13, 2010
  1. Thanks Derevka!
    How interesting that we will be doing Borrowed Time POHs again!
    So you think we will have to “wait for it” instead of being impatient and immediately consuming the Evangelism stacks in Cata, huh. Do there seem to be moments where this seems to be the game plan?
    I am guessing A) with big inc. tank damage or B) anticipated raid damage
    I will be checking back to see how you feel about dropping the E/Aa talents for the throughput talents you mentioned.
    Thanks for taking over the Disc side of things. I am looking forward to reading about all your discoveries :)

  2. Thanks for always updating us with the newest info from Beta! The nerf to Archangel definitely made me wrinkle my nose… Especially when it’s the core talents of a certain spec. -To Smite or Not To Smite-. And quite a few talent points are gobbled up in order to have this spec… though I’m glad the healing buff is still 3% for each stack…

    Hopefully by the time Cataclysm drops Disc Priests won’t be second-rate tank healers. I’d really like to see them have the strength and power to compete with our pink tank healing friends. Who knows!

    Ahhh… I cackle in manic delight at the DA/PoH idea. I’m definitely looking forward to that.

    And, of course, perfectly placed Hannibal quote. ^.^

  3. Keep in mind that Evangelism also lowers the mana cost of Penance by about 800 mana at full stacks. It’s actually better HPM with 5 stacks of Evangelism than with the 15% throughput boost of Archangel.

    So you don’t have to ONLY cast Smite or PW:S while your stacks are up. Penance at full Evangelism stacks is a very efficient option in low throughput situations.

    Plus continuing to Smite at full stacks is still roughly equivalent mana-wise to Heal, and it lowers the cooldown on Penance.

    I find myself being able to wait until the health bars really start dropping before I hit that big gold button. I’m having a lot of fun on the beta with the added complexity.

    1. Yep! Exactly– we now have so much of our toolbox open to us now! :)

      One of the great things about Disc in 4.0.X is that Disc finally has more buttons to press… its not just this mindless 1-2 button monotony that its been for the last several months.

      With 5 Evangelism stacks the Healing Per Mana yes, is solid with Penance… but that is just pure Penance efficiency… not raw healing done and HPS. Let’s not discount the importance of HPS at the cost of good with HPM. I see popping AA for the needed burst, not just sitting at 5/5 Evangelism for the HPS bonus of Penance.

      I still firmly stand by my stance that I am not a huge fan of Smite healing— conceptually its great, I really want to like it. I’d much rather like to see Atonement smite:heal conversion nerfed, but allow it to heal your Grace’d target. The minimal control over what Atonement heals is a huge “give up” in my eyes.

      1. I didn’t mean to imply that was the only time you should use Penance. There’s definitely a tradeoff between efficiency and throughput, not just with Penance and Evangelism/Archangel, but also with Flash Heal and Greater Heal as well.

        I think when Atonement was first introduced, it healed for a fair amount more than Heal did at the time. I think that was the reasoning behind the randomness tradeoff. With the recent buff to Grace, however, that’s no longer the case. So it will be interesting to see if Atonement sees a bump in throughput as well. It’s still a slightly faster cast than Heal at the moment as well.

        Personally, I’ve never felt like the smart-heal aspect was a hindrance. I typically use Smite healing in low pressure situations anyway, so who I’m healing isn’t quite as important when everyone’s mostly topped off. Although I can see how it might annoy some people.

        And it makes fights like Halfus Wyrmbreaker (where the boss takes additional damage) a cakewalk. Heal for Greater Heal amounts for less than half the mana cost? Yes please :)

  4. how is no one talking about the very annoying bug with Disc atm, where shields get a 2nd cooldown after the GCD, with bad latency (aka anyone in australia) this adds 250ms+ when casting shield..

    1. Are you sure that’s not because of the 4.0 change to Soul Warding? When they lowered the ranks on the talent they left a bare minimum of a 1 second cooldown on PW:S. So if you’re GCD is lower than 1 second, this could be the “lag” you’re seeing.

      1. I hope I don’t sound stupid, but wouldn’t that still be a bug? I’m suppose to be at the soft haste cap with 2/3 Darkness, Borrowed Time, and the 5% haste buff (I have 755 haste) but I can actually see my PW:S only become usable after every other ability I have becomes usable. It’s extremely frustrating trying to bubble spam on H-Lk and constantly being told “that ability is not ready yet” when everything tells me it should be.

  5. Yeah, im not sure of this bug you’re talking about. If you are capped from haste and have high latency well, then that’s not really a bug.

    The haste cap for minimizing your cd for pws spam (Ie LK bubbling) is easier and easier to get to with reforging and darkness available to us.

    Or maybe I’m not understanding the issue you’re having- but I don’t know where this added 1 second is coming from. :-/

  6. Thanks! great post.

  7. PW:Shield has a 3 second cooldown by default, right? The patch 4.0 version of Soul Warding (which lowers the cooldown by 1 second per rank) has two ranks instead of three like it used to. That leaves PW:Shield with a guaranteed 1 second cooldown, even if your GCD is less than 1 second at the haste cap. That should account for the “lag” you see between your GCD finishing and the time you can cast PW:Shield again.

    1. Correct, but that is why it’s so easy to GCD cap PW:S now. You can cap PWS at a 1 sec global, so the CD sync’s with the global. (remember base GCD is 1.5 sec, so we’ll need to get down to 1 sec)

      We have the 5% haste auras, Darkness, and reforging as your friends to getting to the 1 sec bubble cap.

      I think the biggest issue here is the latency concerns, not GCD capping… which is his biggest issue, just compounded by the new spell queuing system— getting under a 1 sec GCD should/could assist in that for higher latency players, yes.

      1. Except that it doesn’t sync. I’m suppose to be at the soft haste cap. You know that little clock hand that ticks around when you use an ability? It gets about 1/4 of the way through on PW:S and then resets, so I can see that it’s not synced with the GCD on every other ability on my bars. I don’t know if that’s technically a bug but I don’t think it should work like that.

        1. Put another way since I don’t think I’m getting my point across, the little Quartz spark that signifies the GCD? I can use every ability (that’s not on CD obviously) when that completes *except PW:S* which is precisely the reason I’m at 755 haste in the first place.

      2. I also experience this, and is one of the most annoying changes i’ve had to deal with as a priest. Really, I’ve spent 2 talent points to effectively “remove” the cooldown by reducing it to 1 sec which should match the GCD, the fact that latency is now a cause of this to be a variable cooldown, is extremely frustrating when you need to shoot off a couple of shields on dps, and one fails due to this issue.

  8. I’ve been playing holy, but I’ve heard this bug described as “pw:s cooldown triggers server side instead of at your computer, so you get 1 second plus double your latency as a cooldown”. Other spells are available after your global cooldown.

  9. I too have noticed the PW:S ‘spell is not ready yet’ message on LK heroic, when i need to spam then around its extremely annoying i end up mashing the keybind !

    That said i recently installed ‘leatrix latency fix’ and i no longer have latency issues at all, a steady 35ms throughout down from 200ms.

    Also i thought the GCD was 1.5 seconds now by default, obviously u can lower this with haste but im sure ive read a blue on this issue.

    For lvl 85 i intend to max out Darkness and maby even veiled shadows – haste and mana we will need lots of !

  10. And 2/3 darkness and 5% raid buff?

    I’ve yet to experience this added CD, so I’m struggling to fully grasp it.

  11. I have noticed the same delay on PW:S even though I’m at the haste soft cap. I really think there was something done server side that is causing the delay. I suspect it is the new ability queue.

    I haven’t tested this much on other instants like others say they have. But it is interesting that Blizzard has come up with a lot of .5 sec removal abilities. I.E. Rapid Renewal for the Renew spell, and Glyph of Holy Nova to remove .5 seconds off that spell. I suspect Blizzard knows about this issue hence the fixes to a few of the instants that might be rapidly cast.

    I guess we need a talent in the disc tree called Rapid Shielding. :)

  12. I really am enjoying the changes Disc is getting so far, but one talent I think needs addressing is Strength of Soul. It needs more spells incorporated into it, as of right now with slow Heal cast times, you can’t reduce WS on more than one target in any effective manor. Obviously no one wants to go back to PW:S spam, but if we had penance and possibly ProM each reduce the duration by 2sec it would make Disc even more dynamic

  13. I have experienced ……er, I HEARD of people experiencing the server side lag issues. It is annoying. So I’ve heard >.>

    @Spanks I’m speculating that the point of SoS IS for one target. I don’t see a two second reduction being extremely useful on multiple targets ie a raid coverage scenario. However, a tank being spanked, a removal of two seconds to reapply a shield could be a huge difference. I know the arguement will come down to: “Why should I cast heal when I can cast Gheal in the same time?” To that, I think will come back to Blizzard pushing mana management and choosing the proper tools for the job. I don’t think it makes much sense they’re the same cast time, but again…this is all speculation and we’ll see at 85 I guess.

    One thing I’ve been playing with…errr, HEARD about is a 3/3MA +2/2 renew + 3/3 darkness. Not really practical for a heroic raid, but pretty nice is you’re grinding for JP (which carry over to 85 BTW) or just want another tool in a bubble monkey arsenal.

    And props to Derevka for having actually seen Silence of the Lambs

    1. I thought about it for a while, and I do think your right in how limited SoS would be in a raid coverage situation even with added spells. That being said, it would be awesome if they did this. Sure it wouldn’t be the most awesome change ever, but I could see those decreases in time adding up.

      Speaking of renew, I’ve found myself using it as a filler on Live, but do you think Disc will use it much in Cata?

      1. I think Renew is actually pretty awesome for Disc as a filler spell, instant cast, Ideal to stick on a DPS quickly if you need a little time to Heal up the tank.
        The DA procs alone make Renew viable for Disc to start using.

        Thinking about something else.. Prime Glyphs… PW:S Glyph has ALWAYS been the goto Glyph of choice for Disc. Whilst I can see the benefit of this when Tank healing in Cata, I am thinking of going PW:B>Renew>PoH as Prime Glyphs for raid healing.
        I know the PW:S glyph heal can crit but its DA proc is next to nothing in comparisson to a 100k plus health pool…what do u think ??

  14. I’m not sure how much raiding you have done on the beta, but is there any way you can comment on how holy priests are doing number wise versus other healers? I’ve been reading some concerns on the forums and would like to get a first hand opinion from someone who is more intelligible than the average bear.

    Thanks.

  15. @ Nemockulous

    Let me start by saying I just hit 85 several nights ago and am sporting an item level average around 320 so I am barely raid worthy, but according to Blizz I am heroic worthy. I attempted to heal as disc and was appalled at the cost of mana vs. the amount of mana I have for spells. Not going OOM during boss fights was literally impossible. I was told “Switch to holy, disc is totally broken right now!” So I switched, and sadly even though I conserve and become downright picky about healing (or not healing) party members, I am still finding myself completely oom. Is anyone else having this issue?

    Believe me, I am not a mana hog, I conserve where I can, pop my Shadowfiend (which seems to now give me a feeble amount compared to my 80k pool). I played Disc in wrath, became very excellent, got my Light of Dawn, so it’s not like I don’t know how to heal, but I am at a loss… Is anyone else experiencing this with the priest holy or disc?

  16. There will be updates shortly post cata this week and next (several posts).

    Long story short:

    Remember: so much of Disc in Cata is going to be healing based, and not just PW:S. But Heals can crit, which in turn provides DA’s. That being said…… Currently Crit levels are too low to reliably create DA’s on our targets. (Also remember DA is affected by mastery, and with Crit being low it makes mastery valued less– and since so much of the dungeon items are mastery laden…. /wrists).

    Think of it like this: Fire Mages can do some AMAZING DPS, however are heavily reliant on Crit to proc Pyros for them.

    Disc will be fine, and it is viable… it just is gear dependent at the moment.

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