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Priesting Discipline or HolyOur Healing Duality

One of the things that Avalonna and myself have always said is that we are not “Disc Priests” or “Holy Priests” we are “Healing Priests”. What this means is, of course, we both play both specs regularly. However, the biggest part of this is that we have the flexibility to play both at will, when the fight commands it. Certain fights have components that will ‘favor’ one spec over the other; lets discuss what you need to keep in mind when deciding when you’ll want one over the other.

Many priests have both specs, and play both specs- what I aim to discuss here is the questions and considerations you should be making when you decide to play one spec over the other for certain encounters.

Healing vs Mitigation

Healing and Mitigation are clearly the biggest differences between the two specs: Bubbles vs Raw Healing. With Power Word: Sheild being substantially buffed in 4.0.6 it has the arguable potential of being the strongest spec of the two, right? … MAYBE.  You need to evaluate the fight and how the damage is coming in to really understand and decide which spec you could play for this fight– more importantly: what spells and healing strategy to use during certain parts of a fight.  For example, Power Word: Shield is handy during the burn phase of Heroic: Chimaeron since Shields are not subject to the healing negation in that phase. Bubble spamming (and POH/DA applications) in that final phase can sometimes buy your DPS an HP buffer that will give your raid enough time to burn him down.

Let’s use a Boss that, I assume, most of us have encountered at least on Normal Mode: The Conclave of Wind…

Each of the 3 Djinn’s have a special ability when they reach full power.  Rohash, for example, has Hurricane which picks you up in the air and deals significant damage to everyone on his platform and allows for pre-emptive PW: Shielding making the ‘ultimate ability’ much less of a worry. On top of that, Atonement healing any melee who are dpsing him is a cakewalk! Conversely, Nezir, is easily managed by a Holy Priest since his ultimate ability is Sleet Storm and has massive burst damage AOE. During Sleet Storm, a prepared Holy Priest can burst AOE Heal through with POH, COH, POM, and Sanctuary cooldowns.

“BUT DEREKVA!!! You could, as Holy, pre-hot the raid as you get picked up for Hurricane and use POM & COH on CD while a Disc Priest can use Barrier and Borrowed Time POH’s during Sleet Storm.”

Yes! Exactly! The question you need to ask yourself is how do I use my abilities in the damage that is coming? Both spec’s bring their own strengths and weaknesses in this department– the key is to be certain you know how to play that spec to your advantage with the toolbox available to you for that encounter.


Both Discipline and Holy bring great cooldowns to the raid: Power Word: Barrier, Lightwell, Guardian Spirit, and Pain Suppression. The key here is to understand the differences between the two, and when they are best utilized.

Pain Suppression vs Guardian Spirit - While both are great, and very strong cooldowns they are NOT interchangable. One prevents a killing blow and provides a healing bonus, while the other reduces incoming damage. GS can be more reactive, while PS is more proactive. Tossing Pain Suppression on a tank with 2% HP will not save them, while GS would. However, PS will minimize incoming damage over time; and works best when you know incoming damage will be coming steadily. Yes, both cooldowns can be placed pre-emptively and can/will save a tank, but it is very important to know that they are not interchangable.

Power Word: Barrier - Nearly every fight has some sort of mechanic that results is massive amounts of raid wide damage. Barrier, and subsequently the Glyph of PW: Barrier, can often time make or break a fight– Fued during Chimaeron, Maloriak’s breath during the Red Phase, Furious Roar on Halfus, High Sound Modulation on Atramedes… these are all great applications of Barrier. If your guild is struggling during those moments to either survive the damage or the added +healing bonus when your raid is healing up the damage.

Body and Soul -  Aside form being able to levitate/sprint from Blackwing’s elevator all the way to Atramedes room, Body and Soul is a great utility spell you can use in a number of encounters. I always try to Body and Soul targets that need to move to specific positions in strategy. (Ascendant Council’s Lightning Rod and Atramedes Targeting kiting come to mind). Here is something you can actively do, as holy, to assist your raidmates in their strategy mechanics– especially if you are having difficulty with these mechanics.


It is a game. Remember that.

If you really hate Disc or hate Holy– don’t play that spec.

My previous statement about Healing vs Mitigation really is a red herring when it comes to what spec you should play– and I do apologize for kind of tricking you and leading you down the path that one is superior to the other earlier in this post (/cackle). The biggest factor into what spec you should play is: what do you enjoy playing the most? Both specs are viable in every encounter. Sure there will be minor benefits to one over the other, particularly in regards to Cooldowns and Utility. (e.g. +damage modifiers lending to Atonement healing – Halfus, or PW: Barrier mitigating massive amounts of damage to your entire raid, or COH smartly healing your raid in burst damage situations, or Echo of Light providing healthy throughput to your POHs in big AOE damage fights…)

Having 2 healing specs is a duality of priests that, as healers, we need to deal with. Discipline and Holy, while healing twins,  bring very different playstyles and utility to our raids and we do have to pick what spec you want to play every fight. Just remember to use your healing toolbox to its maximum potential, know the fight, know the damage, know the mechanics, and know your spells!

Written By: on February 15, 2011
  1. The only problem that I have seen with this is that guilds are very firm about what role you fill in a raid. You can even see it in their recruitment posts. They’re looking for a discipline priest or a holy priest and if they recruit you to be that, there’s a good chance they will ask you to perform that role full-time. I haven’t been in too many guilds (and trust me, I’ve been in quite a few) where a healer or even a DPS was asked to swap regularly for one or the other.

    I’m not saying that you’re wrong in feeling that priests should have a duality to them, but they also can’t help it if their raid expects them to be the very thing they were recruited to be. Maybe that’s a sign of a close minded raid leader or something like that. I’m not too sure.

    1. O- youre right. However, when it comes to making a ‘mainspec’ choice, you do have to make certain descisions. I.E. Right now, Disc has nearly a 1:1 point value for Mastery as it does Int. While Holy, has a higher need to balance, Mastery, Spirit, and Haste. When it comes to gearing/gemming choices, you do have to make a few descisions making your gear optimized for one over the other.

      1. Our guild actually swaps a lot (both specs and roles). We run a 29-man roster, and for that to work effectively, we make heavy use of multiple specs for the majority of our players.

        For our priests, as we’re into Heroics now, we’re getting deeper into, do we want a spriest to go Disc, do we keep 1 holy, 1 disc, or have 2 holy go disc – then, out of those discs, how many go AA and how do we adjust healing assignments? Our healing strategy has become much more complex and we spend a lot more time on it than we did in the past.

        As far as optimizing gear, I have my set pieces all gemmed/enchanted/reforged for disc, then use the non-set pieces to swap out to meet the reqs for both specs. It’s actually not too difficult to manage.. although definitely much easier the smaller the team is, as our gear doesn’t spread out across so many folks.

        I love reading stuff like this, as it is one thing that’s been very difficult for us to find good discussion on.

        Since we are unusual in our heavy multiple spec use most strat discussions revolve around working out a strat with the specific healers a raid team has.. where with ours we have a ton to choose from (our shammies, druids and pallies all switch between heals and dps too) and can tailor the healer choice to a strat instead of the other way around.

  2. The way I like to think of PS v. GS is… Do you need to reduce damage for a period of time or for one incoming attack? If the ability you’re cooldown-ing through is a channel, dot, or a bunch of successive blows, PS works wonderfully. If the ability is one HUGE blow of damage, GS is amazing. They can be swapped, but each has a specialty, just like all the things the D man pointed out for disc and holy.


  3. Whilst I enjoyed the use of both specs during our adventure in normal modes. I’m finding that now we are moving into heroics the mitigation provided by PW:B has meant that having 2 disc priests has become part of our ‘key’ set up. Leaving our Holy(/shadow) priest sat benched on a good deal of progress nights.

    Perhaps it is simply that we’ve started with barrier favourable encounters (Halfus, Chim and Maloriak – and now working on Atramedes) and that we’ll see more use of holy specs during other fights. I really hope this is the case. Disc has always been my ‘mainspec’ but I miss spamming my lightwell macro ^~

  4. Personally, after playing disc again for the first time in months, the only thing the turns me away from going back to Holy is Chakra. I liked all the instants, lightwell and B & S were some of my favorite talents in the game, but there was just something about chakra. Maybe it’s me, but I feel like having to “stance dance” with chakra seems bulky and outdated.

  5. Would love to see a post explaining what your preference is (disc or holy)for each of the 12 Cata bosses and why.

  6. What about reforging of stats? you might be able to play holy today disc tomorrow but if ur stats are pinpoint calculated for one spec… changing to the other might not work as well?

  7. Would AA work on Chimaeron[10]?

    We run with a hPala rDruid and me (holy MS / disc(AA) OS).
    If the paladin beacons the tank and focus on the 10k. Druid on tank (I can assist with pennance/GH/PW:S). And I can smite. With the ‘smart’ targeting and the range in 10 man atonement should help with healing up to 10k.

    And when Finkles buff is down I can pop archangel / PI / PW:barrier / Divine Hymn.

    I’m usually holy. More in control of my heals and great HPS on my AoE when we need to top the raid.

    1. I gave atonement a go when we first tried this fight, after a couple of tries just found it too rng reliant.

      For Caustic Slime found that just keeping very strict healing assignments was best solution, for 10 man that is 4 each for 2 healers each and an agreement if 2 targetted in one healers group, which the other healer would heal first. Heal is the most suited spell, if I am targetted I just cast Binding Heal on the other player. One healer can easily handle tanks, I have done it as Disc, even easier for a Pally.

      Goes without saying that PoH is your friend for Massacre, watch the timer and precast, same goes for when Finkles buff is down, Archangel and PI are great for this, one cd per phase is sufficient, so with PW: Barrier and Divine Hymn you can cover 2 of them as disc. I always use Barrier first and cast again at start of burn phase

    2. I dont think AA would work too well on chim because its not necessarily going to heal who is slimed depending on when your smite hits the target.

      I don’t know about 10 man, but I find it pretty easy to have raid icon assignments for healers in 25man and just focusing on each healer healing their raid icon each time slimes go out, that way you save as much mana as possible, and you need it all to heal the stack phases.

      As a holy priest it wouldn’t be too hard to go serenity and hw:s the slimed target for really really cheap heals and then flash the target if you don’t have it up.

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