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!