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Priest Healing FirelandsTier 12 - A Recap and Lookback

I’ve always been a supporter of looking back at previous teirs and figuring out what we can learn form that. (Not too dissimilar from what George Santayana said in his work The Life of Reason, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”) With that said, this post is similarly inspired by Vixsin’s post “Resto Shaman Lessons from Tier 12″.

In this post, lets go over each of the seven bosses in Firelands (Normal and Heroic) and recap some of the mechanics and how our toolkit worked well (or not) for the fight. Knowing our weaknesses and strengths will be critical in knowing how to approach Dragon Soul in 4.3. Firelands was a very tricky tier for us priests, but ultimately we fared very well.

Tier Mechanic & Toolkit Recap

- A lot of this tier incorporated grouping up, which allowed for ease of use with our PW: Barriers, HW: Sanctuaries, and POH Range.
- Divine Aegis buffed by 30% with the introduction of 100% Critical Heal bonuses.
- Gear itemization had both Haste and Mastery “tracks”.
- Multiple fights with +damage modifiers which lend well to Atonement healing.

- Non-Tier spirit gear was hard to come by and favored Disc over Holy due to its heavier reliance on spirit for regen. (Holy Concentration)
- Holy’s primary regen stat providing 0 throughput (Spirit) while Disc’s stat (int) scales exceptionally well causing Holy throughput to lag behind.
- Divine Hymn’s mana cost to output being outweighed by pure POH spam.

Boss Recap

Overall this was a fairly easy encounter on both normal and heroic. For the most part, pretty straight forward – tanks taking predictable damage that increases depending on how certain mechanics of the fight are handled, periodic AOE damage, and random burst damage on select raid members. This fight was a great opportunity for Disc and Holy to shine. Holy did well due to its ability to burst heal the AOE damage (not to mention increased mobility via COH), and Disc did well both as a Raid healer (Clutch Power Word: Shield on the Face Rage targets) and as a tank healer. (Our first HM Kill (1st night available) we wound up using both Pain Suppression and PW:Barrier as tank cooldowns. )

This fight was one of our first tests in this tier. You had to be able to (downstairs) quickly heal your soak targets, stabilize your raid when the acid rain was falling, all while maintaining a healthy level of mana for the burn phase. We lucked out given that an early Shadowfiend meant that it would be up again during the Phase 2 burn phase. Phase 2 worked well to our advantage since grouping up kept everyone in range of Prayer of Healing, HW: Sanctuary, Hymns, Barrier and COH. This allowed priests to push through the damage as she pulsed it out to the entire raid. With a solid group up strategy, you could reliably use Prayer of Healing

Lord Rhyolith
Atonement worked exceptionally well on this fight, especially if you were tasked to heal the Spark Tank. Since the Sparks took increased amounts of damage the longer they stayed alive, your Smite:Healing ratios stayed in step and allowed for you to keep mana levels healthy during the burn phase. Rhyo had several changes to him through the tier, the most substantial being his knock-up when he stomped being removed; this dramatically affected his difficulty since it didnt interrupt casting and allowed burn-phase positioning to be much more forgiving. Rhyo was a bit of a pain week to week as he was littered with bugs the first several weeks, managing sharp turns was a learning curve (and buggy); but after a couple of repeat HM kills he became one of the easier farm bosses for us.  Holy Priests did well given the AOE nature of the damage in much of the fight, as well as the ability to use COH on the move when running from Lava Lines. Disc, as previously mentioned,were exceptionally great Spark Tank healers and grouping up to PW: Barrier Phase 2 Stomps was very helpful.

The mantra for this fight is DON’T STAND IN THE FIRE! Between the Brushfires and the Worms breathing fire and the Flame Tornados there is a lot of fire to dodge on this fight. Luckily, as a healer you should have been prioritized to have at least one feather on this fight, enabling you to be able to cast while moving. The amount of damage going out on this fight should be minimal on non-tanks (provided people are avoiding fire and interrupting Feiroblast), but substantial on the tanks. As a priest being able to alternate using your cooldown (PS/GS) and the tank’s cooldown with the Hatchling’s Tantrum was an important part of managing this fight. If you were Archangel spec’d timing your wings with Tantrum was another tool at your disposal. Since damaging her when she crashes restored mana, being inefficient in the first phase was doable, and more than a few times I used Strength of Soul/Flash Heal/PWS spam to protect the tanks. With the ability to cast while moving during the Tornado phase, you could use Divine Hymn while dodging to top of those who might be low (or bad at Tornado-Frogger). When Alysrazor recharges and starts doing her AOE, Barrier and HW: Sanctuary should be used. I really enjoyed this fight as a priest and felt that our toolkit was built to excel here.

Baleroc, the Gatekeeper
A Disc priests dream. There is a reason that all the top parses on this fight are done by disc priests: Strength of Soul and Power Word: Shield. Both on Normal and Heroic modes, this fight was built for Discipline. Most strategies relied heavily on 2 (on 25 man)Disc Priests stacking their Spark buffs, and then utilizing PW:S (a 0 overheal spell) and Strength of Soul (via regular Heal spam) to protect the tank from the massive amounts of damage Baleroc could deal. From a design standpoint it really was an interesting fight. At it’s core the fight was meant to have Baleroc’s damage ramp up as the fight went along, but included a mechanic for healers to increase their output to stay in step. On Heroic this fight was one of the more difficult fights of the tier. (especially pre-nerf given his swing timer and buff/debuff timers on the healers). The reason why I like this fight so much (aside from BIG NUMBERS) is that the fight is exceptionally dynamic (on Heroic). Throughout the fight the Countdown mechanic could dramatically affect the next 60 seconds of the fight– either by Tormenting your next soak target, or Tormenting a Healer. This forced guilds to adapt on the fly and manage these changes very quickly. If guilds failed to do so, Torment could spread quickly through the raid, a shard soaker could be missed, or too many healers could have had their output reduced and the fight would be over. Adapt and survive.

Now, I totally agree that Disc is a favored on this fight… however, Holy isn’t worthless. Our first kill had a Holy Priest in raid. Guardian Spirit, (unlike PS) works against Decimation Blades, as such using that can help keep your tank alive through D.Blades. It is important to state that our first kill’s Holy Priest ranked 2nd in the world— not that he isn’t a good player, but the population of Holy Priests on that fight is very small on that fight.

Majordomo Staghelm
This fight is arguably the most different when transitioning Normal to Heroic of all the fights in this tier. With the introduction of Concentration it dramatically affected most strategies– particularly ones that involved soaking Scorpion Form cleaves. As a priest you could use Concentration 2 different ways… 1. Since the healers were buffed, and nearly all the non-tank damage was avoidable, many strategies ran this fight with as little as 3 healers. 2. Any fight with a +damage modifier is a fight that Atonement Priests love. In this example, Atonement heals double dipped. (+damage to Smite and then +healing to Atonement… win/win!). Additionally, with a Disc priest in the raid, you could Power Infuse 100% concentration targets and let them blow up Staghelm.

I have mixed emotions about this fight. After downing him on Heroic mode, looking back at the number of pulls we did both pre and post-nerf; you have to ask yourself “Was he overtuned?”. Consider this, 4.3 is literally just around the corner and as of 10/31/11 only 87 guilds have killed HM Rag on 25-Man in the US. Regardless if you think he is overtuned or not, HM Rag is one of the most difficult bosses we have ever faced in the game– and as masochistic as this sounds; I really enjoyed him. Healers really had a difficult time on this fight especially considering the fact that guilds were pretty much forced to run 3-5 healers. Disc Priests struggled as raid healers on this fight given the spread out nature of the fight, the RNG aspect of burst damage during Son’s phases  as well as the lulls in damage that provided time to top off your raid, making most Divine Aegis shields useless. Disc tank healing, however, was very beneficial. It allowed for high uptime of Inspiration on the tanks, as well as additional Tank Cooldowns for several times during the fight. Not to mention the importance of timing Power Infusions on key players to push past critical checkpoints in the phase transitions -  yeah, 1 meteor! Holy, on the other hand, did much better as a raid healer on this fight. Higher healing mobility allowed for quick COH snaps during Seed Kiting runs, as well as the opportune HW: Sanctuary to assist in topping the raid off after a Seed explosion.

4.3 and Beyond

As far as expectations in 4.3; the throughput issues that Holy had throughout T12 seem to be addressed with the improvement of Divine Hymn via the new talent, Heavenly Voice and with the improvements (and bug fixes FIXES) to the Holy Word spells. With my time on the PTR in dungeons, these 2 changes have notably increased Holy’s output. Until we get more PTR Raid Testing time (and see it in a 25 man raid), we need to just ‘hurry up and wait’ to see how much this increase will augment Holy’s toolkit— I, for one, am very hopeful that these changes will provide some much needed throughput in a 25 man setting.

Disc in 4.3 won’t see much change at all. Disc will continue to be a very versatile healer– both as a Raid Healer and a potent Tank Healer. The trick for Disc Tank Healing is to continue to educate Healing Leads and Guild Management the importance, viability, and arguable need for a Disc Tank Healer in 25 Man Raids. So many guilds still favor Paladins, which I attribute to tier after tier and patch after patch where pallies are the only ‘real’ tank healing option. (In fact, our first HM Ragnaros kill had zero Holy Paladins).

I would be completely remiss not to acknowledge one of the biggest follies from T12: the number of healers that were required from fight to fight. This was a huge error in Blizzards court. With fights ranging from 7 to 3 healers in a 25 man setting, it made creating your roster a literal nightmare. 4.3 better damn well have a more consistent healing requirement. I urge folks to take a gander at Beru’s post on this issue, as frankly, she hit the nail on the head and I couldn’t have said it better.

How are you all handling the current content and what do you expect in 4.3? What has this tier taught you? What have you learned to become a better healer?

I am, however, going to end this post with a personal favor to ask of everyone. With Tales now re-opened, help me get the word out: let your fellow priests and healers know that I’m back!


Written By: on October 31, 2011
  1. Thanks for comming back, and right on time. My guild had me switch back to my priest (disc) after we downed 25n Rags and lost a few healers.(and Im happy to be back on my priest) I was on my Hpally but it never felt the same as Disc. We need a voice after Kena and Dawn have other things going.

  2. I just want to note three things:

    1. Hooray for this being back!

    2. Holy buffs should make them a more viable raid healer, of course. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out, and to see if holy can, indeed, “win meters” like druids do (or close to), and whether this will gravitate stat priorities in general toward haste or mastery (I would probably lean toward haste due to Divine Hymn scaling, if nothing else).

    3. I only did Shannox before I cancelled my sub in July. But, holy actually makes for a really strong Riplimb tank healer, and doubly so if that tank is a warrior, due to Body and Soul – both from Power Word: Shield and Leap of Faith – in addition to Heroic Leap and Charge. (I’d never actually plotted out in advance using LoF until that encounter, to be honest, because usually our raiders were pretty good about moving and/or it wasn’t entirely necessary *for us*.)

    Shannox is one of the few opportunities for a holy priest to actually make really good use of Chakra: Serenity, be they a tank healer or a Face Rage healer, which is actually refreshing, given most of T11 being in Chakra: Sanctuary, even in 10-mans, and I was able to manage staying in Chakra: Serenity the entire time.

    1. The Hymn buff is substantial; 50k hymn ticks are nothing to scoff at. I think we’ll need to see how grouping up will work (to add in the viability to cost ratio of Sanctuary in T13, but right now most signs point to yes). Holy should be in a good place, and unfortunately I think we’ll have to wait until 5.0 for the spirit:throughput concerns. Shame, though.

  3. The grouping up aspects in many of the fights really let us show of some of our best aspects (in regards to using PoM, Barrier, and no overhealing with PoH spam).

    For me, T12 is the first raid that I’ve felt comfortable as a disc priest, and overall as a healer. I had a resto druid in WotLK, but it was never my main toon (I tanked as a frost DK at the time in our main raid). I leveled my Priest halfway through T11 and started raiding with him near the end of T11. At that time, I was learning a lot, fixing lots of mistakes and inefficient healing practices.

    We started T12 content 2 months after Rage of the Firelands came out and had a lot of catching up to do, but with what we’ve done I feel somewhat accomplished (less so because of the nerfs), but it’s hard to really pinpoint what I’ve learned in this Tier.

    I’ve learned a lot; the versatility of being able to be the tank heal with the ability to throw a good amount of heals on the raid, the ability to smartly regen mana because of how much of our regen is based off of total mana percentage, how to properly efficiently heal… the list goes on.

    I do know that this Tier has prepared me for future ones, and it’s a good feeling to know that I’m ready. But as for heroic raiding? Still working on that!

    1. Yeah, I agree. T12 did a lot of prepare work for folks. Be it for HM fights or for T13. (Of course, tossing Triage out the window in the process). I personally think T12 was a better prep tier than T11 was for folks. Good on you for learning what you needed to to become an asset as a priest healer. :)

  4. T12 was a very eye-opening and somewhat sobering tier for me to experience.

    I went into this tier as a priest who leaned towards holy and who genuinely believed that a holy priest could do anything that they put their mind to. I tried to ignore the warning signs that holy was not keeping up the way that it should have and tried to find positive things to focus on and that just didn’t work.

    We had a 2 piece set bonus which gave us less mana returns than our previous 4 piece bonus did (I know I have the napkin math somewhere), we had to spend more time being active to see the amount of healing done that discipline priests were able to do in a fraction of the time, Guardian Spirit was not the life saver it should have been (I remember losing tanks on Baleroc even with GS, because they took more damage than GS was capable of healing through or triggering from), Lightwell was still by and large ignored, etc.

    I took my break shortly after I first saw Alysrazor and I come back to the game ready to see the rest of Firelands that I missed and to expand my horizons, with regards to discipline.

    With regards to the holy changes, I’m pleased to see some sweeping developments being made. But, on the other hand, I’m also kind of sad that it’s come to this. I don’t like that druids feel they need a shield and that shamans felt they needed Spirit Link totem, etc. PW: Barrier really set the tone for how the cooldown game would be played and I hate that spell, for that very reason. I don’t like that it’s become the playstyle or the ability that every healer (and healing lead or raid lead) thinks they should strive for.

    Overall, I’m excited to see 4.3. I’m extremely optimistic (strangely) about the next expansion and how it will affect priests. I’m ready to dust my toon off and see how things go.

    Good to have you back, sir!

    1. To nitpick just a little: Youre right for Holy it was a MP5 loss (roughly 88 mp5); however that doesnt take into account the base int/spirit gains you’d get from those items… just the bonus alone. (not to mention the spellpower increases). Mentally, for me, it was about a wash. Nothing, I think that would be fair to hold as a negative against the Tier.

      I too am excited for 4.3; and expect Holy to really push the envelope with the competitiveness and output. (especially since Druids are getting a much needed WG nerf). I think we’ll be right in line with their output.

  5. And here I was clearing old bookmarks…lo and behold he has returned! [insert bow here]. Thank you for bring the blog back, I’ll be sure to pass it along to friends or the priestly persuasion.

    For myself, I look forward to continuing our 10man raids and it should be interesting to see how Holy fairs in our Priest/shaman/Pally healing composition. The only thing I truly wish they had changed (as you mentioned) was Holy Concentration. I run with 1500-1800 spirit as Disc and so I’m looking at dropping a lot of throughput to accommodate Holy’s regen mechanic and it makes me a sad panda :(

    Irrespective, I’m looking forward to playing the spec I first healed with…Disc by night but Holy at heart :)

  6. Hello, I am disc priest of 10 man guild. We have downed 6/7 HC (as we felt It should be the standard after last nerfs). We wont probably kill HC Rag anytime soon, because many people are too afraid of him (because of stats also mentioned in the article). We aren’t even trying him. Just switch to normal and lets gear up alts.

    Our healing composition is paladin, druid and me. I am there as raid healer. Paladin is mainly tank healing and druid is second tank healer/raid healer support. I have been experiment quite much with holy/disc (I find holy more fun than disc, but as disc I shine much much more). So I am full time disc now (I have been experimenting with many various disc specs too, but with lowering difficulty and mastering fights this issue seems obsolete).

    I really feel strong as disc priest at healing. On Beth’tilac when fiend CD finishes in the begging of P2 I can spam PoH+PWS full time from 60% of boss till his death and really keep raid alive.

    Our raidleader is resto druid and he also thought that holy paladin is the only option of tank healing. Last raid we didn’t have our paladin in raid. Enh Shammy offspec healed Beth’tilac and Shannox (we have bad experience with two healing it – random deaths and so on). I have been healing tank on Beth (piece of cake compared to downstairs job), Shannox tank (with SoS it seemed safer than when our paladin heals it). We have managed our first two healing Alysrazor kill (druid and disc priest) – tank healing was just thing of surviving of others :) But burn out phase was real pain (PoH spam, glyphed barrier + tranq).
    Rhyolit can be easily two healed (if volcanoes are handled properly).
    Baleroc – “Disc priest dream” – I had to heal soakers because our druid couldn’t provide enough burst (at reasonable mana cost) to keep them alive. PWS and some light penancing and Heal was just enough to do that. So we let him to build up max sparks and sustain cheap healing on tank.

    But since we have our paladin most of the time, majority of the two healing fights (more and more these days) I am going Shadow :-/

    Thanks for nice article :)

  7. Great to have you back D. Starting to play my priest again and your feedback is greatly appreciated.

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