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Discipline & Archangel in Dragon Soul

“Smite spam” : Before Cataclysm’s introduction to Archangel and Atonement, that phrase was often followed by “LOLOLOL Smitepriest”. Since the launch of Cataclysm, we’ve had several tiers of content to get used to Atonement Healing and Archangel.  Atonement and Archangel are now, arguably, the cornerstone of Discipline in 4.3… and in my opinion, nearly mandatory for Dragon Soul Heroic Encounters.

The trick is to leverage Archangel to your advantage and not just use it haphazardly. Fully stacked, Archangel provides you with an additional 15% throughput for 18 seconds with a mere 30 second cooldown.  Despite it having a short cooldown, making it readily available throughout most of the fight, the best way for a Disc Priest to use Archangel is to know when the raid/tank damage is going to increase and demand for more throughput.

I know, I know… I sound like a broken record regarding this point. But the single best thing you can do to improve your healing is to KNOW THE FIGHT. Know the damage patterns. Know when a bosses ability is going to hit. Know when your raid needs you to pull out all the stops and find a miracle.

You’ll want to be sure you are using the Glyph of Divine Accuracy and Glyph of Smite in your Atonement builds. You will also want to be certain you are using the Burning Shadowspirit Meta Gem (See my earlier post regarding Meta Gems in 4.3) And yes, you will want to value Crit more in 4.3 and Dragon Soul. I don’t want to re-create the wheel and derail this post regarding Disc Stat Weights in 4.3- but generally for raid healing, and how much we have devalued PW: Shield (generally only used for emergencies and Rapture), you’ll generally want to value Haste > Crit > Mastery.

You will also need a method of tracking your stacks, duration on Archangel, as well as when those spells are available/off cooldown. I use my Power Auras — available here. I also prefer mouseover and assist macro’s to be certain I am smiting appropriate targets.

I need to point out the fact that Atonement Healing allows for Atonement Disc Priests to contribute to Raid DPS. With so many of these fights as rough DPS checks (yes, you HM Ultraxion), any added Raid DPS will be a welcomed addition.

Morchock -
On both Heroic and Normal modes you can use the downtime between Stomps and crystal  spawns to stack Evangelism. You can pop Archangel to burst heal after Stomp or when your tanks have high stacks of Crush Armor. On Heroic, this added throughput is exceptionally important to top your half of the raid off during those Stomp/Crystal combinations that are very close to each other.  Additionally, you can easily stack 5 stacks if you can stay within range during Black Blood of the Earth. (not to mention: assist in DPS)

Zon’ozz -
Archangel is a pivotal part of a Disc Priests toolbox on this fight, and even more-so when you are healing Heroic Zon’ozz.  Since the damage going out during Phase 1 is fairly easy to heal through, it also provides you ample time to Smite and use Archangel at least once, and also time to re-stack and prepare for Phase 2.  When you enter Phase 2 (Black Phase) you’ll want to pop Archangel for that added 15% to your POH output. On Heroic difficulty, the damage output is even more substantial since there are additional adds your raid needs to burn down. Big, bursty, and sustainable output is critical during this phase… work it! A Disc priest running AA should be able to easily maintain themselves plus a group– solo. Liberal use of POH and POM, using PWS only for dire situations on a single target (or Rapture) should be more than adequate.

Lest we forget, Zon’ozz also has a +damage modifier making Smite hit harder and subsequently heal for more.

This fight is probably one of the more dynamic healing fights and has notable changes when going from Normal to Heroic. Firstly, on Normal and Heroic, you (usually) can easily stack Evangelism by assisting DPS on the slimes. This allows you to help push the slime down sooner (and consequently get DPS back on YJ quicker), but you also gain your stacks. Using Archangel on phases that have increased damage (Black, Yellow, Red combinations) are the obvious answers.

One commonly forgotten part of Archangel is the fact that you gain 5% of your mana when you activate AA.  Generally speaking we do not use AA to be a “mana restoration” talent. On Yor’sahj, however, we can. This can be critical to use after the Mana Void drains all your mana… Gaining back that 5% can often mean the difference between having the mana to put down PW: Barrier or Divine Hymn. Prepare for it.

On Heroic, most strategies result in many rounds of slimes having the Purple/Healing debuff up. In situations like this you want to be extra careful to not have Holy Fire ticks running on YJ when the debuff goes up. This can quickly (and deadly!) stack Deep Corruption on a single target and then blow up on the raid. You also may want to have AA running on phases where you have to heal through Green Damage and have the Purple Healing Debuff, making your selective heals more potent. The key to healing with the debuff up, is to make each heal matter… and that added 15% does just that.

Hagara the Stormbinder -
With predictable damage spikes from either Focused Attacks, Ice Lance’s debuff, or to heal through her AOEs during her two immunity phases; the timing for AA is fairly obvious  (That is, if your raid selects to heal through her AOEs on both Lightning and Frost Phases; it is possible to heal through the 15% HP DoT albeit challenging.) You should be able to weave those Smites in fairly easily not to mention assist on DPS when she’s debuffed after her shields break… mmm +damage modifiers!!

Ultraxion -
This fight Archangel and Atonement are a bit tricky. At the very least you should be able to weave in Holy Fire on cooldown and use the added 15% Healing from Archangel when needed… Especially towards the end, and on Heroic when you have 5 people soaking and need fast (and big) heals after you return from the alternate realm. (not to mention, first kills you’ll need to squeak out as much hidden DPS as you possibly can)

Additionally on Heroic, you will likely be HF/Smite spamming at least until the Red Buff goes out. You’ll need the added Raid DPS.

Warmaster Blackhorn (aka Gunship) -
Large void zones to pre-DA and clean up after. Shout. On Heroic the amount of damage that Twilight Onslaught and Twilight Barrage deal is substantial so being ready to use AA and burst heal (and pre-DA Onslaught damage will be critical). Once Warmaster Blackhorn lands, he’ll start to ramp up damage as he gains more and more Vengeance. You’ll want to be certain you have Archangel running (and possibly chaining cooldowns) as much as possible sub 20%.

Spine of Deathwing-
This fight has an interesting ebb and flow of damage. You have plenty of time to stack Evangelism on the adds, and then pop and burst AOE heal when the Amalgamations gain Superheated. Further, you can Holy Fire/Smite the Tendons to assist with DPS as well as heal up the straggling HP on melee who will be within range of the Tendon. Also, if your raid does run into trouble with the Searing Blood debuff, healing off the debuff with 15% boosted heals can help clean up the raid.

Spine can be tricky to maintain your Evangelism stacks, especially if your raid’s DPS gets too far ahead of the Bloods and the Amalgamations aren’t at 9 stacks yet. (you don’t want to be the one who accidentally killed the Amalgamation early because you wanted to keep Evangelism!) Be prepared to maintain your stacks by smiting less-than-optimal targets. (or better yet, assist in breaking the stuns on the Tendrils!)

Madness of Deathwing-
Obviously since this is the longest fight of the Tier, you will be able to use Archangel a number of times throughout the encounter. When you first land on each platform, damage will be light. You can easily assist in DPS by stacking your Evangelism stacks; which is something you’ll want to do anyway. I usually pop AA multiple times per platform, being certain I have AA running when Blistering Heat is being applied by the Blistering Tentacles.

You will most definitely want to time Archangel in the final phase as well. As the fight concludes, your healers will be gasping for mana and the Corrupted Blood damage will be ramping up on your raid. Raid Cooldowns, and Archangel will be your best friend in these final seconds. Find time to weave in a couple of Holy Fire’s or Smites, in preparation for this final push.

The key with Archangel and Atonement Healing is to know the fight’s damage patterns. If you need to consume your stacks for added throughput, be sure you do so at a meaningful time. Don’t just mindless spam Smite, know when you need to switch to direct (and targeted) heals.  Sometimes that means you need to FIND a time to Smite to ensure that your stacks will be available to be consumed when needed.  Be precise. Be deliberate.


… and enjoy looking sexy in screenshots with wings!

Written By: on December 19, 2011
  1. Nice post. Before 4.3 I was running with 2 disc specs, atonement and non. Now I run with Atonement and Holy…. And I’m finding holy a lot more forgiving and actually enjoying it more than spamming holy fire > smite > wings ……. Although I managed 15k dps and 17k hps on madness of dw last night which was nice.
    Flexibility is where it’s at..and I’m loving the lush 3 min DH that holy brings to the table.

  2. Thanks for the post, I’ll be sure to pass this on to the other priests in my raid. My only problem is that holy output is so good and so easy, going Disc seems like opting to stand on one leg.

  3. Derevka do you think SoS has any use in such a build?

    1. SoS does to a lesser extent (depends on your role, and the encounter itself). TOT less so, since its mostly a MP5 tool… and Mana is becoming a non-issue.

      1. That been said I guess we can spend the extra talent points on… Focused will? :o Just saw your specc too. You use focused will

  4. I was planning on doing some more research on a A/AA build as I see it’s getting popular/Viable in Dragon Soul. My Guild was doing Heroic Yor’sahj the other night, and the guild leadership was mentioning that Attonment heals don’t stack the debuff at all. However the healing core was reporting unknown/unexplainable stacking of Debuffs in assigned groups. Was there a hotfix? or is it just the Holy Fire tick that stacks the Debuff? (and the Smite heal is OK to use?)

    1. It most definitely causes stacks.

  5. Quick Question , well, since I know myself, I know it won’t be so quick.
    I’m a holy at heart, and my sec specc used to be Shadow PvP, now Shadow PvE, which I suck at. Our Restro Druid is much better as a second Owl.
    That said our 10-man Healer setup is me, a holy priest, a sleepyhead holy paladin and our neat restro druid, and I was asked to specc into Disc for Deathwing (since I was away last week and a random Disc took my place there and they all fell in love with not moving) since the Bolt is much easier to survive with a Power Word: Barrier.
    Since I only played Disc in a few hero dungeons for the lolz, since with A/AA they are much more fun, I have no clue if I could maintain a good Disc performance in a normal 10-man Raid. I never really felt comfortable with the “passive” Disc spec for PvE.
    Disc always was a pretty aggressive Skilltree in my eyes, since I mostly played it in BC/Wotlk in PvP. And now that I’m blabbering: My gear is mostly focused on Haste, since I’m healing with a Restro Druid, and Mastery just goes ‘poof’ then, but my crit rating is even lower. What would be the best way to maintain my gear to be neat for both Holy and Disc? Because if I can, I’ll stay holy, and is Disc even comfortable with a tank-healing Paladin and a hot spamming Druid?

    1. “is Disc even comfortable with a tank-healing Paladin and a hot spamming Druid”

      Perfectly comfortable. Discipline fits in very well because we fluently fill in on supporting the tank heals when damage goes to the tank(s) and on raid healing when the large blasts goes on the raid and probably better so than any other spec in the game (maybe with the exception of paladins in 4.3 if they can have the raid stacked up for radiance all the time).

      There is a risk of making the druid overheal a lot if incoming damage is low and you preshield and stack Divine Aegis too much (by Prayer of Healing spam f ex). On the other hand if done properly your shieldbuffer gives the druid hots time to tick for their full duration without the risk of anyone dying to a spike because of the slow hots. It’s a very effective way of healing.

      On the other hand all healing classes work pretty well both alone and matched with oneanother in 4.3.

    2. “Disc took my place there and they all fell in love with not moving”

      Having barrier is no excuse for not moving! The damage taken drops off tremendously when further away from the impact point and PW:B does not mitigate all of it. No reason for you to have to heal up more than necessary after the blow.

      Tell your raid to step into their runningshoes and learn at what distances the drop in incoming damage are at (it seems to drop in steps so just moving a few steps sometime can reduce the damage considerably).

    3. I agree with Black on this one.

      At risk of getting hate-mail from the druid community…. Druids are arguably the weakest in HM content. They simply dont have the busrt needed– nor a MITIGATION cooldown. They are the Firelands Resto Shaman of this tier, unfortunately. SO ‘losing your slot’ with a druid doesnt make sense to me. :-/

      1. At first: Thank you all for your quick and helpful answers. :)

        So next question: How useful are the old T12 bonuses compared to the new T13 ones as an A/AA Disc? Meaning is the T12 Heroic Set worth keeping as a Disc and/or when is the best point to drop them for T13?

        I remember at the beginning of cataclysm we were a Disc, me as Holy and the holy pally and it didn’t go so great, especially since our pally still had to learn not to spam in blue with a hint of epic gear and Disc and Pally seemed to collide and not work well alongside at all. Me being a Holy didn’t help in this combination at all. That’s one reason why I touched Disc only for Dungeons.

        And I agree, just because a special spec lessens dmg income, one shouldn’t forget how to play properly since both combined would be even better. I think it’s perfectly heal-able as a holy priest, if the rest of raid uses their brains for once. My raid-leader agrees with me on this, so they’ll have to move their feet, but I’ll take steps to get to know Disc a bit better, since I actually like the tree, but always lingered in holy since I have more of a grouphealer attitude, and well, let’s face it, holy is the way to go there, with charka, CoH, Serendipity, and all the fancy shiny stuff holy priests can easily outmatch most other healers. Even more so since the holy hymn is crazy right now.

        Well, we don’t really have the luxury right now to choose to make ‘the perfect setup’ for our raid, since we are only 13 people right now and in there 3 Healers. The only thing I would pass on, or loosing my slot to, is speccing Shadow for fights with 2 Healers. Either I’d pass completely or our Druid would skill Moonkin, and do way more damage than me as a shadow.

        I also found Sora’s post interesting. :>
        I actually am a heavy haste pusher. 2338 right now, with 3463 Spirit, almost zero Crit, spiked with a hint of Mastery.
        After ehrm… killing the bunch of Trashmobs in LFR a few times, I experienced some things: Of course Holy Mastery rocks in 25s, it’s insane how much Mastery heals there, not mine, but the one from a guildy who’s focused on mastery. My nhc Alysrazor Trinkets isn’t as usefull as i thought it’d be, around 50k each fight. The LFR Deathwing Mace on the other Hand works quite well for other holy priests. My 4piece T12 still is valuable, and some pallys are just plain insane.

        1. I also heal 10DS with a pally and a druid, and have switched to mostly Disc healing because it seems to work better (for me), and our dps loves the occasional power infusion buff :P However, I have to agree with Blakkeyez that I noticed our druid overheal a lot now that I go disc. I also love building a large bubble on everyone before the pull (it’s nice to see that no one takes damage on the first stomp on heroic Morchok.) I’m not sure if that’s called “padding the meter” but if it can save me mana during the fight, I don’t really care what it is called :P

          It’s interesting to see that your raid wanted you to go disc for Deathwing while mine has asked me to go holy for this fight simply for the Guardian Spirit cooldown on tanks. (And I like holy better too on this fight because of the 3 min divine hymn crit>mastery set up (since I’m Disc for 6 out of the 8 fight) and it seems to work ok for me as holy.

          1. Ahh.. not sure what happened to the 2nd paragraph… it should be:

            It’s interesting to see that your raid wanted you to go disc for Deathwing while mine has asked me to go holy for this fight simply for the Guardian Spirit cooldown on tanks. (And I like holy better too on this fight because of the 3 min divine hymn) I’m currently going with the haste>crit>mastery stat priority (since I’m Disc for 6 out of the 8 fight) and it seems to work ok for me as holy.


  6. @Cassielle

    I’ve been AA since firelands, and have absolutely loved it. Granted, it didnt do me any good on rag (thankfully range is fixed now) but overall I found it to be an extremely strong build. Holy, though, is amazing right now. Especially in a 10m environment where to some extent you’ll be less focused on last minute saves and more so on overall throughput. Holy also has the benefit of significantly higher passive regen for the phases where discipline can’t rapture. I’m finding mana to be fairly tight as discipline in this tier. Anyway tangent aside, to answer your question, the best way to set up your gear is exactly how you have it – all haste. Mastery can shine on heroic morchok for pre-shielding each stomp, but if you’re all haste you can always reforge. Crit is a good throughput stat but isnt ideal for every encounter, ie. useless for shield spamming on morchok. The bigger question is how much spirit to run, since holy and disc have fairly different regen models. I can’t answer that question for you since I havent found my groove in DS heroics yet.. but I’m going to blame that on the fact that our other healers are… horrible. I’d like to sugar coat it but nah they’re just plain bad. yay!

  7. I have been running AA since Firelands and I love it. I’ve always been able to find ways to use it, even on Rag (helping take down magma adds and having a stack ready to pop for seeds).

    It’s been my personal experience so far that discipline’s shining a bit more in 10s, whereas holy really stomps the meters on 25s. The way I have handled stats for both holy and disc is to get enough haste to get a 2.1 cast time on gheal/PoH (1290 with 2/3 darkness) and then a balance of crit and mastery if you play both specs equally. I’ve been playing disc more recently so I actually went heavier on crit. I run with about 2500 spirit currently and have no problems as disc, though do have to watch my mana more as holy (if you’re in 10s unglyph that CoH!)

    Like I’ve said before.. I think the major hurdle that priests have with the AA spec is they think you’re just spamming smite. This is not true, at least not for me. There are always phases in a fight where there is less damage, or damage that another healer can cover (you can let druid hots top people off during a slow phase, for example). You weave holy fire and smite in with your other heals. Holy fire especially is a quick cast and you can maintain your stack by just using that before they drop.

    All you need is a power aura that shows your stacks, with a timer on it, and it’s easy peasy. Bind smite/holy fire to some place convenient (I use naga mouse buttons).

    Like Derevka said, it’s all about knowing the fight. And god I do love having that mana return (plus arcane torrent >.>) on H Yor’sahj!

  8. Your posts are always a great read, and after having every priest in the guild I am in switch to Holy just because its better now makes me not like playing it at all.

    I have switched full time to disc and actually went A/AA before reading this as its always been one of my favorite varations of the Disc spec. I do however have a quick question for you.

    I have noticed that when I am doing the Atonements for fights on world of logs and this also includes recount my Efective Dps seems to drop is there a way to actually avoid this? Would you normally weave in one Smite to one Actual heal or get the 5 stacks and just maintain it? I’ve had issues lately balancing this problem and I am wondering what your take on this is.

  9. I’ve seen a bunch of people get incorrectly for disc healing, so I’ll lay it out straight. Stat weights for AA disc healing tend toward Mastery > Crit > > Haste.

    And to the people saying holy is better in 10s on Deathwing because of the GSpirit ability, your tanks should be rotating CDs well enough to never need it. Plus, HF/Smite spam works wonders for the first 3 platforms (I can smite almost entirely for the first 2.5, then toss some PoHs on the 3rd and back to Smiting), and is a great way to prepare to tank heal on P2.

    1. I think you meant Haste > Crit > Mastery for an AA build.

  10. Also, the T13 bonuses are absolute garbage compared to the T12 ones. If you have 4pc heroic T12, keep it until you start picking up heroic T13. There are tons of threads on the wow forums about the old tier bonus doing as much as 6x the heals over a 10 minute fight as the new ones. Just not worth it.

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