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?