“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.
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)
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!!
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!