Killing it…with Holy Fire

An interesting change to Discipline priests is that they will receive a number of changes in Cataclysm which will benefit their healing when they Smite; this leads to a fun leveling opportunity when reviving the old “Smiting Priest” concept. It’s a little out of the scope of a Shadowpriest blog, but considering many of us have Discipline offspecs, it might be well worth investigating.

I can’t say how it would operate at level 85, considering that Discipline gets very few damage buffs (unlike Shadow), but it brings along some unique benefits that turn Discipline into the true hybrid Heal/DPS role.

  • Great survivability through shields which also reflect damage to the attacker
  • Great mana regeneration through Archangel, Meditation and Rapture
  • Splash heals through Atonement, Prayer of Mending, Shields and Dispels
  • Power Infusion as DPS cooldown on self or raid member
  • Pain Suppression as cooldown for tanks and special targets

Especially while levelling, this means that you can DPS down quest targets with little downtime and practically undamaged, while being a proper dungeon healer without talent shifts or even glyph changes.

Raining down Holy Fire

There is a base tactic (not exactly a rotation) which you need to take into account. First off, Power Word: Shield should be used on yourself whenever your Weakened Soul runs out. It does not just give you a pre-emptive shield before pulling a mob, it also gives you a 14% bonus to your Haste for next spell you cast. Use this spell with a longer cast-time spell, such as Holy Fire, or Devouring Plague. This is of course relative as Discipline priests don’t have spells that take more than 2 seconds unless they are healing.

Then cast a series of Smite spells to stack up Evangelism to 5. This will increase the damage done by your Smite, Holy Fire and Penance by 20%, while reducing their mana costs by 24%. Once this is done, just keep killing mobs in series, making sure Evangelism does not drop off.

Archangel is not used generally, unless you are low on mana and in danger of needing to drink. Since you will lose your Evangelism anyway if you drink, popping Archangel will give you the mana boost needed to heal yourself up and kill another pack. Otherwise, the loss of Evangelism (and its damage boost to Smite, Holy Fire and Penance) is too much to give up.

When in a dungeon, Archangel is a great cooldown to pop and catch up on healing that might have been neglected by building up Evangelism. It gives a boost to mana and healing done, meaning you will be able to patch things up rather quickly.

Devouring Plague gives a lot of self-healing and does good damage even for Disc, while Shadow Word:Pain can be put on the target whenever you consider having the mana for it. To what extent these two spells are used outside of raids/dungeons I can’t say yet at this point.

While I imagine the damage would be considerably less than a Shadowpriest, the downtime will be far less. And with strong shielding and comparable self-healing while DPSing, you might have an easier time tackling singular tougher mobs.

Talents and Glyphs

For leveling, I was considering the following build:

Key features of the build are that you skip Mental Agility (because of the reliance on Smite and Holy Fire) and not sub-speccing into the Holy Tree for increased healing. Instead, after level 80 we go for Darkness (3% Haste) and Twisted Faith (2% Shadow damage and Spirit converted to Hit rating).

Taking Twisted Faith not only provides a lot of Hit rating for our little Smiting spec, it will also mean we can do without the Glyph of Divine Accuracy (18% hit bonus for Smite) freeing up that slot for something nicer.

Prime Glyphs: Penance (-2 seconds cooldown),  and Power Word: Shield (Shield will heal the target for 20% of the absorption amount), 1 optional

Major Glyphs: Smite (+20% damage on Smite if Holy Fire is on the target), 2 optional

Minor Glyphs: 3 Optional

Good options for Glyphs are Shadow Word: Death (prime, if your target is not killed by SW:D while below 25% health, the cooldown is reset), Dispel Magic (major, dispelled friendly targets are healed for 3% of their total health) and Psychic Scream (major, feared targets cower in place instead of running off).

Gear and stat choices

For a Smiting Priest, the primary stat as expected will be Intelligence. Intelligence increases your mana pool, which also means you get more mana back from Rapture and Archangel. It also grants Spellpower, which increases all your spells in power.

Spirit is another important stat, because it gives you back mana through Meditation and gives additional Hit rating through Twisted Faith (from level 84 on).

Haste and Crit are a bit ambiguous, and I am a bit doubting how to classify these. Of course Crit gives you bigger heals and bigger DPS numbers, but without the 200% crit damage bonus Shadowpriests have, your critical hits from DPS will have less impact.

Haste while healing is mostly for tank-healing, since once you are Global Cooldown capped at 1 second, having mostly 2 second cast time spells means you have quite enough. It does allow you the opportunity of using “Big Slow Heals” instead. Since Penance (2 second channel), Holy Fire (2 second cast) and Smite (1.5 second cast) are rather quick to get to 1 second each, Haste would quickly lose its value except for Devouring Plague and Shadow Word:Pain.

Mastery increases the amount absorbed by your Shields, and by extension the heals of the Glyph of PW:S. This is about an even choice, since you want this as much as possible while healing, but not when DPSing. When doing DPS, you want the Shield to be consumed relatively quickly to give you back mana through Rapture.

I conclude that you’d simply gear as a Healing Discipline Priest, but keep some off-set pieces without Mastery and more Crit/Haste instead to switch in when you are doing DPS. However, you will be able to heal just fine without changing glyphs and talents, so the opportunity cost to switch between healing and DPS is rather low. A full Discipline healer will be a better healer, but I don’t think the margin is exceedingly large.


Discipline is probably a good example of a victory for the Cataclysm design concept – not only is it possible to switch between full healer and DPS by choice of talents and glyphs, it has made Discipline more of a Hybrid spec than before. By sacrificing less healing, it gains less DPS in return, but it’s more on the balanced end of things.

I can imagine something impossible in raids today – Discipline tag-teaming, where one Disc priest Smites to build up Evangelism, while the other heals under the effects of Archangel. Every Archangel cooldown they switch between healing and DPS.  Since Evangelism lasts for 15 seconds and Archangel has a 30 second cooldown, this dovetails nicely.

Considering that nowadays two Discipline priests in a raid would clash because they are blocking each other’s shields with their own, I consider this to be quite an interesting development.

Of course, a lot might change before Cataclysm, and I had only a brief time to test this on the PTR, but it shows promise. When 4.0 hits I will be sure to do some more research and make an updated post on this.


9 Responses to “Killing it…with Holy Fire”

  1. Don’t forget this glyph:
    Divine Accuracy – Increases your chance to hit with your Smite by 18%.

    I hadn’t really considered how tag teaming might work for Disc priests in Cata. I think you’re right though, there’s a lot more possibility to raid with two Disc priests in the raid.

    • I mentioned that glyph, and would choose to avoid it specifically.

      You see, if you get the bonus to hit on Smite that is all nice and good, but you also have Holy Fire, Penance, Devouring Plague, Mind Blast and Shadow Word:Pain to consider. You would need to get as close to the Hit cap as possible for this as well.

      Hence I believe it is better to go for overall Hit or Hit from Spirit through Twisted Faith, rather than getting that glyph and be hit-capped for only 1 spell. The glyph was designed more for healing Disc priests who use Smite as a supporting spell to build up Evangelism.

      • Interesting thought. Admittedly, I’m a healy priest contemplating the Smitey for Cata. I’m considering the Glyph of Smite as well, though I know I won’t be hit capped for Holy Fire… We’ll see if that’s reasonable at all. At 80 at least, the Glyph is Disc’s only real way to get hit.

        I found your thoughts on Disc being less “step on toes” and more “plays well with one’s own” ideas unique and interesting as well.

  2. Haste = more penance ticks, and divine fury in holy > anything in shadow.

  3. Haste = more penance ticks, and divine fury in holy is amazing. You can skip healing stuff in disc, as healing yourself for 120% of smite dmg should cover you (plus shields, plus glyph of shield)

    • Holy Fury is certainly good, but most of the spells in a DPS Disc priest arsenal are on very low casting times (2 seconds or less) so average Haste gear (At level 80) will already get your casting times so low that you will get in conflict with the Global Cooldown (which does not decrease below 1 second).

      But this would also necessitate getting a lot of +Hit gear. By taking Twisted Faith in Shadow, you get your Spirit as Hit rating, which you will need anyway for your mana regains. Two birds with one stone, so to speak.

      So Haste is good, but not as good as Intellect or Spirit, and I think Crit might actually be better for this specific build.

      As for the healing from Smiting, yes that will be quite a lot – but only for one target. This is perfect for leveling as Disc, but will not be enough if you sign up as a healer in Dungeons. But that’s what popping Archangel is for.

      The build you link is perfect, certainly works for level 85. But because we were discussing leveling as Disc, the link I put in the post was for level 80 (where you can’t yet get Holy Fury unless you skip Twisted Faith).

  4. I would take them out of shadow over holy, as you will be doing at least 1 HF + 3 smite per penance, reducing your cast time by ~2 seconds. You could eat a resist (unlikely vs mobs so close in level, plus the smite glyph) and still get more hits off.

    Even with a ton of haste, you won’t be dropping a 2 sec smite down under 1 second. Burn borrowed time on penance, since that isn’t helped by holy fury. And, as you level, your haste will tank rapidly.

    I can’t look it up this sec, but smite is 2.5 base? If so, talent it down to 2.0, and make sure you have AT LEAST 12% haste (this is the point where you can do 4 smites per HF debuff instead of 3). Shield, penance, holyfire, smite x4, penance, death. Move death up in the rotation to the point where it will kill the mob (12% mana), which means you’ll rarely have to do that 2nd penance.
    Assuming 3 seconds between mobs, you just repeat that from the start.

    If there’s tons of mobs around, you’ll probably double dot + penance the first, HF + 4x smite the 2nd, killing mobs 2 at a time, with archangle in the middle.

    Archangle between mobs if in dire need of mana, but note that if you are smiting 5 times per mob, using archangle will cost you about 1 smite in mana and you will lose 10% smite dmg.

    Also, having 0 hit (unlikely AND mobs are only 1-2 lvls from you so you don’t need 17%) but gaining speed on smite+HF still ends up killing mobs faster, and what you lose on mana from a resist, you gain in the fact that you get an extra smite in your rotation for more damage and less mana than other abilities.

    • Well, Holy Smite is 1.5 Seconds, Penance 2 Seconds and Holy Fire 2 Seconds (at least on Beta). Which means that with the added haste from using Power Word: Shield and your own Haste, you will be getting very close to global cooldown clashes.

      And while you can eat a resist on Mind Blast, Devouring Plague or Shadow Word:Pain…you cannot afford to miss a Holy Fire (10 seconds cooldown, needed for 20% extra smite damage), Smite (building up Evangelism) or Penance (12 second cooldown, 10 with Glyph). In addition, while ordinary equal-level mobs don’t care if you have to redo from start, people in a Dungeon run will have less patience and one eyeball permanently glued to the damage meters.

      If you choose to go for Resists, you will lose substantial DPS, not just on the resisted spell, but also the mechanics that hinge on it. That is why DPS classes get Hit capped when they can. And if you do not take Twisted Faith or are a Draenei, your Hit is indeed 0. And that means 5% miss chance on equal level mobs.

      • Or, to put it more simply, if you plan on leveling purely on normal mobs, no problem. In this case I would use HF + Smites, that usually suffices. Many mobs? Dot one up and cast Mind Sear.

        If you however enter a dungeon, where mobs are often higher level (especially when leveling) it might be an issue. And with this spec, experimental and not 100% aimed for DPS, you need every drop you can get. If you can’t at least keep up, you might get vote-kicked for poor performance.

        The reason for this post is also to explore the idea of what this spec would be like for DPS. Since the old Surge of Light got killed (on which the old Holy-based Smite spec hinged on) this is the first time that opportunity presents itself.

        Part is what you’d do to level, but fact is a blind monkey could level with just hitting buttons on the bar as long as it is just ordinary mobs in the field. There’s little thought in that.

        But getting stuff done properly means acting like a DPS, not a healer-turned-DPS. That means getting (close to) the hit cap, and making sure critical spells do not miss.

        While you can do without Smite, Holy Fire and Penance, these are a large portion of your damage output and getting resists on those gives you very sub-par DPS.

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