Maintaining Discipline – part 1

One of the things that seems to be a trend is that if a Shadowpriest has an off-spec, it’s most likely to be a Shadow-PvP or a Discipline spec. Many things have changed since the time that Discipline was the shield-flinging Captain America of the healer classes, and recently I started to read into the theory and practice of healing as Discipline. What struck me, was how incredibly synergistic it was, and there definitely was a certain rhythm to it.

My girlfriend’s a Paladin tank with a sideline of Disc priesting and I got peer-pressured into healing some heroics. Little did I know that she “misplaced” some pieces of gear and stood in burning poo on purpose to teach me some “real healing”. So I thought I’d better put up some Discipline 101 here instead of the usual facemelting business – just in case I don’t make it back alive.

Talents and Glyphs

There are two major schools of Discipline priests: those who take Strength of Soul (SoS) and those who take Atonement and Archangel (A/A). While it technically is possible to have both talents, they represent different healing styles. With Strength of Soul, you choose to heal full-on, without using Smite as a filler. Instead, you recycle your shields faster. With Atonement/Archangel, you instead use Smite to keep up your Evangelism buff while providing a small smart heal, and use Archangel for burst healing and mana returns.

The classic A/A spec can be found here, while the SoS spec is found here.

My personal preference is for the A/A spec, because it allows me to also perform some DPS in off moments (Chimaeron final phase is a good example, as is the burn phase of Alysrazor) and have greater mana returns because of Archangel. In addition, all you need to keep up the buff is a smite every 10-12 seconds, which is doable on most fights.

If you want to have both SoS and A/A, you will have a hard choice to make. In essence, you’d either have to give up mana efficiency somewhere (Mental Agility, which can be done if you have really good gear) or throughput (from Twin Disciplines, Empowered Healing and/or Divine Fury). No matter what choice you make will hurt you a bit, so it comes down to personal preference. That’s why for this article, I will keep the two specs firmly separated.

Prime Glyphs that are mandatory are Penance and Prayer of Healing, Power Word: Barrier and Power Word: Shield are also strong ones. While the effective healing of a shield (20% of the shield’s strength) comes down less than the Barrier’s +10% healing received while it lasts, it makes for an option if you’re old and slow on the uptake like myself ^_^. The Barrier also helps healer AoE during raiding, so it’s more of a raiding than 5man heroic glyph.

For Major glyphs, Divine Accuracy is a must for A/A priests since it provides 18% Hit with Smite and Holy Fire, which instantly caps you for two cornerstone spells of the spec. Likewise, you want to take the Glyph of Smite, which increases the damage of Smite on targets with your Holy Fire on them. Prayer of Mending is another one of those glyphs that is (practically) mandatory.

The third major Glyph slot (or all slots for an SoS priest) could be devoted to a number of glyphs which are all situational, such as  Mass Dispel (faster casting), Dispel Magic (heal 3% of max health on friendly targets you dispel) and Fade (reduces the cooldown on Fade, great for dungeons with wonky tank types but less needed in proper raids).

Minor Glyphs are basically free to choose, with my favorites remaining Levitate, Shadowfiend and Fading.

Gear Priorities

Now that you have a spec and glyphs, time to take a look at the gear you will be lusting after. Since Shadow is most likely your primary talent spec, the basic premise is that your healing set will be slightly worse than your DPS set. Fortunately, since we like Spirit as Hit, you won’t be lacking in that department.

Basically, first choice would be pieces with Spirit and another secondary stat. Of the secondary stats, Crit and Mastery work well together – your crits create shields, and your Mastery increases the size of your shields. Haste increases the cast time of Smite (for A/A), Prayer of Healing and Greater Heal (All specs), so this also works to your advantage.

This means that there’s no real “main stat” to go for in Discipline as there is in Shadow. Personally I do think that with the new 200% crit heals (which also bump the size of Divine Aegis shields up, and is multiplied by Mastery) your first choice for pieces that do not have Spirit would have to be Crit/Mastery. Using theorycrafting and Sims you may be able to get more definite stat weights, but I believe these will serve you well enough.

In all cases, gemming and enchanting is that same as for Shadow: Intellect > Haste/Mastery/Crit > Spirit. While Spirit on gear is very good for Disc, gemming or enchanting for it (like Holy does a lot) takes too much of a tax on your maximum mana pool, which means less returns via Archangel, Shadowfiend, Rapture and Replenishment.

The Metagem of choice would be Int/3% max mana or Int/+3% crit heals. The former means more mana returns, the latter provides greater crit heals but also shields.

Trinkets are, as always, a great way to customize your current situation. Generally, you want to put Intellect trinkets here with some interesting proc. As such, Discipline doesn’t really differ any from Shadow. In fact, if you are A/A specced, you might re-use your DPS trinkets and have them proc from your Smite and Holy Fire, in a pinch. Not the way to go if you are a main healer, but for a DPS who respecs for the good of the raid it’s a passable strategy.

Below are some Trinkets which are easily obtaininable (meaning: heroics, Tier11 raids or vendors):

Throughput trinkets: Moonwell Chalice (Int/Mastery on Use), Soul Casket (Mastery/Spellpower on Use), Theralion’s Mirror (Int/Mastery proc on damaging spells)

Conservation trinkets: Core of Ripeness (Int/Spirit on Use), Darkmoon Card Tsunami (Int/Stacking Spirit), Fall of Mortality (Int/Spirit proc on Heals)

Special Trinkets which are not easily obtainable or require a specific profession, but still good:

Tyrande’s Favorite Doll (Int/mana storage), Vibrant Alchemist’s Stone (Int/Haste/Red Socket), Shard of Woe (Reduce base mana cost/Haste on Use).


Part 1 was all about the preparation – gear, talents, glyphs – where part 2 will be all about the philosophy behind healing as Disc, the synergies and the emergency buttons to push.

Note that this is all about healing as an offspec Disc where your main would be a Shadow spec. Let’s face it, there are more in-depth guides on Elitist Jerks, and some of the advice here might not be suited for a fulltime healer – but this is all about you, who is being dragged out of Shadow Form to play the good Samaritan.


2 Responses to “Maintaining Discipline – part 1”

  1. ambient Says:

    Nice guide, speaking as someone who traded her shadow spurs for a residence in the glowier talent trees. ; ) I did want to clarify your discussion of meta gems, as they constitute the biggest challenge in maintaining your gear across healing and DPS specs.

    Meta gems no longer have SP. The healer-specific meta is Revitalizing [54 spirit plus 3% critical heals], but having spirit instead of int makes it a poor choice for Discipline. Ember [54 int plus 2% mana] is the best multi-purpose gem, for those forced to share a helm across both specs. It’s still not ideal, though, since spriests rarely have mana problems. What hadn’t really occurred to me prior to today is that a shadow priest offspecing into Atonement could keep their usual Burning gem [54 int plus 3% critical damage]. To get use from it, you’d want to pursue a good bit of crit on your gear and be heavily focused on Smite-healing, but it’s certainly better than nerfing your main spec.

    It all depends on how often you’re forced into healing. ; ) My biggest advice is to any off-spec healer is to just get two helms!

    • Ah yes, thanks for the correction on the metagems – I have a tendency to lump all of it together. As for the gear shift, in most cases you’d simply replace the gear in your Tier slots, your trinkets and pieces with straight Hit for healer-oriented pieces.

      But then, this is of course not for people who regularly heal, but mostly if you are either healing heroics for your guild groups (where you could even just wear your normal Shadow gear as I do) or as emergency healer if you’re short on a raiding night (where slightly less gear than a main-spec healer is usually not a problem and is expected).

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