As promised, here we go with spells! Now I did say there was one and only one golden rule for Discipline Priests, but here’s another for healing as a Priest in general. It’s not just for Discipline – it applies to Holy Priests as well, and it’s quite simple to remember;
Always use the right tool for the job!
The arsenal of healing spells available to Priests of both specs is really large and varied. We’ve got tools to cope with almost every kind of damage output there is, and it’s your job to keep on top of what’s happening, and how to deal with it! As a result, while a lot of people think of healing as a fast-paced game of whack-a-mole, I like to think of it as a fast-paced game of Tetris. Some shapes just don’t fit into some holes, and most of the time, you know what shapes are coming.
So, without further ado, here’s the list of commonly used Priest spells, and how best to use them!
Prayer of Mending
Copes best with: sustained raid damage over a period of time.
Notes: Firstly, PoM should always, always be active! It’s one of your best sources of healing – a general cooldown for 5 or 6 charges of reactive healing (ie. it’s guaranteed to never fully overheal). I believe that a recent patch changed PoM’s interaction with shields – now, as far as I know, a fully absorbed attack by a shielded target will not trigger the healing effect. This is a massive buff which allows us to roll shields on the raid without fear of reducing our PoM’s effectiveness.
Secondly, PoM scales really well with spellpower – each charge gains 43% of our spellpower, meaning that if every charge is consumed (and in Ulduar, for sure, they will be) then the spell in total gained over 200% of your spellpower.
One caveat in mind is to be careful when you cast it whilst tank healing! It’s a mistake I’ve only made once, but I have PoMed a half health tank before, then seen him take a spike and die! PoM should be cast when the tank is not in danger of dying, because it doesn’t have any immediate effect.
Copes best with: smoothing out spike damage.
Notes: I keep Renew up on the tank at all times, something that you’ll find many DPriests don’t do. They’d rather get another shield in, I’d rather make sure the tank doesn’t die! It’s a personal preference thing, and if you’re confident that the tank won’t die to a spike, then you can skip on using Renew.
The spell’s effect is simply to smooth out spikes. A “spike” is when a tank, or anybody else, takes a lot of damage (unexpected or otherwise) in a very short period of time, and Renew’s heal-over-time (HoT) effect helps mitigate the extremity of a spike, allowing you slightly more time to react.
Copes best with: actually healing through spikes/other large single-target damage outputs.
Notes: Many other DPriests say this should be kept on cooldown at all times, regardless of whether the tank needs healing. I say, why? Their reasoning is that even though it’s 100% overhealing, it refreshes 3 stacks of Grace and may get you some more Divine Aegis stacks on the tank. I’d rather just keep it for when the tank actually takes damage – if he doesn’t, I just roll some more shields around.
Anyway, Penance is your first port of call for… well, pretty much when the tank takes damage full stop. Although it’s designed to heal the tank through spikes (and indeed, Shield –> Penance –> GH is arguably the best spike-healing combo in the game) it’ll really cover anything. Each tick stacks Grace and has a chance to proc Divine Aegis, as well as healing insanely quickly. Best healing spell we have!
Power Word: Shield
Copes best with: mitigation on the tank, preventing raid damage.
Notes: Absolutely essential spell, arguably the keystone of the Discipline spec. The tank should have the Weakened Soul effect at all times for the extra 4% crit on Penance/GH/FH – also, shielding him allows you extra time to shield the raid – and of course, plenty of shields should be thrown around in advance of heavy raid damage. Examples of this would be Ignis’ Flame Jets, Kologarn’s Shockwave and Hodir’s Frozen Blows.
Also procs Renewed Hope for 3% reduced damage on the raid, so should be cast pretty regularly.
Prayer of Healing
Copes best with: any area of effect damage.
Notes: Prayer of Healing is one of the strongest spells any Priest has, and should never be overlooked. Its obvious disadvantages are that it has a long cast time and costs a large chunk of mana. Both of these can be negated to an extent – the first by Borrowed Time and clever shield usage, and the second by Inner Focus. Admittedly, Inner Focus is on a cooldown, but chances are you’ll only need to use PoH every once in a while. As a result, a decent percentage of your PoHs will be mana-free. Also, PoH should be glyphed – something I’ll talk about later – which adds a very welcome HoT component, giving you more bang for your proverbial buck.
Clever PoH usage is a big part of raid support as a Discipline Priest. A Good Priest knows that when the raid takes AoE damage, a PoH would be nice. A Really Good Priest times his PoH to go off immediately after the AoE. A great example of this is Loatheb, where timing a PoH to go off the exact moment that Necrotic Aura fades will make a huge difference to your healing done.
Copes best with: healing through extreme spikes, in combination with Shield/Penance.
Notes: Is GH a DPriest’s best friend, or is Flash Heal a better alternative? This is the single biggest spell-based question facing Discipline Priests. There’s no cut-and-dry answer right now – I don’t think anyone has really bothered to solve the problem.
I swear by GH, and pretty much anything that I can’t heal through with any of the above spells is covered by it. It’s like a fall-back tool. Shield –> Penance –> GH is to my mind the best spike-healing combo in the game, although I can’t say that for certain having never played a Paladin/Druid. Just remember never to use it on other raid members to avoid unwanted Grace procs. Also, remember that combo – it’s pretty much the only time you’ll use GH, unless the tank needs additional healing in between Penance cooldowns and you’ve been able to throw a shield on a raid member.
Copes best with: panic! Aaaaaah!
Notes: I kid. FH is technically a more efficient way to heal the tank than GH for a DPriest – it has increased crit chance and a faster cast time, meaning that the healing is delivered in two “instalments” instead of one big lump, kind of like Penance. The thing is that with two Flash Heals, only one cast benefits from Borrowed Time – so in actual fact, GH works out as a faster cast time. Sure, it’s got less chance to crit and costs more mana, I just prefer GH.
Flash Heal has its uses, though. You won’t be using it to raid heal due to unwanted Grace procs, but I have found times when I use it a lot – our guild’s first Kologarn kill being a good example. Kologarn does an ability called Stone Grip, which deals sustained damage to one raid member. We were having trouble healing through his AoE, and the tank, and the gripped raid member – so what I did was to pop a shield on the tank and simply spam Flash Heal, alternating between the gripped guy and the tank as necessary. The fast cast times allowed me to swap back and forth quickly, and the gripped guy got to live.
Copes best with: any time you take damage.
Notes: Binding Heal is a fantastic spell. Sure, it doesn’t proc Grace like FH or GH, but it’s a great – if a little mana-costly – way to heal yourself when PoH isn’t necessary. Examples being pretty much “when you’re taking damage”. Just throw a BH off on a raid member or the tank. You don’t have to worry about unwanted Grace procs, too!
Pain Suppression: PS is an excellent panic button on a very short cooldown. If you know the tank will be taking a lot of damage soon, or is currently taking a lot of damage – don’t be afraid, just press the button and it’ll give you some time to react. This can even help heal through hard enrages in extreme situations! Oh, and don’t be worried about the 5% threat reduction. It’s really not a lot, the tank will almost always have more of an aggro cushion than that.
Inner Focus: As mentioned previously, Inner Focus is best used in combination with PoH for what is essentially a party-wide Divine Aegis (at least 2 or 3 should proc, usually more). Surprisingly useful for conserving mana over the course of an encounter.
Power Infusion: I wrote a frontpage article on the virtues of Power Infusion, but to sum it up – use it on the highest spell-based DPS in your raid whenever they’ll be standing still for 15 seconds. Don’t use it on yourself – the 20% haste is almost useless thanks to Borrowed Time, and the mana reduction is simply to balance the haste such that you use the same amount of mana you would normally. In other words, no it doesn’t save mana!
Divine Hymn: Another great panic button, and it can make use of Borrowed Time. This can be troublesome. Sometimes you might want the healing over a longer period of time, sometimes you might want it all at once. It’s tough to always use it the way that’s best for the situation, but try and think about it. Basically best for whenever the raid is getting overwhelmed by sustained damage on everyone – I often pop this on XT002 and Sapphiron, for example.
Mana cooldowns in general: The main rule for mana cooldowns is to use them early and often! I use Arcane Torrent at 90%, for example. If you use them all when you get to 0, you won’t get as much mana back over the course of the fight because they’ll be sitting doing nothing for a lot longer!
Beyond that, most of the stuff you can use to abuse mana cooldowns is common sense. Try waiting until you’re at 30% mana, then popping Hymn of Hope and Shadowfiend at the same time for an increased mana return on Shadowfiend. You can also pop Shadowfiend before Bloodlust for increased mana return, or if BL is on cooldown, use Power Infusion on it – this will also work.
Make sure to set up a macro to use Shadowcrawl on the Shadowfiend, like this;
/cast [nopet] Shadowfiend
/cast [pet] Shadowcrawl
/cast [target=pet,exists] Power Infusion
I have yet to test this, but it should work. I’ll change it if it doesn’t.
Major Glyphs: Penance, Shield, Prayer of Healing
Minor Glyphs: Fading, Levitate, Fortitude
Viable Major Alternatives to PoH: Renew (for heroics), Flash Heal
The Penance and Shield glyphs are really set in stone. Nothing, nothing should change your mind here. Penance and Shields are our two keystone spells, so anything that improves them is an absolute must.
For the third, Prayer of Healing is the most commonly chosen glyph, as PoH has seen a vast increase in usage since the release of Ulduar (and the 2 piece tier 8 bonus has cemented that usage). The HoT component is the equivalent of adding a target to your PoH spell, spread out across the 5 players in the party. Also, with the enormous buff to PoH in 3.1 (we can target each group seperately now!) this glyph really isn’t one you should miss out on.
Glyph of FH isn’t really necessary unless you’re having serious mana problems. Even then, I don’t actually use FH all that much, so it wouldn’t make a big difference for me. Glyph of Renew is great for heroics, where the spike-smoothing effect goes a long way to making the step up from normal instances more manageable and PoH is used much less often.
As for the minor glyphs, these are pretty much set in stone too. The mana reduction on Fade is nice, as is the mana reduction on Fortitude for those pesky rebuffs after combat resses. Levitate is really neat and saves me having to carry around a ton of feathers in my bags! You’ll see some people suggesting Glyph of Shadowfiend, but if your fiend is dying then you’re “doing it wrong”, so to speak.
Hope this helped, and as always, if you’ve got any questions then just leave a comment and I’ll get back to you!