Starter guide for PvE Discipline Priest Healing
There are plenty of sources on teh interwebs for information regarding Discipline Priest healing, but I thought I would throw my own two cents in. If you’re looking for theory crafting, there’s no better place than ElititstJerks. If you’re looking for hilarity, try Bubbles. And if you want a perspective from a raid and guild leader who runs Discipline, check out Matticus.

And if you’re totally lost, and don’t even know where to start to try out this Disc thing you’ve been hearing so much about, well here I am. Rock you like a hurricane.

I’m not an expert, but I too went the way of the Disc. If you’re switching to Discipline from Shadow, you will have a completely different learning curve than if you are switching over from Holy. If you are especially n00by, bubble = Power Word: Shield :)

The first thing to remember as a Discipline priest, is that unlike other healers, your focus is on damage mitigation. You will not top healing charts. You are going to be bubbling and trying to prevent targets from taking any damage in the first place - therefore your priority is in damage prevention, not reactive healing.

Table of Contents

Talent Points

If you’re looking for a basic Talent Point distribution to give you an idea what you need at level 80, I threw one together that will suffice. You can move a few talents around here and there, but for PvE and raid healing, you will want all of the bottom half of the Disc tree.

Most Important Talents:
  • Inner Focus – Personally, I’m pretty rotten at remembering to use this spell, but you really should take it and learn how to manage it properly. In addition to being providing you with a mana free heal, it also gives you a good shot at a nice crit boost.
  • Improved Power Word: Shield – Discipline priests bubble. That’s what they do. You cannot call yourself a Disc priest without this basic, staple talent that ensures your bubbles are superior to Holy bubbles.
  • Soul Warding – This effectively removes the cooldown from Power Word: Shield so you can bubble like crazy. Go nuts. You can spend all your time bubbling your companions – and that’s kinda like, what Disc priests do yo.
  • Mental Agility – You will be using a lot of instant casts, so you might as well take this to move on to the next tier.
  • Mental Strength – See below for reasons why Intellect is such a great stat for Disc Priests. This is a must-have talent mainly because in addition to a very nice increase in regen and mana pool, it is a prereq for Power Infusion, and gets you to the latter half of the tier.
  • Reflective Shield – Why do I not include this in my PvE spec? With our personal delight in bubbles, why not have a reflective bubble? If you are speccing for PvE, skip this talent because it only applies to bubbles you cast on YOURSELF, and is therefore not worth the 2 talent points for a raid healing spec. Great PvP talent though.
  • Power Infusion – This is a pretty snazzy spell that will give you (or someone else – it is castable on other members of your raid) a significant speed boost, as well as cutting down mana.
  • Renewed Hope – This is a staple Disc spell. If you didn’t know, Weakened Soul is the debuff given when someone has Power Word: Shield on them to prevent you from spam casting your bubble on one individual taking damage. This talent explains why you should be casting Power Word: Shield on SOMEONE at LEAST every 20 seconds as a benefit to the whole raid. This is also why you usually want to bubble someone up before you start casting heals on them, because your heals will crit more when you do so.
  • Rapture – This talent ensures that you do not run out of mana. Take this, bubble freely, and you will have few mana issues.
  • Aspiration – the only part of this talent that is especially crucial is the reduced cooldown for Penance. But, that reduced cooldown is so crucial that this is a must-have talent.
  • Divine Aegis – It’s your double-bubble! When one bubble just isn’t enough! You will likely be critting quite a bit.
  • Pain Suppression – If you are joining us from the Holy side, this is the Disc version of Guardian Spirit. In other words, it is your oh shit button. Despite what I may have said elsewhere regarding the efficacy of an oh shit button that reduces threat, it still has a significant damage reduction associated with it. Don’t just use it on tanks! Everyone has that ridiculously aggro-happy mage in the group who needs the threat reduction…
  • Grace – This talent is one more reason why Discipline priests are great single target healers. It’s a 9% healing boost, which is pretty significant.
  • Borrowed Time – There are two parts to this talent. The speed boost is nice, no doubt about it, but that’s not what makes this talent required. The increase in how much your bubble absorbs explains why Disc priests keep yelling at Holy priests to stop making half-assed bubble attempts. Disc bubbles will always be far superior to Holy bubbles.
  • Penance – The awesomest heal ever. You are not a disc priest until you have Penance. This will quickly become your favorite heal, and it should become your most used heal.
You’ll likely have a few talent points left over that you can spend over in the Holy tree. For the most part, you only want/need to spec into Holy deep enough to pick up Inspiration. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Holy Specialization – Crit is pretty important to Disc priests, so you can go ahead and pick this up as your tier 1 holy talent for all your non-Penance heals. You know, those silly heals you’ll be using when you aren’t spamming Penance or your bubble. Pfft.
  • Divine Fury – another anh talent picked up mainly to get to Inspiration. However, you probably will use Greater Heal in between Penance often enough to justify the half second reduction in cast time. This is all a matter of personal preference. If you find you are more of a Flash Heal spammer, pick up Spell Warding instead.
  • Spell Warding – as an alternative to Divine Fury on your way to Inspiration, you can pick this up for a little extra survivability. Most AoE raid damage that can’t be avoided is spell damage, so it’s not a bad talent to have, just not a necessity.
  • Inspiration – This is the most important talent for you to try to get to in the Holy tree. Because you will often be focusing as a single-target healer, which means you will often be the tank healer, this is an added damage reduction talent for you.
  • Desperate Prayer – If you have an extra talent point left over, this isn’t a bad spell to pick up. It’s a personal oh shit button (I am not mourning the days when it was mana –free and Dwarf racial. No really, I’m not. ::weep::)


Stats

Alright, so you’ve got your talent points sorted out. Now it’s time to figure out your gear. You will probably already have picked up on some of the stats that are important to Disc priests by filling in your talent points, but here’s a more detailed look.
  • Hit Rating – if you are new to healing, this applies to all healers – Healers do NOT need ANY hit rating. Heals always hit.
  • Spirit – Holy and Shadow priests, take note. You do not get a spellpower bonus from Spirit when you are Disc. Spirit is very blah for Discipline priests. You can take it or leave it, but it's not really any better than Mp5, and should be well balanced with Intellect.
  • Intellect – this is an important stat for all casters, of course, and certainly all healers, but if you are coming over from the Holy side please note this is an even more important stat to Disc priests. (This is another good reason why when deciding on your talents, Mental Strength is a must-have.) Intellect boosts the size of your mana pool, boosts your regen, and increase your crit rating. The size of your mana pool is actually in and of itself a regen mechanic – take a look at the tooltips for the following raid regen spells, and you will see why – Replenishment, Shadowfiend, Rapture.
  • Crit Rating – Crit procs your “double bubble”, Divine Aegis, which is a large portion of the "healing" (mitigation) you will be doing, so it's pretty important.
  • Spell Haste – it may seem that Spell Haste isn’t as important to Disc priests because we spend so much time using instants (a la Prayer of Mending and Power Word: Shield) but because Spell Haste also reduces your global cooldown, and therefore allows you to cast more bubbles in a smaller amount of time, it is still important. The Haste vs Crit debate still applies for Disc priests, but it is largely a matter of personal preference. If you want to read more about the theory-crafting behind it, check out ElitistJerks.
  • Mp5 – The recent 3.2 boost to Mp5 makes it a better stat. If you are Shadow or Holy, and are used to avoiding Mp5 in favor of Spirit, remember that again, Disc priests don’t get any supplemental boosts from Spirit unlike the other talents. Therefore Mp5 is better for Disc priests in some ways. Mp5 will directly increase your mana regen while casting, with the tradeoff that it does not scale with Blessing of Kings, and similar buffs. You usually have a choice between Mp5 and Spirit, but it’s not a bad idea to have a decent mix of both. Intellect is still superior in some ways because of all the different ways it increases regen mechanics, and the fact that it scales with Kings, but it does have a smaller direct effect on your regen, so you don't want to solely rely on Intellect.
  • Spellpower – In my original version of this guide, I neglected to notice the full tooltip of Borrowed Time - in addition to making your direct heals larger, your bubbles are also increased by 40% of your spellpower. That's some pretty powerful stuff.
As a side note, if you are switching to Disc from Holy, your gear will most likely be fairly sufficient to work for both specs, however, you will want to take a second look at your enchants and gems. Switch out your spirit enchants and gems for Intellect, crit, or possibly Mp5 to adjust better for Disc healing.

Glyphs

If you want to see a solid list of all the Priest Glyphs, Wowwiki has a nice one. For Disc specific glyphs, there are no minor glyphs that really matter too much. We don’t really have a whole lot of option, but most priests like to have the handy Glyph of Levitate. Everything other than that really is a matter of personal preference. I, personally, like to use Glyph of Shadow Protection, because it adds some time to my Shadow Protection buff, and I don’t really care about the other minor, heh. Now for some info about major glyphs for Disc priests:
  • Glyph of Penance – This is a must have, hands down, no questions asked. Penance is your bread and butter healing spell, and you want to use it as often as possible, so you definitely want a reduction in its cooldown.
  • Glyph of Power Word: Shield – You will be bubbling so much, that it’s very nice to get an extra little free heal from it.
  • Glyph of Flash Heal – If you use Flash Heal a lot, this is a good option. Personally, I never have mana problems when I’m running Disc, but better safe than sorry, right?
  • Glyph of Holy Nova – If you suspect it will be necessary for you to contribute to raid healing, this glyph is one of 2 that will help boost your raid healing abilities. If you like healing with the instant AoE non-smart Holy Nova, this is a good choice.
  • Glyph of Prayer of Healing – If on the other hand you prefer raid healing with the long cast, but powerful AoE heal Prayer of Healing, this adds a nice little HoT buff to it.

The first two Major glyphs are pretty standard, but the third is more a matter of personal preference.

Spells

Healers don’t necessarily have a “rotation” per se, but due to cooldown management and the fact that Disc healers excel at single-target healing, they are more likely to have something close to a rotation than most other healers. We will start with just a basic list of the spells you will use while healing from each school.

Discipline:
  • Pain Suppression – your oh shit button (or as Ghostcrawler likes to call it, the “oh snap!” button). Note the threat reduction – if you are going to use it on the tank, try to be sure he or she can handle the threat loss.
  • Penance – One full cast of Penance will give three stacks of Grace to your target, increasing healing on the target. This is your bread, but it does have a cooldown. The Discipline tree is built around this spell and Power Word: Shield – basically, all the other spells are what you are casting while Penance is on cooldown.
  • Power Infusion – Super boost. Use it on someone, or yourself, every cooldown, and people will learn to appreciate Disc priests more.
  • Power Word: Shield – If Penance is your bread, your Bubble is your butter. Or maybe it’s the other way around? Not sure. Your bubble shield is what makes you Disc. Specced properly, it can mitigate massive amounts of damage, be cast every Global Cooldown (you know, when you aren’t casting Penance), and will keep up a nice raid buff after you cast it.
Holy:
  • Binding Heal – There is little reason to ever just be healing yourself. You might as well cast this spell on someone else, and heal the both of you. I love this spell like whoa.
  • Desperate Prayer – If you specced deep enough into Holy to pick up this spell, it’s a nice little personal oh shit button. It’s a matter of personal preference – I’m a creature of habit, and never remember to use it.
  • Divine Hymn – This is essentially a once per encounter AoE heal. Remember to use it, it’s pretty handy. If you are assigned to tank heals, it may not be worth the risk of casting it for 8 secs, however – a tank can take a lot of damage in 8 secs, so be sure someone else is throwing heals on the tank in the mean time.
  • Flash Heal – Staple small heal for all priests. You will probably still get a lot of use out of this spell as Disc, particularly if you pick of the Glyph of Flash Heal, and/or the talent Improved Flash Heal.
  • Greater Heal – Staple large heal for all priests. If you aren’t as big a fan of Flash Heal, and prefer larger slower heals, this is your main choice, but be sure that you spec deep enough into holy to pick up Divine Fury if that is the case. Note that the talent spec I linked does not fill out Divine Fury completely, so you'll have to rob the talents from elsewhere, such as Improved Renew.
  • Holy Nova – Baseline instant AoE heal for all Priests. It’s instant, AoE, no cooldown, but it ain’t cheap, and it ain’t smart. It is going to only heal the people in your party.
  • Hymn of Hope – Regen spell. Note that this returns a percentage of mana – therefore, for a real boost, couple this with Shadowfiend and/or Replenishment.
  • Prayer of Healing – Slow cast, very large, non-smart AoE heal. This is pretty powerful stuff, but keep in mind that it is not a smart heal. Unlike Holy Nova, however, it is not limited to your own party – you cast it on someone, and then it heals THEIR party.
  • Prayer of Mending – Instant bouncy reactive heal. Keep it bouncing around at all times, and it does the work for you.
  • Renew – Our nice little HoT. Unless you find yourself using Greater Heal a lot, spec into Improved Renew from the holy tree. In addition, if you pick up Mental Agility in the Disc tree, the mana cost is reduced. If you are solo healing a target (particularly the main tank), it's a good idea to keep a Renew rolling at all times.
  • Redemption – Your basic healer rezzing spell.

Shadow:
  • Fade – This is the panic button for when a mob is running at you. It is not a permanent threat dump, but it is usually enough to get the mob to forget about you so that the tank can pick them up. Better than running around like a mage, yes?
  • Shadowfiend – Another regen mechanic priests have. Love it or hate it, shadowfiends are handy for mana intensive fights! Couple it with Hymn of Hope or Innervate, and you can easily go from an empty mana pool to a full bar. If you can’t couple it with other regen spells, use it early in a fight so that you get a chance to use it more than once.

Rotation:

Your “rotation” will depend largely on how you are assigned as a healer. In a raiding environment, you should be assigned to one target to make full use of your awesomeness as a Discipline Priest.

Single-Target Healing:
  • Power Word: Shield - Always always always start with Power Word: Shield. Keep an eye on that Weakened Soul debuff – your target should have this debuff at all times. If there are other priests in the raid, kindly ask them to refrain from bubbling your target – your bubbles are better. In addition to keeping up the Weakened Soul debuff so as to get full benefit from Renewed Hope on your target, you need to be bubbling at least often enough to keep up Renewed Hope buff on the raid as a whole. Specced properly, there is no cooldown except global cooldown for your bubble, so you have no excuse not to bubble! And after all, why wouldn’t you?
  • Prayer of Mending - Keep a Prayer of Mending bouncing around the raid. Start it up on the tank since they will likely be taking the first hit. This is another spell you need to monitor to make sure it is bouncing around at all times.
  • Penance – Follow up your bubble or PoM with Penance. You want to keep three stacks of Grace up on your target at all times to maximize healing.
  • Greater Heal/ Flash Heal / Renew– When Penance is on cooldown, and you have ensured that your target has the Weakened Soul debuff, fill in your cooldown times with Flash Heal and Greater Heal as needed. It’s a very good idea to keep a Renew rolling on your target as well.
With one target, your rotation is pretty simple. Prayer of Mending -> Power Word: Shield –> Penance –> Renew –> Flash Heal/Greater Heal. You should be able to get in 3 flash heals or 1 greater heal and 1 flash heal between Penance cooldowns if the weakened soul debuff is up.

Group Healing (Primarily for 5 man instances)

  • Bubble Bubble Bubble!!! One of the biggest advantages for raid healing as a Disc priest is no cooldown on your Power Word: Shield. When in doubt, bubble. When happy, bubble. When dancing, bubble. Always be a-bubblin.
  • Disc priests do not have any smart AoE heals, but all of our AoE heals affect the entire group, so in 5 man instances, it doesn’t really matter. If you have predictable large amounts of incoming damage for the whole party, use Prayer of Healing. For sporadic AoE damage, use Holy Nova. Otherwise, bubble penance and Flash Heal. With only 5 people to watch, it should not be too difficult to keep a bubble on everyone at all times, though it may be trickier to keep up the Weakened Soul debuff. Therefore, try to bubble the tank often enough to maintain a steady Weakened Soul debuff on the tank, and just try to keep a bubble on everyone else.
Raid Healing
  • If you are contributing to healing the raid in general, it is not too different from healing for a five man. Bubble! If you are in a raid with other priests, ask them to avoid bubbling in general so that you don’t get frustrated. If there is another Disc priest in the raid, divide up your groups so that you will not overlap in your healing assignments due to the weakened soul debuff. It is exceedingly frustrating to be going around bubbling and to get error messages because the target cannot be bubbled again.
  • Because neither Prayer of Healing nor Holy Nova are smart ("smart heals" automatically heal the people within range who are lowest in health), they really aren’t the best for raid healing, unless it is AoE damage that everyone takes. Even in this scenario, if there is a Holy Priest in the raid, their Prayer of Healing is likely to be more powerful, and a faster cast. So if you know some damage is incoming, go on a bubble craze first.
And there it is! Everything you ever needed to know about starting out as a Discipline Priest Healer for PvE. Unfortunately you will need to look elsewhere if you are looking for tips for PvP, as I am utter fail for PvP. I realize this guide provides no theorycrafting for you, and that is because MATH IS HARD zomg. If you are looking for more specifics about the maths behind my suggestions, mosey on over to ElitistJerks and calculate to your heart’s content. I spent a lot of time reading the stuff over there to get an idea for how to heal as Disc, so it’s definitely a spot you should check out.

If you feel you have graduated past the level of starter Disc guides, and are looking for more tips on min/maxing your priest, I highly suggest checking out PenancePriest (especially this post). PP is MUCH better than I am at theorycrafting and min-maxing.

Updated October 6th, 2009 (added link to PenancePriest post and Enchants)
15 Responses
  1. Fuubaar Says:

    Thank you so much Jess!

    Once I get online tonight, I'm going to buy dual spec & start the journey of learning the ways of the healer ;)

    I appreciate all of the hard work you put into this for my sake :)


  2. Jessabelle Says:

    @Fuu

    It was a wonderful request and I'm totally flattered you asked me! I know several people who have started trying out Disc and yet never started using Penance, so it seemed like a newbie's guide was in order!

    <3


  3. Anonymous Says:

    Excellent guide. After being a Shadow Priest my entire career, I just dual specced to pick up disc healing and this was tremendously helpful. Many thanks.


  4. Jessabelle Says:

    @Anonymous

    Thanks, it's great to know that my guide is helpful! I'd love to know how you found it, whether it be through a search of word of mouth :)


  5. Fido Says:

    I bumped into this starter guide while I was looking for.. well.. a discipline starter guide for someone on the discpriest forum ^^

    I must compliment you on the simple, what to call it.. , Completeness of your writing.

    Thanks for this :)


  6. Fido Says:

    Oh and I just noticed a couple of points you might want to take a look at.
    Keep in mind, I do not mean this in any offencive way since you've put a lot of effort in this blog which is, of course, greatly appreciated :)

    1: Critical rating is not a Regen stat.
    - It's possible to think it is, but Rapture only applies to PW:Shield and it is a set amount. Critical strikes have no effect on this whatsoever. I'm not saying Crit is unimportant, because the Divine Aegis proc is usually 10-20% of your total "healing".

    2: Spellpower -does- effect the absorb value of your PW:Shield thanks to Borrowed Time. Quite a lot I think :) Besides PW:Shield, it also effects Divine Aegis because the proc will absorb 30% of the critical heal value. And spellpower empowers those heals ;)

    Ok Again, sorry for this post of mine.

    Oh and I love the "cast rotation" bit. I don't tbelieve I've seen anything like that before in a Disc starter guide.


  7. Jessabelle Says:

    @Fido

    Thank you so much! I went back through and reread the guide, and for the life of me I can't figure out why I was so convinced that crit affected Rapture, haha. And I obviously didn't read the Borrowed Time tooltip close enough - thanks for pointing that out!

    I am so glad you found this guide helpful, and your suggestions are great. I'm going to update the guide with your improvements and give you credit. I really do appreciate helpful suggestions like this, because I want this guide to be all-inclusive and error free to help others more.


  8. bobturkey Says:

    Awesome beginners guide Miss Medicina. I'm adding a link to it from my Priestly Resources page.

    My only suggestion is not related directly to this post. I find the tiny text size and, to a less extent, the serif font hard to read (i'm getting old). Please consider increasing the default text size and perhaps moving to a sans-serif font like Arial or somthing.

    Not fatal as I can increase the text size so I don't go cross eyed. Just an idea. :-)

    Keep up the nice posts.

    Gobble gobble.


  9. Rambert Says:

    @Jessabelle
    > I can't figure out why I was so convinced that crit affected Rapture

    Well it did before 3.1, then it was redesigned. It used to be "Rapture - Rank 5
    Causes you to gain up to 2.5% of your maximum mana each time you heal with Greater Heal, Flash Heal or Penance, or damage is absorbed by your Power Word: Shield or Divine Aegis. Increasing the amount healed or absorbed increases the mana gained". Crits was important to get those 2.5% and not less.


  10. Sarah Says:

    Thanks so much for these guides! I discovered your blog yesterday and have enjoyed reading it. Your guides are very informative and, best of all, easy to understand. I prefer discipline healing, but I just hit 80 last week so I dual spec'd holy so I can play around with both a bit.

    As for inner focus, I have a macro I love that another disc priest recommended.

    /cast Inner Focus
    /cast Prayer of Healing

    I can cast PoH without that huge mana cost. This macro has saved many wipes and leaves me with mana to finish the fight.


  11. Brad Says:

    thanks for the guide! Nice and simple - a great way to get up to speed for a disc noob like myself. thanks for the help.


  12. Tuffasdise - Garona Says:

    Very nice guide. I just respecced to disc from holy after getting a big sigh in a raid for being holy. I looked at the elitistjerks site but probably need a guide for that too lol.Yours was very easy to understand. GJ! :)


  13. Who We Are Says:

    medicina, though this might seem cliche but...

    I've just swapped from shadow to disc healing without any changes to gear and your guide is perfect.

    Thank you so very much.

    Bubble, Bubble, Bubble,
    Definitely No Trouble.


  14. James Says:

    Finally, a guide that is easy to read for those of us who are new to the whole "discipline priest" thing. Now if only Blizzard could figure out that I don't need to be "randomed" to Halls of Reflection while I figure this out.

    Also for the person who was upset about text size, nowadays most browsers allow you to resize the text as needed by using a key combination and the + sign.


  15. Anonymous Says:

    cheers ...very helpfull for a starting healer


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