I'm actually not one to spend a lot of time criticizing other priests, but I ran a VoA pug this weekend that really made me start thinking about all the wrong ways you can priest-heal. If I ever needed proof that it is completely possible to have a fully epic set of gear without knowing how to place your class and spec, this run provided the requisite evidence.
This run also provided me the perfect opportunity to use Recount to get an idea of what was going wrong with the healers. Since it was a pug, however, I didn't really feel it was my place to necessarily do assignments or criticisms.
So here was the initial healing set up - Two holy priests and one resto shaman. The resto shaman was somewhat new to 80, and while he'd been making plenty of heroic ToC 5 man runs, he explained right from the beginning that he wasn't sure how strong his heals were going to be. The two priests were myself, and another girl.
On the fire boss dude fight (Koralon, but you knew what I mean by fire boss dude, right?), there are certain times when the two tanks take a significant amount of damage... and you basically need to spam heal them. The raid really should not be taking much damage except when he does his fire breath thingy. Therefore, I suggested that the other holy priest focus on one tank, and i would focus on the other, and let the shammy do the raid heals, since we would need stronger healing on the tanks.
After three tries, we gave up - we couldnt seem to keep the tanks alive.
I knew it was a healing problem because I was watching the tanks' health. My tank stayed up, hers continually went down. When I looked at her top three spells, it was Prayer of Healing, Circle of Healing, and Renew. 20% of my heals were overheals, which, while not great, is not unexpected for single target spamming. 40% of her heals were overheals.
So what? I hear you say. Holy Priests excel at raid healing, it's their biggest strength! That's what they're supposed to do!
And I will have to disagree. Yes, Holy Priests DO excel at raid healing, and that is the optimal assignment for them. However, the biggest strength of a holy priest is not their raid heals, it is in their versatility - they can do everything well. That includes single target healing.
A really great holy priest who understands their spec knows how to roll with the punches and switch healing assignments quickly. If you are the person in charge of keeping one of the tanks alive, Flash Heal (Binding Heal as needed) should be used often, along with Greater Heal and/or Prayer of Healing. Greater Heal is useful for precisely this scenario. If Prayer of Healing is your most used spell, and Flash Heal or Binding Heal isn't even in your top 3, then you aren't utilizing Serendipity to its fullest extent.
To her credit, her main spec was shadow and she was only healing to help out. She likely would have been one of the first to admit that she did not know how to heal holy very well, so I don't mean to pick on her.
When another player offered to come on his Disc Priest, she jumped at the chance to return to dps. And now we come to the Disc Priest.
The Disc Priest that joined us was dual specced Holy/Disc. And he healed exactly like a Holy Priest with Penance, but sans CoH. He did not cast a single Power Word: Shield. However, it worked, and we were able to finish off VoA.
At the end, he was boasting about how he was number one on the healing meter. Observe as I gracefully and elegantly bash my head against my desk repeatedly.
Did it work? Yes. Did we finish the instance? Yes. Everyone survived, the epics flowed like manna from the heavens, and everyone left a few badges richer, and relatively happy. Myself, the disc priest, and the resto shammy all did our jobs, so does it really matter if the disc priest didn't take advantage of the strengths of his spec? No, most likely it did not. When most people are overgeared for something, then it really doesn't matter. But I did walk away learning a few things about what people may or may not understand about priest specs.
For Holy? YES YOU CAN HEAL ONE PERSON. And when that is necessary, you should be casting a lot of Flash Heals to build up Serendipity stacks for hasted Greater Heals.
For Disc? Yes, Penance is awesome. However, Disc Priesting is not all about Penance - it's also about those Bubbles, so don't stop bubbling!