Welcome to FocusedWill.com! This is probably the first resource you’re going to look at, and there is a lot of information to take in. To start off, I’d like to say that Discipline Priests are one of the most challenging healing specs to master, but one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in my 12+ years of playing this game. It’s not an easy spec to pick up and perform without putting in a little bit of time learning the nuances. This guide will give you a fundamental understanding of the spec as well as introducing you to more advanced strategies to improve your gameplay.
There are several sub-sections located in the navigation menu to learn more regarding specific information as well, so make sure to take a look there when you’re done reading this guide!
In a raid setting, there are only a limited number of ways to apply Atonement to targets. These spells are referred to as “Atonement Applicators”. Atonement is the main mechanic in which we do do a majority of our healing. It first requires us to apply Atonement, and then follow up DPS.
Power Word: Shield – Single target, applies a shield to the target. Should be used on cooldown. Also great to apply Atonements when on the move, especially when you are using Rapture.
Plea – Single target, does a minor amount of healing but mana cost increases based on how many Atonements you have applied in the raid already. Use Plea to apply Atonements on the move when under 5 total Atonements. (Tip: Don’t use Plea over 5 Atonements)
Power Word: Radiance – 3 targets, applies to your initial target and the two closest players without Atonement (within 30 yards). (Tip: Alternate your casts of PW:R on Melee and Ranged players to effectively apply Atonement to the raid)
Shadow Mend – Single target, direct heal that should only be used as an emergency to prevent someone from dying. The mana cost for this spell makes it the least effective Atonement applicator, but it was worth mentioning.
Now, the above description of each ability is nice, but it doesn’t really explain in terms of numbers as to why we use Power Word: Shield on cooldown, or why we shouldn’t Plea past 5 Atonements, and why we should cast Power Word: Radiance after 5 Atonements. This graphic should put things in perspective (SD is Shield Discipline, a talent choice described later in the guide, in case you were wondering):
SD = Shield Discipline
PW:S = Power Word: Shield
PW:R = Power Word: Radiance
COOLDOWNS AND DPS ABILITIES
Power Word: Barrier – Places a “bubble” on the ground that raid members can stand in. Excellent when used during points of an encounter where a large group of people will be stacked to take effect. Barrier for the Devoted (BftD) is an Artifact trait that increases the effect of your Atonement by 100% for those standing in the barrier.
Lights Wrath – One of our main healing abilities on a 1.5 minute cooldown. The damage (and thus Atonement healing) of this ability scales the more Atonement you have out in the raid.
Shadowfiend – A powerful cooldown which does high damage for 12 seconds on a 3 minute cooldown. This, in addition to healing from other damaging abilities, can rival Tranquility levels of healing.
Rapture – This is a very powerful cooldown on a 2 minute timer that allows you to cast Power Word: Shield without a cooldown. This can allow you to pre-bubble people for a damaging ability or be used during periods of constant damage. Paired with Shadowfiend (when they are both off-cooldown, it’s *not recommended* to wait using Rapture until Shadowfiend comes off CD) this can be an extremely powerful healing combo for minimal mana expenditure.
Purge the Wicked – A damage over time ability. This ability will jump to a nearby target when Penance is cast on a target with the debuff. It’s recommended to multi-dot when available in encounters where there is going to be high constant raid damage. Consider this to be Disciplines “healing over time” (HoT).
Penance – One of our main damaging abilities which is normally used when it’s off cooldown. There are situations where you may hold off using it, however. If there is raid-wide AoE damage coming and you need to build up Atonements, you can avoid casting Penance until after the damage occurs to maximize its healing. Also, try to time your movements for Penance coming off cooldown to make the most of your healing on the run.
Smite – Contrary to what common sense would tell you, this is not a filler spell. Disc does not have a filler ability per se. Smite costs Discipline Priests 1% of their mana and can be the cause of mana issues for Discipline Priests who are lower geared or don’t have access to mana from trinkets and buffs. The best use of Smite is when it will effectively heal your Atonement targets. If your Atonement targets are at full health, it’s best to not cast Smite.
Now that we’ve established what abilities Discipline has in its toolkit and moderately how they are to be used, it’s time to discuss different healing phases. Discipline excels at healing large raid-wide AoE damage, however, lacks some of the spot healing capabilities of other healers. Discipline operates in a raid in two distinctive “phases”. I call them the “conserve phase” and the “ramp-up phase”. Details are below.
Conserve periods are times during an encounter between major predictable AoE damage where you maintain as many Atonements as needed based on the type of encounter. During this time you want to limit your casting to PWS, Penance, Refreshing your DoT, and maybe some Pleas to maintain Atonements if it’s needed. Smite can be used during your conserve phase, but I’ll explain more on this later. Depending on the type of encounter, you will want to adjust your playstyle for your conserve phase to save mana or maximize your healing. Atonements out during this period can be anywhere between 2-8, again, depending on the type of encounter.
Ramp-up begins roughly 10 seconds before the damage occurs. This provides you time to cast 4-5 PWR casts in preparation. Assuming you were already maintaining 2-5 Atonements or so in your “Conserve Phase” you would want to refresh your DoT, PWS, then continue spaming PWR until the damage occurs or is about to occur. What you do next is determined by the abilities you have off cooldown. How many Atonements you need to get out, and how to follow up application of those Atonements is discussed further in the Advanced Gameplay post.
LEVEL 15 TIER
LEVEL 30 TIER
LEVEL 45 TIER
RECOMMENDED: Your choice
This tier really doesn’t matter for raiding. Some choices may have marginal use for specific encounters.
LEVEL 60 TIER
RECOMMENDED: Shield Discipline
With the changes to Mindbender in Patch 7.1, Shield Discipline takes the front seat as the talent of choice for this tier. Power Word: Solace was also buffed, but not enough to make it a choice over Shield Discipline. Mindbender will still have a limited role in raiding, based on the encounter; if you’re interested in talent selection based on a per boss encounter basis, check out our Boss Specific Strategies.
LEVEL 75 TIER
With the change to Contrition to increase its duration to 3 seconds, it now becomes the default choice in this tier. Power Infusion provided 2-2.5 extra seconds to our burst window in which it was used (only a few times a fight). With Contrition now increasing Atonement an additional 3 seconds, every burst window will last longer, and Atonements during downtime will be up longer as well.
Twist of Fate still has a place in this tier of talents if it can maintain a high uptime (approximately 70%).
LEVEL 90 TIER
LEVEL 100 TIER
RECOMMENDED: Purge the Wicked
To start, Shadow Covenant is a horrible talent, and should never be used. Purge the Wicked is what we will use on nearly every encounter because of the added damage it provides converts to more healing from Atonement.
However, in some rare circumstances, it is acceptable to choose Grace. Example would be on a fight where there is no predictable raid damage, or, that fight is designed in a way where we cannot successfully time our ramp-up period to heal it. These cases are extremely rare and normally limited to specific Mythic strategies when spot healing is needed. Grace is also acceptable in extremely small normal / heroic raids where you are 1-2 healing encounters.
Rule of thumb: 95% of the time it’s Purge the Wicked over Grace, but never rule Grace out completely if your raid needs you to spot heal on an encounter not designed around our burst AoE healing.