This is a guest post from Dwynwen, a Discipline Priest with some lessons to share. Be sure to visit her blog!
I’m one of many burned out 25 man raiders who have turned to 10’s to help minimize raiding impact on ‘real life’. I’d been at loose ends for a regular but casual raid for a few weeks after an alt run I’d been tanking fell apart.
When the call went out for a healer to join a better-geared 10 man ICC alt run, I offered my priest without really thinking about it and almost immediately wondered what the heck I’d done. In theory my priest was quite well geared to start ICC, wearing mostly 232 and 245 with a couple of PVP 264. The real problem was that I’d never really learned to heal in a raid as disc, and I wasn’t looking forward to attempting harder content than I’d ever tried on her before.
I had two major problems with discipline. One was of perception, and the other performance. Disc isn’t widely understood, at least on the servers I’ve played on. While the information is certainly out there if you look hard enough, holy priests are assumed to be the default and it takes a little digging to pull out the disc information from priest threads dominated by Circle of Healing. Worse, those who don’t know much about the differences between two specs judge us against our holy brothers and sisters, against which bar for throughput we haven’t a hope. I’d had quite a few bad experiences at the hands of PUG raid leaders who judged me purely on healing done, which does make my performance look appalling. Lacking the confidence to challenge this assumption, I tried to adopt a throughput-focused playstyle by using Prayer of Healing, Flash Heal, and Greater Heal. I struggled with mana issues and still performed poorly, and had added quite a bit of stress and anxiety for myself into the bargain.
In desperation, I respecced to holy expecting that to be the answer. I lasted half a heroic before teleporting back out to the trainer. I missed the powerful and dynamic playstyle that I’d fallen in love with in the battlegrounds, using every tool at my disposal to survive and claw my allies back from the abyss. I have the greatest respect for holy priests, but I regretfully concluded it was simply not for me.
Defeated, I stopped putting my hand up for raids. My confidence continued to take a beating from the usual abuse meted out to healers in LFG. Intellectually I knew full well the Paladin had killed himself by standing in a void zone, but with my faith in my abilities at such a low ebb I meekly dropped group to save them the trouble of a votekick and vowed to focus on PVP.
It’s probably understandable that after all of this I would be nervous about stepping into ICC. The first run I was healing with a druid who had a disc priest main. The druid took over healing assigns and she was confident in directing me. “We’ll get the Paladin to tank heal” she suggested, “so you can focus on raid healing with me.”
Raid heal? I didn’t think I could.
“Keep an eye on the tanks just in case we run into trouble, but focus on keeping bubble up on the raid.”
I followed her advice as best I could. The first four bosses passed without incident as I focused on learning this new playstyle. Without a healing meter that tracked absorbs I had no idea how well i was doing, but I soon found I felt far less anxiety and my mana problems went away. At first, my saviour complex had me leaping to direct heal DPS who were taking damage but I slowly learned to have faith in the bubble to hold them until the druid HOT’s could roll in.
To start with, I was quite sparing of the bubbles, only casting them over the whole raid when I knew raid-wide damage was about to occur. As started to see heal reports whispered from the druid that showed how powerful my absorbs were, I gradually learned the art of bubble spam. I modified my raid frames to show Weakened Soul, and aimed to keep it up on all members of the raid at all times. I made a mouseover macro for Power Word: Shield, and bound it to 1.
I learned to move almost constantly to keep myself out of damaging effects while still rotating through the raid, keeping up POM and throwing out Penance. I kept casting, throwing out Renew if I had nothing else to do. If I didn’t have mana problems, I pushed harder until I did. I started to get better at picking the times when direct healing was called for. Bubble-Spammer I am, but as the only healer in our raid able to break both fears on Blood Queen I gloried in throwing caution to the wind, stacking haste procs, and exploding out in Prayer of Healing to get the raid through. If that’s what it feels like to be a holy priest, I think I’m starting to understand.
If the mistakes I made were driven by the perception and attitudes of the community, so was the solution. I can credit good mentoring for most of my improvement. My druid friend gave me many tips, hints, and plenty of encouragement. Apparently this is as natural to her as breathing, because when I credited her with teaching me how to disc she scoffed and assured me I already could.
If only she knew.
There’s a certain truth however to what she says. I already possessed enough of the information I needed to raid successfully as disc, little bits here and there I’d gleaned in my wider reading. What I was really missing was the confidence to put into practice what I knew was right, and the numbers to back it up. Penance Priest, World of Matticus and Plus Heal have filled in some of the gaps for me here. The final piece though only dropped into place when I was provided with an environment where constructive criticism abounded in which to develop and learn.
I can wholeheartedly agree with "The ABC of Discipline Priesting" that playstyle makes far more difference than perfect stat itemisation, and I think it’s a message that many new disc can benefit from. I can assure you I could be gemmed with pure agility and still be performing better than I was before – and I’m not a bad player. I’ve raided 25 man content as progression over two expansions, and have always had a reputation in my guild as someone who hits hard above their gear level and follows direction well. It still took more than a few trial-and-error runs and a guide to gemming for me to finally shed my fear of disc’s perception and start learning to play well.
My gear is certainly not fabulously itemised at the moment – I’m high on haste and regen and low on crit according to the conventional wisdom, and the 200 hit rating and 150 resilience I’m carrying probably isn’t doing anyone any good. I had my reward for all my hard work and development though when, finally brave enough to enter a 25 man ICC PUG, I saw myself top the charts fight after fight against very geared healers. Winning the roll on Althor’s Abacus possibly assisted with the general feeling of benevolence to all humanity, but at the root I was thankful I could finally feel proud of my impact. Bubble is, after all, the ultimate heal snipe.
Of course, the meters don’t tell the whole story and that’s not really what I’m celebrating here. My sense of achievement comes not from indulging my saviour complex, or from the numbers on recount, but from a feeling of mastery of my class. Besides, it doesn’t matter how much you push to top the chart – you’ll still be outhealed by the hunter you killed with Mark of the Fallen Champion by meter-chasing instead of following your assigns.