Discipline With Penance – How it Works


This is a guest post by Kitts where he posts a response about why Penance IS the spell to use.

I read a number of World of Warcraft oriented blogs: some of them have to do with Hunters, some with Druids, and some with Priests.  I respect all the people who post on these blogs 100%, because their opinions are valuable to me in order to grow as a raid leader and as a healer in general.

As a fan of the priest blog “World of Matticus”, I was surprised to read a Guest Post regarding Discipline priests healing without the 51-point talent “Penance” and reasons why this spell isn’t as effective as any other healing spell in a Discipline priests repertoire.  Furthermore, he uses arguments that generally don’t make sense.  I learned early on, if you cannot substantiate a claim, you should not make one.  By no means am I angered by the words he uses, but I’m always happy to “extol its values” as a spell.

Let’s look at each point Wistoovern makes.  And let’s see what makes sense and what doesn’t.

  • “Stop Assuming you need it – Yeah, it’s a 51-point spell. But do ALL Beast Mastery Hunters use Beast Mastery? It’s not too long ago that Lightwell was at the top of the Holy Priest’s tree, but did anyone actually use it? Taking a talent without making sure that you will use it efficiently is useless.”

I agree.  You shouldn’t take a talent without knowing how to use it.  But in order to learn how to use it within your own special circumstances, it requires experimentation and further study.  And no, not all Beast Mastery Hunters use their 51-point talent but I believe the reasons behind not using Penance are going to be different than using the Beast Mastery talent.

  • “Dual Tasking? – Let’s be honest – priests are not hybrid classes. We’re not meant to do both healing and damage at the same time. We really get to pick one or the other. We do a good job at either one (nice shadow priests, GOOD shadow priests…), but both at the same time is impractical or inefficient. So a spell that can either do heals or DPS depending on who is targeted? This can be a big problem.
  • I Mean Really, Dual Tasking? – There are only two other spells that we have that works like this: Holy Nova and Dispel Magic. However, the priest that considers Holy Nova a crucial part of his healing spells needs a reality check, and Dispel Magic (and Mass Dispel, fine) is not going to be an issue if it’s cast on the wrong target (unless you REALLY had to dispel a DoT or effect off of a player and you miss).”

Ah yes, the dual tasking spell argument.  Wistoovern argues that priests are not hybrid classes and therefore a spell that can either heal or do damage (dependent on target) is a problem.  He also argues that a priest considering Holy Nova to be a crucial healing spell is a nut and that Dispel Magic (or its AoE counterpart) isn’t an issue if it’s cast on the wrong target.

I believe the first point is a fallacy of a definition.  He assigns the idea of a “hybrid class” as one that is able to heal and DPS at the same time.  To be frank, any class that is healing AND damaging at the same time is hurting a raid because you’re not doing either role 100%, not to mention probably doing a mediocre job in comparsion to one specced mainly into that role, and there are no classes at this time who can spec in a way that will perfectly fit both roles.  To me, a hybrid class is a class when specced properly can fulfill two or three different roles in a raid. So that would mean warriors (tank/DPS), death knights (DPS/tank), shaman (DPS/healer), paladins (tank/healer/DPS), priests (healer/DPS), and druids (tank/DPS/healer) are hybrid classes.  Warlocks, mages, hunters, and rogues do nothing but DPS.

To be honest, if you’re in a raid and you’re healing by the target’s target and that target is not a tank, that DPS (and hopefully not healer) is at fault and depending on what you’re fighting, they’re probably very dead.  If you’re targetting something that’s CC’d and you’re going off of that, that’s your fault.  Also as a priest, I haven’t ran into many fights where I have to shackle something.  Actually— I haven’t shackled anything since Burning Crusade! Simply put, if you’re targetting something that you shouldn’t be targetting, you’re not doing your job.  You’re a healer.  Heal!

Holy Nova is a spell that gets used rarely.  I use it specifically when I’m changing polarities (on the Thaddeus fight) so I can hit my group on the run if we get chain lightning’d.  I also use it when I’m AoEing things to death outside of raids.  But I agree, if (and that’s a BIG if) there are any priests that use it as a “main spell”, they’re doing something wrong.  I honestly haven’t ran into any priest who would solely use this spell.

Dispel Magic… okay, how are you casting this on the wrong target.  You can’t dispel buffs off of friendly players, you can’t dispel debuffs off of an enemy.  I think there are moments where you have to dispel and if you miss, okay, recast.  Not a big deal.  Maybe if you dispel an Unstable Affliction (but the last time I saw a mob cast this was in Magtheridon’s Lair)

  • “Did I Do That? YES! – … Imagine that you go to heal someone in your party, without realizing that you have a mob targeted that has not yet been pulled… but your tank probably won’t have time to pull it off of you. Any other heal, and this would not be a problem – in fact, the inability to use healing spells on enemies can help you.
  • The Hell Does That Mean? – … Target a mob that you have to Shackle, and after they’re Shackled, leave them targeted. When you click your keyboard buttons for heals, the system will TRY to heal your target… it will give you the “grayed-out finger” pointer… just click on your healing target… Advantages: no need to use a focus, and you can still pick up the shack quickly if it breaks. Disadvantages: slightly slower than normal, takes a little getting used to, will not work with Dispel Magic…or Penance.
  • What He Giveth With One Hand... – … And when it comes to pure healing spells, cooldowns can be death (literally). Waiting for a heal to be available – or, rather, a heal that so many people think is just “so awesome” is a crapshoot. If a six-second cooldown can kill Circle of Healing, how is Penance so great with a TEN-second cooldown?”

The first point regards to “accidental pulling”.  If your tank can’t pull off of you, or you can’t quickly PW:S yourself, or get yourself out of that kind of situation… well, I wouldn’t personally run with that person (healer or tank).  If it’s a PUG, you’re only hurting your own name and if its in guild, I’d be a little worried if it happened often.

The second point is in regards to shackling.  Once again, can’t remember the last time I did it, and everything has been peachy keen in instances and raids of all flavours.

The third point is about the recent cooldown addition to Circle of Healing.  Personally, this will (just like Penance) reveal which priest healers are truly effective and efficient in a raid.  Every priest should be using a various combination of Flash Heal, Prayer of Mending, Renew, and Greater Heal when the need calls for it!  I agree cooldowns can be a murder for pure healing situations, but if you’re always ambivilent of what is needed and how to react, there shouldn’t never be an issue.  To cite a cooldown that is 10 seconds long (8 seconds with proper talenting) as a “killer” is overblown. It’s all about how you use the spell, not how much it heals or how efficient it is.

With most things in World of Warcraft and in real life, it’s not the knowledge that you have that is important, but how you use it.  If you spec a certain way and you don’t use certain aspects of it, then obviously you have little idea to what you truly are doing.  If you spec into Penance, you should use Penance. It’s a lovely spell that (as stated in a comment on Wistoovern’s post) stacks the Grace buff on your tank (or off-tank) quicker than three Flash Heal.  Penance is a quick fire solution to damage being taken by any individual in your raid.  And when it is on cooldown, you should be working on healing your tanks or your raid.

We shine the most in situations where we are continuously looking to prevent damage taken.  We cannot rely on the 5 second rule that Holy Priests try to take advantage of.  We cannot overheal and get our mana refunded, we get our mana back through Rapture (the talent that when you heal damage, you gain up to 2.5% of your mana back).

Overall, Penance is a spell that you should use when it’s applicable.  If you do tend to use it incorrectly, if you do rely on it too much, of course that’s an issue! That’s the same for any class that tries to use one spell the most all the time, you tend to get into a lot of trouble on meters and in situational areas.  You cannot just spam a Steady Shot as a hunter now, you may actually have to use your Serpent Sting to make your key ability work the best!  You cannot just spam Frostfire Bolt as a mage because you can get free Pyroblasts when you proc the deep fire talent “Hot Streak”.

Can Discipline without Penance work?  I think it’s possible.  I think without Penance, you’re still a tank healer; you should be more attentive to /stopcasting so you don’t spam your expensive heals.  You are able to grab 3 points (if you forgo Aspiration) into Improved Healing (lowering the mana cost of most of your single target direct healing spells) so that combined with your Glyph of Flash Heal is a nice combination. Power Word: Shield is still important for you if you’re specced deep into the Discipline tree, especially Borrowed Time (this gives you a bonus 25% spell haste after casting your PW:S) for any major Greater Heals you wish to drop immediately.

This is all more theoretical and assumptive in nature. I might just try it for myself! But that’s what World of Warcraft is for, right?  We want to try different things, we want to stay out of the boundaries.  I once considered Discipline spec to be out of the box, but perhaps it’s not as “out there” as a no-Penance-build. We’ll see.

Don’t forget to check out Kitt’s Discipline Priest blog and be sure to subscribe!

9 thoughts on “Discipline With Penance – How it Works”

  1. I think the original poster’s point about dispel was that you can cast it on both friendly and enemy targets, just like you can with Penance. So you could theoretically have an unfriendly targeted while using dispel, when you meant to dispel a friendly.

    The point is, any healer worth their salt is going to use something like Clique for dispelling, so the target is never an issue. The same is true of Penance, if you are having trouble with targeting, or if you did have to shackle, you can get around the issue via macros.
    When I’m healing a raid or group, I rarely have a mob targeted at all. And I’ve also noticed no shackling in WotLK, which is fine with me as I disliked having to worry about both healing and CC at the same time.

    I would strongly advise against anyone not picking up Penance. If you don’t take it you might as well not take Grace either since you won’t be using it to its full advantage.

    Penance has saved me (or rather the person I’m healing) so many times whenever there is a big damage spike you are scrambling to heal.

    Darias last blog post..Avoiding Burnout

  2. While many readers agreed that the original post regarding a no penance disc build being viable wasn’t quite substantiated through actual proof, I’d also argue that this response argument also lacks much explanation beyond personal beliefs on playstyles and descriptions of other talents.

    There are several points in this response article that I would disagree with:

    1. Damage added as a healer, if you have the mana and gcds, will always help kill a boss faster. Several low healing fights in the current environment support healer dps. Absolute role adherence is a fallacy, IMO.

    2. Shackle is helpful with Gluth. As with KT in emergency situations. Gluth is also a low healing fight where raid utility and supporting damage can help a great deal.

    3. It is all about how you use the spell AND how much it heals AND how efficient it is. You wouldn’t use rank 1 Heal on Patchwerk would you? There’s a best time to use certain spells -because- of how much it heals and how efficient it is.

    I can’t say that your article was easy to follow as it jumped from thought to thought, but kudos to you for putting out a counter post try to help alleviate some misconceptions.

    Chus last blog post..Fun PvP moment in AV

  3. Having just switch to disc (and being woefully undeargeared) I found Penance to be a wonderfully awesome spell in our Naxx 10 run last night. We were doing Grobbulous and I was giventhe job of healing the raid and debuffed players. Everytime the MT’s healer got the debuff and had to run out I was there with a shield and Penance keeping up with the damage til they could get back.

    Can you be viable without Penance? I dunno not tried it, but to say its not efficient is silly. Our heals are situational, Prayer of Healing is great, but you wouldn’t spam that wouldn’t spam it if you are MT healing, would you? But for Loatheb? Prayer of Healing gets to shine! Its all about the situation you are in.

    Pookies last blog post..Priestly Gear

  4. I’ve been a holy priest ever since i hit 60, which was preTBC, and i’ve leveled as holy to 70, staying holy for the duration of TBC. Apart from a side experiment with discipline to test the power infusion talent, you can say i didn’t have any expirience as a discipriest untill patch 3.0 came out. Then, just to try it again, i specced discipline and… i absolutely fell in love with Penance.

    It went as far as being reluctant to spec back to holy again, and i did love my holy spec… but as i am currently the only active healing priest in our guild, i realised that me being holy is a better thing for the guild in some situations, so now i’m back to holy.

    But i miss Penance. It is THE instant spell we can use to heal someone, and with proper gear it absolutely shines. Hitting your target with 2 or 3k heals three times in a row with an instant spell is very, very usefull. Agreed that Prayer of Mending is very good too as an instant heal, but Penance is just a lovely little thing to get you out of trouble. Mending you can’t control, for example, as you have no idea where it will land once it jumps, especially if you have a lot of melee people in your group/raid.

    Is being discipline viable without taking Penance? It might be, but it certainly isn’t using the full potential of that spec. Sure, you still have a load of nice things in your arsenal, like Divine Aegis, Rapture, hefty mana regen mechanics, shielding, flash heals, but from my expirience being discipline and not using Penance is far worse than being holy and not having the Guardian Spirit.

    But hey, nothing is set in stone, and the more one experiments with builds, the more one learns to play the class.

  5. I use Holy Nova during the Loatheb fight. My tactic is to start casting Prayer of Healing so that it is cast just after the debuff wears off and then I immediately add Holy Nova. Sometimes it’s over-heal and PoH already topped off my party but most times it adds that extra healing required to top them off, giving me complete peace of mind regarding them until the next healing window and letting me shield/renew the tank or other people with low life in the raid.

    I admit it’s a very situational spell and not one I would use often due to the prohibitive mana cost but in places where it can be used it’s a worthwhile addition and a perfect example of why priests are such masters of diverse healing tactics.

    As for Penance? Penance rulez, nuff said 🙂

    Solidfaiths last blog post..Misc. Small Updates

  6. Let me get this straight: You’re writing a post rebutting another post which advocates not using a Priest spell (Penance), while advocating not using another Priest spell (Shackle Undead). Hmm. Granted, Penance is a talent and potentially a key element of a Discipline build, but the irony still struck me.

    And then there’s this: “It’s all about how you use the spell, not how much it heals or how efficient it is.”

    It’s not about how much the spell heals or how efficient it is? That’s not even part of the equation? I don’t think you really meant what you actually said.

  7. I am surprised to see so much emphasis place on HEALING in the Discipline spec when its role is mostly damage mitigation. Penance may not be the best or strongest heals but it provides three opportunities to proc one or more of your several buffs including grace, inspiration…ect. Combined with the five or six possible buffs that Penance can proc with one cast and the Glyph of PW:S (heals 10% of the damage it mitigates) you can easily mitigate more than you need to heal. If you are concerned about healing efficiencies in the Discipline spec, please read the former post about why Healing Meters Suck.
    Keep your PW:S and Penance just to keep up the buffs on your tank and don’t worry about overhealing. Your tank will thank you for the lack of a repair bill after. Same is true with Holy Nova, not a good heal but cast 3 times and you can shield most of the people in your group with various shields and buffs. It is not all about pure healing. Let the pure healers worry about pure heals. Especially in 25mans, we mostly have to stop the bleeding.


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