Hello and welcome to the Tankspot Discipline Priest Guide! My name is Aliena, and in this guide I'll cover everything you need to know about discipline priest talents, gearing choices, gemming and basic spell usage and rotations.
This guide is up to date as of patch 3.2.2., and some info may become irrelevant or even false in the future.
Priests are the only class capable of healing that has not one, but two talent trees dedicated to healing. Currently, holy priests are usually seen as raid healers while disc priests fill the niche of prevention and tank healing. That isn't to say that disc priests can't raid heal - especially on fights with a lot of predictable damage such as Ignis in Ulduar, disc raid healing is very effective. Our main healing tools are:
* Power Word: Shield
* Flash Heal
* Prayer of Mending
Those should have spots on your main action bar and be easily accessible. Less commonly used but good to keep keybound and memorized are:
* Prayer of Healing
* Greater Heal
* Divine Hymn
* Desperate Prayer
* Binding Heal
Also, you have two very useful utility spells at your disposal with a cooldown each. Those are:
* Pain Suppression
* Power Infusion
Being a good disc priest means knowing when to apply each tool in your toolbox, keeping an eye on your cooldown timers and being aware of how your talent choices change your base spells, since the disc tree turns some otherwise pretty weak base spells into amazing healing tools.
Let's have a look at those spells! The numbers in this part of the guide are based on 2100 spellpower as an average gearing level.
Power Word: Shield is a clear prevention heal that puts a protective bubble on a raid member for 30 seconds that absorbs incoming damage based on your spellpower. With 2100 spellpower it absorbs 6500 damage before wearing off. Once a person has been shielded, they get a weakened soul debuff placed on them that prevents the re-application of Power Word: Shield for 15 seconds. That also means it's a good idea to pre-shield your tank before he pulls so you can apply a new shield right when the old one wears off.
Penance is a channeled spell on a 12-second cooldown that either deals damage or heals based on who your target is. If it's friendly, Penance will heal it three times in two seconds for roughly 3000 damage each tick and 4500 on a crit. The first tick is basically instant and each tick has a chance to crit based on your crit percentage - and Penance, like every other spell, is affected by 25% spell haste from the Borrowed Time talent after casting a Power Word: Shield. Each tick also applies a stack of Grace which I'll talk about later on.
Flash Heal is our filler spell. This should be used to heal single target damage when Penance is on cooldown and you currently have no assigned target without a weakened soul debuff. Both Penance and Shield always have higher priority than Flash Heal. Flash Heal has a 1.5 second cast time and heals for about 4000 on a non-crit and 6500 on a crit.
Prayer of Mending is an amazing spell that no other class currently has an equivalent to. Once used on a target, it'll take effect once that target takes damage and after healing it, will bounce to another raid member in range that currently has the lowest health. Prayer of Mending has 5 charges and will bounce until either its charges run out or the current target does not take damage within thirty seconds. it's on a 10-second cooldown and should be used frequently on a tank or someone else that will predictably take frequent damage. With average gear, it heals for about 3500 on a non-crit and 5500+ on a crit. If you're running with another healing priest, make sure to watch who they tend to put Prayer of Mending on so both of them keep rotating.
Prayer of Healing is a party-wide AoE healing spell with a 3-second cast time, a 30 yard range and a hefty mana cost. With average gear it heals for about 3500 on non-crit and 5000+ on a crit. This should be used whenever whole parties have taken big chunks of damage and will predictably not take anymore damage in the near future so shielding them would be useless.
Renew loses a lot of its value for discipline priests since you cannot pick up Empowered Renew nor the related procs, so it'll never end up being one of your main spells, but especially if you pick up Improved Renew in the holy tree with leftover talents, it has limited use as a filler spell used on tanks. HoTs never hurt. A basic renew with the improved renew will heal for about 1400per tick and cannot crit.
Desperate Prayer is a potent instant self-heal with a 2-minute cooldown that should be used as an emergency heal when you see your own health dipping low quickly, or when you know you're about to take an inevitable chunk of damage. It heals for about 6500 on a non-crit with average gear and 10000 on a crit.
Greater Heal has certainly seen better days. Currently it's a fairly slow, weak and inefficient single target heal that will find little to no use outside of 10-man raids and emergency tank heals. With average gear it heals for about 9000 on a non-crit and 13000 on a crit. At best and at the expense of five talent points it has a 2.5 second cast time.
Divine Hymn is an extremely potent and smart channeled AoE heal on a 10 minute cooldown timer. This is comparable to a druid's Tranquility spell, except every tick it'll pick the three nearby lowest-health targets to heal regardless of party. It'll tick a total of 4 times on up to three people each time and heals for roughly 5500 non-crit and 7500 on a crit.
Binding Heal should be used whenever you take damage at the same time as another person. In encounters where the raid takes constant damage it can take the role as filler spell instead of Flash Heal. While it's fairly expensive as far as mana goes, it's a lot more efficient than Flash Heal when it heals its full potential. With average gear it heals for about 4200 on each target on a non-crit and 6000+ on a crit.
Power Infusion is a handy little tool that increases the target's casting speed by 20% and decreases the mana cost of all their spells by 20% for 15 seconds. Generally it's best to use this on caster DPS to increase their throughput - good examples would be a shadow priest or lock or mage during add AoE phases. In select situations it may be most beneficial to target yourself or a fellow healer with Power Infusion, but you should only do that if you're indeed in a troubled moment. PI is an altruistic spell first and foremost.
In the event you can predict big damage spikes on a tank, Pain Suppression is your best friend. Often you'll be asked to use it in a sort of cooldown chain to counteract high damage abilities bosses do, but sometimes you'll be able to apply it at your leisure. Either way, Pain Suppression reduces the target's damage taken by 40% and increases its resistance to dispel mechanics by 65% for 8 seconds. It also reduces the target's threat level by 5%, but these days that shouldn't phase a tank much if he's doing his job correctly.
That covers just about any healing spell you'll ever need to know about for raiding purposes.
Next up are specs. Discipline specs are pretty straightforward and basic. You don't have a whole lot of wiggle room in the disc tree, it's recommended to put at least 57 points into it and almost all of them are staple talents. What you pick up in the holy tree on the other hand is almost completely up to you.
Let's start in the discipline tree and work our way down. In the first tier, as with any priest spec, Twin Disciplines is your talent of choice. Even though disc priests use less instants than holy priests do, you'll gain some benefits from it and the alternative is next to useless in PVE.
In the second tier, pick up Improved Power Word: Fortitude and Improved Inner Fire. As with holy, if you find yourself in a situation where you're pondering picking up Silent Resolve, your tank is not performing up to par.
The third tier is where we're moving from convenience talents to actually useful ones! Pick up Meditation, which is a staple talent to all priest specs since most if not all our gear comes with spirit on it and would be rather useless to us since the WotLK spirit nerfs if it wasn't for Meditation. It's also a good idea to pick up Inner Focus right next to Meditation, which makes your next spell free of mana cost and gives it 25% additional chance to crit. This is a really good talent in combination with Divine Hymn and other expensive spells. Lastly, pick up Improved Power Word: Shield, also in the third tier, to get a 15% increased absorption amount on each shield you cast.
In the fourth tier, grab Mental Agility to reduce mana cost of instant spells by 10%. This comes in handy for Power Word: Shield, Prayer of Mending, Renew, PI and PS.
In the 5th tier, Mental Strength and Soul Warding are your staples. Mental Strength increases your total Intellect by 15%, which especially coupled with a paladin's Blessing of Kings is quite a chunk of mana and becomes more valuable as your gear level goes up, and Soul Warding is one of the defining talents that makes disc shields a viable play style as it takes away the 4 second cooldown on casting Power Word: Shield as well as 15% of its mana cost.
Both Focused Power and Enlightenment in the 6th tier are staple throughput talents - 4% additional healing and 6% haste for a total of 5 talent points is an amazing steal.
Power Infusion in tier 7 and Improved Flash Heal should both be no-brainers. Flash Heal is one of your staple heals and any improvement to it is nice. Focused Will in the same tier is an additional 3% crit on all your spells at the expense of 3 talent points. It's part of most disc priests' spec, but if you absolutely want to pick up something that's more valuable to you at the expense of Focused Will, go ahead.
Moving on to tier 8, Rapture is a big part of the reason disc priests are as mana efficient as they are. Everytime your Power Word: Shield is completely used up, you gain 2.5% of your total mana and the target of your shield gains free mana, rage, energy or runic power. An absolute staple talent and part of the reason you should be using shields as much as you can when there's a chance of your target taking damage soon.
Renewed Hope is yet another talent woven into the disc tree to make Shields a staple - halfway through the disc tree it's already gone from an expensive 3500 damage absorption on a cooldown to a reasonably cheap 7000 damage absorption without a cooldown that triggers a whole bunch of amazing effects on both you and the target. Renewed Hope reduces damage taken by you and all friendly party and raid targets by 3% for 20 seconds after casting a shield.
Aspiration is very useful if you use Penance a lot (which you should be) and the reduced cooldowns on PI and PS are an added cookie.
Pain Suppression in tier 9 is also a clear staple. Divine Aegis gets triggered on a critical heal and absorbs 30% of the amount healed within the next 12 seconds. A worthwhile investment for 3 points. Grace is a clear tank healing throughput talent that stacks a buff on the last target you healed which increases healing received from you by 3% per stack. You can stack it up to three times for a total increase of 9%.
Borrowed Time in the 10th tier is the last talent that turns Power Word: Shield into an absolute great spell. Everytime you cast a shield, your next spell will gain 25% spell haste in addition to the haste you already have. Additionally, your shields will absorb an amount equal to 40% of your spellpower on top of what it already absorbs. If you run with our 2100 spellpower example from earlier, that's an extra 840 absorbed damage per shield.
To finish up the disc tree, pick up Penance. Staple heal. Get it, get used to its cooldown, apply & love it!
Now you should have somewhere around 14 talent points left for the holy tree. How you split those up is really entirely up to you apart from two things. You really want to pick up Holy Specialization in tier 1 and Inspiration in tier 3. 5% extra crit chance on holy spells and 10% less physical damage taken after you crit for your target - especially if your target is a tank - is incredibly useful.
Disc specs, as mentioned, have very little wiggle room, but if you absolutely want to grab a talent that I haven't introduced because you feel uncomfortable without it in your playing style, go right ahead and pick it up. What I've shown you is the cookie cutter disc spec, the one that has to be comfortable using it is YOU.
There are only 4 useful glyphs for discipline healing, and one of them I only include in the odd case that you're a disc priest almost entirely assigned to raid healing. That glyph would be Glyph of Prayer of Healing. Should that not be the case, you should run with a setup of:
* Glyph of Penance
* Glyph of Power Word: Shield
* Glyph of Flash Heal
Glyph of Penance reduces the cooldown of Penance by two seconds. Combined with Aspiration, which reduces it by another 20%, you end up with an 8 second cooldown which isn't half bad. Glyph of Power Word: Shield instantly heals the target for 20% of the amount it will absorb. This effect can crit. With our 2100 spellpower that's around 1200 health healed per shield cast. Glyph of Flash Heal reduces its mana cost by 10%.
Minor Glyphs will not directly affect your throughput or efficiency, but Glyph of Levitate and Glyph of Fortitude are usually good picks for convenience. Also, Glyph of Shadowfiend is moderately useful if you tend to summon the bugger in the wrong moment and it dies instantly to some sort of annoying AoE.
==Gearing, what to aim for==
As one of three cloth caster classes, you'll always face gear competition. It's all the more important to know what you want and look for in gear. Lots of stats are good for us, I'll list them in
the order of how I rate their importance.
Since Wrath of the Lich King, Intellect has been the most potent and useful regen stat we have. Not only does it enlarge your mana pool, it also greatly affects how much mana you regenerate from replenishment, shadowfiend and hymn of hope, increases your critical strike rate (around 150 Intellect equal 1% critical strike rate) and gives you additional MP5 based on your total Spirit and Intellect. There's been the question of how much Intellect is enough Intellect, but this is a really tough one to answer. I almost want to say "never!", because really, you can't go wrong with intellect, but it also depends on the level of content you raid and your usual raid setup. If you only raid normal modes and have constant access to innervate and mana tide, your need for intellect will be a lot lower than mine, so instead I'll say: If you don't run out of mana and are comfortable with your mana pool, you have enough intellect and should instead stack:
Spellpower. Spellpower is the easiest and most straightforward throughput stat. The more spellpower, the bigger your heals. Also, the bigger your heals, the bigger your overheals, but on the whole spellpower is the most direct throughput increase you can get. Not to mention it also affects your Power Word: Shield absorption and hence the glyph heal.
Critical Strike Rating and Haste Rating are nice for a disciple priest just like any other class, but you should pick up plenty of both of them through gear and talents as is. Don't forget to factor in Borrowed Time, which should be in effect for most your actual spell casts and Focused Will as well as Holy Specialization for an extra 8% crit.
Unlike Holy Priests, we don't gain anything from Spirit other than mana regen. Our spirit is not converted in part to spellpower, so there's no reason for us to be picking up spirit other than what we already get on our gear. The same goes for MP5. If you need mana regen, improve your Intellect.
As for Stamina... we all need it. Stamina automatically goes up as your gear level increases. Unless your gear level is way below the level of content you're doing, you'll pretty much always have enough of it.
==Enchants and Gemming==
Discipline priest enchants are very straightforward. I'll list what's generally considered the best choice for each slot.
Head: Arcanum of Burning Mysteries, the 30 Spellpower/20 Critical Strike Rating, available at the Kirin Tor Quartermaster at Revered Reputation would be the best choice. Alternatively you may prefer the Arcanum of Blissful Mending, which adds 30 Spellpower and 10MP5 and is available at the Wyrmrest Accord Quartermaster at Revered Reputation.
Shoulder: Greater Inscription of the Storm, which adds 24 Spellpower and 15 Critical Strike rating and is available at the Sons of Hodir Quartermaster at Exalted Reputation would be the number one choice, or alternatively Greater Inscription of the Crag, same place and rep.
Back: Darkglow (for mana) or Lightweave (for throughput) Embroidery for a tailor, 23 Haste otherwise.
Chest: 10 Stats would be your best choice.
Wrists: 30 Spellpower is the surpreme bracer enchant.
Weapon: 63 Spellpower for a One Hander, 81 for a Staff.
Hands: 28 Spellpower is pretty much the only useful caster enchant to gloves.
Legs: Brilliant Spellthread, which is 50 Spellpower and 20 Spirit is your go-to option.
Feet: Tuskarr's Vitality which adds 15 stamina and a slight run speed increase or alternatively 18 Spirit.
As far as gemming goes, there are different ways to gem your character. You can stack just one stat that you're lacking or that you favor and neglect all others or you can choose to gem for socket bonuses. Gemming pure spellpower is very viable for disc. If you choose to go for socket bonuses though, you should gem Runed Cardinal Rubies in red slots and Luminous Ametrines in yellow slots if you have a chance at the socket bonus for that piece. You'll need at least one blue gem to activate your meta gem, but other than that you may find it best to ignore socket bonuses featuring blue gems and putting Runed Cardinal Rubies instead.
There are several meta gems that you may find interesting. Widely considered as the best choice for healers is the Insightful Earthsiege Diamond, which gives you 21 Intellect and has a chance to restore 600 mana on spellcast. That effect, assuming you cast a spell about every 2 seconds, nets around 75MP5 on average.
Another valid throughput choice would be Ember Skyflare Diamond which gives you 25 spellpower and 2% Intellect and slightly less valuable but still valid - Beaming Earthsiege Diamond, which gives you 21 critical strike rating and 2% Mana.
That about covers the basics of successful discipline priesting. Thanks for reading!