There are a couple ways to play discipline in raids: tank healing and shield spam. Anything else is likely a variation of these two roles (and if it's not, leave a comment describing your unique method of play for us). I have already written an article on how to play shield spam here, but I will discuss it, as well as tank healing later on in this article.
For now, let's talk about the talents you want. For both methods of healing, there is one standard cookie cutter spec that just about everyone uses for raiding. Though you could potentially use a spec that maximizes one style of play versus the other, the cookie cutter spec works fine for both and it allows you the option to switch your raid role mid fight. I rarely see any deviation from it. Take a look:
You'll see that on the holy side there are some talents highlighted in blue. These are flexible talents that can be picked on personal preferences. Just make sure you grab Inspiration while you're there.
7. Talent overview
- Twin Disciplines -- 5/5: This increases the healing done by your healing spells, as well as your shields.
- Improved Inner Fire -- 3/3: The spellpower bonus of this talent is what you take it for.
- Improved Power Word: Fortitude -- 2/2: You might as well take this talent on your way down the tree. It's always useful when you're the only priest in a group.
- Meditation -- 3/3: I've already talked about this talent while discussing stats, but this is an essential talent for mana regeneration.
- Inner Focus -- 1/1: You can use this talent to reduce the cost of the very mana consuming Divine Hymn.
- Improved Power Word: Shield -- 3/3: Improve your bread and butter spell by maxing out this talent.
- Mental Agility -- 3/3: Power Word: Shield, Prayer of Mending, and Renew all benefit from this talent.
- Mental Strength -- 5/5: A great "free stats" talent you need to take to get further down the tree anyway. No reason to pass this one up.
- Soul Warding -- 1/1: Before this talent existed, there was no such thing as bubble spam. Now that it's here, this is a must-have talent for all disc priests.
- Focused Power -- 2/2: This talent is great all around by improving both your utility and healing.
- Enlightenment -- 3/3: You'll want this talent solely for the haste. The spirit is a bonus.
- Focused Will -- 3/3: Another disc talent with the word focus in it - this talent is actually a bit PvP oriented, but the extra spell crit is the reason many players take it. For that reason it's technically optional, but you might as well grab it since there isn't much else.
- Power Infusion -- 1/1: Take this talent or I'll hit you with a Fangtooth Herring. Seriously though, this talent offers a great deal of utility to you and your raid if you know how to use it.
- Improved Flash Heal -- 3/3: Flash Heal is supposed to be less mana efficient because it is faster to cast than Greater Heal. This talent removes that mechanic from discipline priests, while simultaneously buffing their effectiveness in dire situations.
- Renewed Hope -- 2/2: This talent offers a party or raid wide buff which you'll want to utilize. The other half of the talent is also useful for tank healing and bubble spammers who need to toss out a fast spot heal Penance.
- Rapture -- 3/3: Do not skip this talent. As I've already discussed, it is a big source of your mana regeneration.
- Aspiration -- 2/2: This is one of the most important talents you can take, as it will reduce the cooldowns of Penance and your other, longer cooldown abilities.
- Divine Aegis -- 3/3: This is your other bubble, so to speak. Every time you crit you'll stack up more healing through the Divine Aegis up to 10k absorption. Depending on how you play you can get a good chunk of your effective healing from the Divine Aegis, or very little. (Shield spammers, for example, won't see much benefit from Aegis.) One of my favorite priest blogs, Penance Priest, talked about Divine Aegis recently. Check it out.
- Pain Suppression -- 1/1: Usually I try to be neutral in my word choices. Just so you know how serious I am, I'm going to break that habit for this one talent: You're an idiot if you don't take this. You would think this was self-explanatory, but I once had an argument with another priest who didn't take this talent. Go figure.
- Grace -- 2/2: I've seen priests who only put 1 point into this talent since the second point only increases the chance to apply the buf, not the buff itself. One point is a perfectly acceptable practice, and so is putting in two points.
- Borrowed Time -- 5/5: This is another mandatory talent. The buff itself is great, and even if you push your buttons with your nose, the bonus to Power Word: Shield is very significant to the strength of disc bubbles.
- Penance -- 1/1: This is one of discipline's signature spells, and our most powerful. Get it.
- Healing Focus -- 0/2: This talent has its uses on occasion. Mimiron hard mode, pre-nerf was a great place to have it, for example. Sadly, I find the need for it in raids isn't consistent, so it's up to personal preference if you take it or not. I used to always take it as a "just in case" but now it just depends on what I know I'll be doing in the next 4 hours.
- Improved Renew -- 0/3: If you mostly tank heal you have the option to take this to improve the stabilization Renew provides.
- Holy Specialization -- 5/5: A boring but very useful talent that increases your crit chance. For a disc priest, this is gold.
- Spell Warding -- 0/5: Let me start by saying this: This talent is not useless. It isn't going to directly help you heal your raid, but it's going to help you stay alive. And what is the first rule of healing? You can't heal when you're dead. Anyway, this talent is optional, and just like most of the optional talents on the holy side, I sometimes take this and sometimes don't. When I do, I like to think of having Inner Fire as my protection from physical blows, and these talents as my protection from spells (which usually aren't avoidable like physical damage is.)
- Divine Fury -- 0/5: You can take this or not take this. It really depends on whether you cast Greater Heal or not. I myself might cast Greater Heal once or twice in a 4 hour raid. If you're different, by all means, take this talent. For what it does, it does it well.
- Desperate Prayer -- 0/1: This is a cheap, instant cast "oh shit" button for yourself. No reason not to take it, but you don't have to take it either.
- Inspiration -- 3/3: And finally, the reason you're in the holy tree, Inspiration. This is going to be a great asset to you if you're healing a tank, but it will help anyone who you've hit with a crit heal. If I read a poem about how amazing cherry and cream cheese danishes were, I might think it was referring to this talent. Maybe. Okay it was a lie, but someone get on this.
While I still don't personally recommend leveling solo as a healing spec, if you're going to level disc I recommend the talents Improved Power Word: Shield, Meditation, and Reflective Shield. All these talents are deeper in the disc tree though, so for your leveling spec, dipping into the shadow tree for Spirit Tap or the holy tree for Divine Fury are fine choices. Focus on quests around your level unless you want to give yourself a suntan from all the Smites you'll have to cast to kill mobs. Use Power Word: Shield liberally, DoT your targets, and finish off anything that doesn't die with your wand or a casted spell (Mind Blast, Holy Fire, or Smite). Make sure you have plenty of water.
If you have a friend to level with, continue to use your shields but stay away from DoTs to conserve mana. More than likely your friend will kill whatever he is attacking before your DoTs finish ticking, so focus on assisting with a casted spell instead.
If you want to level using the dungeon finder tool, you'll find Power Word: Shield and Greater Heal are about all you need to keep a group alive. Be sure to grab Meditation for mana regeneration. Conserve your mana by saving your bubbles primarily for the tank or any DPS that keeps pulling threat, standing in something, or attacking the wrong target. You will need to drink a lot, so just as if you were solo, carry more water than you think you need.
The following pieces of heirloom gear are things you'll want to pick up if you're not starting fresh:
- Tattered Dreadmist Robe
- Tattered Dreadmist Mantle
- Dignified Headmaster's Charge or Devout Aurastone Hammer