PSA stands for public service announcement (e.g. Dawn smiled with satisfaction as she stepped back to admire one of the many flyers she had spent the afternoon hanging around her guild hall. The words "Don't drink and DPS" were spelled out cheerfully across a large piece of parchment. Below, a photograph of a staggeringly uneven damage meter was pictured, followed by some informative text and statistical data.)
It shouldn't be confused with PDA, which stands for public display of affection (e.g. Thanks to a heady blend of Kungaloosh and port, Fox unabashedly pushed his warlock lover against the mailbox at the south bank and moved in for a kiss. Before their lips could touch though, Fox abruptly exploded into a cloud of luminescent, purple dust. His companion glowed red with discomfort as several bystanders turned to stare. "Perhaps I shouldn't have had so much to drink," Fox considered.)
Today's Spiritual Guidance will be taking the form of a PSA (as you may have guessed.) There are, of course, many things I could address, such as why you shouldn't heal
I love playing my priest but no one will invite me to a group, or I get kicked out when I do get invited! They say I'm not doing enough healing, or that priests are terrible! What do I do?
I've addressed this before from the perspective of what a priest can do for him or herself in a situation where they are being questioned by an ill-informed raid leader or trade chat recruiter. I always encourage these priests to try to educate the ignorant masses while remaining civil and polite. Patience is a virtue, after all.
There is quite a wealth of information available online though, so a non-priest wishing to educate himself on priests might quickly find himself overwhelmed with options. To alleviate this, I've decided to write this PSA for non-priests who want the skinny on priests from some sort of authoritative-looking source. (I have a business card with a priest icon on it, so how is that for authority? Mmhmm.) So, ignoring any PEBKAC from the priests themselves, the following is my address to the misinformed non-priests of the world.
Common misconceptions about priests
Only holy priests can heal.
False. Actually, every priest can heal, though the role of healer should be filled by priests of either the disciple or holy specs. (Shadow priests should be reserved for damage dealing roles, as a shadow priest healing is like using ketchup to extinguish a fire. It works, but it's very awkward for everyone involved.)
Discipline is a PvP spec.
False. The discipline tree is actually completely viable in both PvP and PvE. In both fields of play, discipline priests use damage mitigation to help their allies.
Priests are the worst healing class.
False. Priests are very capable healers in the hands of a good player. As a healer, a priest can outshine druids, paladins, or shaman, provided that priest has some skills and a decent amount of gear. This can, of course, be said of any class or spec in World of Warcraft.
Holy priests only raid heal.
False. While a holy priest is a strong raid healer, that is not all they are limited to. They might not be your first choice to put on a tank taking a ton of damage, but holy priests make excellent back-up healers for tanks or single targets taking a lot of damage. This is because they are one of the most flexible healers in the game, with a diverse healing toolbox for every situation that allows them to swap roles easily. If there is ever a deficiency of heals in the raid, a holy priest might be your first choice to ask for assistance from.
Disc priests only tank heal.
False. Like holy priests, disc priests are very flexible at swapping healing roles. In fact, disc priests are actually a bit overpowered when it comes to raid healing, using a technique known as "bubble spam," "shield spam,"
Disc priests are terrible tank healers.
False. Disc priests are strong tank healers, though since patch 3.2 they've had a harder time keeping up with cutting edge content. If you want a discipline priest on a tank, but aren't sure of their capabilities, ask another healer in your raid (perhaps a holy priest) to watch out for the disc priest's target. If the disc priest gets behind, their back-up healer will be there. If you hit a snag after that, then you can try reorganizing raid roles or group composition.
You can only have one disc priest per raid.
False. Disc priests are often territorial creatures when it comes to sharing a raid; they will complain about how the other is "stepping on their toes." This is just plain silliness, born out of the same idiocy that motivates meter-whore DPS who go out of their way to attack superfluous targets (such as the nerubians on Kel'Thuzad or the slimes on Rotface) then link meters in chat after the fight. Two disc priests are more than capable of working together, and lose very little by being in the same raid together.
Priests should only take gear with spirit on it.
False. Spirit was once a highly desirable stat for healing priests, but those days have long since passed. Priests of both spec benefit from gear without spirit on it. The only type of cloth gear a healing priest might find undesirable is gear with hit rating on it.
A discipline priest's shields prevent rage generation.
False. As of patch 3.1, absorption effects no longer interfere with the rage generation of a warrior or feral druid.
If a priest puts a talent point in Lightwell, they're a bad or new player.
False. On the contrary, most novice priests avoid Lightwell because they are told it is bad. If you see a priest with Lightwell, they are often idealistic about the talent and will try to find ways to use it in a fight. They might even suggest you use it - but trust me, they are not doing this just to annoy you on a deep and personal level. If you don't want to use Lightwell, that is fine, but don't get angry with a priest for reminding you it's there. (Quick update from beta: Lightwell will be clickable from 15 yards without dropping focus!)
Understanding discipline priests
The key to understanding discipline priests in your PUG is understanding that damage mitigation is a big part of their healing. Absorption intercepts damage as it is dealt out to members of your raid, meaning that discipline priests will decrease the amount of healing needed on a character. The amount of damaged reduced is usually proportional to the amount of extra healing a normal healing class does. To illustrate this, I put together the graphic below, which shows a normal healing meter, and a healing meter with absorbs counted in.
So if you're suspicious about whether your discipline priest is pulling his weight in your raid, consider using an alternative damage and healing meter that counts absorption(e.g. RecountGuessedAbsorbs or Skada Damage Meter.) This will allow you to more properly assess every healer in your raid, and after you've had more experience with it, you'll be able to better assess the quality of the discipline priests you encounter.
Understanding holy priests
Though usually a rarer sight, holy priests sometimes perform poorly on the meters as well. This is usually do to a conflict in past and present healing styles. In current content (Trial of the Crusader, Icecrown Citadel) holy priests are most effective if they apply the spell Renew on as many targets as possible. In the past, they did a lot more casting, using Flash Heal and even Greater Heal. Both styles are useful to a raid, but the meters will show one as being more effective.
To determine what style of healing a priest is using, select that players name on your healing meter to get a breakdown of their spell usage. If Renew is in the top 3, then they are probably using a spam healing technique.
There is nothing wrong with a holy priest being lower on a meter (someone has to be on the bottom, after all.) The only time you really need to be concerned is when a priest is dramatically lower on the meters than all your other healers. (Except Valithria, screw that fight.)
So really, what's the best priest spec for healing?
Neither! Trying to compare the two is like comparing burning tires to Spinoza's Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (though you might find some empiricists who say otherwise.)
Seriously though, there really isn't a fair or correct way to determine what spec is universally better. It depends on the numerous variables of your situation. Sometimes a disc priest is good; sometimes a holy priest is good.
As a rule, there aren't many fights where either spec is necessarily bad, just fights where one doesn't do as well as the other. This is true for every healing class though -- certain fights just cater to the strengths of a certain healer and that will create the impression that others are bad. If you consider a situation from all sides though, you'll see that disc, holy, and all the other healing classes are fairly equal.