Spiritual Guidance: Guide to Mists of Pandaria discipline priests

Mists of Pandaria Guide to discipline priests

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. Dawn Moore is a discipline priest by reputation, but still enjoys melting faces as shadow and bugging her raid to click the Lightwell as holy.

If you plan on healing as a discipline priest in Mists of Pandaria, you're going to be met with a lot of changes this expansion. Fortunately, most of the changes are good and the spec's unique playstyle remains intact. Actually, if anything, discipline is better at doing everything it did before, from dishing out absorbs to Smite healing.

Today's guide will show you how discipline has changed, and how to approach it in the new expansion. We'll examine ways to use the spec's new abilities and talents, as well as stat priorities and gearing your character. To get started, let's look at some new abilities and changes made to old ones.

  • Archangel and Evangelism When using Archangel, the spell will no longer restore a percentage of mana per stack of Evangelism. The healing buff Archangel grants, however, is much bigger and can be incorporated into play whenever additional throughput is needed. Something to know: Penance, when used on an enemy target, will now grant a stack of Evangelism just as Smite and Holy Fire already do.

  • Dispel Magic and Purify Dispel Magic is now only for offensive dispelling on enemy targets. To dispel debuffs on an ally, you'll be using a new spell called Purify, which removes all harmful magic and disease effects. Purify has an 8-second cooldown.

  • Inner Focus This cooldown ability was once used to save mana, now it's a throughput cooldown instead. Use it before casting Flash Heal, Greater Heal, or Prayer of Healing and that spell will automatically strike for critical healing.

  • Mass Dispel This spell can no longer be spammed continuously due to a newly added 15-second cooldown, but it now removes all harmful magical effects from allies when cast. It will only remove one beneficial effect from an enemy.

Another major addition to your spellbook is your level 87 ability, Void Shift. This spell will allow you to swap health percentages with an ally. So if you're at 100% and your ally is at 30%, you can change it to you being at 30% and him at 100%. You don't always have to switch health to someone's benefit either; you can also target an ally with more health than you and swap health to save yourself. Do take note of the tooltip, though: if the person with the lower health is below 25% health, their health will be increased to that percentage when the ability is used.

As a healer you'll likely be using this spell the way paladins already use Lay on Hands: as emergency healing or for a planned rebound to get a player back to their assignment without losing much time.

Obviously, the spell can be dangerous though, particularly if you're not paying attention to your own health, or if you're at immediate risk for taking damage after using it. Consider pairing it up with a talent like Desperate Prayer, that way you can immediately heal back a good portion of the damage you took upon yourself.

Now that the easy stuff is out of the way, let's talk about Spirit Shell.

Mists of Pandaria Guide to discipline priests

Your new favorite ability: Spirit Shell

When activated, this new ability will convert your healing done by Flash Heal, Greater Heal, and Prayer of Healing into an absorption shield. It lasts for 15 seconds at a time, has a 1-minute cooldown, and in the right hands it's an incredibly powerful, game changing spell. Let me explain how.

Consider the ways you already use Power Word: Shield. For tank healing you may work the spell into your rotation like any other heal, applying it when Weakened Soul falls off so you can keep your target's health bar stable. You may also hold off on using your shield all the time, waiting instead for a big, incoming boss ability that your shield can absorb the bulk of it. That way, in the aftermath of the damage, there is far less to heal and less need for expensive, quick response spells such as Flash Heal. Well, whatever it is that you do, or whether you switch it up from fight to fight, think of Spirit Shell as another way to do it.

So let's talk more about how it works. First, the absorption stacks, so if you can keep casting heals on the same target (or targets) the Spirit Shell you applied will keep getting bigger. There is a cap though, based on your own total health, but it's quite generous... The cap on one of my level 90 priests who was wearing little more than quest gear was around 175,000. Combine that with a Power Word: Shield and you're looking at well over 200,000 absorption on a single target. 200,000! That's 2/3 of my health bar! Imagine being able to negate that much incoming damage on a target every minute if you wanted. Hell, imagine negating that much damage on an entire party (if you use Power Infusion, you can easily hit shield cap on five people just by spamming Prayer of Healing).

Spirit Shell does not benefit from temporary healing buffs like Archangel and Inner Focus, so don't try doubling up your cooldowns in an attempt to save time. Save those for before or after you've used Spirit Shell. Grace, on the other hand, does affect the amount of absorption you can apply at a time, so if you've already been casting on a target it won't take long to get him to cap. Mastery and crit also affect the amount of absorption you'll apply per cast, but it does not affect your total absorption cap.

So how are you going to get the most out of this ability? Derevka has said it several times already, so I'm just going to echo that: know the fight. This is the same way raiders get the most out of shield spamming, by knowing when the big damage was coming (be it on the tank or the raid) and taking advantage of it. Spirit Shell, if anything, is made for pre-shielding because it's so much more efficient than spamming Power Word: Shield, both in mana and time spent. Now go my fellow disc priests, go forth and make bubbles.

Your new level 90 talents

At level 90, each of the three new talents you can choose from unlocks an AoE healing spell. They are as follows.

  • Cascade This talent is the easiest to use of the new spells. When cast it will jump from player to player, splitting apart as it goes, and healing a total of 15 targets in the process. When it jumps, it will prioritize players who are farthest away since the healing increases based on the distance traveled. This talent is ideal for any fight where your party has to spread out. It's also the safest spell to use of the new talents, since the damage component isn't tied into the healing -- no risk of hitting random mobs! This will probably be the talent we use the most as healers.

  • Divine Star This spell works a lot like a boomerang. The priest can throw it in one direction and a moment later it will return to him. While traveling, the spell will heal (and damage) any targets along it's path. The area of effect is immediately in front of the priest, though sometimes it can take the shape of a "V" if you cast it while moving. This spell is ideal for when your raid is stacked up tightly, and according to Derevka, it's more mana efficient than Prayer of Healing. The short cooldown makes it a lot of fun to use, too. Just be careful with how you use it ... I've accidentally pulled a trash pack or two after I misjudging the distance ahead of me.

  • Halo Halo heals and damages targets in a circle around the caster. Healing scales based on distance, but instead of continually getting stronger as you move further away, there is a point where the strength of the spell starts to scale downward. This means the most healing will occur in a ring around the caster, 27 yards away from the center (this is according to a blue post made by Ghostcrawler, the lead systems designer). To help you understand how to best get your allies inside that ring, there is a diagram below. I would see a spell like this working best on a fight with few adds (remember there is damage), lots of space for the ranged to spread out in, and a mostly static boss.

Mists of Pandaria Guide to discipline priests

[For information on level 15 to level 75 talents, please read Discipline and holy changes in patch 5.0.4., which provides an overview of the new talents. When more theorycrafting is solidified, I will write and link a supplemental guide to this section. Feel free to check back for updates.]

Figuring out your priority system

As I said in the beginning, the playstyle of disc has stayed largely the same. Yes there are new tools you can use, but beyond that you're still going to use all your old spells the same way you always did. You'll still use Flash Heal for emergencies, and Greater Heal for big heals; and yes, when there is downtime, it's fine if you want to use Atonement (just remember it can drain your mana if you're not careful.) The basics are all the same.

The biggest change is that you have to manage your mana more than you've done in the past. To help with that, I thought I'd drag out the old HPM chart again. We did this last expansion, but as a refresher, HPM is healing per mana, meaning how much healing you get per point of mana spent. In this particular chart, we're using gear values from a level 90 priest in questing gear; the numbers should be a rough reflection of your own character when you start running dungeons at level cap in Mists of Pandaria.

Spiritual Guidance Guide to Mists of Pandaria discipline priests

So why drag out the HPM chart? So I can get a better idea of how my spells relate to my mana bar. If I keep the information here tucked in the back of my mind, I can use it to help make certain decisions or reinforce the logic behind ones I'm in the process of making. The more you understand your spells, and their capabilities and costs, the better healer you stand to be.

Stats and reforging

There are definitely some stat weight changes to be mindful of in Mists of Pandaria. First, spirit is what you want when you need mana from now on, not intellect. Intellect no longer increases the size of your mana pool, just your spellpower and critical strike rating. Intellect does increase the strength of your spells, which may ultimately result in not having to cast as many, but you're not going to get those results right away. In the interim you'll want to gear, gem, reforge, and enchant for spirit until you reach a point where you feel comfortable with your mana.

Now in the last expansion it was advised that discipline priests get a blend of mastery, crit, and haste, then lean toward one stat or the other based on their playstyle or the demands of an encounter. If you were doing a lot of tank healing, as an example, you'd want haste. If you were raid healing and bubble spamming, you wanted mastery.

In Mists of Pandaria, you'll still want a blend of secondary stats but now you should lean toward mastery, regardless of your playstyle. The reason for this is Spirit Shell. Mastery already improved the strength of Power Word: Shield and Divine Aegis before, but adding in Spirit Shell tips the scales. Just remember you can't actually go all mastery. Talents like Power Word: Solace and Mindbender, or abilities like Atonement, get the most from haste and nothing from mastery.

What enchants do I want for my gear?

When choosing between two secondary stats, remember what we discussed in the previous section.

What gems do I pick?

If you're struggling with mana, opt to use blue, green, or purple gems for spirit. If you find your mana needs are met, select red, orange, or yellow gems.

What major glyphs should I use?

You could realistically change your glyphs for every major boss fight, based on the role you're playing and the conditions you face. The list below includes many all-purpose glyphs.

  • Glyph of Desperation A worst case scenario, "better safe than sorry" glyph. You don't need to have this one always inscribed (unless you're PvPing) but you'll occasionally run into an encounter where the fight calls for it.

  • Glyph of Holy Fire A surprisingly good glyph for disc priests because of Atonement. Holy Fire has similar HPS and HPM to Heal with its 2-second cast, and that doesn't take into account the additional damage you're contributing to the fight. Making the spell instant cast with this glyph allows you to use it as effective filler between healing.

  • Glyph of Penance It's not that you need to move while casting Penance, it's that once you can you'll never want to go back.

  • Glyph of Prayer of Mending Great boost for any fight where there isn't much raid damage and your Prayer of Mending is going unused after its first or second bounce.

  • Glyph of Smite In a fight where you spend a lot of time using Atonement healing, this is the glyph for you.

Spiritual Guidance Guide to Mists of Pandaria discipline priests

The following glyphs have their place, but are very situational. Many of them won't find a lot of use outside of PvP.

  • Glyph of Dispel Magic Mostly a PvP glyph.

  • Glyph of Fade Ideally you'll never need this due to threat, but if you do, it may keep your face from being bitten clean off. It could possibly be used as a damage reduction utility in a tough fight, but there are usually be better glyph options before you consider something like that.

  • Glyph of Fear Ward PvP glyph.

  • Glyph of Holy Nova Holy Nova is a utility spell that's good for damaging several low health targets. Without this glyph, you won't have Holy Nova.

  • Glyph of Leap of Faith If you're saving someone with life grip, they may already be disabled before you use the spell on them. This glyph takes care of that

  • Glyph of Inner Fire The additional armor doesn't do much against boss abilities, so it's more of a PvP glyph.

  • Glyph of Inner Focus Another PvP glyph.

  • Glyph of Inner Sanctum Extremely situational glyph. You could use it if a very specific problem is plaguing you in a fight, e.g., you're repeatedly dying during a phase high magic or you're having trouble moving out of something. What I said about Glyph of Fade applies here as well though.

  • Glyph of Levitate Good glyph for leveling. Helps you get through areas where you can't mount up.

  • Glyph of Mass Dispel The new changes to Mass Dispel this expansion could make this a very useful glyph if the encounter calls for dispels on the raid.

  • Glyph of Power Word: Shield This glyph has changed from what it once was. It now converts 20% of your shield's absorb value into a front loaded heal. Probably most useful for tank healing, where you're rarely going to be casting on someone who is at full health. Not so good for fights where you want to pre-shield several players before a big wave of damage (unless, of course, you're shielding players who are already damaged and the incoming damage isn't devastating).

  • Glyph of Psychic Scream Rarely will a situation call for a healer to CC, but this is there on that rare occasion.

  • Glyph of Purify Might be worth it if you're on some sort of dispel duty in a fight that calls for lots of dispels.

  • Glyph of Reflective Shield PvP glyph if there ever was one, though some priests like to use it for leveling.

  • Glyph of Renew For the most part, Renew is a spell disc priests will only use when they're focused on one target or need to buy a moment to switch to another target without their main target dying. This glyph makes Renew stronger in the short term, but will cost you more GCDs to keep rolling in the long run.

  • Glyph of Scourge Imprisonment Oddly enough, if you PvP for a while, you'll realize that you use Shackle Undead more against death knight minions than you ever did against mobs in PvE.

  • Glyph of Shadow Word: Death For those impatient moments while leveling and not much else.

What about food, flask, and potions?

Spiritual Guidance Guide to Mists of Pandaria discipline priests

If you have additional thoughts or advice for new and novice priests, please feel free to leave a comment. Think something is missing? E-mail me at and I'll see if I can write a supplemental article on the topic that needs more fleshing out. Good luck!

It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!