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Spiritual Guidance: Holy? Disc? We're all priests


Every Sunday (and the occasional weekday) Dawn Moore reinvents what "smitelol" means to her shadowy cohort, Fox Van Allen, by busting down a door with penance lasers and raising holy hell to a Tarantino soundtrack. In the column Spiritual Guidance she offers advice to holy and discipline priests on how to wield the holy light, with style.

When I first started raiding, it was in late Burning Crusade. At the time I fancied myself a PvPer, shying away from raids due to attunements, and the long gear climb I'd have to perform in order to catch up with friends doing tier 5 content. Despite this, sometime during tier 6, a friend of mine convinced me to come along to a raid. How he convinced the raid leader though, I can't imagine. I remember standing there in my resilience gear, surrounded by players in their various shiny gear sets, and asking myself over and over, "what am I doing here?" I sheepishly put my talents into the holy tree, and tried to arrange my bars to accommodate the spells I hadn't cast in months. I was out of my element.

And then I saw Baba. She was beautiful.

Well, actually it was a he, just with a female toon... But that aside, Baba was a priest from another guild who was joining the raid as a friend and favor. He was decked out in full tier 6, and when the meters were posted in raid chat, he was always at the top. He would laugh in vent about Circle of Healing being overpowered, causing me to immediately blush like a school girl in admiration of his humility and nonchalant pro-ness. Eventually Baba had to go though, and the raid was called when he did. I never saw him at another raid, but I remembered him.

Wrath of the Lich King came out and my experience in discipline as a PvPer made me an ideal pioneer into the spec for PvE. The guild I had seen off and on with my friend in Burning Crusade, took me in and made it their mission to gear me up as a member of the team. Then one day, bouncing around Dalaran, launching Penance pew pews around at random people, I skipped right into Baba. I channeled Penance at him; Divine Aegis procced - we shared a moment. At least... in my head we did. I can't remember who spoke first, but I remember telling him about discipline, and how different it was. I told him, "Holy is like the refined gentleman of healing; a respected veteran who casts powerful but slower spells. Discipline is the ragtag, new guy; maybe he wears a mohawk. He can heal on the go, bouncing about with quick, instant cast heals." The game was a lot different in early Wrath.

Months later, outside the Eye of Eternity, I sat perched on top of my flying carpet, waiting for a friend to finish respeccing so I could summon him. Suddenly, I saw Baba appear from the summon portal of another group. As soon as he zoned in, I saw him hop around in circles, then to my surprise, he cast Penance at me. Divine Aegis procced and I stared at him, astonished. My holy idol had gone disc; my world turned upside down.

I asked him, "You went disc?"

He hopped around a bit more, "Yeah, I like it a lot."

I was taken aback. We talked a bit more before going to our respective instances, and I never saw Baba again before I transferred off the server some months later to find my raiding destiny. There is something important to be said from that encounter, though. Baba had played Burning Crusade through as a talented and respected holy priest - yet he switched to disc during Wrath. Looking him up on the armory right now, he's double shadow. Admittedly, I never knew him that well, but the impression I got from him was that it didn't really matter to him what spec he played. He loved playing a priest.

And I'd imagine that's why the lot of you play priests.

Which is what this post is about. (Bet you thought this was some priest on priest version of Twilight for a while, huh?) I've noticed a very strange divide among priests of both specs. Granted, it's not like that for everyone, but I see it more often than a priest who does both, and it kind of alarms me to see this rivalry between my priesty brothers and sisters.

So, if you're a disc priest hating on holy, or a holy priest hating on disc, cut it out already! WoW isn't an Apple commercial (okay, maybe it is). Think about the day you rolled your priest. Aside from looking oh-so-fashionable, what attracted you to pick this class over all the other classes? I'm going to guess for the majority of you it was for healing. Not healing with rainbow colored balls, flashy golden beams, bubbles, or divine tea sandwich trays - just healing. Don't forget that.

Of course, dual specs have made it even easier to embrace both healing trees, so there really is no reason to not embrace the entirety of your class. Though many priests might have used the extra spec to pick up a DPS or PvP spec, the variety of encounters in Icecrown Citadel definitely encourage us to walk both paths. Even if you run with two priests of different specs, having the option for them to swap and double up can be ideal for some fights. Lady Deathwhisper has no issues accommodating two disc priests for example, and Sindragosa could easily benefit from double holy priest Prayer of Healing.

I myself used to always run with a shadow offspec, but a couple months ago I switched to two heal specs. I can't tell you how nice it is to walk into an instance now, do one pull with a death knight tank, and then have the ability to switch to discipline. Or when I hit a queue up for a random heroic and get Pit of Saron, it's great being able to switch to holy and better handle the first boss. I know it certainly makes VoA or Ony PUGs easier when I can switch to what the group needs just by one look at the raid composition.

The only thing I should warn you about is to be weary of your group bossing you around too much. You're the one playing the priest – you should be the best equipped to decide what spec will help most, not them. (Just make sure you're not in disagreement because of a personal bias.) If there is another priest in the raid, get their opinion. If you're still in disagreement, talk it over with the raid leader or healing officer and go through the pros and cons of each spec for a fight. Explain why you think one spec is better. Do listen to what the opposition says, of course, as anyone is capable of holding a gem of insight.

And while it isn't necessary to have two healing specs, I would encourage every priest who tends to stick with one spec, to really give the other a try (or a second chance) to get good at it. Maybe for a few weeks, try doing all your heroic dailies as the other spec. Knowing how to play both will not only give you more tools to assess and approach new encounters, your versatility will make you infinitely more valuable to a raid team. This is the most important thing you can do for yourself if you're going to play a game like WoW. There will be times where if you can't be what the raid wants, you'll have to sit out. No one wants to be benched when we show up ready to play, so don't put yourself in a situation where that is a possible outcome. Learn both heal specs, and then learn the various styles of those specs. While you're at it, go read Fox's column and learn shadow too. (He should be recovered from his wounds by Wednesday.) Be flexible so you can play the game you pay to play.

Finally, I thought I would include a companion list to the one I made last week. Previously, I gave a short list of fights disc was good for, and why. Now we will see holy's strengths in Icecrown Citadel. Ta-da!
  • Lord Marrowgar: Circle of Healing is well-suited for responding to Bone Storm. Holy's stronger Prayer of Mending performs exceptionally in this fight as well.
  • Gunship Battle: Whether it be normal or heroic, there really isn't any healer that is actually bad for this fight. Holy will manage it just fine, though you might find a tiny bit of strain on tank damage. I wish Blizzard would make the fishing chair available in different flavors so 3/4 of the healers could hit the deck in style. Come on, you're on a boat. (Oooo! I'm so original!)
  • Deathbringer Saurfang: Despite me not mentioning it last week, priests all around are good on this fight. If the RNG works out in your favor, and a Mark of the Fallen Champion lands on a priest, it's like getting the hat in Monopoly. (Sure, everyone likes the car, but you can't put the car on your pinkie finger and perform annoying puppet shows.) Binding Heal is the perfect response to such good RNG. If you aren't so fortunate, Guardian Spirit can at least be used on a Marked target so you can focus your healing on the tank for a few more seconds during Frenzy.
  • Festergut: A heavy raid damage fight like Festergut is great for holy. Of course, druids have the advantage for effective healing, but a well-timed Prayer of Healing and Circle of Healing can pop the raid back up after Pungent Blight, buying druid HoTs more time. Guardian Spirit, like Pain Suppression, is great for tanks.
  • Rotface: The incidental damage in this fight makes Holy an ideal responder with Circle of Healing. Take that druid HoTs!
  • Professor Putricide: So much of the damage on this fight will either kill players or won't. (This is why disc's preventative bubbles are so great.) A good holy priest will be just as effective as other healers on this fight, and should find especially good moments to use Circle of Healing during the green ooze spawn.
  • Blood Prince Council: How well holy performs on this fight is somewhat random and inconsistent depending on where players end up in the encounter. Prayer of Mending's bouncing and the range on Circle of Healing will be a little more useful on heroic mode, where players try to remain stationary as much as possible.
  • Blood Queen Lana'thel: This fight is so biased to druid healing, but a holy priest can still find things to do. You can play to effective healing meters and Renew spam, or you can focus more on first aid healing. Both are useful on the fight. If you do the latter, focus on topping off targets about to be bitten, using Circle of Healing during the air phase to keep your raid up, and spot heal victims of Pact of the Darkfallen or Swarming Shadows.
  • Valithria Dreamwalker: You won't be healing Valithria herself (mutter mutter...) but holy priests are fantastic for covering the raid. To help out the other healers, glyph for Guardian Spirit and use it on Valithria when your companions exit the dream portals.
  • Sindragosa: Nothing really beats a holy priest on this fight. With Unchained Magic on you, you'll want to cast spells with the most bang: Prayer of Healing is that spell. (It's made better since it ignores line of sight.) Add in Prayer of Mending and Circle of Healing to seal the deal.
  • Lich King: You won't be able to handle Infest with bubbles, but you can prepare for it by casting Renew on one group, queuing up a Prayer of Healing on another, then following it all with a Circle of Healing on your third group. Win, huh?
Okay, so that wasn't short. As a general recap: holy priests are most effective when they know the fight. Anticipate big raid damage by keeping an eye on your timers and researching the fight ahead of time. If you just play holy reactive, you'll find that you fall short on effectiveness.

Oh, by the way, this whole article was just a sneaky lead in for the highly anticipated (I can dream, right?) Disc 101. Check back next week for it! Same disco channel.

Want to find more great tips for carrying out your Priestly duties? Spiritual Guidance has you covered with all there is to know! Check out Holy 101 for an introduction to healing as a holy priest, or Assessing yourself for advice on how to improve yourself as a healer and raider.

Filed under: Priest, (Priest) Spiritual Guidance

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