Priest Healing Versatility: Is Holy/Disc Dual Spec Expected?

Oestrus over at Stories of O has been asked to go discipline.  I’ve been reading that article with interest because the comments just seem to run a huge spectrum.

What really stuck out for me, and in the Plusheal thread, is the argument made by some commenters that because, unlike all other healers, the priest has two distinct healing trees available, in order to be an effective priest healer, you should dual spec Holy/Disc.  If you’re not doing that, you’re not using your class to its maximum healing potential.

If you’re in a progression guild, you’ll do everything you need to.  I’ve heard of druids going resto/resto for slightly different specs to get the encounter right.  I get that.

However, what disturbs me is the possibility that certain encounters are simply not possible in Holy or Discipline spec (right now Disc seems to be OK for everything, but that could change).  Are encounters designed with the assumption and expectation that any healing priest can (and will) change to a more favorable spec, and therefore it is “balanced” healing-wise?

I’m not really sure what to make of this.  I’m having trouble keeping up with Holy, and I know that some fights are very disc-friendly.  Right now I’ve respecced Holy/Disc (rather than Holy/Shadow) and am going to take disc out for a spin.  Hopefully, I like it.  If not, I am going to have to gear another healer.

Comments

Priest Healing Versatility: Is Holy/Disc Dual Spec Expected? — 38 Comments

  1. The encounters don’t make disc or holy impossible, they just make it worse (sometimes significantly worse, depending on your raid makeup) than your other option. It was the same in tier 11, but the shoe was on the other foot and disc priests had to go holy for a significant number of encounters.

    It’s sort of been this way ever since disc was a viable pve spec, I think. Currently, though, I’m raiding as disc/disc and will probably do so for as long as I can get away with it (H Rag looks like holy utility may be more useful than disc, possibly).

    • It’s exhausting having to swap for each tier. I didn’t find Holy had a huge advantage in T-11 though. The disc priest was always kicking my butt.

  2. I keep thinking I should try holy on my disc priest… but I’ve gotten so lost the few times I have… and I love them bubbles and lazer heals! That said, disc isn’t working well with me on five mans this expansion [pally healing suits me better]… I can’t speak to raids as I only raid on my dk tank.

  3. At end of wrath I was holy/disc. The guild leads asked which I preferred and stated disc. So they had me switch to shadow as os just in case we needed another dps. We brought in another priest for holy heals but it didnt pan out in some of the fights and he was regulated to a backup. The other heals in our ten man group is a resto shammy and resto Druid. We lost a holy paladin before 4.2 right now I’m not having mana issues and am trying to gear up to be at the top of my game.
    If needed I would switch to holy to help raid heals but the shields are working okay

  4. I envy those who can switch between Holy and Disc seamlessly, but I’m not one of them. Mostly because I haven’t put much effort into Holy, but Disc is what I like. I’ve tried Holy a couple times – like on Atramedes for Body & Soul – but Disc is what I prefer and I do better as Disc, so I stick to it.

    In my personal opinion, there are no fights right now that can’t be done as Holy. I actually don’t think there’s ever been any fight that couldn’t be done by one class or another.

    • My muscle memory does tend to fail me more switching between holy and disc than switching between healing toons. It’s weird having essentially the same arsenal of spells but using them in very different frequencies.

  5. This is, in many ways, the same situation every pure DPS, and many hybrid DPS, face in progression raiding and high level PvP. Specs vary widely within a class, and switching between them can be really challenging. I can’t play high level PvP Affliction and Destruction at the same time – not the same night, not even the same week. I can raid as one spec and PvP as another, but not do the same activity with different specs at the same level as when I do just a single spec.

    I’ve played a spec I wasn’t comfortable with for the good of a raid (Demonology) and, with time, I learned to enjoy it. But it wasn’t easy, and I’m not as good with Demo as I am the other two specs.

    Flexibility is good. Specialization is good, too. These things conflict. I think it’s interesting to see this discussion come up in the healing community, since it’s something that’s troubled DPS for years. It’s great seeing a fresh perspective on it.

  6. Its a interesting concept, and one I think I can be paralleled over to pure DPS quiet easily. However I think a issue comes up where figuring out which healing spec is better for each fight is far harder than simply which DPS spec is better, which is where a lot of the confusion comes up. Or put better, this is a multifaceted issue, with many questions surrounding it.

    Should I respec if I need to?
    Which fight favors which spec?
    Is there utility a specific fight requires?

    To put the shoe on the other foot, when doing maloriak early on in T11, if you were having issues what would you think of your DPS had they not gone demo/surv/frost? (warlocks/hunters/death knights respectively, the 3 big AE specs).

    It comes down to your progression level, and I guess how dedicated you are to raiding. Do you want to get as close to bleeding edge as possible? Because the closer you get the greater the need for that slight advantage comes.

    This then becomes even further muddied when figuring out which healing spec is better is even harder than figuring out which DPS spec is better. Raw HPS means very little, but we have very few other real quantifiable ways of saying “Y is healing better than X”.

    Lastly, I barrier is just a very strong utility spell. Even though T12 has brought with it less raid damage thats going to one shot your raid (ala nefarian, chimaeron) which pushed barrier to the forefront, and simply more brute raid damage (shannox, beth’tilac, rhyolith, alysrazor, major domo), barrier is still extremely useful. In fact I’d go as far as to say boosting holys divine hymn this tier would be doable, while last tier it would of been far less so.

    This pushes everything into discs favor even if its not better at healing, and I think is something a lot of people don’t get, mostly due to the fact that by the time they get to content they are usually in epics and the damage (from say nefarians crackle) isn’t as deadly. This just causes more confusion on the matter, if you don’t need barrier as much which spec is better?

    Oh dear god this is a even bigger wall of text than last time. :x

    • I see what you mean. My issue comes from Blizzard always crowing: Bring the player, not the class. Does that mean bring the player, not the spec? What if you had a raid where nobody could slow down adds (like with frost etc) even if they respecced?

      If an encounter were really difficult for a druid healer to do, maybe it would be changed, because otherwise druid healers get left out. But if an encounter disfavors (greatly) holy priests, there is less impetus for that encounter to be changed because there is the respec option and the priest does not get left out.

      And yes, barrier is HIGHLY useful. It never even occurred to me that we might end up with (or need) 2 in the same raid group. But now I’m thinking that Beth’tilac would have been much easier if we had one available for every vomit-from-ceiling phase.

      • I agreed about blizzard. But to be fair, it does apply when not in “edge” progression. (which again to be fair, most of us aren’t). There are many other things that we can typically improve to get a kill faster or better.

        I think a large part of the problem is that disc has a extra tool, not a different one, to holy. Holy doesn’t have anything that is directly equivalent to barrier/DG/AM/SLT/tranq. If it did I think this would be a much different argument.

        Going of on a tangent, I still think it (bring the player not the class) produces a interesting dynamic, a extra way to be “better” at playing wow. It starts to put more onerous on the player to know all their specs to edge out a slight advantage. If say resto druids, holy priests and disc priests were all equal roughly, with each fight favoring one or the other slightly. The priest player can out play the druid by knowing both specs and switching fluidly between them.

        With that said, the small gains we’re talking about here don’t particularly matter unless your in edge progression, or at least they matter less. The mana you saved from having a second barrier may have granted you that kill a week earlier for example. But eventually gear will make up that gap.

        • When lacking a edit button, reply will have to suffice!

          It starts to put more onerous on the player to know all their specs to edge out a slight advantage, over just picking the right spec/class when they first started playing/at the start of cataclysm.

          • When we’re geared enough to be less squishy, when we don’t stand in the fires as much (because we’re still learning mechanics), I can probably do whatever I want. But you’re right, the kill might come a week sooner if I respec.

            But for it to make ANY difference, the output that *I* (personally) can do with that spec has to be greater than with the other spec… and not the theoretical output versus other theoretical output.

            And raid comp. OMG raid comp. When I have a mana tide totem, the difference is enormous. I can pretty well compensate for my mana issues because a spirit totem is like crack to a holy priest. But I can’t count on having that mana tide. So is it that holy w/ mana tide > disc > holy without mana tide?

            OK I’m rambling and no closer to any sort of answer than before.

  7. I keep a shadow offspec simply because my hotkeys and bars are a lot different than my healing spec. I run around with a different spec as Discipline depending on each boss. I juggle three different sets of talents as Discipline and one for Holy when my team begs me for a lightwell and Body and Soul (and then that’s with a lot of begging!).

    I agree that if a DPS is to be asked to maintain a second spec to play the same role in a raid, healers should as well. But the others can go scratch if they think I’m going to reconfigure my offspec bars and hotkeys to shadow each day so I can get my molten front dailies done in less than 6 hours. Don’t get me started when they ask in guild for a healer for the daily heroic! And just because we keep more than one healing spec, doesn’t mean we aren’t the first people they look at when a healer has to switch to DPS.

    With group summon, a 15 min hearth, and the ability to use online talent calculators in game, there is no reason someone can’t respec between fights. Tip for alliance: the gnome priest trainer is just outside the dwarven district Inn, saving you a trip to the cathedral.

    Expecting a Priest to maintain three specs should be considered the same thing as asking a Druid or Paladin to maintain a DPS, Heal and Tank spec. Sure you can ask. They just can’t expect to have it both ways.

    TBH, I’ve always felt Priests are the only class right now with just two, not three talent trees: Healing and DPS. Playing with two 31 point trees is not much different than playing with one 60+ tree as it was before Cata.

    • It’s really hard to give up the ability to do dailies if you’re going for a faction. Disc smiting just does not cut it.

      What if your second spec is PVP? Does the guild have the right to require or expect a second spec that is beneficial for raiding?

      • While I don’t really see the problem in a raiding guild expecting all raiders to respec if asked, it’s a whole other world to demand both specs be healing. A tank is often asked to switch to DPS. A DPS may even have 2 DPS specs. In those circumstances, this player can still function outside of the raid and play the game. When both of my specs were healing, I really couldn’t do much outside of the raid. There was no switching to my DPS spec for heroics. And, considering all of the add-ons and keybindings needed for each spec and their respective UI, it is unrealistic.

        Priests are the only class this has been asked of, however. And I simply don’t expect the people making such demands to truly understand what they are asking. If they tell you they want you to respec to Discipline, but don’t know the difference between having the Atonement/AA spec or not, then I would say they aren’t qualified to ask you to switch. I can’t speak for the other healer classess, but I don’t think the other healers have such different talents to choose from that translate into different raid cooldowns. Chakra is not shielding, and barrier is no Guardian Spirit. I do my best to play up Discipline as the strangest, most difficult spec to understand so the others leave me alone when I want to stick to my bubbles! It usually works.

        But the bottom line is while I am willing to respec as many times as they want, my raid does not own my secondary spec. If everyone else can walk out of a raid and do their dailies, heroics, quests, PVP, etc, I should be able to as well. It is expected we do these things to remain raid ready. If they want two raid healing specs, then they need to allow for time to respec at the trainer as part of the raid, just like the good old days.

  8. Actually, I don’t think I was very clear in my comment the first time – I’m not advocating that because DPS have been asked to do it, and are often required to do it, Priests should do it for healing too.

    I just think the parallels are interesting. It still comes down to individuals.

    • I think the difference is jarring here because the other healing classes just have one tree. So by default, they can never respec to a different form of healing (short of minor tweaks). Most DPS classes do have more than one DPS spec, from the beginning, except pallies and priests. I don’t know whether to say to the other healers “haha I have more options than you” or to whine “It’s not FAAAIR, you don’t have to respec”.

      • I think you’ve captured the heart of the debate right there, Zel. Flexibility is both a blessing and a curse. :-)

    • Agreed, mostly. I tell people in my raid to play the spec they like – we’re not even pushing server-first progression, so the 1-10% gains you’ll see between specs are just not an issue for us. Still, it’s funny to me because it seems like every other major match I’m swapping specs because Blizz nerfed the life out of one spec and gave another hilariously disproportionate buffs.

  9. I think dual spec requirements should simply be the same across all classes and roles. Are damage dealers in your guild expected to have two different specs for raiding? Then you can ask the same of your priests. If not, GTFO.

    For me personally that kind of requirement definitely falls into the “too hardcore for me” department. I was kind of surprised that so many of the comments in response to O’s post talk about switching specs on the fly as if it’s the most normal thing in the world. Maybe I’m old school, but to me my spec is an important part of my character’s identity and not something that I’m happy to discard every couple of weeks depending on what’s the latest flavour of the month.

    I’m also convinced that if holy truly becomes unreliable in Firelands, Blizzard will do something to fix it. Ever since they made disc a viable PvE spec they’ve been trying very hard to keep all healing specs PvE viable across the board (with mixed success). Personally I’ve been doing quite alright, but then we have three other disc priests and I think people are grateful that I’m not contributing to the bubble wars.

    • The problem is that Blizzard isn’t doing anything about it. When the healing version of the “Ask The Devs” chat came out, people were flooding the boards with questions on holy priests and whether Blizzard was content with where they were at. I seem to recall Derevka and other noteable priests even showing concern with this. The lack of other forms of regen for us, the lack of a noteable cooldown, etc. Blizzard summed it up by saying that they feel holy priests are in a good place.

      *I* still feel we’re really quite strong, but there’s a seething majority that feels otherwise. So it’s not me that they have to convince, it’s everyone else.

      • I don’t think that’s an entirely fair assessment of the situation. When they gathered questions for the Ask The Devs about healing, 4.2 wasn’t even out yet, so you can’t really take their answers there as their final stance on the state of healing in the Firelands. Not to mention that they have to give these things some time to see how everything shakes out on the live servers. It sucks if you’re on the bleeding edge of progression and being left behind I guess, but the devs can’t really tune everything solely around how the most hardcore guilds perceived their classes on the PTR.

    • I think that’s a very reasonable guideline, actually. If the guild’s expectations are that you maintain as many specs as required for DPS, then that expectation applies to Healers and Tanks as well.

      If the guild is okay with DPS just bringing one raid-ready spec in, that’s fine too, but be consistent with your Tanks and Healers.

      If the guild leaves it up to the individual player to decide what’s best to raid in, that’s pretty easy to work with, and just fine, too. It’s not optimal, to be sure – but not everything has to be optimal.

      (Oh crap, did I just say that? *delete delete delete*)

      I think as long as the policy is consistent between classes, whatever the guild decides meets their goals best is fine.

      (Personally, I prefer the more casual approach. But that’s because I like playing specific styles.)

      Clearly, the answer is that we need a tri-specs. *cough*

  10. It isn’t only priests being asked to maintain 2 specs since 4.2. My guild has asked me to go Holy/Holy as a paladin to tune to the fact that for some encounters they want me Haste/Spirit focussed and on others they want Mastery/Crit – Not quite the same as Holy/Disc in the priest debate, but seeing as Holy/Holy for pallas is literally a couple of talents shifted around I feel that it is somewhat unreasonable to be expected to maintain 2 talent sets rather than just tweaking during the raid.

    • The problem with a guild “owning” the secondary spec of a healer/healer is that… well of course it’s better for the raid. But it sucks royally when that healer is trying to do dailies to improve gear FOR RAIDING. Dual DPS specs at least aren’t helpless flailing around trying to bore the mob to death.

      • Just find one of those DPS and group with them for the dailies. The hyjal/MF dailies can be done in a group and everyone gets credit so just make Gnoble do them with you, you heal him while he rains destruction on everything in sight.

        Admittedly this does not alliviate the overall game issues being discussed, but it’s a semi-viable solution for you at least.

          • Our guild regularly puts together groups for dailies – the TB dailies fly by if you have enough people working on them, I’m sure the FL ones will do the same.

            I’m also too much of a sissy for a PvP server.

          • I did the FL dailies with Pengu and Ash the other day on Geehod, with the 3 of us we did all 3 phases in about 10 minutes total, it’s stupid easy. You can’t fight, that’s fine, you go plant vines and/or harvest meteorite ore while we go smash ALL THE THINGS!!

  11. I think I’ve played the game to long since I only see dual spec as a blessing. I used to constantly pay to respec as needed before/after/during raids and had lots of sticky notes posted around so I could quickly respec. I don’t even want to talk about the keybinds although they were stored client side along with my macro pools. It really makes it hit home when dual spec first came out at its cheap cost of 1k…far far below what I was spending on respecing. I also appreciate how cheap respecing is now.

  12. I’ve been watching this discussion on many forums. I’ve been a holy priest since the day WOW was first available to play. In Vanilla, it was possible (and pretty much necessary) to put talents into both trees in order to heal effectively. There was little to no talk of switching from holy to disc and vica versa.

    I love holy. I breathe holy. I hate disc. I resented that I had to play disc for the Lich King fight. I hate that I now have to play disc for certain FL fights as well. Like a lot of holy priests I know, we are being not asked, but told that we must play disc in FL because face it, it just works a lot better for the majority of fights.

    But in truth, I am much better at playing holy than disc. I’m not one who can effortlessly switch from one spec to another, as some seem able to do. If I had a choice, I would never play disc and would keep shadow as my secondary spec.

    I resent the fact that because I need to keep two healing specs, dailies are just outright painful and slow. My hunter or mage can do it in 1/4 the time my priest can. And without near the effort. Granted, I have no hit gear atm, so I miss a lot (even on the stupid little imps guarding the wisp portals). But unless I have someone who can dps with me, I’d just rather not do them on my priest.

    Yes, doing dailies with others makes it much better, no matter what class you play, but I can’t often find someone to do it with during the time that works for me. And why should I have to when it’s so easily done solo by my other toons? Respeccing may be cheaper than it was, but to change specs every day to do dailies is a little too much.

    Yes, I’m sure many of you are saying how wrong I am to not want to play both specs, but oh well…. that’s how I feel. And regardless of how I feel about it, I’m playing both specs because that’s what’s required.

    • I feel very similar to you, ash. When dual spec was introduced, part of the rationale was to allow healers and tanks to participate in other aspects of the game as easily as DPS characters… such as pvping, doing quests, or even just being in the same group as another healer. I feel like dual spec has been absorbed into min/maxing rather than giving people a respite as, I presume, was intended.

      • Exactly, Zelmaru… the ability to dps for healers and tanks was a huge reason for dual specs to begin with. But yes, it got lost somewhere along the line.

        It’s not impossible to do all the fights as holy. I even did LK as holy a couple of times. But it was far more efficient and easier to use disc spec.

        That being said, as I become more used to disc healing, it’s not as bad as it first was. In fact, if I didn’t love holy so much, I’d give it up altogether and just disc only because it has more synergy and feels easier than holy. Not to mention that firelands drops are better suited to disc.

        Still, the point is that I really don’t want to have to heal in two specs. I’d rather heal as two different classes than as two different specs of the same class. Partly because you have most of the same tools in disc as in holy, but your use of them is different. As I stated earlier, perhaps it’s easier for others, but I find it difficult to change from my natural holy style when I play disc. I’m sure if I played disc more, it would become a bit easier to adjust.

        Still, I would hope that it would be possible to do any fight at least somewhat equally well in either spec and have a secondary shadow spec a more viable option. The difference in specs shouldn’t be so great that if we want to raid, we are expected to go disc in certain fights.

        Thanks for the response Zelmaru. It really does help to know that there are other priests out there with similar feelings, as unpopular as it seems to be. Or perhaps more priests don’t come right and say it because they’re likely to be flamed.

        • I’ve always found that people tend not to roll priests, they roll a specific spec of Priest and that’s where the problem lies. My “priestly” identity is bound up in being Holy, that’s the spec I greatly prefer. If I’m being honest, I find Disc boring and whilst it’s improved greatly from the bubble spammer that my old guild wanted during Wrath, I’ve never found much enjoyment from playing Disc in PvE. Although I have always swapped when asked, simply because we were there to kill bosses as fast as possible.

          That said, I hate being Shadow with a passion and so have always had a Disc and a Holy spec. One for PvP and one for PvE.

          However in my old guild, anyone who could fulfil more than one roll (i.e. druids/paladins/warriors/shamans/deathknights) was expected to have two PvE specs. I know a few our of resto shamans used to get upset about having to dps a roll they weren’t particularly comfortable in, if we had too many healers. Which was one consolation of the Priest, carting around two healing specs, no one ever asked me to go shadow.

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