Musing upon our Discipline

A congruence of a couple events has led me to ponder the Discipline priest – the priest who puts at least 60% of talent points in the discipline tree. The two events need mentioned just so you can see from where I’m coming.

First, about a week ago my guild’s class leader asked me to discuss recruitment needs – and he said “so many discipline priests, so many holy priests…” As I’ve noted before, I think that’s a bad way to say it unless you’re clear what you think you’re getting from that tree, and we digressed. And ended mutually unsatisfied (in many ways) with discipline as a raid spec.

Secondly, I rediscovered Okoloth’s Armory Musings. Okoloth is doing one of the best jogs out there of getting class stats across the WoW universe. Of particular interest to me (go figure) is the priest data page (level 70s). Now I’m going to digress to point out that the page’s data was last done in July of this year. On the other hand, it’s volunteer, it takes time, and there’s every indicator we’ll see post patch 2.3 data soon given the piece he always seems to do first – percent of each class by faction for every realm – just went up last week. Still, even knowing 2.3 had caused at least one change in the numbers he was showing, what’s there challenged my assumptions.

Here’s the deal. While I’d always realized that a Disc priest was more oriented to PVP, I’d not followed through on that as I’m NOT a PVP player (well, not a good one.)

For example, it surprised me to discover that the average regen for disc priests was less than that of holy, though I sort of realized the average mana pool for disc priests was the best of the three trees. What does this mean? Basically: in comparison to the average holy priest, it’s going to take longer to run the disc OOM, but once you do it take disc longer to top off. For a raid, what this means is that if you’ve got to have a constant chain of heals you’re PROBABLY better off with the disc priest. But if you can get even small opportunities for no-heals, OR if it’s going to run them OOM anyway, it’s the holy that’s your better choice.

Obvious in retrospect, the disc priests tend to only have about 24 spell hit rating. Why? Because while they’re doing a lot more DPS than the holy priest, they’re directing it at other players. And you need a lot less to reach THAT hit cap.

Another alleged advantage the disc priest has is survivability in comparison to the other trees. In reality, not so much. For example, shadow priests tend to be just as well armored, and surprisingly the average shadow priest’s health is higher than that of the disc priest.

In the end, bluntly, the disc priest isn’t really better at any of the basics than either of the other two trees, and once more we’re left reviewing talents to see if there’s a reason to prefer them. And once more, it becomes obvious that: if the dominant issue is PVP then yes, if not, no.

And even there… it’s only for Pain Suppression. In comparison, the Holy tree ‘gotta have’ that forces holy is Circle of Healing. In both trees the other stuff in the upper trees is useful but not definitively overwhelming, and the only other Noticeably Useful talent for groups is Improved Divine Spirit, which is low enough to be part of either tree. But… if you’re doing PVP, and especially if you’re doing Pain Suppression,lthen the Disc Priest is a hands down YES vote.

Now, here’s the flaw – and yes, it’s nothing new. Blizzard has said numerous times that they intend all trees to be at least nominally of equal use in both PVE and PVP – that no tree should be “this is PVP, never PVE” (or vice versa). And while there’s some lean in preference within other classes, no other class is as bad as the priest.

All this longwindedness is lead-in. See, Blizzard (or rather, official voices of blizzard) have hinted and further that 3.0 – WotLK – will see a radical change in discipline. The implication – and at this point it’s all there is – is that the tree will become it’s own thing instead of the current “pvp heal” as opposed to the “pve heal” of holy. And I keep circling options and chasing, and…

I’m going to throw out my best guess – and please recognize it is ONLY a guess. I would be unsurprised to see discipline become “the melee priest”. See, if you look, you get hints that what the discipline tree is supposed to be is what in other medieval fantasy games is the martial arts monk, but only everything but martial arts (real or fantasy). Why am I dissatisfied with this guess? Two words: Cloth Armor. And yet, with careful (to avoid Over Powering) talent creation for armor and dodge and resist – both general and specific in all cases – it might work. Note the really hard part of this isn’t making the tree itself avoid OP. It’s ensuring that a careful min-max of some of Disc and some of the other two isn’t OP.

The second best guess, I think, is that it becomes the “other DPS tree” – the holy side of the shadow tree, only damage instead of healing. Why do I consider this less likely? The congruence of several smaller elements. While “cloth tank” staggers me, “discipline” doesn’t square with “holy dps”. And to some extent that’s what Discipline already is, but the rumors and hints we’re getting are that the change is going to be ‘radical’. More effective at doing what it’s already doing isn’t radical. It might be nice, of course, but…

A keystone thought to this, which frankly neither of the above fits, which in turn means I’m not wedded to either guess. Why would we want this tree in our raid? It needs to have one of two answers, and preferably both. EITHER it’s competing for best of role (heal, dps, or tank) or it brings something unique and desirable to the table. As a best example of this, consider the shadowpriest. Until VT, the shadowpriest wasn’t particularly wanted at the raiding table – you leveled to about 58 or so on shadow, then flipped to holy to polish and get into the MC/Onyxia raids. But add the mana battery, and it makes up for the fact that generally a shadowpriest is out-dps’d by warlocks, hunters, rogues and mages. (Not always, and tweaks have made the margin closer. But generally so, anyway.)

I don’t know, but the guessing is fun. I just know it’s going to be different, and find myself looking forward to the new game bearing the WoW label.

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~ by Kirk on December 6, 2007.

5 Responses to “Musing upon our Discipline”

  1. I look forward to seeing how this plays out. I’m in a raiding progression guild which almost has Kara on farm and am one of only 3 healers in the guild. The way we do Kara all three of us are always there and all of us are completely epicced out. I started out with the generic 23/38/0 holy build but respecced to 31/30/0 after the patch to play with discipline, especially power infusion. With 3 healers as well geared as we are for Kara (I have over 1800 +healing raid buffed) I find myself in a very hybrid type role. With the 2.3 chance to spell damage from healing I have almost as much +dmg as our shadow priest and can keep up with her on the meters if I try. So I dps sometimes, PoM and fill in the holes where needed, healing when needed. I saw no loss in healing ability when I switched specs, and PI is very cool to throw on a mage in a DPS phase of a boss fight.

    Lately I’ve begun to become interested in PvP more and have started a 2v2 arena team. I kinda want to slide more into disipline as I have really good healing gear to buffer the +healing loss and think it will better suit my current hybrid healing role in raiding as well as help my survivability in arena. If and when we pick up more healers it might get more complicated if they are ungeared, but I don’t know. WotLK may bring some very interesting changes that may make disipline even more attractive.

  2. Quite an excellent read and I have some thoughts for you to ponder.

    If for example they do decide to make the disc side of the priestly talents I can think of making the following um “changes? improvements?”

    The percieved view of say a “monk” is of being more of a melee “martial arts” ability with a mix of dps and healing abilities. This may or may not be benefical for say being able to help the other classes with interupt abilities, interupting spell casts etc. Combine this with a chance to proc a heal of some sort “ie to self or party” upon striking an opponent could make this a possibly viable spec to bring along in raids.

    I may add to or change this rambling dialog after further research and discussion.

  3. Wow, get information on here. I just stumbled on it but I can see you put alot of time into it. Good work. I’m trying to do the same for shamans, look me up.

  4. hmmm, I love the idea of a martial artist priest/monk…especially seeing as I’m training in Shaolin Martial Arts :-) (www.shaolin.co.za) I see it as beeing a hybrid between Warrior/Priest. especially with the variety of stances available e.g. Monday, tiger, Eagle Claw, Crane etc.

    I can also see Budhist Samurai’s, Voodoo Capoera witchdoctors

    NO, I think that a Martial Artist is possibly a different class altogether! High Melee damage, high evade/agility (with cloth armor), healing (via accupunture, meditation), full use of all weapons.

    But you do make a very good argument for Discipline filling in the gap.

    Isn’t this also the role of a Paladin? Traditionally a warrior blessed by God/s. It’s just that when I think of Pala, I think of King Arthur and his keniggets instead of a Shaolin Monk.

    sorry, this is a very dijointed post. I’ve been writing in spurts while trying to look busy at work.

  5. A paladin comes in three flavors – magical tank, hammer of healing, and crit-happy mana warrior. Tankadins use Holy magic to fund their reflective threat and mitigation, Holydins are powerful and long lasting blunt instruments in the realm of healing, and Retadins rely on warrior stats coupled with a few magical tricks to drop massive amounts of damage.

    A monk, and that’s really where I hope they take Disc, would be more similar to a magical rogue —using mana to fund melee DPS. Not that they’d approach rogue-like damage, but they’d be punching with fist weapons or daggers, kicking and dodging. It would make Priests a true hybrid class, as their capacities would be allowed to melee DPS, ranged DPS, and heal… trees built like shamans.

    What I worry about is re-talenting the tree to include stat conversion, possibly changing SPI or INT to enhance Inner Fire, and stats like STR and AGI. Spelldamage and spellcrit might be better conversions in that respect, as cloth armor has little to no melee stats.

    Also, for grouping and eventual raiding utility, DiscMonks would need some form of group or raidwide utility, possibly skewing threat in a favorable direction, or adding an evasion buff. The “Heroism/Bloodlust” spell would’ve been perfect for DiscMonks.

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