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.