[Priest] Is Discipline a raid viable spec post 2.3?
I was inspired to start this discussion by a thread started on another forum. Will the utility of the new Pain Suppression make the long neglected Discipline spec once again viable for raiding?
First things first.
Is a targetable Pain Suppression even any good?
Pain Suppression: - Costs 8% of base mana
- 2 minute cooldown
- Instant cast
- Reduces damage taken by 40%
- Reduces target threat by 5%
- 8 second duration
Possible uses in raids: - Threat reduction. This could be especially useful for classes that have no innate (permanent) threat reduction.
- Targetable "mini shield wall" for tanks.
- Targetable damage buffer for dps/healers that pull aggro.
Priests have fade, which is a mostly effective temporary reduction, it has it's place on fights with aggro drops such as Leotheras, Hydross, Illidan, etc. However, on fights with consistent AoE damage that results in constant healing from VE, Shadow Priests are very often threat capped; these fights include, Naj'entus, Gurtogg, Reliquary of Souls (phases 2 and 3 specifically). On such fights, shadow priests are often riding the threat of the tank to the point of having to stop casting, a 5% threat reduction every two minutes would be the equivalent of 5% more dps multiplied by the fight length divided by two minute increments.
Other DPS classes without a permanent threat drop include: Moonkin Druids, Enhancement and Elemental Shaman, Retribution Paladins and Fury or Arms Warriors. From personal experience I find that these classes aren't threat capped as nearly as often as Shadow Priests in general, however Pain Suppression would function the same way for these classes as it would Spriests. We also have to consider that in patch 2.3, Enhancement, Retribution, and Fury spec warriors are all getting their innate threat reduction talents buffed. However, the fact still stands that these classes with no threat drops could and will eventually find themselves in a situation where they have to stop performing their roles due to threat, either due to simply passing the tank in threat due to burst damage, or a string of avoidance by the boss from the tank. In those cases, Pain Suppression would be a viable threat drop for them.
Healers could benefit from this threat reduction as well. Although it is somewhat rare for healers to pull aggro, there are fights in the game where this is a definite threat (no pun inteded). Fights that come to mind in this situation are, Tidewalker, Anetheron, Shade of Akama, and any trash fight with multi-mob tanking scenarios. For healers, it is arguable that the 40% damage reduction would be worth more in this situations until a tank could pull the mob off of them, however, the threat reduction component of PS would still be beneficial.
As somewhat of an afterthought, but I feel it deserves mention here, Pain Suppression coupled with Blessing of Protection would be a good life saving spell combo. Immunity to physical and 40% reduced spell damage along with a 5% threat reduction would make it easier to keep the aggro'd target alive, and make it easier for the tank to regain aggro. A specific fight that comes to mind is Kael'thas, I can remember a few attempts during the early part of the Phase 4 transition where a tank was disoriented or feared and PS would have probably saved a death (or multiple deaths) and possibly a wipe.
I've already touched on the damage reduction part of this talent. With it being targetable I know the first thought on my mind (when thinking of raiding of course) is "another shield wall (albiet about half the length and damage reduction) on the tank every 2 minutes". The fights and scenarios where this would be viable are almost endless... but come with a risk. This use of PS would obviously be best utilized on fights where threat usually isn't an issue. Many of these fights come to mind, including The Lurker Below, Mother Shahraz, High Astromancer Solarian, Archimonde, and a plethora of others. Any time where a main tank healer could be out of range or out of mana PS could be used as a damage buffer (at the cost of 5% threat) to temporarily reduce the strain on MT healers. Obviously this would be riskier on some fights more than others, any time where anyone is approaching max threat level (110% threat for melee, 130% for ranged) using PS would run the risk of a death or chaining multiple deaths due to aggro loss by the tank.
A trend that I've noticed just while typing this post is that fights on that are aggro sensitive for DPS, using PS as a threat drop for those classes would be good, and fights that are not threat sensitive (usually ones with high amounts of damage on the tank, usually meaning near infinite rage) PS could be used on the tank as a damage buffer. What I'm getting at is, the more I think about it, the more ways I can find a use for PS on every fight.
Now that we've established Pain Suppression as useful in a variety of encounters. The next question is:
Do the benefits of speccing 41 points into the Discipline tree for Pain Suppression outweigh the losses of the top teir talents in the Holy tree?
Lets examine the talents that would be required for PS and what would be lost in speccing to PS. We will also compare this to the widely established, 23/38 "Holy Raiding Spec".
Taking Pain Suppression means gaining access to these talents:
- Mental Strength
Increases mana by 2% per point up to 5 points. With the current regen mechanics in place, this is arguably not a fantastic talent. Fights would have to last less than a minute for the benefits of MS to outweigh the benefits of even a poorly geared priests spirit or mp/5. An argument could be made that having a bigger mana pool would allow more regen from a shadowfiend, especially with the coming changes to healing (in that it is now converted to approx. 30% +to damage as well). However, from personal experience as a shadow priest with a miniscule mana pool (9k or so buffed) I rarely find that my shadowfiend can fill my mana bar. A disc priest would have much less spell damage thereby making this argument somewhat null. This talent is, however, required for a somewhat useful one, and that is...
- Power Infusion
Costs 277 mana, increases targets damage and healing by 20% for 15 seconds, 3 minute cooldown. If chain cast on a single target and used without concern for other cooldowns, trinkets or temporary buffs, this would result in approximately an average 1.7% dps or healing increase for one person (15s per 180s=.083 x 20%). Could easily be combined with other buffs for a much higher dps increase especially on certain classes (Mages and Elemental Shaman come to mind immediately).
- Force of Will
Adds 1% damage and 1% crit to offensive spells, up to 5 points. Pretty much completely useless for a healer in PvE.
- Focused Power
Smite, Mind Blast and Mass Dispel have an additional 2% chance to hit per point up to 2 points. Also reduces the casting time of Mass Dispel by .5 seconds for each point. Very limited use in PvE. Mass dispel is rarely used in PvE due to the lack of dispellable abilities that affect multiple targets in a small radius. If more encounters are introduced where this ability would shine, then 4% + to hit and -1s casting time off a 1.5s cast spell would be a massive improvement, especially for a utility priest with what is most likely 0 + to hit on their items.
- Reflective Shield
Reflects 50% of the damage absorbed by PW:S as damage to the attacker (damage reflected causes no threat). The PvE benefits of this spell are completely dependant on the fight and how often PW:S is used and when. Even keeping 100% uptime (which is possible and preferable on some encounters, Reliquary of Souls phase 1 comes to mind), assuming approximately 2000 absorbed damage resulting in 1000 damage reflected every 15 seconds would be 66.6 DPS (and a pathetic 1.66 DPM untalented). These conditions, and the mana required to keep a shield up at 600 mana per cast, untalented, are rare. Most would consider this a PvP talent.
Increases Stamina, Intellect and Spirit by 1% per point up to 5 points. I don't think anyone is going to argue the value of 5% more stam, int and spirit for 5 talent points. As far as I know, no other class receives such a benefit for stat points from any talent. It is also worth noting that the 5% spirit gained from Enlightenment offsets the 5% spirit lost from not being able to access Spirit of Redemption. Which leads us to...
Taking Pain Suppression means the loss of access to these talents:
- Healing Prayers
Reduces the healing cost of Prayer of Mending and Prayer of Healing by 10% per point up to 2 points. Effectively makes 1 out of every 5 casts on either of these spells free. PoH is good but situational, however, ProM is arguably the best new heal priests received in TBC and is useful in almost every (if not every) encounter in game. However, due to the nature of the 23/38 spec, it is very often that this talent is not taken in favor of other talents.
- Spirit of Redemption
Improved death as we like to call it. 5% more spirit and a nifty angel that appears after you die and lets you cast mana free heals for 15s after dying. Definitely worth the single talent point for the 5% spirit alone. Some would argue that you shouldn't be dying anyway to access the primary effect of the talent, some would argue that deaths are inevitable and for 1 talent point, 15s of free healing is worth it. All in all almost every holy spec priest spends the 1 point for the 5% spirit alone. Again, worth noting that Enlightenment would counter the 5% loss of spirit by not having SoR.
- Spiritual Guidance
Converts 5% of your spirit into spell damage (and healing) per point up to 5 points. For a raid buffed priest, 25% of say 600 spirit would be another 150 healing. For a priest with a base 2000 healing, this is a 7.5% increase in +healing for 5 talent points. Note that 7.5% more + healing will not translate to 7.5% more healing due to healing coefficients.
- Spiritual Healing
Increases amount healed by 2% per point up to 5 points. Definitely a huge hit to a discipline build not to have this talent.
- Surge of Light
Each smite critical hit you land has a 25% chance per talent point (up to 2 points) to cast another instant cast smite, mana free, incapable of critical hit, the effect lasts 10 seconds. Probably the worst talent in the holy tree. Calculations have shown that it might actually lower your DPS in a smite DPS build. Completely useless for healing.
Creates a clickable lightwell. Restores 2360 hp over 6s (breaks on damage). Lasts for 3m or 5 charges. This talent is debated up and down by priests. It recently got a decent buff and now the priests + healing adds to the amount healed whereas before it did not. Some priests swear by it, others think it is terrible due to it's arguably highly situational useability.
- Holy Concentration
After casting Greater Heal, Flash Heal, or Binding heal you have a 2% chance per talent point (up to 3 points) of entering a clearcasting state that makes your next FH, GH or BH mana free. In my opinion, this talent looks good on paper but isn't very good in practice. In reality it makes a little more than 1 in every 20 casts of these spells free. Meh.
- Blessed Resilience
Critical hits landed on you have a 20% chance per talent point, up to 3 points, to make you uncrittable for 6 seconds. PvP talent. If you get crit in a PvE raid you're most likely dead thereby nullifying any usefulness of this talent.
- Empowered Healing
Your Greater Heal spell gains an additional 4% and Flash Heal and Binding Heal gain an additional 2% of your +healing effects, up to 5 points. 20% more of say 2000 +healing is another +400 healing on your greater heal. Unfortunately, your standard 23/38 build will only allow for 3/5 points in this talent. Still very good for throughput on single target heals.
- Circle of Healing
Heals target party members within 15 yards of the target for 475 to 525, 450 mana, 40 yard range, instant cast, no CD. With many buffs recently, including getting additional +healing effects in the recent patch, CoH has become the most efficient group heal with the highest throughput. That is, if you can get all group members together to get the effects. This is a bit easier talented to add another 3y to the area of effect through the Holy Reach talent. With the nature of the fights in Black Temple most consider this the best heal for healing a melee group (or any clumped group) taking constant damage. Just one problem, with your standard 23/38 build, this spell is not accessible.
Now we have a conundrum. Some of the best talents in the holy tree are not fully accessible in your standard 23/38 raiding build and one of the most unique talents in game, Pain Suppression, is completely unavailable as well. Unfortunately, the benefits of a raidwide increase in damage from Imp Divine Spirit is widely considered to far outweigh the benefits of any of these talents. We also face the fact that if we spec Discipline to PS we lose some key + healing talents and the throughput of our heals, especially our main single target heals, is severely hampered, while along the way to PS we gain some marginal stats and situational minor spell improvement talents.
With the general acknowledgement by most guilds that bringing anything more a single one to a raid (for imp DS) adds no extra utility or specialized role, whereas extra shaman bring totems, extra paladins bring buffs, and extra druids bring innervates and battle rezes, most guilds are, in fact, bringing only 1 holy priest. Hence the conundrum, one needs to function as a healer, but needs to bring imp DS as a utility buff, and thus results the 23/38 cookie-cutter build.
IF, Pain Suppression is, in fact, worth bringing to a raid, and holy priests would like access to a powerful group heal and the rest of their empowered healing talent and perhaps some room to work in the holy tree, then the only solution would be to bring a Disc (utility) specced priest, and a Holy (healing) priest to a raid. The utility class (or the value of utlility in general) is somewhat new to TBC and, at the moment, seemingly limited to the priest class alone. Shadow priests bring huge utility in terms of debuffs and mana return, in fact, many classes got added utility in 2.0 (Hunters got misdirect, Warriors got blood frenzy, etc, etc.). However, no spec could really be considered as fully "Utility" with possibly the exception of a shadow priest, and even then their utility comes at the result of proper DPS and spell rotations.
With the necessity of Imp DS, and the lack of utility for a full holy specced priest, we would need to bring two priests to cover all aspects of healing and utility, while still allowing for the best talents in each tree to be available to the raid.
Taking all the utility talents in the Disc tree. Absolution for dispels, yes you get to be dispel bitch. Could shift points around for Focused Power should the need ever arise. Comes with PI, PS, Imp DS and the spec still takes some bread and butter healing talents from the Holy tree. Decent for raid healing or off tank healing with renew and a somewhat gimped greater heal and an improved shield.
Grabs every talent that enhances the power of GH, FH, BH, PoH, ProM and CoH. 30% reduced mana cost on ProM. Big group heals, cheap, efficient targetable CoH. Still has inspiration and big GHs for tank healing. Shift some points around for a focus on single target vs group healing.
I'm somewhat rushed at the moment as I have to leave and I have a few more things that I would like to add, feel free to make corrections on my math or assessments. The utility spec proposed would also have to serve as a functional healer for the times when that utility was not needed. I.E. No one to dispel, no one to remove diseases on, PI and PS on cooldown. As we've already noted, there are some very good talents lost from the high tiers of the Holy tree by speccing 41+ deep into Discipline. This amounts to somewhere around ~15% overall + to healing and up to 30% or more on greater heal, our main single target heal.
However, does the benefit of the added utility of the high tier talents of the Disc tree outweigh the loss of anywhere from 10 to 30%+ healing on some spells by in the process? Is Disc now a raid viable spec?
Honestly... NO. The loss of healing power is far to great compared to the utility you gain.
Realistically all you gain from going 41 disc is PI and PS. From a raiding point of view everything else is little more than filler. PI is a nice little buff for lifeblooming druids or dps casters but it's not "that" great.
As for PS this is a strange ability. It can't be used on tanks on a regular basis as the effect of regular PS on the tank is an exponential loss of threat with every application. (I have seen a graph but can't find it at the moment.) As an OH SHIT! ability it is ok but most tank deaths are caused by massive spikes and I'm not sure that the PS priest will be able to react in time to do anything constructive. As an aggro dump for overzelous ranged dps 5% is not enough to flip it back to the tank because of the 30% lead the aggro pulling dpser will have.
I've seen it suggested as a good tool for AoEing but here you would be better using a pally with RF to tank the mobs while the mages/warlocks go to town.
Recent reports show that Devastate on the PTR is granting greatly increased threat (it's basically casting both the old devastate and sunder armor together). This, coupled with the innate threat reductions being added to enhancement shamans, retribution paladins, and fury warriors significantly lowers the value of the -threat contribution from Pain Suppression in most raiding situations when compared to raiding in 2.2.
It will still be great to save people early on in a fight from burst threat, but the classes who could really use the threat reduction effect in 2.2 won't need it anymore.
The mechanics of the ability make it quite useful for tank transitions. There aren't, however, a lot of fights around where that's useful but one which does spring to mind is the bear boss in ZA.
Imagine that you hit the current tank with PS every phase change; the -threat component alone might make aggro swap to the other tank, and the -damage component might make the transition safer and less spiky on the healers.
Of course, since the bear boss is tauntable, it's not needed, and in fact, since taunt "copies" the current tanks threat, applying PS would result in a major loss of threat over the fight. And ZA is a 10 man raid, and I don't think it's easy to find room for a Disc priest in a 10 man raid. And speccing for a single fight would be silly anyhow. But...
If several 25 man bosses apply debuffs to a tank so serious that tank transitions are needed, and the bosses are not tauntable (and don't have a built in -threat like VR), I think PS has promise. Maybe.
On another note, don't underestimate the power of PI for Lifebloom druids. And don't underestimate the power of chaining Clearcasting Procs with Inner Focus to get extra time outside the FSR.
The main PvE situation I would use PS on is an AoEer, who will want less damage and less threat. It's pretty obviously not meant to be used on tanks, although the penalty is light enough that its viable. This means that you're usually using it on non-tanks that are taking damage. There's not a heck of a lot of situations where this is good. I suppose the other situation is phase transitions, which usually involve healers moving (or dying) and an agro wipe anyways.
Disc is still mostly a PvP survival-support spec that needs some thematic consistency, as opposed to holy PvP which is a support-survival spec with thematic consistency. I'm sure you can cast heal spells while raiding disc to an extent required for the encounter, but the spec is a far cry off from "we need a disc priest."
Just to show the idea, I'll do a "little" rounding - assume threat per second generated naturally by the tank is actually threat per second, and that pain suppression is a constant % reduction of the tank's current threat. Note that it's a reduction of current threat and not threat per second, the way I understand the tooltip of PS.
T=threat/sec generated naturally
K=% threat lost per time unit (0<k<1)
dA/dt=T-K*A (every time you gain fixed threat minus a % of current threat)
Now we want to find A=f(t) (with T and K being constants).
This is a differential equasion and its solution is:
t+C= -ln(T-K*A) / K (C being an unknown constant)
Now to isolate A:
A=[T - C'*e^(-K*t)] / K
Since you start with 0 threat A(t=0) = 0 = T - C'*e^(-K*0)
Since e^0=1, C'=T and A = (T/K) * (1-e^(-K*t))
Since for t>=0 e^(-K*t)<1 the tank will never have more than T/K threat, and therefore for a recurring reduction in a % of current threat you will have a maximum possible value for the total threat the tank can generate, which depends on how much threat is reduced and how much threat the tank can generate. While the math isn't even close to reailty in terms of actual calculations of max threat (accuracy would be much easier with running some simulation), it shows you that you're capping your threat.
This isn't anything new though, it had been there since the days of broodlord and popped back on void reaver. That's also why those bosses are very hard with either low TPS tanks or a raid that relies on a few people to do good DPS while the rest do bad DPS or simply die, as low TPS lowers your max possible threat and the few good people you're relying on to do the damage reach their cap and can't make up for the slack. This is also why multiple tanks is beneficial on those fights - more tanks means each tank gets hit less often by the threat reduction, thus reducing 'K' resulting in taking longer to reach the cap, and having a higher cap as well as higher threat value at any point in the fight.
I must admit to remaining deeply unconvinced about it's utility for an AOE situation. This is because of the fact that it is in all ways inferior to what a pally can do (total threat drop and physical immunity) how can a 5% threat reduction and 40% damage mitigation compare? Yes PS will prevent elemental/magic damage that the pally effect won't but how often are you AoEing an untanked pack of non physical damage mobs? The only place I can think of is the imps on Illhoof and they are not exactly scary.
Additionally as I understand it the threat drop is applied at the moment of application so it will not help prevent an AOE'er from getting aggro in the first place but only in mitigating the effects once they do have it. Again any pally can do a better job while in thier primary spec.
As Garak said deep disc is really a PvP only spec.
While Pain Suppression and Power Infusion are Really, Really Good(tm), they cost 16 points, and they are not 16 points of good. Until the other 14 points are increased in value, the net cost simply won't be worth paying.
All of the game content has been cleared without pain suppression, so there is no dire need for such an ability. The reality is that it will be beneficial in a minute number of situations, and as a trade off the player must gimp their healing potential significantly.
Bloodboil is the only fight where this spell has huge implications. All other encounters in the game are largely unaffected. This ability may offset the learning curve for some guilds, but overall skill should trump this ability any day. Blizzard needs to rethink end tier talents so they become staples abilities instead of just situational. Unfortunately for priests, end tier talents seem to be a 3 year running afterthought.
I know this thread is in regards to 2.3, but I think my thoughts go best here:
What if you look at it from a different perspective, where the Discipline tree is not viewed as a healing spec?
There was a thread that I can't seem to find, about class balance and class roles, where the idea of dedicated buffbots and debuffbots was tossed around, especially in comparison with other MMO's. Most readers dismissed this role in WoW because of viability and usability concerns in relation to WoW's catering to soloability and the "everyone can contribute" stance. However, maybe Blizzard is on to something, if you take a look at the steady changes being made to the Discipline tree...
Imp. PW:F and PW:S, DS, PI, improved dispelling and now a targetable Pain Suppression. We know that the developers are taking a long look at making this tree work and click, and perhaps this is what they are envisioning the discipline priest to become: the ultimate buffbot.
If the mechanics of the discipline talents were tweaked just so (never mind core abilities, they don't even come into play here), the discipline priest could possibly be such that it might not even matter if they aren't healing optimally (or even healing at all), the talented buffs that they bring make them viable. A possible playstyle would revolve around buffing, perhaps lowering the cooldowns of PI and PS (and their respective power) so that between shielding, dispelling, and those two spells, the priest is in a constant state of buffing the group/raid.
From a tank's perspective, although I have also raided with a Priest:
Pain Suppression and Power Infusion are both nice talents, however there is not an encounter in the game (nor do I believe there will be one) where either of them will make or break your success.
The talents you are giving up in Holy are all of the most worthwhile (in my opinion) as far as increasing the effectiveness of your healing or regeneration go while gaining only a couple of talents with very questionable selective applications.
As an example, you could only really use PS effectively where you know that damage is predicted - for example casting PS on a Mage who deliberately starts AoE first and "tanks" (for want of a better phrase) before everyone else starts damage.
As stated by a previous poster, this can already be done by tanks/Paladin's or good AoE control and isn't required to beat any encounter.
The second option would be to mitigate the damage of something like Kael'thas Pyroblast - but if you can't deal with that in the usual way I think your raid has bigger problems than what your Priests spec.
Lastly, as a tank, I personally don't feel that casting PS on me is required or helpful - not because of the threat reduction, but because if I recognise I am about to die I will be using my own 5 different emergency buttons myself, without hoping for a PS to find it's way to me.
If the heals were not incoming I won't be expecting PS
Power Infusion again will not make or break any current encounter. I don't think there is any berserk timer which will be made easy by a period of extra DPS on a caster or healer.
There is also the issue that as well as dealing with your healing assignment, you will also have to micromanage threat for whomever you use PS on, especially if it is on a tank, as well as those you give PI too. No point giving your PI to your favourite Destruction Warlock if he is threat capped
The losses really aren't that huge when compared between the two specs.
I can see pain suppression being really handy in quite a few boss encounters, and of course many more if you take into account of the 5% threat loss.
Just off the top of my head.
-AoE on Morogim
-Warlock tank on Leotheras during his 15% enrage (would allow you to go a bit longer)
-Kael'Thas Pyroblasts (especially on the first one if you are still dealing with adds)
-MT on Archimonde if you get a bad soul charge (+50% damage taken)
-Weak player on Naj'entus
-Fel Raged Target (probably the biggest one for making this encounter a bit more consistent)
-Reliquary of Souls (Pretty much all phases really, would help at the start *along with last stand* to make sure the tank doesn't take any huge amount of burst)
And im sure theres a lot more examples outside of a few specific ones. It can be used in any circumstance as a last resort 'oh shit' to keep a tank alive, keeping an AoE class alive, or reducing the threat of a particular DPS class so he can keep going.
Druids get a slightly more powerful talent than Enlightenment - Survival of the Fittest increases all stats by 1% per point, and reduces chance to be crit by 1% per point.
Surge of light is ALL critical spells, not just smite crits.
It's an interesting idea overall, but as previously stated PI and PS just aren't good enough to replace the talents you lose. Either they need to make more of the holy tree better (i.e. make it so you don't want to be taking DS in a healing spec) and/or buff the bottom of the disc tree to make it so that it isn't just displacing some of the loss from Holy (5% spirit displaced by enlightenment) but is actually a significant buff in some form or other.
Taking it in the direction of a buffer/debuffer that still has a healing/dps role in between would certainly be interesting, and tweaking PS and PI (longer, or more powerful but channeled? something like that) as well as adjusting the rest of the tree to fit that playstyle (replace some with extra effects on other spells, such as the Holy Fire DoT blinding the vision of the mob it's cast on reducing it's chance to dodge by 1/2/3% and stuff like that).
There's still the issue of meaningful upgrades that was brought up in the "other thread", but if the buffing/debuffing role is tied in to other effects then it makes a lot more sense, i.e. they go for a healing set, it has a mediocre amount of damage on it from the healing->damage conversion in 2.3 so they can damage, heal, buff and debuff - making the dedicated buff/debuff spells (PS/PI/whatever) very expensive mana wise would put an emphasis on a large mana pool/good regen.
The losses really aren't that huge when compared between the two specs.
The healing power of a deep discipline priest is only slightly better than that of a shadow priest. To pick up pain suppression you have to sacrifice spiritual guidance, spiritual healing and empowered healing. These three talents are a large part of being an effective and efficient healer with HP scaling to around 20k on most main tanks.