17 December 2008

The path of discipline

Discipline is a priest's... other talent tree. Not holy, not shadow, just... other.

I love the concept of discipline. It conjures images of solemn, indomitable missionaries and wiry, hermitic monks. The language of the tree's core talents is rich with power, strength and dignity — unbreakable will, martyrdom, pain suppression, penance; I get goosebumps typing them out.

The talent tree does a pretty good job of constructing a priest along these stylistic lines — one who is able to take great hardship in his stride, stand up to injustice and evil, protect the weak and innocent, and call down judgement on the unworthy. But a true discipline priest may struggle to find a natural home in one of WoW's rather rigid roles.

Historically, discipline was a core tree for pvp healers. Indeed, today it remains a strong survival tree, helping the priest perform under fire with talents that boost stamina, provide stun resistance, pushback protection, damage reduction and improved shields.

But for raiding, it was seen mostly as a support tree to holy and shadow, offering utility in the way of mana efficiencies and spell power boosts. Raiders who went further than meditation in tier 3 were usually healers who wanted to pick up improved divine spirit for their raid. And at level 70, this locked healers out of circle of healing, so only one priest was ever required to go this route.

During the development of the latest expansion, while class talents were being reworked and developed, discipline was positioned as a strong damage mitigation tree. Power word: shield, which was always an expensive spell, suddenly became a core mechanic for deep discipline healers. Arguably, it is now a strong single-target healing tree, although I imagine the use of shields on rage-using tanks remains an issue.

So where does this leave discipline? Is it a pvp tree, a utility tree or a healing tree? The answer is either all of these things, or not quite any of them, depending on who you ask.

For shadow priests at least, it remains a solid utility tree, and the addition of ten extra talent points in the Wrath expansion provide an opportunity to delve deeper into discipline for those who are tempted.

Talent choices
The cookie-cutter shadow raiding build for Burning Crusade had 14 points in discipline. That hasn't changed, although a few of those points are now better utilised. The interesting thing to emerge for shadow priests is the divine shadow hybrid, which I proved was awful for levelling but which may yet be a good option for 25-man raids, if not 10-mans.

It's not really a tree you want to delve down for early levelling. While some of the talents are ok, you're much better sticking with shadow until, probably, your mid-sixties.

Here's a run down of the talents you should be looking at when you get round to it:

Tier 1
Twin disciplines increases damage and healing of instant cast spells by 5%. I shed a little tear for wand specialisation, especially when this, it's replacement talent, was nerfed during beta from a flat 5% increase in damage and healing to just instants. But it does contribute to raid dps, no matter how small, so pick it up with a smile in your heart and move on.

Tier 2
Improved inner fire is a wasted talent until level 71. That's the point at which the largely useless armor spell suddenly starts to buff spell power too. Yay for more spell power, and for three points, it's your best option to move up the tree.

I'd also recommend picking up improved fortitude over everything else here. It's important for group utility and you can't always rely on having a healer to do the buffing.

Tier 3
Meditation is the reason you are here. If you want to raid, this 30% mana regen while casting is very important to your longevity. In Northrend, with so much spirit around, it's a very nice use of three points; I'm getting about 150 mp5 at the moment.

And as you've come this far, you may as well pick up inner focus too. It's one free spell every two minutes with a substantial boost to crit. I used to recommend macroing this to shadow word: pain, which was our most expensive dot. But that was while it wasn't refreshed by mind flay and our crits were otherwise underwhelming.

I think it is now best used on devouring plague, which at 25% base mana is even more mana-hungry than SW:P. But as mana seems not so short in supply these days, I'm tempted to hold it back for prayer of healing in those 'oh shit' moments.

For the cookie-cutter build, that's as far as you'll be going. But if you're feeling altruistic and want to give your raid improved divine spirit, you'll need to splurge on a few fillers first.

Edit: For the record, nobody I know thinks going this far is worth it. It's probably a Very Bad Idea. But if you're absolutely, stubbornly determined to give it a go, here's how you might go about it:

Tier 3 continued...
To get to tier 4, you need to blow one more point somewhere. I'd probably put it in improved power word: shield, but really there's no right answer. Drop it somewhere and move on.

Tier 4
On balance, I think mental agility is a reasonable filler at this level. Ten per cent off the cost of shadow word: pain and devouring plague, plus all the other instants you might throw into the mix, isn't so bad.

Tier 5
Which brings us nicely to divine spirit and improved divine spirit, for a total spend of 23 points. If you go this far into discipline, you won't be able to max out twisted faith and you will have to give up any number of key shadow talents. It's a compromise that will affect your personal dps, but on a big enough scale it may well be worth it to the raid as a whole.

It largely depends on your raid makeup as to whether this will be worth it. The spell power boost from improved divine spirit doesn't stack with, and is inferior to, totem of wrath, demonic pact and flametongue totem. But, even if you have one of these other options, some classes benefit from the additional spirit in itself. It becomes a much more attractive option if you're stacking resto and balance druids, locks and priests.

Edit: it's probably still not worth it!!!

In a future post I promise to pull this all together with the shadow talent overview and recommend some possible raiding builds. Not that you need any help from me :) And when I have time, I'll take the improved DS build to a target dummy and see exactly what kind of hit to dps you can expect. So many things, so little time...


Leigh said...

It's certainly an interesting enough build to say the least. From the disc side of things a point in martydrom would be better then a point in imp PW:S especially as you will not be taking imp shadow form. As someone who has PVP'd a lot it's always nice to have at least one point in that talent :)

Looking at the shadow side of things, expendable points IMO would be:
- Shadow Affinity (threat for tanks has been super buffed and a lot of spriests are shying away from this)
- Imp VE
- Imp Shadowform
- Save one point in Shadow Reach (may need to glyph for MF over SW:D as the latter is slipping out of my rotation as each day goes by).

I end up getting something that looks like this:

(Had to break it up or it would ruin your webpage :P)

I am possibly going Naxx 10 tonight and i might respec to that build and see how it fairs. Major concern to me would be losing out on Dispersion as I am not hit capped i leak mana at the best of times :( May have to take mp5 food/flask

Merlot said...

Martyrdom? Are you sure? You have to be crit for that to kick in! I know improved power word: shield is a lame talent but it will get a lot more use in raids than the martyrdom effect, especially when crits are likely to one-shot you anyway. Maybe, as you say, if you pvp a lot, it's a decent trade-off.

Leigh said...

Aye it's a nice talent and any kind of crit can proc it from memory. Fact that you lose any pushback resistance from not speccing into imp shadow form for me would warrant it over wasting it in PW:S
Random add attacks and the like could proc it. I remember it proccing quite regular in BT and MH when i had a spare point in it.

Will post DPS figures and thoughts on the spec tomorrow, kill an hour in work :)

Ho Ho said...

I wonder when do people learn that imp. DS doesn't stack with any shaman totems in terms of spellpower and is considerably worse than that?

Yes, 80 spirit would be pretty good but lock pet can give you 64 and you will loose huge amount of damage by sacrificing too many good stuff from shadow tree. Let some holy or disc healer get it for you, don't gimp yourself so badly by getting DS.

If you want to dps and not suck at it put 14 points in disc and everything else in shadow. 80 spirit to raid is not worth the loss of your personal DPS in any situation. No ifs, no buts.

Leigh said...

Ho Ho don't immediately dismiss an idea without trying it out for yourself.

I went Naxx 10 man tonight with the spec i linked above. Overall damage was about the same as a normal run, I came third on overall meters with 2.2K DPS for the entire run (Arachnid, DK, plague wings). Last run i came top but i can attribute the lack of first place to the fact a rogue and affliction warlock outgeared me quite significantly. Percentages were 20%, 18.5% and 18% (me) for overall damage done.

On boss fights i found my DPS was down by about 300 or so on average, more on certain fights then others. Mana management was a big issue. I felt i couldnt go all out and nuke. Even with spirit tap proccing fairly regular it just wasn't enough and in "oh shit" moments where you need to abandon rotations and start firing out SW:D. On fights with adds mana gets sucked away at a terrible rate. While i enjoyed the spec and found it made ya pay more attention to cooldowns and what not, the safety zone of gaining 6% mana (of 16K buffed) for a few seconds is too much for me to not spec into. Overall damage was down also which is never a good thing :)

I also do not think in an enrage style fight (i.e. abom wing) it will stand up. Having shadow fiend and disperion is a must in those style fights. I would rather lose 6 seconds worth of DPS then run OOM while waiting for a shadow fiend cooldown.

Least i tried it and I have some figures to work with now for the next time i raid those wings.

My armory is http://eu.wowarmory.com/character-sheet.xml?r=Hellscream&n=Hadur if you want to check stats etc. Got a few new pieces so might not have enchants/gems yet :P

Freyal said...

Someone already mentioned it, but since buffs no longer stack any more, unless your hurting for mana a lot as shadow (dont get me started on the irony of former mana batteries going OOM) the improved spirit really wont help you all that much.

The only other thing I wanted to correct you on, is that discipline isn't a valid tree for levleing. I actually found strangely enough a holy/discipline hybrid spec was better for leveling then shadow. I ran out of mana way less, and with the GCD's triggered by procing dots, it really didn't seem all that much faster to kill stuff as shadow vs holy.

With the added bounus your healy gear is likely to be FULL of haste and Spirit and with 3 points in shadow for spirit tap .. leveling is a breeze.

Leigh said...

Aye the buffs no longer stack but i had no shammy in the raid last night so was a perfect scenario to test it.

From a levelling point of view (dungeons aside) I didn't even make it through a stack of water from 70-80. Shadowfiend and rolling spirit taps all the way!! I could even pop out heal myself, go back to shadow form, hit dispersion and keep on moving.