Last updated: 01/06/08, patch 2.3.
This is an easily misunderstood area, mainly due to the fact that some of our spell lines have the same names as schools of magic.
Let’s start at the beginning:
Schools of Magic:
All magic spells in the game fall into one of six* groups, or “Schools”, of magic. They are:
Holy, Shadow, Fire, Frost, Arcane, and Nature
* “Physical” is sometimes considered to be the 7th school, due to the certain game mechanics, but in most of the ways that we concern ourselves with spell schools, physical does not fit the model. So for simplicity’s sake, let’s just talk about these six.
All spells will fall into one of the above schools.
It can be difficult to tell what school certain spells fall in. From in-game, you can tell the school of damage spells as they will specify in their tooltip which school their damage is, which always correlates to their spell school.
Things that affect schools of magic:
- Resistances: Buffs such as Shadow Protection, certain pieces of gear, and certain racial abilities will give you a certain “resistance” to a school of magic. Your resistances can be seen by opening up your character pane (by pressing “c”). The resistance that it says you have for shadow, for instance, means to shadow school spells.
An interesting thing to note is that there is no such thing as holy spell resistance for player characters, not even from a druid’s Mark of the Wild. It does not exist in the game for whatever reason; that is why you will not see a listing for it on your character pane.
- Absorption: There are potions (and other abilities) that will negate damage done to you from a specific school. The tooltip will typically read as : “Absorbs XX to YY School Damage”.
Example: A Holy Protection Potion will “Absorb 300 to 500 holy damage”. This is damage from the holy school.
- Bonus Damage: If you have an enchant, piece of gear, or other bonus that will “Increase your School damage by (up to) XX”, that is referring to the spell school. This can be seen by mousing over the “Spell Damage” stat on your character pane; breakdowns are given by your spell school.
- Spell School Locking: Some classes and mobs have abilities which will prevent you from casting spells of a certain school for a period of time. Abilities such as Kick, Pummel, Counterspell, Spell Lock, and Shield Bash will prevent you from casting spells from the school you were interrupted casting.
- Mobs that respond to school damage: Certain mobs will reflect your school damage spells back at you, or can become resistant to a school of magic. An example of this is the Voidshriekers in Netherstorm. Once you cast a spell at them, they will gain a buff that reduces their damage taken by that initial spell’s school by 75%, and they will start casting spells of that spell’s school at you. Mobs such as this are very uncommon.
It is worth mentioning that there are a few talents that function off of spell school. An example of this is the Shadow Weaving talent. You can stack up debuff from any of your shadow school damage spells (however, only shadow damage spells found in the “Shadow” tab of your spellbook, aka Shadow Line spells, will be affected by the debuff). Most talents will affect spell line, and not spell school, however.
Every class has three spell lines, essentially one for every tab in their spellbook beyond the “General” tab. Nominally, spell lines correlate to the names of each classes’ talent trees as well.
For us priests, we have:
- Discipline, Holy, and Shadow Magic
Other classes have the following:
- Druids: Balance, Feral Combat, Restoration
- Hunters: Beast Mastery, Marksmanship, Survival
- Mages: Arcane, Fire, Frost
- Paladins: Holy, Protection, Retribution
- Shamans: Elemental, Enhancement, Restoration
- Rogues: Assassination, Combat, Subtlety
- Warlocks: Affliction, Demonology, Destruction
- Warriors: Arms, Fury, Protection
Things can get confusing for some classes that have spell lines with the same names as schools of magic. Fortunately, that is not a problem for most classes. Unfortunately, that is a major problem for priests. Any time your spell line is being referenced, just picture your spellbook. Saying “Spell Line” is just a way of describing what tab of the spellbook each spell is on.
If you want to know what spell line a specific spell is in, you can check your spell book (provided it is your spell that you are trying to look up), or you can query Thotbott.com. Its listings for spells include spell line (and it will tell you spell school as well). To see spell line on Wowhead.com, just browse from the “Class Skills” section of the navigation menu to see lists by spell line. You can see spell schools as well in these lists.
Almost all talents are referring to spell line and not school. For example, the talent Shadow Affinity, which reduces the threat of your shadow spells, is reducing the threat of your shadow line spells, not shadow school spells. There are a few exceptions, like the aforementioned talent Shadow Weaving (you can stack the SW debuff from Mana Burn, though Mana Burn won’t increase in damage from it).
The most notorious priest talent that refers to spell line is the Shadow talent, Shadowform. No holy line spells can be cast while in Shadowform, though you can cast holy school spells that are not in the holy line, such as Prayer of Shadow Protection and Power Word: Shield.
We can say that:
All Holy Line spells are in the Holy School.
All Shadow Line spells are in the Shadow School, with one exception: Prayer of Shadow Protection, which is in the Shadow Line but the Holy School. Only “Prayer of Shadow Protection” and not regular “Shadow Protection.” Shadow Protection is Shadow School and Shadow Line.
The Discipline Line spells are split between the Holy, Shadow, and Arcane schools, though are mostly in the Holy School. Inner Focus, however, doesn’t fit in a “school” and is counted as a “Physical” ability.
- Discipline Line/Holy School:
Fortitude, Prayer of Fortitude, Divine Spirit, Prayer of Spirit, Inner Fire, Dispel Magic, Mass Dispel, Shackle Undead, Levitate, Power Infusion, Pain Suppression and the priest racial spells: Elune’s Grace and Symbol of Hope.
- Discipline Line/Shadow School:
Mana Burn, and the priest racial spell: Feedback.
- Discipline Line/Arcane School:
The priest racial spells: Starshards and Consume Magic.
The blood elf racial spells Mana Tap and Arcane Torrent are in the Arcane School.
The draenei racial spell Gift of the Naaru is considered to be in the Holy School. It doesn’t seem to be affected by Silent Resolve, and it is on the “General” tab of the spell book. But strangely, it can’t be used in Shadowform. It’s just a special case.
Shadowform is a little bit of a special case as well. If your shadow school is locked (from being Kicked, Counterspelled, etc.) you will still be able to swap in and out of Shadowform. It appears to behave like the druid shape-changing ability, and not as a Shadow School spell in this case. This is nice; if your Shadow School gets locked down, you can still step out of Shadowform and cast holy damage spells or heal. :)