This is yet another WotLK discussion post.
Once again, Discipline appears to be one of our more confused trees. Blizzard’s plan is to make it raid-viable as a healing spec, but there are still a lot of adjustments that need to be made in order to make it happen. It’s not to say changes haven’t already happened, however, but there is a long way to go. In its current state, Discipline is not a good spec for raid healing.
The problems with Discipline as a raid healer (at the moment):
The focus appears to be “preventative damage.” There are many talents increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of Power Word: Shield. However, if you passed “Healing as a Priest 101” you know that warriors, and even paladins to an extent, do less threat when shielded. A lot of threat-increasing abilities have been made base-line for tanking classes, but still, why would you want to play a spec that has to limit someone else’s ability to do their job in order to do yours? Are you there to heal the tanks or make their lives more difficult?
It’s really not clear if Discipline should be a tank healer or raid healer. Talents like Grace that reduce damage done to the target are indicative of tank healing, but one of the saving graces of Discpline is its ability to save someone fast (PW:Shield + Penance). Perhaps if talents were centered more one way or another, there would be a more definite role for Discipline.
Discipline still has a 4 second cooldown on Power Word: Shield. Penance, the most efficient actual heal Discipline has (51-point talent) has an 8 second cooldown (with talents). Juggling cooldowns on core abilities is doable for DPS classes, but for healers it could be life and death.
Not Enough Throughput
Discipline just doesn’t scale as well as holy in terms of actual meat-and-potatoes healing spells. Penance and Power Word: Shield do just fine, but you don’t want to be near useless in between all your cooldowns. Also, in situations where there is a lot of splash damage to the raid, Penance could easily drop in efficiency by 50% (it’s a channeled spell).
The talent Grace used to be the defining talent of the disc tree (increasing the healing done to your target and reducing the amount of damage they take), allowing for some raid synergy. In the latest build, the healing-increase aspect was removed. A new talent, Renewed Hope, was added that increases the crit of Greater Heal and Flash Heal by up to 6% on targets with weakened soul. However, you won’t be getting a lot of use out of it. You’ll have to have at least one holy priest in the raid to make it worth taking. It doesn’t increase your throughput at all. It makes you dependent on another class to make you even remotely worth your raid slot.
We often hear complaints about bloated “top-heavy” talent trees. Discipline has also been attacked as being bloated, but for different reasons. Many of the talents we see at the top of the Discipline Tree are on par in strength with many of our lower-tier talents (and low-tier talents that other classes have as well).
25-man Raiding Only!
Discipline, as it appears to be intended, looks like a waste of a healing slot in 10-man raids. In 10-man raiding, too much of the healing responsibility would have to be relegated to the other healers, and there’d be less work for you to do. It would be a lot of standing around, waiting to be useful, while popping PW:S every 8-15 seconds on tank(s). For Discipline to be worth it, you’d have to be in a larger raiding environments where there are multiple shield-targets.
Ask yourself: why would you want a disc priest in your raid?
It’s a liability over another healer as casting PW:S all the time isn’t always useful and the actual healing output of the spec is poor.
As for raid buffs, the damage reduction from Grace can also be provided by Blessing of Sanctuary from paladins (Grace is only better if you are taking more than 2,700 a hit, which admittedly is likely in large raid environments). Improved Divine Spirit can be taken by a holy/disc hybrid, who will still be able to actually heal in a raid.
Blizzard has a long way to go if this is ever going to be a raid-viable healing tree.