Spiritual Guidance: Discipline Priest leveling in Battle for Azeroth
Last month we covered my ridiculous need for Holy street cred in the form of leveling as Holy. This month we get a little more sane as I level with Discipline (as sane as can be, since Shadow seems to be a just plain insane). Discipline is a relatively sturdy healer to level, in no small part due to its hybrid DPS to heal capabilities. While some changes have gone through in recent beta builds to give it some more power, it feels a little lackluster compared to this exact point during Legion beta.
Spells and rotation
If you’ve been playing Discipline throughout Legion, you’ll find DPS in Battle for Azeroth has few changes. The DPS rotation is the same in the sense that it’s quite similar to what we’ve always done — DOT up a target with Shadow Word: Pain, Penance on cooldown, and Smite in between. The difference is that it’s boring and we’re lacking a great deal of what we had in Legion. Most notably missing is our ability for burst. Not having Light’s Wrath any more makes Discipline feel weaker. Sure, we didn’t really use it when fighting regular stuff, but it was dang useful when fighting something bigger. It took a while, but you could be sure to pretty much outlast most things.
However, there are two bright points in leveling — Penance and Mindbender. Power of the Dark Side is back as a passive, which makes your Penance a frequent heavy hitter. Mindbender is also surprisingly good, and there’s a noticeable difference with how fast mobs die when it’s up. When mass pulling a lot of stuff, it does pretty great for getting them to about half health. After that, however, it’s back to pitiful AOE. So measure your pulls accordingly if you’re looking for speed.
Talent choices and options
Since we’re a healer/DPS hybrid, we obviously have more helpful talents than Holy, though it’s hard to beat Holy’s stun. As it is, we do have some decent talents that are uniquely suited to leveling. In the first talent row at level 15, you have two choices: Castigation and Schism. Twist of Fate isn’t bad, and you could probably keep it up with clever chain pulling. That’s a little more min/maxing than I like to do when leveling, but it can be effective. I chose Castigation to get more use from the extra damage, since Schism’s much increased cooldown gutted any advantage it had.
Level 30 is as always my trusty Angelic Feather. You probably could get away with Body and Soul if you’re using Power Word: Shield a lot, but feathers have the speed over short distances. Level 45 is the mana regen row, so you’re looking purely at what will have more DPS. I stuck with Mindbender for the burst every minute. Solace was annoying to juggle during Legion. In the next row, level 60 features crowd control. I stick with Shining Force simply because I can still attack enemies while they’re slowed. Damage breaks the fear from Psychic Scream, so Psychic Voice isn’t that useful to me. At level 75, there’s only one real option for DPS — Sins of the Many. This is the one uniquely suited for leveling. If you’re by yourself, you get the full 12% damage increase. If you’re grouped up or healing random people, it’ll go down. But even then it’s still better than Contrition or Shadow Covenant.
Level 90 is a toss-up between Purge the Wicked and Divine Star. I went with Divine Star simply because I wanted to see how much I could pull and what kind of AOE Discipline could do. It’s not much, admittedly, but it packs a little oomph. Purge the Wicked can be strong if you’re chain-pulling a couple mobs at a time. In the last row, level 100, the answer is obviously Lenience. It decreases damage by 3% with Atonement and you’ll always have Atonement on you. However, Luminous Barrier isn’t entirely useless in group situations, especially a certain Lordaeron scenario with group members spread out and lots of NPCs.
Penance and Mindbender were the heavy hitters and were pretty great at bursting stuff down. It was definitely noticeable when Mindbender was up — mobs would melt. Having the Artifact Trait Power of the Dark Side back as a passive spell really helps Penance. That’s our main DPS spell and, together with Mindbender, are the only things we have to emulate burst DPS.
Sins of the Many is perfect for leveling, as long as you remember to keep an Atonement on yourself. This is pretty easy if you’re in the habit of shielding yourself by default. It’s a 12% damage increase, which is now more than the War Mode buff (10%), and nothing to scoff at. Purge the Wicked is reliable and spreads automatically with your Penance. And taking Lenience is a no-brainer, again as long as you remember to keep Atonement on yourself.
But like I mentioned above, Luminous Barrier isn’t to be discounted entirely, especially if you’re in a group that’s spread out or on the larger side. I grabbed it before entering the Lordaeron scenario. Not only did it shield the players in my group, but nearly every friendly NPC on the battlefield as well.
What didn’t work
Schism is just plain out. I tried it and the 45 second cooldown is too prohibitive. The cooldown is long enough that it’s practically useless for the pace of leveling — it’s not strong enough to make a real difference if you’re fighting something bigger. Despite the rares scattered about everywhere, you’re much better off taking Castigation to help you with every mob rather than Schism which will help you out sometimes. Unless, of course, you can or want to swap out talents often, but that’s more than I want from leveling.
Holy Nova made me a little sad. It’s practically useless for any kind of real damage and it takes forever if you try to use it for AOE. I can’t be too sad though, because at least it’s a spammable AOE spell for Discipline, who previously had none in Legion. It’ll be useful for running old content for transmog, instead of having to DOT every mob one by one.
I took Divine Star partly because I wanted to test out AOE and partly out of habit. During Legion it was either that or Halo for any semblance of AOE. While the damage itself isn’t entirely useless, the increased cooldown from 10 to 15 seconds does it no favors. It’s OK at best — you’ll get to use it roughly once a pack if you’re mass pulling. But it’s probably better to stick with Purge the Wicked and chain pull several at a time.
Leveling as a healer
The first round I leveled through a couple months ago was slow. The second, more recent round saw a faster pace with fewer difficulties, though it still seems subpar to Legion’s leveling. The fastest way seems to be to pull two or three at a time. Killing mobs singly is effective but boring. Grabbing a whole pack is more than Discipline’s AOE is capable of. If you pull too much you spend more time healing yourself than DPSing.
There are also rare mobs scattered throughout the zones marked by a star on the map. Even in pre-made character gear, Discipline can manage them, though not quickly. Don’t try to kill an elite though. I spent more time spam shielding myself and waiting for Mindbender and Penance to come off cooldown than doing any active damage. I didn’t die though, for what it’s worth.
To be fair, Discipline is definitely sturdy as a healer. Which makes sense — it can DPS and it should be. But Discipline of the past felt hardier than Discipline now, and it was a bubble bot back then. Discipline’s big change in Legion was DPS to heal, and leveling in both Legion beta and live didn’t feel as slow. It’s not all doom and gloom though. Obviously it’s not nearly bad enough to push me to Shadow. It’s just a little boring. Hopefully having Heart of Azeroth traits will give us a little more pizzazz and make things more interesting.
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