Without a doubt, healing is something I consider a comfort zone. I write about it, I talk about, and I genuinely enjoy the game more when I’m doing it. So a few months ago I finally bit the bullet and rolled the last healing class I didn’t have as an alt—a Priest. It was an RAF romp, capitalizing on a friend’s desire to finally level a mage. And while the leveling process was something unto itself—what do you mean priests don’t get mind sear until level 75?!—the experience brought with it a host of lessons and reinforced a tenet that healers have been preaching since the beta release. And ultimately I was reminded, it’s all about perspective.
Just because it bears a little more emphasis than usual, I’d like to remind everyone that I play a Resto Shaman. We have a total of 4 active healing spells—CH, LHW, HW and RT. ES is passive, I’m not counting that, and HST is the dumbed down version of passive so I’m not counting that either. So it’s safe to say, I don’t generally have a large toolbox to work with. Enter Psyrin, my Disc Priest. (And I apologize in advance to any wonderful Priests reading this; I fear I might butcher your beloved class as I stumble awkwardly through it attempting to make relevant parallels.)
I oftentimes write about the synergy of the Resto Shaman class; how we have a small but complimentary arsenal with a tool for every occasion. Well, Disc Priests take that same perspective on healing, and simply blow it out of the water. If shaman are your local hardware store, which has the basic tools for any project, Disc Priests are the Home Depot of healing, with a supply of every possible tool, machine, gadget or widget you could ever need. For someone comfortable with the interplay of 4 main spells, you can imagine that this was a bit of a shock for me. But once I got used to having my binds filled with healing spells (and not an assortment of support macros) and I started to develop a better understanding of the situational applicability of each, healing on Psyrin became an amazing Swiss Army knife-like challenge.
CDs, I has them
Frankly speaking, this aspect of healing blew my mind. Whereas Resto Shaman have a whopping 3 CDs (NS, Mana Tide, Tidal Force), none of them can compare to Disc’s plentiful and powerful CD selection. Beyond a selection of personal CDs, I finally have a way to help tanks and the raid through Divine Hymn, Hymn of Hope, Pain Suppression and Power Infusion. On a recent LK 25 kill, I have to think that a fast Pain Sup on our Vile Spirit soaker saved him from imminent demise—he lived through multiple explosions with a whopping 250ish HP. If I had been on Vixsyn, a quick NS and a /farewell would have been all I could have done before he hit the floor.
I don’t see no stinkin damage
Although the best place to demonstrate the impact of PW:S is on the Lich King—pffffft, what Infests—the reduced raid damage that Disc Priests bring to raids is something I think I took a little bit for granted before. I freely admit that before I rolled Psyrin, my Skada meter stayed on “Healing Done” and not “Healing and Absorbs”, and I remained largely ignorant of the substantial buffer in between Vixsyn’s heals and incoming damage. But as I got deeper into the world of Disc healing, I realized the amazing capacity Disc Priests had to lessen the burden on their teammates. Knowing that a bubble would take upwards of 10k damage off of a hit, I could plan subsequent casts better. And knowing where damage will be unmitigated (whether by assignment or by casualty) has meant that I can practice targeted healing instead of “spray and pray” tactics.
You mean I can heal and move? AT THE SAME TIME?!
When pressed and under stress, we as humans often fall back on old habits. So the first time, as a Disc Priest, that I had to really step up to battle increasing aoe damage in a fight I did what every solid Shaman healer does—stand in one place. No leaping, no turning, no happy dancing, just ….. O.O Laser Tunnel Bubble Vision. And when I absolutely needed to move, I stutter-stepped to where I needed to go, forgetting a wonderful thing about Disc healing—I can finally be a mobile healer. The unfortunate/fortunate thing is that I’ve spent so much time healing as a turret, I’ve become fairly good at positioning myself so that I don’t have to move during encounters. So, although I like being a frolicking bubble machine, I think it’s a good thing that I learned how to have very precise positioning and move only when necessary (the staples of a good shaman, imo), instead of the alternative of mastering healing on a mobile class and then dealing with the shock of having to stand in one place to get any healing accomplished.
Prayer of Mending != Earthshield
Since I started raiding on my Resto Shaman, shield uptime has always been something I struggle with (more so with WS than with ES, but really anything less than 95% uptime is worth improving upon). In fact, one of the most visible increases in healing that I’ve seen since BC was when I started using a mod to monitor my ES uptime. So when I started into healing with Psyrin, I brought with me the same mentality—a shield (ES) is a shield (PW:S) is a shield (PoM), uptime is what matters. And as you can well imagine, my PoM numbers were abysmal. After an initial hit on the tank, it most often landed on a player destined to never again take damage, and there it sat until I had the inspiration to recast it elsewhere. Not until I did some research and mind melded a couple amazing Discs did I have my epiphany and realize that not all tools are created equal. And understanding the nuances can be the push you need from being an okay healer to being a good one.
The biggest lesson
In Disc Priests I’ve been both provided with a glimpse into the nuances of another healing class and reminded of some of the ways I can improve on my Resto Shaman. While in BC, spell selection played heavily into Resto Shaman healing because downranking was a way of life, in WotLK shaman healing has been more about the interplay of our basic healing combos. As we move into Cataclysm, I can’t help but consider some of my Disc Priest’s healing versatility as training for the expanded spellbook Restos will have. Alternately, I was delighted to discover that my time in priest’s robes benefitted from my life as a resto, because shaman’s static nature forced me to be precise in my positioning and movement. As we progress into boss encounters with more dynamism, each healer will need to pay more attention to environment and less to their raid frames.
But, the greatest bit of wisdom gained from my time as Disc was actually a poignant reminder of one of the core practices of great healers. During a recent ICC25 alt run, on trash of all things, as I set about my happy task of bubbling the players I thought would take damage, I realized that none of them were. And as I struggled to keep up, to reassess who needed shielding and bubble those in danger of dropping even lower in HP, I fell further and further behind. And then, like a big smack aside the head, I realized that I had fallen into the most typical of healer traps—reacting. The more I reacted to damage, the more I had to try and catch up (and catching up to raid damage isn’t Disc’s strong point, believe you me.) Too often, as healers, we react to damage and effects. We react to our grid, to our warnings, to AE and, most importantly, to our healing teammates.
So, the ultimate question here is: why am I taking the time to tell you about Disc Priest healing? Isn’t this a Resto Shaman blog? And the answer to those questions is that it never hurts to have a little more perspective. Cataclysm will be shortly upon us, and amid the talks of healer mana management and healing revamps, there’s one thing I think will matter more than spell selection, overhealing, mastery choices, and the like—teamwork. And the better we can understand our teammates, the better we can do.