Cataclysmic Discipline

29 August 2010 § Leave a comment

Nope, still no invite for the Cataclysm beta.

However, I have started to realize that I am not missing the chance too much. I enjoyed the Wrath beta, and tried my best to give constructive feedback (although the set-up of asking for feedback for each quest is a bit too much sometimes…), and if I had the invite for the Cataclysm beta I would do the same. But I would be equally happy to focus on what is left in Wrath for me, and keep the discovery of the actual zones in Cataclysm for when I play the game in live, without the bugs that are bound to condition my experience (to this day, I have a tinge of pain when I need to grab the relics from the pirate ships in Howling Fjord, a quest that was famously bugged in the beta).

The other thing I realized is that Discipline really gets the minimum amount of change – especially if, like me, you’re a 10-man raider and thus never got pigeon-holed as a shield bot. Sure, we get PW: Barrier, and a better Heal, and possibly the Archangel mechanic as a mana return, and we will have to watch mana more carefully instead of spamming heals freely – but these are all changes that, although fairly big, do not lend themselves to theorycrafting, and will affect our gameplay only in the practice of it. The changes are certainly not in the vicinity of what our Holy cousins are getting, in the form of Chakra. Druids need to deal with the trauma of losing their treeform – a psychological barrier much more than a gameplay one. Paladins are handling the healing aura and the various Word mechanics, although my impression is that this last will affect Prot and Ret more than Holy (but I admit I haven’t looked at paladins in any depths).

So, Discipline is not changing – so we should storm Blizz’s headquarters and demand our new tools and shiny spells, right? Not necessarily.

I am firmly convinced that Discipline is one of the success stories of Wrath. The developers took a tree that had gone from totally useless in vanilla to very specialised in PvP, and not only made it a viable spec for PvE (in the sense of making sure that players specced into that tree could put out enough healing to remain competitive with the other healing classes/specs), but even managed to find it an interesting and different niche. In many ways, this is not changing in Cataclysm, and although the reorganisation of healing classes means that we become less specialised, the partition of the healing space remains the same. Paladins will still be very strong single-target healers, druids will still be the most mobile healers, shamans… well, shamans I’m not really sure what they are supposed to be and in fact are still the spec that needs the most attention and re-development (are they getting it? Not sure – I should probably look…). Discipline will still be focused on preventing damage, through powerful shields – and to me, that will still be an interesting niche.

I think I said it before, but I will say it again: the main problem Disc has had during the expansion cycle is that, while our shields have kept up with the general damage increase in successive raid tiers, none of our other heals have done the same. Not renew, not Greater Heal, not Flash Heal, not even Penance, which is supposed to be our signature spell. In Naxxramas we were in general considered tank healers who could heal the raid when needed, although raid healing would be taxing our mana. By Icecrown Citadel, gear had progressed to the point where mana was not even registering as a concern, and any GCD not used for PW:S felt like a waste (though of course in 10man raids we were still limited by Weakened Soul). As a result, parses from any Disc priest reflected a wide choice of spells in Naxx, 90% Shield and Divine Aegis by ICC. If Blizzard manages to solve this scaling issue, then Discipline is likely to still be a very fun spec to play.

Of course, only time will tell whether it’s going to happen, but I’m hopeful. First of all, because blue posts have recognised that this is a problem, and therefore we can assume they will try to set it right. Second, because the change of philosophy in talents will definitely help us going in this direction. One of the reasons none of the spells scaled well except Shield was simply that Shield was the only spell receiving significant talent support. The current design of talents has mostly done away with talents that support base spells, or has put those talents in the upper tiers of the tree, which means we have access to most of the same talents of this kind that our Holy cousins get. The lower tiers are then dedicated to the mechanics that are specific to the spec – Chakra for Holy, Aegis/Barrier and Grace for Disc. This means that either both specs will keep up with the tiers, or neither will – and I find it doubtful that Blizz will leave both priest specs lagging very much behind.


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