Disc spec in Cataclysm: The Pieces of the Puzzle

7 September 2010 § 2 Comments

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may recall that I already made some comments about Discipline talents. Since then, of course, things have changed quite dramatically: most importantly, trees have been shortened to 31-points, in an effort to streamline them, “to make [talent] choices more meaningful”. In short, most, if not all, the considerations I made in that post are now inapplicable. That’s the nature of beta tests, so of course I’m not worried about that or resentful or anything. However, it does mean that I have the opportunity to talk once more about talents in Cataclysm. I will split the discussion in two parts. Today, I will look at the talents in the trees, trying to understand the philosophy behind them. In the next post (which shouldn’t be a long time coming, as it’s mostly written already), I’ll actually suggest possible builds.

Disclaimer: As I made abundantly clear, I don’t have a beta invite, so my analysis will be mostly based on what I can find on forums and various sites (which I will try to quote). However, I don’t feel this is a big disadvantage, as the focus of my analysis will be on the “endgame” (i.e. the game when you have spent 41 talent points), and in a raiding context. Also, in case it hasn’t been clear so far, this post will feature the Cataclysm talents – so if you don’t want to have that aspect of the game spoiled for you, you’re better off not reading. For the rest of the discussion, I will refer to the talent calculator posted by MMO Champion, which you can find here.

I want to suggest that speccing Discipline is a bit like a puzzle: you have different pieces (talents or groups of talents), and you need to put them all together into something that is vaguely coherent. So, in this post I will examine what the pieces of the puzzles are.

The Frame

(aka Shield-bottting)

Tier 1: Improved PW:S (2 pts)

Tier 2: Soul Warding (3 pts)

Tier 4: Rapture (3 pts), Borrowed Time (3 pts)

Tier 5: Divine Aegis (3 pts)

Tier 7: Power Word: Barrier (1 pt)

All these talents are no brainers, and should be present in any Disc spec. They effectively provide you with the frame onto which you can attach the other pieces of your puzzle spec. They improve the effectiveness of PW:S, which is our current bread-and-butter, and will remain to be if we judge by the support it still receives in the talent trees. A separate word for Power Word: Barrier. Clearly, I included it in the skeleton spec, because it would be stupid not to want the 31-pt talent (as several blue posters have stated). However, it is disparaging to see that NONE of the previous talents apply to PW:B: not Soul Warding, not Improved PW:S, not Rapture. Given that none of those talents are strictly prerequisite, it would be nice to actually have more interactions between talents – and I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to have some or all of the earlier time work with PW:B too.

The Heal Piece

(or, what to do in-between Shields)

Tier 3: Renewed Hope (2 pts)

Tier 5: Strength of Souls (2 pts)

Tier 6: Grace (2 pts)

Tier 1 Holy: Empowered Healing (3 pts), Divine Fury (3 pts)

Tier 2 Holy: Improved Healing (2 pts), Inspiration (2 pts)

This second set of talents boosts our Heal, Flash Heal and Greater Heal spells (respectively the workhorse spell, the fast-and-expensive spell, and the fat-slow-and-expensive spell). Strength of Souls is particularly interesting, because it plays off very well with PW:S. I can see this talent alone pushing a lot of shield botters towards a more balanced style of healing. You will note I have not looked at Improved Renew: I am assuming that Blizzard will balance the numbers to push us towards Heals, given that some of the Renew talents are unaccessible for Disc (e.g. Divine Touch). Of course, all this has to be confirmed by some actual numbers, for which we will have to wait. Also, the Heals are spammable and thus could be used in a tank healing situation: Renew is not, which makes it a lot less interesting as a spell for 10-man raiders.

The Archangel/Atonement Piece

(Mah smites gimme mana!)

Tier 2: Evangelism (2 pts), Archangel (1 pt)

Tier 3: Atonement (3 pts)

These three talents are the main addition to our tree in Cataclysm. They introduce a new mechanic, one where we basically use our Smites to gain the Evangelism buff (and partly to heal someone with Atonement) and then use Archangel to get mana back or to get a boost in healing for a short period of time. The two mechanics are separate, of course: Atonement looks fun for 5-mans, but I really cannot see it getting a lot of use in raids; Evangelism/Archangel instead has the potential to become another cooldown, and I can imagine a lot of situations when it may turn out to be very useful. The critical variable here is how important/valuable mana regen really is: does it make sense to sink 3 talent points into mana regen? Is the mana regen from Archangel enough to make it worth? The answers to these questions depend both from gear (how much spirit will we have?), mechanics (how much mana will that spirit give us? What about replenishment?) and, of course, encounter tuning (are we expected to heal for long periods of time?).

The Abilities

(I can haz moar spellz?)

Tier 3: Power Infusion (1 pt), Inner Focus (1 pt)

Tier 5: Pain Suppression (1 pt)

Tier 2 Holy: Desperate Prayer (1 pt)

The talents in this piece have little in common with each other, save the fact that they all give a new ability. Not much to say about Pain Suppression (you’d be certifiably mad not to take it), Power Infusion (make your dps happy, spec PI!) and Desperate Prayer (I cannot understand people who don’t take this talent – it’s saved me more times than I care to remember). Inner Focus makes me weep: the cataclysm version only covers very few spells (the three basic heals and PoH), which is a severe nerf of the talent (which used to be “any holy spell”). I think 95% of all healing priests currently have IF macroed to their Divine Hymn, as the ultimate raid “oh shit” button (with extra goodness for Disc, as crits give our targets more Aegis) Not having that, and not being allowed to use it for Penance either, will be a fairly big nerf. EDIT: And I just noticed that Inner Focus has a 6% base mana cost – which I hope is a mistake, or it reduces the utility of IF even further. EDIT AGAIN: The latest build took away the mana cost for Inner Focus, so that was clearly a mistake.

In a similar vein, I see that Desperate Prayer requires… Shadowform! I’m going to assume that’s a mistake (either of the tooltip or of MMO Champ), because it would be really bad otherwise.

The Levelling/PvP Piece

(We face melt through healing)

Tier 4: Reflective Shields (2 pts)

Tier 6: Focused Will (2 pts)

No changes in Reflective Shields, which remains an awesome talent for levelling or pvp, but really not very interesting in a PvE endgame situation. Focused Will loses its crit portion, so becomes a pure PvP talent.

The Filler Piece

(Not all talents can be fun)

Tier 1: Twin Disciplines (3 pts), Mental Agility (3 pts)

Tier 2: Improved Inner Fire (3 pts)

As promised, we still have some passive talents – and equally as promised they are in the lower tiers, where they can be accessed by other specs too. One minor gripe: Blizzard has been moving away from talents that modify one single ability, as a partial compensation for the fact that we have a lot less talents. It would be nice if Imp Inner Fire somehow improved also Inner Will (and call the talent Inner Strength?), as a way to increase its domain a bit. EDIT: And right on cue, Inner Sanctum now increases the speed boost of Inner Will, and Inner Fire reduces the spell damage taken.

So there we have it: one frame and five additional pieces, which we can combine in any ways we want – provided we can manage to use only 41 points. One thing I want to mention is that the priest talents indeed seem to respond to the designers’ intentions: not many passive talents, all in the lower tiers; talents that seem to synergise well with each other, and thus create interesting interactions and potentially fun gameplay.

That’s all for now: see you in a few days for the actual choice of specs!

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