Priorities and Abilities
First, let's take a look at what spells Discipline has at its disposal in Battle for Azeroth and what the primary purpose of these spells are in a raid or dungeon environment. We will get to how these spells function from a priority perspective in the Disc Priest rotation later on.
Baseline Discipline SpellsHealing Spells
- Power Word: Radiance - An expensive, fast way to apply Atonement to 5 targets at a time. Often utilized to prepare for large burst damage on the group.
- Power Word: Shield - A solid absorb with a cooldown reduced by Haste, the most efficient way to apply Atonement.
- Shadow Mend - A quick, moderate healing spell that will leave a DoT on the target for half of the amount healed until the target takes that damage from any source. So if you heal a tank in a raid or dungeon with Shadow Mend it is quite likely Shadow Mend will not damage the target at all because they are taking damage from other sources fulfilling the requirement.
- Rapture - While this spell on its own does not specifically heal any target, it does significantly increase the strength of Power Word: Shield for the next 8 seconds allowing you to apply Atonement while also putting out significant absorbs before damage hits.
- Penance - Damage or healing channeled damage spell that fires 3 bolts of Light at the enemy or ally respectively.
- Shadow Word: Pain - A Shadow spell that deals Damage over Time to a target for 18 seconds.
- Smite - An efficient, moderate damage spell that has its effect split between damaging the target, and absorbing part of the damage that comes from the target. It nets out to be a very small relative amount, but it is interesting to note that it is the most efficient absorb currently in the game.
- Fade - Drops current threat from all enemies, can be useful for when additional enemies spawn during encounters and you want to ensure none of them are drawn to you.
- Leap of Faith - Pulls the target to you, can be very useful for moving tanks across the room with ease on high movement encounters, or gripping little Jimmy out of the fire... again.
- Mind Control - Self explanatory, gain control of your enemies and jump them off cliffs!
- Mass Dispel - Removes debuffs from up to 5 players within the radius, excellent for clearing large amounts of debuffs on the raid. Extremely expensive to cast.
- Dispel Magic - Allows you to purge (remove) certain buffs from your enemies.
- Pain Suppression - Reduces damage taken by the target by 40% for 8 seconds, strong external tank cooldown.
- Power Word: Barrier - Reduces damage taken by all allies inside the bubble by 25% for 10 seconds, great for stacked encounters.
- Purify - Simple dispel of harmful effects on a target.
- Shackle Undead - Locks up, or provides a sap effect to an undead enemy.
- Psychic Scream - Causes up to 5 enemies within 8 years of you to flee for 8 seconds.
Discipline's playstyle in Battle for Azeroth is slightly less focused on just using Atonement to carry the bulk of your healing. Instead, defensive use of Penance (healing an ally) will be much more valuable than using it to damage unless you are at a very high number of Atonement. This following will list out a rough priority to follow when healing your group.
NOTE: These are guidelines for a general Discipline Priest rotation priority under general circumstances, this is to give you an idea of what priority you put on casting which spells and why you cast them, situations and encounters can vary. Please read the Advanced Section for a more in-depth breakdown of Discipline's playstyle.
General "Ramp UP" In Raids
- Apply and maintain Shadow Word: Pain or Purge the Wicked (if talented) on the boss.
- Cast 5-7 Power Word: Shield or Shadow Mend (depending on damage going out to the raid) to apply Atonement. Primary targets will be tanks and others taking consistent damage, i.e. debuffed allies.
- Cast Power Word: Radiance keeping in mind it will apply Atonement to the most injured allies within range of the target, casting off of melee or yourself can be helpful depending on raid positioning.
- Use Shadowfiend while those Atonements are active.
- Cast your second Power Word: Radiance.
- Use Evangelism to extend duration of all active Atonements.
- Enter damage priority.
- Cast Shadowfiend.
- Shadow Word: Pain or Purge the Wicked (if talented) on the boss.
- Schism (can be held briefly to time for a big hit).
- Cast Power Word: Solace on cooldown.
- Use Halo or Divine Star on cooldown as damage hits the raid.
- Cast Penance on cooldown if you have a Power of the Dark Side proc or you are on the move.
- Cast Smite to do extra damage after ramp up or as filler.
Advanced Playstyle Discussion
With the changes to Discipline in BfA, the primary changes that will be discussed is the new Mastery and the post-artifact world filled with options that BfA is introducing us to. Starting with Dungeons, the new Mastery: Grace offers the same effect as the now removed Grace talent. This means that maintaining and applying Atonement to allies before damage happens will remain extremely important in sustaining the group. Holy Nova is now a part of the Disc kit offering a strong option when a large number of enemies are pulled at once. Keep in mind that the damage dealt by Holy Nova will only transfer to Atonement on the first target that it hits. Preparation for large damage will involve the strong use of Rapture to apply Atonement before damage hits and can even refresh early on priority targets like tanks as they will receive larger shields due to synergy with Mastery: Grace. Power Word: Shield use outside of Rapture will be frequent but not spammed, this generally means maintaining small Atonement counts on average, but ramping up to deal with heavier hits.
Raid Healing will follow a similar style of ramping up to deal with heavy damage as we've seen in Legion (and listed below) but in between those ramp-up phases is the primary area that will see the most change. In between ramp-ups with Evangelism, you will be looking at the damage going out on the group and how best to deal with it. This will be the standard flow that you'll be looking at going into most fights but you will also be able to mix in Shadow Mend as needed to both heal and apply Atonement to injured allies.
Ramp, "Mini" Ramp, and the In Between
In order to master the Discipline spec it is imperative to be familiar with the crests and troughs of your healing output. The "General Ramp Up" outlined above is meant to serve as a guideline towards perfecting your burst output as a Discipline Priest. With proper use, this will offer significant raid coverage and burst healing through damage dealing.
Spell priority for a general Ramp is listed above, but the next question after "what to cast" is "when to cast it." Knowing when to utilize your Evangelism (even post-nerf) is so immensely important to mastering the spec and will help to properly leverage your toolkit to maximizing your throughput. For many raid encounters in Uldir and Dazar'alor you will look to WeakAuras or boss mods like DBM or BigWigs to watch for when best to begin ramping up. Most encounters will have the event dealing group-wide damage exactly as the timer expires and in other cases there can be some leeway in when exactly the boss will cast said ability. In these situations it is often best to be early rather than late with your timing though practice and experience will be the best basis towards hitting that perfect window.
A more difficult scenario is when the group itself is able to choose when to trigger the ability that deals damage to the group. This was seen in the MOTHER encounter in Uldir and will also be featured in the Grong encounter in the Battle for Dazar'alor. In this situation the raid itself triggers the large burst of damage on the raid and you the player must work with the team to hammer out the exact moments in advance when the damage will strike so that you can best prepare. On Grong, the raid will be required to kill a Mech that will drop a Discharge Apetagonizer Core that can be fired at the boss triggering his Tantrum mechanic. Coordinating with the raid leader, healing officer and the player that is tasked with picking up the Discharge Apetagonizer Core and firing it at the boss may seem tedious, but is well-worth the legwork to ensure a proper ramp-up window.
When in between Evangelism cooldowns you will have access to Rapture and multiple Power Word: Radiance charges. The latter will often have three or four charges available before you have to hold them to use for your next Evangelism depending on the timing in the encounter. With these, and depending on the encounter, you can find times in between Evangelism windows to have a mini-ramp of sorts using Power Word: Radiance and/or Rapture. While Rapture and Evangelism share the same cooldown in 8.1, it often will be better to use them at separate points during an encounter. So utilizing the full value of Rapture with a single Power Word: Radiance can make for a potent burst of mini-ramp, especially on encounters with frequent, high damage.
When you are not working towards a ramp up, mini or otherwise, often Discipline will hold tight and focus on the most necessary healing to do while waiting for their next big window. The spec often operates best when you are utilizing your resources to deal with specific bursts, rather than trying to cover everything as you see it like our Holy counterpart might. So in this case, maintaining Atonement on just a few targets (mainly tanks) and using heavy Smite will be the norm when not ramping.
Sins versus Shadow Convenant
Shadow Covenant has recently seen a surge in usage among Discipline Priests in end-game Uldir Mythic Raiding. While Sins of the Many was frequently taken during early progression, over time Shadow Covenant has become an attractive competitor due to the high healing benefit that it provides even after taking into account the negative side effects of the ability. The cost associated with this however, is the increased mana cost of constantly using Shadow Covenant whenever damage is out. For many, this cost is acceptable as the alternative is sticking with Sins of the Many and using heavier amounts of Shadow Mend as a higher cost/higher HPS benefit, i.e. a mana dump. The other side of this cost can be the increased damage that you lose out on by taking Shadow Covenant which can be impactful on early progression encounters where bonus damage is remarkably helpful like Fetid Devourer. Both Shadow Covenant and Sins of the Many talents look to be effective and competitive in the burst heal build at this time.