Guildie Guest Yuda - To Wing or not to Wing? (Priest specs post part 2)

To Wing or not to Wing?

The Atonement/Archangel or Non-atonement Discipline Priest Divide in Cataclysm 4.2

Hello Everyone, This is Yuda, I have been invited back for a second post on my humble opinions on whether a discipline priest should talent spec into atonement/archangel or not. Unfortunately, this is not a yes or no answer, otherwise there would be no debate. If you google this topic you will see varying opinions but you need to keep in mind what kind of content, gear level and even the specific healing role the author is healing.

To start I will go back to the basics for our non-priestly guildies. The Atonement/Archangel spec requires you to take 5 points into Evangelism, Archangel and Atonement. This is what each does...

Atonement - When you deal damage with Smite or Holy Fire, you instantly heal a nearby low health friendly target within 15 yards from the enemy target equal to a percentage of the damage dealt. If the Priest is healed through Atonement, the effect is reduced in half.

When you cast Smite, Holy Fire or Mind Flay you gain Evangelism. Stacks up to 5 times. Lasts for 20 sec.
Evangelism (Smite, Holy Fire)
Increases the damage done by your Smite, Holy Fire, and Penance spells by 4% and reduces the mana cost of those spells by 6%.
Consumes your Evangelism effects, causing an effect depending on what type of Evangelism effect is consumed:
Archangel (Evangelism)
Instantly restores 1% of your total mana and increases your healing done by 3% for each stack. Lasts for 18 sec. 30 sec cooldown.

So practically, Atonement is a ‘smart’ heal whereby you heal a low hp random target within 15 yards of the enemy target by casting Holy Fire or Smite. Each time you deal damage with HF or Smite, you gain a Evangelism buff up to 5 stacks that will reduce the mana cost of HF and Smite (essentially reducing the mana cost of heals through atonement). When you decide that the healing is becoming intense and want a healing buff you can pop Archangel (you get wings) and heal for 15% more (5 stacks of evangelism) for 18 seconds (30sec cooldown) while also getting some mana return. Sounds great doesn’t it! The first time i saw an Atonement Disc priest was in a heroic cata dungeon who was smiting his way to victory beating some of the lower dps’ers while also keeping the party healed. WoW! On my very first Firelands raid with Frostwolves I was Atonement/AA spec’ed and although our heal team did alright, I felt there were a few disadvantages with this playstyle:

  1. To heal via Atonement, you had to dps a hostile target. I personally use Vuhdo addon and have target of target panel ON so that i can one click the hostile target panel which is right next to say the Tank target panel. Switching targets while healing is intense is a bit distracting and you can get too comfortable with spamming Smite when the healing is easy.
  2. During intense damage or AOE damage, which there tend to be alot of in Firelands, Atonement healing is not enough and too random.
  3. While Critical damage on a hostile target does increase your heal via Atonement, it does not proc a shield (Divine Aegis) nor does it proc Inspiration (a physical damage reduction buff). It doesn’t proc Grace which is a 24% heal buff at 3 stacks.
  4. Remember that direct critical Heals now do 200% rather than 150%. Well, that doesn’t apply to Atonement since your critical damage is 150% not 200%.

I decided it was time to research what the pros do. I went on wowprogress website and looked up discipline priests from the top guilds and here is what I found:

Example of Non-atonement: Jhazrun of Dream Paragon

Example of Atonement: Xabok of Method Atonement

So as you can see BOTH specs are definitely viable in heroics. What’s even more interesting is that none of the Atonement spec’ed priests on the above list put points into Strength of Soul while everyone with non-atonement spec did.

Strength of Soul, SoS
When you heal a target with your Heal, Greater Heal or Flash Heal spell, the duration of the Weakened Soul debuff on the target is reduced by 4 sec.

SoS is a very strong tank healing talent that allows you to cast Power Word:Shield more often. Not a very useful talent for raid healing.

So let me put it to you that it is NOT a question of "Should I be Atonement/AA spec’ed or not" but rather a question of "Am I taking the role of main tank healing or raid healing"?

A non-atonement priest is better suited and more efficient at tank healing while an Atonement/AA priest can potentially be better at AOE/raid healing. I believe the main reason people spec for Atonement/AA is for the Archangel buff (refer to before) and NOT the Atonement healing. The idea is that you cast Holy Fire/Smite so that you get 5 stacks of evangelism and don’t let the buff fall off by occasionally casting another Holy Fire/Smite to refresh it. When you are required to ramp up your HPS or a massive AOE damage phase, you proc Archangel and gain 15% increase healing power (even better if you also cast Power Infusion to cast faster and reduce your mana cost). The difficulty is in keeping track of Evangelism buff, Archangel cooldown, and knowing when the massive AOE phase is coming. When properly executed, the burst healing power will out perform a non-atonement priest for group healing. It takes alot of ‘discipline’ to play an Atonement/AA priest!

So here is a link on how to play an atonement priest that you may like to read: How to play an atonement priest.

I also found a useful comment posted after this article:
Minstrel Aug 1st 2011 10:13PM
Just thought I'd mention this, a macro I've found useful for atonement specs:

/castsequence [@mouseovertarget,harm,exists,nodead][@focustarget,harm,exists,nodead] reset=10 Holy Fire, Smite, Smite, Smite, Smite, Smite;[@mouseover] Heal

It's a Clique binding for me, so if you use Healbot or Vuhdo, you'd macro it as one of your click bindings. It casts Holy Fire if it's off cooldown and Smite otherwise. It attempts to cast it on the target of your mouseover target, if it's a valid target for a harmful spell. If you have a focus target (like the tank) and he/she has a target that's a valid target for a harmful spell, it will cast on that. If neither is the case, it will default to casting Heal on your mouseover target so as not to waste the mouse click. Since I view smite healing to largely be the "do when there's not more intensive healing to be done" action, I felt it was an equivalent to Heal.

The main value of this, IMO, is that it no longer makes using combat spells feel like a "different mode." You can cast Holy Fire/Smite in the same way as you cast all your other using a click-combination on a raid frame (alternatively, you can put it on your action bar if you're a mouseover key presser). That makes "weaving in" your combat spells much more seamless. To me, anyway.

Yuda’s take on the optimal spec for a given type of raid /role

25 man
Tank healer- Discipline Non-atonement
Raid healer- Holy or Discipline Atonement/AA

10 man
Tank healer- Discipline Non-atonement
Raid healer- Discipline Atonement/AA
Mixed role (sometimes expected to tank heal) - Discipline Atonement/AA with SoS

Of course you can heal in whatever spec you enjoy. My message is when you’re choosing your talent points also think about what is expected of you in your healing role. Thanks for reading!

About the author: Yuda's first post "My Experience as a Healing Priest in Cataclysm", was initially longer with the atonement vs non atonement bit removed as Yuda wanted to see if people were interested in reading it or not.  In one day his post had a record number of hits for any post on my blog (though I still maintain that it was him viewing it at least 150 of those times).  So I'm pleased that he got the rest of the article to me with pretty pics this time :)


  1. Thanks for taking the time to do such thorough research on this. I've recently experimented with giving my priest an Atonement spec in addition to her standard Disc spec. So far I've only had a chance to try it out in the troll heroics, but it definitely seems like an exceptional healing spec for fights when there's a lot of group damage going around, and for when people are reasonably grouped up. I haven't tried it in raid yet because my priest came into our 25 man this week to help with normal Baleroc and Staghelm - which seemed like they would be two awful fights for Atonement.

  2. Hi Tzufit,
    Yes you are right! You cannot heal via atonement for baleroc because the smart heal doesn't benefit from the vital sparks for one and also you can't rely on it to hit the tank. Bosses with big hit boxes like rag will be a problem too due to a range issue but I think bliz is fixing that. However i think the key to the Atonement/ AA spec is in the archangel buff and not in the atonement healing.


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