I've decided to spec 'pure heals' rather than the new atonement smite spec, and as I'm just starting to raid now I think I've had enough experience to pass on how I'm managing. If you're a tank or dps, then reading this might just open your eyes as to why your Disc Priest likes to have a full mana bar before every pull now, please don't complain about it, and don't rush us, we're poor mana starved souls. Pulling a mob when we have no mana is tantamount to stealing your aggro and attacking the cc'd mob.

Firstly you'll be worrying all the way through levelling your priest through Cata that you're running out of mana really quickly. This is perfectly normal, especially at lower gear levels. Basically you heal now the same way as you healed in wrath; pre-shield the tank, PoM on either him or a dps who will likely take damage fast. This is where things change though as Flash Heal is no longer your best heal. A glyphed Heal will wipe weakened soul off your tank allowing you to reshield faster. If damage is heavier use Greater Heal to catch up then Heal and Shield, renewing PoM as it drops. If your dps start taking damage then pop Prayer of healing - hit the button for a free cast. Try not to spam it unless you're healing very damage intensive aoe phases where you can stand still, your Aegis will take some of that damage and Inspiration will reduce physical damage again. Watch your aggro, fade is your second best friend. Your tank is your best friend.

As soon as you can slap another shield on the tank and bring his health back up. Don't worry about having all your raid health bars totally full, that's not as important as it was in Wrath. Get to know the fights and you can swap quickly between a shield and a Gheal on the tank and a fast dispell of a debuff from a dps, then back to the tank for a heal, dispell, heal, shield, and then if there's no incoming damage for a few seconds check your mana, decide if you want to pop Shadowfiend or hymn of hope, blow a trinket for mana regen or just have a quick breather. Keep shields up and Heal if the tank drops a little, but at this point in healing most fights the lull in incoming damage can be surprising. If it comes to saving the tank or a dps, save the tank, let the dps die if you have to but on intensive damage phases sometimes you have to make the call and let a dps take a dirt bath for the team. Try to avoid these triage deaths if you can tho - less dps means the fight will last longer and you're more likely to oom

DPS reading this take note. If the tank is taking heavy damage there's little the healer can do other than keep him up. This is when you blow your survivability CDs, run out and self heal, bandage, pop a potion, whatever you have to do to survive till the healer can get the tank back up and carry on healing you. They will heal you if they can, but healing you is the last priority after healing themselves or the tank. If you're a hybrid spec and you have healing abilities don't be afraid to help out a little; yes it will drop your dps but the numbers aren't everything. This isn't so bad in raids but if you keep an eye on your healer's mana and see them getting very low a little help may let you get the boss down. Try not to sacrifice yourself if you can help it - especially when battle ressing - try and do it when there's less incoming damage on the tank or raid so the healers can pick up your ressed target and heal them up at once. if you res a healer, then they will have low mana. Innervate is a nice thing to add as you res them so they can start to heal again straight away.

Never spam heals out of habit, if you need do nothing do just that. Nothing. Gone are the days of pouring on flash heals or spamming bubbles just in case something nasty hit that wiped the entire raid in a one shot and good riddance to them I say.

Certain mechanics of boss fights will one shot your raid, but it is now very rarely the healer's fault. OK you'll have some very intensive aoe damage phases in fights that must be healed through but if you save Power Infusion (never use that when Time Warp is active - it's a waste) and blow cooldowns like divine hymn or spam prayer of healing (depending on the amount of incoming damage Divine Hymn may not be enough) you should get through.

Healing now is about learning how to get the most bang of healing for every buck of mana. Mana conservation makes or breaks you as a Disc Priest and if you can get to the end of a tough fight with everyone up (or only a couple of triage deaths) and your mana bar 1/4 full you can say you did a good job whatever the group thinks.

As for gearing gemming and builds there are some good sites out there that have done the maths like Elitist Jerks and Tankspot. As a rule of thumb though if it's cloth, has +int and +spirit and no hit you want it. Crit is a blah stat for us, reforge it to mastery, spirit or haste. Gem for Int spirit or mastery .

Healing is often a thankless task, especially while trawling Dugeon Finder for rep or gear. Remember that the goal is getting to the point where it feals easy again, and at 350 average item level - not epic, no where near the top players in the world - I'm beginning to find it easy again, getting to the point where my heart isn't in my mouth when I hit 'join queue'. I have had some horribly bad PUGs this last few months, groups that wellied in like they were in wrath and blamed me when we wiped, groups that were very undergeared even at the level check, groups that struggled to beat the tank in dps. On the other hand I have had groups that were a dream, tanks new to Cata tanking that worked with me and even at a low gear level got us through because they understood the tactics of fights. Dps who picked up the slack and danced around the fire instead of standing in it saying 'herp derp'.

We heal because we love it, a unique role in the game. Don't let the new challenges of healing take the fun of it away, keep having fun. And the bad PUG's? Just ignore them,  Elune have mercy on your  weakened soul.  For every time you get called a noob healer when it wasn't your fault remember there will be more times when they turn to you and say 'great heals there'.

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