We're into Dragon Soul Heroics with the guild now, the guild is 3/8 HC and I'm 2/8 having finally (by the skin of our two-healing teeth) downed Ultraxion HC last night. I got into discussion with two guildies over mumble who are up and coming Priest healers about the advantages and disadvantages of 'lolsmite' heals.

I agree that atonement healing has it's place in some fights, especially where you have a damage multiplier (Zon’ozz) as part of the fight mechanic. More damage = bigger atonement heals. Win. More and more top guilds are running their disc healers with some form of atonement spec say my guildies, so it must be the way to go especially when you're up against a tight enrage timer. I specced into the latest recommended smite build and went into a LFR late last night to have another go at it.
1) The smart heal still isn't smart enough for my liking. I really do like to be in control of where my heals land. On one of the Deathwing platforms last night I was smite healing as the tanks were taking the impales, without too much other raid damage incoming I hit holy fire for a quick evangelism stack boost and watched the heals scroll by on my Mik's scrolling battle text. which is set to tell me who I''ve healed and what each heal has procced on that target. The 'smart' heals landed on the summoned tentacles from the dps warrior's deathwing sword. I said wtf? Surely that's not STILL a common occurrence? But having kept an eye an awful lot of the smart heals were still targetting things that you'd never, ever want to heal in a month of bored sundays typing /dance when you've no damage at all.

2) I'm healing less. OK, so I've absolutely no mana issues whatsoever (I only ever get mana issues in Deathwing normal anyway, and as that's a mana management fight, that's normal.) but my numbers are to all intents and purposes halved. My healing is gimped to far, far less and in return for that I'm doing a poxy 2% of the total dps for the raid. Combine that with 1) above, where my heals land where I don't want them to go, the returns on mana and the small amount of dps aren't worth the drop in raw healing output. OK, so the overheals are also less, but the smart heal isn't landing where it's needed. A Disc priest's overheals are 'supposed' to be low, but we have exactly the same issues with allowing overheals to happen for the sake of procs as pally healers have with beacon etc producing overheals. A Penance on a fully healed up tank to refresh Grace when it's fallen off is an overheal. PoH will overheal anyone in the group that is at near-full health BUT it will also proc divine aegis which NEVER overheals. Building a PoH divine aegis buffer against known incoming damage is exactly the same as throwing bubbles on the raid used to be only far more mana efficient, including the overhealing to stop that buffer from falling off before the damage hits. Instead of a Gheal that could crit for 70k (and overheal admittedly) on the tank who was taking a small amount of damage and proccing inspiration or any of the other pretty things that a Gheal can proc, that holy fire did nothing to heal the target I needed to heal or to prevent incoming damage on him in the next (X) seconds after my heal hit.. If no one else had hit a heal at that same second the tank could well have gone down. In an HC situation that missed heal could have caused a wipe. And no I couldn't shield him straight after because he had weakened soul up, penance was on CD, I hadn't PoH'd his group for a DA buffer because I was smiting, so they had no inspiration up. I had nothing because I was smiting. Hitting Archangel and flash healing WHILE holy fire was busy healing tentacles would have been too slow and inefficient - too little too late. Even if I had taken surge of light for a free instant flash heal proc it wouldn't have been enough to keep the tank up at that point unless it crit - RNG based healing is not a safe or efficient way to heal. It would have been safer and more efficient to simply Gheal the tank instead of smite healing. The heal would have landed where I needed it to go, he would have been in no danger and even if it had crit and overhealed that overheal would have been converted into a damage mitigating effect that would stay on him giving me time to cast again. Interweaving the other spells around the smites/holy fires doesn't make up for the lost procs off the 'filler' Gheals & PoH's used when damage is low or predictable.

For me those two points are enough to say that atonement healing still isn't generally worth it at endgame. A lovely idea but in the end a poor design. If it stopped targeting Army of the Dead ghouls, treants, summoned tentacles and all and sundry that don't need to be healed I might begin to change my mind. Until then I really don't like having my heals land where I don't want them to go in return for a HUGE drop in throughput and efficiency. Every single smite, every single holy fire has the chance to land it's heal poorly. That one instance with that tank could be repeated indefinitely throughout the fight.

It could be argued that I should have ghealed at that point anyway. My answer to that is that smite healing is designed to allow you not to use Gheal as a filler where incoming damage is low, so I shouldn't have to switch away from smite/.holy fire at those points. If I'm going to ignore the mechanics of the spec and fall back to using my filler heals anyway why bother?

Perhaps on a fight where I am entirely raid healing and not having to worry about keeping the tank(s) up at all it would be better. But I'd suggest that'd be more the case in 25 man rather than 10 man. In my pure heals spec I can switch easily between raid and tank healing. I have excellent utility for single target heals and my one single effective group heal* is golden when you factor in the DA buffer.

On fights like spine where PoH spam is underrated or misunderstood by other healers think of this. The only effective 'heal' we have on targets affected by Searing Plasma are shields; that's the only thing that will stop a healthbar dropping when that debuff is up. Even glyphed I wouldn't ever be able to dump shields on the entire raid constantly and have them heal for anything near as much as PoH. Two healing the fight with a druid I can spam PoH constantly, keeping everyone with the debuff from loosing health while  penance and PoM keep healing flowing to help remove the debuff and shields on the tank keep him up. The druid then hots everyone I have DA buffered and his heals take the rest of the debuff off. The raid stays relatively stable and blowing CDs when the damage gets heavy (nuclear blast) keeps everyone up. My overheals on that fight are insane, but the style works. Atonement healing that fight would be a clusterfek requiring we take a third healer.

Healing is not the same as DPS. You can't take a set of skills, number crunch them and say 'here are your six buttons, hit them in this order and that's your standard rotation for max output, blow cooldowns as the fight requires'. Healing is far more fluid and intuitive. I will react differently to incoming damage than you will depending on what I know will happen next in the fight. Neither of us are wrong if the raid is still alive after the damage has hit. I loathe relying on procs and pure dumb luck for healing. Your mileage may differ. Know your class, know your abilities, respect the limitations of both and adjust your playstyle to compensate. Then above all else know the fight. I've always come back to progression fights with far more ability to beat it the second time I face the boss because I'm not the Fatboss healer. I'm just not that good. Watching him heal a fight is like watching a professional sportsman at the top of his game. He can do it that way, hit his heals just perfectly, but I'm going to have to do things as best I can. I will try my best to do as he did, I will take his advice and to the best of my ability do as the video says to do. Until I've actually experienced the fight I don't know how my reaction times, movement, my small screw ups and panics are going to impact the fight. i don't know how I'm going to manage the damage that he says is a bit tough but healable. Usually if he says that I'm running for the hills with an umbrella. I'm not a great healer. I can shine sometimes, most of the time I'm good. Sometimes I suck.

As healers all we can ever do is our best.

Go here for Atonement is shiny balanced PoV

Also 4.3 stat weights and why I'm loathing my current mastery high stats I couldn't have put it better myself. Mastery is just a bad, bad stat for what we're being asked to do as disc. Haste is better whether you're AA or pure heals. Derevka plays the same pure heals primary spec that I do, and a very similar AA build, and heals in a similar style.

*I have one job on this lousy ship, it's stupid, but I'm going to do it. OK?
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