I've been thinking about the myriad of changes to disc's toolkit upcoming in 5.2 (and the seemingly daily updates to PTR patch notes), and I'm contemplating putting together a post on the official forums with some suggestions/comments/concerns. I figured that it would be worth getting some feedback here first, so here we go. I'll preface this all by saying that I am not a hardcore raider - full clears of normal mode in 10man/25man, heroic dogs on 10man/25man, and 5/6 heroic in MSV on 10man. While I consider myself to be marginally above average as a raider, you can see from my progression that I'm probably middle-of-the-pack when it comes to people who are actually active in the community. Let's roll. As is to be expected, the usual abbrev. apply.
I think that the proposed changes to disc priests in 5.2 are motivated by two factors: throughput and regen. Throughput is obviously the most noticeable, and while it's definitely the harder to manage/balance, it's certainly the more pertinent. I don't mean to casually dismiss the regen issue altogether, but I do think that it's something that can be balanced more easily. We'll get to that in a bit.
It's no secret that throughput on live is dominated by SS and PoH. Blizzard is addressing both spells by removing the mastery effect from SS and removing the guaranteed DA effect from PoH. Neither nerf alone would be surprising, but seeing both together makes me fear for mastery as a viable stat. I think that a more viable approach, especially long-term as gear and stats scale up, would be to totally remove PoH from disc's toolkit. Here's how it would work.
We would retain SS, and it would still be on a 45-60 second CD (perhaps scaled with haste?). However, when we activate SS, we would gain PoH - but ONLY as an absorb. This "new" PoH would benefit fully from mastery, but would only be available to us during the 10s-15s window when SS is active. From my point of view, this would accomplish several things. First and foremost, it would keep disc as the "absorb" spec. We would have a powerful mitigation CD, but we wouldn't be able to abuse it to pad the meters. We would get just enough time to blanket the raid in a moderate (25man) or powerful (10man) absorb, but we wouldn't be able to just keep spamming a single spell to pad the meters. We would get a fixed window of time in which to use this ability, and then it would be gone until the SS CD is up. Obviously, the numbers/coefficients/CDs would need to be balanced, but I think that something in that vein would be a solid starting point. Furthermore, my next point would help keep mastery in line with other secondary stats.
Assuming that PoH would only be granted under the effect of SS, a number of secondary stats could potentially come into play. I think that haste could reduce the CD on SS, but we could also go with something based on crit. Each crit on a single-target heal (basically everything excluding BH or PoM) could reduce the CD (or have a chance to do so) on SS by X seconds (arbitrary number subject to balancing, of course). Rapture procs could reduce the CD on SS. Borrowed time could reduce the cast time on PoH while SS is up but slightly reduce the heal/absorb amount. I can imagine a dozen other simple interactions here that would spice up the new mechanics without making the spec overpowered. If people are actually reading this at this point, /clap for you and whatnot, but I'll gladly share my ideas if you've made it this far!
As for regen, I think that Rapture is... well, it's not good. It's not good on live, it's not good on the PTR, and it's quite frankly never going to be good as long as it's based on PW:S. It's totally, ridiculously, and egregiously overpowered... and that is not good. Again, speaking personally, I think Rapture needs a complete makeover - something that 5.2 probably can't (and probably shouldn't) address. From the comfort of my desk chair, here's what I think should happen.
Rapture should be based on AT LEAST two spells. When a PW:S pops due to damage, we should gain the full effect of Rapture. I don't care what the coefficient is - but it should NOT be based on spirit. It should be fixed. Period. No other healing class to my knowledge has a mechanic that is THAT reliant on huge spirit numbers, and it's just not balanced at current gear levels. Solution? Bubble bursts: here's X (arbitrary number subject to balancing, of course) mana. The twist here is that my new SS/PoH hybrid would also cause a Rapture proc on a shared CD with the PW:S version. However, the SS/PoH Rapture proc would be when the entire party's SS/PoH absorb pops due to damage (Garalon, looking at you), we should gain the full effect of Rapture scaled by [insert balanced coefficient here - thinking maybe 2.0-2.5 at the moment].
Think of what this could mean. When there's not massive, unavoidable AoE raid damage going out, we tank heal. We gain mana based on Rapture from the tank(s). When there IS massive, unavoidable AoE raid damage going out, we raid heal. We gain mana based on our new Rapture from our CD-based SS/PoH ability. Because the single-target and multi-target abilities share a CD, we can't double-dip. Because the multi-target ability is on a CD, we can't spam it to pad the meters. Because the single-target PW:S is expensive (forgot to mention that we shouldn't get a reduced mana cost on PW:S), we can't spam it on the raid.
Thoughts? This is what I do when I get bored and can't sleep. Have at it!