#1 - April 19, 2017, 4:42 a.m.
First, some problems with live Discipline:
--The mana cost mechanic on Plea is clumsy and makes the spell require a complex evaluation to use at all.
--Relatedly, PW:Radiance is a no-cooldown Atonement applicator that is better than Plea in almost every way, and is basically limited only by total mana.
--So the spec is now balanced around very high Atonement count in raids (from using Radiance as much as possible) being the only time Discipline is strong. High-end players have gotten used to this as a playstyle as well.
--The spec is very dependent on mana, since more mana turning into more Radiances is virtually the only thing constraining your healing.
We understand that toppling any aspect of this situation gives alarm to high-end raiders, mainly related to power level of the spec. There was one way to make the spec "work" in raids, and the dedicated Discipline players have learned to optimize it to get good performance. And we can probably start assuaging some concerns by saying: without using all nearly your mana on concentrated Radiance usage, and without using focused Innervates to push that even further, we understand the power level of the spec would be clearly impacted absent other changes.
It is our intention to have fewer average Atonements out in raids after the patch, which will likely involve an increase to either Atonement transfer or simply to damage dealt. This, among other results, should result in an increase in power in all situations other than mass spread raid healing. And even in that situation, there's no overall reduction in power intended, other than perhaps in extreme cases of Innervate stacking. Ideally, Discipline will more regularly and stably be near that level of performance through a normal playstyle.
Because the spec is so complex, there will surely a lot of tuning of mana costs and damage amounts and the like throughout PTR, to get everything into the right place. But for some further goals on the changes that are in so far:
--The damage increase is on Smite (I believe this PTR build only has a small damage increase, but the internal build has a much larger one) moreso than Penance. So that your incentive is not to spam out as many Atonements as possible and then convert them to healing with Penance. A decision of more Atonements vs. more damage should be more relevant than it is now, when more Atonements are essentially always right.
--For similar reasons, reducing mana costs to free up overall mana on the spec was done to Smite rather than Plea. Smite should never feel wrong to cast, whereas shifting to cast a heal spell is an expenditure of mana to get an Atonement, very similar to any heal on a typical healer.
--PW:R going to more, shorter Atonements rather than fewer, longer Atonements is to allow a quick payoff on a lot of targets (5 or 10) through a Penance and some Smites. Cases such as group damage in dungeon healing should have a tool that's a smoother fit for them now.
These details are very much open to feedback like anything else, but the main point at the outset is: we're very aware we're poking at the one trick of a spec that is a bit of a one-trick pony in raids. And that requires making sure that all the other parts of the toolkit are up to snuff in the same process. Our hope is that it's not only a clear upgrade for everyone outside the high-end raid setting, but also that those players have a less degenerate and more varied rotation while still performing at the right level.