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High Heals: Priest

Priest came in a very close second to the Shaman from reader replies on the Project: High Heals post. As such, they’re going to be the 2nd class of course, but I also decided that I can handle leveling two of these classes at once, so the Priest has already been rolled as well.

The Priest is unique among the classes for having two healing specs to choose from, but I’m going with the one generally agreed to be the “harder” of the two to level, Holy. I have considered actually grabbing a dual spec on this priest to make use of both of the healing specs since it does still fit in with the plan of the project, but I think I would end up running around as Disc all the time and ignore Holy, so I’m going to resist.

Also, as I’m finally making a return to the Horde (though not for good) I decided to make this one an Undead male, allowing him to take on the Master’s name. So today I’m going to do a bit of outlining for my plans to level the second (first, part two?) of the leveling guides, Psynister the Holy Priest.

Healing Tools
Priests have probably the single largest healing tool set in the game. They have direct heals, HoT’s, bubbles; heck, they can even heal you after they’ve already died themselves. The spec that I’ve chosen, Holy, is geared more towards the use of direct heals and HoT’s where my potential dual spec (Discipline) is aimed more at damage mitigation through the use of bubbles. Both specs heal and they both have mitigation, they just have different strengths between the two specs.

As far as dispels are concerned the Priest has Cure Disease which removes a single disease from the target, Dispel Magic which removes up to 2 Magic spells from themselves and for choosing a healing spec they can do the same for friendly targets, and Mass Dispel which hits a 15 yard radius with a dispel that removes 1 harmful spell from all friendly targets and 1 beneficial spell from all enemy targets within the radius (up to a maximum of 10 friendly and 10 enemy targets). Holy Priests can also spec so that their Cure Disease also removes 1 Poison effect when cast on themselves.

Mass Dispel also has the added benefit of removing Magic effects that are otherwise too powerful to be dispelled, for example you can use this to break an enemy Mage’s Ice Block or a Paladin’s bubble which normally makes them immune to everything.

Leveling Tools
Being a full caster class, Priests have the benefit of being able to use all of the class’s offensive DPS spells even in their healing spec. Granted, they don’t do as much damage as they would in other specs, but they’re still available. None of the other healing classes are pure casters. Healing Priests also receive additional mana regen during combat which is designed to help them in their healing role, but while leveling that also means less downtime while using your spells offensively for questing.

For choosing the Holy spec you get a spell called Holy Word: Chastise which is an instant cast spell that deals damage and also disorients the target for 3 seconds. As both an instant spell and one that can pseudo-stun a target it’s a fantastic spell for leveling as well as PvP. Sadly, it does come with a 30 second cooldown, but that can be specced down to around 20 seconds.

Priests also have the advantage of their bubble, Power Word: Shield, which absorbs damage and also prevents pushback when you’re casting spells while it’s active. This makes leveling much easier compared to other casters as your spells fire off at the normal rate when mobs manage to close in to melee range (not to mention the added survivability from the absorb).

Leveling Strengths
Holy Priests don’t have just a whole lot going for them in the way of leveling strengths, which is why most people who level Priests choose to do so as Shadow or Discipline instead. If you can stick to your healing role by running dungeons and PvP a lot then you can really play to your strengths (healing), but for questing you’re not quite as well off as you could be in another spec.

While Holy doesn’t receive any boost to their damaging spells, they do get to reduce some of the cast times which speeds up leveling in a similar way. While I might not hit you 20% harder, I do cast 20% faster (just an example), so it evens out. But the flip side of that is that I may also have to spend more mana to do it as it takes me three casts to kill something that another spec could handle with only two.

Leveling Weaknesses
The Holy Priest’s biggest weakness when it comes to leveling is that they receive no damage buffs at all outside of glyphs. Any amount of damage you can do as Holy, Disc or Shadow could easily do better. Not so much at low levels perhaps, but the higher you go the more apparent it becomes. Thankfully the class’s strengths should be enough to overcome this, but it does mean that questing will seem slower as Holy. I’ve tried to alleviate some of that by choosing Engineering as one of my professions, hoping to put explosives to very frequent use in my questing.

Priests are also notorious for having really bad issues with mana while leveling. Shadow gets a few tools to help with this, as does Discipline, but Holy does not. I’ve decided to combat this to some extent at least with my racial selection of Undead, allowing me to consume the corpses of undead and humanoids in order to regenerate both health and mana.

Intended Leveling Focus
Since I am going with the most healing-focused tree for the class, I’m leaning more towards dungeons as my focus for the Priest. Questing isn’t too bad, but my lack of damage buffs makes it more difficult than it would be had I chosen a different spec. PvP isn’t too bad, so I’m going to keep on doing a decent amount of that as well, but LFG seems to be the best fit for me.

I think focusing to LFG allows me to utilize my strengths and nullify my weaknesses. The major exception to that being if I end up with people in the dungeon queues that don’t allow me to stop and drink if my other mana replenishment options aren’t available. Being able to use bubbles usually gives me the time I need to use Cannibalize to regen my mana, but big pulls where I’m doing a lot of healing or where agro is all over the group can really burn through my mana and easily lead to a wipe.

Planned Spec
Holy is unique for me personally because it’s the only spec of all of the healer classes that I have no experience in at all. Well, technically I did have a level 10 Holy twink-to-be that lasted for a single WSG run before he was switched over to Disc, but he doesn’t really count since it lasted all of seven minutes.

Having no experience of my own, I had to turn instead to a reliable source. And with Tales of a Priest closing their blogging doors I had to find a new, reliable source: enter The Stories of O, stage right. She blogs about Holy Priests in particular which happened to be just what I was looking for too.

I gave her suggested spec a look and figured that for the most part I see where all of those talents could be helpful to me while leveling. There are a couple of possible exceptions, such as Lightwell and Circle of Healing which I can probably get away with not spending points on as this particular priest isn’t going to raid. That’s not to say that they couldn’t be used in a leveling environment, just that they aren’t necessary. I’ll probably end up spending the points in them anyway since there’s not really anywhere else that they could serve me better.

And I think frequent use of Lightwell while leveling in dungeons just might teach some people to get used to clicking it…maybe. Alright fine, they’ll still be clueless, but not for a lack of trying on my part!

 
8 Comments

Posted by on May 17, 2011 in Caster, Class, Leveling, Play Styles, Priest

 

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High Heals: Shaman

From the replies I received on the blog itself and on twitter from those who read it, the Shaman was voted as the top choice for being the first class to use in this project. I’m sure I probably influenced that vote a bit as I mentioned that I had already enjoyed a bit of Resto Shaman leveling in the recent past, but that’s fine.

For those of you who have not read the introductory post, Project: High Heals, I’ll give you a quick recap. Most guides that you find online in relation to healing are all aimed at end game content, making it hard to find quality information on leveling your healing character beyond a simple layout of when/where to spend your talent points. Since writing guides to help people level, and have fun while they do it, is what I do – that’s what I’m going to do with this project. I’m going to level each of the four healing classes from 1-85 without using a non-healing spec the entire time.

Today I’m going to do a bit of outlining for my plans to level the first of the Project: High Heals leveling guides, Bottledwatah the Restoration Shaman.

Healing Tools
Shamans have one of the most balanced healing sets of all the healers, which makes them a good choice for both single-target and multi-target healing. You don’t get active multi-target heals until level 40 where you get the Shaman signature, Chain Heal, but your spec-specific bonus heal of Earth Shield allows you to passively heal a target with it while you focus your healing spells on others when necessary. You do get a glimpse of some of your group healing at level 20 when you get Healing Stream Totem, but it’s a bit of a passive heal while the totem is in play, and while the healing from it certainly helps, it’s not something you can rely on if there’s any real amount of damage being applied to your group.

As far as defensive dispels go, Shamans by default can remove Curses and can spend talent points to also remove Magic effects. You can also spec so that using your dispel (Cleanse Spirit) heals the target when you remove a harmful effect so that you’re both cleansing and healing with the same spell.

While not exactly a healing ability, Shamans also have the unique ability to resurrect themselves when they die. Warlocks can use soul stones to mimic the effect, but theirs is a “use it or lose it” option so if you die at a time where resurrecting isn’t important the effect is kind of wasted where a Shaman can chose to resurrect or not any time they die so long as the 30 minute cooldown is up. It’s not really crucial by any means from a leveling standpoint, but it does have its uses and advantages now and then.

Leveling Tools
The Shaman’s other two talent trees are both DPS, one caster and one melee. This gives the Shaman an interesting advantage when it comes to leveling as Resto because you’re collecting gear that naturally makes you good at casting offensive spells while also having built-in melee attacks that they give you to help you level early on. To compare, the Paladin has melee attacks it can use but there is no Paladin caster spec to draw from, the Priest has two other caster specs that can deal damage but no melee benefit, and while the Druid shares the ability to use melee attacks it requires weaving in and out of forms to switch between casting and melee.

Shamans also have the wonderful use of Ghost Wolf. Granted, you get the spell four levels shy of getting a mount, and it does have a cast time for non-Enhancement Shamans until end game (if you spend the talent points on it), but it’s still a great mobility spell that can be used both in doors and during combat. They also have spells that allow them to breath underwater and to walk on top of it.

You can’t talk about the Shaman class as a whole without mentioning Reincarnation, the self resurrection spell that you can use after any death so long as it’s not on cooldown (30 minutes). The other, big signature feature of the class is the use of Totems. Totems allow you to provide a great number of different buffs to your party which can also be put to good use when leveling solo. Combining the passive/reactive healing of Earth Shield with the glyphed bubble from Stoneclaw Totem for example can give you some incredible survivability.

Leveling Strengths
One of the major advantages of leveling a Restoration Shaman is that you have a solid offensive tool belt that includes both melee and casting attacks, and when you combine that with healing from Earth Shield questing becomes incredibly easy (though not necessarily fast since you get none of the damage buffs that the two DPS specs receive).

As I’ve mentioned before, you also have the use of Ghost Wolf which can make a lot of your questing faster by increasing your movement speed in doors and such. While you don’t have access to them until you’re in Northrend levels, you also receive two totems which act as pets and can be a great help while leveling as well. The Fire and Earth Elemental totems are both really good for when you find yourself being attacked my multiple mobs, or when you want to contribute a bit of damage to a boss fight where your other totems aren’t necessary.

Leveling Weaknesses
One of the major drawbacks while leveling is that you have no form of crowd control (other than slows) until you reach level 80. Until that point if you happen to pull more mobs than you intended to your only options are to either run away until they reset, or say a prayer to the elements that you can heal yourself enough to survive the pull.

You also have a disadvantage when it comes to gear. While you’re leveling you’ll often find that Cloth pieces are the best items you can get your hands on when you should be wearing Leather (1-39) or Mail (40+) instead. Caster Leather/Mail pieces and caster shields aren’t impossible to find, but they aren’t as abundant thanks to the small number of classes and specs that use them.

Intended Leveling Focus
I haven’t decided 100% which path I’m going to focus on with Bottledwatah. As I said in the initial post, I’m going to do a bit of everything with these little healers, but each of them is also going to lean towards a certain aspect of the game more than others. The Druid will likely focus more on PvP, for example, where the Paladin may focus more on questing.

Right now I’m leaning towards keeping this one pretty evenly focused on all of the different aspects of the game. I have really been enjoying PvP with her, but I’ve had a some fun in LFG as well (though I got more queues to pop as DPS in my Resto spec than I have healing so far). Questing is sort of the in between to pass the time between whichever queue I’m in except for when I’m leveling my professions in which case questing is the norm while I gather materials.

Right now Bottledwatah has Herbalism and Alchemy, but with an 85 Tauren Druid with herbalism on the same server I’m considering dropping Bottle’s herbs for Tailoring instead. Doing this would remove the benefit of gathering experience (which can really help when you’re leveling a healer), but it would make her professions more useful in the long run. I’ll keep you updated on the progress of that in the actual leveling guides, though.

Planned Spec
This is the spec that I’m planning to use while I level. My healing experience on a Shaman is pretty limited, so hopefully I’ve chosen a good build there but I can’t say for sure since I’m only level 20. Time will tell, and I’ll be sure to pass on any information it happens to share with me.

And as always I’ll share the details of the spec along with the order in which I spend the talent points in the actual leveling guides.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on May 11, 2011 in Caster, Class, Leveling, Play Styles, Shaman

 

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Project: High Heals

Finding information on how to level a particular class in a DPS spec isn’t hard to do. Most classes (except Rogues, apparently nobody likes being a Rogue) have at least a decent blogging community dedicated to them and/or you can find posts for it on forums all over the place. You can find most of the same for leveling as a tank as well. But when it comes to healing guides, almost all of them are aimed at healing in heroics or raids, or how to switch from a non-healing spec to the healing spec.

Personally, I don’t like just grabbing a random spec I’ve never tried before when my character is a high level. I don’t like learning when I have all the tools I’ll ever need thrown at me all at once. Rather than grabbing a spec I know nothing about I prefer to reroll the character, especially if the spec in question is tanking or healing because of their nature. If I pick up an unfamiliar DPS spec my team can usually carry me while I’m busying sucking and trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing, but I can’t do that as a tank or a healer because I’m the only one filling that role at the time and my failure would lead to the group’s failure.

I believe that the best way to become truly skilled and knowledgeable about a particular spec is to level in it. I’m not saying it’s the only way, you could certainly do it without ever experiencing the spec until you reach max level, but that knowledge is so much easier to pick up if you’ve had the time to learn about each and every ability as it becomes available to you rather than just having them all thrown at you at once.

So I’m going to do a little mini-project, which is to level a character form 1-85 in their healing spec the entire way. I know it can be done, my wife did it on her first Paladin. The results of this test, which are going to be based on how fun it was and how hard/easy it is will determine whether it becomes a larger project (leveling all of the healing classes in their healing spec), or if I just say, “that was fun, but uh…yeah, never again.”

But I’m not going to take the easy route, I’m not just sticking to LFG where four other people do my leveling for me; I’m going to experience the leveling content in every aspect of the game. So I’m going to take the healer(s) into dungeons, I’m going to take them into battlegrounds and I’m going to quest with them all with the healing spec. I’m not even going to purchase dual specs for them because I know if I do I’m going to be tempted to cheat and grab a DPS spec that I’m sure I’ll tell myself “oh, it’s just for a BG or two so I can throw someone off of the Lumber Mill in AB.” None of that, these suckers are going to live or die (/delete) by their own healing power.

Having done at least some leveling with all of the healing classes with varying degrees of healing experience, I already know a few things off the bat about each class:

  • Druid: Can be very boring as HoT’s are very powerful and quick/instant cast.
  • Paladin: Some healing spells or related spells can be used offensively to help leveling.
  • Priest: Similar to the Pally, they have some heals that can be used offensively.
  • Shaman: Passive healing from Earth Shield can make up for time spent DPSing.

Knowing that Druid healing is frequently boring, I’m less inclined to have them be the class I use for the first test. On the flip side, their powerful HoT’s could very well make up for their boring factor by allowing me to deal damage during the downtime. I’m still considering the druid, but right now they’re the lowest on the list.

Paladin healing I’ve only done in the low level battlegrounds and tiny bit in Northrend during Wrath. I don’t think I have any real “need” for another Paladin right now, so I might leave this one for one of the last slots as well as the character would likely end up deleted and rarely/never played.

The Priest is a class I’m really enjoying right now, but still in the Shadow spec that I’ve recently blogged about. I’m not a great Priest healer and that’s something that I want to work on, and I’d really love to learn it by leveling instead of just flailing into it on my 85. As such, this is a big contender for first or second. I would likely go Holy over Disc because Holy is labeled more as the “used for heals only” spec where Disc is more “use for heals or leveling”.

Lastly we have the Shaman, a class I’m also having a lot of fun leveling right now, but both of my existing Shaman are in DPS specs. My Resto Shaman experience extends to about level 25 as my current Enhancement Shaman was originally a level 19 Resto Twink (which is why he’s named Tiklemonster, btw). I know that Shaman healers are very powerful at low levels as even after Cataclysm I managed to solo a couple of the low level dungeons, one of which (SFK) my buddy Cynwise hasn’t managed to solo yet on his super-twinked 19 Prot Warrior…yet. This ranks the Shaman near the Priest in priority as I had a lot of fun with the Resto spec.

So for right now I’m left with the big question – Resto Shaman or Holy Priest.

 

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