Today I give you the second of the Project High Heals leveling guides, focusing today on my Holy Priest, Psynister. At the time of my writing this he is currently sitting at level 60, while my Resto Shaman is taking it easy at level 44.
Up to this point Psynister’s focus has been to level mostly via dungeons. Each of the Project High Heals toons will be leveled fully in their healing spec(s), with each of the four healing classes having a specific type of leveling that they focus on the most, though they all participate in all of the different experience earning methods. I’ve done a really good job of keeping Psynister in dungeons, but he can burn through quest mobs with ease as well.
Playing a Holy Priest
The Holy Priest was one that I was both looking forward to and hesitant about at the same time. On the one hand, I recently leveled a Shadow Priest and am well aware of their mana issues at low levels but confident in my ability to overcome them, while on the other hand Holy is pretty well known as the “just for heals” spec of the Priest so I thought questing was going to suck. Boy, was I wrong.
I did find that low level PvP really sucks as Holy. Sure, I can bubble and I can heal, but my bubbles don’t go very far and while my heals aren’t too bad it’s rare to find a PvP match where I’m not focus fired after the first 3 minutes.
Dungeon healing though was a lot of fun. Bubbles are strong, Renew is a beast, and even at level 60 I get to DPS for some of the fights, healing with nothing more than an occasional bubble/renew or a free, instant Flash of Light when my talents proc. Priests have mana issues at low levels, so that was my main concern about dungeons and also part of why I chose the Priest for the dungeon focus. What I found was that during my 20’s the Undead Racial pretty well took care of any mana issues I had. In the 30’s I didn’t really struggle much at all. In the 40’s I only had mana issues while questing and even then only if I pulled multiple mobs with high cost DoT’s. From the 50’s on – mana issues? What are mana issues?
My biggest challenge in healing dungeons is AoE damage. Before you’re able to employ Chakra as an AoE heal your only option is either spamming bubbles, spamming renew, or getting people click on the Lightwell. I’ve had two dungeons where people actually clicked on it, but both of those went extremely well when they used it.
The hardest thing about healing with a Priest is figuring out which of those eighteen billion healing spells you’re supposed to use and which you aren’t, and when you should use them and when you shouldn’t. But in the 1-29 bracket those many options aren’t opened to you yet, so for now your job is easy.
The main thing I want to mention about Holy is that it really does play just like the opposite of Shadow. When leveling as Shadow your DoT’s are amazing, but when leveling Holy your DoT’s are an amazing waste of your mana. Almost all of the Shadow-based spells are a complete waste of both time and mana as a Holy spec, with an exception made for Mind Blast (while leveling) and Shadow Word: Death (which you don’t get until your 30’s).
Healing a dungeon as Holy is simple. In this bracket, with all of two heirlooms to my name, I healed dungeons with Power Word: Shield and Renew, and that’s basically all I needed. I would cast Heal on occasion when I couldn’t bubble, and stupid DPS who liked to pull would require an occasional Flash Heal, but most of my tank healing was strictly bubbles and Renew. I didn’t cast the two at the same time, I used either one or the other.
Mana can become an issue though, especially if there are problems with threat. If you have to heal multiple people then someone’s likely going to die. PW:Shield and Renew are both fairly high on mana cost, so spamming them on the whole party can dry you out quick. I wiped twice in Stockades on my Priest because people were pulling multiple groups and I had no chance of healing them all. Not that I could have done any better at all on my Resto Shaman, but at that level you just don’t have the tools to handle damage on several targets at once while having the mana to back it all up.
Mana is the real key to your success at this level, and the key to that is not over healing. The primary example of that is PW:Shield and Renew. Outside of PvP there is no reason to have both of these spells up on the same target at the same time; not in this level bracket, at least. Renew heals for enough by itself to essentially work just like the bubble does. If you do need some extra healing on him, use your slow cast, low cost spells to top him off. If you know that your Renew isn’t going to be enough because extra mobs just got pulled, then go ahead and apply your bubble before Renew is done ticking so that the extra healing can build up in the background while the mobs are chewing away at the bubble.
Don’t feel like you have to keep your tank, or the rest of the party for that matter, at full health all the time. Pay attention to how much damage he takes and how fast to adjust your healing accordingly. If you have a tank who take almost no damage at all then don’t bother healing them until they’re near half health, and even then just toss a Renew and let it tick to full. If you have a tank that’s just getting demolished who seems like he’s going to die every two seconds then you need to be more active on the healing front.
If your party takes a little damage, don’t worry about it. Either top them off when someone goes afk, or when loot is being rolled on after a boss, or just let them stay where they are. You’re there to keep people alive, not to keep them at full health every step of the way.
The next thing in relation to mana is getting that mana back. I don’t hesitate to say that the Undead racial of Cannibalize was the single most helpful thing I could have done. When the tank goes to pull a new group and I’m at or below 60% of my mana I give him a bubble and then use my racial on one of the mobs we just killed. Every two minutes I get 40% of my health and mana back for munching on a dead humanoid/undead mob, and that is fantastic.
I also dealt with some of these mana potions by making my Resto Shaman an alchemist and making a good deal of mana potions, which also come in very handy. Since I had plenty of mats I made at least a stack of each type of mana potion while I was leveling her Alchemy, and then sent them out to the healers. On average I used 3-5 of each potion, total, for the level bracket they’re meant for. My Shaman never used one outside of PvP, but my Priest used them now and then in his 20’s and 30’s.
Important Spells & Abilities
Note that all numeric values are taken from the level 29 version of the spell for the purposes of this post.
- Smite (1): Smite an enemy for 33 to 37 Holy damage.
- Flash Heal (3): Heals a friendly target for 316 to 366.
- Shadow Word: Pain (4): A word of darkness that causes 1326 Shadow damage over 18 sec.
- Power Word: Shield (5): Draws on the soul of the friendly target to shield them, absorbing damage. Lasts 15 sec. While the shield holds, spellcasting will not be interrupted by damage. Once shielded, the target cannot be shielded again for 15 sec.
- Inner Fire (7): A burst of Holy energy fills the caster, increasing the armor value from items by 60% and spell power by 23.
- Renew (8): Heals the target for 62 every 3 sec for 12 sec.
- Mind Blast (9): Blasts the target for 65 to 67 Shadow damage.
Smite is your spammable attack, the one you’ll use most for your questing. Flash Heal is a powerful and fast, but expensive heal that is best used in emergency situations. Shadow Word: Pain is a pretty strong DoT spell, but as Holy it’s not very valuable and rarely worth its high mana cost.
Power Word: Shield is your bubble, and one of the main keys to your early dungeon healing success, also great for both questing and PvP, especially since it cancels pushback while casting. Inner Fire is a nice spell power buff which is pretty hard to come by at this level, which also has a nice boost to your armor providing extra survivability. This buff no longer has a duration, so once you put it up it will stay up until you die, cancel it, or change specs.
Renew is the other important heal that you have at this level, often healing the target for even more damage per tick than they’re taking. Its mana cost is a little bit on the high side, so make sure you’re not needlessly overwriting it or removing the need for its healing by using a bubble on the target at the same time. Last up is Mind Blast which is a Shadow spell, but this one is cheap on mana, has a fast cast time, and deals some pretty decent damage as well. I often use this to pull with.
By choosing Restoration as your specialization at level 10 you receive all of the following:
When you first get Holy Word: Chastise it’s a little uncertain whether it’s a great spell or a poor spell. The effect is cool, the damage is somewhat low, it’s instant cast which is great, but it also has a ridiculous 30 second cooldown. I generally end up using this one as a chance to interrupt spell casters with the disorient effect, or to finish off mobs that run when low on health (until we get Shadow Word: Death in the 30’s).
Spiritual Healing is pretty straight forward, you become 15% better at keeping people alive. Meditation is similarly simple, giving you 50% better mana regeneration during combat, and it’s one of the reasons why Spirit is an important stat for us. Absolution is pretty cool, it makes Dispel magic remove 2 Magic debuffs from your target instead of 1.
- Psychic Scream (11): The caster lets out a psychic scream, causing 5 enemies within 8 yards to flee for 8 sec. Damage caused may interrupt the effect.
- Power Word: Fortitude (14): Power infuses all party and raid members, increasing their Stamina for 1 hour. If the target is in your party or raid, all party and raid members will be affected.
- Resurrection (14): Brings a dead ally back to life with 35% health and mana. Cannot be cast when in combat.
- Heal (16): Heal your target for 159 to 183.
- Holy Fire (18): Consumes the enemy in Holy flames that cause 46 to 58 Holy damage and an additional 21 Holy damage over 7 sec.
Psychic Scream is an ability you want to get familiar with using, yet you need to be really careful of using it when in groups unless you have the glyph for it. It’s an AoE fear that hits up to 5 targets, and I really love this spell. When you’re in dungeons though, generally people hate you for casting this. Using the glyph removes the running away part and instead makes them cower in place for its duration.
Power Word: Fortitude is the Priest’s signature buff, providing the whole party/raid with an increase to their Stamina. Resurrection is your rez, pretty much the same as every other non-combat rez in the game. Heal is your cheap, cost effect heal that has a long cast time. This is your filler heal, used to keep people up or topped off when there’s no reason to bother with other heals. Apply this liberally to tanks in low level LFG.
Holy Fire is last up on the list, it’s a great spell that deals both direct damage as well as damage over time. When using the right glyphs you also get an increase in damage to your Smite if the target has your Holy Fire DoT active on them.
- Cure Disease (22): Removes 1 disease from the friendly target.
- Fade (24): Fade out, temporarily reducing all your threat for 10 sec.
- Dispel Magic (26): Dispels magic on the target, removing 2 harmful spell from yourself or 1 beneficial spell from an enemy.
- Devouring Plague (28): Afflicts the target with a disease that causes 1240 Shadow damage over 24 sec. 15% of damage caused by the Devouring Plague heals the caster. This spell can only affect one target at a time.
Cure Disease does just that, removes a disease from your target. There aren’t a ton of diseases early on, and most of those aren’t very important anyway, but it’s best for you to get used to it now so that when it does matter you know how to use it. Fade isn’t all that important to us unless you’re dealing with a tank with poor threat. I get the most use out of this, as Holy, but using it in PvP to make pets leave me alone.
Dispel Magic is a nice, versatile dispel. It can be used on both friendly targets and enemies, either clearing harmful debuffs from your team or removing beneficial buffs from your enemies. Devouring Plague is last up on the list. It’s a strong DoT that also heals you for a portion of the damage that it deals. Unfortunately, it too has a high mana cost and is best used by Shadow Priests.
Leveling a Holy Priest
- Questing Single Mob: Mind Blast, Holy Fire, Smite spam
- Questing Multi-Mob: [target 1] Shadow Word: Pain, Devouring Plague, [target 2] Mind Blast, Holy Fire, Smite spam
Questing Single Mob
For single mobs it’s a simple matter of just burning them down with Smite spam. I like to pull with Mind Blast, personally, mostly because I like to get extra damage out of Smite by using Holy Fire’s debuff. Normally I would suggest pulling with a spell like Smite because of its longer cast time, but I don’t feel it’s necessary and found that I prefer pulling with Mind Blast so that’s what I do.
When I’m facing multiple mobs as Holy I do go ahead and use my DoT’s, but only on a single target. DoT the first target, burn the second one down, and then finish off the first with Smite spam. If you pull more than two, then still just DoT the first target and then leave him alone while you focus on the others so that your DoT’s can actually deal their damage and be worth the mana it costs to cast them.
How to Heal: 29 Holy Priest
When you’re actually filling your healing role rather than questing it’s probably a good idea for you to have a clue how to actually, you know, heal. The numbers in the next section are based on the level 29 version of the spell, unmodified by talents or gear.
Flash Heal: 28% base mana, 1.5 second cast, heals for 316-366
Power Word: Shield: 34% base mana, instant cast, absorbs damage
Renew: 17% base mana, instant cast, heals 62 every 3 sec for 12 sec.
Heal: 9% base mana, 3 second cast, heals for 159-183
Resurrect: 60% base mana, 10 second cast, non-combat resurrection
Cure Disease: 16% base mana, instant cast, removes 1 disease
Dispel Magic: 16% base mana, instant cast, removes 2 harmful magic effects
As you can see here, PW:Shield is your most expensive spell that you’ll cast during combat. It’s a great spell, fantastic for healing, but it’s expensive and it doesn’t actually heal anything by default (you can glyph it to do so). Next up is Flash Heal, which is also expensive but it’s your single largest heal in this level range. Again, you don’t want to cast it any more than you have to, but when you have to it’s there for you and it pack a decent punch.
Renew is next up on the list, and even with no haste at all you can see that it heals for (62 x (12/3=4) = 248) 248 over 12 seconds. The drawback of course is that you have to wait the full 12 seconds before you get that healing. Finally we have Heal which is your cheapest and least effect per-cast heal. Don’t dismiss this one for the low healing value though, because that cheap mana cost makes it one of the best healing options available to you. If you don’t need a big heal right away then Heal is much better than Flash Heal for its low mana cost alone.
Talent Spec: 29 Holy Priest
- Improved Renew 2/2: Increases the amount healed by your Renew by 10%.
- Divine Fury 3/3: Reduces the casting time of your Smite, Holy Fire, Heal and Greater Heal spells by 0.5 sec.
- Surge of Light 2/2: You have a 6% chance when you Smite, Heal, Flash Heal, Binding Heal or Greater Heal to cause your next Flash Heal to be instant cast and cost no mana.
- Desperate Prayer 1/1: Instantly heals the caster for 30% of their total health.
- Empowered Healing 2/3: Increases the healing done by your Flash Heal, Heal, Binding Heal and Greater Heal by 10%.
- Holy Concentration 1/2: Increases the amount of mana regeneration from Spirit while in combat by an additional 15%.
I started off with Improved Renew mostly so that I could combat those low level mana problems. If Renew heals for more then that means you have fewer heals that you have to cast, so more mana you get to save. This is one of your best investments early on. Divine Fury is another great spell, reducing the cast time on two of your primary questing attacks as well as two of your heals (you don’t get Greater Heal in this level range, though). If you’re going to quest as Holy at all, you want this talent.
Surge of Light is a really great spell, giving some of your spells (see above) a chance to proc a free, instant Flash of Light. I love this both for questing since it can proc from my Smite spam, as well as dungeon healing (especially when multiple people are taking damage), and it’s fantastic for PvP. I especially love it in PvP when it procs off of a Flash Heal and then procs another Flash Heal, giving me three of this bad boy in a row for the price of one.
Desperate Prayer was a personal choice and one that a lot of Holy Priests don’t bother taking, especially while leveling. I took this first and foremost because I enjoy PvP while I’m leveling and a free, instant heal for 30% of my health is nothing to sneeze at in PvP. I also took it because there had been several times that I was healing a dungeon where a single heal on me would have prevented a wipe. If you don’t want to put a point here then I suggest you finish off Empowered Healing instead.
Empowered Healing is a great boost to your healing efficiency, plain and simple. Holy Concentration I took for the mana regen alone. Mana is what it’s all about at this level, and more regeneration was more important to me than Lightwell or even getting some instant healing out of Renew.
- Glyph of Power Word: Shield: Your Power Word: Shield also heals the target for 20% of the absorption amount.
- Glyph of Renew: Increases the amount healed by your Renew by an additional 10%.
My preference for your first glyph is Power Word: Shield because I think at an early level that it provides the most overall benefit and one of the few forms of instant healing you can get. I kept low level tanks alive by alternating casts of PW:Shield and Renew, and this was one of the more beneficial effects for doing that.
Renew would be my second option for additional healing from it. I do like using Renew and it is really powerful, but I did’t feel that it needed to be any more powerful at that level. Not that more healing is ever a bad thing, but that it wasn’t necessary.
- Glyph of Smite: Your Smite spell inflicts an additional 20% damage against targets afflicted by Holy Fire.
- Glyph of Psychic Scream: Targets of your Psychic Scream spell now tremble in place instead of fleeing in fear, but the cooldown of Psychic Scream is increased by 3 sec.
You have two great choices for your first Major glyph. Smite is the big winner if you’re going to do a lot of questing. It’s one of the very few things you can do to increase your damage output as Holy. Psychic Scream though is also great, especially if you’re leaning more towards dungeons. I started off with Scream and eventually switched it over to Smite at which point I did a little questing with my wife’s mage and completely pissed her off when I used Scream and sent her target running behind her while she was trying to cast.
For those of you who don’t know my wife, pissing her off means you better duck because there’s going to be a heavy object flying at your head in a matter of seconds. Don’t worry, the stapler just barely grazed me this time.
- Glyph of Fortitude: Reduces the mana cost of your Power Word: Fortitude spell by 50%.
- Glyph of Fading: Reduces the mana cost of your Fade spell by 30%.
Our options for minors is pretty much crap at this level. I prefer Fortitude since I’m a healer and have almost no problem with threat in the first place, though Fading isn’t bad if you’re more into PvP and want to avoid those hunter and warlock pets. Personally, I just skipped the minor glyph until 34 and used Levitate instead, then added Fortitude at level 50.
Gearing Up Your Priest
For Holy you’re looking first and foremost at Intellect on your gear. Intellect provides Spell Power, Mana, and Spell Crit, all of which you’re interested in. Next up is going to have to be Spirit because Priests will do struggle with mana at low levels. Haste comes next as it makes your Renew tick faster and it also allows your heals to cast faster which is really useful when your best filler heal has a base cast time of three seconds.
Cloth is your only option for gear of course, and lucky for us all cloth gear is caster gear, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find. Weapons can be kind of hit and miss, though there are quite a few good staves that drop in dungeons. You can find some decent off-hand weapons from dungeons these days as well, but one-handed caster weapons are pretty rare at low levels.
Even though I have access to some of my Hand Me Down gear, a mace with +22 Intellect being one of them, I didn’t use them on the Priest because I wanted to be as pure as I could to what another player might be since Priests are well known for their mana issues right now.
I use this type of macro for all of my attacks (Smite, Holy Fire, Mind Blast, SW:Pain, Devouring Plague) mostly so that I have an auto-target and auto-attack built into the spell cast.
/cast [@focus] Power Word: Shield
This is my “heal with sammich” macro, it allows me to cast my bubble directly on my focus without having to bother with targeting and such. I set the tank as my focus as soon as the group is created and hit this button when the spell wears off. I use a variation of this for Renew, Heal, and Flash Heal as well so that I can easily heal an instance with one hand while eating a sammich with the other and watching YouTube on the second monitor.