Project High Heals
Holy Priest 1-29
Today we’re going to take a look at the next level range for Holy Priests. I’ve been doing quite well on my Holy Priest, Psynister. In the project High Heals portfolio he’s intended to do most of his leveling via dungeons, though that has slowed down for him a bit since getting to Outlands. Queues are taking quite a while, and it’s actually DPS slots that are hard to fill. I guess everyone’s busy leveling tanks and healers right now.
That’s the short and sweet update on Psynister, now lets take a closer look at how to level your own Holy Priest.
Playing a Holy Priest
As I mentioned in the first Holy Priest post, I was a little concerned about leveling a Priest and doing so with a healing spec. Most of that came from their low level problems with mana, but also because I knew my damage was going to suck. My recent experience leveling a Shadow Priest helped me overcome the first of those, while I found the second to not be nearly as bad as I was anticipating.
I don’t hesitate to say that low level PvP as Holy really sucked. I did a pretty fair amount of PvP on Psynister, though of coarse not as much as I did random dungeons. I found that in early PvP I just didn’t have the output on either the healing or killing side of of the fence to really do much of anything. Either my heals were crap, or I ran out of mana too fast to really be useful, or the opponents saw me healing and focused me down. Life in PvP as Holy is freaking hard.
Healing dungeons is, of course, where I definitely shined. Most dungeons I can heal almost entirely with Power Word: Shield and Renew, with a few Heal casts thrown in from time to time to help keep the tank topped off “just in case”. When the group was doing well with agro I had no problems at all. When DPS started to pull threat though, things got pretty chaotic and my mana issues really started to show. In dungeons where AoE damage exists it’s just downright brutal. Priests don’t have access to AoE healing at this level, the best you can do is throw bubbles/renew on multiple targets and hope for the best, but that drains your mana quick. (There’s another answer, called Lightwell, but I’ll get in to that later.)
Otherwise, I found playing a Holy Priest to be very fun in Dungeons, not so much in PvP, but also surprisingly powerful in questing.
Leveling as Holy isn’t too dissimilar from leveling as any other spec, it’s all in how you go about doing it. The most important thing to remember early on is not to waste your mana. Once you’ve got the mana management under control there’s no stopping you.
Questing – Your biggest hurdle in questing is your damage. You get almost nothing to buff your damage output as Holy, because you’re basically designed to be a healer. Using the Glyph of Smite becomes key for that reason, because increasing your damage output means you’re also spending less mana. Originally I had taken the Engineering profession to make use of explosives as a way to both increase my damage and decrease my mana consumption, but it didn’t take me long to figure out that it wasn’t necessary so I switched his professions.
Healing – Power Word: Shield and Renew are your best friends in this level range. I usually trade off between using those two, casting the next when the first wears off. Flash Heal is usually a waste of your mana, so you really want to save this for when there’s a real emergency. Heal is a great spell that I do use quite a bit thanks to its low mana cost. Mana is still an issue in the lower portion of this level range, so do your best not to using healing spells when they aren’t needed. You don’t have to top everyone off all the time if they’re not taking enough damage to require it.
Remember that your job as a healer is to help your group live long enough to kill the mobs. It’s not your job to see that everyone in the group has full health all the time, and it’s not your job to make sure nobody ever dies, you’re just there to keep people up until victory is achieved. Heal those who need healing in order for the group to be victorious. If you have a high DPS player who’s constantly pulling threat and causing you to spent a ton of mana to keep both them and the tank alive, let them die. You’re not there to enable morons, so save your mana for heals that matter and resurrect him when it’s over.
PvP – In PvP you’re usually going to need to rely more on your expensive heals and cut back on the slow, cheap heals. Bubbles and Flash Heals are very common in PvP, so expect to see your mana fluctuate a lot. In the 40’s you’re going to face Rogues, Warriors, Feral Druids, and Ret Paladins that are going to destroy you and everyone else. Melee DPS is incredibly powerful in the 40’s, so much so that I’m almost to the point that I refuse to even take part in PvP if my character is in the 40’s brackets.
Important Spells & Abilities
Note that all numeric values are taken from the level 29 version of the spell for the purposes of this post.
- Shackle Undead (32): Shackles the target undead enemy for up to 50 seconds. The shackled unit is unable to move, attack, or cast spells. Any damage caused will release the target. Only one target can be shackled at a time.
- Shadow Word: Death (32): A word of dark binding that inflicts Shadow damage to the target. Deals three times as much damage to targets below 25% health. If the target is not killed by SW:Death, the caster takes damage equal to the damage inflicted upon the target.
- Levitate (34): Allows the friendly party or raid target to levitate, floating a few feet above the ground. While levitating, the target will fall at a reduced speed and travel over water. Any damage will cancel the effect. Lasts 10 minutes.
- Mind Vision (36): Allows the caster to see through the target’s eyes for 1 minute. Will not work if the target is in another instance or on another continent.
- Greater Heal (38): A slow casting spell that heals a single target for 992 to 1152.
- Mind Control (38): Controls a humanoid mind up to level 52, but increases the time between its attacks by 25%. Lasts up to 30 seconds.
I went ahead and listed Shackle Undead just because it’s really the only form of CC that you have access to. You’re not very likely to cast this while you’re leveling save for a few zones scattered here and there. There are a few dungeons that it’s useful in, such as Scholomance and Stratholme, but most of the time this spell is pretty useless. But, when you find yourself healing a group in Strath and the stupid tank refuses to taunt the stinking skeletons flinging Frostbolts at your face, a shackle will shut them down.
SW:Death is a great spell for finishing off targets who are low on health. The real benefit of the spell though is when you combine it with the Glyph of Spirit Tap, which causes SW:Death to restore 12% of your total mana when you kill a target with SW:Death. I suggest you grab that glyph the second you train this spell and start practicing the art of stealing all the killing blows. Just make sure you don’t accidentally kill yourself when casting it.
Levitate is a pretty cool buff, I especially like it for being able to walk on water. If you’ve ever read my Mage guides, you’ll also know I have a deep love for things that let me jump off of cliffs or dismount in midair and survive, so I love casting this thing all the time. The only drawback – you can’t jump when it’s active and that bugs me something fierce.
Mind Vision is a really cool spell, one that I absolutely love for PvP. Need to find out where your EFC is going to so you can heal him? Mind Vision! Need to know where the EFC is hiding so you can direct the assault team? Mind Vision! Need to help a group of clueless PUG’s in LFG find their way back to the group? Mind Vision!!! I use LFG a lot, and I’m real big on farming low level content for drops, mats, or to rush lowbies through it. This means I’m very familiar with almost every dungeon map and can guide people to the group through almost any of them. I had to do it twice in Scholomance as many players who started in late BC or after have never even been there.
Greater Heal takes a while to cast, but it’s the single largest heal we have. I typically use this on a tank who’s low on hit points, right after I bubble him, or when he’s currently immune to a new bubble and needs a large heal.
Mind Control is one of the most enjoyable spells we have. There are few things I love doing more in PvP than making someone jump off of a cliff and die. In PvE I like to use it in dungeons to injure certain adds, pull additional mobs, or provide my own group with buffs from the mob. You probably won’t use it a whole lot as a healer outside of PvP, but it can definitely be fun to play with. In places like Alterac Valley, it’s especially fun to Mind Control the enemy tank or healer and then watch your mini-boss destroy people.
Prayer of Healing is your first real AoE healing spell. It’s not great, but it’s pretty much like casting Heal on everyone at the same time. The good thing is, you’re getting that healing out to the whole team, the bad thing is, the heal itself is relatively weak. At this level range though, it will likely save you from a wipe if you need it. A very important note about this spell though, especially for PvP, is that it does not require line of sight to heal your team, so you can use it to heal through walls.
Binding Heal is a great spell. It costs the same amount of mana and cast time as Flash Heal so it’s definitely not cheap, but it heals for just a little bit less than Flash Heal and that healing hits both you and your target. It’s like poor man’s AoE, healing two targets instead of an actual area. The special thing to note about Binding Heal is that both of its heals essentially count as individual healing effects for the purpose of most procs that trigger off of healing or critical effects.
Leveling a Holy Priest
- Questing Single Mob: Mind Blast, (HW: Chastise), Holy Fire, Smite spam, SW: Death
- Questing Multi-Mob: [target 1] Shadow Word: Pain, Devouring Plague, [target 2] Mind Blast, Holy Fire, Smite spam, [when possible] SW: Death
Questing Single Mob
I pull with Mind Blast mostly because it’s cheap on mana and it has a short cast time. I often follow that up with Holy Word: Chastise to take advantage of it’s stunning effect while I cast the next spell, but with a 30 second cooldown it’s not always available and I don’t worry about it. Holy Fire does good damage with a short cast time, and it applies a DoT debuff. That debuff allows the Glyph of Smite to activate which increases Smite damage, which you’ll cast repeatedly (spam) until the target is dead or near death. At that point you want to finish off the target with Shadow Word: Death. Another of our glyphs, Glyph of Spirit Tap, restores 12% of your base mana over time when you kill a target with SW:Death.
If you’re healing in a dungeon you’ll use a similar rotation for damage if your tank has a lot of survivability and doesn’t need much healing. Whether you’re going to deal damage in dungeons or not, you still want to snipe every killing blow you can with SW:Death casts so that you can get the 12% mana regeneration from the Glyph of Spirit Tap. If you’re not using that glyph, then you don’t need to worry about getting the killing blows, but if you have mana issues then this is your most reliable solution.
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.
The higher you get in level though, the less useful those DoT’s become. Now that I’m in Outland I find that casting those DoT’s doesn’t deal anywhere near enough damage to justify their mana cost, and they do very little in the way of actually helping me through the encounter or killing mobs faster. Damage is damage, but I don’t know that I’m actually saving any time at all by using them.
At this level rang, though, the DoT’s are at least pretty decent so go ahead and use them, but feel free to use your mana on bubbles/heals instead and just burn them down one at a time.
How to Heal: 49 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 49 version of the spell, unmodified by talents or gear.
Flash Heal: 28% base mana, 1.5 second cast, heals for 744-864
Power Word: Shield: 34% base mana, instant cast, absorbs damage
Renew: 17% base mana, instant cast, heals 145 every 3 sec for 12 sec.
Heal: 9% base mana, 3 second cast, heals for 372-432
Greater Heal: 27% base mana, 3 second cast, heals for 992-1152
Prayer of Healing: 26% base mana, 2.5 second cast, heals party members within 30 yards for 367-387
Binding Heal: 28% base mana, 1.5 second cast, heals target and caster for 564-724
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
Your most expensive spell as a healer continues to be PW:Shield. The damage that it absorbs is pretty significant even though you’re not using a Discipline spec. I do use this quite a bit, but rarely will I use it on anyone other than the tank or myself. Flash Heal and Binding Heal are tied for the next highest base mana cost, and for cast time as well. Flash Heal restores more health to the single target, but Binding Heal restores almost the same amount of health and does so to both you and your target making it my usual preference if I’ve taken any damage at all.
Greater Heal is next on the list of highest mana cost, but it’s the single largest heal you have available to you. Talent points can cause some of your other heals (Flash and Binding) to reduce both the cast time and mana cost of this spell which can really help if you need to put out a lot of healing a short amount of time. It does have a long cast time, but the heal is worth it if you have either a bubble or a renew up to help bide the time you need to get this big boy off.
Prayer of Healing comes next, and thank the Light we finally have some AoE heals! Granted, it doesn’t heal for all that much, but it’s a shorter cast time than Heal and restores roughly the same amount of health as a Heal, except it does it to your entire party. Also, this heal does not require line of sight to heal your party, which is extremely useful in PvP especially. You can use this when fighting bosses in AV by standing on the other side of a wall or even outside the building all together. You can use it in Arenas when you’re pillar humping, or in WSG when your flag carrier is on the roof and you’re down in the flag room.
Talent Spec: 49 Holy Priest
- Holy Concentration (+2) 3/3: Increases the amount of mana regenerated from Spirit while in combat by an additional 30%.
- Divine Touch 2/2: Your Renew will instantly heal the target for 10% of the total periodic effect.
- Lightwell 1/1: Creates a Holy Lightwell. Friendly players can click the Lightwell to restore health of 6 seconds. Attacks done to you equal to 30% of your total health will cancel the effect. Lightwell lasts for 3 minutes or 10 charges.
- Spirit of Redemption 1/1: Upon death, the priest becomes the Spirit of Redemption for 15 seconds. The Spirit of Redemption cannot move, attack, be attacked or targeted by any spells or effects. While in this form the priest can cast any healing spell free of cost. When the effect ends, the priest dies.
- Serendipity 2/2: When you heal with Binding Heal or Flash Heal, the cast time of your next Greater Heal or Prayer of Healing spell is reduced by 20% and mana cost reduced by 10%. Stacks up to 2 times. Lasts 20 seconds.
- Inspiration 2/2: Reduces your target’s physical damage taken by 20% for 15 seconds after getting a critical effect form your Flash Heal, Heal, Greater Heal, Binding Heal, Penance, Prayer of Mending, Prayer of Healing, or Circle of Healing spell.
- Chakra 1/1: When activated, your next Heal, Flash Heal, Greater Heal, Binding Heal, Prayer of Healing, Prayer of Mending, Mind Spike or Smite will put you into a Chakra state (see below).
With mana problems still plaguing you, Holy Concentration can be a real Light-sent blessing by increases your mana regeneration during combat. I chose to go with Divine Touch next since Renew was still one of my primary forms of healing at that level, and having it heal for 10% of its effect right when you cast it gives us both a small form of instant healing as well as allowing the rotation of bubble > renew > bubble to be even more effective.
I decided to pick up Lightwell next because I finally started to get into situations where healing more than one person at a time was really important and not just because people were being stupid. When you get into dungeons in your 30’s and 40’s, particularly Scholomance, you’re going to start facing AoE damage a lot more. You’ll see some of that in instances like Shadowfang Keep earlier, and Maraudon later on as well. While Lightwell doesn’t actually provide any AoE healing, it does allow your entire party to get their own HoT effect on demand by clicking to activate it, and it really has become a wonderful addition to my healing abilities.
I decided to go ahead and pick up Spirit of Redemption (or Fail Angel as it’s often called) next, mostly because I was getting th crap kicked out of me in PvP and wanted some options to heal when things went bad for us, and also because I had a string of random queues where the freaking tanks had no idea what a taunt was nor how to generate AoE threat which meant my face was served up as an appetizer. Being able to heal even after you’re dead seems like more of a raid tool, but it really does help in other situations as well.
Serendipity is the talent I mentioned earlier in the article that allows you to reduce the casting time and mana cost of your Greater Heal or Prayer of Healing. The main reason I took this was, again, because of our otherwise lack of AoE healing abilities. When things get hairy I try to Flash Heal/Binding Heal the two most injured target, and then either use Greater Heal on a target near death or Prayer of Healing for a smaller heal on the whole group. Doing this gives me the ability to dish out a solid amount of healing across the entire party in a fairly short amount of time. I do find it more useful in PvP than in LFG, and it would be even more useful in a raid.
Inspiration is a talent that I skipped early on because I had no need to reduce damage on my tanks when they almost never took any damage in the first place. The further I got though, the more useful something like this would be, so I picked it up. Whenever you get a crit with almost any of your healing spells, the target gains 10% damage reduction for 15 seconds.
And the last talent we get in this level bracket is Chakra, which is a completely new feature in this expansion. When you cast one of the triggering spells (listed in the description above), you enter a Chakra state related to the triggering spell. This Chakra state is basically a buff that stays active until cancelled. I’ll give more detail in the next section, but basically using Chakra either makes you better at single target healing, AoE healing, or better at dealing damage while questing.
Substitution: Serendipity isn’t for everyone, and its not nearly as useful in 5 mans as it is in raids or PvP just because of the nature of what it does and how you have to trigger it. If you don’t want to take this on a character you’re just questing on or doing a lot of LFG, then switch these two points out for Tome of Light which will reduce the cooldown on your Holy Word spells by 15%, allowing you to use HW:Chastise (in particular) more frequently.
Now that we get some instant healing to Renew from our talent points, the instant heal from the Glyph of PW:Shield seems an even better fit. I still did the majority of my healing through this level range with nothing more than bubbles and Renew, and I love this glyph. Renew is still another great option, and it is the one that I chose for my second slot at level 50, but until then I think PW:Shield is the better option.
- Glyph of Spirit Tap: When you kill a target with your SW:Death and yield experience or honor, you instantly receive 12% of your total mana over 12 seconds.
- 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’ll have to make a decision at level 32 as to whether you want to switch immediately to Spirit Tap or hold off until level 50 when you get your second set of glyph slots. If mana is still your main problem, then make the switch to Spirit Tap. If you’re doing just fine with your mana, then keep Smite if you’re going to do a lot of questing. If you’re more into dungeon running then Spirit Tap is probably your best choice, but Psychic Scream is still a really good option if you find there’s a need for AoE fear to be used.
My personal preference is to switch to Spirit Tap at level 32, and then add Smite back in when you reach level 50.
Minors being minors, they all pretty well suck. Levitate is the most important one to me, personally, because I hate dealing with reagents, and it provides the most literal benefit. Reducing the casting cost of buffs is all fine and good, but you almost never need to reapply them during combat (outside of PvP) which means if you’re worried about the mana cost then you can just sit down right after buffing everyone and drink back to full.
At this level you can only activate half of the real usefulness of Chakra, simply because the other half requires another talent point which you won’t get until level 51. However, Chakra is still useful by itself and it is important to know what it does and how to use it effectively. Since the next guide will include that talent point we’re missing, I’ll go back over Chakra and its interaction with the other half of it next time.
There are three Chakra states that you can enter, and which one you enter is triggered by a different group of spells. Each state also provides it’s own benefit.
Chakra State: Serenity
Trigger Spells: Heal, Flash Heal, Greater Heal, Binding Heal
Effect: Increases the critical effect chance of your direct healing spells by 10%, and causes your direct heals to refresh the duration of your Renew on the target.
Serenity is the version that I use most often when healing dungeons. Making our direct heals 10% more likely to crit means more chances to proc other effects such as Inspiration, not to mention the increased healing in general that comes with that crit chance. It also allows direct heals to refresh Renew which means I can essentially recast Renew on my tank by casting Heal on them, which is only half the mana cost.
Chakra State: Sanctuary
Trigger Spells: Prayer of Healing, Prayer of Mending
Effect: Increases the healing done by your area of effect spells and Renew by 15% and reduces the cooldown of your Circle of healing by 2 seconds.
I don’t use Sanctuary all that often, but really only because I don’t see a ton of AoE damage. It does make Renew 15% better which is great, but I find Serendipity to be more useful in general. In this level range our only AoE heal is Prayer of Healing, so the only real benefit we receive is the extra healing from Renew compared to Serenity buffing all of our direct heals.
Chakra State: Chastise
Trigger Spells: Smite, Mind Spike
Effect: Increases your total damage done by Shadow and Holy spells by 15%.
Chastise is great for questing. It finally provides us with a damage buff that we’ve been missing all this time. And it’s basically a 15% damage increase across the board for us since it buffs both Holy and Shadow. It’s odd that a talent so deep in the Holy tree would buff Shadow spells, but who am I to argue with extra damage, right?
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, Flash Heal, Greater Heal, Binding Heal…basically all of my healing spells, 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. LFG can be pretty boring these days when you have a tank with fully enchanted heirlooms who also knows how to play their class well, and I use these when I’m bored and don’t feel like clicking Healbot.