No WTF last week because, you know, that Cataclysm thing. Instead, today I’d like to talk about what priest healing has been like over the past week. Maybe provide some tips for those of you considering leveling the best class ever.
The two biggest changes to healing in general are: mana becoming a seriously limiting resource, and the amount of healing your spells do relative to health pools. What the latter means is that damage can exceed your Heal throughput, while still not quickly killing anyone. In Wrath, if I happened to have occasion to unleash a GHeal, it would heal to full all but the most ridiculously geared tanks. In Cata, that same heal won’t even be 50% of an under-geared DPS’s health bar. This forces you out of your efficient healing spells into much less efficient but greater HPS spells. However, because of the first issue, these hasten the arrival of the dreaded “OOM”.
Now that I’ve re-hashed what everyone’s been saying for the past six months, let’s try for something a bit more useful: what spells to use and when. I’m going to talk about Holy for this, and mostly ignore Disc. Not that Disc isn’t a fine spec (I in fact levelled as Disc), but it has significant performance issues in 5-man due to its very weak actual healing abilities. So I guess that’s the first tip: unless you really, really like Disc, spec Holy for now.
Alright, so you’ve selected the best spec of the best class. Congrats, you pretty much won the Internet! Holy’s got a lot of stuff going on though, and can be a bit overwhelming, especially coupled with learning healing in Cata. Below, I’m going to go through each of your relevant abilities, and briefly discuss their use (as applied to 5-mans).
- Heal: your bread and butter, Heal should used as much as possible. Limitations on throughput will force you out of it, but you want to work to make use of this spell as much as possible. Train yourself to not worry about topping that DPS at 30% off, and instead toss a Heal their way every few seconds. It also activates and maintains a Chakra state, which is all the more reason to use it.
- Greater Heal: despite its somewhat lower efficiency, this is your best spell to use for when Heal just isn’t going to cut it. Use primarily to keep up with damage on the tank, but it also works well for getting other players out of the danger zone in a somewhat timely fashion.
- Flash Heal: this should be your least used single target. It comes with the same high mana cost as GHeal, but sacrifices healing done for speed, and speed is rarely a factor. The only real thing Flash has is that it is your highest HPS single target, so if you need to combat ludicrous amounts of damage without regard for mana, this is what you use.
- Binding Heal: this spell is a bit of a surprise. It has a hefty mana cost like GHeal and Flash, but because of the double healing effect, it actually is just as efficient as Heal. Great for times when you want to top the tank off quickly, and also have damage on yourself. Beaten out only by Flash in single-target HPS, and if you’re also healing yourself, it’s the highest HPS you can get with a single (double?) target.
- Renew: a good spell to start with, and once you hit 12.5% haste Renew gains a 5th tick of healing, bumping it up to your most efficient single target spell. Excellent for throwing on DPS to mitigate incidental damage, and with Chakra your tank should never be without this.
- Power Word: Shield: this is easily your least efficient spell, and it won’t even heal someone. PW:S should be used very sparingly as a healing tool, usually to save someone with 3 HP from a DoT tic or the like. However, B&S makes this a powerful damage prevention/life saving tool if used prudently.
- Prayer of Mending: a very efficient heal so long as it is allowed to bounce a few times. This is your best choice for AoE healing, and an excellent supplemental spell when you need to use other AoE healing spells.
- Prayer of Healing: another surprising spell; assuming you have this glyphed (you should), this is a fairly efficient heal, and definitely what you want to rely on when faced with overwhelming AoE damage.
- Divine Hymn: this has changed quite a bit from its Wrath incarnation. It is no longer the uber No-One-Near-Me-Is-Gonna-Die spell it was, but rather is your most efficient AoE spell. The lack of movement, proximity requirements, and low throughput on the tank make it tricky to pull of, but if you can manage it will be worth the effort.
- Holy Nova: this doesn’t really have a niche in 5-man healing. It’s an AoE that can be cast on the move, but as one of your least efficient and least powerful spells, you’re better off using just about anything else.
- Shadowfiend: this little guy is very unlikely to die now, benefits from your buffs, and does damage. With his fire-and-forget nature, this should be your first choice if you need mana.
- Hymn of Hope: the long channel time and low mana returns make this uninspiring if you’re the only one that’s befitting from it. However, you can couple it with Shadowfiend to improve overall mana gain (remember Shadowfiend restores % based mana, and HoH increases your max mana).
- Leap of Faith: simply the best spell in the game, you can use this to drag terrible DPS out of the fire, pull the tank far away from the boss so they have a few seconds of not taking damage, or just grief rogues. No matter what, the results are always spectacular.
- Inner Will: movement speed is always good, and mana cost reduction is great for keeping you from going empty (you’ll be casting a fair amount of instants). This should be the “Inner” you have up most of the time.
- Inner Fire: increased SP is quite helpful for doing heavy HPS, but you are unlikely to benefit from the armor. Use this only when you really need a throughput bump, and keep in mind that “Inner”s do not cost mana, so you can swap between them on the fly for maximum effectiveness.
So that’s all your general priest abilities. I figured I’d break up the list by sepreating the Holy-only abilities from the rest, to make this both less tedious to read, and to have a section devoted to the usually more complex spells of the spec itself.
- Circle of Healing: sadly, less efficient and less powerful than PoH, the only real advantage this has is it’s instant-cast. Still way better than Nova.
- Lightwell: ooooooh man Lightwell. Easily the most efficient heal in the game, more than double the efficiency of your next most efficient spell, and nearly ten times more efficient than most of your healing arsenal (sometimes it’s more than 10x). It’s got a 20 yard range, can be used even in the middle of a cast (without breaking it), doesn’t require a retarget, and doesn’t break unless the subject takes 30%+ max HP in a single hit. Use this every boss fight, it is simply amazing. Drill it into your DPS. Possibly by implying it is the only healing they will receive.
- Desperate Prayer: instant, free heal on yourself. Hard to argue with.
- Surge of Light: this is actually a fairly terrible ability. It procs infrequently, its proc is based on our worst stat, and it’s a proc. Which are inherently devalued for healers. It also saves you very little mana (~11 MP5 in the best cases), and is not a great boost in throughput when it’s up. Recommend skipping this talent.
- Spirit of Redemption: no longer grants additional spirit, making this a pretty weak choice. For learning some fights it’s debatably useful, but for the most part a dead healer is a bad thing, and there isn’t much that will kill you unless you’ve screwed up. Recommend skipping this.
- Guardian Spirit: still a very powerful spell, use it less now to prevent instagibs, and more as something to temporarily increase throughput on your target. Great for digging yourself out of a healing hole. Also, you can purposefully proc it on a tank for cheap and very large heal.
- Chakra: this is the big one. For the most part you’re going to want Serenity, as there are few situations in which the AoE requirements are heavy enough to fully benefit from Sanctuary. Endless renew on a tank is crazy efficient, and you can even use it to keep renews ticking on DPS until they reach full. Also see the comparison of the two Holy Words, below. Keep in mind that you can maintain one state indefinitely via the refresh mechanics, and instantly swap to the other when needed. Either way, you should always be in some Chakra state, as it costs you nothing (not even a GCD), and provides significant benefit.
- Holy Word: Serenity: remember when I said 5-tic renew was you most efficient single target? That was a lie. This is almost twice as efficient, and it significantly increases your crit chance on the target, making it an excellent way to respond to unexpected burst. This thing is like Holy Shock on crack. Not only is it easily your most efficient single target heal (really, this time), it also heals for significantly more than Heal, and can be used on the move. Simply put: use this on cooldown. It is nothing short of fantastic.
- Holy Word: Sanctuary: this is a bit of an oddball. It’s a terribly inefficient spell, and has pretty poor HPS. However, for the time it takes to cast, it returns a enormous amount of healing. It’s rare you will find a time where massive AoE and the ability to have everyone group up and stand still align, but when you do this is a very powerful tool. Also, sparkles.
So there you have it. Everything you will ever need to know about Holy! Ever! Oh, maybe something on gear and spec? Stats are pretty easy: Int > Spi > Mastery > Haste > Crit. You want to hit that 12.5% haste marker though, so value it the same as mastery until you reach that point. Reforge out of Crit, and pick up higher iLevel gear with more Int, even if it lacks Spi as a secondary stat (you should then reforge the less desirable secondary into Spi). For a spec, I use this, but there’s a fair amount of wiggle room. I recommend picking what you like, running a few dungeons, and then reevaluating your decisions. And of course of you want a more informed decision, visit some forums, like this one.