Table of Contents
II. Why Holy?
III. Holy Specs
IV. What is Chakra?
V. Holy Glyphs
VI. Stat Weights
VII. Stat Optimization
VIII. Raiding as a Holy Priest
IX. Mana Return
Hello and welcome to this Holy Priest guide for patch 4.3, which covers multiple aspects of playing a Holy Priest, primarily in a raiding environment. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or feedback (positive or negative), please feel free to comment or PM me.
Senke was the original author of this guide and has decided to pursue adventures outside of Azeroth. We wish him the best of luck exploring RL. A big thanks to Eldain from YARG on Rexxar, Kryo from Legions on Lightbringer, Jacelynn from Tupan Techno on Lightbringer, and many other Priests for helping put together this guide. Special thanks to Puddingcup for introducing anchor points, allowing the easy-to-use Table of Contents.
My goal with this guide is to present you with valuable information and let you draw your own conclusions. By no means is this guide the only thought on how to play a Holy Priest. However, it will offer insight on how some talented raiding Priests manage to pull off top parses and heavy progression in Hard Modes. It is my firm belief that pushing HM content rests solely on mastering the fundamentals, which this guide seeks to establish.
This guide is meant for new Priests. While experienced Priests may gain some insight from it, the target audience is those newer to the Priest class.
II. Why Holy?
The Holy healing spec offers a wide range of options to any dungeon or raid group. Holy excels at many aspects of both AoE and single target healing, with enough flexibility to do most any job in the raid. With Cataclysm, Holy got a much-needed revamp that helps make playing a Holy Priest more engaging for players.
III. Holy Specs
IMPORTANT: The talent below Chakra is Heavenly Voice. Online calculators have yet to update the image from State of Mind.
Red = Must have talents
Yellow = Optional talents
Green = Optional talents that are not generally taken due to the opportunity cost.
There is no one method for speccing Holy that outshines all other methods. The simple matter is that the best advice for speccing is to follow the tried and true talents and experiment with your own play style to see what talents help you the most. Ask yourself honest questions:
-Do I cast Renew often? If so, pick up Divine Touch.
-Do I need an 'Oh crap' button? If so, take Desperate Prayer.
-Do I heal in Chakra: Serenity or utilize single target heals often? If so, take Surge of Light.
There are even ways to legitimately take Evangelism/Archangel talents as Holy. Evangelism/Archangel as Holy is technically a healing loss. However, if the mechanics of the fight have low periods of damage where minimal healing is required, following by periods of intense damage, then Evangelism/Archangel can shine.
Play around, find what suits you, and go with it. The only thing that is important is that you tailor the spec to your playstyle and the fight mechanics.
There are a lot of optional talents for a Holy Priest to use. These talents, indicated in yellow in the above talent tree, are discussed here.
Surge of Light - Surge of Light is optional and can be useful in certain situations. Surge of Light is particularly useful when Chakra: Serenity is being utilized. Serenity Chakra is the stance of choice for 5 man dungeons and certain raid bosses. SoL is recommended for Priests running 5 man dungeons or working on raid encounters that utilize Serenity. It can also be useful if the Priest is casting direct heals while in Sanctuary Chakra; however, the points may be better suited elsewhere for AoE healing.
Divine Touch - Another optional talent. Some Holy Priests find that they are not utilizing Renew to invest points into this talent. This talent is a great investment for added throughput on Renew should the Priest find that s/he is casting Renew on a few targets. It is a worthwhile investment when utilizing both Serenity and Sanctuary Chakra – in Serenity Chakra one should apply Renew before using a direct heal and in Sanctuary Chakra Renew is not refreshed so reapplication is common.
Rapid Renewal - This talent is worthwhile if the Priest is using Renew with any regularity. While it does appear to imply “Renew spam,” the reality is that the reduced GCD affects any spell that is cast after Renew. So, for a single talent point you can get your next Prayer of Healing off that much quicker without having to stack Haste to lower the GCD.
Spirit of Redemption - This talent is lackluster and the point is better spent elsewhere. That being said, if the Priest is prone to death in 5 mans the talent does have utility. Spirit of Redemption is often specced into with the intention of the Priest dying at a certain point in a raid encounter to push out no-cost healing so that the fight can be downed.
Body and Soul - This talent, much like Desperate Prayer, is only as good as the Priest makes it. Some encounters, most notably the majority in DS, have very little movement and as such the Priest may not find B&S to be worth 2 talent points in. If the Priest deems B&S as a needed utility then it should be talented, otherwise the points can be placed in another portion of the Holy tree.
Blessed Resilience - Blessed Resilience is a good choice to take when raiding due to damage mechanics, especially in Heroic encounters. While no direct gain to throughput occurs, the Priest gains an increased chance at survivability through this talent and it will save lives in some cases. A good rule of thumb is that if you are having trouble staying alive during high damage fights due to high damage mechanics, this talent can be a very good investment. Also do not forget that talents like Blessed Resilience can allow the other healers to focus more on other raiders. Majordomo is a fantastic example of where this talent really shines. To get the most out of Blessed Resilience it is recommended that you track the buff and use it to your advantage with Desperate Prayer or Binding Heal.
Veiled Shadows - Veiled Shadows can be useful but is often overestimated. Initially you see a lower cooldown Shadowfiend as being a fantastic investment, however you must also consider the fight length when evaluating this talent.
Darkness - Darkness is a direct increase in throughput, and highly recommended. Even if you are a Holy Priest that focuses on Mastery over Haste, the Darkness talent can help you reach the 12.5% haste point, which would allow you to reforge to even more mastery. For the Holy Priests that stack Haste, then this talent is great to tack on more Haste.
IV. What is Chakra?
Chakra is a Cooldown that Holy Priests have which allows them to specialize in AoE, single target, or damage. To activate a Chakra, the Priest must first talent Chakra in the Holy tree, then follow the guide below.
a. Chakra: Serenity
Chakra: Serenity is a Holy Priest's single target healing increase. This is activated by casting Heal, Flash Heal, Binding Heal, or Greater Heal on a target (after using the Chakra CD of course). This Chakra:
- -Increases the Critical Strike chance of all direct heals by 10%.
-Refreshes the duration of Renew on the target when Heal, Flash Heal, Greater Heal, Holy Word: Serenity, or Binding Heal is cast on the renew-target.
-Holy Word: Serenity is an instant cast heal for 5198-6100 base and increases the Critical Strike chance by 25% for the next 6 seconds on any of your heals cast on target.
Chakra: Sanctuary is a Holy Priest's AoE healing increase. This is activated by casting Prayer of Mending or Prayer of Healing on a target (after using the Chakra CD). This Chakra:
- -Increases the healing done by AoE heals and Renew by 15%
-Decreases the CD of CoH by 2 seconds
-Holy Word: Sanctuary is a ground-based healing circle which heals for 299 to 355 every 2 sec for 18 sec.
- For most of Cataclysm, this spell has been affected by diminishing returns after 6+ targets are in the circle. Please note that currently, the spell is *not* suffering DR. It is unconfirmed whether or not this is an intentional change. With no DR, the healing of HW: Sanc is significationly boosted, especially in 25man raids, when everyone is stacked up.
Chakra: Chastise is a Holy Priest's damage increase. This is activated by casting Smite or Mind Spike on an enemy target (after using the Chakra CD): This Chakra:
- -Increases Shadow and Holy damage by 15%
-Holy Word: Chastise is a disorient that affects a target for 3 seconds.
V. Holy Glyphs
Note: ** = recommended
Glyphs for Holy are much akin to Specs for Holy. They are largely interchangeable depending on fight mechanics. The only glyphs that truly outshine others are marked with **’s.
VI. Stat Weights
There are two different ways to gear for Holy in regards to secondary stats.
Reforging to favor Haste - provides HPS only
Intellect > Spirit > Haste > Mastery > Critical
Reforging to favor Mastery - provides HPS and HPM
Intellect > Spirit > Haste (to set value*) > Mastery > excess Haste > Critical
*While the typical stopping point for Haste** in this build is 12.5%, the Priest can also choose to build Haste to a high enough rating so as to lower the cast time of Prayer of Healing/Greater Heal to a desired value. For example, ~1300 Haste rating with 3/3 Darkness and 5% Haste from party/raid buffs yields a PoH/GH cast of 2.1 seconds.
What does 12.5% Haste mean to a Holy Priest? - 12.5% is the value at which Renew, Divine Hymn, and Hymn of Hope gain an additional tick. It is in the Priest's best interest to reach this Haste threshold at the bare minimum.
** See MATH section at end of guide for Renew Haste caps
There is a split in the Priest community at the moment between what is more valuable on the whole: Haste or Mastery. The short answer is that you can take either route and see roughly the same throughput.
For the sake of discussion, the argument for Haste is simply that it lowers the GCD and lowers cast time on spells. This allows you to burst-heal damage more quickly, potentially preventing deaths. The main drawback to this argument is that it increases your mana consumption. The argument for Mastery is that it provides mana-free throughput. The drawback is that the throughput is a HoT that gets "sniped" a lot, and you do not get any marginal benefit from lowering the GCD or cast times. At current gear levels, the stats are roughly equal in throughput gained after you hit the 12.5% Haste level.
VII. Stat Optimization
There are a few ways to optimize your stats. This is a more advanced approach to making sure you are geared correctly. If you are new to healing as a Holy Priest, I advise you focus first on getting the basics down; What spells do what, how to master spell use in situations, and then later focus on the more advanced features such as optimizing your stats, mana conservation and max HPS output. This is just a personal thought, so if you're willing to jump right into Priest theorycrafting, go for it.
Some Priests like to use AskMrRobot. Initially the stat weights are set up the same as mine. It is a fairly simple tool that shows you how to Reforge/Gem/Enchant your character to reach maximum stat efficiency, given the parameters you set or you let it set.
Note: It is best not to take the default values on optimization websites at face value. Make sure you are using the stat weights you want - if you prefer Haste over Mastery, don't use the default setting that places Mastery over Haste.
VIII. Raiding as a Holy Priest
This is a big topic that will be split up into two categories: Throughput and Utility.
- Holy Priests excel at raid healing and generally stay in Chakra: Sanctuary. Paladins, Shamans, Druids, and Disc Priests have a better toolkit for tank healing. This should not deter you from helping tank heals when required, but it will likely not be your main job. This also does not serve as a "Get Out of Jail Free Card" for when your raid leader tells you to heal the tank! You are capable of tank healing, other healers are just a more optimal choice.
-Spells to cast on CD, or close to it: CoH and PoM. The main reason behind casting these spells more frequently is that they are low cost heals that are 'smart', i.e. they will heal the lowest targets in the raid first. With AoE healing such as CoH, it all comes down to whether you know AoE is coming or now. If you know it is coming, queue a PoH and jump into a CoH right after that finishes. If you do not know it is coming or are surprised by it (i.e. Magmatron's shield breaking), CoH will have to be used in a reactive manner. PoM is a tricky spell because it often 'dies' on a raider. It will jump through a few targets and then sit on the next one for its duration because that target never takes damage. Many Priests like cast PoM on a tank when it comes off cooldown. This invokes the PoM glyph more often which increases the first heal by 60%. Other Priests like to cast PoM and use an addon to track when all of the charges have been used. Using PoM on cooldown will likely increase your healing output, however it will also increase your mana consumption rate.
-PoH is one of our best spells. If it is a heavy aoe damage phase, such as Maloriak’s Red Cauldron phase, PoH is indispensable for AoE healing. Never forget that there are other healers in the raid though. If there is only a small amount of damage to aoe heal, you may be better off not using PoH and conserving your mana for later phases of the fight. If all the players in a group do not require healing, you may want to consider using Heal, Renew, or even waiting for CoH to come off cooldown.
-Do not ignore Heal, Binding Heal, Flash Heal, or Greater Heal simply because you are in a raid. Most Holy specs include Serendipity, which increases the cast speed and reduces the cost of the next PoH or Greater Heal when you cast Flash Heal or Binding Heal. Combo this in interesting ways! If someone is in danger of dying, you can hit them with a FH/BH and have a stack of Serendipity ready for when you need to cast PoH or GH.
-Use CDs as told. Some guilds are very specific on when they want CDs and the tanks will call for them. Talk with your tank and figure out when he/she wants the CDs. Some guilds are less specific and allow you to free-form. Find points in the fight where damage is severe on a tank and you know they have no CDs available. Use it then! Guardian Spirit (GS) is not solely reserved for tanks, but always keep them in mind as the best use of it. There are times when GS is used on targets not tanking, but that is either for a specific strategy or for a ‘Save-me!’ moment.
-The only okay time to not cast is when you are moving for fight mechanics- even than, you have options such as PoM, Renew, Circle of Healing, and PW: Shield. If nothing else, chain Heals on the tank or Smite/Holy Fire the boss when there is nothing to heal. This cannot be stressed enough. Many people are often surprised to see how many Heals/Smites I cast over the course of a fight as Holy. Even in hard modes, there are lulls in damage where you can either use Heal or contribute a little damage via Smite/Holyfire. Have you ever had a 1% wipe? Imagine if each healer in your raid contributed a little dps during periods of low incoming damage.
Alternatively, you could also precast a PoH for incoming AoE damage or roll Renews on people that will be taking damage. The main point is that you can always be doing something.
-Lightwell is arguably the best heal in the game at the moment in a pure healing per mana cost argument. It adds a HoT when clicked that heals for a lot but will break if the recipient takes more than 30% of their health in one hit. The main challenge to Lightwell is getting people to use it. Lightwell has a 20 yard clickable range and does not change targets when it is clicked. This makes it more ideal for raiders to use without costing any dps or healing. The main drawback is that it forces people to actively click it, so as a Holy Priest you may want to let your raid know it has been dropped, and/or remind them to use it for damage. Lightwell is only as useful as your raid makes it.
-If you have kept Body and Soul in your Spec, use it! Body and Soul is only as valuable as you make it. It is extremely worthwhile on kiting elements such as Atramedes' laser in Air Phase, or when anyone needs to get somewhere fast (a tank getting to the ledge during Conclave, etc). Body and Soul saves lives.
-Life Grip is just like Body and Soul. Use this proactively to help your friends out and you will be loved. Common uses include Life Gripping a tank away from a boss when they need to get away. Life Gripping a melee DPS to a boss so they can DPS more. Life Gripping someone out of fire or even Life Gripping someone who has disconnected. The uses are limitless!
-Divine Hymn (DH) is the Holy Priest's raid cooldown. Make sure prior to using DH you enter Chakra: Sanctuary to further increase the potency of this heal. Divine Hymn is very mana efficient, increases the healing done to the affected targets by 10%, and most importantly, it is a smart heal. The smart-heal compoent is key.
-Lastly, the #1 increase to healing is staying alive. Keep your own survivability high on any fight and you will be better at keeping other people alive too.
IX. Mana Return
As Holy Priests, there are 3 main abilities we have which can replenish our mana:
a. Regen Abilities
1) Improved Holy Concentration talent: Increases mana regeneration from Spirit by an additional 15%/30% while casting (base 30%).
Basically, this is our passive mana gain through Spirit. You absolutely have to talent this fully.
2) Hymn of Hope: Restores 2% mana to 3 nearby low mana friendly party or raid targets every 2 sec for 8 sec, and increases their total maximum mana by 15% for 8 sec. Maximum of 12 mana restores. Cooldown is 6 minutes.
This is our longer-CD raid-wide mana return. This does not provide a huge amount of mana back itself, but it does increase your mana pool by 15% for 8 seconds. Hymn of Hope DOES stack. If you can get multiple Priests to cast this at the same time, you will receive a much greater benefit. Be warned though, if you have multiple healing Priests channeling HoH at the same time, it can hurt the raid if the other healers get behind on healing. Sometimes to allieviate this, we like to ask our Shadow Priests to HoH with us and the healing Priests stagger their HoH.
3) Shadowfiend: Creates a shadowy fiend to attack the target. Caster receives 3% mana when the Shadowfiend attacks. Damage taken by area of effect attacks is reduced. Lasts 15 sec. Cooldown is 5 minutes, reduced to 4 minutes if talented.
This is our friendly, albeit mentally challenged little buddy.
4) There are also optional ways to restore mana:
-Arcane Torrent for Blood Elves
b. Using Mana Return
So let us get down to the dirty management of mana return ability usage. Please note that there is no easy way out with guides here. Every fight is different and asks for a different use of mana.
Our abilities work symbiotically. Shadowfiend, mana restore per % base mana trinkets, and Arcane Torrent all work the same way - they return mana based on a % of base mana. This means that if your base mana is increased, even temporarily, they will return more mana accordingly. This is how many priests chain a Hymn of Hope with Shadowfiend / trinkets / AT to great effect.
Let us simply break it down into fight lengths.
If a fight is > 6 minutes in length, you will be able to use Shadowfiend twice at least. Many Priests follow this model:
1) Use mana for 40 seconds. If no one needs healing, contribute a little damage via Smite/Holy Fire.
2) Pop a Shadowfiend and trinkets/Arcane Torrent (if applicable) 40 seconds into the fight.
3) Resume healing as needed, saving your potion if you are really low.
4) At ~4:40, you can pop a Shadowfiend and immediately start channeling a Hymn of Hope. Use trinkets / AT again after wards.
If a fight is < 6 minutes in length, you will probably only use Shadowfiend once. This model may be more ideal when Shadowfiend can only be used once:
1) Use trinkets / AT 30-40 seconds into the fight. Use them on CD after this.
2) At 30% mana, pop a Shadowfiend and immediately start channeling a Hymn of Hope. Use trinkets / AT again after wards.
3) Use a potion in an emergency situation.
4) If you are OOMing hard or even another healer is, pop that Hymn of Hope. Generally on really short fights, you can ignore Hymning because your raid will not be in danger of OOMing. This is not always the case so be vigilant with it.
For outlier fights that are extraordinarily short, you will probably only need to use your trinkets / AT / Shadowfiend. Hymn can be ignored as it takes you out of healing for 12 seconds.
For outlier fights that are extraordinarily long, you will be able to get more uses out of everything. Plan your use of mana return abilities accordingly to maximize mana returns to keep throughput constant.
Red Socket: / or JC only:
Yellow Socket: / or /
Blue Socket: /
Intellect is our best stat, so we want to generally gain bonuses to Intellect primarily through gemming it as well as retaining socket bonuses (unless the bonus is Crit Rating).
These Enchants are largely considered the best enchants possible for a Holy Priest. There is wiggle room on some, but for the most part follow this guide and it will steer you correctly.
Arcanum of Hyjal
Greater Inscription of Charged Lodestone
Felfire Inscription - Scribes only
Enchant Cloak: Greater Intellect
Lightweave Embroidery - Tailors only
Darkglow Embroidery - Tailors only
Enchant Chest: Peerless Stats
Enchant Bracer: Mighty Intellect
Enchant Weapon: Power Torrent - throughput
Enchant Weapon: Heartsong - regen
Enchant Off-Hand: Superior Intellect
Enchant Gloves: Greater Mastery
Enchant Gloves: Haste
Ebonsteel Belt Buckle
Powerful Ghostly Spellthread
Enchant Boots: Lavawalker
Enchant Ring: Intellect - Enchanter only
This math is courtesy of the number-crunchers over at Elitist Jerks. I take no credit for this.
a. Haste Values for Renew
- Code: Select all
Condition 50% (GCD) 37.5% (Renew x 6) 12.5% (Renew x 5)
85 6402.9 4802.3 1601.1
85, 1/3 6212.7 4627.9 1458.4
85, 2/3 6026.2 4457.0 1318.6
85, 3/3 5843.4 4289.4 1181.5
85, 5% 5488.2 3963.8 915.0
85, 5%, 1/3 5307.0 3797.8 779.2
85, 5%, 2/3 5129.5 3635.0 646.0
85, 5%, 3/3 4955.3 3475.4 515.4
5% = The 5% haste buff that Shadow Priests, Moonkins, and Shamans provide.
1/2/3 = Number of talent points invested in Darkness.
b. Holy Priest Spell HPM
Click me to see Ardoris' HPM breakdowns
See a portion of this guide that you want expanded?
Find an factual error in numbers, etc?
Have suggestions for how to improve the guide?
You're in luck. Post a comment with any way you think this guide can be improved. I'm constantly editing it for more information and better explained theories. I may or may not follow your advice, but I will try to give you a rational response either way!
01/02/2012 - Revamped talent section to reflect the changes to the Holy tree in 4.3. Fixed archaic wording of the various Chakra states to current names.
01/16/2012 - Bit of reordering of sections and cosmetic changes. Updated Stats section to read easier. Fixed a few more archaic Holy Priest concepts.