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How To Play A Holy Priest?

So you want to be the groups saviour? You don't feel the need to do massive DPS or control the pace of the fight as a tank? Good for you! We need more healers out there!

Playing any healer can be a lot of fun if you are into being a support player. Be prepared for the role though as many players just can not sit back and not be directly involved in combat or damage dealing. As with playing any other healing class, you need to understand that while you rarely do anything to the enemy, you allow or enable your group to survive to do damage. This is not something everyone can cope with, so be warned.

If this is the type of character you want to play though, there are few better than a priest. Priests have huge heals, heal over times (HoTs), instant heals, area of effect and group heals, shields and more. As if all your healing ability was not enough, you also have several utility spells, such as mind control and fear. Using all your abilities to the fullest will guarantee you invites to many groups over and over again.

Gear

Gear for healing is fairly easy to get and your main concerns should be +Healing, Intellegence, +Mana per 5 sec (+mp5) and Spirit. Luckily all of these come in at least pairs on most healing items you will find.

Intellegence and +Healing are by far the most important stats as they will allow you to cast more effective heals over a longer time that the other stats. To be truly effective you should aim to have at least a mana pool of 7000 and +1000 healing by level 70. If you focus on these stats you will also gain +Mana per 5 sec, Stamina and Spirit as they are common on all the gear that has the other stats. While stamina is important so that you can take a hit, you will likely get enough while focussing on the other abilities that you will not have to hunt it out on your own. The same holds true for spirit and as long as you get some, you will be ok.

The exception to the above is if you are either PvP healing or raid healing. In PvP healing you can almost completely ignore spirit and +Mp5 as the fights will generally not be long enough to require it. However, in PvP you will need to focus much more on stamina and resiliance to be able to take hits. If you are raid healing as long as you have enough stamina to absorb AoE and unavoidable damage, your end up spending alot of effort on +mp5 and +spirit gear so that you have enough mana regen to last for long fights.

Talents

As a holy priest, you will be spending the majority of your talent points in the holy and discipline trees. While many players are drawn to the holy tree and tend to focus all their points there, remember the discipline tree as well. There are many great talents to draw from in both trees that will raise the amount you can heal, your efficiency, your mana pool and your mana regen rate. In general holy increase the amount you heal and its efficiency, while discipline focuses on mana and its regeneration.

You can find a full list of all the talents and make your own decision on which ones are for you in our Priest Talent guide.

To find several holy and discipline based priest builds or to submit your own, visit our wiki in the priest build section.

Healing Priority and Mana Managment

Ok, you have the gear, you have specced holy, now what?  Head out there and find a group to adventure with, what else! As a holy based priest you should be spending most of your time in a group since you solo about as well as a level 1 gnome. Once in a group and adventuring, though the most important thing to understand is healing priority and mana management. This is something that ALL healers regardless of class need to learn and what truly seperates the good healers from the bad. The two things can sometimes be viewed individually, but are best thought of as a pair at all times. Ok, so what are they?

Healing Priority - The order in which you will heal people, or in extreme cases allow them to die.

Mana Management - Managing your mana so that you can heal for as long as possible. This can tie into healing in bursts and then resting, or just healing key people and forcing others to bandage, etc.

Now that you know what they are, how do you use that knowedge? The first part is establishing your healing priority and sticking to it. In a standard 5 man instance group you will have something like this for group composition: Tank, Healer, AOE DPS, DPS, Misc. In most cases, this list is also your healing priority list. Ussually your tank is the most important person to keep up with yourself being immediatly next in line, it then rolls down to AOE DPS or DPS depending on the instance and then the miscellaneous person in the group. This will change based on individual situations but is the general rule.

The last part of healing priority is making sure that you know when to keep people up, and when to let them die. This is basically exceptions to the above order. There are situations such as the Mage or Warlock are doing mass AOE against a group that needs to die, or a single MOB being left at low health and a last heal being available for the tank or DPS (where DPS would be more likely to be able to kill them), or any number of other specialized situations. While it is important to stick to the priority as much as possible, you should learn to recognize when exceptions to it are important as well.

Mana management is managing the amount you heal in a fight. Sure it's possible to heal everyone as soon as they take damage and even to keep everyone at 100% health, but why and for how long? If the tank is taking most of the damage and everyone else is just taking collateral damage from things, why heal them at all, unless they are below 50% health? If players are pulling aggro just because they know you will heal them, stop, make them learn aggro management. If everyone is above 80% why cast small heals, wait a while and regenerate some mana.

Part of mana management is also worrying about how big of a heal is needed and how much mana that heal will cost. Is it better to cast many small heals, or wait until the player is lower in life and cast one big heal? Since big heals are generally more mana efficient, it is generally better to wait and cast a bigger heal. This is not alway practical though, so you need to learn to judge.

The last part of mana management is to look at how far down the healing priority list to actaully heal, and by how much. At times someone way down that list will be at 30% health and you could get them to full health with a big heal or 60% health with a small heal at less than 1/2 the cost and 1/2 the time. You need to learn to manage those situations and realize that full health is not always needed (despite everyone being damaged always calling for a full heal).

Mana Efficiency

Now that you know the order you should heal players, how to you make sure you have mana for everything? Which heals should you use when and why? The main heals that you will use are going to be flash heal, greater heal and renew. While you will use the others, these three form the core and will therefore be looked at as your primaries to discuss efficiency with.

Lets start with a definition of mana efficiency. It is how many health points the heal will restore per point of mana the heal costs. As an example, a heal that costs 250 mana and heals the target for 1000 health would be said to have a mana efficiency of 4hp/mana, since it restore 4 health per point of mana that you spent casting it. Obviously the bigger the number the better. Sometimes you need to make choices though as the most mana efficient spells generally come at the cost of casting time, which you will not always have.

Flash Heal - This is your fast casting heal. While it casts very quickly it comes at a cost. It restores 2.5hp/mana base and a slightly better 2.8hp/mana when you have the proper healing talent build.

Renew - This is your instant cast heal over time heal. While it provides a lowly 2.5hp/mana, but when you have the proper talents can provide up to 3.4hp/mana. If you have all the right talents it becomes a very mana efficient heal, assuming you have the time to wait for it to fully effect the target.

Greater Heal - This is your long casting time heal, that can heal for huge amounts. It is also your most mana efficient healing spell at a base of 3.1hp/mana and up to 4.1hp/mana with the proper talents.

The above is just a base look at healing efficiency though. There are many factors that change and enhance your healing, for example Flash Heal only benefits from 43% of your +healing, Greater Heal gets 86% of it, and Renew gets 100% of it. So while these base numbers provide some information, the situation you are healing in always needs to be thought about. Can you take the time it requires to get mana efficiency of a greater heal, or do you even need that much healing?

+Healing Coefficent

Just as important as the heal you choose, the stats or the ability bonuses that you have, is understanding the coefficient in which the +healing applied to your spells. As stated in the basics section of our priest guide the full value of your +healing or +damage is not added, each spell has a coefficient that gets multiplied by your total +healing to determine the amount added. To find out how much of your +healing will be added to each spell multiply the coefficient in the table below by your +healing bonus.

Priest + Healing Coefficients
Spell
Coefficient
Binding Heal
42.9%
Circle of Healing
24.1%
Flash Heal
42.9%
Greater Heal
85.7%
Holy Nova
16%
Prayer of Healing
42.9%
Prayer of Mending
42.9%
Power Word: Shield
30%
Renew
100%
Lightwell
100%

Things to Remember

  • Stick to healing priority no matter how much some players complain, explain what you are doing and why and ask them to manage their aggro better so that they will not need heals.
  • You can not keep anyone one up if you are dead, ensure you watch your own health bar too.
  • Never shield a tank since it will cause them to drop aggro!
  • When healing a large number of people either use your renew or a group heal.
  • It is critical to keep buffs up on everyone in the group.
  • Remember you can fear MOBs off of you if you are really stuck, just be cautious of your position as if you do this too close to other MOBS it may aggro them.
  • Remember all the heals you have and use them appropriately.
  • You are a Healer, a critical member of a group. You don't need to put up with crap, if the group is bad or bossy, leave.
   
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