Since the normal priest FAQ hasn't been updated for quite some time, I finally got off my lazy backside and decided to make a healing priest guide myself. Sticky or not, I'm going to bookmark it so that new players can be pointed to a solid read about the class. As a small disclaimer: this is not solely my work. In fact, I have cited many of the probably more knowledgeable priest players from these boards on numerous occasions. Also, keep in mind that none of this is law. A healing priest has the advantage of being able to spec into whatever he wants, as long as his assigned target stays alive. The specs given in this thread are the ones that probably make your life easiest, but if you want to play a holy/discipline hybrid, be my guest; it might even work well enough for raids.
That said, welcome to the ultimate healing priest guide.
Table of contents
A healing priest is a class fairly wanted in both PvE and PvP end-game. In PvE, healers are rare and therefore sought after. What you can expect as a PvE healer is to spend most of your time in the back of the raid next to the ranged DPS group. Some will say that playing a healer priest in end-game PvE means you spend most of the time watching green bars. While this is somewhat true, healing in PvE end-game is something you'll either like or dislike. Some simply prefer to be in the back and maintain a clear view of the situation, so to say. While the official Blizzard site states that tanks are usually the natural leaders of a group or raid, I find myself disagreeing. While a tank is the person to call the pulls, healers stand back and have a constant view on the hit points of the entire raid and what's going on, and can therefore direct everybody around as needed.
Aside from that, as a healing priest you will be expected to keep your raid alive, it's as simple as that. You will mostly be asked to focus either on a tank or on everybody else (raid healing), and can specialize in either through talents.
In PvP, DPS+healer teams have ruled the boards from the start and in fact still do so. Regardless of the class you play, end-game PvP usually has a higher phase than end-game raids. As a healer priest specifically, you will be generally running around a BG or arena, avoiding hits while keeping your teammates alive. You will be avoiding 'up close' situations, but will often be required to deal minor damage or mana burn the enemies healer.
Let's take a look at each race and their bonuses individually.
For PvE, Humans are hands down the best class for a healing priest. The 3% spirit bonus will be with you at every boss, all the time, unlike racials like Nature/Shadow/Frost resistance. On top of that, you'll have an easier time getting reputation with The Sons of Hodir and have a free PvP trinket in PvE. The second spot is reserved for Draenei; the Gift of the Naaru buff which has excellent scaling will also be with you all the time, at any boss. And while Heroic Presence might not benefit you, it can be useful for groupmates. On the third spot are the Dwarves. While most of their racials are useless to priests, Stoneform does allow for situational easy outs. Last but not least are the Night Elves. Shadowmeld is next to useless in PvE, and shamefully, it's the only thing they have to offer that can compete.
For PvP, Humans and Dwarves tie for the first spot. Dwarves would be the better if they had any other decent racials; while fairly good, Stoneform is literally the only thing Dwarves have to offer. While none of the Human racials are equally as good for a PvP-playing healer priest, they do have a steady arsenal of them. Night Elves follow in close pursuit since while unreliable, Shadowmeld can confuse opponents and buy you that extra bit of time you need. Draenei get an honorable last spot; Gift of the Naaru is next to useless in PvP, and all their other racials áre useless.
Overall the choices for horde healing priests are pretty slim, and for PvE the Blood Elf is probably the best race to play a priest as. 6% free mana is just that bit better than Berserking. Trolls come in second, having the small advantages of Regeneration and Da Voodoo Shuffle in PvE alongside the use of Berserking. Undead come last; Will of the Forsaken, Cannibalize and Shadow Resistance are all so situational that Undead isn't a race to go wild over.
For PvP on the other hand, Undead are on top of the board. While a silence is nice and so is casting speed, nothing beats a free PvP trinket (even if it's a little less versatile as the normal one). Even in WotLK, the Forsaken continue to top the charts racial-wise here. The Blood Elf probably comes second, with a combined silence and mana potion being just slightly more effective than -15% snare duration; Berserking is nice but not too noticeable.
Last but not least, a quick reminder. I'd just like to say that whatever you plan on doing, the racial differences are so small that you will generally not notice the difference between a Dwarf priest or a Troll priest. These racials only really matter if you want to get everything you can get out of your character, and if you plan on doing excessive high-end PvE or PvP. If you simply like the looks of a Blood Elf better than those of an Undead but want to PvP, just pick the Elf; in the end you're the one who has to watch the characters back through all his adventures.
Before going into this, I will need to explain the basics of Heal Per Mana, aka HPM. To be as efficient as possible, you will want to use the spells which heal the most for the lowest mana cost as often as possible. HPM is used to find out which of your spells it the most efficient. Quoting myself from The Priest Healing Mana Efficiency Thread here;
...Calculating the hpm for your characters heals is pretty easy; just cast a heal or 3 on yourself. Pick a number that seems avarage (for example, if you healed for 3432, 3687 and 3501, pick '3500'). Check how much mana the heal cast costs, and then divide the earlier picked number by the mana cost....
That said, let's look at the abilities we have at our disposal. Keep in mind the 'average' HPM mentioned means the HPM at level 80 in average heroic gear.
Flash Heal - Heals a friendly target for X to Y. 1.5 sec cast, 470 mana, 4 to 5 Average HPM.
Greater Heal - A slow casting spell that heals a single target for X. 3 sec cast, 825 mana, 5 to 8 average HPM (depending heavily on spec). Bested by only penance, Greater Heal is the main heal used by nearly all priests. Out of all steady single-target heals all priests have, it has the best HPM. When specced holy, this will be one of your most used spells. Keep in mind that in PvP, one won't use this one a lot. Even with the cast time lowered to 2.5 sec through talents, it's still a tricky spell to get off and it leaves you open to get your holy school locked down to abilities as Counterspell.
Penance - Launches a volley of holy light at the target, causing X Holy damage to an enemy, or Y healing to an ally every 1 sec for 2 sec. 618 mana, 11 to 12 average HPM, 8 to 10 sec cooldown.
Holy Nova - Causes an explosion of holy light around the caster, causing W to X Holy damage to all enemy targets within 10 yards and healing all party members within 10 yards for Y to Z. These effects cause no threat. Instant cast, 875 mana, 1 average HPM per person.
Renew - Heals the target for X over 15 sec. Instant cast, 657 mana, 7 to 9 average HPM.
Prayer of Mending - Places a spell on the target that heals them for X the next time they take damage. When the heal occurs, Prayer of Mending jumps to a raid member within 20 yards. Jumps up to 5 times and lasts 30 sec after each jump. This spell can only be placed on one target at a time. Instant cast, 5 average HPM per person, 10 sec cooldown.
Binding heal - Heals a friendly target and the caster for X to Y. Causes low threat. 1.5 sec cast, 1043 mana, 3 average HPM per person.
Desperate Prayer - Instantly heals the caster for X to Y. Instant cast, 802 mana, 6 to 7 average HPM, 2 min cooldown.
Prayer of Healing - A powerful prayer heals party members within 30 yards for X. 3 sec cast, 1854 mana, 2 to 4 average HPM per person (depending heavily on spec).
Power Word: Shield - Draws on the soul of the party member to shield them, absorbing X damage. Lasts 30 sec. While the shield holds, spellcasting will not be interrupted by damage. Once shielded, the target cannot be shielded again for 15 sec. Instant cast, 879 mana, 4 to 8 average HPM (depending heavily on spec), 4 sec cooldown.
Divine Hymn - You recite a Holy hymn, causing the closest 10 enemies within 15 yards to become incapacitated for 20 sec. and heals the closest 10 friendly targets within 15 yards for 348 every sec for 6 sec. Incapacitated enemies take 40% less damage while incapacitated and for 3 sec after the incapacitation ends. Damage caused may interrupt the effect on all incapacitated targets. 1.5 sec cast, 694 mana, 3 to 6 average HPM per person, 6 min cooldown.
Circle of Healing - Heals friendly target and that target's party members within 15 yards of the target for X to Y. Instant cast, 450 mana, 2 to 3 average HPM per person, 6 sec cooldown.
Guardian Spirit - Calls upon a guardian spirit to watch over the friendly target. The spirit increases the healing received by the target by 40%, and also prevents the target from dying by sacrificing itself. This sacrifice terminates the effect but heals the target of 50% of their maximum health. Lasts 10 sec. – Instant cast. – 207 mana. – 3 min cooldown.
Lightwell - Creates a Holy Lightwell. Members of your raid or party can click the Lightwell to restore 801 health over 6 sec. Attacks done to you equal to 30% of your total health will cancel the effect. Lightwell lasts for 3 min or 10 charges. 0.5 sec cast, 733 mana, 3 min cooldown.
Pain Suppression – Instantly reduces a friendly target's threat by 5%, reduces all damage taken by 40% and increases resistance to dispel mechanics by 65% for 8 seconds. Instant cast. 306 mana, 3 min cooldown.
Power Infusion - Infuses the target with power, increasing spell casting speed by 20% and reducing the mana cost of all spells by 20%. Lasts 15 sec. – Instant cast. 612 mana, 3 min cooldown.
Inner focus - When activated, reduces the mana cost of your next spell by 100% and increases its critical effect chance by 25% if it is capable of a critical effect. Instant cast. No mana cost, 3 min cooldown.
Discipline is for PvP, holy can't do anything else but raiding and shadow is purely for leveling and PvP.
Or at least, that's how it used to be before WotLK was released. The latest expansion has changed the way priests work quite a bit. For starters, the Surge of Light talent was changed. In addition to granting the priest a free instant Smite on a crit, the talent now also grants a free instant Flash Heal. Also, Holy Concentration was changed to work with crits, rather than having a small 4% chance on any spell, and Serendipity was added to the holy tree. In the disc tree, Rapture, Divine Aegis, Grace, Borrowed Time and Penance were added and effectively turned the discipline tree into something viable for raiding.
The changes in these trees have caused some kind of a split; with 51 points in discipline, you will mainly be a tank healer since you have Penance, the most efficient single target spell a priest possesses, at your disposal. Since the holy tree is mostly focused on area of effect healing, holy priests make for excellent raid healers. That's not to say they can't crossover, though. With semi-decent gear, a discipline priest can perform raid healing just fine, just as holy priests can get away with tank healing. Even in raids. Regardless, you generally want to stick with doing what you are specced for, since doing otherwise means you are simply throwing away talent points.
While you have to keep in mind that healing doesn't know ‘rotations' like DPS classes do, there are a couple of ‘rules' you should learn and follow while healing if you want to play more effective. While the parts up next should make a good foundation for becoming a good healer, always keep in mind that a truly good healer always looks for something extra; there are always niches, situations, possibilities where one heal is better than the other or where doing something different will give you more woosh for your bucks. If you want to excel at the priest class, be on the lookout for those moments at all times.
Quoting Teacake from the same thread here;
Quote: 1. Keep Renew up on the tank at all times. 2. Cast Prayer of Mending on the tank on the encounter every time it's off cooldown. 3. Cancel-cast Greater Heal, letting it land as needed. 4. Use Flash Heal for DPS who take damage, quicker heals on the tank, and every time Surge of Light procs. 5. For AOE damage, use Circle of Healing (instant, tops off 5 raid members, 6 with the glyph) and/or Prayer of Healing (longer cast time; heals for more but only the priest's own group; generally better for 5-mans). 6. Use Binding Heal when you take damage.
This is basically what you spend most of your time doing being holy priest in your average (heroic) instance. The only real difference between heroics and raids is that since you'll be a raid healer as holy, you'll barely be spending any time cancelcasting Greater Heal (more on cancelcasting in the ‘Priestly macros' section). You will be using Prayer of Mending a lot in raids, and Circle of Healing as well – the latter mainly when the raid is taking heavy AOE damage and you don't have time to throw down a Prayer of Healing.
Also, you'll rely somewhat on the '5 second rule' mentioned earlier in this guide. Quote from WoWwiki;
After a character expends mana in casting a spell, the effective amount of mana gained per tick from spirit-based regeneration is reduced (interrupted) for a period of 5 seconds. This is commonly referred to as the five second rule (FSR).
While the 5SR has become a lot less important in WotLK thanks to the addition of talents like Serendipity, a holy specialized priest still has a lot to do with it. Generally you will want to stay out of the 5SR whenever possible; to do this, the best technique at your disposal will be to heal everybody up and then stop casting. Since Inner Focus makes your next spell cast free of mana cost, a spell cast with Inner Focus up does not make you enter the 5SR. Therefore Inner Focus is often used to extend the period spend outside of the 5SR by using it to throw off a big heal to fill everybody up again, after which more time can be spend regenerating. Both this reliance on the 5SR and the Spiritual Guidance talent are also the main catalysts for determining how a holy priest gears. They focus on intellect and spirit foremost, then MP5 and crit (aiming for ~20% crit unbuffed is a nice number for holy priests). Spellpower is a more personal stat; while some find it equally as important as intellect and spirit, others do not feel the need to focus on it. While you will need a minimum amount at any point, see what works for you; you might find 1700 spellpower to be low for heroics while I am doing fine with 1300.
Last but not least, keep in mind Prayer of Mending is your friend. It's HPM rises up to obscene levels as a holy spec, and it automatically jumps to whoever needs healing the most. Though there are some exceptions, you will generally want to have a PoM jumping around at any time during a boss fight.
Discipline specced priests heal quite a lot different from holy priests. First and foremost, they have next to no reliance on the 5SR. The idea with a disc healer is that they stack loads of intellect first and foremost. More intellect means more mana, and more total mana means the effect Rapture has will be larger. Aside from intellect, crit is also extremely important for discipline priests, since a discipline priest will need crits to achieve the full effect from Rapture – and in addition to that, there's the Divine Aegis talent. After intellect and crit, discipline priests will be focusing on spellpower; while it is a somewhat personal stat (as it is for holy priests), disc priests rely a bit more on spellpower to have decent numbers on their heals so Divine Aegis has a larger effect and they will have an easier time dealing with bursts on the tank they're healing. Haste comes right after spellpower; while nothing you really need it's nice to have and it definitely benefits Penance. Last but not least, there's spirit and MP5. Discipline priests rely almost solely on Rapture to keep their mana up, and while spirit and MP5 are not horrible stats, they are far from as useful to disc priests as they are to holy priests.
This all (obviously) ties in with the way discipline priests heal; their primary aim in a raid should be to keep Grace and Weakened Soul up on the main tank which means they will not spend a lot of time outside the 5SR, making spirit somewhat obsolete. On the other hand there are usually a number of moments in a boss fight where the tank is on full HP and not taking any damage at all. At that point you can let Grace fall and regenerate for a bit until the tank needs another Penance to heal him up and get Grace back up to 3 stacks. Weakened Soul is kept up because Power Word: Shield is a pretty efficient ‘heal' thanks to Rapture while the ‘debuff' gives you a crit bonus on the tank thanks to Renewed Hope. Pain Suppression is used on bursts, or whenever the tank's health falls too low.
For raid (or mainly group) healing, Discipline priests rely on Power Word: Shield, Renew, Flash Heal and Prayer of Mending. Occasionally, you might want to use a Prayer of Healing, but since spells like these have such a long cast time and are so inefficient you'll want to avoid it; usually, you're better off just going past targets one by one and healing them up individually.
As a last note here; Disc healing is currently still under heavy discussion, and this is just one side of the story. Some players might disagree with me in for example keeping Weakened Soul up, so use what you can and avoid what doesn't work for you.
Perhaps the most important and most heavily discussed aspect of the whole game are the talents. Since the release of WotLK, along with talents come glyphs. Once more, keep in mind that especially talents are always under heavy discussion and especially for the priest class, a lot of variation is possible while remaining viable.
Basic PvE disc cookie cutter (no Divine Fury)
This is the most basic Discipline healing build. It relies on basic discipline spells like Penance and Power Word: Shield, and plays exactly like mentioned under the basic discipline healing tactics. Also, one point is left which can be put anywhere you prefer. Even though Silent Resolve is now pretty much useless in PvE (thanks to WotLK's new threat mechanics you shouldn't ever aggro at all), some priests decide to put their last point there. Others prefer picking up Desperate Prayer. It's all preference here. The reason improved Divine Spirit isn't included in this spec is because it does not stack with a restoration specced shaman's spellpower totems. It can however be picked up if you barely ever raid with a shaman. Good glyphs to go with this spec are obviously the Glyph of Power Word: Shield, the Glyph of Holy Nova to make up for the loss of AOE heals, and the Glyph of Flash Heal since this spec while usually use Flash Heal over Greater Heal.
As a little note, here is my own version of this build, which picks up Reflective shield, Desperate Prayer and Imp. Divine Spirit while dropping Enlightenment.
Basic PvE disc cookie cutter (with Divine Fury)
While the previous build takes Flash Heal over Greater Heal, the major difference with this one is that it picks up Divine Fury and uses Greater Heal over Flash Heal. They are pretty much completely the same, except for that one 'big' difference.
Anti-shield disc While a bit of an odd build, this one skips over all the talents enhancing PW:S in the discipline tree to pick up Improved Healing. It is specialized purely and solely for spamming Penance and Greater Heal on a tank to keep Grace up.
Basic PvP disc cookie cutter
While a lot of things can be thrown around in any PvP spec, this is mostly the basics. One of the more major changes would be to pick up Imp. Inner Fire; the reason it (alongside with Imp. Divine Spirit and Imp. Fortitude) is not included in this build is because Inner Fire can be dispelled.
Basic PvE holy cookie cutter
Meditation is still pretty much a must for every priest out there, which is the primary reason for the 14 points in the discipline tree. Aside from that, ‘nuff said I think. Glyphs that work well with this spec are the Glyph of Circle of Healing, the Glyph of Holy Nova and the Glyph of Prayer of Healing. The Glyph of Spirit of Redemption could work too, but when PvEing you will generally be avoiding death.
Basic PvE holy cookie cutter II
This is basically an alternate version of the holy cookie cutter spec, focused primarily on improving Circle of Healing, Prayer of Mending and Prayer of Healing above single target heals. This build allows for great synergy with classes/specs made for pure tank healing. As a small change to this build, points can be taken from for example Imp. Renew to fill out Holy Reach. This change works best when healing 25-mans, since distance often plays a larger role there than in 10-mans.
'Basic' PvP holy cookie cutter
While basically non-existent, I figured I had to give a go on a PvP holy spec here. It's not something I would recommend for any serious PvP, but it might be fun to play around with in a battleground. Looks like I've found a use for Blessed Resilience.
While some people are hesitant to use macros because of their allegedly high difficulty rating, some macros can be a great addition to a priests' arsenal and can greatly improve one's healing. I will not explain how macros work specifically here (just look for a macro guide if you're interested in that), but I will give a couple of macros that are of specific use to priests.
First, let me give a short explanation on what cancelcasting actually is. It basically means you create a macro that when pressed automatically cancels any spell currently being casted and immediately starts casting a (greater) heal. This macro is then used to ensure that the priest is constantly casting greater heal – upon about 0.5 seconds before the heal would normally land, the macro is pushed again, cancelling the heal that was being casted and starting up a new heal. This effectively allows a priest to be permanently casting so that the heal can actually be allowed to land when it's needed. Since you do not enter the 5SR until you actually launch the heal, cancelcasting is often used to keep out of the 5SR while keeping a heal on the tank close by. Like some will say; yes, it is possible you simply jump or walk to cancel a heal, but one should try a cancelcast macro to notice how much of a hassle that actually is. Also, not having to jump or walk saves time since a macro ensures you keep casting with barely any lag – if you jump, you will have to wait to land before you can start up another heal.
That said, here is the basic Greater Heal cancelcast macro:
/cast Greater Heal
#showtooltip [target=focus,harm]  Shackle Undead
/cast [target=focus] Shackle Undead
/s --== Shackling "%t"! ==--
An all in one macro for your Shackle Undead spell. What this macro does is shackle your current target and then set it to be your focus; a secondary click on the button will then automatically recast Shackle Undead on the same mob so you don't have switch targets to reapply shackle. The macro also announces the target you are shackling in /say. Alternatively, the /s in the last line can be changed to "/yell", "/p", "/raid", "/rw" as well to make the macro announce your shackle in the yell, party, raid or raid warning channels respectively. Last but not least, if your focus is dead or non-existent, the macro will clear your focus. If you have no idea what a focus is then don't fret; you will not be using it for anything else.
One of the simplest macros out there, all this one does is activate both your trinkets for bonus healing. Additionally, the /use 13 or /use 14 lines can be added in to for example the cancelcast macros so that your trinket will be used on a Greater Heal whenever it is off cooldown. I myself for example have my trinkets macro'd into Pain Supression and Innter Focus so that they will trigger whenever I use my emergency-situation-spells. Please note that you cannot insert two trinkets who share cooldowns here; doing so will result in only the first firing.
Last but not least, a collection of useful links for priests. I will start off by stating that for healing in raids, a priest generally needs an add-on like Healbot, Pitbull, or Grid. All three of these add-ons can be found here (just search for the mod you want on the site). A mod that can also be found on that site is ‘Decursive', one which will be of great help when dispelling magic and diseases. Another mod named PoMtracker might also be of use; it gives you a little frame that shows how much jumps your Prayer of Mending still has left, on who it currently is and how much healing it has done so far.
Additional handy links are;
|Parts of this page were originally written by mozared.|
|Wrath of the Lich King|