Considering I main a healing priest, and enjoy that role the most in end-game and raiding content, I've written very little about it. Sure, most of my reflections on how to fight different bosses are from a healers perspective. But there is remarkably little about the class and role itself. Why is this?
On my guild forums I've written quite an extensive guide on how to become an imba priest. I've had plans on translating it (because it is currently in swedish) but the problem is things change. What is awesome and definitely right one day, will be all wrong the next day. Updating a post on a forum every now and then is easier than writing a new post about it on a blog, or so I felt. But, I haven't abandoned the thought yet, so it might still happen.
I've also planned to do a little "how to level"-guide, sorta like I'm doing with tank warrior at the moment (which can be found here --> http://jinxedthought.blogspot.com/2010/01/how-to-warrior-tank-level-15-29.html <--). I found a little priest lying around on a server and thought I could use it for this. Something for the near future.
But until I get started with those more elaborate guides, I thought I'd delve into more specific details about healing as a priest. And for this particular post I thought we'd look at Greater Heal and it's place in the arsenal of a priest.
Greater Heal... ahh. It has gone from being the number one spell to use (back in BC) to becoming a spell with some really specific areas of usage. So specific in fact that most say they don't want to use it at all. Let's see why that is?
I remember back in BC when I healed Karazhand and ZA (never did the 25man instances then). Back then Greater Heal was among the only spells to use. Discipline wasn't even a viable raid healing spec. Most other spells, like Flash Heal and the like weren't mana effective enough. This was because back then you could still downrank spells. With enough spellpower you could use a low ranked spell which would cost very little mana but still heal alot. This was a trick holy paladins had used for ages, and other classes started looking into. If I remember correctly, Greater Heal rank 4 was the best spell to use, when thinking about mana efficiency. I also think it had a shorter cast time so that it, with the right talents, was what Flash Heal is today. A fast and relatively big heal, to a low cost.
But then came Wotlk and Blizzard took the downranking by the horns for real. They simply made all spells cost basemana instead of a fixed number, which means rank 1 and rank 15 cost the same amount of mana. There was no longer any benefit at all from downranking a spell. Every healer had to redo all their healing bars and any thought they had about what spell was the best to use in what situation. I don't think any healer thought this was a bad change however, at least I didn't and I've never heard anyone complain. That a lower rank than the highest would be the best to use seems odd, and I am glad they changed that frankly.
However, this change left Greater Heal in the dust. Suddenly, instead of a cheap, fairly fast and big spell, you had an expensive and slow spell. Still big, but too big. Priest healers had to look elsewhere for that nifty spell and dug out Flash Heal. Back in BC Flash Heal was just too small and expensive to be useful. Now in Wotlk it became eveything Greater Heal had been. So has Greater Heal been sacked for good? Is there no use for it whatsoever? No, it still has its benefits, but unfortunately, more drawbacks. Let's take a closer look.
When leveling a priest this will still be among the best spells to use. Up until approximately level 80 it's still great. The problems arise as you get better and better gear (i.e. more spellpower) and/or start raiding. Greater Heal is a relatively slow and big heal, not unlike the druids Healing Touch (which isn't used by druids either except with Nature's Swiftness). This means it is great for when you can anticipate a big blow on the tank, and start casting a Greater Heal preventively. If you start casting Greater Heal when the tank is already low and taking alot of damage, the risk is great he'll be dead before it lands. Casting it for minor damage is a waste since it will greatly overheal. Greater Heal is therefore mostly useful when instancing, where you as a healer have a good understanding of how much damage the tank will take at any given moment. Greater Heal isn't for "damn I have to do something about this fast"-situations, it needs alot of planning to use. That is one reason to why no one likes it for raiding.
Another issue is the fact that when raiding, you'll probably have at least one or two other healers in the group. In a 25man even more. This means someone else might heal your target while you're casting that Greater Heal, making most of your own heal a useless overheal. Besides, classes like paladins and even shamans have way better big-heals than priests, and the mana to spam them. Greater Heal is only a less good version of Holy Light or Healing Wave. A priest spamming Greater Heal everywhere, no matter their imba mana-regen and talents, will oom fairly fast.
I've tried a Greater Heal spec, with Divine Fury and Serendipity talents to shorten the cast time. It isn't awful, but I realized I still ended up using Greater Heal too seldom to make it worth all those talents. Heck even Lightwell is better then (I love Lightwell though).
And thirdmost, people don't bring a holy priest for those big heals anymore. Like I said, paladins do that way better (and shamans to some extent). When you pick a holy priest it's for the aoe-healing. No one in their right mind would ever pick a holy priest for tank-healing-duty (unless holy priests was all there was or the option was a druid). Discipline is the single-target-nuke-heal spec for priests, but holy is all about the aoe-healing. With spells like Circle of Healing, talents to buff Prayer of Mending, Renew and Prayer of Healing, having a holy priest cast Greater Heals is a waste of their potential.
So where does this leave Greater Heal in the end? A great spell for lower levels, and decent for when solohealing (even in raids ;)), but completely outmatched by other classes' spells and the holy priests own potential as an aoe-healer in end-game. It is not worth the talents, and nearly useless without them, sorry Greater Heal! As far as I see it now, there is little room for Greater Heal for a raiding priest.
(I've talked alot about using Flash Heal instead of Greater Heal in raids, but that is only true to some extent. Perhaps next time I will go through when Flash Heal is usefull!)