I wrote a guide on how to level as a lowbie discipline priest about a week ago, so check that out in case you're curious about that alternative, alot is similar between the two specs as well of course. I will point out, just as I did in that post, that this guide is for leveling priests which means it shouldn't be seen as a guide on how to gear/gem/play in endgame. I'll write a separate post on that some day!
What is holy all about then?
Holy priest is something I've played for years without getting bored. There is a reason for this of course, holy priest are loads of fun! I've tried healing as every other class and although it's a matter of taste of course, and alot will change in Cataclysm, I still think priest healing (both disc and holy) are among the most fun you can have in WoW. I've always had a sweet-tooth for holy healing. Holy priests hold the biggest toolset of heals available in the game, and I often get the feeling all the other healers have been designed with priests in mind. Generalizing you could say that resto shamans is all about chain heals, holydins all about Holy Lights, Discipline priests all about shielding and resto druids all about Rejuvenates and you wouldn't be very far from the truth. As a priest you have your spam-skill as well - renew - but on the other hand the other healing-tools aren't as disregarded as they often are among the other healing classes. Flash Heal, Circle of Healing, Prayer of Mending and even Prayer of Healing will all be skills you have to master to become a good holy healer. Unfortunately however, many of these skills are skills you won't get until later on in the game which means as a lowbie holy priest healing really is alot about spamming renews. On the other hand, this doesn't differ them anything from the other classes.
Already at low levels few other classes rival holy priests in the amount of different heals available to them. At level 30 you already have Shield, Lesser Heal, Heal, Renew and Prayer of Healing. This is only comparable to druids who have Rejuvenate, Healing Touch and Regrowth, and this ratio of healing skills among healing classes stays pretty much the same all the way up to 80 (but yeah, this will probably change in Cataclysm)! Point is, if you like many healing tools, holy priest definitely is a good choice.
When it comes to leveling a lowbie healer, there are some problems that are general for lowbie healers, and some that are more specific for priest healers. Let's take a look at these. Repeating some of what I mentioned in my post on Disc Healing, one big drawback of leveling as a healer is the mana issue. This is a problem for any healing class, but more for priests than for any other class. This is when questing mind you! Priest healers don't have more issues with mana in instances than any other healing class, in fact they're probably among the more mana efficient ones. But when questing, priests lack proper mana regaining tools for many, many levels. Shamans get Mana Spring and Water Shield, Druids get Innervate and Paladins have Blessing of Wisdom, Seal of Wisdom and Judgement of Wisdom. Priests on the other hand have... nothing. Until level 66 when we get Shadowfiend! So if you want to level as a holy priest, beware that it won't be a dance on roses. The problem of questing is rather specific for priest healers. All healers suck at questing, but priests definitely suck the most.
On the other hand, all the good tools for questing as a priest are in the holy tree, so if you want to quest as a healing priest, holy definitely is the way to go! I'll talk about talents a little bit further down.
There are some problems more general for lowbie healers overall however, and these apply to holy priests too of course. In fact the only healing class who isn't affected by these problems is the disc priest!
First of all, holy priest healing is very reactive. Because you lack any kind of instant heal (just as shamans and paladins) your reactions to healing in tricky situations have to be fairly fast. If the tank has made a massive pull you can't stop and think about what to do next, you have to do something and that fast! This can become rather troublesome, since tanks usually don't do much aggro when pulling mobs together which means you either have to wait till the tank has finished pulling to heal (and then he might be dangerously low on hp) or risk pulling aggro from him by throwing a heal mid-pull. This whole situation is much easier for a discipline priest who can throw a shield proactively! Not only that, a shield in many ways could count as an instant heal. Place a shield, sit back and relax. Relax is rarely something you can do as any other lowbie healer, you need to be fast on the ball. Holy priests -do- have the shield, and should use it in situations like these, but they can't use it nearly as effective as discipline priests. That would be silly because shielding is what disc priests are all about after all.
Another problem of lowbie healers, and maybe holy priests more than shamans/paladins, is the fact that our heals are too big! On my level 40ish priest, Greater Heal is my most mana efficient heal by far. But to be able to fully use it I have to wait for most tanks hp to drop below 50% hp, which isn't particularly comfortable. This means that eventhough GH is most mana efficient per se, most of it being constant overheals actually makes it less mana efficient than say a well placed Flash Heal. To use your skills most efficiently you have to learn when you can let the tank drop low enough to cast a slow Greater Heal, and when you have to use Flash Heal instead. As a discipline priest you only spam the shield, basically.
For questing you'll have talents like Divine Fury, Searing Light and Surge of Light to make things a little easier. Overall disc and holy priests use the same dps-rotation however;
Shield - Holy Fire - Smite, Smite - Holy Fire as soon as it is off cooldown - Smite whenever Holy Fire is on cooldown, and whenever it procs from Surge of Light - Wand mob to death the final percentages, or use Shadow Word:Death as a finisher (which you won't get until level 62 though).
So, to wrap it up!
- Many different heals to choose from keeps holy priest healing interesting
- The best aoe-heals
- Optimizing healing for the right situation makes for interesting healing! But having to do this could also be seen as a drawback.
- Horrible to quest with (although not as horrible as a discipline priest)
- Very reactive healing style (which doesn't differ from the other healing classes, except disc)
Because of the amount of different tools holy priests have, there is no easy way to say exactly how to handle a situation. But there are some pointers;
- Renew - Your most important heal. Always keep renew up on targets taking damage.
- Greater Heal - On any target who's taken enough damage for it to be effective, but make sure your target won't die while you're casting it!
- Flash Heal - On anyone who's taking too much damage for Renew too handle, and too fast damage for Greater Heal to handle.
- Prayer of Healing - If more than 3 targets are taking damage (and are standing close together).
- Holy Nova - Rarely mana effective enough, but could be used in case you want to top peoples hp off but PoH would be too big.
- Prayer of Mending - Once you get this it'll be one of your best heals. Only jumping once it's about as mana effective as a Flash Heal.
Gear & Stats
Spirit is a good stat for holy priests unlike discipline priests, but on lower levels most caster stats are good for any kind of caster. You won't be laughed at for gearing your shaman in spirit gear as a lowbie as you might be in endgame. And spirit will be good for any caster in Cataclysm since mp5 is removed!
You'll want to look for gear with (in no particular order);
Other stats that are ok are;
The ones you should take
- Improved Renew - Since renew will be one of your best heals and the bread and butter of holy healing, we should aim to take as many talents to improve it as possible, this is the first one.
- Holy Specialization - Extra crit on your heals synchs with alot of other talents, like Surge of Light, Inspiration and Holy Concentration.
- Divine Fury - Not a talent you'd want in endgame, but awesomer when questing and healing lowbie instances (where you still use Smite, Holy Fire, Heal and Greater Heal).
- Inspiration - Reducing physical damage on your targets hit by a critted heal by 10% is really nice.
- Improved Healing - Increased the mana effectiviness on some of you most used lowbie heals, but yet again this isn't a talent you'll spec in endgame.
- Holy Reach - Is great for questing! Later on it will also improve CoH (among others).
- Healing Prayers - Allows you to use Prayer of Healing more freely. PoH is usually a really expensive spell, so lowering its cost somewhat is nice, because when you want to use it you probably really need it.
- Spiritual Guidance - The more spirit you stack the better this talent becomes.
- Surge of Light - Great for both questing and instance healing, both to speed things up a bit and to conserve mana.
- Spiritual Healing - A plain and simple increase to our healing spells isn't something we'll say no to.
- Empowered Renew - A great way to make your renew even a little better.
- Circle of Healing - One of the best aoe-heals there is.
- Divine Providence - Yet another plain and simple increase to our healing.
- Guardian Spirit - One of the best healing cooldowns there is, combined with the Glyph of Guardian Spirit for further awesomeness.
- Twin Disciplines - Improves Renew, Circle of Healing and Prayer of Mending.
- Improved Power Word: Fortitude - Improves the best buff we've got.
- Improved Inner Fire - Is best ones Inner Fire provides spellpower (rank 8 level 71), but then it's pretty necessary.
- Meditation - Holy has more mana issues than discipline, so this is a rather important talent, which you unfortunately won't get your hands on until towards the end of your leveling.
The ones you could take - These talents are a matter of taste and playstyle
- Healing Focus - Reduced pushback on your heals could be the difference between wipe and no-wipe. But the situations you'll get into where this will be needed are (or should be) rather limited.
- Desperate Prayer - To quote myself from my disc post; "Many priests don't spec this, but I find it to be a great tool for survival. It's instant and it's a big heal, so it's like a personalized Nature's Swiftness+Healing Touch/Healing Wave macro! It has saved me -many- times when raiding, and I think it could be very useful when questing, or even instancing. You never know when you want a big instant heal on yourself."
- Spirit of Redemption - You're not supposed to die, so you shouldn't have to spec for it really. But on the other hand, you will die, so you might as well spec for it. For now it also gives 5% spirit, which is the reason priests still spec this, but this will be removed in Cataclysm. Spec it if you think it would be fun to be an angel when dying.
- Body & Soul - Great talent for endgame, and probably also for questing (for example you can remove poisons if you have this talent). For instance healing less useful and you might want to spend your talents elsewhere if you're going to focus in that.
- Empowered Healing - You won't have that much spellpower until endgame, so I'm not sure spending 5 tp into this talent will make enough of a difference to make it worth it.
- Serendipity - Rather useless in endgame, but probably alot more useful in instance healing. Besides if you followed my advice you should've specced alot of other talents that have improved Greater Heal. If you find yourself using Greater Heal alot this talent could well be worth speccing into.
- Test of Faith - If you don't like to spec into some of the above talents, this could be a good alternative.
- Inner Focus - Quite handy, and it's only one talent point! But some healers never find the proper usage for this talent and don't like it. You'll have to find out if you do.
There aren't that many good glyphs for the lowbie priest actually. None that improve Heal/Greater Heal for instance. But there are some others worth noting.
- Glyph of Renew - Changes the way Renew works, making each tick a bigger heal but the duration shorter. Could well be worth using, but that depends on your gear. If you already have alot of spellpower the ticks might become too big to be efficient.
- Glyph of Flash Heal - Reducing the cost on this skill isn't a bad idea.
- Glyph of Smite - In case you intend to quest alot
- Glyph of Guardian Spirit - Ones you get the talent, you should have the glyph, it's great.
- Glyph of Dispel Magic - Not an awesome glyph, but definitely not bad. Makes "wasting" mana on dispel a little easier.
Minors (same as disc)
- Glyph of Fortitude - Since you'll be casting alot of this spell, and it's rather expensive, this is a nice glyph to cut the cost somewhat. That way you won't stand oom when the tank does the first pulls.
- Glyph of Shadowfiend - Once you get this bugger, this glyph to improve him somewhat is nice.
- Glyph of Levitate - Removes the reagent cost from Levitate, which means you don't have to schlepp a bunch of Light Feathers around. And don't have to worry about accidentally being without one when you're falling towards the ground in 100 km/h.