There’s no denying that both leveling and gear acquisition has become drastically easier over the years. It’s become the norm for most players to have one or many alts – hell, I’ve got 6 80s myself (4 of them healers *flex*) . With BoA gear and the RaF program, I have friends that swore they would never play an alt, much less a healer, coming up to us the second they hit 80 on their priest and asking what they should do now. Really, the answer to that question can be simple or complicated, but who likes simple? NOT ME!!! So I’ll try to lay out the basics, and try to provide some guidelines based on what I’ve learned over the years.
Remember– there’s a million different ways to answer these questions based on gear, raid make up, raid content and playing ability, but I’m writing this for the newbies so I’m trying to keep it simple. I’m also staying away from in depth mechanics explanations right now – I’ll expand on things like how mana regeneration works in a future blog; again, keeping it simple. So, first thing’s first:
1) PICK A SPEC:
Discipline or holy? Discipline is a very strong single target healer that uses mitigation (shields) in conjunction with healing. Holy is a very strong AOE raid healer, capable of hitting many players at once with large amounts of healing (please note that both specs can do both roles, but we’re keeping it simple here). Evaluate what you will be doing: Do you plan on doing alt raids with your guild? Will you be mainly sticking to 5 mans? I’m a big fan of Disc in 5 mans – you have strong, quick single target heals, the ability to shield your group, and even some good group healing, using a shield to proc your borrowed time and pop off a fast Prayer of Healing.
A good starter 5 man Disc build would look something like this: Most of your Disc staples are taken, as well as Focused Will to compensate for the low crit levels of a recent 80 – it’s up to you it take it or not later as your gear improves. If you won’t be spending much time in raids &/or you choose to utilize Gheal (something I personally don’t support as a raiding disc without huge haste levels) replace the 5 points in Spell Warding for Divine Fury. Keep your target shielded (add the ‘weakened soul” debuff to your raid frames), and don’t forget about your Prayer of Mending (PoM) – it’s a powerful spell for both disc and holy, and you should use it every time it’s off cooldown! You also want to make sure you are maximizing your Divine Aegis time on your target(s) – a huge benefit of a disc priest. If you plan on attempting raids, I recommend putting those 2 points in Improved Healing and adjusting to this raiding spec.
Now if you want to heal as holy, you have many more options, as this is much more customizable. If you still will be focusing on 5 man groups or 10 man regular runs, I suggest “the Gheal spec”. Now if you’re reading this, you know how Derevka and I feel about Gheal as holy – we think it’s silly. But the content we’re doing is vastly different than what the recent 80 will be doing, so it has its uses here. Make sure you’re keeping a full stack of Serendipity up at all times with Flash or Binding heal so you can quickly rip off that gheal. However, if you plan on focusing more on 25 man runs, I suggest focusing on a pure aoe raid healing role using as spec such as this or this – it’s where holy shines! Again, keep a full stack of Serendipity up at all times to let those Prayer of Healings fly. Why the one point in Empowered renew? That sucks, it doesn’t heal for much, right? Right – but what is DOES do is give you a cheap and fast chance to proc your holy concentration, and that’s GOOD SHIT.
You’ll notice that I recommend Healing Focus and Spell Warding for both specs when hitting 10/25 man raids, especially if you plan on attempting hardmodes. With the amount of AoE magic damage that is prominent in Ulduar and up, these spells become invaluable. Inspiration is another talent you should NEVER over look as either spec as well.
Another thing people always ask about is Desperate Prayer: Should they take it? That’s your call. It’s a great little “Oh Shit” button, and could come in handy as you learn the fine art of self targeting and healing in general. Personally, I’ve found that if I’m in a situation where I won’t have time for quick shield or Binding Heal, a warlock cookie works just as well. The same thing goes for Inner Focus – if you feel you need it, work it in, but it is by no means a ‘must have’.
And of course we have to talk about Lightwell. While they have made slight improvements, and I do see some priests sing it’s praises, to us, it’s still garbage. The whole drawback is you have to CLICK IT to utilize it. And training DPS players to pay attention to their health, stop what they’re doing, and click a lightwell is about as easy as teaching a hamster to fetch you a beer. Now in some raids, you can probably get them to do that…eventually. But as you progress into hard modes, where many fights can be a tight DPS race &/or have lots of movement, stopping to click an object just isn’t an option. Try it out and see if you can find a place for it, but if you ask why we don’t take it, that’s why.
2) WHAT GEMS DO I USE?:
Well, here’s where you have to use that head of yours and do a little thinking. The short answer? Gem for Spell Power and Intellect. The long answer? It’s a balancing act. First, your meta gem: +21 intellect & chance to restore mana for both disc and holy – the Spell power/2% int is only better at EXTREMELY high levels of intellect. Our fellow healer Etherjammer has a great breakdown on meta gems over at Duct Tape and a Prayer for a more in depth explanation.
Red – Spellpower
Unfortunately, there really is no definitive answer as to how to gem. You need to evaluate your stats and socket bonuses as a whole, and guide your gems & gear in that direction. Your first goal should be to reach an ideal crit level (33-35%) and acquire a regen & intellect level you are comfortable with based on the content you will be doing. After that, it’s up to you. I personally favor stacking SP/Crit for disc (I weave my shields to utilize Borrowed Time – my haste levels from gear alone have me at adequate haste), and Spellpower/Haste for holy.
Another thing to note is to evaluate your socket bonuses. I tend to not bother with them unless I feel they are worth it. For example, when playing Disc, I could care less about +4 spirit, but +7 SP might be worth it. Evaluate your stats as a whole, make sure you’re not giving up more than you could gain with the socket bonus, and don’t get tunnel vision on one piece of gear.
3) WHAT GLYPHS DO I USE?:
Holy: (Major): Glyph of Circle of Healing, Glyph of Prayer of Healing. The third one is up to you, so feel free to experiment. Just starting out, you may wish to use the Flash Heal glyph instead of Circle of healing, since it doesn’t do you much good in 5 mans. Glyph of Guardian Spirit is a great glyph that I use on a regular basis during raids.
Minor Glyphs: These are up to you. Personally, I recommend Glyph of Fortitude – it comes in handy when someone is combat rezzed, anhks or uses a soulstone during an encounter, and you can rebuff them without a huge mana loss. I take Glyph of Levitate purely as a matter of personal convenience, and Glyph of shadowfiend in case my stupid little friend dies – which in all fairness, doesn’t happen as much as it use to.
4) WHAT GEAR SHOULD I GET AND HOW?
I know the dilemma: How do you get the gear you need for heroics and raids, when the people running the heroics and raids want you to have the gear? Well, people are fucking stupid & you can’t fix that since Darwin’s Theory of Evolution isn’t applied to PuG groups, but there are few things you can do. First, get the Ulduar boots (Savior Slippers or Spellslinger Slippers) & belt (Cord of the White Dawn) and the ToTC Chest (Royal Moonshroud Robe or Merlin’s Robe) & Bracers (Bejeweled Wizard Bracers or Royal Moonshroud Bracers) crafted. Also, when you hit 70, do the random dungeon daily, as you are rewarded with 2 triumph badges for completing it – depending on how fast you level, you should have enough for at least one piece of 232 level gear as you hit 80. Also, the Boots (Sandals of Consecration) and Pants (Lightweave Leggings or Leggings of Woven Death) from the ICC recipes are a top notch option, but be prepared to pay out the ass at this time – rape your alts of frost badges for saronite, and start collecting mats on your way to 80 if gold is tight. If you need a cloak, the Wispcloak is a good choice to start with as well.
If you’ve got the gold to spare (or a scribe and a lot of time), the Darkmoon Card:Greatness is a excellent option for trinkets – it will last you quite some time. The Darkmoon Card: Illusion is also a good, and cheaper option. Je’Tze’s Bell is another good one. If you’re an alchemist you can craft an Mercurial Alchemist Stone or a Sapphire Owl if you’re a Jewelcrafter.
Also, start with some of the “Upper Tier” five man regular dungeons: Trial of the Champion (ilevel 200 gear), Pit of Saron, Forge of Souls, & Halls of Reflection (ilevel 219) – they drop some excellent gear and allow you to get a good feeling on how to heal with a bit of a challenge, but still allow some wiggle room for learning. After that, hit the random heroics to start collecting badges. Start looking to join any weekly raid quest groups you see – it’s usually lower tier content and most players outgear it. It will be a quick 5x Triumph and Frost badges and maybe you can snag an upgrade. Also, Ony & VoA 25 groups are fairly forgiving, considering you can get ilevel 245 gear from them.
5) WHAT ADDONS SHOULD I USE?
We’ve done many, many blogs on addons that we use as raiding priests, including how to configure them, so I won’t go into much detail on how to use these; I’ll simply state some of the mods I use that are more specific to priest & raid healing – I won’t get into general raid mods.
- GRID : I enjoy the extreme customization of this mod, as well as the ability to bolster its functionality with addons such as GridStatusHots & GridStatusRaidDebuffs. I actually use it for all my healers, and even as my raid frames on DPS and tanks characters. Some people have mentioned they prefer Healbot, but I can’t really comment on that – I tried it at 70 and hated it. Most raiders I know seem to favor GRID, but experiment and find Raid Frames you are comfortable with. Look for a future post in AddOn Corner about Grid.
- POM Tracker – Tracks who your PoM has jumped to, and how many charges are left. The developer has abandoned the project, and I’m not sure if someone is picking it up, but for the time being, it is fully functional for 3.3. Just keep in mind that you may have to find a similar mod soon if no one takes it over. Look for a future blog on how to use a PoM Tracker mod like this soon.
- Quartz – Another mod that has uses beyond priests. It’s a casting bar addon that allows you to see casts, global cooldowns, buffs, debuffs ect of your target, focus target and more as duration bars. A huge plus is it displays latency and the duration of the lag.
- Peggle: Shit, Didn’t mean to put that there. Hope my Raid Leader doesn’t read this.
- PowerAuras – Yet another mod that should be used by raiders everywhere. Extremely helpful in preventing “healer tunnel vision”. I like to use it so show my Holy concentration and Surge of Light procs, among other things. Again, see our previous blog entry on how to use it – this one’s in video format, which is great for people like me that hate being bothered with words & reading. Wurds R Dum.
5) TO SUM IT ALL UP ……
Playing a priest is an enjoyable experience, and in my personal opinion, one of the more diverse and complicated healers. We have so many tools at our disposal, and so many ways to react to situations that no guide can even begin to teach you how to play a priest. Healing is different from DPS – we don’t have rotations – healers have to be able to predict and react quickly using the best spells for any given situation, and that’s something you’ll only learn from experience.
We could probably write an entire book on specs, builds, glyphs & gemming options for specific encounters and raid/party makeups, but all that would do is leave a new player very, very confused. This post was meant as a starting point to get you thinking – the only way to truly learn is to get out there and heal shit. You’re going to make mistakes, & you’ll probably wipe a group or raid – everyone’s done it, and if they say they haven’t, they’re lying. The key is to learn from your mistakes and build from them. Learn the class. Experiment with your talents and gear – there are many ways to do things, and I ALWAYS advocate understanding why you spec and gear the way you do – copying someone’s spec without truly understanding it might actually hurt you in the long run, as the content and raid makeups they do can be vastly different from yours. When you understand WHY you do something, you can adjust and plan for any situation – and THAT is what makes the difference between a good healer, and a great healer.
Good luck! If you have any questions, feel free to ask me via Twitter, Gchat or AIM – I’m always looking for excuses to avoid work.