I've raided for a long time on my priest. My first real raid started with Zul'Gurub before I graduated to Molten Core and Blackwing Lair. Unfortunately, I started late in the game to the point where I never really appreciated AQ 40 or Naxxramas. Years later, I am now working my way towards Illidan after mopping the floor with Archimonde. It's difficult for a holy priest to begin raiding. The learning curve can be steep at times because there are so many options available.
That being said, there are a few lessons I've learned from raiding that have proven universal. They had as much application back then as they do now and I wanted to pass them on to any new budding raid priests.
Check out all thirteen tips, from reagents to situation awareness, right after the break.
- Do over pack on reagents: There are going to be times when you are the only priest in the raid group. You are single handedly responsible for the fort of the entire raid. Having over 1000 additional hit points is a required buffer to have in end game raiding. Being caught without reagents is generally frowned upon by most guilds.
- Do things without being asked: Don't wait around for players to ask you for fort. The latest raidframe addons display the buffs that you can cast on other players (XPerl, Pitbull, etc). Even if another priest is designated the buffer for that group, save the raid some time and just do it. Reagents cost the same amount as toothpicks anyway. If there's a new priest in the raid who is unsure of what to do on the boss, let them in on the MO of the boss (which is lawyer speak for method).
Brief them of what to expect as a priest.
- Do have thick skin: As healers, we are the make or break class in a raid. When anything bad happens, we are the first players that get placed under the microscope and absorb the blame. I've owned up to my share of mistakes and I'll let you in on a secret. Half of those mistakes were never really my fault. But in the interest of time and progression, I take the blame so that we could get going. If you don't think you can handle the pressure and the criticism from other classes, then raiding might not be an end game activity for you.
- Do use consumables regularly: Being a player whose eyes are literally glued to raid frames, it's easy to tell the difference players who use potions early and those who use it late. The point here is that you want to get that cooldown working. The holy trinity of raid consumables consists of Flask of Mighty Restoration, Superior Mana Oil, and Golden Fish Sticks (or Blackened Sporefish, which I prefer).
- Do ask for help: Whether it's because you're unsure of your assignment or because you ran out of mana, don't hesitate to scream and get attention fast. This is especially true in a raid instance like Mount Hyjal. I have yet to encounter another instance that is more punishing on wipes. If you're not familiar by now, one small mistake can snowball into a wipe in a short amount of time. Guess what? You get to do it all over again. Think of it as being in gym class where everyone has to keep pace with each other. If one person falls out of step, the entire class has to do another lap. Nobody wants to be the guy that made that mistake.
- Do be an independent thinker: When doing trash mobs, if your tank is topped off and you think you have time, feel free to drop an AoE heal on your group after they have suffered some damage. I like to tap rank 1 Circle of Healing on my melee groups every now and again. When doing a boss and one of your main tank healers go down, switch to the boss and let the rest of the raid know. Knowing that that the fight is not lost can be big confidence booster to everyone else. As an added bonus, the rest of the raid knows to be even more careful.
- Don't pad the healing meters: In my experience, I have always found myself out-healed by resto shamans and resto druids. I don't even try to compete with them because I know I'll lose. When all is said and done, players are judged by their ability to keep the raid alive as opposed to how much numbers they can put out.
- Don't overextend yourself: I am extremely guilty of doing this myself. Sometimes I give myself 3 players to look after which can be taxing. Know yourself and know your own ability. If you cannot cover your target for whatever reason, ask for a different one. Those Serpentshrine naga trash pulls are not priest friendly. I gave that job to the paladin instead. But if you don't think you can handle it, it's better to find someone who can.
- Don't lose situational awareness: Boss fights have gotten complicated. Each encounter has some kind of gimmick that involves players having to do something to stay alive. There are multiple approaches to beat down bosses. Don't get caught having your eyes glued to your raid frames. Know when your tanks are moving and mirror their movement so that you stay within relative range.
- Don't be afraid to trust the other healers: Raiding is a team effort. You have to work together with other players or you won't win. Trust them to be able to do their jobs. As your guild progresses further in the game, mana management becomes crucial. Overlapping heals are a waste and they do add up. But that doesn't mean you can't drop a Power Word: Shield on a raider who is dangerously low. Sometimes they need a second or two to catch up. Bless priests for the tools and capabilities to react quickly.
- Don't worry if you can't save them all: Dying is inevitable. If your target dies, move on to the next one. A raid encounter is no time for a blame game. Salvage whatever is left and continue to move on. Be vocal and let the rest of the raid know that your target is dead and you're switching to raid healing or a tank.
- Don't lose your cool: My guild would be the first to tell you that I frequently panic. There are going to be fights where there is a lot of unexpected activity happening. Think of an encounter like Vashj where success depends on multiple factors which are randomized. Contrast that to a fight like Kael where everything is scripted. Both encounters are complicated in their own way and both are enough to overwhelm any new priest. Stay calm and do what your leaders tell you to do.
And most importantly...
- Do be honest with yourself: I can't think of any other activity that involves working so hard for so much fun. Raiding is a whole new ball game. There are 24 other players counting on you to deliver your best performance. I've lost several healers in the past few days for various reasons. My guild has lost and recruited more healers than either DPS or tanking classes combined. There is an abysmally high turnover rate. If you don't find raiding fun, then it might be best to re-examine what it is you want to do in the game before acquiring a high end epic and then retiring later.
Want to find more great tips for carrying out your Priestly duties? Spiritual Guidance has you covered -- before the long hiatus, we talked about holy talents and even had a debate about spirit. And don't forget to check the WoW Insider Directory for more priestly info -- there's lots of guides, writeups and discussions over there as well.