Holy paladins are blessed with a robust selection of cooldown abilities, which improve our performance for a short period of time. Other classes like the restoration shaman have far fewer options for increasing their healing output on demand, which makes holy paladins one of the most flexible healing classes. In addition to boosting our single-target throughput, our cooldowns can also vitalize our AOE healing and reduce incoming damage.
When faced with such a large number of cooldown options, it can be difficult to pick the right ability for the job. Each of our cooldowns works in a unique way, with different strengths and weaknesses. By choosing the right opportunities to use each of our cooldowns, we can maximize our healing and minimize the chance of someone dying. Because of how powerful our cooldowns are, you should be using them on every boss encounter. They become especially important on heroic fights, as our healing capacities will be put to the test.
Divine Favor: Our signature offensive cooldown
While we have any extensive toolbox of offensive cooldown options, Divine Favor is the only holy-specific cooldown in the mix. By offensive, I'm referring to the fact that it boosts our healing output, rather than improving our defense or reducing incoming damage. Divine Favor grants us 20% haste and 20% critical strike chance while active, which makes it very potent. What's important to note is that DF lasts for 20 seconds normally or 30 seconds when glyphed, making it one of the longer-lasting cooldowns in the game.
DF isn't a bad option for tank healing, as the extra haste will let us cast more Holy Lights and Divine Lights on our tank. The extra critical strike chance also allows us to do some extra healing, but that's usually not relevant when you're healing a tank. The downside here is that we're going to be spending much more mana on heals than we normally would, since we're casting them faster.
DF is obviously beneficial for tank healing but really comes into its own when raid healing. Our Holy Radiance spells, both the current and patch 4.3 iterations, scale off of haste quite well. When we reach certain haste break points, our Holy Radiance gains extra ticks, which increase the healing done significantly at no cost to us. In addition, we can cast more normal heals in the same amount of time with Divine Favor, which allows us to cover more raid members. Divine Favor is the best cooldown we have for raid healing.
The ambivalence of Avenging Wrath
Avenging Wrath is one of the retribution abilities that we have borrowed for our healing purposes. It increases our healing output by 20% while activated and lasts for 20 seconds. Because Avenging Wrath simply increases our healing done, it affects all of our heals fairly equally.
Tank healers in particular like Avenging Wrath because it lets them deal more healing without costing them any extra mana. It's also complements Holy Radiance, especially when Divine Favor isn't available. We want to get as much healing done during the 20 seconds of AW as we can, to maximize the amount of bonus healing it provides. I typically save AW for situations where heavy tank healing is needed, specifically because Divine Favor is so good for AOE healing situations.
Guardian of Ancient Kings with Divine Light
Our holy-flavored Guardian of Ancient Kings is another dual-purpose cooldown, as it doubles our single-target healing and also splashes some of the healing done onto any nearby targets. The key differentiator for GoAK is that it only works for our first five heals after activating the Guardian.
Because of this restriction, we want to ensure that we get the most out of our cooldown. You don't to waste a doubling proc or the splash heal on something weak like Holy Shock or Holy Light. In order to maximize the effectiveness of GoAK, you should follow it up with five Divine Lights. The spell is typically the most powerful when healing a tank or deeply wounded target, but the AOE aspect can also be beneficial if most of your raid is stacked up.
Defending the raid with Aura Mastery
Aura Mastery is one of more unique abilities, at least until shaman receive the same spell for their totems in Mists of Pandaria. AM doubles the effect of our active aura, which can be quite beneficial. AM is most useful when there's a lot of incoming magical damage, as we can use AM with Resistance Aura to improve our resistances. Note that some magical damage isn't able to be resisted, especially on boss fights, so only use AM with Resistance Aura if the damage can be resisted.
Aura Mastery also works well with Devotion Aura, as increasing the armor of your tank reduces their physical damage taken. While 6 seconds of extra armor isn't much, it can make a difference when combined with other cooldowns from yourself of the tank. Any damage reduced is better than damage healed.
Finally, on a fight where you're taking damage or getting beat up, you can use Aura Mastery with Concentration Aura to prevent any knockbacks, interrupts, or silences from working. Since you're immune to any effects that prevent you from casting, you can be certain that your important heals will be delivered no matter what.
Lay on Hands saves one life
While shaman and druids have Nature's Swiftness to let them unload a powerful heal quickly, nothing can beat Lay on Hands. It instantly heals our target for our maximum health value, which is well over 100,000 health. The penalty is that it has a very long cooldown.
I try to save Lay on Hands for situations where I'm either low on mana and can't afford the several Divine Lights it would take to top off a tank or for situations where I missed a heal for some reason and now the tank is teetering on the brink of death. Make sure you have LoH bound to a convenient key, because it's the type of heal that you need instantly, not in a second or two.
I know a lot of holy paladins like to use the Glyph of Divinity to give themselves a mana boost when using Lay on Hands, but I tend to want to hold onto LoH for emergency situations due to its long cooldown. If you're the type of person who never uses LoH normally, you can use Glyph of Divinity and simply pop it for the bonus mana. Both strategies are viable; I simply personally prefer having LoH always available.
The Light and How to Swing It: Holy helps holy paladins become the powerful healers we're destined to be. Find out just how masterful mastery healing can be, gear up with the latest gear, and learn how to PVP as a holy paladin.