Spiritual Guidance: Ghostcrawler on priests

Dawn Moore
D. Moore|03.01.10

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Spiritual Guidance: Ghostcrawler on priests
Every Sunday (and the occasional weekday) Spiritual Guidance offers holy and discipline priests advice on how to wield the holy light and groove to the disco night. Your hostess Dawn Moore will provide the music.

There was a great priest thread on the official World of Warcraft healing forums late last week. The thread caps at 30 pages, then spills into another thread for further discussion. The original post is from a priest who also heals as a druid, and is currently unhappy with the state of priests in Icecrown Citadel. The poster asks for in-depth feedback from other priests with healing alts who are happy with the priest class in ICC.

The thread remains on topic and doesn't get too trolly before Ghostcrawler steps in on page 7 and gives a simple breakdown of how he plays priest. He remains in the thread for quite some time and provides readers with a good insight on how he and Blizzard feel about various aspects of priests at this time. If you missed this thread, I will be summarizing the highlights of what Ghostcrawler said and providing some of my own thoughts and analysis.

Before I start quoting large chunks of blue text, I want to quickly explain why I want to break down Ghostcrawler's posts. First, beyond just giving advice, I'd like to keep everyone informed on class developments for priests. I've said before that the game is constantly changing and that players need to be adaptable; keeping up with the developers comments is just another way to stay informed. In this case, I felt that Ghostcrawler subtly touched on a mindset of healing that is steadily becoming a lost art, and I really wanted WoW.com readers to see his perspective and try to understand it. I have no doubt that Ghostcrawler himself is a skilled priest, and being so close to the community and development team puts him in an advantageous position to understand priests on a level we can't. While his lips are probably sealed on some matters, what he does provide is good food for thought.

Ghostcrawler -- How does GC play priest? What does he like and dislike?
I won't give you a video, but I'll explain to you how I do it.

Disc: PoM on cooldown. PW:S as much as you can (esp. on the Arcane mage until 3.3.3). Use Penance often when you need burst. Resort to PoH if a lot of people need healing at once, especially in 10-player raids where you don't have a lot of other healers to pick up the slack. Keep Pain Suppression and Divine Hymn for emergencies. Use Power Infusion on a mage or lock if you don't need it.

Holy: PoM on cooldown. CoH on cooldown if there is any raid damage. Renew to handle the rest of the raid damage. Flash Heal if someone is still low after all of that. Save GS and Divine Hymn for emergencies or timed boss cooldowns. I tend to use Binding Heal a lot more than most priests because it makes me feel smart, especially when globals are in question.

What I like: Feeling smart when I mix the right tool with the right problem. Saving lives when someone thought they were dead. Sitting there at full mana halfway through a fight because I didn't heal when I didn't need to. Penance in general. Body and Soul. Borrowed Time. Serendipity.

What I don't like: Using CoH so much. Dealing with Weakened Soul (esp. as Holy). Lightwell. Seeing priests die. (In all honesty I don't die a lot, but I see Spirits of Redemption constantly. I guess as a sweeping generalization, priests have the stare-at-Grid syndrome worse than other healers.) Blowing 3 candles every wipe. Looking like a mage if I pick the wrong gear.

Most of Ghostcrawler's statements from this thread do stand on their own, so I'm mostly going to be providing commentary. In this instance I get two ideas from his words. The first is that Ghostcrawler does not necessarily have a set raid role, and wherever he does raid he's flexible to swap around to what the raid needs. This really is the greatest strength of priests, and I admire any raid team that understands each fight doesn't always work under the model that X class takes Y role, and swapping around a flexible class like a priest is an excellent way to let your other healers play that specific, focused role. Even I don't have that level of understanding going for me in my own guild.

My second impression is that Ghostcrawler doesn't play too aggressively. What I mean by aggressive healing is excessive heal sniping with the goal of topping an HPS meter. I have often tried to stress to players how HPS meters do not matter, and the people who do place so much emphasis on them (both healers and non-healers) seem to want to use them as proof that a player is good. Want to know one way to top an HPS meter? Heal the targets with the least priority in the raid so you can get full heals off with minimal overhealing. Sure, you're healing targets that need to get healed (and probably would be healed by HoTs if you hadn't sniped the damage) but are you helping your raid by ignoring the damage being fired onto the tank or melee or some warlock who walks into goo all the time? I'm not saying it's wrong to heal targets with lesser priority, in fact, Frostheim repeatedly reminds me to heal his pet, but I want to make an example of how an HPS meter can be cheesed by aggressive players and is not necessarily an indication of smart, helpful healing.

Ghostcrawler -- Priests are no longer "masters of healing."
The shaman description says they can tank too. You used to be level 60. Onyxia and Bolvar used to stand in Stormwind. MMOs change.

As a general strategy, I would steer against any post that is going to lead to smart players dismissing your thread as QQ and moving on. Those are the exact players you want posting in your thread. Don't scare them away.

This fits with the "adapt to how your class changes over time" idea I've talked about. In general, I still do think priests are masters of healing, it's just that we're not masters from the perspective that we are all you need. A paladin might do single-target better, a druid might do raid better, a shaman might do AoE healing better, but we do everything 2nd best. There is nothing wrong with being 2nd at everything - it makes us very employable in any raid team. That is of course, if your raid isn't willfully ignorant. If that's the case, look for greener pastures. If you are a skilled priest you shouldn't put up with being told you're worthless. This segues into:

Ghostcrawler -- Holy priest AoE Healing isn't astounding.
Holy's AE healing is fantastic. If there's an "I'm the AE guy!", it's supposed to be the shaman, but even then I think that categorization is too narrow these days. Healers have different abilities that make them better or worse for certain situations. "I'm the AE guy!" belies the nuance that the 5 healers actually have. Stop worrying so much about your character being the missing puzzle piece that completes the raid. The "they can't raid without me!" mentality is best left behind in BC. A raid needs X number of healers, and ideally they're a mix of healers, and then you're good to go.

P.S. I'll admit that paladins as the best MT healer is still a little bit of cruft left over from the older model. Unless we were willing to really nerf the crap out of them and reduce everyone's mana regen, it's going to be hard to dislodge them too much from that role. Really though what we're going for, and what we'll emphasize even more in the future, is "bring healers" not "I must have a priest."

Ghostcrawler touched a lot on specific spells in a priest's spellbook. While I will not go over individually each spell he discussed, I felt the discussion Circle of Healing was quite noteworthy.

Ghostcrawler -- In response to not liking Circle of Healing.
CoH is good. It's so good in fact, that it's usually a bad choice not to push it when it's on cooldown. This means playing Holy is really about what you use your other 4 casts or whatever when you can't CoH. I'd rather use CoH less often and other spells more often. I think Holy needs the talent and it's really tree defining. I just want to use some of my other cool toys too.

He talks more about it here:

Ghostcrawler -- Circle of Healing too brainless? What about healers spamming other spells?
True, but many of those spells require targeting. Even PoH requires targeting. I'm not a big fan of the way Wild Growth has turned out either, but at least its hot prevents it from being the "nobody dies from AE" spell. Again, they are good spells, and they have their place. I wish there was more of a decision of when to use them instead of always on cooldown. I realize part of that is encounter design. Part of it may be that they are still too good. (But we aren't nerfing them anytime soon.)

A while ago I asked a trusted friend how to play holy. I was rusty at the time and wanted to know if my old methods still stood. He said "If more than one person isn't at full, use Circle of Healing." Surprised, I asked, "even just two people?" He responded, "yes, because it's a whore like that." If the quote makes no sense to you, let me explain: basically, CoH will find damage to heal for you. You don't have to look for it. It's like the 10-point ring in skee ball. Even if you put minimal skill or effort into it you'll still probably get something out of it. These quotes from Ghostcrawler back up that sentiment.

Ghostcrawler also touched on communication and the conflict between discipline priests and healing "territory."

Ghostcrawler -- On healing communication, and multiple priests.
I think Holy and Disc work together okay. Disc and Disc definitely collide, but it's not the worst thing in the world to be asked to bring 2 of the 5 healers. As Holy, I would generally leave the shielding to the Disc priest, but if dude was going to die, then you did your job and the Disc priest was just too slow. I wouldn't worry about PoM collision. More PoMs tend to just provide more healing.

Now in general I wish there was a little more coordination among healers, but the current damage model we have just doesn't really allow it. I remember when tanking Molten Core, that the priest would say over vent "Big heal coming on the OT!" as he powered up a Greater Heal. You don't have that luxury these days. One of our designers was watching an old Illidan video recently and remarked how everyone was at 50% for so much of the fight. Now days someone is at 100%, will hit 100% in the next couple of GCDs, or will be dead. In that environment, you'd get "Big --" out of your mouth before it would be too late. Players need more health and heals have to be a little more expensive.

Don't be dissuaded in communicating as a healer just because Ghostcrawler acknowledges the game doesn't operate at the same pace it used to. Communication is still a great key to success in raiding, and it's something healers have gotten lazy about this expansion. If something bad happens, just saying "I've got [whoever] covered!" can go a long way at allocating healing resources properly. This is even more important for us since priests are the keepers of precious tank cool downs.

That said, it sounds like Ghostcrawler, and thus maybe Blizzard, would like healing to require more communication again. This is a multi-player game after all. So, developing good habits now will prepare you for any changes in the future - it might also drive down the constant meter competition if we had to start talking and working together again. Wouldn't that be the day?

Ghostcrawler -- Current fight design and high penalty of player death
Fights are designed to be hard (to a degree). If you have a proposal for how they can be hard in a different vector, please share. Running OOM is a tool that we lost and want to regain, but I suspect that will lead to a lot of "Healing isn't fun anymore" responses.

This is one issue very near and dear to my heart. I personally enjoyed the game of mana regen when I played WoW in vanilla and Burning Crusade. While it's nice to see so many more players picking healers these days, I feel as if the whole fuss about meters lately comes from players who are new to healing, and have few ways of assessing skill other than meters. Because mana is no longer an issue, spamming has little to no penalty. Who can push more buttons fastest is the current game. This removes difficulty, which to me, removes fun. That's just me though, so I'd like your opinion good readers. Do you think healing is more or less fun than it used to be? Why? Leave a comment.

Overall, I think the thread is a good read. There were actually many posters on the forums who shared excellent, thoughtful opinions. While I know many of us are apt to read just the blue text, this is a chance to hear from other community members. Ghostcrawler says the forums are just one place Blizzard looks to for feedback, and likewise, if you typically just read WoW.com or other blogs, you might want to check out the thread for unfiltered priest discussion.

Was there anything Ghostcrawler didn't touch on that you'd like covered? I have a few things in mind, but just incase, leave a comment or e-mail me at dawn@wow.com for a current issue you'd like to see discussed.

Want to find more great tips for carrying out your Priestly duties? Spiritual Guidance has you covered with all there is to know! Check out Holy 101 for an introduction to healing as a holy priest, or Disciplined raid healing to see new ways players are using damage mitigation.
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