Spiritual Guidance: Healing priest strategies for Dragon Soul's first 3 bosses

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. Dawn Moore covers the healing side of things for discipline and holy priests. She also writes for and produces the Circle of Healing Podcast.

This week, we'll be looking at how to heal on your priest through Morchok, Warlord Zon'ozz, and Yor'sahj the Unsleeping.

If you haven't read one of my boss healing guides before, let me give you the same ol' disclaimer I always give ... This guide focuses on the specifics details of how to heal as a discipline or holy priest within a given encounter. It assumes you have a basic understanding of the fight, and it will not typically explain mechanics or general strategy. If you are unfamiliar with a fight, please review the links at the beginning of each boss subsection.

I also think it's worth mentioning that these guides will seem a bit excessive to players experiencing these encounters exclusively through the Raid Finder.


Morchok is sort of a loot piñata on normal mode, in all honesty, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't learn the mechanics. Check out WoW Insider's guide to Morchok if you've never seen this baddie before.

There are a few general things to know as a healer. First, when part of the raid splits off for the Resonating Crystals, your heals should be able to reach the runners easily from where the raid is stacked. If the runners end up being out of range, don't be afraid to move; as long as you're within 25 yards of the boss, you'll still help split the damage from Stomp.

Additionally, when you're fighting Morchok on normal mode, Black Blood of the Earth doesn't do too much damage, which might result in your melee wanting to stay in range of the boss to continue dishing out damage. If they do this, you should be able to heal them while taking cover behind the rock slab pillars. Just scoot to the edge of the pillar and with a little practice, you'll find a sweet spot where your line of sight isn't blocked but you're still within the protection of the pillar.

Holy strategies Players will spend most of this encounter stacked up near the tanks, which means holy priests (and every other healer with a legitimate AoE heal) are going to be looking at a lot of green numbers. Circle of Healing and Prayer of Healing are your tools for dealing with Stomp. The ability has a 1.5-second cast time, so be sure to set the boss as your focus so you can queue up a Prayer of Healing to land right after the damage goes out. When the boss becomes Furious at 20% health, damage from Stomp will increase, so you'll probably want to drag out Holy Word: Sanctuary to assist with the healing. (I think it's a bit excessive before 20%, but it's a matter of opinion. If you want to use it the whole fight, feel free.) You can also use Divine Hymn for Stomp damage during this phase or any time before, since it's only got a 3-minute cooldown now.

You'll probably end up using Guardian Spirit on the tanks to handle the stacks of Crush Armor, especially once Morchok becomes Furious. Be sure to let your tanks know when the ability is off cooldown and at their disposal.

Discipline strategies Discipline priests will find it easiest to focus their heals on the tanks with our typical single-target repertoire of Power Word: Shield, Penance, Greater Heal, and so on. You can assist raid healing with Prayer of Healing if it's necessary, but if you have competent raid healers, you probably won't have much to do on normal mode. Definitely help out with Power Word: Barrier for Stomps after Morchok becomes Furious at 20%, though.

In addition to tank healing, discipline priests can make themselves useful by casting Power Word: Shield on the players who are soaking up the damage from the Resonating Crystal explosions. Sometimes a crystal will explode around the same time Stomp occurs, and you can really alleviate some of the damage with a shield.

With Pain Suppression, follow the same rules as a holy priest's Guardian Spirit, above.

Warlord Zon'ozz

Warlord Zon'ozz is the first boss that is noticeably more difficult on normal mode than Raid Finder mode. The encounter requires your raid to be coordinated and educated on the mechanics of the fight to some degree. If you're not familiar with the fight, Learn To Raid's guide to Warlord Zon'ozz is a good place to start.

Most raids will probably prefer to dispel Disrupting Shadows rather than let it tick continuously on members of the raid. (You can heal through it if you're hardcore.) If you end up on dispel duty, be careful to time your dispels appropriately so you're not dispelling around the time Void of the Unmaking is about to hit your group. You can Mass Dispel in 25-man, though, you have to time it so your raid healers have time to finish healing everyone up before the void comes back around.

Holy strategies Just as with Morchok, your raid will be able to spend most of this encounter stacked up -- although, mind you, it will be in two groups instead of one. Because of this, you can follow the same basic strategy you used on Morchok to heal raid damage. You'll probably do a bit more spot healing as Disrupting Shadows is dispelled, though, so if you're doing 10-mans, you'll probably prefer Chakra: Serenity for as long as you're bouncing the Void of the Unmaking Around. Holy 25-man priests will probably want to stick with Chakra: Sanctuary the whole time, simply because there are so many more people to heal.

As soon as the Void of the Unmaking collides with Zon'ozz and phase 2 begins, raid damage will get very nasty. To cope, you'll want to make sure you have a fresh Holy Word: Sanctuary down and ticking. (It should go without saying that you need to pay attention to what your raid is doing so you don't have Holy Word: Sanctuary on cooldown when the phase starts.) You'll also want to organize a cooldown rotation for Divine Hymn and other raid cooldowns, since Zon'ozz will be diffused several times before he dies. Finally, if you have Lightwell talented, you can try to get your raid to use it just before phase 2. The more topped off everyone is at the start of phase 2, the easier things will be to manage.

You probably won't need Guardian Spirit for this fight since tank damage is quite mild, so feel free to use it for any panic moment you come across.

Discipline strategies Disc priests will once again offer a great utility on this fight with Power Word: Shield. This time, you'll want to place Power Word: Shield on players afflicted with Disrupting Shadows. With a shield on, the damage dealt by dispelling the debuff will be significantly reduced and allow your raid healers to relax a tiny bit. Other than that, disc's single-target healing is also useful for healing the dispelled targets and any stragglers who aren't getting enough AoE healing.

Power Word: Barrier can be treated the way Divine Hymn is for holy priests, and Pain Suppression like Guardian Spirit. Power Infusion is best used on a DPS during phase 2 since Zon'ozz will take increased damage from the diffusion.

Yor'sahj the Unsleeping

This is one of the most complex fights in the first half of Dragon Soul. Make sure you check out a guide that explains the mechanics of each slime Yor'sahj can absorb. Learn to Raid's guide to Yor'sahj is the best guide currently available.

It's absolutely essential to use a raid frame that allows you to see the stack number for the Deep Corruption debuff. Though most raid groups will probably prioritize killing purple slimes above everything else on normal mode, it's good to be prepared, since there is always a chance that you could get a bad combination (such as red, green, and purple) that would force you to take a purple slime. In such an event, healers will want to be organized ahead of time so no one is at risk of getting a heal when they're already at four stacks of Deep Corruption. Breaking the raid up into groups for each healer to singularly manage will prevent any mix-ups.

Shared strategies As a priest, the first time you need to deal with the effects of a blue slime, it's best if you pop your Shadowfiend immediately after your mana goes to zero. The second time you deal with a blue slime, you can use Hymn of Hope, keeping in mind that if everyone is at zero mana, you won't necessarily receive any mana back during the channel. (Worth a shot, right?) It may also be of interest to priests to know that Prayer of Mending does not apply Deep Corruption stacks, so be aggressive in using it on cooldown throughout the fight.

Holy strategies Your raid is going to try its hardest to stay stacked up most of the time, which benefits a holy priest's AoE healing toolbox. Just as you did on Zon'ozz and Morchok, utilize Circle of Healing, Prayer of Healing, and Holy Word: Sanctuary whenever the raid is stacked. You especially want to use Holy Word: Sanctuary if you know you're going to have to deal with a blue slime phase. Just put it down before Yor'sahj absorbs the blue slime, and it will continue to heal players even after your mana is stolen. Lightwell can also be used like this, so I'd drop one of those babies right before the Holy Word: Sanctuary.

Green slime phases are generally when you'll want to use Divine Hymn, since the raid will be spread out and thus not able to receive the oodles of AoE healing they'd typically be getting if they were stacked. Prayer of Healing and Circle of Healing are still plenty effective, but Divine Hymn really helps make up for the fact that some AoE heals from other classes in your raid might not function as well over larger areas.

Other than that, go with your gut. Use Guardian Spirit without hesitation if things get nasty, even in the rare case you're dealing with a purple slime (Guardian Spirit won't add a stack of Deep Corruption, since it is neither a heal nor an absorb.)

Discipline strategies In the event that you have to deal with a purple slime, Yor'sahj becomes a terrible, horrible, no-good fight for discipline priests. Fortunately, as I said earlier, most groups will prioritize killing the purple slimes on normal mode, so you should be OK. Just in case, though, you need to know that both heals and absorb effects apply stacks of Deep Corruption. As of my writing this, I did not get a chance to play a disc priest through a purple slime phase, but I have a bunch of information from the PTR I can relay.

First, Power Word: Barrier will apply one stack of Deep Corruption to everyone who is under it. That means you don't ever want to use this cooldown during a purple slime phase. Second, be sure to remove the Glyph of Power Word: Shield, since the additional heal from the glyph is counted separately from the absorb effect of Power Word: Shield. This means you'd apply two stacks of Deep Corruption for every Power Word: Shield you placed if you leave the glyph equipped. (I couldn't find a source to verify whether or not Penance counts as three separate heals, but I'm going to assume it doesn't, since HoTs only apply one stack. If anyone knows for sure or has a correction to something that has changed since PTR, let me know.)

Keeping all those precautions in mind about purple slimes, the rest of the fight isn't so objectionable. Power Word: Barrier can be used to mitigate damage any time you don't have a purple slime phase, though it's not particularly helpful on green phases since the raid will be spread out. Pain Suppression, like Guardian Spirit, can be used without issue for any slime color, since it doesn't heal or absorb damage. Power Infusion is actually very helpful if given to a DPS for black slimes, since it helps the raid burn down adds more quickly.

The next three bosses

Next week, I'll be giving the same treatment to Hagara the Stormbinder, Ultraxion, and Warmaster Blackhorn. I'll then finish off Dragon Soul the week after that, with the final two encounters against Deathwing. If there is anything you would like specific information on for next week's encounters (or this week's), please leave a comment and I'll see if I can get you some answers.

I will eventually be writing guides for Dragon Soul's heroic modes too, though I'm not sure when. (Probably the first week of January, though it sort of depends on what kind of pace heroic progression takes this tier.) In those posts, I will discuss cooldown and ability usage in more detail as well as the holy vs. discipline angle (if it's relevant to the encounters).

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Spiritual Guidance has the inside line on healing priests in patch 4.3. Check out the 4.3 raid gear guide to plan your next upgrade, or leveling a healing priest if you're just getting started.