Spiritual Guidance: Healing priest strategies for Warmaster Blackhorn and Spine of Deathwing

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.

Assuming you survived last week without turning into a puddle of priestly sludge or quitting your guild (cough, cough), it's now time to move on to the sixth and seventh encounters in Dragon Soul, Warmaster Blackhorn and Spine of Deathwing. Just like last week, I want to remind you that you'll need to be familiar with the basic mechanics of these encounters to follow along with my priest healing guide. For Warmaster Blackhorn, try checking out for a video guide and Icy Veins for a written guide.

Warmaster Blackhorn is a pretty straightforward fight as far as healing is concerned. The key is to keep your eyes open to what is going on instead of staring intently at your raid frame the whole time. Much of the healing required will be in response to effects you'll see on the ground first, so if you're good at clicking players instead of health bars, you'll be way ahead of the game.

Before I get into the details of each individual spec, let's address Leap of Faith. You can use this particular spell to assist you in soaking Twilight Barrages in phase 1. Because there are so many barrages during this phase of the fight, it's pretty easy to miss one once you add in the calamity of everything else that is going on. A priest should always be on the lookout for any barrage that might be missed and take some initiative in going to soak the damage. If no one else joins you, use Leap of Faith to pull someone in and split the damage with so you don't die. Just make sure your victim isn't at really low health or your raid's all-star DPS.

Holy strategies You can mostly stick to your standard AoE healing toolbox for both phases of this fight. In phase 1, the bulk of your healing will happen after the Twilight Onslaught, with only a little bit of healing happening between them. Renew is starting to become a good filler again, with gear and mana getting better, so you can try that out for spot healing or keep to single-target casts. In phase 2, most of the damage will come after the Disrupting Roar, though you may occasionally have players getting hit by Shockwave.

You may want to skip using Holy Word: Sanctuary on this encounter since most of the time your raid will be spread out and thus not in the area of effect. You can use it for Twilight Onslaught, but since your raid will probably spread back out immediately after the blast, you'd only get a bit of healing done with it.

Moving on to cooldown usage, you'll want to make sure you have Guardian Spirit available for the start of phase 2. There will be high damage and tank swapping because of Devastate (Sunder Armor), as well as increased damage from Vengeance as Blackhorn's health gets lower. There's not much call for tank cooldowns in the first phase.

As for Divine Hymn, all major raid cooldowns like your hymn, Spirit Link Totem, and Power Word: Barrier (I hope you're paying attention, disco priests) are used against Twilight Onslaught. Just be sure you move into the blast area with plenty of time to spare so you can start channeling at the right moment. It happens about every 45 seconds, so your raid will want to have a cooldown order coordinated to cover as many of them as you can. In phase 2, you can continue using that cooldown order as the raid damage gets harder to manage with normal healing.

Discipline strategies You'll probably be tank healing on this encounter, but with that in mind, tank damage isn't particularly taxing until the second phase. If you find yourself short on things to do in the first phase, you can shield or spot heal the raid whenever you have the opportunity, or just dish out some Atonement DPS assist on the adds. In phase 2, you'll be on tank healing full time once the damage picks up.

For Pain Suppression, save it or make sure it's available when phase 2 starts. As I said about Guardian Spirit in the holy section, your tanks are going to need these cooldowns to cope with the damage. Power Word: Barrier on the other hand, will primarily be used in phase 1 against the Twilight Onslaught. In phase 2, it's not too good for protecting the raid since they'll be spread out, but you can still drop it on the tanks and treat it as a mini-Pain Suppression.

During phase 1, Power Infusion should be saved for a strong caster DPS for whenever the harpoon guns pull the Twilight Assault Drakes up to the ship. Because there is limited time to DPS these mobs down, your Power Infusion will help prevent the number of times you have to wait for the drakes to be reeled in. Once phase 2 starts, you can use your Power Infusion on cooldown to help burn down Blackhorn's health as fast as possible.

Spine of Deathwing

After familiarizing yourself with a basic guide on the Spine of Deathwing, the first thing you want to do as a healer is make sure you've got a customizable raid frame that you can add the debuffs in this fight to. The two buffs you'll be concerned with are Searing Plasma and Fiery Grip, and you absolutely need to know when a player has one or both of these buffs.

Spine of Deathwing is significantly harder on healers than any other fight in Dragon Soul thus far, but as a priest, there is actually a lot less to know because your job on the encounter will be so specific. Starting with Leap of Faith again, priests of either healing spec will want to save this ability for when a Hideous Amalgamation is being destroyed. There is a possibility for melee players to get stunned by Fiery Grip when clearing out of the range of Nuclear Blast, and you must grip them to safety to keep them from instantly dying to the blast.

Holy strategies Your main priority as a holy priest will be healing people who have Searing Plasma. The best way to do your part in this is using Circle of Healing on cooldown and dropping Renew and Prayer of Mending on anyone who has the debuff. Make sure you have Renew fully talented so you can get some mastery ticks on it, and if you're really having trouble on the fight, you might choose to adjust your gems and reforging for mastery. All the extra healing is quite useful on this fight. Trust your other healers to fill in on players you haven't already placed Renew on, and don't use cast spells until every player with the debuff has your Renew ticking on them. This is a big teamwork healing fight.

There are many times you could use Divine Hymn during this encounter, but the best one is after a Hideous Amalgamation has absorbed the residue of nine Corrupted Blood. The ticking raid damage that follows from Superheated Nucleus is quite substantial.

You'll be able to use Guardian Spirit on this fight to assist in saving players who are at risk from dying from the combination of Fiery Grip and Searing Plasma. There is a limitation to it, though, which is that enough of the Searing Plasma debuff has to be healed off a player or else he may still die. This is because the healing proc that follows a player's death can sometimes be completely absorbed by the Searing Plasma debuff if too much of it remains. Just keep that in mind when you use the cooldown. It's not always something you can toss out on anyone who's at low health.

Discipline strategies Your big job as a disc priest is shielding players who have Fiery Grip and Searing Plasma. Since Fiery Grip ticks for a substantial amount of damage, your shield will help keep those players alive until other healers can heal off the Searing Plasma debuff. Prioritize players with low health. This job will keep you busy, and it's pretty important that you keep to it, since being a couple of seconds late can cost players their lives. If all you end up doing is placing Power Word: Shield, don't consider it a bad thing. That said, you can tank heal with free time you have.

For cooldowns, Power Word: Barrier is most useful during Deathwing's Barrel Rolls while your raid is grouped up, taking damage in the holes on Deathwing's back. Save Power Infusion for when the Burning Tendon is exposed, and drop it on your best caster DPS.

Next week: Madness of Deathwing and heroic mode

Next week I'm going to be tackling the last encounter in Dragon Soul against Deathwing and providing a full list of additional strategies you'll want to have in mind when you face all of Dragon Soul's bosses on heroic mode. I didn't see too many questions last week, but as always, if you're having any issues on a particular aspect of an encounter or priest healing in general, let me know and I'll see what I can do in my guides or the comments themselves.

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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.