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Spiritual Guidance: Holy Priest 101, part 1

Dawn Moore

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. Dawn Moore covers healing for discipline and holy priests, while her archenemy Fox Van Allen dabbles in shadow. Dawn also writes for and produces the Circle of Healing Podcast.

This week, I'll be continuing our healing priest 101 guides with a version for holy priests. If you're a new or novice priest who wants to heal as a holy priest in dungeons or raids, this is the guide for you.

In Cataclysm, holy is one of the most versatile healers a player can choose. Our core ability Chakra allows us to switch between strong, single-target healing and AoE healing. Holy is an ideal spec for players who want to be able to heal in all sorts of different situations.

Holy is great for healing 5-man, 10-man, and 25-man PvE content. Holy priests are in very high demand as raid healers.

Stats and gear

In Cataclysm, holy priests can utilize all caster stats but will value certain stats more than others. Before we discuss which stats holy priests want most, let's look at what each stat does.

  • Intellect Intellect is every caster's most important stat. It raises spellpower, mana pool totals, and chance to crit.
  • Spirit Your second most important stat is spirit, which works with spirit for your in- and out-of-combat mana regen. Holy priests use 90% of their mana regen in combat.
  • Stamina Stamina increases the size of your health pool and nothing more. You should rarely have to concern yourself with this stat, as you acquire it automatically on most of your gear.
  • Critical strike For holy priests, crit increases your chance for spells to critically heal (that is, heal for 150% of the average amount.) A critical heal will also proc Inspiration, which reduces damage on your targets by 10% at max rank.
  • Haste Haste lowers cast time and the 1.5-second global cooldown. It can also increase the amount of ticks your HoTs have, if you have the right amount.
  • Mastery Holy's mastery is Echo of Light, which puts a HoT on any target you heal directly for 10% of the amount healed plus an additional 1.25% of your mastery. Almost all the healing you do is direct healing, though there are some exceptions (such as untalented Renew).
Holy priest throughput is very direct from stat to spell, which makes it easy to work off a priority system when it comes to stats. The priority system currently accepted in the priest community is as follows: intellect > spirit > haste to 12.5% > mastery > critical strike.

Intellect and spirit obviously take precedence since they are primary stats. For secondary stats, haste is desired up to 12.5% because that is the first interval at which holy priests can receive their first additional tick of healing from Renew. Mastery follows in priority after that, largely because critical strike is so poor in comparison. Mastery converts directly into additional healing throughput where as critical strike only gives you a chance at additional throughput. Inspiration alone is not strong enough to warrant taking a chance over something that is guaranteed.

There is something I should reiterate from Discipline Priest 101 before I leave this section: Intellect really is your most important stat. Spirit is important too, and you should try to get it on as much gear as possible, but if you have the opportunity to take an item with a very large intellect gain, you should take it even if you lose spirit. Intellect will make your heals stronger, which means ultimately you'll have to heal less.

Mana regeneration

In combat, a holy priest restores mana in three ways: cooldowns, Meditation, and Holy Concentration.

For your cooldowns, what I said in Discipline 101 also applies for holy priests.
Cooldowns are the spells Shadowfiend and Hymn of Hope. These two spells share synergy with one another and should be used one right after the other (Shadowfiend first, Hymn of Hope second) in order to maximize the amount of mana returned. The synergy comes from the fact that Shadowfiend restores mana based on your maximum mana pool, and Hymn of Hope raises your maximum mana pool; combine the two and you'll get more mana back than if you had used them separately.

It should be noted that Hymn of Hope was raid-wide back in Ulduar, so if you are not completely out of mana, it's possible for you to not receive the effect of Hymn of Hope. Make sure you're running on empty before you pop these CDs unless you absolutely need to to squeeze in an early CD in order to get two cycles in during a fight.
Holy Concentration and Meditation are both passive abilities that allow you to regenerate a percentage of your out-of-combat mana regeneration in combat. They work together additively, so with 50% from Meditation and 40% from Holy Concentration, holy priests get 90% of their out-of-combat regen, in combat. Keep in mind that Holy Concentration was recently buffed to 40% from 20% at max ranks. In-game tooltips will not reflect this, since the buff was implemented through a hotfix, not a patch.

Because both Holy Concentration and Meditation are both passive abilities, there is very little you can do to actively get mana back when you're running low other than using your cooldowns. If you have already used your cooldowns and are on the verge of running out of mana, I recommend trying to shift to using mostly cheap spells like Heal, since the mana cost of these spells will usually be recovered by the time you finish casting. Doing this will keep you in the fight until you can use another cooldown or there is a break in the damage where you can take it easy and recover your resources.

Talent build

One of the nicest things about holy is that it has far fewer talents than the discipline tree. With 37 available talents (as opposed to disc's 42), you can take every single talent in the holy tree and still have some leftovers. This makes it pretty easy to get everything you want and still comfortably expand into our neighboring trees and get some strong throughput talents like Darkness or Twin Disciplines.

Here is an example of a talent build you might take as a holy priest.

This early in the expansion you'll be hard to find two priests with the exact same spec, but this one picture is an example of something a raiding priest might take. Since this priest would be raid healing more, she skips Surge of Light in favor of Renew talents. She also stuck a couple points in Mental Agility since she's likely to cast Circle of Healing and Renew more frequently in a larger group than in a 5-man. She takes Desperate Prayer, Lightwell, and Spirit of Redemption, all of which have their places in raids right now, particular when learning new fights.

The possibilities are endless, but feel free to to grab things like Surge of Light or Veiled Shadows (most raid fights are longer than 5 minutes long, though 5-man ones are short) depending on your needs. Next week when I flesh out the talents I'll possible specs you can take in more detail, plus supply you with the link you to a post I hear Derevka is working on for Tales of a Priest which will break down a few possible talent builds priests can take.

Oh! I want to point out that in the above build I took Darkness in order to help take some of the burden off your gear at getting to 12.5% haste. Just take in mind that the spell haste you receive from Darkness will not appear on your character sheet, nor will the haste buffs you see in raid. You'll want the haste on your character sheet to read 9.23%, or 1182 haste rating (4.022%, or 516 haste rating, if you have full raid buffs.) You can read the comments on this article for all the details on the math.


The following are recommended gems for priests.On socket bonuses I encourage holy priests to take socket bonuses on their gear, provided their haste requirements are already met. Try to get as much haste as you can from reforging, then if you still need some more you can look to your gems. The extra stats you gain from activating a socket bonus generally beat out whatever it is you're trying to optimize, and if you haven't noticed already, the socket bonuses offered in Cataclysm are a lot better for you than they've traditionally been.

For meta-gems, the following will be the most useful to a PvE holy priest.
  • Ember Shadowspirit Diamond This is probably going to be the go-to meta gem for healers for most of the expansion. It provides a nice, static 54 intellect and then additional mana on top from the plus 2% maximum mana.
  • Insightful Earthsiege Diamond This Wrath meta-gem did not see an upgrade in Cataclysm, but because of its unique proc, it can still compete with Cataclysm meta-gems to some extent. The proc rate is really low (5% on a 15-second internal cooldown), but it returns 600 mana when it does. If you're lucky, this can easily outperform the Ember Shadowspirit Diamond, but there is also a chance that it won't. Most of the time it will at least even out, so it's something to consider.
Players considering the Revitalizing Shadowspirit Diamond should recall that holy priests won't be too focused on crit at this point in the expansion. At higher gear levels, it might be an option for throughput. I would also suggest you avoid the increased run speed meta gem since the effect does not stack with Inner Will.


Reforging is the best way to get the extra haste we talked about earlier. Start by reforging crit to haste, then mastery. You should be able to get your 12.5% haste through reforging. If you have items without spirit on them and still feel like you need a little mana, reforging extra secondary stats to spirit is a sound choice as well.


With the new glyph system, you can stock up on all the glyphs you may potentially use and swap between them whenever you please. The glyphs below are glyphs you should learn as a holy priest.

  • Glyph of Guardian Spirit While this glyph is only a fraction of its former glory, it's still incredibly strong for party and raid healing. You can never have too many life-saving cooldowns.
  • Glyph of Prayer of Healing Right after Glyph of Guardian Spirit, this glyph is a must have for holy, especially if you're a raider and plan to do a lot of raid healing. In a party situation, it's still strong
  • Glyph of Lightwell With your allies using Lightwell, you'll want the extra charges this glyph provides.
  • Glyph of Renew Depending on how you normally group, the Glyph of Renew will either be mandatory or taking a back seat for Glyph of Lightwell. If you run your dungeons and raids with a group that knows how to use Lightwell, you'll want to take that glyph. If you don't, Glyph of Renew becomes your best choice over situational glyphs like Glyph of Flash Heal.
  • Glyph of Flash Heal This glyph will be more situational. It's very strong, but as we discussed earlier, your Flash Heal usage should be lower. Use it when a boss has a specific mechanic you are trying to counter with Flash Heal.
  • Glyph of Circle of Healing Even though Circle of Healing isn't as strong as it used to be, extra healing on a sixth target is still strong. Remember that even in a 5-man, there are still pets that would appreciate the healing.
  • Glyph of Spirit of Redemption If you end up taking the talent, you should take the glyph that goes with it.
  • Glyph of Holy Nova For the occasions where you need to use Holy Nova (typically spamming something with low health to death), this glyph is going to help you do that. You won't use it a lot, but you will use it.
  • Glyph of Mass Dispel This glyph is pretty circumstantial. Only a few fights will favor a Mass Dispel over individually dispelling a few targets, and even then, you should typically still have a lot of time to cast Mass Dispel at its full cast time and be okay.
  • Glyph of Dispel Magic There are so many good major glyph options for holy priests that it's unlikely you'll get to the point where you consider this glyph. However, it's still a nice choice to have the extra healing if you need to dispel a few targets anyway.
  • Glyph of Psychic Scream If you need to use Psychic Scream for emergency or circumstantial crowd control, this glyph will let you do it. Just remember that Pyschic Scream is not very long-lasting as a form of crowd control, and you may need to worry about threat once the effect has worn off the enemy mob you used it on.
  • Glyph of Fading Healing threat is definitely something holy priests need to look out for, since AoE healing causes a lot more threat than single-target. Since you'll likely need to use Fade, this glyph will make it more cost-effective.
  • Glyph of Fortitude Buffing is extremely taxing on your mana pool, but sometimes you'll need to buff in combat if a player dies and is resurrected. This glyph will help out a little.
  • Glyph of Levitate I'll parrot what I said in Discipline 101, just because of how important I think the information is: "This glyph is now actually quite important as opposed to a novelty. Cataclysm has added a vertical plane to combat, which means you can now jump or Levitate over certain mechanics. Mobs in Stonecore, for example, have an earthquake attack you can avoid by levitating your party. Also, in Throne of the Four Winds, you can use Levitate to quickly move over the blizzard patches in the fight against Al'Akir without taking damage."
  • Glyph of Shackle Undead Good for dungeon with undead creatures in them, bad for everything else. Feel free to inscribe this when you're in Shadowfang Keep, and avoid it the rest of the time.
Holy priests have the same enchant options that disc priests have available to them, but keep your stat weights in mind when selecting your enchants. Haste over mastery for your boot and glove enchants. For weapon enchants, though, I'd suggest Heartsong over Power Torrent, since spirit is a strong regen stat for holy priests. That said, Tyben at the Elitist Jerks forums suggests in the Cataclysm Holy Priest Compendium that you can get more out of Power Torrent if you use the intellect proc in time with your other mana return cooldowns. That requires a fairly disciplined approach that isn't always optimal, though, so it's up to you how you want to manage your enchants.

Next week

Next week, I'll finish Holy Priest 101 with a breakdown on how to use your spells, including our core talent Chakra. If you'd like to see something specific in the second part of the guide that I didn't include in Discipline 101, let me know and I'll see if I can include it in the conclusion next week.

Until then, if you're curious about some information in this guide, feel free to leave your feedback or questions in the comments. I will try to keep the information here as up-to-date as I can, so if you ever find anything out-of-date, let me know in the comments and I'll address it.
Want more tips for carrying out your priestly duties as a holy priest? Spiritual Guidance: Holy has you covered. Also check out Discipline Priest 101 for the other side of healing. For gear, check out the Pre-raid gear guide for holy and discipline priests.

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