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Spiritual Guidance: Holy Priest 101, part 2

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.

As a continuation from last week, today we'll be finishing up Holy Priest 101. Last week, we examined the basics for holy priests in Cataclysm, including stats, mana regeneration, gems, glyphs, and enchants. We also took a first look at what priest talent builds are going to look like. This week, we'll touch on mana efficiency and Chakra before wrapping up with a list of tips and tricks on how to heal as a holy priest.

Talent breakdown

Last week I talked about talent builds but didn't break down the individual talents. Here is the breakdown I owe you.


  • Improved Renew A talent that buffs the healing done by Renew. Definitely worth taking if you're using Renew -- which you are.
  • Empowered Healing Though these talents only buff single-target spells, you should expect to take them just to progress further into the tree. It won't hurt for when you're in your Chakra: Serenity stance.
  • Divine Fury These talents reduce the cast time on both Heal and Greater Heal, both of which will be quite important when you're doing any amount of single-target healing.
  • Desperate Prayer A lot of players have asked if this talent is worth taking, and it most certainly is when you're in a dire situation. You're more likely to end up in one of those situations in a raid though, so if you just run 5-mans I can see this being a bit excessive. (This talent will be buffed in an incoming patch and should address any complaints that it doesn't heal for enough.)
  • Surge of Light The proc from these talents is quite agreeable if you find yourself doing some single-target healing a 5-mans or raid.
  • Inspiration Getting this as a holy priest isn't even a question, you just get it and move along. You're capable of healing so many targets that it just makes sense that you improve the mitigation on every player you hit with a crit. Good for single-target and AoE healing, particularly in high raid damage fights.
  • Divine Touch The healing from this talent isn't all that big in the grand scheme of things, but every little bit counts if you're casting the spell anyway, right? It is a lot of talents to invest for such a small amount of healing though, so if you don't plan on getting Rapid Renewal in the next tier, you could also consider skipping this. (I'll post an article from Derevka later in this section where he explains this further.) One thing to note is that the instant cast effect from Divine Touch allows Renew to be counted as a direct heal for your mastery, Echo of Light. This could be important for any trinkets or other abilities that only proc off direct healing.
  • Holy Concentration I talked a lot about Holy Concentration in part 1 of Holy Priest 101, but just to reiterate, this is your mandatory mana regeneration talent. It allows you to regeneration 40% (30% after the patch) of your out of combat mana regeneration, in combat.
  • Lightwell Don't you even think of saying "lolwell" to me, Mr. or Ms. smarty robes. Lightwell is a big part of playing a holy priest now, and though it relies on other players taking part in their own healing you often can't afford to have them not use it. Players will learn to use it the more you put it down, so remind them each time that you use it to click it! Don't forget to use it yourself either.
  • Tome of Light Take it, if anything so you can use Holy Word: Serenity more often.
  • Rapid Renewal As cool as the concept is, this is a talent that has definitely fallen short in the existing state of the game. There just isn't much reason to increase the global cooldown of a spell you can barely spam. (This talent might make more sense when Renew gets buffed in the near future. We'll look at it again then.)
  • Spirit of Redemption Also known as "Improved Death," this talent allows you to keep healing after you die. When content is new and challenging this is a great pick for 5-mans and progression raiding.
  • Serendipity This talent reduces the cast time and mana cost of Greater Heal and Prayer of Healing after you've used Flash Heal or Binding Heal. This is quite helpful in Cataclysm, even if you won't spam Flash Heal anymore like you did in Wrath.
  • Body and Soul One of the best and most unique talents holy priests have since it gives us the ability to buff ourselves or others with a short sprint. This is amazing in PvE and PvP. To sell it even more, the talent lets holy priests' Cure Disease spell also cleanse poison debuffs on himself.
  • Chakra I will describe this talent fully later in this article, but know that this talent and all the talents associated with it are mandatory for a holy priest.
  • Revelations This talent allows your Holy Word: Chastise to take on other forms depending on what Chakra stance you're in. We'll talk more about them later in the Chakra section but make sure you take this.
  • Test of Faith This is a really strong talent in Cataclysm because most of the time your targets won't be at full health, or even half health. I really recommend this, whether you're single-target healing or AoE healing.
  • State of Mind This improves your Chakra by increasing the duration of Chakra every time you cast the trigger spell of the Chakra stance you're in. You'll want to take this (though it will need to be re-examined in the next patch.)
  • Circle of Healing Still a signature spell for holy priests, this AoE heal is a smart heal and will target the players who need it most within 15 yards of the target you cast the spell on. It has a short cooldown.
  • Guardian Spirit When this ability is placed on a target it will absorb a single lethal blow and restore the target to 50% of his or her health. Additionally, as long as the buff is on the target, he or she will receive 40% increased healing from all incoming heals (that means any healing from you and your allies.)
  • Improved Power Word: Shield Not exactly a couple of talents that you need to run out and get for everyday use, but strengthening Power Word: Shield isn't a terrible idea if you find yourself in a situation where you need to use Body and Soul a lot. (Plus incoming buffs to Power Word: Shield may require holy priests to take a new look at their bubble usage anyway. More on that later.)
  • Twin Disciplines All three talents will buff all your healing and damage by 6%. Definitely one to pick up.
  • Mental Agility These are some of the strongest talents a holy priest can take outside of her main tree since there are so many more instant cast spells that holy priests regularly use. Circle of Healing, Prayer of Mending, and Renew are obvious, but don't forget Power Word: Shield (for Body and Soul usage) and even Holy Nova. Playing a holy priest is so intensive on mana that these talents will definitely earn their keep.
  • Inner Sanctum This talent improves both Inner Will and Inner Fire. For Inner Will the talent increases the amount of run speed the buff gives. If you toggle to Inner Fire, this talent lets your Inner Fire reduce spell damage you take in addition to the normal effect. You could definitely play with this for certain encounters and find use for it, but it's more of a fringe talent.
  • Darkness You can get 3% extra spell haste from these talents (just remember that you won't see that reflected on your character window.) Not mandatory, but as we learned last week most holy priests will want the 3% spell haste from these talents to help get closer to 12.5% haste for the extra tick of Renew.
  • Veiled Shadows This talent will reduce you Shadowfiend cooldown by a minute, which actually isn't all that much but it can be useful in long raid encounters. (In 5-mans you won't really need to concern yourself with this since most encounters are over too quickly.) Keep in mind that if you intend to combine your Shadowfiend with Hymn of Hope this talent may mess up the timing since Hymn of Hope will still be 5 minutes long.
Any talents not included in this list are talents I do not recommend.

As I said last week, Derevka over at Tales of a Priest was working on an article on holy talent builds. He reiterates some of what I said last week about fifty times better, so I encourage that you go check it out.

A glance at spells and efficiency

In Disc 101, I featured a heal per mana (HPM) and heal per second (HPS) guide for spells disc priests use, ranked in order of efficiency. After a lot of contemplation, I decided that guide was less successful than I'd have liked it to be because of how math is typically interpreted or misinterpreted. Almost every spell a priest has is situational, if you think about it, and while efficiency is something to know and understand, I don't want people look at a list of spell values and form some sort of hard rotation or priority around them. HPM is something to keep in mind, not live by.

That said, I don't want to leave anyone stranded if they did want that information, so I'll provide you with a few resources to acquire that same information if you're interested. First, if you're lazy, you can check out the "Theorycrafted Spell Values and Stat Weights" section of this post over at Elitist Jerks. What you'll find there are a few charts similar to the ones I provided before. The only major difference between them is that the ones on EJ are contributed by hardcore theorycrafters, and the ones I give you are calculated by an in-game addon.

"Addon?" Why yes, there's an addon that calculates HPM and HPS for healing and damage spells. It's called DrDamage, and you can install it just like any other addon. It will give you all the information you need based on the stats and talents of your specific character, which is actually a bit better than anything I can give you, since gear levels are really starting to vary quite a bit between players nowadays.

Finally, if you want to try doing the math on your own, all you have to know is that HPM is calculated by dividing your average heal by the mana cost on your tooltip. HPS is determined by dividing the total amount of healing done and by the total amount of time spent healing. Very easy stuff!

Using Chakra

You may know already that Chakra is the core of holy priest healing. What does it do? It strengthens certain parts of the holy priest toolbox for a short time by activating one of three Chakra stances: Serenity, Sanctuary, and Chastise. Each stance buffs specific spells or types of healing the holy priest can do. As a healer, you will only use two of those stances: Serenity (which is oriented around single-target healing) and Sanctuary (a stance focused on AoE or group healing.) To activate a Chakra stance, you have to use the Chakra ability, then use a triggering spell. Each stance can be triggered, as well as refreshed, by certain spells; Serenity is activated by the spell Heal, while Sanctuary is activated by Prayer of Mending and Prayer of Healing.

There is another component to Chakra called Holy Words, which are cooldown healing (or offensive) spells that correspond in design and flavor to the different Chakra stances. Holy Word: Serenity is an instant-cast, single-target heal that applies a buff to your target that increases your chance to critically heal the target in the next few seconds. Holy Word: Sanctuary, on the other hand, creates a large area on the ground that heals friendly players standing within it.

For Chakra: Serenity, you'll mostly be using this stance for single-target healing. That includes tank healing and any instances where it's more effective to heal individual targets over many. While in this stance your chance to crit with single-target heals is increased. In addition to the increased crit, your single-target heals will also refresh the duration of Renew on your target to 15 seconds (3 more seconds than the usual duraton.) This is incredibly helpful for healing one or two tanks since you won't need to continually apply Renew on them. (Please note that the tooltip for Chakra: Serenity refers to "direct heals" and so does the tooltip for holy's mastery, Echo of Light. In the cast of Chakra: Serenity, direct healing refers only to single-target spells, while Echo of Light can be activated on any spell other than Renew without the talent Divine Touch.)

Holy Word: Serenity has a lot of uses since it's instant cast, mana efficient, and quite strong. Try to use it whenever it's available, though there will be instances where you wait a moment or two to save it for healing something specific. When you know you're about to move, for example, you can use it while you're in transit instead of having nothing to cast. Holy Word: Serenity offers a lot of interesting possibilities in your healing because it improves the crit chance of your next spell. For example, you may not always want to use it to top off a target since the following spell will crit; use it when your target needs a lot of healing, then you can follow it up with a stronger spell like Greater Heal to top him or her off.

For Chakra: Sanctuary
, you'll want to activate this stance through Prayer of Mending, and then with normal play you should be able to maintain it with natural usage of Prayer of Mending and Prayer of Healing. Sanctuary stance buffs your AoE healing and Renew by 15% and also reduces the cooldown of Circle of Healing. This is the stance you'll be in whenever you're not single-target healing. Your AoE spells are your bread and butter as holy, so this will buff most of the spells you want to be using. You don't need this so much in 5-mans, but in most raid environments this is the stance you'll be in the majority of an encounter. It's incredibly mana intensive so you'll need some gear to sustain the mana demands of this stance.

Holy Word: Sanctuary isn't quite as versatile as Holy Word: Serenity. You'll rarely need it in a 5-man, and in raids you're only going to use it if 1) everyone is stacked up and 2) you're in a situation where you need all the healing you can possibly do at once. Holy Word: Sanctuary is expensive, doesn't heal for a lot, and suffers a lot from the diminishing returns of AoE healing in large groups. Because of all this you need to keep in mind that you won't be using this spell at every turn. Save it until the fight requires that you pull out all the stops. If things are peachy or stable you can shelf this most of the time.

Healing as a holy priest

There following are some general healing tips for holy priests.
  • Always use Prayer of Mending on cooldown. No matter what spec you are, it's one of your strongest healing spells because it works on its own after you send it out into the world.
  • Don't spam anything, but most especially, don't spam Renew. The days of Renew spam are over, and if you try to blanket your party or raid with HoTs, you will cripple your resources. Only use Renew on players who need it!
  • In raids, use Circle of Healing as much as possible, even if it's not as strong as it used to be. It's still a smart heal, and your mana regeneration should have no trouble handling it.
  • Always be looking for opportunities to use Prayer of Healing. It's the strongest spell you have right now, and it will account for most of your healing done. You'll almost never overheal individual targets with it, but keep in mind that you still want it to be effective. Use it when you have the opportunity to heal most of a group at once (read: 3 members at the minimum, 4 preferred, and 5 for epic win.)
  • Alert your party or raid that you've put down a Lightwell so they know it's available for consumption.
  • Be mindful of Surge of Light. Every time you get a proc, make sure you use Flash Heal on someone, anyone so it doesn't go to waste. You can always use it on yourself.
  • Heal is your filler spell; use it whenever you can't cast anything else. It's cheap and efficient and can proc Surge of Light!
  • Save Guardian Spirit for a situation where someone is about to die, but once you've used it on a target, decide if you can keep that target alive or not. If you can't, let him die and get brought back up to 50% by the spell, then start healing him again. If you can keep him alive, then spam heals on him and take advantage of that 40% healing buff. Basically you need to decide if the talent can do more healing than you can during the abilities duration, and spend your time accordingly.
  • Avoid Flash Heal unless you absolutely need it to save the day. It's one of the least efficient spells you have.
  • When you do have to use Flash Heal, remember that it will apply a stack of Serendipity. Be mindful to use a Greater Heal or Prayer of Healing after you use Flash Heal, since the cast time and mana cost will be lowered by Serendipity.
  • Remember that Binding Heal also stacks up Serendipity.
  • Use Body and Soul to get around anything and everything that is in your way. If you use the ability pre-emptively, you can get to where you need to be and get a head start on the next few moments of the fight. This is great for raids when other players need to move in tandem; you'll be the first healer back on duty after large group movements.
  • Warlock and hunter groups love Prayer of Healing, because your Prayer of Healing will heal their pets too.
  • You can roll Renew on three different targets continually if you time it right. Start by casting Renew on two targets back to back, then refresh their duration by casting Heal on each of them, then add in your third target by hitting them with a Renew. From there you should be able to rotate between each player, just casting Heal, and you'll never need to refresh Renew. Heal is a fraction of the cost of Renew so this is very mana efficient, however it's not practical in many situations.
  • If you're running low on mana switch to Serenity stance. Since it's oriented around the very mana efficient Heal, you'll be able to stay optimized and contribute to the encounter, but relax the strain on your mana pool.
  • Think of Holy Nova as a utility, not as a heal. Think snake traps and the sort.
  • A holy priest's Leap of Faith grants Body and Soul. Paired with Power Word: Shield you have a chance to assist your party members with things like kiting by chaining the Body and Soul effect multiple times.
And that finishes up Holy Priest 101 -- much easier information to follow along with this week than last. There are a bunch of buffs and nerfs in the next patch that will change some of the information in this guide but I will not adjust it until those changes go to live servers. I'll talk about those more later in the week.

If you have any more questions or advice, feel free to leave them in the comments. Also be sure to check out the first part of Holy 101 from last week.

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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