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Should you play a priest in WoW?

If you're just getting started with WoW -- or even if you aren't -- picking the perfect class to play can be a challenge. But the number of class options doesn't mean you need to close your eyes and see where your cursor lands in order to pick the class you're going to play. With a bit of research, you can make an informed decision on which class best fits how you like to game -- and we're here to help. Today, we're talking about priests, spiritual devotees who unleash the powers of light and shadow to heal or harm.

Priests are unique in their talent specializations: while specializations for most classes mean multiple ways to do damage or fill different class roles, priests are the only class with two healing-focused specializations: holy and discipline. These two specs offer very different ways to heal, which can make priests very versatile healers... if you're into that kind of thing. But even if you aren't, don't count priests out as on offensive class: their shadow specialization gives them access to a powerful arsenal of damage spells, which could make priest the class for you even if you never want to cast a healing spell.

But does that mean you should be playing a priest? Read on and we'll discuss just what priests can do.

Just what is a priest?
Unlike some classes -- such as druids, which can only be played by four races -- priests have a broad selection of races. The only race that can't become priests are the orcs, meaning that draenei, dwarves, gnomes, humans, night elves, worgen, blood elves, goblins, tauren, trolls, undead, and pandaren can become priests. While priests once had access to unique abilities based on their race, these days all priests have access to the same skills, so you just need to pick the race that most appeals to you (or has the most interesting racial abilities).

For armor and weapons, however, priests have fewer options than average. They can wear only light cloth armor, which leaves them vulnerable to physical attack -- though fortunately, priests of all specializations have access to shields and other handy tools to prevent and mitigate damage. For weapons, they can wield daggers, one-handed maces, staves, and wands -- though you shouldn't expect to spend much time hitting anyone with weapons, they will provide you with stat bonuses and wands can be a convenient source of mana-free DPS in a pinch.

Like other caster classes, a priest's spells are powered by mana -- and with no secondary resource system like paladin's holy power or a monk's chi, this can make priests a more straightforward class to play. But it also means priests -- again, like other caster classes -- live and die by their mana pools, so be sure to keep your mana potions handy and your wand arm ready.

The light and the shadow
Holy and discipline priests focus on the light, which powers both their healing and damage-dealing abilities. While both are excellent healers, holy priests focus more on raw healing power while discipline priests make more use of abilities to avoid and mitigate damage. Though both can be useful in any healing situation, you're likely to find discipline more used by priests looking to heal in PvP whereas holy is more common in PvE. Unfortunately, neither of these specs is top notch for players trying to grind or quest on their own, but they're much in demand for groups and have enough offensive capability to get by on their own if they need to. Just don't expect them to be quite as speedy and self-sufficient as, say, a hunter when playing on their own (or pick up shadow as a secondary spec when you hit level 30).

If you want to solo and not worry about others, though, that's the shadow priest's speciality. While all priests have access to some shadow spells -- like Shadow Word: Pain which deals damage to an enemy over time or the Shadowfiend which can be summoned to attack the priest's enemies and restore the priest's mana pool -- priests who pick the shadow specialization focus on shadow spells above all else. In fact their Shadowform, which improves their damage-dealing abilities comes at the cost of not being able to cast any holy spells. And if you want to group -- but not heal -- shadow priests are valuable DPSers and, despite their lack of access to holy spells, still have plenty of group utility. With Vampiric Embrace, some of the damage they do is converted to healing for their group and Shadowform also conveys a group buff that increases spell haste -- something any caster grouped with a shadow priest will certainly appreciate.

Who should (and shouldn't) play a priest?
We love priests in all their forms. But will you? Here's the people who we think will enjoy playing a priest:

  • If you love healing, priests provide more healing options than any other healing class you'll find with two unique healing specs. Want to PvE heal? There's a spec for that! Want to PvP heal? There's a spec for that, too!
  • If you want to DPS... with added utility. Shadow priests dish out damage while healing their party and buffing their group. Why heal or DPS when you can do both at once?
And you probably shouldn't play a priest if:
  • You want to melee or otherwise be right in the heart of the action. No matter how you slice it, priests aren't front-line fighters.
  • You hate being asked to heal. Even shadow priests will get the request, some days to the point of annoyance.
  • You're looking for a class with high survivability. Shadow priests have solid survivability and holy and discipline priests have decent survivability because of their access to healing spells -- but all of them wear cloth armor and can be fragile.

Want to know more about priests?
If we've piqued your interest, check out these priest resources for more info:If you've decided priest isn't the class for you, don't fret: there are plenty of other options! Be sure to check out our guide to druids, hunters, monks, paladins, and warlocks -- and look for more newbie class coverage coming soon!
Just because you're a newbie doesn't mean you can't bring your A-game to World of Warcraft! Visit the WoW Rookie Guide for links to everything you need to get started as a new player, from the seven things every newbie ought to know to how to get started as a healer or as a tank.

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