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How to Play a Healing Priest

The Basics
Priest healers are doomed to wear cloth, and as such tend to be a little squishier than Shaman or Druid healers who can outfit themselves in leather or mail. But don’t let this discourage you;, while you will need to be a little more aware of the damage you take, Priest healers have an arsenal of spells that make it easy for them to keep themselves and others alive.

Unlike most other healing classes, as a Priest healer you will have the option to spec into one of two talent trees:; Discipline or Holy. Each spec brings a different type of healing style to the table and while both specs value the same basic stats on gear, the way the stats are ranked varies slightly. Choosing which talent tree you wish to spec into will depend on your personal play style and how you feel most comfortable healing.

Discipline Priests are very powerful tank healers, relying more on mitigating the damage from the target than directly healing it. Power Word: Shield is the Discipline Priest’s best friend and will probably become one of your most used spells if you choose this spec. With recent changes Discipline Priests have also become viable raid healers, once again using their Power Word: Shields and then jumping ability of Prayer of Mending to avoid most of the damage then heal whatever damage is actually taken. However Discipline Priests really shine as tank healers and as such should do this job as often as possible. While they will never top the damage meters (shields are not picked up on most damage meters) do not underestimate the power of the Disc Priest.

If in doubt about which healing spec you wish to choose, make use of Dual-Spec and try out both. This should make it very easy to decide which healing style is for you.

Item Stats

Even with the most recent regen mechanics which brought a nerf to Spirit, and caused Intellect to be a much sought after stat, it may seem that Spirit should be knocked off the top of the list for Holy Priests. However, with Holy Concentration it is still worth maintaining a high amount of Spirit to make this talent worthwhile. Keeping this talent up will allow the Holy Priest to enjoy almost the levels of mana regen seen pre Spirit nerf, while also gaining some spell power along the way.

While Spirit is still the be all end all for Holy Priests, the usefulness of Intellect cannot be ignored. Almost all regen is based off of your final mana, so the more mana you have, the more regen you will see. Even your Shadowfiend now restores mana based on your overall mana, therefore picking up as much intellect as you can is a good idea. It’s always valuable and you can never really have too much.

Not the most important stat for Holy Priests, but still pretty important, as gaining more Crit will allow your Holy Concentration to proc more, thus allowing you to regen more mana. More mana equals more heals. After you reach 30% raid buffed, Crit becomes less important and you can worry about other stats.

As a Holy Priest you will need about 12-14% haste. Sit down and consider what spells you use, and take into account which buffs and talents you have available. If you don’t have Enlightenment, or you cast a lot of heals with longer cast times (Greater Heal) you should probably pick up slightly more haste than the recommended 12-14 percent.

Spellpower is always a good idea to look for. The more spell power you have, the harder your heals hit making it so you can heal less, and regen more. Not with Mp5 though, while not a useless stat for the Holy Priest, Spirit is still a much more valuable stat and should not be a substitute for Mp5 unless no other options are available.

Discipline Priests require basically the same stats as Holy Priests except how they value those stats is very different. For example Spirit, while important for Disc Priests, provides no where near the value as it does for Holy Priests so while Spirit is not a bad thing, gemming for Spirit as a Disc Priest is probably not the best idea.

Intellect is a major player for the Disc Priest, for basically the same reason a Holy Priest would value it. Intellect affects almost all mana regen in some way, and as such having more Intellect gives you better mana regen. Pick up as much Intellect as possible.

Crit is very important for the Disc Priest and can almost be compared to Spirit for the Holy Priest. Most of the Disc Priest’s spells work based off their crit and as such Disc Priests should stack this stat as much as possible. There is very little reason to stop stacking crit, and a good Disc Priest should be able to pull close to 40% with decent gear.

Disc Priests rely on haste slightly less than a Holy Priest, as they use a lot of instant casts and as such they should only have enough haste to reach the hard cap at 11%. Stacking any more than that is simply useless.

Never forget that while Discipline Priests and Holy Priests are both Priests, they require different types of stats and if you stack them accordingly you will be well on your way to being the best healer you can be.


Holy Priests have the luxury of being able to shuffle some of their talents around, picking and choosing the talents that best fit their heal style. A standard Holy build is 14/57/0, however there are quite a few low priority spells in the Holy tree and they can be shuffled around at will. If for example you never use Renew, then drop Empowered Renew. Or if you feel like you aren’t casting Greater Heal or Flash Heal simply drop Improved Healing. There are plenty of other places that you can place these extra points that will be far more beneficial to you. The entire list of useless or low priority spells currently in the Holy tree is: Lightwell, Blessed Recovery, Spell Warding, Blessed Resilience, and Improved Renew.

The Discipline spec is going to require you to go deep into the tree, and leave you less wiggle room than the Holy spec. This is mostly because some of the best talents available to the Discipline priest are located in the lower tiers of the tree. Some must haves are Grace, Pain Suppression, Rapture, Borrowed Time, Penance, Aspiration, and Divine Aegis, however, almost all the talents in the Discipline tree are excellent. If you really feel the need to drop talents from the bottom of the tree, choose talents out of the 7th tier and really think long and hard about dropping them. Currently one of the most common Discipline specs is 57/14/0. While the Discipline tree is filled with talents that are most awesome there are a few that are not on the must have list, including: Martyrdom, Silent Resolve, Imp Mana Burn, Reflective Shield, Unbreakable Will and to a lesser degree Absolution.


With the changes to Spirit, priest healing styles have significantly changed. While mana can still be regened by just standing around it has been hit with a pretty big nerf stick and takes quite a bit of gear before you can really count on ticks outside of the 5 second rule.

This also makes intellect much more important for Priests since mana pool size greatly affects your regeneration abilities (Shadowfiend, Hymn of Hope). You will eventually find that you have much more Intellect than Spirit, mostly because you cannot stack Spirit without greatly nerfing many of your other important stats.

Discipline Priests do not have to worry about using out of the 5 second rule rengeration as they are all about sustaining. Discipline Priests must take advantage of any free Global Cool Downs available to put extra Power Word: Shields up. The more Power Word: Shields the more chances one of the people with it on them will take a hit that removes it, allowing the Disc Priest to gain most of that mana back through Rapture. Another reason to constantly be casting Power Word: Shield instead of standing around regening mana is the ability for Disc Priests to proc Borrowed Time, as this makes your next tank heal that much faster.

Holy Priests, on the other hand, can make use of staying outside of the 5 second rule. To do this it really comes down to taking small breaks in your healing. As stated previously in the guide this works well with the new damage style introduced especially found in Ulduar of a burst of damage, a lull, then another burst of damage. At any time when there is a lull in damage the Holy Priest should be in regen mode. Pick your nose, twiddle your thumbs, anything that keeps you from casting during the periods of time without any damage.

Holy Priests and Disc Priests have access to some spells that make mana regen that much easier, in the form of Shadowfiend and Hymn of Hope. To best make use of these two spells, wait till you are low on mana (30 percent or less), use your Shadowfiend and then hit Hymn of Hope. By the time you are done (and if your Shadowfiend doesn’t get wtfpwned) you should have gained a substantial amount of mana back allowing you to continue saving people from certain doom.

Fade and You

As a healer you will find that very rarely will you ever have to worry about threat (unless you have a really terrible tank). But you will still find yourself in situations where threat is a concern for healers, especially when there are many mobs spawning that cannot be picked up quickly. An ill timed heal can bring these newly spawned mobs down on you, easily wiping you out.

To avoid getting splattered all over the ground by rampaging mobs, making use of the Priest’s Fade ability is imperative. Fade temporarily reduces all threat for 10 seconds, and gives your tanks time to pick up the mobs you have gained aggro on. Keep in mind that after the 10 seconds is up all your threat will instantly come back and any mobs that are not picked up by a tank or another player will make a bee line for you.

Raiding as a Holy Priest

You’ve chosen the Holy tree and are ready to raid, but once you get there, what exactly are you supposed to be doing? There is no real set rotation for a healer. Every fight is different and having a knowledge of all the spells in your arsenal is important. Knowing your spells gives you the ability to decide which is best for the situation.

Holy Priests are made to be Raid healers, and as such the spells they will use in a raid situation are spells that are quick, and do vast amounts of group healing. The primary spells used by a Holy Priest will normally be: Prayer of Mending, Flash Heal, Circle of Healing, and Prayer of Healing.

Since damage now commonly comes in bursts with lulls in between you should attempt to start the burst phase with three stacks of Serendipity up, then once the burst hits follow it by two hasted Prayer of Healing, and then finally Circle of Heal. Finish up with some Flash Heals all around and possibly and extra Prayer of Healing or Circle of Heal if needed. Don’t be afraid to throw out some Renews or Prayers of Mending to help heal those taking minimal damage while you focus on others who may need your healing more. Regen during the lulls in damage, and then get Serendipity back up to prepare once again for the burst of damage. If only one target is taking damage in the raid, simply throw a Renew, and Flash Heal the target to full.

Holy Priests should almost never heal tanks. They cannot touch a good Paladin Healer, or even a Druid. If you really feel the need to tank heal, I would suggest respecting into Disc. But if you find yourself forced into tank healing keep Renew up on your tank, along with Prayer of Mending. Flash Heal and Great Heal as needed, but really, leave the tank healing to the Disc Priests.

Raiding as a Discipline Priest

Disc Priests (if you haven’t caught on yet) are excellent tank healers and as such this should be their assigned job in any raid. Like a Holy Priest, knowing what spells you have up your sleeve is very important as what you use will depend on the situation.

The most commonly used spells by the Disc Priest are Power Word: Shield, Flash Heal, Prayer of Mending, and Greater Heal. Use Penance on every cool down and use your Power Word: Shield to keep up Borrowed Time if you have down time, having 20% additional haste on your next spell is seriously never a bad thing and could save your tank’s life. Stack Power Word: Shield and Prayer of Mending on everything around you if your tank manages to dodge a string of attacks, mitigating any damage may mean life or death for your tank.

While Disc Priests are obviously masters of tank healing they are also viable raid healers if needed. Use Borrowed Time to haste your Prayer of Healing casts, Keep Prayer of Mending on cool down at all times, and toss shields like there is no tomorrow. Pre-shielding can easily mitigate quite a bit of raid damage a boss can put out.