Holy Priest Guide

Last update: 05/05/2011

Current patch: 4.1

A guide to this guide

Many of the WOW guides I’ve found on the internet is either incomplete, massively overcomplicated for the level of information I want, or out of date. Much of the stuff I’ve found is either confusing to newcomers to the class or spec, contradictory (or out of date) and thus very confusing, or oversimplified and no use to the more advanced user, and in some scenarios, just plain wrong. To this end I’m going to try and keep things simple (from a reading point of view) and keep things readable and useful to all.

Firstly you’ll notice the last update field at the top of this page, this was the last time I edited and / or uploaded new content, the current patch is the most recent patch to which this post is relevant to (or an indicator that I’m being slack and need to update the page), if there are sections where the data is old I will aim to clearly mark them either at the top of the section or in-line with the out of date text.

Most of what I post here will be an assortment of information from other blogs, forums and websites, where I’ve ripped of large sections I’ll be referencing providing credit at the end.

I’ll be aiming to order stuff in roughly the order I think people will attack their characters makeup, or at least how I did, obviously some of the more advanced stuff would be tackled last but I’ll keep it grouped to aid my sanity. I won’t be dealing with levelling (at least not here) I may aim a blog post at that some other time.

I’m intending to talk about class and spec specific patch updates in a blog post and then edit this post as a result, to avoid the confusion of not knowing when or what patch the information posted is relevant to.



First up, a glossary of terms, I’m not going to use the full name of each spell in the text as it adds too much bloat, here are all of the acronyms you’ll need, they’ll be second nature to you very soon…

Cool Down
CoH Circle of Healing
Crit Critical Chance
Fort Power Word:Fortitude
FH Flash Heal
GH Greater Heal
Haste Spell Haste
HoH Hymn of Hope
HW:S Holy Word: Serenity
Int Intellect
Mastery Spell Mastery
MP5 Mana (regen)Per 5 (seconds)
PoH Prayer of Healing
PoM Prayer of Mending
PW:S Power Word Sheild
Res Resurrection
SP Spell Power



Blizzard have recently introduced a lock on talent tree’s after you chose to spend your first point you’ll be locked to that tree until you’ve spend 31 points, after that, you’re free to dump points in other trees.



Primary Spells (your main spells)

The spell priorities for healing are a lot more fluid than with shadow, what you’ll use is extremely situation dependant and play-style dependant, I’ll try and reflect that here, and I’ve split them into direct heal and AOE Heals for primary spells to try and reflect this, but please do bear in mind that the boundaries are very fluid

Flash Heal
Greater Heal
Prayer of Mending
Holy Word:Serenity
Prayer of Healing
Circle of Healing
Holy Word:Sanctuary

Secondary Spells (those used as less frequently, or to buff other spells)
Guardian Spirit
Power Word:Shield
Desperate Prayer
Cure Disease
Dispel Magic
Mass Dispel
Shadow Fiend
Power Word:Fortitude
Shadow Protection
Hymn of Hope
Divine Hymn
Inner Fire
Inner Will

Tertiary Spells
Fear Ward
Holy Nova
Leap of Faith
Mind Control
Mind Vision
Shackle Undead



Communication is one of your most important, free, talents, it costs no mana and saves raids. Use it to your advantage. Talk to your tank, especially in PuGs, tell him what your style is, tell him what you struggle on or where he’s likely to need to pop CD’s. In raids talk with your other healers, make sure priorities and assignments are understood, consider creating your own healing chat channel for healer specific bitching discussion in raids. Vent is especially your friend, announce when you’re about to do things like cast Guardian Spirit so as not to have two healers burn cooldowns at the same time. If vent isn’t an option, look at macros as a way to announce to the raid the spells you’ve just cast.



I’ve spoken to a few prospective healers who have been thinking about adding a second healing spec, but aren’t confident enough to do it, generally because they’re worried about letting others down or the abuse that may (but generally wont) follow in a PUG should . At the end of the day you’ll never know if you enjoy being a healer, and will never improve, unless you try it, no matter how many guides on the internet you try.


Seek help

Most people are a member of a guild, or at the very least have a group of friends in game that they trust and get on with; it’s one of the main-stays of the game. Use them! Especially if you’re not confident, ask them to hold your hand through your first few instances, even if you need to PUG one or two places, if you can find a decently geared tank, and one or two dps you know to be good players, you’re half way there.


Be Honest

If you do decide to go the PUG route, for even a couple of places or the full party, be honest with them up front, something along the lines of “go easy on me this is my first time healing a heroic”, healers are still in relatively short supply and DPS still have a 30 minute queue most of the time so you’re unlikely to see people drop party instantly. I’ve been doing exactly this on my tank for the past week, generally with a guildy or two but some PUG’s and never had a problem, people will generally be far more understanding if they know you’re new to heroics or a particular role. On the same note, if you mess up, just say “sorry, I messed up” don’t blame the cat, don’t blame lag, just say you dropped the ball. People will appreciate the honesty, as they’ve all been in the same position before.


Be thick skinned

Very occasionally, you’ll meet a muppet in an instance, it may be that they’ve just had a bad day, it may be that they’ve got the social skills of a North African dictator in a protest march, who knows, but for whatever reason they’re going to call someone out. The unwritten rules of WOW state if a party wipes it’s the nub healers fault, if it’s not the nub healer then it’s the nub tank, if it’s not the nub tank then the instance must be bugged, it couldn’t possibly be my fault! Accept that there are idiots in the world, and you’ll occasionally get grouped with one and get on with things.

Keep an instance journal

This is something I’ve just started doing since Cata because I struggle to remember some key points in boss fights and its something I’ve blogged about recently. I have an A4 book which I dedicate 2 pages to each instance, I split it into columns for each alt and each role (i.e. for my priest I have a healing and dps section) where I note down the specifics to each boss fight (and sometimes trash), things like “Phase 1, easy single target heals CONSERVE MANA – Phase 2 BIG AOE heals” and “DECURSE!!!!!111” just little memory aids, basically whatever floats your boat and helps you remember.

Healing Priorities

I’ve named this section ‘priorities’, as opposed to rotation in the shadow section, as there is no real correct answer to what you should be doing at any given time, once again it’s all down to priorities. At a very high level (assuming 5 man party healing) your lose priority is:

Keep the tank alive, keep yourself alive, keep the rest of the party alive, conserve / regen mana, but even this may change, occasionally, it may be that you chose to sacrifice a party member to conserve mana and thus keep the tank alive, it may even be the case that you sacrifice yourself in order to down a boss (see my post on suicidal tendencies). The sections below will deal with the loose priorities for healing in general terms. I can’t stress how important good communication is, it offers a massive boost to the potential of any group, its completely free, and anyone with a mouth and ears can do it. Do bear in mind, though, communication is a two way thing, you have twice as many ears as you do mouths, there’s a reason for this: LISTEN to other people.

Use of Chakra

Chakra now lasts until cancelled since 4.1, this is a huge change as it means you're no longer going to be wasting time faffing around trying to recast Chakra and a relevant spell to keep you in the same stance.  It also opens up more possibilities for changing stance earlier in an encounter (as you don't have to be on cool down entering a fight) and changing more often / at more suitable points in a fight as you don't have to be as mindful of locking yourself out of other stances for parts of key phases.

5-man healing

Your ‘business as usual’ Chakra state for 5 mans is Serenity, giving you a 10% bonus to direct heals, AND direct heals landed refresh an active renew, AND you get Holy Word:Serenity which is an instant heal around the level of Flash heal but also increases the crit chance of spells on the target by 25% for 6 seconds.

Heal and Renew are your staple diet for ‘normal’ levels of damage, i.e. where the tank can be maintained at a 90%+ ish (you need to make a judgement call on what this level is) purely with heal (and the renew being refreshed by that heal) if the tank is taking so little damage that only the renew is really needed just make sure you fire of an occasional heal to refresh the HoT as close as you dare to it disappearing. If the damage is a little higher consider using HW:S to top up the tank as a cheap heal, but only if the damage the tank is taking isn’t likely to spike suddenly. Don’t forget the Surge of Light procs which give you a free Flash Heal. You should also be looking to have PoM up on the tank if the rest of the party are taking any amount of regular damage (remember to put it on the tank, the first charge is more powerful).

When damage gets a bit more intense, switch from heal to Greater Heal, remember this isn’t as mana efficient, once you get back to safe levels then revert back to standard Heal. If things get even worse, then start spamming one or two Flash Heals followed by a Greater Heal (the flashes speed up the Greater Heal , stacking twice). If things get even worse then start looking to use HW:S, I tend to use FH, HW:S, FH, GH when things are really bad as the two spells following HW:S benefit from the additional crit.

Things get even more complicated when the party start taking damage, don’t be afraid to throw one or two renews about, you can generally sustain two renews (in addition to the tank) with heal refreshing them. If things are really bad then start using FH on pary members using the haste proc’d GH on the tank. Party member tend (but not always) to take less spikey dps so you can generally use fire and forget spells like renew and / or PW:S, deal with the tank and then come back to them. Don’t forget you’ve got PoH, CoH and Divine Hymn in your kit bag if 4 or 5 of the party needs a heal. And in some circumstances, particularly where the party is grouped, you may look to Sanctuary Chakra and Holy Word: Sanctuary.


Multiple target healing

Holy Priests really come into their own when AOE heals are the order of the day, this generally means 10 or 25 man raids. The important thing to have here is a well laid out interface and the right addons so that you can clearly see party makeups and health. AOE healing done wrong quickly means a depleted mana pool and dead people. You need to be aiming to be healing at least four party members, preferably 5 to maximise your mana efficiency, Chakra Sanctuary is the (obvious) state to be in, with PoH and CoH being the staple heals, but don’t ignore PoM and Flash Heal if the tank, or other individuals need some additional help (remember Flash Heal buffs the speed of PoH as well as Greater Heal.

The 4.1 release has seen a massive 30% buff to the Holy Word: Sanctuary healing, it's still pretty situational, and costs a lot of mana, but I'm finding I use it a lot more than I used to, especially in the new ZA / ZG instances; look for situations where the party is reasonably tightly grouped and all taking damage, it's pretty pointless using it if only the tank is taking damage or the party is spread or on the move.

Dispelling and removing disease

Whilst this isn’t technically healing, it is an imperative to any healer, you can generally gauge the ability of the healer by how quickly (or not as the case may be) they dispel, decurse, and cure disease. This is especially pertinent with the removal of shadow priests ability to dispel anyone but themselves since 4.1 hit.  Get an addon that notifies you when someone needed dispelling or curing, I use healbot with ctrl-clicks bound for these functions. You need to know your debuffs often you’ll find debuffs do very little to certain classes (e.g. a mage with a melee weapon speed debuff) so make sure you’re not wasting mana where possible. The only other decision is single point dispel or mass dispel – use your judgement, mass dispel is quicker but uses a lot of mana 38% of base mana opposed to 16% for single target dispel (clearly you need to use mass dispel if there are 3 or more targets to be dispelled.  I'd reccomend glyphing for dispel too, this adds a 3% heal to anyone who you dispel.


Self Healing

Look to use desperate prayer wherever possible, it’s a minute amount of mana for a large heal and instant. You’re generally a lot more aware of your own health than others so consider renew and topping up with heal if you’re in no danger of being squashed. Binding heal is looking more attractive since 4.1 too, it now has a chance to proc surge of light, I'm terrible at using it however it's been moved further up my cast priorities as a result of the patch.



Lightwells are a crucial part of the Holy Priests arsenal, use them on every boss, make sure you constantly educate your party as to their value in keeping them alive as people tend to forget / be lazy / like dying. Consider collecting phone numbers so you can contact people mid fight to remind them not to suck etc. etc. Ideally the lightwell goes down pre-pull, if it’s a long fight and it’s depleted or times out, you may want to recast, especially if you’re likely to be stunned or forced to be mobile for long periods.


On the prehealng note, I tend to (where im not confident on the mana front) pre cast spells before the pull, this will take the understanding of the tank, as an early or late pull will render this action pointless and may even put you in a worse position – talk to your tank and explain what and why you’re doing.

My order of pre-cast is Lightwell, PoM , PW:S then renew tank, chakra, heal (for chakra state), sit down and drink as you instruct the tank to pull. This will give you the equivalent of around 10% of your mana pool free healing.

Mana Conservation & Regen

There are several mechanics for preventing a Shadow Priest running out of mana, to the extent that if you’re out of mana, you’ve done something very, very, wrong (or silly). In order of importance, here’s the spells I use to ensure I (and other party members) always have enough of the blue stuff:

Shadowfiend in long fights cast it early so that you can use it twice (make sure you don’t hit 100% mana or it’s a waste) it also gives a reasonable bit of dps so look to use it even if you won’t go oom.

Hymn of Hope look to use it whenever you’ll have a long enough period of time to avoid taking damage or the need to move, you’re unlikely to be able to use this twice due to the length of the cooldown but do bare it in mind if your DPS are armed with feathers and sharpened fruit.

Proper use of Cooldowns

For mana regen cooldowns see above

Divine Hymn is a one off smart heal that while channelled heals the 3 party or raid members on the lowest health, and also increases additional healing for 10 seconds after done to them by 10%.  It is channelled so you need to be careful in choosing when to use it, but it’s a raid / party saver so make sure you keep it in mind. Try not to waste it – if the group has taken a lot of damage and are going to take more damage then use it, if you could top up your group by other means safely then try to save it.

Guardian Spirit

This is a death saver, pure and simple, primarily for the tank, but useable on anyone who you wont be able to save from death. Not only does it increase the healing effects by 40% for 10seconds but it also returns the player to 50% health should they hit 0 health in that time. The cooldown is far less than your other saver so you’re more able to use liberal smatterings of this. I use it in two ways, when someone is close to death and needs lots of big heals, often in conjunction with HW:Serenity, the other option is if they’re a lost cause, stick it on them, let them ‘die’ and then start healing them again when they’re back to 50% health.

Class specific cooldowns (beserking for trolls) give a big boost, in my case haste and should not be ignored and can be a good addition to the casting speed should the situation dictate.


The mechanics of a class are what makes it unique, specialisations and playing styles further impact this uniqueness. These are the main issues you should be concerned with:

Gearing & Stat Priority

There are a few things to note about stat weights, firstly they are variable, as your gear evolves, so do they; secondly they are unique to you and your gear, this means that the websites proclaiming the definitive stat weights for your class are, at best, an approximation of an approximation – unless they’ve been calculated with your stats in mind they won’t necessarily be applicable to you; finally, and probably most important, the weightings are a reference, and nothing more - your play style will have a far bigger impact on your healing output and success, use the stats as a framework for improving your overall performance, but don’t expect getting your stats right to instantly make you top of the healing meters, in fact, you shouldn’t be using the healing meters for anything more than critically assessing your own performance – the best healers aren’t necessarily top of the healing meters.

As a general priority go for

Intellect – as much as possible, spell power (bigger heals) and mana pool (more heals) indirect mana regen (talents offering x% regen use your mana pool to calculate what the regen is x% of 100 is bigger than x% of 90…
Spirit – mana regen, holy specialisation adds 50% in combat regen with holy concentration adding another 30% to this, if you’re consistently running out of mana, stack more spirit (if you can’t get int)
Haste – up to 12.03% (consider party / raid buffs too and whether you’ve got points in the darkness talent) for the extra renew tick
Mastery – if you’ve got enough spirit and 12.03% haste, this gives an additional HoT called echos of light to your direct heals
Crit – as a last resort, a crit heal gives you 150% of the normal heal value, but it’s unpredictable, ads a healer you want consistency so crit isn’t great.
As you stack spirit you’ll star to find your regen gets to a level you’re comfortable with and you can start to priorities haste.

Haste and HoT Ticks

As a rule of thumb, you need to get gear with Intellect, then sprit as you start out moving to haste (up to 12.03%) as you get enough spirit.  You can go over 12.03% on haste as it’ll still increase spell casting speed, but you’ll not benefit from any more renew ticks (though a little extra will help with renew ‘clipping’ if you’re replacing the renew too early, but this is so insignificant you don't need to worry about it). These are the primary stats which will have an impact on your HPS but I can’t stress highly enough that these priorities change as your gear gets better.  This translates to 1182 haste without buffs

Another word on renew ticks, I cant stress how important it is to realise how variable the tick rate is, if you’re stacking the incorrect amount of haste you’re either not getting the tick or wasting haste which could be reforged.  If you have the darkness talent (3% haste) and have the correct moonkin buff (5% haste) then you need an extra 4.03% haste, if you don’t have one or either of the buffs you need more haste (consider food or pots rather than reforging).  source: comment posted on wowinsider

Clipping and HoT Ticks

Clipping is where the last tick of a HoT is wiped off by the new refresh of the HoT it is being replaced with, this no longer is as much of an issue as reapplication of a dot simply extends the existing HoTs life and the ticks continue, you should still aim to re HoT (if needed) as late on in the HoTs life as possible, in the case of using direct heals to refresh Renew you should try and land whichever spell you’re using as close as possible to zero seconds left on Renew without danger of it lapsing (and obviously the target dying).

Heal weightings

As with the shadow alternative, these weights vary massively with gear, there’s added confusion with the addition of Chakra which modifies the healing of certain spells.  Carnathagia has put together a very useful spreadsheet to help you calculate your own characters ratings, I’ve done this for mine below
Healing per sec per cast time per mana
Shield 15868 12124 3.02
Renew 15307 1170 11695 5.83
Heal 9339 4281 5.04
Flash Heal 18679 14271 3.24
Greater Heal 24910 11419 4.48
Binding Heal 29197 22308 5.06
Serenity 11972 9147 10
I’m not going to post lists of stat weightings as I have with shadow (yet) there’s very little information out there, what I’ve seen I’m not confident with anyway, I’d rather omit it for now than post something I know to be incorrect.  Look to gear in order of the priorities listed above.


Gemming your equipment can be a costly business, especially as the economy hasn’t quite settled down yet, as another rule of thumb look to go for the cheaper gems for gear you’re going to be replacing quickly, if it’s something you’re likely to keep for a long time, or you’re filthy rich then by all means go for the best in slot – don’t skimp if it is gear you’re going to keep long term, the additional few points on each gem mount up: I’ll leave it to you to decide what constitutes an item that you’ll keep, for a casual player it might be an epic gained from faction reputation, for a hardcore raider it’s going to be the top tier or other best in slot item.

You should aim to use gems which give you the biggest benefit in line with the stat priorities above.  Gemming is further complicated by the slot bonuses and meta gems – you can use any gem in a slot, but only one matching the colour requirement for the slot will activate the bonus. And to further complicate matters, meta gems require a certain colour combination of other gems before they become active, you need to work our which gives you the biggest boost – get the pencil and paper out and do the maths.

I’m not going to do as other guides do and tell you the exact gems enchants or anything else to get, you know the stats you want, you know your gear, you’re an intelligent kind of priest, have a look on Wowhead and work out what suits you best. If prices are a bit much for the top gem, consider the second best for any gear that you’re expecting to change quickly.


Enchanting, like gemming, can be expensive; as with gemming you should aim for your stat priorities and may want to choose cheaper enchants for gear you won’t be keeping. Make sure you keep a supply of dust and crystals to punt at your friendly enchanter, and remember to tip, even if they don’t ask for it – levelling enchanting is an extremely costly business.


Reforging is critical to upping your HPS, it allows you to take the stats on items that you don’t need and turn them into the stats you do. There are a few catches to this, firstly, you can only reforge the secondary stats of an item, secondly you can’t reforge to any stat which is already on an item, and thirdly you can only convert half of the unwanted stat to the wanted stat.

It’s unlikely that you’re going to find any items which don’t have Intellect on them already, so you’re going to be reforging in line with your stat priorities, as discussed above, to Spirit, Haste, Mastery then Crit. In some cases there will be no need to reforge an item, don’t feel obliged to do it for the sake of it.

Play around with reforging, you may get to a level of Spirit which you feel is too much and prefer to go for Haste– it’s not set in stone so simply go back and change it if you get it wrong.



Glyphs come in three forms; prime, major, minor. In my view Blizzard have missed a trick here to make classes more customisable by the user, you’re not spoilt for choice as a shadow priest or any other class for the Glyphs which make a difference, the lesser glyphs are pretty pointless in most cases.

Glyph choices vary depending on what role your operating, and whether you 5,10 or 25 manning primarily, aim to glyph in the order of priority that you use spells (or rather the order of effectiveness)

Flash Heal: Conventional wisdom would say stay away from this spell, it’s mana intensive and wasteful – however it does boost cast speed of Greater Heal and PoH so has its uses..

Guardian Spirit: Reduces the cooldown of Guardian Spirit. for longer fights, or when you’re starting out in heroics could be very useful
Lightwell: Increases the number of uses you get out of your Lightwell. Usefulness proportional to the propensity of the people in your group to click the damn thing; if you can get people to click it, glyph it (and email me and tell me how you manage to get them to click it).
Power Word: Shield: you’ll get shouted at by your disc priest in raids if you stat sheildding people willy-nilly.  Only consider this if you use it in 5 mans or dont have a disc priest raiding.
Prayer of Healing: Adds an extra HoT to the PoH, great for multi target healing
Renew: increases the total healing done by renew, get it if you’re doing any sort of direct healing role (and thus refresh the renew for free)

Consumables - Potions, Flasks, Food

Clearly you want to use consumables to augment your stats in the same weightings as the stat weights above suggest, they are however far less permanent than enchants and gems or reforging so it provided you the opportunity to buff certain stats depending on the buffs that are available to you at the time.

Flask of Draconic Mind is the obvious boost at +300 Int under normal circumstances

Elixir of Mighty Speed gives you a good haste buff

Flask of Flowing Water for spirit and extra mana regen

From a potions point of view, you need healing pots, they’re generally an “oh crap” type use so instant effect heals are what I’d recommend. From a mana point of view, and you shouldn’t be needing them, you need to consider whether you want an instant (but smaller) effect with Mythical Mana Potion or whether you need more, or can afford some downtime and you need healing Mighty Rejuvenation Potion works well or Potion of Concentration for lots of mana.

From a food point of view the same principles apply, if you’re raiding you’ll generally find someone’s providing a feast, if not have a look at http://www.wowhead.com/skill=185#recipes:0-14+1 and pick the foods you want and get a stack or two of each.

Consider elixirs, which don’t persist through death, for one off hard boss fights, or heroics where you feel under-geared.


And finally…

Have I missed anything? Have I got anything wrong, would you like to see another section on something? Or any other comments, please feel free – you can contact me via email, twitter or leave me a comment on the site.