Discipline is the spec of choice for healing priests in PvP, but don't feel like you absolutely must go deep discipline. This video features an astoundingly skilled priest playing a hybrid discipline/holy spec in PvP. I highy recommend watching it. He utilizes Body and Soul and Lightwell (and makes me swoon in the process; not quite like Frostheim, but similar). It might be inaccessible to a newbie PvPer to play like that, but it's something you can certainly push yourself toward.
Anyway, you can learn about the basics of Holy and Disc in their respective 101 articles. For this PvP guide, I will be primarily examining PvP talents, particularly survival talents. As a novice PvPer, your biggest challenge will be staying alive, so I recommend skipping most of the offensive talents and go for pure survival. That means taking talents like:
- Unbreakable Will This could easily be the most important PvP talent to take. Without it, you will be dead or nearly dead by the time an incapacitating ability wears off.
- Silent Resolve I personally never take this talent because it doesn't seem to matter if I have it or not. If an enemy is spamming dispel on me, he will succeed at dispelling all of them. All the same, this talent is an option.
- Martyrdom When a melee class is on top of you, this is one of the talents that will let you heal yourself through it. You will see priests who don't take it, but they are far from novices.
- Focused Will This is a nice passive buff to your crit that will simultaneously help you keep yourself alive through an onslaught. Notice that it stacks, so it's really quite significant.
- Spell Warding This is your defensive counter to caster classes. Don't underestimate it. Many classes, even melee class, have spell damage which you can reduce with these talents.
- Blessed Recovery I would take this with the least priority. I never got much out of it, and it's rather universally viewed as "meh."
- Blessed Resilience This is a pretty deep holy talent, but since it is a PvP talent I thought I'd mention it. I can't vouch for its performance, but I'd imagine that if you get a proc, it would be great for surviving rogue openers.
As I said eariler, mana will be a big issues, so regen talents like Meditation are essential to not running out of mana. Talents that reduce the cost of certain spells, like Mental Agility and Absolution, are also going to be a great aid. Absolution in particular is useful, since one of the most important things a priest can do is dispel, both offensively and defensively.
As you get more comfortable (and more gear), you can drop the survival talents you don't like for abilities that increase your utility like Focused Power, Divine Fury and Improved Mana Burn. Keep in mind, though, that Mana Burn doesn't get much use in battlegrounds.
The video I linked gives a nice sample spec for holy, so if you are going to go down the holy path, work from that. If you'd like a starting spec for discipline, try this one. (Disclaimer: This spec uses Inspiration and Divine Aegis, which requires your spells to crit to be effective. The gear I recommended earlier has no crit on it, so only use this spec if you are mixing in your PvE gear. If you have a full set of PvP gear, you should not take Inspiration and Divine Aegis. Move those six talent points where ever else you please.) This is not a spec you'll keep for you entire PvP career, but it will get you started.
How to get started
- Battlegrounds I recommend you start in battlegrounds before you sacrifice yourself to the arena gods. (The new battleground finder will also help you out with your gear grind.) When in a battleground, stick close to your teammates and try not to let enemy players separate you from the group. With the spec I supplied earlier, you won't have much offensive capability, so focus on winning through healing. In large battlegrounds, holy priests have a great advantage in being able to heal large groups of people and blend into the crowd. Just watch out for enemy AoE when you stand in large groups. In smaller battlegrounds, scope out a DPS class (a charming hunter, perhaps?) and follow him around. The two of you can keep each other alive, and in doing so, you'll learn more about the other class in the process. (If you do happen to pair up with a hunter, Frostheim reminds me that you should not stick too close, since hunters can't shoot their targets at close range. For some classes though, like paladins and rogues, it helps to stay close.)
- Arena I do not recommend starting your first PvP adventures in arena. The first steps into an arena are an article in itself, so we will save that for later. If you are curious though, Arena Junkies is a good external source to start with.
- Dueling This is a great starting alternative to arena. You can find it outside major cities like Orgrimmar and Stormwind. In dueling, you'll be able to learn how other classes work and how to fight them. I learned a lot this way when I first start playing, and not just by doing the dueling myself. Watching other players fight is a good way to pick up tactics and learn the game. Feel free to ask questions; there are actually a lot of helpful players who love to explain the game, if you let them. Don't be fooled by the stereotype of the elitist jerk PvPer (but don't harass players who clearly don't want to talk, either.)
This is the hardest section to write, and sadly I feel it may end up being the least fleshed-out. If you noticed the graphic at the top of page 1, this is the mysterious Phase 2. You see, there is no priority or rotation in PvP; it's all about thinking on your feet. I will try to supply you with some pointers.
- Keep a Power Word: Shield, Prayer of Mending and Renew on yourself at all times.
- Fully buff yourself every time you respawn and keep an eye on your buffs in case they get dispelled -- Fear Ward, especially. Don't forget you have it.
- If you can, stay out of range of melee class enemies. For ranged classes, try to break line of sight as much as you can.
- If find yourself in range of a melee class, try not to turn your back to him. Many abilities require the player be behind their target to use them.
- If you can't break line of sight with a ranged class, try to run behind him so he has to spend time turning to target and attack you.
- If you see an enemy coming toward you, DoT him as soon as he's in range to put him in combat. Rogues and druids both have openers that require them to be out of combat to use. For all other classes, the DoTs will just give you a head start on damaging them before they get to you.
- Use Dispel Magic to offensively dispel your enemy's buffs and HoTs. This is a great way to level the playing field when you're solo; when you're in a group, it will help your allies kill an enemy opponent faster.
- Dispel Magic is also good for friendly dispelling. By getting debuffs off yourself and your teammates quickly, you will reduce the amount of healing you have to do. You can also dispel incapacitating abilities like a paladin's Hammer of Justice. Watch out for a warlock's Unstable Affliction or a shadow priest's Vampiric Touch, though, since they can both deal damage when dispelled.
- Abolish Disease is another dispel you'll have to juggle. Use it on friendly targets just as you would Dispel Magic. It's particularly useful when fighting death knights, since death knights specs use their diseases to heal themselves.
- Fade isn't useless, but its utility is limited. If you find a hunter or warlock pet is on you, summon your Shadowfiend then use fade to drop aggro and get away.
- You can break a Polymorph preemptively by casting Shadow Word: Death on the mage casting the ability.
- Shackle Undead can be used on death knight pets, especially their very powerful Gargoyles.
- You can use Mass Dispel to get rid of a paladin's Divine Shield or a mage's Ice Block.
- Rogues I know it seems strange that one class would require a special section, but they really do deserve some attention as the priest's unofficial counter class. Rogues are the primary reason you want to keep your shields and HoTs on yourself at all times, since rogues attack with surprise. In arena, they will often wait for a careless priest to let her shield fall off before attacking. Don't leave yourself open to that by being careless! When a rogue does open up his attacks on you, try to outlive his stuns without using your trinket. Just keep spamming a new shield or an instant heal on yourself so when the stun breaks, you can save yourself. (If you're a disc priest with Glyph of Pain Suppression, you can use Pain Suppression while stunned.) A rogue's Blind is one of the most dangerous things he can do, as it will allow him to get out of combat and reopen his attacks on you. Thus, save your trinket for the Blind so you can keep him in combat. An alternative to healing when the stun breaks is to use Psychic Scream and then DoT him with your offensive abilities, especially Devouring Plague. Refresh your shields, HoTs and ProM. If things are desperate, Holy Nova him until you have enough health that you can spare a moment to heal yourself. Just watch out for his kicks.
I'd like to remind PvP pros once more to hit the comments. The endless amounts of tips and tricks that could be supplied will not easily fit in one article, so please share!
To those of you who are new to it all, let me know if you have any questions. If I can't answer them (which is entirely possible when it comes to PvP), I will try to get you to the right resource that can. I'll remind you again that the reason I wrote this article was to try and encourage players, especially raiders, to find their full potential by experiencing their class in every aspect they can. I hope you'll consider it.
Want to find more great tips for carrying out your Priestly duties? Spiritual Guidance has you covered with all there is to know! Check out Holy 101 or Disc 101 for an introduction to healing as a priest, or Assessing yourself for advice on how to improve yourself as a healer and raider.