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Spiritual Guidance: Finishing Wrath raids as a 4.0.1 healing priest

Every Sunday at WoW Insider, you'll find Spiritual Guidance, a guide to healing as a discipline or holy priest. Priestess Dawn Moore will bring you the latest in news, discussion and advice for priests in the World of Warcraft while simultaneously battling her shadow priest rival, Fox Van Allen. This week Dawn is able to take a break, since Fox is busy promoting the musical tour of Foxlight, his Hannah Montana-esque alter ego.

Previously on Lo -- Spiritual Guidance, I assaulted your eyeballs with monoliths of text describing what's going to be happening in patch 4.0.1. This week, in response to a couple of emails I got, I'm going to scale it all back and talk less about the nitty-gritty and more about how to apply the patch to whatever it is you're still doing in the game. Working on heroic Lich King? OK, we'll talk about that. Halion? Sure, we'll do that too. Farming Invincible? Err ... Well, I guess I could draft up some sort of farm content. ICC drinki -- An ESRB rating falls on Dawn's head. Yes, well, let's get to it, shall we?

Simplifying 4.0.1

If you read last week's article, you'll know every class is getting lots of new talents to consider, but seeing as only a small portion of the actual game is spent selecting talents, I think we'd do well to talk about our actual abilities and spells for a bit. They're what we actually deal with most of the time, after all. And from that perspective, 4.0.1 isn't scary at all. Here's what's we're getting as far as "new" abilities go.
See? That's nothing. Chakra is a little tricky to use at first, granted, but overall you'll barely need to rearrange your bars. So how are we going to use these abilities? Let's go down the list.

Heal As a level 80 priest in patch 4.0.1, you won't use this ability. You can, but you don't need to. If my memory serves me correctly, the spell heals for about 5k for the price of 350 mana (this is compared to the more expensive [but still the same price we're used to] Flash Heal, which heals for 8-10k for 1,000 mana.) It has a longer-than-we're-used-to cast time, which isn't ideal for the pacing of damage we currently see in Icecrown Citadel and Ruby Sanctum, but we're going to be so much stronger in general that it won't be a big deal if you do want to use some slower cast time spells.

The thing is, unless you want to change up the way healing jobs are divided, you probably won't find yourself in a situation where Heal is going to be needed by holy or disc priests. To clarify what I mean by that, if you want to, say ... have your disc priest start tank healing again, then that disc priest will want to employ Heal. But if you're sticking with the boss strategies you've been using up until now, then there is no reason to incorporate the new ranks of the spell.

Archangel This ability restores mana when you use it, but to use it you must have stacks of Evangelism, which you will acquire by casting Smite on enemy targets. The mana you restore is quite significant -- about 10k after you subtract the cost of Smite, which is more than the 4k you'd get from a mana pot and quite comparable to the 20k you'd get from using Hymn of Hope and Shadowfiend at the same time. The big difference is you can use Archangel every 30 seconds. Sound cheesy? Well, it is -- at least for the final weeks that you play Wrath, anyway. The thing about Archangel, though, is that like Heal, you don't need it. You won't run out of mana very easily at 80, so using it will be purely for kicks or a once- or twice-per-fight sort of thing.

Power Word: Barrier Now, here is a spell you actually can and should use at 80. Of course, you can still get by without it, but it's quite fun to use on the old content. The spell isn't too expensive at level 80, and the amount of absorption is acceptable. My experience using the spell at level 85 (I'm not the type of masochist who likes to pug with the crazies on PTR, even for the sake of testing) in 5-mans is quite positive, and it has a similar effect to Divine Hymn in the way that it stops the damage on your raid and lets you catch up when you've been falling behind. Using it on a larger group, either 10- or 25-man, will work best if you announce you're casting it so people know they'll need to adjust to it, but in general, I've noticed that when players see it go up, they instinctively move into it. In that regard, I suppose I should warn all players to keep an eye out for things on the ground, since the cluster of bodies will make it hard to see.

Chakra This talent is pretty complex, but in 4.0.1, you're really only going to need to concern yourself with two versions of it: Renew and Prayer of Healing. Renew Chakra actually isn't too hot on the beta with 5-mans right now because of the high cost of upkeeping a spam playstyle. Pre-HoTs and topping off with HoTs is just too expensive for priests. We won't have to deal with that in 4.0.1 though, so enjoy it while it lasts. The reduced GCD is amazing, and the new changes to haste will be a huge buff if you're already packing a lot of haste (which I suspect you are as a holy priest.) Just remember, once you get past the early 80s and start healing in Cataclysm, you won't get to spam for more than a few moments due to mana cost.

For Prayer of Healing Chakra, you'll constantly need to be using Prayer of Healing to maintain the stance, which can be a hassle, but the amount of AoE fire power you get really does make up for the inconvenience. The most recent beta build (build 13131) also does us a favor by reducing the cast time on Prayer of Healing to 2.5 seconds. That should help the clunky-ness a little and make it feel a bit less repetitive.

As a note, the other versions of Chakra will get more usage in Cataclysm. Heal Chakra is great when mana is tight, but since that won't be the case in 4.0.1, there isn't a strong motivation to use it outside of 5- or 10-man content. I just can't see a holy priest single-target healing outside of 5-mans when we have so much incredible AoE healing available. Similarly, I don't see Smite Chakra getting much play time, since there isn't even a possibility for holy priests to have Archangel at level 80 and without that talent there is little incentive to DPS as healers.

Holy Word: Chastise
This spell by itself is going to be quite situational for us as healers. Once we have Chakra there is little reason for us to not have Chakra active, so using Holy Word: Chastise as a disorient will often be impossible if we're already in a healing stance. PvP holy priests will easily find a time and place for the spell, and lower level priests can use it for soloing, or maybe a second response to agro in dungeons when Fade is on cooldown; But at level cap we'll likely prefer our healing stances, and with them the additional healing spells that the talent Revelations brings.

If you don't recall, Holy Word: Chastise can morph into three different spells depending on what state of Chakra you're in. Heal Chakra's version is Holy Word: Serenity, a sizable instant cast heal with a 6 second healing buff that increases your chance to crit the buffed target. The instant cast heal is definitely nice, but the buff is just too short, functioning much like Borrowed Time (the next spell you cast will get X benefit) except if you need to switch to another target you're out of luck. The duration, the crit percentage, or both could stand to be tweaked a little. Of course, I say all of this like there is going to be a chance to use the ability. Again, patch 4.0.1 won't give us many reasons to use this.

Next is Renew's Holy Word: Aspire, which is an instant cast heal with a successive HoT. Not too many complaints on this one; it's nice to drop on the tank for some bonus healing and spammers should enjoy the extra druid-like feeling they get when using it. It's like the cousin of Regrowth.

Finally, Holy Word: Sanctuary, is the Holy Word for Prayer of Healing. It's an AoE HoT that heals players for as long as they stand in it. It's quite flashy (I used it as my article image today) but the heal amount is a bit insignificant. I guess it's not supposed to substitute a direct heal though, so no big deal considering you can put it down and forget about it. For now, it should find some good use in the existing content, but I'll get more into that down below.

Lich King

Today I'm focusing just on Lich King (rather than all of Icecrown Citadel) because I think most PvEers are working on the fight at some level of difficulty now. Whether it's 10-man normal, 25-man normal or up, the fight has been a wall for a lot of players for good reason. The fight is legitimately hard and requires a certain degree of precise play to complete; you can't stumble through the fight and win, even with good gear. To anyone who has defeated LK already, congratulations -- and if you haven't, patch 4.0.1 might be just the medicine you need to finish up Wrath's content before Azeroth is sundered.

Before I get started, you should know that I am going to assume you guys know the basics of the fight for priests already. If you don't, I wrote up a guide on the fight several months back, which I encourage you check out.

Discipline You'll have a few options in this fight now that you didn't have before. Previously, you probably spent this fight shielding your allies before Infest and then helping out on the tank and raid as you had time. You can still do that, but now with the changes to disc's single-target healing, you can also make a return to healing the tank if your group is down a paladin. You might not get as much mileage as you did in early Ulduar and Naxxramas, but that's because your new single-target healing is designed for Cataclysm, not Wrath. The overall buff from the patch will probably assist any shortcomings the playstyle has, though, so give it a shot if you're interested and have a group willing to break the mold. Try incorporating Heal into your lineup by casting it after you use Power Word: Shield so you can utilize the haste buff. The use of Heal will also lower the duration of Weakened Soul on the healed target, which will let you use Power Word: Shield again sooner. Power Word: Barrier can be used in phase 3, either to soak up damage from the Vile Spirits or from Wicked Spirits in the Frostmourne room if you're doing heroic. Archangel and Smite is perfect for transition phases, to restore any mana you used up shielding people (provided your raid is properly spread and not taking tons of damage from Pain and Suffering.)

Holy Keeping Inspiration up on the tanks is now the responsibility of you and the resto shaman exclusively. Disc priests won't be able to get the talent at level 80, so don't count on them to be applying the buff. That said, you can pretty much stick to the same job you had before (raid healing and spot healing), except you have more AoE tools than you did before. As I said earlier, avoid Heal Chakra, since the content doesn't really demand it right now. You'll either want to go with Renew Chakra or Prayer of Healing Chakra, switching up if you feel it's necessary, but I'd lean more toward the former, given the 30 percent buff and the general buffs from the patch; both will really pump up Renew quite adequately for the fight. With Renew Chakra, you can pick up the job of the disc priest for handling Infests. There might be some exceptions on heroics, but a tick or two plus some direct healing (in the form of a Prayer of Healing) should be all you need. The lowered GCD will make holy priests ideal for quickly going up and down your raid frames and getting players pre-HoTed before an Infest. They'll even be better at this than disc priests are with their shields.

A holy priest can also opt to use Prayer of Healing Chakra, which might seem excessive in overhealing, between the the constant upkeep of Prayer of Healing and the use of Holy Word: Sanctuary. With Circle of Healing thrown in too, you'll be killing mosquitoes with cannonballs -- but that's kind of what holy is about, anyway. I would recommend using Holy Word: Sanctuary in places where the raid is regrouping after things like Defile or phase 3 Vile Spirits. If you place them before large raid movement, they're going to go unused and possibly confuse people, since there is a lot of visual junk in the fight already.

Halion

Because Halion is very accepting of different types of healers, there isn't as much to say about it as Lich King. Again, you should check out my previously written Halion guide if you need to get the basics of the fight for healing priests.

Discipline Power Word: Barrier honestly won't do much in this fight except during maybe phase 3 in the normal realm when there is a lot fire everywhere, plus adds if you're doing heroic. You can opt to save it for healing scarier moments, or use it on top of the tank before you need to move out for a Consumption or Combustion debuff. You'll probably do a lot more tank healing on this fight than you have in other 3.3 content, so feel free to break out Heal and Greater Heal, and have some fun with your new talents like Strength of Soul and Train of Thought.

Holy Your playstyle will remain largely intact, so Renew Chakra will do good for maintaining HoT spam. Obviously, you'll want to keep Body and Soul and use it on targets who get the debuff. In the shadow realm, every time your raid is moving for Twilight Cutters, you can use Holy Word: Aspire on the tank so there is a little less panic during the transition. If you want to, you can try to use Prayer of Healing Chakra as well, but I think Renew will take the cake due to the heavy movement on this fight. Prayer of Healing Chakra just requires too much upkeep with slow cast time.

And that's it. If you're still a little concerned about 4.0.1 and the rest of Wrath, don't be. It's really not a big change when you look at it from a step back, and you're going to have a lot of fun for a month or so while it happens. Earlier, I asked Kinaesthesia (as I am prone to do) if he wanted to add anything to this article before I finished it, and he said, "You got most of it; the patch before an expansion is like playing with all the cheat codes turned on." Keep that in mind.

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; for the party-minded healer, check out a priest's guide to tanks.

Filed under: Priest, (Priest) Spiritual Guidance

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