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Spiritual Guidance: How to increase your HPS as a holy priest

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. Dawn Moore covers the healing side of things for discipline and holy priests. She also writes for LearnToRaid.com and produces the Circle of Healing Podcast.

Remember last month when I talked about increasing your HPS as a discipline priest through an aggressive style of healing? Well, this week I'm going to do it again for holy priests. So if you've be looking to climb up the healing meters and make other healers hate you, stick around.

The philosophy behind increasing your output as a holy priest is quite different than that of a disc priest. It's still very greedy but it's not nearly as competitive, since it doesn't require you to directly snipe heals from other healers. Instead, you'll be searching for every half second where you can utilize your most powerful spells and do so before other healers have the chance to do something similar. Just like with disc priests, you'll be milking your mana bar for all it's worth and spamming your regenerative cooldowns whenever you can.

How it's done

In complete honesty, aggressive healing as a holy priest really is not much different than healing normally as a holy priest. To pick up your HPS, you simply need to operate at triple time. Keep using Prayer of Mending on cooldown, keep using Circle of Healing on cooldown (or as close to as on cooldown as you can, given juicy fight mechanics that might be occurring in the next 1 to 3 seconds), and spamming Prayer of Healing preemptively and reactively whenever it makes sense to.

Now, a well-timed Prayer of Healing is important, but the real game-changer in my opinion is how well and how often you utilize Holy Word: Sanctuary. This is a spell that absolutely requires you to know the fight; if you only use it reactively, you'll always be getting to the damage too late for all those little numbers to add up. By knowing the fight, you'll understand when and where you should use the spell so it's down before the damage occurs. You want to minimize your reactive healing and maximize your anticipatory healing. If you have to react, you have to compete with other healers, which you don't want to do.

On fights with less damage or where the raid is spread out, you're going to have more trouble keeping up as holy. Do continue to use Circle of Healing, even if you stop using Prayer of Healing and Holy Word: Sanctuary. (You may want to unglyph Circle of Healing, though.) You can give Renew spam a try alongside the standard use of Chakra: Serenity, but don't expect miracles. It's not the best way to top a meter, but it's something to do if you've got nothing else. Just use Renew the way I describe using Power Word: Shield in How to increase your HPS as a discipline priest.

Finally, you need to relearn how to use Divine Hymn. I asked Derevka from Tales of a Priest to write up a little something for this week's article, since he's more hands-on with holy than I am. Here's what he wrote.

Perhaps the most important cooldown to manage is Divine Hymn. Ever since 4.3 hit and Heavenly Voice was introduced, this is holy's go-to spell for big numbers and HPS. With a generous 3-minute cooldown, you can (and should) be able to get multiple casts of this spell during an encounter. The key is knowing when to use it. (Know the fight!) Many raid teams coordinate Divine Hymns and Tranquilities; however, it can often be used at the priest's discretion unless a fight mechanic calls for it. In those situations, you should plan out your cooldowns.


Questions? Let's hear them.

Do I want haste or mastery for HPS?

I've discussed this at length in my stat priority articles, and for the most part I recommend haste. It's not really possible to get a sixth Renew tick from stacking haste past the 12.5% mark, yes, but that doesn't mean all your haste past that point is wasted. Additional haste brings you closer to the GCD cap and lowers the cast times of your spells, particularly Prayer of Healing. Any time you're in an encounter when you are casting, haste is going to give you more results. You may only cast a few extra spells per fight with additional haste, but the time at which your spells arrive will aid in its effectiveness. Prayer of Healing is the one spell you will try to snipe healing with, so you want it to be fast.

Now, there are fights where you can get more out of mastery. What you choose is really based on the situation, both in what you're casting and who you're casting on. Holy's mastery works best on any encounter where players spend more time missing health than topped off; players who are at maximum health will only be overhealed by your mastery. Mastery's not ideal for fights or phases where just the tank is taking damage and every healer in the raid is throwing their best instant-cast heal on the same target every time he takes a scratch of damage. If you look at a fight and there are more massive damage phases, mastery might be the way to go ... Unless you're spamming Prayer of Healing to deal with the damage, in which case, haste all the way. Oh! Mastery is also better on any fight where you're primarily casting your instant-cast spells due to movement constraints.

Does overhealing matter?

Dawn takes a deep breath. No, it doesn't really matter. As a healer, you don't need to aim at keeping your overhealing down unless you are running out of mana on fights, and even then, low overhealing is not the primary objective. Basically, if you're running out of mana, you need to cast fewer spells, which usually demands that you make the spells you do cast more effective. The inadvertent effect of doing this is that your overhealing will go down, but that doesn't mean overhealing is an end goal. If overhealing were an end goal, you could achieve success simply by not casting anything at all, which obviously isn't what we want.

There are a few things to know about overhealing meters, though. First, the amount of overhealing you do will always go up as you do more healing. If you're high up on the healing meters at the end of a fight, it's likely that you'll also be high on the overhealing meter. This is because meters only measure the raw numbers, which doesn't really tell you how much of your healing was overhealing. Holy priests should also remember their mastery tends to overheal, and thus your overhealing will always come off a bit higher than that of a discipline priest.

I personally use overhealing meters to assess myself and other healers in my raid. If my raid is stuck on a fight and healing is a problem, I'll often look at overhealing (in addition to healing done) to give me clues on what can be done to fix a problem. After a good attempt, I'll figure out what percentage of my healing was overhealing, do the same for the other healers, then compare the results.

If someone's overhealing percentage stands out, either high or low, it can indicate a lot of things. High overhealing might indicate a poor healer, but it might also indicate the job the healer is assigned to is already adequately covered by others and that player's assignment can be adjusted to pick up elsewhere. An exceptionally low overhealing percentage for one healer may mean that that healer's targets are spending a lot of time at low health. In that scenario, it might be helpful to have another healer help that one healer out to lessen the strain she's under. The clues you get from all this and the experimenting you do as a result can sometimes result in the decision to add or drop a healer in a progression fight, which will affect raid DPS and thus affect how close or far off a kill is.

It's true that overhealing can be a way to measure a good healer, but there are a lot of other variables to good healing that no meter can answer it absolutely. A healer with high HPS and low overhealing is definitely a very effective healer, but that is not necessarily a good healer. An effective healer can still be player who ignores their targets and goes after the juicy targets instead. This all said, I do take some pride in keeping my overhealing low, and there isn't anything wrong with that as long as you can see all the angles. "Am I doing everything I could be doing?" is something every healer should ask himself when looking at his overhealing.

More reading

Please, please, go back and read How to increase your HPS as a discipline priest to review the tips I give about learning the fight and mana management. These tips are just as applicable to holy priests as they are to disc. (If you read both articles, you'll also better understand the philosophy and mindset you need to be in to heal aggressively.)

While healing aggressively and playing to top meters isn't for everyone, it's important to know how to heal aggressively so you can utilize it when things are dire. There will be times, especially in heroic encounters, where you have to give it everything you've got, and playing aggressively for fun will prepare you for that.

I've got some additional reading for you this week, courtesy of Derevka. He wrote up a good post called Zero-Sum Mana over at Tales of a Priest, which ties in well with what we've discussed here today. While you're there, comment and tell him he needs to post more.
Come to Spiritual Guidance for the inside line on current healing gear and trinkets, as well as advice for healing in Dragon Soul. Newcomer to the priest class? Look into leveling a healing priest, and consult our guides to Discipline Priest 101 and Holy Priest 101.

Filed under: Priest, (Priest) Spiritual Guidance

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