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A Beginner's Guide to Priest Healing in WoW

FP's Overwatch Strategy Guide

 

A   B E G I N N E R ' S   G U I D E   T O   H E A L I N G

By Zedora (a.k.a. Breanni), Scarlet Crusade
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The information herein will help any group healer from level 1 to 60. However at 60, the rules change, as there are different challenges during endgame content. For endgame healing strategies, see additional guides on the class menu at the bottom of the site.

For the purposes of this guide, I'm referring to primary healers. Priests make ideal primary healers due to the wide variety of healing spells available to them. Druids are also considered for primary healing, as they offer some of the most powerful heals in the game. And while I'm aware that paladins and shamans can be great healers too, they rarely serve as primary healers from levels 1 through 60. So priests and druids, this guide is for you!

NOTE: I included notes for both classes in this guide so you can get a feel for their respective strengths and weaknesses and see how they compare. Class-specific notes appear throughout. And a special section for each class can be found toward the end of the guide.

C O N T E N T S :

I. THE BASICS
. . 1. Monitor player health bars
. . 2. Monitor pet health bars
. . 3. Use appropriate gear
. . 4. Know who's expendable

II. MANAGING MANA & MOBS
. . 5. Use efficient healing spells
. . 6. Cast in waves
. . 7. Control your aggro
. . 8. The smart way to panic

III. TEAMWORK
. . 9. Offer tactful suggestions to others
. . 10. Support your party
. . 11. Revive fallen comrades

IV. BUFFS & DEBUFFS
. . 12. Buff your entire party
. . 13. Request helpful buffs
. . 14. Remove negative buffs

V. FOR THE PRIEST
. . 15. Abstain from using Shadowform
. . 16. Use Psychic Scream sparingly
. . 17. Use PW:Shield correctly
. . 18. Use your wand, not nukes

VI. FOR THE DRUID
. . 19. Limit your shapeshifting
. . 20. Use alternatives to nukes

VII. IN CLOSING
. . 21. Bending the rules
. . 22. Authors note



I. THE BASICS:


1. Monitor player health bars
Seems obvious, doesn't it? If your primary role in the group is to heal, your primary focus should be on the health of your party. Monitor everyone's health bars and heal them accordingly. Later in this guide, you'll learn which heals are most efficient for which classes. But you'll also base your decisions on how quickly a player's health is dropping.

Also note that while you don't want to ignore your own health, try to reserve your heals for other players whenever possible. You have other options to preserve your life beyond healing, as you'll discover throughout this guide.


2. Monitor pet health bars
The pets of hunters and warlocks can be as important to group efforts as their masters. Treat them as such, especially if the pet is tanking or off-tanking for your group. Hunters and warlocks will appreciate not having to spend their time, mana and possibly a soul shard to revive or resummon their pet.

However, pets do tend to come second to players in terms of life-saving priority. So let the warlock or hunter know that their help would be appreciated in healing their pets.


3. Use appropriate gear
Your effectiveness as a healer is highly dependent upon your gear. You want lots of intellect, spirit and possibly some +healing spell gear to maximize your healing potential when grouped. Higher intellect will increase your total mana, while more spirit will improve your mana regeneration.

So if your particular talent build calls for stats other than intellect and spirit, consider carrying additional gear to equip whenever you're asked to be the primary healer. This is especially important for feral-specced druids, who prefer strength and stamina to intellect and spirit.


4. Know who's expendable
All classes bring something unique to a group. And your ultimate goal is to keep everyone alive. But unfortunately, the roles that people play in your group are not all equal when it comes to expendability. Your priorities, listed from most important to least important, include the following roles, generally played by the following classes:

  • Yourself - Remember, the group's survival (and possibly revival) depends on you.
  • Main Tank (MT) - Warriors, Feral-specced Druids in bear form (and to lesser extent Paladins, Shamans)
  • Off Tank - Secondary Warriors, Druids in bear form, Paladins, Shamans, Hunter Pets, Voidwalker (Warlock pet)
  • Melee Dps - Rogues, Shamans, Druids in cat form, Fury-specced Warriors (often wielding 2-handed weapons), Survival-specced Hunters, Hunter Pets (often cats or raptors), Succubus (Warlock pet)
  • Range Dps - Hunters, Mages, Warlocks, Priests, Imp (Warlock pet)

    Use the above listings as a loose guide. Often you'll discover that a certain class brings something crucial to a specific encounter. That "something crucial" may make them a higher link in the chain. For example, a mage who is superb at crowd-controlling with her 'Polymorph' spell may become more important than a rogue or shaman because the crowd-control is essential for that particular instance.



    II. MANAGING MANA & MOBS:


    5. Use efficient healing spells
    Your mana is your lifeline as a healer (and the lifeline of everyone else). So manage it carefully. Different spells will heal more efficiently when used on different classes and armor-types. This is governed by casting speed, type of heal and potency.

    Priest Healing Spells:
  • Renew - instant heal over time (HoT), less potent
  • Flash Heal - fast heal, less potent
  • Lesser Heal - regular heal, less potent at lower levels, obsolete at upper levels
  • Heal - slow heal, moderately potent at lower levels, less potent at upper levels
  • Greater Heal - slow heal, very potent
  • Prayer of Healing - slow group heal, less potent

    Note that other healing spells are available with certain races and talents, but for the purpose of this guide, we'll focus on the spells available to all priests, regardless of build.

    Druid Healing Spells:
  • Rejuvenation - instant heal over time (HoT), less potent
  • Regrowth - regular heal/HoT combo, moderately potent
  • Healing Touch - slow heal, very potent
  • Tranquility - channeled group heal, less potent to very potent (depending on amount of time channeled; maximum of 10 seconds)

    Due to a reduced variety of healing spells, some druids will hotbar an additional lower rank of either 'Healing Touch' or 'Regrowth' to improve their healing options. During the mid levels, Healing Touch ranks 3 and 4 are a particularly good choice, since these have lower casting times than higher ranks.

    If you want to get the most bang for your buck, consider using the following spells on the following armor-types:

  • Cloth-wearers -
    Mage, Warlock, Priest (note that some Druids and Shamans may wear cloth depending on their build)

    Because cloth-wearers are so fragile, it's beneficial to use faster heals like 'Flash Heal' (priest). And because they generally have less hit-points, HoT spells work wonders when cast as soon as the player begins taking damage. 'Regrowth' (druid) works well on both counts, since it's quick and an HoT spell.

  • Leather-wearers -
    Druid, Rogue, Hunter (pre-40), Shaman (pre-40)

    Leather-wearers can take a bit more of a beating, but also tend to be fragile. Use a combination of quick heals, HoTs and regular heals with an occasional slow heal when the situation warrants it.

    Note that Druids in Cat form also follow this model.

  • Mail-wearers -
    Warrior (pre-40), Paladin (pre-40), Hunter (40+), Shaman (40+)

    Players in mail can take a fair beating. Regular heals such as 'Heal' (priest) and lower ranks of 'Healing Touch' (druid) mixed with slower heals like 'Greater Heal' (priest) and higher ranks of 'Healing Touch' (druid) do wonders for them when they begin to fall below half of their total health. HoTs may also be useful shortly after they begin to begin to take damage.

    Note that Druids in Bear form (pre-40) and Moonkin form also follow this model.

  • Plate-wearers -
    Warrior (40+), Paladin (40+)

    Those who don plate armor can absorb the most damage. Like mail-wearers, well-timed slow heals are perfect to keep them in fighting form. HoTs also come in handy when their health is high, but steadily dropping.

    Note that Druids in Dire Bear form (40+) also follow this model.

  • Pets -
    Hunter- and Warlock-controlled entities

    As stated above, pets should be healed as well, but tend to be more expendable than players. Stick to HoTs and an occasional regular or slow heal if you can spare the mana and the pet is in dire need.

    Keep in mind that spell damage ignores armor altogether. So when your group is facing a number of casters, take your cues from how quickly a player's health is falling.

    If everyone in your party has suffered damage, you may consider using a group heal, such as 'Prayer of Healing' (priest) or 'Tranquility' (druid). A well-timed group heal can be a very efficient use of your mana.

    Priests: When time is no longer a luxury, consider using 'Power Word: Shield' (PW:S) to save players near death. Because this is an instant-cast spell, it can immediately shield the party member from additional damage and give you the time you need to administer a proper healing spell. But try to reserve this for emergencies, as it is a fairly expensive spell.


    6. Cast in waves
    While you're engaged in combat, you regenerate mana over time more slowly than when your outside of combat. So to balance your casting efficiency with your mana regeneration, consider casting your spells in waves.

    The primary reason this works is due to the 5 Second Rule. This principle states that during the five seconds following the casting of any spell with a mana cost, you will NOT regenerate mana. However, after five seconds is up, your spirit kicks in and you begin to slowly recouperate mana.

    For example, if you cast two or three spells back-to-back, then break from casting for five seconds to deal a bit of damage with your weapon, you will not recover any mana. However, if you cast those same spells back-to-back and then break from casting for at least six seconds or longer, you will notice your mana begin to regenerate. The longer you wait before casting another round of spells, the more mana you'll recover.

    To get a feel for this principle, try experimenting. Take on an easy mob or two and watch your mana bar after you cast a few spells. You'll begin to see the pattern of mana regeneration emerge based on the 5 Second Rule described above. Once you get a feel for the timing, you'll begin to adjust your healing routine to a rhythm that will enable you regenerate some mana during combat. This will also reduce your downtime between fights.

    Never allow yourself to become a slave to the 5 Second Rule. If someone is in dire need of a heal spell, cast it regardless of whether it's been 2 seconds or 10 seconds since your last spell was cast.



    7. Control your aggro
    You can't effectively heal if you're under attack by mobs. So aggro-control is a must. To control your threat level, you must first understand how aggro works. Your threat generation is based on three things:

    1) The damage you deal. Damage over time (DoT) spells generate aggro more slowly than regular damage spells. And as a general rule of thumb, your wand or weapon will deal less damage than your spells. So as a healer, you'll best serve your group by keeping your damage to a minimum and allowing others to deal their damage first. Let them "build up" a little threat themselves before joining the fight with your supplemental damage.

    2) Your healing spells. Like damage spells, heal over time (HoT) spells generate aggro more slowly than regular healing spells. So by all means, use 'Renew' (priest) and 'Rejuvenation' (druid) often. However, unlike damage spells, healing spells build up threat for ALL mobs within range, rather than a single mob. So allow the main tank some time to build up threat versus all of the mobs BEFORE you begin casting your non-HoT heals. Some players may feel more comfortable not casting any heals, HoT or otherwise, until the main tank has secured the hate of all mobs in range.

    3) Your level. The lower you are, the greater your aggro radius (i.e., your distance from a mob before it will attack you). Regardless of your level, as a healer, you don't want aggro. So stay in the back of the group. And if you're level is low, stay WAY back. Heals tend to have good range. You can afford to hang back.

    Priests: Move toward the tank (or off-tank) and use your 'Fade' spell to reduce the aggro you've accumulated (as well as aggro you will accumlate) for 10 seconds. Fade can instantly free you of a mob or two, which is why it's important to position yourself close to a tank, giving him a better chance to pull the mobs over to himself. And that means you can get back to healing. Remember, Fade is your friend. Use it.

    Also, keep in mind that 'Mind Blast' actually generates extra threat. It is often a surefire way to attract a mob to you. Mind Blast should never be deployed when you're the primary healer, unless it's used to administer a definitive killing blow.

    Druids: If you can't seem to shake your attackers and your tank is having trouble pulling them off of you, you have a rather expensive option to shed a little excess threat. If you have a good chunk of mana, you might consider shifting into cat form to use 'Cower'. This will reduce your threat level slightly and possibly free you of the offending mobs. HOWEVER, because this is both mana-intensive and not guaranteed to work, you may prefer a different option. See the next section for additional options.

    Also remember that 'Faerie Fire' does cause a small amount of extra threat and may attract the targeted mob to you. So limit this spell to tougher mobs and cast it after your tank has generated some threat of his own.


    8. The smart way to panic
    As good as you get at controlling your aggro, eventually you will have to deal with a mob or two that you just can't shake. Let's start with what NOT to do:

    1) Don't run away. Running can spell suicide for your entire group. When you run, the main tank (or off tank) has a much harder time pulling the offending mob(s) from you. Plus, you can't heal your party if you're on the move. Worse yet, you may inadvertently pull more mobs.

    2) Avoid healing yourself. This can begin a cycle of futility. The more you heal yourself, the more aggro you generate and the more health you'll lose to the attacker(s). Furthermore, the mob(s) attacking you will be increasingly harder for others to pull.

    3) Don't use 'Psychic Scream' (priest). This is a fine panic option for when you're soloing, but when used in groups it can often make things much worse. See section 15 for more.

    So what should you do?

    1) Call for help. Use a simple macro to alert others that you need assistance. All primary healers ought to hotbar the following macro:

    /helpme
    /s On me!

    With this macro, your group members will see your cry for help in orange, immediately followed by the text, "[player name] says: On me!" in white. Since we used a 'say' command, our cry stands out in both the chat pane and game environment (as a speech balloon), so your party can't miss it. If you're working with a good tank, he'll quickly react and try to pull the mob(s) from you.

    2) Move toward the tank. Make your way toward the main tank (or off tank). The closer you are to him, the faster he will be able to pull the offending mob(s) from you.

    3) Consider a last resort. Priests and druids both have a few panic options when help won't arrive soon enough.

    Priests: If things get dicey and you're taking so much damage that there may not be time for the tank to react, throw a PW:S on yourself. Then give yourself an HoT (or quick heal if absolutely necessary) while the tank attempts to pull the mob(s) from you.

    It also never hurts to guzzel a healing potion. This can be especially helpful since it doesn't deplete your mana and it won't generate additional threat. So keep a stack of healing potions handy at all times.

    Druids: With more versatility, you have a few more panic options than priests. As mentioned above, your most risky option is shifting into cat form and using 'Cower'. But if this seems a little too uncertain and expensive for your taste, consider shifting into bear form instead.

    With a great deal more armor and the self-healing ability of 'Frenzied Regeneration' (available at level 36), bear form is a sound alternative to cat form's Cower. You'll often use a considerable amount of mana to shapeshift, so remaining in this form can be beneficial as you recuperate some mana and possibly a little health. But don't forget, your party needs their healer back as soon as possible.

    Another good option is 'Barkskin'. This self-buff (available at level 44) reduces damage you take by 20% and allows for uninterrupted spell casting (which is perfect for longer heals like 'Healing Touch' and the channeled group heal, 'Tranquility'). However, note that all non-instant spells take 1 second longer to cast.
  • II. TEAMWORK:


    9. Offer tactful suggestions to others
    Being an effective healer starts with you. But it doesn't end there. All party members, from tanks to damage-dealers, can help you be more efficient. Usually players don't know that they're doing something (or not doing something) that is hurting your ability to heal. So offer a suggestion or two. But do so in a non-threatening, proactive way.

    For example, if you find yourself spending most of your mana repeatedly saving the same caster, rogue or hunter from death, say something. They probably don't understand that this is disrupting your healing efficiency and endangering the party. Let the player know that they should make an effort to tone down their damage. Explain that it's better for all involved when the tank can hold aggro. Your heals are most efficient when healing the tank.

    Or, you may find that the tank is not doing his job of keeping the mobs off of you. Perhaps your occasional calls for help go unanswered. Let him know. The tank may be a beginner and may not know how to best serve the group. Suggest that he use a high-threat ability or a taunt whenever you call for help.

    Keep in mind, this is not a one-way street. Be willing to accept the criticisms of others. If you're reading this guide, you have a genuine desire to improve your play style. Listen what others have to say. You'd be surprised when and where you'll hear something useful that can really improve your game play.


    10. Support your party
    As the primary healer, you are an integral part of your group. But don't just pay attention to healing. There are a few other things you can do to further support your party.

  • Use mana potions. As stated above, your mana is the lifeline of everyone in your party. When you run out, you cannot heal. So always keep a stack of mana potions handy that are on par with your current level. If you're an alchemist, acquiring these is usually an easy task. If not, the Auction House often sells mana potions, though they can be expensive. Perhaps someone in your group is an alchemist. They may not mind parting with a few extra mana potions. It never hurts to ask.

  • Warn others when you have no mana. Eventually, you're mana will run dry and you'll be unable to heal. It's your responsibility to warn your group. Hotbar a macro with the '/oom' command, which stands for "out of mana." This sends an auditory message to everyone that your mana is low. Players will recognize that this is when they need to "pull out all the stops" to keep themselves and the party alive. But if you don't warn them, they may expect a heal that will never come.

  • Assist the tank. Use the assist command (the 'F' key) while you have the main tank targeted and you will immediately target the mob he is targeting. This gives you a quick, easy way to focus any supplemental damage you wish to do. But allow the tank to build up a little aggro first to prevent yourself from accidentally pulling the mob.

  • Use DoT spells carefully. Other classes may want to crowd-control (CC) a mob (rogues using 'Sap' and mages using 'Polymorph' are two common forms of CC). If the mob has a DoT spell on it, it will break the effect. So if you want to use a DoT spell, stick it on a mob that is being attacked by others. And if mobs are dropping quickly, don't bother with DoT spells, as they are much less mana efficient for short fights.

  • Pay close attention to special strategies. Groups familiar with a certain zone will often strategize before a fight. Listen closely and use your strengths to support the strategy. For example, if a mage is planning to do several area-of-effect (AoE) spells to many mobs at once, be ready to assist her with a shield or a series of quick heals. Similarly, if a stealthed rogue is attempting to 'Sap' a target that is surrounded by several other mobs, be ready to aid him. Once his Sap goes off, he will be the target of multiple mobs and may need a fast heal, especially if he becomes rooted or stunned and cannot fall back to your position.


    11. Revive fallen comrades
    Priests and druids each have a spell to raise fallen comrades. There are advantages to each, but the priest's 'Ressurection' spell tends to outweigh the druid's 'Rebirth' spell when it comes to usability. Let's take a closer look at each spell.

    Resurrection (priest) is cast outside of combat. While the spell is mana-intensive, there's no cooldown. This means you can revive any number of players after a costly battle, one by one. Note that players return to life with roughly a fifth of their health/mana and restorative healing on your part is often helpful.

    Rebirth (druid) is the only combat resurrection in the game. This means you are free to revive a player that falls in the midst of battle, provided you have enough mana (and it takes quite a bit). Players will return to life with about half of their health/mana, give or take. This spell can make a huge difference during a tough fight.

    However, Rebirth has two significant drawbacks. First, it has a cooldown of 30 minutes. This prevents you from reviving more than one player after a costly battle. So if you're the only one to survive a wipe, make sure to cast Rebirth on a shaman, paladin, or a priest, as they can use their own revival spell to bring back the rest of the party. Secondly, Rebirth requires a reagent to use. If you forget to bring the reagent with you or run out, you cannot cast the spell. Furthermore, this reagent changes based on the spell's rank. So make sure you're keeping it up to date as you learn new ranks. All capital cities and most towns house a reagent vendor.



    IV. BUFFS & DEBUFFS:


    12. Buff your entire party
    Both priests and druids have incredible buffs to apply to themselves and their party members:

  • Power Word: Fortitude (PW:F) - Priests offer this buff, which essentially raises the hit points of anyone it enchants for 30 minutes. Every class can use this buff.
  • Mark of the Wild (MotW) - Druids cast this extremely potent buff, which improves the armor and all five stats of the player for 30 minutes. At higher levels, this also improves players' resistance to magic. Everyone benefits from this buff.
  • Divine Spirit (DS) - Priests who have spent at least 21 points in Discipline talents may use this buff to raise the spirit of players it enchants for 30 minutes. Again, everyone can benefit from this buff, particularly casters.

    Each of these buffs improve the survivability of any player they enchant. And better survivability means a more successful group all around. So take the time to monitor these buffs. When roughly 5 minutes remain, ask the group to take a quick break to "rebuff." Players never mind breaking for PW:F and MotW. And remember, pets can use these buffs too.

    When you reach the upper levels, be on the lookout for special books that allow you to learn a group version of these buffs. One cast of the group version will buff your entire party for 60 minutes, provided they are within range. Priests will want to get Codex: Prayer of Fortitude (learned at level 48), while druids should look for Book: Gift of the Wild (learned at level 50). Both of these items can usually be found at the Auction House for reasonable prices.


    13. Request helpful buffs
    Don't be afraid to ask other party members for their helpful buffs. Most players will cast them on you shortly after you group, but sometimes people forget. So don't be shy.

    We covered the virtues of PW:F, MotW and DS in the last section. But there are a few other buffs that are perfect for primary healers.

  • Soul Stone - Warlocks have the unique ability to create a 'Soul Stone' with the use of a soul shard. This is a special item that the warlock can spend to buff any player, giving them the ability to self-resurrect for up to 30 minutes. Thus, this buff gives your group a little added insurance. If your entire party wipes, you can self-resurrect and then use your revival spell to bring back others. But don't get overly confident. Soul Stone buffs can only be cast by warlocks every 30 minutes. In other words, if you die 5 minutes after you were Soul Stoned, it will be another 25 minutes before the warlock can Soul Stone you again.

    Experienced warlocks will Soul Stone you without needing to be asked. But inexperienced warlocks may actually Soul Stone themselves instead of you. Don't get upset. Instead, tactfully explain why it's more beneficial for the entire group when you are Soul Stoned.

    Druids: Only request a Soul Stone buff if you are the only class in the group with the ability to revive others. Otherwise, Soul Stones are much better spent on priests, paladins or shamans. This is due to their unrestricted revival spells.

  • Arcane Intellect - Mages can grant others 'Arcane Intellect' which gives your intellect a significant boost. This essentially grants you more mana to cast more heals. It also slightly increases your chance to get a critical effect from any spell you cast.

  • Blessing of Wisdom - Paladins provide this 5 minute buff which yields a good increase to your mana regeneration. Note that you may only have one blessing per paladin affecting you at a time.

  • Blessing of Salvation - Paladins can offer this 5 minute buff to reduce your threat by 30%. This is ideal if you seem to be attracting too much attention from mobs. Note that you may only have one blessing per paladin affecting you at a time.

  • Blessing of Kings - Some Paladins (depending on their talents) may be able to give you this 5 minute buff to increase your total stats by 10%. This provides a useful boost to both of our favorite stats, spirit and intellect.
  • 14. Remove negative buffs
    Negative buffs (also called debuffs) such as diseases, poisons, curses and magical effects (like polymorph and some DoT spells) can be removed by primary healers.

    Priests can use the spells 'Cure Disease' (and later 'Abolish Disease') to remove diseases from players. They can also use 'Dispel Magic' to remove magical debuffs, which is a great asset when you hit your 40s and 50s.

    Druids can remove curses with the aptly named 'Remove Curse' spell, and poison effects can be eliminated with 'Cure Poison' (and later 'Abolish Poison').

    It is also worth noting that paladins and shamans (and to a lesser extent, mages with 'Remove Lesser Curse') can also remove certain debuffs. These classes will often help to remove debuffs in an effort to preserve your mana for healing. And if they don't seem to be helping, it doesn't hurt to ask. Most players will not mind lending a hand.



    V. FOR THE PRIEST:


    15. Abstain from using Shadowform
    If you're a shadow priest, limit your 'Shadowform' ability to groups where you aren't the primary healer. Shadowform is geared toward damage dealing, not healing. Some players will even leave the party if you shift in and out of Shadowform while grouped. While limited forms of healing (with 'Vampiric Embrace') are possible in Shadowform, your primary heals cannot be cast at all. So rather than juggling between your dual strengths of healing and damage-dealing, focus solely on healing and let the rogues and mages dish out the damage.


    16. Use Psychic Scream sparingly
    'Psychic Scream' (PS) is wonderful for soloing and pvp combat. However, it should be used sparingly when grouped, whether you're the primary healer or not. Because PS targets more than one mob and does not allow the caster to control which mobs it targets, it can severely disrupt the melee combat of other group members. Or worse, the fleeing mobs can pull additional mobs and create a nightmare of adds that your group can't possibly handle. So use PS with extreme caution.


    17. Use PW:Shield correctly
    'Power Word: Shield' (PW:S) is one of the most powerful spells in the priest's arsenal. However, quite a few priests use this spell incorrectly without even realizing their mistake. Let's take a look at the right times to use this spell versus the wrong time.

    Good use: PW:S is best used to save your target when you may not have enough time to administer a heal. The shield will usually buy you a few seconds to cast a potent healing spell, thus saving your target.

    PW:S is also useful to apply to cloth-wearers due to their fragility. Many priests will PW:S a caster before she begins pre-planned use of area-of-effect (AOE) spells, such as a mage's 'Blizzard' or 'Arcane Explosion'. AOE spells cause a good deal of aggro and within moments, several mobs will be on the caster. So PW:S makes an excellent preventative spell for high-damage, low-survivabilty classes.

    PW:S buys time and adds a little survivability. Those are its strengths. But learn to recognize its key weaknesses...

    Poor use: Casting the shield on a tank at the start of a battle might seem like a good idea. But this is usually one of the worst things you can do. In end-game encounters, it can be helpful. But pre-60, it often hurts far more than it helps.

    PW:S on a tank actually prevents the tank from generating aggro. This happens because he cannot gain rage if he is not taking damage. This more or less cripples the tank's ability to hold mobs. So while it may be easier for you to keep the tank alive in the beginning, you've just made his job that much harder. Fast-forward the battle: The tank can't hold aggro; now the mage, hunter and rogue are fighting off mobs and you're in a frenzy to heal all three. After your group barely survives, everyone blames the tank for not holding aggro when it was really your shield that caused the problem.

    Another poor use of PW:S is using it liberally. It's a mana-intensive spell. Its sole purpose is to prevent damage. It does nothing to progress your group's efforts. Every time you cast PW:S, you use precious mana that could have been better spent healing the player (as opposed to simply preventing X damage).

    Bottom line: PW:S should be used to prevent death, not damage. It's an expensive spell that does nothing to further your efforts. Its use is powerful, but very limited. While it has its purposes, it is not a spell that should be cast liberally.


    18. Use your wand, not nukes
    Using nukes (high-damage spells) to deal supplemental damage is bad for two reasons:

    1) Your spells will generate too much aggro.

    2) Your spells use up precious mana and you'll want all the mana you can muster for healing.

    So consider using your wand to supplement the damage of your group. If you're facing manageable mobs, you can even use a few spells to expedite the battle. But stick to low-costing DoT spells when possible, and reserve your nukes for "the final blow" if you feel compelled to use them at all.

    IMPORTANT: Wands generate a global cooldown for all of your spells. If you're in the middle of a wand cycle, you may lose up to 1.5 seconds of time before you can cast a much needed heal. With that in mind, when things get real dicey, REFRAIN from using your wand or dealing any supplemental damage. At that point, focus solely on keeping your party alive.



    VI. FOR THE DRUID:


    19. Limit your shapeshifting
    If you join a group as the primary healer, stick to your caster form. After all, you can't heal when you're fighting as a bear or a cat. Your group members may get nervous if you start shifting back and forth to your animal forms during every fight. So limit your shapeshifting to that which compliments your role as primary healer, as described in previous sections.

    Similarly, if you're a balance druid, reserve your Moonkin form for solo work or groups where your role is not the main healer. Moonkin is unable to cast any healing spells.


    20. Use alternatives to nukes
    Using nukes (high-damage spells) to deal supplemental damage as a healer is both risky and a mana drain. But unlike priests, druids aren't able to wield a wand (or any ranged weapon for that matter). This makes it harder for druids to do supplemental damage within their group while preserving their mana pool. Fortunately, there are options.

    Experiment with using your hand-held weapon. The major disadvantage to this approach is that you're right in the thick of battle. When you aggro something, it's on you right away, giving you less time to react. Plus, your weapon may generate more aggro than you can afford. If you discover that you're generating too much aggro (which can sometimes happen with a 2-handed weapon), consider using a lower level weapon or 1-handed alternative.

    Another way to deal supplemental damage is to use lower ranked spells. While this method allows you to maintain your range, it can eat up more mana than youd like. So experiment with different ranks of mana efficient spells like 'Starfire' and DoT spells like 'Moonfire' and 'Insect Swarm' (available with talents). Start with ranks that are at least three ranks lower than your current rank and then decide if you need to go even lower or if you can afford to go higher. Remember, lower ranks mean lower casting costs and lower damage, both of which help you as a healer.



    VII. IN CLOSING:


    21. Bending the rules
    Like all rules, many of these can be bent or broken when circumstances warrant a little extra creativity. But on the whole, if you want to be the kind of healer that others will love to group with on your journey to level 60, follow these guidelines. I promise that your efforts will not be in vain.


    22. Authors note
    I love variety. Consequently, I am one of the few players to actively play all nine classes. This guide was inspired by my own work as the MT or main dps with less experienced healers, as well as my own experiences as the primary healer. As of my last update to the guide (Aug-06), all of my characters are 48+; most are 50+. Two of my characters are priests: one shadow, the other holy. My holy priest is currently my highest level character at 56.

    Playing with all nine classes and grouping often has given me some unique insight into class dynamics and synergy. It's good to know your own strengths and weaknesses. But knowing how your strengths and weaknesses work in tandem with the abilities of the other eight classes is a godsend, especially for healers.

    I hope that my words inspire you to be a better pre-60 healer. And I encourage anyone to add to this guide with additional suggestions for content that I may have missed, or corrections where my facts are inaccurate.

    Good hunting. Good healing.

    You can check out Zedora’s fully navigable version of this guide: Healing for Beginners.

     


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