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Healing for Beginners

The information herein will help any 5-man group healer through level 70. However, for 10+ player raiding content, the rules change quite a bit. For raiding healing strategies, see posts on the World of Warcraft class forums for priests, druids, paladins and shamans.

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. I realize that paladins and shamans can be great healers as well, but they usually serve as secondary healers unless fully specced for healing. Therefore, this guide is geared toward priests and druids. However, all healing classes can benefit from many of the general strategies outlined below.

DISCLAIMER: This guide is intended for BEGINNERS. Thus, I've intentionally left out overly complicated explanations and exceptions to the rules that may confuse or otherwise hinder the beginner healer.
October 2008: My goals for expanding this site have narrowed to pet-related content. As such, I'm no longer maintaining this guide. I will leave it up for posterity, but know that it's only current to Burning Crusade content.


The Basics

1. Monitor player health bars

If your primary role in the group is to heal, your primary focus should be on the health of your party members—not the health of the mobs they fight. Vigilently 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. But as helpful as pets can be, they do tend to come second to players in terms of life-saving priority.

TIP: Feel free to let warlocks and hunters know that their help would be appreciated in healing their pets. Both have spells to do so. This will ensure that you have enough mana to heal players when it really counts.

3. Use appropriate gear

Your effectiveness as a healer is highly dependent upon your gear. You want lots of intellect, spirit and 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 rate.

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, Protection-specced Paladins (and Shamans to a lesser extent)
  • Off Tank - Secondary Warriors, Druids in bear form, Paladins, Shamans, Hunter Pets, Voidwalker or Felguard (Warlock pets)
  • Melee DPS - Rogues, Shamans, Druids in cat form, Fury-specced Warriors (often duel-wielding or using 2-handed weapons), Hunter Pets, 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 may make them a higher link in the chain. For example, a mage with her 'Polymorph' spell may become more important than a rogue or shaman because the crowd-control is essential in that particular encounter.

Managing Mana & Mobs

5. Use efficient healing spells

Your mana is your lifeline as a healer (and the lifeline of everyone else). So it must be managed 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 the heal's potency.

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/druids, regardless of build:

Priest »

  • Renew - (buff) 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 (obsolete at upper levels)
  • Greater Heal - slow heal, very potent
  • Prayer of Healing - slow group heal, moderately potent
  • Binding Heal - fast heal + self-heal, moderately potent
  • Prayer of Mending* - (buff) instant group heal, less potent (designed for in-combat use)
TIP: *Prayer of Mending (PoMend) is a very unique healing spell. It heals a single target when that target takes damage, then jumps to another target in need of healing. It can even bounce back and forth between two targets. As a bonus, the healed player is the one who generates aggro, rather than the healer. Thus, PoMend can actually heal the tank AND help him generate threat.

Druid »

  • Rejuvenation - (buff) instant heal over time (HoT), less potent
  • Regrowth - (buff) regular heal/HoT combo, moderately potent
    Regrowth is preferred over Healing Touch for those in Tree of Life form
  • Healing Touch - slow heal, very potent
  • Lifebloom - (stackable buff) instant HoT/regular heal combo, moderately potent (very low threat)
  • 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 a faster casting time 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 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.

If everyone in your party has suffered damage, consider using a group heal, such as 'Tranquility' (druid) or 'Prayer of Healing' (priest). A well-timed group heal can really preserve your mana pool.

CAUTION: 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 and heal accordingly.

Priests » When time is no longer a luxury (player's health falls below 25% and continues to drop), consider using 'Power Word: Shield' (PW:S) to save the player. 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 (see section 17 for details).

6. Avoid overhealing

As stated before, preserving your mana is key to being a good healer. One of the biggest mana-wasters of all is the act of overhealing.

Overhealing occurs when you cast a potent healing spell on a player that has only suffered a minor amount of damage, i.e., the player has more than 70-80% health remaining. Sure, doing this will heal the player back to full. But the spell will heal for more damage than the player sustained. And during a tough fight, you'll be wishing you hadn't wasted so many potent heals early in the battle. But with a little care, the bad habbit of overhealing can be avoided.

  • Use HoTs. Heal over time spells are the preferred healing spells to cast when a player's health is slowly dropping to 75-85%. If, however, their health is dropping quickly, consider a well-timed potent healing spell.
  • Time your potent heals. Time your regular or slow heals so that they're cast when a player's health hits 40-60%. Note that the longer the casting time of the heal, the sooner you'll want to cast it. For example, if your tank's health is rapidly dropping from 90% to 80% to 70% every 2 seconds and you're planning to use a potent 3-second heal, begin casting it when your tank's health hits right around 60%. That way the heal will go off 3 seconds later as the tank's health drops to 40-50%. Don't let the math intimidate you. You'll get a feel for this sort of pacing with a little practice.
  • Cast down-ranked heals. Casting a lower rank of a healing spell can also help to avoid overhealing. This is especially useful for group heals, like the priest's 'Prayer of Healing' spell, where the highest rank may be more than is necessary to bring most of the group back to near full health.
TIP: A good rule of thumb to avoid overhealing is to aim for 90-95% health when you heal your target. By shooting for just under 100%, you'll truly learn how to manage your healing efficiency without wasting your mana.

7. Chain-cast your spells

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 chain casting, i.e., 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 start of casting of any spell with a mana cost, you will NOT regenerate mana. However, after five seconds are up, your spirit kicks in and you begin to slowly recouperate mana. The more spirit you have, the faster you'll regenerate your mana pool.

For example, if you cast two or three spells back-to-back, then break from casting for four 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.

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

8. 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' and/or 'Lifebloom' (druid) often. However, unlike damage spells, healing spells build up threat for ALL mobs within range, rather than a single mob. This can spell big danger for an overzealous healer.

    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 and proximate. 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 have a good range. You can afford to hang back.

9. Panic smarter

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. Don't heal yourself (unless you have exhausted all other options and you are close to death). Self-healing 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 or playing against other players, but when used in PvE groups it can often make things much worse (see section 16 for details).

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 "help" macro:
    /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.

    Priests » If things get dicey and you're nearing death, throw a PW:S on yourself FIRST and call for help second. Then give yourself an HoT or 'Binding Heal' while the tank attempts to pull the mob(s) from you. You can further improve the "help" macro above so that you simultaneously cast PW:S on yourself while calling for help:

    /s On me!
    /cast [group, combat, target=player] Power Word: Shield
  2. Move toward the tank. Make your way toward the main tank (or off tank). The closer you are to him, the faster he'll be able to pull the offending mob(s) from you.
  3. React the smart way. Priests and druids both have a few "smart" panic options when help won't arrive soon enough:

    Priests » As you move toward the tank (or off-tank), use your 'Fade' spell. This will temporarily reduce the aggro you've accumulated (as well as aggro you will accumlate) for 10 seconds, allowing the tank time to generate hate from the mob. 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.

    Priests » Once you've reached the tank, if both of you could use a heal, use your 'Binding Heal' spell (available at level 64). This spell is perfect for this situation, as it generates less threat than your other healing spells and will simultaneously help you and your tank.

    Druids » If you can't seem to shake your attackers and your tank is having trouble pulling them off of you, shift into bear form. Bear form offers a great deal more armor than your caster form, plus the mana-free self-healing ability of 'Frenzied Regeneration' (available at level 36) can help you regenerate lost health. 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 the situation is under control.

    Druids » 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.

    Both » If all else fails, chug a healing potion. This is an excellent last resort for preserving your life (as well as your remaining mana). Thus, you'll want to be sure that you're always carrying a healthy stack of healing potions of the highest level you can drink. These may be freely obtained from random world drops and they may be purchased through the Auction House.

CAUTION: As a druid, it might make sense to shift into cat form and use 'Cower' to shed additional threat, the same way a priest uses 'Fade'. However, 'Cower' is not nearly as effective as 'Fade' and cat form doesn't improve survivability any better than your caster form. Thus, Bear form (or Moonkin form if available) will almost always be a better choice.


10. Offer suggestions to others (with tact)

Being an effective healer starts with you. But it doesn't end there. All party members, from tanks to damage-dealers, can help your healing efficiency. 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-confrontational, proactive way.

  • Unruly DPSers. For example, if you find yourself spending most of your mana repeatedly saving the same caster, rogue or hunter from death, send a private message to the player. 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. Suggest that they limit their highest damage spells and abilities for the end of the fight.

    If the player is unreceptive (as is sometimes the case with someone whose goal is topping the damage meter rather than being a team player), simply allow them to die. Through repeated deaths and expensive repair bills, the offending player will learn the hard way that cooperation is necessary when grouping with others.
  • Timid Tanks. 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 taunt followed by a few high-threat abilities whenever you call for help.
  • Rowdy Rushers. Occasionally you'll find yourself with a group of players who, for whatever reason, decide to rush through the instance. Unfortunately, this doesn't leave much time to strategize before attacks. And what's worse, you'll often be mana-deprived as you struggle to drink quickly and keep up. Often you'll discover your group is already under heavy fire when you're still drinking 50 yards back.

    Don't be shy. Warn to the group that you need time to recover your mana. Use the '/oom' (Out of Mana) emote to give them a visual and auditory alert every time you sit to drink. Most players, even the trigger-happy type, will give you the time you need if you ask.

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.

11. 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're OOM. Eventually, your 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' (Out of Mana) emote. 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. And because the main tank excels at holding aggro, damaging his target is generally safe.
  • 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—casting them will just eat away at your mana reserves.
  • Pay close attention to special strategies. Groups familiar with a certain instance 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. Should his Sap fail, he may be the target of multiple mobs and require a fast heal, especially if he becomes rooted or stunned and cannot fall back to your position.

12. 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 utility. 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 necessary.

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 20 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. Note that all major cities and many towns house a reagent vendor.

Buffs & Debuffs

13. Buff your entire party

Both priests and druids have excellent buffs to apply to themselves and their party members:

  • Power Word: Fortitude (fort) - 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.
  • Thorns - Druids should limit this buff to melee classes who fight in close proximity to mobs. It causes a small amount of damage to nearby attackers. As the primary healer, it's not necessary to cast this buff on yourself.
  • Shadow Protection - Priests can help to protect themselves and their group members from caster mobs who fire shadowbolts and the like. Shadow damage usually appears purplish. If you're unsure, check your combat log to discover the damage type.

The first three buffs listed above 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 3-5 minutes remain, ask the group to take a quick break to "rebuff." Players never mind breaking for a fort and MotW. And remember, pets can use these buffs too.

When you reach the upper levels, you'll be able 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 and that you have the required reagent. Priests will learn Prayer of Fortitude (level 48) and Prayer of Shadow Protection (level 60), while druids will train for Gift of the Wild (level 50). All of these spells used to be learned through books, but the lower ranks are now available from trainers.

14. 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 fort, 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 that it's more beneficial for the entire group when you're Soul Stoned, since you can revive other players after a wipe.

TIP: As a druid, 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 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.
  • Free Water - Note that mages can also conjure water for you to drink in between fights. This provides you with a free source of mana regeneration, so don't be afraid to ask your mage for a stack or two.
  • Blessing of Wisdom - Paladins provide this 10-30 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 10-30 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 10-30 minute buff to increase your total stats by 10%. This provides a useful boost to both of our favorite stats, spirit and intellect. Note that you may only have one blessing per paladin affecting you at a time.

15. 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 beyond.

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

FYI: A few other classes can also remove debuffs. Paladins can remove poison, disease, and magic effects; shamans can remove poison and disease; mages can remove curses. It doesn't hurt to ask these classes to help you remove debuffs in an effort to preserve your mana for healing.

For the Priest

16. Limit use of 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 spend most of your time in 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.

17. 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.

18. Use PW:Shield when it counts

'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 inappropriately without even realizing their mistake. Let's take a look at the right times to use this spell versus the wrong time.

Good use #1: 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, thereby saving your target.

Good use #2: Another good use for PW:S is to apply it to a tank just before the tank enters combat. This allows your tank to absorb the first few hits. By the time he begins taking damage, you will have regenerated the mana used to cast the shield.

FYI: In the past, casting PW:S on a tank prior to combat used to be a big no-no. PW:S used to prevent rage generation for warriors in defensive stance. However, rage generation was normalized in a recent patch and now PW:S can safely be applied to tanks without worrying about thier ability to generate rage.

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 threat. 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 some survivability at the start of a fight. Those are its strengths. But learn to recognize its key weaknesses...

Poor use: Casting PW:S liberally to prevent damage rather than using healing spells to heal a damaged target. This might seem like a good idea, but it is extremely inefficient.

PW:S is one of the most mana-intensive combat spells in a priest's arsenal. Moreover, it doesn't prevent nearly as much damage as a healing spell can heal for the same mana cost. Every time you cast PW:S, you use precious mana that could have been better spent healing the player.

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

19. 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 if you can afford to supplement your group's damage (i.e., you're facing manageable mobs and don't have to solely heal), consider using your wand. If you're up against very easy mobs, you can even use a few spells to expedite the battle. But stick to mana-efficient spells and reserve your nukes for "the final blow" if you feel compelled to use them at all.

CAUTION: 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, DO NOT use your wand or deal any supplemental damage. At that point, focus solely on keeping your party alive.

For the Druid

20. 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 (i.e., bear form when under heavy fire).

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 a mana-intensive form that prohibits the casting of any healing spell.

21. 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. But on the plus side, the tank won't have far to travel to help you. Keep in mind that 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.

In Closing

22. Bending the rules

Like all rules, many of these can be bent or broken when circumstances warrant a little added 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 the max level, follow these guidelines. I promise that your efforts will not be in vain.

23. Author's note

I love variety. Consequently, I am one of the few players to regularly play all nine classes. This guide was inspired by my own experiences as the primary healer, as well as working as the main tank or main dps with less experienced healers. Two of my ten 60+ characters are priests: one shadow, the other holy—both are currently making their way to 70.

Actively playing 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 real blessing, especially for healers.

Good hunting. Good

Last updated: September 2007

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