Spiritual Guidance: Holy Priest questing in Legion
One of Legion‘s touted features is healers will finally be able to quest in their healing spec. We all know how painful it was in past expansions to level as a healer in the world. I, like many others, opted to quest as Shadow back in Wrath of the Lich King rather than go through the torture that was Holy questing. Now we finally have suitable DPS for our dear healing, no longer being forced into a DPS spec just to reach max level. I’m not too concerned about Discipline, since we could already quest with it during Warlords of Draenor and Mists of Pandaria. I know it can hold up. The burning question, however, is whether Holy will be able to hold its own.
Spells and Talents
For single target as Holy, you have your basic DPS spells: Holy Word: Chastise, Holy Fire, and Smite. The ever-useful Serendipity passive comes into play here, once again reiterating the focus on Holy Words and lowering the cooldown of Chastise by 6 seconds with your Smites. Unfortunately, we are lacking in the AOE department. Our only baseline spell is Holy Nova and we can talent into either Divine Star or Halo, but I was definitely feeling the absence of Mind Sear. I understand the reason for its removal (it’s too shadowy for our delicate sensibilities), but the function of the actual spell was good and I wish they’d add a more thematic version (say Light Sear).
Talents, on the other hand, are hit and miss. We have a couple Hi, I’m DPS talents, but for the most part the others are healing-focused and you kind of just choose what might work best in each situation. Which makes sense being that we’re primarily healers, but it would be nice to at least have more options. At level 15, your talent choices are all healing. Trail of Light can be a suitable option, especially in group quest situations where you’re moving from one person to the next for healing. I chose Enlightenment for the passive mana regeneration since I was questing by myself for the most part. The clear skip is Enduring Renewal: you don’t always need single target healing and I feel it’s suited more toward tank healing in dungeons rather than questing.
Level 30 also focuses on healing: One self-heal and two speed increases. I chose Angelic Feather simply because I’m used to covering short distances with it, though Body and Mind could be useful if you’re kiting and healing. Likewise, the self-heal of Desperate Prayer is good if you need a panic button.
When we get to level 45 though, that’s when things get interesting. Level 45 has one clear choice — so clear it practically has flashing signs and arrows over it: Censure. Adding the stun to Chastise is just too useful, especially when you can keep casting it on a lowered cooldown from Serendipity. Likewise, level 60 also has a good talent: Light of the Naaru, lowering the cooldown even more on Chastise. Level 75 finds a nice passive in Surge of Light, since Binding Heal and Piety are more aimed at group or instance healing. Level 90 has two AOE spells, Divine Star and Halo, but I found mileage varied with the cooldowns. Finally, at level 100, we have healing spells and they’re clearly aimed at raid or dungeon content. Apotheosis seems to be the only one useful for questing.
Surge of Light was surprisingly great. The beauty of this spell is it will proc just from your Smites alone, allowing you to weave healing in with DPS. I could Smite spam for DPS, hitting a Renew here and there for passive healing to cover the damage I was taking, then when Surge of Light procced I could quickly make use of the instant Flash Heal and be back up. It was very easy to hit it between DPS spells and felt very intuitive.
Censure plus Chastise was invaluable. The stun lasts for 5 seconds and was incredibly useful for interrupting spells that you normally would have to endure. On bigger mobs or elites, it gave time to catch up on damage and heal. We’ve never had a stun before, and it was fun to pull a huge mob, wait for it to cast something annoying, then stun it in the middle of the cast and continue DPSing it down. Chastise alone was nice because it does quite a bit of damage with an instant cast. Censure does suffer from diminishing returns, though. I found about every third stun would be immune.
Holy Nova was another surprise hit. This was oddly reminiscent of the Siege of Orgrimmar days after patch 6.0, where Holy Nova was hilariously overpowered. It’s not overpowered here, not by a long shot, but after so many years of seeing it languish in the spell book it’s nice to see it have use again. I found Holy Nova most useful for AOEing down small adds such as imps. I tried pulling groups of regular packs to see if the damage would compare, but it doesn’t do much to regular mobs. Its main usefulness is in the small but annoying ones that come with or are summoned by bigger guys: three Holy Nova hits and they’re done, then you can get back to killing the main guy. If you happen to overpull packs of regular mobs, using Holy Nova to AOE isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it wasn’t very effective and you’re better off killing them single target one by one.
What didn’t work
Divine Star. This was … not so useful. I took it thinking I’d use it for AOE on multiple targets, but it didn’t really seem to have much of an effect, either in damage or healing. I found Holy Nova far superior in taking care of AOE or small adds. Divine Star might have more use in group questing or dungeons, where you’re deliberately rounding up monsters to AOE down, but when you’re questing solo it just doesn’t make the cut. Halo might have more success, especially now that the “range = more damage/healing” part is removed, but I suspect it will be susceptible to the same limitations and you’d probably be better off just taking Divinity for those times where you need to heal yourself.
I didn’t really find a need for Prayer of Mending while questing since its main allure is jumping to others. Talents like Piety, Benediction, and Say Your Prayers (artifact) that interact with that particular spell were a bust.
Apotheosis was chosen for lack of a better option, and I suppose it was useful when I got into sticky situations, but when you’re questing by yourself and pulling carefully, it won’t see much use. It’s probably more useful for the reckless adventurers. In group questing, where everyone is taking damage, you’re likely better off taking Circle of Healing for the AOE healing.
Solo vs. group
Questing by myself was relatively straightforward. If you’ve ever quested as Discipline, you know the drill: Smite Smite Smite. My basic rotation was Censure to stun, Holy Fire to dot, then SMITE SPAM AWAY. For passive healing, just popping Renew would take care of most damage with a Surge of Light instant Flash Heal here and there for bigger hits. If I got in trouble (i.e. not paying attention to my health), Serenity was there to save the day, or spamming Flash Heal to keep my health up. I didn’t have any trouble staying alive by myself.
Group questing was more fun than I thought it would be. In the past as a healer, questing with others was pretty boring. We didn’t really have any DPS spells and were left to hope we could get a chance to heal our group members if they happened to stub their toe or something. These changes actually make me very happy for healers going forward, because now more healers will be able to happily level with their friends as a group rather than play a DPS spec they don’t really like. The healing isn’t as intuitive as Discipline is, with shielding and Atonement heals, but it still feels natural and easy.
For the Broken Shore questline, you’re put in a scenario with other players on the boat. For the most part I DPSed in the scenario, but I found my group mates taking more and more damage as we progressed. Renew and Flash Heal/Surge of Light were my friends, along with Holy Words. Even when you’re not specifically in a group with others and just encounter people out in the world fighting the same thing you are, it’s so easy just to lay down a Sanctify on the group where the melee are standing and heal them right up. I was able to weave in heals on my group between Smites, and Censure definitely played its part in helping with DPS and preventing damage from being done. It’s easy to sprinkle your group members with Renews while DPSing, and I would just take a break for a Flash Heal here and there, or my Holy Words when things got scary. If everything was really bad, Divine Hymn was there to save the day.
All in all, I was pleased with how Holy performs while questing. Further testing is a must, however, to see if it holds up past the initial levels and further into the game. The DPS so far was manageable, especially if I had an NPC accompanying me. Like I said earlier, we’re sorely lacking in AOE options and I’d like to see something more added just to make questing more interesting. Next month we’ll see how Discipline compares to Holy as well as Discipline’s current iteration on live.
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