Priest General Tactics

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Tactics

Weapons

Priests start with the ability to use maces and wands . They can train in staves and daggers for 10   each, at the right weapon trainers .

Staves are usually the weapon of choice for a priest, since they often have bonuses to the stats priests use most often, such as Intellect and Spirit.

Wands can be used in addition to any melee weapon and are very nice to have as a ranged attack that doesn't use mana. Get a wand (Shoot ability in your General tab of your Spells and Abilities window) as soon as possible! Great for taking out near-dead opponents who are running away or for use as a main weapon later on, when wand DPS is generally higher than any melee weapon DPS (the weapons are more useful for the bonuses they give). After you spend your first five talent points on Spirit Tap you should use only the wand for the last five seconds of any fight. That way you will get the full 15 seconds of Spirit Tap (there is a five second cooldown between last mana using spell and Spirit Tap). Wands are currently set to autoshoot, which means that they will continue to fire until the priest intervenes. To stop autoshooting, either move, activate an item, or click on the Shoot ability again. At this time, attempting to cast a spell will not stop the wand from firing; take the additional cooldown time into account in calculating when you need to cast a spell.

Key Spells

Priests are most known for their healing spells, which are the best of any class, and buffs which have good synergy with their role of healing. They also get Resurrection very early (level 10) and have a few spells (aka dispels ) to remove bad effects like diseases and magic effects. Priests also get some crowd control spells, but they mostly involve managing aggro (or hate), with no significant snares except the highly situational Shackle Undead . At higher levels, priests get some very cool and unique spells. For instance, Mind Control , granted at level 30, is a very fun spell that lets you 'charm' an enemy, enabling you to move it and use its auto-attack at a reduced attack speed. As a priest, you also gain access to group heals. The priest's most iconic skill, however, is Power Word: Shield , which envelopes individual party members in a shield that protects them for a time (or for a specified number of points of damage, whichever comes first).

Combat

The basic combat tactic of a priest in PvE is to begin by casting a ranged damage spell (Holy Fire , Smite , or Mind Blast ) just within range of a single mob to pull it. Then cast Shadow Word: Pain and/or Devouring Plague (obtained at level 20, but only if you are Undead) while moving away from the mob, followed by more damage spells (priests with Mind Flay should almost always use it for its 50% slowing factor). It is usually better to cast Power Word: Shield before pulling the mob, if you plan on using it. By this time the mob is attacking you physically or from range. Use either damage spells as listed above (Mind Blast, Smite, Mind Flay while PW:S is still up) which uses mana and keeps it from recharging, or do melee damage, preferably from a wand. Don't forget that you can and should heal yourself occasionally in tough fights. When you get a wand you can use it to pull instead of a spell to keep your mana recharging and use it to do additional damage at range (or close up if you have a poor melee weapon like a staff). As mentioned above, wands are also very good for opponents who run away before they die, since you can keep hitting them at range without using mana in case they draw other mobs as they run around.

Levels 1-10

Smite and Shadow Word: Pain are generally all you need to take out mobs, with melee to fill in the gaps. These levels should fly by. Also, using Power Word: Shield helps a considerable amount.

Levels 10-25

While playing solo, Shadow Word: Pain and Mind Blast tend to be the spells of choice. If you plan to solo much past level 10, it's advisable to start picking talents from the Shadow talent tree, namely Spirit Tap for 5 levels, then Improved Shadow Word: Pain and three points in Shadow Focus , as it will have the net effect of higher DPS and less wasted mana (less spell resists for your offensive/damage spells). Finally, round off with Mind Flay at level 20. This spell is very useful for getting the most out of SW:P and Mind Blast. Pull with a Mind Blast, back up while dropping a SW:P, and then Mind Flay. By the time they get into melee range, your Mind Blast should be nearly ready for another shot, with three free ticks of SW:P and nearly the same damage from Mind Flay, all without them doing any melee damage. Once in melee, either fire a wand (if you have one better than your melee weapon) or melee once against the mob, drop a Mind Blast, and drop a Renew on yourself, and you can melee the rest of most fights. The Renew will keep you at near full health, is instant, and is heal over time, so you will start regaining mana even before the fight is over, with less time spent after the fight to recover, as health and mana should be near the same percentage.

If you can, get a Lesser Magic Wand . It does more damage than any mace or staff at these levels. A Greater Magic Wand is even better as it will serve you well till your mid 20s, or even Cookie's Stirring Rod if you can get a Deadmines group. Here are some fight strategies for this level bracket:

  • Pull with Smite or Mind Blast , Shadow Word: Pain , Renew , then hit Shoot and go make some coffee. Use Power Word: Shield and Lesser Heal as needed.
  • Pull the monster with Holy Fire (since it is highly mana efficient), Shadow Word: Pain , and then Mind Flay . You should have enough time to get most of the Mind Flay off. After that, while the monster is hitting you, use Mind Blast since it is a quick 1.5 sec cast. Finally, hit Psychic Scream and Mind Flay until the monster is dead. If needed, throw in another Mind Blast. Remember that Mind Flay is a very cheap spell to cast, so try to use it as a much as you can.
  • Pull the monster with Mind Blast , use Shadow Word: Pain immediately after, then the monster should be entering Mind Flay range just as the global cooldown is ending. Use Mind Flay twice and the monster should be just arriving at you. Then go wand until the monster is dead and you should not have to use up mana on Renew and your shield.

Levels 25-35

This is the time to start doing more and more elite quests and groups. Focus on using Heal, Flash Heal, Renew and Power Word: Shield midway through the fight, and dropping SW:P at the beginning of the fight. Use your wand when you can, but don't let it stop you from healing. You aren't a complete healbot, and if you have a runner, feel free to nuke or Mind Flay it, if healing isn't as important. Only use Mind Blast if the designated tank has a large amount of aggro, and only pull when it's you and other (mostly cloth) caster classes in a party. Mind Blast has a high-threat level, and is likely to pull the mob off the tank and/or pull unnecessary aggro on nearby mobs. One exception to that might be to use Mind Blast to finish off an almost dead mob (<10% health) or to bring down a runner.

Another big no-no is using Psychic Scream (the multiple target Fear) inside an instance unless your group has made proper preparations for it (I.E., pulling the group of mobs far away from any other groups to reduce the likelihood that they will get close enough to assist each other). In instances mobs will never disengage but they will bring other mobs that they pass by under the fear effect. This usually means that you will be confronted by more mobs (and more aggro ) than you disposed of with Scream.

Soloing changes little: the priest's template for damage spells is fairly even after level 20. The exception is you get to start making better use out of racial bonus spells.

  • For the Undead that means Devouring Plague , which is great for areas with slightly higher-level mobs in among ones you can more easily solo, and for areas where adds are more common. Although Devouring Plague is an excellent DoT/self-heal, it has an enormous mana cost. It is best used with the talent Inner Focus .
  • Dwarves and Humans get Desperate Prayer , an 0-mana instant self-heal on a 10-minute timer, which heals the priest for about half of their life. Desperate Prayer is useful in situations where you are fighting several mobs at once; because the spell is instant, it will heal you regardless of how many mobs are beating you up.
  • Blood elves get Touch of Weakness and Consume Magic , two of the least useful spells in the game. Note that Touch of Weakness, when it procs, will cancel a channelled effect like Mind Flay. Consume Magic will restore mana at the cost of a buff. Note that Consume Magic will only remove a Priest buff (Inner Fire, Touch of Weakness or PW:F), meaning that by the time a priest usually needs to cast Consume Magic, it will probably remove PW:F.
  • Humans also get Feedback , which is a buff that has a chance to drain 18 mana from the target at rank 1(and with for each mana drained, the target takes 1 damage).
  • Night elves receive Starshards at level 10, which is an instant-cast, 0-mana, damage over time spell. Since Starshards has no mana cost, it is recommended that it be casted every time its 30 second cooldown has elapsed. Starshards is also the only priest spell to deal Arcane damage, so it can be used when your Holy and Shadow schools have been locked. The level 20 night elf racial is Elune's Grace , a spell that reduces the chance of being hit by melee and ranged attacks by 20%. Note that the spell attacks are unaffected by Elune's Grace. Thus, it should only be used against non-spellcasters or hybirds.
  • Trolls get Hex of Weakness at level 10, a highly underrated priest racial for both PvE and PvP. Hex of Weakness reduces the healing effectiveness a target by 20% (i.e. if target A was healed for 100, then target A would only be healed for 80 if afflicted by Hex of Weakness). It also reduces the amount of damage the afflicted target deals. A troll priest should cast this on the tank's target in an instance in order to reduce the priests healing load. At level 20, Troll's receive Shadowguard , a spell similar to Lightning Shield except the damage is threatless and can proc Blackout .
  • Draenei get Symbol of Hope at level 10, an instant spell that restores mana to the party over 15 seconds. While useful in any situation, for primary spell casters the amount of mana returned is not significant. Thus, this spell is best used in a group with paladins, shamans, and hunters, for whom the mana returned is more dramatic. The spell is on a five minute cooldown and, as such, should be used frequently. Symbol of Hope scales with level rather than having trainable higher ranks. At 20th level, Draenei get Chastise , which is shared by dwarves.

Levels 35-45

Solo and group play at this level are still similar to the level 26-35 range, but at this point priests can start to practice their more situational spells. These include Shackle Undead, Mana Burn and Silence for caster mobs, Abolish Disease for various ills, and Dispel Magic for the nastier magical effects that can be dropped. Be aware, however, that priests lack the ability to dispel poisons and curses. Despite this, magic debuffs are usually the most common, so the priest can generally solo carefree. Curses decrease a player's stats; they can be very powerful and long-lasting, and the priest currently has no innate way to deal with them.

Levels 45+

From here to level 62, no new spells are introduced (other than those obtained with talents). With the Burning Crusade, several new spells are given to priests, but if you've gotten that far, chances are you aren't even reading this.

Basic Group Healing

In groups, a priest generally hangs back and provides a shield spell, heals and dispels to primary attacking group members with the occasional offensive assist. Most groups do not expect a priest to engage in a lot of direct combat, since they are often the best healers. If you have a wand and your heals and shield are not immediately needed, shooting your wand is a good way to assist doing damage without getting directly involved and allowing your mana to recharge at the same time. It's best to target the target of the MT to do your wand damage to, because one, their aggro is likely firmly on the MT, and two, concentrated damage, rather than spread out damage (i.e. everyone focuses on one mob) takes down enemies faster. Depending on group makeup and skill, dropping a DoT like Shadow Word: Pain on as many mobs as possible at the beginning of the fight makes mana-efficient sense, but be sure your group knows how to hold aggro on all of them, or you'll get a surprise after the first tick of damage.

As the primary healer in the group, the priest should be prepared to use an array of healing spells from the instant cast heal over time Renew to Flash Heal , Lesser Heal , Heal , Greater Heal and/or Prayer of Healing . The key to group survivability for the priest is effective mana management and use of the right heal in the right situation. Casting a 3 second heal when the player has 2~2.5 seconds to live is a mistake many inexperienced priests make. Better to cast a quick small heal or two followed by a longer heal, than to hope you win the race casting the larger heal. Many priests use an escalating ladder of heals in terms of casting time/mana cost. Its vital that the priest continuously monitor the health bars of party members and be aware of the rate at which they are taking damage. The main tank may have the most health, but be taking damage from the entire group of mobs and require most of the priest's attention. On the other hand, if a mage ends up drawing the aggro of a mob, the mage may go down quickly if the priest isn't able to pop a quick Flash Heal and/or shield on them. A priest's situational awareness is essential to preventing a wipe. It is better to have everyone in the party finish a fight with only 10% of their health than to lose one or more members. A player with 1% health fights just as well as one with 100% health, so the survival of the maximum number of party members will almost always be better than preserving just one. However, the most important person to keep alive (if you must choose) is the MT, as, once they die, the mobs aggro almost invariably turns to you, the healer. This usually results in a wipe.

Healing generates aggro. The bigger the heal, the more aggro the priest generates increasing the chance that mobs will break out of a fight to pursue the priest. A priest must always try to maintain the delicate balance of providing the right amount of healing without generating too much aggro or wasting too much mana while ensuring group survival. The instant cast Renew cast just before or early in the fight generates little aggro and will work to offset the damage a player is taking as it occurs. Likewise, the 1.5 sec cast Flash Heal can quickly restore some health giving the priest the additional needed casting time to cast a bigger heal like a 3 second cast Heal or Greater Heal .

Here's a typical group fight scenario: immediately before the fight, the priest casts Renew on the main tank who initiates the fight (or exchanges aggro with the puller who may need a Renew or Flash Heal after pulling), target your tank, hit "F" (or your Assist Target key) to select the tank's target, then cast Shadow Word: Pain on the Mob and follow with your wand to assist until more healing is required, hit "F" again to retarget the tank, cast Flash Heal and cast up the casting time ladder to Heal and/or Greater Heal if needed. If three members need healing, consider casting the group heal Prayer of Healing , then refocus on individual situations. If the fight is going to be a tough one, the priest should avoid offensive spells and save all their mana for healing.

It is important to note that casting Renew on the main tank before ranged pulls, or pulls which include mobiles that trail behind the initial pack, can be a bad idea. If threat has not been established on the entire group by either the main tank or main assist (which is very hard to do in line of sight pulls) the first tick of Renew will have the uninitiated mobiles heading your way.

Leather and cloth wearers may need a quick shield followed by Renew to allow the group to regain the aggro of their attackers. Also, don't forget to use Dispel Magic on party members. Many DoTs, poly, fear, stun or other effects (but not effects like curses or poisons) cast on your party members can be removed by DM and preserve your mana for other healing tasks. DoTs like Shadow Word: Pain and Immolate for example can be quickly dispelled before the party member takes significant damage. Likewise, remove disease effects if possible during a fight to prevent unnecessary healing and mana usage, although many attacks may result in the disease effect being replaced quickly, so use discretion.

Weapon Choice

Weapon choice isn't always straightforward. However, a priest's life is made simpler by the fact that as soon as a wand is acquired, you can ignore the melee damage of a weapon. Without any strength or agility, a priest is never going to melee his or her way out of trouble.

A priest may well need more than one weapon in his backback, especially as the levels progress. Early on, most of the best weapons are staves, with basic stat bonuses predominating (look for +int and +stam). As time progresses, weapons with some +damage or +heal become available (since 2.3 all +heal weapons have a proportion of +dmg). A Priest will most likely need +heal weapons for grouping and +dmg ones for solo play (the same goes for armor).

Apart from the lowest levels, there are available a mix of Staves and 1 hand/ off-hand combos that rival each other for all the major useful bonuses. By end game, a 1h mace or dagger + an off hand usually offers the most in terms of +dmg or +heal.

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