Okay, you’ve decided on priest, moreover, you’ve decided on leveling with a non-standard (read: non-shadow) spec. Good job! Lemme just recap a bit :
Earlier, I posted a general guide to speccing, which is great if you’re going the LFG route.
So you’ve got your priest, you’ve got your spec plan, now what?
As can be expected, a lot of our spells involve healing. Priests are the jack-of-all-trades healers, meaning we’ve a huge toolkit with approximately 1500 ways of healing. But when out in the wilds of Northrend (or STV, for that matter) we’re not going to heal stuff to death, we’ve got damage capabilities as well (don’t laugh, we can totally do damage.)
You’ve got quite the overwhelming repertoire when starting out. While the damage spells you learn early on (Smite, Mind Blast, Shadow Word: Pain, etc) stay with you until the end of time, heals sometimes have expiration dates. In short, once you hit lv 20 and get Flash Heal, take Lesser Heal off your bar and retire it to the old heals home. It served you well, but Flash is in all ways better/stronger/cheaper.
You also have the longer-cast larger heal with Heal, but to be perfectly honest, during the levels covered in this bracket, you can probably do just fine using nothing but Flash.
As far as damaging during these levels, your best tools aren’t really your damage spells at all; they’re Shield and Wand. Wands are stupidly OP in the beginning, to the point where it’s probably as effective to bubble and wand stuff from full as it is to cast at it, at least through the teens. Otherwise, some general good guidelines would be to remember that Holy Fire is an opener, both due to the cast time and the DoT component. Don’t worry about SW:P or Devouring Plague unless you’re certain you’ll get most of the ticks in (or if you’re tab-dot AOEing). That’s… pretty much it. These levels are really only slowed by the speed of running.
Congratulations! You have a mount! You’ve also got a lot of new spells which will see you finishing up your toolkit and finally retiring the last lingering spells of your noob-ness. First off is Prayer of Healing. Ignoring the small-heal component of Holy Nova, this is your first real big piece of group healing. At this point, however, I’m going to advise you not put it on your bars. Prayer of Healing really needs 3 targets needing half their health pool to make it efficient, and with the wonders of PUGging, if you’re in a party where that many are needing that much, the tank doesn’t have good control and you’ll just pull healing aggro and die. In the grand scheme of things, it’s simply a choice between their repair bill and yours. There are places where it’s useful, yes, but it mainly just means the group is struggling until you hit mid-40s at the earliest.
Speaking of 40s, lv 40 is also where you do a bit of retiring. Once you get Greater Heal, standard Heal goes the way of Lesser Heal. It does. I promise. All those people who tell you Heal is viable at end-game did End Game back when BWL was hot shit. Retire it, mourn it, miss it, but get rid of it.
DPS… has changed a bit, though you’re not looking at anything new. Wands are now a finisher when you’re running low on mana, or something you use when bored in instances now. All those spells you’ve had since the last bracket are the spells you’ll (still) be using now.
Ahh, Outlands. You get more new spells in these 10 levels than you have in a clump since you rolled. I’m talking about Hymn of Hope, Binding Heal, Shadow Fiend, and Prayer of Mending. They also range from “not totally useless” to “this spell is the best thing ever” which isn’t actually too bad considering.
Hymn is, without a doubt, the weakest spell of the bunch. If you’ve got the time to channel, you get some mana back, though I personally consider it most effective for getting o5sr and getting some serious ticks of spirit regen. But it’s something. Related, Shadow Fiend is also situationally useful (and useless). The mana you get back is nothing to sneeze at, though your shadow puppy has some truly idiotic AI. It works best on single-boss fights with no AOE abilities, and no CC to worry about. And make certain you hit “attack” a few times, so it doesn’t just decide to chill out beside you.
And going from the meh to the awesome, both Binding Heal and Prayer of Mending are the shiznit. I personally know I’m not in the habit of using Binding as much as I ought, but that’s mainly due to my imperfections in the class. Binding should be used WHENEVER you’ve taken damage as well; and ProM should be going off every cooldown, especially in a raid environment. They are seriously that good.
After all the new toys in the previous bracket, this one is kinda a let-down. Mind Sear and Divine Hymn. Divine Hymn currently echoes the other Hymn in it’s utility. There are places where it’s okay, but it’s never going to be the best tool for the job, and has a long cooldown to boot. Patch 3.1 sees it changing to a much stronger heal, though still facing a 10 minute cooldown. I don’t know about anyone else, but with a cooldown that long, and the very situational need of it’s use, I know I’m probably going to continue to essentially never use it.
Mind Sear, however, is an awesome spell, and one a long time coming. As is probably obvious by it’s name, it’s a DPS spell, but more than that, it’s an actual AOE. Shadow Priests now have something more useful on trash than tab-SW:P’ing.
Of course, many of the class-defining tools require certain expenditures in talents to accomplish. Yes, I’m talking about spells like Penance and Circle of Healing. These are covered in my general spec guide linked above. Regardless, if you don’t have one of the spells I just mentioned, you need to have the other. Otherwise, don’t even bother.
Our bread and butter healing spells are Flash Heal, Greater Heal, Binding Heal, Prayer of Mending (every cooldown), Prayer of Healing, Penance (every cooldown, if specced) and Circle of Healing (situational, if specced). Renew is useful pre-80, though the jury is still out whether the effort to re-balance for 3.1 is going to work. Also, don’t be afraid to Shield (if you’re Disc) and ignore what the warrior is telling you about rage. What miniscule amount that might have been true before, it’s being fixed in 3.1 anyway, so tell them to shut up and l2read patch notes. Guardian Spirit also is a situationally useful lifesaver. Those are what you’ll be working with as a healing priest, and you can probably safely remove most of the rest of the stuff from your bars, or at least tuck them away and hide them.