Beginner’s Guide to Holy Paladin Healing

It feels a little early for me to be writing any kind of guide for Holy Paladins. Today is May 6, 2011. It was two months ago (almost to the day) that I was putting out a desperate plea for help on Twitter because I was approaching level 20, wanted to try healing a dungeon, and had no freakin’ clue how. But Psynister asked today for a “noob-friendly guide to healing on a Holy Paladin” and Fannon suggested this one, written by Ophelie, and… and I have just put way too many links in one sentence! *ahem* And I accused the entire WoW-Twitter community of not knowing what a “beginner’s guide” is.

I’ve never healed anything higher than Scholomance, but I’ve healed the crap out of level-20 Shadowfang Keep! I can’t tell you anything about gemming your Holy Pally gear because I haven’t gotten a Holy Pally high enough in level to have sockets on their gear. I can tell you what happens when you look at those Holy talents at level 10, though, and you ask yourself, “How the hell should I know what to pick? I’ve never played a Holy Pally before!” So this is a beginner’s guide. Not a Beginner’s Guide to Healing Raids, or a Beginner’s Guide to Holy Paladin Healing After You Leveled Retribution. It’s a guide to healing as a Holy Paladin when you are a beginner… new to the class, new to healing, whatever. It’s the guide I couldn’t find when I put out my call for help two months ago.

I will say, though, that the guide Ophelie wrote is awesome! I have now saved it so I can make use of it. It’s just not what I’d consider “noob-friendly”. You aren’t going to have abilities like Beacon of Light when you can heal your first dungeons unless you don’t start healing them for a while. (The Dungeon Finder opens up for you at level 15. Beacon of Light is on the fourth tier of the talent tree. You’re not getting it until level 39.) It is so much easier to level as a healer than it used to be, and low-level dungeons need healers just like higher level dungeons do! Bookmark her guide so you’ll have it once you get past the really low “lower levels”.

So You Want to be a Holy Paladin…

Draenei, your dedication to the Light is probably going to get you nommed to death by demons someday. But you don’t let that stop you! You rush into battle righteously, tentacles… doing what tentacles do.

Dwarves and humans, your history of serving the Light may not be as long as the history of your spacegoat friends, but you are people of great faith and devotion. Just, please… aim more for “Tirion Fordring”, less for “Arthas Menethil”.

Tauren, I’m only calling you “paladins” because it’s a game mechanics thing. I understand… you are Sunwalkers! You paint your kodo in bright colors and tell Night Elves, “Listen up, long-ears! It’s not all about the pretty moon, okay?” For that, you have my deepest admiration.

Blood elves, in the immortal words of RuPaul: “Remember, ladies… don’t f$%# it up!”

Choose your faction, choose your race, choose your… Oh, yeah. You already chose your class and spec. That’s why you’re here. Well, you’ve got ten levels to go before you can be a Holy Paladin instead of a generic paladin, so get to questing!

Level 10!

You’re going to need to spend 5 points in that first tier of Holy talents to get to the second tier. Arbiter of the Light isn’t really something you need, so it’s going to be split between the other two. I advise taking all three ranks of Judgements of the Pure, so I eventually put only two points into Protector of the Innocent. If you start going into dungeons as soon as the Dungeon Finder opens for you, that means you will have only spent four points by level 15. I suggest having 3 points in Judgements of the Pure and 1 in Protector of the Innocent at that time.

Once you’ve spent that first point, you are a Holy Paladin! You’ll get Holy Shock as a free gift. You can Holy Shock your friends, your enemies, and even yourself! Then spend the Holy Power on Word of Glory. Or wwalk around with Holy Power you don’t need to spend until it goes away. I certainly do a lot of that.

Warning: Heavy Wool Bandage does not promise that using Holy Shock on your friends will cause any excitement from them being “shocked”. Consult an engineer if that’s what you’re looking for. Nor does Heavy Wool Bandage promise that your enemies will enjoy the Holy Shock. They probably won’t. Results may, and should, vary when using Holy Shock on friends and enemies.

Choosing Talents for Levels 11-30

I enjoy playing a Holy Paladin so much that at 30, when I can pick up a second spec, I choose Holy. Yes… Holy is my main spec and my off-spec. I enjoy questing in Holy, so one spec is for questing and one is purely for healing. If you take something other than Holy as your off-spec, you’ll probably at least want to respec to move points around so your Holy spec becomes more streamlined for healing if you’ve been questing. If you level through the Dungeon Finder from level 15 on up, you can choose talents just for healing from the very beginning.

At level 29, these are my talents.
At level 30, this is my dungeon healing spec.

For those first 29 levels, since I do a lot of questing, I do my best to choose talents I need for being out there on my own without sacrificing too much for when it’s time to heal.

Judgement

How are you supposed to use Judgement if you’re standing back to heal? Don’t stand back. You are a paladin. You have mail armor (or mostly mail) and a shield. Hopefully, you have a decent tank to keep mobs from crawling up your nose. Stand behind the tank, but not behind the tank and dps. Or, as I do when I get a tank who makes me think just being in the same instance is “standing too close to the tank”, move up until you’re in range for your Judgement, then move back again.

You will make this a lot easier on yourself if you read Fannon’s “Paladin Basics: Judgements and Targeting”. The truth is, I didn’t understand half of it the first time I read it. I had never healed anything except hunter pets before. (Well, there was that one time a warrior friend charged Anachronos and I ended up putting bandages on him to make sure he’d last those last few minutes before Anachronos despawned.) BUT I USED THE MACRO! I set up my first ability bar for questing, then set up the second bar for dungeon healing. It only has my healing abilities and the Judgement macro on it. For some reason, it won’t cast Judgement on anything if I don’t have a focus target, but I always have a focus target while I’m healing… the tank.

Sometimes you’ll hit that Judgement and nothing will happen. It’s not on cooldown, so what’s the problem? Your focus target (the tank) isn’t targeting anything. Don’t get too worried about it. Use your Judgement when you can in combat… when it’s off cooldown and hitting the macro works. If the tank isn’t targeting anything because they’re using an Area of Effect ability, try again later and keep healing for now.

How do I know which heal to use?

How much damage is the tank taking, and how fast? This is something I have to spend the first couple of trash groups watching so I can adjust. (Unless I’m doing the dungeon with a tank I’m familiar with. That’s a benefit to queueing with a tank you know.) In general, I’ve found warriors to be the least squishy. Paladins… Oh, paladins. WHY are you so squishy? I don’t understand it! Bear druids have a lot of health, but they take a lot of damage. Then you factor in that not all of these tanks are being played by the same person, so they have different gear, personal capability levels, styles, etc. And things differ from dungeon to dungeon. (On bosses, I assume I’m going to have to give it all I’ve got and then adjust down from there as the fight goes on.) Watching what happens during those first pulls and asking yourself, “Would it be more efficient to use a different heal next time?” is important.

I’ve seen tanks who take just enough damage that I can use Holy Shock followed by Word of Glory, and they won’t need anything again until Holy Shock is off cooldown.

I’ve seen tanks who need the amount of healing Holy Light gives so regularly that it pretty much matches the cast time of Holy Light. (These tanks are very easy on my mana.)

I’ve seen tanks who just need a Holy Shock now and then on trash, but become so squishy on a boss that I’m using Flash of Light a lot more than I’d like. Holy Light would just take too long… they’d die when I’m halfway through casting it!

Use the trash as an opportunity to get to know how much damage your tank takes, and how fast they take it. Your big heals will be Flash of Light and Holy Light. Holy Light will be easy on your mana, but it’s going to take longer to cast. Flash of Light is big and quick, but you’ll run out of mana fast if you use it as your main healing spell. It’s more like an emergency button.

DO NOT USE!

There are some abilities you shouldn’t be using, and some that you shouldn’t be using on the tank.

Do not use Righteous Fury. If the tank is a paladin, they should use Righteous Fury. In fact, if they aren’t using it, gently remind them. But you? NO!

Do not use Hand of Reckoning. You’re there to heal, not tank. If there’s a mob on a squishy mage, let the mage and tank handle that. Heal the mage if you can (Heal the TANK first!), but don’t taunt the mob off the mage.

Do not use Hand of Protection on the tank. If you get mobs crawling up your nose for some reason, you can use it on yourself. You’ll be protected and can keep healing. Use it on the tank, and he’s going to be worthless as a tank for the next 10 seconds.

What do I do with my auras?

At first, you only have Devotion Aura, so the answer is, “Keep it on.” Even if the tank is a paladin and has theirs on, keep yours on. At level 26 you’ll get Retibution Aura. At that point, you’ll have to decide which aura to use when you’re in a dungeon.

If the tank is paladin, use whichever aura they aren’t using.

If the tank is not a paladin, use the aura that makes it easier for you to do your job. Is the tank holding the mobs just fine but taking quite a bit of damage? Use Devotion Aura. Is the tank taking little damage, but the mobs keep getting loose and going after the dps? Use Retribution Aura.

Sometimes you may even have to switch back in forth in one dungeon. I’ve been through dungeons (Gnomeregan, for example) where the tank took very little damage from the trash, but keeping them all on him was an issue. I was having to split my attention to make sure the dps were okay. I put on Retribution Aura and that fixed the problem. On the bosses, though, I switched to Devotion Aura so the tank would have the extra armor.

The best way you can help the tank, and the rest of your group, is by choosing what makes it easier for you to heal.

Do I need some kind of healer addon?

Yeah… that’s probably a good idea. The bigger question is which one? There’s quite a few, and every healer seems to swear the one they use is the Best. Addon. Ever. (Unless they’re saying it’s crap and asking everyone if they know of a better one.) I looked over the information on several of them before I settled on VuhDo. Why VuhDo? Because I read what BigBearButt wrote about it and realized it looked like the most “noob-friendly” one to me. I was busy learning to heal… I didn’t want to take a couple of days to learn how to configure an addon so then I could learn how to heal.

And, really… it’s the Best. Addon. Ever.

I’m not always playing a healing class, so I also use Addon Control Panel to make it easy for me to switch addons off and on. I have VuhDo configured not to show up unless I’m in a group, and VuhDo is switched off (through Addon Control Panel) for my dps characters.

Where’s all the Holy Paladin gear?

It doesn’t exist.

Actually, I’ve been getting the impression that it’s easier to get gear upgrades as a Holy Paladin at lower levels than at higher levels. And that’s kind of sad. Quest reward gear is adequate. It’s not great, but it’ll get you through. I haven’t had much trouble getting shields with intellect as quest rewards, and I’ve noticed a pattern. Assuming I follow the story, instead of jumping around and going to the zones I want to, every other time a shield is offered as I quest reward, it’ll be one for me to take. Let’s say the shield shows up every fifth quest (it doesn’t, but I need an example). That means every tenth quest will have a shield for me. The other shields are for tanks.

Getting mail spellcaster gear from quest rewards (and this includes dungeon quests) isn’t as common as I’d like, but not as rare as I feared. My strategy for dealing with the shortage has been to put mail in as many slot as I can, then take spellcaster leather if I need to. This usually results in wearing no more than 3 leather pieces at once, and usually only 2. Sometimes I have to upgrade with a mail piece that has strength. It may be a loss of 3 intellect, but when I haven’t found an adequate upgrade in so long that it’s also an upgrade of nearly 100 armor and 25 stamina, I take it.

To offset the lack of adequate “clothing”, I make sure I keep up with my rings, necklace, and prioritize intellect on my cloak. You’re not getting much armor from your cloak, anyway. If you find one that’s a loss of 7 armor, 3 stamina, and 12 strength, but a gain of 20 intellect… there’s your new cloak!

Once I get to the level to wear plate, I keep the same strategy except “limit on leather and ban on cloth” becomes a “limit on mail and ban on leather and cloth”. I tried making intellect the priority, regardless of what type of gear it was, before and that was disasterous. But again, I do a lot of questing. If you level through the Dungeon Finder, you may be able to wear more leather and cloth with intellect on them.

EVERYBODY IS DYING! WHO DO I HEAL???

Heal the tank. Don’t worry about healing yourself.  That Protector of the Innocent talent is making sure you get healed when you heal someone else. I heal everyone between fights, but I don’t bother with a ranged dps in a fight unless it’s really, really important that I keep as many people alive as possible. Even then, if I just can’t do it… well, then I just can’t do it. Heal the tank. I specify “ranged dps” because melee dps is going to have to be right up there with the tank, and that means they’ll get hit by AoE attacks if the boss uses them. It’s not their fault, so they shouldn’t have to die because of it unless I really just can’t keep anybody other than the tank healed.

So my healing priority is:

THE TANK

melee dps

ranged dps

hunter pets and warlock minions

Who else? Oh… um… me, I guess. If I need it. I probably need a drink more.

Really, you don’t have to heal pets and minions. I do when I can. I’m used to playing a hunter, so I think pets and minions are group members, too. My real point was that you shouldn’t need to heal yourself, and your highest priority is the tank.

If the tank does die, or isn’t doing their job very well and someone else ends up tanking instead, your priority becomes whoever is actually doing the tanking… regardless of who queued as tank.

OMG! I can’t do this! I haven’t done this before! WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!

I’ve had some good experiences as a healer. I’ve also had some really horrible experiences that would have made me quit almost as soon as I started if it weren’t for the fact that I REALLY want to heal.

From my first post, on my first night healing:

We got a tank who rushed into the mobs while I and the dps were still getting the quest, blamed me, then pulled the first boss and dropped group. I kept the three dps healed while they downed the first boss with no tank. Those guys were awesome. They spoke up and told the tank it was HIS fault, NOT mine, and they told me after he left not to listen to an asshole like him. It was hard to be discouraged when strangers stood up for me. We somehow got the same tank again. He pulled one of the big things from the courtyard (plague erupter?) up the stairs, back into the building where we still were, got it pointed at me, and dropped group again. Yeah… we died.

You will get bad tanks. You will get bad dps. They may be assholes, or they may be new to their role, or trying out a somewhat familiar role with a new class. Warrior tanks will not be like paladin tanks, and neither of them will be like bear druid tanks. (That’s also the “Squishy Order”, from least squishy to most squishy.) THINGS WILL GO WRONG. Here’s some advice on minimizing that:

Queue with a buddy if you can. My husband rolled a warrior so he can tank for me sometimes. It’s easier on me when I know I can trust the tank.  When we’ve gotten the chance, we’ve queued with Apple as squishy mage dps. My husband is good at tanking and is also more concerned about me enjoying my time in the game than having a quick, perfect run. Apple is a dear friend who would be a joy to run a dungeon with even if we all died eleventy times, and she’s experienced with Holy Paladin healing, so I trust her advice.

Get a non-combat pet. I need an icebreaker when I get into a group of strangers, and I don’t want it to be, “I’m still new to healing, so sorry if you all die.” When we get in, I tell people I’m going to let my prairie dog heal if that’s okay with everybody. This usually gets a few laughs, and often encourages other people in the group to get a non-combat pet out. Things go smoother with a tank, Grunty the Murloc, healer, prairie dog, Lil KT, three dps, and a White Kitten.

Accept that you will not always keep everyone alive, and it doesn’t mean you failed. When you get out of a dungeon, take a look back at what happened and what you did. Did you tell the tank you need to drink for mana before he ran into the next room and pulled mobs? Then it’s not your fault he died. Did you put Hand of Protection on the tank during combat? Okay… then it is your fault he lost control of the trash. Don’t do that again. Did that cat druid die because you were spreading yourself too thin, or because this was an intense fight and you had to stay focused on the tank for the group to succeed? You will make mistakes. Learn from them. But not every death is your mistake.

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7 Responses to Beginner’s Guide to Holy Paladin Healing

  1. Lovely guide, Glorwynn. I was a Retadin from Vanilla through half of Wrath, then I was a Tankadin. Healing has always intimidated me though and I can’t imagine trying to pick it up at max level! But leveling a Healadin up from scratch… maybe… just maybe.

  2. Apple says:

    Wonderful guide, Kells. :) I could’ve used this as a baby holy pally.

    I will say that in an endgame situation, I personally think Grid is probably better than VuhDo – I couldn’t get it configured properly for some stuff, and switched to Grid&Clique, and I ADORE it. Grid is much more customizable. However, for a brand new nubby healer, I think VuhDo is a good choice, because it involves very little configuration, at least for the simple stuff you’ll be doing at low levels. There’s time to branch out later. ;)

    As far as gear goes – technically, until you get plate specialisation, there’s no reason to stick solely to mail. Early on, Lis was geared almost entirely in cloth and leather, and then she hauled ass to 80 in cloth heirlooms. Granted, there was no gear specialisation then, but until that’s available for you, go with the gear that will give you the best healing. If you’re having issues keeping up, pick up some cloth or leather caster gear. I keep more sturdy gear bits on hand for levelling if I find that I need them, but I was questing in Northrend in my cloth without a problem, and by then you’re going to be finding better itemized gear anyway. :)

    Also, if you’re healing Scholo, I need to get off my ass and level! *scrambles* (and I wouldn’t say I’m experienced with Pally healing… though I’ve certainly experienced it. XD Still, I’m not a total nub, so for stuff that doesn’t involve “optimal” “gems” “enchants” or “endgame”, I can probably be trusted. ^^;; )

    • I’ve healed Scholomance on Glorwynn, not Muchao… although I think Muchao could do it now, too. Yes! Come catch up!

      My draenei paladin was in mostly leather and cloth with maybe two pieces of mail because I prioritized intellect so highly, and it just wasn’t so great while questing. But I think that gets down to why it wasn’t so great… I felt like a clothie. I usually don’t enjoy a clothie too much, and it’s a dps clothie if I do enjoy it. And really… what is a paladin clothie? A Priest. And I already know I only enjoy Shadow for a priest. So I can see how someone who isn’t put off by clothies the way I am could mix the gear up more and have no problem.

      See? You give great advice!

  3. david says:

    Very well written and probably more needed than imagined. It does make me want to roll a pally healer though just to play with. Keep up the great post

  4. MJ says:

    I love this guide, it really gets back to the basic principles of healing, which seem to get lost a lot at max level among the confusion of reforging and gemming and enchanting and secondary stats.

    I think for me, one of the hardest things to learn was “what went wrong”. I didn’t switch to Holy until 85, and I almost quit a few times because I’d get blamed for not keeping people alive. Sure, a few times it was my fault, my inexperience, but as I learned the dungeons more I realised it wasn’t my fault at all. If the tank doesn’t move that boss out of the aoe patch, or if the dps doesn’t kill that add fast enough, or if no one interrupts that big damage spell… they’re going to take massive damage that I can’t heal. I sometimes find it weird that they start blaming me, when I’m playing DPS and I die I always think “What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently?”

    Great blog, I really like your writing style. Take care

  5. Ah, this is perfectly timed! My Prot pally will be hitting 30 any time now, and I’ll be picking up Holy as her secondary spec.

    When I first ran BWD, I agonized for several minutes over which quest reward to choose — the non-intellect shield that was a moderate upgrade over her current shield, or the +intellect mail pants that had quite a bit better armor than her current pants and would be great for her anticipated healing set. I eventually chose the pants, reasoning that they’d also be okay for her tanking set because more armor is good, and more intellect = more mana = more freedom to use Consecrate. I should remember to stay open to using leather in her healy set, though :)

    Also, I enjoyed your Children’s Week and Mother’s Day posts :D

    • Ahh… one of the joys of being too afraid to tank and finding ret so easy it’s boring: I don’t have to manage multiple sets of gear because I’m always Holy.

      The first time I used Consecrate while questing, I just gawked at the mana cost! But then the household Ret/Prot pally reminded me that Consecrate is really more an ability he uses than one I should use… unless I want to give up one of those Holy specs.

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