Ah yes, the bane of holy dps. Priests who try to go the holy dps route get labeled repeatedly as lolsmite, and kicked from any raid, so it seems. Blizzard cares very little about improving or legitimizing holy priests as a dps option, yet taunts us with a glyph like Glyph of Smite. Inspired by this glyph, I went on an in depth search to try and figure out if there was any reason at all to test out the holy dps route for priests, since it seems like it would be fun, and give you the ability to heal well and dps. There is a very interesting discussion on the ElitistJerks forum, but you’ll need to skip past the first 8 pages or so since most of the info there is incredibly out of date.
The concensus is that there is no viability for a lolsmite priest in a raid. There are plenty of reasons that are cited, such as low dps compared to other dps clothies, and lack of raid utility. So is there no point in holy dps at all?
I think there is. It’s not in the raiding aspect, but in leveling. I leveled Holy for a very good reason – I still wanted to be a very strong healer for instances. Granted, in a lot of the low level instances, even being shadow specced you could probably heal just fine. But the best way to be good at your class when you hit 80 is to play around with different specs, and learn your spells along the way.
You can dual spec at level 40, but until you get to that point, you can still do some really nice damage for leveling purposes as holy, in addition to being able to heal instances well. Once you hit 80, if you want to switch to healing for raids, you’ll need to change your spec a bit in order to be a strong healer. Holy dps works best for soloing content, and the higher level you get after level 40, the weaker it becomes when compared to the Shadow alternative. Before 40, however, it is quite possible that you will do more damage as a Holy specced priest than Shadow.
I have divided this guide into ranges of ten levels. I am currently leveling another holy priest in accordance with this guide so that I can pick up on any differences, or add suggestions. Therefore this guide will level as my priest levels. Also, I may come back and change things here and there (particularly the spec) if I find it needs it.
It would be a good idea to put your first three talent points into Spirit Tap over in the Shadow tree, because this will give you less downtime in between kills due to more mana regen. Holy DPS will run through your mana quickly, so anything that helps boost your mana regen at this point is a good thing. Put your next five points in Holy Specialization in the Holy tree to up your crit chance on your holy spells - this will be especially helpful later. Next, move on down to Divine Fury, and start throwing your next 5 points in there. By level 20, you'll only have 2 points in there, but this is an awesome talent for those who want to mix healing and dps. Shorter casting time for Smite, for Heal (which you really only use until you get Greater Heal at level 40) and Greater Heal, and for Holy Fire (though that won't come into play until level 20).
So, nixing the stupid glyphs, we’ve got the glyphs of Smite, Shield, Inner Fire, and SW: Pain. You don’t get Holy Fire until level 20, and Mind Flay requires you to spec completely into the shadow tree in order to get that spell at level 20. Well done Blizz! Yay for waste!
For your minor glyphs, it’s all a matter of personal preference. At level 15, there are only 2 available, Glyph of Fading, and Glyph of Fortitude. Fade isn’t going to help you much while soloing, but if you’re paired up with someone, or instance a lot, it’s probably your best choice.
In the very early levels, Intellect is probably the most important stat for you to stack, with spirit coming in second, especially once you spec into spirit tap. Both are easy to get, and Intellect will help you last longer in combat, because your mana pool will be larger. Spirit will help you regen faster. Spellpower, crit, Mp5 and hit are all good, but difficult to get.
Go ahead and finish putting all five points in Divine Fury. This will bring you up to level 22, at which point you have a couple of different options.
If you are healing a lot, you may want to throw your next few talents into Improved Renew, and then 3 points into Inspiration. The alternative, if you are soloing more and would prefer to reduce some of the damage you take, is to simply put the next 5 points into Spell Warding, and then pick up Desperate Prayer for 1 extra talent point.
Once you’re at level 28, start putting points into Searing Light.
There is a lot of flexibility at this stage of the talent points, because none of them are really that good. Fool around with the points as you see fit, but the most important ones are Divine Fury and Searing Light, and you need to put in enough points to get to the next tier. Our eventual goal is Surge of Light with as few points as possible.
At level 24, you also pick up Mana Burn, which is a great spell for PvP, and occasionally useful for PvE.
A lot of your damage, at this point, will come from DoTs. You have a couple of different rotations available for you, but now that you’ve picked up Glyph of Smite, the fundamental damage rotation is Holy Fire → Smite. Be sure to cast Holy Fire again whenever the DoT on it wears off, so that your Smite will do 20% more damage. You can also throw Shadow Word: Pain and Devouring Plague on mobs if it won’t be too much of a waste. Always remember to Bubble up so that your casts don’t get interrupted.
If you’ve got the mana pool to sustain it, Holy Nova is a pretty good AoE damage spell. It doesn’t do a lot of damage itself, but it is an instant cast, and thus spammable, and heals you while doing damage. It is expensive mana wise though, so keep an eye on your mana pool if you’re spamming it. It becomes a lot more useful later, but it is your only AoE damage at this point anyway.
At this low of a level, you pretty much take what you can get. Mp5 and Spirit will both work for you for mana regen, Spellpower is always good, and Intellect is great to increase the size of your mana pool and critical strike rating.
The only new item that I can find available for the 20-29 range is Amulet of Truesight, which requires level 29. It is crafted by Jewelcrafters with a minimum skill of 200, appears to be standard train, and requires 8x Truesilver Bars.
Many of the good items that provide bonus hit rating in the previous level range require level 19, and several new items become available at 30, so don't stress. And don't forget Elixir of Minor Accuracy...
You should have reached the 4th tier of talents by now, and you can now throw your next two talent points into Holy Reach. This will allow you a better chance of killing off mobs before they even get to you, as well as helping when you heal. Now you can hit the 5th tier, and put your next five points into Spiritual Guidance.
The last two points you will be putting into the holy spec are into Surge of Light. This is truly an awesome talent, and is one of the main reasons why crit is so important for holy dps. Whether you are healing or dpsing, free instant Smites or Flash Heals are insanely useful.
These talent choices will take you to level 39, and once you hit level 40, you can start putting talents into the discipline tree.
At level 30, you pick up the following new spells:
Prayer of Healing (powerful, but slow casting and VERY expensive, AoE heal – this is not a smart heal, and will only heal the group of the person you target. If you need to AoE heal, it's probably best to stick to Holy Nova, since it’s also instant, and cast it a few times)
Mind Control – This is the funnest spell ever, srsly. Excellent crowd control, since you can use it to essentially cc 2 mobs. Use it often to get a feel for how to use it. It’s also a great spell for pvp, and there is a good article about it on wowwiki.
Shadow Protection – handy new school resist buff. Does not stack with Paladin’s shadow resist aura.
Divine Spirit – Now that you are starting to stack spirit, this is a really great buff.
Once you pick up Spiritual Guidance, buffing yourself with Divine Spirit will give you a slight spellpower boost. Stop relying on mp5 for mana regen at this point, and start stacking spirit. Once you have all 5 points in Spiritual Guidance, it is often best to start chain killing mobs, due to Spirit Tap. Basically, whenever you kill a mob, you get a 100% bonus to your spirit for 15 secs, which equates to a very nice spellpower boost – take advantage of it as long as your mana lasts!
After you have your two points in Surge of Light, things start to get really fun. Stack tons of crit, or at least intellect, and you can last much longer due to so many free Smites from the talent. If you have several mobs around, use your Holy Nova to do some AoE damage, and you should proc a Surge of Light free Smite often enough to make up for the mana expenditure. It’s lots of fun!
Once you've picked up Spiritual Guidance you need to start stacking spirit. Spellpower is still good, as always, but spirit gives you mana regen AND spellpower once you are specced properly. In addition, after you pick up Surge of Light, critical strike rating starts building in importance. If you are having mana problems, stack as much Intellect as you can, as this will increase your mana pool in addition to increasing your crit.
The higher level you get, the more hit rating you will need. This is actually a very good mana saver - this reduces the chance you will miss and waste the mana you used on that spell. Below is a list of a few items you can pick up in the level 30-39 range to add to your hit.
Crimson Silk Vest - Requires level 30, hit + spellpower. Tailors make it at skill 185, standard trained. Mats needed: 4x Bolt of Silk Cloth, 2x Red Dye, 2x Fine Thread
Tome of Kings - Requires level 30, this is an off hand - perfect if you use a one hand weapon, and has a "use" effect as well. Scribes make this with Inscription 175, standard trained. Mats needed: 10x Common Parchment, 5x Royal Ink, 2x Jadefire Ink (you can grab a few stacks of Fadeleaf, Goldthorn, Khadgar's Whisker, or Wintersbite to have it milled into the needed Emerald and Indigo Pigment for the Inks)
Robe of Power - Requires level 33, has Int, hit, & spellpower. Tailors make it at skill 190, standard trained. HOWEVER, THIS ITEM IS BIND ON PICKUP - YOU CANNOT HAVE A TAILOR MAKE IT FOR YOU (I have made this mistake 3 times now >.<) Mats needed: 2x Bolt of Mageweave, 2x Elemental Earth, 2x Elemental Water, 2x Elemental Fire, 2x Elemental Air, 2x Silken Thread
Mantle of Doan - Requires level 33, Int, Spirit, and hit. Drops from Arcanist Doan in Scarlet Monastery.
At level 40, you do have several different options to you aside from holy dps, moreso than before. IMO, shadow is pretty weak pre-40, but once you can pick up Shadowform, it gets much better, and much more powerful. I will concede that after level 40, Shadow is more efficient for leveling.
In addition to that, you can pick up dual specs at level 40 if you’ve got the gold. This is of course the best way to proceed, but unless you have a high level toon elsewhere on the server, it’s highly unlikely you would have the funds available for such an expensive purchase at level 40.
So… those disclaimers aside, let’s assume for the sake of this guide that you want to continue leveling with this holy/disc mix until 80. What next?
We are done with throwing talents into the holy tree, as you can see from the spec I’m using. Now it’s time to start filling in your discipline talents! This level range gets pretty boring because you don’t learn too many new spells, and the new talents aren’t anything amazing either.
The first few talents we’re picking up in the Disc tree aren’t very exciting. At level 40, start throwing your talent points into Twin Disciplines to get a boost to your instants. However, if you prefer to focus on PvP, opt for Unbreakable Will instead.
Originally I had suggested that once you are into the second tier at level 45, you should start putting 3 points into Improved Inner Fire, due to the extra spellpower bonus that would provide. However, after close examination of the spell tooltips, you should note that Inner Fire does not give a spellpower bonus until rank 8 at level 71. Therefore, I changed the spec I recommended, so please take note of the changes.
So, once you hit level 45, drop your next two points into Improved Power Word: Fortitude, which will substantially increase your health pool. Fill up Martyrdom with your next two points, and throw one last point into Silent Resolve to open up the next tier. If you spend more time healing others and less time soloing content, you might opt instead to put the full 3 points in Silent Resolve, if only for the threat reduction (many lower level tanks are not the best at holding threat).
This level range is pretty dull for us because we are not speccing into any new spells. Therefore, the only new spells you get are Greater Heal at level 40 (which essentially replaces Heal), and Prayer of Fortitude at level 48, which simply makes buffing groups easier.
Your spell rotation should still be similar to how it was at previous levels – Remember to cast Smite while mobs have the Holy Fire debuff, and feel free to use some of your DoTs more often, since they are now more powerful due to Twin Disciplines. Keep chain-killing to take advantage of Spirit Tap, and use Holy Nova on multiple mobs, utilizing your free Surge of Light procs.
As for stats, continue stacking spirit and critical strike rating, as well as intellect. Remember that spirit essentially gives you a boost to spellpower, and Intellect gives you a boost to crit.
There are no new glyph slots available during this level range.
There are a variety of new items you can pick up to increase your hit rating at level 40. If you don’t spend much time in dungeons, try to pick up at least the three crafted items, and these will hold you over for a long time.