Priest Guide: Part 2 – How to Build Holy

Priest Guide: Part 2 – How to Build Holy


So now that you know what each talent is, does, and have a basic idea of when it’s most effective, let’s take a look at how to build a spec:

Step 1:14-mandatory-points

To start, plug in those mandatory 14 points:

  • Twin Disciplines – 5
  • Improved Inner Fire – 3
  • Improved Power Word: Fortitude – 2* **
  • Meditation – 3
  • Inner Focus – 1

*PvEers: If you are 100% certain that another Priest in your raid will have Imp:Fort, and not mind buffing, and you REALLY feel the need for threat reduction, you can move these two points into Silent Resolve. I don’t think it’s worth it, but it is an option.

**PvPers: Choose Martyrdom rather than Imp:Fort.

Step 2:

Decide whether this is a Holy build, or a Discipline build. For this example, I’ll walk you through my Holy spec, my reasons for each point, and where you could easily change it to suit yourself – and which changes wouldn’t be as helpful.

Step 3:

Build it!

CritFor Tier 1, take a look at your crit on your character screen. The idea here is that you want enough crit to get the mana saving goodness that is Surge of Light and Holy Concentration with reasonable reliability. Since Holy is largely a raid-healing spec, your three major raid-healing spells are Circle of Healing, Prayer of Mending, and Prayer of Healilng. CoH hits 5 people (6 if glyphed), ProM hits 5 (6 with 2-piece T7, assuming full duration),  and ProH hits 5. If you have 2-piece T8, ProH gets 10% extra chance to crit.

Why does this matter?

Because in the first tier, Holy Specialization allows you a tremendous amount of control over the crit chance of your heals. Having around 20% crit unbuffed (25% fully raid buffed) gives you a 1-in-5 crit chance for each 5-target raid heal, with the raid buffs allowing some insurance. As with everything heal-related, you want to react as quickly as possible, and KNOWING that you will get a free, instant Flash Heal after every AoE allows you to plan ahead. If you have enough crit on your gear to get you to that threshold, you can start subtracting points from Holy Specialization. Personally, I like having the freedom to stack a bit more Spell Haste on my gear, so I choose to max out Holy Specialization so that my crit isn’t lacking.


Next, take a look at a Recount, WWS, WoWmeter, or other combat log parse. How much do you Renew? A  lot? A little? For more research, check out the uploaded combat logs for a guild that’s farming the content your guild is learning. Do those Holy Priests use Renew? Often, if there’s a huge discrepancy between a very successful guild, and a guild that’s having trouble, a small strategy change can make a big difference for those new to the content. (I’m probably going to catch some flack for that – yes, the idea is that all Priests are individuals, and your spec should reflect that. My argument is that when evaluating the effectiveness of a particular spell, look ahead and see how effective it is for successful people in content that you plan to clear. Don’t be so attached to your personal status quo that it prevents you from achieving your goals.)

If Renew is something you use, or plan to use, a lot, pick up the three points in Improved Renew.

Healing Focus – for this talent, consider the content your guild is working on. Are you having trouble keeping yourself and your assignment alive during Mimiron? This could be a great option. Aside from that, there just aren’t many fights where the pushback will kill you, and you’ll be too far away from a Paladin that could use Concentration Aura – or another healer that can help you until the danger has passed.


Wynthea-holy-spec-tier-2Tier 2 gives you even more wiggle room. Spell Warding will help you if you tend to die to spell damage. If you’re building a spec specifically for Mimiron or Mimiron hard mode, this will help protect you from his Rapid Burst ability. However, it’s five points that help NO ONE except you.

Divine Fury  – points in this are a must if you still use Greater Heal a lot – more than can be helped by Serendipity, or if you also use your raid spec to solo quest grind. If neither of those are true, and you took points in Healing Focus, feel free to only put in two points. If you skipped healing focus, you have to put at least three points here to move forward. (Two will get you to tier 3, but you’ll need 3 for tier 4 if you take Desperate Prayer, and 4 if you don’t.)

Since I do all of my dailies in my Holy-raiding spec, I go ahead and max this out. It only costs me one extra point, which I steal from Improved Healing.




Tier 3 includes an easy decision: Max out Inspiration. Even though this is a raid-healing build, it’s a guarantee that some of your AoE will land on the tank. Spreading the love around won’t hurt the rest of the raid, either – if anything, it’ll make your job easier.

Blessed Recovery won’t help you in a raiding scenario, so skip it. (If you’re getting critical melee hits regularly enough to take this, get yourself a new tank.)

Desperate Prayer is completely up to you, but I find it very useful. It’s cheap, instant, has a short cooldown, can crit, and is a GREAT “Oh Sh–!!” button, especially now that pots are only once-per-fight.


In tier 4, since this is a healing build, forget about Searing Light.

To move forward, you’ll need 5 points between Holy Reach and Improved Healing, or 4 if you also maxed out Divine Fury. Since Improved Healing only affects Greater Heal (which I use rarely these days) and Divine Hymn (Which I always Inner Focus), I give Holy Reach both points, and stick just 2 in Improved Healing for filler.  (You could also completely bypass Improved Healing by putting these two points in Healing Focus.) In my opinion, that 5% savings on a heal I don’t use often is less efficient than the extra radius on my AoE heals. (And I’m more comfortable putting that point into Divine Fury, where on the rare occassions I do need Greater Heal, it will be fast enough to be effective.) Although you’ll run into many people who are perfectly comfortable with 1 point in Holy Reach, you will rarely see Holy builds that skip it entirely – you want CoH and ProH to have the chance to hit as many people as possible. If you skipped Healing Focus, you’ll notice only 1 point in Improved Healing is needed to move forward. You can easily plug that point into Lightwell, Blessed Resilience, or Test of Faith later in the tree.

Wynthea-holy-spec-tier-6Once you reach Tier 5, maxing out Spiritual Guidance is a no-brainer, since it’s a flat-out increase to your spell power. Similarly, don’t skip Spirit of Redemption, since one point here buys you an extra 5% spirit. (Which, obviously, also increases your spell power in addition to your regen. It’s also nice to not ever have to inform your raid leader when you need a battle-rez, since it will be glaringly obvious.) Your other choice in this layer is Healing Prayers, and since Prayer of Healing and Prayer of Mending each benefit from set bonuses, and the AoE damage in Ulduar encounters makes Prayer of Healing your work-horse spell, skipping Healing Prayers is mana-suicide. Max it out.

In tier 6, Spiritual Healing is a misnomer, since it has nothing to do with spirit, however, it’s a straight up increase to the amount healed by all of your healing spells; max it out. Surge of Light is another talent where theorycrafters disagree: is one point sufficient, or are two required? Because I count on these procs, I max it out to ensure that I get them as often as possible. (And, really, why wouldn’t you want more mana-free, castable-on-the-move heals that stack Serendipity and take advantage of Twin Disciplines? More to the point, where could that one point buy you more benefit?)

By now, you’ve got more than enough points in Holy to get you to Tier 8, but this part of the tree is thick with awesome points. Still in tier 7, Holy Concentration is one of the best talents we have to increase our mana-regen, and you’ll find yourself gasping for water on longer fights without it. Combined with Surge of Light, this is one of the main reasons that crit is important for Priests these days. Take all 3 points. Lightwell, on the other hand, is a polarizing point. There are enough points in this particular spec that you can take it if you have trained your raid to use it properly, just either drop Divine Fury down to 4 points or Improved Healing down to two. Both of these will impact your Greater Heal (the former will nerf your cast time by .1 seconds, the latter will increase its mana cost by 5%.) Personally, I skip lightwell altogether.

Blessed Resilience used to be a strictly PvP talent. Then they re-worked it to “increase the effectiveness of your heals by 1% per rank.” Which makes it viable for PvE, theoretically. Frequent plus heal poster Sindaga posted the math over on the Elitist Jerks Priest Compendium that shows how this works:

“Empowered Healing vs. Blessed Resilience (yes, the PvP talent)

Taking two examples for empowered healing (Flash Heal & Binding Heal); this is due to the very low amount of greater heal casting, personally, done in Ulduar 25 and 10-man. Each heal will be looked at with empowered healing or with blessed resilience. Calculations will be done with 3000 spell power (a very attainable goal with even just a couple ulduar upgrades). The formula used will be as follows:

Spell = [Average + (Spellpower * coefficient)]*(talent modifiers)

i) Calculations with Empowered Healing (w/ spiritual healing modifier)
Flash Heal = [2049.5 + (3000 * 0.9668)]*1.1
Flash Heal = 5445 healing average
Binding Heal = [2237.5 + (3000 *0.9668)]*1.1
Binding Heal = 5652 healing average
Greater Heal = [4300.5 + (3000 * 2.2256)]*1.1
Greater Heal = 12075 healing average

ii) Calculations with Blessed Resilience (w/ spiritual healing modifier)
Flash Heal = [2049.5 + (3000 * 0.8057)]*1.13
Flash Heal = 5047 healing average
Binding Heal = [2237.5 + (3000 *0.8057)]*1.13
Binding Heal = 4969 healing average
Greater Heal = [4300.5 + (3000 * 1.6111)]*1.13
Greater Heal = 10321 healing average

iii) Calculations with Blessed Resilience & Test of Faith (w/ spiritual healing modifier) – I found something interesting testing with Renew. If the spell is cast below 50%, the ticks (even if the health goes higher than 50%) stay with the 12% increased effectiveness.
Flash Heal = [2049.5 + (3000 * 0.8057)]*1.25
Flash Heal = 5583 healing average
Binding Heal = [2237.5 + (3000 *0.8057)]*1.25
Binding Heal = 5818 healing average
Greater Heal = [4300.5 + (3000 * 1.6111)]*1.25
Greater Heal = 11417 healing average

So those are some pretty plain numbers. If you find yourself casting greater heal more than once in a blue moon, perhaps stick with Empowered Healing. If you regularly find yourself not casting it at all during fights then a spec for better output would first put the 5 points from empowered healing to 3/3 blessed resilience and then 2/3 Test of Faith.

Justification for taking test of faith is it provides more healing to those targets who need more health.” — Sindaga

The bottom line here is that putting 3 points in Blessed Resilience along with 2 in Test of Faith increases the amount healed on targets below 50% by a significant amount. If you’re looking to take advantage of Test of Faith in the next layer of the tree, it’s a good idea to pair it with Blessed Resilience – and you can easily take the points from Empowered Healing to make that happen. It’s entirely a play-style dependent call, and I personally prefer the constant levels of healing provided by Empowered Healing to the low-health dependent benefits of Test of Faith.

Wynthea-holy-spec-tier-9 Moving into tier 8, you’ll find some of your decisions have already been made, due to the preceding math. If you decided to put Sindaga’s 3 points into Blessed Resilience, you have already decided to skip Empowered Healing. If you decided against the BR/ToF combo, you’ll max it out instead. The other talents in this layer are Serendipity and Body and Soul. Although I’ve read some arguments that the self-poison cleanse is useful on the more poison-heavy encounters in Ulduar, if your Shamans, Druids, and Paladins are doing their jobs, you won’t need Body and Soul. Serendipity, on the other hand, plays a major role in making Holy a more synergistic healing spec. Layering spell haste for your bigger heals is a huge part of the raid-healing strategies for fights like Ignis, Deconstructor, Freya, and Mimiron. My typical heal pattern takes careful advantage of this: Inner Focus-Prayer of Healing -> Surge of Light-Flash Heal -> Binding Heal -> Circle of Healing -> Surge of Light-Flash Heal -> Serendipitous- Prayer of Healing -> Surge of Light-Flash Heal…. into infinity, peppered with Prayer of Mendings and Renews as much as possible, both of which provide extra Surge of Light procs, and, therefore, free layers of Serendipity to haste my next Prayer of Healing. Make sure you take maximum advantage of Serendipity.

Like tier 8, you’ve already made quite a few decisions regarding tier 9, without realizing it: If you picked up Improved Renew in tier 1, you would shortchange yourself to skip Empowered Renew. When you decided to build Holy, you decided to take Circle of Healing,  (I know there was a lot of noise about avoiding it when they added the 6 second cool down, but with its coefficient balanced to reflect the cooldown, the glyph to increase it to 6 targets, and its ability to proc Surge of Light, skipping Circle of Healing would be foolish.) And when you decided between Empowered Healing and Blessed Resilience, you decided whether you would take Test of Faith as part of the Blessed Resilience package. If you’re following my build, take all three in Empowered Renew, Circle of Healing, and skip Test of Faith.

For tiers 10 & 11, you’ll notice you have exactly 6 points left. Finish out your spec by finishing out the tree with 5 points in Divine Providence, and the last into Guardian Spirit.

This is my completed spec – and I fully expect as many detractors as I do compliments. Lightwell may work for you and your raid, or perhaps you think I’m foolish to finish out Divine Fury rather than taking Healing Focus. I’d love to hear about tweaks that you make (and how they work for you), but for me this is my perfect spec – Renew-heavy, allowing me to stack haste, and with Desperate Prayer the only concession to keeping myself alive rather than focusing on my raid. Wynthea-holy-spec-final

Next Post: How to Build Disc


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  1. Tulsplat says

    great post, I enjoy reading analysis/opinions on holy talents..the tree is so much more interesting now than it used to be.

    did I miss a link in here to the final build you used? here it is (i think!) on wowhead for people like me that wanted to play with it:

  2. “if your Shamans, Druids, and Paladins are doing their jobs, you won’t need Body and Soul.”
    If they are doing their job you won’t need to cast greater heal either!

    A spec i’ve been enjoying -inspired by the Ensidia write-up- is getting down to Mental Agility in Disc. If you CoH, Emp Renew, PoM -> Mental Agi discounts all of that.

    The second spec I use in our 10 man hard mode attempts – Total and complete throughput build. No G-heal, just all aoe all the time. A pally and I synergize really well – 2 healing Hodir-hard mode for example – putting forth some good attempts on 2-healing Freya 3-tree as well. The second fight seems out of my current gear reach though…

    The spec –

  3. nice post – I now feel confirmed in my talent picks. The only difference to your tree is that I have only 1 point in Improved Healing and put 1 into Test of Faith. Just like you I don’t use greater heal that much anymore. And with a enough MP5 food and flasks my mana regen hasn’t been much of a prob. Keep up the blogging!

  4. The runthrough of all the talents in part 1 was fantastic, and I like seeing where people make their choices with justification. I’m definitely looking forward to learning more about Disc builds with Part 3 (presumably), as I leveld Holy and now have Holy for instances and Shadow for dailies. Question: do you feel hampered in your dailies by being Holy/Disc, or do you make raiding funds on an alt?

    Also, my build is 13/58/0. I drop Inner Focus, Desperate Prayers, and 1 point in Improved Renew for a third point in Improved Healing (I use G-Heal frequently enough) and 2/3 in Test of Faith since I’m usually playing catch-up on tanks. I do like the idea of Inner Focus, just need to be better at utilizing it. It’s kind of like relearning Guardian Spirit as a 1 minute cooldown.

  5. Tulsplat – Thanks for linking that; I actually didn’t consider that people would want to play with it!

    Vindarth – you were confirmed in your picks when your build worked for you!

    DFitz – I do all my dailies as holy. (And nearly always without a group, or with only another Holy Priest.) I’m sure it’s slow compared to dps classes, but I don’t have any issues at all. If you can find the point, I really do recommend Inner Focus – I even have mine macro’d to Berserking to give me extra haste. You could macro yours to ProH, just to make sure you use it.

  6. I want to level my Priest so badly, but I can’t find the time or energy to do it.

    I can never decide if I want to go Disc or Holy, though, when I get him to 80. I love the thought of being an awesome single-target healer with Disc because I got so used to doing that back in BWL. I could keep one person up as well as a Paladin. I look at Holy, though, and I just see Holy Concentration, and I absolutely love the idea of Clearcast Heals. Eventually, I will likely go Disc, but hearing that ding when I proc a Clearcast alone is almost enough to make me want to raid heal.

    Beejs last blog post..A Blast from Beej’s Past: My First Webcomic

  7. Nice writeup! You hit the pros and cons very well. Holy is much less cookie cutter now and we have a ton of options to customize for our raid roles. I’ve leaned towards a full on AoE spec for 25mans, favoring Blessed Resilience and Test of Faith over Empowered Healing. For 10mans I’m contributing tank healing much more often and so go back to more of a traditional Empowered Healing spec or even change to Disc if strong tank healers are absent.

    Some recent comments in the EJ priest thread point to evidence that the second point in SoL is just as valuable as the first.

    The issues with Lightwell go beyond training your raid, the fact that they have to switch targets to receive the benefits makes it a DPS loss in many situations.

    You missed the speed boost component of Body and Soul. This has proved to be invaluable to me while learning certain encounters and the boost is occasionally helpful to others. Definitely not a mandatory talent but worth considering.

  8. Dharmabhum says

    Always happy to have some insightful analysis and explanation. I started out holy in lowbie levels but swtiched to disc pretty early on. Now that holy has been changed around, its much more interesting and might actually fit my playstyle better than disc (i love long fights that actually test my ridiculous mana regen, and <3 hasty casts). Thanks, and I look forward to an interest disc breakdown!

  9. I find that as long as there no disc priests in the raid, EVERYONE loves a body and soul’d shield on them.

    Now if we can only get a Power Word: Punt to boot people out of fires and stop people from trying to lava surf! Oh one can only dream.

  10. Nice post on the rational behind talent point allocation. There is some interestingvariety in Holy, epecially stuff like to Renew or not Renew, Spell wArding vs Divine Fury and talents like Lightwell and Body and Soul. Much more interesting that Disc builds these days.

    Skipping Test of Faith? Big call IMHO, but I know there are a number of opinions on this.

    Gobble gobble.

    BobTurkeys last blog post..A quickie

  11. Nice post.

    While I do appreciate that the holy tree is much less cookie-cutter now, I am a little disappointed in it’s current state too. There are too many great talents deep in the tree (and not enough points for them all) but too few exciting talents early in the tree, at least for the many priests who no longer cast GHeal much. Healing focus, divine fury, improved healing, and spell warding just don’t provide much benefit anymore but we must sink a lot of points into those talents regardless. They feel more like filler talents now, less like critical talents.

    It’s a minor complaint I suppose since Holy is still a very powerful spec, I just wish the talents were reorganized a little to redistribute the relative power from top to bottom.

  12. The one thing you didn’t mention in your review of Body and Soul is the run speed aspect. It’s a bit playstyle dependent, but I do take it in my holy build for that reason (I like utility), rather than the poison cleanse. My raid appreciates the increased speed on fights like XT Hard or any kiting situation – freya and mimiron for example. Some guilds use it to help their tank kite on vezax.

    So if you don’t mind saccing a little throughput for some utility, it’s a nice thing to have. The downside is that it requires the holy priest to shield, so it could intrude a bit if you regularly run a disc priest – which usually isn’t a factor for our raids since I’m the only confident disc priest. However, if you carefully plan it (such as having the B&S holy priest only shield certain people), it can be a nice addition.

  13. Sorry, have nothing to add to the content, but it would be really nice if you could find the time to link the talents, e.g. to wowhead. (Would be even better, if the blog uses the wowhead javascript for the tooltips.) I’ve never played my priest holy, since I only raid with him since Wotlk, and I’m not that familiar with the talents. So it’s quite hard for me to read and I cannot follow the articel without many lookups.

    But I’m looking forward to read your opinions on disc. 🙂

  14. This was an awesome post, I have another article I can redirect my priests to for a thorough walk through of the holy tree.

    As for dailies, as shadow they tend to go a bit faster, but sometimes it actually goes quite fluid on my own as holy or disc as well. You can do a lot with Holy Nova spam 😀

  15. 7k hps raid heals iron council without using a PoH says

    wow as a holy raid healer if u use flash heal (non instant proc) greater heal orrrr use prayer of healing more than once every 2-3 min un-install GoGo spell warding over fury lol

  16. Great post, but is there a part 3 coming per chance? I thought I read that Disc would be next, which is what I’m aiming for. Thanks for all the work you’ve put into this!

  17. Yup, I’ve just been out of town. Part 3 IS still incoming. I PROMISE!!!

  18. Just want to add my encouragement. I refresh altogether too often in anticipation of reading your How To Build Discipline post.

  19. Personally I take Lightwell. There are just too many unique situations where it is invaluable, and I have never seen a single fight where a .1 second faster GH was required to win the encounter. Especially for a raid-healing Holy Priest. If you are that close to a wipe there is something else wrong.

    I use the “Interact with Target” keybind and stand within 5 yards of the thing and have it targeted at all time (please Blizzard make Lightwell work up to 40 yards, I’d take even 20). Then even in the middle of casting PoH if I need a heal I just hit my “Interact with Target” hotkey. It just seems uber HPS and uber mana-efficient to be able to heal myself and the raid at will simultaneously, especially during Mimiron. Thankfully, the raid doesn’t click on my Lightwell that much, only in emergencies.

    I tell DPS to use the “Interact with Mouseover” hotkey. I need to use my mouse to click-heal too much but they just keep the boss targeted so they can easily have their mouse hover over the Lightwell and heal themselves by hitting a Hotkey that doesn’t interfere with their DPS rotation.

  20. EDIT:

    So, get the word out that no one ever has to click on the Lightwell to use it. If you are running around it is actually easier to run-click. But if you are standing still stand next to it and put your mouse over it and just hit the “Interact with Mouseover” key. I hear so many people complain they have to change target, right-clicky, and re-target and it screws up their rotation. They don’t know how to use Lightwell properly. You never have to target the lightwell or change targets to use it.

  21. I don’t get why more people that put 5/5 into Empowered Healing never bothered to look at how mixing it with Blessed Resilience would turn out.

    From all the math I have done, going 3/3 Empowered Healing and 3/3 Blessed Resilience is an excellent mix.

    3/3 Blessed Resilience will add up to ~100 extra healing per TARGET, TICK, and CAST or all the other spells we use to heal, like…

    Renew, Prayer of Mending, Prayer of Healing, Circle of Healing, Divine Hymn.

    Up to ~100 healing for every target hit with each of those and every tick….adds up VERY quickly.

    The best part, is you only lose ~178 healing per Flash and Binding Heal for dropping 2 points in Empowered Healing, which is definitely made up for by all of the other spells.

    It really does go off play style, but as Holy our strength is raid healing, those 5 spells listed are used very often and hit many targets and tick/jump alot, even if you are Flash Heal crazy.


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