The Holy Paladin: Introduction

Time and again, I see posts in various WoW communities asking for information about how to gear up and spec a holy paladin. Rather than repeat the same information over and over again, I thought I’d do a series of posts discussing the issues.

First up is an examination of the roles of a holy-specced paladin. The holy paladin can fill two main roles: DPS (don’t laugh!) and healing. This article from WoW Insider addresses holy paladin DPS (the so-called “shockadin” build) very well, so I’ll leave the DPS issue aside for now and talk about the much-loved healadin.

Patch 2.0, in December 2006, was a godsend for healer paladins; previously we made good healers in a support role (such as raids, and off-healing in PvP and instancing) but we just didn’t have the oomph to solo-heal anything unless we were dramatically overgeared. 2.0 changed that for the better, and in the post-Burning Crusade world, paladins are popular and widely-accepted main healers for raids, 5-mans and PvP.

Talent Choice

Here’s my ideal “core” healadin spec:

40/0/0: The Bare Minimum
This build has the absolute minimum you want in Holy as a main healer. Looking at the talents:

  • Divine Intellect 5/5: +10% Int = a bigger mana pool and more spell crit.The only choice on this level.
  • Spiritual Focus 5/5: 70% chance not to loseWeight Exercise casting time off heals while taking damage. Extremely useful, and a much better choice than the other talent on this level (Improved Seal of Righteousness – which is a fine talent for a bit of DPS viability, but you wouldn’t want to take it instead of Spiritual Focus).
  • Healing Light 3/3: +12% healing throughput; essential for a serious healer. A no-brainer.
  • Improved Lay On Hands 2/2: Reduces the cooldown on Lay on Hands by 20 minutes and gives the recipient a 30% armor bonus for 2 minutes. This one is less essential, but it’s still very useful – Lay On Hands is useful as an “oh shit” move in boss fights, and the armor boost can provide a big edge to a tank who’s not already at the armor cap. This one’s mostly in the spec because it’s the best choice for the last 2 talent points at this level, though.
  • Illumination 5/5: Crit heals refund 60% of their mana cost. This is THE key healadin talent; don’t leave home without it.
  • Improved Blessing of Wisdom 2/2: adds 8mp5 at level 70. Very nice, but not essential: if you’re always going to have access to Imp BoW from another pally, you can spend the two points elsewhere if you want.
  • Divine Favor 1/1: 2 minute cooldown, the next Holy Light, Flash of Light, or Holy Shock is a guaranteed crit. A great use of one talent point; it’s really nice to be able to guarantee a crit heal when you need it most.
  • Sanctified Light 3/3: An extra 6% crit chance for Holy Light (the big pally heal). Given the value of crit heals for a paladin, this one’s a no-brainer; see a later post for a discussion of the impact of crit heals on mana regen.
  • Holy Power 5/5: Adds 5% to the crit chance of all Holy spells. Even more of a no-brainer.
  • Light’s Grace 3/3: After casting a Holy Light, the next Holy Light casts in 2 sec instead of 2.5 sec; the buff lasts 15 seconds and is a rolling effect. This one requires some finesse to use (“priming” yourself with a low-rank Holy Light to get the buff up before combat, throwing a Holy Light of appropriate rank every 15 seconds to keep the buff ticking, etc), but it’s very handy and allows for significantly improved healing throughput.
  • Holy Shock 1/1: Instantly heals a friendly target or damages a hostile one. Actually not an essential talent for healing – it triggers the GCD, so it’s an inefficient use of 1.5 seconds of healing time compared with a Flash of Light – although it can be handy to hit the target with some healing now rather than at the end of the spell, if their immediate survival is an issue. Also useful for off tanking (for threat generation) and soloing, so it’s worth taking for its utility value, IMO.
  • Holy Guidance 5/5: adds 35% of your Intellect to your spell damage and healing. A big boost to efficacy that only gets bigger as you gear up.

Key talents I didn’t include:

  • Aura Mastery 1/1: increases your aura range to 40 yards. Nice, especially for positioning-crucial fights, but not essential. Potentially worth taking if you have a spare point, but take a look at the kind of fights you’re regularly doing and decide if it would make a difference first.
  • Divine Illumination 1/1: reduces the mana cost of all spells by 50% for 15 seconds, on a 3-minute cooldown. Again, not a bad talent – I haven’t done the numbercrunching on it it to see if it’s worth taking because I simply don’t have the talent points for it, so it’s not even an option, but I suspect it’s probably a pretty decent use of a single talent point if you have one spare.

    (Tangent: I used to have this spell back when crit heals were free (not just 40% of normal mana cost as they are now) and would trigger it + Divine Favor + Holy Light for a mana _refund_ on the Holy Light. The mechanic was: Holy Light is cast at a mana cost of 440 [usual cost is 880 but Divine Illumination halves it], spell crits due to Divine Favor, Illumination refunds 100% of the original mana cost of the spell, ie 880 mana. Net result: one free crit heal plus a free 440 mana, enough for two extra Flashes of Light.)

Once you’ve got this basic build, you can spend the other 21 points as you see fit. Mine are all in Protection to make me an OT (as I generally need to AoE tank trash in Karazhan and Zul’Aman every week). Here are some suggestions for the 21 points:

  • 40/21/0 Main Healer/Offtank: This is my spec. The 21 points in Protection are primarily to make me a better tank (Redoubt, Toughness, Anticipation, plus Improved Righteous Fury is essential for a tank), with 1 point on Blessing of Kings for utility’s sake and 2 points in Guardian’s Favor because Blessing of Protection is, quite frankly, awesome for clothy-rescue in both PvE and PvP.
  • 43/18/0 Main Healer/Raid Support: This one’s intended purely for PvE raid healing, with no expectation of ever tanking. It adds Divine Illumination and Purifying Power on the Holy side for improved mana longevity (remember how mana-intensive being a cleansebot can be!) and Blessing of Kings and Improved Concentration Aura on the Protection side for raid utility. And Guardian’s Favor again because I just love Blessing of Protection, and you should too.
  • 45/0/10 Main Healer/Solo DPS: This is a hybrid of the core main healer spec with elements of the DPS spec recommended in the WoW Insider article, with six points spare. You can spend them where you like, as there’s nothing accessible that’s particularly compelling. (Just a note: holy paladins do their DPS with a one-handed caster weapon. Their DPS comes from spell damage, not “white damage“, so the effect of improved strength is negligible; similiarly, the DPS talents of the Retribution tree generally rely on a high-DPS two handed weapon that dishes out lots of white damage, so are wasted on a holy paladin DPSing with a caster sword and shield.)
  • 42/19/0 Main Healer/PvP Healer: I feel that I’m rather going out on a limb with this one, because I’m still learning a lot when it comes to PvP, but this is what I’d take if I were going that route. 4 points spent on getting 10% stun and fear resistance, 2 points for Guardian’s Favor (because there’s nothing like BoPing your mage friend just when the rogue is tearing into them – remember a BoPped target can still cast spells, just not physically attack! – and the improved cooldown on Blessing of Freedom is very nice), Improved Righteous Fury is actually useful for the damage reduction in PvP where threat doesn’t matter, and the improved cooldown on Hammer of Justice is handy for getting people off you while you wait for a hand from your DPSers.
    (Note that this spec is assuming you still want to keep the standard ‘core Holy spec’ to be a PvE healer first and foremost, and that the PvP healing is just a sideline. If I were making a pure PvP healer spec it’d be a bit different.)

The above are just a few variants on the 40/0/0 Bare Minimum core spec, providing options for whatever playstyle you prefer. In upcoming posts, look out for a discussion of gear and buff choices, theorycrafting about mp5 vs spellcrit vs +heal, suggestions for playstyle and lots more pally fun. :)

(When you consider that the blog is called Banana Shoulders, and I started off talking about paladins in my very first post, this has been a long time coming!)

6 thoughts on “The Holy Paladin: Introduction”

  1. Even though I cannot analyze the whole distribution of the talent points you said, I have to disagree with the ‘bare minimum’ 40/0/0 spec as it does not include the 41st essential point in Divine Illumination. It’s an amazing talent to have as a main healer, especially in long boss fights. And in situations where you’re solo healing a tank far from other people – good examples of this is the Karathress, where I was stuck healing the priest tank plus myself for a good while (saved me a ton in pots), and even in the Kael’thas fight if you’re stuck in the corner healing the lock tank and yourself (though in that situation I never really had any mana issues anyway to be honest as I could mostly flash heal or use a lower rank of HL).

    Anyway, regardless of that, nice weblog. I’m enjoying it even if I am a retired WoW Paladin at the moment. :)

  2. I am starting to see your point, actually. Originally I’d found DI fairly useful, but after the mana return from Illumination was nerfed, the talent ‘felt’ a whole lot less useful. I’ve done a bit of numbercrunching since then, and I suspect I haven’t given it its due. I’ll do a bit more theorycrafting and test it out.

  3. @Kayla – This is unsurprising, as today’s patch 3.0.2 totally shook up all the talent trees. The information in this guide has been largely invalidated by recent changes.

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