Reader Mailbag: Levelling as Holy

I’m in the middle of a long and hefty post, so just to tide y’all over until I’m done, here’s a reader email I got recently, to which other people might also like the answers.

From Gemosi:

Is it possible to level to 80 as a healer. I am currently ret but looking to go to a healer for end game content. I need to learn all the spells and rotations for being a healer before then so I thought I would respec. Any suggestions and also if leveling is possible what the best rotation.

It’s certainly possible! However, be warned, you’ll find it much slower than Ret – but it’s perfectly viable, and means you can heal an instance at a moment’s notice.

I’m assuming you’re starting from level 70 at this point; if the toon is a reroll, I’d recommend going Retribution at least until you hit Outlands, because Holy is incredibly slow until you start getting spellpower plate/mail items.

Your typical rotation is going to be:

  • keep yourself buffed with Blessing of Wisdom; put up Retribution Aura
  • Seal up with Seal of Righteousness
  • pull the mob and Judge Wisdom on it for mana return
  • Holy Shock it
  • If it’s an undead or demon, use Exorcism
  • If you pull 3+ mobs at once, it’s probably worth using Consecration once they’re in melee range (and Holy Wrath if they’re undead/demons).
  • continue with Holy Shocks and Judgements (and Exorcism) whenever their cooldowns are up.
  • Consecrate a couple more times, but don’t use it on every cooldown; it eats way too much mana.
  • toss Hammer of Wrath into the rotation once the mob’s at 20%.

You can wring more DPS out by using more Consecrates, plus using Shield of Righteousness once you hit 75, but those are fairly mana-hungry and will increase your downtime.

Note that Seal of Righteousness’s mechanics were changed in 3.0.8 last week, and I’m still doing some research to work out if it’s still the best option.


  • ignore Strength/attack power on gear; you won’t be able to stack enough of it to be worth it, and it’ll gimp your healing significantly
  • stack spellpower, mp5, and crit
  • once you get to level 70, start swapping your gear over to drop mp5 – at 71 you get Divine Plea, which restores 25% of your mana on a 1 minute cooldown. At this point, you want to be stacking spellpower, int, and crit – you’ll also get a fair bit of haste on your gear, but you probably don’t need to start stacking it til you hit 80 and are gearing up for endgame
  • when doing quests, if the plate reward is melee or tanking plate, take a look at the mail. Wearing all mail does tend to lower your survivability a lot, especially if you pull multiple mobs all the time; however, you can afford to have a few mail pieces and they’re often superior to the plate you get access to.

In terms of spec basics, I’d go with something like this for a level 70 build. As you level to 80, work your way down the Ret tree; pick up Conviction and Sanctified Seals. That’ll leave you two points left over — I usually put those into Pursuit of Justice, because run speed buffs are awesome :) At 80 your spec will be much the same, but I’d drop Seals of the Pure at that point (in Holy) and swap it over to Spiritual Focus (also in Holy) at that point for healing.

13 thoughts on “Reader Mailbag: Levelling as Holy”

  1. “… I am currently ret but looking to go to a healer for end game content. I need to learn all the spells and rotations for being a healer before then so I thought I would respec. …”

    I sincerely hope the emailer reads comments. I see people say this constantly and they simply couldn’t be farther from the truth. Let me elaborate.

    1. You learn *nothing* while levelling that cannot be learned at level cap. Nothing.
    2. You do not even have your full compliment of spells while levelling. For example, before you get divine plea and after you get it, the way you manage your mana is *totally* different. Here is another, sacred shield. Paladins who went holy at 80, in my experience, tend to use this more than those who levelled holy without it. In both cases, levelling as holy actually HURTS you at cap not helps you.

    Level to 80 however you want, just don’t do it to ‘learn’ how to play at 80. You learn how to play at 80 by playing at 80 as whichever spec. Period.

  2. I’ve always leveled as Holy and I think it’s perfectly fine. I might not kill things very fast, but I’m extremely durable. I’m currently 76 and I spent about five minutes last night killing an elite for a 3-man quest that hit like a mack truck, but I think it’s a fight I actually had an easier time killing as holy than I would have as ret due to the damage intake (I spent about 75-80% of my time healing myself because the damage intake was so high). As ret I probably would’ve run out of mana and died because my heals wouldn’t have been enough to keep me alive, so there are advantages to being holy.

    And if you like to run instances it’s nice to be able to find a group without much hassle. Most people don’t level as a healer so you may find yourself in demand.

  3. Saw a similar post at PlusHeal paladin forum. I only play a holy paladin, started maybe 6 months after release, and have never payed for a respec. I am a very casual player but I love instancing/raiding and do everything I can to hold up my end.

    I took my time to lvl 60 and it did take FOREVER; hit cap maybe 6mos before TBC. Starting Wrath with some t4 & top badge gear, I have hit 80 in about 2 months of casually playing 15-20 hrs per week.

    David’s comment on learning your healing tools at 80 is perfectly valid, but if a player has never been a healer then I recommend doing it all through Northrend just so you can understand healing in general. Further effort is required at lvl 80 by all classes to learn their new tools.

    I leveled using mostly Dev aura, Seal & Judgement of Wisdom, and liberal application of Consecration & Shock. If it was slow then it certainly did not feel that way. Leveling as a healer gives you a better understanding of your basic tools and time to setup your interface.

    Either way, start grabbing gear for your heal set at least 5 levels before you plan to go Holy. Quest rewards and drops are spaced out well enough that you don’t usually have to choose between Ret and Holy pieces.

  4. Hey ho!
    Thought I would pop something in here. DPS as holy is now much more viable since they added a DPS component to Judgements of the Pure. I would not have recommended doing it before that unless you have a lot of patience :)

    The best way to kill stuff as holy is to AoE it down while single targetting one (much as Siha said). You are a plate wearer, take advantage of it, and you can heal yourself with no push back if you flick your auras about. 1 holy light should get you back to full health.

    So it depends on what you want out of your levelling. If you want to take your time and have fun in instances – go holy and enjoy! If you are more impatient (like me) or cant be on when others are on, I would recommend going ret then holy at 80. David is on the money when he says you can practise at 80. It is very true. You will also notice that all the early plate quest rewards are DPS plate and the healing stuff doesn’t come until the late 70s or in the instances. I think that says something about what blizz expected most people to do if you plan on questing to 80.

    All that said – 50g to respec in northrend is not that much money anymore. So why not do both!?

  5. When I got back into WOW a few months back I decided to try a healer. I leveled my pally to 80 holy all the way. It may have been slower than ret, but I still hit 80 in Grizzly hills, not even close to running out of quests, and actively healing in instances. I think it made be a bit better, but If I had to respec dps, I wouldn’t even now where to start.

    Drale on Cairne

  6. A couple things I noticed about leveling as Holy while watching my dps meter on the way up to 80:

    1. You’re honestly going to do better soloing if you have a non-caster weapon; the pure physical dps does really help that much. I switched the Hammer of the Naaru out for a Northrend quest reward green at 71, and my dps went up by about 100 from that alone. You’ll definitely want to hang onto a caster weapon for healing, though. (Actually, if you’re willing to sacrifice some survivability, you can go with a two-hander, which will increase your dps even more, but I kind of feel like if you’re going to do that you might as well go Ret. The option is there, though.)

    2. When you have the option, haste is better for your soloing set than crit (but keep crit items for healing!). I don’t believe Seal of Righteousness or its judgement can crit (they might have changed that), and even with a melee dps weapon your white attacks don’t do a lot of damage since you’re not stacking melee stats. Haste, however, allows you to whack your target with Seal of Righteousness damage a bit more often, which I found to be more of a help than the occasional Holy Shock crit.

    3. Since you’re using a shield, sometimes the fastest way to kill stuff is to pretend you’re prot – especially if you’re all in plate. I found that I soloed a lot more efficiently when I could pick up 3+ mobs at the same time, because that maximized the damage my Consecrate and Ret Aura were doing. This tactic is a bit easier with a pure healing spec that includes Spiritual Focus, though, since you might need to Holy Light yourself mid-combat. You’ll also be using more mana per pull, so you’ll have more downtime per pull – though less per mob.

  7. I have to disagree a bit with the first commenter… While yes, you do not have your full complement of spells until you hit 80, if the player is not familiar with healing, it can be quite a culture shock to go from the melee dps mindset to a dedicated healer in one go. Leveling as holy, while it does “gimp” your dps and supposedly increase the time it takes (I can’t comment, as I have not ever had to level solo, live in bf that plays wow w/ me ftw!), it does force you to learn what it means to be and think like a healer. I have seen many times that folks who level as dps, even collecting healing gear on their way to 80 just don’t always have the same mindset as the folks that leveled as a healer. Yes, it sucks to have to “relearn” your mana regen strats when you go from pre divine plea to post divine plea, but imho that is a far less harsh learning curve than trying to learn “how to heal” at 80, especially for someone who’s never healed at all.

  8. Regarding the ‘ignore Strength/attack power’ comment: I spent a lot of time in the low 70’s trying to find a ‘sweet spot’ where my spells could adequately balance the scaling of AP and SP. Swap in this trinket, that neckpiece, add these boots, no take them out again — At best, I found that I would net very little change in overall damage, though I might gain a bit in stamina. Ultimately I abandoned this attempt, just as I did as a 70 in SMV, because I was just more effective killing things in my healing gear.

  9. A glyph of Judgement is also rather helpful, given how much seal/judgement damage you usually do.

    And yes, AoE grinding can work well as Holy, just use Holy-shock to heal yourself, and use any IoL procs appropriately. It’s not quite as effective as a protection-spec but feel free to grab 2-3 mobs at a time.

  10. First regarding waiting till 80 to learn to heal, it will drastically impede your progresion when you hit 80. I Played for a year as a level 60 holy pally, came back with Wotlk, leved 60-80 as holy, and still have room to improve on my healing technique. Your reputation as a healer is important, and if you are wipping regular 80 instances while trying to learn to heal, people are likely to remember you as ‘that horrible healer.’ Sacred shield has some great utility, but it is mana intensive even when you start getting geared. If some light FoL spam is enough to keep everyone up, then why waste the mana on it.

    Regarding the leveling rotation, I prefer seal of wisdom, 0 down time unless your soloing elites. Just keep pulling, no need to worry about anything… Granted it may not be the as fast, but it is very very easy…

  11. I’ve gone 1-71 so far (computer died for a few months, just got back in) as Holy, have had no problems. In Northrend I’ve yet to have a single problem with mana, I’m AoEing down 5-6 mobs at a time and I’ve only died cause I forgot to hit Lay on Hands.

    It’s perfectly feasable!

  12. Just to let people out there know, not only is it possible to level 70 to 80 holy, it is extremely easy. I basically started with my holy talents how I would want them to heal, down to beacon of light. I filled in ret for the crit I was after, basically looking at what I would want for end game. I did sap a couple of points around trying to figure out wehter I wanted the 3% crit from Sanctified Seals or Improved Concentration Aura.
    I will admit starting with mostly Kara epics, it may have been easier than someone gearing holy with a few greens and a mix of other spec gear.
    Basically, I Glyph’d for reduced mana on heals with Seal of Wisdom up, Holy Light glyph for any pug dungeons I might run (which as a healer, it’s much easier to get in) and for a while I did use the 10% extra damage for judgement glyph, but realised, it didn’t make too much difference as Holy. 90% of your damage will come from Holy Shock, and most of the rest is Consecrate. Judge your target from 40 yards out with Light, keeping Seal of Wisdom up, Holy Shock when he’s in range, Consecrate, auto attack for some health and mana till Holy Shock is back up then use it again. At this point he’s dead or close to it. Hammer of of Wrath if it’s up and needed.
    I found that taking three or 4 mobs was usually pretty easy. I think I solo’d all elite bosses with the exception of two (sorry I don’t recall their names). 1 was just because my wife needed it as well on her enhance shamman, and the second wasn’t till the southern portion of Icecrown, and it did a lot of shadow damage I couldn’t keep up with even with Shadow Aura.
    Some bosses did take awhile, the giant beetle also in southern part of Icecrown took me a good 10 minutes to solo because of my lack of damage output, but I never once dropped below 95% health or mana. Something most ret or even prot pallies can’t boast. In my opinion, if you plan on solo’ing to 80, and have some decent healing gear, holy is the way to go.
    -Side note: It also gave me plenty of time to perfect group healing with beacon of light, something that many people might find awkward at first.

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