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General advice

Healing basics

Paladin mana management works very differently from other healing classes, who mostly depend on spirit. A paladin's best mana return mechanic is [Illumination]. Additionally (and as of patch 3.0.2), most paladins rely on [Divine Plea]. These talents make intellect and critical strike rating much more attractive stats to paladin healers than the spirit and "mp5" other classes prioritize. The 50% healing reduction caused by Divine Plea makes Flash of Light very inefficient (in terms of HPS) while the spell is active, so it is generally better to stick to Holy Light, and in raid situations many paladins now use this as their primary heal. In raid situations, paladin healers also frequently use Lay on Hands (combined with certain glyphs and talents) to restore mana to themselves when they run out.

At lower gear levels and without the benefits of raid-wide mana regeneration buffs, your basic healing spell is more likely to be Flash of Light. With adequate gear (and assuming the tank you are probably healing is also adequately geared) for the situation, you can generally spam it in order to keep your assignement's health topped. In situations like this, Holy Light will generally be reserved for times when the HPS of FoL is not adequate to keep up with damage. Holy Light has a relatively long casting time, so it is important to use it before you fall too far behind or you may not be able to finish casting it in time.

In urgent situations, it may be wiser to use a combination of Divine Favor and Holy Shock to trigger Infusion of Light, which will give you another instant cast FoL or an increased critical chance on your next HL. This is highly mana inefficient, of course, so it should be reserved only for situations where you do not have enough time to complete a more efficient heal.

In dire situations, Lay on Hands will provide a very large, instantaneous burst heal to your target. This can be a potent tool when a battle starts to go downhill. This ability has a fairly long cooldown, so choosing when to use it can be difficult.

It is also important to consider your various damage mitigation abilities. Divine Shield will prevent you from taking any damage for 12 seconds, allowing you to focus on healing the other members of your party in peace, or giving you valuable time to restore your own health. Sacred Shield can absorb damage for your target while increasing your HPS output and mana regeneration. The amount of damage absorbed will scale with your own spell power, making this a highly effective tool for holy paladins. Hand of Sacrifice can also be used to transfer damage from your healing target to yourself.

Because paladin healers must use direct-healing spells, they cannot always wait to see how much damage their healing target has taken before deciding which heal to cast. This results in "spamming" (usually of Flash of Light), or chain-casting and in turn, paladin healers are sometimes criticised for "overhealing" (which is essentially wasting mana by healing a target for more than the amount of damage he has taken). Overhealing that doesn't make you run out of mana is fully acceptable. Remember — it is always better to overheal than underheal and suffer wipe after wipe.

Buffs

It is important to know whom to buff how.

Tanks will benefit most from the stamina and agility bonuses provided by Blessing of Kings. If another paladin has already used Blessing of Kings, Blessing of Might will help them maintain a high level of threat on their target.

Physical DPS classes will typically benefit most from the attack power granted by Blessing of Might, but there are some cases where the stat increases from Blessing of Kings can be more valuable. Mana users (like retribution paladins or hunters) will also benefit from Blessing of Wisdom.

Most magic-based DPS classes and healers should get Blessing of Wisdom to help them keep an adequate mana pool and decrease downtime, but there are certain cases (like warlocks with Life Tap) where Blessing of Kings will provide more benefit.

Note that DPS warriors and most shamans provide near-equivalent versions of Might and Wisdom, respectively, that do not stack, so if you are the only paladin in your group, you should avoid redundancy and use Kings instead.

The short duration of paladin blessings can be ideal for situations where players are likely to die quickly or have buffs dispelled from them, specifically in PvP battlegrounds. However, paladin buffs cannot be applied to an entire party or raid as many other class buffs can. The short duration blessings must be applied to each individual player, and the longer duration "greater" blessings must be applied to each individual class. While it is true that applying a 10 minute blessing to one character is generally more mana-efficient than applying another class's 30 minute buff, the cost of buffing a 40 player raid in Alterac Valley is significantly higher to paladins.

Raiding

In raid environments, healers are often divided into raid healers and tank healers. Because of Beacon of Light and the heavy-duty output of Holy Light, paladins are usually considered the best class for healing tanks.

In raids, a holy paladin will often beacon whichever tank is taking the most damage (usually, the main tank), then spam heals on the other tanks or help heal the raid so that heals are constantly being reflected onto the main tank. When more than one holy paladin is present, they may be assigned to beacon different targets to maximize the reflected heals, but if the main tank is taking enough steady damage, it is not necessarily a bad thing to have multiple beacons on them.

Sacred Shield is a powerful mitigation tool that should be kept up on the main tank at all times, and can be made even more powerful by speccing for Divine Guardian in the Protection talent tree. In addition to the damage absorption effect, Sacred Shield is especially useful for improving the performance of Flash of Light. Sacred Shield allows the paladin to keep a healing-over-time (HoT) effect on the main tank by occasionally casting Flash of Light on the shielded target. It also gives the paladin a 50% bonus to Flash of Light's critical strike chance, as long as the shielded target is continually taking damage. This crit bonus is often enough to ensure a near-perfect critical strike rating for Flash of Light.

Holy paladins lack many of the raid healing abilities of other healing classes, such as the ability to have healing-over-time (HoT) effects on multiple targets simultaneously or the ability to react quickly to raid damage with multiple "burst heals". In spite of these shortcomings, well-geared holy paladins can serve adequately as raid healers, if absolutely necessary, either by reacting quickly to raid damage with Flash of Light, or by preemptively spamming Holy Light on clusters of raid members. The splash effect from Glyph of Holy Light contributes a significant amount of incidental healing, especially when used on raid members who are clustered together, such as melee DPS.

In emergency situations, holy paladins can also rely on Holy Shock, Hand of Protection, Hand of Salvation, Divine Guardian (if specced for it), Lay on Hands, and instant Flash of Light procs from the Infusion of Light talent.

Holy talents and builds

Main article: Paladin_builds#Holy

The Holy talent tree is very powerful and makes the paladin a very strong healer; Light's Grace allows you to quick-fire Holy Light heals for larger burst healing effectiveness, and Holy Guidance will increase your overall spell damage and healing based upon your current intellect.

There is relatively little flexibility in choosing Holy tree talents, as most are either obviously useful or strictly limited to PvP. The main decision to make is between Retribution or Protection for the off-tree.

The retribution tree offers extra critical strike chance, faster run speed, and a mana cost reduction on instant-cast heals (primarily, Holy Shock), while the protection tree gives flat boosts to healing through Divinity and Improved Devotion Aura. The protection tree also offers Divine Sacrifice and Divine Guardian, which significantly improve the effectiveness of Sacred Shield and give the paladin a very useful raid-wide damage reduction ability.

Generally, the retribution tree is recommended for new holy paladins in lower levels of gear, while the protection tree is better suited to experienced raiders with higher gear levels.

Holy Light builds versus Flash of Light builds

There are two broad schools of thought on paladin healing at level 80: take a very powerful heal (Holy Light) and focus on being able to cast it for sustained periods without running out of mana, or take a very efficient heal (Flash of Light) and focus on making it more powerful. Most paladins opt for the Holy Light strategy, especially at higher gear levels when mana is no longer difficult to manage and larger heals are required to keep tanks alive.

Holy Light builds will want to gem for intellect, use Glyph of Seal of Wisdom, and use the humble [Libram of Renewal] (at just 15 Heroism emblems). Once the paladin can comfortably spam Holy Light for the entire duration of long boss fights, haste also becomes desirable.

Flash of Light builds will gem for spellpower, use Glyph of Seal of Light, and use a PvP libram like [Wrathful Gladiator's Libram of Justice]. Haste may also be useful at lower gear levels, but well-geared paladins will eventually be able to cast Flash of Light faster than the Global Cooldown and will no longer benefit from haste.

It is important to note that even though a paladin is typically built to maximize one spell or the other, they should still expect to use both spells, when appropriate.

Gear

Holy paladin healers benefit most from gear with spellpower, intellect, critical strike rating, haste rating, and mp5. Stamina and armor are also good to have for better survivability. Paladins use a one-handed weapon (mace or sword) and a shield with good healing stats. Some prefer a non-shield off-hand item with good healing stats (although keep in mind that shields can be enchanted and off-hands cannot). Paladin healers can use all types of armor (cloth, leather, mail or plate). While it is generally best to use plate when possible, for the extra armor and therefore survivability it provides, you should not neglect lower armor classes with better healing stats.

Intellect is by far the strongest stat for mana regeneration. It boosts initial mana, mana recovered through Divine Plea and Replenishment (as well as Arcane Torrent, for blood elves), and also increases critical strike chance and thus mana returned through Illumination. With 5/5 points in Holy Guidance it also increases your spell power by 2 points for every 10 intellect.

Another stat paladins will have to choose between on some gear is haste or crit. Both are highly beneficial to holy paladins. Based on talent setup some paladins are able to sacrifice crit gear for haste. It comes down to if you would rather the heal to hit hard or hit faster.

Unlike other healing classes, spirit is not an important stat for paladins. Because paladins lack healing-over-time effects, instant cast heals, and "clearcasting" or during-casting passive regeneration talents, most paladin healers will not be outside of the "5 second rule" for any significant periods of most fights and spirit does not provide meaningful regeneration for them. Furthermore, spirit gives paladins no side bonuses that some priests and druids have such as a bonus to healing; instead, Paladins get that bonus from intellect.

The other stat commonly found on caster gear that paladins do not need is hit rating. Thought not absolutely useless (because paladins will Judge enemies occasionally to proc Judgements of the Pure), gear with hit should be left to offensive casters, since it does not benefit heals at all. Of course, an item may still be an upgrade in spite of the fact that is has hit, and if there are no offensive casters interested in the item, it may be worth taking.

Gear Enhancement

A paladin's primary stats for healing are spell power, intellect, crit rating and haste rating. Spell power will increase the amount healed by every healing spell you cast. Intellect provides more mana as well as increasing your critical effect chance, having high intellect (and therefore more mana) also makes Divine Plea more effective. Crit rating also increases your critical effect chance, which increases the average amount healed and also restores mana (through Illumination). The enhancements listed below are generally considered the best available for high level holy paladins:

Most of the expensive enchantments have a slightly weaker version available very cheaply. For example, [Enchant Weapon - Mighty Spellpower] typically costs 200-300g, while [Enchant Weapon - Exceptional Spellpower] costs about 30g.

Gems

With all the benefits of intellect it makes intellect gems ideal. You will see most end game raiding paladins socket all of their gear with the Brilliant King's Amber reguardless of socket color, except for one [Nightmare Tear] to meet the Meta Gem Requirement.

PvE

  *Requires 1 Red gem, 1 Yellow gem, 1 Blue gem

Glyphs

Paladins focusing on Holy Light will want [Glyph of Holy Light] and [Glyph of Seal of Wisdom]. There is some flexibility on the third glyph. [Glyph of Beacon of Light] saves global cooldowns from having to be used to refresh that spell, as well as a significant amount of mana over the course of a long fight. [Glyph of Divinity] effectively turns Lay on Hands into a super-mana potion when self-cast.

Flash of Light paladins will use [Glyph of Flash of Light], [Glyph of Seal of Light], and another major glyph of their choice (often [Glyph of Holy Shock] to help compensate for Flash of Light's low output).

The only minor glyph relevant to paladin healing is [Glyph of Lay on Hands].

See also

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