Cataclysm Holy How-To #1: Specs & Glyphs

It’s been almost a full year since I last wrote in my Holy How-To series. A lot has happened to the paladin class and, specifically, the holy spec since then. I decided that I’d go back to basics and re-write a bunch of my old Holy How-To guides from the Wrath era and update them with relevant Cataclysm information. Not all the guides will be re-written and those that will be are going to be written from the ground up. So here’s the first of my re-written guides: Specs & Glyphs. Bear in mind that the guide consists primarily of my own beliefs and opinions and is limited to PVE content at level 85 only.

Blizzard has dumbed-down the talent system pretty severely since the launch of Cataclysm. No matter what tree you start putting your talents into, you must place at least 31 talent points in that tree, total, before the other two trees open up. This is true across all classes and specs. This means that only the first two tiers of talents in the other trees are available to you after you spend 31 points in your main tree.

So, let’s start out with the Holy tree. Green talents are those you should absolutely take and fill them with maximum points. Red talents are to be avoided. Yellow talents mean the talent is potentially useful or you should take them, but maybe not drop all the points into them. I’ll discuss the spec in depth in just a sec.

Let’s look at the talents to AVOID first, just to get that out of the way.


Arbiter of the Light – Critical strike chance of Judgement and Templar’s Verdict. Definitely something to pass on. Critting on a judgement doesn’t give us more mana back or anything (although that’s an interesting idea) and Templar’s Verdict is something only Retribution paladins get. Skip it.

Blazing Light – Increases the damage of Holy Shock and Exorcism. Well, at least we have both of those abilities… but again, this is a damage increase, not a healing increase. Do not be fooled by the icon, which is the same as for Holy Light and thus lulls you into a false sense of security. This is not a talent for a holy paladin in PVE content!

Denounce – Reduces the mana cost of Exorcism and then prevents the target from causing critical strikes for six seconds. Definitely a PVP talent. I had hoped it would have been something interesting like Telluric Currents, but alas!

That’s it for the talents to avoid. You can see it’s pretty easy to just stumble into a spec that doesn’t totally suck.

All right, time to look at the talents that I feel you must have for PVE content at level 85.


Tier 1

Protector of the Innocent – Cataclysm has been live for something like 10 months and I still hate this talent. You get it for two reasons: 1) Because without it, Arbiter of the Light is what we would need to take to go down to the next tier, and 2) The self-healing done via Protector of the Innocent transfers to your Beacon of Light target. That’s also why you’ll want to pick up three points here, rather than two. If they’re going to make us waste our talent points on crap like this, we may as well take any advantages the talent will give us.

Judgements of the Pure – Every time we judge (and we can judge every 8 seconds), we will gain this buff to increase our melee and casting haste by 9%. This is a must-have talent because haste is our friend.

Tier 2

Clarity of Purpose – What’s that? Shave an extra .5 seconds off of Divine Light and Holy Light? Yes, please!

We’ll come back to Last Word in the next section. For now, drop a point in it so we can get to…

Tier 3

Divine Favor – Ah, our first talented cooldown! Divine Favor is a great throughput cooldown that increases our crit chance AND spell haste by 20%. I still miss its original incarnation, which was a 100% crit chance on your next spell, but this is definitely an upgrade.

Infusion of Light – First off, this increases your Holy Shock crit (your healing or damage component of it!) by 10%. That alone is awesome, given that we should be using Holy Shock essentially on cooldown. However, if you do crit on Holy Shock, your next Flash of Light, Holy Light or Divine Light are reduced in cast time by 1.5 seconds. That means an instant Flash of Light (primarily for PVP, I imagine, but it has its occasional uses in PVE) and, at the very most, a 1-second Holy Light or Divine Light. Of all the talents in the Holy tree, this is probably my favourite.

Daybreak – So we just went through a talent that encourages us to use our instant-cast Holy Shock spell, which then benefits our casted spells. This is a talent that encourages us to use our casted spells, which then benefits Holy Shock. Getting this means two Holy Shocks in a row, which is great for building up Holy Power. Say you’ve just casted Divine Light on your Beacon of Light (and you’re talented so it’ll give you 1 Holy Power for that), then you get this. Two rapid-fire Holy Shocks and then a 3-point Word of Glory? That’s a lot of healing in a very short period of time. Burst healing is fun!

Tier 4

Drop a point into Enlightened Judgements, but I’ll deal with that in the next section.

Beacon of Light – Nowhere near as overpowered as it was in Wrath of the Lich King, our poor Beacon has been nerfed. It still counts overhealing and will still transfer that to the beacon, but it’s only 50% of healing done that will go to the Beacon, now. The exception is Holy Light. If you use Holy Light on someone other than the Beacon target, it will transfer 100% of that heal to the Beacon. So if your Beacon target requires very light healing that Holy Light can manage, heal others with Holy Light and all of that healing goes right to your Beacon. Bear in mind that Light of Dawn will also transfer to the Beacon, albeit at 50% effectiveness.

Speed of Light – Love this talent. 3% spell haste? Excellent. Reduced cooldown on Holy Radiance? Great. Not one, but two four-second sprints? Fan-freaking-tastic. While the sprints were obviously meant for PVP, never underestimate the importance of getting out of fire quickly in a PVE environment.

Sacred Cleansing – Some people think that this is an optional talent. I have spent the last 5 years having the ability to dispel magic on my paladin. I was not going to lose that ability. It’s true that there’s less to dispel in general in raids, but this still comes in handy more often than not. Besides, there’s really not a lot else you can do with that talent point.

Tier 5

Conviction – With just a moderate amount of crit, you can easily hit 90% uptime on this buff. It stacks to 3, which translates into 9% extra healing (okay, and 9% extra damage, too).

Aura Mastery – Another talent that some people might think is optional. I do not think that. Aura Mastery is great for fire, shadow and frost damage that hits you hard. Any time you have a burst of incoming fire/shadow/frost damage, make sure Resistance Aura is up and smash that Aura Mastery button right before it hits. This is a huge raid cooldown and mitigates a LOT of damage that would be otherwise unhealable. Definitely not optional.

Paragon of Virtue – Oddly, some people think this talent is optional, too. It’s not. We could probably do without the reduction on Divine Protection‘s cooldown (although it’s helpful!), but being able to cast Hand of Sacrifice every 90 seconds is a great thing for a class that habitually focuses on a single target, like the tank. It also turns a throughput cooldown (Avenging Wrath) into a 2m cooldown instead of a 3m cooldown. In short, there is nothing not to love about Paragon of Virtue. Get it!

Tier 6

We’ll leave both Tower of Radiance and Blessed Life for the next section.

Tier 7

Light of Dawn – A wholly lacklustre talent that is predominantly used to heal the beaconed target instead of for its healing value to the people actually being healed, particularly when glyphed to hit 6 people. And yet, what else would we pick up?


You may have noticed that only 26 talent points are accounted for by “must-have” talents. We need 31 points in our tree to start, er, branching out into other trees. (Someone smack me for that one, that was awful.)

Let’s revist some of the talents we skipped over.

Last Word – I literally drop one talent point in here to get down to the third tier. It’s not a bad talent, but we really just want to spend the minimum 31 points in Holy in order to pick up the goodies in Protection and Retribution. On Chimaeron, I would drop two points in here, mind you, since it almost assured that Word of Glory was a crit.

Enlightened Judgements – Not only do you need a point in this (as opposed to the other, completely useless talents we’ve skipped) to drop to the next tier, but this is useful for us. Honest! Judgement is viewed as a melee attack. Thus, we need some measure of hit rating in order to always hit a boss with our Judgement, resulting in mana returns. We only need 8% hit in order to hit a boss-level mob, so two points in here is overkill. One point here is fine. The range is also a nice bonus, but we don’t need two points here for the range, either, and you’ll find out why shortly!

Tower of Radiance – The premise here is simple: if you use Flash of Light or Divine Light on the same target you have your Beacon of Light on, you gain 1 Holy Power. Personally, I’m a fan of this. I like directly healing my beacon target. This is where I get a lot of my Holy Power gains (along with Holy Shock). However, if you do not like directly healing your beacon target, or your healing lead has you healing one person and beaconing another, this might not be the best way to generate Holy Power.

Blessed Life – That’s where Blessed Life comes in, particularly if it’s an AOE-heavy fight. This worked nicely in Tier 11 content as an alternate method to generate Holy Power, but it’s a lot less potent in Firelands, at least normal-mode Firelands.

Here’s what my typical 31 points in Holy look like:

And you can see we’ve unlocked Protection and Retribution, hooray!

Let’s start with Protection and we’ll just go through all six talents available to us at once.

Divinity – This 3-point talent increases all healing done by and to us by 6%. Yes, please.

Seals of the Pure – Icky damage talent that doesn’t even do anything to the seal we ought to be using 100% of the time, Seal of Insight. Skip this!

Eternal Glory – This is optional for two reasons: 1) If you don’t use Word of Glory, preferring to spend your Holy Power on Light of Dawn, this is worthless to you because it doesn’t affect Light of Dawn at all, and 2) If you want to spec deeper into Retribution than the first tier, you can skip this. I personally take it and enjoy when it does proc, which is roughly on a 15-second internal cooldown.

Judgements of the Just – This is really more of a tanking thing. While it’s important that the mobs have their attack speed reduced, every tanking class has a version of this available to them. As a holy paladin, you should not need this unless your raid group desperately needs it for some reason. Which it shouldn’t. Hopefully!

Toughness – Shockingly, another tanking talent in the Protection tree! Skip this.

Improved Hammer of Justice – Best categorized as a PVP talent, this does very little for us in PVE content.

On to Retribution!

Eye for an Eye – More damage? Pass!

Crusade – At first glance, you might want to pass. Read the description again. “damage and healing of your Holy Shock by 30%“! That is not insignificant. Grab all three points here.

Improved Judgement – I’m not sure about you, but I’m a wuss. I enjoy standing ~30 yards back from the action. Adding 20 yards to your Judgement range means you can stand 35 yards back (10 yard range at base + 5 from Enlightened Judgements + 20 from Improved Judgement). An excellent choice and a necessary one if you want some flexibility in terms of where you want to stand.

Guardian’s Favor – I really miss this talent, but I don’t have it in any of my various holy specs. Great utility, though it’s probably more for a PVP-based build. 3-minute Hand of Protections are lovely!

Rule of Law – Another talent that I don’t tend to take, this isn’t bad at all if you like Word of Glory. 15% crit for Word of Glory for 3 talent points seems almost fair, but not enough for me to spec into it and drop things like Divinity.

Pursuit of Justice – Why settle for 8% run-speed from various boot enchants when you can get 15% from two talent points? This is the big reason why many Holy Paladins, particularly those who don’t use Word of Glory often, will drop two points from Eternal Glory and put them in here instead.

Whew. So there you have all the possible talents we can choose and my two cents on each of them.

Here are a few typical specs:

Eternal Glory spec: (31/5/5)
Pursuit of Justice spec: (31/3/7)
Blessed Life spec: (31/5/5)

There are, of course, various other combinations, but those are some of the most popular.

Now that we have an understanding of the specs, let’s turn to glyphs. Glyphs are, thankfully, much simpler to deal with than all those talents.

Prime Glyphs

Glyph of Seal of Insight – 5% bonus healing when Seal of Insight is active. A no-brainer.
Glyph of Holy Shock – 5% extra crit chance to Holy Shock, which we ought to use pretty much on cooldown. Yes, please!

Up to you

Glyph of Word of Glory – If you use Word of Glory more than Light of Dawn, take this one.
Glyph of Divine Favor – If you use Light of Dawn more than Word of Glory, this is your only other real option.

Major Glyphs

Major glyphs are a little more flexible. The following are the ones I use frequently. Be ready to swap these out based on whatever encounter you’re on!

Commonly Used

Glyph of Divine Plea – 18% total mana back over 9 seconds instead of 12%? Yup. That sounds good!
Glyph of Divine Protection – This is great for bursts of magical damage like Electrocute in the Nefarian encounter or anything else that’s remotely predictable. 40% less damage from magical sources is amazing and we have this on a 40-second cooldown, remember?
Glyph of Divinity – This is almost always an active glyph for me and can be so very awesome when used appropriately.
Glyph of Light of Dawn – Adds a sixth person to your Light of Dawn.

Less Common

Glyph of Cleansing – Primarily a dungeon glyph, where you will likely be the only person who knows how to Cleanse anything.
Glyph of Lay on Hands
– Really, this is best used in dungeons when you never know when you’ll need Lay on Hands again for your suicidal pug tanks.


Glyph of Holy Wrath – To be honest, the only time I’ve used this glyph while holy is on the Ragnaros encounter to provide a short stun on the Sons of Flame, who are elementals. This is exceedingly rare to use.
Glyph of Beacon of Light – To be honest, I haven’t used this yet, but I haven’t ruled out the possibility that this could be really useful in some future encounter where you’re constantly swapping tanks and there could be range issues.


All the other Major glyphs are pretty much not for us, but please don’t ever pick up Glyph of the Long Word. Just get used to it — we don’t have hots.

Minor Glyphs

This is easy, since we literally have very little choice in the matter.

Glyph of Insight – Hey, much cheaper to put up Seal of Insight. Yay.
Glyph of Blessing of Kings – Much cheaper to buff Kings. Yay.
Glyph of Blessing of Might – Much cheaper to buff Might. Yay.

Thrilling, aren’t they? They’re boring, but they’re useful, particularly when someone’s been resurrected in combat (or maybe YOU were the one who was rezzed) and needs to be rebuffed.


Well, I guess that brings us to the end of this first Holy How-To guide of Cataclysm! Next time, I’ll spend some time talking about our spells and abilities and how to go about using them effectively. Hope you enjoyed this return to the Holy How-To guides!

*** All content copyright © Kurn’s Corner, 2011. Reproduction of this guide in full or in part without express permission from the author (“Kurn”), represents copyright infringement and violation of copyright law. Please, if you like this guide, link to it, do not copy it. ***

10 Replies to “Cataclysm Holy How-To #1: Specs & Glyphs”

  1. Great guide, I’ll have to remember this for the next time I spec holy :-). That being said, I believe Death Knights do get an attack speed debuff through Frost Fever (one of their diseases).

  2. Rohan – Thanks! I did the same in my original Holy How-To back in the Wrath era, too. It seemed to do the job then, so I just stuck with it. :)

    Calas – Thank you! As to Death Knights, certainly it seems much easier for a warrior to Thunder Clap or a druid to Mangle or Maul or a paladin to judge than for someone on the rune system to watch the dots, but after some brief looking through things, I guess this has changed to be easier or doable at all. Thanks for that, I’ll go edit it ASAP.

  3. Glyph of Beacon of Light is useful for Ragnaros, with all the tank swapping, and Baleroc, with all the tank AND torment swapping.

    We really do have several Major Glyph options available to us which can help a lot on particular fights. Tweaking your Majors really pays off.

  4. Very nice, Yes that 2nd point in Paragon of virtue is probably the biggest point i am missing. But as a 10 man raider I use my holy power for word of Glory almost 100% of the time.

    I dont use minor glpyhs for holy as a protest to show how utterly useless they are.

  5. Great read again!

    The Major Glyphs ‘up to you’ contain a small mistake though, you link and name the Devine Favor Glyph and explain the Devine Light one.

    I actually quite like Protector of the Innocent by the way, it makes sure I can easilly put Hand of Sacrifice on my tank even during heavy tank dammage, without having to heal myself. In most of my raid logs, it shows up as the biggest amount of healing on myself by far! And with the amount of AoE dammage in the Firelands, not much of it is overhealing.

    As mentioned, Divine Protection, especially when glyphed, is awesome, since most bosses have one or more phases or abillities that cause magical dammage. With a 10s duration, you can easylly cover 2 Flame Scythes on Staghelms scorpion phase or 3 with enough stacks of adrenaline. Almost all bosses (except Baleroc) have magical AoE dammage during the last burn phase, where this really shines!
    In BoT it meant you could stay floated on the Council fight and use it to eat Thundershock without any problems, making this part of the fight so much easier.

  6. Joe Ego – I agree, regarding tweaking your Majors. It makes a huge difference! That said, I don’t typically change my beacons on the various tanks on Rag or Baleroc. I figure I’ll be back on the beaconed tank soon enough anyway and if not, I’m getting some healing done to them to cover environmental damage (on Rag) or the last melee hit (on Baleroc).

    Ngita – haha! I’m too obsessive to not glyph the minor glyphs, but I applaud you for your protest!

    And PoV is so beautiful. Do you put the other point into Last Word?

    Jenetha – thank you. :) I know that I talk more about Light of Dawn instead of Divine Favor in that “up to you” section in the Prime Glyphs, but it’s really the one you’ll use if you prefer Light of Dawn, because Word of Glory isn’t something you cast often if you prefer Light of Dawn. :)

    I’m still not a fan of PotI, but I’m specced for it. It still makes me sad!

    Glyphed Divine Protection is fantastic, I completely agree. :)

    Thanks for your comment!

  7. Personally I like 3 pts in PotI and EJ. Never really have to worry about healing self. I tell other healers not to waste their direct heals on me, I pretty much can keep myself up with those two talents.

    For example up top on Bethtilac 10 or 25 I heal alone. PotI and EJ keeps me up, BoL a DPS to keep him up, so I focus on 2 dps and tank. This being normal mode of course.

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