— Important! This post has not been updated for Cataclysm, but has been re-written here! —
Welcome to my Holy How-To for PVE Paladins. This is the first of what I hope to be a great many posts aimed at helping holy paladins succeed at PVE content. I will focus primarily on max-level talent specs, glyphs, enchants, gems and the like, but I hope to touch on levelling content and advice as well.
Today’s post is about that which makes us holy paladins different from our protection and retribution cousins — our talents. Sure, you could argue that our glyphs, enchants and spell use is what separates us from the tanks and the DPSers, but really, it comes down to what is available to us as a result of our talent choices.
What makes me cringe more than anything else is to see a bad talent spec. I’m sorry, 71 points in holy does not make you a good holy paladin. The only spec of any class in the entire game that can be even remotely viable with that many points into a single tree is possibly a frost mage.
But you’re not a frost mage. You’re a holy paladin. What’s more, you’re probably a holy paladin interested in healing dungeons and raids at level 80. So let’s talk a bit lot about the talents that will help you to do so successfully.
If you’re going holy, you want Beacon of Light. The much-maligned, misunderstood talent that is either entirely useless in an encounter or is so valuable that you can’t imagine what you ever did without it. In order to get Beacon of Light, you need a minimum of 51 points in the holy tree. This leaves you with 20 points to mess around with, which we’ll address later.
The first important thing to know is that you do not want to just randomly dump 51 points into the holy tree. Not all talents are equal!
THE HOLY TREE
Here’s a handy-dandy graphic showing you which talents you should absolutely get (shaded green), which talents you should absolutely avoid for PVE encounters (shaded red) and which talents are debatable (shaded yellow).
Let’s look at the talents to AVOID first.
Seals of the Pure. This affects Seals that you will, deity-of-your-choice-willing, never use while healing. So don’t drop any points in here.
Unyielding Faith. This deals with Fear and Disorient effects, which primarily happens in PVP encounters. It’s true, there are some PVE encounters where you get feared or what have you, but because they’re so few and far between, we can safely ignore this talent entirely.
Pure of Heart. This deals with Curses, Diseases and Poisons. Basically, attacks performed by warlocks, death knights and rogues. This is another PVP talent to help your survivability, particularly if you can’t spare a moment to cleanse yourself or if you aren’t partnered with a class who can decurse.
Purifying Power. This goes hand-in-hand with Pure of Heart. Tell me, when do you plan to use Consecration, Exorcism and Holy Wrath that often in PVE content? Yes, a reduced mana cost on Cleanse is nice… but it’s not worth the talent points.
Blessed Life. Extremely limited use in PVE, because it’s a proc and is unpredictable. Again, not a horrible effect, but not worth the talent points.
Okay, now that you’re clear of those PVP talents, let’s look at the ones that are, essentially, mandatory.
Spiritual Focus. I am a huge fan of any pushback protection, even though Wrath changed how spell pushback works. The key here is that 5/5 Spiritual Focus + Concentration Aura (even the base aura) will result in you not being interrupted by damage while casting. Pretty much ever. 35% from Concentration Aura + 70% from Spiritual Focus = 105% “chance” to not have spell pushback from damage. That means direct attacks against you, damage suffered by AOE, all that stuff. It seems like a lackluster talent, I know, but sometimes that pushback protection is the difference between living and dying in this game. Besides, what else are you going to take? Seals of the Pure? ;)
Healing Light. A no-brainer. Anything that increases effectiveness of a healing spell or the amount healed is a good thing. It’s the big difference between your healing spells and those of a ret or prot pally.
Divine Intellect. Totally still worth 5 talent points even though they nerfed it to 10% from 15%. Intellect is to holy paladins as oxygen is to humans. Not only do we get a larger mana pool with intellect, but some of our intellect is converted to spellpower, plus Divine Plea and Replenishment are based off of maximum mana, so the more mana we have, the more we’re able to regen.
Illumination. I’ve suffered through two Illumination nerfs in my life and this talent is still worth it. Better SOME kind of mana return on crits than none at all. But I’m not happy about it. I remember the 100%-60% nerf from BC and now we have 60%-30% in Wrath. I have a long memory, Blizzard, and I totally expect you to remove this talent entirely. You bastards. Ahem.
Improved Lay on Hands. Totally worth it for both effects listed in the tooltip. You definitely want a shorter Lay on Hands cooldown. When you cast LoH, it’s generally in a moment of sheer panic, meaning your target is taking a ton of damage. If it’s physical damage (as opposed to magical), Improved LoH will reduce 20% of that damage for 15 seconds, in addition to the huge heal you just dropped on your target. All of this is GOOD.
Improved Blessing of Wisdom. While Kings is our desired pally buff when only one is available, Blessing of Wisdom is the only other one we need. If you raid with another paladin, they can be any spec whatsoever and still give you kings. Then you can buff yourself (and other casters) with wisdom, allowing any shammies to use Healing Stream or Cleansing Totem or Fire Resistance. Of course, if you consistently raid with another paladin who also has improved BoW, you can spec out of this for more utility-based talents we’ll discuss in a bit.
Divine Favor. Apart from the talents it leads to, this is basically a great talent. Every two minutes, you can force a crit heal. That’s valuable for throughput reasons and also for mana regen. I usually use this in conjunction with Holy Shock so I can chase a tank into position on a pull and still be healing, which I started doing after 3.0 dropped and we were dealing with a tank who would die almost instantly on Archimonde because he was terrible at running in and pulling.
Sanctified Light. 6% more crit to Holy Light AND Holy Shock? Uh, well, I won’t say no… :)
Holy Power. 5% more crit to ALL holy spells. Yes, please. That means that Holy Light and Holy Shock have an extra 11% chance to crit above your regular spell crit chance.
Light’s Grace. I often forget that Holy Light’s base casting time is 2.5 seconds, because I basically have Light’s Grace up, oh, all of the time. I bomb Holy Light so often that it’s rare for Light’s Grace to fall off of me at all. This is a must-have talent, all 3 ranks of it.
Holy Shock. Poor Holy Shock. It’s been around since pre-BC and was a pretty poor 31-point talent. But I made use of it then and more in BC. It’s the only heal we have available to us on the run (well, aside from Lay on Hands). That ALONE makes the spell incredibly valuable. It also has a neat tie-in with crits and Flash of Light, which we’ll discuss in a second.
Holy Guidance. Hello, what’s this? A talent that gives us more spellpower based on the amount of intellect we have? Why yes, I do believe that is a no-brainer talent if I ever saw one.
Divine Illumination. You know, when it was the 41-point talent in BC, I really didn’t make enough use of it, but Divine Illumination is pretty much an amazing talent, and is made even more epic by virtue of our Tier 10 2-piece bonus.
Judgements of the Pure. Well, we’re paladins. We judge. Welcome to the holy reason for judging. 15% spell haste for a full minute after judging. Fantastic. Now if only we didn’t have to be in melee range to judge… ;)
Infusion of Light. The math is simple. Crit on Holy Shock, receive an instant Flash of Light or another 20% crit chance on your next Holy Light. Invaluable in movement fights and situations where you have to chase a tank in on a pull. Not only that, but the Sacred Shield/Flash of Light HoT is now tied to this talent, making it even more important to get.
Enlightened Judgements. Oh, hey! Check it out! 30 extra yards on the range of Judgements of Light and Wisdom! Perfect. Now we can stand 40 yards back and judge merrily away for our spell haste bonus from Judgements of the Pure. (Note: does not work with Judgement of Justice!)
Beacon of Light. Quite simply, grab it. Whether you’re focusing on one tank and putting Beacon on the other tank or you’re healing the raid with the beacon on the MT, you WILL find uses for the mirrored heals from Beacon. Even if it’s just putting Beacon on yourself on a fight like Kologarn or Mimiron or even the Faction Champions.
And now for the ones I marked in yellow, which are situational or optional talents.
UP TO YOU
Aura Mastery. Extremely useful if only because you can double your Fire, Frost and Shadow resistance for 6 seconds when you use this talent. Plus, the whole thing about being unable to be silenced is sweet, too. Very useful on Yogg-Saron with help from 3 or fewer Keepers (Mimiron, Hodir, Thorim and Freya), due to the silences Yogg will start casting every so often. Also fun to use with Crusader Aura! :)
Improved Concentration Aura. Ehhhhhhh. Very blah PVE talent now that spell pushback has been changed in Wrath. I used to run around with 3/3 in this talent in BC, but now I don’t even bother. I believe Imp Wisdom and Imp LoH to be much more valuable.
Blessed Hands. I admit, I am usually specced 2/2 Blessed Hands. We do make use of Hand of Sacrifice as a cooldown in our raids, so why not improve that spell’s effectiveness? 40% reduced damage is better than 30%, no?
Sacred Cleansing. This is primarily a PVP talent, but it does have enough use in PVE that, depending on your content, you might want to pick it up. I found it super useful for Yogg-Saron and Faction Champions, but I eventually specced out of it, mostly because I joined a guild who managed to kill all the tentacles on Yogg and whose cleansers were on the ball for Faction Champs. (Not that my previous guild didn’t have some EXCEPTIONAL cleansers!)
Okay, so now you know what talents to avoid, which to grab and which to maybe grab in the holy tree. But what about those 20 or so points left over?
Let’s examine our options in the Retribution tree first.
THE RETRIBUTION TREE
(If you choose to spec into ret, that is!)
Benediction. 10% might not sound like that much, but it does add up. That’s 10% off the cost of Beacon of Light, Sacred Shield, Holy Shock, your judgements, your blessings, everything. It’s a sweet talent and definitely superior for a holy paladin as compared to Parry.
Heart of the Crusader. Okay, really, the only reason we’d really take this is so that we can get down to the third tier. But it can be helpful. If you’re in a 10-man guild without an elemental shaman for Totem of Wrath or a rogue with Master Poisoner, guess what? Your judgements are the only way to grant your raid 3% extra crit against a target. If you’re in this position, don’t forget to judge every 20 seconds or thereabouts to keep the crit buff up. (Every 30 seconds with 2-piece Tier 9.)
Improved Blessing of Might. Seriously, what warrior specs for improved shouts these days? Blessings are, in my opinion, far superior to shouts or totems. They last 10-30 minutes, depending on the kind of buff and there’s no range on them. So why not get improved might if you’re speccing into ret as a sub-tree? What else are you going to pick up? Improved Judgements? Don’t. Just… don’t. More on this in a bit.
Conviction. Voila. This is why you specced ret. Or most of the reason, anyways. 5% extra chance to crit? Seriously? 5+11 = 16% extra crit on Holy Light and Holy Shock. 5+5 = 10% extra crit on all other holy spells. Seriously not bad at all and critting like a fool will improve your throughput (as well as your overhealing) and help out in terms of a bit of regen.
UP TO YOU IN RETRIBUTION
Pursuit of Justice. Okay. I used to mock one of my officers back in the day because he specced into Pursuit of Justice. Or, as I would call it, “running faster.” Oddly enough, if you plan to go down to Tier 4 in ret, this is probably the best use of your two extra points. My current guild insists that EVERYONE get Tuskarr’s Vitality to boots. Why? For one, the less time you spend running, the more time you can spend DPSing or healing. For another, sometimes every second (or split-second) counts when it comes to environmental damage or danger. Ever tried to avoid Icehowl’s charge on Heroic Northrend Beasts when you don’t get the speed buff? Let me tell you, this is when you thank whatever god you believe in for the speed boost from the enchant. Or from Pursuit of Justice. The bonus to PoJ is that you can then enchant your boots with something else useful.
Sanctity of Battle. The other reason you spec into Retribution. Check it out, another 3% crit. This is getting ridiculous! ;)
As for the talents of what not to take, it’s pretty simple — everything else in the tree is better for prot or ret than it is for holy.
“But Kurn,” you ask, “what’s wrong with Improved Judgements?”
Okay. Listen to me. Why would you ever need to judge faster than once every ten seconds? What possible reason could there be? There’s, hm, let’s see… to do more DPS. There’s a reason. Guess what, buddy? You’re holy. Quit thinking about DPSing. I refer you to this post.
So that’s ret. Which leaves us with…
THE PROTECTION TREE
I’ll admit to a bias. I was that paladin, pre-BC, who specced 11 points down into prot to get Kings. I’ve almost always gone prot as my support tree. But I really do think it’s a very strong tree and there are a lot of useful talents in there for us.
(If you choose to spec into protection, that is!)
Divinity. Free healing. What did I say about Healing Light? That’s right, anything that improves the effectiveness or the amount healed is a good thing. Much better than the Divine Strength talent for a holy paladin.
Guardian’s Favor. Being able to cast Hand of Protection every three minutes instead of five comes in very handy. It was handy on Moroes, it’s handy on TOC’s Anub’arak. It’s a very versatile talent. Heck, I like to get this when I spec prot, too, so that I can BOP someone who has aggro if my taunts are on cooldown. (Note: Hand of Protection was formerly known as Blessing of Protection and the shorthand name for the ability was “BOP”. Now that it’s changed names, I find that I am unable to call it “HOP” with a straight face.)
We’ll skip down to Tiers 4 and 5 now and come back to 2 and 3 in a minute.
Divine Sacrifice. Half the reason you specced into the prot tree. This is a valuable cooldown to help raid survival.
Divine Guardian. The other half of the reason you specced into prot. This is raid-wide damage reduction, even if you die, even if your Divine Sacrifice wears off, whatever. Six seconds seems like a very little amount of time, but it’s usually sufficient to survive through an AOE effect that’s otherwise sure to wipe your raid group. Not only that, but your Sacred Shield now lasts a full minute instead of 30 seconds and is going to absorb even more damage. Win, win, win.
UP TO YOU IN PROTECTION
Stoicism. Extremely limited use in PVE, but we need to stack up a few points in protection in order to get down to Divine Guardian. It’s an option, but I’m not terribly fond of it.
Anticipation. Pure dodge. 1% per talent point. Also limited use in PVE, because you’re not usually going to be tanking while healing. If you are, you have bigger problems with your raid group than not having enough dodge. ;)
Improved Righteous Fury. Activating this means 80% more threat on your holy spells, which includes heals. Turning it on may not be the wisest move ever, particularly in a fight with adds, but 6% damage reduction is nice. I’m specced into this, personally, but I only really use it on two fights — Faction Champions and Blood Queen Lana’thel, where the constant raid damage is seriously obnoxious. And, like I said, we need the points to get down to the good tiers.
Toughness. 10% armor value. There’s something wonderful about being a healer with 20k armor, isn’t there? Again, limited PVE value for the holy paladin because chances are if something is that angry with you to lumber over and smack you in the first place, it’s going to kill you anyways, even if you have 22,000 armor.
Okay, so you now know what you need to take and what you shouldn’t take and what you could take. The question is, when do you spec into ret and when do you spec into prot? Here’s my two cents.
1) Holy with Ret sub-spec. This should be what you heal with when you first hit 80 and you spend most of your time healing heroics or Vault of Archavon. The crit makes up for the throughput you might not be able to generate otherwise.
Here’s a spec that I would use as a new 80 holy paladin:
2) Holy with Prot sub-spec. This is probably what you should start speccing into if you plan to be a holy light healer, as opposed to a Flash of Light healer. The raid utility is definitely more useful than extra crit once you have T9+ (ilvl 232/245) gear. This build includes three “leftover” points in Benediction in Retribution, for 6% off your instant-casts and you can take whatever optional talents to get down to Divine Sacrifice and Guardian.
3) Here’s my current spec. It’s a little odd, but I’m quite happy with it.
“But Kurn,” you say, “what about Glyphs?”
For holy PVE paladins, we have a couple of interesting choices in terms of major glyphs, but the overall idea is the same. Here are the basic ones you should basically have.
Glyph of Holy Light is essentially mandatory. It takes 10% of your Holy Light’s heal (so if it hits for 10,000, it will take 1000) and applies it to up to five people within 8 yards of your Holy Light target. The trouble here is that it’s not a smart heal — it will heal ANYONE in range and it’s totally random. So it could, for instance, heal the hunter pet instead of, say, the fury warrior, or the gargoyle instead of the off-tank. It’s still ridiculously valuable on many fights with AOE damage. I would have loved to have this on Naj’entus back in Black Temple.
Also mandatory is Glyph of Lay on Hands. I like to put in Glyph of Sense Undead if only because I do cause damage to mobs in judging and if they’re undead, why NOT cause an extra percent damage? I’m not a gatherer on my paladin so I always have Sense Undead active.
From there, it really depends on what you’re doing.
If you’re new to 80 and are primarily doing dungeons and gearing up, I strongly recommend Glyph of Seal of Light in conjunction with having Seal of Light up while you heal, in order to help bump up your healing a bit (along with the 51/5/15 spec).
If you’re not new to 80 and gem for intellect and are a main tank healer in raid situations, it’s got to be Glyph of Seal of Wisdom while using Seal of Wisdom as you heal. What you’re interested in doing is allowing your mana pool to last you as long as possible.
If you’re new to 80, I’d then recommend Glyph of Holy Shock to lower the Holy Shock cooldown to 5 seconds from 6. It really makes a difference and allows you to toss a quick heal to party members before returning to the tank, for instance. It also has nice synergy with the Libram of Blinding Light, although I’m not sure if I recommend you spend your frost emblems on that. I’m still (purposely) using Libram of Renewal. No joke.
If you’re doing raid content like Trial of the Crusader or Icecrown, I have to recommend Glyph of Beacon of Light. The mana savings is just absolutely incredible. Here’s the post where I decided to start using it. Having said that, I still miss my Glyph of Holy Shock.
And as for your last minor glyph, I like the mana savings for kings given by Glyph of Blessing of Kings. I am almost always buffing kings and I got very, VERY tired of buffing half my mana bar away back in my previous guild when buffing prior to Sarth3D attempts, so I got this glyph. Now that I’m in this guild, I still generally buff kings, and that mana savings is important in the case of a mid-battle rez, either from a soulstone, an ankh or a battle rez, since I basically have to buff them with kings as soon as they pop up.
Ultimately, what spec you go with should be dictated by what content you’re doing. I kept a ret sub-spec well into Ulduar and it served me well. If you’re thinking of changing your spec around, spend a bit of time doing your current content and think about how you could better use the other spec in that situation.
Your glyphs should be dictated by your circumstances as well. If you’re bombing Holy Lights all the time, trying to keep your tanks up on Gormok the Impaler in 25-man Trial of the Grand Crusader, the Glyph of Seal of Wisdom is going to come in very, very handy.
That does it for this very first Holy How-to for PVE Paladins post! Thanks for reading (or at least skimming?) this insanely long post. I hope it was helpful for you!