My latest insanity project have consisted of levelling all the healer classes to level 100. This is technically not a new project since it has been an obsession since – wait, I’m going to need some tea for this.
Okay, one earl grey ready for drinking. So, ever since I started out as a Mistweaver I have loved the spec to bits and pieces. But back in the panda days, or more precisely 5.4 in this case, you were sort of a crazy person to main a fist-tornadoing melee healer. It was a new spec that had trouble finding its niche in the healer rooster, other than simply being able to throw some punches. Meanwhile, the Disc Priest were buffed beyond reason coupled with being the best-suited type of healer for the boss mechanics. Our health pools were relatively small back then and our heals relatively large. The raid’s health whiplashed back and forth in the matter of seconds. Disc’s shields were always used to full effect while throughput healers had to have reflexes quick as lightning to be able to heal anything at all.
Mistweaver healing was seldom used efficiently because of this, and I would argue that Shamans suffered somewhat of the same problem. Paladins still had shields and Druids HoT’s went into effect as soon as anyone’s health dropped. Holy Priests had their mana regen broken beyond repair and was incredibly hard to handle without going OoM (except the starshine that solo healed Garrosh!)
If anyone ever mentioned how to improve as a Mistweaver on a forum, they immediately got the advice to reroll Disc or Druid. Which was sad, because even though Disc were overpowered, it was never a good idea to stack them. You needed a healer team composed by different specs to fully take advantage of the plethora of cooldowns that were available. Mistweavers could still fit into such a team.
But I was curious on the other healer classes, not because I wanted to reroll, simply because I wanted to know the mechanics of those healers and how they worked in the large scheme of things. So I levelled all healer classes, or technically I got 9 characters to level 90. The only two classes I didn’t finish all the way was Rogue and Warlock. But I’ll get to those.
I tried my hand at healing as a Shaman and a Druid but I never really got around to do any in-depth studies. I was still figuring the nooks and crannies of the Mistweaver spec back then and had my hands full.
Fast-forward to the Draenor expansion. The healer rooster finally became somewhat balanced (at least compared to before) and healing had never been so much fun. Now I really started thinking about healer compositions and what type of healers are best suited for each other. To explore this avenue I had to start levelling my characters and get first-hand experience. I had reluctantly levelled my Druid after the race to lvl 100 with my Mistweaver and was mildly amused to go through the whole process again.
Then something happened. Yeah, heirlooms. In a menu. That you could collect. Oh boy, how much didn’t your OCD twitch when you saw those empty spaces in your collection menu. I just had to have heirlooms at least for the chars I meant to level to 100. One bankruptcy later, I was quite loaded. With heirlooms that is. Gold had become the stuff of farfetched dreams.
But now I just had to level my characters to justify such spending! So I did. With a vengeance. I got my Priest, Paladin and Shaman up from 90 to level 100 in three days. And here are all my pretties;
I love healing and I love testing out all the possible and quirky ways to go about it. It took some time to figure out each spec and I’m only halfway to get a complete grasp of them. But that’s just understanding the basics. I’ll be the first one to testify that to heal basic challenges versus really putting your healer to the test are two complete different animals. I will never fully understand the depth of each class until I’ve done some really hard content with each and single one. But that’s a future project. Right now I’m only focusing on the basic mechanics and spells to understand the larger picture.
Let’s start with the Restoration Shaman. Shamans are a classic throughput healers and highly niched to reactive healing. I’ve always liked shaman’s healing animations; all that sparkly blue water. Unfortunately, I never took a fancy to shaman’s gameplay. It’s hard to put my finger on it, but I think the simplicity of Chain Heal and Riptide spam have never been really compelling. But there is a huge potential to dig in with all the available totems, so I’m fairly sure that Shamans are more fun at higher difficulties.
Their mastery allow them to heal more depending on their targets health. If the player is at low health, the Shaman heals will become larger. So they are very neat to have in hard progression content where you spend a lot of time on low health. I also understand why it’s one of the classes that are recommended for new healers. It’s straightforward and easy to get a grasp of.
Holy Priest is also a throughput class and equally straightforward. But while Shamans are bound by their cast spells and totems, Holy Priests combine HoTs with a lot of sparkly glitter that jumps around between players. I progressed as a Holy Priest way back in Cata and I remember it being quite a lot of fun. It seems that not much have changed mechanic-wise with the spec since then. There’s the Lightwell which heal automatically injured players, and the Prayer of Mending that jumps around with a life of its own. The main HoT Renew is a strong periodic that is backed up by Holy’s mastery; Echo of Light. It is a HoT that procs by the Priest’s direct healing spells and is quite neat.
What makes Holy Priest unique are their Chakras. They work like stances, of which there are three; one for single-target healing, one for AoE healing and one for offense. Each stance unlocks a new ability while also buffing their current spells to accommodate each niched Chakra. Unfortunately, there’s not much reason to switch actively while in an encounter. Holy Priest usually keeps to one of the Chakras during the same fight, as I’ve understood it. But it still gives a little potential for some fun gameplay!
Their cousin spec, Discipline, is a whole ‘nother type of healer. Discs main niche is absorption shields, which they apply both actively and automatically. Their passive skill Divine Aegis converts all crits and multistrike heals automatically into a protective shield on the target. They also have their very strong Power Word: Shield ability coupled with the stronger cooldown version Power Word: Barrier. Oh and they have Clarity of Will which is a super strong shield best used on tanks. Discs love shields and they’re always happy to put some more shields on their shields!
Discipline Priests are also offensive healers. When they cast Penance, Power Word: Solace and Smite on their enemies, they Atonement heal their allies, kind of like Eminence, but stronger. Much of their toolkit is also instant spells or castable while moving (Penance is if it’s glyphed). So basically, they are just incredibly strong healers.
When I tried Disc in Proving Grounds I cleared Silver without a bother. But I can’t say I got a feel for the spec. It’s hard to estimate how much overhealing you are doing, which in Discs version of healing would be that the absorption shields fall off unused. I really had no idea what I was doing, but apparently it worked. I just don’t know how. I’ve always played as a throughput healer, so this was completely new.
Restoration Druid is familiar territory however, though I had never played the spec before. It is a slightly more predictive healer spec than reactive, since some HoTs should be up on the targets in preparation for heavy damage. But really, Druid’s toolkit is a cornucopia of Heal over Time spells, of which so many are instant. They are undeniably blessed with the ability to heal on the move. Which is why Druids are always chosen for the crap jobs like jumping up and help on conveyor belts, arena stands, Iron Horde ships etc. They also possess the strongest raid cooldown Tranquillity, which thankfully is a channelled spell. They can’t have it too easy, now can they?
Druids are not unlike the other throughput healers otherwise. All the classic healing spells have just been converted to instant HoT spells. There still are the expensive ones and the cheap efficient ones. It’s fairly straightforward and it dubs Druids to the second, or maybe first, class new healers should try their hand at. You won’t get that punished if you screw up a healing rotation or spell selection, so it’s great for new ones.
Okay, last spec. The Holy Paladins. This is the spec I’ve had least experience with. I had never touched it before and I had very seldom healed together with another Holy Paladin. All I knew was that had Beacons on tanks and they were a hybrid throughput / shield healers. Like Mistweavers, they rock a secondary resource system called Holy Power. But unlike Mistweavers, they are not equally dependent of it. Chi unlocks our two primary healing spells while refunding some of our mana with Mana Tea. Holy Power unlock some spells, but not necessarily the strongest ones. For AoE it’s Light of Dawn and for single target it’s Word of Glory or Eternal Flame if you have the talent.
They also have Flash of Light and Holy Light that are single target spells that don’t contribute to Holy Power. However, the spell Holy Radiance does, which is a mana-costly AoE spell. It also gives the buff Daybreak which turns your Holy Shock into an AoE Spell. Yeah, as you can see, it’s a bit more complicated than your normal healing specs. The shields I mentioned earlier are quite simple however. Holy Paladin’s mastery is called Illuminated Healing which is an absorption shield that is procced on each normal heal, equal to your mastery percentage. If I do Holy Shock on myself that does 100 healing and I have 20% mastery, I will get an Illuminated Healing shield that equals 20% of that 100 healing.
Then there’s the bacon- sorry, Beacon. If you place the beacon on a tank, that tank will receive 50% of all healing you do. Period. That means all AoE healing and multistrike, everything you cast on your raid will also heal your tanks for 50% of that amount. It also refunds some of your mana if you heal the beacon target directly. Hello, tank healers!
To wrap things up and but a bow on it; here are some of my first impressions. Paladin and Discs are great to have in a raid because they stabilize the raid’s health and also is great for healing the tanks. Holy Priest, Resto Druid, Shaman and Mistweavers are throughput healers that work best when the raid is at low health. If you look at logs, throughout healers spike their healing at chosen moments and they can burst quite hard. I think a combination of the two types are best for any sort of healing composition.
Shaman, Druids and Holy Priest are quite easy to understand and is a great choice for new healers. Disc, Holy Paladin and of course Mistweavers are slightly more complicated to start with. I included Discs not because of their healing spells, which are few and easy to use properly, but more because healing with just shields is not as easy as just react at incoming damage and put some healing water on it. It requires a little more predictive thinking and anticipation to heal efficiently. Holy Paladins and Mistweavers are harder because they have a secondary resource system and both have spells that interact with each other in complex ways.
I just realised that this post grew to thrice the intended size… Ops. Well, these are my first impressions and I’ll probably continue this discussion in the near future when I have more experience of all the specs. If you have any experience with healing in the other specs, please share your stories and tell me what you think of them as well!