Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Leveling a Shadow Priest, 1-57

Let's get the basics out of the way first. Get this through your head right now and you'll have a much easier time of things:

Even though you are a Shadow Priest, you will spend most of your pre-Outland dungeon time as the primary healer.

Here's the thing: until you get to Outland, going Shadow is the only way you're going to be able to solo. You might have Holy Fire in your rotation in the early levels, but you will drop it as soon as you get Shadowform. The other specs, Holy and Discipline, don't do damage quickly enough to let you solo without lots and lots of downtime. As Shadow, you should be able to do 3-5 mob pulls before you have to sit down and drink. The other specs? Forget about it.

The catch to Shadow is that while it is great for soloing, you don't really bring all that much damage to a group setting in your early levels. And the really cool Vampiric Embrace and Vampiric Touch that you can do? They return health and mana based on how much damage you can do. So while they may be great for keeping you topped off while soloing, they just aren't all that useful in a group setting until Outland. I know, it's hard to get your head around, but it's true.

So ... be prepared to be the primary healer until you get to Outland. Get used to it.

In fact, I'd say it's a good thing. As a Priest, you definitely need to understand both how to heal and how to manage the threat that comes with healing. Healing is hard. There are going to be plenty of times post-70 when your primary healer is going to go down. You have the opportunity to keep it from being a wipe by popping out of Shadowform and tossing a few heals.

I am not saying that you have to be great at it (personally, I am a horrible healer), but you need to understand when to use a Flash Heal, when to use a Greater Heal, and when to Shield and Renew. The only way you're going to get that knowledge is to spend a lot of time healing in your early levels.

Got that? Now for the good news.

Even though you are healing, your full Shadow spec and gear are just fine.

Honest. I did primary healer duties all the way through 68 and Auchindoun. I never geared for healing -- everything I had on was for my Shadow spec. But, Priests are such great healers to begin with that it doesn't matter. Gear and spec for full Shadow and don't worry about whether or not you'll be able to keep everyone vertical until very late 60s.

Having said all of that, you'll see that I currently have 2 points in Healing Focus. Get this early on -- it will save your bacon in both solo and groups.

I'm going to reprint something I posted a while ago. Here are some tips for being a primary healer, even when you are full Shadow.

As we're working our way to the instance, I make sure everyone knows:

"I have plenty of water, so we won't have to pause more than 15 seconds between fights."

Do not be afraid to use a water after every single fight. Water is cheap compared to what you're getting from the instance -- even a single Greed drop will generally pay for all of the water you use. I always keep 80+ on me. You might need even more for a longer instance. Hoping for a Mage to provide water, or trying to do it on the cheap and count on your Spirit to get you through will only frustrate everyone.

"Please keep an eye on my mana -- if I'm at less than 2/3, don't pull or I might not be able to keep everyone up."

You may have to say this several times. Remember that many tanks don't pay attention to anything but their combos and think that they can just keep chain-pulling their way through the instance. Don't get frustrated -- it's just the way it is.

"Please don't tank if you aren't a tank."

I've been in more than a few groups where a bored Lock or Shammy tries to get in the soup and tank. If there's a lot of AOE damage going on (proximity bombs in BF, for example) then you're going to have a heart attack trying to keep everyone up. I've gone so far as to reinforce this later with "my main priority is the tank -- if you go down and you're not the tank, I'm not going to feel bad".

Don't be afraid to ask for backup healing help.

Is there a Shammy, Druid, or Pally in the group? There's nothing wrong with pulling them off of whatever else they are doing and having them do backup heals. If they don't want to help ("but I'm not specced to heal!") gently remind them that neither are you, but that you can't guarantee that there won't be a wipe. You'll almost always get resistance for the same reason that you're Shadow instead of Holy -- healing's just not as much fun to most people. But, especially for bosses, sometimes you gotta do it. Tell them that you will worry about the tank and off-tank, and they just have to keep their eye on the off-tank and everyone else. (Yes, you are doubling-up on the off-tank, but in theory you shouldn't have to heal the off-tank all that much.)To sum up: communicate. Talk to your group.

As for efficiency:

Remember the 5SR (five-second rule).

You want to heal in bursts, not continuously like you do DPS. It'll feel weird and you'll have to remember that your goal of "Always Be Casting" as Shadow does not in any way work as a healer.

Try to stick to your Greater Heal.

It's got the best mana efficiency and bang for your buck. If you've got a Druid that can Ennervate, a couple of Flash Heals aren't unwarranted, but you'll almost never want to use Flash otherwise.

Renew is your friend.

Yeah, it's not as mana-efficient as a real heal, but it's instant and it will counteract all but seriously heavy damage.

In non-emergencies ...

You generally shouldn't worry about bubbling people. Especially later, bubble is just too much mana and threat for what will probably only get swatted away in a single hit.

In emergencies ...

Bubble, Renew, Greater Heal, Greater Heal. (And have your finger on the Fade.)

In dire emergencies ...

Bubble, Flash Heal, Renew, Greater Heal.

You will be tempted ...

... to use your SWP+VE to regen health for the entire party. If you're not at a boss, don't bother. It sounds nice, but there's just not enough benefit. Don't even think about VT, even for bosses. You're playing the role of healer -- VT won't do jack for you. Save your mana.

You have a group heal (PoH)

But also remember that it is only mana-efficient when 3 or more party members have significant damage. You can get a pair of Renews down faster and with the same effect. (And if your party is behaving, no more than two people should ever be taking damage at a time.)

Prayer of Healing (group heal) gets even harder to get off in later levels -- the damage just comes too fast. Be absolutely certain that you can make it happen. I've found that it's most useful for bosses, but not much else.

No really, save your mana.

Unless you are in an uber group that somehow barely needs you to the point that you are bored, don't try to "help" with debuffs or DoTs. You're a healer, not a fighter.

Try to keep an eye on pets ...

But remember that your main focus is the tank. Hunters get especially vocal when you "let" their pet die. (The pet comes back unhappier and has to be fed more.) Shrug it off and remember that Hunters are wicked overpowered in PvE, leading to some Hunters not putting the time in to bother to learn how to control their pets beyond just "target and attack", and if their pet dies it's because they're probably not controlling it as well as they should be. (And yes, they can heal their own pets, just not as efficiently as you can.) Locks are generally less concerned about it.

Late-Game Heals

Binding Heal (heal you and me) is a big chunk of awesomeness, especially when you accidentally take damage. Prayer of Mending (bouncing heal) is similarly awesome, especially when everyone has a mob.

You may not need an entire set of healing gear, but ...

A few items wouldn't hurt. Get Outfitter or ItemRack or some other outfit management addon. Set it up as follows:
  • Your default outfit should be healing gear. Yes, really.
  • Set your DPS outfit to come on when you go into Shadowform.
This will mean that whenever you pop out of Shadowform you will automatically put on your healing gear. Logically, pretty much the only reason you'll ever leave Shadowform is to heal someone, so this makes sense. If you do it this way instead of the reverse, you never have to remember to manually switch outfits. Just set it and forget it.

Once you get the hang of it ...

Use Mind Control liberally when you can find mobs that heal. It's better to keep them from healing other mobs and use their mana than to use your own. Yes, you will die a few times trying to get it right.

Bind your trinkets to your heals with macros.

You've probably already done it for your Shadow spells, but it's worth it to do it for healing, as well. Just be careful -- extra healing means extra threat. Personally, I bind mine to Flash Heal -- if the situation is desperate enough that I need to use Flash Heal, I'm probably not worried about threat. And the trinket will last long enough for the Greater Heal or Prayer of Healing that I'm about to throw down after the Flash.

Pop your Shadowfiend early (half mana) on boss fights.

I tend to forget about SF when I'm healing, and damage tends to get heavier the further you get into the fight.

Get a trinket that reduces aggro.

Fade is all fine and good, but the cooldown is killer (and most agree that ImpFade isn't worth it). I have the Hypnotist's Watch and it has saved me more than a few times when my Fade was still on cooldown.

1 comment:

IrishDoom said...

I only just found your blog due to a comment you posted on mine (http://parttimedruid.com), but I already found a very helpful post for my up and coming Shadow Priest. Nice work!