Holy Paladin Basics: Getting Started

I am often asked the question, "How do you heal as a Holy Paladin?" It is a question that is hard to explain in the space that Twitter gives, or even within the space of a single post. Often, the guides that are written are done so with max-level characters who are tackling heroics or raiding content in mind, and the new, low-level Holy Paladin is left in the dark. Holy Paladin Basics is a continuing series of small, specific posts aimed at teaching new Paladin healers how to effectively use the tools that they're given to tackle any situation.

The wet snow was still clinging to the young Dwarf's tattered and mismatched hand-me-down chainmail as he nervously stood in front of Azar Stronghammer, the Paladin who had been his mentor since leaving the comfort and safety of his home in Anvilmar. "Ye've done well, young Paladin, ta make it this far," Azar said, a stern, yet approving look on his weathered face. "But the dangers o' Dun Morogh are jus' the beginning of yer journeys. It's now time to choose which path of the Light ye're to follow. Choose wisely, young one, but choose quickly! Me ale needs me attention!"
Kneel. Kneel before Zod Uther.
At level 10, the fledgling Paladin is faced with the difficult choice of which talent specialization to pursue. Unlike most classes in World of Warcraft, the Paladin has three completely different roles that he can fulfill: Tanking, Healing or Melee Damage Dealing.

Putting the first Talent Point into the Holy Tree and choosing the life of a healer means that you are taking upon yourself the responsibility to keep those around you alive. It means that you are going to thrive in groups, and there will always be an insatiable demand for your services at every level and in every situation.

A Holy Paladin is one of the most powerful healers in the game. Equally at home in small groups or large raids, they bring lot of unique abilities and utility spells in addition to their healing. In a raid setting, a Paladin's natural niche is healing the Tanks, as the direct nature of the healing spells coupled with Beacon of Light are excellent for keeping up a single target taking extreme damage. A Holy Paladin is certainly capable of healing the Raid as well, but has fewer tools to do it than the other healing classes.


All Paladins get the following abilities as soon as they choose the Holy talent tree:

Holy Shock

An instant cast, multi-use spell as it can be used as an attack or a heal. It generates one point of Holy Power upon use. As an attack it does a moderate amount of damage and is a very useful addition to the admittedly limited offensive potential of a Holy Paladin. This spell, when used in a Holy DPS build, gives that spec it's name: The Shockadin.

As a heal, it is an exceptional spell and forms the backbone of our healing arsenal. Healing for a decent amount and generating Holy Power, this is something that a Holy Paladin will want to cast as much as possible. It has a short 6 second cooldown, and because it is instant is one of the few heals that a Holy Paladin can cast while moving.


Allows 50% of your mana regeneration from Spirit to continue while in combat. This ability is a freebie that every healer gets, but it's absolutely crucial for a healer to be effective. Ignore all of the other abilities - this, more than anything, is why a Holy Paladin will be better at healing than a Retribution or Protection Paladin at the lower levels.

Walk in the Light

Increases the effectiveness of healing spells by 10% and removes the cooldown while increasing the effectiveness of Word of Glory by 30%. Another ability that makes a Holy Paladin a much stronger healer than the other specs.

Illuminated Healing (Mastery)

This ability places a shield on the target of each of your Direct Heals (as of 4.2: Flash of Light, Holy Light, Divine Light, Holy Shock, Word of Glory) for a fixed percentage of the heal. It is augmented by Mastery Rating, which can increase the size of each shield. Trained at level 80, this ability is not going to matter much to a levelling Holy Paladin.


Regardless of your class, levelling as a healer is not a challenge for the faint of heart. Questing will be a lot slower and more difficult than with a Retribution or even a Protection talent specialization. Enemies of all sorts will chuckle as you tickle them for virtually no damage with your weapon. Holy Shock will be your best friend, but enemies will seem like they take forever to die and it's likely that you will become intimately familiar with each of the questing zones many graveyards. You'll probably know the Spirit Healers on a first name basis.

On the other hand, a low level Holy Paladin is a beast at healing in dungeons.  As such, your best levelling path is through instances using the Random Dungeon Finder starting at level 15.

If your plan is to heal once you reach Level 85 (and I can't imagine there is a reason to level as Holy if it isn't), there are several advantages to levelling through Dungeons:

1) Low level dungeons are easy to heal and provide great experience and gear. Even without any guild perks or heirlooms to help boost Experience Point gain, a single dungeon run at low levels will provide a sizable chunk of a level, if not more. As well, the dungeoneering Paladin will almost certainly be clad in the best gear available for any particular level, which makes healing even easier.

2) Levelling as a healer will provide a greater understanding of the healing dynamics of the class. Rather than levelling as another spec and choosing Holy later, someone starting as a Holy Paladin will be able to spend time with each ability as they are learned, and will be able to see how each spell relates in function to the other spells in the toolbox. It is the best way to get an intuitive knowledge of all of the spells in a class's arsenal, and will ease the learning curve in the higher-end content.



Paladins have a great deal of flexibility when it comes to levelling gear as they are able to wear any type of armour available. Mail armour is preferred until level 40 when it's possible to train Plate. However, until level 50 when the Plate Armor Specialization ability becomes trainable (which gives an additional 5% mana when wearing all plate armour), a Holy Paladin can and should use any armour type that is an upgrade.

Holy Paladins are unique in that they are the only class to have an armour class all to themselves. Plate with Intellect (or Mail with Intellect below level 40) is not desired by any other class that can use it, consequently it can be somewhat harder to find. The advantage is that in a group or raid there will be less competition for that gear, giving you a better chance to get it.

Holy Paladins are also one of only two healing classes that can use Shields, although they can also equip any type of off-hand item other than weapons. Shields with healing stats (Intellect, see below) are rare and precious objects while levelling, and it's more than likely a shield will get replaced much less often than any other type of gear short of a Relic (which you won't see until around level 50).


INTELLECT is your highest priority stat, and should be on every single piece of your gear. Get used to stacking as much of this stat as you can, because it is your best friend from now on. This stat not only determines how much mana you have, but also your spell power which increases how big your heals are. In addition, Intellect factors into mana regeneration. More Intellect is always better.

While levelling, all the other stats are relatively meaningless and Intellect should be prioritized over everything else. My personal strategy is to equip any gear that has more Intellect, even if it is a lower item level or has worse secondary stats. Until you hit Northrend, no other stat matters.

However, since you're going to get secondary stats regardless, it is useful to know what they are and what they do.

SPIRIT is your regeneration stat. It allows you to increase the amount of mana you regenerate both in an out of combat. It's a very good stat to have if you are having problems with your mana when healing dungeons. Never, ever stack Spirit instead of Intellect as Intellect contributes to your regeneration as well.

HASTE is a throughput stat that increases the speed of your heals and lowers your Global Cooldown, allowing your to cast more spells in a given period of time. This is a great stat to have, but at low levels you will never be able to acquire enough of it to make a significant difference.

CRITICAL STRIKE RATING increases the chance that your heals will land as a critical strike which will make them heal for 100% more. This is nice to have, but it's unpredictable and most healers tend to favour the predictable healing increases that Haste provides instead.

MASTERY is a stat that you will start seeing on gear once you hit level 80 and move into the Cataclysm levelling zones. It increases the effectiveness of your Illuminated Healing shields. As such, it isn't something that you need to worry about for a while, but once you're at level 80 it's generally regarded as the least important of the secondary stats for a Holy Paladin.

Other stats, like STRENGTH, AGILITY, HIT RATING, SPELL PENETRATION or DODGE are stats that will not help your healing at all, and so have very little use for a Holy Paladin. STAMINA will increase your Hit Points, and therefore your survivability, but is not something that a Healer should go out of their way to gear for; your Tank should be taking the large majority of damage in an instance.

We will discuss the various different Secondary Stats from the level 85 perspective later in MASTERY CLASS: GEARING AND STATS FOR ENDGAME CONTENT (coming soon).

The Holy Toolbox: Spells and Spell Selection


  1. I agree with everything you've said about how awesome holy paladins are, the gear, etc... but I disagree big time about the questing.

    I never played a holy paladin before Cata because I tried leveling a druid resto once and decided questing as a healer was just masochistic. So I don't know how hard it was then. However, I've found holy paladins to be nearly immortal in a questing environment in Cata. I tried a ret pally for comparison. My ret paladin does great damage, but I'm screwed if I accidently pull too many mobs. And since they added a cooldown to Word of Glory (which is removed if you spec Holy), I can't rely on that too much in those situations.

    My holy paladins kill mobs slightly slower that ret... a couple of seconds. They can heal themselves anytime they have the charges of Holy Power, especially since a Holy Paladin doesn't have anything except Word of Glory to spend that Holy Power on. If I pull too many mobs, or find myself in a place like Corrin's Crossing in the Plaguelands (where mobs will call other mobs to come help them) I'm mana efficient enough to keep fighting and healing myself so that I can survive those large groups that I see kill other players of the same level. My deaths tend to happen around level 8 or 9 when I get to those wendigo in Dun Morogh, and I find myself wanting to put it off just one more level because I know speccing Holy will make the difference and allow me to surivive it.

    Judgement, Crusader Strike, and Holy Shock work nicely for me until about a level or two before I can take the Denounce talent. I feel the strain just a little bit there, but it's not too difficult. Once I take Denounce, Exorcism becomes my best friend. On both of my holy paladins it seems to proc the free, instant cast Exorcism rather often. As much as the rotations have become very priority and proc based, I can pretty much count on using Exorcism in each combat once I have that talent.

  2. Lower level Holy Paladins function a lot like Protection Paladins. The main difference is healing yourself with Concentration aura.

    Denounce provides even more of your greatest strength: longevity. The damage reduction from removing crits is nice, too, but you can do a lot more damage with Exorcism spam than waiting for Shock to come off cooldown all day.

  3. I also wanted to get this linked for anyone coming over from another healing class:

    Notes For Any Other Class Learning to Paladin Heal

  4. Ok, done with the first article. Where's the next???

    I just started healing at 84 on my pally and find it wholly unlike the other healers I've played (Druid & Priest); it's much more...active.