Holy Paladin Primer: Part 1, Talents and Glyphs

I’ve been working on a megapost about the things DPS players can do to help their healers in 5-man heroics, with a (fingers crossed!) comprehensive breakdown of class abilities. Expect that next week. I decided to delay it for this post, because several people have asked me to write a “basics of being a Holy Paladin in Cataclysm” guide.

“What?” said I, “You mean not everyone has been following every beta build from the moment it was data-mined? Not mentally formulating plans for release for the past several months? … Oh!” It turns out that not everyone shares my crippling social anxiety abundant freetime. I guess that’s why Oestrus and Lilitharien have guides for their specs. It all comes together now.

So, here we are, in the still-early days of an expansion that has changed healing more substantially than it has ever changed before. And moreover, it’s changed Holy Paladins more than they’ve ever changed before. But don’t worry; ignore any doomsaying you may have seen on the forums. We’ve emerged from the Cataclysm with a refreshing playstyle and a more-than-adequate toolbox.

Let’s talk about it.  

Actually, click the "Continue Reading" button below.



The big question: how do I spec?

Part of the new Cataclysm talent system is that you have to spend at least 31 points in your primary tree, in our case Holy. Specs will always vary depending on your needs, the content you’re doing, and so forth. For now, we’ll focus on an all-purpose PVE spec. Here’s how I’d do that.

That’s basically the core of a holy spec. I won’t go into detail about most of the talents selected, simply because they’re obvious and there’s no other choice (Arbiter of the Light, Blazing Light, and Denounce obviously have no place in a PVE build.) You’ll notice that I’ve only spent 28 points. You have 3 more to spend, and one of them should be Light of Dawn. So what to do with the 2 flex points? Well, you have four good options.

Last Word: For the core of the build, we spent 1 point to move on to the next tier. Taking the second point is a viable option, as it will almost guarantee a critical heal when your target is below 35% health. Why wouldn’t you take this last point? Light of Dawn. Because Light of Dawn transfers through Beacon of Light as well as procing Protector of the Innocent (which ALSO transfers through Beacon) it’s usually a better use of Holy Power than Word of Glory for PVE purposes, so long as you can hit at least a couple people with it.

Enlightened Judgements: Again, we spent 1 point in this in the core build. With even a moderate amount of spirit, a single point will hit cap your melee abilities—notably Judgement, which is key to our mana regen. Therefore, the second point only gives you a bigger heal and 5 yards of Judgement range. That’s not to say this isn’t a good choice. Doubling your Enlightened Judgements heal means that you double its Beacon transfer (presumably to your tank.) Since you’ll want to Judge as often as possible, this is a valuable buffer for GCDs that would be otherwise spent not healing.

Paragon of Virtue: This is our cooldown combo pack. Hand of Sacrifice is an excellent damage reduction cooldown. In some sense, you’re not reducing the damage, just shuffling it around. But with Protector of the Innocent reliably healing you with every heal you cast, you’re basically free to use Hand of Sac whenever you need to. I often try to keep it on cooldown, making this talent’s reduction extremely useful. On top of that, you bring your Avenging Wrath down from 3 minutes to 2. Again, if you keep this ability on cooldown, this is an incredible gain. On the other hand, if you tend to save it for “just the right moment,” you might not gain anything from this at all. Also worth mentioning is the reduction on Divine Protection, which is now essentially our own personal Barkskin. (Or, if you like the glyph, our own personal Anti-Magic Shell.)

Blessed Life: While this is primarily a PVP talent, it procs in PVE too. I’d love to be able to say “single-target abilities proc it, DoTs and damage auras do not” and that’s… mostly true. It really comes down to how any given boss ability is coded, and unfortunately that’s not always uniform. A comprehensive list of what does and does not proc Blessed Life would be (could be!) a post of its own.

Once you’ve spent your last 3 points (2 + Light of Dawn), you’re ready to decide what to do with the rest of your life. Er, the rest of your points. Obviously you can go back and take any of the above talents from Holy, but since you’re at 31, you also have access to the low-hanging fruits of Retribution and Protection. And there are a few juicy ones.

Divinity: 6% healing done is not too shabby. Another 6% on yourself (they stack multiplicatively when you heal yourself) is great. But what really makes it is that it affects Protector of the Innocent, which transfers via Beacon. You’re buffing every little PotI heal by taking this, on top of its more obvious benefits. Essentially a no-brainer.

Eternal Glory: This talent is tricky. It’s very good, as Word of Glory is mana-free, so a 30% chance to get another one is yet more free healing. I will never disagree with the taking of this talent, though I do not take it myself. Its downsides are similar to those of Last Word—if you mostly use Light of Dawn instead of Word of Glory, this does very little for you.

Crusade: Holy Shock is basically the linchpin of our spec’s wheel. It leads to Infusion of Light, it builds the Holy Power we need to heal efficiently, it’s instant and cheap. Unfortunately it doesn’t heal for very much. Crusade boosts that to “about 30% more than not very much.” But! As we use Holy Shock so often (as soon as it’s off cooldown in ideal situations) the gains from this talent are substantial.

Improved Judgement: You don’t need this talent. You can get by without it. It’s a quality of life thing that’s irrelevant in some encounters and crucial in others. The big reason you’d want this is to get to later Ret talents.

Pursuit of Justice: I love this talent. I was so sad when sub-specing Prot became better in Wrath, and I couldn’t have it anymore. But hey, we can have it again. And it even gives you Holy Power when you get stunned, feared, or immobilized. It’s really up to you how important an extra 7% movement speed is (over the alternative, Lavawalker.) It does free you up to use a different boot enchant. I like haste, myself.

Rule of Law: I only mention this because it used to be viable. It used to boost the critical effect chance of Holy Shock and Word of Glory. Now it’s only Word of Glory. You certainly can take it, but I wouldn’t. All the previous discussion about Word of Glory being eclipsed by Light of Dawn still applies, and 3 talent points for 15% crit on a single spell is a pretty costly investment, unless you use that spell a lot.

So there you go. Take the core spec, mix and match your optional choices, and you’ve got a solid PVE Holy spec. Now you just need some glyphs.


Seriously, I always think of this when slotting glyphs.


Primes are easy. Seal of Insight for its straightforward healing increase, Holy Shock for more delicious Infusion of Light procs, and then either Word of Glory or Divine Favor, whichever you like better.


This is where it gets hard for us. There are a lot of good options.

Glyph of Cleansing: Cleanse costs a lot. 20% off is great, especially for 5-mans, where there’s often a lot of cleansing to do. In terms of raiding, it’ll depend on the boss. Great for when they resurrect Yogg-Saron.

Glyph of Divinity: This glyph is currently bugged and always procs twice, giving 20% mana rather than 10%. Obviously this is crazy-good and currently a must-have. But once it’s fixed, it’ll still be a very nice perk on top of our most powerful heal.

Glyph of Divine Plea: Another 5% mana is nice. If you can find time to Divine Plea, this’ll help.

Glyph of Light of Dawn: This, like its cousins Glyph of Circle of Healing and Glyph of Wild Growth, is a great glyph. It’s of limited use in 5-mans (though it can catch an extra pet or ghoul) but essential for raid healing.

Glyph of Lay on Hands: 3 minutes is a nice reduction, but ask yourself if having it every 7 minutes instead of every 10 will really increase the number of attempts you’ll have it available. And it’ll be a rare encounter that allows more than one LoH, glyphed or not.

Glyph of Divine Protection: Most raid damage is magical.

And some bad choices that might look good:

Glyph of Beacon of Light: I do use this glyph in PVP, but in PVE you’ll rarely have to move Beacon and its cheap mana cost and 5-minute duration make reapplication often unnecessary and always inexpensive.

Glyph of the Long Word: Believe me, I want a HoT too, but this is not the way to do it. It doesn’t increase the amount healed, it’s got a criminally short duration, and it reduces the mastery shield you’d apply with a singular, larger heal.

Glyph of the Ascetic Crusader: If you’re using Crusader Strike to generate holy power, you don’t care about mana efficiency anyway (hint: it’s not a good trade) and are going solely for multitarget throughput. There are better options.


Insight, Kings, Might. Nothing else is useful, and none of those are even all that important. Paladins get the shaft when it comes to minor glyphs.

So, once you’ve made your choices, shelled out whatever exorbitant prices the scribes are charging, and navigated the shiny new glyph menu, you’re done! You are now a Holy Paladin, and even better, you’re a Holy Paladin who can defend the talent choices you’ve made in a thoughtful way.

Of course, using the right spec will only get you so far. You have to, you know, actually cast spells. And put away that two-hander. But my blogging colleague Oestrus is right; you’ve got to break these guide posts up. I can barely listen to myself blather on at this point. I can only imagine how you’re faring.

So join me next post when we delve into…

Until then, I am happy to answer any questions or objections you may have in the comments.

Post-script: A Word on Tower of Radiance:

Ever since Tower of Radiance was nerfed in an stealthy hotfix to remove HP gains from Holy Light on the Beacon, people have been debating its usefulness. Many paladins in high-end raiding guilds are even dropping it entirely. You’ll notice I do include it in my core spec above. Why? Well, because there is one situation in which it will not be useful: when you are in a raid, assigned to healing the raid, or healing multiple tanks (using the Beacon transfer to support a second tank.)

Unsurprisingly, those high-end raiding paladins are almost always in that position. Your average paladin, though, is likely still running 5-mans at least some of the time. And in 5-mans, you will need to cast Divine Light on your Beacon target sometimes… probably even Flash of Light too. And it’s those times (when damage is more than moderate) that mana will be an issue, and ToR will be a much-needed efficiency boost, letting you pump out more mana-free heals when it counts.

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