Thursday, January 27, 2011

Reader Question: What Should I Play?

An entry a few days ago was linked by both Righteous Orbs and Wow Insider, so thanks to both of those sources for some new eyes. However, the more interesting thing that happened was a handful of e-mails and questions from those readers. Thanks for those, and I plan on answering some of the more interesting questions posted in comments on those websites and/or sent via e-mail. Like Mike Rowe on Dirty Jobs, give me suggestions, wind em up, and watch the words roll out on this pink platform.

Today's question comes from Darkdust on the Wow Insider comment board.  Darkdust asks:

I like healing quite a bit, but I've focused primarily on priest healing (both discipline and holy). I'm uncertain whether I'd like druid or paladin healing; can anyone point me to a good comparison of how each healing class / spec "feels"? I can read up on the technical differences, of course, but that's significantly different.

 Well there is one problem with this question, and that is that it is impossible to answer without looking at the technical differences.  After all, the technical differences define how the class plays and how the class feels.  But hopefully I can get you on the right track.

So if you've played priest of both healing varieties, the healing world has completely been open to you. With two full healing talent trees and more healing spells than Blizzard knows how to make useful, you have full utility to be a raid healer, a tank healer, a hybrid healer/DPS, or a PvP content master. Nobody is a master of each of these roles, and I am certain there is some role you enjoy more than any other. The other three healing classes are set up to succeed, but perhaps more clearly in one or two of these roles rather than all four.  These are the limits we play with when there is only one healing talent tree in a class.

As a baseline, the priest class has 18 total healing spells available, of which 8 are single target heals or absorbs (Flash Heal, Power Word Shield, Heal, Holy Word Serenity, Greater Heal, Binding Heal, Desperate Prayer, Smite with Atonement talent), 1 is a heal over time spell (Renew), 7 are area of effect healing spells (Prayer of Healing, Holy Nova, Prayer of Mending, Divine Hymn, Lightwell, Circle of Healing, Power Word Barrier), and 2 defensive cooldowns (Pain Suppression, Guardian Spirit).  So the one thing that priest healers lack is a diversity of options for heal over time spells. Nonetheless, some talents provide a heal over time effect addition to some of the other priest spells, so a small added amount away from these baseline spells is there. It remains the one true non-focus of priest healers though. Absorb spells act similarly to heal over time spells though, so there is that aspect to consider as well.

Turning to the druid, this class jokingly offers you an option to play the best four classes in wow, all rolled into one character. If you are choosing a main alt character, you really cannot go wrong with a druid because all four roles (tank in bear form, ranged DPS in moonkin form, melee DPS in cat form, and healing in caster/tree form). So if you want to have a character that can always do something different including healing, then this is probably the best choice for you although paladin comes a close second. Druids have 9 total healing spells available, of which 3.5 are single target heals (Healing Touch, half of Regrowth, Nourish, Swiftmend), 2.5 are heal over time spells (Rejuvenation, half of Regrowth, Lifebloom), 2 are area of effect healing spells (Tranquility, Wild Growth), and 1 defensive cooldown (Rebirth battle resurrection).

Druids have only half the tools that priests have, but it certainly does not feel that way when you play a restoration druid.  The restoration druid typically builds up one or more heal over time spells on targets that will take damage and then all the talents and spells like Nourish and Swiftmend play off the heal over time spells. Instead of reactive, you generally stay much more proactive in healing.  Thus, if you enjoy the shield capabilities maximized by discipline priests, then this healing style will definitely appeal to you. Furthermore, druid healers are ridiculously resilient and hard to kill in PvP content, so if that is your preference than this is perhaps an even better class than priest. Druids are also well suited to raid heal because the heal over time spells can be spread around and the druid also has excellent group healing spells. Tank healing is possible but not preferable with this class compared to how other classes are built in the raiding context. However, don't let anyone stop you from being a tank healing druid if that is your dream.  But we all have limited playtime, so druid is probably the best choice for raid healers and PvP fanatics.

Next up let's consider the shaman.  Shaman has both melee and ranged DPS offspec, so there's a bit more flexibility than priest but less than paladin and druid. On the healing front, shamans have 8 total healing spells available, of which 2 are single target heals (Healing Wave, Lesser Healing Wave), 2.5 are heal over time spells (Healing Stream Totem, Riptide, Earth Shield), 2.5 are area of effect healing spells (Healing Stream Totem, Chain Heal, Healing Rain), and 1 defensive cooldown (Reincarnation self-resurrection).

The shaman brings a lot of utility to a party even with other classes getting Heroism equivalents in Cataclysm.  The shaman is more than just a buff class, but the use of various totems can really add a lot of utility even as a healer. However, for straight healing abilities, the shaman has a couple fewer options than the druid.  Plus the class plays completely differently, as the best shaman healing spells are quick one-time heals instead of the heal-over-time build up and weaving style with druids. Shamans are also generally good raid healers thanks to the multiple area of effect abilities, but they can really shine in the hybrid DPS/healer role thanks to the two strong DPS talent trees to accompany the restoration talents. If either of those roles appeals to you, then shaman will be a good style fit.  Note that playing a shaman is probably the second hardest class to get the hang of behind priest, as I've found most people to think druid healing is easier to learn than either.

Finally, there is the paladin. Paladin is probably the easiest or most forgiving class to learn in the game, and provides many options at the end of the leveling curve.  Paladins, like druids, can tank, DPS, or heal. Paladin healing was too simple in the past, but Cataclysm has brought more diversity for the healers. Paladins have 12 total healing spells available, of which 5 are single target heals (Word of Glory, Holy Light, Flash of Light, Divine Light, Holy Shock), 0.5 are heal over time spells (Holy Radiance), 0.5 are area of effect healing spells (Holy Radiance), and 6 are defensive cooldowns (Lay on Hands, Hand of Protection, Divine Protection, Divine Shield, Hand of Sacrifice, Guardian of Ancient Kings).

As over half of these abilities are defensive cooldowns, a paladin normally only has the plurality of single target healing spells to rely on. Holy Radiance adds a nice second dimension to the healing, as Paladins were really limited to tank healing before.  However, paladins are still the kings of single target focused healing, more so than any other healing class.  If you enjoy being a tank healer, this is definitely the class for you.  With Holy Shock, Paladins can be respectable hybrid DPS/healers, and of course paladins are decent at PvP content as well.  All things considered, paladin could be the choice for you if you are looking for the polar opposite playstyle from priests. Paladins are simple and straightforward, but that can be a refreshing change of pace from the hectic priest lifestyle.

So in summary, like a good lawyer, the answer to your question Darkdustis "it depends."  When you move from a priest to some other healing class, you will sacrifice the do-it-all mentality of the priest class.  However, you may become more proficient in one or two fields than being a jack of all trades, so the trade-off is certainly worth it. No matter where you end up, I wish you the best of luck.  Remember, you can always reroll!

Send more questions to the email address above, and see you next week.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Have You Broken The Obsession?

Monday I took a look at crowd control, which is building block number one to learn or relearn as a healer or anyone else wanting success in Cataclysm content.  For those of us who healed in Wrath or even before, the whole "new" concept of triage healing is perhaps more than a little different than what we are used to.  After all, full green bars are good. Full green bars is what everyone expects...that's what we need to achieve as healers because that's what we always do. Top everyone off, even the DPS standing in the fire and the tank who did not use his cooldown. No matter, back to green...


This obsession with full green bars must be broken quickly or else you and the poor people you heal for will suffer through countless wipes. The second fastest way to run out of mana on every fight other than the lack of crowd control is overhealing. Every single point of healing that is wasted when a player is at full health is a point of healing that will not be available later in the fight. When heroics are overgeared, perhaps you can go back to obsessing over full green bars. But for the time being, group success depends on breaking this obsession spawned from Wrath and years of overhealing with no real consequence.

The problem is that overhealing and seeing green bars is like a soothing drug after all this time, a shot of nicotine or whatever other drug does the trick. It lures you back in, inciting you to waste your mana on unnecessary heals early in a fight. But you just have to accept that 50-60% or even lower is fine, as long as the players are stable and not at risk of dying based on a random boss or mob ability. Like with crowd control and marking mobs, once again knowing the fights is a great weapon so that you know exactly how much health is an appropriate baseline to keep players alive.  This may seem a bit like Russian roulette, but that's the beauty of triage!

You also need to consider potential attacks or mob crowd control that may take your heals offline for a few seconds. Assuming that the tank will go critical even with a cooldown when this happens, is the rest of the group high enough to sustain themselves in the interim?  Once again, instinct tells us to fill those bars full, but that is not correct.  The full green bar obsession, it is a temptress as always. 

Healing in Cataclysm may seem harder, but the truth is that it is only harder because it requires change. Some healers will adapt and continue to thrive in this new environment.  Others will not and pass on to other roles (tanks please) or other games entirely.  However, these ranks will be replaced by new healers who will probably find it easier because the built-in full green bar obsession is just not there.  Oh, to be one of those fresh new healers without a routine to break!  But the rest of us must grind on against the urge to fill those little green bars.

So remember, the limiting factor in many encounters is a healer's mana bar. Everything you and the other members of your party or raid do in a fight affects whether or not that mana bar will finish the fight at a comfortable 5-15% or a dead 0%.  New healers especially need to know that it is not always you that caused the wipe.  However, doing your best requires that triage healing is fully embraced.  Adios green bar obsession, hello Cataclysm healing.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Crowd Control for Healers

There's one primary difference in the LFG pick up groups that work well and those that do not: the use of crowd control! Blizzard has forced the content to be even harder than it was in Wrath so that all those abilities become useful again, including crowd control. Even in the normal dungeons, the amount of damage that rolls through a tank with two mobs active instead of four is a huge difference. This can prevent you from drinking every pull, which slows the group down and may cause impatience (rightly or wrongly). I recommended taking a PUG group by the reins when you queue up and find a tank or group not starting with the right crowd control. But most healers do not know how to do this without having been a tank first, and usually in pre-Wrath days. Information is power, and you need to know what to expect if you are calling the CC shots from the back. 

The first thing to realize is that every class does indeed have some crowd control. However, some are far more useful than others because they last longer or apply to more types of enemy mobs. Hence, the crowd control abilities of hunters, mages, and rogues are highly valued and are a nice extra task for the DPS classes. Let's begin with the DPS classes, which generally have the best crowd control. 

Mage - Polymorph - This ability turns a beast, critter, or humanoid into a small animal (sheep/turtle/etc.) for 50 seconds at maximum level. Generally used with the moon mob marker in most groups, although this assumption is subject to change.

Hunter - Freezing Trap - A freezing trap can trap any mob for 20 seconds, but requires the mob to run into the trap. Thus, the hunter must generally be experienced at positioning this trap in front of a mob that will run towards a pulling tank. The freezing trap can hit any type of mob, and a Survival Hunter has two talents (Trap Mastery and Resourcefulness) that extend the duration and reduce the cooldown of the trap to enable chain trapping indefinitely. Make sure to know whether a hunter can chain trap before assuming they can.

Rogue - Sap - At maximum level, sap can affect humanoids, beasts, demons, and dragonkin. Note that sap must be done prior to combat, so the rogue must lead with this ability. Sap lasts 60 seconds at maximum level.

Warlock - Fear, Banish, and Seduction - Although warlocks have three crowd control abilities, each of them are risky in instances or severely limited. Fear is repeatable to make a mob flee in fear infinitely, but in an instance this will generally lead to accidental pulling of more groups of mobs and a wipe. Hence, fear is very limited in application. However, the Glyph of Fear allows a Warlock to make a mob cower in place rather than run around wildly, which makes this one of the best CC abilities. Banish only applies to demons and elementals, but lasts for 30 seconds. Seduction is an ability only usable with the succubus pet, and it shuts down humanoids for 15 seconds. Enslave Demon is also another option against demons, which makes the mob a pet for up to 5 minutes. Thus, Warlocks bring a nice mix of different abilities to the table.

Turning to healer classes, each class has one primary ability but most are limited in duration or the classes of mobs it can affect. However, these abilities should not be forgotten when the four pure DPS classes are not available or need supplemental crowd control.

Paladin - Repentance - This ability is only available to Retribution paladins, so healadins will not have this ability (but you knew that already if you are reading this blog). However, Repentance lasts a minute and may be repeated indefinitely, and is applicable to humanoids, undead, dragonkin, giants, and demons.  A great ability to have at hand if the Paladin is of the correct talent spec.

Shaman - Hex - Shamans of all varieties can turn mobs into frogs, much like the polymorph ability of mages. However, only humanoids and beasts may be hexed. The ability is repeatable, so the mob can be taken out of commission as long as possible. 

Druid - Hibernate - This ability may only be used on beasts and dragonkin, and lasts for 40 seconds. While hibernate may break early on mobs of equal or higher level, so the druid will need to stay diligent. This means bear tanks typically cannot count on this ability as a useful CC, so this may be better from moonkin and healing druids. 

Priest - Shackle Undead - As the name suggests, this is a repeatable ability that works only on undead mobs. This was great in Icecrown Citadel, and not so much thus far in Cataclysm. Priests also have Psychic Scream, an area of effect fear, but this is even more dangerous than a warlock fear.

Now we have the two remaining melee DPS and tank classes, neither of which have great crowd control abilities. But just in case it becomes relevant...

Death Knight - Chains of Ice - For 8 seconds, a mob's movement is impaired by 60%. The short duration of this ability makes it not all that useful unless a pack of mobs is being kited away. Death Grip could also be used to pull one mob off the tank, but incoming damage to a non-tank melee DPS death knight will usually be a more significant drain on healer mana than just leaving the mob on the tank.

Warrior - Stuns including Charge, Intercept, Piercing Howl, and Hamstring - None of these stuns lasts more than a few seconds, so these abilities are only moderately useful as damage-slowing crowd control. Better than nothing, but not by much. 

So now that you know the types of crowd control, the only other thing you need to know is how to mark mobs. This is a very simple process now. Target the mob, right click on the portrait of the mob, and select the mark from the drop-down menu. Once you determine what 1-2 CC abilities will be used on each pull, the only other important point is to ensure that each player responsible for a CC spell knows which mark applies to their mob. For example, a star could mean rogue sap or hunter trap, but just clarify it at the beginning and then it is clear what you mean with the marks. Also be sure to use skull and X on the first and second kill targets, which should be the highest threats to your group survival after the mobs removed by crowd control.  Studying the mobs of an instance will help you be a better leader and never be afraid to ask for advice from tanks and DPS who may know kill orders better from doing it before. 

Tanks are not the only class that can lead and can mark, directing the group to success through crowd control. Before a train wreck LFG pick up group puts you back in the queue, take the reins and lead the group. The tank will probably appreciate it and things will go smoother for healing as long as the CC assignees do their jobs. Until next time, use the abilities Blizzard gave you!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why Heal in Cataclysm?

A great statement on healing from World of Matticus

When Cataclysm dropped a month ago, many players raced to 85 on their mains and prepared them for raiding.  As is always the case with a new expansion, players saw this as a perfect opportunity to try something new or switch main characters.  Now that raiding has begun in most guilds, it may be a little late to change a raiding character.  However, this also makes it the perfect time to try something new (perhaps a worgen or goblin) and see if you like it. Most people try out every role in the game within the first year, but many players try healing and leave it forever. With the release of Cataclysm, there are five reasons why you should roll or respec into a healer:

1. The Game Will Never Get Stale - One complaint that seemed to fill the world of warcraft in the twelve months of Icecrown Citadel was how the game was so stale and the same thing every week. Even though there are three new raids and many new instances to try out with Cataclysm, even all this new content will grow stale with time. No matter how thrilling taking down a raid boss may be, after defeating Lord Marrowgar 12 times, the only thing left to do is make bad "Bone" jokes. This happens because the boss abilities do not change. The same strategy the tanks used to manage threat and the same rotations used to maximize DPS applies every week.

By contrast, healing an encounter 12 times will offer twelve unique challenges. No matter how good a raid team becomes, there will always be an off night or a fight that gives a certain player fits, which leads to unexpected damage to deal with. This changes every single week. A common misconception is that healing is more simple than anything else because it is green bar "whack-a-mole." Healing in Cataclysm is not a spam your best spell over and over endeavor like healing in Wrath was. Now the renewed concept of triage healing has forced healers to learn how to use all the tools supplied to them. Especially for priests and druids, choosing an appropriate amount of healing to spread around in a raid or a 5-man dungeon makes all the difference between passing the content and wiping over and over.  And even as Lord Marrowgar becomes completely boring to everyone else, the fight changes every time and challenges a healer in new a different ways.

2. Healing is a Real Challenge - Perhaps all that needs to be said about healing in Cataclysm is that Ghostcrawler's first blog entry for the Blizzard community site was entitled "Why does Blizzard hate healers?" But the gauntlet has indeed been thrown and healers must rise to the new challenge. Thankfully the gear ramps up quickly in this expansion so regular dungeons and heroic dungeons that are nearly impossible at the early levels and right after hitting 85 become more and more manageable after only a small handful of instance runs. Mana will remain an issue throughout this expansion by design, but the 5-man content at least becomes manageable on mana once the other players learn to limit unnecessary incoming damage and the healer learns the art of triage instead of keeping everyone at full health all the time. That being said, healing is the hardest role currently in the game and that makes healing rewarding to those who like a challenge. As Ghostcrawler stated, god mode is only compelling for a short time. A challenging game makes you strive to be better and better.

3. Healing Provides Leadership Opportunities - Tanks have always been natural leaders of groups in Azeroth because tanks dictate how fast a group pulls new mobs and can set up success by marking groups of mobs. To succeed in Cataclysm, a leader must coordinate more than kill order. A leader must make sure cooldowns are managed, healers are keeping up and full of mana before each pull, and DPS with crowd control abilities are using them at every opportunity. Tanks are not the only players who can mark mobs! With healing becoming the glue of most groups in Cataclysm, this is a perfect opportunity to take leadership roles in raids and pick up groups! After all, the healer mana is really the factor that dictates the speed of moving through an instance now. A tank can pull with a healer at half full on mana, but that is a strategy doomed to fail more often than not. So if you are not a natural tank but want to be a leader, this respected role in the game is a perfect place to find your leadership niche.

4. With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility - As I just alluded to, quality healers are highly respected and always have been. However, a poor healer is generally the first one to get blamed whether rightly or wrongly. Healing is a great challenge and provides a huge sense of reward and accomplishment for helping a group survive encounters. But with those great rewards come the high level of responsibility for doing the job well or making the entire group suffer. Gone are the days of multitasking while running heroics, at least until another tier of raid gear comes out to over-gear most heroics. Healing is high risk, high reward. For most players, that scenario is worth the effort.

5. Shorter LFG Queue Times - Leaving this for the end because as shown above, healing in pick up groups is kidn of like playing Russian Roulette with yourself right now. Most players in LFG are truly decent people and decent players, but it only takes one bad seed or one bad player who does not know how to move out of the green stuff on the floor to tear a group apart. Especially when gear is underpowered for the current content, jumping into LFG rather than running instances with fellow guild members can be a recipe for disaster. However, even though this can be a disaster, it is much better to wait 0-10 minutes to get into an instance rather than 20-45 minutes as a DPS. Even if the group ends up being full of fail, the wait for another group is not that bad. Perhaps it is just dumb luck, but LFG has placed me in a fair number of groups with a tank and 1-3 others from a single guild numerous times, and those runs are always the best because guild members are considerate in front of people they know. LFG is a tough place to play right now, but patience is much easier to have as a healer with a short queue time than as a DPS with another 45 minutes of mining or archaeology on the horizon.

This is the perfect time to roll up a new character and dive into all the renewed content from 1-60 and 80-85, and I highly recommend a class that can heal. Even if healing has not worked out in the past, this is the right time to step up to the challenge and become a healer that enjoys a different challenge every single fight but still pushes the group through to survive for another day and another raid. In the words of the television show my daughter is addicted to right now (Yo Gabba Gabba): Try It, You'll Like It!



On an unrelated note, I finally broke my drive to level two main characters equally. Once again, the priest class called me with her sweet siren's call. And just like that, Ekaterinae is level 85. While she works her way to heroics, the leveling focus is again on Arielae the druid. Also, leveling professions is now also on the docket. But the competition for mining nodes in Hyjal is so fierce. Anybody having any luck mining elsewhere?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Leveling A Priest 101

Happy New Year everyone, and I hope the new year looks as good to you as it does to me. In my travels away from keyboard, I put in some long hours last year and ended up with a sparkling good review and a hefty bump in pay. This will come in handy with daughter number two now being imminent (beginning of February). Looks like some daddy-daughter fishing time will be back in session next month. I might not even be 525 then, so we can ding Illustrious Grand Poobah fishing together.

Also before getting into today's topic, I'd like to share some podcasts I have found recently. As you know, I am a regular listener to The Instance and The AIE Podcast, but I've added Rawrcast, All Things Azeroth, Circle of Healing, and Matticast to my regular playlist. Rawrcast and All Things Azeroth are both similar to The Instance, but it's just a different set of voices and that can be refreshing in a new year. Rawrcast can be a bit NSFW with language, in case that bothers you. Of more concern to this blog are the other two podcasts. Circle of Healing is back again and is trying to be more regular, so I wish them the best in their endeavors to give healers something to listen to every week. And as if Matt Low did not have enough going on (including being a co-host of Circle of Healing), he has started his own podcast focused on healing and that should be very good seeing how he puts his heart into everything he does. If you have any other suggestions for a playlist, the time is open because college football season and sportswriting ended for me this weekend.

So let's say you want to play a priest. How should you level that priest? Although my leveling experience on Ekaterinae from 1-70 was at the end of The Burning Crusade, everyone has relearned the leveling game for Catclysm, even if it is to a lesser extent. Now there are even more options and tools to level your character including Looking For Group and Looking For Battleground. While many of these options are fair alternatives, I believe there is an optimal way to level from 1-85.

Once you hit level 10 and start getting talent points, you should definitely begin in the shadow tree for open world questing. The key to the first two tiers of talents 10-30 is to improve damage output, and the best options you have are in shadow with improved damage-over-time talents buffing both of your key DoT's. Then the real game begins at level 31 with the third tier of talents and dual spec. There are now two approaches you can take.

If you want to be the most efficient, you should choose shadow and discipline as your two talent trees. At level 31, shadow priests receive shadowform, which really ramps up shadow damage output and synergizes the rest of your talents in that tree all the way to Cataclysm content. Discipline will offer you the ability to quest in healer form for something different and also heal. The key to your Discipline leveling spec is the second-tier talents Evangelism and Archangel and (most importantly) two ranks of third-tier talent Atonement. Atonement allows you to heal a party member at the lowest health for as much as you smite an enemy for (half if it heals you), and smite happens to be the go-to DPS spell in discipline spec. Smite also activates Evangelism, which increases smite damage and healing further for each stack, leading to a big Archangel for empowered healing and a little mana regeneration when necessary. When solo questing, the Atonement healing after level 33 will normally be enough with Power Word Shield to make a priest invincible as long as the mana bar stays above 0%. While not quite as fast as shadow spells at killing mobs, the lessened downtime for not having to heal yourself does make a difference towards overall efficiency. Furthermore, discipline is a good low-level spec to heal dungeons thanks to the same Atonement talent (which usually heals the tank as you help the DPS burn down the enemies).

If you want to really hone in on your healing skills and don't prefer questing, then you should focus on holy and discipline as your two specs. For discipline, the same atonement-evangelism plan is in effect. For holy, there are very few early talents that can help your DPS (smite only), but you will power up your healing to extents even more than discipline in the 10-60 range. This will make you even more of a desirable healer if you choose to enter dungeons and battlegrounds a lot. One mid-level talent not to miss is Spirit of Redemption, which only activates on death but can be a group-saver in dungeons and a real force in battlegrounds where you are usually targeted first. Holy/discipline will allow you to hone the skills necessary to be an endgame healer or jack of all priest trades long before you get to endgame.

When you get to Cataclysm levels, I would recommend going back to Shadow/Discipline, which is what I am using now. The same strategy applies as above, although Mind Spike must be picked up immediately upon hitting level 81. With Mind Spike, the rotation changes completely for shadow and becomes even better as the damage-over-time spells are highly mana-inefficient from 80-85. After 81, the rotation becomes shield up, mind spike twice, cast mind blast as an instant spell and then turn to vampiric touch and mind flay, with Shadow Word Death as a finisher to gain back some mana via the Spirit Tap glyph. Shadow Orbs will also help the damage output. The only faux pas to avoid is leading with DoT's because Mind Spike clears all DoT's. That is not a good thing to do, especially when the DoT spells are inefficient to begin with!

I have been Discipline healing some 5-man normal instances during the leveling process as well, and Atonement is excellent because you can improve a group's DPS and therbey lessen the burden on your healing. Always switch back to Penance and Greater Heal when you need to, and keep shield and Prayer of Mending up as much as possible, but jumping from smite-spam and back (using archangel when jumping back to use healing spells to improve healing output) is a fun and different way to play that healing priests have not seen before.

Another tip for leveling: if the varied options already discussed are getting old, take up Archaeology and/or a gathering talent. Each of these professions gives experience for every node/flower picked or every fragment surveyed out of the ground. Especially in the cataclysm levels, a quick dose of archaeology is a good way to see some of the old world and have a chance at nifty rewards like the skeleton fossil pet. With 310% flight, the travel between dig sites is not so bad either. Perhaps not as efficient as leveling via questing (and each of these activities sucks up rested time), but a nice change of pace and a good way to play the lottery or make some major money in the process.

If you want to read further into my personal talent choices, check out Ekaterinae on the Armory. There's sure to be some mistakes, but that is all part of the learning process. Whatever spec or method of leveling you choose, enjoy the journey because even if endgame is "half the game", the first half of the game is worth enjoying.

POSTNOTE - If you wonder what the artwork above means, then stay tuned. The next Illuminati guild event is on the way and one of our more talented artists rendered Ekaterinae and some other guild members for the event. Very nifty work and I look forward to helping Soph bring the rest of the guild something truly entertaining in February (baby duty notwithstanding!)