So You Rolled A Priest…

UPDATED: 8/31/09

So you rolled a priest. Maybe, like me, you just wanted to try something else. Maybe your raid needs a healer. Maybe this is your first character! Now you’re level ten and staring at your talent trees.

This is intended as a leveling guide, not an end-game guide. Spell rotations and specs will reflect that.

Priest Specs-The Basics
Ask yourself several questions.
-What do I want to do with this character?
-Do I mostly want to heal? Do I mostly want to DPS?
-Do I want to PvP, or focus on PvE?
-Am I going to be soloing, duoing, or instancing my way to 80?
-How crazy am I?

Shadow is considered by many to be the ‘default’ leveling spec and is arguably the fastest. If you plan on mostly DPSing and/or mostly soloing, this is likely the route you’ll take. You will likely get asked to heal as shadow, because people are silly like that. If you don’t mind, it’s entirely possible to heal as shadow until fairly close to end game.

Holy is a healing spec. If you plan on soloing/questing, this is…probably not the way to go. If you want to level primarily through instance groups or with a friend, holy is fine. Learning as you go is a great way to get a handle on healing and you probably won’t lack for groups!  End-game, holy is the king of AoE healing.

Disc is another healing spec, and my personal favorite (warning: bias ahead!). It’s good for healing in PvE, with some different talents it’s also great for healing in PvP. I leveled as disc on a PvP server and not only was I durable, I was
dangerous! If you want to heal instances but know you’ll be doing a lot of questing on your own, disc might be for you. And you get to heal with pew pew lazers later on. :D

Disc Spec
: Here is
one leveling path… I put all my points into disc to start and only went into holy later.  I personally skipped the standard spirit tap because I’m a nutcase.
Holy Spec: How about
this one? I don’t know, the mere idea of a holy leveling spec kind of broke my mind.
Shadow Spec: I recreated my own shadow spec as best I could

Spell Rotations
As Disc, my DPS rotation while questing was as follows:
Shield > Holy Fire > Shadow Word:Pain > Devouring Plague > Mind Blast
If mob was at less than 50% health, then I’d wand them to death for mana conservation. If it was not, then I’d bust out the smite until it was. At higher levels, PW: Death is great to finish things off as long as you’re careful. It might seem a little slower to wand things to death, but you save time drinking, so it evens out.
While duoing, I holy smite everything I can just because it’s funny (hell, in raids I holy fire things because it’s funny).  My tank is less amused, but tossing dots up on whatever he’s aoe tanking does help things go faster.
Can you lolsmite DPS in groups? Yes. Are you going to do awesome DPS? No. Does it matter in Maraudon? Not really.

Holy would switch up the disc rotation a bit. Or more than a bit, I suppose. Er. Here!:
Shield > Holy Fire > SW:P  Smite > Smite > Smite
Toss Devouring Plague up for tougher mobs that will live long enough for the DoTs to be worth it.  The wand to death below 50% health strat applies here, too.

For shadow leveling:
Shield > Vampiric Touch > Mind Blast > SW:P > Devouring Plague> Mind Flay
Like the other two specs, for grinding you want to wand things to death sub 50% health.   For DPSing in groups, you obviously won’t be doing that.  Your group rotation would be more like this:
Vampiric Embrace > Vampiric Touch > Mind Blast > SW:P > Mind Flay
Renew VT when it drops, and use MF when MB is on cooldown.  I don’t bother with VE while questing because nothing lives long enough to be worth the bother.

Don’t forget to keep Inner Fire up!

Leveling gear is generally whatever the hell you can grab. With today’s quicker leveling until 70, the gear you get before hand isn’t terribly important.

Holy: Spellpower, Int, Spirit, Crit/Haste/Mp5
Disc: Spellpower, Int, Crit, Haste/Mp5
Shadow: Hit (to cap), Spellpower, Int, Crit, Mp5

If you get a piece with gem sockets, look at what gear you have now. What are you missing? If you have a lot of mp5 pieces, consider crit gems, etc.  Don’t spend too much money on gems sub 70, because you’re likely to replace the gear soon. On your way to 80 the gear replacement slows down…a little. That said, Lyr’s had three different weapons in 2 levels.


  1. #1 by addictedtoheals on March 16, 2009 - 1:08 pm

    Thank you for this guide! I’m just starting out leveling my priest (as discipline) and this is going to be a huge help.

  2. #2 by Morticis on March 19, 2009 - 11:17 am

    If I may I’d like to say a few things about shadow priest and I’ll even throw in my rotation and spec.

    1. There are talents in the tree that a solo leveling shadow priest will have that a raiding or pvp shadow priest won’t and vice versa. Shadow affinity, Blackout, Improved Psychic scream, Silence, Psychic Horror and Shadow reach are all things that I found unnecessary for leveling. By dropping those I was able to go into the disc tree and max out Twin disciplines, Improved Innerfire, Improved PW:F, Improved PW:S and Meditation.

    2. (Warning this is purely me sharing a personal experience and not theory crafting and sharing tested results.) Until Icecrown, and really I think if I had started in Storm peaks and not the Ebon Knight quest line, big mistake so I switched to Argent Vanguard, when I hit 77 I would have never noticed, hit rating is a joke. Im sure there are a lot of people who would disagree, but I honestly can’t remember ever missing a target till I tried to take on the 80 mobs near shadow vault at 77. This can be attributed to the maxing of two talents. Shadow Focus and Misery. If I remember correctly they give you a total of 6% hit.

    2B. Once you hit 80 and start running heroics completely ignore what I said up there. You will miss, you will waste mana, you will cry. When it comes to heroics and raids, being hit capped is as important (I believe) as having god SP or crit rating. Do whatever you have to do to hit the hit cap if you plan on staying shadow.

    3. I can’t really talk about gear…for a couple reasons. 1: I quested my way to 80…I didnt do a whole lot of instancing like I did with my DK so almost all of my gear is quest greens and blues. 2: Gear never really was my specialty so I always turn to the website pro’s for help there.

    4. Rotations. There are a few ways you can run your rotation when leveling. For simplicity I’ll just list them.

    1: Bubble>> VT>> SW:P>> MB>> MF as needed. That is my rotation and depending on how I feel I”ll either end with a MB for the restoration proc along side Spirit Tap, or if my mana isn’t that bad I’ll toss up a SW:D or a second Mind Flay. If you’re taking on mobs of two or three feel free to replace Mind Flay with Mind Sear (at the appropriate level of course). I found that it was easier on me and my inner fire, to throw up a bubble instead of relying on Vampiric Embrace. If I work quick enough I can go through to single target pulls on one bubble.

    There are other rotations like the one Amber’s shadow priests gave her and honestly, at least while leveling, the only thing that needs to stay consistent about rotations is that you use VE and SW:P first. Once you’re talented for it VE will give you restoration and SW:P Allows MB and MF to do more damage.

    Anyway that’s all I have to say on Shadow Priests.

  3. #3 by Juan on July 1, 2009 - 2:04 pm

    I was actually looking for more details on the Discipline spells and talents. What this guide gave me was the reassurance that Discipline is not bad AT ALL for leveling. I like to be “different”, like you stated above.
    I, like you, am leveling a priest with disc/holy, and so far having fun. For leveling, casual back-up healing, or healing in raids and PvP, I find that a combination of Disc/Holy is the most versatile way to go.
    Thanks for the guide!

  4. #4 by Zalgosh on July 22, 2009 - 2:50 pm

    My shadow priest is at 57 (5 bars til OL), so I thought I’d throw in my two cents. After I got vampiric embrace and touch, I noticed that throwing up my shield was pretty much a waste of mana.

    Sure I’d take some damage, but I’d stay at/or near full health the majority of the time. My roatation is VT -> VE -> SW:Pain -> Mind Blast -> Mind Flay until ~10-20% life -> wand.

    This is usually only 1 or 2 mind flays before I break out the wand, so sometimes I’ll just forego that and mindflay them down.

    The only time I bother to shield or use devouring plague is when I’m pulling elites, or midway into a battle w/ multiple enemies (I have glyphed shield for heals).

    Although, I haven’t instanced as shadow yet. I instance leveled healing as disc/holy until i was 43, and that was grindtastic. (Also the reason I got bored, and started my Shaman, which got from 1-70 w/o me even logging back onto my priest).

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