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Chapter One: Introduction
A lot of people have these tales about how terrible leveling as a priest is/was in vanilla. Having leveled a priest in vanilla and once again on Nostalrius, I can say that, aside from hunters and warlocks, they are actually one of, if not the most efficient levelers.
The first issue I believe most people have is thinking that one has to spam spells to do damage, and priest spells – Mind Blast in particular – can be horribly mana-inefficient. However, there exists an amazing ranged weapon type called wands.
The second issue is distinguishing the difference between DPS (damage per second) and DPM (damage per mana). While leveling, one wants to be efficient, which most people interpret as “kill stuff as fast as possible.” What being efficient actually means is earning as much experience per hour as possible. Priests can kill things really fast, but if one spends twenty seconds drinking after every kill or two, one is not being very efficient.
This guide is meant to help one level efficiently and quickly by utilizing one’s talents and equipment, teaching one which spells to learn and which to avoid, and advising one on how to use the spells one has.
Chapter Two: Race
In addition to the normal racial abilities, Priests gain spells depending on the race they choose. It’s important to understand what each of the racials and spells do before one makes a decision.
- Stoneform: On-use ability that increases armor by 10%, removes bleeds, poisons, and diseases, and gives immunity to such effects for 8 seconds. No mana cost. 3 minute cooldown. Not horribly useful for leveling, but decent in PvP.
- Desperate Prayer: On-use ability that instantly restores the priest’s health. No mana cost. 10 minute cooldown. It’s a great heal, and can easily save one’s life if one is low on mana and health.
- Fear Ward: One-use ability that grants a friendly target immunity to the next fear effect used against them. Can be dispelled. Lasts 10 minutes. 30 second cooldown. Incredible in PvP. Great for a raids, but not very useful while leveling or in 5-man dungeons. However, because of the short cooldown, there’s no reason not to keep this buff up in case anything (or anyone) has a fear.
- 10 Frost Resistance: Useful for PvP, and Naxxramas progression. Not many mobs while leveling cast Frost spells.
- Perception: On-use ability that greatly increases stealth detection for 20 seconds. 3 minute cooldown. Great for PvP. Very rarely useful while leveling.
- Desperate Prayer: On-use ability that instantly restores the priest’s health. No mana cost. 10 minute cooldown. It’s a great heal, and can easily save one’s life if one is low on mana and health.
- Feedback: On-use ability that drains the mana and damages anybody who successfully hits the priest with a spell for 15 seconds. 3 minute cooldown. Great for PvP. Also moderately useful for fighting spellcaster mobs. Has a mana cost, though, so be aware of that.
- 10% more reputation gained. Useful for gaining the reputation needed to buy/acquire items, or save money on one’s mount, but otherwise useless.
- 5% more Spirit. Useless while leveling and at max level. Holy priests receive spell power equal to a percentage of their Spirit, so more is always useful, and Spirit Tap allows one’s mana to regenerate very quickly with decent amounts of Spirit.
- Shadowmeld: On-use ability that puts the player in stealth. Lasts until canceled, or if the player moves. 10 second cooldown. Useful for going AFK or planning an ambush in PvP. Could also be used to stealth where a named NPC spawns to avoid having to fight trash mobs.
- Starshards: On-use channeled ability that deals Arcane damage. 30 second cooldown. If uninterrupted, this spell has the highest single target damage per mana of any priest spell in the game. Also deals slightly more damage per second than Mind Flay outside of Shadow Form. In terms of mana-efficiency, this spell can only be beaten by channeling Mind Flay on a target with 5 stacks of Shadow Weaving, but getting Shadow Weaving to 5 stacks is a waste of mana except against Elites and players.
- Elune’s Grace: On-use ability that reduces damage taken and increases dodge chance by 10% for 15 seconds. 5 minute cooldown. Useful if there are a lot of mobs attacking at once, or if fighting mobs that attack often, such as dual wielders. Also useful in PvP in similar situations, such as against rogues or feral druids. Less useful against slow, hard hitting mobs or players.
- 1% more dodge. Not too amazing, but useful while leveling.
- 10 Nature Resist. Decent for leveling, as lots of mobs cast Entangling Roots or poisons. Also useful for PvP and AQ/Naxxramas progression.
- Berserking: On-use ability that increases attack speed and cast speed by 10% to 25% depending on the priest’s health. At full health, the priest gains 10%, and can gain up to 25% if “badly hurt.” 3 minute cooldown. Very useful, as it increases the DPS of the priest’s wand, and allows the priest to cast spells faster. If used correctly, this can easily surprise a ganker when their health melts from the machinegun fire of wand blasts.
- Hex of Weakness: On-use ability that decreases an enemy target’s damage, and reduces their healing received by 20% for 2 minutes. Useful for mobs that attack very quickly, such as dual wielders, or heal themselves. Also very useful in PvP.
- Shadowguard: On-use ability that causes damage to any target that attacks the priest. 3 charges. Basically a shadowy version of Lightning Shield. Lasts 10 minutes. Decent for that extra bit of damage, but only if being hit. Otherwise, useless. Decent for leveling if applied before pulling a mob.
- 10% more health regen. 10% of total health regeneration continues during combat. Great for leveling, especially with high amounts of Spirit. Can be decent for PvP and PvE as well, saving mana that would otherwise be spent casting healing spells.
- 5% more damage to beasts. Useful for leveling. There are a lot of beasts.
- Will of the Forsaken: On-use ability that removes charm, fear, and sleep, and makes the priest immune to such effects for 5 seconds. 3 minute cooldown. Useful for PvP and a few PvE fights. Otherwise useless.
- Cannibalize: On-use channeled ability that consumes the corpse of a Humanoid or Undead to restore 7% max health every 2 seconds for 10 seconds. 2 minute cooldown. Useful for leveling or PvP to quickly restore health instead of wasting mana to heal or eating food. Can be used in combat, but is interrupted if any damage is taken.
- Devouring Plague: On-use ability that applies a disease to an enemy target, dealing damage and healing the priest. Not a lot of healing, and not a lot of damage, but considering it deals both at the same time, it’s a very good spell, especially in PvP. Fairly high mana cost, though.
- Touch of Weakness: On-use ability the applies a buff to the priest, reducing the damage of the next melee attacker for 2 minutes. Lasts 10 minutes. Decent for leveling when fighting mobs that hit very rapidly, such as dual wielders, or in PvP against similar targets, such as rogues or feral druids. Less useful against slower, hard hitting mobs or players.
- Breath lasts 4x as long as normal. Very useful while leveling, allowing the priest to sit underwater longer. Otherwise useless.
- 10 Shadow Resistance. Useful for PvP and raids. There aren’t many shadow spellcasters while leveling, so not horribly useful in that case.
All of these racials considered, the best race is…
Alliance in PvP: Dwarf
Alliance in PvE: Human if you are selfish, otherwise Dwarf.
Horde in PvP: Undead
Horde in PvE: Troll
Your race won’t make a huge difference in performance. In fact, the benefit one race has over another is nearly negligible, except in the case of Dwarves. Fear Ward is such a tremendous spell, and its usefulness to a group heavily outweighs the other racials available to the Alliance.
Chapter Three: Spells
It is true that every spell has some use. There is at least one scenario where every priest spell in the game is worth using. However, while leveling, some spells are simply unnecessary, and learning them is nothing more than a waste of money. Other spells (like Smite) are useful very early on, but quickly become useless as other spells become available.
If money is a concern, be sure to only ever learn these spells:
- Power Word: Fortitude
- Power Word: Shield
- Inner Fire
- Dispel Magic
- Lesser Heal
- Cure Disease
- Abolish Disease
- Greater Heal
- Shadow Word: Pain
- Mind Blast*
- Psychic Scream
It is always worth ranking up any spells learned through talents or racials. Also, if there is some extra gold left in the ol’ coinpurse, consider buying Resurrection, Renew, Prayer of Healing, Fade, and Flash Heal. These spells are useful while healing dungeons, and worth the money if one chooses to do so. However, don’t break the bank for these spells. It is quite possible to get by without them, and a mount is worth more than a wider variety of healing spells.
Knowing which spells to cast is important. Remember, while leveling, damage per mana is more important than damage per second, in order to maximize efficiency. The following spells are in descending order of most mana-efficient to least mana-efficient. This list assumes that the spell is dealing its full damage.
- Shadow Word: Pain
- Mind Flay
- Mind Blast
- Devouring Plague
*Mind Blast is the highest DPS spell available to a priest, but is not very mana efficient. I generally only use this spell in PvP fights where it is more important to kill someone quickly than efficiently, or to instantly tag a mob when there are a lot of people around.
Chapter Four: Talents
Choosing the correct talents is extremely beneficial to the leveling process of a priest. Two of the talents available in the first row are actually the key components of a priest’s efficiency: Wand Specialization and Spirit Tap.
Upon reaching level 10, put your first point in Spirit Tap, then alternate between putting points in Wand Specialization and Spirit Tap until both are maxed out. From there, place your points in the following:
- Level 20-21, 2/2 Improved Shadow Word: Pain
- Level 22-24, 3/5 Shadow Focus
- Level 25, Mind Flay
- Level 26-27, 2/2 Improved Psychic Scream*
- Level 28-29, 5/5 Shadow Focus
- Level 30-34, 5/5 Shadow Weaving
- Level 35, Vampiric Embrace
- Level 36, Silence
- Level 37-39, 3/3 Improved Power Word: Shield
* If PvP is not a concern, these points (and the point in Silence) can be put in other talents. It would be best to put the two points from Improved Psychic Scream into Shadow Focus, and the remaining points into Blackout.
Upon reaching level 40, immediately make a mad dash to the nearest priest trainer and respec. Then, choosethese talents. Shadow Form is an incredible buff. The combination of increased Shadow damage and reduced Physical damage taken is wonderful for leveling, and well worth losing Wand Specialization for.
However, immediately after hitting level 40, go right back to putting points in Wand Specialization. From there, place your points in the following:
- Level 46-48, 3/3 Improved Power Word: Shield
- Level 49-50, 2/2 Improved Power Word: Fortitude
- Level 51-53, 3/3 Meditation
- Level 54, Inner Focus
- Level 55, 1/5 Unbreakable Will
- Level 56-58, 3/3 Improved Inner Fire
- Level 59-60, 2/5 Mental Agility
Once you’re level 60, this build continues to serve as an effective soloing build, but does not work well in PvP or group PvE content.
Chapter Five: Gear
A priest’s gear, despite what many seem to believe, makes a rather significant impact on their ability to level efficiently. Of course, better gear is always nice to have, but what is important is understanding why certain gear is better, and knowing what stats to look for on gear. It’s impossible to accurately calculate the value of each stat for leveling, but understanding what each stat does can help one make better decisions when choosing what gear to use.
- Spellpower increases the effect of one’s spells. Healing spells heal for more, and damage spells do more damage. More damage means less spells cast to kill a mob, which means less mana spent, which means more efficient. This is a very useful stat for priests.
- Spirit increases one’s regeneration rates. The amount of health generated by Spirit outside of combat is almost negligible, but the mana regeneration granted by Spirit is nothing to scoff at as a priest. Spirit Tap doubles your spirit for 15 seconds after getting a killing blow, and allows 50% of your normal mana regeneration to continue while casting. This is very important for priests who are soloing or are leveling.
- Mana per 5 seconds, AKA Mp5, adds direct mana regeneration that continues even while casting spells. Normally, this stat is very sought after, but while leveling, a priest should be relying on Spirit and Spirit Tap to regenerate mana, and should not be casting enough spells to fully reap the benefit of uninterrupted mana regeneration. This stat is also generally obtained at the cost of other stats, as not much leveling gear has Mp5 on it without also sacrificing other stats.
- Haste is a stat not thought by many to be very useful to priests. However, while leveling, a priest’s primary source of damage will be their wand, and Haste affects a wand’s attack speed, which means more DPS. There are very few effects that will grant haste, though. In fact, the only reasonable one I can think of is the enchant to gloves. If there is enough money in the bags to toss an enchant on a decent pair of gloves, be sure to ask for Haste.
- Spell Hit increases one’s chance to hit with spells, or more accurately, reduces one’s chance to miss with spells. While leveling, one’s chance to miss with spells is so low (or sometimes non-existent) that this stat is near worthless. However, any piece of gear with Spell Hit is also likely to have other stats on it that make it worth using, and “near worthless” doesn’t mean totally worthless.
- Spell Critical Strike increases one’s chance to critically strike with spells, dealing more damage. However, the only spell a priest should be using that can crit is Mind Blast, and it is so mana inefficient that no priest should be worrying about Spell Critical Strike, at least while leveling.
- Stamina increases one’s health. Very easy to understand. If one dies too much, get more Stamina (and get good).
- Agility increases one’s armor, dodge chance, ranged attack power, and ability to crit with all weapons. I have been unable to confirm or deny whether this affects wands (everyone instantly calls you an idiot or a troll if you ask these kinds of questions). It is probably safe to assume that, as intended, priests do not want to prioritize Agility. However, it isn’t a totally useless stat, as armor and dodge chance are beneficial for leveling.
The stat priority for leveling is loosely as follows: Spellpower > Spirit >= Mp5 > Haste > Intellect > Spell Hit > Spell Crit > Stamina > Agility. When choosing between Mp5 and Spirit, remember that 1 Spirit is worth .625 Mp5 while not casting, and 1.25 Mp5 while not casting if Spirit Tap is active. Also keep in mind that Spirit is doubled by Spirit Tap, but Mp5 is not.
Don’t ever worry about the armor value or level of gear. The other stats are what are important. The amount of damage reduction gained by focusing on armor values will make little to no impact on leveling at all, and never look at the gear equipped on a character and think it needs to be replaced because it’s “outleveled.” The level of the gear is irrelevant. Vanilla has some terrible items. Level 40 gear can have worse stats than a level 20 item with great stats. Great pieces to look out for are the Dreamweave pieces, the Shadoweave set, Honored PvP reputation gear, and any decent cloth boots, because for whatever reason, good cloth boots are hard to come by.
From my experience, you will want to have certain gear slots dedicated to either Spirit, or Spellpower. This is based on the availability of each stat in each slot. For example, there are very few necklaces available that provide Spellpower while leveling. As such, it would be a slot I would primarily dedicate to increasing my Spirit.
- Head: Spirit until mid-40s, then Spellpower
- Neck: Spirit
- Shoulders: Spirit unless Spellpower is available
- Back: Spirit
- Chest: Either. There are a lot of great chest drops with Spirit, and a lot of BoEs with Spellpower
- Wrists: Spirit
- Gloves: Spirit until 40, then Spellpower
- Waist: Spirit
- Legs: Spirit unless Spellpower is available
- Boots: Spirit
- Rings: Spirit
- Weapons: Spellpower all the way
Chapter Six: Wands
As I’ve mentioned many times in this guide so far, wands are one of, if not the most important part of a priest’s leveling. A good wand is going to significantly increase a priest’s leveling efficiency. In order to drive home the importance of a good wand, I’ve compiled a list of the best wands available for each level and where they are obtained. If possible, obtain these wands before they can be equipped, so time is not wasted using an inferior wand.
- Level 5: Lesser Magic Wand (Crafted BoE)
- Level 11: Spark of the People’s Militia (Alliance Only) (Quest: The People’s Militia)
- Level 13: Greater Magic Wand (Crafted BoE)
- Level 15: Firebelcher (Wailing Caverns)
- Level 16: Starcaller (World Drop BoE)
- Level 17: Cookie’s Stirring Rod (The Deadmines)
- Level 18: Gravestone Scepter (Horde Version)(Quest: Blackfathom Villainy)
- Level 20: Gravestone Scepter (Alliance Version)(Quest: Blackfathom Villainy)
- Level 29: Starfaller (World Drop BoE)
- Level 30: Necrotic Wand (Scarlet Monastery: Graveyard)
- Level 33: Earthen Rod (World Drop BoE)
- Level 37: Jaina’s Firestarter (World Drop BoE)
- Level 42: Cairnstone Silver (Alliance Only) (Quest: Morrow Stone)
- Level 44: Flaming Incinerator (Zul’Farakk Zone BoE)
- Level 45: Wand of Allistarj (World Drop BoE)
- Level 46: Noxious Shooter (Maraudon)
- Level 50: Woestave (Quest: Blood of Morphaz)*
- Level 51: Wand of Biting Cold (PvP) (Quest: Hero of the Frostwolf / Stormpike)
- Level 60: Go raid, noob.
* A trinket is also available as a reward for this quest. The trinket is generally much better and will prove more useful than the wand. However, the option to take the wand is there, should healing not be an interest.
Chapter Seven: Money Management
A lot of the best wands available are Bind on Equip, which means relying on luck and RNG to drop the wand, or buying it. The best wands available are going to be expensive, which means the bank might have to be broken a few times to obtain them. However, if too much money is spent on wands, other equipment, and training, there won’t be enough money left in the bank to buy a mount and riding training at level 40.
A mount, and the ability to ride it, is a great way to improve efficiency while leveling. Less time traveling means less time not earning experience. If leveling efficiently and quickly is the goal, it is an absolute requirement to have a mount the moment level 40 is achieved. That means managing money properly. The following tips should help fill those pockets with plenty of coin:
- Don’t level crafting professions. Enchanting, Tailoring, Engineering, Leatherworking, Blacksmithing and Alchemy are all gold sinks until higher levels. Work on these things once at level 60 and when there is a steady flow of cash coming in.
- Loot everything. Literally everything. If inventory space is an issue, start by deleting any food or water that was looted. Then start deleting less valuable items in favor of more valuable ones. Weapons have a ridiculously high vendor price. Be sure to always prioritize them over anything else, excluding BoE items.
- If it can be sold on the auction house, sell it on the auction house. No exceptions. Even the most mundane, useless garbage will sell.
- Never sell anything unless it is fully stacked. Players do not like to buy random stacks of 3, or 7, or 13. Prime numbers are not sexy, they are annoying.
- Be aware of what other players are willing to buy, and what they are willing to pay.
- Below level 40, look for Mail gear “of the Bear,” and “of the Tiger,” Leather gear “of the Bear”, “of the Tiger,” “of the Monkey,” and “of the Falcon,” and Cloth gear “of the Eagle,” and “of the Owl.” On the Alliance, also watch out for Mail gear “of the Gorilla.” On the Horde, also watch out for Leather gear “of the Gorilla.”
- Above level 40, look for Plate gear “of the Bear,” and “of the Tiger,” Mail gear “of the Monkey,” and “of the Falcon,” Leather gear “of the Monkey,” “of the Bear,” and “of the Tiger,” and Cloth gear “of the Eagle,” and “of the Owl.” On the Alliance, also watch out for Plate gear “of the Gorilla.” On the Horde, also watch out for Mail gear “of the Gorilla.”
- BoE gear with special effects like stuns, damage procs, or Spellpower are very likely to sell. Cloth gear “of Shadowy Wrath” is incredibly rare, and incredibly valuable.
- Do not buy food or water. It isn’t needed. Trust me.
- Only buy spells that are needed. If there are no plans to heal dungeons, do not buy healing spells. Vampiric Embrace provides more than enough healing for leveling.
When that ass is firmly planted in the saddle of a sexy steed, feel free to spend as much money as desired. A lot of people suggest (and complain about) saving 1000 gold to buy an epic mount and the training necessary to use it. Don’t bother. The whole point of a mount is improving efficiency. Leveling from 40 to 60 with a mount is much faster than without, but in order to use an epic mount, one has to be level 60 anyway, and at that point, there is no need to be efficient. Raid bosses won’t die faster if you have your epic mount. They will die faster if the damage dealers aren’t dying because the priest could afford decent BoE gear at level 60.
When level 60 is achieved, money should generally be spent on one of two things: gear, or professions. As a priest, I would suggest taking the time to level tailoring, because a few of the crafted tailoring items are best-in-slot. Enchanting and Alchemy can also make a decent amount of money at higher levels. Everybody needs enchants and consumables. If professions aren’t interesting (that’s silly), use the gold to buy BoE gear, or join GDKP runs and bid on good items.
Chapter Eight: Gameplay Tips
As I mentioned in the beginning of the guide, people have this misconception about how one is supposed to level a priest. Many believe that in order to kill a mob, they have to use their all of their mana to continually cast spells. However, this is horribly inefficient, as doing so will burn through mana much too quickly, and despite killing mobs quickly, the priest is having to sit down to drink more often.
Instead of only using spells to kill mobs, a priest should also be using their wand. Doing so allows their mana to continue regenerating even while in combat, as long as a spell has not been cast for five seconds. Wands cost no mana to use, cannot be interrupted or pushed back like spells, and actually do a great bit of DPS.
Keep these tips in mind to help level quickly and efficiently:
- If played properly, assuming no enemies are ganking, a priest should never have to eat or drink while leveling.
- Have any future upgrades in the bags, ready to be equipped once the necessary level is achieved,especially wands.
- If possible, never cast a heal. Instead, use Power Word: Shield before, and, if necessary, during the fight to avoid taking damage at all. The health regeneration from Spirit Tap should be sufficient.
- If the health regeneration from Spirit Tap is not enough to heal any damage received, use Vampiric Embrace and burn a little extra mana to cast several spells. Unless absolutely necessary, try to space this healing out over two or three mobs to maintain efficiency.
- With a decent wand, most mobs equal to the priest’s level or lower will die to Shadow Word: Pain and wand damage. However, the DPS of Shadow Word: Pain and a wand combined is usually not enough to beat mana regeneration filling your mana bar, and then the issue of efficiency becomes a lack of DPS. Practice balancing mana-efficiency with DPS by casting Power Word: Shield, Shadow Word: Pain, two Mind Flays, then wand for the rest of the mob’s health. As soon as the mob dies, use Power Word: Shield, and repeat the process on another mob. If doing so consistently does not result in dropping below half mana, continue. Otherwise, cast one fewer Mind Flay each time until the mana bar is hovering around 90% most of the fight.
- If for any reason, two or more mobs are pulled, apply Shadow Word: Pain to all targets, then use Psychic Scream to reduce damage taken. Apply Vampiric Embrace as necessary to heal any damage. Keep calm and shoot that wand. Re-apply Shadow Word: Pain as necessary. If mana is not an issue, cast one or two Mind Flays to kill a target quicker so more of the fight is spent with Spirit Tap active.
- If you are out of mana, do not panic. Your wand provides a substantial amount of DPS. Just target something and wand it down. Passive mana regeneration should regenerate enough mana for a Power Word: Shield, if it is needed. Get the killing blow, get Spirit Tap and wait its full duration before starting combat again, then rinse and repeat until you are full mana. If any other players are fighting mobs nearby, attempt to get the killing blow for an easy Spirit Tap.
- To save mana, use the appropriate rank of Psychic Scream. Each rank fears a different number of mobs. When fighting one or two targets a time, use Rank 1. When fighting three targets at a time, use Rank 2, and so on.
- When fighting Elites, use Psychic Scream immediately to give the Weakened Soul debuff time to fade. Then re-apply Power Word: Shield as needed. Use any means of damage reduction possible, such as Touch of Weakness.
- No matter what spell a mob is casting, if its hands are glowing green or yellow, interrupt it. Use Silence if talented, otherwise, use Psychic Scream. Generally a yellow glow means a heal, and a green glow means either a heal, poison, or Entangling Roots.
- Running, kiting, jumping, spinning and etc do NOTHING. Do not attempt to run from a fight. The mobs will continue to deal damage, but damage is not being dealt to them if those feet aren’t planted and that wand isn’t shooting.
- Health potions are more valuable than mana potions. Health potions instantly restore health at no mana cost. Mana potions allow more mana to spent for the same effect.
- When reviving, don’t bother buffing with Power Word: Fortitude yet. It’s simply too expensive. Cast Inner Fire, and Shadow Form if level 40. Power Word: Shield after a few seconds, then get back to killing. When all mana is restored, then apply Power Word: Fortitude.