Healing in Cataclysm is about managing one's mana and keeping others alive, but not necessarily at full. This last point is crucial, because, in previous content, healing someone to full was an obligation of the healer since, at any given point, being at less than full health could result in someone's death as a result of incidental raid damage. Going forward, healers should follow a Triage healing model, I have a rather extensive explanation of Triage healing here.
For Paladins specifically, we want to use our most mana-efficient heals, using our big, heavy mana heals only for specific situations in which they might be needed. We've gained a lot of heals, but I want to go through them in order of their mana-efficiency and explain the situations in which they are best used. After talking about our heals I will talk about some strategies and tactics which can be used to conserve and regen mana, lastly, I will talk about some of our utility spells and how they can be used to prevent the need for healing and ultimately help the raid progress forward.
Note: References to “proper self-buffs” below includes having 3 stacks of Conviction and a glyphed Seal of Insight (with Seal of Insight active of course).
Direct Healing Spells
Word of Glory
Cost: 1 Holy Power
Duration: n/a (unless glyphed, explained later)
Effect: Consumes all Holy Power to heal a friendly target for x per charge of Holy Power
Notes: In average iLvl 332 gear with 4658 spellpower and self-buffs this spell heals for roughly 14k at 3 charges of HPW
Word of Glory is our most efficient single-target heal since it heals for as much as a Flash of Light, is instant, and, most importantly, costs no mana with no cooldown. Unfortunately, in order for Word of Glory to truly be useful it instead requires that we have 3 charges of our secondary resource as Paladins: Holy Power. Holy Power can be gathered in a number of ways as you will see in this guide, it caps at 3 and does not decay in combat. Holy Power should be used as often as it hits 3 charges, however, if no damage is being taken at the moment it's acceptable to wait a second or two before spending your Holy Power on a heal. Anything more than a few seconds though and it's likely better to just dump the Holy Power on your tank or to top someone off and build it back up again.Holy Shock
Cost: 8% of Base Mana (~1.8k @85)
Cooldown: 6 seconds
Effect: Blasts the target with Holy energy, causing x Holy damage to an enemy, or y healing to an ally, and grants a charge of Holy Power.
Notes: In average iLvl 332 gear with 4658 spellpower and self-buffs this spell heals for roughly 7k
Holy Shock is our second-most efficient single-target heal, and our most efficient of mana heals. This spell should almost always be cast on cooldown, unless there's no damage being taken and no one needs to be topped off. Even if no damage is occurring, Holy Shock should be used to keep buffs such as Conviction rolling and to generate Holy Power, so it's not completely wasted if used on a target at full health. Holy Light
Cost: 9% of Base Mana (~2k @85)
Cast: 3 seconds
Effect: Heals a friendly target for x
Notes: In average iLvl 332 gear with 4658 spellpower and self-buffs this spell heals for roughly 9k
Holy Light is our “go-to” heal, the one heal which can be “spammed” if needed, though, if you're only spamming this heal, you'll probably find a lot of people dying and taking far more damage than you can heal through. Holy Light is a relatively small heal with a lengthy cast-time, as a result it doesn't cost much mana, but doesn't do a whole lot healing-wise either. This spell is best used during quiet periods to help keep Conviction up and slowly bring targets back up out of the non-critical zone if you know they won't be taking a lot of damage any time soon. With haste and procs the cast time of this spell can be reduced significantly.Flash of Light
Cost: 27% of Base Mana (~6k @85)
Cast: 1.5 seconds
Effect: A quick, expensive heal that heals a friendly target for x
Notes: In average iLvl 332 gear with 4658 spellpower and self-buffs this spell heals for roughly 16.7k
Flash of Light has become a situational heal, and is no-longer a go-to spell. The best use of Flash of Light is for targets at low health that need to be healed up out of the danger-zone quickly. Tanks or otherwise, if you know they're about to take damage and you cannot afford to spend time healing them, Flash of Light should be used. However, your mana pool will drain quickly casting it, so be careful.Divine Light
Cost: 30% of Base Mana (~7k @85)
Cast: 3 seconds
Effect: A large heal that heals a friendly target for x. Good for periods of heavy damage.
Notes: In average iLvl 332 gear with 4658 spellpower and self-buffs this spell heals for roughly 25k
Divine Light is our biggest, baddest heal, aka our least efficient. It costs the most mana and is the slowest. With proper haste and procs, Divine Light can have a decent cast time, but will drain one's mana fast. This spell is particularly useful to heal targets that need to be healed up quickly but aren't dangerously low. This is because one Divine Light is faster than 2 Flash of Lights and far more mana-efficient for the comparative healing it puts out. If you find yourself healing a target that is taking more damage than you can keep up with, you may need to switch into Divine Light healing mode, just remember that you won't be able to keep it up very long.Lay on Hands
Cooldown: 10 minutes
Effect: Heals a friendly target for an amount equal to the Paladin's maximum health. IF used on self, the Paladin cannot be targeted by Divine Shield or Hand of Protection for 2 min.
Notes: This heals for your hp, in iLvl 332 gear that's roughly a 100k heal.
Lay on Hands is an exceptionally useful and efficient spell. Technically it's our most efficient, but, with its huge cooldown it's not one that we get to use very often, a sort of once-per-encounter type deal. Save this spell for when your target is getting dangerously low and you don't have the ability to get them back up any other way. You can glyph Lay on Hands to also grant you 10% of your maximum mana when used, which is certainly useful.Area of Effect Heals
For the first time ever, Paladins have true Area of Effect healing.
Light of Dawn
Cost: 1 Holy Power
Effect: Consumes all Holy Power to send a wave of healing energy before you, healing up to 4 of the most injured targets in your party or raid within a 30 yard frontal cone for x per charge of Holy Power.
Notes: In average iLvl 332 gear with 4658 spellpower and self-buffs this spell heals for roughly 8.8k per target
Light of Dawn is our 31-pt talent and our most mana-efficient AoE heal since it costs no mana. It doesn't heal for much, it's effectively like a free Holy Shock on 5 targets in front of you. The most important thing to note about this spell is that it requires Holy Power to use, is only really effective at 3 Holy Power and that it's a frontal cone, so if you want to heal people they will need to be grouped together in front of you. The positioning challenges of this spell are its greatest inhibitor, as it's quite difficult to get 5 people clumped together in front of you, especially with so many encounter mechanics that require spreading out. Still, the spell finds its uses and is particularly effective on melee. If you're healing a tank, you can position yourself in such a way so as to heal the tank and any nearby melee with this spell when you need to use it. Since Word of Glory heals for almost twice the amount of Light of Dawn, you will only want to use this spell in place of Word of Glory if the melee you're capable of healing with this in addition to the tank are all needing healing and the Tank isn't immediately threatened by death. This is not to suggest that Light of Dawn cannot be used on ranged. Many encounters force ranged to stack up in clumps, in these situations Light of Dawn will work just as well on your Ranged if needed.Holy Radiance
Cost: 40% of base man
Duration: 10 seconds
Cooldown: 1 min (reduced by talents)
Effect: Heals all friendly targets within 20 yards for up to x every sec, with effectiveness diminishing on targets farther than 8 yards away and for each additional player target beyond 6. Lasts 10 sec.
Notes: In average iLvl 332 gear with 4658 spellpower and self-buffs this spell heals for roughly 1.4k per target within 8 yards and at 6 or less per second.
Holy Radiance costs quite a bit of mana and you shouldn't expect it to really do a lot of healing for you. Instead, the intent of Holy Radiance is to work in conjunction with other AoE heals and your own single-target healing. More than anything else, this spell will help stabilize some of the party or raid damage taken so that it's more manageable to heal through a party-wide or raid-wide AoE. Obviously, due to the nature of this spell, it's also positionally affected and best used on melee. However, like Light of Dawn, this spell will also be effective on clumps of Ranged if they need to stack up.Our AoE heals are very limited, which still puts Holy Paladins in a situation of likely being primary Tank healers. The important thing is that we have the option to use the AoE heals, and, if we're smart about positioning and timing, we can use our AoE heals to great effect, especially in melee range. In-line with the Triage style, our AoE heals seem to be more about helping to stabilize heavy AoE damage rather than actually heal our targets up.
Cooldown: 2 min
Effect: You gain 10% (15% glyphed) of your total mana over 15 sec, but the amount healed by your healing spells is reduced by 50%.
Divine Plea is still our important mana-regen cooldown. To those who have healed in the previous expansion, it will not seem nearly as strong as it did in the past, however, its usage will still be relatively similar. If you know that the reduction to healing isn't going to hurt you, you should use it as often as you can as soon as you dip below roughly 10-15% mana. If you wait to use this spell until you're almost OOM then you're wasting its overall effectiveness by not giving it time to work off its cooldown while you spend more mana.Judgement/Seal of Insight
Cooldown: Judge: 8 sec. Seal of Insight: n/a
Effect: Judge: Unleashes the energy of a Seal to judge an enemy for Holy damage. Seal of Insight: Fills the Paladin with divine power for 30 min, giving each single-target melee attack a chance to heal the Paladin for x and restore 4% of the Paladin's base mana. Unleasing this Seal's energy will deal 1256 Holy damage to an enemy and restore 15% of the Paladin's base mana.
I cannot emphasize this point enough: Using Seal of Insight and Judging on Cooldown is the most important aspect of Holy Paladin mana regen. Learn it, live it, love it. With the heavy nerfs to mana regen overall, Paladins still retain this extremely strong ability to regen mana. Not only is judging on cooldown an effective way to get back mana, but we can also simply run into melee range and start whacking on the boss to get a chance for mana as well. There are obvious drawbacks: melee-range tends to take a lot more damage, deals with knockbacks, silences, stuns and interrupts, and, if you're meleeing, you're not healing. Ultimately, whether or not you run into melee-range to regen mana will be a personal decision based on encounter mechanics. Be smart about it. Often times just judging on cooldown will be enough, remember that you don't need full mana, you just need to not be OOM before the end of the fight.Cooldowns/Utility
This next sub-section covers our cooldowns. Cooldowns are not only important to help us keep up with particularly damage-intensive portions of a fight, but can also be methods by which we conserve mana. Remember that if you toss out bigger heals that you'll need to cast less individual heals to do your job, and the less you have the cast the more mana you save.
Beacon of Light
Cost: 6% of Base Mana (n/a if glyphed)
Duration: 5 min
Effect: The target becomes a Beacon of Light to all members of your party or raid within a 60 yard radius. Each heal you cast on party or raid members will also heal the Beacon for 50% of the amount healed.
Beacon of Light, though no longer as powerful as it once was, is still an exceptionally useful spell and should be kept up at all times on a target that is consistently taking damage. In most situations this will be the Tank. However, in some encounters a DPS might be your target if they're targeted by a specific mechanic that deals heavy damage. Or, in fights with heavy raid AoE or lots of movement you may even consider putting it on yourself. Because the target of the heals is only healed 50% of your direct healing, you cannot simply place the Beacon on them and never need to heal them directly. However, it will allow you flexibility in tossing out heals to others that need it without worrying about your Beacon target as much.Guardian of Ancient Kings
Cooldown: 5 min
Duration: 30 seconds
Effect: Summons a Guardian of Ancient Kings to protect you for 30 sec. While active, your next 5 heals will cause the Guardian to heal the same target for the amount healed be your heal, and friendly targets within 10 yards of the target for 10% of the amount healed.
Guardian of Ancient Kings, due to the length of its cooldown, is best reserved for a damage-intensive portion of the fight, during which you know you will need a bit of extra oomph. Like our AoE heals, the AoE effect of this cooldown best suits it for use on melee or a Tank, but, ultimately, it is simply useful for its effective 100% increase in your healing for 5 heals, which is very useful if a lot of damage is going out.Avenging Wrath
Cooldown: 3 min (reduced by talents)
Cost: 8% of Base Mana (~1.8k @85)
Duration: 20 seconds
Effect: Increases all damage and healing caused by 20% for 20 sec.
This cooldown, especially if talented to a cooldown of 2 minutes, is best used to help offset the healing reduction of Divine Plea. Still, if you're having trouble healing through a certain portion of the fight it can instead be used to bump up your healing temporarily so that you can keep people alive.Divine Favor
Cooldown: 3 min
Duration: 20 seconds (Increased by a glyph)
Effect: Increases your spell casting haste by 20% and spell critical chance by 20% for 30 sec.
Divine Favor is actually useful now! A notoriously overlooked spell in the past, Divine Favor is probably one of our most useful cooldowns now. Depending on the encounter length, it can be used once, twice, or even three times during particularly long (such as end-boss) encounters. The cooldown, like Avenging Wrath, could be used to off-set a Divine Plea. However, it's also just an effective way to increase your throughput for a little while and works effectively like a mini-heroism. This spell is awesomeness in a button and you should certainly identify places to use it in an encounter, if nothing comes up as obvious for use, then use it to help offset Divine Plea.Aura Mastery
Cooldown: 2 min
Duration: 6 sec.
Effect: Causes your Concentration Aura to make all affected targets immune to Silence and Interrupt effects and improve the effect of all other aura by 100%. Lasts 6 sec.
This cooldown is probably one of the most undervalued cooldowns by those who don't understand Paladins. One might look at it and think of it as a PvP spell if they ignore the last couple lines. The 100% increase to other auras is a HUGE boost for resistance auras, making Aura Mastery an exceptionally useful tool in mitigating large amounts of raid damage from certain raid-wide AoEs. Smart healers can likely identify a spell or two on almost every encounter during which Aura Mastery could be used to help mitigate damage. You should proactively look for ways to use this spell and use it as often as you can during these moments.Hand of Protection
Cooldown: 5 min
Cost: 6% of Base Mana (~1.4k @85)
Duration: 10 sec
Effect: A targeted party or raid member is protected from all physical attacks for 10 sec, but during that itme they cannot attack or use physical abilities.
This spell is particularly useful for DPS who get on a hot streak and pull threat, though intelligent Paladins may find many alternative uses for this spell on an encounter-by-encounter basis. This spell should almost never be used on a Tank unless, for some reason, you need to force a Tank swap, as the target will become immune to the boss and as such the boss will switch to the next highest aggro target. The spell does not actually eliminate one's threat, however, so if you use it to save someone who has pulled threat, they will still need to actively work on reducing their threat during the time saved. Spellcasters will still be able to cast when affected by this spell, but melee will be unable to attack.Hand of Salvation
Cooldown: 2 min
Cost: 6% of Base Mana (~1.4k @85)
Duration: 10 seconds
Effect: Places a Hand on the Party or Raid member, reducing their total threat by 2% every 1 sec for 10 sec. (Glyphed: Hand of Salvation no longer permanently reduced threat over time, but instead reduces all threat as long as Hand of Salvation lasts)
This is another useful spell to help DPS who pull quite a bit of threat. While the primary responsibility of threat management lies with Tanks to generate threat and DPS to watch their threat, having this utility at the Holy Paladin's disposal can be invaluable in cutting-edge progression when a DPS might be slightly better geared than a Tank, or in situations of burst where a Tank simply can't keep up initially, by using this cooldown you can help ensure that such moments don't turn into raid wipes.Cleanse
Cost: 14% of Base Mana (~3.2k @85)
Effect: Cleanses a friendly target, removing 1 Poison effect, 1 Disease affect (Talented: and 1 Magic effect).
Cleanse is a useful spell to Paladins which may end up being necessary in order to control certain encounters. Blizzard loves to use cleansing certain buffs (or sometimes not cleansing them) as a requirement for successfully dealing with an encounter. Even when cleansing isn't an important aspect of an encounter, it is often more mana-efficient to cleanse a debuff off of a party or raid member than to heal them through the damage it might cause. However, because of the mana cost of the ability, be sure that you are not cleansing things which don't need to be cleansed, such as a mana burn on a Feral Druid or an attack speed debuff on a Mage.Hammer of Justice
Cooldown: 1 min (can be reduced through talents)
Cost: 3% of Base Mana (~702 @85)
Duration: 6 seconds
Effect: Stuns the target for 6 sec.
This spell can be used to help control adds on an encounter and can be used as an interrupt on boss-abilities if absolutely necessary.Holy Wrath
Cooldown: 15 seconds
Cost: 20% of Base Mana (~4.6k @85)
Duration: 3 seconds
Effect: Sends bolts of holy power in all directions, causing 5277 Holy damage divided among all targets with 10 yds and stunning all Demonds and Undead for 3 sec. (Elementals and Dragonkin too when glyphed)
This spell can be extraordinarily useful utility in controlling adds or trash packs, especially when glyphed to include elementals and demons. Be sure to look for places to use it, though, always remember that your primary responsibility is keeping others alive.Hand of Sacrifice
Cooldown: 1.5 min
Cost: 6% of Base Mana (~1.4k @95)
Duration: 12 seconds (roughly)
Effect: Places a Hand on the party or raid member, transferring 30% damage taken to the caster. Lasts 12 sec or until the caster has transferred 100% of their maximum health.
Hand of Sacrifice is a situational mitigation tool which you can use to help control healing. Due to the talent Protector of the Innocent, more Paladins should get familiar with using this Cooldown as often as possible as they will already get a lot of free healing on themselves simply by healing others, thus, as long as this ability isn't likely to put them in danger of dying, they can use it as an external mitigation cooldown on a Tank or a party or raid member expected to take heavy damage.Conclusions
Holy Paladins have a lot of utility and a lot of healing power. Our strengths still lie in healing 1 to 2 targets which makes us fantastic Tank healers. However, we've gained a lot of strength to help us heal on the move and to heal multiple targets simultaneously. Our optimal positioning will be in melee-range, if it's not a detrimental position due to encounter mechanics, this will help facilitate our regen abilities and AoEs and maximize their usefulness.
Keep in mind the concepts of Triage healing and smart spell usage as you heal. The more actively you work with all of the tools available to you, not just your mana regen tools and your heals, the better off you will be in keeping the raid healthy and alive while also not going OOM before the fight is over.