First and foremost, we see Priests leading the pack both in healing and raw number of parses, with near as many entries as the other three classes combined! While Shaman and Paladin are restricted to Horde and Alliance respectively, their similar numbers also supports the idea that both factions have very similar raiding populations, something that has been sorely lacking in retail for quite some time. Despite Priest’s dominance, every healer has good representation within the raid, which also can’t be said about tanks or DPS. Like last time, we’ve categorized each class into tiers of healing potential, though keep in mind that total healing potential is not the only important metric to being a good healer, as carefully managing mana and healing at the right time, as well as bringing indispensable buffs and debuffs, can be just as if not even more important.
Although Paladin edged them out during Molten Core, Priests have risen back to the top, cementing their place as the premier healers of Classic WoW, with most groups bringing 3-5 to each encounter. Despite this dominance, many high end groups don’t actually bring them for their healing prowess, instead fielding Discipline for the almighty Power Infusion buff to enhance DPS and reducing encounter lengths even further. This actually places more healing emphasis on Paladins
and Shaman (although Discipline is still quite potent), and that flexibility is one of the biggest strengths Priests have to offer.
Both specs routinely talent deep into each others trees, the major difference between Holy and Discipline being the extra points in Spiritual Guidance and Spiritual Healing weighted against moving through Mental Strength to Power Infusion. Deep Holy is always going to be the best raw healing setups, though the capstone talent Lightwell is near universally avoided, due to it’s clunky use. Once a raid gets beyond the point of enough healing to survive encounters, however, raids intent on pushing the speed barrier will prioritize Power Infusion in order to buff their high damage spell casters, as faster boss kills also require less total healing. This will ultimately cause some deviation in statistics, due to Classic Warcraft Logs grouping by class rather than spec, but overall Priests remain nearly unmatched in healing potential.
Holy Priest Healing Guide
Holy Priest Healing BiS Guide
The Alliance only Holy Paladins are among the best healers in Classic WoW, sustaining strong single target healing with Flash of Light and the surprising mana efficiency of Illumination. The real reason they’re so heavily utilized though is their wide variety of buffs, which don’t restrict group placement as much their Horde counterparts do. While a great deal of emphasis is placed on the value of a Shaman’s Windfury, they don’t bring nearly as much support for non-Warriors, while Paladin blessings and much more universal: provided enough Paladins, they can provide bonus stats, attack power, threat reduction, mana restoration, damage taken reduction, and increased healing to everyone in the raid, though each role has its own buff priority. Paladin talents are also extremely flexible, with Holy able to spec in or out of Improved Blessing of Might, Blessing of Kings, and Improved Blessing of Wisdom with almost no opportunity cost, compared to a Shaman investing deep into Enhancement for Elemental Weapons or spending their time and mana totem twisting to maximize their buff potential. While none of their buffs are as individually impactful, the ability to stack several different Blessings on each member of the raid without even being in the same party more than makes up for it. Finally, group resistances such as Fire Resistance Aura play a big role in raiding; all of these benefits combined make Holy Paladins a welcome sight in any Alliance raid group.
Because Paladins can wear all armor types, they have the widest array of gearing options. Though the Judgement Armor set is tailored toward healing, the relatively low amount of spell power will lead most to continue to wear a hodgepodge mix of cloth, leather, and the occasional mail piece, with only a few of their best healing items coming from Blackwing Lair at all.
Holy Paladin Healing Guide
Holy Paladin Healing BiS Guide
Counter to the single target prowess of the Holy Paladin, Horde exclusive Restoration Shamans are the best AoE healers due to their Chain Heal, which bounces between the lowest health party members. This advantage comes at a cost however, as Shaman lack the mana efficiency of other healers, missing out on resource regeneration and refunds while casting.
The main reason for prioritizing Shaman over other healers is one of the best melee buffs in the game, Windfury Totem. Because Shaman don’t provide as much in the way of caster support, Horde groups tend to stack slightly more melee classes than Alliance ones, but that strength is also one of their biggest weaknesses: unlike Paladin blessings, Totems are restricted to the party, causing Shaman to often be pushed into melee groups and they’ll often be expected to Totem Twist, taxing their mana inefficiency even more than normal. Being placed in the melee groups also pushes them into the Enhancement talent Enhancing Totems, taking points out of Restoration. The capstone Restoration talent Mana Tide Totem is an exception to this melee focus, but it’s a relatively weak cooldown, and typically most important in the earliest stages of the game, before proper gearing has supplanted the need – in many cases the Shaman ends up needing to use it for themselves long before any other caster, and they would still find themselves placed into melee groups if there weren’t enough Shaman to go around. For these reasons, Shaman are firmly placed in the A tier below Priest and Paladin, with more emphasis placed on their buffs than actual output.
Like Paladins, Fire Resistance Totem and other resistance auras also play an important part in raiding, and Tremor Totem is much more accessible than the Dwarf Priest exclusive Fear Ward, although what it makes up for in accessibility it loses in group restriction and more stringent timing due to pulsing every 5 seconds rather than immuning the effects outright. Also like Paladins, Shaman often wear a variety of armor types when healing, but unlike Judgement, their 3 piece The Ten Storms set bonus is actually one of the best in the game.
Restoration Shaman Healing Guide
Restoration Shaman Healing BiS Guide
Although they show lower in the rankings, Restoration Druids are great support healers and they benefit from a high degree of build flexibility. Many of these considerations might be out the window for heavily min/maxed speed running groups pushing through sub-1 minute encounters, but can be important choices for groups still progressing through the content – the Balance/Restoration hybrid revolving around Moonglow helps in the early struggle with mana efficiency, deep Restoration Swiftmend improves healing output considerably, while going in the other direction for a Feral/Restoration Heart of the Wild focus can allow for extra damage or off-tanking. Moonglow currently competes very well due to generally smaller mana pools, before better gearing and use of consumables such as Flask of Distilled Wisdom give Swiftmend a large enough mana pool to work with.
Despite their respectable output, Druids are similar to Shaman in that they’re often brought to raids less for their healing than for their utility.. Faerie Fire is indispensable as one of the core debuffs to be used against any raid boss, Mark of the Wild is a welcome addition for all players, Innervate is highly sought after by all spellcasters, Rebirth can save individual mistakes or doomed pulls. Unfortunately, unlike Shaman you typically only need one in order to provide these benefits, which contributes to their relatively low usage; while there are near as many Druid healing parses as Paladin and Shaman, that number is made up of both factions rather than one or the other.
Unfortunately, while these things make them outstanding classes in every aspect of the game, many of them aren’t overly relevant to raiding, or are much more muted than similar effects provided by other classes. Unlike Paladins and Shaman, you only need one Druid to provide Faerie Fire and Mark of the Wild, while Innervate alone isn’t a good enough reason to prioritize Druids over other classes, at least not until we start seeing longer and more difficult raid encounters in Ahn’Qiraj and Naxxramas (and hopefully you don’t need too many battle rezzes!). Unfortunate as it may be, their buffs simply don’t provide the value that Windfury, Paladin Blessings, or Power Infusion do. That isn’t to say Druids are bad by any means; they may not supplant Priests, Paladins, or Shaman, but reviving others can be clutch during rough encounters, and the class helps support healers which focus on their buffs rather than healing output, so one or two Druids are still frequently seen in most raid groups.
Restoration Druid Healing Guide
Restoration Druid Healing BiS Guide