Devout followers of the Holy Light, priests are a cloth-wearing caster class. Traditionally masters of healing, the priest’s knowledge of the Light also grants them control of the darker powers of the Shadow. Discipline and Holy priests are powerful healers, while Shadow priests are potent damage-dealers comparable to Affliction warlocks. However, whether blasting their enemies with Holy Light or sinister Shadow Words, all priests combine some of each school, and are capable of performing beyond their main role.
Discipline priests specialise in in damage mitigation, using a range of powerful shields to magically protect their charges. Excelling at single-target healing, Discipline priests can keep a single target alive for a long time, thanks to spells like [Power Word: Shield] and a solid range of healing options. Discipline priests can also heal through dealing damage, using their attacks to take care of their allies’ needs during quiet periods or gaps in their rotation. Disc is a great and strong spec to play, with its protective abilities granting breathing room in PvP, and its healing/damage-dealing combination adding fun to PvE encounters.
Holy priests are the archetypal pure healer. They have an extensive range of healing options for all situations, exchanging the Discipline priest’s anticipatory damage absorption effects for good old fashioned healing power. Holy priests use a combination of direct heals, heal over time (HoT) effects, and AoE and multi-target heals to respond to any situation. They also possess some unique abilities like [Lightwell] and [Guardian Spirit]. Holy priests are far more vulnerable in PvP than the other specs, but are excellent at keeping groups of players alive thanks to their healing versatility. Holy focuses on healing even more than Discipline, boasting sheer healing output which is hard to beat.
Shadow priests represent an entirely different approach to the class. These masters of darkness apply damage over time (DoT) effects to their enemies and slowly drain the life from them with [Mind Flay]. Shadow priests offer some similar gameplay to Affliction warlocks, keeping a number of DoTs active on targets at all times while filling the rotation with lighter attacks and bonus procs. However, the Shadow priest lacks the complexity of the Affliction warlock’s range of options, having a much simpler and tighter rotation. Capable of dealing good burst damage, the Shadow priest really shines when they can place DoTs on multiple targets, dealing massive amounts of damage without lifting a finger.
The telltale sign of a Shadow priest is [Shadowform], an altered state that renders the priest a dark shadow of themselves, and improves their play as a DPS. The one limitation to this is that it prevents the priest from casting most healing spells. However, the priest is still capable of dropping briefly out of Shadowform to heal themselves or their allies, providing extra utility and survivability when needed. Shadow priests can also provide a good amount of group healing through [Vampiric Embrace] and hybrid damage/healing abilities available to all priests. However, a Shadow priest cannot be relied upon to maintain healing, as their mana pool will rapidly run dry.
When levelling, many priests choose the Shadow spec, since it deals damage far more quickly than the other specs. However, the healing specs are quite capable of facing mobs alone, and benefit from far greater survivability than the DPS-oriented Shadow spec. Both specs are capable of switching quickly from healing to damage when the situation demands it, with Disc generating healing all the while. This versatility allows priests of any spec to bring a little extra support when it’s needed, and to experiment with their preferred playstyle. For example, a Shadow priest might choose focus entirely on DPS while their allies die, or may take a sideline in support, yanking friends out of the fire with [Leap of Faith] and throwing out a quick [Power Word: Shield] for a beleaguered tank, or even going all-in as a temporary healer to save the day when the main healer dies.
Another string to the priest’s bow is their range of dispel abilities. Powerful abilities like [Dispel Magic] and [Mass Dispel] make priests some of the most powerful dispellers in the game, with Disc and Holy priests excelling in this role. They also have some fun spells like [Levitate], [Mind Control] and [Mind Vision].
The main weakness to the priest class is their cloth armor, making them very weak to melee attacks. Priests have abilities like [Psychic Scream] for when things get out of hand, but need to stand back from the fray if they wish to show their true potential, and are more dependent on help from other players than some classes. In PvP this can make lower-level play more challenging, as their armor offers little protections from attackers, and stout protectors may be hard to come by until higher levels. Even at higher levels, it often pays to stay out of sight, or at least to try to avoid drawing the attention of several enemies at once, since the priest’s armor offers limited protection to heavy attacks. However, when they are able to focus on applying their talents, priests have some of the most impressive outputs for their roles.
Overall, the priest is a great class with room for a variety of playstyles. If you enjoy healing and supporting others, keeping a target (or several) alive through thick and thin, and being the supporting backbone of the team, Disc and Holy offer a great and powerful healing experience. If you like being a sinister shadow master, destroying targets with a suffocating mass of dark plagues and mental torments, keeping a steady wall of DoTs chipping away at targets’ health, and steadily draining your enemy’s life while they stand powerless to oppose you – you might enjoy playing a Shadow priest.
Thanks to: Gamepedia