Welcome to the World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King healer tier list! We will be ranking each healer spec available for the expansion, as well as explaining each spec’s position on the tier list.
- Holy Paladin (S-Tier)
- Discipline Priest (A-Tier)
- Restoration Druid (A-Tier)
- Restoration Shaman (B-Tier)
- Holy Priest (C-Tier)
What about Val’anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings?
Wrath of the Lich King introduces the first-ever healer-exclusive legendary, Val’anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings. This weapon has a large impact on the healer metagame, as some healing specs benefit more from it than others. It is somewhat similar to Atiesh, Greatstaff of the Guardian, in that instead of being a random drop from a specific boss, you collect “shards” from various bosses in the raid and then combine them to get your weapon.
Unlike many legendary weapons of past expansions which were seen as “trophies” (f.e. Sulfuras, Hand of Ragnaros being mainly useful in PvP, or Atiesh, Greatstaff of the Guardian / Thori’dal, the Stars’ Fury only being attainable in the last phase of the expansion, after killing the last boss) Val’anyr can be obtained from Ulduar, coming with the 2nd phase of WotLK. This means that your guild will get to use this legendary for more than half of the expansion’s duration, and it’ll make a very big difference in your guild’s performance throughout. It will be very important that you give it to your best players, who are also playing the right spec for it!
Therefore this tier list will take all of this in mind. We will assume that all of the specs that are good candidates for it (Holy Paladins, Restoration Druids, Restoration Shamans) have Val’anyr, while your Discipline Priests may not have it.
The S-tier represents the most powerful healing specs in the current meta – those with the best healing and utility. Nearly every guild will want at least 1 of these specializations, and may in fact recruit multiple.
Holy Paladins see an explosive rise to the top in Wrath of the Lich King, becoming the strongest healing specialization in the game, after having to suffer as the weakest healer for all of TBC. It won’t be rare to see raids with 2 Holy Paladins in them, and occasionally even 3 — that’s more than half of a raid’s 4-5 healers! And it’s not very hard to see why — we get an unbelievable amount of buffs in Wrath.
Our healing throughput has been turbo-charged as there are multiple talents that boost Holy Light, we have a pretty overpowered constant shield in Sacred Shield, Holy Shock‘s cooldown has been reduced to 6 seconds giving us some potent instant healing, we still have incredible mana longevity thanks to Divine Plea, and we finally get the ability to heal multiple targets at once thanks to the incredibly powerful Beacon of Light — the most mispronounced ability name in the game. Holy Paladins have a jaw-dropping amount of healing now, and it will be pretty common for them to be topping healing meters.
But raw healing isn’t all we have; we still have some of the best utility of any healer spec, with our multiple blessings, auras, and the re-designed “Hand” spells. The Holy tree now also features a very handy raid cooldown in Aura Mastery, and a buffed Improved Lay on Hands talent, pairing excellently with the massively buffed Lay on Hand. Furthermore, by investing some points in the Protection tree we can also pick up the highly sought-after Divine Guardian raid cooldown, which raids will want multiple of in order to deal with several lethal AoE mechanics.
Thanks to our incredible raw healing output, Holy Paladins will frequently be the top candidate for a guild’s first Val’anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings. Being able to constantly apply a shield on the main tank through Beacon of Light will significantly reduce incoming damage, and prevent sudden damage spikes or deaths. So if your guild is struggling with occasional tank deaths, put that Val’anyr in your Holy Paladin’s hands, and watch your tank death issues go away!
The A-tier represents strong healing specializations that offer a great amount of healing and utility, frequently having a unique trait that makes them bringing on its own. Most raid groups will have 1 of each of these specializations, and it won’t be extremely uncommon to see more than 1, either.
Restoration Druids are largely unchanged in Wrath of the Lich King, as our playstyle remains extremely similar to how it was in TBC. That is a testament to the fact that we were already pretty well designed. We now find ourselves on the top of the A-tier, arguably the 2nd or 3rd best healer in the game — Discipline Priests certainly give us a run for our money. Most raids will feature 1 Resto Druid, though it won’t be extremely uncommon to see 2.
There’s some bad news: Lifebloom sees a pretty big nerf in Wrath, as its mana cost is severely increased, and it restores 50% of its mana cost when it blooms. This is intended to discourage us from endlessly “rollling” Lifeblooms (renewing them on a target just before they expire) and instead push us towards letting them bloom as much as possible — a pretty significant nerf to our single-target healing and mana efficiency. To compensate for this, we get Nourish as an on-demand single-target heal, which does a legitimately great amount of healing, but doesn’t make up for the Lifebloom loss.
But there’s good news, too: while our single-target is slightly nerfed, our AoE healing is massively buffed. The first and most obvious way is through the new Wild Growth talent, which applies a HoT on 5 targets. Secondly, the newly-added Glyph of Rapid Rejuvenation (which isn’t always used) allows our Rejuvenation to scale with spell haste, ticking and thus healing faster. This all solidifies the idea that as Resto Druids we are supposed to be “blanket” covering the raid in heal-over-time spells rather than healing the tank forever, a job that we’re arguably the best at — only rivalled by Discipline Priests.
Furthermore, our benefits don’t end there, as our utility has also seen a pretty substantial buff in WotLK. We of course still have the old amazing staples, like Gift of the Wild, Innervate and Rebirth. Our Tree of Life form sees a major buff, as its 6% healing received increase is now raid-wide, which makes raid healing significantly easier. But our most significant utility buff comes in the form of the wildly overpowered Revitalize talent, which gives your Rejuvenation and Wild Growth ticks a chance to restore the target’s resource. Simply cover your entire raid with Rejuvenation and watch as your raid’s DPS increases by a significant amount thanks to DPS players having extra resource to burn, and your healers suddenly becoming able to keep healing in some of the longer boss fights, where they’d normally run out of mana. Some raids may elect to bring a 2nd Resto Druid thanks to Revitalize alone!
Most guilds will consider Resto Druids to be the 2nd best candidate for their Val’anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings, right after Holy Paladins, thanks to our incredible AoE healing. We would argue that if your guild is struggling with AoE damage heavy fights, you might even want to give your first Val’anyr to your Resto Druid, as having the shield get instantly applied to multiple targets thanks to Wild Growth can make a massive difference in whether they survive a dangerous AoE mechanic or not. It will surely not be a wasted Val’anyr, and we strongly recommend that you give it to a Druid before a Shaman or Priest. Our ability to benefit from Val’anyr is one of the reasons why we ranked Restoration Druids over Discipline Priests, who unfortunately don’t get as much use out of it.
Discipline Priest were in an awkward spot during Classic & TBC, being considered a PvP spec first and foremost and thus usually overshadowed by our Holy brothers. That is the case no longer in WotLK — we’re still an exceptional PvP healer, of course, but a pretty substantial redesign causes us to be amazing healers in PvE as well, giving us a spot in the A-tier. Some would argue that Discipline Priests in fact belong in the S-tier thanks to their incredible healing — on many fights, you’ll be handily beating both Holy Paladins and Resto Druids on the healing meters. However, we are unfortunately not very stackable — our Weakened Soul mechanic and the cooldown on Rapture means you only really want 1 Disc Priest in a raid, and while that 1 Disc Priest is going to be an absolute MVP, we cannot rate the spec higher than Holy Paladins and Resto Druids, which you can bring a large number of to a raid with no penalty.
Let’s address the elephant in the room: WotLK sees the addition of the fan-favourite Penance. This bad boy offers some incredible spot healing, elevating our single-target healing capabilities to the top tiers, specially when paired with shields created by our new Divine Aegis. On its own however Penance isn’t enough to push us to the A-tier; our new talent, Soul Warding, however, is more than enough. Our Power Word: Shield has no cooldown thanks to this talent, meaning we can spam it, shielding the entire raid in anticipation of a dangerous AoE mechanic. It is impossible to understate how useful that ability is — it single-handedly elevates us to one of the strongest AoE healers around. Restoration Druids will edge you out on some specific fights, but on most AoE-damage centric fights, you’ll be #1 on the healing meters.
Discipline has always been a utility-centric talent tree, with Power Infusion causing fights between casters over who gets it since the dawn of time, and Pain Suppression being an incredibly strong raid cooldown. WotLK sweetens the utility deal we offer even more, first with a minor goodie in Renewed Hope, offering a very widely underestimated 3% damage taken reduction buff. That pales in comparison to the other new utility-based talent however: Rapture. When your shield is completely used up on any target, you restore some of that target’s resource — twice the amount restored by a Resto Druid’s Revitalize, in fact. The 12 second cooldown and our inherent limitation due to Weakened Soul means we won’t restore resources to the degree that Druids do, but the effect is noticeable enough (DPS players will love you!) that every raid will want to have 1 Discipline Priest for this effect alone!
Our one main drawback is that unfortunately we do not benefit from Val’anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings as much as all of the other healers do. A large part (and the majority on certain fights) of your healing comes from Power Word: Shield, which does not activate either of Val’anyr’s effects. As a result, we start off very strong in Phase 1, but then as soon as Ulduar is released, we watch the other healers edge closer towards us with their fancy new legendary mace. The good news is that we don’t need no stinky legendary mace — we do just fine throughout the entire expansion without it! And who knows, maybe after the other healers have gotten theirs, you can grab one too, just to feel a little more kingly. 😎
The B-tier represents healing specializations that are very much viable — you won’t ever wipe because your healers are “only” B-tier. However, they are generally not as powerful as the healing specializations in tiers above them; they typically have slightly lower healing throughput or weaker utility, and usually aren’t as stackable.
A titan is slain! Restoration Shamans see a plethora of substantial nerfs in WotLK, and as a result, we go from the very top of the S-tier in TBC, to being alone in the B-tier. Oh the humanity!
The main victim of Blizzard’s massacre was our utility. Nearly all of our totem buffs are no longer unique, meaning other classes can offer them as well. The only totem buffs that a raid needs from a Shaman are Wrath of Air Totem, as it’s still unique, and Strength of Earth Totem, as our version of that buff is the strongest thanks to the Enhancing Totem talent. Having said that, all of these buffs can be offered by a Shaman of any specialization, so the only Resto-exclusive utility we get are old goodies Ancestral Healing and Mana Tide Totem, which are still amazing, as well as the ability to dispel poisons, curses and diseases all at once, thanks to our newly added Cleanse Spirit talent. Unfortunately, that utility doesn’t quite cut it; with Heroism / Bloodlust now being raid-wide and incurring a 10-minute debuff, many raids will only bring 1 Shaman — but thankfully, Resto is a good contender for that slot.
It’s not all bad, however, as we get some healing buffs to compensate. Our new capstone talent, Riptide, gives us some much-needed instant healing on a low cooldown, coupled with a handy heal-over-time effect and a secondary effect that boosts our Chain Heal. We finally get a healing-centric weapon imbue in Earthliving Weapon, which helps both our single-target and AoE-healing. Our healing is exceptional thanks to great new talents like Ancestral Awakening and Tidal Waves. The fact that other healers get a lot of buffs to their AoE healing naturally means we don’t shine quite as bright anymore, given that that was our main forte, but we’re still amazing at healing the tank while AoE healing thanks to Chain Heal, which no other healer can brag about.
Resto Shamans are naturally exceptional users of Val’anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings thanks to our great healing. As discussed previously, we heal the tank while also raid healing with our Chain Heal, which offers incredible value. Many guilds will choose to prioritize Resto Shamans after Holy Paladins and Resto Druids, as those are generally viewed as superior, having better single target and AoE healing respectively, but when it is finally your turn to get it, your healing will see a very noticeable increase!
The C-tier is comprised of healing specializations that are, frankly, a bit on the weaker side. It could be argued that they’re still viable, having acceptable healing throughput and some useful utility and other unique quirks, on top of being very fun to play. However, they will generally lag significantly behind S-tier and A-tier healing specializations, and you might struggle to find a raid spot with one of these specs, as they aren’t in high demand.
If you thought Resto Shamans had it bad, wait until you see what Blizzard did to Holy Priests. Previously proudly an S-tier healer, they now find themselves at the very bottom of the tier list, all alone in the C-tier, teetering on the edge of viability.
I’ll get right to it: our healing is butchered. In a slight overreaction on Blizzard’s part, due to our ubiquity in TBC, Circle of Healing goes from having no cooldown, to a 6 second cooldown, with no real corresponding buff to make up for this change. Gone are the days of spamming CoH to quickly top off your raid — our AoE healing is now mediocre at best. We get some interesting new talents, like Serendipity, Test of Faith and Empowered Renew, which change our gameplay significantly, but frankly, none of them make up for the Circle of Healing nerf, which was previously our strongest niche.
As a final nail on our coffin, our only new utility in WotLK comes in the form of the thoroughly unimpressive Guardian Spirit. Its death prevention component sounds cool, but it is antithetical to the simple fact that in a good raid, deaths will naturally be very rare. Thus all it really does is increase healing taken by the target by 40% for 10 seconds, on a 3 minute cooldown — which is laughably weak compared to what other healers get. As a result, most Priests will naturally gravitate towards Discipline, as it offers superior healing and utility, meaning that we are unfortunately obsolete.
Holy Priests make for surprisingly good users of Val’anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings, as we constantly spam instant cast spells, giving us many chances to proc it. However, most guilds would never consider giving it to a Holy Priest over a Holy Paladin, Resto Druid or Resto Shaman, as they’re better in almost every way, and thus it would benefit your raid more if one of them were to have it first. Still, when you finally get yours, you’ll notice a pretty substantial boost to your healing!
Simply put, specs in the D-tier are considered to be not viable. They can be fun to play, but you will struggle to get invited to raids when playing one of these, and you may even find yourself getting kicked from groups, as your healing will be really bad.
Fortunately, no healer is so weak that we’d say they’re not at all viable — though if Blizzard had their way we’d probably see Holy Priests here!