Welcome to the World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King PvP 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 (S-Tier)
- Restoration Druid (A-Tier)
- Restoration Shaman (B-Tier)
- Holy Priest (D-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.
Val’anyr has a big impact in PvP, specially in seasons 6 and 7. This guide assumes that all healers have Val’anyr, though naturally some get a bigger benefit from it than others.
The S-tier represents the most powerful healing specs in the current meta – those with the best healing, that you’ll see extremely often and specially so at higher ratings. Plainly put, if your aim is to get the Gladiator title and you seek the strongest healer you could play for the best chance at the title these are your best picks.
Holy Paladins were an extinct species during TBC, as they were only really viable in 5v5 arena, a bracket that’s not taken very seriously. This changes completely in WotLK — many would argue that they’re the best PvP healer overall, as they’re incredibly powerful, being the preferred healer in many of the strongest comps in both the 2v2 and 3v3 arena brackets.
The primary reason for this change is that our crippling weaknesses to crowd control and mana burn, two ubiquitous mechanics in PvP, have effectively been eliminated. A reworked Unyielding Faith coupled with our new active talents, Aura Mastery and Divine Sacrifice, make us very hard to control. Even when we do get controlled however, our Holy Shock has been massively buffed, instantly doing significant healing on a mere 6 second cooldown, thus making us a very difficult healer to lock out of the battle. Our natural longevity thanks to Illumination paired with the new Divine Plea makes us the longest-lasting healers out there – Priests will go out of mana before they can Mana Burn you out of the fight.
Another major change is that we get a ridiculous amount of dispel resistance, thanks to good-old Stoicism paired with one of the most overpowered PvP talents in the game, Sacred Cleansing. Not only are our amazing Hand spells, like Hand of Protection and Hand of Freedom, harder to dispel now, but our new Sacred Shield is also incredibly sticky, reducing incoming damage on its target by an incredible amount. All in all, Paladins are in a great spot healing-wise.
Our only real weakness is that despite being arguably the tankiest healer against physical damage thanks to our plate armor and shield, casters can still lock us down and kill us, as the only defensive ability we can use while crowd controlled is Divine Shield. Thus it won’t be rare for teams to fish for an opportunity to Counterspell you and kill you while you are locked out. Rogue / Mage / Priest (RMP) teams for example will often make a swap for you, stunning you and dispelling your Divine Shield with Mass Dispel — though our dispel resistance can make that a very annoying coin flip for them.
Holy Paladins will be all over the arena ladder, likely being overall the most popular PvP healer. The strongest 2v2 arena composition (particularly in latter seasons) is Arms Warrior / Holy Paladin, and 2 of the strongest 3v3 comps ( Arms Warrior / Unholy DK / Holy Paladin aka TSG, and Arms Warrior / Elemental Shaman / Holy Paladin) are nearly always played with a Paladin healer too. To make things even better, we’re incredible adaptable, as we fit in a LOT of different top-tier 3v3 teams, particularly those that use melee DPS thanks to our incredible Hand of Freedom buff — meaning as a Holy Paladin you’ll never struggle to find a team to play in.
Discipline Priests were 1 of the 2 strongest healers in TBC and that remains the case in WotLK. Mana Burn suffers a notable nerf, but we get a lot of buffs in other areas that make up for it, so we’re still an incredibly versatile, aggressive healer specialization, which fits in a whole lot of different teams.
The first and most obvious change is the addition of Penance, a channeled spell that heals for a metric truckload. It’s impossible to understate how powerful this spell is and how big of an impact it has on our gameplay — we can now quickly top someone off with Penance and go back to dispelling, mana burning, etc — we no longer need to spam Flash Heal in order to top someone off, slowing us down. Coupled with other healing talents like Divine Aegis and Grace, and we have some very powerful spot healing that allows us to top people off very fast.
Discipline Priests were a very aggressive healer in TBC, with our Dispel Magic making us a very scary healer to fight — and WotLK makes us 10 times scarier. The +spell damage and +healing stats get combined into a single stat known as “spell power”, meaning our various damaging spells like Holy Fire, Smite and Mind Blast, now get stronger and stronger — we actually hit very hard. Coupled with our new talent Borrowed Time, which gives us a 25% spell haste boost for our next spell cast within 6 seconds after casting Power Word: Shield (which we can spam thanks to Soul Warding), and you get a very fast & aggressive healer. Our gameplay consists of quickly topping someone off with Penance followed by a Power Word: Shield, and then it’s straight back to being aggressive with dispels or dealing damage — absolutely terrifying to face. We’re particularly scary due to our ability to use Mass Dispel to remove a Holy Paladin’s Divine Shield, an ability that’s extremely helpful seeing that they’re one of the most popular healers in the game.
Our main weaknesses from TBC largely remain the same in WotLK. While we’re incredibly resilient against casters thanks to Spell Warding, our cloth armor makes extremely vulnerable to being ran over like roadkill on a highway by physical DPS centric teams, in an expansion dominated by the armor penetration stat. Arms Warriors mow us down like we’re overgrown lawn, and Unholy DKs can lock us out from casting for an extremely long amount of time — and what do you know, one of the most powerful 3v3 comps in the game, Arms Warr / Unholy DK / Holy Pala aka TSG, has both of these specs. Retribution Paladins can partially ignore our Pain Suppression with their Sanctified Wrath, and our lack of a Poison dispel effect makes Rogues very annoying to face.
Coupled with a weakness to dispel effects (primarily used by other Disc Priests) and we’re one squishy healer, so you’ll have to play very carefully and skillfully in order to have success as a Disc Priest, and play with specific team-mates who know that they need to peel enemies away from you in order to save your life when you’re being focused down.
Still, Discipline Priests are undoubtedly a top tier healer in WotLK, albeit a good bit harder to play than fellow S-tier healer Holy Paladin. The 2v2 ladder will be filled with Rogue / Disc, Mage / Disc, Feral / Disc and Hunter / Disc teams — all of which are top tier. Rogue / Mage / Priest (aka “RMP”) meanwhile is still one of the strongest and most popular 3v3 comps in the game, particularly during the first few seasons, and the Disc is a crucial part of the team. But our top tier 3v3 comps don’t end there, as Ret (or Preg) Pala / Hunter / Disc is also considered to be one of the best comps out there, and Feral / Hunter / Disc is a very popular and strong comp as well, among a sea of other top-tier 3v3 comps we are a great fit for.
The A-tier represents strong healing specializations that you will encouter very frequently in arena, and are considered Gladiator viable. However, they typically have a minor weakness that prevents them from being “the best”, and typically require more specific team compositions in order to perform optimally.
Restoration Druids were widely considered to be the strongest healer in TBC, and it would appear that Blizzard weren’t too happy with that, as a couple of significant nerfs unfortunately knock us down a peg. We’re still very much a viable healer, and there will be no shortage of Gladiator Resto Druids, but the spec has some weakness that you should be aware of.
The first and biggest nerf is to Lifebloom: its mana cost is severely increased, but 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 particularly mana efficiency. Furthermore, Feral Charge gets moved from the 3rd row of the Feral tree in TBC, to the 5th in WotLK, which unfortunately means it is no longer worth picking up for us, as we lose too many better talents we could have picked up in the Balance tree. As a result, we lose this incredible mobility and interruption tool.
It’s not all doom-and-gloom for us however: the +spell damage and +healing stats get combined into a single stat known as “spell power” in WotLK. This means we finally have some decent offensive pressure with Insect Swarm (boosted by Glyph of Insect Swarm) and Wrath. We’re no Discipline Priests, but our damage is surprisingly decent. Furthermore, we get a new spell in Nourish, an on-demand single-target heal, which helps a lot in 3v3 arena in particular, as we finally have the ability to top someone off when waiting for HoTs to heal them is not desirable. Finally, the new Improved Barkskin talent finally makes our Barkskin undispellable, while also giving us some bonus survivability against physical damage without needing to stay in Dire Bear Form all the time. We still have the dreaded Cyclone and a natural immunity to Polymorph & Sap thanks to our shapeshifting, which make us a very versatile healer, perfect in teams that focus on crowd-controlling enemies for a kill — which is typically caster cleave type teams.
Our primary weakness in WotLK is that damage is a lot burstier now, so our healing-over-time spells on their own won’t cut it anymore — we have to rely more on Nourish and Swiftmend. Rejuvenation is still extremely easy to dispel by the omni-present Priests, preventing you from using Swiftmend, meaning that, sometimes, trying to top off your team-mates will be a very stressful endeavour. Furthermore, as damage is burstier there are fewer opportunities to safely cast Cyclone, meaning you really need to play with other classes that also have on-demand crowd-control spells (like a Warlock, Mage or Shaman) in order to unlock our potential.
The 3v3 ladder in particular will likely be filled with Resto Druids, as we are the healer of choice in one of the best 3v3 comp in the game, Warlock / Elemental Shaman / Resto Druid (aka “LSD”), thanks to our excellent synergy in crowd control. We are also commonly seen in certain strong caster cleaves, such as Shadow Priest / Mage / Resto Druid (“God Comp”) and Warlock / Mage / Resto Druid (“MLD”), but unfortunately there just aren’t too many teams we fit well into. Things only get worse for us in the 2v2 bracket however, where it could be argued that Resto Druids are actually a B-tier or even C-tier healer, as we unfortunately don’t have any top tier comps we could play in. Our top partners ( Warlocks, Warriors, Hunters and Rogues) all have far better healers they can be playing with, and as a result, Resto Druids are a very rare sight in 2v2 arena outside of the occasional Warlock / Resto Druid team, a comp that works somewhat OK. Blizzard announced that the 2v2 bracket will continue to yield Gladiator titles & rewards in WotLK, which is very unfortunate for us, as 3v3 is now our only real bet — 2v2 will be a significant struggle.
The B-tier represents healing specializations that are considered Gladiator viable, but have major setbacks that make the ride there “bumpier” than if you were playing one of the higher-tier healers. Additionally, it might be more difficult for you to find arena partners as a B-tier healer, as you are limited in what comps you can play.
Restoration Shamans were a lower-tier healer in TBC, and despite a host of buffs in WotLK, we unfortunately remain a slightly weaker healer. The difference however is much smaller this time around, as we have multiple comps that are considered Gladiator-viable — it just takes significantly more effort to get there as a Resto Shaman, than if you were playing a Holy Paladin or a Disc Priest.
We get a massive buff in the form of our new cap-stone talent, Riptide; this much-needed instant heal plus healing-over-time spell will make your life a lot – healing for a surprisingly decent amount when paired with the Ancestral Awakening talent. Furthermore, our utility gets a massive buff: we get an on-demand crowd control spell in Hex, and our interrupt ability gets moved away from Earth Shock to the newly-added Wind Shear instead, which is not on the global cooldown — both of which are huge. We also finally get a way to dispel curses (along with poisons and diseases!) in Cleanse Spirit, which is great for dispelling Hex cast by other Shamans! All of this, coupled with long-time staples Purge and Frost Shock, solidifies our position as a very aggressive healer, second only to Disc Priests. As a Resto Shaman, you’ll be quickly topping people off and then switching to being aggressive, looking to interrupt a cast or Purge an important buff.
Some of our major weaknesses from TBC are unfortunately still around. Riptide is a great healing ability, but it won’t be enough to save you if you’re being focused down, and all of your other healing spells have a cast time, which opens you up to being interrupted. This makes you very susceptible to being focused, particularly by physical heavy teams ( Arms Warr / Unholy DK / Holy Pala being a prominent counter that’s incredibly popular) and teams with stuns / silences, such as Rogues and Mages, which are frequently combined. You will therefore be limited to arena teams that have classes that can crowd-control enemies when they decide to focus you, or classes that can protect you — Warlocks, Mages and Shadow Priests being common team-mates.
It is thus no coincidence that one of your strongest 3v3 comps will be Mage / Shadow Priest / Resto Shaman, a very strong comp commonly refered to as “Shatterplay”. Caster cleaves in general are our best fit, with Mage / Warlock / Resto Shaman (“MLS”) and Shadow Priest / Warlock / Resto Shaman (“Shadowcleave”) being other good 3v3 comps for us. 2v2 is a rougher bracket for us, as our only truly strong comp is Warlock / Resto Shaman, but thankfully it just so happens to be one of the stronger comps of the bracket. Still, being limited to only playing with Warlocks essentially while Warlocks themselves can play with other partners can be a bit of a pain in the neck when it comes to finding arena partners for 2v2, unfortunately.
The C-tier is comprised of healing specializations that are, frankly, a bit on the weaker side. You could get Gladiator as a C-tier spec, but it’d be a significantly uphill battle compared to playing one of the higher tier healers out there.
Fortunately, no healer is bad enough that we’d consider them C-tier. Unfortunately however, there is a healer that we’d rank below C-tier.
Simply put, specs in the D-tier are considered to be not viable. They can be fun to play, but they will lose way more games that they win. Some madman out there might attempt to get Gladiator with these specs, and they may even succeed — but it’ll be because they are extremely skilled, not thanks to the spec.
Just like it was the case in TBC, Holy is unfortunately not really a viable PvP spec, and hence it finds itself in the D-tier.
To Blizzard’s credit, they made a legitimate effort to make Holy better in PvP in WotLK. New talents like Guardian Spirit, Body and Soul and Test of Faith, along with improved talents like Surge of Light and Blessed Recovery would be absolute godsends if given to any other spec in the game. However, none of those really work to patch up our massive weaknesses to being focused down and crowd controlled to a point where we could be considered viable. Nor do they shrink the gap with Discipline, which only gets bigger in Wrath thanks to their incredible Penance.
At least in the past, Holy was the stronger PvE spec. In Wrath it unfortunately doesn’t even have that going for it anymore, with Disc dominating, so you don’t even have a reason to be Holy for your PvE second spec with dual specialization.