Showdown: Noly Nova vs. Prayer of Healing vs. Circle of Healing

Since posting a guide to patch 3.0.2, I got a number of comments and e-mails about which AoE healing spells to use when (and how the glyphs affect each of them).  Many people were excited about how competitive Holy Nova now was with its reduced mana cost and glyph.  I felt a comparison of our AoE healing spells warranted its own post.

First, let’s look at the spells:

Holy Nova

  • Mana Cost: 25% of base mana (655 at level 70, 966 at level 80)
  • Healing: Causes 713 to 827 healing all party members within 10 yards (at level 80). Gains a bonus 30.0% of your spellpower (per target).
  • Benefits: Causes no threat.  Instant cast. Also works as an AoE damage spell.
  • Drawbacks: Base healing per mana (needs glyph to be useful). Party-only. Range. Won’t trigger Inspiration.
  • With Glyph: Healing increased by 40% (damage decreased by 40%). Major glyph.

Prayer of Healing

  • Mana Cost: 48% of base mana (1258 at level 70, 1854 at level 80)
  • Healing: Heals party members within 30 yards for 2091 to 2209 (at level 80). Gains a bonus 80.6% of your spellpower (per target).
  • Benefits: Large heal.
  • Drawbacks: High base mana cost.  Party only. Casting time.
  • With Glyph: Will also heal party members for an additional 20% of its healing over time. Major glyph.

Circle of Healing

  • Mana Cost: 21% of base mana (550 at level 70, 811 at level 80)
  • Healing: Heals up to 5 party or raid members within 15 yards of the target for 684 to 756 (at level 80). Gains a bonus 40.2% of your spellpower (per target).
  • Benefits: Heals outside of party. You can target where its cast. Instant cast.
  • Drawbacks: Low base healing.
  • With Glyph: Will heal an additional raid member. Major glyph.

The Showdown: Comparing the Three


  • You have the glyph for each of these spells.
  • You have the talents Circle of Healing, Healing Prayers, Spiritual Healing, and Twin Disciplines.
  • At level 80 you will have enough talent points to pick up Mental Agility as well.
  • The talent Divine Providence is not taken into account in this comparison (as it affects each spell equally, and players will be less likely to have it).
  • Haste is not taken into account.
  • All values of healing done are calculated on a per target basis.

We will be looking at the spells in two different ways: how hard they heal and how mana efficient they are.

If we want to know how strong a healing spell is, we measure how much healing it could do in a given span of time.  We look at the spell’s average healing done per second. (We divide the average healing done by the spell’s cast time, or in the case of instant-cast spells, by 1.5 seconds.)

At level 70, Prayer of Healing is by far the leader, but Holy Nova with its glyph is surprisingly better than Circle of Healing in terms of healing output.

At level 80, Holy Nova and Circle of Healing catch up a bit to Prayer of Healing (due to them each having an extra rank). Prayer of Healing still has the best healing output.

Let’s look at the other side of this:

If we want to know how much bang we get for our buck, or in other words: how mana efficient a spell is, we look at its healing done in relation to its mana cost, or average healing per mana. (We divide the average healing done by the mana cost of the spell.)

Prayer of Healing wins at mana efficiency at 70, but Holy Nova and Circle of Healing are neck-and-neck. Note: If we were calculating HPM assuming spells hit as many players as possible, Circle of Healing would pull ahead of Holy Nova, as it heals 6 people instead of 5 (it would still be worse than Prayer of Healing by a good margin). In our comparisons here, we are only looking at per-target healing.

Prayer of Healing again wins at mana efficiency at 80. Holy Nova and Circle of Healing are still neck-and-neck. Adding Mental Agility into the picture at level 80 really helps close the gap in terms of HPM efficiency.

An odd thing happens due to the ranks of spells: the comparison between Circle of Healing’s and Holy Nova’s HPM look much the same at 70 as they do at 80. Blizzard has it balanced so that Holy Nova with its glyph will have slightly better HPM than Circle of Healing, unless you have extreme amounts of spellpower (1400+ at level 70, 3100+ at level 80).


Which measure are we more concerned about?  Healing-per-mana or healing-per-second?

Healing fast and hard (HPS) is very helpful when learning encounters or when dealing with heavy splash damage to the raid.  However, mana efficiency (HPM) is something we will have to be concerned with all the time (every spell cast, every gear choice, every talent point).  Always worry about HPM first and foremost.  If the raid is wiping or needs desperate saving, then switch over to thinking in terms of HPS.


  • Obviously, Circle of Healing will remain your only choice for AoE raid healing, as it is the only one that affects members outside your group.
  • In terms of healing your group, Prayer of Healing is the hands-down winner no matter which way you look at it.
  • Prayer of Healing really could have another rank in between 70 and 80 (CoH and Holy Nova each have two, Prayer of Healing only has one). Why it doesn’t is beyond me.
  • Circle of Healing is less mana efficient on a per-target basis than Holy Nova (with glyph), except at extreme values of spellpower.
  • With glyphs, you want to choose Circle of Healing over Holy Nova if range is an issue (which it often will be), or if you think you will hit 6 targets.
  • Despite the fact that Holy Nova has higher healing output than Circle of Healing on a per-target basis, if you had to choose between their two glyphs for raiding, the glyph of Circle of Healing is a better choice. Holy Nova will be far more situationally used as your group will rarely all be standing right on top of you waiting to be healed. Having to constantly run around to optimally heal your group with Holy Nova isn’t going to be feasible.

One Response

  1. haste does make a bit of difference since people do complain the duration of prayer is too long, adding crits and the hit cap to nova might be useful.

    I play a warlock4/warlock3paladin + priest (if/coh) group pretty exclusively and prayer of healing is just amazing obviously with the pets giving that much more free heal per mana.

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