I bought a parrot, and the parrot talked, but it did not say I’m hungry, so it died – Mitch Hedberg
“You’re a bad healer…” is a multi-part series on the dynamics of raid healing in WoW. Part 1 focused on what persona it takes to be an effective (and consistent) raid healer. Part 2 will focus on how to make you more efficient as a healer through the use of mods/macros and overall best practice. Part 3 (and possibly more) to come where we’ll take a look at a few specific fights that tend to give healers trouble.
Many will tell you that healing in an MMO is more of an art than a strict science, and they would be right to a degree. There is no set rotation and the variety and distribution of your heals will change from fight to fight. All of this is true, but there are a few fundamental metrics that you can analyze to improve your healing. This is what happens when someone takes damage in a raid:
- The healer recognizes the damage
- The healer chooses a spell to cast
- The healer begins to cast the spell
- The spell is cast, the player is healed
- Check for the next healing target
The time it takes to get from 1 to 5 is where all of your focus should be when healing. Some of these can be improved before you even step foot into a raid instance. Which of these gives you the most problems? Depending on your experience level and the encounter, it could be any of the above. Pinpointing where to improve is like a Chef improving a recipe they’ve been making for years. It takes practice, experience, and a little creativity to get the job done.
The legs feed the wolf–Herb Brooks
Herb had it right. You probably know the semi-famous scene from the movie Miracle. Coach Brooks skates his young Team USA into the ground with suicide wind sprints. Skating them into the ground late at night after a tough game, pushing them until they puked, taught them a valuable lesson. It taught them that no matter how hard they had to work at the end of the game, it would never be as hard as this.
Without the desire to constantly push forward, to get better, to get stronger, you will only ever be average. Healing a heroic may seem easy because you’ve been to Icecrown. You’ve seen the raid damage on fights as easy as Archavon and as hard as Blood Prince Council. However, have you done any Heroic Icecrown encounters? There is always something out there to push you.
To continue with the chef analogy, organizing a multiple course meal for 20 guests so that all are done and ready on time takes skill. It takes not only raw talent to cook the food, but it also takes a separate set of skills to organize each recipe so that each piece finishes as it should.
You are often juggling multiple things in any raid encounter. The raid damage is there for sure, but that’s every fight. Healing that damage, but also keeping diseases cleansed or targets of additional mechanics topped off may take some additional practice. It is important to take note of how much damage is coming in and which heals you need to have ready to counter act it. Do I have time to crank up a full cast heal or do I need to prep it with quick Riptide first?
Using your raid frames effectively will allow you to immediately see and diagnose which courses are coming to your end of the kitchen. At this point I’ll assume you’ve found and become familiar with one of the more popular raid frame addons like Grid or Xperl. Having one is essential. Your raid frames are your direct line to the heart of the raid. With its bars and icons it shows you the status of the raid; its heartbeat, its mood, its favorite flavor of ice cream. The more your eyes wander, the more you need to search for data, the more time is passing. Your goal here is to reduce the time from acknowledgement of damage to actually selecting the player to start a heal on. Eventually you’ll immediately be able to tell how abnormal or normal the raid damage is just based on the movement of those health bars.
See the damage, select the player, select the heal, cast the heal. That’s four actions that will need to be performed at a minimum using conventional means. For most events this will be enough. The damage is steady and predictable. For RSTS healing this is too slow. That extra second (or two) it takes to pick a target then pick a heal then cast it may kill someone. Look to the right (or for the freakish readers, the left) of your keyboard. There’s a good chance that mouse your using has more than 1 button on it. Maybe you have them bound to select a special non-combat pet or /dance macro. The truth is, those buttons could be doing more for you.
What if you combine the above actions? Utilizing some very simple macros, one can combine the actions of selecting a player, selecting a heal, and casting a heal into one mouse click. Here’s my favorite:
/cast [@mouseover] Chain Heal
Using this macro I can hover my mouse over any raid frame and press one button to start a chain heal on that frame. Furthermore, you can even hover your mouse over player models and get the same effect (handy if your UI happens to crash in the middle of an attempt). Wherever possible, you should be using things such as mouseover macros (or a handy mod named Clique that binds abilities directly to keys).
There’s a reason cooks and chefs keep their knives handy in a block right on the counter: opening the drawer and getting out a different knife every time you need one just takes too long. Efficiency. That’s what gamers are all about. You already rush to the fridge between trash pulls to grab a Beer, why not min/max your time in combat as well?
Using Clique (link above) in conjunction with your class’ cleansing abilities will allow you to remove curses and diseases in one action. Here is a link (getting close to a year old, but still relevant) of a Yogg Saron 25 kill showing off plenty of mouse over healing and one click cleansing:
Why aren’t you healing? Yes now!
There is never a time in a raid where you should not be healing. If you are assigned to raid damage, then you position yourself in the room so that you can cover nearly everyone. Check to make sure it is a safe, cleave-free zone, and set up shop. If not everyone is in range (as in Blood Prince Council) talk with your healing partners and perhaps split the room. Alawys double check to make sure someone has range on a certain player that is unusually far.
BRM Raider Response: Borsk! You complain that we complain that we run out of mana on long fights because of overhealing. I thought we were supposed to be keeping people alive! How are we supposed to do both?
There is always a happy medium to be struck. You’re making a pot of chili. Chile by nature needs to be spicy, but it can’t be too spicy! You should handle a long fight with possible mana considerations in the same way. Add some spice, taste it, if you think it needs more add more. The good thing about raid healing is that you can back off on the healing and save your mana. Use your cooldowns, don’t be afraid to drink a potion early. Making the chili too hot could end up giving you several weeks of left overs to eat.
The first time you do it, it won’t be perfect, you might even screw up the first couple batches, but as long as you know where you need to change it for next time, the next pot will be perfect (side note: Alton Brown’s Chili Recipe is the best).
Don’t forget the other healers in your raid. Each heal you cast has a cold, calculated value, but how you cast them and how you blend them with the other healers in your raid is where the real magic is made. The better the mix, the less you are clobbering with unnecessary cross heals, the more smooth and efficient the entire healing crew will operate.
And the raid leader will have significantly less indigestion at the end of the night.