26 Jan 2014

Healing 101

Keeping your closest friends alive while you are doing a hobby that makes you happy (raiding), holds an extremely special place in my heart, and if you feel the same way about healing you have come to the right place.

Why heal?

 I have had a go at all 3 roles while raiding during my time playing WoW, personally my favorite role has always been, and will probably always be healing. In this post I will not only explain why being a healer is quite frankly amazing, but lay down the set of rules that any healer should try to live by when face to face with Raid bosses.

As a healer you feel like the most important person in the raid, if you sit there and do nothing you can guarantee that you will wipe, and pretty quickly at that. The same could of course be said about tanks, but as a tank you have to be selfish, your job is to get punched in the face by a boss repeatedly without dying, using your Cd's cleverly and moving into the right place at the right time in order to achieve this.  A healer however is the complete opposite, your job is to keep EVERYONE alive, and this job is never simple. Alot of the time you can prepare for incoming damage by tracking what ability a boss will cast next, but what if you don't know who is going to be hit by the ability, what if several people are hit? In my experience both tanks and DPS do not play 100% perfect all the time and can stand too close together for AOE damage abilities such as Malkorok's Imploding Energy. Healers have a large variety of healing abilities that do various different things, which ability should you use that will provide the most effective healing whilst conserving mana as best you can?

All of this factors into why healing is so fun, the skill required to make GOOD split second decisions, the stress and exhilaration you feel when your raid is being bombarded with various boss abilities and mechanics, the absolute rush you feel when you manage to keep your raid alive even though they made a couple of mistakes, the amount of multitasking that can be asked of you at times (HC Sha of pride!) the fact that no 2 pulls on a boss will ever be the same from a healer point of view. We have no rotation, we have no set pattern, we just have to be in the right place at the right time and press the right buttons. Healing is a roller coaster ride that never fails to thrill!

To be a good healer is to define the very meaning of skill. (see the rhyme?)

The Basics

''Healing is the art of keeping your beloved raid team alive while they kick the living daylights out of a boss'' - Mayhêm


The first and foremost important thing any good healer can do is sort out their UI. This in my mind is absolutely paramount to being good at your role. You need to be able to see everyone's health very clearly, in a simple and easy to understand manner and in a place on your screen that is not in the way but at the same time is not jammed into a corner so your eyes have to move away from everything else to see them.
Personally I like not only to be able to see what percentage of health that my raid team is on, but to be able to know what class they are (more on this later), if they have any personal damage mitigation CD's are popped and of course what debuffs they are currently experiencing.

If you sort out your UI first and foremost, half the battle of healing is already won.

ELVUI is my personal favourite, a friendly and simple guide can be found here.



Triage is a priority based system that determines who are the most important people in the raid that need to survive in order to get a successful kill on any encounter. It should look something like this:

  1. Tanks - If a tank dies it more or less guarantee's a HUGE disruption to the current fight, 70% of the time it will result in a wipe unless a very fast combat rez is thrown out.
  2. Healers - Healers must not die for obvious reasons, sometimes you can get away with one healing through the last 5% of the boss but it is extremely taxing and if they don't have all of their cooldowns available it is quite likely that you will wipe.
  3. Best DPS - Unfortunately it is a sad fact of life that if I have to chose between saving our hunter or our shadow priest I would 100% save our hunter. They push out more DPS and therefore rush the boss to its untimely demise before the enrage timer hits.

Exceptions & extra considerations:
  • Shamans - If I am aware that a shaman has Ankh off CD I will happily let him die if it means I could save someone else
  • Mages - I always tell our two mages to talent into Cauterize purely because it gives me a little more time to top up other dps before popping instant powerful heals to save them once they reach the 'dangerzone'
  • DK's - If they are specced into purgatory it is the same story as mages with their cauterize.

Overhealing and Mana usage

You're doing it wrong :/
Overhealing occurs whenever you attempt to heal someone for more than their health deficit is at the time when the heal 'hits'. Overhealing should be avoided where possible for maximum mana efficiency.  These are the several types of overhealing to look out for:
  • Hot overticking - This is where you apply a hot to your target, and once they hit full health the HOT will continue to tick. This type of overhealing is acceptable because if and when they lose health again the HOT will continue to keep topping up the raid member without you having to use another GCD that could be used elsewhere.
  • Crit heals - Sometimes your heals will crit for well beyond the health deficit, for example if a player is on 70% hp and you throw out a quick heal that you know usually heals them for 50% of their HP but it crits (dealing around double 70% + 50%x2 = 170%), you can expect to gain that extra 70% as overhealing, which is no use to anyone really.
  • Healing CD's - Popping a CD at the wrong time cause HUGE amounts of overhealing and as such should be used at a more appropriate time .
  • Overkill healing - This is when healers use spells that are disproportionate to the amount of healing required, for example a paladin casting lay on hands on a target that has 90% HP. This is an extreme example but I think it proves my point.
  • Heal collisions - Sometimes the healers will attempt to heal the same target at the same time, this can be mitigated with having your UI set up correctly to show incoming heals but unfortunately during high intensity fights it cannot be helped.  Having a good relationship with your co-healer/s can help alleviate this problem.

Overhealing only becomes a major problem when you are running out of mana before the end of an encounter or when people are dying due to bad healing decisions. Try to be as efficient as you can and not only will your actual healing numbers increase but so will your effectiveness as a healer.


This is a huge part of what separates the good healers from the average ones. Managing your cooldowns is essential to keeping your raid alive (derr!), conserving mana and beating boss mechanics. Some classes have thousands and billions of healing Cool downs, namely shamans and paladins, and some have very few; priests and druids, but if used correctly it could easily mean the difference between a wipe and a sure kill.

Keep tabs on every single CD you have that has a timer of 30seconds or more. I track all of mine through WeakAura's. Custom make your weak aura's to flash, beep, wink, and dance at you when they are ready for use.
 Personally I play resto druid (of course) so I have wild growth, natures swiftness, iron bark, tranq, swiftmend innervate and all the various talent CD's all with their own special icons configured. They dissapear when I use them and they sit just below the middle of my screen when I don't.

I will go more in depth into how they are used properly in the advanced section.

Know your class

This may sound a little cliche' but how are you expected to be a good healer if you don't truly understand your class, right down to the very last word on that random passive you discovered 2 days ago...

Alot of the classes has abilities with long tooltips that do more than one thing, or have subtle little side effects that if ignored it doesn't really matter all that much but if you actually utilize them you can squeeze out much more from your class. Take your time to learn your class through and through, understand exactly what every one of your abilities does and how it interacts with your other abilities or passives. A perfect example is that hardly any Resto Druids I know actually let lifebloom expire on purpose when the target lifebloom is on is at low health, they instead single target heal them to reset the timer, this costs precious GCD's that they could have spent healing other raid members!

When it comes to Heroic rading simply playing whack a mole with health bars does not cut it, understanding what type of heal they need and why is the key to being an exceptional healer.

Gear, trinkets and stat weights

I have seen far too many guides that go into ludicrous detail about this topic, but to be perfectly honest with you guys I heal Heroics with 2 LFR trinkets (Yes i am that unlucky and no PLEASE DON'T MENTION IT!!!!) It is down to what works best for your class and what suits your play style best, so ensure you know how your class interacts with his stats in order to be able to maximize your healing done. If you are a spammy healer that prefers to keep his raid at 100% hp all the time go for more spirit, if you are confident in your ability to keep people alive pump more into a secondary stat.

Extra reading

Not too long ago I was having a heated discussion with another raid member (also Resto druid) about how personally I prefer mastery over haste (I have my weak aura's set up to more or less scream at me if my harmony buff runs out), but he was 100% convinced that haste is better, all the guides say it, all the pro's are saying it blah blah blah.
Later that week our other group 1 healer had to take a night off for some reason, so this other Druid filled in for him (he is a regular group 2 healer and he is IMO just as good as me). We cleared up to Iron Juggs and I consistently out healed him on every single boss. His gear is actually better than mine but he simply could not keep up.

This changed his opinion on the haste/mastery thing and to be honest it made my opinion on playing how you want to play even stronger.

Advanced Healing

Now you have a basic idea of how to heal here are some tips and tricks I have learn along the way to make me a super effective healer.

 Think outside the box 

Here is a philosophical question for all you Raiders out there, is a healers job simply to top everyone's HP up when they get hit by 'stuff'?

My answer is a resounding NO.

I learned a very valuable lesson while I was in the proving grounds. There is a lot healers can do to prevent damage done to the raid; slows, stuns, roots, weakened blows, awesome spells like Ursols-vortex, not to mention interrupting. If doing any of these things actually PREVENT damage being done in the first place then why not do them? It results in less healing for you and you co-healer after all.

Heal like a robot


This is something I am absolutely passionate when it comes to healing. Basically what I mean by the subtitle is that you should set yourself a bunch of rules and regulations that you should abide while raiding. It will be much easier if I simply give you an example of what I mean.

Heroic Fallen protectors is a perfect example of a fight that can be very messy for healers if the DPS are not paying special attention. There are steep single man HP spikes - Corrupted Brew, Steep 5+ man HP spikes - Inferno Strike, Steep Raidwide spikes - Calamity. Along with those spikes you can expect heavy DOT damage provided Shadow Word: Bane by and Garrote and heavy raidwide damage for the durarion of Dark Meditation.

Here is the set of rules that I try to abide by as a Resto druid:

Player falls below 100% hp > Cast Rejuvenation
Player falls below 80% hp > Cast Rejuvenation and lifebloom
Player falls below 50% hp > If swiftmend is not available use Natures swiftness then healing touch.
Player falls below 20% hp > If swiftmend or natures swiftness is not available cast Rejuvenation > Genesis > Healing touch
2-3 Players fall below 100% hp > Cast Rejuvenation on each
2-3 Players fall below 80% hp > Cast wild growth and rejuvenation as required
2-3 Players fall below 50% hp > If swiftmend, natures swiftness or Wild Growth is not available cast Bloom, or rejuvenation on each and use Genesis
2-3 Players fall below 20% hp >  If swiftmend, natures swiftness or Wild Growth is not available cast Incarnation and spam regrowth
4+ Players fall below 100% hp > Cast Wild Growth
4+ Players fall below 80% hp > Cast wild growth and rejuvenation as required
4+ Players fall below 50% hp > If swiftmend, natures swiftness or Wild Growth is not available cast Tranquility or a Tier 6 Talent
4+ Players fall below 20% hp >  If swiftmend, natures swiftness, Tranquility or Wild Growth is not available cast Bloom or Incarnation + a tier 6 talent and spam Regrowth/Wild Growth.
Target has a DOT on them > apply rejuvenation and lifebloom if you cannot dispel
Several targets have Dots on them > Hot up/dispell the Priority targets first

This is a rough guideline that I use when healing, I find that the more strict I am in sticking to it the more effective I am as a healer, I stay calmer during stressful periods of healing and my reactions become FAR quicker due to the fact that I am almost 'pre-programmed' to apply the appropriate heal in my 'script'. Not to mention mana consumption is slashed by a great deal due to a lack of any serious overhealing.

There are a few other things you should have set aside in your mind as well, such as:
  • Using your own personal damage mitigation CDs to reduce healing required on yourself
  • Pre determining when and where damage is going to come from in order to heal it the instant it affects the DPS
  • Staggering your CD's with your co-healers during periods of high damage
  • Dispel squishy classes first

Understaning boss encounters

Not only is it important that you understand what you have to do as a healer for each boss, I find that it is always beneficial to know what being a DPS or Tank entails as well. Having this deeper sense of understanding can help you pr-empt incoming damage and know where to place your AOE healing spells,

Have Deadlybossmods/bigwigs set up perfectly. You really should be paying attention to timers in this game as a healer, it will tell you exactly what spell you are coming to expect and you can plan to react rather than simply react.

Understanding and learning to read Skada/Recount

These tools are not what most people use them for - bragging rights. Personally I use them to analyze my performance and find out where I was going wrong, was i dispelling enough? What enemy spell did the highest amount of damage? Why was I doing so much overhealing?

All of these questions and more can be uncovered simply and quickly using either recount or skada, and being critical of yourself should help you improve your skills as a healer.

The co-healer

Your co-healer is, for obvious reasons, a hugely important aspect of healing raids. He should be healing roughly the same as you, if the skill levels and classes match up (priest healers can go die in a fire, seriously just go and find a giant fire and jump into it!).

I feel a bullet point list coming on! Here are some interesting points to be mindful of;

  • Your relationship with your co-healer must be ROCK SOLID, he is your other half, the yin to your yang, your balance. Know this, understand this.
  • Understand your co-healers class almost as well as your own. This will help not only eliminate heal conflict but help you come up with devious plans to heal though particularly tricky bosses.
  • Trust and respect your co-healer, there is no need to try and tell them how to play unless they are obviously bad, let them do what they need to do, let them focus.
  • There are 2 healers for a reason, it can sometimes feel like you are the only one healing but your co-healer has your back, work out a system and work in conjunction with each other.
  •  Work with your co-healer, not against him. Alot of healers i know get overly proud of their numbers and get competitive, this will lead to wipes and sometimes the other healer feeling demoralized and burnt out
  • Compliment your co-healer. they have earnt thier place to heal just as much as you, they are as AWESOME as you, make sure they know this when they do something cool (My shammy co-healer has done some sickeningly good spirit links, seriously...)


With this guide I have no doubt your healing skills and knowledge will reach Heroic levels in no time with a bit of practice. Thank you for taking the time to read this post.

Good luck!


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