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Guide to Mastering Any Healer in World of Warcraft
This article will elaborate on how you can best begin your foray into healing, or even work on improving your gameplay as a veteran player. There are 4 tiers of healing decisions, each one layered on top of the last. In order, you must:
- Learn Your Rotation – know the basic mechanics of your class and know which healing patterns to use in everyday situations.
- Pre-Plan – know what you are going to do ahead of time. Once you know your rotation, learn how to take advantage of it on each boss encounter. For resto druids and discipline priests this is especially important because it is almost a part of your rotations.
- Heal to Your Composition – healing compositions are not always the same. Once you know your rotation and how to best use it on any given boss, you then must learn to adapt it even further to work best with your other healers.
- Risk Management – the most advanced concept. Learn the subtleties of balancing mana, overhealing, and healing output.
Most normal/heroic raiders have probably learned step 1 and the good ones will have learned step 2. It is only when you start getting into Mythic raiding that it is even necessary to improve yourself further. Many mythic raiders do not even usually have to worry about step 3 because it rarely comes up – most raid leaders try to recruit the “perfect” healing composition so they do not have to worry about adapting. Finally, learning risk management is how you become a great healer.
1. Learn Your Rotation
Many people think healers do not have a “rotation” but there are actually a few for each class. There is the max HPM rotation, the theoretical max HPS rotation, and the I-am-completely-out-of-mana-but-people-are-still-dying rotation.
The Max HPM Rotation
Funnily enough, the max HPM rotation is the same for every class – cast nothing! Or rather, only cast as needed. The low-damage stages of a boss encounter are where you need to regain mana (or make sure you stay at 95% or more!). On progression content, do not spam heals and waste your mana just to look good on meters. Vanity is one of the biggest enemies of progression raiding.
In this cast-as-needed rotation, try only to cast your highest HPM spells. This style of healing requires a lot of reliance on the other healers in your raid. In progression content, consider using this time to throw out some damage spells, preferably the free ones such as Smite, Wrath, etc.
DPS spells that cost mana are usually not worth casting unless you really need that extra damage to make a DPS timer, or if you are already at max mana. The goal of these low-damage phases are to get your mana as high as possible.
The Max HPS Rotation
Every class has its own max HPS rotation. Learn yours! This type of situation shows itself most often in a Mythic raid setting. Most of the damage requires a very high HPS output and you will need to be able to meet this requirement. BUT most specs casting their max HPS rotation will run out of mana within two minutes. Because of this, it should be used sparingly and in short bursts.
The I-Am-Completely-Out-Of-Mana-But-People-Are-Still-Dying Rotation
This is a special one. It is very similar to the Max HPM rotation but there are some subtle differences. In this situation, you have misread how much mana you would need for the entire fight. Either your raid has taken so much unnecessary damage that you had to blow through your mana too quickly, OR people died halfway through the pull and now the boss damage is lower, causing the fight to go on a little longer than planned.
If the boss HP is low, your main priority is to keep the tanks alive. If the tanks die, everyone dies. If you can spare mana after that, try only to use it on your absolute highest HPM spells, similar to the max HPM rotation. For instance, Resto Druids should refrain from using Rejuvenations unless a personal CD is coming up soon. Holy Priests should only cast Prayer of Healing directly after Sanctify for the Power of the Naaru and Divinity buffs – otherwise, just keep spamming Smites and the occasional triage heal to keep someone from dying until Sanctify comes back up. In the long run, this will give you a lot more healing for your limited mana.
It is important to note that Discipline Priests are a little different. Disc Priests’ HPM goes up when they can apply many Atonements at once so it is usually better to save up until they can spend all of their mana at once and pair it with a cooldown. Filling with Smite (a relatively cheap DPS ability) can be used since it can be an efficient to heal people with Atonement when you have minimal mana left in the tank.
Once you know the ins and outs of your rotation, you can start pre-planning before the pull and while in the heat of a boss fight. This doesn’t just mean to pre-plan your heals. Mana, personal CD’s, raid CD’s, boss buffs, and raid debuffs should all have a plan.
Planning Your Heals
Saving people can sometimes come to down fractions of a second. That is why when a big hit is coming you want to be prepared. For Discipline Priests and Resto Druids this means already having Atonements and Rejuvenations on everyone. It also means already have your ground heal effects placed before the hit and pre-casting your big heals so that they go off immediately after the hit.
Plan your personal cooldowns to complement your raid’s boss strategy. On a new progression boss, be very liberal with your cooldowns. You will usually not get very far on a new fight so you can afford to use them early and often. Once your raid becomes more comfortable you can start using cooldowns during points of the fight where people are in danger of dying. It is usually a good idea to avoid using your personal cooldowns during a raid cooldown to avoid overhealing.
Planning Your Mana
Many healers keep casting heals even when there is little or no damage coming out. You should not do this, save mana wherever possible! The general advice for pacing your mana is to keep it at the same percentage as the boss’ hp. This is usually good advice but you need to know when this should not be the case.
For instance, on Heroic/Mythic Aggramar the first phase has extremely low damage. You should have at least 95% mana going into the first intermission phase. Another case is Mythic Kingaroth – the last part of the fight is merely hugging the center of the room and letting all of the balls rotate without breaking. There is only tank damage and the occasional fire ring damage going out during this part of the fight so it is ok to be at 0-10% for the last 20% or so of the fight.
After you have been progressing on a boss for a while, you can start creating checkpoints for each phase on where your mana should be. For instance, on Mythic Imonar there are 5 phases. I try to use about 20% of my mana for each phase. If I am lower than I should be, I fall back into a more HPM-focused rotation and conserve mana until I am back in line with where I should be.
Planning For Boss Mechanics
Most boss mechanics absolutely require healers to take notice and deal with them. If someone steps on a bunch of mines on Antoran High Command, you need to have a plan. Many times, however, some intricacies of boss mechanics go unnoticed by healers.
For instance, if you are playing a DPS character on Varimathras, you only care about Necrotic Plague if you get it yourself. Healers can fall into this trap too. If they do not track WHO gets the Necrotic Plague, that person may not be full health before they move away from the group and then they die because they are unhealable. Those healers then blame the DPS for not using a defensive ability, not realizing that it is really their fault for not healing them before they run out.
Dispels! Make sure you are tracking when a dispellable ability is cast. Dispels need to happen at precise times – not always immediately. For instance, on Imonar’s Sleep Canisters, DBM and Big Wigs both announce who is being targeted. If it is a melee, you can watch for them to move out and do not dispel them until everyone is away from them. Since defensive dispels have a cooldown, it is usually correct to prioritize dispelling healers so they can then dispel other people. Again on the sleep canisters, if I am one of the two people asleep I will spam dispel the other person. That way, the instant I am dispelled, so is the other person.
3. Healing To Your Composition
Every healing spec has its own strengths and weakness. In general, you will want to heal to these strengths – meaning just heal to your basic HPS and HPM rotations. Sometimes a boss fight is MUCH harder to complete without a certain healer because your healing composition has that weakness. If you can identify this weakness, you can learn to play around it. Below are the general strengths of each healer specialization. Please note that this is a general list and that some classes’ strengths can be altered by selecting different talents and/or legendaries.
- Holy Paladin – strong/long range tank heals, spot healing
- Resto Shaman – multiple cd’s, strong clustered heals, strong progression healing due to mastery, free battle rez with APT
- Holy Priest – sustained raid healing, free self-battle rez with cloak
- Resto Druid – multiple cds, topping health bars, mobility, personal defensives
- Mistweaver Monk – sustained raid healing, mobility, personal defensives
- Disc Priest – extremely strong burst healing patterns
The Mythic healing meta has been the same for almost a decade – one Holy Paladin, one Resto Shaman, and one Resto Druid – the final spot going to either one Holy Priest, Disc Priest, or a Mistweaver Monk. The reason is simple – you need a Holy Paladin for tank healing, a Shaman for the multiple cooldowns (mostly Spirit Link), and the Druid because HoT’s (heals over time) are extremely strong in most progression environments (plus being able to “pre-hot” is extremely valuable in many boss fights). The last spot is the raid healer and has recently been going to Disc Priests because the damage patterns have gotten extremely bursty in Antorus, and they provide many tools to deal with those types of situations . Sometimes it even goes to a second Holy Paladin for the later bosses of a tier due to the extremely high tank damage.
BUT it does not matter if your guild does not have the “perfect” healing comp. You can kill most bosses with any healing comp. The trick is to learn how to deal with not having one of those healers.
Healing Without a Holy Paladin
I want to highlight this particular composition because it is probably one of the most difficult to heal. However, it is not impossible! My guild killed the first six bosses of Mythic Antorus without a holy paladin. One of the best ways for a group to adjust its playstyle is to cast most of your AoE heals on the tank. In this way, the responsibility of tank healing is spread equally across all four healers, rather than primarily landing on the Paladin. For instance, a Holy Priest’s entire toolkit should be used on the tank, a Resto Druid should keep two Rejuvenations on each active tank, a Resto Shaman should cast chain heals off the tank, etc. Many of those should be done anyway, especially on very hard hitting bosses such as Mythic Argus, but they need to be paid very careful attention to when you do not have a Holy Paladin.
Once we got to Mythic Kin’garoth, we hit a bit of a wall and we had to search very hard for good Holy Paladin. There were two reasons that Kin’garoth is different. First, he is on a very large platform. If your group is spread out away from the tanks, it is not uncommon for you to be out of range of the tanks. This is where a Paladin’s Beacons and Rule of Law are very useful. And second, the active tank changes very quickly. This makes it very hard to keep pro-active heals on the tanks. Holy Paladins are reactive healers and can easily adapt to this style of tank mechanic, especially with two beacons.
4. Risk Management
The goal of healing is not to keep everyone alive. It is the same as everyone else’s goal in the raid – to kill the boss. Your healing strategy should help you reach this goal. Sometimes that means letting someone die so you can still kill the boss. For example, the boss is almost dead and you are the only healer left alive. Your priority should be to keep the tanks and yourself alive and that means some DPS may die.
Risk management is all about minimizing the chance someone will die, whether that is now or in the future. You could spam a bunch of fast, inefficient heals on a group of people to minimize the chance they die right now, but that could mean you do not have enough mana to heal someone in the future. However, if you know that a lot of damage is coming soon and they need to be topped off right now, then you want to heal them, regardless of the mana cost. The best example of this is a Holy Priest’s Spirit of Redemption. If a Holy Priest dies, they will be casting as much as humanly possible because there is ZERO risk in doing so. It may be 100% overhealing but you never know when someone takes some unnecessary damage and those heals could save their life.
Another great example of this is Mythic Argus. That boss fight has two mana resets – one after phase 2 and another halfway through phase 3. The risk of running out of mana on that fight is minimal. As such, it is correct to vastly overheal throughout most of the fight. People could be at 90% HP, but you had better believe I would be spamming as much healing into them as possible to make sure that the next combination of abilities does not kill them. Because mana is so plentiful in this fight, there is very little risk in doing this but has a decent chance of potentially saving someone, or at the very least allowing the healers to heal someone else when the next big hit comes.
This philosophy of balancing your mana against overhealing can be applied to any boss fight. If the boss is at 30% and you still have at least 60% mana, you can afford to start overhealing quite a bit. The risk of running out of mana is very small since there is not a lot of time left in the fight, and by overhealing you give yourself a chance of healing someone right as they take unexpected damage. Just be aware that some boss fights are back-loaded on their raid damage and that you should plan your mana accordingly.
Risk management also includes deciding whom to heal. Say a Ret Paladin, a Fury Warrior, and a Rogue are all hit by an avoidable boss mechanic and another raid-wide AoE is coming in a few seconds. They are each at 20% HP – who should get priority on heals? The answer is the Warrior. If worst comes to worst, the Ret Paladin has his auto-bubble and the Rogue will usually have Cheat Death, or at the very least a spammable Feint for the AoE. Healing the Warrior first reduces the risk of anyone dying.
I hope this has been helpful for you. There will be future posts going over different topics that will be focused on the general healing population. Until next time, thanks for reading.
Written by Rahzra, a guest writer for Focused will. He has been playing World of Warcraft since Vanilla, and has been healing since Wrath of the Lich King. He is currently the healing officer of Storm, the top 2-day guild on Stormrage. Article was edited and reviewed by others here at Focused Will.
© Rahzra 2018. The materials on this page may be freely copied and distributed so long as our copyright notice and Website address is included.