How to become a better healer


I never intended to write a post like this. Simply for the reason that I don’t consider myself close to an authority on the subject. Then again, I’m always surprised whenever I’m grouped up with people who should be much better than me, not only by gear, but also because they’re a known healer in a hardcore guild, that I nearly always outperform them in both output and efficiency. It’s very rare for me (honestly, I can’t remember ever) not to be topping the chart, that must say something. I’ve also seen people claim authority and then say things that are pretty awful, which makes me wonder on which side of the Dunning-Kruger effect I am located.

“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”

-Bertrand Russell

Perhaps I should take this to mind, perhaps everyone should. I’m in doubt most of the time, does that make me intelligent? Hah! Perhaps.. perhaps not.. 🙂

But enough rambling. I’m pretty certain that anyone can teach someone else something, and I’ve healed on every healer class, so here’s what I can tell:

First, don’t expect fixed numbers, gem recommendations, optimal rotations, etc. Those are things that should have been covered. Those are things you learn from sites like EJ. Those sites tell you the spells with the biggest throughput, or efficiency. Those are the basics. Knowing that is important, but it’s not everything.

Healing is a bit like learning how to drive. When you’ve finished school, you know the rules, you know who has right of way, when you should slow down or stop, and what to watch for optimal safety. But after a few years of driving, you’re doing things different, most happens automatically. You don’t follow every rule by perfection, you bend them using experience. For example: you pick up the small signals from other drivers and react according to those, not strictly the rules. Probably the most important thing your driving instructor might have taught you is that you should learn to anticipate. This learning to anticipate is something you keep on learning even after you got your license. It’s like polishing the rough stone.

There are many similarities with healing.

This is my most important rule in healing: anticipate, anticipate, anticipate.

Does this sounds simple, logical? Great. But do you really focus on it? Are you really actively thinking: what can I expect next, and when and on who, constantly? I notice too many healer not doing this, or at least not correctly. They either just do a rotation, spam, or wait for the damage, and then start healing: *BUZZZZZZ* too late.

Mostly that last part. If you start casting after the damage has been done, there’s much room for improvement.

Just recently I had a discussion with a priest about renew vs flashheal. Like most priest I come across, this one liked flashheal a lot more (I’ll never get this, but everyone should stick to their style). The main reason was that it activated serendipity, which made PoH so much faster.

Sure, nothing false about that statement. If you like PoH and can often use it in full effect, that’s great. But when I asked them to give an example of a fight where that was useful I got the surprising answer of Toravon. If there’s any fight that has predictable AOE damage, it’s that fight. First, whiteout is on a pretty strict 38 seconds cooldown, and it also has a 2.5 second cast. Having a hasted AOE wouldn’t be needed. It’s kinda like Loatheb, that’s the same story, you can time your PoH, lifeblooms, chainheals to great effect based on the time left of the debuff. And in toravon you don’t even have to remember the cooldown, just watch his castbar, and do the same.

Fights like those are the perfect playground for learning to anticipate.

A better example would have been Ignis. Though pre-hotting would still have a better effect. Probably the best fight for a tactic like this is those with continued raid wide damage.

That’s why I love hots. Learning to anticipate + hots = big profit!

This is still just about anticipating damage. Also keep in mind it’s useful to anticipate the heals of your colleague healers. This is easy on a 10 man, especially if you’re duo healing it, but it gets hard when there’s 5 or more other healers in your group. Most healer will instinctively heal the lowest target first, so unless you’ve got clear agreements on the healing job, you’re going to need to anticipate what the other healers are going to do. Know their classes, know their heals. For example: if there’s one paladin and one tank, you can expect to see that lowest be topped in less than 2 seconds, so it’s likely a safer bet to focus the second lowest

Second rule, for AOE healers: location, location, location!

Your own and that of the rest..

Whenever you cast an AOE spell like CoH or Wild Growth, it will automatically target the lowest heath people in the raid within the 15 yard radius of who it’s cast on. This is a pretty big range, but don’t overestimate it.

Lots of priests and druids have the tendency to click the lowest health target with these spells, which happens easily, because it’s an understandable reflex. As a shaman, this is actually important, because your first target will always receive the largest part of your chainheal, still you should try be aware of your target’s location before doing so.

The main goal: try to reach as many people as possible within the radius of the AOE heal.

Tip: as priest or druid, position yourself in the center of the raid if you can’t find a suitable target, and cast the AOE on yourself, even if you’re full. It’s smart, so it will pick the 6 (if glyphed) lowest targets anyway, and you lose the chance of wasting some of the heal on full or even no members, if you happen to pick that one ranged player that stood away from the raid.

For shamans (also paladins with glyphed holy light): know the location of people. Remember who’s melee and who’s ranged. If there is raid damage, make sure that when you cast chainheal, it’s on somebody that is standing near others, so you cover more with your heal. Make a mental note of all people that stand away from the raid, and heal them with single target heals. If the one standing alone is just as low as the others, cast chainheal first, then immediately put riptide on the solo guy if you’re expecting more incomming damage. That way you can cover most people in a short period of time. It’s also a good thing to have a riptide pre-cast on someone central, so if there is raid damage, you maximize the chain heals power, and still have a riptide left for emergencies.

Know your class

Ok, so I am going to put some basics in here. I just remembered that the worst healers I meet are usually those that either underestimate, or simply don’t understand or perhaps “like” certain spells in their arsenal. You wouldn’t believe how many druids I’ve come across that think they’re a FoL paladin and just nourish the whole run (gotta love pugs.. last one didn’t even Rejuv/WG during the weekly malygos when in vortexes). This is downright painful for me. As a huge fan of hots (ALL of them, they’re ALL AWESOME (soz caps)) there’s nothing more painful than to see a king of hots spam nothing but regular heals. It makes me want to ask Blizzard to introduce a licence to heal. Something like the old Triage quest for first aid, but so hard that it only works when you’re using everything in your arsenal.

I can dream..

But seriously, know all spells you have and USE them, at least learn about them, so you know when they’re most powerful. And mind this: every single one of them is great, even if it’s just for special occasions (binding heal comes to mind). As a raid healing druid you might not use lifebloom very much anymore, though I can seriously advice using it on clearcasts, if only because it acts as very strong mana boost (if you let it bloom of course). If you’re a priest and frown at renew.. Ok, let’s just say that is close to getting personal with me.. at least spam a few when you know there’s incoming damage soon. You should have all your heals bound, priests have many, but there’s not a single one that doesn’t have good use.. sometimes even holy nova. Paladins, even if you’re the FoL specs, Holy light is your main spell now, it’s not TBC anymore, you’re more than a manually invoked HoT now.

Small things, big effects

When you’ve got cooldowns, and every healer has (Riptide, CoH, WG, Holy Shock, PoM, etc), use an addon to make it very obvious when they’re available. There are great addons for this, like Power Auras or Mik Scrolling Battle Text. I use these to give me both a visual and and aural cue. Power Auras can even have a number in screen that counts down to ready, this is great for managing your choices.

I’m deliberately not mentioning anything about addons like Healbot, Grid, Vuhdo and the likes, even though they’re very helpful addons. I consider these basic knowledge. If you don’t one but want to try it out, pick one you like, don’t let trends of social pressure make your choice (some will call you an idiot if you don’t use grid, these people are idiots themselves), you’re at your best when you feel comfortable with what you have, even if you’re just targetting and using keybinds and mouseover macros.

To conclude

I can’t be done here, but my mind is at a blank right now. The nice thing is that this is a blog, so I can put up additions any time I like.

I’ll probably put this on a seperate page once, but for now, consider this a first beta release.

Thank for reading, and keep them alive!

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