Getting into Raid Healing
It’s not a complete week at the official forums if there isn’t someone popping by the healing forums and posting the obligatory: “I want to heal raids – am I ready? How do I start?” – and usually not in such an intelligible manner! To be honest, this is probably the ideal time to get your healing feet wet, so to speak. Dragon Soul is very accessible for fresh healers between the recent nerfs and the easy access to gear via the Twilight Heroics and Raid Finder. I’d also venture to say that its boss mechanics are largely more forgiving from a healing standpoint and ramp up in difficulty at an even keel, not some of the wacky stuff you saw in Tier 11. (Except Spine. I will always hate Spine.)
As someone who has been raid healing since Burning Crusade (not counting my alt priest in Vanilla), I sometimes forget that getting into raid healing as a complete newbie is often daunting. Back in Burning Crusade, we used to take the new healers through Karazhan and I’d coach them. It wasn’t nearly as demanding as the 25-man content and let completely fresh healers get a feel for how their style of healing would change in a raid environment.
Today, you have healers jumping directly into current tier raiding from doing mostly heroics and perhaps a few LFR runs; there’s no starter raid to get them going.
If you’re a healer starting into raiding, you probably already know the basic things you care about:
- Your Health Bar: Please don’t forget this! Don’t die!
- Your Mana Bar: A raiding environment is designed to push your mana pool. Use your mana cooldowns proactively and reactively. You -will- need them during a fight. You’ll also be getting cooldowns from other healers, such as Mana Tide or Hymn of Hope.
- Party/Raid Health Bars: Tanks, DPS, and other healers. This is your big job! Keep them up!
- Boss Mechanics – General: Staying out of the fire, stacking, etc – you need to know the general dance of the fights.
- Boss Mechanics – Healer: Much like tanks, healers need to be aware of when big damage will be incoming and when there is time to regen a little bit.
- Other Healer Mana Bars: If the other healers don’t have mana, it might be time to use a cooldown or push your own heals a bit more. Or you’re healing Spine and crying. If all the healers have no mana, you might be in trouble!
All those things (except for the last) correlate fairly decently to things you’ve seen in 5-mans.
So, what’s different in raids?
Healing is a Team Sport: It’s not just about you. You’ll have 2 or more other healers at your back, and you’re all supporting each other. Sometimes you’ll get specific assignments, but even then, most healers are cross-healing to make sure the mutual goal is met: the raid lives!
Raid Healing is About Not Holding Back: You ever hear the term ‘filler’ heals? That’s what your bread and butter, slow and efficient heals become in a raid environment. Don’t be afraid to throw out your big heals or use personal cooldowns. That’s usually the number #1 thing I’ve coached new healers on — ‘Heal/Holy Light/Healing Wave’ or whatever your “efficient” heal is should not be among your top heals!! Across the classes, typical top heal breakdowns I see —
- Shaman: Greater Healing Wave/Chain Heal/Healing Rain
- Holy priest: Greater Heal, Prayer of Healing
- Disc priest: Power Word:Shield/Atonement/Divine Aegis (and perhaps Prayer of Healing in specific fights like Ultraxion)
- Holy paladin: Flash of Light/Holy Radiance/Illuminated Healing
(Unfortunately, I can’t give a reference for druids! Perhaps a druid would like to share theirs?)
Use Mana Cooldowns Proactively, not just Reactively: When I first started healing on my shaman in Burning Crusade, one of the first things I learned was to drop Mana Tide totem once I chewed through about 15-20% of my mana, so I could continue to heal and it would be available later on -when- I needed it. You see, unlike 5-mans, you will need your mana cooldowns multiple times throughout boss fights. In fact, you may even hit points where you have NO cooldowns left and you’re using filler heals to allow yourself enough regen to pop off a few big heals.
Ask Questions and Get Feedback: I’ve found that with the large amount of information available online through sites such as askmrrobot or noxxic, many people have this idea that they need to be totally self-sufficient and self-taught. This can backfire in a raid environment where you can get easily overwhelmed without a “sounding board” to throw questions against, especially if you’re a new healer. If you can find someone you trust in-game who can give you pointers or even just in a forum/blog where you can interact with the posters, I’d really recommend it. Being able to ask questions and get personalized responses is amazingly helpful. If they raid with you, they can also watch your logs and give you pointers on the fly (“You might want to use holy shock on cool-down more often” or “Would you like help setting up something so you can track Water Shield better?”). I’ve had mentors while learning healing and tanking in a raid environment, and I probably learned more from my interactions with them than I ever did from blog posts or forum articles. They’re also really good for pats on the back when you need them; my priest mentor during Vanilla once talked me down after a horrible Upper Blackrock Spire run!
My ultimate advice? Just heal.
When I first hit level 70 on Rhianon back in Burning Crusade, I had glorious plans of slowly gearing her and learning the class, and then eventually taking a slot in our guild’s 25-man raids. Five days after hitting 70 and still mostly in quest blues/pvp gear, I found myself in Tempest Keep (25-man raid) and being told that I was going to be the sole healer in the melee circle on Void Reaver. I can still remember my shaman mentor (who was happy to be able to play his rogue now that I had capped) whispering me what spells to use and when to drop Mana Tide.
My hands were literally shaking when they pulled the boss — how could I do this? I had no experience and no gear! I was supposed to be doing heroics or Karazhan, not Tempest Keep! I was going to let everyone die!
And then I just start healing. Chain heal, healing waves, rotating mana cooldowns and keeping my water shield up. Scraping the bottom of my mana pool and hearing the call to “Get an Innervate on Rhianon!”.
I don’t remember what loot dropped when the boss went down, but I do remember the raid leader announcing over vent, “Great job, Rhianon! You did awesome!”
I hope -everyone- has their “Great Job!” moment that makes all the stress and all the nerves worth it.