About a year ago, I wrote two posts that outlined my approach to raiding and my philosophy as a healer in general. At the time it was written Firelands had just released, and we as a raid team were slowly facing its challenges. Lately, the new expansion and new tier had me returning to that very same philosophy on healing and raiding, as well as taking a second look at stat juggling, enchanting etc.
Hamlet’s latest post on throughput vs. regen particularly rang true with me because it essentially warned of getting caught up in spirit-stacking. The upshot of his post was “It’s not the size of your mana pool that matters. It’s how you use it.”
With all of this in my mind, it seemed like my old raid readiness checklist was ready for a Mists of Pandaria update. Here we go!
For easy reference and navigation, here’s a little table of contents for this post:
- Final Thoughts
Probably not the first category you’d expect but I truly wanted to start from scratch on this one! Healing spells, regardless of your class can be categorised into the following: basic spells, mana regen, throughput cooldowns, dispels and “oh eff” spells. As a healer, its important that you have these at your fingertips because using these correctly often make the difference between life and death for the raid.
- Basic spells: This is your basic healing toolbox. Once you’ve familiarised yourself with the spells and their priorities, make sure they’re keybound appropriately and to your liking. The last thing you want is to scramble for your quick life-saving heal.
- Dispels: Probably the single thing I almost always inevitably forget when I first start playing a new healing class. And then I end up Shadowfang Keep, mentally kicking myself for having to scramble for my dispel. Dispels are hugely important in raids so its important to a) know what you can and cannot dispel and b) have it so you can dispel within a second. Now that friendly dispels have an 8 second cooldown, make sure you have a way to track it so you know the moment its up and ready.
- Mana Regen: There are two types of mana regen tools to consider and you should familiarise yourself with both. There are the longer cooldowns like Hymn of Hope and the shorter ones like Mindbender, and your other active ways of mana regen. You will be using the longer cooldowns atleast once every fight and often when there is little time to spare. Familiarise yourself with where they are placed and if your class happens to have more than one, mentally make a priority for which you’d like to use first in fights as a general rule. The shorter cooldowns/mechanics will often be a part of the healing “rotation” so make sure you have a way to keep track of Rapture, Omen of Clarity and other mana regen mechanics.
- Throughput cooldowns: These are the cooldowns that allow you to up the healing (or mitigation) and are best used when timed with periods of heavy incoming raid damage. It’s possible to plan these out in advance since fights have predictable periods of raid damage but sometimes, you’ll just need to pop Tranquility on the fly when things go wrong.
- “Oh Eff” cooldowns and others: Rebirth specifically comes to mind here, as does Void Shift. These aren’t spells you specifically plan around necessarily but they can keep a raid from wiping if used wisely. This is the tough yet fun part of healing – we can really shine by making good decisions in times of high stress. Yet, high stress by definition is not ideal for decision-making. You won’t have much time to think when all goes to hell, so make sure these cooldowns are accessible and easily seen for you to use when you’re freaking out. I often have these be in larger icons so I can find them in a pinch.
As healers, we have no rotation and thus are largely dependent on reaction to situations and predicting incoming damage. This is where the UI comes in. Healing is by no measure easy now and with out limited resources in complex fights, we want to make sure no heal goes to waste.
Keep in mind that as a healer you’d like all this information while sacrificing as little screen space as possible so you don’t lose your own raid awareness. Ideally, your UI should be one that gives you the information you need to know quickly and effectively, without taking your attention away from the task at hand.
- Raid Frames: The lifeline of a healer – raid frames are our almighty sources of information. They allow us to move quickly and smoothly in player targetting while giving us critical information about the duration of HoTs on them, raid debuffs as well as things we need to dispel. It’s worth spending some time to figure how you like your raid frames best. There are addons such as Grid and Vuhdo that offer lots of options for customisation. If you’re not a fan of addons, the ingame default raid frames do a fantastic job as well. Here’s a snippet of what my UI looks like for now – although it’s almost always under construction.
- Bars: I mentioned earlier that is was useful to have certain spells accessible to you such as cooldowns or “oh eff” spells. Well, the bars here make it happen and allow you to customise where you’d like which spell to go. In my current setup, I have my basic toolkit on my main bar while I have my cooldowns off to the side. I made it so my cooldown spells had larger than normal icons for me so when things go downhill in the raid, tranquility is right there staring at me saying “Here! I’m here! Click me!!” Changing your bars also help you categorise your spells into cooldowns and mana regens and as you get familiar with your setup, you automatically gravitate to a certain spot depending on what you need. Action bar addons such as Bartender4 and Dominos easily make action bars customisable.
- Combat Text: I used the default text for the longest time while I stuck to dungeons but in raids it became that seeing all my green heal numbers on the screen (as awesome as they were), was just too much information. While I still need to see which heal heals for what, it needed to be shown in a more concise, non-invasive way. Enter Mik’s Scrolling BattleText for me. it’s a lightweight addon that keeps most of the numbers neatly away to the side so you can focus on watching the fight. It also has a neat little feature that reminds you when certain spells are off cooldown (useful for Swiftmend, Penance etc.).
- Notifications: Notifications are really important to us healers because its so easy to get tunnel vision while healing the raid in a tight spot. I feel that Deadly Boss Mods and its various equivalents are simply vital because hey, losing a healer to fire or other nasty stuff is the easiest way for everyone to die. Ingame notifications are an easy way to help keep track of procs such as Omen of Clarity etc.
After setting things up, I recommend running a couple dungeons to test it out and familiarise yourself with where everything is. I’ve found that its a great way to see how it works and gives you a chance to tweak it to your liking in a low stress environment.
I’m not going to list every single enchant and gem here since those largely depend on stat priorities. However, there are a couple that are must haves before entering a raid:
- Shoulder enchant: Your two options here are the blue Crane Wing Inscription and the more powerful Greater Crane Wing Inscription, made by scribes. It will always be better to have the latter but in the event of not being able to obtain the epic version, the blue version is a great plan B. If you happen to be a scribe, Secret Crane Wing Inscription is the scribe-only equivalent and is significantly more powerful than the other two.
- Leg enchant: Grab that tailor buddy and get yourself a nice Greater Pearlescent Spellthread. Note that this spellthread requires honoured reputation with the Golden Lotus for the pattern. A less powerful alternative to tide you over until you can get the blue version is Pearlescent Spellthread, taught by tailoring trainers.
- Meta-gem: The two choices here are Ember Primal Diamond and Revitalising Primal Diamond. The choice between these depends largely on whether you are comfortable with mana regen or not. Early on, I found myself largely spirit hungry so I went with the Revitalising version. When my mana regen feels comfortable, I’d probably switch out to Ember Primal Diamond.
As a general rule, you want to have all your gear gemmed and enchanted. If you are reforging out of a particular stat, make sure you know why you’re doing it and whether it is the best option.
Gear makes a difference on how much you can do to contribute in the raid. For basics, all this means is to have appropriate gear for class, spend the time to gem it, enchant it, and balance stats the best you can. From a healer’s perspective, it is afterall the means to help you save your raid members. Showing up without the basics essentially says, you don’t care about holding back your fellow raiders.
This section is not really a comprehensive gear list for what each class should get – gear choices are highly class dependent and that really involves a specific discussion in stat priorities. However, there are some basic thumb rules to go by regardless of your healing class/spec, while gearing up to raid.
- Use the appropriate armour type: Each class now gets extra benefits in stats for using the armour type specific to their class: leather for druids, plate for paladins, mail for shamans and cloth for priests.
- Spirit Gear: Spirit has a special place for us healers that can often be forgotten in the sea that is haste breakpoints and stat juggling. Before looking at those, it is immensely important to make sure you as a healer are at a comfortable point with your mana. Having one or two pieces without spirit isn’t terrible but having the vast majority of your set spiritless will choke your heals mercilessly. Always take spirit knowing that you can reforge out of it later if you don’t need the regen.
- Gear has multiple sources….: … take advantage of them! If making gold is your hobby then hit up the AH for some easy upgrades to make gearing up quicker. If you’re on a reputation grind, take advantage of their reputation rewards – on the other hand, if you are a masochistic archaeologist in your spare time (like I am), take a peek at the gear rewards they offer. Professions such as Alchemy and Engineering offer neat pieces while crafting professions have various choices as well.
- Have a healing set: Before you set foot into a raid, you want to make sure that every bit of gear on you has something or the other to contribute to healing. In other words, don’t put off completing your healing set by filling it in with say tank pieces or such like. Every little bit counts; every lost stat adds up.
Taking the time to complete your healing gear with these basic thumb rules can save you much trouble and your raid many wipes in the future.
This is just as important as the nitty gritty of enchants, spells and stats that go into becoming raid ready. Raiding is not necessarily easy, and can be downright frustrating many times despite having the right stats, gear and everything else. At the end of it, attitude can really make or break the team.
- Teamwork: Raiding is a team effort which means that its all about cooperation and coordination. Everyone could be dressed to the nines and it won’t do them a bit of good unless people talk and work together. Communication is key here so work with your fellow healers as much as you can. Speak up if you have trouble healing in a particular spot and on the flip side, be ready to cover for your fellow healers if they’re in a tight spot.
- Pay attention to fellow healers: Make sure you’re in the loop on what your fellow healers are doing. If you see an incoming heal from another healer on a certain member, move on to the next person who needs a heal. If someone is having trouble keeping their target alive, chip in. Working together goes a long way reducing the wasted heals and keeping the team alive. Remember it’s not about getting the heal first, or topping the meters – it’s about keeping your fellow members alive to kill the boss.
- Put away the meter: Meters have long had little meaning in the healing world. They’re great at showing if someone’s asleep at the wheel but do little in showing the true effectiveness of a healer. Moments of good heal decision like when a timely Guardian Spirit saved the raid from a wipe or a wise battle rez paved the road to victory are lost in meters. I’ve found that majority of the time it takes attention away from the fight and onto something that doesn’t help your group in any way.
- Research your class and fights: A little research can go a long way. Knowing your stat priorities, gemming well and glyphing right all make your heals that much more effective. This doesn’t imply you have to have a PhD on the nuances of your class but knowing a little can go a long way.
I think it’s important to keep this checklist as part of the broader picture, but not have it be the be all, end all. Gear and numbers can only go so far in helping a healer in a raid setting. A lot of it depends on the rest of the raid team naturally, but a lot of it also depends on our own healing style. The point of the quote “It’s not the size of your mana pool that matters, it’s how you use it” is to empower and think outside the box when we look and critique ourselves as healers. Don’t get me wrong – gear and numbers are important – you cannot walk into a raid in greens and expect not to run out of mana despite a fantastic healing style. But, it’s not the only solution we can look to when we have healing problems.
There are many variables that change how we heal and that dynamic nature is what I personally love about the role. No fight is ever the same, and slight changes in players or classes can vastly change how you approach healing an encounter. A lot of changes however, can also come in the form of playstyle and questioning some assumptions that are often carried over the past. In the last week, I found myself wondering “I never used this particular spell in Cataclysm…but I wonder if it would help to use it now.”
For me, this is the best part. Bringing all of it together and keeping your healing informed and smart can help change the tides between a close wipe and a close kill. Happy healing =)