Monday, October 10, 2011

Healer Raid Readiness: A Checklist

With a new tier around the corner, this is often the time for raid rosters to change, to perhaps switch characters or even to try out a completely different role in raiding. Making sure you're raid ready has a lot to do with gear, ofcourse, but it goes far beyond that. If you haven't healed in a while or if this is your first time stepping into the world of raiding, then here's a checklist to make sure you've covered all bases before taking on the baddies.


Things have got fancy here! For easy reference and navigation, here's a little table of contents for this post:


Spells
 
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 "Dispel Magic". 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. 
  • Mana Regen: These include Innervate, Shadowfiend, Mana Tide Totem and the like. You will be using these 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. This will save you from stressful decision-making when the raid is dying!
  • 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. These aren't spells you specifically plan around necessarily but they can keep a raid from wiping if used wisely. Like much of our healing arsenal, 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. =P

UI/ Addons
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. For reference, I've included the settings I use for my current raid frames below.

  • 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, Surge of Light etc. 
To wrap it all up, here's a screenie of my UI. I have my cooldowns on the side with bigger icons, a main action bar, and a secondary one which has my rarely used spells. I use the default raid frames with Mik's Scrolling Battle Text for heal information and cooldown notifications. (If anyone would like a more detailed breakdown of my UI, please feel free to shoot me an email or leave a comment).


    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.


    Enchants/Gems
    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: Greater Inscription of Charged Lodestone requires getting exalted with Therazane, unfortunately, and unless you're a scribe there's really no way out of this one. Needless to say after getting exalted on my two healers, my other healing alts are all scribes! =P 
    • Head enchant: Arcanum of Hyjal requires a reputation of revered with the Guardians of Hyjal. This can be easily obtained just by completing all the Hyjal quests in the zone - a portion of which lead to unlocking the Molten Front dailies anyways, so win win!
    • Leg enchant: Grab that tailor buddy and get yourself a nice Powerful Ghostly Spellthread.
    • Meta-gem: The two choices here are Ember Shadowspirit Diamond and Revitalising Shadowspirit Diamond. I recommend the Ember Shadowspirit Diamond simply because intellect as a stat does much more for healers than spirit does - particularly druids. Keeping spirit as a flexible stat is always advised so you can tweak your regen depending on how your gear progresses. Furthermore, Revitalising Shadowspirit Diamond does not increase your chance to critically heal - just how much your crit heals for. Meh.


    Gear
    This section is not really a comprehensive gear list for what each class should get - gear choices are highly class and talent spec 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 PvE gear: The reason for this one is simple: PvP gear has resilience which is a wasted stat in the PvE realm. Multiple pieces of resilience gear can add up and hold back your healing by a decent amount. In this case a PvE item with a lower item level is far better than a high item level piece with resilience on it. 
    • 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.


    Attitude

    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.
    • 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 hope this checklist is a useful reference while getting raid ready! Have fun and happy healing! =)

    Related posts: Raiding: The Team and You; Cataclysm Reputation Rewards for Resto Druids

    3 comments:

    1. Nice list. I loved the bit about the spells. After one rather embarrassing incident many moons ago in the original ZG, I now keep my keybinds as comparative as possible across characters. For example R is dispel on all my healers and it's also spellsteal on my mage. Even if you forget for a second what character you're playing (been known to happen at 5am for me :(), you get roughly the same effect that you were hoping for.

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    2. I love the fancy new gadgets Mely! *grins* I so wish I had had a guide like this to start me off when I was just a little baby healer. I really could have used the advice!

      The attitude portion especially strikes home for me - I began healing because I loved being helpful and enjoyed working together with my groups... there's nothing quite as rewarding as the heartfelt appreciation of your tank and DPS after you've gotten them through a tough spot. As I got into raiding and met met other healers, I began to appreciate healers who really love healing and care about the people in their charge. The team experience is so much more positive with these kinds of healers than with those who just look at numbers, and when the going gets tough, you start to see even more of a difference. With healing as difficult as it is now, and teamwork feeling more important than ever, I think a good attitude and love for healing are a must. =)

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    3. @ Erinsys: Thanks! Yes I've taken to standardising dispels across my alts as well - for me, the magic key is the extra mouse button =)

      @ Kuu: Glad you liked it! Yes I thought attitude deserved a spot in the list since its so often glossed over while getting people raid ready - and yet, it can have such a huge impact on the success of a raid. Yay for teamwork <3

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