So you're ready to venture into the thankless realm of healing? It's not for the faint of heart. You will be begged to heal an instance you hate and blamed for deaths that aren't your fault, only to lose gear upgrades to DPS -- all in the same run! On the other hand, healing can be a nice diversion from faceroll macro-mashing, and it's definitely nice to have instant dungeon queues.
Whether you're changing specs at level 80 to help your guild progression, stepping into The Deadmines as a level 18 healer or twinking out a battleground medic -- here are some helpful hints as you prepare to make those health bars greener.
Regular dungeons, heroics and group quests in which you are the only healer
- The tank is your #1 priority. Your tank is either a bear or the person in plate armor with the highest health. You must keep the tank alive at all costs so that the monsters can hit him or her instead of you. A dead tank almost always means a wipe.
- You are your #2 priority. When the stuff hits the fan, someone might pull aggro and die. Dead DPS shouldn't automatically mean the fight is over; many groups can still win the with the loss of just one DPSer. But a dead healer can't heal the tank, and you can guess where that will probably end.
- Learn and use your bread and butter spells. Every healing class has multiple spells designed for different circumstances. Learn your class' abilities. Different types of spells include HOTs, shields, short- and long-casting direct heals, multiple-target heals, AoE heals and combinations of all of these. Though it will take practice to perfect your timing and use of them, knowing what you've got is half the battle!
- Watch your mana bar. You can't heal without mana, so make sure you always have plenty of drinks in your bag. If you're out of combat and your mana bar isn't full, drink. It could mean the difference between a sloppy pull that wipes your group and one that doesn't.
- Buff. Give the ones you've got, and don't be shy to ask for buffs from your party members. Also remember to ask for a soulstone and healthstone from warlocks and conjured food and water from mages.
Groups of 10+ in which you must cooperate with other healers
- Talk about healing assignments. If the healers are grouped together, ask in party chat. If you're not in the same group, make a channel for healers to discuss strategy. Each healer should be very clear on his or her specific target(s) and roles during the fight. This helps avoid confusion, mana waste and overlapping cooldowns.
- Use the Set Focus feature. Right click on the main tank or off tank's portrait and select Set Focus. You can switch back to your primary target quickly after throwing a heal on someone else.
- Eat your consumables. Obvious advice is obvious, but you'd be amazed at how many moochers don't want to spend the time and money on consumables. Bring your own if your guild doesn't have an assigned consumable-giver. In PUGs, it's safest to assume that no one else will bring the Fish Feast. At minimum, you should have a food buff and mana potions. For progression content, you will want to add elixirs and/or flasks. Pull your own weight and remember to buff your weakest area -- if you never struggle with mana, better to buff your throughput, and vice versa.
- Run a healing meter. Don't obsess about being at the top. Like your GearScore, the meter is just a tool, not the total measure of a player. It's much more important to perform your assigned role (see above) and keep one person alive than to top the meter.
- Analyze the healing meter. Learn to read it. Pay attention to your playstyle. If you tend to run out of mana before the fight is over, look closely at your overhealing. Figure out where you can improve.
Healing in arenas and battlegrounds
- If you want to win, use Vent. Arena playstyle depends totally on your team combination, so communicate with your teammates. Likewise, premade battlegrounds benefit enormously from voice communication.
- Don't wander off. Battleground play is a free-for-all. Stick close to your teammates -- not many healing specs in healing gear can last long one on one versus a DPS class. If you go off on your own to cap a flag or whatever, you'll probably die. Remember your support role and bring a DPSer or two with you.
- Get a specialized UI. Special UIs are a requirement in arenas; you need unit frames that will show you critical information about the opposite team. Battlegrounds are the last vestige of 40-man raids -- reason enough to ditch Blizzard's cluttered raid UI. Also, mouseover macros are incredibly helpful.
- Go on the defensive. Use your pre-emptive healing spells (particularly shields and HOTs) to absorb damage at the beginning, rather than waiting until everyone around you is at half health. Be proactive, not reactive.
- Heal yourself first. If the other team is paying attention, they will try to interrupt your casting and focus fire you. Don't let them. The longer you can keep yourself alive through their attack, the longer your teammates can DPS the people targeting you.
Of course, these tips don't even begin to cover the complicated world of WoW healing. There is a wealth of information out there. When you have a question about your healer's spec, gear, abilities or a particular fight -- do your research. The best tip I can give you is to take advantage of the WoW community's extensive resources. Know your class. Guilds and PUGs alike will be impressed, and you will gain a reputation for being a pro healer. Keeping your friends alive is a very rewarding job. You might even start to love it!
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