Granted, this is supposed to be a raiding column. But you know, since it is a new expansion, we need to work our way up the progression ladder. What comes before raids? Heroics, of course!
Before I dive into the serious business that is heroic healing, I figured I'd open up with a screenshot of me slaughtering a bunch of penguins. That's how I take out my anger and frustration when I feel helpless in certain groups or compositions. It is also a fun method in obtaining the [Critter Kill Squad] achievement. I once mentioned to Allison Robert that it would be fun to compile an Overachiever guide to critter slaughtering and that if she didn't want to do it, I would graciously volunteer critter-killing advice and areas where they can be taken down en masse. Suffice to say, I could feel that e-glare of hers coming straight through my monitor when she replied with nothing more than a "...".
But we're not here to talk about killing critters today. Oh no, today we get to face the reality check that is heroic healing. Are you ready for it? I don't mean just gear-wise. I mean do you have the mental fortitude to endure the stress of healing in today's mechanics? Here's what you need to find success in your runs.
Who to run with
Ideally, you're best off running with friends or other players in your guild. They're generally more understanding than random pickup players you encounter. I'm not saying all players won't understand you. I've found some polite and skilled players during my time in the dungeon finder, but it was a rare experience for me.
We have it good right now. Our queue times are near instantaneous, even if we decide to use the dungeon finder alone. I'm sure there are plenty of DPS players you know of who wouldn't mind jumping in with you to bypass the horrendous queue times.
Crowd control is a must
We healers have access to specific types of crowd control. We can use them. Personally, I like to use the Glyph of Psychic Scream since I can use it an emergency and run away until a tank can get to it or another form of stable crowd control can be applied. On pulls in which CC is used, the overall instance run go much faster because I don't have to drink as much after the pull.
If I spend more time drinking, the rest of you spend more time waiting. We all lose. Be a man. Do the right thing. Use CC. At least, that's what Russell Peters would say if he played this game.
What should my gear level be?
The dungeon finder says you need to be at a minimum level of ilvl329 to even begin foraying into heroics. I'd try to get as many items that are at an item level 333 (that are relevant to your spec and stats). Don't worry about using superior quality gems on them, as you'll replace them soon enough. Stick to the uncommon, green cuts. Wait for any ilvl346 drops before spending dough on precious superior gems.
Pro tip: Upgrade your weakest gear first. If you're using a green belt and you're aiming for a Cord of Raven Queen, bite the bullet and spend the points on the belt from the justice points vendor. Yes, you're going to replace it eventually. But every gradual increase in your own stats goes to that much improvement in your ability to heal. This means you'll be able to add some decent healing, which means overall quicker runs through heroics because there are fewer wipes.
Where should I start?
Vortex Pinnacle is one of the easier heroics, I've found. The second boss involving the drake tends to be trickier than most due to the amount of cyclones in the area. Here's a hint: Stay near the middle so you can swiftly move to get the Upwind buff.
Another moderately challenging heroic is Halls of Origination. The boss that gave me fits the most was Setesh. The rest of them should be fairly manageable with a decently skilled and geared group.
Words of encouragement
Look: I wish there were something I could say that could help ease the stress of the new healing game. There isn't much I can do, though. I'm right in there in the thick of things, too. I have to deal with the same share of good players and bad players.
The difficulty is always going to be extremely challenging in the beginning of an expansion. You can't expect to power through heroics and watch TV during the opening two weeks of the expansion (at least, not us mere mortals). This is a group effort. You need your tanks to be doing their jobs and your DPS players to be doing their jobs. The margin of error is narrow. Don't give up.
You just have to change your thinking. It's OK if a player isn't at 100 percent. Tape those words to your monitor.
Is it fun?
I won't deny that I find the new healing game stressful. After I hit 85 and managed to exceed the 329+ item level mark for queuing for heroics, I was getting my butt kicked left, right and center. But I found the encounters challenging, not downright impossible. The first time I did these bosses, I was wearing a mix of 333 gear and stuff I purchased from the justice points vendor.
I personally prefer this slower style of healing. It beats the up and down tempo of Wrath of the Lich King, when healing was dependent on reflexes (and I don't have a problem there, as I used to be a street hockey goalie). Either players were at full health, or they were dead.
Now, you just need to play a more pronounced game of whack-a-mole and resource management. I think it's more engaging and interactive. And I have no doubts that many of you out there will disagree. So I'm quite curious, how have your heroic healing experiences been? Any good stories, or have you encountered nothing but horror?
Last-minute pro healing tip Visualize a vertical, straight line down the middle of your health bars. Keep your group above that line as best as possible via any means necessary. You won't be able to keep everyone at 100 percent without seriously compromising your mana pool. So why not set that bar a little lower and just focusing on keeping people alive?
Need advice on working with the healers in your guild? Raid Rx has you covered. Send your questions about raid healing to firstname.lastname@example.org. For less healer-centric raiding advice, visit Ready Check for advanced tactics and advice for the endgame raider.