Choose the right spell
You have instant-cast spells. You have spells that take 1.5 seconds to cast. You have spells that can only be used once every 15 seconds. You have heals that continue to heal after you have cast them. You have heals that affect more than one player (which we'll get to later). You have cheap and expensive abilities.
With so many spells, it's understandable that it can all be overwhelming! The very idea that you can go through entire encounters by pressing nothing more than A, B, then C and D is absurd.
You can't just use an instant healing ability all the time, as it might not be efficient. It might not even pack enough healing punch.
Remember this important concept: You know that damage that your group is taking? Chances are, it isn't static. Your group won't be taking the same amount of hits every time. Your players might experience an unfortunate damage crit somewhere. Smart players are adept at dancing out of hostile attacks; others might not be. It falls to you to account for everyone you meet with the ultimate end goal of success! You have to adjust to what's happening, and the best way to do that is to make intelligent spell choices.
Let me use these spells as an example.
In most situations, I'd use Prayer of Mending first. There's usually some
player who's taking damage (a tank). Prayer of Mending would help cover the first attack. I can follow it up with Holy Word: Serenity, or I can keep it in my back pocket in case something unexpected occurs (like the tank turning her back around). Otherwise, I'll resort to casting Greater Heal or Flash Heal. I can usually gauge which spell to use judging by the the size of the hits
players are taking and the intervals between hits
. The longer the interval, the slower the heal I can use. Longer intervals usually mean larger hits.
Where does Renew fit in? Renew's an instant-cast spell that keeps healing over time and is one of those spells where I can pick a player, cast it and then forget about it. I try to keep it up at all times on tanks (and refresh it maybe a second or two before it expires). If you have trouble keeping track of when your Renew is going to expire, I recommend an addon like ForteXorcist
to help you with that. You're safer using Renew (or any heal-over-time-based spell like this) on players who aren't expected to take damage for a long time. If a boss has a large AoE attack that he does once a minute, I place a Renew on myself because I know I'm in no rush to get my health back to a safe area.
Ultimately, you can't limit your spell use to the same chain of spells for every situation. Dynamic encounters warrant dynamic healing.
Prioritize your healing targets
This is really easy to prioritize. Picking the weakest player and then healing them is usually the obvious play. One of the healing philosophies going into Cataclysm
is that the emphasis has shifted to keeping players alive instead of keeping players at full. Your fellow players don't have to constantly be at full health. They just need to consistently survive that next boss ability.
If you haven't engaged in any kind of multiplayer healing, then I don't think you should start with raiding yet. Aside from the potential verbal abuse about your lack of skill, you don't have the capacity to pull it off just yet. Start with five-player instances first. See if you can juggle healing five players working through a dungeon. If you can't adequately keep five players alive, you're going to have difficulty with 10 or 25 players. Your tank is the player taking constant damage over a period of time. In a raid, there are usually two of them.
Think about who is likely to take damage next, and prepare for that. Be familiar with boss abilities and their range. As an example, If you know the boss continually likes to cleave, then you'll be favoring melee players more.
In today's raid, you can't limit yourself to being a tank healer or a raid healer. You need to be a healer. Healing multiple players can be daunting, but just remember that you're not alone. In a raid, you've got other healers who can assist you.
At the end of the day, your ability to heal hinges on you making those key dynamic choices and adapting to what's going on around you. No healing encounter is ever going to be exactly the same twice.
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.