I've been running around some Battlegrounds with my baby hunter, trying to work out some ideas for you, and man, do you guys have it rough. I found that a hand position of OKL; resulted in the best access to modifiers, if that's any help at all! Oh, and a right-handed Razer Naga is not a great mouse for left-handed use.
But the main topic I'm here to address is healing. CaylynnRunner, berna.bleeker, adyuaa, and PeterAnagirou all talked about the trials of PvP healing as users of Healbot, VuhDo, Clique and the like, and that's what I plan to talk about today. Some of the folk discussing healing weren't happy with my advice in the article and felt that they had to move with the keyboard, many saying that Healbot or similar addons like VuhDo make it necessary to do so. As someone who learned healing by leveling healing characters purely in their healing specs, I had a similar battle on my hands when I went into any Arena or Battleground.
The Healbot trap
OK, first and foremost, I'm being totally unfair. I'm picking on Healbot, an innocent healing addon, just because it's the one I use. For PvE healing, it's my favorite. And for some aspects of PvP healing, it's pretty darn awesome, too. There are many other addons that do the same as Healbot, such as VuhDo and Clique, so when I say Healbot, bear in mind that I mean all click-to-heal addons.
The importance of awareness
As a healer, awareness is key to success. You not only have to keep track of the enemy and their position and health levels and try to predict their evil intent, but you have to do most of that for your teammates as well. In 5v5, that's nine other people to monitor!
You not only need to keep tabs on your allies and enemies, but you also need to position yourself well, within range of your DPS and, ideally, somewhere you can easily break line of sight from your opponents. In order to do that, you need to have really good awareness of what's going on around you.
This is what my UI looks like when I'm healing 5v5:
The trap ...
There's no Healbot there. I don't use it for Arena. Why not? Well that's where the trap comes in. I find that if I use Healbot, I not only need to keep track of myself and nine others, but I also need to keep track of my mouse pointer. I need to know which player my mouse is on, and that requires me to look at Healbot. If I'm looking at Healbot, my field of vision is dramatically reduced. Yes, I have to look at the raid frames too, but my mouse can be anywhere, so having them in my line of sight is all that's required. I don't need to look at them to see who's taking heavy damage. I can keep an eye out for debuffs, especially Unstable Affliction.
Healbot narrows your field of vision. Be honest with yourself: When you're in a "holy cr*p" healing situation with Healbot in PvP, how aware are you really of everything that's going on around you? If you're anything like me, not very.
Not only is my field of vision dramatically reduced, but so is my movement. When I'm healing with Healbot, even casting instant heals, I have to be moving with my keyboard as my mouse is engaging with the healbot panels. We've already talked about why moving with your keyboard instead of your mouse is bad.
So it's all well and good going on about how Healbot is bad, but what's the alternative? Some have suggested mouseover macros, but due to the increased awareness of pointer position required, I'm still not convinced. (I will cover these at a later date, though!)
This is the default approach to healing in WoW, and anyone who's been on the beta will probably be familiar with it. Quite simply, you target your friends and fire heals at them. You can use Alt to heal yourself. It's even default in the WoW UI! If you watch any Arena streams, you'll be able to see that a good number of highly rated players use this method.
What are the pros and cons? Well, once you've got your target, your movement is fantastic. You can run around like a lunatic. The downside is selecting your target and switching quickly between them. There is an addon out there that I once found that allows you to scroll through your team with your mousewheel, but I haven't found it again since. You can, I hear, do this with a macro, but I haven't done it successfully yet.
So how do you select your targets? Well, you can click them (which, from watching streams, many players do), or you can set up macros for them, something like /target [@party1] or /target [@thenameofaplayer]. Hit that macro, and heal away. Many might bind this to a mouse button for fast access, or maybe numbers 1 through 4. You would still use Alt to heal yourself.
So, let's say you bound them on number 1 through 4, and you need to cast a Riptide (bound to R) on party 3. You hit 3, then R. Done. Need to cast another Riptide on him? No worries, he's already targeted. Hit R again. Need to dispel yourself (dispel bound to Q)? No need to select a new target, just hit Alt+Q.
Macro Healing: My preferred method
What I do takes this targeting idea a step further. It might sound daunting at first, but trust me, it gets really easy really fast.
I'm going to paste a macro right at the bottom here for you to use as a template if you want to give this a try. You don't need to understand how it works; you just need to fill in the gaps with the spells and people you need it for. If you do want to understand how it works, check out my macros column.
So what does it do? Well, look back to above where I said you could target your friends with a target macro and then heal them with keys. Obviously, targeting isn't on the GCD. So why not include the targeting within a macro?
Let's go back to our Riptide example. Riptide's on R. If I push R, I put a Riptide on myself. If I push Alt+R, I put a Riptide on Party1. If I push Shift+R, I put a Riptide on Party2. If I push Ctrl+R, I put a Riptide on Party3. If I push Ctrl+Shift+R, I put a Riptide on Party4.
There's no need to target, no need to click. It's all keybinds. I heartily recommend turning CapsLock into Ctrl for this and using Alt with your thumb. For what to put where, head back to the keybinding column.
Some people will want to target Party1-Party4, as the frames appear on the screen. ("Hey, the third person down is dying! I need to use Shift!") Some will prefer to use their allies' names. ("Hey, Bob is dying! I need to use Shift!") Either is fine.
And here's the macro, with Riptide as the example spell. If you want to try, replace Riptide with your spell, and give it a go!
/cast [mod:ctrl,mod:alt,@party4] [mod:alt,@party1] [mod:shift,@party2] [mod:shift,@party3] Riptide
What about Battlegrounds?
There aren't enough modifiers in the world to heal an entire Battleground like this. For Battlegrounds, I use Healbot -- but I use it with an important setting enabled: targeting.
Whenever I heal a player, it targets them. So if I heal a paladin called Bob, Bob becomes my target. I can run away from a warrior, drop a grounding totem, and keep Bob the paladin healed and shielded all the while with keybound heals, like in our earlier target healing section. I use Alt to heal myself, and when I'm being left alone to heal (ha!), I just use Healbot the PvE way.
Like I say, this isn't to be taken as gospel, it's a response to those who commented on my last column. It is possible to heal without Healbot, VuhDo, Clique or any of their friends!
Do you want to capture flags, invade cities, attack towers, and dominate the enemy for your faction? Do you dream of riding your War Bear with pride? We'll steer you to victory with secrets of Battlegrounds and Arena, prepping you with proven addons and keybindings that win! Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.