Raid Rx: I feel the need... the need for speed Part 1

Raid Rx is designed to encapsulate and cure the shock and horror that is 25-man raid healing. Ok, so it's mostly horror... Anyways, if you're a big fan of X-TREME Whack-A-Mole (or are being forced into it against your will) this is the column for you. I prefer to remember Tom Cruise as he was in Top Gun, crooked smile and no couch jumping.

This is Part 1 of a two-part series on reaching your full casting potential. Today we're going to cover how to get around inherent casting latency and next week I'll assault you with so much info on how haste rating affects healing, you'll come back here to hide.

First I'm going to give you a bit of background, so grab your blankie and settle in for a story of mystery and intrigue. Once upon a time, all of the Elitist Jerks healers prayed to the god of stopcasting. Me, being in SSC at the time, figured if all the cool kids were doing it, why not lemming along, too? So I did me some research.

The idea behind stopcasting is there was a delay between when your cast was actually completed and when Blizz's server would release you to cast another heal. The stopcasting function was like a hard break. Stick in stopcasting and your computer didn't give a rat's behiny what Blizz's server had to say. You could cast when you darn well felt like it. You'd put /stopcasting before your heal spells to cut out the residual lag at the end of the cast before. There was a trick, of course. You needed to know when you were in the lag zone. If you clicked while the cast is still really happening, you'd cancel it.

So I bound all of my two heals to stopcasting macros and had at it. On my first spin around the naga block, I healed about 300,000 hp more than normal. And with every subsequent test, the numbers were coming up about the same. I even punished myself with 100% boss tank healing assignments and still rocked the house. I pulled ahead of the pack in total effective, in-combat healing and mocked the rest of the group with my 4% lead they just couldn't close in on. zomgl2healnubz! Or maybe I wrote out a crazy long post in my guild forums explaining what I had done and how they could do it, too. You pick the ending; it's all kinda fuzzy now...

Anyways, with the advent of Patch 2.3, a wooden stake was driven through the heart of stopcasting. No longer would the Blizz servers handle spell cast timers. It was all transferred over to your computer. They also gave us a nifty castsequence function so you didn't even need to use it between a series of spells (not that you should be doing that as a healer, kk?) Everyone could go back to just using their spell book heal spells.

Or could they? I propose that the stopcasting function is still useful and the idea behind it is far from dead. Stopcasting gives you the advantage of one-click/button spell canceling. No more time consuming jumping, running forward into a flame patch, or backing off platforms. Click heal, click cancel, and you've moved on. It also looks a lot better in guild videos, especially if you're the one recording them. Save the Mexican Jumping Bean impression for PvP'ers. :P

Also, the lag between when you actually end a cast and when you see your cast bar complete is still there. All the patch change did was allow you to start another cast during lag without a macro. Thus your default cast bar is still lying to you and if you're waiting on it to fill completely up before casting another heal, you're wasting tons of time. How much? My default UI latency indicator reads about 200ms. Grabbing a latency meter (ex. Titan Performance), I can see it swinging from 110ms to over 500ms depending on what's going on around me. Thing are much worse for those naturally cruising at higher latencies. For those that don't has math, 500ms is 0.5 seconds. And when you're playing a game where 2.5 sec is an eternity, wasting that kind of time PER CAST is insane.

One method of getting around this is to just spam the crap out of your heal spell until the next one catches. The benefit is you don't need any additional addons or fanciness, though the life expectancy of your keyboard or mouse becomes questionable. With your computer handling the cast times, as soon as the first is done, it will let you fire up a second. That was the real boon of the patch. This is also the preferred method of anyone with low frame rates (like less than 10 fps). This alone will keep you from using a castbar addon (mentioned in the next paragraph) because your refresh rate is too low to make it worth while. You're just slide-showing too much to hit the lag window.

A second method is to install Quartz, a castbar addon, so you can see exact

ly how much lag exists and when you're in the clear to cast another heal. Quartz recalculates latency per cast, and displays it graphically. If you still question how much lag you've been sitting through, install this baby and see for yourself. I highly recommend it for all healers, no matter what content you're working on.

The thing with Quartz, though, is it provides a crazy number of cast bars. Me? I only need one cast bar to start out with - mine. So once you've got it installed and fired up in-game, type /quartz. The only things on that list of different cast bars that's critical to you are Global Cool Down, Latency, and Player. Click the check box next to Latency's Show Text if you want to see it numerically, like on the right. I would recommend that you disable everything else (especially Mirror) initially until you're comfortable with the addon. You can always come back later and turn on other cast bars.

Now you're pretty much ready to roll. Do a test heal on yourself. You'll see there's 4 parts to your cast bar now: the cast, the lag, your Global Cool Down spark, and the numerical amount of latency (if you turned it on). When your cast hits the lag part (red area), that's when you want to queue up the next heal. If you're in a shaman's group, this will also help you make the most of the Bloodlust/Heroism casting speed increase.

So play with your new found casting speed and join me here next week for Part 2 where we really will get you casting fast!

Notice of the week: If you have any cool healing screenies, send them in to marcie[dot]knox[at]weblogsinc[dot]com and I'll try to feature them here. Otherwise you're just going to see like 1k pally ones!

[Thanks to Bonvineunv for the action shot!]

Marcie Knox has been healing lead for over a year, including old school AQ40/BWL/Naxx. She has suffered through holy priest and now basks in the glory that is healadin. Her pally is sad that she's been passing on haste gear for like ever but she will get into all that and moar next week.