Raid Rx: Topping the meters

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. Sometimes healing can be a bit too serious, imo. Sure, it's your life or death, but come on... Let me have some fun, too.

"But the meters..." has long been the cry of dps who just aggro pulled a cleaving mob over top half the raid, the reason trash mobs are running loose, and why someone just died from a rather nasty curse. But the love of being numero uno isn't confined to those that pew pew. Not by a long shot.

Raid healers are often stereotyped as some sort of self-sacrificing pacifist whose sole goal in life is to help others, sometimes at their own peril. They're like raid moms who make sure the crazed damage dealers have remembered their lunches and that the brutish tanks have their shoes tied. And the raid absolutely cannot take a step forward unless every single person is buffed. Leave off one Fort and the world will end as we know it.

Blah! While the rest of the raid runs from damage, we face it head-on. Everything a boss dishes out, we return and then some. We also make the hard calls, like who has a higher healing priority and who should have known better. And at the end of the day we'll check to see how we did. Today I'm here to tell you how to ensure your place at the top, one beaten down dps'er at a time.

You can't just walk into a raid and win the meter. If that were the case, we'd all be #1. The first step is to start calling yourself "The Main Tank Healer" (TMTH), especially if your guild uses a Loot Council. You're gonna need access to all progression healing gear, and an important sounding title equals score. If you're on a points system, then you need to work the angles. Show up for what gets you points and don't worry about the rest.

Raid with every consumable available. You'll want stacks of mana pots, Stix o' Fish, and either the +healing elixir or mp5 flask and some Mana Oil. If you're rich, buff to the teeth for every fight, even trash, but otherwise just be sure you're set for the boss fights. Also, be sure you're given a SS for wipe recovery, especially for bosses where it's easy to run back. That way if you accidentally die, you can pop it and get right back into the healing action.

If you're a Priest, make sure you have CoH. If possible, convince all of the other Priests to go Imp Spi to "share the buff load". Have them queue up the PoM's since in doesn't count in your healing numbers. Paladins need to grab Imp Conc Aura and make sure the Raid Lead knows that means only you can prevent casting pushback in the healing group. The real goal here is to be with a mana battery at all times, though. Become that pally and suck up to your favorite SP so they'll ask for you by name.

If a Shaman can manage to get a SP, more power to you. Srsly, those would be some mad skills. Cast Earth Shields and Chain Heals all around, going for max HPS. Lesser Waves are lower HPS but you might have to fall back on them occasionally to beat out the Pallies to damage. Druids should be fine cruising around as trees, but be sure you're using Innervate whenever it's up, even if you're not low on mana. That way you can honestly tell all those pesky priests that it's still on cool down. Swiftmend is your friend.

Raid Skillz
These are the little lessons that will propel you to the top of healing stardom. Use them wisely, my little padawan.

1) Assignments are for sissies. People will call you TMTH, but that's the last person you should be healing. You need to play the field since that's where the damage is, and first to get healing love is Fel Armor clad Warlocks. Watch for their Life Tap and be sure they know you don't mind healing them back up during combat. Otherwise, go after Mages and Rogues whenever possible. They're pretty much an endless source of damage and irony, since they're probably aggro-pull main tanking anyways.

2) Decursing isn't in your vocabulary. Why bother to remove a fear that'll self-terminate in a couple of seconds? This is valuable time you should be healing. With the changes in Patch 2.3, it's not like a mob is gonna even take off and kill anyone. And if someone gets a DoT or debuff, that's just more healing opportunity for you. This is especially true if someone gets MC'd. Be sure you get a couple of hits in so there's more to heal once it breaks.

3) Timing is key. The biggest fallacy with low-meter healers is they tend to stand around and wait for something to heal. Be proactive and generate some healing on your own. If you have buffs that increase hp, cast them right before the pull if possible, so healing people back up counts as in-combat. Fort+CoH is golden here. And don't forget pets. A ton of raid UI's don't even show them, so you're already at an advantage knowing they even exist. Don't miss out on those tiny little invisible bundles of damage, just waiting to be healed.

If you can't get a SP, the next best thing is a Lock with an imp. Jump in/out of Blood Pact range and heal yourself if there's not much other action going on (like waiting for a Banish to drop). Likewise, if there's AoE on the floor, don't be afraid to snag a tick of it. I can't think of a single patch of something that will kill you in one shot, and an extra 3k-4k dmg to heal whenever you want is huge.

4) Trash loves the meters. Most people will check the healing meters mid-raid to see how things are going, and any the majority of raiders probably won't look past the total healing page of the WWS. This means they can't tell when most of your healing is generated. Trash healing > Boss Healing any day of the week, especially since many healers tend to get a bit lax with it. A good guideline on trash is you want to be OOM and drink every other pull. Mage water is free so, there's zero downside. Mana efficiency means nothing here. Be aggressive and go all out.

5) Leverage is what it's all about. When you climb to the top of the meters, you're probably going to ruffle a few feathers. Find that officer or two that doesn't know too much about healing and become their friend. "Talk Shop" with him/her about how you're always having to pull the weight in the healing group, how other people are never as prepared as you, and how you suspect Bob, a healer the same class as you, is raiding with a PvP spec sometimes.

Offer to help the Healing Lead with assignments so you can give yourself the juiciest targets. This will allow you to give yourself some legitimate raid healing time to provide a nice cover story. Likewise, the more you help out, the more valuable to the guild you'll become. Who in their right mind would question someone with your level of dedication and healing skill? They're lucky to have you.

If this guide looks a little familiar, Nurf has long been my inspiration and source of humor, although most of his thread is now outdated. A bit of a refresh never hurt anyone, especially if it's for educational purposes.

Before I get flaming bags of poo left on my doorstep from every "play by the rules" healer out there, 1) it's good to know the enemy's tricks and 2) the real purpose of this post is to highlight all the different things a Healing Lead should be monitoring day in and day out. Honest. I'll give you a quick rundown, in no particular order, just so you don't feel slighted.

Healing Analysis Checklist
A) Spec/Buffs
B) Gear, gems, and enchants
C) Assignment vs Who Heals Whom (WWS->Browse)
D) Decurse Count
E) Spell Selection/Cast Count
F) Boss/Trash Effective Healing Breakdowns
G) HPS Time (WWS->Summary)
H) Death Count (WWS->Summary)
I) Group Composition Bias
J) Average healing per spell cast

The key to analysis is to resist jumping to conclusions. It's really hard to know what's going on behind the scenes. And what you're honestly looking for is that all of your healers are in roughly the same ballpark when it comes to carrying the healing load. This means comparing players of the same class and realizing that who's first or last doesn't matter. And this range between healers will change over time based on raiding conditions. For example, in SSC I was thrilled if everyone was within 5% total effective healing. Now in MH/BT I expect the CoH priests and resto shaman to pull ahead on the heavy raid damage fights like Gertie Bloodboil. Similarly on that fight, both Paladins and Druids will be pulling out the big, direct heals on whomever is Fel Raged. This isn't typical behavior for them, so you need to be up on your healing strats before you can really do any analysis.

If I see an outlier, I'll usually do a week of analysis before I'll talk to them about any issues I see. That should eliminate any fluke conditions, like their cat catching fire or router getting struck by lightning. And what you want to do is talk with them, not announce what they need to fix. Remember no one is infallible, including you, and it's important that you see their view points as well.

Happy analyzing!

A couple of unrelated notes:
I'm still looking for some raid healing action screenies. If you'd like to grace the cover of Raid Rx and get some props and/or e-cookies, send your picts to marcie[dot]knox[at]weblogsinc[dot]com.

Next week I'm supposed to do the About the Blogger post and I'm sceered. What would you guys even want to know about me? I'm kinda boring and not hawt...

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 currently hoping like 1 million [Dragonspine Trophy] drop so the crazed melee dps can stop the "Zomg, let's run Gruul's!" chanting. Srsly... Let. It. Go.