Most tank heals spammed
An early test for raiding healers, Patchwerk was a measure of pure healer throughput and mitigation. There were no gimmicks. There were no tricks. No fires to avoid, no special abilities to watch for, and no mobs to run away from.
It was all pure healing.
Your raid group lived and died by the ability of the healers to keep your tanks alive. And man, at the time, Patchwerk hit like a freight train. The Abomination provided an excellent method for testing the discipline and trust of healers to not overlap or deviate from their assignments.
Most healing needed
The pre-nerf iteration of Deconstructor was the first real challenge of Ulduar. My guild was able to take this bucket of bolts down during week 2 (largely due to server instability plaguing week 1 of Ulduar's release). What was really special about Deconstructor was during his Tympanic Tantrum phases. I knew that healing this, I wouldn't be able to get more than one party up to full health. Healers had set party assignments with the goal of keeping the party alive as opposed to topping them off.
His hard mode was a great indicator of healer endurance. Healers had to deal with the Tantrums, Sparks, Void Zones and other nasty stuff. I distinctly remember one of our kills pushing us down to the last 5 seconds before his enraged timer expired. Most of the healers were running on fumes at that point. I had to stop in order to regenerate mana. My fingers hovered over Guardian Spirit with the tank targeted just in case.
Most raiders saved
How many times do you remember bailing out players who were caught with an Icicle falling on their head? How many players failed to reach the snow mounds that you complained about while trying to keep them alive long enough for your DPS to break them out?
The big blue guy represented a stumbling block for many guilds as they were progressing through Ulduar. Healers had a tough time trying to outheal the various frost related damage. Not only that, Dispels had to be dished out as fast as possible to get players out of the firing zone of any falling icicles. I went Discipline specifically for faster Mass Dispels. Unless you were able to find a campfire nearby, you had to keep moving around to shake the stacking Cold debuff. For Druids and Priests, it wasn't that big of an issue. The Paladins and Shamans who were with me became disgruntled at the amount of running they had to do.
Of course, whenever they were hit by falling icicles, I made them do laps around Dalaran.
Want to know what it's like to heal chaos? This would be it. Pre-nerf Mimiron was fun and exciting fight for progression healers. The first phase was easily handled. Anything after that was a crapshoot. How hard and fast can you heal through the Heat Wave and Rapid Bursts? Can you dodge Rocket Strikes? The first few times, I managed to get drilled largely due to tunnel vision (and I haven't been hit by them since). Could you handle the incoming mechanical robots of phase 3? More importantly, could you adapt quick enough to heal the occasional threat pull by DPS? Yes, the fault of pulling aggro will forever be a debate between tanks and DPS players. Reflexive and strong heals would immediately remove that as a problem.
And then there was phase 4 which was the grand-daddy of movement and standing-out-of-crap fights for Wrath of the Lich King. Spinning up? Move. Incoming rockets? Move. Is he about to explode? Move. Tank on the other side? Move. If you had a hard time watching out for little things, this fight was not going to be easy.
Anub'arak (Trial of the Crusader)
Anub'arak on heroic was my personal Achilles heel. For whatever reason, I had the hardest time healing the final 30% phase and it would take multiple repeated attempts before we finally got it down. Anub'arak gave us a slight glimpse into what healing in Cataclysm would be like. The goal is not to blast players to full health as he would drain more of it. The objective is to keep players high enough that Penetrating Cold wouldn't destroy them but low enough that his Leeching Swarm wouldn't cause him to gain too much health back either.
I know I did a double take the first few times when I was asked specifically not to heal at certain points.
A boss that was earlier in the Wrath expansion was this guy. Traditional tank and spank right? Except, you know, healers can only do their job for seconds at a time. The rest of it was spent twiddling our thumbs wanding or DPSing. Disc Priests had the slight edge since shields could still do something most of the time. Many progression healers started working on perfecting the timing of their heals so it would land just as the debuff wore off allowing another heal to go off within that window of opportunity.
Faction Champions (Trial of the Crusader)
And the award for most frustrating healing fight goes to these guys! You can't really plan a strategy around them. You have to rely on your desire to live, your ability to think on the fly, and your ability to run. Every attempt could end up being different than the one before it. Causes of wipe would vary. The fight was easily won within the first few minutes. For healers, that was the breaking point where every cooldown had to be used and the survival of everyone actually mattered. I know I broke down once because it was either our Warlocks or Druids that would get just get chain focused by all of the Champions. Sometimes we just had to helplessly stand and watch them die due to convenient Silences or Counterspells.
Sartharion with 3 Drakes (Obsidian Sanctum)
At the time, I viewed Sartharion as the most technical fight. There was an astonishing amount of cooldown coordination required between tanks and healers. This was especially true if your guild did not have a Death Knight tank available to tank Sartharion. His powered up breath could one shot tanks. Pain Suppression, Guardian Spirit, Hand of Sacrifice and other tanking cooldowns needed to be used and timed with less than seconds of advance warning. This encounter forced healers to pay more attention to the position of his head then the raid frames (if his head snapped up, he was about to breathe).
Most healing efficient
General Vezax (Ulduar)
If your healers have yet to learn how to conserve mana, the General here presented a great lesson on that topic. Mana regeneration simply was not possible. Cooldowns and potions were ineffective in restoring mana. You had to rely on puddles to stand in to gain mana back at an exponential rate that was also toxic to your health. I bet more than a few healers learned that greed is bad when they tried to stay in for an extra tick thinking they could survive it. I was one of them. I couldn't do more than 7.
Good friggin' luck if your DPS players weren't up to par or if they fell early on in the encounter.
And those are your winners for 2009! Let's all give them a round of applause before we down them next! We still have more Icecrown Citadel bosses to take care of in the weeks ahead and let's see what kind of new encounters 2010 holds.
Are there any award categories or bosses that you would have nominated instead?
Want some more advice for working with the healers in your guild? Raid Rx has you covered with all there is to know! Need raid or guild healing advice? E-mail me at email@example.com and you could see a future post addressing your question. Looking for less healer-centric raiding advice? Take a look at our raiding column Ready Check.