Step 1: Make sure you actually have enough healers for the raid boss.
I had a holy paladin who had to step out once during a raid. A quick scan of available guildies showed no other healers online, but I did have assorted DPSers. There was a shadow priest in the raid who could switch specs and heal, since he had the gear and the skills to do it. The holy paladin took off as we were running back into the raid instance, while I pulled in another player to replace him. The next Sindragosa attempt started well enough. We managed to hit the third phase with a few minor bumps and bruises, but nothing we couldn't handle. Sadly, the raid started dropping all over the place after that. One of my officers asked me if there had been changes to healing. I said yes, we took out a holy paladin but replaced that position with a discipline priest. My officer told me to look at the DPS meters to find out the problem.
It turns out I had forgotten to tell the shadow priest to actually switch specs and play discipline healing for us. When making any substitutions, don't forget to alert the affected players to make the required change, or else you might find your raid group a little short on healing.
Step 2: Does everyone have something to do?
If there are any key roles in an encounter, those need to be taken care of first. If an encounter is heavy on dispels, you can usually get away with one person. Things like Infest on Lich King could use one or two dedicated players to counteract those effects. On Dreamwalker, portal healers need to be decided on ahead of time. These are all special jobs that are integral to the success of your raid.
Next priority after that is to make sure you have tanks covered. The general rule I like to use is to have one healer per tank. A paladin is usually the first pick, but it isn't unheard of to stick a druid, shaman or priest on a tank, either. It all depends on the player behind the character. The tank healer has to keep his tank alive at all costs. If he happens to fall or get rendered useless by an ability (like Backlash), he needs to alert the rest of the healers so someone can cover for him until he can take over again.
Lastly, it is up to the raid healers to see to it that the rest of the raid can still move and heal. In most cases, just telling them to raid heal is enough. When I do this, I revert to whack-a-mole mode. If a player falls below a certain threshold, I target them and use whatever spells to get them back up to a safe zone. Sometimes more finesse is required, and you have to assign individual healers to heal specific groups to minimize healing overlap even further (especially when it's a raid destroyer like Precious).
Step 3: Location, location, location!
Are healers standing in the right spots? Is there anywhere they specifically have to be or any player they need to be within range of? On the Blood Queen encounter, I like to place all healers directly in the middle of the room so that every player in that chamber can be reached. They're not supposed to stray from it (unless they get blasted by a Fear).
Step 4: Set cooldowns
Another thing I take for granted is cooldowns. I immediately assume that players already know when or under what conditions to use survival cooldowns. In most cases, this is good. This auto-pilot usage of defensive cooldowns is usually enough, as it trains healers to use their own discretion. But there are encounters where we need to lay out the order of cooldowns and micromanage them with further detail.
In a two-hour wipe-fest on the heroic Lord Marrowgar encounter in 10s, we were getting destroyed left and right. After a few attempts, I noticed that we were especially unstable during the initial Bone Storm phases. I had a feral druid, resto druid, discipline priest (me), shadow priest, holy paladin, elemental shaman and a protection paladin. We each had our own methods in healing through or mitigating damage. I reasoned that we had to survive through five Bone Storms in order to take him down.
This is how we laid out the cooldowns:
- Bone Storm 1: I would use my Divine Hymn.
- Bone Storm 2: Shadow priest uses his Divine Hymn.
- Bone Storm 3: Divine Guardian and Aura Mastery by our holy paladin.
- Bone Storm 4: Tranquility from the druids (they were separated into different groups).
- Bone Storm 5: Heroism and another Divine Guardian from our protection paladin.
It wasn't too long after that before Marrowgar was taken down.
Anyway, if you notice yourself forgetting to do a few key things, write them down
and tape it to the side of your monitor or on your desk. If your healers are used to you and aren't shy, they will (hopefully) remind you in the event you forget. In my experience, though, if the same healers are doing the same roles throughout your raids, they'll generally be OK and won't require any extra management on your part.
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? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter 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.