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Raid Rx: No healing assignments?!

Matt Low

Every week, Raid Rx will help you quarterback your healers to victory! Your host is Matt Low, the grand pooh-bah of World of Matticus and a founder of No Stock UI, a WoW blog for all things UI-, macro- and addon-related. If you're looking for more healing advice, check out the Plus Heal community and the new healing, raiding, and guild management podcast, Matticast.

"I don't believe in healing assignments."

Oof! Whenever I see those words, I wince as if though I've been punched in the gut. I still have difficulty believing how any group of healers can get to a telepathic level of healing without spending copious amounts of time playing with each other. Stuff like that takes time. How can anyone "know" who the other players are healing? I can't make an accurate assumption based on their class. I might be able to make an educated guess that the discipline priest is on the tank and the resto shaman is on the raid. But unless healer roles are spelled out by one of the leaders or by the healers themselves, it's adding an unnecessary burden.

I like joining pickup raids on my shaman. I get to observe and see what mistakes are being made or what strategies are used. Healing is one aspect I pay close attention to in order to glean any possible insight.

The healers with no direction

I joined up with a partial guild group the other night on my shaman. I wanted to get some practice and both increase my own DPS and work on my Wind Shear interrupts. Luckily (or unluckily) for me, the group I joined was working on the Ascendant Council, found within Bastion of Twilight. For healers, this is a technically dynamic encounter. In order to get over the top, healers need to let each other know when they're not able to cover tanks or dispels or other mechanics.

The short end of the stick was, we wiped over eight times in the course of the evening. Raid frames looked chaotic. People were dying early in the encounters. Some of the debuffs weren't being removed from players fast enough. I gently whispered one of the healers and asked if he knew who was healing who. The reply I got stunned me: "Oh, we don't use those because we're good enough to know what each other healer is doing."

Really? It sure didn't look like that to me. Players were dropping all over. I'd frequently see pre-heals on players stretching up to 80k incoming in some instances. Some of the death logs showed no healing received unless it was AoE in the last 10 seconds before those players died.

Lending accountability

I'm sure they would have gotten it eventually. But the rest of you should be using assignments to isolate what each healer is responsible for. Assignments also function as a form of accountability. If the same player or group of players keeps repeatedly dying, you know who is largely responsible (and in order to fix something, you have to know what's wrong first). Ultimately, it falls on your shoulders to decide if you want to remove poor performers for incompetence or to leave them alone in whatever capacity they wish.

It was a progression fight, for cryin' out loud!

Why would any guild not want to eliminate unknown variables from its strategy? This has nothing to do with healer intelligence. Trust them to do the job they need to do until it becomes clear they can't. Find out why, then either fix it by adding another healer to help, swapping roles or replacing underperformers.

At the same time, healers either need to take the initiative and sort out healing themselves, or the boss man needs to come in and tell them exactly who keep alive. (How they do it should be up to the healers.)

By not using assigned healing, that guild gimped its attempts big time. No healer called out who was going to cover for the healer who was healing the tank in phase 2. No one said they were going to explicitly cover the melee players. No one said they were going to take care of the main tanks or the ranged players.

That is why each attempt ultimately proved to be a futile exercise. Some healers seemed too stubborn or refused to cooperate, or they played dumb. I have no idea. All I know is that had each healer been told exactly what type of players to cover, we could have easily progressed well into the final phase.

A new way of saying it?

Maybe we shouldn't use the term "assignments." It does sound strict and formal. What might make it increasingly acceptable is the use of healing guidelines.

Let's say I'm a discipline priest. I have really awesome shields! They'll stop almost anything! My director of healing recognizes this and places me on a tank just because he knows I can stretch that health bar.

Instead of saying something like:
Matt: Main tank
It should say something like:
Matt: Main tank, then the raid.
I have now been given two responsibilities. One of them is my primary assignment. Everything else has to wait. Instinctively, I know that my ability to cover the raid must be contingent on several conditions:
  1. Is the health of the tank at a safe enough level where I can safely switch without that player getting flattened? If a tank healer is caught raid healing when his assigned tank is dead, it is absolutely his fault. I have been guilty of this many times. Sometimes I take a calculated risk, and I end up being burned because my cooldowns weren't strong enough or I wasn't fast enough.
  2. Do I have enough mana to spare? If I'm above 80% mana, I can afford to burn some of it on the rest of the group as needed.
  3. Is there actual damage on the raid? Assuming three or four players in the raid have been struck, the actual healers assigned to raid healing will pounce on them fairly quickly, so there is no reason for you to get involved. But if all 25 players have been hit with a large fire and their health is gradually dropping, I encourage you to spare an AoE heal or two. Your raid frames can be configured to display incoming heals. Make sure that setting is toggled on, and aim for the players who don't appear to have any incoming healing (or have low incoming healing).
Remember that this is a condition-based healing guideline. Only heal with what you feel you can safely get away with, or you'll end up causing wipes.

No healing assignments make me feel like a sad panda.

Need advice on working with the healers in your guild? Raid Rx has you covered. Send your questions about raid healing to For less healer-centric raiding advice, visit Ready Check for advanced tactics and advice for the endgame raider.

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