The first part of the encounter went well. No major deaths. It wasn't until after the first air phase that we started running into a bit of trouble. One of the priests dropped; stacked up too much sound. But that's okay, because there were still two of us holding the line. Another air phase kicked in again, and I was doing the dance of disc dodging.
What's that over there? Oh no, another dead priest.
A quick health check on the boss showed the blind dragon had around 30% health left. I was entirely responsible for one side now. My goal was to keep as many players on my side alive as possible for however long it took to get through 30%.
Why didn't we use our combat resurrections? I think we popped them earlier on some of our DPS players. Not a great night, but we managed to hold it together until the dragon fell over. But good grief, I don't ever want to do that again. It wasn't the hardest healing I've had to do, but it was certainly taxing mentally.
What I should have done
I had no combat resurrections available. More time was spent desperately keeping my players alive amid all the sound damage that was going on. I caught the occasional bandage or two as players were doing their part in keeping themselves alive. There was no time for me to think, and for a guy who prepares like crazy in anticipation of different things that can go wrong in a fight, this wasn't one of them.
After looking back at it now, the most simplest solution would have been to play the Red Rover card and call Joe Perez or another healer from the other side to the side I was on to compensate for the healer deaths we suffered earlier on. That would have eased significant pressure from my shoulders. Granted, it would not have been sustainable in the long run, but the two of us just had to heal long enough for the boss to crash.
The other week, we discussed combat resurrections. But sometimes we can't use them because the players who can use those abilities are the ones who are down, or the combat limitations have already been used up (meaning we can't use them for the rest of the encounter).
So what can a leader do? Calling a wipe early to come back again with full strength is an option. The alternative is to just find a way to battle through it long enough to win. If you're setting up the assignments, know where every healer is and what they're up to.
This is the first method. It has to be done extremely quickly and decisively. This involves directly telling a healer to stop what he's doing and focus on something else. For example, maybe you have a tank healer who just dropped. You realize you have a holy priest who is raid healing. The play here would be to tell the priest to stop what he's doing and shift to healing the tank that the dead healer was covering.
That move just bought additional time for your attempts.
The adjusted healer needs to close the physical gap between his position and the tank, so it helps to pay attention and know where key players on a fight are at all times. It wouldn't do to tell a player to heal a tank, only for them to come back without knowing where that tank is.
Be decisive. Don't overthink it. The more you think about it, the more time you waste, the lower the odds of success. Just commit to knowing you might be wrong and it won't work.
Use non-healers to heal
Have a balance druid? Maybe a shadow priest? How about an elemental shaman? Don't forget that these players can easily switch to healing roles at a moment's notice. You're moving a player from DPS to healing, but sometimes that's what is needed. Even though you lose out on their DPS, you've now got their limited healing abilities. Of course, their healing spells may not be as efficient or as potent as those of someone who is a dedicated healer. But if you think about it, in the situation you're in, you might not need them to heal the whole fight from 100% to 0. They only need to help you keep players alive for maybe half a minute to a minute.
Keep a mental list of players who you can depend on to specifically off-heal if you need it. Just because a class can heal doesn't mean the players behind the characters are suited for it. I know players who strictly play DPS classes and just aren't that comfortable or dependable when it comes to clutch situations like this.
A long-term plan
The two solutions above can help you and your raid in the short term. If your healers are consistently dying, you need to find out why and figure out a solution fast, or else you're going to end up with frustrated players who are bewildered at all the healer deaths. This might end up forcing you to stack an extra healer or two to counteract the deaths preemptively.
If you find yourself doing that, it's time to take a hard look at your healers.
Need advice on working with the healers in your guild? Raid Rx has you covered. Send your questions about raid healing to firstname.lastname@example.org. For less healer-centric raiding advice, visit Ready Check for advanced tactics and advice for the endgame raider.