This is Part 2 of my Intro to Druid Healing series. The five parts are:
Sections on tank healing:
On trash fights, you'll typically see the MT and OTs splitting up the mobs, unless the trash is pretty easy. Usually this plays out as one tank grabbing initial aggro, then the other will peel off some of the mobs onto himself. Be ready for this.
On boss fights, the MT is defined as the player who's tanking the boss. That often but not always means he'll be taking the most damage. The OTs usually have the job of grabbing aggro from "adds", the additional mobs that show up as part of many fights. Another common OT task is to grab and hold the boss when the MT can't; the Archavon fight in Wintergrasp is an example.
Be aware too that the MT and OT may change roles at different times due to class differences, skills, or gear. For example, in our guild our feral Druid is usually the MT, but in the Military Wing in Naxxramas our Paladin usually switches to MT, as Paladins have special tools against the undead that populate that wing. (I might eventually post an advanced topic about each tank class's special abilities and how they affect healing.)
Lifebloom (LB)Lifebloom is the defining spell for Druid healers. It's also the centerpiece of your tank healing.
LB is a great tank healing spell because it's fairly powerful, ticks every second, and is mana efficient. On your tanks, you'll want to keep up a stack of 3 Lifeblooms, without letting them bloom. You should be able to keep a Lifebloom stack rolling on up to 3 tanks without too much trouble, depending on spec and glyphs. (Practice this if you need to.)
Don't let the stack expire. Your mana efficiency and healing throughput take a big hit if you have to rebuild the stack. The key here is timing your refresh cast: earlier hurts your mana efficiency, but too late and you'll lose the stack. (Lag can hurt you here too.) I usually shoot for about 1s left, or 2s if I'm being careful.
Rejuvenation (Rejuv)Rejuv is a nice complement to Lifebloom. It ticks every 3 seconds but its ticks are fairly big. Another reason to keep Rejuv up: you can Swiftmend off it when needed.
Rejuv is unlike Lifebloom: you want to let it expire before you re-cast it. That's because it only ticks 7 times. If you re-cast it before it hits 0, you'll lose that last tick - almost 15% of its healing power (and mana efficiency). Remember, if you're looking at a timer, "0" usually means "less than 1 sec" and not "expired".
(Regrowth can bridge the gap between your foundation and spike damage. More on that in the next section.)
So for basic tank healing, keep Rejuv and a full stack of Lifebloom up at all times. Do this, and you've done 75% of your tank healing. But the other 25% comes at really important moments — when your tank is in a bit of trouble.
When your foundation starts falling behind, you need to get caught up. We have a few heals in our arsenal that do this. The three most important are Swiftmend, Nourish, and Regrowth. Unlike the foundation, these are more of a choice: what's appropriate for the situation? They each have strengths and weaknesses.
Swiftmend (SM)Swiftmend is a great spell: instant cast, decent healing throughput, decent mana efficiency. It requires an existing Rejuv or Regrowth on the target; that's why you'll always have Rejuv up — right? Its biggest weakness is the 15s cooldown. That does limit its use, but don't be shy: use this as often as possible.
The Glyph of Swiftmend is almost mandatory — it stops the Swiftmend from consuming your HoT. Basically, it saves you a GCD every time you cast Swiftmend. Highly recommended.
My current recommendation is to use Nourish if the tank is between 75% and 50% health, and if Swiftmend is on cooldown. I expect however that Nourish will get buffed, probably through an added glyph, and that Regrowth might see a bit of a nerf. Watch for developments in this area.
When the tank gets below 25% or so health, you need to start reaching for heroic measures to keep him alive. Druids are a bit lower on panic buttons than many other healers, but use what you've got.
Start by hitting your Swiftmend if it's not on cooldown.
Your big panic button is the combination of Nature's Swiftness (NS) with Healing Touch (HT). This gets you an instant cast HT, which hits big and can crit for even more. This can restore 25% or more health on even a well-geared tank. It's on a 3 minute cooldown, so you get maybe one or at most two of these per fight. Put these into a macro for best use.
If Swiftmend and NS+HT are on cooldown, your best bet is a combination of Regrowth and Nourish. Nourish will hit faster, so use it if the tank is really low. Beyond that, the key variable is whether you have the Glyph of Regrowth. Without it, Nourish is more efficient and about the same at healing throughput. With the glyph, Regrowth is about as efficient and a lot more powerful. See Phaelia's Direct Heal analysis for the details — but expect this to change with later patches.
Finally, there's Tranquility. This is a wonderful spell in 5-man instances; it can keep the whole party from death — not just the tank. It can be pretty good in raids, too — if you're grouped with the tank(s). Just remember that it has a 30-yard range, so you need to get at least a little bit close. If you're taking damage, you'll need to pop Barkskin to prevent Tranq clipping.
One of the biggest things you can do to improve as a healer is to anticipate the fight. Make sure your HoTs are refreshed before stuns, if you know when they're coming. If an aggro switch is on its way, start stacking HoTs on the next tank. This kind of anticipation is what distinguishes the really good healers.
Be ready to use Abolish Poison and Remove Curse when necessary. It helps a lot if you know what kind of curses or poisons you're dealing with. Many are actually not that painful, and you can either delay cleansing them or just heal through them. But some are deadly. One example is Maexxna's Necrotic Poison. It reduces healing received by 90%, so you're basically locked out of healing your tank until you get rid of this.
Finally: practice. This is the most repeatable part of your healing job, and the piece that will benefit the most from refinement and repetition. Practice will help you time your HoT refreshes better and will help your reaction time to damage spikes. Polishing your tank-healing skills will really help you shine as a healer.
- Know who your tanks are.
- Start tanks with a base stack of 3 x Lifebloom and a Rejuvenation.
- Spike damage: Use Swiftmend when it's available, Regrowth, or Nourish.
- Also use Regrowth for its extra HoT.
- Panic buttons: Swiftmend and/or your NS+HT macro.
- Remove curses and poisons, especially the worst ones.
- Know the fights and what the mobs will do.