20 March 2009

Intro to Druid Healing 3: Raid Healing

This is Part 3 of my Intro to Druid Healing series. The five parts are:

Raid healing at its base level is pretty simple: keep the healers and DPS from dying. Because a lot of raid damage is avoidable, you'll often see the newest or least-geared healers given the raid healing role. But even more than tank healing, your raid healing can really benefit from skill, organization, and insight. This article is designed to get you started with building all three.

My apologies; this article is really long! (Took a long time to write, too.) I hope you'll find the information useful. I welcome feedback in comments.

Sections on raid healing:


So, you'll be healing in a raid today. There are a few basic factors that you'll want to know before you get started. First, what is your assignment? In 10-man raids the assignments can be fairly blurry, and there's a good chance you'll be both tank healing and raid healing. In a 25-man you're more likely to have a specific role, even possibly to healing a specific group or role (e.g. melee DPS) in the raid. Even tank healers may need to do some raid healing from time to time, but if you have dedicated raid healers, you'll generally let them deal first with damage.

Related to healing assignments is heal sniping: the practice of people stepping outside their healing assignments. This can be a problem for a couple reasons. First, you don't want people to lose focus on their main job. If the tank dies while her healer is messing about with raid heals, that's pretty bad. Second, you lose time and mana when two healers heal the same raid member. Healing assignments are designed to help prevent this.

That said, heal sniping isn't all that big a deal in most situations, and in some it's crucial. (I talked about this last week.) If the encounter is easy and healers are bored, they're going to find other things to do. And if things are getting really tough, healers need to help each other out. That goes both ways: tank healers can help out on bad raid damage, while raid healers can lend a hand when the tank is getting creamed.

I think heal sniping gets blown out of proportion because people worry too much about the healing meters. Frankly, they're an OK tool, but they don't tell you a lot. The real measure of success is whether you beat the fight. If your raid leaders are judging healers by ranks on the healing meter... well, they need to understand a lot more about how healing works. I think I'll write more about healing meters in the Special Considerations post.

Beyond your healing assignment, don't forget to remove debuffs — curses and poisons, for a Druid.

Understanding your raid

It's crucial to know about your raid. One dimension of that is understanding the fights you'll be taking on. How much raid damage will you see? Is it avoidable or not? Will there be burst damage or does it come at a steady pace? This obviously will vary from boss to boss and between different kinds of trash mobs.

An important piece of that is understanding the debuffs you'll face. Sometimes they're just annoying, but other times they're critical, like the Necrotic Poison cast by Maexxna or the Curse of the Plaguebringer cast by Noth.

The other dimension is understanding the members of your raid. That starts with knowing your other healers. That starts with understanding the classes (and specs; Holy and Discipline priests are very different). Knowing the key spells of your partners helps you understand what they're doing. Beyond classes, know the players. Are they aggressive or slow to react? Do they suffer from lag or get disconnected? Do they stick solely to their assignments or help out? Are they good at removing poisons and curses? (And diseases — Druids can't remove them, but you might have to heal through the damage if your partners miss it.)

Finally, know your players in general. Are they quick to move out of the fire, or away from the bosses' Whirlwind? Do they use health stones and healing potions? Are the offtanks good at quickly picking up adds? Is the hunter quick to Feign Death when she pulls aggro? Does the warlock Life Tap a little too aggressively? Who's higher on DPS (and needed to beat the enrage timer)?

Knowing the other players you run with can be a huge factor. It's the biggest reason why PUGs are so hard. So if you're running with a guild or regular group, pay a lot of attention to your players, and you'll get a big advantage from it. And if you're in a PUG, learn as much as you can as you go along. (Hint: your damage meter is a better tool for healing a PUG than your healing meter.)

Types of raid damage

So you just saw one or more health bars drop, and you need to do some healing. It's good to be aware of both what just happened and what's happening next. In the end it's all just damage, but knowing the story helps you choose the right spells to use. The variation is huge but there are a few differentiators you can consider.

Who got hit are hit? Sometimes it's just one, say, due to a random mob attack or someone who stood in the fire. If it's just one toon then you can focus on fixing the single problem. But if a lot of toons are hit, you'll need to either spread out your heals, or (in desperate situations) prioritize who gets the heals.

How much damage is there? If someone is hit hard, you're going to need to tee up some bigger heals to deal with it. You'll also have to heal quicker in order to keep the toon alive. On the other hand, if it's less damage, you can afford to use slower-working, more efficient HoTs.

Is the damage one-time or ongoing? If the toon isn't going to get another hit soon, you can afford to let a HoT tick to heal them. But if they're going to get hit again soon, you might have to do something more direct. A special case of this is when a DPS or healer has pulled aggro. Hopefully this is not from a boss (!) but it's fairly common with trash (especially AoE trash) or adds that arrive during a fight. Here it's crucial to watch when the toon loses aggro.

What to cast

This is what you really want to hear, isn't it? What should I be casting? Well, let's make a few assumptions first. Let's assume that you're healing within your assignment, so you can't expect someone else to jump in. (This is the target of my stomping heals post from last week.)

As of today — before the 3.1 patch — you should really read my raid heals post. It describes some initial details about how much each spell can heal and when they're best used. It provides a good bit of analysis that I'm not going to address here. (I will eventually write a new post when the effects of 3.1 are set in stone, or at least curing concrete.)

OK, are you back? Here's the upshot of all that analysis.

Spam Wild Growth. You'll be using Wild Growth for a huge chunk of your raid healing. The only reasons not to use it are when only one toon has taken damage, or when someone is so gravely wounded that you need a big heal Right Now.

You can do some things to get the most out of Wild Growth. Keep in mind that it's a smart heal. So when you cast it on a toon, WG will hit the 5 toons within its range that need it most. (Note, this might not include the person you cast it on!) This is where knowing the nature of the damage helps. If it's geographically localized — say, the melee are hit by a Whirlwind — make sure you cast it on someone from that group. In extreme cases when the raid is highly spread out, you might not even be able to hit 5 toons with the same WG.

It's also worth noting that WG doesn't know about healing assignments. So maybe you're assigned to Group 4 or whatever, but WG will hit anyone. That's true of a lot of other spells too, so don't fret over it too much. Try to make sure however that you're at least hitting part of your assigned coverage.

So use WG when you can. But sometimes it's not enough, and even when it's good you'll have it on cooldown a lot. What do you do then?

Light raid damage: If the toons aren't hurt too badly (and if you're not using WG) your best bet is to use HoTs, most probably Rejuvenation. The other alternative is Lifebloom. Rejuv does more healing and also sets up a Swiftmend if necessary. On the other hand, LB delivers its initial healing faster (Rejuv doesn't tick for 3 seconds) and (before the 3.1 patch) has a slightly lower mana cost. Either one is pretty good if the toon doesn't have a ton of damage and can wait for his heals to add up. You can also spread around a combination of Rejuvs and LBs (plus WG of course) to top off a slightly bigger chunk of damage.

Heavier damage: This is the situation when someone's taken a bit hit and needs an urgent heal. Your goal is to get their health bar up quickly — maybe not to 100%, but at least enough so they won't be killed on the next hit.

The first choice here in many situations is the combination of Rejuv followed by Swiftmend. This sends a big heal within one GCD, and (if glyphed) leaves a Rejuv behind to top off the toon. Many Druid healers don't use Swiftmend enough — I know I don't! It's great for this kind of thing.

So Swiftmend is great, but often it's on cooldown. It's amazing how long 15 sec can be, especially if the whole raid is getting hit fairly hard. If the toon is badly wounded, probably your next option is to cast Regrowth. It gives you both a big direct heal as well as a useful HoT.

Nourish is your other option. Today (as of 3.0.9), I think Regrowth should usually be your first direct heal. Use Nourish as your first step in two cases. For one, if you already have another HoT on the toon, then Nourish will get the 20% boost that makes it more useful. The other situation is when the toon is gravely wounded (say, down to 5% or less health) and/or is taking damage rapidly. Then you might spam Nourish to get some very quick health back onto the toon.

The other big use for Nourish is as an additional spammable heal to get a toon back to full health. With the Regrowth HoT active, Nourish gets a 20% boost, and it's faster to cast than Regrowth. So if you still need to heal after your first Regrowth, consider switching to Nourish.

Nourish is really going to change in 3.1, so I expect this evaluation to shift. I don't have a full analysis now, but I'll provide more (and update this article) when we've learned more (and when 3.1 is in a more stable state). In short, however, Nourish will probably be better and Regrowth a little worse, so you'll want to use Nourish some more.

Finally, I want to mention the Nature's Swiftness + Healing Touch combo, especially if you have a macro to put them together. It will arrive faster and heal more than any other heal. The problem is the 3 minute cooldown; often you will either have it unavailable, or you'll be saving it for a 'real' emergency. Don't be afraid to use it; 3 minutes isn't that bad, and you might well get a couple uses from it within a single boss fight. Just be ready when it's not available.


Sometimes, you'll have more raid damage than you can deal with. This is where my earlier discussion of triage comes in. You have to know who to heal first, and who to ignore.

The toughest question is when to give up (on a toon, not the whole raid!). Sometimes the damage is too high for you to heal through. This is most common when a toon pulls boss aggro. If the toon is likely to die even with your heals, you don't want to waste the time and mana spent healing him. This is rarely an option for the tanks, but it's a common consideration for DPS and sometimes healers.

If you're forced to choose between two injured toons, it helps to know who does more for the raid. Many boss fights with enrage timers will test your DPS; if two toons are close to death, you'll want to save the one with higher DPS. You'll often have to prioritize healers above DPS, but in some cases the DPS is more important; this will depend on the fight. Class can matter here too; save the Moonkin, and maybe she can use her Rebirth. On the other hand, maybe that Shaman can use Reincarnation to rez himself if he dies. (Or maybe it's on cooldown — don't assume that Shaman will be happy if you let him die!)

However, you should almost always make sure to heal yourself. This comes from the principle that you can't do any healing when you're dead! The only exception is a desperate attempt to keep the tank alive. Also, if someone else is designated to heal you, you may have to trust them to take care of you. In general though, you need to be aware of your own health and the damage you're taking.


OK, wow. That's a lot of stuff! Really this is all designed to help you make good choices. Knowing that stuff will help you do much better raid healing. But if you're in doubt, a good outline of raid healing looks like this:
  • Know your assignment and make sure you cover it. But help out others if you can.
  • Use Wild Growth a lot.
  • Use Rejuvenation and Lifebloom to heal mildly wounded toons.
  • Use Rejuv + Swiftmend if someone's hurt badly.
  • After that, use Regrowth and/or Nourish to save the gravely wounded.
  • Remember Nature's Swiftness + Healing Touch for real emergencies.
And a final note: this is my own personal guide to raid healing. I think you can use this and it will serve you well. But there are many other techniques that players use, most of them quite effective. Options like a glyphed/talented Healing Touch can radically change your playstyle, and I don't mean to rule that out. But if you're looking for a good place to start, hopefully this will help you out.

Two more pieces on Intro to Druid Healing are still to come. Now that this is out of the way, I think the others should be relatively easy. Knock wood!

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