This is Part 4 of my Intro to Druid Healing series. The five parts are:
Sections on raid healing:
Watching so many things at once means you're relying heavily on your user interface. It provides you information and enables you to act. A good UI can make that as easy and natural as possible, but a bad UI can slow you down and make it difficult to heal well.
You will be adjusting your UI. The default Blizzard UI fails for healing raids. Out of the box, you'll only ever see the health of your own group. You can configure it to be a bit better, by dragging the raid health frames into the field, or maybe by turning on the health bars above characters' heads. So you're changing things from the start. Almost every healer ends up making further changes, either through macros or addons.
But before we talk about that, how would we want our UI to work? There's a concept that the US military uses, called the OODA Loop. OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. I believe they use it for strategic thinking, but it applies even to the extremely tactical work of healing.
First you have to observe: what are the mobs doing? Who's taking damage? What are the other healers doing? Orient in this case is about all the background information that informs your healing. What's your role — main tank heals or raid heals? Who's most important to save? What is the boss going to do next? Based on that, you decide what to do: who are you going to heal, and what are you going to cast? (Or maybe you need to move out of that void zone instead!) Finally you act by casting your spells, whether it's a click or a key press. And then? Observe what happens and do it again.
This all happens in tiny loops, of course — as fast as every 1 to 1.5 seconds when healing is intense. But it's good to realize all these components of the process, because your UI can fail you at any one of them. The default UI fails at Observe, because it's difficult to arrange and isn't good at showing you heals, buffs, and debuffs. It also fails at Act, because you have to click on a toon and then either click or keypress to cast a spell. These two actions have to happen sequentially; it doesn't seem like a long time. But you can easily cast 200 spells in a 5 minute boss fight; those fractions of a second can really add up.
- Health and health deficits of all toons, and maybe pets too
- Who's taking damage
- Who's got aggro
- Who's being healed
- What HOTs do you have running, and how much time do they have
- Who is cursed or poisoned (or diseased, for non-Druid healers)
- Who's dead or out of range
Let me show you what Alamein's UI looks like. I don't claim this is the best way to do it — or even that it's all that great! But it works well for me. (I'll talk later about the addons I use to set this up, but in short, it's Pitbull for the player/target/focus frames, and Grid for the raid frames.)
Here's my full screen UI:
I've moved all my raid frames to the center-bottom of the screen. I could never keep track of my health when it was in the upper-left; this way it's very visible. The down side is that it obscures some parts of the screen.
Here's a closer look at my raid frames:
The goal here is first to get a quick look at the raid: who's hurt? (After Gluth does a Decimate, the answer is: everyone!) You can also see here that Firegrin and Zaha are out of range; that tells me instantly if I need to move to heal them. One thing you don't see here is my aggro indicator; anyone who draws aggro will have a red border around their unit. That way I know who's getting beat on, for instance if the tanks need to trade off each other. Similarly, I'll see an icon and a colored border around any toon that's either poisoned or cursed.
And what about tracking heals? Here's the details of what all those numbers mean:
It's very dense, but it gives me a lot of information in a compact package. I track most HOTs in the corners. The top left shows me the total HOT count, including everyone's HOTs; this way I can see if another healer has left something behind. The other corners count down the time on Wild Growth, Rejuv, and Regrowth (bottom left). Lifebloom, meanwhile, is in the middle; that way I have a clear indicator of when to refresh the stack. (I'm just going to wait and see whether I want to keep this setup after 3.1 lands. Sigh.) I've also able to see incoming heals, so I know whether someone else is healing up a toon.
It's a lot of information in a small space, but it's less confusing than you'd expect. It's very easy, with three corner indicators, to see where your HOTs are. That's especially useful for Wild Growth. Lifebloom is front and center, for now, because I will usually maintain 2 or 3 LB stacks for my tanks. (Soon to end, alas, alas.) And it's all close to the center of my view area; that means my eyes don't have to move much to see the larger environment. Those are all goals to strive for, no matter what addons you use.
You then cast spells either by clicking buttons on your action bar, or by mapping those buttons to keys. There's a lot of ridicule for "clickers", which has some basis behind it; it take a good bit of time to pull your cursor across the screen and get it targeted to a fairly small button. Still, there's a reason that so many players do it; it's simple and direct. With keys, you always have to remember which key maps to which ability. Also, you usually don't have time to look at what key you're pressing, so you have to go by touch. These are skills that you should work to build, because you'll probably find them faster in the long run. Don't be afraid to accept a short-term setback, if it will make things better in the long run.
So what comes after select-and-cast? There are two main styles that you can use: click-cast and mouseover-cast. These are both ways to reduce two separate actions into one smooth motion. They'll both be quicker than select-and-cast. How do they work?
Mouseover-cast removes the click action from the process. Basically, you set up macros for your spells so that they will be cast on whatever target is underneath your cursor. So you just point at what you want to heal and then press the key with the right macro on it.
Click-cast removes the separate key press from the process. It's almost like select-and-cast, but not quite. It uses a combination of mouse clicks and modifier keys to cast spells, choosing the spell based on the modifier key and casting the spell when you click on a toon.
There are advantages and disadvantages to either style, but I think they're both equally viable. I prefer click-cast because it feels most natural to me, and I can combine it with select-and-cast for less common spells. Some people feel that mouseover is more natural, because it relies more on your normal action bars, and it can be done without using any addons. (I don't believe that's true for click-cast.)
Here is the click-cast setup I use:
- Alt-left click: Lifebloom
- Ctrl-left click: Rejuvenation
- Shift-left click: Regrowth
- Alt+Shift-left click: Wild Growth
- Shift+Ctrl-left click: Nourish
- Alt+Ctrl-left click: Swiftmend
- Alt+Ctrl+Shift-left click: Healing Touch
- Alt+right click: Remove Curse
- Ctrl+right click: Abolish Poison
So that works well for me. I know however that many healers prefer using the mouseover-cast technique; it wouldn't surprise me if it's more popular than click-cast. The biggest advantage is in setup; you can do it all through macros on the standard UI. I suggest you try whichever option sounds more natural to you; try it for a couple weeks, and see how it's working. If it feels awkward, try the other approach.
If you want to try mouseover-cast healing, you can do that without addons. You'll start by creating mouseover macros for your healing and cleansing spells. Sydera at World of Matticus has written a great mouseover macro guide that can help you out. You can start out doing that with the vanilla raid frames (or whatever you're currently using) and see how you like it.
I think probably the most common solution is to use Healbot. It provides unit frames, along with a click-cast interface. You could of course turn off the click-cast and use mouseover macros if you prefer. Keeva at Tree Bark Jacket has an excellent review of Healbot that you should check out.
I'm not a Healbot user, so I can't make its case well. I know that a lot of people use it, and the common wisdom seems to be that it's the easiest addon to set up. Personally I didn't find it that simple when I tried it, but your mileage may vary.
The other major raid frame competitor is Grid. It gives you the unit frames, but doesn't have the casting options that Healbot has. (Here's another great Keeva review.) Grid also allows/requires additional addons for specific tasks, such as GridStatusHots, GridStatusLifebloom, and GridIndicatorCornerText. That's even more stuff to set up, but provides for some powerful capabilities.
You can of course use Grid with mouseover macros, but if you prefer click-casting, I recommend Clique as the addon to use. It adds a tab to your spellbook that enables the setup of click-cast mappings.
The most common knock against Grid+Clique is that there are two addons you have to manage instead of one. I see that as a strength; each addon is focused on a specific task. You can read a long and very informed debate about the two approaches on Elitist Jerks in the Resto UI Discussion. My best advice is to try something, see if you're happy, and if not, switch.
At some point I should write up the details of how I configured my UI. In short however I used the techniques described in this EJ post from the Resto UI thread. You should see most of the elements described there in my screencaps above. I also have separate Grid setups for 5/10 man, 25 man, and 40 man setups; you can swap between setups with macros.
Let me know if you want to hear more about my setup, and I can write up an article about that.
Your UI can be your best ally or worst enemy for healing. Spend some time on it, and it will reward you.