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It didn’t take long to get from Thunder Bluff to the Echo Isles – Ankona took advantage of a wyvern so she could think and plan before getting to her destination. She had information to confirm with the spirits – was Gromnor dead? Was he really in the northern part of the Eastern Kingdoms, somewhere […]

filed under Healing, Paladin, Priest, Raiding, Shaman
Herding Cats – Filling in as Healer Lead
comment 16 Written by on July 2, 2008 – 8:49 am

So it’s 5 minutes before the first pull and your raid leader sends you a whisper.

“Hey, I just heard from [Healer Lead]; he [got in a car wreck/has the flu/picked up girlfriend aggro/got eaten by a magmataur] and won’t be able to make it tonight.  Could you coordinate healing for us?”

So being the Good Little Raid Member that you are, you say sure.

And then what just happened kind of dawns on you.  Wait… what?  What did I just agree to?

cats by arminh

Well, you just agreed to herd cats for a night.  And I don’t mean that at all in a derogatory way.  Healers are, by nature, independent.  Healing is not about stabbing the thing with the skull on it, but making split second decisions about who needs a heal, which heal to use, and whether or not you can handle what you’re doing without backup.  It *requires*  a level of discretion that causes healer coordination to be a little squirrely sometimes.  That, and we all seem to have this paranoia about people dying…

So how do you figure out where to put people on this next boss fight?  Obviously that depends entirely on the fight – something like Sapphiron is a VERY different fight to heal than, say Patchwerk.  Regardless of the fight though, there are a few big things that you will need to know in order to set up a strategy that will provide adequate healing and have various healers doing what they do best.

Step 1 of putting together an on-the-fly healing assignment is knowing the boss fight and who is tanking what.  This information should be picked up through online reading (www.bosskillers.com and www.wowwiki.com are both good places to start) and from your raid leader, who will know what the tanking assignments are

  • Is this a boss that hits like a truck full of trucks, driven by bears?  Or does he hit like a little girl, but have 1200 really angry friends?
  • One tank, two tanks, three tanks, four?
  • How much raid damage is expected?  Is it immediate and raid threatening (like a whirlwind or a chain lightning?) or does it happen once and then allow for healing up (like an Arcane Explosion thing).  Will it hit just the melee/just the ranged?

Step 2 is knowing how the various healing classes work:

  • Priests have all the toys.  They have powerful single target healing, especially if specced discipline, powerful group/raid healing (through Circle of Healing if they’ve specced for it, or Prayer of Healing if they’ve not), heal over time spells, and that wonderful frisbee of Prayer of Mending.  They’re incredibly versatile healers. Generally Holy Priests are going to be most adept at handling raid damage; Disc priests are the kings (and queens) of preventative healing on a single target.
  • Paladins, rather than being good at doing 10 things at once, are solid single target healers, making them great to have for main tank/offtank healing.  Flash of Light also allows for some raid healing abilities – particularly if speed is important, since FoL is a very quick spell to cast, but by and large paladins are dig-in-their-heels and tote a single heavy burden kind of healers (thanks for that analogy Siha!)
  • Druids are the kings and queens of the heal over time spell (HoTs) – and can usually keep a lifebloom stack up on two to three targets at a time (if they don’t have to do anything else) plus being able to effectively raid heal through Wild Growth.  They’re also quite mobile, if a bit slow, since these spells are primarily instant cast.  Lifeblooms/Swiftmends are great protection against damage spikes, and Wild Growth is a great way to deal with raid damage that happens in a big spike periodically.  Have your druids keep an eye on the MT and the offtanks in difficult fights as well (since most of them are good at multi-tasking and keeping several things going at once), and watch everyone else’s job get easier.
  • Shamans are your raid healers, most of the time.  Chain heal is incredibly powerful and quite mana efficient.  If you have only one Shaman and there is ANY kind of raid damage going on at all, stick your Shaman in with the raid healers, and watch the chain heals fly.  Some fights you may need to have a shaman taking care of a tank, especially if you have multiple resto shamans – which also works, especially if the shaman is specced/glyphed more towards Lesser Healing Wave/tank healing.

kittens by sander19
Gratuitous kitten picture.

Step 3 is knowing your raid mates (which comes more from healing with them than anything else).  This kind of step will streamline your healing group and help them to work better overall, because it puts people in situations where they’re doing what they either really like to do, or are really good at doing.  Hopefully “like to” and “good at” line up for most people.  If you’re just pinch hitting for one night, this step isn’t as important (since it takes some time to get a feel for these things).

  • Some healers like detailed assignments – who to heal, when to heal them, and how much damage they are expected to take.
  • Some healers just need a target – Joe Healer, you’re healing Bob the Pallytank.
  • Some healers are very mobile and good at responding to various situations/changing assignments, while others do better if they’re given one target or job, and told to take care of that target/job at all costs.
  • Some healers can do anything you throw at them, regardless of class or spec.
  • (Thanks Auzara!)  If you’re just filling in for one or two nights, remember what people are used to doing if you can (and ask the raid leader/other healers if you can’t).  If someone did a job last week and the week before, they’re probably used to it and know what to expect – which will help them do a better job, help their heal targets feel more comfortable, AND not shake the boat too much (which can definitely happen when someone new is giving out assignments).

So now you have all these notes flying around in your head, and you have to figure out who exactly is going to get what assignment.  At this point you’re matching up skills with boss abilities.  The heavier hitting the boss, the more healers assigned to the tank.  The more raid damage going around, the more raid healers you need.

I generally fill in specific healing roles first, and then make other placements around them.  For instance, TRI has a person who is *god like* when it comes to assist healing (like is necessary on Kel’Thuzad and Razuvius where the boss targets a raid member, who then takes a ton of damage very fast).  Knowing this, I make sure that that healer is given those assignments when they come up, because that person is both extremely good at it, and likes doing it.  Me?  As a shaman, and I prefer to have just “heal the raid” or “heal those scrub melee” – but as a paladin I prefer a specific tank to take care of.

My preference for tank healing is usually to have a druid, and a disc priest or a paladin on that tank (with the druid asked to multi-task on the OT or raid members).  If you have to add another tank healer or two, add another pally or disc priest (if you’ve got one).  Obviously any more specific assignments will depend on how many of which kind of healer you have in the group.

Knowing your stuff and keeping on top of what’s going on in the raid will go a long way to helping you be more comfortable coordinating healers.  And remember – other healers in your group are great resources!   If you’re curious as to whether someone is familiar with a certain job, or if they think they can handle doing something on their own (like healing the Sartherion tank waaaaay over in the corner by themself while the raid deals with dargons) – ASK THEM!  Your raid leader is also a good resource as you get used to working out who to put where.  Nobody will think less of you if you ask for some advice, and your assignments will be less likely to have major flaws.

Good luck, happy healing, and, as always, may the Loot Fu be with you!

*images credit ArminH and Sander19

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16 Responses to “Herding Cats – Filling in as Healer Lead”

  1. Excellent use of gratuitous kitten pictures. Oh yeah, the write up was nice too.

  2. I second the gratuitous kitten picture. This is an excellent concise write up of everything I really should already know *bookmarks* You should put it somewhere prominent in the sidebar so I can be lazy though!

  3. Kitties! Also, best metaphor ever:

    “Is this a boss that hits like a truck full of trucks, driven by bears? Or does he hit like a little girl, but have 1200 really angry friends?”

    I can picture both of those in my mind, and it is beautiful.

    Oh, and the post was very informative, which is a nice bonus. 😀

  4. Good post! I can’t resist giving my two cents though…

    As a druid healer I hate being plonked on the MT. The reason is simple- usually MTs have more healing thrown at them than they need (which is not a bad thing!) What it means for me, however, is maybe every once in awhile a tick of one of my HoTs will go off. It leaves me feeling like I’m simultaneously wasting my time and not contributing everything I could to the raid.

    I can keep a stack of lifeblooms on the MT and go do other things, and I love healing off-tanks. Being told to stick to the MT and the MT alone is (usually) an incredibly frustrating exercise.

    By Lilivati on Jul 2, 2008 | Reply
  5. Lili – And that’s absolutely true, and I think what you’re doing is exactly what I’d expect a tree-druid to be doing given a MT assignment. Maybe I’m too used to having awesome healers to work with (who instinctively are helping take care of other things as well) – I’ll definitely add that bit in about Druids though.

    By Anna on Jul 2, 2008 | Reply
  6. I believe I speak for us all when I say:


  7. “Hey, I just heard from [Healer Lead]; he [got in a car wreck/has the flu/picked up girlfriend aggro/got eaten by a gronn] and won’t be able to make it tonight. Could you coordinate healing for us?”

    These are all actually things that have happened to Zalbuu.

    Also dibs on a “Truck full of trucks, driven by bears” t-shirt.

    Also thank you. 😀

    By Tarq on Jul 3, 2008 | Reply
  8. “(Thanks Auzara!) Remember what people are used to doing if you can (and ask the raid leader/other healers if you can’t). If someone did a job last week and the week before, they’re probably used to it and know what to expect – which will help them do a better job, help their heal targets feel more comfortable, AND not shake the boat too much (which can definitely happen when someone new is giving out assignments).”

    This is true in progression content. However, if you’re in farming content, and people are like ‘ladida, I can easily do this’ give them a more challenging job then the one they’re ‘best built for’.

    Tell the paladin to raid heal, the shaman to MT heal, and the priest to roll renews.

    This way you train them to actually step in a different roll when needed in progression content, and you keep them awake and alert at the same time during farm content.

    By Shyraia on Jul 7, 2008 | Reply
  9. Shyraia – absolutely, if you’re a regular healer lead, since that helps to build your team up and make them stronger.

    As a sub in, though, I’ve found it to be better not to shake the boat too much, because people aren’t used to listening to you and because you want to make sure that things aren’t too much of a stretch from “normal” – helps the raid go off more smoothly. It’s not your job to try to teach people to do new things (and really, not your place to do so, especially if this is a one time deal) – it’s your job to make sure the raid goes off without a hitch.

    If you’re the long term healer lead, you’re in a much better position to give out “teaching” assignments.

    By Anna on Jul 7, 2008 | Reply
  10. Nice pics, good write up! Although, sometimes we use the term herding cats for leading the raids, I like your use of it. Another situation to be scared of is the night you log in a couple minutes late and the first msg you see it “All those who want to go in group 2 raid, send tells to Guns”….who?what?me?!whatdidIwalkinto? I don’t normally lead any of the raids and they decided it was time I did. They knew if they gave me time, I could find a way out of it. So the RL for group 1 raid waited for me to log on and then msgd everyone! Once again, very nice write up. Good knowledge for anyone with a healer, or healer alt (raises hand), to know.

    Gunsnbutter Excelsior/Uther

    By Gunsnbutter on Feb 5, 2009 | Reply

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