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“Heroics are living up to their name.”

December 14, 2010
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So said the Pink Kitty two nights ago when I crawled into bed two and a half hours after having started Heroic Stonecore.  The all-guild group I was in was less than ideal with our three melee DPS (DK, rogue, warrior) – we learned quickly that Cataclysm dungeons are really tough on melee.  Yet despite that, two days into my heroic grind I’ve replaced nearly everything with heroic level gear (there are some perks to being the only caster in a group), and I feel like I have a good sense of how druid healing has changed.

The following is a list of suggestions adapted from a post I made on my guild forums about what healers can expect as they step into heroics for the first time.  In addition to this, I highly recommend reading Keeva’s latest post on Tree Bark Jacket.  She is spot-on about what spells to use, how to manage cooldowns, and what you can do to conserve mana.

– Pay attention to what your talent tree is telling you to do. In the case of resto druids, you may have noticed that a significant number of your talents are now focused around strengthening your Lifebloom and Healing Touch spells, two spells we could choose to largely ignore during Wrath. If you see this or something similar in your talent tree, it means that Blizzard is telling you something – namely, that those are the spells you’re supposed to be using.

– Look at the mana cost of spells prior to instancing. We all heard from the reports on the beta that mana efficiency would be essential to healing in Cata. If you’re going to be efficient, you need to know which spells cost too much to be worth it for you.

– Communicate with your group and ask for their help. There was a point last night where our group’s strategy was literally, “Count on bandaging at X phase of this fight.” Everyone should take the time to max out their First Aid and carry bandages with them. This is one of my priorities for the week. In addition, if anyone in your group is a class that has some form of mana regen available, make sure you talk to them to plan on when you’ll need them to use it.

– Triage, and do not panic when everyone (even the tank) is not healed to full. Health pools are large and forgiving by the time you get to heroic dungeons. DPS do not go from 50% to dead in half a second the way they did in Wrath. Really, if DPS haven’t fallen below 60-70%, it’s barely worth wasting the mana to heal them – they’ll be fine. Tanks also take a very long time to die, especially when they’re managing their defensive CDs well. If you try to keep everyone topped off, you WILL be out of mana within the first 30 seconds of basically every fight. DPS will have to be better than ever before about avoiding the damage they are able to, and using their damage reduction CDs when necessary.

– Gear is an issue. Blizzard requires a minimum ilevel of 329 to be able to queue for heroics. For me, this meant that I had about 100k health, 85k mana, 5000+ spellpower, and 3000 mana regen. Spirit is going to be the most important stat for you for quite a while; I’m really not equipping gear without it and I’m reforging to get as much as I can. Even being extremely careful with the way I used my mana and using Innervate 1-2 times per fight, I was OOM at the end of basically every boss we fought. Some of our mana issues, as a group member pointed out last night, are also a direct result of DPS being relatively low right now since they are struggling with gear issues as well. Fights are lasting for a long time in heroics right now, which means we have to stretch our mana even further.

– This, too, shall pass. As I stated above, a lot of this will get easier with gear (both for healers and for our DPS) and time. Anyone who expects NOT to be wiping on heroic content less than a week into an expansion may have some pretty unreasonable expectations. Wipes are going to happen – it’s part of new content. It does not mean that you’re a bad healer, you’ve lost your touch, and that you should give up on your healing spec for the remainder of Cataclysm. Take some time to read up on what’s changed for your class and don’t be afraid to step into a group to get the practice.

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