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Healing Evaluations 101

May 26, 2011
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One of the more difficult questions to answer is “How was my healing on that fight?”  With members of my guild now getting around to leveling their druid alts, and applicants asking questions regarding their performance in our 25 mans, it’s a question I find myself attempting to answer more often in the last few weeks.

It’s a mistake to assume that answering this question is easy for any role in WoW.  “How was my DPS on that fight?” is also something that can’t be explained as simply as by posting numbers from Recount, as any good DPSer will tell you.  Being an accomplished tank means that you survive longer than the boss, but it also means intelligent kiting, interrupting reliably, and plenty of other complexities depending on the fight.

Too often, healers fall into the trap of using Recount or similar add-ons to check their HPS (healing per second) or Overall Healing Done without realizing that these numbers never tell a full story.  Recount is a fantastic tool for raiding but it is still raw data waiting for an interpretation, and HPS numbers can be inflated as easily as their DPS counterparts.  World of Logs is an excellent website for reviewing raid data, but it isn’t as practical to consult in the middle of a raiding session for troubleshooting purposes.  Fortunately, Jansyla at Cannot Be Tamed has already written an excellent guide to evaluating raiders through the data available on WoL, including sections specifically for healer and resto druid evaluations.  But, again, I think of WoL as a tool to be visited after a night of raiding is over, especially since your guild may not even upload their logs until sometime after you’ve finished.

So what’s a good way to figure out whether you’re doing a good job as your raid is working on a boss?  I’ve compiled a list of questions, some general to all healers and some resto druid specific, that should give you an idea of what to look for as you evaluate your performance.

General Questions for All Healers

Did I keep my primary healing target alive?
Perhaps the most obvious and basic objective that we have.  Did you focus on keeping your tank’s health as high as it needed to be to survive the incoming damage?  Did you heal secondary targets only when you were certain your tank could go without a heal for a moment?  Granted, it is entirely possible that your target dies through some fault of their own – perhaps by standing in something they shouldn’t, or not popping a cooldown when necessary.  Another question you can ask in these situations is “Did I let my primary healing target die when I had a cooldown I could have used to save her?”

Did I remember to heal myself?
This is most often a problem for newer healers.  It is easy to get tunnel vision, especially on fights when your tank is taking a lot of damage.  It is essential, therefore, that a good healer keep one eye on her own health bar as she heals her tank.  A dead healer is bad news for everyone in your raid.  We should also avoid any incoming damage we can so that we don’t have to waste mana and global cooldowns healing ourselves.

Did I use “predictive healing?”
This may be difficult for newer healers, or for anyone who has yet to see a particular boss fight a handful of times.   If you’ve read up on a boss’ abilities and have DBM or any similar add-on that will give you timers for those abilities, you’re well on your way to pulling off “predictive healing.”  What I mean by this is that you anticipate when your tank or your raid is going to suffer a large incoming damage spike, and so you set yourself up to be able to respond easily.  Maybe this means preemptively putting a Rejuv on someone in your melee so that you can Swiftmend them and proc Efflorescence when the entire group takes damage.  It could also mean that you begin to channel Tranquility just a moment before your raiders force Nefaraian into a crackle during the second phase of the fight.  Your options will vary according to the fight, but the idea is the same.  Do you know a fight well enough not only to respond to damage when it happens, but also predict it before it does?

When and how often did I use my cooldowns?
The vast majority of healing cooldowns (aside from Divine Hymn) are now only 3 minutes or less.  For most Cataclysm bosses, this means you should be able to use your cooldowns a minimum of two times, and quite often you’ll be able to sneak in a third.  Cooldowns are worthless if not used, and can be equally worthless if they’re not used at the right times.  If you have a cooldown that you want to use every time it’s available, it can be macroed together with your most often used spell.  If you’d like more direct control, add-ons like MSBT and Power Auras can be set up to alert you every time the ability or trinket is useable.  Learning when is the best time to use a specific cooldown for your class is generally a matter of knowing the fight well.  Usually, boss strategy guides will mention when is the best time for your healers to use their special abilities.

Did I manage my mana?
Though most raiders find themselves at significantly more comfortable mana levels than at the beginning of Cataclysm, mana efficiency is still an important concern.  Personally, I want to make sure that I never completely run out of mana during a fight, but I also don’t want to see my mana bar sitting anywhere higher than 50% when the boss dies.  Managing your mana means that you know when to spend, when to conserve, and when to use any abilities or trinkets that will restore mana.  Smart use of mana potions or Potions of Concentration can make a big difference in progression fights.

Druid-Specific Questions

How often did my Lifebloom expire?
Similarly for other classes:  How long did my tank go without having Earth Shield up?  Did I keep Prayer of Mending on cooldown?  Did I always have Beacon of Light and my Judgement up?  For druids, Lifebloom is an essential spell to keep rolling on our tank at all times.  It both provides a steady stream of healing and mana replenishment for ourselves and the raid.  The only time we allow it to expire is the rare occasion when we need to heal from its bloom to keep our tank alive.

Did I use my Clearcasting procs?
Clearcasting procs should be used every time they are available – who wouldn’t want to make use of free spells?  As with healing cooldowns, Clearcasting can easily be tracked using MSBT or Power Auras to ensure that you always notice when it’s become available.  The power aura I use for Clearcasting includes a timer, so that I know whether I can cast another heal before I use a Regrowth or Healing Touch to consume the Clearcasting proc.

Did I make the most of Tree of Life?
ToL is our most powerful healing cooldown.  It should be used as many times as possible during a fight, and we should make liberal use of Wild Growth and Lifebloom when we’re in tree form to maximize our raid healing potential.  For additional ideas of when to use this cooldown, take a look at my guide on the topic.

TL:DR?

The difference between successful healer and a “good” healer can be difficult to see.  Most often, “good healing” is a matter of extensive knowledge of the fights, intelligent use of your class’ cooldowns, and (ABOVE ALL) practice.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 27, 2011 9:18 am

    Great post! Really good tips for both new and experienced healers. I especially like the part about cool downs. There are occasions when they need to be saved, but waiting too long to use them usually means you don’t get to use them as much as you could, or at all.

    On the WoL topic, I do find it useful even mid-raid. If you run a live report session the stats will be up after every boss attempt. Obviously you don’t want to waste your raids time by looking at them too long, but you can get a quick look at simple things, like who healed (or didn’t heal) a tank right before they died. It’s very useful to be able to see and correct problems mid-raid.

    • May 27, 2011 4:27 pm

      Thanks, Jasyla! Managing cooldowns has become one of my favorite mini-challenges for myself when I’m healing. Like you said, finding the right balance between using them as often as possible but also having them when you need them makes for an interesting balance.

      Unfortunately, our current WoL uploader doesn’t currently use the live report session; maybe I can talk him into doing that from now on. I’d think that would be especially helpful for looking at tank deaths, since Recount often decides only to show the last 2 seconds prior to a player’s death. Thanks for the heads-up!

    • Scorf permalink
      June 4, 2011 7:36 am

      If you want a really quick and dirty way of seeing who healed the tank (or anyone else for that matter) and who didn’t when she pops her clogs, I suggest an addon called Death Note. It will you show you a time line with your tanks HP all the way from 100% to 0% and all the incoming damage and heals (and their source) along the way.
      It’s no WoL, but it is a great tool for seeing a fights raw data on the fly.

      Anyway, to the point…Some excellent words of wisdom there. Learning to use my cooldowns again was like a whole new revelation for me in Cata healing. I’d forgotten where some of them even were during Wrath (Hello Tranquility? Oh you’re over there on my hidden bars being innocuous), now they’ve pushed aside a couple of my old keybinds and are ready to be popped at a moments notice. I think people have a big issue with hitting cooldowns with long(ish) timers, but the wisest of healers will always tell you, it’s no good saving your cooldowns for when everyone is dead.

      A good bit of advice I’m sure I picked up from a PvP article over at WoW Insider was after you lose (or wipe in this case) look over your action bars for all the spells you didn’t use, and use them next time.

  2. Squelchy permalink
    June 1, 2011 8:52 am

    “Healer, heal thyself” was the single greatest tip I ever got from a paladin of our acquaintance. Good post.

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