Healing Tactics For Heroics And Healing Beginners
Just a quick little message to say that this guide is in response to the many cries of healers on the forums… I am hoping to help give you some tips in how you can improve your healing and adapt to healing cataclysm content.
Basic healing overview
Healing is just that. Keeping people alive! Without you, the group wouldn’t cope nearly as well… But don’t let that power go to your head and start acting like God; allowing people you don’t like to die as that will only make your group-mates angry, and your job even harder. When you start healing you may look at 'Nourish' or 'Healing Wave' and think to yourself how can this be any use? Trust me, they really are excellent tools. For most trash groups with an equally geared tank these heals coupled with a HoT for example should be enough to keep a tank alive. If you can use these heals as much as possible you shouldn't struggle for mana at all (unless your group mates are stood in avoidable damage sources). Another important thing to remember is that in most cases group members don't need to be at 100% hp all the time like in WotLK, meaning you can save mana by healing these people just up to a safe level rather than 100%.While healing can be simplified to keeping people alive, there are a few general tips to follow:
• Be prepared; spike damage can come at any time.
• Save cooldowns for when they’re really needed. (This takes a lot of practice; and knowing which classes have their own cooldowns such as a mage’s ice block or a rogue’s vanish.
• Triage! Mana matters now, and you need to keep usage low or run the risk of going oom.
• Plan out gear choices, research class BiS guides for pre-raid and beyond, you don’t want to find out further down the line that you really need more haste.
• Read forums and discussion boards such as here on MMO-Champion – there is no better information source than your peers, so use it!
• This guide isn’t going to tell you that if you’re a shaman you should stack haste, or if you’re a priest you should stack spirit… it is designed to help you make these decisions yourself.
• Your group doesn't need to be at 100% hp all the time; so use your heals efficiently rather than spamming what are supposed to be emergency on someone who's at 70% hp and not going to take any damage soon.
Cataclysm Healing Model
The cataclysm healing model is that you “triage” your heals (Use heals of varying size and cast times, picking the right one for the situation.) Each class has a “filler” heal. This heal is extremely efficient and should be your go-to heal for most situations, especially low damage ones. To keep your mana bar nice and healthy you should use this heal often, but only when you think it won’t cause death… or lead to a later back-log of healing required. Most classes have gimmick-effects linked with these such as the Priest’s Chakra: Heal, and the Shaman Tidal wave, and these help keep the spells useful even in end-game content such as raids, which may sound surprising.
Every healer also has a big heal, with the same cast time as the small-efficient heal, but packs a much larger punch at the expense of an also larger mana cost. While these spells vary slightly for each class, they are less efficient than your go-to heal, and should be cast when you know your target won’t die before the cast ends but will die if you cast Holy Light or Nourish for example.
The final heal of the triage set is an extremely quick panic heal to be used in emergencies only as they have extremely high mana costs (Priest’s flash heal is a whopping 5.7k mana unglyphed at 85. You should seriously consider the use of this spell before casting, although that may be difficult as it is a panic heal… But do your best not to use it as after 3-4 casts your mana bar will be extremely unhappy.
• Triage, triage and more triage!
• Use your go-to heal as much as possible
• Use your class-gimmick abilities to your advantage.
Class Overviews – Basic Heroic Healing Strategies
Priest - Holy
A holy priest is the mind and soul of healing, the pure holy energies guide your heals to their targets! Yeah… that, or your mouse. For heroics you’ll want to be using the “Heal” Chakra for the most part. As well as giving an awesome graphic, this chakra improves the critical effect chance of your direct heals by 10%! With the relatively low stats available on gear at the moment, 10% could be a double in crit chance for those of us who prefer haste. This Chakra also has your triage heals refresh the duration of your active Renew on their target. For example, you cast a renew on the tank and 10 seconds later realise that Renew is almost at the end of its duration. To help improve mana efficiency you refresh this renew with a quick cast of Heal and save yourself around 1000 mana. In the long run this is of great benefit. Another perk to this Chakra is the instant heal it provides which is also extremely efficient, and a holy priest’s only decent instant heal. Chakra also has an aoe healing improvement effect, which also increases the healing done by your renew. While this chakra is less useful in heroics, some bosses (think: first boss in SFK heroic) you will find yourself using a lot of aoe heals, and this spell can be extremely useful then.
Priest – Discipline
As discipline your goal is very different to other healers, and that is to minimise incoming damage. Be this through Power Word: Shield, or a well-positioned barrier, discipline is a very diverse playstyle. There are two different paths discipline can take in spec, firstly keeping the group alive via use of heals, and second using smite as a filler. As this is a beginner’s guide I would recommend you start with a healing spec, and you can try smiting later on. A basic tactic for healing as discipline is similar to holy but replacing the use of renew with power word: Shield. You should use this on the tank as much as possible for mana return via Rapture. Be careful not to replace existing shields as this is EXTREMELY mana inefficient in a time most healers are being very careful about their mana usage. After keeping PW:S on the tank, you can use Heal to reduce the duration of the weakened soul debuff on the target and keep those bubbles coming even quicker! (If you spec “Strength Of Soul” in the discipline tree that is.) Another important discipline tactic is the use of penance to replace the use of greater heal. Penance is more mana efficient (Not to mention delivering its heal far faster) and should be used very often. Rapture is also a key part of playing a discipline priest. As your mana pool increases in size this talent becomes even more powerful. Rapture can happen every 12 seconds and so you should try to get it to proc as much as possible. This doesn't mean spamming PW:S on everyone as that would be extrmely inefficient. Use PW:S when you know the bubble will be broken and preferably you can get some mana regen. (This means usually on the tank.)
Druid – Restoration
A druid’s main mission is to keep Lifebloom on the tank at all times! Preferably refreshing those 3 stacks with an efficient Nourish, or in high-damage phases a healing touch. If Lifebloom and Nourish aren’t enough to keep the tank alive I would recommend also using a rejuvenation, and a Swiftmend if necessary as it is mana efficient and a strong heal (also provides efflorescence). A druid’s most powerful tool however is the iconic Tree Of Life form. This ability buffs many of your spells, including adding two extra targets to Wild Growth, allowing Lifebloom to be cast on unlimited targets and making Regrowth (The heal you should only use in emergencies!) instant. Tree form is an excellent panic button especially in a raid environment when you can take advantage of the extra two targets on Wild Growth, but while gearing you are likely to also have many panic moments in heroics as well. Natures Swiftness can also be used in these situations and should be attached via macro to an emergency healing touch button. A final useful tip is that using lifebloom just after dropping below 75%ish mana can be useful on boss fights, as you may manage to get two uses out of it.
Shaman – Restoration
Stoneskin, Flametongue, Mana Spring and Wrath Of Air are the suggested totems, although you will need to change these based on group composition and buffs already being provided. After keeping earth shield on the tank you should be healing largely with Healing Wave, and the riptide buff on the tank. While Chain Heal is good, you have other heals as well and this is an aoe heal so don’t be spamming it like in WotLK, use the Tidal Wave procs to get more mileage out of Healing Wave spam and save yourself mana. Similarly to Druids, using Mana Tide totem early in a fight may allow you to get two uses out of it, just make sure you are low enough on mana to take full effect of the totem, and it helps if a priest is able to cast Hymn Of Hope at the same time, or if you can get a spirit trinket proc such as the "Tear Of Blood" from heroic stonecore before using mana tide.
Paladin – Holy
Holy Light is the paladin's efficient heal, and coupled with effective consumption of Holy Power with Word Of Glory and Holy Shock this may be all you need to keep a tank alive, but when really necessary you can call in the big guns and drop a few Divine Lights on the tank to keep their health levels safe. A few things things a paladin must remember are keeping Beacon of Light on a target that is taking consistent damage (Usually the tank, just let that over-aggroing warlock die), and secondly using Judgement of Light to keep that nice haste buff and keep those heals quick. Paladin tools have become very diverse in cataclysm and both Holy Radiance and Light of Dawn can be used to effectively top up a group after aoe damage. Though you should try and use Holy Radiance in compact situations as it moves with the paladin and only has a 20 yard range.
Regeneration is very important for all healers right now, as they learn to manage mana unlike in WotLK, so you should really make the most of the regen you have available. (Taking gear with spirit on it, reforging to spirit if gear doesn't have any, and enchanting spirit on chest for example.) While it is easy to assume that spirit is better than intellect for mana regeneration, this is simply not always the case. For every healer, intellect is the better regen stat in a raid environment even after the nerf to replenishment. Usually past the 5 minute mark, intellect is the winner; and before is around equal. Therefore it makes far more logical sense to gem for intellect which also provides throughput than the static regen increase provided by spirit.