Table of Contents
State of Healing
Basic Healing Information
Gear Can Help
What the Heck is Mastery?
User Interface Tips
Plea to non-healers
This general 5man dungeon healing guide is written class agnostic, though I may use specific class talents or spells at times as examples. The intended audience is new healers and those healers transitioning from Wrath of the Lich King healing to Cataclysm healing. The people who are transition healers will likely find this information to be more of a validation of the things they already know or experiences they are already having. New healers should finish reading this guild with a better understanding of what healing in Cataclysm is like. What you will not find in this guide is in-depth information about gearing, stat weights, spell rotations, raid healing and talent builds, though again I will provide some examples or talk about this in more general terms
The State of Healing
Let’s begin by dispelling the myth that healing is broken. I have healed 5man dungeons on each healing class and can tell you that it is possible to heal each dungeon, despite what you may be reading in various forums on healing topics. Healing in cataclysm is not all roses and can be frustrating at times. I have had my share of bad healing experiences in cata dungeons, but I have also had really good experiences. A good group makes a world of difference.
If you healed in the last year or so of wrath and did not follow where healing was headed for cataclysm, then I can understand why you may think that healing is broken. Many would argue however, that wrath content was where healing was really broken. Healing in wrath was just too easy. Blizzard knew this was the case and has been preparing people for an expansion where healing was going to require planning spells and conserving mana. I am sure a fair amount of people did not really expect the extent of the changes to healing and its voracious hunger for mana. Your experience healing in cataclysm is not only going to be dictated by your understanding of your class, its spells and cooldowns, but also on the group you are healing. If you have a horrible experience healing, don’t give up on it. Not only will continued attempts improve your skills as a healer, but will help you deal with the group dynamics that can make healing either really easy or really difficult. In the end, just know that there will be times where you have done all you can and the group still wipes because they cannot figure out how to step out of the fire.
Basic Healing Information
Each healing class relies on mana as its resource used to cast healing spells. The amount of mana required to cast a spell differs by spell and by your character’s level. In some cases you will get one or more heals that cost zero mana, but in general if you have no mana then you are not going to be healing. Keeping this in mind, there is a balance between healing and conserving the resource you need to provide that healing. By researching specific class information, you can learn the spells and talents available to you and the strategies you can use to conserve mana. That conservation comes in a various forms:
1. Spell efficiency – knowing what spells to use at any given time so that you are not using mana needlessly. Your target may have taken a nice chunk of damage, but is not currently in danger of taking more, so you occasionally toss an inexpensive heal until you are comfortable with their health pool vs hitting them with several expensive heals.
2. Replenishment – mana returned to you from various talents that either you a providing to yourself or someone else in the group is providing.
3. Mana regen – mana gained from the spirit stat. You will need to experiment with spirit to determine how much you need to accommodate your healing style.
4. Indirect mana gains – mana gained from procs on items like trinkets.
5. Direct mana gain – mana gained from potions, trinkets or other cooldowns.
The size of your mana pool is determined by the amount of intellect you have. The more intellect you have, the larger your mana pool will be. The larger your mana pool, the more room you have for healing decisions or to recover from mistakes. Given how large the mana pool is in cataclysm, it is easy to think that the days of endless mana are still here, but that is not the case. Spells cost considerably more mana to cast than in wrath.
As you level your healer to 85 you will notice that the cost of your healing spells will increase with each level gained. Not only will the cost of your spells go up, but all your base stats will change as well. In many cases it will require more of a particular stat to maintain or to raise other stats like spell power. Healing Black Rock Caverns as level 81 may feel much like healing did in wrath, but 2 levels later at 83 you may be finding healing Stonecore significantly more difficult. That is in part because of the changes going on with your stats as you increase each level. For instance, your heals will cost roughly 40% more mana at 83 than they did at 82, but it likely that your gear did not change much between those two levels. Understanding this will go a long way to helping you weather the storm as you progress through levels and early dungeon content.
There are 4 healing classes, with one of those classes (priest) having two healing talent trees. The classes were designed to all be balanced in terms of their ability to heal just as well as the next class, while being unique enough in their design to provide a different experience while healing. While specific implementation helps create the uniqueness, generally you will find the following types of healing available to each class:
* Slow/Expensive/Large heal – this is your omg get that tank up quick spell. It is really expensive and cannot be used often without going oom (out of mana). Often times healers will reserve their cooldown that allows the next spell to be instant/free to go along with this big heal.
* Slow/Cheap/Small heal – this is the heal you spam when you have available gcds (global cooldowns). This heal will not bring a tank from 10% hp to full, but it will allow you to give back enough hp lost to allow you to feel comfortable or to allow you to top off light damage to other people in the group.
* Fast/Expensive/Moderate heal – this is the heal you go to when damage is coming in fast and you need to get someone’s hp to a safer level quickly. This is another spell that will wreck your mana pool and needs to be used wisely. This is the one heal that most people will abuse and find themselves in mana trouble.
* AOE heal – each class has one or more heals that are meant to cover damage coming into more than one person at a time. These heals tend to be expensive but can provide a buffer when you may be headed to losing the group. Lots of aoe damage happening to the group needs to be analyzed quickly and addressed because your tank is probably taking both the aoe damage and the direct mob damage.
* Special/Gimmick spell – some of the classes have one ore more special gimmicky spells, which in many cases results in the aoe heal. An example of this may be the tree of life that druids have. This cooldown allows for some extra choices in healing. Another example is the Archangel ability that discipline priests have which allows for greater healing potency and some return of mana.
Understanding theses heals/spells for your class will help you know when to use them.
1. You – if you are dead, the success of the group diminishes greatly. Some would argue that the tank is the number one priority, but I disagree. Watch out for yourself.
2. Tank – seems pretty obvious, but you kinda need a tank to absorb damage and keep mobs off you.
3. DPS – these are the bottom of the totem pole. The only purpose is to kill the mob before the mob kills you. If one of these guys dies… oh well.
While this information can be helpful to brand new healers, it meant to address those healers who healed in Wrath of the Lich King and are now bringing up their healer in Cataclysm.
The biggest piece of advice I can give the transition healer is… FORGET WHAT YOU DID IN WRATH. Cataclysm is a new ballgame and there are new rules. The way you healed before will not work in cata. The toughest thing for me to get over when healing in cataclysm dungeons is the need to keep everyone in the group at full health. You will be oom very fast if you try to keep everyone at full health all the time. A health bar that isn’t quite full does not mean that the group is headed for a wipe. I finish many fights where people have less than full health and me nearly oom.
It is interesting to hear the frustration being spewed on the forums by healers, in that this transition period is not a new thing. Folks seems to forget that there was indeed a transition period at the beginning of wrath and there were times when healing seemed impossible. Part of that then and now are the encounters within the dungeons being difficult at first. Fairly new changes to the game are adding a new dynamic to the transition experience. The dungeon finder being one of those newish changes. At the beginning of wrath, you had to find groups on your own server to run dungeons with and doing so meant that you had to interact with those people differently than you do today with people what some other server. People in LFD groups tend to be less forgiving and more apt to heckle or kick people from the group because it is unlikely you will run into that person again. However, changes aside, there were difficult times in early wrath with healing. There is no doubt that gear played a part in that. Remember that heroics in wrath dropped epic gear. That is not the case in cata. It appears to have been easier to outgear the content back then, which undoubtedly lead to less headaches in the transition.
As I said previously in this guide, the classes are not broken. Sure there may be tweaks needed here and there. Priests were buffed a bit and paladins were nerfed a bit, but in general the classes are balanced. It is very easy and tempting however to throw up your hands and call your class broken. I understand that feeling.
As you are leveling your character to 85, continue healing through each level as it will help you see the highs and lows of healing as you go. I found levels 81 and 82 to be quite easy to heal dungeons, while 83 and 84 were more difficult. At level 85, you are getting/finishing off your 5 man gear and getting to the average iLvl 329 required for heroics. This is also the time when I felt comfortable spending mats/gold on enchants and gems and even some crafted pieces.
Gear Can Help
Your skill level and knowing what spells to use when are not the only things helping you successfully heal 5 man dungeons. The gear you acquire and what you do with that gear will contribute to your healing experience. I leveled primarily through questing, but would heal dungeons periodically each level, usually to break up the monotony of questing, but also to gauge how my gear was holding up within that level. For all healing classes you want choose pieces with more intellect than the last. It will help you greatly if you can get a hold of pieces with spirit on it, but many times I would replace a spirit piece with a new piece without spirit because of the increase in intellect. Intellect is not only increasing your mana pool, but increasing the size of your heals through spell power/healing power.
I chose not to worry about enchants or even reforging of gear until I got a piece with an item level of 333. That could happen for you as early as 83 by getting pieces of reputation gear with the various cataclysm factions. The minimum rep required for this type of gear is honored, so you will need to have done a fair amount of questing in the areas pertaining to each faction. Probably one of the earliest pieces of 333 healers will get is the Cloak of the Dryads from Guardians of Hyjal reputation in Mt Hyjal.
Regardless of when you choose to enchant/gem/reforge your gear, there is no doubt that those modifications can help your healing, provided that you made the appropriate choices in gear modification for your class. You will need to research your specific class to determine what those appropriate modifications are.
Lets take just a moment to talk about reforging. This is possibly the best change made to the game ever. Ok maybe that’s pushing it a bit, but a great option now available to us anyhow. Reforging allows you to take 40% of certain stat on gear and change that to another stat that does not exist already on the gear. There are some restrictions to this, like you cannot reforge resilience to another stat. A pretty typical reforge for healers maybe something like reducing the amount of crit or mastery on a piece of gear and adding haste to that gear. Again in order to do this, haste cannot already exist on that piece of gear.
What the heck is Mastery?
Mastery is a secondary stat that was recently introduced to the game. Unlike other stats which mean pretty much the same thing regardless of class or spec, mastery changes in meaning. Mastery to an elemental shaman is completely different than the same points of mastery to a restoration shaman. When mastery was first announced and information about it started surfacing, it was a bit confusing to understand just how it would relate to each spec. When it was released at the end of wrath, people had a chance to ‘play’ with mastery through reforging since gear with master did not exist at that point. It was still difficult to tell at that point what benefit you may gain from mastery in practice, but on paper most of it seemed pretty impressive. If you did play with mastery back then, you were probably looking at the new gear with mastery rating on it and relating that to the mastery rating you were getting from reforging and getting really excited. However you probably didn’t take into account that mastery, like other stats, would scale as you leveled, meaning that it would take more points in mastery to have the same rating that you had at the previous level. So looking at mastery at lvl 80 and applying the points being seen on lvl 85 gear, you probably though woah.. this is awesome. Fast forward a month to your lvl 85 and looking at 13% mastery, the same percentage you had at 80. Now you are wondering just how good that mastery rating is then. Well that all depends. Not the best answer, but the correct one anyway.
You will have to do some research and experimentation to determine just how meaningful mastery will be to you. For example, the benefit from mastery for a restoration shaman sounds pretty awesome. Basically the more mastery you have the bigger your heals will be one people with more hp to gain. So take a heal on someone missing 10% of their hp and then use that same heal on a person missing 80% of their hp and the heal should be bigger on that second person. The question then becomes, can you get enough mastery to make that increase in healer worth more than the same amount of points in say crit. Would that same spell with the same amount of points put this time in crit mean that the crit you get is bigger than the mastery buffed heal. It is difficult to answer that question in a general way and relies more on your individual build and gear. My opinion so far is that mastery for most classes/specs sounds better than it has turned out to be. Another problem with telling you what stats to focus on is that you are a healer and unlike a dps where raw output is usually desired and easier to model, your game play has more factors to deal with, like is your play style more mana intensive so your stats need to focus more on regen.
So our journey through this healing information brings us to actually getting into a dungeon. As indicated previously, I highly recommend that you heal dungeons at each level. At 80 you will have 2 dungeons available to you. Those 2 are Black Rock Caverns and Throne of the Tides. Now there are two other considerations beside toon lvl to gaining access to dungeons. You need to meet an average gear item level for each dungeon and more interestingly, you need to visit the entrance to each before you can use the Looking For Dungeon tool. The LFD tool will show you which dungeons you have access to and have unlocked using a lock symbol in place of a check box when the dungeon is unavailable. There have been questions about why you have to visit the entrance of a dungeon in order to unlock it in the LFD, but I believe it has to do with helping people understand where to go in the case of a wipe. If you ran 5 man dungeons in ice crown citadel, how many times where you waiting on someone to find their way back in the dungeon because they were lost. It really slowed down wipe recovery. If you have to make your way to the dungeon entrance once in a traditional manner, then you are more likely to be able to figure your way back upon a wipe.
Now I highly recommend that you heal dungeons in both a premade and pug groups. While pugging these dungeons currently (especially on heroic) can be extremely frustrating, it is a great way to practice your healing as you will mostly likely have more moments where everything goes wrong in pugs. Pugging dungeon can also give you lessons in patience and leadership. You may have to take control of the group, even marking mobs and requesting CC if the tank is not leading the group in a way that will promote a successful run. You will run into situations in pugs where you can learn what to do in a particular situation and how to adapt your healing style to deal with those situations. It stretches your healing legs so to speak and will allow you to try out other spells in your tool box that may have rusted over. I cannot tell you in a pve setting prior to cataclysm where I used hex while healing on my shaman, but I use it now for sure.
Running pugs will also help you understand how the group makeup, the speed at which the group moves and the coordination of the group makes a huge difference in your healing experience. The first time I healed the lost city, the tank ran head first into the first set of trash and we quickly found out they hit too damn hard for all of them to be on the tank with our current gear, so after we all zoned back in, some CC marks went out and it went more smoothly.
Having healed cata dungeons on each of these classes/specs I will give you my opinion/observation on them:
* Restoration Druid – no longer is the plan to keep rejuvenation hot rolling on everyone at all times, the strategy is to keep three stacks of lifebloom going on the tank and using nourish as your spammable filler spell. Use swiftmend when you need an instant good sized heal, usually on the tank. Don’t rely too much on efflorescence. Use wild growth when group wide damage happens. Avoid using regrowth too often and it is up to you if you want to work in healing touch. Healing with this class appears to be a bit easier in terms of keeping the group safe, but can get hectic when lots of damage happens and you fall behind on the healing. Tree of Life is especially useful, not so much for instant regrowth as that spell is expensive, but it does allow you to apply lifebloom to multiple targets.
* Restoration Shaman – Gone are the days of spamming chain heal and healing through anything with it. I found a more efficient and effective way to heal on the shaman is to keep earth shield on the tank and hit the tank occasionally with riptide, especially when I knew the haste buff was going to be needed right away. I utilize unleash element as an instant heal and follow that up with a chain heal when there is mild raid damage. Otherwise I am using healing wave as the filler. I try heal so that I don’t have to use healing surge, but if I need a bigger heal than the other tools provide, then I will use healing surge rather than greater healing wave. Lastly, I have nature swiftness macro’d to healing rain and use healing rain when I know aoe damage is coming as a buffer heal to give me time to heal with inexpensive heals. Overall, shaman healing can be very enjoyable and is one of the healing classes that I find more time to throw in damaging spells for the mana regen.
* Holy Paladin – This class is the one I have healed the least on in cata. Much of the information I have seen is they are the least challenging currently, but also retribution is just not fun right now so leveling paladin seems like a daunting task. In any case, similar to the other classes you need to use the expensive spells sparingly, rely more on holy light for your healing filler and leave flash of light or divine light for those moments where you need a big heal. However big heals and paladins go hand in hand. Use your holy shock when its off cd to keep your holy power stacked for when you need a ‘free’ big heal with word of glory or light of dawn for an aoe type heal.
* Holy Priest – If you can get the hang of managing your chakra, then holy priest healing could be quite satisfying. Of all the healing classes, priest seems to be the one I see the most complaints about. The buffs made recently to priests likely answered some of those complaints. My priest was the first character I got to 85 and without a doubt was the most frustrating to heal, but it is getting better and really takes more practice. Chakra may be one of the most confusing abilities in all of the healing classes and it would be best to research how it works and practice using it. Avoid expensive heals like flash heal. Use Heal as your filler, keep prayer of mending rolling and bubble when dmg on someone is likely incoming. You can also use bubbles on people to help them get out of fire faster if you have put talent points into Body and Soul which gives your bubbled target a speed boost. Holy priests also have the ability to spec into lightwell which can be placed out for people to self heal. Don’t forget to use Diving Guardian if you think the tank (or someone else you want to save) is in real danger of dying. Lastly, holy priests have a really cool ability in Spirit of Redemption that allows you to continue healing for a small amount of time after you die. I have seen this save the group from a wipe.
* Discipline Priest – Still about damage mitigation rather than pure direct healing, but not quite like it was in wrath. No longer will you bubble everyone and call it a day. It can be argued that the discipline priest is in the most need of help in terms of what it appears is the intended purpose of the class. The biggest damage mitigation spell in their toolbox is a bit weak. If you played priest in wrath, you will probably be thinking to yourself the first time you throw a bubble on someone… where did my bubble go? I am sure I just put it on someone. Well you did and pretty much in one hit its gone. Yep, pretty weak. However, it's still healable class. Prayer of Mending is pretty powerful and when it has the need to bounce multiple times really does its job. With the amount of group wide damage we tend to see in dungeons, PoM gets its use. So be sure to keep that rolling. Use renew on someone who took a little bit of damage and doesn’t require much healing. Use Heal rather than flash or greater heal. Pennance is also used to give a quick heal to someone taking damage. You have an aoe damage mitigation in the form of Power Word: Barrier that can provide a buffer when the melee are getting bashed. Finally, using smite against a mob will stack evangelism and allow you to pop your wings by using the archangel ability. This gives you a boost to healing output and gives back a little mana. Tough to maintain since you have to use gcds on a damage spell rather than a healing spell, so probably going to be used less unless you have a great group. I love and hate disc healing at the same time.
Dungeon healing can be very rewarding, it can give you the forum to practice your craft and even allow you to show off your ability in the form of a save when it looks like a wipe is guaranteed.
User Interface Tips
The way you have your user interface setup is very personal. It all depends on what you like to see and how you like to use the interface. You can get an idea of what others are using by going to addon sites and looking for interface or compilation categories. I cannot tell you how you should be setting up your interface, but I can give you some tips to keep in mind when configuring your UI.
Keep important information near the center of the screen. The idea here is that the less your eyes have to move or wander for information, the more likely you are to react quickly to changing events in the game. Look at the elements of information you have on your screen and decide if they are important to know while you are healing or just nice to haves. Move those nice to haves off to the sides of the screen and keep the gotta knows towards the center.
The unit frames you use for healing are personal preference and should be whatever you feel the most comfortable using. Some people swear that Grid is the best, while others use Healbot or Vuhdo or even the standard unit frames. Whatever gives you the information you need, where you need it should be the right frames for you. I use healbot and had my frames setup in the center below my character. The information on the unit frames that you should be interested in as a healer is health bars, buffs/debuffs (including heal over time) and threat. The health bar obviously alerts you to who is need heals. The buffs/debuffs allow you to see who may need to be dispelled or will be taking damage shortly. Threat of everyone in the group is important to know as well, knowing who is pulling threat will allow you to react. Some people may want to keep track of peoples mana/rage/energy.
The method of casting a heal is also personal preference. You may be someone who clicks on the target and then clicks on the spell on your spell bars. If you are that person, let me know so i can leave group though.. lol. Some people like to click on their targets bar and use keybinds to cast. Others like myself use mouseover macros with keybinds so that I just have to move my mouse over the persons unit bar (or even nameplate). Try different methods and decide what works best for you. The goal should be that you are able to cast spells without thinking about their location on a bar. If you can achieve that, then your reaction time greatly improves. There are addons out there that help with keybinds and spell casting.
I highly recommend you look into an addon called Power Auras. While this addon will take a little while to understand just how amazing it is, you can get some idea by understanding that Blizzard put some of its functionality directly into the game. While the in game functionality is rudimentary at this point, it does illustrate that even blizzard knows just how powerful power auras are. There is youtube and forum information available on how to use this addon.
Plea to non-healers
Pass along to all your non-healer friends a plea from us healers...
* Dont stand in fire or other game mechanics that are deal out constant damage to you. This seems so obvious, but time and time again we waste mana because someone didnt want to get out of fire. At some point we do choose to let you die.
* When a fight ends and you are feeling the cool dirt on your face, take a look at the healers mana pool before screaming for a rez. Resurrection spells are quite costly now and we probably dont have enough mana at the end of a fight to rez you right away.
* If you have less than full hp after the fighting has ended, sit an eat. The healer is currently drinking to restore their mana pool. It is a waste of their water to heal you before the next fight because you were too lazy to eat.
* To our warlock friends, tapping out of combat in Wrath was just annoying.. now however it is frustrating. If you are going to tap your life away out of combat, sit an eat. Also pay attention to your healers mana pool before tapping in combat.
* Can tanks please mark targets (at least one with a skull) so that the dps knows what to do. An oom healer on trash is usually because the pull was too big or lasted too long. Crowd control can help deal with the number of mobs and dps marks can help reduce the time it takes to kill the mobs.
* Tanks and dps can increase their chances of survival if they pay attention to features that will create a line of sight issue between them and the healer. Stairs are usually the biggest culprit of los issues. Remember that healers tend to hang back away from the group.
* Tanks should watch healers mana pool between pulls, you dont have to ask if we are ready before each pull if you are aware of our mana. If I got full mana, then you are free to pull.