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What Makes a Good Healer?

Funny thing happened to me the other day that just had me in hysterics. A friend of mine sent me an IM and prefaced it with “i really shouldn’t say it because your ego is already too dam big”. Enter fits of laughter.

What she was referring to was running a 5-man instance with another healer the other night. In the guy’s defense his main is a DPS machine and he’s spent time trying different things with his healer that included trying out the other specs. Overall their run was somewhat of a challenge for her and without me there I guess things didn’t go as smoothly as she’s used to.

Enter my ego. Yes, this makes me feel pretty good about myself and everyone likes compliments on how they are doing. Fortunately, my ego isn’t quite as large as her joking might lead someone to believe. I’ve always thought that I was a decent healer, but reading several blogs and seeing what others are capable of I often see my shortcomings as a healer. I suppose that’s a good thing to keep me from getting too overconfident.

It got me thinking though, “What really makes a good healer?” I remembered reading a post from Matticus about what makes a good Priest and headed on over there to refresh my memory about what it said. The four main points are awareness, perserverance, precognition, and preparation.

Awareness

This is the one thing I struggle with more than any other. It’s the one thing that more healers have a problem with than any other single responsibility they have. It’s difficult to focus on every single health bar in the group and be aware of what’s going on around you. As you concentrate on one section of the screen your eyes focus intently to the exclusion of all else.

I’m reminded of wiping on Nightbane 6 or 7 times before either taking him down or calling it quits because one priest couldn’t watch to see if he or she was standing in Charred Earth. I’d spend a few of my heals trying to keep the priest alive while the tank dwindled.

Perserverance

I think this goes without saying. Once someone gives up mentally, it becomes nigh impossible to win at that point.

Precognition

This is something I’ve gotten pretty good at. Knowing how much you’re going to heal for on average is important. I know approximately what my Flash of Light heals for and also how often it crits. I know what my tanks are capable of sustaining and how long I have to heal others, also being aware of whether or not I’ll have to then hit the tank with Holy Light for the big heal. In general I know that with one tank I can start to hit Flash of Light when he reaches 94%. Anything more is a waste. With another tank I know that I can start at 96% because the average damage rate is going to get her down to 92% by the time my heal hits. This has changed over the past few months as I used to have to start heals almost immediately upon her taking damage. Adjust accordingly.

As a pally healer and spamming Flash of Light, I know that I can usually afford to waste a heal on a potential overheal in given situations like clearing trash. Better to waste the mana and keep the party alive than be stingy.

I also know which DPS in the group are good at watching their aggro. From time to time they’ll take damage from obtaining aggro or getting with AoE. It’s important to know which ones back off and can wait on that heal and the ones who just aren’t aware and continue to get pummeled. This goes two ways, sometimes you have time to heal that guy. Other times…you just let him die and hope he learns his lesson.

Preparation

We all joke about it, but no one ever seems to learn. How often have you heard the following?

  • [after 2nd wipe]: “I gotta go repair.”
  • “Anyone got a mana pot?”
  • “No mage? Anyone got extra food?”
  • “Sorry can’t summon. I’m out of stones.”

Show up prepared! I bring 60 Golden Fishsticks, 300 Symbol of Kings, 10 Super Healing Potions, 30 Super Mana Potions, 30 Elixirs of Healing Power, 30 Elixirs of Draenic Wisdom, and 20 Superior Wizard Oils. I sometimes bring Superior Mana Oil as well. Overkill? Yes. When am I ever going to be in a raid for 20 hours straight? And if we wipe enough times for me to go through 300 Greater Blessings, we’re either really stupid or drunk. But I’m prepared and that’s what counts. I often can go the entire week without going back to the AH, but sometimes I gotta give my surplus to others and better that than the headache of having someone hearth back for supplies.

In Addition

Aside from the items that Matticus mentions, I would have to include heal and attitude as the final key points to being a good healer.

“Well Ky, we’re talking about healing of course heal is important. You’re being redundant.”

Let me explain.

I have been in so many raids where people don’t do what they are supposed to do. I believe they get bored. Want examples?

  • The rogue stealths around while everyone buffs up because he justs wants to see what’s out there. Whoops! He was spotted and we’re all dead. Stay with the group, please!
  • The mage begins casting his most powerful spell because it has a 6 sec cast time before the tank pulls so that his initial spell will hit shortly after the tank aggros. Whoops! The aggro from the spell created more threat than the tank had gained yet. Mage dies, tank scrambles, healers try to keep everyone alive in the chaos. Be patient, quit trying to be tops on the damage meter.
  • Holy Priest gets bored during trash pulls and whips out his wand to DPS for something more exciting to do. Wait don’t pull next group! Damn these pulls are harder than normal, I used a lot of mana! I gotta mana up again?! What’s going on? Pull your weight, do your job, don’t put the burden on someone else. You’re not as mana efficient as the Holy Pally? Well don’t save all your mana at the expense of his. Be a team player.

OK so all three of these examples are personal examples and yes I’m a little bitter about a couple of them, especially the last one. Just do your job and stick to that. Let tanks do their job and DPS do theirs.

Finally, perhaps the most important trait for a good healer is attitude. It is my opinion that we will always be the first scapegoat for blame with regards to wipes. We have the immense responsibility of keeping the group alive and responding to others’ mistakes that lead to potential wipes. We are the last line of defense in determining success or failure and that’s a responsibility that weighs heavy on us.

Keep a positive attitude! Don’t let the blame and criticism get to you; your focus will change to the negative and you’ll be less effective. Don’t let self-criticism get to you either, that’s just as detrimental, if not worse. Learn from mistakes, whether your own or not and you’ll find that you’ll be a great healer.

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