Subscribe to this blog by RSS Follow me on Twitter
Subscribe to this blog by RSS

Pulling Your Socks Up

Posted by Malevica on August - 26 - 2010

With the ICC buff up at 30% and ICC as close to ‘on farm’ as it’s probably going to get, I’ve noticed myself getting quite sloppy with my healing of late, a sentiment expressed by others I raid with. I decided to take the time to do something about it.

Why bother?

A valid question. After all, we’re mostly farming bosses, and we’re on a raid break probably until Cataclysm, so what does it matter if I ease off a bit for the next few months.

Well, first and foremost, pride. When I write on guild applications that I strive constantly to improve my character and my play, I really mean it. Like most people I’ll admit to coasting from time to time, but regression is a different matter.

Yes, regression, the opposite of progression. When you stop being able to conquer bosses that you vanquished with ease mere weeks or months ago, when ‘farm’ bosses give you pause despite the hike in power provided by Hellscream’s Warsong, it’s time to take a good hard look at how you’re playing and pull your socks up.

From a more practical point of view, healing in early Cataclysm is likely to be a lot more demanding, especially if I want to enjoy the same success I have in this expansion. So carrying bad habits over will be doing myself, and my raid team, a disservice. We like to think that we know we’re slacking but we could pick up our game whenever we wanted, but bad habits can be trickier to break than we think; so the earlier I start, the better.

The process

This sort of thing is the bread and butter of management consultants and the like. You’re looking at an iterative process, with the following basic structure:

  1. Create a snapshot of your performance
  2. Analyse your performance and identify both strengths (to make sure you retain them) and weaknesses (areas to work on)
  3. Make your change(s)
  4. Create another snapshot of your performance, to check that you’re actually making a difference and quantify its significance.

Obviously, you can (and should) go around this loop indefinitely, identifying new areas for development, making changes, then evaluating them. That’s what a good healer should be doing all the time.

Let’s take the stages in turn.

Setting a baseline

The first item on the list is to create a snapshot of your current performance. This is important so you have ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures for comparison. Humans are prone to all sorts of mental foibles, amongst them confirmation bias (we tend to remember information which supports our beliefs and forget information which disagrees with us) and the placebo effect (where we perceive an effect simply because we believe there should be one), so it’s vital to have some relatively objective evidence to use in our evaluations.

By far and away the best tool available to you at the moment, in my opinion, is World of Logs. It’s a free service that allows you to upload combat logs from WoW, digests them, and presents you with the information in a much more flexible and easily analysed form.
Your guild might already have someone uploading logs to the site, so it’s worth asking around first to see if they have an archive you can look at.

I’m not going to go into how to use WoL in detail, because Vixsin has written two absolutely outstanding guides to WoL, which do a great job of explaining the ins and outs of the tools, and I can do no better than to suggest you go read them. The first is a basic introduction with details on how to make logs, upload them, and some basic analysis techniques. The second focuses on healer log analysis in particular. I’ll deal with what to look at in WoL reports in the next section.

As well as, or instead of, WoL reports you can use screenshots of tools like Recount or Skada as a permanent record. Make sure you hover over, or click on, your bar for a more detailed view though; just a screenshot of “winning the meters” isn’t likely to be very informative. Don’t forget to record any special assignments you had or other unusual circumstances in the encounters which might affect the results.

The other thing that I find valuable is to record observations and impressions at the time. So if you seem to be having trouble keeping tanks up, make a note. If you find yourself stressed out and frantic, make a note. If you find yourself throwing Smites or Lightning Bolts out of boredom, make a note of that as well.
I did say earlier that we needed objective evidence and clearly this is not, especially in the ‘after’ snapshot, but this is used not for decision-making but to add context to the hard data. Always remember that the WoL data is correct, and don’t let your impressions trump the facts.

The most striking use of this information is to compare what you thought you were doing to what you actually were doing. You might remember near-perfect uptime on Earth Shield or Weakened Soul on your tank, but It’s often sobering to look at what actually happened.


From this point on, I’m going to assume you’ve either read the above-linked posts, or have some experience with WoL already, so I won’t always get into the nuts and bolts.

There’s a lot of information in a WoL report, far more than I can hope to discuss in a single article, so I wanted to focus on a few areas I think are the most important.


This used to be a big deal, and probably will be again come Cataclysm; it’s slipped from favour as a measure of healers in WotLK, because relatively limitless mana and extremely high raid and tank damage has led to what Vixsin referred to as a shift from “just-in-time healing” to “just-in-case healing”, where instead of only letting a heal land if it would be needed, and choosing an appropriate heal for the task, now we’re constantly casting heals and letting them land, just in case the tank takes a big hit. We rate the opportunity cost of a wasted GCD far higher than the mana cost of even 100% overheal.

However, keeping a rein on your overhealing while remaining successful is nonetheless a useful exercise. It can show that you are able to anticipate upcoming damage and heal the right people, that you are a quick responder since overhealing suggests that others have beaten you to the heal, and gives you time to think.

In World of Logs, the place to do this is to choose an attempt or a boss (I always keep to one boss, and preferably one attempt, at a time, since the different mechanics between bosses can complicate the analysis), then click on your name and choose the “Healing by Spell” tab.
Overhealing is shown in the far right column, as a percentage of the healing done by that spell.

Clearly you’ll need to make your own decisions about the numbers there, but there are some general rules of thumb:

  • AoE heals (Circle of Healing, Wild Growth and Chain Heal) are likely to have quite high overhealing. Chain Heal might be a special case, seeing as it’s one of the Shaman’s better heals, but if Circle of Healing or Wild Growth have very high overhealing then perhaps they could be used at better moments.
  • HoTs are another area where you’re likely to see high overhealing, except on aura fights like Sindragosa or Professor Putiricide. This is a side-effect of the general approach of HoT blanketing, where a large proportion of the ticks will actually go to waste. This is classic just-in-case healing. You can combat this by focusing on players who are actually taking, or likely to take, damage, although the Wrath healing model doesn’t favour this.
  • Shields are like HoTs, in that they tend to be used widely, but can end up being largely overhealing if their recipient fails to take any damage. Ideally shields should be cast only on those likely to take damage. Also bear in mind that a lot of shields cast on the raid can push HoT overhealing very high, since ticks while the target is shielded are wasted. As Kinaesthesia pointed out on the Circle of Healing podcast, there’s nothing more fun than watching Rejuv pop up on your raid members and smacking your PW:S on immediately!
  • If your overhealing on direct heals is very high, consider your target choices. Faster healers and spells are likely to be beating you to the heal, so you could try picking on people with smaller HP deficits (so smart heals don’t pick them as often) or anticipate the damage and either pre-cast or react quicker.

If, after considering all this, you find yourself with little to do to reduce your overhealing besides not casting, that might be a sign that your raid is healer-heavy. But it might also be that the healing requirements change throughout the fight, so don’t panic if you feel like your healing is unnecessary on Phases 1 and 2 of Professor Putricide, for example.

Spell Selection

On the same WoL page as before, you can see what proportion of your healing came from each spell. There are two main uses for this information: evaluating the importance of talents and glyphs, and checking that you’re using enough of your tools.

The former is the most straightforward to understand. Using a Priest example, points in Divine Fury are probably wasted if Greater Heal accounts for a tiny fraction of your healing. For a Shaman, an example might be points spent in Healing Way, or selecting the Glyph of Lesser Healing Wave.
Sometimes it takes hard numbers to prove to yourself that no, you don’t actually cast that spell as often as you think, and maybe you should lose those points.

Evaluating whether you’re using enough of your toolbox is a more tricky problem, and will depend strongly on your raid and assignment. This is an area where comparisons between yourself and others of your class are valuable. If you’re the only one playing your particular spec in your raids, either browse World of Logs for other guilds’ logs or ask other healers for logs to compare with.
You can browse the other guilds on your server who are uploading logs either by clicking on your realm name in the upper left (if you’re looking at a guild already) or by clicking on “Realms” and browsing to your region and server. The advantage of picking guilds on your server is that you are likely to be able to eyeball a guild’s progression level, and you’re more likely to be able to engage those players in conversation if you want to try asking them questions directly.

The "Realms" menu on World of Logs, indicated with a giant green arrow

Even if you can’t, or don’t want to find other logs to compare yourself to, you can have a look at your healing by spell and see what it looks like.

The first step is to make a list of your “core” spells, and check that they’re all getting some usage over a night or over a fight. For a Disc Priest, my list would be:

  • Power Word: Shield
  • Prayer of Mending
  • Flash Heal
  • Binding Heal
  • Penance
  • Divine Hymn

Note the last item on that list, Divine Hymn. Make sure that you’re actually using your cooldowns, and if they’re not getting much use, think about where you can use them to best effect. Saving cooldowns for a rainy day is all well and good, but if you find you never need them then it’s probably safe to spend them for a quick boost.

Nowhere in here have I tried to tell you what spells to use; only you know what it’s like healing in your raid team (informed by your observation notes, of course). The aim of this exercise is simply to make you think about your spell usage and consider if you might wish to make any changes.


Now that we’ve explored whether we’re using a wide enough range of our spells, and whether those spells are appropriate, timely and necessary, the final thing to check on is our activity: put simply, are we casting enough?

The best way to measure our activity is to use a more advanced feature of World of Logs, the Expression Editor. Some of this section is inspired by posts by Auracen at PlusHeal, heavily adapted.

I’ll take this step by step:

  1. Choose the time period you’re interested in and select it from the top menu. A single attempt or kill is best, to avoid confusions caused by downtime or trash.
  2. From the Dashboard menu, choose Expression Editor
    The World of Logs Expression Editor menu option, indicated by another charming green arrow

  3. In the Query box, paste one of the following expressions, depending on your spec, remembering to replace “Malevica” with your name near the beginning of the expression:
    Discipline Priest
    SourceName = "Malevica" and (fullType = SPELL_CAST_START or fullType = SPELL_AURA_APPLIED or fulltype = SPELL_CAST_SUCCESS) and (spell = "Power Word: Shield" or spell = "Flash Heal" or spell = "Greater Heal" or spell = "Binding Heal" or spell = "Prayer of Mending" or spell = "Penance" or spell = "Divine Hymn")
    Holy Priest
    SourceName = "Malevica" and (fullType = SPELL_CAST_START or fullType = SPELL_AURA_APPLIED or fulltype = SPELL_CAST_SUCCESS) and (spell = "Circle of Healing" or spell = "Prayer of Healing" or spell = "Flash Heal" or spell = "Greater Heal" or spell = "Binding Heal" or spell = "Prayer of Mending" or spell = "Renew" or spell = "Divine Hymn")
    Resto Shaman
    SourceName = "Malevica" and (fullType = SPELL_CAST_START or fullType = SPELL_AURA_APPLIED or fulltype = SPELL_CAST_SUCCESS) and (spell = "Chain Heal" or spell = "Riptide" or spell = "Lesser Healing Wave" or spell = "Healing Wave" or spell = "Earth Shield")
    Resto Druid
    SourceName = "Malevica" and (fullType = SPELL_CAST_START or fullType = SPELL_AURA_APPLIED or fulltype = SPELL_CAST_SUCCESS) and (spell = "Rejuvenation" or spell = "Regrowth" or spell = "Wild Growth" or spell = "Nourish" or spell = "Lifebloom" or spell = "Swiftmend" or spell = "Tranquility") and healSpellId != 70691
    Holy Paladin
    SourceName = "Malevica" and (fullType = SPELL_CAST_START or fullType = SPELL_AURA_APPLIED or fulltype = SPELL_CAST_SUCCESS) and (spell = "Holy Shield" or spell = "Flash of Light" or spell = "Holy Light" or spell = "Holy Shock" or spell = "Aura Mastery" or spell = "Divine Sacrifice")
    NB: WordPress was converting the " " marks to smart quotes, which would have caused WoL to error if you copied and pasted straight from this post. It’s now fixed, sorry about that!
  4. Press the “Run” button.
    The World of Logs Expression Editor box filled in, and the run button indicated by yet another green arrow

    Hopefully some lines have gone from the list of combat log events, but some still remain. If none remain, you’ve got something wrong in your query, so check again that you’ve copied and pasted the expression correctly and put your name in their, rather than mine.
    The World of Logs Expression Editor box filled in, and the now filtered combat log entries shown below it, indicated by... well, you get the idea
  5. A list of events might be what you’re looking for, but information like this is usually better represented visually. World of Logs has the ability to display a timeline of your actions over time.
    To bring this up, click on the Timeline tab and then click on the Plot Spells Timeline button.
    The World of Logs Timeline tab, with the Plot button subtly highlighted
    The result should look something like the example below:
    The World of Logs Timeline display, with one last big green arrow pointing to the timeline

What you can see at a glance on this plot is the number and range of different spells you cast, and if you have a ‘rotation’ you can see how well you’re able to stick to it in practice.

In the example above, you can see that I tended to get distracted and I don’t get my shields refreshed on time every time, but there are a few clear blocks of PW:S casts, showing I’m using it fairly regularly on the whole. I’m also underusing Penance, which is probably hurting my output. I’m casting a wide smattering of spells, which might indicate a lack of discipline (no pun intended) or a reactive role, I’ll need to think a bit more about that.
On the plus side, I am getting plenty of use out of Prayer of Mending (see the little clusters as it bounces almost immediately), and I’m remembering to mix Binding Heal in with Flash Heal to keep myself alive at the same time as healing the raid.

Looking at the picture overall (I find squinting helps), I’m pretty busy throughout the fight without there being many big gaps in my casts. This view can help to highlight players with gappy timelines who might be slow to react, be distracted or AFK, who don’t heal well on the run, or who might just be waiting around for something to heal, depending on the players in question.

Making a change

Once you’ve identified areas you want to work on or tighten up in your play, obviously you need to actually make a change. Easy right? Well for some people it might be as simple as saying “I need to cast Prayer of Mending more” and having it happen, but almost everyone will need some amount of time and support to implement a change.

The first thing to stress is that it will take time and practice, there’s no way around that. You can heal the target dummies (could have sworn this worked, apparently it doesn’t, sorry!) yourself easily enough if you want to work on a rotation or practise keeping a spell on cooldown, or you can just get stuck in and raid; your best bet will be some combination of both.

My strong suggestion would be to pick one thing at a time and focus on that. If you try to change too many things at once you’re likely to forget about some or all of them and you won’t be anything like as effective as you could be. In my case, I’ve been working on improving my use of Prayer of Mending, trying to throw it out pretty much as soon as it comes of cooldown, so I’ll take that as a simple example.

What you do to actually improve depends on what works for you and what you’re trying to improve.

  • In my case I set up a PowerAura to flash up whenever Prayer of Mending was off cooldown, so I was reminded to cast it more often.

    PowerAuras for Penance, Prayer of Mending and Power Infusion
  • If you’re trying to improve your range of spells cast, perhaps unbind your most common spell to force you to play with your alternatives to find something which works instead (best used in a safe environment, at least at first, but using this in a raid can be a very powerful lesson).
  • If you’re trying to increase your actions per minute, pick up a castbar addon like Quartz, or Az Castbar (ACB) which has a latency display built in, and start your next cast as soon as you’re within the red or green zone, as in the screenshot below:
    A close-up of AzCastbars showing the latency zone
    Alternatively, just keep your standard “filler” spell on an easy binding and practise hitting it whenever you can’t think of anything else to hit. Getting into the habit of Always Being Casting is a sound habit, even for Cataclysm (you’ll not always need to heal, but most healers will have the option to DPS and get mana back for it, so learning to fill spare time is a good habit).
  • Did it work?

    This is a step that many people can forget to include, but it’s so important to cementing the change: take another snapshot of your performance and repeat the analysis step.

    Make another log, and look closely at it. Did you change what you wanted to change? Are you actually using more spells? Casting more often? Using that crucial cooldown spell more often?

    If you don’t actually check, how can you know whether you’re actually making a change or if you just think you are? Remember how surprised you were when you first looked at your timeline or spell percentages or overhealing? That’s because you don’t actually remember very well, and you tend to fill in uncertainties with what you expect, not reality. So always trust the data.

    Either way, give yourself a pat on the back for taking things in hand!

    Rinse and repeat

    Needless to say, the process doesn’t end here; either that’s because you identified more than one thing you wanted to work on, or because when you changed one thing you’ve now shifted your healing balance around and something else might now be out of kilter.

    Once you’ve got your first change sorted and feeling like a comfortable part of the new healing modus operandi for your character, take the new baseline you acquired for the step above, and loop back to the Analysis step. Work out where your next area for development is, work out how to make a change, implement it and practise it, then evaluate how well it worked.

    Above all, you should always be somewhere on this cycle.

    Possibly Related Posts:

Categories: Advice and Strategy

Helping Out

Posted by Malevica on August - 17 - 2010

Moonra, the Resto Dude, recently proposed as the BA Shared Topic the question of how to assist or protect your team mates, to the benefit of everyone. This is an excellent topic, and in answering the question I decided to follow the “What healers want the rest of the raid to know”/”What the rest of the raid wants healers to know” format as used on WowWiki.

What healers want the rest of the raid to know

  1. We can see your health – Yes, really. If I had a copper for every time someone asked for a heal, I’d be gold capped by now. Well, maybe not quite, but the point is that if you’re not getting a heal, it’s unlikely to be because we don’t know it’s needed; it’s much more likely to be because someone else is lower than you or taking more damage than you now, because we’re moving or debuffed, or just because we’re doing something else.
    What’s more, calling for a heal, especially on Vent, just adds to our processing load and will (albeit slightly) further delay your heal.
    While we’re at it, let me get it on record that I can also see when you’re dead (chances are I’m kicking myself about it) so if you proceed to ask me for a res, rest assured you’ll be the last person to get one.
  2. Replenishment is not optional – Theorycrafting and gear choices are all based on the assumption of 100% Replenishment uptime, and we all gem for Intellect because it’s our best mana regeneration stat. Blizzard have even stated that they balance encounters and gear around having replenishment in raids. So if there’s not at least 1 replenishment in a 10-man raid, or 2 in a 25-man raid, and you can provide it then please consider doing so, even if it’s a personal DPS loss (Shadow Priests who refuse to Mind Blast, I’m looking at you…). Let us know about your sacrifice and we’ll thank you for it.
  3. We won’t be able to heal through stupid forever – There’s an interesting argument that crops up now and again. The premise is that DPS is uncapped, that is to say that more DPS is always better. Therefore if a healer has a spare GCD, they should be using it to protect a DPS player, allowing them to ignore environmental effects which might otherwise require them to move, lowering their DPS.
    I don’t like people trotting out this argument very much because it assumes that healing resources are unlimited and that unused GCDs are ‘wasted’ time. This might be true at the moment in a lot of the raiding content, either because you have ‘too many’ healers or too much mana regeneration, but it isn’t on hard modes and shouldn’t be in Cataclysm, if Blizzard don’t disappoint me.
  4. The reason you died is usually not “I didn’t get a heal”, and the solution is usually not to add another healer – Of course, sometimes this is the reason you died, and sometimes you do need more healers, but usually the answer to both is “I took too much damage”.
    Encounters, particularly on normal mode, are not balanced around an assumption that your healing team changes by more than one, if at all, over the course of a raid. If six healers is sufficient for the rest of the encounters, then six should be able to handle this one just fine as well. Look around at the damage being taken and where you can reduce it, before changing the team around.
  5. Healers aren’t omniscient, tell us things!Aunna mentioned this in his response (points 2 and 7), and he got it spot on: if you need an Innervate, Salv, Mana Tide or Hymn of Hope then ask for it. If you’re blowing your tanking cooldowns, make a macro to tell us about it, and if you need a cooldown and haven’t got one available, ask for it. If you’re going to swap tanks, give us a 3, 2, 1 so we can get Grace, various Shields and other buffs on you in advance. We’re concentrating on a lot of things, and we can’t guarantee we’ll always remember everything.
  6. Buffing is everyone’s job – I don’t begrudge the cost of Devout Candles to buff the raid, I’m talking more about rebuffing in combat. During a fight, if someone Soulstones or gets Rebirthed, locating them and rebuffing them takes valuable global cooldowns. Perhaps I’m more sensitive to this as a Priest with three buffs, but I really appreciate DPS taking the time to throw a Fort/Spirit on the newly-resurrected player so I can concentrate on healing them up instead.
  7. Cleansing is everyone’s job – Especially in 10-man raids, it’s entirely possible that one dispel type is being covered by one or no healers, so always make sure you’ve got raidframes up that can show dispellable debuffs, and if things aren’t being cleansed quickly enough, help out.
    Sometimes cleansing can be more powerful than healing (there are some DoTs in Cataclysm instances which tick for 4,000 per second, compared to an 8k Heal; in this case, a Dispel is by far the best choice).
  8. Meters aren’t everything – (Disclaimer: I know that DPS meters are far from the whole story for DPS as well, but they tend to be more relevant than healing meters for healers). Healers work by assignment, and work in very different ways.
    A healer with low healing might still have been playing an important role, might have been dispelling, maintaining a steady stream on the tank(s), or might have been saving their mana and cooldowns for a different phase. Professor Putricide and heroic Anub’Arak are classic examples of fights where some of the healers may have dismal eHPS for most of the fight because there’s simply very little to heal until the final Phase.
    And if you’re complaining about Disc Priests and not showing absorbs in your meters, go get Skada or RecountGuessedAbsorbs this instant!
  9. Your pet is your problem – Hunters, Death Knights and Warlocks are balanced around supporting their pets, should they take damage in combat, so healers shouldn’t need to heal them except in certain exceptional cases (a Warlock tanking Prince Keleseth comes to mind). We may choose to do so, if we have spare GCDs, in order to help your DPS, but you shouldn’t be relying on it. See point 3.
  10. If we have to run, so do you – Ah, the perennial favourite. If we wipe and I release and run back in, I fully expect you to do the same unless I say otherwise. Not much is more likely to make my blood boil than knowing that while I spent my time on the corpse run you were off getting a drink, feeding the cat, having a smoke, taking the rubbish out, or any other miscellaneous task.
    It’s just disrespectful to assume that my time is less valuable than yours. I’m afraid the passive-aggressive side of me comes out at those moments and you’ll find yourself staying dead until you at least show willing and release (at which point I’ll probably res you, just to speed things along).

What the rest of the raid wants healers to know

  1. Some damage is unavoidable – While usually there’s room to shrink down the amount of damage the raid’s taking, some raid damage is inevitable – that’s why we have raid healers, after all. Be realistic and always consider whether someone’s death was truly their fault for taking damage, or if they did in fact just slip through the cracks.
  2. DPS is not “faceroll” – Sure, no one’s arguing that healing’s not mentally demanding and often thankless, but DPS can have plenty to concentrate on as well: focusing on the right target, spotting new adds spawning, maintaining a sometimes complicated priority rotation, keeping DPS high while moving, and so on. Don’t assume that a DPS standing in the fire is being a “moron”, we might just have other things on their plate demanding their attention.
    While we’re on the subject, we agree that healing is a difficult job, but that still doesn’t qualify you to tell us how to do our job, even if you do sometimes spec Elemental, Enhancement, Shadow, Feral, Balance or Retribution at the weekends.
  3. If we can help you out, tell us how! – It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, as they say. There’s no sense sitting in the healer channel complaining about the DPS being all spread out if you’ve not taken the time to ask us to group up so your chain heal bounces properly. A lot of fights require >12 yard separation so spreading out is probably the safer default choice, and if we’re not dying, why would we change?
    Likewise, if there’s a tricky healing phase coming up, for example one of the healers is currently an ice block while another has Unchained Magic, mention this on Vent so your DPS and tanks know we’re on our own for a while.
  4. Power Infusion is delicious – This is a bit of a Priesty one, sorry! I’ll admit I’ve not theorycrafted this much, but my two favourite targets for PI are Fire Mages and Moonkins under Lunar Eclipse (hasted crit-boosted Starfires are made of pure win). I gave up on Arcane mages, despite how useful the mana cost reduction might have been, after the umpteenth error message because their own haste proc had gone off.
    Pro-tip: PI doesn’t stack with Bloodlust (the haste bit anyway, the mana cost reduction still works), so check when BL is due in this fight so you don’t waste it.
  5. CCing can be dangerous – CCing mobs, which is usually the job of ranged DPS, is not without its risks and difficulties, and healers can help us by being aware of those tasked with CC, healing us if we take damage (from the mobs directly or from having to move into more dangerous territory) and using other tricks to help out:
    • Priests can use PW:S on casters to help us get a cast off even if our target is making trouble, and this goes double if we happen to be using a Succubus for your CC (remember those days? They’re coming back!). Hunters kiting mobs over traps might find a Body and Soul useful too.
    • Shaman can use their Earth Shield to prevent spell pushback as well, or use an Earthbind Totem to hold mobs in place long enough for CC to be (re-)applied.
    • Paladins can use their Hammer of Justice on a loose mob before it can get to its CCer, or just taunt it for a moment – you’re likely to be tougher than a clothie.
    • Druids can use Entangling Roots to protect a CCer, or if you’re a Tauren you can use your War Stomp to stun them for a moment.

  6. If you get aggro, don’t run away – You know how annoying it is when you can’t heal someone because they’re out of range or line of sight? This is the tank’s equivalent. Healers have a 40 yard range, and like to stand as far away as possible, while a tank’s taunt only has a 30 yard range.
    As natural as it is to run away from the big angry dragon/skeleton/zombie/ooze/whatever that’s chasing you, if you do then the tank will be unable to reach you to get it back without moving, and a great many encounters punish tanks for moving by Flame Breathing the raid. It takes a lot of discipline and practice, but it is possible to train yourself out of this habit.

Possibly Related Posts:

Categories: Advice and Strategy

[Cataclysm Beta] Healing Throne of the Tides

Posted by Malevica on August - 3 - 2010

I have some thoughts on the new party healing UI but they’re not fully formed yet, and I was a little too busy to take proper screenshots on the way through, so I’ll return to that another time. For now, here’s my not-so-quick walkthrough of Throne of the Tides (without many pictures, although I may add them another time).

This is a rather long post, but it’s an entire instance and there’s a lot of detail in here. Ctrl-F is your friend!

This is based on beta build 12644, it’s all subject to change. I’ll add this to the strategy section once it’s closer to Live.

Layout and route

First and foremost, how to get there! The entrance is in the Abyssal Maw area of Vashj’ir, which is in the north-east of the Abyssal Depths subzone, or smack in the middle of Vashj’ir. I’ve included a map below:

Map of Vash'ir, with the Abyssal Maw entrance indicated by a green arrow

To get to the instance entrance area, just swim down into the Abyssal Maw as deep as you can go, and eventually you will ‘fall through’ the bottom and land in a cave with the instance entrance in it.

The layout’s a bit tricky to describe, especially since the game doesn’t yet include maps for the place, but I’ll do my best.

TotT (that’s a messy abbreviation…) essentially has three “wings” over two levels. When you walk in through the front entrance you’ll move forward through the first trash pack, up some stairs, and into a room with three exits. The left and right exits are blocked by wiggling tentacles, belonging to Ozumat, the end boss, who we’ll get to later. So first you need to fight your way forwards to the end.

When you reach the end you’ll find a friendly goblin who’ll tell you all about how he’s all set to get this elevator working. Since you’re in a bit of a hurry, ask him instead to teleport you upstairs (I can’t tell if this is an under-development kind of joke, or if we’re laughing at goblin workmanship). Another long hallway to fight through, with Lady Naz’jar at the end.

Once you’ve defeated Lady Naz’jar, turn around and go back the way you came. You’ll quickly discover Commander Ulthok has arrived and is inconveniently standing in your way, so dispatch him post-haste. Ask the goblin to teleport you back downstairs again, and head back to the three-way junction.

One of the side passages will be filled with purple elementals, that’s the way to Neptulon and the end, so go the other way first, past a lot of smaller Gilgoblin mobs. After a short slog through the trash you’ll come to Erunak Stonespeaker, who’s boss number three. Finally, head back to the centre again and hack and slash your way through the corrupted elementals to Neptulon’s room, and prepare for the final battle.

Lady Naz’jar

I’ll cover the trash mobs leading to each boss as well as the bosses themselves in each section, since some of the packs need a bit of care.


Getting to Lady Naz’jar involved taking out packs of 4-5 naga, consisting of the following types:

  • Naz’jar Spiritmender – Will cast Healing Wave a lot, or Wrath otherwise, and need to be kept under control or you will literally not kill anything. If there’s two in a pack, CC one and burn the other with stuns, then either leave the second one or kill it, it’s up to you. These will pretty much be the biggest challenge you’ll face in these packs.
  • Naz’jar Invader – Will melee swing and also apply Lacerate to their target. Lacerate was doing 225 damage per second per stack to the tank I had, but I saw it stack as high as 30 (for 6750 damage per second) on our tank before he died and we wiped. This shouldn’t be a problem as long as the rest of the mobs are going down in a timely fashion though, since you get one stack every 5 seconds.
  • Naz’jar Tempest Witch – These mobs have a Chain Lightning which starts at around 10k for the first hit although it does drop by about 2.5k per jump. Ranged need to be at range and spread out to mitigate the worst of this. Tempest Witches will also cast Lightning Surge on a random player giving them a magic debuff of the same name, which causes the player to explode for around 15k Nature damage after 5 seconds if it’s not dispelled. All healing classes can now dispel magic on friendlies, so this needs spotting and dispelling.

There are also a couple of lone patrolling Naz’jar Sentinels to watch out for. They hit fairly weakly in melee, but they will cast Noxious Mire on a random player, leaving a patch of green fumes on the floor which lasts 10 seconds and deals 5000 Nature damage per second to anyone inside it. Again, ranged should be spread out and the tank should kite the Sentinel out of any fumes on their location.


Lady Naz’jar is an alternating boss/adds type fight. At 66% and 33% she will banish herself by casting Waterspout and spawn three adds, unbanishing after one minute (possibly also once all the adds have died).

When fighting Lady Naz’jar herself, there are a few things you’ll need to watch out for. The most dangerous is Fungal Spores, which is a disease cast on a random player causing them to take 10000 Nature damage every 3 seconds for 15 seconds (5 ticks). It’s recast pretty much as soon as it fades, so you’ll spend a lot of time dealing with this. This can be healed through by an attentive healer, or dispelled where available.

Besides the disease she will summon a Geyser on a random person. You have a small delay of a second or two before the Geyser deals 30k frost damage to you and knocks you into the air. This is likely to kill you if you’re not fully topped off, and the falling damage can be risky as well, so healers need to be alert for this one.

When she casts Waterspout and banishes, she will spawn two Naz’jar Tempest Witches (which we’ve seen before) and one Naz’jar Honor Guard. The Honor Guard will melee fairly weakly initially, but will also use Arc Slash every 6 seconds or so. Arc Slash is a 5-yard frontal cone attack which cannot be dodged, blocked or parried, so this keeps a consistent background level of damage on your tank and the cleave aspect means you need to take some care with positioning.

My recommendation is to CC one of the Tempest Witches to keep the dispel requirements manageable (remember that Lightning Surge) and the Chain Lightning under control, and burn them down one at a time before moving on to the Naz’jar Honor Guard.

Rinse and repeat, and she should go down easily enough.

Commander Ulthok


There is no trash. As you turn around to head back into the rest of the instance, Ulthok will pop up in front of you from the pool on the floor. If you’re careless you may find yourself in combat automatically, but it is possible to avoid this.


Ulthok is a more challenging boss in theory, although we discovered on beta that he can be kited and killed solo by a class with slows due to his infrequent casts and the number of places to line-of-sight him. I imagine this will be altered before going Live.

His melee swings on the tank come in at around the 5-6k mark, which is not massive but can add up.

Ulthok’s first special ability is Dark Fissure which is a 2 second cast, at the end of which Ulthok smashes the ground in front of his feet, dealing 60k Shadow damage to anyone within 2 yards of the target (i.e. directly in front of him) and leaves a Dark Fissure on the ground (lasting 2 minutes) which deals shadow damage to anyone in it.
The tank should move away quickly to avoid being one-shot, and should move Ulthok out of the way so that melee DPS can avoid standing in the resulting Fissure.

The other thing Ulthok will do is Squeeze a random player in his hand, stunning them and dealing 5k Shadow damage to them per second for 6 seconds (6 hits). Given that health levels are around 30-35k for most non-tanks it is important to keep players topped off where possible, or to give them some focused healing if they’re low.

Erunak Stonespeaker

After heading back to the three-way intersection near the beginning of the instance, there will be two paths to take. Erunak Stonespeaker is along the path which does not have purple elementals on it. (I forget whether it’s east or west, but it’s on the right as you enter the instance).


There are three types of trash mobs to deal with here: two types of goblin forming mixed packs, and single Faceless Watchers, some patrolling.

  • Gilgoblin Hunters will attack with Poisoned Spear, which hits for around 15k Nature damage and ticks for around 1k Nature damage per stack.
  • Gilgoblin Aquamages will cast Water Bolt which deals 5k Frost damage and reduces melee, ranged and spell haste by 5% (dispellable, magic).

Pulling a pack with more than a couple of hunters is a risky business, because 4x15k from a barrage of Poisoned Spears may make short work of your tank. Be sure you’re at full health and go in with a bubble/CD, or pull with a stun/CC to reduce the numbers to manageable levels (being sure not to get your mage gibbed, of course). The Aquamages have a 2 second cast, but the Hunters have a 0.5s cast, so you’re unlikely to be able to interrupt them easily off the pull.
Once the pull is made though, the mobs die fairly easily and their damage is not nearly as focused.

The Faceless Watchers are interesting to fight. They will cast Void Rip, lifting everyone up into the air and drawing them inwards, and then after three seconds Void Rip fades and you are all dropped near his feet. He’ll then cast Ground Pound, which makes the ground near his feet rumble and deals 6k Physical damage per 0.5s to anyone inside. The Ground Pound lasts 6 seconds, but you should run out of it before this happens, or you’re likely to not survive. Given that you’ll have a maximum of 30-35k HP on average, you’re looking at 2.5-3s TTL from full health, and probably less since you’ll have just taken falling damage as well.


Erunak Stonespeaker is not truly the boss here; he’s actually being controlled by Mindbender Ghur’sha, a sort of ooze/headcrab thing riding on his head. You need to kill Ghur’sha, but it’s pretty stubborn and you need to “persuade” it to let go.

When you first pull, you’ll need to take Erunak Stonespeaker to 50% HP, at which point Mindbender Ghur’sha will detach and sit on the floor for a time. Burn it as hard as you can during this vulnerable time, before it picks another target,the highest threat player each time, and leaps onto them. Once again, DPS this target to 50% health (or wait 1 minute, but why would you?) and Ghur’sha will detach again. From here it’s just rinse and repeat until you’ve killed Ghur’sha for good.

While you’re fighting Erunak Stonespeaker, he will be doing one of three things besides meleeing your tank. He will randomly cast Lava Bolt on a random player dealing 20k Fire damage and knocking them back, and he will also send Earth Shards towards a random player, which will turn into a patch of spikes when they hit, dealing around 2k physical damage per second to anyone remaining in the area.
The big danger in this phase is the Magma Splash, which is a frontal cone Fire attack dealing 20k damage upfront and applying a DoT to anyone afflicted dealing 2k Fire damage per second for 10 seconds unless dispelled (Magic).

Once you’ve passed the 50% mark and Ghur’sha is Enslaving players, it will use its own set of abilities rather than the player’s own.

The first, and most subtle, is Absorb Magic. This magical debuff (Purgeable) is cast by Ghur’sha on itself, and absorbs all spell damage. What’s more, when damage is absorbed Ghur’sha will be healed for three times the amount absorbed. Purge this one quickly or stop DPS, although currently this doesn’t heal for enough to make much of a difference.

The other ability the whole party needs to react to is Mind Fog. A patch of fog will appear around Ghur’sha and remain for 20s, which pacifies anyone inside it and deals 500 Shadow damage per 0.5s. Run out, and ranged DPS might have to be careful of their threat while the tank is pacified.

The big damaging ability in this phase is Unrelenting Agony. This looks a lot like Mind Flay beams from Ghur’sha to every player, and ticks for around 2k Shadow damage per second for 10s. This needs some preparation to top people off and spread some healing around, although it’s not fatal in and of itself.



The trash to Neptulon’s room takes the form of a gauntlet, with the constantly spawning small Unstable Corruption mobs controlled by the large Tainted Sentry elementals.

The Unstable Corruptions will spontaneously die, casting Wall of Corruption on nearby players. This is a disease which ticks for 250 Nature/Shadow damage per second per stack, up to a maximum of 20 stacks, with a duration of 8 seconds. The trick to handling these is to ignore them and just proceed to the Tainted Sentries, although if your healer requires time to catch you up (not all healers can remove diseases) then you can build a pause into the progression.

Tainted Sentries are mostly melee mobs, although they have the ability to buff themselves with Swell, causing them to deal 10k Nature/Shadow damage to the party every 3 seconds for 9 seconds. This can be deadly, especially on the last pull when there are two of them or when you’ve got diseases ticking, so it must be purged as quickly as possible. If you have no purge available, try and keep one out of commission while you heal through the other one.

Neptulon in his room in the Throne of the Tides.

Neptulon in his room in the Throne of the Tides


To start the fight, talk to Neptulon. You’ll actually be fighting against Ozumat, the leviathan outside the room you’re in, in a three-phase fight. You must keep Neptulon alive for the duration of this fight, or the encounter will reset.

Phase one is a bit of a warm-up, where you’ll pick up and kill Deep Murloc Invaders, Vicious Mindlashers and Unyielding Behemoths. The Murlocs are easy enough to deal with through AoE, they only melee swing.

Vicious Mindlashers will cast Shadow Bolt on their target for around 5k Shadow damage, and will also curse their target with Veil of Shadow, reducing healing taken by 50%. Their final ability is Brain Spike, which is a 3 second cast that deals 7k Shadow damage to the party and drains 1k mana. This can be nasty, and needs to be the priority for interruping.
Vicious Mindlashers should be the kill priority in this phase, burning them one at a time. They do not seem to melee swing, so they do not need a tank staying near them to tank them, which is just as well, as we’ll see.

The Unyielding Behemoths do need to be controlled by a tank, and they need to be moved on frequently because they will periodically cast Shadow Blast, where they will leap into the air, hover for 5 seconds, and then slam into the ground dealing 25k Shadow damage and a knockback to anyone close to them.
Care also needs to be taken because they will also cast Blight Spray in a 25-yard cone in front of them for 3.5k Shadow damage per second for 4 seconds.

Phase 2‘s arrival is heralded by three Faceless Sappers spawning and running in. They will spread out around Neptulon and channel Entangling Grasp on Neptulon, stunning him. These all need to die before Phase 3 can begin.

Hindering you in this are the Blight Beasts which are spawned. These definitely do need to be kited around the outside of the room, since they will apply Aura of Dread to anyone within 7 yards of them, dealing 2k Shadow damage and increasing Shadow damage taken by 10% per stack (up to 200 stacks!). There will be multiple Blight Beasts active at any one time, so this can become very deadly very quickly.

Current strategy on beta seems to be to have the tank kite the adds while the DPS nuke the Sappers down a.s.a.p. This might not be optimal on Live though, perhaps a melee/ranged split onto Sappers and Beasts respectively might feel more controlled.

Throughout this phase, Ozumat will also be throwing black patches of Blight of Ozumat onto the floor, which stack a 200 Shadow damage per second per stack DoT to anyone standing in them. Run out of these quickly. They are a little tricky to spot, since there’s a lot of black shadow around the place, but they are visible if you watch out for them.

Phase 3 starts when the Sappers die. The first goal is to clear out the remaining trash mobs as quickly as possible, before turning your attention to Ozumat.

Neptulon is now active and will cast Tidal Surge on the whole party, increasing HP, healing and damage massively, as well as your size and run speed. He will also help you to kill Ozumat by chain-casting Pure Water on Ozumat, dealing 100k Frost damage at a time.

Because Ozumat will be constantly casting Blight of Ozumat, this last phase is a race against time before Neptulon or the raid dies due to the stacking DoT, making it very reminiscent of the end of the Lady Vashj fight, for those with long memories. From a healer’s perspective it’s pretty rough, and will test your triage skills!

Possibly Related Posts:

Healing and Addons

Posted by Malevica on July - 28 - 2010

There’s recently been a bit of a debate over the use or not of addons for healing. I don’t want to throw more fuel on the fire, but some of the posts and commentary have been quite throught-provoking, and since I’m about to head into the Beta and my usual UI will go out the window, I thought I’ve been giving my own addon usage even more thought.

My story

I use addons to heal and pretty much always have. I remember my first healing experience in Wailing Caverns in my 20s, way back in mid-2007, clicking on party frames to target people and then clicking on the healing spells on my bars. This being early in TBC and not my first character I was well aware that there existed a wide variety of addons to help classes do their job, so it was a natural next step for me to go a-Googling and I quickly found Healbot. Thus was a click-healer made.

Although I’ve never seriously used the default raid interface to heal, I have had occasion to quickly drag out the default raidframes and heal with keybinds (not mouseover macros, just target & press number keys) in a pinch when I’ve been disconnected mid-fight. I’m far from brilliant with it, but I can be non-useless in such a situation.

Pros and Cons

For me, healing effectively means mastering two stages: decision-making, i.e. picking the right person to heal and the right spell to use, or deciding whether to dispel that thing or to leave it; and then acting on that decision, i.e. reacting in time and hitting the right person.

Addons can help in both areas, but I mostly value assistance with the first part. Addons, if you spend the time to set them up properly, can provide you with as much information as you need to make your decisions, with (hopefully) no excess clutter, although of course in reality no addon can provide perfect configurability.

The problem that was brought up recently was that near-ubiquitous use of addons for showing spell cooldowns and boss abilities or for changing health bar colours when a decurse is needed means that people are losing, or failing to acquire, a sense of timing or even a depth of knowledge of boss mechanics. This can lead to a dependence on the addons, to the point where people become (or at least feel) unable to heal without them.

The trouble is that this is predicated on the idea that the addon(s) may stop working one day and expose that dependency. As long as the addon is active and functioning, there’s no problem. As a commenter observed, you’re judged on results, not methods.

Of course if your addons do break on patch day someone who has a more “visceral” understanding will probably outperform you, as will someone who is more accustomed to using the Blizzard interface to heal. When you don’t have an addon using a special this-one-really-matters colour, someone who can recognise an Unbound Plague icon from a Plague Sickness one will be at an advantage.
That is, until the player adapts to a new addon or the old addon is updated.

Here’s a different perspective: the default UI can be thought of as simply a set of ‘addons’ designed by Blizzard and included with the game, rather than something special or sacred. The only difference is that Blizzard make sure that their ‘addons’ are working before each patch release. From that perspective, it becomes much more like a choice between Vuhdo, Blizzard, Grid and Healbot.
You simply pick your comfort point in the trade-off between reliability in extreme conditions and everyday convenience, configurability and performance.

As a fun thought experiment, consider Blizzard announcing that due to the large number of excellent addons in the community, they are removing the default UI completely, leaving it purely in API form.

Short Version?

The most important thing addons provide is the ability to provide only the information you want to make your decisions, no more and no less. This (in theory) should lead to the most optimal decisions being made in any given situation. If providing more information than the default UI is helpful, then suitably-configured addons should improve your healing.

If those addons break, you may find yourself worse off than someone using the default UI (which is unlikely to break, at least on Live) until you can readapt, adopt a new set of addons, or the old addon is fixed. For the vast majority of us this isn’t a problem, although I can see how world-first guilds might find it helpful to be able to raid and heal regardless of the situation on the day new content is released.

I’ll be shortly spending some time on the Beta realm, where my normal UI is unlikely to work, so this will be an interesting test of my “dependency” on addons.

Possibly Related Posts:

Categories: Anecdotes, Opinion

Working Together

Posted by Malevica on July - 16 - 2010

In my recent post about letting people die I talked about working with other healers as a part of the mental prioritisation process we go through.
In the comments, Everblue pointed out that having a healing team with mutual trust, knowledge of each other’s role, and enough awareness to cover for each other without overhealing is the “holy grail of raid leading”, and wondered how to create that understanding.

Well, I can’t claim to have all the answers by a long stretch, and I don’t even think I’m part of such a team at the moment, but I’ve felt something closer to it in the past. So, here’s some thoughts from me for raid leaders or guild leaders looking to build a more cohesive healing team.

I should say that, while I don’t think you can necessarily create situational awareness, you can engender an interest and cooperation between team-mates which will get you a long way towards the ideal as described by Everblue.

It would also be great to read what other people think on this subject.


Back to basics, but if you want a strong team you need to create an atmosphere of communication and information flow. So if you don’t have one already create a healers-only channel and invite your healers into it, and if your guild is one which uses forums try and get some role-specific forums created as well.

The healing channel

The purpose of the channel is two-fold: firstly you can use it to set up and discuss assignments, so everyone knows what’s going on. If it’s in a separate channel people can pull it out into a separate chat frame to keep it prominent, or give it a different colour to help prevent it getting lost in the rest of raid chat.
The second purpose of the channel is to allow discussion of how that last attempt went, if someone is feeling overstretched on the one hand or even underworked on the other, then the assignments can be tweaked, for example.

Here’s the first big tip I’ll give: keep the channel for healers only and don’t allow intrusions. There’s nothing will get people’s backs up like being told what to do by a non-healer.
I know how tempting it is as a raid leader to try and eavesdrop on every role channel, and that’s not incompatible with this idea, but if you want a properly free and frank discussion you will have to take a back seat. Every time you make a comment, you remind people you’re there, and this might not be the best way to promote discussion.
Healers in particular can be quite sensitive types, and actually it can be quite a big step to admit you need help with something, so don’t be an overbearing raid leader.

If you’re the raid leader and a healer as well, you’ll definitely need to be in the channel, but try and keep your involvement to a minimum. Ideas from authority figures, even in a game context, are harder to argue with. On the whole though I think a healer raid leader actually has a head start, because you’ll understand what motivates the healers, which can help with trust.

However, the healing team will need to communicate with the rest of the raid from time to time, which is where suggestion number two comes in: consider nominating a “healing lead”. Now I know some guilds don’t like the idea of the extra layer of hierarchy that class or role leads provides, and I’m not talking about another guild rank, just a sort of spokesperson who can liaise with the raid leader or other role leaders to pass information around. This lets everyone’s voice be heard, without needing to stick their neck out personally if they don’t feel confident.

It might be a regular, well-liked healer, it might be the theorycrafting nut, it might be the chatty one, but someone will most likely fall into this role. Let the healers choose their “champion” rather than it automatically be the officer who happens to be a healer.
Perhaps the healing lead could set up the assignments too. It’s always better to be assigned by someone who knows you better as an individual.

Healing forums

Just as the in-game chat channels are great for discussing the immediate events during a raid, forums can be a place for more distilled reflections on assignments, roles and strategies.

As an officer or raid leader, you could perhaps try seeding discussions by posting template healing assignments for the fights you’re currently working on, and asking for suggestions. Or perhaps asking questions relevant to a healing alt, which can spark discussions. Some of the best class discussions I’ve seen have come from this sort of start, and the key here is to get people posting and building up their confidence.

You could go both ways on making the role forums private to the roles in question or open to the guild, but I’d probably suggest keeping them open, to allow the discussion to be a bit more open and to keep the discussions useful as a resource for everyone’s reference. Questions from non-healers on the forums are less likely to provoke negative or defensive reactions on forums compared to in the heat of a progression night.

Clearly, the success of this one will depend strongly on how active your members are on the forums, so exercise some judgement on this one.

Final point here: if you’re the raid leader or an officer, be sure to publicly notice and appreciate the discussions that take place. To take criticism is to expose a little vulnerability, so some positive feedback will be invaluable; just don’t go so far as to be patronising, people can spot insincerity a mile away.

Don’t blame

I touched on this one earlier when I advised keeping non-healers out of the healing channel, but I want to return to it because it’s so important: don’t refer to healing meters and don’t point fingers at individuals.

First and foremost, healing is a team effort. Someone has to be bottom of the meters, and who that is is likely to depend strongly on the fight and the team composition. Not to mention the fact that healers make many more valid contributions than just their healing output: dispels, buffs, defensive cooldowns, and more.

Linking meters fails to capture the full contribution of individual healers, and can risk characterising your healing team as a set of individuals instead of a single team. Friendly competition is one thing (I used to compete with a fellow priest to get the lowest overheal, back in SSC when it mattered) but generally healer competition is counter-productive, so any signs of it should be strongly discouraged.

But what if something actually went wrong? The tank died, for example. Surely it’s the tank healers’ fault? Maybe.

Maybe the fault is with the assignments and not enough people were assigned to tank healing. In which case the tank healers may have done their jobs perfectly well but not been able to keep up anyway.

Maybe someone just made a mistake. Nine times out of ten they know about it already. It happens from time to time, you pick the wrong person or the wrong spell, you’re on GCD just as the Impale is landing, whatever. For healers the feedback tends to be immediate and very visible, so pointing it out publicly serves no real purpose, and is quite likely to just knock the confidence of the healer in question.

Or maybe the tank should have used a cooldown, or called for one, and actually it’s their “fault”.

In any case, the point is that generally healers know when something didn’t go right, and pointing it out doesn’t really help. It’s far better to ask them collectively what went wrong and get a discussion going. If people feel safe in their environment, preferably that private channel, then they should (eventually) be able to admit they messed something up, or ask for extra help on a target, or even request a different assignment to make them feel more comfortable.
This will become a recurring theme, but early on people may be reluctant to answer these questions immediately, so take one for the team. Point out where you can see a way for you to improve (yes, there will be something, unless you’re in Paragon, and probably even then) and volunteer that. Model the behaviour and show that you’re comfortable trusting them, and in time that trust will be returned.

The other aspect of this “post mortem” is to focus less on what went wrong, and more on what will be done about it in order to win next time. Keep the discussion focused less on who failed and more on what’s needed. For example, if we’re analysing our tank death, move the discussion quickly on from “not enough healing” to thinking about assigning an extra healer or asking tanks for cooldowns.

Take an interest

You can set up the environment all you like, but if you want to get your healers working together, you need to generate some rapport as well. This might be something you do as a raid leader/officer, or you might leave it to the healing lead. I’d suggest a bit of both: if your raiders feel you care about them as individuals, they’re more likely to believe you’ll listen to them and actually value their contributions.

At this point I’ll link out to a post by Tamarind about the culture of “my door’s always open!” and why you need to go a bit further than that in reality. There’s some good nuggets in that post for anyone trying to foster a more open atmosphere.

The short version is that if you want to know something, just ask the question, don’t automatically expect people will volunteer it. And as I’ve mentioned above, if you’re asking people to lower their guard, be prepared to lower yours first.

In raids, ask how people found that assignment. Ask them what they prefer to do. Outside raids, ask them how they’re doing, and take an interest in them as a person. And again, share your own personality, preferences and your shortcomings. This is sound advice for a leader in any capacity, but if you’re actively trying to get people out of their shells and feeling comfortable, you need to make a special effort.

All in all, your healing team needs a level of mutual respect, which can only arise when the person behind the character feels valued and feels that they know something about their colleagues as well. It needs to be truly a two-way street.

Encourage criticism

This is probably best left for a later stage, because opening with this might put people on the defensive and could well be a backwards step. But once you’ve got your healers to a point where they’ve got a safe space and they’re talking to each other and communicating to the raid as a whole, and there’s no undue blame coming their way, you might be at the point where they can begin to criticise each other, constructively and gently, but always by consent.

I know everyone says on their guild apps that they appreciate constructive criticism, but not everyone is quite as ready for it as others. So perhaps put yourself on the line first. People will probably be hesitant to criticise you, and might become defensive if you criticise them, but nothing’s stopping you criticising yourself, laying yourself (metaphorically) bare and modelling how feedback can be constructive and positively-phrased.

Or you could try another approach and post links to blog posts, forum threads and or other information sources, noting how they’ve helped you to improve some aspect of your play. This also allows you to demonstrate that you’re not setting yourself up as knowing everything, that there’s always room for everyone to improve, and it also lets you provide convenient links that people might follow, rather than needing to start their own research from scratch (there’s a lot of WoW information out there, it can be daunting!).

The other thing you might consider, which may or may not be a step too far, is routinely posting links to WoL parses for raids, and allowing discussions on that basis. You’ll usually have a few analytical types in your guild who will find it interesting to go through logs and pull out interesting statistics or find some pattern that you might not have noticed.
You’ll need to be very clear that any references to “beating” others on meters, general epeening or anything else non-constructive will be moderated (and actually follow up on this). You’ll probably get a bit of that, but when it’s routine people will get bored quickly.

The thing is, by publicising things like blogs or WoL parses, you’re making it easier for people to access real examples of others in their role or class, which can make them think and question for themselves. You don’t need to point everything out to people, they’re are always more likely to value and believe what they’ve discovered for themselves.

Once you’ve got to this point, you should (hopefully) have healers who are able to refine their own healing assignments, understand each other to some degree, and with discussions of playstyles beginning to emerge you can see how healers can then begin to predict each other’s actions in a raid situation.


So, you’ve herded all your healers into their own channel (and evicted the mischievous warlock that tried to sneak in, there’s always one), you might have got yourself a healing spokesperson; you’ve made it quite clear that you don’t care about the meters and you’re being very careful to ask the healers if they think they could improve the raid’s situation or how the raid could help them, or what they feel about the assignments and their role; you might have them constructively criticising themselves and others; and you’re taking an interest in them as people, respecting their contributions and personalities and with general respect all round.

What else is there?

Well, it all takes work. Keep plugging away at it, keep encouraging, prompting, supporting the positive behaviours, and moderating discussions if they drift in undesirable directions. And help new joiners to understand how things work and make them feel welcome and comfortable and as unthreatened as possible.


The key points I wanted to raise are the following:

  • Get your healers some safe space – a custom channel at least – and keep it for healers only
  • Allow people to speak their minds. Value their opinions, but keep your own out!
  • Avoid pointing fingers; instead, try asking what went wrong, what would help things go better
  • Find out about your healers’ personalities and preferences and actually value them
  • Always be honest and sincere. The best leaders can always find something genuinely positive to say, so don’t be tempted to fake it, people will tell and there goes your mutual respect
  • If the atmosphere is conducive to it, begin to encourage constructive criticism
  • Always model the behaviours you want to encourage. If you want people to analyse their own performance, hold your own up to examination first. If you want people to ask for help with assignments, let people know when you’re having difficulties as well.
  • Your work is never done, so keep up the encouragement and support

Hopefully some of these tips will be useful. Remember that this is only one perspective, and guilds and raiders are all unique and have their own quirks and preferences, so as with any advice you should adapt it to suit your situation and constantly evaluate it to see if it’s still relevant.

Possibly Related Posts: