I hope you're not falling asleep on the job. Is healing getting a bit boring for you? Are you not happy with the way you're playing? Quite simply, the speed at which healers do stuff can lead to raid success or raid failure. Its no secret right? The more things you can do in a minute, the better. For DPS players, this is a fairly accepted fact. The more spells or abilities they can squeeze out, the higher their DPS goes. But what about healers? It all boils down to making the right decisions. Some healers are excellent at healing. Some are excellent at running. There are many that have a problem doing both at the same time.
So this week I wanted to introduce a term called actions per minute and what it means for healers. In the end, its all about being efficient. Are you a healer who waits around for stuff to happen or do you make stuff happen?
The origin of actions per minute started with real time strategy games like Warcraft 3. At the time, players used it as a way to measure their skills. One's ability to do as many things as possible garnered respect from their peers (while players like myself would right click spam the map in an effort to artificially inflate actions per minute because I was naturally bad at it). Having a high APM count usually means that the player knows what to do and how to react in a given situation. It also means that they have the dexterity to pull it off.
So when I'm talking about actions per minute, I'm not necessarily referring to healing per second (HPS). HPS is your ability to jam as much healing per second. For example, a discipline priest would be able to score a high HPS by dropping shields all over the place on a fight with high AoE damage (Val'kyr Twins from Trial of the Crusader comes to mind). Now I don't play a holy paladin very often, but I imagine all they would do to score as high as possible is to beacon a player and smash Holy Light as much as possible.
Keep in mind that the amount of spells and abilities you can do is internally limited by something called the global cooldown.
Why is this important for healers?In any given fight, the raid has a time window to get the boss down before they wipe due to some enrage mechanic or timer.
In an encounter like Rotface, where I need to avoid Slime Spray, I need to focus on moving to avoid that threat. At the same time, I know some of the players around me may get hit or I may get hit once or twice when avoiding it. I could simply run through and then heal. Or I can Renew myself or cast Holy Nova until I don't have to move anymore ensuring everyone in my group gets some heals. By covering my group and myself on the fly, I don't have to worry about healing us when I get to a safe spot. I can then look for new players to heal.
Instead of moving then healing the group, I moved while healing the group.
That's a really simple example though.
Once you get to a fight like Professor Putricide you'll recognize that there are all sorts of things going on at once. Some of the actions taken can't exactly be measured. For example, once we get to phase 2, I'm still firing out shields as a discipline priest. I'm mostly targeting the players that are in melee range just in case they get blasted by those nasty orange vials. At the same time, one eye is intently focused on any oozes that spawn and I'm ready to run away or start chasing after targeted players. Just because your character is limited by global cooldowns doesn't mean that you cannot think ahead to your next actions. Try
What if there isn't anything to do?I'm sure you can find something to do. Pre-cast some spells or pre-heal. You're telling me that you're in an encounter where no one is taking damage right then and there? In most cases, you'll see a timer or an emote that indicates when some attack is going to occur. If you know when a particularly hard hitting ability is about to strike, you can start taking steps. Don't react to the damage that's about to come in. Take steps and face it head on. Let's use the Stinky or Precious example this time. They're the guard dogs in the Plagueworks with a Decimate ability which cuts into raid health by 95% or so. Anyway, your raid has engaged them and its been a while since his last Decimate.
At this point, a cautious holy priest would start casting Renew on the healers and other soft targets (cloth wearing casters or players with low health pools) in your group. Even though the first few ticks of the HoT might go to waste due to overhealing, when the Decimate does go off, all of the Renews you have cast will start becoming active and healing players up. So as your group starts getting gradually healed up, you know that in a few seconds they will not be on the brink of dying. Since you won't have to worry about them, this allows you to cast Prayer of Healing on a different group that hasn't been affected by your Renews.
Never stop trying to get better as a raid healer. A lot of the improvements that can be made on an individual level are often intangible qualities. I know that its hard since healers are ultimately focused on keeping players alive. This leads to tunnel vision and it affects me too. Rotface gives me some serious tunnel vision at times. I've been nailed by 13 Slime Sprays the first time but I'm gradually cutting that number lower and lower as we work on him.
If you really want to stress yourself out, try eating dinner and healing on a progression fight. Here's a tip: Don't eat rice. Getting rice grains out of the keyboard is not fun.
Want some more advice for working with the healers in your guild? Raid Rx has you covered with all there is to know! Need raid or guild healing advice? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and you could see a future post addressing your question. Looking for less healer-centric raiding advice? Take a look at our raiding column Ready Check.