This article has been brought to you by Seed, the Aol guest writer program that brings your words to WoW.com.
Healers have one of the more ambiguous roles in the World of Warcraft. DPS players mostly thrive by topping the damage meters, using the most optimal rotations, glyphs, etc. Tanks enjoy a form of tunnel vision where their task is ever so straightforward and clear. A healer, however, must keep watch on a whole group of individuals, react to their choices and keep the game itself from defeating them.
The worst kind of healer will select one, two or possibly three go-to spells to spam often and early. This player will use healing meters as a measure of success and frequently use them to lay the blame on others when things don't work out. The best kind of healer uses a wide array of abilities at exactly the time required. He conserves mana, keeps everyone alive and even contributes to the raid's overall DPS when possible. The best kind of healer isn't simply the reason you lived; rather, they're the reason things went smoothly.
Many healers rely on mods as they strive for this goal. Healbot, for example, creates a special frame for click-casting. It assigns certain spells to certain mouse buttons by default, making healing a breeze. The chief limitation of Healbot, however, is the link to physical buttons on a mouse and the lack of native support for more than five of them. Without keyboard mods, a Healbot healer is restricted to no more than five heals that are ready at a moment's notice. This player will also need a fair bit of practice to get beyond the defaults of "left click, little heal; right click, big heal." Memory plays a role, as Healbot does little to notify you visually of which keys do which action, especially once you've sized the bars down to the point that you can view the entire raid.
Another extremely popular setup is some combination of a solid raid frame, like Grid, and a more configurable click-to-cast mod, such as Clique. Healers can then establish that certain mouse buttons cast certain spells whenever the mouse is over the player of their choosing. As with Healbot, this kind of setup works best when you remember which spell you put on which button. It feels a bit more sophisticated than Healbot, and chances are you'll want some other raid frames anyway, so it does feel relatively natural to shift in this direction.
Meanwhile, at the bottom of your screen ...
All the while, sitting down there unassumingly are your action bars. These gives you the visual clues that most mods lack as to what is on cooldown and which key corresponds to which button. This bar works after patch day and every day, right out of the box. You can place spells on a bar directly, or you can step things up a bit and employ various macros by placing these directly on a bar. Reassigning a spell or macro is as easy as drag and drop.
The only drawback with this approach is that it will often turn you into a "clicker," and the lag introduced from first clicking on your desired target and then finding and clicking on the appropriate button can definitely add up. This is particularly inconvenient when the game has opted to place fire under your own feet as well as those you need to reach out and save. You begin to feel a bit as if you're playing a pipe organ, and your attention gets split between a very busy screen and the job you've volunteered to do.
A different type of mouse
The fine folks at Razer have developed a product that solves a bit of this issue in a couple of different ways. The Razer Naga is a typical five-button mouse with a not-so-typical, cell-phone-style keypad underneath your right thumb. Razer provides a mod along with the mouse that can reshape your action bar to match the layout of these keys, giving you a visual reminder as to which button has which spell or macro. Their mod can also automatically rebind each and every action bar to a mod-key, such as Shift, Ctrl or Alt, and number combination. You can reshape those action bars as well, and you can position them anywhere on the screen that you wish. Again, you have a solid visual guide as to what exactly Shift 7 will do, for example.
Combining this device with the action bar setup alluded to above can cut your lag considerably and will likely bring more of your spells and macros within reach. You're still in a bit of an unnatural position, however, clicking on the player with your mouse button and pressing the desired spell on the keypad.
Putting it all together
The step that bridges this gap has actually been around for a very long time: the mouseover macro. A mouseover macro will look a little something like this:
/cast [target=mouseover,help] Lifebloom; [help] Lifebloom; Lifebloom
This macro looks like Lifebloom, and it reads that way when you mouse over it. If pressed while targeting someone or without a target at all, it will cast exactly as if you pressed the spell button. If pressed while your mouse pointer is over either a player or an eligible unit frame, however, it will cast the spell on that target instead. After some swift copy-pasting and a little diligence, you can configure each of your targetable spells in this way.
Going back to our Naga setup from earlier, you can now simply hover your mouse over the target in need and press one of the 12 buttons under your thumb. We have now achieved point-and-cast with all the spells and macros your action bars will hold -- without sacrificing visibility.
With a configuration such as this, a healer doesn't need two or three go-to spells; he can use them all, and at a moment's notice. The wide array of abilities that we healers have can finally be fully employed to allow us to raise above being simple fillers of green bars and become invaluable assets to those we support.
It really is a beautiful thing.
Have you ever wanted to write for WoW.com? Your chance may be right around the corner. Watch for our next call for submissions for articles via Seed, the Aol guest writer program that brings your words to WoW.com. The next byline you see here may be yours!