Every week, Raid Rx will help you quarterback your healers to victory! Your host is Matt Low, the grand pooh-bah of World of Matticus and a founder of No Stock UI, a WoW blog for all things UI-, macro- and addon-related.
I see a fair number of emails and messages about this topic. Is it possible to heal without using any addons of any sort? Naturally, the default user interface (or UI) includes a limited number of features where this is possible. Is it recommended in dungeons or raid instances? No, not quite. I've seen opinions from some players where they practically insist that healing without addons should be the way to go. Anyone who does use addons is relying on a crutch. I don't think that's quite fair to say. It's not like these addons are scripts or anything that can "think" and heal for you.
When it comes to addons for healing, the biggest factor for us is all about information. With the right information, we can make the right choices which will keep raids and parties alive.
Essential components of a healing UIRaid frames: I don't quite know where to start on the default healing UI so I figured I'd go with the frames first since they're the most important part. The raid frames need to be dragged out and positioned accordingly from the raid window. At a glance, it becomes difficult to see which players are affected by what buffs and debuffs. If we can zero in on a player to see who has a Mortal Strike effect or something, then we can focus increased efforts on keeping that player alive. Healers also come with different preferences. Some players like their frames larger and others like it condensed. The lack of customization kills it and drives us to search for other solutions. It would be really nice if we could see some actual numbers on the raid frames itself (either percentages or absolute health). Grid, Vuhdo, and other raid frames all do the same things. In the end, it's preference. But they all enhance and present key information.
Buffs and debuffs: We don't need to know every raid buff that is applied. They made great strides when it came to compacting various raid buffs into something smaller. As it stands, it looks like we can only see one or the other. On the one hand, I need to know when to dispel something off of a friendly player. On the other hand, I also need to be able to find out when things like my shields or healing over time spells are going to expire. Not only that, in order to see how long is left before my beneficial spells expire, I need to move the mouse over it in my frames. It just isn't really practical for us to mouse over each buff to see what is going to wear off first or stuff like that.
Timers: The introduction of clearer boss emotes by Blizzard has made anticipating phase changes and special boss skills easier. Yet things like timers are an incredible asset when it comes to anticipating when the next super attack is going to land. Sure we can peel our eyes off of the raid for a few seconds while we watch for the bosses hands to glow or for his head to move. In the end, that will fry the mental bandwidth of healers. It would be nice if there was a component where we knew when the abilities of a boss would fire. I don't mean random abilities where the boss just pulls an attack out of no where. I mean abilities that can actually be measured on a timer. It would be nice to know how long before that air phase or how long before they enrage.
I remember over a year and a half ago when my guild was working on Sartharion with his 3 drakes up. I had a hell of a time trying to predict his powered up Fire Breath on the tank who was on Sartharion. Over time, I noticed that his head seemed to "snap" up when he was about to breathe. That was the signal to use a defensive cooldown on the tank. I wish we had a death knight tank back then as it would have made that encounter considerably easier. But having to watch for that head movement, keeping the raid alive, and dodging assorted abilities was pretty darn taxing.
In any case, having timers and advanced warnings of when really important stuff is about to happen would be a big benefit.
Currently, in order to successfully heal challenging encounters without healing addons, you need to be well versed in encounter mechanics, your own skills and everyone else around you within your raid. A bit of blind luck doesn't hurt either. The last time I healed without addons resulted in me coming back after a mid fight disconnect. I was healing the raid as they were taking down Freya. I logged back in without any visible frames. At least my keybinds were still working. I ended up toggling nameplates right away (and believe me when I say that you have never truly healed until you have healed constantly moving raiders while resorting to nothing but name plates for targeting). It didn't occur to me to drag out raid frames, but I was just simply too busy healing to even consider doing that.
It isn't really a crutch to heal with addons. What it all boils down to information presentation. If we can view everything we need, then yeah, I can see healing addons as being completely unnecessary.
I think one day I'll actually give it a try in Icecrown Citadel or some other instance and see how hindered I get. Do addons really make the player? As a healer, what else would you consider extremely important in your addon list? What can you not heal without?
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? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter 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.