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Raid Rx: The power of audio cues

Every week, Raid Rx will help you quarterback your healers to victory! Your host is Matt Low, the grand poohbah of World of Matticus and a founder of Plus Heal, a discussion community for healers of all experience levels and interests. Catch his weekly podcast on healing, raiding and leading, the Matticast.

I have a hypothesis I'd like to share, and I'd love to hear your take about this in the comments. Healers react better to sound as opposed to visual cues on the screen. We should embrace this. Now, this isn't to say we need to clutter Mumble with various players calling out different abilities. There are a few addons out there (such as GTFO) that make use of sound indicators whenever you're standing in something you shouldn't be standing in.

Healers have a heavy responsibility to:
  • Oversee the raid.
  • Watch the ground they're standing on.
  • Remove or mitigate boss buffs or debuffs.
  • Constantly range check their healing assignments (like tanks).
  • Gauge the timing of mechanics or phases.
  • Used cooldowns (depending who you are).
I'd like to think most of us can handle that simply by staring at the screen. With the assortment of timers and other visual addons, we're exposed to a plethora of information used to feed us information. The sad part is that it can be extremely overwhelming, to the point that we don't know what to do next. That split-second decision could be the wrong move because we reacted to something that wasn't as important. For example, I may have cast Prayer of Healing on the group, but I would not have done that if I had realized earlier that the boss did his super move, causing a death to a tank or another player.

Why verbal signals are frowned upon

We've been indoctrinated from our first raid leaders that our own abilities and survivability are based on individual players. We've been reminded that it is up to us to get our timers and respond to when the next abilities are going to be unleashed.

We could not rely upon other players to verbally notify us at all because it was up to us to just see what was going on and react to it.

Does anyone else use their hearing for anything else? For the most part, we have two senses to work with: our vision and our hearing. We should take advantage of this and utilize both as ways to get information. Until they create a Rumble Pak of sorts for a keyboard or a mouse, we'll be stuck with our two dominant senses. I don't know if it makes sense to me to overload and stress one of our senses. We can rely on our eyes and ears as information conduits. Why not use both of them?

Let's not worry about our sense of smell just yet. I don't know about you, but I can think of a few things I wouldn't want to inhale (like the scent of bear druids and all that fur). Not only that, but our noses would be numb due to all the smoke scents in Firelands.

I digress.

How we can use sound

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I ate two Crystal Prison traps during Shannox because I was so focused on getting into position on the tank that I did not see it spawn beneath me. I was zoomed out. I was making sure that I didn't have line of sight issues. One of the dogs was taken out. Naturally, the healing picked up. In 49 out of 50 tries, I would've spotted it and slammed the strafe key, which would have gotten me free.

If there was a tone or a beep or one of those Star Trek red alert alarms, I would've avoided it handily. So that's my mistake.

Verbal cues can be an asset, but only if used sparingly for really important stuff. The other day, my raid group practiced separating DPS elements and healing elements into different channels. This helped reduce the verbal clutter but allowed the different subgroups to communicate fluidly with each other. The downside was that I had to set up combat resurrections by manually placing myself in different channels and instructing specific players to use them. Thank goodness for two monitors.

Let me offer another positive example. If I'm on the ground healing Beth'tilac, our web team likes to call out when they're about to jump down through the hole in the web. When they announce this, I'll creep closer toward them, land healing spells, and then back off again. Even something as minor as that announcement allowed me to help stabilize their health.

Cooldown usage is another area where communication is important. Generally when I call for a raid cooldown, I'll either receive an acknowledgment or a refusal. Sometimes they'll refuse if they're in a bad position or have already used the ability or died. But that interaction has to be quick so I can move on to the next player down the list in case the first player wasn't able to. RSA is great at announcing this stuff. But sometimes you just don't notice raid chat amidst all the chaos that's going on in the encounter.

Anyway, the bottom line is don't shy away from using sound. Having someone call out a specific ability or phase transition can make life easier for you. Your raid just needs to find the right balance between what they feel is necessary and what can be construed as general chatter that isn't productive. Some leaders might view it as a crutch to call out specific things. Your healers might actually be thankful because it means less eyestrain for them, as they won't have to dart their eyes around as much. Use whatever works!

Need advice on working with the healers in your guild? Raid Rx has you covered. Send your questions about raid healing to mattl@wowinsider.com. For less healer-centric raiding advice, visit Ready Check for advanced tactics and advice for the endgame raider.

Filed under: Druid, Paladin, Priest, Shaman, Raid Rx (Raid Healing)

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