Kurn's Guide on How to Behave as a Healer in Dungeons

Kurn’s Guide on How to Behave as a Healer in Dungeons

You’ll note that I don’t specify “random” or “heroic” or “raid” dungeons. That’s because I believe that my guide is good for any level healing class in any size of dungeon, be it 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 or 40. It was inspired, of course, by the fact that I’ve done more 5-man regulars and heroics in the last week since 3.3 came out than I have in the previous five months, but there are some good basics here of which all healers should be aware.

Why am I writing this? Because I’ve run tons of dungeons in my WoW career as all three roles (healing, tanking, damage) and every time I’m on one of my toons, there’s always at least one moron who doesn’t know how to appropriately behave in a group. Always. And those are the GOOD groups.

So, from someone who raids primarily as a holy paladin, who runs anything she can with her hunter, who will reluctantly tank as her paladin, who pugs raid content on her resto shammy, who plays a mage in the 70s and has a dual-specced resto/feral (tank) druid in the 70s as well, here’s my guide for healers.

1) Heal. This is a bit of a no-brainer, I know, but a long time ago, on a server far, far away, I used to group with the warlock officer of my guild. Awesome person. Great warlock. She had a priest alt. And she’d levelled the priest shadow. But when she got to 60, she went holy to heal us in 5 and 10 man dungeons. So there we are, in UBRS, doing the Father Flame event and someone dies. “Oops!” says the warlock-priest, “My bad! I forgot to heal! I was DPSing.”

<3 her all day long, but if you’re that kind of a player who primarily plays a DPS class and has a healer alt (or DPS main spec and healing offspec), remember what your role is for the group. If you’re a healer, you heal, even if you’re bored. (I get very bored at times on my paladin and my shammy. So I feel for you. But you still should pay most of your attention to the health of the group instead of what % the boss is at because Murphy’s Law will step in and kill your healing targets while you’re innocently DPSing away.)

2) Heal the pets.
No joke, I’m not kidding, pets are an important part of the group’s DPS and rezzing/resummoning pets can be time consuming for the other players, so make sure that when you’re healing the group, you’re healing the pets, too. 3.3 means pets will be taking a lot less damage now, but it’s still important to keep an eye on them.

3) Prioritize. Basically, prioritizing is the key to healing. Your top priority in a 5-man is the tank — but don’t forget about yourself. If BOTH of you are in mortal danger and you don’t have Beacon of Light up or Binding Heal at your disposal, do what you can — Nature’s Swiftness for both druids and shammies is there for a reason. Remember the age-old saying:

– If the tank dies, it’s the healer’s fault.
– If the healer dies, it’s the tank’s fault.
– If the DPS dies, it’s their own damn fault.

You’re responsible for everyone in a 5-man, but the DPS has to take some responsibility for themselves and the tank has to take some responsibility for you.

4) Know which heals to use. I’m not going to go through the zillions of healing spells available to holy paladins, holy priests, disc priests, resto druids and resto shammies. But suffice it to say, your spec and class abilities give you lots of tools to heal with (yes, even paladins have lots of spells these days!) and you should know not to, for example, use Lesser Healing Wave on three separate people when one Chain Heal will do the job. You should not cast Healing Touch on each group member when one Wild Growth would have sufficed. Don’t drop a 20k crit Holy Light when a 4k Flash of Light would have been fine. Don’t cast Prayer of Mending when your target needs Penance or, gasp, Greater Heal.

But how do you know which to use? Practice. Get used to what your spells are healing for. Turn on combat text and get an idea of the ballpark. Then when you’re healing your group, if you’re using frames that show you the difference between current health and maximum health, you’ll have a much better idea of which heal to use. I strongly recommend Grid and Clique for raid frame addons, by the way.

5) Move out of crap/away from adds. Having said that, if you, as a healer, die because you wouldn’t move out of the fire, poison, void zone or whatever or you die because you let adds beat on you without trying to run to the tank (or bubbling or fading or even shadowmelding), that death is entirely your fault. You’re not a tank. Well, you might be, but not when you’re in healing gear in a healing spec. :P Healing is about being aware of the group and their health — that includes you and your environmental awareness. Don’t be that idiot standing in the fire. (I’ve been there and done that, myself. Not a lot of fun!)

6) Cleanse your group. This might seem like another no-brainer, but you should be dispelling/cleansing everything you can off your group. Your priority is to heal and you might have to heal through a lot of debuffs if they pile up too quickly, but as soon as you can, start getting them off of you, your tank and the group. (Cleansing Totem is probably the best totem in the entire universe.)

7) Buff your group. Prayer of Fortitude, Divine Spirit, Shadow Protection, Gift of the Wild, *Greater* Blessings and group-appropriate totems!

A specific note to shammies: Totems are always a little tricky. If there’s a DK in the group, you shouldn’t need to drop Strength of Earth and can drop Stoneskin instead (or Tremor as needed). If they have a few points into Frost (for Icy Talons), you shouldn’t need to drop Windfury. Otherwise, look at your group composition. If you have yourself and two or more caster DPS, go with Mana Spring and Flametongue, along with Wrath of Air. But if you’re the only mana user, consider Windfury instead (unless already covered by a DK).

Depending on the group, I typically drop Strength of Earth, Mana Spring, Flametongue and Windfury, so that both melee and casters get two of my buffs.

Basically, just be aware of what’s already covered by your group and don’t overlap buffs. :)

8) Use your defensive cooldowns. Priests have Guardian Spirit or Pain Suppression, paladins have Hand of Sacrifice and many have Divine Sacrifice. Use them. They are life-saving abilities. (Tip: Don’t use Hand of Sacrifice without bubbling first and you should still expect to have to heal yourself after Divine Sacrifice if you use it without bubbling.)

9) Inform your group when you need mana. If you actually say in your group chat that you need mana, then when the idiot tank runs in and pulls the boss before you’ve even had a sip of water or nibble of a mana strudel, at least you can be like “OMG WTF I SAID I NEEDED MANA”. Never assume that your tank is remotely considerate of you. And even if you do get a considerate tank, the DPS may not be.

Example: I was tanking Halls of Lightning with a RL friend of mine who was healing me on her priest. We were in the hallway with the statues on our way after the first boss. She hadn’t stopped to drink after the boss or the first wave of mobs in the hall or the second wave (since there was a fear and the hunter got feared further into the hallway for the second group). So, because I know that healer mana is not necessarily infinite, I waited for her to sit and drink as I watched the idiot mage in our group run full speed ahead to trigger the third group.

I almost didn’t taunt off the moron and then said, in party chat, “If we could possibly avoid pulling when the healer’s drinking because she’s out of mana, that would be appreciated.”

So the best way to avoid misunderstandings or bad pulls like that is to announce your status to the party. And I don’t mean by being annoying and typing /oom six times in a row. “My mana has waned!” can only be heard a few times before people start to go insane. :P (Yes, Kylon, if you’re reading, that’s a reference to you and that BRD run from when you apped to Fated Heroes. YERL! <3)

10) Be patient. Easier said than done, I know, healers. But even though you want to use a baseball bat to beat the people you’re grouped with (whether in-guild or a pug — it can happen either way), you need to take a deep breath and realize you’re not going to be stuck healing those morons forever. Dungeons, even the longer 5-mans, take about 30-35 minutes of your time. Raids obviously take longer, but generally have a fixed end time. If you’re sitting there, wiping on Anub’arak on heroic mode for the 38th time that week, take a deep breath, look at the clock and tell yourself you only have another hour or so to go.

11) Resurrect your dead group members after combat has ended and you’ve gotten a bit of mana. Period. No excuse not to. The only time you shouldn’t be expected to rez the dead is when you died. My philosophy is: if your healer has to run, so do you. Of course, if someone has to afk real quick, the benefit of the doubt should be given, but if the dumbass is chatting in group or whatever and isn’t running, tell him or her to start running their ass back to the instance. I have, in the past, back in Shadow Labs, I think, forced the group to wait on a rogue who died and didn’t run back instead of rezzing him. The entire time he was running back, he was arguing with me and I finally managed to get it through his thick skull that his resurrection is entirely based on my kindness and I don’t take kindly to people who don’t even make the effort to run back. (Tip: In a raid situation, rez healers/rezzers first and if you’ve been the recipient of Divine Intervention, ALWAYS rez the pally who cast DI on you first! It’s only polite.)

12) Don’t do too much.
Okay, that’s not a specific thing for when you’re healing in a dungeon. But I had to mention it anyways because healers and tanks can burn out really, really quickly in this game. Why? There’s all kinds of responsibility on their shoulders and people are WAY too quick to judge. Both are thankless roles. In fact, if healers and tanks do their jobs right, no one should notice anything — because people lived and the tanks held aggro. And since healing meters are a terrible way to gauge your performance (unlike DPS meters for the DPS classes), it can often seem like you’re doing your job without feedback or encouragement.

In the past, I have countered this, in general, by not doing 10-man raids. And not doing any 5-mans that frustrate me. Nope, my paladin basically did her 25-man raids and that was it. And then came Emblems of Triumph and I needed a bunch of Emblems to make use of the Trophies of the Crusade for gear. Suddenly, I was doing 10m VOA, 10m Ony and even the occasional 10m TOC/TOGC, in addition to 25m VOA, 25m Ony and the guild runs of 25m TOC/TOGC. Ugh!

Thankfully, Emblems of Frost are only attainable through the 10m and 25m versions of Icecrown Citadel — and the weekly raid quest. And daily random heroics. And there aren’t separate hardmode timers for ICC, so there’s only two raid lockouts for Emblems of Frost to drop. Whew.

So I’m doing four bosses in 25m ICC, four bosses in 10m ICC and the weekly raid quest. The daily random heroics? Well, I keep signing up as a tank *and* a healer, but I have tanked every single random heroic I’ve done thus far: Azjol’Nerub, Old Kingdom, Gundrak, Halls of Lightning, Trial of the Champion, Utgarde Keep, Forge of Souls… I’m losing track of them all, but it means I’m not healing nubs and I’m getting a lot of practice tanking.

So really, that’s not a lot of healing I’m doing on my paladin. Granted, I’m healing daily on my shammy, but she’s not doing any ICC yet and has, like the rest of my toons, stopped running Onyxia and VOA (at least until the new VOA boss comes out). I’m reserving ICC for my hunter and my paladin right now, so that’s not any extra healing.

I know someone who, I kid you not, was healing both Ulduar 10 and 25 on two toons every week, in addition to healing Sarth3D 10-man zerg attempts, plus VOA on both 10/25 on both toons. That was too much healing for her. Even half of that is too much healing for me and too much healing for most sane people. There’s just so much time that you can spend healing up other people in any given raid week, IMHO, and the further you stay back from that limit the more you’ll enjoy the time you ARE healing and the less likely you will be to burn out. Everyone’s limits are different and you should be aware of when things are starting to feel like an obligation instead of a fun part of a game.

Anyways, all of that said, healers, even you part-time healers who are discovering healing through the new 5-mans and random dungeons, thank you for your dedication, for being the ones who choose to clean up after everyone’s mess. There are never enough healers and *good* healers are extremely rare. So I hope that this guide has helped you out a bit and that you know that you’re appreciated in general for the choice you’ve made to heal through portions of this funny little game we play.

5 Replies to “Kurn's Guide on How to Behave as a Healer in Dungeons”

  1. As a noob healer, this was… well, mostly stuff I already figured out or guessed or knew from knowing healers, but it was still very helpful. I like the “If the healer runs, you run” rule, and am going to create a macro so I can just hit it if anyone tries to pull that shit with me.

    I’m really enjoying reading your blog, tbh (and I know this is an old post, but… well, this is a good post) and I’m so glad I’ve found that there are useful WoW blogs out there. ^_^ It’s very helpful. And entertaining.

  2. This post is even older now, but I too would like to thank you for this.
    Yesterday I did a dungeon for the first time ever (at Level 73!!) and chose the role of healer as I’d been pretty good at in in PvP.
    Unfortunately my total lack of experience and knowledge did not go down well. I made most mistakes that you mentioned! First, ran out of mana very quickly by probably doing bigger heals than I needed to, and didn’t state the lack of mana out loud. The tank died and I didn’t realise I could resurrect them.
    I stated my apology at running out of mana but I was ignored and everyone left me alone in the dungeon. Not a good start. I’m very glad to have read your comprehensive advice though, I know exactly where I’m going wrong! (although I will need to get my confidence up before trying that again).

    (btw, don’t ask me why I hadn’t done a dungeon until level 73, I have no idea :S lol )

  3. I started playing wow a few weeks ago because my friend introduced me to it.. so far I’ve loved the whole thing but I’m trying to get into dungeons as a healer and i just can’t figure it out… I’m playing as a Druid and I know how to use the rejuvenation spells on myself but im not sure how to use them on other people… I’m level 29 and I dont really want to go into another one unless I know how to work it out… please help :)

  4. Moksa – Wow, I’m amazed this came up in a search for you so many years after I wrote it.

    To heal someone else, you want to click on them as your target and then press a key that corresponds to the heal you want on your action bar. There are some very advanced methods, but that should help you out. When you join a party, on the left-hand side of the screen, you’ll see all the other player names (and what their health, mana, rage, energy, etc looks like). Simply click on one of them, then hit the button on your action bar that corresponds to the heal you want to use. At level 29, you should have… oh dear, it looks like it’s just Rejuvenation and Healing Touch.

    Well, that makes things pretty simple. Use Rejuvenation for light damage and use Healing Touch for people who are under about 50% health.

    You should always keep a Rejuvenation on your tank while in combat.

    Hope that helps! :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *