Kurn's Healing Lead Philosophy

Tonight, November 2nd, 2010, Apotheosis will step into ICC 25 for the first time as a guild. Indeed, this will be the first 25-man raid we’ve run together since Naxxramas and Obsidian Sanctum back in February of 2009.

For the first time since then, I’ll be a raid leader in a 25-man group. And for the first time since April or so of 2010, I’ll be the healing lead.

I’m not the most fantastic raid leader. I am, however, a pretty darn good healing lead. I’m good at distributing resources, I’m good at identifying issues the healers may be having and I try my best to assign people based on their strengths both as a class and as a player.

So tonight, I get to test out my healing lead skills (along with the raid leading skills — gah! Suddenly, I’m glad that I did some ICC10s with the guild pre-4.0…) and get to look at (and thus, evaluate) some players for the first time.

While thinking about how I’m going to work things tonight, I thought I’d share a bit about my healing lead philosophy, which seems so different from many others I’ve seen or heard about.

1) Clarity of Instructions. I’m going to give you clear instructions as to who your target is. I will rarely say “you two, you’re on tanks, everyone else on raid”. I will assign you a tank and, taking a cue from my most recent healing lead, if you’re “on raid” I will probably assign you a group or two. If there’s confusion as to where to stand, I’ll assign that as well. (My healers from my Bronzebeard guild may recall the detailed guide I had for where to stand on Freya!)

2) Asking for Feedback. After a new fight (wipe or not) I will generally ask the healers how that was. Was anyone too stressed? Was anyone bored? Does anyone have any suggestions for the next time that would make things a little easier or better spread out? Back when my Bronzebeard guild was learning Yogg, this kind of feedback was invaluable. Same with when my RL friend’s guild was learning LK. Remember that feedback from healers doesn’t mean you have to take their suggestions or anything. It just means being aware of their perceptions of the fight. Remember that sometimes people will see things you won’t.

3) Having a Sense of Humour/Being Understanding. People make mistakes. It’s exceedingly difficult to wrangle 25 people together and do something “right” on the first attempt. The raid group is made up of people, too. I don’t have too much of a problem wiping the first few pulls on a boss, so long as we learn from each mistake. And as long as we’re learning, it’s all cool. If someone stands in fire for the third pull in a row, I’m less understanding. But for the most part, I’m a fairly understanding raid leader and healing lead. Perhaps a little too forgiving, but I don’t want to have an environment where people are afraid. Fear is a terrible motivator. I want to motivate people to do better because they want to do their best for the team, not because they’re scared Kurn is going to yell. (Although when I yell, you better freaking watch out… ;D)

Perhaps the best example of having a sense of humour about things is this one time on Yogg-Saron, where one of our healers didn’t get inside before someone started the fight. I was laughing so hard I was crying, particularly as this priest was using /say to crack us all up. Like /say Knock, knock? and such.

I mean, at that point, you already know the attempt will be more difficult than it should be, and may even result in a wipe, so why not laugh about it?

4) Understanding How the Classes Work Together. This is actually what’s got me a little worried about tonight, since I don’t really feel all that comfortable with the various changes. Obviously, I know how paladin healing has changed and I know chunks about how holy priests and disc priests have changed, but resto druids remain a little bit mysterious to me and I’m basically hoping that shammies haven’t changed much at all. ;)

When approaching a fight, you need to know how to divide your resources, though. Six healers? Who’s on the tanks? Who’s on raid? How do you make that decision? Part of it is what the classes are capable of, obviously. In the pre-4.0 world, you never would have put a holy paladin on anything but a tank (or a single target who is taking obscene amounts of damage). Now, however, druids can do some outstanding single-target healing, so while you probably still won’t want a holy paladin on “the raid”, you can probably put a druid on a tank to help pick up the slack from a paladin’s gimped Beacon of Light, which will allow the druid to help out on the raid as well.

(Probably.)

5) Understanding How Your Players Like to Play. No matter what’s more efficient or what’s “better”, you will undoubtedly run into healers who are not team players and will grumble and complain about how you’re wasting their awesome talents by assigning them to X or Y instead of Z. Usually this behaviour is seen in those who place a great deal of importance on healing meters instead of on their job, which is to keep people up.

If a shaman does terribly at doing anything but spamming Chain Heal, but does BRILLIANTLY at that, then they’re obviously going to be happier spamming Chain Heal and will probably look for ways in order to do that and “cheat” on their assignments. So head it off at the pass and, if you value them as a team member, assign them to what they’re going to do anyways. Of course, if you can swap them out for someone more team-oriented, that’s probably the best choice, but if you can’t (and who has a plethora of spare healers?) then try to work with them.

6) Know What You’re Seeing When Examining Parses. The worst thing to do in terms of evaluating a healer is to look at where they stand on the full report of healing, or even just the boss fights. It’s terrible. It doesn’t take into account anything like movement, assignments, cleansing, etc. What I look at, in order:

a) All healing done during all bosses: Just to get an idea of things. If all my healers are clustered nicely around 15% of healing done, sweet. But they probably aren’t. Looking at this doesn’t mean whoever tops it is godly. Rather, a large spread means that there may be problems in assignments or how the healer followed assignments. It’s telling you what to look at when you look at the individual fights.

b) Healing done on individual fights: Did we lose people? If so, how? Was it DPS failing to move out of the fire or was a healer slacking? Was it a tank death? What was that tank’s healer doing? This is where I get an idea of where the fight went wrong and if it was preventable and what healers were doing at that time. I will dig into the log browser and expression editor here. Was a healer locked out of all their spells thanks to Curse of Torpor and THAT’S why their tank died? If so, it’s a mage or druid or resto shammy fail for not cleansing the curse in time. That sort of thing.

c) Overhealing: Was overhealing a problem? Were people sniping other people’s heals? Overhealing can show if people are respecting assignments or not and can also show you if your assignments aren’t right. For example, if you have 7 healers and all of them have 65%+ overheal, drop a healer!

d) Abilities used: What were the primary spells your healers were casting? Is what they were doing right? Wrong? Unsure?

e) Uptimes: If your paladins aren’t keeping Judgements of the Pure up over 90% of the time during boss encounters, that’s a fail, for example.

7) Communicate With Your Team. If you see issues with your healers, tell them about it! Don’t just assume it’s going to fix itself. And be specific. Don’t be all “yo, dawg, don’t be fail”. Say something like “You know, I noticed that your Prayer of Mending use wasn’t very high, but it’s really something you should endeavour to use on cooldown as much as you can.” Being tactful here is key. And if you don’t understand why they’re doing something, ask them! “Hey, I was wondering, why are you using X glyph instead of Y? I’d love to hear the reasoning. From what I’ve read, X is more efficient, but I’d love to know if it’s not the recommended one!”

Basically, my healing lead philosophy is one that encourages teamwork, feedback, communication and specific instructions. It’s also a lot of work for the healing lead because you have to do your research and talk to your healers, which is something a lot of people don’t have time for, nor do they bother to make time.

I tend to either have the time or make the time for it and all the healers I’ve worked with in this game have noticed it. Trust me, healing leads — that extra five minutes you spend with a healer of yours can be the difference between them thinking you’re a snob who never has time for them or thinking that you’re pretty awesome and you know your stuff.

12 Replies to “Kurn's Healing Lead Philosophy”

  1. From this ex-tree: ask your druids. I think we can do both types of healing pretty well at the moment, but maybe they have preferences. (I don’t like tank healing and I hope I can go on raid healing through Cataclysm…)

  2. (Of course, actually finishing reading the post helps… I see you’ve addressed this in the next point :P I won’t whine if I’m put on tanks, but I’ll love my RL if she lets me raid heal <3 [Of course, in 10-mans healing assignments are a much less important concern.])

  3. Towards the end of my run as a druid, I started to really enjoy tank healing and was actually eager to do it.

    Kind of ironic that the focus to more tank oriented healing in Cataclysm was one of the changes to druids that I was radically against and helped me making the decision to re-roll to a holy priest – lol

  4. It’s posts like this that made me want to join Apotheosis – I can’t wait to start raiding with you guys! You are going to be an awesome leader. :-D

    And yea, shamans didn’t really change, hehe – they get more tools in the 81-85 range, but for now, they play almost exactly the same as before.

  5. The amount of attention and care you’ve put into getting things ready for this raid speaks VOLUMES to me – both about how much you’re invested in the guild as a whole (as a concept, so to speak) and how much you want to help your team be their best. Your PMs to me this past week regarding gear, enchants, gems, trinkets and rings, and general tips for the raid tonight have been INVALUABLE, and the fact that you were the one reaching out saying “let me help you” rather than me reaching out saying “please help me” just makes me that more determined to do my absolute best.

    I’m not sure that you’re going for fierce loyalty to you as a motivator, boss, but it’s a pretty good one, at least where I’m concerned. You’re our Fearless Leader, O Captain My Captain, and I’m going to make you proud if I have to single-handedly down the Lich King himself to do it.

    …Yeah, don’t feel like this is some call for you to be the all-powerful perfect leader, because I know you’re not, and I wouldn’t want you to be, but you’re MY leader. …I make sense. I’m just going to… go over here and stop rambling before you get scared of me. ^^;; Basically, I wanted to to my best anyway, but your obvious dedication and the fact that you clearly give a shit about your raiders makes me even MORE determined. Which means, in my convoluted way, I’m saying that I think your Healing Lead Philosophy is a good one.

  6. I am so jealous of everyone who gets to raid in the kind of structured environment you’re describing, Kurn. My experience with 25s is that nobody gets any direction at all, and so when nobody heals the offtank it’s because everyone assumed somebody else was doing it. The closest I usually get to a healing assignment is who is in/out of the portals on Dreamwalker.

    I had hoped to move up to a more serious guild before Cataclysm, but it seems like I won’t be. I’ll be living vicariously through Apple though. :P So you guys better do great.

    I hope your first raid tonight is a big success. :)

  7. I like the “Yo dawg” part. I’ve never known a healing lead to use that as a means of nonspecific criticism, except, oh wait, yeah… That was me huh. Good story though?

  8. Yo dawg. A leader is to be both loved and feared!

    I must say, handling both RL and Healing Lead is a lot of work. I can only guess healing assignments will get more detailed in Cataclysm raiding.

    Randomly, Mimiron 25 was the most time I spent on managing healers and their assignments. So. Much. Fun!

  9. Jen – hahaha, okay, that was beautiful. :) I really do like to make sure my healers CAN do things they don’t normally do, but I really like to let them do what they like to do. Happy healers are motivated healers.

    Oestrus – I’m too scared to try out any kind of instances on my druid, either as a tank or a healer. I honestly am intellectually curious about tank healing as a druid now (I’m a tank healer 95% of the time as a pally, of course I’m curious about doing it on other toons) but too scared to go try!

    Resto druid or holy priest, I’m just glad you’re still healing and I’m super-pleased you’re healing with us!

    Dahrla – Aw, shucks! :) I hope I’ll be able to live up to that kind of expectation!

    Thank God shammies haven’t really changed much. Whew! ;)

    slice – Thanks, buddy. :D And yep, we had two discs the other night. I thought, again, how much easier things were once you were a regular healer in my last guild. Amazing how much of a difference a good disc can make.

    Miss hanging with you guys, though! <3

    Apple – don’t hesitate to ask for help, btw. ;) I’m just uniquely situated in that I know what you should get/shouldn’t get because we’re both paladins. But if a lead doesn’t check in on their team, they’re not leading right. IMHO.

    … tell me you’re not likening me to Robin Williams. I don’t think I could deal with being that hairy! ;D

    I’m glad you like the philosophy. ;)

    Rhii – We had that problem (people dying due to confusion) wayyyyyy back in BC on things like Gruul, so we learned to adapt to actually giving out instructions. And I’ve never looked back. Now if only I could learn to remember which assignment I’m giving myself…

    It was a great time, thanks! Cleared through Plagueworks. On to Blood Wing and Frostwing Halls tonight!

    Numinous – Dammit, your speech patterns are starting to rub off on me!

    X – Only for a warlock. ;)

    Joe Ego – I’m lucky in that my officers and I had a great rapport in BC and that’s coming back into play for Cata, so I may do “big picture” overviews of bosses, but my officers will deal with trash while I furiously try to distribute healing assignments. ;)

    Tuesday was a little rough and I didn’t get a chance to do too much in terms of specific raid healing assignments. (I hate saying “you’re on raid”, but said it just about every fight on Tuesday.) But it was definitely good to go back in and give some boss explanations!

    Mimiron was NIGHTMARISH for my Bronzebeard guild. Horrifying. The RL had us all spread out by group, so we couldn’t actually cross heal through groups so we pulled in 8 healers and gave two to a group, with 1 single-target healer and 1 group healer. The single-target healer healed the group healer, who healed the group. Nightmarish, but hilarious when I think about it.

    By the way, I love the subtitle on your blog. I went 1-60 holy in Vanilla, and 60-70 holy in BC, then for WotLK, 70-71 holy, prot from 71-73, then ret from 73-77 or so, going holy for instances, and then holy from 77 on. So I hear ya. ;D

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