An interesting quandary materialised at WoM headquarters last week. How do you raid lead as a new healer? Say you’re that new healer. You’ve been raid leading as a hunter for a while, now your guild needs a healer.
Let’s be frank. As a healer you’re spending most of your raid time with your eyes stapled to the raid’s health bars. Your thoughts are consumed with keeping the bars full and yourself out of the various patches of burny death.
As a raid leader you need to be spending most of your time watching the encounter as it unfolds. The boss, the adds, the players. The stuff healers hear of only as fable. The two roles don’t mix. Right?
Wrong. You can get these two roles to mix to create a fun and workable role. rather like steel and magic mixing to create the glee of downing a boss and seeing that it’s dropped your pixelated holy grail. All it takes is a combination of factors to get it working in your favour.
1. Healer, heal thy user interface
Here’s the catch regarding Ui and addons: you don’t need hundreds. Give yourself enough to facilitate thinking.
- Space.You may feel cluttered or suffocated if your user interface has too much going on. This leads to distraction or panic so avoid it! Keep addons to a minimum and spend some time outside of the raid environment thinking about your UI. Is Grid bigger than it needs to be? Probably. Are your minimap and KG panels stealing screen real estate? That might be fine if you’re comfortable with your role(s) but not while you’re getting used to a new mental environment. Do you have more addons cluttered around central areas of your screen than tucked away in corners? Yep, can’t see the DPSers if I tried. Do you have target frames showing as a healer? Not needed.
- Control. I’m going to assume that if you are a raid leader of a regular group then you actively lead. Get a couple of useful raid leading addons to provide information and keep you in control. Addons like obituary, raidbuffstatus, failbot and skada. Don’t load up on addons or you may start feeling like you’re not in control of the raid. For example, it may take you twice as long to give the go ahead to move because you feel obliged to check 20 new-fangled addons between each pull. Addons are a helping hand for different situations, not a catch-all crutch to excuse you doing the job of leading.
- Don’t do it all at once. Don’t download 20 new addons to try to master the raid leading and then go raiding without trying them out. You’ll get in a tizwaz. Download your new raid leading toys one or two at a time and play with them outside the raid to see if you get on with them. If not, get rid of them and try something similar – there are usually several versions which basically do the same thing, like skada, recount and WoW Web Stats.
- Ask around your guildies, your friends, your realm forums. Look for organised runs (or PUGs with a conscientious healer-leader (rather than loot-bot).
- Watch them and see how they lead. Try to go as DPS so you can see what they miss and think about why.
- If they’re approachable – like a good leader should be – wait until a good moment and ask them if they mind giving a brief run down. Ask how they raid lead and what help they have from other people or addons.
- A good time to do this is during a break or after the run – not after a boss, as they’ll be handing out loot, nor during a fight, as both of you should have your fingers poised over your healing buttons rather than having a heart to heart.
- Your screen. Is it big enough? Healers tend to have more on their screens by nature, what with Grid and whatnot. If you have a small screen things are going to be squished and your eyes and brain will miss things. Check your screen’s contrast and brightness settings, too. Are they high enough that characters are leaping out the screen? If you’re having trouble picking things up as a healer then have your technology help you. These may sound silly but there’s research out there to suggest monitor set up is important. Google for Joel on Software OR Jeremy Zawodny and large monitor.
- Zoom out. No really. Zoom out, you’ll get more on the screen. Either zoom out with your mouse wheel or type /console cameradistancemaxfactor 20
Your eyes are not your only source of information while raiding. I personally find that I still can’t watch everything all the time. That’s fine. Not only that but the pretty health bars tend to be my visual priority both in and out of encounters It’s healer instinct. So I get data and information through listening, and it’s a vital accompaniment to the visual information.
- Your raiders are a goldmine of information. Ask their opinions about what was going particularly well or badly during encounters – whether or not you got the boss down. If you’re a hands on raid leader be sure to consistently make final decisions after a group discussion and let people know the outcome. Just because you’re a squishy healer doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to make decisions as a leader any more.
- Keep tabs. If you have team members who are new to the group or the instance – or have a particular role such as kinetic bomb bouncing on Blood Princes – then try to keep tabs on how they’re doing, both in performance and morale. You can achieve this both by asking one or two trusted raid members to keep an eye on them, and also by having a quiet chat with the player himself. Both methods are likely to give you different answers and as such a bigger picture.
- Instant calls. You’re looking at the pretty bars and don’t know what health the boss is at? Ask one of the DPS for a report. You see on Grid that one of your tanks has too many stacks of a debuff and you need the other tank to come back from faerie land and TAUNT THE NITWIBBLE NOW? You have two dead DPS, the enrage timer is short and you need the tree druid to CR the optimal player? You can make all of these calls and be provided with immediate information.
- Be clear on whom you’re addressing. If possible use voice-chat programs such as Vent. I’d recommend organising it for your guild if it’s not already in use. If voice-chat is off the menu trying pre-typed macros so you don’t have to type mid-fight may help.
You do need to be able to watch the rest of the screen. A few tips for getting used to that:
- Practice. No really, practice. Run some Heroics and focus on watching the characters and the monsters more than the bars. Also try zooming your eyesight out, as it were. Don’t focus on one box, one bar, one character. Try to see the whole screen.
- Practice more. When you’re comfortable with that and bored of seeing the dungeons, take a step up. Heal a couple of raids which are lower level than what you’ll be raid leading. There will be lots more information, DBM warnings and fires to get in or slimes to deliver. Practice the same as you did in the heroics.
- Flexible frames. If you want, you could also move your Grid/healbot/raid frames as near to the centre of the screen as you reasonably can without obscuring your character. Most encounter-crucial DBM warnings and character-movement happens near the centre: it’ll be less distance for your eyes to travel. Don’t get too used to it tho. Your aim is to gradually move the healing frames further away from the centre as you get better at keeping an eye on the rest of the raid.
5. Keep your perspective
- Set ground rules. Do this and you’ve already done 50% of the work for raid leading, with no danger of eye strain. If you tell the group that loot is on a 100-75-50-25 rate and you expect raiders to behave in a friendly and polite manner or you will kick at the first sign of trouble, then you can be safe in the knowledge that you know what you’re doing. Literally. By stating rules and then staying in the raid both you and the rest of the group have agreed that that is how you will proceed, and that you’re respectively cool with that.
- You’re doing an admirable thing. Remember that occasionally. The fact is that you’re willing to lead a team of people in a stressful situation, mostly for the first time. Raid leading in a new role – DPS to healing, healing to tank, whatever – means you’re learning at least some of the art of leading anew. Good on you for doing it.
- What’s the worst that could happen? Serious question. Ask yourself what your nightmare scenario is if you get it wrong. Then ask yourself what “it wrong” actually is. I’d be willing to bet my beak-polish that your nightmare scenario doesn’t lead to a permanent or irrevocable situation, except that you’ll have learnt something. The beak-polish also says that “it wrong” is something in a game.
- Healers are actually in a good position to be raid leaders. The fact that we watch the pretty bars means we are privy to a constant feed of information that other raid leaders don’t have time to watch. A tank probably doesn’t have time to keep track of Curse of Torpor or Death and Decay problems in Lady Deathwhisper. It’s no coincidence that if a raid wipes, raid leaders tend to come to healers first as a source of information.
A lot of these may sound like basic information but when you’re coming to raid leading fresh as a healer, a lot of it is just about thinking. Not as a healer, but rather putting a bit of thought into adapting your playstyle to encompass both healing and leading. Remember that it doesn’t take much to make the two cross: many general raid leader responsibilities like giving tactics or calling heroism don’t change; your role has changed, not the encounter. If you put some thought into helping your own visual centre and talking with your raid and role models you’re halfway there. Practice is the other half.
So, what are your thoughts and opinions? Have you been in this position or are in it now, and how are you dealing with it? Have you already been putting some of these to good use, or have been inspired to try something slightly differently now? Are you a grizzled healer-leader veteran with tricks up your sleeve to share?
This is a post by Mimetir, a druid of a raidleader on The Venture Co. (EU). You can find my twitter feed here.
Article image originally by Jackson Boyle @ Flickr