Saving a Blown Pull With Clutch Heals

Saving a Blown Pull With Clutch Heals


It’s just like any other raid night in Naxx. Your group is relaxed amidst some light bantering after a large pull. The healers have about 50% mana left in the tank and can go a few extra pulls before having to sit down and drink again.

Acknowledging the green light, your tank whips out his gun, locks on to a target, and pulls the trigger. Four mobs come rushing at him as a result of his transgression.

Out of the corner of your eye, you notice a raider standing a bit further away from the rest of the group. Suddenly, his Gnomish form is over taken by a large, black figure.

“Shade!”, You hear yourself breathe into the mic, rather forcefully.

To make matters worse, another patrol is about to run into your group.

Another raider curses out loud as you wince.

Turns out he was off target and tabbed to yet another group of trash off to the side and manages to get their attention.

What was supposed to be a routine pull is on the verge of becoming a blown pull.

Oh crap

This is the kind of situation that healers dread. At the same time, this is also the kind of situation where healers excel. Differences between average healers and great healers are easily noticeable.

A blown pull can look like anything. It can involve any number of mobs or any number of players. It can happen at any time. A series of minor and trivial events continue to add up until it snowballs and overwhelms the raid.

Are you ready for high stakes Whack-A-Mole?

Now what?

This is when your brain shifts to high gear and your fingers start to just react on their own. I’m going to refer to this is the APC process.

Assess – The very first thing a healer does is to look around them. Examine the situation by looking at the screen. Get a visual reference on the mobs and see if you can tell who they are running to or who they’re beating on. Ideally, your raid frames will highlight red on players who have aggro. By now, you should have a mental map of what exactly is going on, who is tanking what, and who has pulled aggro with stray mobs.

Prioritize – This is the fun part. You get to decide who lives and who dies. If the players on your raid frames are flashing red, it means they have threat on some mob. If any one of those players is not a tank, I strongly suggest throwing a shield on them right away. After that, you can only pray that they drop aggro or that they live long enough for a tank to pull them off. Keep your ears open for any keywords.

For example, if you hear the word “Challenging”, you better zero in on that tank immediately.

Cast – At this time, you should have an idea of who you’re healing. You should simultaneously be vocal about who you’re healing. It lets other healers know who to heal and who not to. If they know you’re healing Bob, then they won’t waste their time or overheals on Bob. On the flip side, if Bob happens to be that guy that said Challenging, then other healers may wish to jump in on that as well.

That entire process above should take about a second to run through in your head. There’s too many variables to account for so it’s difficult to imagine what you would do under certain circumstances. But sometimes it helps if you think about what you would do in such a situation if it ever comes down to it.

It’s kind of like being in a mall and knowing where the fire exits are in case there’s a fire. Sure you may not need it. But it’s nice to know where they are just in case.

The key here is to be vocal about who you’re healing. Strong communication can turn a blown pull into a salvageable one.

Image courtesy of tvvoodoo

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About Matticus

Matticus is the founder of World of Matticus and Plus Heal. Read more of his columns at WoW Insider. League of Legends player. Caffeine enthusiast.


  1. I remember the first time we killed Gothic in 25 Man and went on to pull 4 different groups in the next room because of positioning. If was very crazy and all the healers were oom at the end. Fun stuff, but when you still have 4 aoeing mobs beating on the tank and it is just you and him it is time to wipe it and run back. I’m sorry, I mean shadow meld and start rezzing.

  2. Nice post. My favorite quote would be:
    “This is the kind of situation that healers dread. At the same time, this is also the kind of situation where healers excel.”
    I think this exactly expresses the mixed emotion many healer go through when seeing such pulls happen 🙂

    I’m rarely vocal on my heals though. We have raidframes to help us there.

  3. I have been there before as well. Fun times!

    However, I would argue that blown pulls are not really a random thing that can happen at any time.

    All of the instances are scripted events in which every mob is predetermined. So, if a pull is blown, then someone screwed up and that can be completely avoided in the future.

  4. These kind of situations are fun and challenging, as long as they happen once in a while!

  5. While true, this is really a problem case, the one advantage you have is that if you survive, there’s a *lot* less trash to deal with. Sometimes these sorts of pulls speed things up, and keep it lively. Sometimes a healer might even slip up and say… faerie fire the next pack knowing that the healers have plenty of mana.

    …. not that I’d ever do something like that.

  6. The room before 4H is pretty much a 3 -4 pull most of the time due to pathing patterns. Only reason we usually dont worry about it is because none of the healers have complained yet 😛

  7. Having played both a healer and a tank in a raid setting, I’m always wary about the C-word. I’ve found that a good aoe taunt requires communication between healers and tanks long before the taunt even goes off.

    My favorite example of AoE taunting was in Hyjal whenever a prot paladin would go down and suddenly 20+ mobs were unleashed on, inevitably, the warlocks. When I had just started out in Hyjal as a prot warrior I had a tendancy, thinking I was this amazing reactive tank, to pop my aoe taunt the moment the other tank went down. Then I’d explode because I managed to grab 3 aboms with the group who chain knocked me down. (I’ve also seen this happen with botched pulls in Military Wing.) After a few similar failures I sat down with my healers and worked out a macro that announces my AoE taunt with my name as well as giving them a few seconds of warning on vent by saying my character name a second or so before actually taunting. Then I’d usually pop a cooldown (almost always last stand, as dodge / block trinkets = fial in the chaos of an aoe taunt) and hope for the best.

    But I’d say the most important piece of advice I can give to anybody who gets stuck in an overpull situation is to be confident and not give up. You’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish even with adds up.

  8. LOL “Shade!!” Hear ya loud and clear on that one.

    These pulls will be very different going forward, the HPS from COH and WG is amazing for recovering from those types of situations. Post 3.08 I see a lot more deaths while healers figure out new ways to save more people on these types of pulls.

    Derevkas last blog post..Derevka’s UI

  9. @Wilgo: Well, all it takes is for one person to be out of position or another person to accidentally pull. Shiitake happens, right? Recklessness isn’t just reduced to warriors.

  10. Euripides says:

    Don’t waste vent bandwidth on saying who you’re healing- you’ll be healing someone else before you’re done saying their name. Instead, get over your addon hate and install something that will tell you when you’re about to double heal a target.

    In fights like this, tanks need to coordinate DPS onto single targets to reduce the amount of raid damage being taken, and vent time is better spent on that than on announcing who you’re healing.

  11. @silvia: That is solid advice. In my experience a lot of times people die on trash is because they accidentally (or willingly) taunt the mobs. Sure they can last a few seconds, but no heals are coming because the healers are all focused on the MT or themselves if the MT died.

  12. @erwyn: Totally on the spot. I think it’s a product of a larger problem which is a general lack of communication between various roles. In most guilds I was in as a tank I found myself the only tank who dared invade the custom healer channel and sometimes I was even met with hostility by the healers for doing it, but I found that having a window into what the healers were discussing, especially after bad pulls or wipes, was invaluable in adjusting my tanking.

  13. My priority has always been tanks > DPS for heals, even before I started dating our MT. 😛

    Those damn shades will do it every time, too…

    For a long time, our warirors had macros bound to the challening shouts so that we knew when they went off, and I love my aggro highlights. The first thing I do after a tank goes splat is swap to the next. Knowing your tanks is important! Even if a DPS gets eaten in the meantime, better to lose a DPS then to lose a DPS AND a tank because everyone swapped to save the aggromonkey.

    Ambrosines last blog post..So You Rolled A Priest…

  14. @Euripides: I disagree. I think healers should take the initiative on this. I never once said I hated using Addons to heal. I also have addons that show me who else is targeting a player as well as addons that show me who is casting what spell at what time. But if I can beat a healer towards it, I’ll do it and signal it accordingly.

  15. Yeah these are the fun bits.

    At the end of the day the healers will be keeping the MT up at all costs, followed by themselves and then the DPS. If the MT dies its all over unless your OT has the AoE taunt from hell.

    Some DPSers will panic a little and open up full throttle. Unless thats on the mob beating on the priests they’ve probably signed their death notice.

    BobTurkeys last blog post..Beware of gearing web tools

  16. Maybe i’m out of the norm but i LOVE this kind of stuff.
    I love the rush when all the bodies are lying around and you are standing there wondering if it’s done yet.

  17. Euripides says:

    @matticus I assumed that you were anti-addon because of comments from the addon post the other day- my apologies if I was off base 🙂

    I certainly don’t object to using vent to coordinate. Assigning priorities or communicating information that’s not available through an addon is a perfectly good use for vent time. What I mean though, is if you’re casting a greater heal on the tank, healbot is perfectly capable of showing that to other healers so you don’t have to interrupt someone saying “all ranged on star” to say “casting another greater heal on the tank”. If the message for ranged DPS is unable to reach your ranged DPS, it will only serve to prolong the fight, and if it’s a clutch situation, that might mean the difference between a wipe or a few deaths.

  18. So, once we pulled a shade randomly out of the blue, and it barrelled toward me. I immediately said “Shadeshadeshadeshadeshade” in about the span of 1 second. It is now known as the “shade alarm.”

  19. So… to the point of you talking in vent about your healing targets..

    There is a system to bind a second talk key to a group that your healers join.
    You can then talk to the healers outside of the main vent convo..

  20. Those moments are really some of the most exciting and when you come through them unscathed are the source of great satisfaction.

    And it takes the whole team to come through them unscathed too – not just the healers pulling off some great clutch healing (not that I think you were necessarily implying this) but also great reaction times and prioritising from everyone.

    As a DPS you want to focus fire to burn the mobs down, be prepared to heal yourself using pots/HS/bandages or whatever since the healers will be frantic and any break you can give them helps. Use your evasion tactics if required and also bear in mind that with massive heals being thrown by your healers they may need assistance from any mobs they gain aggro on.

    If your raid can survive what probably should have been a wipe as a result of some kind of screw up, even though it’s not an event you want repeated, you can feel confident that your group is a team functioning at a high level.

    Jezraels last blog post..Epic flight – old skool style

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