Topping Meters vs Assigned Role

Ask the healing community what they think about healing meters and you’ll get a varied response. Some people swear by them and attempt to dominate the healing charts or rank on fights through World of Logs (usually recent converts from DPS roles to healing). Other folks see them as a tool to measure spell usage and the overall feel of healing for a fight, not really caring what the overall numbers say.

Recently there has been a resurgence in the camp of people that evaluate healing based on nothing more than the number on meters and logs. While normally this is relegated to what I like to call “outsiders looking in”, or rather non-healers attempting to evaluate healing, it has become an increasing point of measurement amongst healers in Cataclysm. It is with that in mind that I bring up the age old question once again; what is more important,  topping meters or performing well in your assigned task?

Top O’the charts to ye

There are a group of players that care only about the numbers, and only care about how they rank in relation to one another. They have an inherit need to be the top dog, the big boss, the head honcho of the meters. This is because they equate larger numbers with success. For DPS there is some merit there, and having that competition between DPSers can help push your raid’s DPS to rather insane numbers. Sadly though, this doesn’t work for healers or tanks quite as well. Being concerned with topping the charts can lead to some unfortunate happenings.

The most notable effect is that people who tend to heal with the sole intent of hitting the top of the charts tend to run on E longer than other healers, and sooner. They waste more consumables and waste more raid resources like Innervates, or force earlier Mana Tides just to keep going. The wasting of resources can lead to trouble for other healers down the line, and can jeopardize the raid as a whole. A second effect is that you tend to snipe heals from other healers. This means an increase in over-healing and a waste of mana. Every time a healer snipes a heal from another healer, you’re basically denying them the effective healing for mana spent on whatever spell was about to land. Lastly, you have the potential to spread yourself too thin, which can result in a dead raid. Topping the meters on a wipe, well it’s still a wipe.

…narrow of purpose and wide of vision

Another group of players follows their assignments with slavish devotion. They latch on to their healing assignment, and even when they can see other people in need of help do not deviate. They put on healing blinders as it were. This can cause just as many problems as people who try to hog the healing glory. A tank healer may keep the tank alive, but may end the fight with a full mana bar, where other healers may have struggled and ended the fight with no mana and a list of dead that shouldn’t have been dead. The raid healer who focuses on nothing but the raid, but ignores the tanks could see a dead tank.

Locking yourself into one tiny aspect can turn you into a dead weight that brings the raid down with you. If you and your assignment are the last ones standing, and everyone else in the group is dead because you couldn’t deviate from the plan slightly or adjust, well you just doomed them all.

The Question, the answer, and the in-between

Would you rather 1. Follow your healing assignment or 2.  Show up at the top of the healing meters ?

I posed this very question on twitter to see what type of response I would get from the healing community. Seems like both sides of the coin are tainted so to speak doesn’t it? The question is in and of itself a trick. Both answers are wrong. Adhering to a narrow view of the raid can be as bad as trying to garner meter glory. I was pleased that almost everyone responded with the correct answer, adapt.

While healers shouldn’t be concerned with their placement on the meters so much as making sure they are putting out the healing relevant to their current raid content, they shouldn’t abandon their assignments and just do whatever they want. Raid leaders and healing leads assign people to certain tasks for reasons. Whether it is to coordinate defensive cooldowns on a fight or to make sure the healing load is even, they (hopefully) have the best intent for the group and know what they are talking about. That said,they expect you to adapt to the situation around you and help out as you can. Don’t try to be the hero, trust your teammates, but keep an eye out on what’s going on.

If your healing assignment is stable and you see a problem area that needs a little TLC, help. If you are in need of a little help in your task, ask for it. If you don’t agree with your assignment don’t ignore it outright, talk with the heal / raid lead about it and see if you can make a better plan. Our job as healers is to deal with some of the most difficult things the game has to offer. We have to adjust to fluctuating damage, mix ups, mistakes all while dodging fires, void zones, raid bosses, and rabid hockey fans. You have to stay on your toes and be aware, and be prepared to adapt.

Screw the meters, our job is to make sure that we worked as a team to keep the raid alive through the encounter as best we can. You do the task assigned to you, and once your stable and comfortable you branch out if you can and help sure up the sides. To give you a perfect example, we had an encounter where a raid cooldown went off early due to a miss-click. One of the other healers immediately stepped in and filled in out of his normal sequence for cooldowns to cover the miss-click, without being asked to. The healing team was able to adjust and it literally saved the encounter. It’s all about balance in the end. You do what you can to help out the raid without trying to be a hero. I encourage you to throw meters out the window and focus on survival, survival of the raid, of your assignment and of yourself. THAT is what you should be worried about. You show me a parse where you pulled 32k HPS on a H- Chimaeron wipe, and I’ll still show you a wipe. If people try to evaluate you purely on your meter rankings rather than looking at everything you do, ignore them.

What Can Healing Meters Tell You?

What Can Healing Meters Tell You?

meters
The conflict over healing meters is an old topic, on this blog, the WoW healing forums, the PlusHeal forums, and, for many of you, within your own guilds. While it’s widely accepted that meters are one of the best tools dps players can use to analyze their performance, the usefulness of meters when it comes to healing or tanking has always been in doubt. The official line from Ghostcrawler is that meters can’t tell healers very much about their own effectiveness. The following story is a tidbit taken from a forum topic on Shaman PvE healing. I first read it, however, in a repost on my own guild’s site. It seems that whenever the developers comment on healing meters, people take notice. Ghostcrawler says:

We were talking about healing this very fight [XT hardmode] just yesterday. One of the designers had an interesting experience. Their first Holy priest had much larger healing (total and effective) on the fight than their second Holy priest, so they asked the second priest to go Shadow. They kept wiping. They then swapped them, and made the star Holy priest go Shadow. The second Holy priest’s healing was much lower, but they won on the first try. The second priest just had better timing and cast the right spell at the right moment, even though his total and effective healing was lower overall. The moral of the story is meters are very useful, but like any tool, their ability to measure what happens in reality has limitations. In my experience, players put too much emphasis on them, especially for healing.

I have to say that GC’s Tale of Two Priests seems apocryphal to me. As my guild members pointed out in our website discussion, this is an odd situation that we can’t really imagine in any of our raids. It seems–to us anyway–that there’s not enough information here to judge what really happened. One of my guildies suggested that maybe the “star” Holy Priest was also really good at Shadow, and that seems pretty reasonable to me. However, what’s clear is that Ghostcrawler–who, let’s face it, has more information than you or I do–thinks people put too much emphasis on meters.

The truth of the matter is that healing meters CAN tell you a good number of things about a healer’s overall effectiveness. The trick is learning to read them with a critical eye. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll tell you that I probably like and use healing meters more than most healing bloggers I read, and certainly more than Ghostcrawler. However, in my own guild, I’m usually in the anti-meters faction. Ironically, our guild’s biggest advocate for healing meters is not himself a healer. There’s no guarantee that a guild’s leadership will be healing-savvy, and the points in this article should help raiding healers enter into an intelligent discussion with even the most determined meter-maid of a raid leader.

In this article, I’m going to go over a few things that healing meters CAN and CANNOT reveal about your guild’s healers. I would never, for example, promote or dismiss a healer from my raiding corps based on meters alone. However, if I were evaluating a new healer, I would expect the different logs to be able to tell me a certain amount of things. At certain points, I’m going to be referring to the combat log parsers I’ve personally used, including WWS, WoW Meter Online, World of Logs, and of course, the ubiquitous Recount. Each of these programs displays the information differently, and some are more nuanced in their presentation than others.

What Meters Reveal

Who won the meter?
Did you win the meters last night? If you can answer this question, as a healer anyway, you don’t know how to read the meters. In the above screenshot from WoWMeter Online, it might look like Kaldora “beat” Mallet on the meters…until you notice that Mallet is a discipline priest and, as such, his primary ability doesn’t even show. Essentially, when you are looking at any combat log statistics in any form (even scrolling through the log itself), what you are doing is reconstructing the raid from perspectives other than your own. It’s a bit odd, like watching a home movie of yourself. Just like the camera’s lens, the log parser has a limited view of your actions. It collects statistics, and these tend to be fairly accurate, but you have to do the evaluation yourself. I read a combat log parse critically, and the following are the questions that the statistics can help me answer.

1. What were the healing assignments?
As a rule, tank healers place lower on the meter than raid healers. That’s just how it is–unlike dps, who can do infinite damage, a healer can only put out the numbers in response to damage. The more targets, the higher the ceiling. When I look at a breakdown for a particular fight, I can reconstruct the healing leader’s instructions to the raid pretty easily. The “Breakdown” section of WWS or “Who Healed Whom” section of WoWmeteronline will tell you for certain where people spent their time. However, for the most part I can reconstruct who did what just based on percentage of healing done and spell choice. When I have a new recruit in the raid, I use the meters to check if she’s been following instructions.

2. What is a player’s rotation?
If you’re a longtime healer, you might think that you don’t have a rotation. You just do what seems “natural,” right? Healing might seem like a mysterious force that arises out of the aether, but in fact, every healer has a rotation, either explicit or implicit. It only seems that there’s no rotation because you’re not mashing 1-2-3-3-3-3-3-4-4-4-4-4 like a Moonkin would (and let me tell you, the rare times Matticus lets me play laser chicken I need serious help from Squawk and Awe to get the 3′s and 4′s at the right time). Healer rotations are not necessarily set; rather, they are a series of if-then statements. If X kind of damage occurs, the healer casts spell Y. Some healers have a more explicit rotation than others. Druids are the most like dps in that our healing spells set up combos. 3X Lifebloom is a component of a rotation, as is a HoT setup for Nourish. And that 6-second cooldown for Wild Growth or Circle of Healing? That little piece of timing contributes to the development of a rotation for Resto Druids and Holy Priests. I don’t know about the rest of you, but whenever I’m raid healing, I’m watching my Wild Growth cooldown like a hawk. I know the number of casts I can perform before it’s up again. Every single class has something they do pre-emptively. For Healadins, it’s Bacon of Light and Holy Shield. For the Resto Shaman, it’s Riptide.

After long practice, these routines become automatic. The muscles are quite literally faster than the brain, and before you know it, you’ve hit Rejuv-Rejuv-Rejuv-Swiftmend-Wild Growth without once stopping to think about it. My favorite section of the log parsers are the spell breakdowns. On WoWMeterOnline, I particularly appreciate the pie chart of my abilities. I love the fact that I can compare two sets of statistics–the proportion of spells I actually cast (the pie), versus how much effective healing those spells accomplished (the column). This feature lets me amend my rotation. If I’m casting something too much and not getting enough effective healing out of it, I can alter that pattern. I can also compare my spell choice and cast ratios to other Druids. I’m never the best one out there, and I know it. If I think someone put in a stellar performance on a fight, I try to learn from it. If I see a Druid do particularly well in a fight using 15% Nourish, I’ll make a conscious effort to use it the next time.

The following image is the breakdown of my own abilities during a Mimiron fight. From this chart, you can reconstruct my rotation. It appears to be very heavy on Rejuv and Wild Growth, probably during the raid healing portions of the fight, with Lifebloom and Nourish used much less (probably mostly on tank targets in P1 and P4).
spell choice

Here is the WoWMeterOnline pie chart for a different Mimiron fight. Even pre-4pc bonus, I’m still getting more than my money’s worth for Rejuvenation. It accounted for 23% of my casts but did 38% of my healing. Nourish, on the other hand, is a relative loser, being a fairly large portion of my casts but a fairly small portion of my healing done. To some extent, this is just the nature of the two spells, but on this particular fight, HoTs are king. Rejuv doesn’t look nearly as good on a fight with less predictable AoE damage.
healing pie chart

3. Did something go terribly wrong?
If you’re accustomed to reading log parses for your guild, you can start to separate the wipes from the successes. Particularly if a wipe was blamed on healing failure, I urge you to go through the parse for that attempt. For this purpose, I find the death log and the Who Healed Whom? sections to be most useful. If you have a healer who repeatedly dies to the same (avoidable) boss ability, that information may help you improve your healing corps. I find, however, that most healing fails have less to do with healers standing in the fire than with healers deviating from their responsibilities. If you lost a tank on an attempt, go look at what your tank healers were doing. In particular, a little statistic called the Focus is helpful for this. If a tank healer has a high focus, that means they are healing randomly in the raid–i.e. diverting attention from their assigned tank. There are many reasons healers do this, but I’ll tell you, most of them have to do with a desire to look better on the meters. I’ve done it myself–looked away from the tank for one moment because I thought I could–and boy does it feel bad afterwards when that little innocent raid heal causes a wipe.

4. Which healer–allowing for class, spec, and assignment–contributed the most on a particular fight?
This is the moment where you really get to compare. You won’t necessarily be able to do this on every fight. Healing corps tend to shift about a bit, as healer turnover is always pretty high. However, on the occasions where you have two holy priests, you can compare them if and only if they were given the same assignment. If you are a healing lead, and you have a new recruit, try to assign them to the same thing as one of your veterans. This is most useful if you can pair them with the same class, but if that isn’t possible, try to match their role as closely as possible. You won’t get anywhere comparing the numbers of a Resto Shaman and a Resto Druid, even if you assign them both to heal the tank. However, if you assign your Resto Shaman to tank healing, you can compare his or her numbers to a Holy Paladin. It might not tell you much, but at least you can see which one kept a tighter focus on their tank or did more healing on that one target. If you do get the magical situation where you can compare raid-healing Resto Druid to raid-healing Resto Druid, you can actually pick a winner. Try to use your knowledge for good and not evil. If you have a new recruit who has some learning to do, encourage them to adopt spell choices more like your veteran. I do urge you to have several parses before you make your recruit change things. What the parses can’t do on their own is tell WHY one player “won” the meters.

5. How much of a role did heal-sniping play in a particular fight?
Ah, sniping. Whenever someone “loses” the meters and others make a big deal about it, there will be talk of sniping. The rather ugly word “sniping” indicates the practice of sneaking around on one’s healing assignment by spot healing other players. To some extent, sniping is something that can’t be avoided. If players are assigned to raid healing, those assignments have to be loose in order to let healers react to the actual damage that goes on in the fight. Even with mods, it’s sometimes hard to tell which raid members are about to receive a needed heal. As a healing leader, just understand how raid heal sniping works against certain classes. Circle of Healing and Wild Growth, due to their “smart” nature, can’t be kept to a neat assignment. These spells will “steal” some heals from your Resto Shamans. If you know that, you know to calm your shamans down when they’re worried. It’s just something that happens–so don’t demote your Shamans or overly praise your Druids. That’s just how the mechanics work together. Believe me, you need every competent healer you have–a raid is not a game of Survivor. If you want to minimize raid heal sniping, I suggest giving your healers proximity-based assignments. Our Mimiron strategy is a good example–we assign healers to quadrants, and as we’re spread out in a ring for P1, P2, and P4 of the fight, healers can’t reach across the room to snipe from their fellows. However, when you’re all clumped up, snipe happens.

Raid heal sniping tends not to affect the outcome of a fight, but the same cannot be said of sniping while tank healing. Sometimes tank healers need a little support. While a HoT or two from a raid healer on a tank is technically sniping, it’s usually helpful. After all, if the tank dies, you’re done, and extra insurance is not a bad thing. However, when your tank healers sneak heals onto the raid, it’s not always so helpful and it sometimes gets the tank killed. However, in some sense we are set up to do just this. I know that in particular, Holy Priests and Resto Druids can (and sometimes should) sneak a few Circles of Healing or Wild Growths on the raid while they’re tank healing. The trick is to have a realistic sense of how often you can turn away from your focus and for how long. I know the couple of times in my healing career I’ve caused a tank death because I’ve been sniping have been moments of intense shame and regret. If you have weird tank deaths in your raid, go check out healers’ focuses. That should tell you if sniping is the cause.

6. How do the healing classes differ from each other?
Whenever I look through a log parse, I’m struck by just how different the four healing classes are. I especially like to look at players’ spell choice. Some, like Holy Pallies, will show a lot of casts of the same thing, while others, like Holy Priests, will show a variety of abilities. This helps me reconstruct what healing was like in a particular raid. When you’re reading those meters, particularly a simple meter like Recount, you should know that “winning” those meters is linked to class and spec. If I’m looking at Recount, especially one that hasn’t been reset for a certain fight but rather has been running all night, I’m probably going to see either a Resto Druid or Holy Priest on top. That’s just what happens–it doesn’t mean too much. The meter is not a perfect measure. It sees a limited amount of information. It can’t tell you, for example, just how important your Pally’s tank heals were. All it can tell you was that he put out less raw healing than your raid healers. Even on the same assignment, your Resto Shamans, Holy Pallies (unless you have no Ret Pally and your Healadin gets to cast Judgment of Light), and Disc Priests will almost always be lower down. This is just how our spells work together, and it doesn’t make Pallies or Shamans bad. Also, if your raid is melee heavy, you might sometimes see the Ret Pally sneak up the meter with just Judgment of Light. However, this doesn’t mean that you should make your Holy Pally go Ret because Ret’s healing is “better.” Believe me when I say that Judgment of Light alone won’t heal your tank.

Why Do Some Players Place Higher than Others on the Meter?

Even when class, spec, and assignment are the same, players’ numbers will vary. Many people would claim that “skill” determines placement, but it’s only part of the truth. That sort of answer contradicts GC’s anecdote and gives healers a sense that they can’t improve, no matter what they do. However, there are usually resolvable issues that determine effective healing. It’s not all reaction time or “innate” gaming ability! As a 30-year old woman who didn’t grow up playing video games, I wouldn’t stand a chance if it weren’t possible to learn better healing techniques. However, I find myself on the top of the meters from time to time (and also…on the bottom). This wouldn’t happen if it weren’t possible to change my performance through effort.

As a healing lead, I’ve read a lot of meters. In my mind, the following are the most common reasons for meter differences between players.

1. Casting speed. By “casting speed,” I mean the rate at which the player queues up a new spell once the old one casts. This is the magic of reaction time. It’s hard to learn, but faster casting is supported by Quartz, readable raid frames, a faster machine, gear (especially haste), talents, and little things like a Tuskarr’s Vitality enchant to boots. It seems silly but yes, faster running almost always means more time to cast.
2. Talent choices. Sometimes there are many correct builds, but there is usually one best one for certain raid functions. The “best” build can depend on what the person’s role in your raid is. If your recruit will primarily be a raid healer, she might want to adapt her talents to reflect that.
3. Spell choice. What you cast is just as important as how often. There’s no “right” answer, but there are better and worse choices. A heavy use of Nourish with no HoT support is an example of a poor choice. To make intelligent choices, read your blogs and Elitist Jerks and try out different things in raids. If you’re a healing lead trying to diagnose problems, try to find an “ideal” spell cast ratio to suggest to the healer in question from a reliable source. Usually, finding an “expert” in the class to talk to is quickest and easiest. When in doubt, email a blogger! You might just get a whole post in response.
4. Gear, gear, GEAR. I can’t overemphasize what a difference equipment makes. Sure, there are prodigies of healing out there that can outheal me in their Naxx gear. Don’t expect your recruits to be among these magical beings. Amazing reaction time is rare, and it can make up for gear deficits. However, for the rest of us, properly maintained equipment with the right stats, the right gems, and the right enchants is one of the major things we rely on to put in a good performance.

Wrong Ways to Use the Meters

If you’re in charge of a guild or healing corps, please do not indulge in the following meter-related Healing Destructions.

1. Looking exclusively at total healing done for the whole night
I hate it when people post their Recount for a four hour raid. Every fight is different, and many players respec to different roles throughout the night. Moreover, assignments differ from fight to fight. If you’re number 1, try to restrain the need to pat yourself on the back. If you’re number 7, you don’t really need that box of tissues.

2. Looking exclusively at HPS
HPS graph

HPS varies wildly by class, assignment, and fight. After all, you need damage to happen before you can heal. Here is a World of Logs chart showing my guild’s healers’ HPS for a whole night. What useful thing can you glean from that? Um, overall HPS is higher when heroism is cast? Big surprise there. If you’re in charge, don’t make your healers paranoid about HPS. They’ll be afraid to CC during trash, and they’ll snipe more during bosses.

3. Comparing apples to oranges
If you’re going to pick “winners” on the meters, make sure you’re looking at the same thing. The values for class, spec, and assignment need to match. Also, be really careful if you’re comparing your guild’s parse to another guild’s. You don’t know how they do things or how good they are. Judging your healers by an arbitrary external standard isn’t necessarily meaningful. For an example of this type, before we killed Vezax, our raid leader was outraged at the healers because we needed Saronite Vapors to stay in mana. He was looking at a parse where almost no one in the raid took damage and where healers used no vapors. It took me about ten minutes of staring at the report of a “better” guild with “better” healers before I realized that all these (failed) attempts were tries at HARD MODE. You have to walk before you can run, people–comparing your guild to the “best” guilds in the world is the Path of Anguish. The reports reconstruct the raid, but they are at best a distorted mirror. If you’re going to look outside the guild for comparisons, try to find a guild that’s similar to yours that’s working on the same goals.

4. Hiring and firing based on the meters
Everyone wants something concrete to rely on when they have to make a tough decision. Just don’t succumb to this pressure. If you have a borderline healer, watch her DURING the raid. I sometimes keep new healers as my focus so I can see what they’re doing. Give your newbie tough assignments and see if people die. These things will be more meaningful than saying: “You’re number 6 on Recount, so you’re out.”

5. Encouraging meter-based competition among your healers
The more the leadership emphasizes meters, the more your healers will respond. No one wants to be voted off the island. Instead of becoming better players, your healers will start ignoring their assignments, sniping, and whining. You really do not want this. Your healers are supposed to be a team.

Conclusions

Yes, healing meters can be useful. If you have access to log parses, you can certainly learn from them. As an individual, you may be able to tweak your performance. However, naive uses of the healing meters can cause mischief and pain. Reading a meter intelligently is a difficult skill to learn, and if you’re in a position of power, it would be in the best interest of your guild if you interpreted the meters as thoughtfully as possible. There’s no magic stat that you can read to tell if someone is good or not.
Sydsignature

Healing Assignments for Resto Druids

Healing Assignments for Resto Druids

broccoli-banner

Perhaps more than any other healing class, Wrath of the Lich King has revolutionized the way druids heal. I’m going to take a bit of a look back to where we came from as a way to help understand any troubles druid healers might face at present when we try to figure out what our role in raids should be.

Back in the “Good” Old Days

I came of age as a healer during the BC raid content, and I think part of me will always missing rolling Lifebloom stacks on four different tanks during the Hyjal trash waves. Lifebloom spam may have been widely criticized, but at the time it was effective and felt very dynamic for the player. The timing was tight enough to require tank-specific macros, which I miss, because I could always change their icons to a pig whenever I got mad at them (sorry, Brio). However, when healers argue now that they don’t want to be locked into a rotation, they’re probably thinking of something like old-school LB rolling with horror. That was a rotation, all right–but it left me dizzy. I had to keybind Lifebloom twice–both to my mouse clickwheel and to F. The “F” was for when I needed to refresh while turning with the mouse. At the time, there was no way to increase the 7 sec Lifebloom rotation, and the penalty for letting the stack fall off was fairly severe. I never ran into mana problems, but sometimes the tank would take more damage than I liked if their stack slipped off, and I had few ways to play catch-up. If one tank’s stack went, then most likely all four would.

Even some boss fights made Lifebloom spam worthwhile. On Illidari Council, I used to assign Bonkers to roll LB on three tanks, giving him 1 GCD per cycle free to do “whatever he wanted.” Let me add that the healing buffer Bonkers provided to three of the tanks won the fight for us on more than one occasion. Why did I give the assignment to Bonkers and not myself? Because Bonkers is quicker than me. My assignment, keeping up the group on Malande, was a lot easier. The odd thing is, these kinds of assignments seemed great to Resto Druids at the time–1 GCD free? That’s amazing.

Now that I think about it, the Good Old Days don’t seem so great after all.

Broccoli, v. 3.0

Patch 3.0 brought new tools for the druid healer, offering flexibility where before we had none. However, it strikes me that many Broccoli Stalks might be a little bewildered by all our new toys. And if we’re confused, imagine what it’s like to do healing assignments for a resto druid these days. A few days ago I came across this topic on PlusHeal forums, posted by Siha of Banana Shoulders:

So, I’m the healing lead for my guild, and it usually falls to me to do healing assignments.

I’m having some trouble deciding how best to make use of resto druids. I know in TBC I always used to use them for a multi-tank assignment, keeping a bunch of people hotted up with Lifebloom, but I’m not really on top of all the resto druid changes in WotLK yet.

The talented Siha, as always, gets right to the point with her post. I replied in the topic, but I think that the question has enough merit to warrant a full-length post.

So, what do we do with the newly-versatile druid? After looking at my own performance and those of my Cruciferous Vegetable buddies in Conquest, I am convinced that Resto Druids can be assigned in two different ways for Wrath content. I’m going to showcase a couple of meters-topping druid performances to show just how versatile trees are these days

Raid Healing

This assignment is the most obvious for a resto druid. Wild Growth, due to its higher total healing and it’s status as a heal over time spell, suffered less from the recent nerf than Circle of Healing did. With Rejuvenation, Wild Growth, and perhaps a glyphed Healing Touch in the mix, druids have a powerful toolkit to deal with raid damage.

Let’s take a look at the meter breakdown from an expert druid healer on Gluth, which features heavy raid damage:
s13-meter

Now, the meter % alone might not mean much, but let’s factor in healing assignment. Both S13 and I were assigned to heal the kiters on Gluth, and we have similar gear. Why did he outperform me? Let’s take a look at the abilities breakdown.
s13-breakdown

Take a look at S13′s Healing Touch percentage and the amount it hits for on average. That tells me–even if I didn’t already know–that he’s using the Healing Touch glyph. The fact that he’s able to get so much healing out of a direct healing spell also tells me that S13 is fast. He’s really great at reacting to situations. Notice here that he’s also made a lot of use of Lifebloom–nerfed it maybe, but useless it is not. This WWS report is post-WG nerf, by the way. S13′s performance shows how little a healer has to rely on Wild Growth to be effective (and to post good numbers while doing so). If I were to take a look at S13′s targets, I would see a lot of healing on the 5 kiters, but also a decent amount on other members of the raid. S13 is a great raid healer because he’s able to pay attention to a lot of things at once and to accurately judge when he can go a bit beyond the boundaries of his assignment.

Tank Healing

Yes, I know druids have an AoE heal now. That doesn’t mean that we’re not still good at our old role, healing the main tank. I’ve just shown you the WWS from a druid who excels at raid healing. Now, I’m going to show you my own meter performance. I am a tank healer. That’s what I like, and that’s what I’m good at. I’ve been healing a warrior MT so long that I know how the damage hits and what I can do to fix it. I don’t pretend to be the best at anything, but if I’m in charge of healing assignments, I’m going to stick myself to a tank. It’s not usually very showy on the meters, but I’m going to give you a peep at the one fight in Naxx that does let tank healers show off–Patchwerk.
syd-meter

To understand this image properly, you should probably know that Silvia and I were assigned to heal the offtank, a druid, while S13 and Arktos were assigned to the main tank, a warrior. For the life of me, I can’t remember what Kaldora, our holy priest, was assigned to that day. The nature of the fight dictates that there is simply more healing to do on the off tank(s) than on the main tank, so an off-tank healer is going to post higher numbers. Be that as it may, this is nonetheless a good performance from me personally. Let’s look at the breakdown of what I did.
syd-breakdown

First of all, notice the presence of Regrowth. I use the Regrowth glyph, and a fight with heavy tank damage also shows it off. Meanwhile, I keep Lifebloom rolling on the primary off-tank. As for Rejuvenation, I keep it on both the primary off-tank and the backup. At higher gear levels, your raid is less likely to need two offtanks for Patchwerk. I used to post even more impressive numbers when two off-tanks took heavy hits. I would keep up my full hot rotation on the druid and use Rejuvenation, Swiftmend, and a Nature’s Swiftness/Healing Touch on the secondary off-tank. I always say that Resto Druids can heal two tanks as well as one, and it’s very nearly true. This is a lesson I learned in Zul’Aman, and it still serves me well on a multi-tank fight like Patchwerk. One thing an MT healer can never forget is the power of Swiftmend–it’s easy to ignore, but make yourself use it whenever you can. You’ll notice that Nourish is missing from my rotation, even though I have the 4pc T7 bonus. Regrowth is simply better if the damage is high. I will use Nourish on fights where Regrowth might be overheal, or on long fights that might stress my mana.

My message to healing leads is this: resto druids can tank heal. You might think that only a paladin or discipline priest will work, but don’t discount the resto druid, particularly one who’s used to this job. We may have a discipline priest solo-healing the MT on Sarth 3D, but that doesn’t mean a resto druid cannot be assigned to the task. In fact, some days I want to arm-wrestle Mallet for the job.

Glyphs and Talents

As you can see from our performances, S13 and I, despite having almost the same gear, are very different healers. There are slight differences in talents and glyphs that support each of our preferred roles. Here are my thoughts on how to set up a resto druid to excel at either raid healing or tank healing.

Raid Healing

In terms of talents, I suggest Tranquil Spirit to make Healing Touch and Nourish more efficient, a fully talented Gift of the Earth Mother, and perhaps Naturalist for the shortest Healing Touch cast time. As an alternative, you might put either 1 or 2 points into Improved Tranquility. I find this spell very useful when I can remember to use it. It shines on any fight where the raid is fairly close together and AoE damage as high–I’ve used Tranquility to good effect on Loatheb, Sapphiron, and OS3.

To heal S13-style, you will absolutely need to glyph Healing Touch. I am extremely impressed with the HPS of this spell, and it only gets better as your gear scales. In addition, we can all afford the mana at this point. S13 doesn’t run OOM any more than I do. The raid healer has some amount of choice in the other glyph slots. I suggest Swiftmend and Innervate, but if you find that you never use Swiftmend, Lifebloom will also work. The Regrowth glyph, while good in and of itself, won’t do much for you if you’re never assigned to tanks.

Tank Healing

In terms of tank healing talents, the most important one to have is Nature’s Splendor from the Balance tree to extend HoT duration. However, all raiding restos should have this talent. I also use Tranquil Spirit to support my Nourish (in case I ever use it), a fully maxed Improved Regrowth, and Gift of the Earthmother for easier HoT refreshes. I do not have Living Seed at the current moment. It accounted for less that 1% of my total healing when I had it. If I get enough haste to remove points from Gift of the Earthmother, I may try it again. I have a feeling that either 1) Living Seed will do more healing in Ulduar or 2) it will get some sort of buff in the future. As for Replenish, either build should skip it because it’s endlessly terrible, but the tank healer especially does not need it.

In terms of glyphs, I use Swiftmend, Regrowth, and Innervate for main tank healing. The only debateble choice here is Innervate. I prefer it over Lifebloom, but Keeva of Tree Bark Jacket, who also main tank heals often, writes very convincingly in favor of the LB glyph in this recent post. A main tank healer should not glyph Healing Touch. It’s more useful in the large version paired with Nature’s Swiftness.

Conclusions

We’ve come a long way from Lifebloom spam. Whether we’re set to healing tanks or the raid, druids have a variety of techniques now to support their chosen role. We can do it all–just not all at once. If you’re a healing lead, it’s important to get to know your healers. With the new diversity of the druid class, skill and preference start to weigh heavily on how you should assign your druids. So, why not ask them what they like, and what they are good at?

Evaluating Healer Performance

Evaluating Healer Performance

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This is a guest post from Derevka who has been actively blogging on his blog Tales of a Priest. This post is in reply to Healing Meters Suck and tries to tie in some qualitative and quantitative healing performance analysis.

Healing Meters suck? I tend to disagree. Healing meters and WWS Reports provide an insane amount of information and value to a well educated healer.  But now where does that leave us? You have 11 healers signed up for tonight’s raid and only 7 healing slots available — or you have a new recruit healer and you need to evaluate how they are performing. What do you do? How do you go about evaluating healers in a world where the DPSers are e-peening over their DPS and Total Damage Done?

Nearly a year and a half ago, Priestly Endeavors did a post about measuring healer performance. This is a great post, and I encourage everyone to read it.  Perhaps it is time to reflect on what methods are best to evaluate a healer?

Healing Meters:  Recount & WWS

Gasp! Hiss! Boo! There is a lot more to healing than just meters, yes, but don’t forget there is a lot of very valuable information here. The trick is finding the best way for you to harness this data to evaluate yourself and your healing team and learn where can you improve. 

The first thing you need to understand about deciphering healing meter data is knowing the encounter that the data is from.  Looking at a Recount data from Malygos is going to heavily favor the COH Priests and WG Druids, thanks just to Vortex. (While post-3.08 that may change; I don’t think it will skew it that much). You always need to ask yourself "Does this fight heavily favor a specific spec/class over another?". If the answer is yes, you have to both qualitatively and quantitatively account for that information.

Finding out how much effective healing was done by Priest X using COH over other spells can be done in Recount and WWS.  If it is a fight that doesn’t have a ton of AOE damage, and a priest has 20% of the effective healing of the 7 healers, of which 70% was COH, you might have a performance problem here. 
Discipline Priests typically are low on the healing meters since PW: Shield, Grace, and Divine Aegis have no impact on effective healing. How do you evaluate a Disc priest on a numbers game in which they are at a disadvantage? However, with a bit of poking around you should be able to find some good data in there.  On a conceptual level, PW:S is the only spell in the game that guarantees zero "overhealing".

So dive into WWS information. Find out how many times that player buffed the MTs with PW:S then you can gauge the total "effective healing" those shields provided. (I know, not an exact science since you need to weigh in SP coefficients, did the whole shield get eaten, etc. But it does provide additional data that WWS/Recount completely disregarded).

Since we are playing the numbers game using meter evaluation, does that mean it is okay for them to be dead last on the meters with 3% healing done on a fight? Maybe… however, likely not.

Healer Focus and Assignments

Plain and simple: are your healers focusing on the task at hand? Are they sticking to their assignments and trusting their guildmates? Trusting your fellow raiders to do their job is key. You cannot be all things to all people. This often can be easily discovered if you see the healer switching to other healing assignments and slacking on their primary target. Great example would be Patchwerk. You have a healer who was assigned to heal a Hateful Strike Tank, they shift focus to try to get a heal on the Main Tank — BOOM! Your resident Enhancement Shaman eats a hateful strike and dies.

Also data lives on WWS that can also provide good insight, but again keep the encounter and assignments in mind! This report can be found in the "Who Heals Whom" section. The smaller the number the fewer the people that person healed. A high focus number can generally mean the person healed "randomly" and may have deviated from their assignment. On fights that have AOE damage or multiple targets assigned to the same healer, focus numbers can increase for certain healers. A great example is my guild’s Sartharion 2-Drake strategy:  We let the Tenebron’s whelps pop, and AOE them down (and usually have some AOE damage to the raid as a result), and send in a DK , DPS, and 1 healer to heal the damage for Shadron’s Disciple. That healer, typically has a higher than average focus. Again, it is all about knowing which fight you are analyzing.

Ability to React to the Unforeseen

This measurement is very subjective, and not numerical so it is often very hard to guage. When you see it happen, it is usually quite apparent. Sometimes a healer disconnects or dies mid fight, and you need to react. Good healers are able adjust when this happens, take adjusted healing assignments. Great healers excel in these situations. They thrive.

An example would be the healers for Lady Blaumeux and Sir Zeliek on Four Horsemen. Lets pretend one of your ranged tanks DCs. This healer quickly adjusts, calls out on vent they are now tanking Blaumeux (along with the other ranged tank) and spams heals on themselves until a new ranged player comes to replace them from the front group. No one else dies, as you get your shiny epics from the chest minutes later.
This measurement encompasses the "don’t stand in the fire" rule:  Situational Awareness.

Are you in  Sartharion’s Void Zone? Are you standing in Sapphrion’s Blizzard? Now these points, are easily counted.

The Death Test

Probably the easiest to check, but perhaps the most subjective of all. If your assigned target not die, you win. Generally, yes – but not always. You need to look at the bigger picture. Did they go OOM and another healer have to step up and do double duty? Did they lose awareness and chain a KT Frost Blast to the melee?
Evaluating healers is not easy. I am typically the one to do healing assignments, and often the officer to pass final judgement on a recruit healer.  When I say /promote or /gkick, or when I chose one healer over another healer when making up the raid roster for the evening, I often have a lot of math and though behind those decisions. Using WWS and Recount, as well as many subjective methods.

Ultimately your healing roster and performance is something that should be constantly evaluated. Finding out your flaws, and taking steps to correct them is one of the best ways to improve; diving into the details really is the best way to do that.

Further reading:

Matt wrote a Spiritual Guidance column on WoW Insider several months ago titled: Measuring a Priest. Several of those points still ring true today.

Image courtesy of danzo08

Why I Always Care About The Meters

You’ll frequently hear raiders knowingly make comments about “the meters.” DPSers who have to crowd-control or dispel have a bit of a case; it’s harder to be #1 if you have more to worry about than standing still, popping pots, and hitting your spells in the right order. Healers occasionally have a point, too: Purge, Dispel, Cure, BoP, PW: Shield, and buffs all take not only mana, but global cooldowns out of our resources to be the “best” healer on the charts.

Here’s the thing though: you will rarely, if ever, find someone complaining about the unfairness of the meters when their name is consistently at the top. Here are a few reasons why I never forget to check the meters:

Supervisory

Whether you think a player is afk’ing trash, throwing out the wrong heals, or making a serious contribution, it will show up on the meters. Add-ons like Recount or WWS allow you to access your players’ habits with an unbelievable level of detail. If you don’t know what’s wrong, you can’t make it better. If you don’t know what’s right, you can’t give meaningful encouragement. Especially when making quantum leaps in content, (10-mans to 25-mans, or jumping tiers) being able to coach your players effectively through the transition is important.

Consistency

This works a couple of ways. On a micro-level, some classes are better suited for certain fights than others. If your Druids typically own highly-mobile fights like Leotheras or Supremus, and a new Druid isn’t keeping up with their peers, it’s a good indication that they need some help. On a macro-level, if, week after week, no matter what the fight, a certain player is always dead-last or near to it, there’s either a gear, hardware, or player issue. The raid leaders need to be able to address underperformance quickly. Why give a raid spot to a 9th healer when you’re effectively only fielding 8? Bring in another DPS, and make the fight shorter instead.

Personal Benchmarks

The first time I consistently broke 1,000 HPS was on Illidan. At first I was proud, but then I realized that I should be pushing my limits that much on EVERY fight. The first screen shot of me breaking 2,000 HPS serves as a constant reminder of my capability, and pushes me to work, heal, and fight harder; every boss, every time. It’s also fun to have some small competition to wake you up when farm content gets boring. Personally, if my favorite resto Shaman gets within 1% of my heals, I start working harder to keep my #1 spot – and he’s not afraid to point it out when he’s gaining on me.

Comparative Benchmarks

I’ve heard the arguments that the meters are skewed: AoE healers always win, healers assigned to players taking the most damage always win, healers that can hold still always win, healers that don’t have to Dispel, Cure, etc. always win. It’s not about winning. It’s about proving to yourself and your raid that you’re doing the best you can. I’ve fought for the top spot with Shamans, Pallys, and Druids. Every guild and healing corps. is different, and the sooner people stop making excuses and start pushing themselves to be their absolute best, the faster the bosses all die.

Accuracy

No meter is perfect. Some of them don’t ascribe things like the last tick of Lifebloom, or the ping of a ProM to the caster. I haven’t seen one yet that records the absorption of PW:S as the life-saver it is. You can tweak some of them so that overhealing or out-of-combat heals show up as effective healing. They all have their quirks, but any data collected over time irons out a lot of the inaccuracies and shows you real trends. I would never chew a player out over one bad night. But if that same player has nothing but bad nights, it’s important to have specific concerns to address with either them, or their class leader.

Timing

Even if the quantity of healing going out is enough, if the timing is off, it doesn’t matter . A tank taking hits for 10k needs an 8k heal. Unless they’re already topped off. Or they’re already dead. Overhealing is sloppy and wasteful, sure, but it’s also unavoidable to an extent. And to be completely honest, if no one’s dying it doesn’t matter much. But if they ARE dying, you need to be able to identify the problem. Grim-meters let you know if poor timing (and inattentive healers) were the culprit, or if the tank needs to put Shieldwall on their bars and learn to move out of fires.

Fairness

Let’s face it. No one wants to be stuck working on the same boss for weeks on end. If the definition of insanity is performing the same action but expecting a different result, it can’t be far from madness to randomly change set-ups without any data behind the decision. If you need to replace a player, you have to know whom to replace. The last thing good leaders want to do is pull a player that’s really doing their best, and keep someone who’s not working hard. And if you’re the one on the cut list, having some data to back up your desire to stay is always a good idea.

No metric is perfect. You can nitpick any measurement of success as biased in any number of ways, and healing meters are no different. The meters are absolutely not the end-all, be-all identifier for the “best” healer – but they are an invaluable tool for improving overall raid performance. My bet is that if you watch them for yourself, and for your raid, and make some key decisions based on the information you learn, you and your guild will progress further, faster, and with better players.