Healing: Priority, Priority, and Priority

Several weeks ago, I mentioned how much I didn’t like two-healing 10 man raids. Why? Basically because if a healer goes down, there’s utmost pressure on the other healer. A raid almost never recovers. With 3 healers, if one dies, you can still pull off a kill. And today, I’m going to write about one of those experiences where I was 2-healing a guild 10-man raid where another healer went down.

Sometimes you hit one of those days where your ego gains a massive boost because you’ve singlehandedly healed a raid down to 0%. The worst case scenario that you’ve planned for countless of times in your head actually happened in a raid encounter and you pull off every pre-planned spell, move, and cooldown with such eye surgeon-like precision leading to an unexpected kill.

And I still can’t believe I pulled it off. Anyway, while the kill is still fresh from memory, I’ll walk you through my various thought processes in the event something like this should happen to you. Healing can be a sleepwalk. Other times, it can be a big kick in the groin. Our healing pairing happened to be Holy Priest and Discipline Priest (I was Discipline for the fight). We determined ahead of time that since we had a Prot Paladin tanking Ooze, they could tackle the dispels.

We were taking on Rotface in ICC 10. Everything began smoothly. It started around 85%, give or take. I had just cleaned off a disease and was in the process of running back in after my ooze had merged. I look up where the group is and see a massive ooze heading in the direction of the boss. Uh oh. Someone’s about to eat it. Then I see Priestly angel wings and I knew our only other healer would have a few heals before she’d be out of action. Our only druid was tanking the boss so executing a battle res was out of the question. There were essentially two things we could do at this point:

  • Wipe the raid: Start fresh, rebuff, get everyone at full strength.
  • Play the stress the @#$% out of Matt game: Essentially, it’s to see how long the raid can do as is with just one healer.

So if you happened to be in Matt’s guild and you had those two as options, which one would you pick?

Naturally, the raid decides to opt for the second option.

At this point, no cooldowns had been used. Everything was still available. I hustled back into position in the middle of the raid. The Ooze Explosion indicator goes off. I swivel the camera and watch for it. But there’s still more to it than that.

Priority, priority, and priority

My thinking instantly turned from “Top off players to 100%” mode to “Keep players from reaching 0%” mode. And I guarantee you, there is a huge difference in spell usage and target selection when that happens. DPS doesn’t exactly become expendable. You still need them. You can get by with 1 DPS dead. But if 1 tank dies, it’s an instant game over. Thus the healing priority shifts slightly towards a greater emphasis on keeping tanks alive.

Analyze the raid: There are two tanks and the overall raid to worry about.

  • Raid frame shows that the Rotface tank (our Druid) takes approximately 7000-9000 damage a hit. She has about 59000 health. 7 goes into 59 about 8 times (roughly). In other words, she can survive 8 melee swings before it’s game over. Rotface swings at a rate of about a second and some change (1.* seconds of which I didn’t know off the top of my head and it wasn’t the time to look it up). I ballparked it at around 9 seconds without a heal.
  • The Ooze tank is tanking a Big Ooze that had already absorbed several smaller Oozes. I knew the Big Ooze was 1 or 2 small Oozes away from exploding. From that, I could further deduce that the Ooze tank would get 2 shot if they were within melee range of it.
  • Raid health was at varying levels due to Slime Sprays and some coming back in from being infected.

I threw shields on both of the tanks immediately (they weren’t at full health, but they weren’t exactly at imminent death either. I figured the shields would buy at least one or two hits). The raider with lowest health was immediately Penance’d.

All of us scattered to avoid the incoming smattering of green stuff in the middle of the room. A few players were hit but still managed to survive because they only took a blow or two. I didn’t have time to think, so I slammed the Inner Focus –> Divine Hymn macro bringing everyone back to the top before rejoining the raid in the middle of the room.

There happened to be a small pool of Ooze between me and the raid. I ran into after hitting myself with a Prayer of Mending (Note: Risky. Don’t actually run into bad things on the ground unless you know you will survive it). Every player that did not have Weakened Soul was continuously chain shielded. Somewhere in my head, I knew I felt super sluggish. I needed much more heals than what I could cast because at the rate we were going, the damage incoming to the overall raid was greater than the heals I could muster.

And then it hit me.

We have a Shaman, moron. We usually blow Heroism at 30%. He’s at 70% right now. Just use the damn thing!”

Sure the extra speed from the Heroism would help with the damage. More importantly, it allowed the heals to go off at a much faster pace.

Anyway, I believe there were a few Paladin bubbles and Divine Guardians going on to help lower the damage. The tanks blew their cooldowns at various points to give me precious seconds to catch up. Now I had to worry about dispels. Infections were either getting progressively faster or the Ooze tank had other things to worry about. This is where you play the balance game and go back to thinking priority, priority, and priority. I could spare them a quick shield and then focus back on ensuring my tanks, myself, and other players were above 20% health or so. While the Infection would slowly kill them, it wasn’t going to be immediate. It gave them time to run out and it’d avoid any slimes that happened to be in the middle. If there happened to be two Oozes dispelled back to back, it’d morph into an Uberooze right in the middle of the raid. I didn’t even look at them to see if they were completely clear. Either I hit them with a dispel, or the tank would hit them. Either way, they were slowly piling up quicker.

I think I made an angry poo-poo. It gonna blow!”

And this is where I made a crucial misplay. My first instinct is to run away from the center when I see the Unstable Ooze Explosion go off. I had no idea which direction the Rotface tank was running. I should have slapped our bear with a blind Pain Suppression in the event we ran to opposite sides of the room. Doing so would’ve dropped her down on my mental list of healing priorities. I know they’re not likely going to die with a defensive cooldown up (at least not as fast) and I could work on stabilizing the Ooze tank and everyone else.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think about that.

But she still lived. Maybe someone gave her a Hand of Sac or she popped a cooldown or something. But thank goodness because we actually did run to opposite sides of the room when I glanced at the map. I was out of tricks. No more Hymns, no more Pain Suppressions, but I still had a Power Infusion. I could put it on myself to keep the fast heals going or I could drop it on our Mage to speed up the fight. Out of the question though since right when I was contemplating doing that, they died (Again, proof that you shouldn’t actually think. You should simply react. Thinking leads to death, right?). I figured I may as well Power Infuse myself and started the entire process of priority, priority, and priority again. Pain Suppression had well worn off and we were all grouped in the middle again.

*BOOM*

Hear that? That’s the unmistakable shrill of Omen sounding. It means you have about 3 seconds before you’re dead. I figured it wasn’t the boss. Not a chance in hell I could’ve caught up on threat. Our tanking Paladin was still running around with another large Ooze.

… But it turned out there happened to be a second large Ooze that I didn’t see. It made short work of me. I exhaled and collapsed back into my chair before clicking on the boss. Rotface was at 3%. BOOM! Another DPS dead. BOOM! Paladin tank dead. BOOM! I saw another player fall over. Rotface is down to 1% and I knew we had it.

And people wonder why I sometimes hate two healing raids.

ICC Plagueworks: How Not To Die A Poisonous Death

ICC Plagueworks: How Not To Die A Poisonous Death

So you’re standing in the heart of the citadel. You’ve just walked through fire to get here – quite literally. Before that you ran the gauntlet of the lower spire and left the Lich King’s doormen smattered over the walls. That place feels like home to you now.

But now you’re on the upper levels you’re choking on the Citadel’s hostility, which is no surprise given the fat ochre clouds seeping out of the Plagueworks nearby. You must conquer it – but how?

I’ve been there too, alongside nine others. Here are my tips for your group regarding the trash guarding the entrance, a strategy for Precious, and some healing advice for the Rotface encounter.

 

Getting your foot in the door – trash tips:

1. Bitesize the trash pull as it’s more dangerous the more you pull here. It’s very easy to get mobbed by everything lurking in the entrance to the Plagueworks. It’s also very easy not to do so.

From our experiments we believe that everything will pull if you set foot on the platform in front of the door to the Plagueworks, upon which the Blighted Abominations are standing. Have your group gather a bit back – at the blue brazier on the left-side platform perhaps – and have your tanks pull the abominations back to the group.

2. Healers! Be on the ball. When you engage the large trash group just inside the door in combat, be aware that it will be a hectic fight. Plague Scientists will be turning random group members into slimes, and those players will take the opportunity to bounce around playfully. Because it’s fun. Meanwhile (shackle-able) geists will be jumping on people and eating them alive. Not to mention the fact that the rest of the mobs will be inflicting various nature-based attacks on chunks of your group.

3. Be on your toes. That applies to everyone. The abominations will emit plague clouds. Yuck. Move whatever’s standing in it out, be that you as a healer or the mob needing a tank to kite him out.

Also, the Pustulating Horrors will start the 5 second cast of Blight Bomb when they’re nearly dead: a kamikaze move. Everyone should watch out and move away before it’s cast; it does a lot of AoE damage and DPS or healers may explode alongside the Pustulating Horror.

Precious tactic: Making the Dog Play Dead. Er.

When my group first met Precious we wiped. We’d stand and nuke him; sometimes we AoE’ed the zombies, sometimes we didn’t because our 10 man didn’t have many AoE options. Either way we died horrible deaths. So, we did a bit of research and brainstorming. This is the tactic we have adopted since.

1. Have your healers and ranged DPS stand halfway down the circular staircase. Pull Precious to the stairs. Kite him round past them (decide clockwise or anti clockwise beforehand). Have healers and ranged run ahead of you so they don’t become zombie chow later.

2. When Precious summons zombies, speed up the kiting a bit to get ahead of them. If you have any shamans or hunters – or both – then earthbind and frost trap really help to put some distance between you and the braaaaaain munchers. I’m sure other slowing effects work. Be creative. Don’t speed up so much that you lap the zombies.

3. Rinse repeat with kiting and earthbind/traps until the dog is dead. Turn round and deal with the zombies. AoEs you can run in, drop, then out – like consecrate – work well. Pre-positionable AoEs like shamans putting up earthbinds and fire totem/fire nova repeatedly while still running away also work. While we were perfecting this my guild had an attempt whereby the group’s several shamans finished off the zombies while everyone else ran in – er, I mean, recovered from temporary inability to help.

 

Rotface tricks for healers:

1. Surround him. Rather than clumping together in one huge mass, have your group stand in smaller clumps round Rotface’s…. well, I guess they’re feet. At least one healer to each clump. This has two benefits for healers. Firstly it reduces the number of people who may get hit by slime spray. Secondly it means that at least one healer should always be in range of the tank who is kiting the big ooze, wherever they are in the room, in case of problems.

2. GO team Heal! If another healer gets mutated infection and so has to run, heal him until it’s gone and he’s safe. This may sound silly but sometimes when the elephant hits the jet fan, healers assume that other healers can look after themselves. Yep, usually. But you should always remember you’re a team and work like one. Particularly here, where the infection ticks for a fair chunk and a lot of healers can’t heal and keep running at the same time.

3. Assume the worst. We all make mistakes: we’re human. But this is an encounter in which one person making a mistake can make things three times more hectic and it’s us healers who have to try to get the group through it. The retri paladin thinks he’s delivered his ooze to the big ooze but has actually dragged it into the melee and is standing there? Someone’s got two infections in a row and not realised?

Watch as much as you can. Watch for people making mistakes so you can go into overdrive. Watch your and other healers’ mana and pop things like mana tide or hymn of hope either early or at (an early) crunch time. Importantly, watch *your* positioning. You might think that concentrating on your own situational awareness might make it a bit harder to focus on healing when there’s a lot of damage. Instead, consider how doing so will make your job easier rather than if you get caught up in healing and, say, forget to move during an Unstable Ooze Explosion.

 

The Plagueworks is not a friendly place and only the bold set foot on its flagstones. Although, looking at Rotface I think Professor Putricide has other ideas about what feet should do. I hope your bravery is rewarded by victory, and that something here has helped if you were bouncing off those flagstones!

What about you? Have you got any tips, either general or class/healer specific, to add for any of these three encounters? Are you having trouble on any of them, or have been and are slowly getting better at dealing with them? Do you actively like or dislike these fights, given that they go in a different direction to the fights in the first wing?

Rot-Face the Music, People!

Rot-Face the Music, People!

The second wing of Icecrown Citadel has been open for just two lockout periods.  There have been the outcries from all sides:

“It’s too soon!”

“Thank God, it’s finally here!”

“Why can’t we just fight Arthas already?”

But my new personal favorite, has GOT to be:

“Rotface is too hard!”

First, let me go on the record that I’m thankful for fights like these.  I’ve mentioned here before, and also when I’ve guest-hosted on Raid Warning (shameless plug), that I loved bosses back in the BC days.  Fights like Leotheras or Al’ar took coordination, teamwork, and dedication.  I remember the guild I was in never took down Al’ar.  Primarily, we lacked perseverance.  We would spend 3-4 attempts on that bird, and then people would gripe about how hard it was and we’d move onto Loot Reaver, I mean Void Reaver.

My point is that in Wrath, we’ve essentially seen easier bosses in raids.  Yogg was hard, Faction Champions held up a lot of guilds, true.  Aside from examples like those, we haven’t seen any fights in ICC thus far that have resembled the challenging nature of a true raid boss.

Rotface as a challenge?  I welcome it.  I think we, as raiders, get tunnel vision too easily.  Most of the fights have been the following:

  • Switching targets to an add or group of adds
  • Stay out of the stuff on the ground
  • Heal through this bout of incoming damage

Hence, Rotface is a breath of fresh air, even if it’s the leading cause of my healer-rage on any given raid night.  Healers, because of the instances of raid damage, have to step it up.  Any combination of the following mechanics will make for a bad experience:

Mutated infection – [UNAVOIDABLE] The primary mechanic for the fight.  Your choice to cleanse it early, though I wouldn’t recommend it unless your raid is totally on their A-Game.  You have to get on top of this as fast as possible because of the Mortal Strike-styled healing debuff.  When I’m assigned to the mutated peeps, I throw PW:Shield, Prayer of Mending, and a quick Penance to pile on Grace.  It’s better to keep them topped off than just keep them alive.

Slime Spray -  [AVOIDABLE] This is a pain in the butt to deal with if people don’t move out of the way.  At roughly 5k each second, multiple victims make healing rough, especially in the later stages of the fight.  It’s a short cast but on a regular timer, so it’s easy to anticipate.  If you keep your raid clumped behind the boss, a simple run-through to the other side is all that’s needed.  Don’t always assume it’s going to the majority of the raid.  Rotface may target the slime tank/kiter.  I’ve seen attempts almost wipe because people ran right into the spray without thinking.

Ooze Flood – [AVOIDABLE] The standard WoW rule of “Don’t stand in the crap on the ground!”  A lot of raiders claim to be taken by surprise, but I don’t buy it.  Not only do you get an audible warning from Petricide, but you see ooze spouting from the pipes before the flood appears.  At crucial moments of kiting or fleeing the ooze explosion, it’s not impossible to miss these entirely.

Radiating Ooze – [SEMI-AVOIDABLE] The only time anyone should be taking damage from this is the person merging an ooze with the big ooze and possibly the player kiting the ooze.  They’ll take damage from their own smaller ooze, which is less, and then momentarily from the big ooze.  I see too many people run INTO the ooze to try to get it to merge.  In actuality, you just need to get the ooze into the 10 yard radius of the big ooze for it to merge.  Even at that, it’s best to wait until your disease is gone to step into that area.  A near-full ooze will tick for a lot of damage, and a half-heal debuff is horrible to try to work through, let alone the tick from the disease itself.  It’s easy to die to this, even with a lot of healers on you.

Unstable Ooze Explosion – [AVOIDABLE] It’s simple.  It’s like the orbs in Void Reaver, except smaller.  Once the ooze explodes, and not before, you should start running away.  From personal experience, try not to be by the tank when it explodes.  If the tank is caught in about 4-5 of those projectile oozes, he or she is a goner.  Don’t run into ooze puddles, and don’t run near other oozes that are still growing.

—–

I highly recommend that you read and know each of the mechanics that I’ve explained above.  These debuffs and mechanics aren’t just for the healers to heal through but for every raider to avoid.  One or two of them together is manageable, but when you’re consistently not paying attention to the different intricacies of the fight, it just makes my soul hurt.

I know there’s a tendency to just want muscle through some of the fights, but on some of these Icecrown fights, it’s imperative to actually know what you’re being afflicted with.  Your little extra focus can get you through that last 30% that most guilds may be struggling with.