It Helps to Focus

June 30, 2009 at 2:00 pm (5 mans, Grouping, Healing Mechanics, Raiding, User Interface)

If you’ve never used the /focus command before you might be surprised to see how powerful it can be. It’s used very commonly in PvP particularly arena matches as a good way of quickly casting spells or abilities on a particular person. It is used in PvE content as well but usually as a method for casting Crowd Control effects like Polymorph or Shackle without worrying about losing track of which target you were supposed to cast it on.

Using the “/focus” command is essentially a way of saving your current target as your ‘focus target’. Once you have a focus target various additional abilities are available to you. For example, you will get a new target frame showing the health bars for your focus target. You will see the casting bars for your focus target as well. This means that even if you change targets to something else, you are able to see what your focus target is up to. So if they are doing something you don’t like, or they are about to die, or you want to cast a buff or a spell on them you can quickly see them, and change target to them using the “/target focus” command.

So far this is all very hand wavy. Lets try and look at some specific ways you can use this feature to help your healing.

Three ways to use your focus:

As a healer I basically see three different ways to use /focus.

/Focus a player

The first is to cast it on a player you need to keep good tabs on. For example the tank or, in certain raid encounters, perhaps a particular DPS. Once they are focused you can make macro’s to heal specifically that player. For example, if I’ve set the tank as my focus target I can now make macro’s which say something like:

/cast [target=focus] Pain Suppression

Now if I press the key bound to this macro I know that I will cast Pain Suppression on the tank regardless of who my current target is. I could be healing Player X and suddenly realise the tank is about to get hit by something nasty. One quick button press and without even changing targets to the tank I’ve cast Pain Suppression on him.

It’s also good if, for example, the tank is going to have a debuff stacking up on him. Because he’s got a very distinct target frame I can quickly see what debuffs he has and how many stacks of it. If I were using a raid frames add-on like Grid or PerfectRaid it might be much harder to tell what sort of debuffs and how many stacks the tank had. So /focus is helping me get a little more information on the tank even when I’m not targeting him/her.

/Focus yourself

Whilst I’m not a fan of this approach some people find it very useful to focus themselves. This allows them to quickly heal themselves without having to change targets away from the tank. Often new healers find that they are too focused healing other people and forget to look after themselves. If you’re having this problem you might find it useful to have an emergency button to heal yourself. For example you can make a key-bind to cast Flash Heal on yourself and if you’re ever worried about your health you can press this and quickly heal yourself without having to change targets.

The reason I’m not a fan of this is that:

a) It discourages the use of binding heal which is a powerful heal.

b) It encourages you to treat yourself differently to other players. Personally I find I do my best healing when I can just concentrate on keeping all the shiny health bars full up. If I treat my health bar as different to the other ones, with it’s own special buttons to heal it, then usually that throws me off my game. The time taken to change target to myself usually isn’t worth the hesitation I usually make when I realise that the player I need to heal is myself and that for this I have a special button.

/Focus the boss

This is what I usually do. There are many many benefits to making a boss your focus target.

Firstly you have a nice way of keeping track of the boss’ health so you know how much of the fight is left.

Secondly you can see what spells the boss is casting. This means you often get a 2-3 second warning when he is going to do something important which may require you to respond. He’s casting Fusion Punch? You know 2 seconds before it lands and you can make sure you have a shield up on the target (and are pressing the Dispel key like crazy!)

An add-on like Quartz will let you move the focus target’s cast bar around. I have made my focus cast bar gigantic and stuck it in the middle of my screen because I feel that, if the boss is casting something, then I probably want to know about it. Bosses rarely cast unimportant spells.

Thirdly you can see who the boss is targeting. This is almost always the tank because that is who the boss has aggro on. However, often if the boss has a random cast ability like a chain lightning he will change targets to the player he’s casting it on. This gives you a moments warning to switch targets to that player and use a shield, or a Pain Suppression or begin casting a heal.

Fourthly, and in keeping with the last point, you can easily make a macro to target your focus’ target. So for example:

/target focustarget

If you bind this to an easy to reach key you can tap it as soon as the boss changes target to a player and instantly acquire that player without having to click them with your mouse, or even see that player’s name. This cuts out the time it takes for you to see the bosses target, recognise the player, find that player in your raid frame and then target them. Tapping the button instantly gives you the player the boss is targeting. If you open the Blizzard Key Bind menu there is the option in there to bind Focus Target and Target Focus to any button you like.

So there are some ideas about how to use /focus and the sort of benefits it can bring you. If you’re not using /focus at the moment then look into it. It can make a lot of difference to the information you have as a healer.


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