What we tell ourselves

June 6, 2010 at 2:34 pm (Healing Mechanics, Raiding, Uncategorized, User Interface) (, , , , , , )

When it comes to User Interface there are really two aspects to it. The first is getting the right addons, the second is configuring them the right way. Players care very much about the first, but less so about the second. I know most players use DBM, but I haven’t the faintest idea how 99% of players set their DBM up. So I want to talk generally about making sure you have the right sorts of addons, and that they are in the right places to get you important information when and where you need it.

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What do I need to know?

There are three things you absolutely need to know when you are healing a fight.

  1. What spells to use
  2. Who to Heal
  3. Where you should be

A good healer is constantly keeping these three things in mind. What spells do I have? Who do I need to heal? Am I safe? Typically I think about them in that order. This way I know what spells I have available right as I go to heal somebody. It’s not a big deal if you order yours differently, but it is important to have an order and to go through them each in turn.

These three points cover the basics, but there is a lot more detail to each of them. I’ve colour coded it so that it’s pretty. Also because it’s important.

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Prayer of Mending: Use it more!

November 10, 2009 at 9:27 pm (5 mans, Glyphs, Grouping, Healing Mechanics, Mana, Prayer of Mending, Raiding, User Interface)

Nobody uses Prayer of Mending as much as they should do. I love it, I use it a lot, but never enough. It is, by far, the best heal in the entire game. I want to drive that home a little.

There are pretty much three ways a Healer can wipe a raid: a) Die themselves, b) Let the Tank die, c) Lose control of raid damage. Whilst Prayer of Mending won’t really help you with (a) and (b)  it will help you keep a tight lid on raid damage by offering you every other advantage you could want:

  • Cheap
  • Lots of Healing
  • Multiple Targets
  • Quick to Cast
  • Heals over time
  • Smart Healing

You’re probably saying: “Great, bullet points! That’s exactly what I need when I’m trying to keep a raid alive…”
Okay, I do get that. Numbers aren’t exciting, but what I want to get across though is just how amazing Prayer of Mending is because if you aren’t casting it every single time it’s off cooldown you better have a good reason not to. So there will be numbers. The point is, Prayer of Mending comes out top on a lot of scales.

Efficiency compared to other spells

Prayer of Mending is the most efficient healing spell you have. In fact, it’s pretty much the most efficient healing spell anybody has. It is more than twice as efficient as Penance (Disc’s next best HPM spell), and more than twice as efficient as a Glyphed Circle of Healing (Holy’s next best HPM spell). It’s better than Nourish, it’s better than Riptide and Chain Heal. It’s much better than Beaconed Holy Light.

For example, for Discipline:

DiscEff

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Addon release: Hero

October 30, 2009 at 8:41 pm (5 mans, Being a Hero, Grouping, Guardian Spirit, Hero Addon, Pain Suppression, Raiding, User Interface)

I wanted to make a rather special post about what I’ve been doing recently, and specifically why my posting has been rather low recently. Much of my time over the past month or so has been spent on another WoW project I’ve been working on, and that is: I’ve been finishing up my first real WoW add-on.

It is now up on Curse as of a few minutes ago and I have relatively high hopes for it. I only started learning Lua (the language WoW add-ons are written in) a few months ago, so it’s been a bit of a learning process, but a tremendous amount of fun. If you have any interest in computer programming I would thoroughly recommend Lua as a great place to start. It’s a lovely little scripting language, very clean and easy to read, and very forgiving of mistakes

superhero

As for the add-on itself:

I started writing it because a) I wanted to learn Lua, and b) I wanted a better way of seeing what the other Healers and Tanks in my raid were up to. All too often I was finding myself using Pain Suppression just when the tank used Shield Wall, or Divine Hymn when the Druid cast Tranquillity. Sometimes you manage to pull off those raid saving ability uses, but all too often my plans were being foiled by other would be heroes all having the same idea. It was a wasted effort, Spiderman and Superman were both fighting to save the girl while the villain one shot the tank. The idea here then is to try and streamline things by helping you keep track of what’s going on in your raid.

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Communication in Raids

October 20, 2009 at 3:37 pm (Grouping, Healing Mechanics, Raiding, User Interface)

I still owe a Holy FAQ and it will come towards the end of this week when I get a chance to do the math on Holy spells. In the mean time I want to talk about communication.

My guild is hardly the most progressed guild in the world. We’re not bleeding edge in the world or even on our server. Nevertheless we have our good days and our bad days and it doesn’t take a genius to spot that the difference is often to do with how well we communicate.

Irrelevent but pretty

When I’m raid leading I’m happy with everybody having the ability to talk in Ventrillo. I’m not at all interested in restricting talk privilages to only certain people. The main reason is because we’re very much a casual guild and raiding is fun, not work. Moreover, I simply don’t find it a problem to let everybody talk because most people don’t. In practice I find the raid tends to trust a few key players to say what needs to be said. Those key people are the ones you’d expect: The Raid Leader, the Tank, the Healers.

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Discipline Evolves. The new Raid Healer

October 13, 2009 at 3:36 pm (Being a Hero, Circle of Healing, Divine Hymn, Flash Heal, Grouping, Healing Mechanics, Penance, Power Word: Shield, Prayer of Healing, Prayer of Mending, Raiding, Rapture, Renew, Trial of the Champion, Ulduar, User Interface)

I’m taking a break out of the FAQ series because a couple of things came together for me recently. What I want to talk about this week is two things. The first is the evolution of the Discipline Priest’s role in a raid since 3.0 launched. The second is to go a little theoretical and talk about what a modern Discipline Priest has that makes them the most powerful healers in the game.

Discipline as a viable raid spec really came with Patch 3.0 with the introduction of three talents. Penance, Borrowed Time, and Rapture. Before these talents Discipline had poor mana, poor healing, and no real niche. Rapture brought the Mana, Penance the Healing, and Borrowed Time has let us find our niche.

Priest Evolution

The emphasis from very early on was on Discipline as a Tank healing spec. PW:S, Grace, Renewed Hope and Inspiration provided the mitigation, whilst Borrowed Time and Penance gave quick healing necessary to heal tanks up. For a long time therefore Discipline Priests have been the Tank Healers.

Holy Priests on the other hand have been the traditional Raid Healers. Circle of Healing, bigger Prayer of Healing, larger Prayer of Mending, and better HoTs make the the obvious choice for healing larger numbers of people.

This simple Distinction is naïve, and it’s beginning to change. There is talk in the back rooms of Forums. Priests are talking late at night in the Orgrimmar Drag when the Paladin’s aren’t listening. Things said only in /whisper… Have you heard? Come closer. Discipline is becoming a Raid Healer.

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Power Aura’s in (too much) Depth

July 24, 2009 at 11:24 am (User Interface)

This may well be the most boring post you ever read, but I’ve been asked to post up my Power Aura configuration strings so people can easily try them out. If the amount of them scares you, I’d say by far the most useful are Serendipity, Renew, Surge of Light, Borrowed Time, Penance, and Circle of Healing. If you aren’t interested in Power Aura’s at all, don’t read this post.

What it does:Power Auras

Last post I talked about Power Aura’s which is a mod for tracking all kinds of things and displaying them by popping up teenie tiny, (or huge) icons or small pictures on your screen.

For example, you can use it to track when spells are available for use. When targets have debuffs, when they are missing certain buffs, when you have certain buffs. You can use it to track your mana, health, runic power etc. You can use it to show when you are silenced or stunned. You can use it to show when a specific ability has procced. Basically, for all sorts of things.

It’s not the best mod for all of these things. For example, if you’re a shadow priest you could use Power Aura’s to track your DoTs and spell cooldowns but I wouldn’t suggest it. You can get the same sort of effect, with more precision, and more detailed information, using an addon like Face Melter or Event Horizon.

How to use it

For the most part the mod is very straight forward.

You open the main screen with the /powa command.

This will give you a screen that looks something like the macro creation screen WoW uses.

You select “New” to create a new aura, you can import, export, edit, preview, etc etc.

When you press “New” another screen appears in which you create the aura itself. There are essentially two things you need to make sure you have. The first is a icon or a picture which is displayed, and a position for it to be displayed in. The second is a condition which says when the picture is displayed (for example, when you have a certain buff, or when a spell is available.

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Tracking your cooldowns

July 20, 2009 at 3:57 pm (5 mans, Circle of Healing, Divine Hymn, Grouping, Guardian Spirit, Guardian Spirit, Healing Mechanics, Pain Suppression, Pain Suppression, Penance, Prayer of Mending, Raiding, Serendipity, User Interface)

It’s hardly news, or it certainly shouldn’t be, that Priests, just like every other class, spec and mob under the (fake) sun have cooldowns. As a DPS you use your cooldowns in a straight up rotation. Unless you are waiting for a DPS burn you spend cooldowns pretty much as soon as they are ready. As a healer you’re blowing cooldowns in response to the positioning of all the pretty multi-colored health bars and the abilities of the boss. In either case it’s important to keep a tight track of all your cooldowns. As a DPS player if you don’t recognise that Mind Blast is ready, you lose DPS. As a healer on the other hand the danger is not a loss of DPS but possibly the loss of a player.

There are two things you can do wrong. The first is to forget to use a cooldown. I’ve talked about this a little in the “Being a Hero” posts: If players are dying and you are consistently finding you have Pain Suppression, Guardian Spirit, Divine Hymn, Face etc off cooldown then you could probably of handled things better. Don’t assume the mistake occurred when the player died. Often I realise that the mistake was not letting that player die, but occurred ten to fifteen seconds earlier when I ought to have used Divine Hymn or Pain Suppression to get control of the situation. The death is result of something which I failed to do much earlier.

The other mistake, and the one that I usually make, is to try to use a spell when it is on cooldown. Most commonly this occurs with very short cooldown spells like Penance where you want to use it very often. It also occurs commonly with very very long cooldown spells like Divine Hymn where I try to use it and forget that it is still on cooldown from the previous boss attempt. Trying to cast a spell while it is on cooldown is often the worse mistake. If I try to cast Penance on the tank and nothing happens I usually will hesitate. “What happened? Am I silenced? Oh Penance is on cooldown, is it almost ready? Should I wait one second for the cooldown to end?” Usually the tank dies about now.

Whilst these mistakes will always occur, they are definitely reducible if you find ways to better keep track of your cooldowns and display this information. My suggestion is Addons and, in my view, displaying the same information in multiple places on the screen makes a big difference. Providing redundant information means that wherever your eyes are looking, whether it’s health bars, action bars, or you’re trying to manoeuvre around the battle field, you’ll always have the important information right in front of your eyes. Obviously don’t make the information too intrusive, if you’re obscuring big parts of the screen that’s bad, but I think the mistake I used to make was thinking that I only needed to display each bit of information in one place.

My Addon suggestions are:

OmniCC – Displays the cooldown of your spells numerically on your action bars. This is much much easier to see than the standard blizzard effect which is neither quantitative nor very obvious at a glance. Works  fantastic without much tweaking at all.

PowaAuras – A very popular Addon amongst DPSers to track important debuffs but this mod is extremely powerful. You can make it display icons, or shapes on the screen in response to all sorts of things. It will show you when spells are available, the cooldown remaining, when you, your target, your focus etc have certain buffs or debuffs on them. All kinds of things. For example: When a spell becomes available the icon appears, when the spell is used the cooldown timer appears. When I get a Serendipity buff the icon appears, additional stacks of the buff are displayed by additional icons stacking up in a tower so they are easy to take in at a glance. Anyway, definitely 100% recommend it for pretty much anything you want to do.

Satrina Buff Frames – A very powerful Addon for displaying buffs and debuffs for your player and your target. I use it for displaying things like Renew, Weakened Soul on my target so I know when these spells are worth recasting. It’s also great for showing up important debuffs. For example, Bosses with uncommon but key abilities like Ignis’ Slag Pot can be displayed very very clearly on your screen when they occur without otherwise intruding on your play. Again, like Powa Auras this mod takes a while to tweak with.

So, if you are finding yourself failing to use, or trying to use cooldowns you can’t, then consider ways of better displaying that information in your UI

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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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