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May 15, 2012

The Art of Abusing Healing Meters

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Written by: Vixsin
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Healing Meters

I make no secret of it, and have, in fact, talked about the topic in multiple posts, in comments on other bloggers’ sites and even in the whopping two podcasts I’ve participated in—I am a meter junkie. Ever since the early days of BC, when I raided as a dps and fought tooth and nail to distinguish myself from a mage roster of 5, I have been very interested in understanding how meters can be “won”.

It’s an interest that stuck with me when I main-switched to my Resto Shaman, and a curiosity that has endured over the course of 3 expansions (and likely more to come). But it’s something more substantial than epeen that’s motivating me to write this post today—it’s my belief that the path to becoming a great healer starts with understanding how to get the absolute most out of your character and class. And there’s no better way to do that than to become a master of winning healing meters, and there’s no better time to start than the present.

(Yes, I’m well aware this post might encourage more than a few people to turn their noses up in disgust; how to win healing meters has long been a taboo topic. But you know what? It’s time someone talked about it).

The goal of this post is really quite simple—to give you ideas on how to improve. The strategies that I use to heal on Vixsin also happen to be those that I use when I step into DS raids on my other characters. I’m up to 4 separate runs a week now, one on each of my healers, all with separate raid teams. And yes, it’s always my goal, no matter the group I’m with or the toon I’m on, to dominate healing meters. Sometimes I’m successful, and other times, I’m not, but with each encounter I’m playing to win. So, without further ado, let’s get into those tips, (and give those of you with pitchforks already in hand some fuel for the fire).

 

Domination, through Practical Changes

Just like so much of the professional work I do is associated with the identification and application of “best practices”, so too do my healing efforts focus on identifying practices are neither new nor innovative, but rather are fundamental practices of top healers. The tips in this section are focused on those practical and fundamental opportunities that every healer has to maximize his contribution.

1. Uptime

One of the core traits of great DPSers is the ability to keep up those “management tasks” amid everything else that’s going on during an encounter. So, it should come as no surprise the one of the ways to max your healing throughput is to aim for maximum uptime on core abilities. Uptime is an easy route to greater throughput, not only because it adds to your HPS but also because management tasks are so named because they tie to the throughput of your other spells and abilities.

Practical Examples: For Resto Shaman this means Earth Shield, Water Shield, Riptide, Tidal Waves, and Healing Stream Totem—all should have a 100% goal for uptime. Similarly, Druids should be looking for high uptime on Harmony and Lifebloom; Paladins should pay attention to Judgments of the Pure and Conviction; and Disc priests should be looking to maximize Rapture procs.

2. CD usage – Frequency

It naturally follows that the second important foundation of maximum HPS is maximum cooldown usage. For some healers, this is a particularly difficult mindset to adopt, because the concern is that if you use a CD according to a prescribed schedule, you won’t have it available for when the stuff really hits the fan. But, the fact of the matter is that saving your CD’s for potential “oh shit” moments, decreases your overall HPS. Oftentimes, there’s really no reason at all to save your CDs as the particularly heinous moments of an encounter are typically identifiable in the first couple of pulls. Which means that once you pinpoint when the critical healing periods occur, you can start maxxing your CDs around that schedule, and stop hurting your HPS waiting for critical healing moments that: a) never come, or b) you could have predicted.

Practical Examples: Remember, all of the following count as CDs that you should be using to their maximum contribution each and every fight:

  1. Raid CDs: Tranq, Divine Hymn, Aura Mastery, Barrier, Spirit Link Totem, Mana Tide, Hymn of Hope, Hands, PW: Barrier
  2. Personal CDs: Avenging Wrath, Power Infusion, Nature’s Swiftness, Spiritwalkers, Divine Favor, Innervate, Divine Plea, Shadowfiend, Archangel, Nature’s Grace, Tree of Life, Desperate Prayer
  3. Survival: Barkskin, Divine Protection/Shield, Pain Sup, Stoneclaw
  4. Racials: Berserking, Blood Furry, Gift of the Narruu, Arcane Torrent
  5. Professions: Synapse Springs, Lifeblood, Alchemy potions
  6. Trinkets: Jaws, Fiery Quintessence, etc.

And, beware the trap of thinking that you can only have 2 uses of a 3-min CD in a 7-minute encounter—if you get your first use in before the 1-minute mark, your max number of uses in a 7-minute encounter is 3. Likewise, even a 9-minute encounter can include 2 Hymns of Hope, not just 1.

3. CD Usage – Timing

The one caveat to the CD Frequency rule, as it applies to HPS, is that timing really matters. Like a DPS, you could conceivably hit your Tranquility or your Wings right off the pull, but if the damage isn’t there to heal, then your CD won’t have nearly the effect it could. So, the question to someone seeking to up his HPS becomes: when is the earliest opportunity to use the CD while also enabling it to be substantially effective?

If your guild actively and regularly logs their encounters to WoL, you can see the best time you use your CDs by looking at the “Damage Taken” page. The spikes in Total Incoming Damage are your signal that those are the points when you should be using some major CDs. But you also want to be asking yourself—what other CDs are being used in that same time frame? Timing your Divine Hymn to be used in concurrence with Anti-Magic Zone or PW: Barrier will translate to less effective healing than if you were to pair it with T13+Vamp Blood / Frenzied Regen.

Practical Examples: Healer CD’s are critical to the latter portion of the Ultraxion encounter, but that doesn’t mean you need to wait until 5 minutes have elapsed to use them. Don’t be afraid to use Tranq or a Holy Divine Hymn at the onset, because rest assured, it will be up again for the end of the fight. Similarly, boost your HPS by popping Tree of Life before Morchok’s first stomp, use Guardian of Ancient Kings when you have a Purple Phase and everyone is stacked (to take advantage of the AOE healing), and time T13-enhanced Spiritwalker’s Grace to align with the Amalgamation’s explosions on Spine

4. Optimize your heals

This may sound like a fairly simple task, but in reality one of the most challenging aspects of playing a healer is choosing the “right fit” heal for the job. Your ability to accurately assess, and even predict, incoming damage is something that will give you the edge when it comes to making the most of your healing and your mana pool. The point in the encounter where a tank is going to take spike damage (think: Zon’ozz and Psychic Drain or Deathwing’s Impales) versus points where raid damage will spike (think: Yor’sahj’s red phase, Morchok’s stomp), versus times when healing is incredibly sporadic (think: Hagara Ice Lances, Phase 1 Fireship), are all examples of information that should inform the healing decisions you make.

The topic of timing also comes up under the category of optimization as well, because there’s a significant difference between brute force healing (chain-casting heals and hoping they will land at the right time) versus setting up your heals to hit after, or your bubbles to be fully applied before, damage hits.

Practical Examples: One of the key indicators that I use to evaluate the “fit” of spells is to look at their average overhealing value for each spell on progression encounters. High values (>60%) on active-cast abilities generally indicate either spam healing or poor spell choice. Low overhealing (<20%) generally indicates good decision-making but can also be an indicator that you should be using that spell a bit more. Likewise, for expensive heals like Healing Surge, Flash Heal, Regrowth, and Flash of Light, I aim for as close to 0% overhealing as possible; it’s typically a waste of mana to turn to these spells if they’re going to overheal.

When it comes to timing, a well-positioned enemy cast bar, updated boss timers, and simply watching boss cast animations, should all be ample indication of damage to come. And nothing beats simple knowledge of the encounter—like the fact that Ultraxion’s AOE damage accelerates over time or Hagara will always picked Shattered Ice targets from the people in front of her.

5. Make fight mechanics work for you

This tenet should be something that Resto Shaman are incredibly familiar with, as we’ve kept a close eye on +damage fight mechanics ever since the introduction of Telluric Currents. But the concept is something that all healers should have in their cross-hairs–fight mechanics, even the scripting of the fight itself, all contain opportunities for efficiency and greater HPS. Sometimes it’s as simple as Essence of the Green in the Alysrazor encounter, or a little less obvious like phase transitions that are just the right amount of time in which to sit and enjoy a Potion of Concentration. Let’s get into the examples so you can see what I mean …

Practical Examples: The best example I can give on this one is Yor’sahj’s blue phase—which is a fight mechanic that healers should love instead of hate. The blue phase, if done properly, is a free refill of your mana bar. So, instead of trying to be stingy with your heals prior to a blue phase, you should aim to have as little mana as possible when the mana drain goes out, because you’re going to lose it anyways. If you have any hot or absorb components in your healing toolbox, you should be spending the time before a blue phase emptying those heals on the raid. Essentially, you’re “front loading” the phase’s healing, with the added bonus of providing a buffer on the raid while your healing team is waiting for the Mana Void to die or regen abilities to kick in.

Hagara is another great example of making fight mechanics work in your favor—a smart disc priest who has the Ice Lance debuff on raid frames can benefit from Rapture on demand while also boosting his healing done. Druids and Holy Priests practice this same mindset when they ensure that Searing Plasma targets always have a hot on them, while Paladins can do the same with Beacon-healing-through-pets on Yor’sahj. And shaman should be more than well aware of the mana potential for TC on Madness.

6. Minimize extra mana

This is one of the concepts that I really struggled when making the move into the upper echelons of progression, and a topic that Derevka discussed from a more global perspective in a post back in February—Zero Sum Mana. For a conservative person like myself, it was difficult to cut into the mana buffer I had on most fights because I always found myself thinking “but what if I need it?!” But the reality is that the extra mana that you have at the end of an encounter represents stats that could have been put to use elsewhere, and by keeping them allocated to regen you don’t need, your HPS ceiling is lower. So, you should always aim to end an encounter bone-dry, with as much effective healing as possible (this is much different than simply spending 5 minutes spamming heals into all and sundry and thinking “well, I spent all my mana, so I did good”). Because the more tightly tuned your mana, the more conscious you become of how your consumption changes based on your rotation.

Practical Examples: Although mana management isn’t generally an issue at the start of an expansion, since at that point, your stats don’t allow you free reign with your healing arsenal, the need for tuning ramps up as the expac progresses. My first time into any progression encounter, I’ll try to head in with as much mana and regen as possible. Then, during the first couple of pulls, I’ll look for areas where I can carve off some regen for other secondary stats. If there is a +damage modifier in the fight, and I’m on Vixsin, I know that I can knock off a couple hundred mp5. If there’s time enough for me to TC, then I can shave off another couple hundred or, as was the case with our first kills of HM Spine and Madness, I can swap out a regen trinket (Jaws of Defeat, in that case) for a throughput one (Seal of Seven Signs).

7. Utilize External Influence

Naturally, the benefits that DPS get from external cooldowns, apply to healers as well. So, if you’re lucky enough to be able to lie, beg, cheat or steal your way into getting a DI, Focus Magic, or Power Infusion, expect to see your HPS jump as a result. Likewise, pre-potting with Int Potions can help you get some power-charged hots or shields up. And, if you’ve stopped drinking mana potions during your kills, because “I don’t need the mana”, then in combination with #6 above, consider using Intellect pots along with a personal CD for added results.

 

Domination through Philosophy

Now, if this were a post about topping damage meters, I don’t suspect you’d see a section dedicated expressly to the philosophy behind DPS. But, as a healer, your success is largely influenced by the application of your healing philosophy. Every decision you make is based on a belief you have about the “right” way to heal and the “right” choice to make, so sometimes, in order to break into a new level of success as a healer, you need to really question your decision-making process

1. Always Be Casting / Always Be Active.

Although the prominence of the ABC healing philosophy has declined since its popularization in Wrath, it nonetheless remains a core operating principle of healers looking to eek every little bit of healing out of their character. It stands as true today as it did in Wrath—for the 6, 8, or even 12 –minute duration of an encounter, it’s important to treat every GCD as an opportunity. This tenet goes hand-in-hand with being a proactive healer; if you’re not healing the damage that has gone out, then you should be preparing for the damage that is going to go out, whether it’s making sure you have the appropriate people blanketed in hots, handing those critical “management tasks”, stacking absorbs, or even moving into position for the next event in the encounter.

2. Go above and beyond “assignment”

Notice here that I’m not talking about ignoring assignments, because the path to being a better healer doesn’t come from shirking responsibility. Bur rather, the emphasis of this point is that assignments should always be a starting point and not a limiting factor. Tank damage has changed significantly since WotLK, when you needed a dedicated healer to spam the tank for the entirety of a fight. And with healers’ toolboxes expanded to encompass a variety of supplemental healing (eg: Beacon, Lifebloom, Earth Shield, Prayer of Mending) and splash/smart healing (eg: Sanctuary, Holy Radiance, Healing Rain, Chain Heal, Wild Growth, Ancestral Awakening, Efflorescence), the fact of the matter is that assignments are no longer a 100% task, leaving most healers with extra healing capacity to (if they’re smart) expend elsewhere.

What this means to you, as a healer, is that an “assignment” should never be viewed as a strict limitation, but rather a priority system. Your assignment is your top priority, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not responsible for everyone else as well. Even in HM Yor’sahj, when the large majority of guilds assign healers to specific groups and/or players, you can still contribute to other players’ assignments without any penalties (think: Beacon healing into pets, pre-shielding and hotting, using pets to proc Ancestral Awakening) and thus increase your total contribution.

3. First-Come, First-Serve

Although I am a major advocate of Mastery-stacking when it comes to progression, I recently made the switch to a set that brings me up to 2100+ haste, right past the second haste threshold. Why? Because when it comes to parsing at the end of an expansion, the rule is: first come, first serve. What this means is that as your team’s average ilvl increases, as the natural result of your guild’s farming efforts, a couple things happen:

  1. Kill times decrease, the result of increased dps
  2. Players take less incoming damage, the result of increased avoidance stats and repetition
  3. The max HPS of your healing team increases, the result of higher ilvl and more familiarity with the encounter

The effect of all of these changes is that, if you continue to go in with the same raid comp and number of healers, your HPS will decline. (If you’re a Resto Shaman, the HPS decline will be even more because of the way our mastery is designed). This is why people like me will always pester raid leaders to drop healers, because it effectively increases the potential HPS that you can do. But, if you can’t convince your raid leader to drop down to 3 healers for your HM clears, then your next best option is to load up on stats that either: increase your absorb value, increase your haste, or both. Because in order to make the most of your heals in a competitive environment, you need to get their first.

4. Push the Limits – Know your teammates’ weaknesses

Despite the multitude of threads claiming that healer homogenization is upon us (Repent! Repent! Soon you will be the Healing Borg!) I can think of no better way to demonstrate how unique healing classes are than by looking at their weaknesses. Certainly, in any quest to top healing meters, your HPS will be heavily affected by the skill, gear, and class of your healing teammates. But it will also be affected by their weaknesses.

For example, as any resto druid would attest, their current Quality of Life problem centers around burst healing. For Holy Paladins, a weakness is a bit harder to identify, since they’re on top these days. But a spread raid taking continuous damage doesn’t play well into Light of Dawn or Holy Radiance, their only two AOE abilities. Likewise, Disc’s major weakness is unpredictable burst (since mitigation needs to be pro-active), while Holy struggles with having no proactive mitigation techniques. And shaman’s HPS plummets if our hots and Mastery aren’t allowed to kick in, if the raid is disbursed over a wide area, or if we’re asked to move frequently.

What this means is, if you want to beat a druid or a holy priest into submission, snipe their hot targets or subvert them entirely with absorbs. Downplay paladins’ and shamans’ strengths by favoring raid strategies that spread the raid out. Or keep a disc priest under control by asking them to spot-heal or move frequently. (Or … you could, ya know, do the opposite and help design strategies that mitigate these weakness. GASP!)

5. Take it to extremes – Capitalizing on +Healing

Now we get into the tips that take it one step further … As anyone on the WoW forums might tell you (should you dare to ask), not all classes are created equal. And this is especially true when it comes to healing taken—some classes have talents that increase your healing done, talents like Resto Shamans’ Spark of Life, or Paladins’ Divinity, making them ideal targets for target-based AOE healing abilities like Efflorescence and Chain Heal. (If you’re interested in the complete list, take a look at this great post from Jasyla). Conversely, targets with incredible amounts of self-healing (paladins, dk’s, warlocks, etc.) and innate damage mitigation (boomkins, spriests, etc.) oftentimes make less ideal targets because the healing potential is much lower.

6. Take it to even greater extremes – use cancelaura macros for hots on yourself

No, I actually don’t recommend doing this one, but I wanted to include it in the “Philosophy” section for one main reason: great healers look to control the uncontrollable. When I heard this “pro healing tip” from someone who was once pushing top 5 world kills, I admit, I was likely as shocked as you are. But, after stifling the urge to call him a padding ass, I thought about his answer—“There’s no other way to assure I get the best amount of healing out of Protector of the Innocent”—and realized that what he was doing was exerting control over something the majority of us accept as unchangeable without a second thought. How much else do we do that with?

Players can choose not to click the Lightwell, not to stand in the Healing Rain, not to use their healthstones, and yes, even to not let your hots tick on them. In order to counter this, healers looking to top meters will go to extremes, in order to assure better effective healing. They’ll place Healing Rain where it is unavoidable (instead of yelling at players to stand in it), position Lightwell in an easily clickable area and at an appropriate moment (instead of in the middle of the group when damage isn’t even going out), know who players typically clump around (instead of bemoaning a wasted Holy Radiance healing on a player in BFE), or stand in the melee stack for well-placed Efflorescence circles (instead of hoping that a Swiftmend target isn’t off by himself).

 

Now, why do you need this knowledge?

I’m going to guess that a good portion of the people I pissed off in my first couple of paragraphs or somewhere along the way, probably won’t make it this deep into the post, having stopped reading long ago in order to focus their attention on sending me angry emails or submitting nasty comments about how I’m a padding, egotistical jerk (which is not untrue). But for the rest of you, let me expand a little why I really do think it’s important to know all of these techniques about “beating” meters:

The question that I get more often than any other question out there … by a mile … is about why the player isn’t doing well on meters.

And, most times, isn’t a question motivated by selfishness or ego, but rather one asked by players who aren’t confident in their performance or who simply want to improve. These are players who are advised, on forum after forum, blog after blog, that “if the boss dies, then you did your job”. But the problem with this sentiment, and what they’re realizing as they send me an email or post in the healing forums or reach out to friends, is that … THIS ADVICE IS ABSOLUTE SHIT. It’s shit because it does nothing to empower the person who receives it; it does nothing to quantify the conditions of success, nothing to distinguish the myriad of greys between the pass/fail ends of the spectrum. What happens if the boss lives? Well you know that you didn’t do your job, but nothing beyond that. Or, even worse what happens if the boss dies and you still feel unsuccessful? According to the simple definition of success, you’ve nothing to improve upon.

Healing isn’t RNG, it isn’t mystical, and it isn’t uncontrollable. And it’s no where near as subjective as players like to believe. Although the end result of your efforts is binary, the process which produces that result is incredibly intricate and interconnected. Every modicum of success that your healing team has in an encounter can be credited to the choices of its members.  A warm fuzzy feeling isn’t going to keep your team alive (no matter the cheerleader approach that some healers tout), it isn’t going to press your buttons or use your cooldowns, and it’s not going to manage your mana—all of that is up to you and the decisions that you, as a healer, make. This is why trite summations of “successful” healing piss me the hell off.

Every single tip that I gave above contributes to you knowing more about your class, your teammates and your potential. Even those last few tips, which I’m confident made a number of healers recoil in horror when reading, will help you make better decisions in crunch time. Think about it … if you know your teammates’ weaknesses, then you know how to supplement their heals. If you know what classes have increased healing taken or powerful self-healing then you know who really should constitute a priority healing target and who shouldn’t.

Why is a disc priest better in a burst damage environment? Why is a druid better with constant damage? Why do resto shaman rock the hell out of purple phase in Yor’sahj? Why is paladins’ HPS so insane when they get the blue crystal? These are the questions that it takes to “game” meters, and to push yourself to new heights. They’re the ones that help you make smarter decisions when push comes to shove and help you understand just where your pixels fit into the larger picture of your healing team. More importantly, they’re also the ones that make it possible for you to turn a critical eye at a meter that you didn’t win, and feel confident that you still did an amazing job.






26 Comments


  1. Ira

    While I know this particular post is driven completely towards topping the meters, I have found 4.3 more then ever before opened up healers to helping with other roles. There are many things we could do during an encounter that would impact our hps negatively but positively effect the raid:

    For example: helping DPS on ultraxian, absorbing lootship meteor impacts, and helping dps tendons on spine.

    When trying to maximize the healing meters you generally have to make a choice between high numbers and doing the right thing for the raid.

    Another important thing to take into account that is specific to Shamans is our mastery. Since our healing output can drastically raise when healing low HP team-mates it means in order to maximize our HPS we have to play the “how low can he go” game which tends to scare team-mates. ;)

    It also means that our HPS is directly impacted by the effectiveness of the other heals in the group. The better at healing our team-mates actually are the lower our HPS will be.


    • With regards to Resto Shaman Mastery, I do have to take issue with the idea that maximum HPS requires a game of chicken with incoming damage. Just because Mastery can provide a greater contribution at lower levels of health doesn’t mean that: a) you’ll have the opportunity to heal that person at the lower HP value, or b) that you receive no contribution from Mastery at the current value. Because Mastery is a linear effect, your “loss” if you choose to heal someone at 50%, versus letting them drop to 40%, might be only a couple hundred healing. In which case, in the time that you were waiting to heal that player, you could already have done so and be tossing out a heal on someone else.


  2. Hey Vixsin,

    I’m glad to see this post. Even if an individual player devalues meters (and understands they’re not the absolute king) that doesn’t mean that your raid/guild leader isn’t looking at them and wondering what you’re doing wrong.

    It’s important to understand how and why a class functions. Meters can not only help you find that you’re slipping behind (complacency bug!) but can also help you talk to other raid-mates about your class, about its strength and weaknesses *with* something they can understand: bars!
    Windsoar´s last post ..Diablo 3 Auction Houses


    • Absolutely agreed. Meters and logs are very much a common language. There’s no better way that I’ve found to demonstrate that a strat is or is not working than by showing someone the WoL excerpt that illustrates the point you’re trying to make.


  3. Thanks for this post. I know alot of healers and players who completely devalue the meters — but my opinion is much more balanced, like yours. Yeah, it’s possible to snipe your way up to the top of the meters — but at the same time, all things being equal, what’s wrong with a player who likes to play to the full potential of their character? As long as the boss dies…sure?? Why does that mean that we all just need to play conservatively and smile as we pass out loot? I enjoy maximizing my healing the same way a DPS’er maxes their DPS; it’s a fun game for me. Don’t hate on me, healing bros :<


    • Agreed. This made me think of the response I wrote to another one of Jasyla’s posts (http://www.cannotbetamed.com/2011/08/30/heal-sniping-and-meter-padding):

      My name is Vixsin, and I’m a sniper. ^_^

      And if I snipe a heal from you, I’m not only NOT sorry that I did it, I’m going to taunt you for being too slow. If you want to be lazy, say you had dibs on that empty part of a person’s HP bar and claim I “pad” because I beat you to the heal, that’s your prerogative.

      I make decisions about who to heal based on a split-second assessment of the situation; I don’t have time to second-guess or stop-cast every time I see an overlap. I’m not going to squint at an Incoming Heals number, do a quick mental calculation and then hand-pick the “right” heal to address the difference. More than that, I’m in raid to do the most healing I possibly can, while being completely accountable for *every single person there*. And if I have mana to burn, then you bet your ass I’m going to burn it.

      You can call it padding, sniping, pre-hotting, or whatever you like; I call it healing like I’m the only healer alive. Because the difference between sniping and triage, is that extra healer or two that we shouldn’t have there in the first place.


  4. Interesting, many of your points are practices healers should absolutely engage. Min/maxing, diligence, etc. But, your advice is dangerous in some respects. The “If the boss dies, you succeeded” mantra, while not empowering, is accurate. It is FAR more important to keep people alive than it is to maximize HPS. And your message sends a very bad signal to a lot of healers. I know, because I have raided with a lot of people who view high HPS as the only qualifier for success, and these are the people that are awful at triage and let tanks get gibbed, etc, causing wipes.

    In 25 mans, you can get away with a few healers ignoring triage to maximize HPS because you have strict assignments, etc. In 10 man progression where I am often one of only two healers, I have to sacrifice overall through put to triage on a regular basis. Utilizing cooldowns precisely rather than as a means to min/max is important for me. This is sometimes the difference between a 1% wipe on a pull that could be a top 10 US kill, or playing things close to rank on WoL and finding myself in a bad situation at 1%. Landing important low HPS heals to save people, saving some extra mana or conserving a cooldown (as a paladin) for sketchy moments can be that difference between a wipe or success. This is in addition to the stuff Ira brought up above (I spec’d Denounce for early H Spine pulls, for example, which isn’t going to help HPS in ANY way, ever).

    I think people should be trying to push HPS as much as they can. But this mentality can be dangerous just because it is so self-serving and singular in its objective, and vocally advocating it sends a bad message to healers who aren’t operating at some kind of mastery level. Obviously, for someone like yourself, you know you can’t sacrifice triage for HPS. It would be fair to emphasize that these WoL ranking games are fun and far more acceptable when progression is over. Being overly risky during progression requires a pretty serious level of mastery that most healers simply do not have, and it will hold their team back.

    Still, what I am talking about is simply a difference in perspective, most of your tips are vital practices, whether you’re concerned with meters or not. Good post!
    Aani´s last post ..Glory of the Dragon Soul Raider


    • You put what I was thinking into words — I was trying to figure out the reason why meters get such bad raps. A great healer can maximize HPS while keeping the raid alive (which is, of course, your FIRST obligation). A weak healer thinks high HPS is awesome, but can’t toss a tank-saving heal for their life’s sake.

      My issue is — sometimes by devaluing the “meters”, we pat the back of healers who heal overly conservatively (ONLY tossing efficient, direly needed heals) and thus get low HPS, but aren’t performing to their best. So, your average-joe casual raid leader or healing lead is afraid to call them out due to the controversy over meters because their answer is always “meters aren’t everything!” — which is true, they aren’t, but they aren’t worthless either.
      Fivequarters´s last post ..Deepholme, how I loathe thee


    • Very interesting thoughts, and you definitely make some excellent points. I do hope you’ll forgive me for the long response that’s going to follow.

      I guess the first question I would ask you is … are max HPS and smart triage healing really exclusive concepts? I would argue that they’re not. Most oftentimes, if you check out the top healing parses on WoL, you’ll find logs where the healing team was in a constant state of triage for the entire encounter. And, a smart healer focused on HPS will realize that you can’t maximize healing on a dead raid, so it behooves you to heal whomever needs it, in whatever quantity that they need it.

      As to your point about healers and raid utility, I absolutely agree that, as a healer, you should do what needs to get done. You’re dead right about that one. For our first Ultra kill, our 5 healers put in over 6M damage done, and still parsed higher than we have on every subsequent attempt. On Fireship, our healers are primary soakers, responsible for moving to every possible barrage in their area. And on our first HM Spine kill, healers were responsible for breaking grips while Burning Tendons were exposed, while also dpsing the tendon.

      My final point on your very thought-provoking comment (did I say thank you for it yet? Thank you!) is that you’ll notice that the title of this post is about Abusing Healing Meters, not about ranking. If it was about how to rank, it would have been a substantially different post (and likely very short). To me, ranks come as a by-product of exceptional healing. In fact, some of my own top parses over the years and those of some of the healers that I’ve had the pleasure of raiding with, came from kills where we simply healed our asses off, with no tricks or gimmicks. I think you’re right in that I should have emphasized that much more.


  5. Great post Vixsin, though the mention of cancelling HoTs did have me cringing a little bit.

    I’m very much like you. I like to see myself at the top of the healing meters all the time. My ego gets bruised when I’m not #1. I think healers need to be competitive and use every advantage they have to do as much healing as possible. Although we heal as a team, a competitive attitude makes people strive to perform better and makes the raid stronger.
    Jasyla´s last post ..Saviours of Azeroth


    • 100% agreed. The paladin that told me about his hot cancelaura is arguably one of the best healers I’ve ever raided with, and I know that having him in raid pushes me all that much more (mostly because I like rubbing his nose in it on those occasions when I do beat him!)


  6. Skyblast

    As much as I agree with most of your arguments I dont see any mentioning of overhealing?! I can spam HR during Ultraxion all day long and top the meters but my overhealing goes through the roof aka wasted healing/mana.


    • I agree with this.

      At some point, you run the risk of healing just for the sake of healing. There are times where there is no damage going out or so little that you don’t have to be operating at full throttle to keep up with it. I understand that this could also mean that you are running with too many healers and that can be fixed rather easily. But I do think that overheal does factor prominently in this. There are healers who have “beaten” me that had 40-50% overheal compared to my 20-30%. I healed because I needed to do it and someone needed to receive it. That healing went where it was needed. What did the other guy do? He did it just to do it.

      I question whether that kind of behavior should be rewarded or whether his seat at the top of the meters is being celebrated, based on a really simple, narrow standard.

      I think we as healers are bigger than that and I think such an almost primitive mindset is best left for DPS, to be honest.
      Oestrus´s last post ..A Beginner’s Guide to Cockatrice – Part One


      • Fair enough. I get where you’re coming from, and I don’t think it’s incorrect to say that healing meters are a representation of brute force effect. If you only look at Healing Done, then your view of success will be limited to just effective output. In which case overhealing, which could be viewed as your level of exactitude with your heals, is completely disregarded.

        But, I think it’s also incorrect to argue that exactitude is the end-all, be-all of healing, because whether we like it or not, output matters. Several very smart, very precise decisions will not alleviate the total healing requirements of an encounter. So, as much as I appreciate the “skilled healer with low overhealing” argument, I still know that at the end of the day, a healing team’s success (especially on progression) is based on the total healing that they can do in order to prevent the raid from falling over. So, if I can take the same class, same spec, same geared healer and do more with it, overhealing or not, I know that I’m going to be more valuable to that team because of it.


        • Output absolutely matters. However, I think some consideration does need to be made with regard to how that output is being created.

          For example, I ran with a resto shaman during T11 who was notorious for spamming Healing Rain. He would top meters and he would churn out what appeared to be an impressive amount of healing. But that’s sort of all he did. There wasn’t a lot of Riptide. There wasn’t much Chain Heal happening. It was just Healing Rain spam – all the time.

          Now granted, I only have a resto shaman alt, so maybe that’s all he felt he needed to do. Maybe this was a case of us having too many healers and he was able to get by with that. But I seem to recall that I wasn’t able to get by with just laying HW:S down repeatedly, so I don’t know how he was able to get by doing that. Yet, there he was, and there came the ire of his fellow healers. “Look at how much healing he’s doing! Why can’t I keep up with that? Nerf shamans!”

          Our healing lead didn’t buy it, because she knew that what was behind the numbers didn’t look very appealing. If he was using the correct tools for the job, or the most optimal – AND – he was able to top the meters at the same time, that’s wonderful. I just think the priority of topping the meters should have been second, maybe even third in that situation. Don’t get me wrong, I think aspiring to top a meter should be a priority. I just question what people are willing to do to get there. Specifically the clicking off someone else’s HoT that may be on you. That seems a bit extreme. What’s next? Someone swallowing all of my Lightwell charges to prevent them from going to others who could use them? It doesn’t seem like a big leap after that.
          Oestrus´s last post ..A Beginner’s Guide to Cockatrice – Part One


        • Squidfayce

          @ Oestrus.

          If the shaman was topping meters in T11 by HR spam and not much else, theres a few more things at play here. I recall T11 being very tight on Mana and about 10 HR emptying my mana bar.

          for the shaman to be spamming HR, would have needed to use insane ammounts of TC to maintain it.
          WHile i agree the concept of using the right tool for the job, whos to say that the right tool for your raid group wasnt mastery laden HR spam suplemented with TC regen?

          Personally there are times I can use the right tools for the right job and still be out performed by somone who is spamming rejuv or holy radiance. IMO the big picture here is timing.
          Although a sthe expansion gets old and regen and such dont really matter i find my self spamming healing surge all the way home. I dont care, I workeed hard at the start and used all the right tools at the right times, now i just want to abuse the meters a little. Nothing wrong with that.

          Context is an important factor in this discussion.

          Of course abusing meters and triage healing is not mutually exclusive as Vixsin has pointed out. But when the gap widens, it doesnt really matter anymore which way you chose to get there. Whether its via your amazing ability to have low overheal and High HPS or High overheal and high HPS. as long as you can sustain High healing done without it impacting your raid team or healing team, who cares which way you get there?

          Note that this post from Vixsin is coming at a time near the end of an expansion. have a look at the posts from teh begining of cata – The posts reflect being eficient, using your brain and know when its justafiable to fill a void with HS over a GHW etc.


        • I think the long and the short of it is … there are tons of caveats that I could have tacked on to this post, which is centered on how to better yourself on meters and push the limits of your healing. But I didn’t, and don’t, want to take the high road or present the “gentleman’s game” argument on that topic. WoW is, at its very core, all about numbers. And players can’t get away from that by choosing to play a healer.

          If nothing else, I want to encourage healers to be hungry, to be competitive, to think about min/maxxing HPS in the same way that top DPS do. That “primitive mindset” is why players/guilds at the top are capable of doing what they do, because they are so hungry for success that they’ll use every trick in the book to assure that they are.


  7. Thank you for your post, Vixsin!
    I won’t lie: I started Cataclysm as a Wrath-baby. In WotLK, I had never done a progression raid and I had never tanked. But come Cataclysm, my guild needed a tank very badly, and I stepped up on my one and only level 85- my Death Knight.

    Tanking scared the bejesus out of me- mostly because it made me truly, personally accountable for the success or failure of a fight. Much to my own surprise (and that of my guild) I was quickly outliving our entire raid in almost every fight, out DPSing most of the raid, and I ALWAYS did the vast majority of the heals that hit my character.

    I realized that my advantage was that I approached tanking very differently from the traditional standpoint of “If I’m not dead I’m doing it right”.
    Like you with your healing, I tanked like I was soloing the boss. Every GCD was filled. If I couldn’t heal myself or mitigate further damage, I was bashing that boss’s face in with my mace because the quicker he died, the less damage I had to absorb and avoid.

    Let people call you greedy. Let people say you’re trying too hard. Let them say you make them look bad.
    The reality is: THEY aren’t trying hard enough.

    If doing my job means stepping on toes, I’d rather stomp.
    Kalc´s last post ..Runes and Runic Power- The Feedback Loop


  8. Stunchy

    There are these people who think that they are special, that what they practice is an elegant art form, that they are an elite few and therefore better than the common, numbers obsessed masses, that their ability and their value is, by definition, unmeasurable, and that any attempt to numerically asses them beyond, “the boss died” is summarily dismissed and often attacked. Thank you Vixsin for some great quotable responses to these good people.

    Regarding your post in general, my opinion is that the healer who is winning on the meters is almost always the supperior healer. And trying to perform better on the meters makes me a better healer. What particularly irks me are those healers who justify their self appointed healing master status because of their ability to provide “life saving heals,” of which they invariably recall some number of these mythical events and claim this as justification that they are just as good and valuable as another healer who destroyed them on he meters. Try telling one of these zen masters that if they did their jobs better, kept health bars up consitently through high HPS that most of those life saving heals would not be necessary.

    There just needs to be some accommodation for the individual healer who takes an HPS loss for the good of the raid, especially in 10 man. For example, if AOE damage is coming in but the tank also takes a big hit, one of the healers needs to heal the tank and the other can keep AOE healing the raid. The healer who consistently heals the tank will lose to the one who stays on the raid every time, but both are contributing to the raid’s survival equally.


  9. With your extremely geared raid, and running low numbers of healers, how well do you rank? I remember trying to compare our healing styles some time ago now, and being surprised at your lack of ranked parses despite being in the best possible position to post them. I have consistently found ranks of ~20 come with the initial kill of a boss, then I never peak as high again as the boss becomes farm, and other healers seem to crush the numbers with intentionally standing in fire etc. Which is nothing new, and with the nerfs DS has received its even understandable, but ignoring that, when the content was current, how well do all these practices you talk about get you up the ranks? As it seems chasing meters and chasing ranks is effectively the same thing during progression before the bad practices for bigger numbers come into it, and it is the best comparison between 10s and 25s numbers, im just curious as to how your well thought out healing style compares to my seat of the pants DPS style I brought into healing after playing DPS since vanilla and only picking healing up in infinite mana ICC.


    • I think you’re spot on when it comes to how healer rankings typically occur:
      1. It’s your first kill and everyone was barely hanging on, so your HPS is naturally high
      2. It’s mid tier and the stars align
      3. It’s the end of the tier and your healing team is trying for parses
      And of all of these, the parses that do endure on WoL tend to be those achieved under the conditions of #3. It’s pretty rare to see one that exists from an actual first kill.

      As to putting my money where my mouth is … I rarely do chase parses with the amount of fervor that you’d presume from someone writing a “how to: meters” post. (And arguably this post was not about ranking, but rather about getting the most out of your toon). But, on the occasions where I have the opportunity to underheal, I will go after it. Last week’s 4-heal on HM Spine, (which sadly still doesn’t approach the 2/3-healing teams that Vodka and Blood Legion go in with–QQ), netted me a #2 parse. In fact, you can see for yourself how I compare to other 25M HM resto shamans out there: Raidbots Epeen Meter: Vixin


  10. Manhands

    I quote:

    “(Yes, I’m well aware this post might encourage more than a few people to turn their noses up in disgust; how to win healing meters has long been a taboo topic. But you know what? It’s time someone talked about it).”

    After thoroughly reading the post, discussing (sometimes arguing) with my girlfriend (who is our main healer), and doing some obsessive thinking on the topic, I’m pretty damn sure that there was NO REASON to write this post from a meter-humping standpoint.

    Let’s talk about sports for a second. The correlation between raiding and playing team sports should be apparent. Imagine if a star player said in an interview, “It’s really all ’bout me. I mean, I have to be better than ‘em, cause if I don’t look good, I might not get a big contract. I mean, if Joe [Averageplayer] is open, fuck if I gonna pass anything his way if I can make the shot. Only a fool be that stupid.” He’d be done in that sport. Look at Terrell Owens – a great player (look at his numbers!) who focuses too much on himself and can’t find a team who wants him. Dude got kicked off the team he OWNS in some 3rd rate football league cause of his attitude (http://content.usatoday.com/communities/thehuddle/post/2012/05/terrell-owens-cut-no-longer-tolerated-by-indoor-team/1#.T9EeZZh5CPQ).

    But do players make decisions based on what is best for them? Yes, being human, of course. Do raiders? Yes, being (mostly) human, of course. But to say in an interview (or blog post…or tweet…) that they personally are not team-oriented can be pretty detrimental to the team atmosphere. If one dude screws others for their own gain, the people in charge have to get rid of the player or else they seem like they CONDONE that attitude. And if an entire team starts to adopt that philosophy, everyone ends up getting screwed by it eventually.

    Actually, Cedric Daniels from The Wire said it well. He was talking to a person on his team who went behind his back to get promoted. Giving poster-worthy Lawful-Good advice about how to lead:

    “You show loyalty, they learn loyalty. You show them it’s about the work, it’ll be about the work. Show them some other kinda game, that’s the game they’ll play.”

    If you openly encourage the idea that “there’s no better way to [become a great healer] than to become a master of winning healing meters” and ‘juking the stats’, then everyone around you will adopt that same philosophy. And how is that bad?

    (1) What if resto shamans get nerfed (like that’s never happened…) and you are completely rocking it to the best of your ability, but it’s literally IMPOSSIBLE to beat a holy pally who is competent? You will find yourself a new spec, toon, guild, or new game to play. Cause you sure as shit won’t make the raid roster if your toon doesn’t pump out the numbers. And you fostered that atmosphere.

    (2) I have no idea who you are, really. I like your other posts, for whatever that’s worth. But to fuck over other healers (ie. by convincing the raid leader to remove them or force them to change specs or by canceling others’ hots) for your own gain (so you have higher numbers/make the fights more interesting) is crossing the line.

    I know, I’m going a bit overboard here. The POINT of your post was how to rock the numbers, which can have the fantastic side-effect of keeping the raid stable, get kills, and improve as a player. I toast to that. But the ATTITUDE deserves denunciation. You put this acidic attitude out in public, and some second-rate healer will use this an an excuse to be an absolute jackass to his healing team. He might have been a jackass anyway, but you gave him ammunition.

    Summary (tl;dr): This was a fantastic post about how to improve your healing output. It was almost the best post I’ve read about improving healing effectiveness…right up until it ignored the team-aspect of raiding. You screw others for your own gain, and that shit will come back on you…and propagate to other places…and create a huge mess. If you suggest that the game is all about your own personal gain, ‘then that’s the game [your healing team] will play.”


    • First off, my thanks for the counter argument. I do appreciate the time and care you put into it–you’ve brought up a number of very meaty discussion topics, all of which I’d love to sink my teeth into. But, since I had the benefit of this entire post to discuss my perspective, I’m going to try to keep this short. So, a couple points:

      1. Personal success and team success are not mutually exclusive concepts. You can be a team player who is also working to optimize your contribution.
      2. Likewise, personal triumph is worthless in a team sport if it is not accompanied by the team’s triumph (this is what TO, others like him, and every application I’ve read where the player claims that the’s carrying a bunch of retards, doesn’t understand. You are your team).
      3. Your point #1 is the the world of progression raiding. If my shaman isn’t pulling the numbers that another class is on a fight, I’m going to be asked to bench my shaman. (It’s why our healing team is comprised of individuals who play multiple, if not every, healing class).

      Lastly, I understand the fear that someone could take the advice I offered above and use it to be an asshole. It’s a very real possibility. But the hope is, as I took the time to explain in the final section (and explicitly stated in the last paragraph), that the potential for education is greater. The healing asshole will be a healing asshole no matter what I say, but the good healer could be a great healer when he starts cultivating a hunger to be better.


  11. The thing that struck me about this post (and I’m aware I’m a little late to the table here) is that the first point is in regards to uptimes. Bravo. Honestly what I’ve been finding as the content gets slowly easier and more and more people become full BIS is that ‘high healing numbers’ are naturally the result of good play.
    What I mean by this is the Shamans who strictly use Healing Rain, Chain Heal and Lightning Bolt as a rotation, have high numbers. They may let shields drop, and the tanks may be sad about their Ancestral Vigor uptime, but more Chain Heals spammed out actually does (sadly) beat out someone who’s using GCDs on other spells, or single target.
    This obviously works the same with a Discipline Priest who hit PoH, PW:S and calls out for Innervates to keep going. Progression viable? No. Parse worthy and meter topping? Oh yes. Forget about the Strength of Soul mechanic, Grace uptime… To be fair Rapture uptime is usually fantastic with the style.
    What I’m saying, and this is mostly in reply to Stunchy and Oestrus’ posts, is that the highest HPS output is not the best healer. Maybe they are when they’re doing all things well, however it’s extremely important to take into account where numbers actually come from while you heal.
    If you can pull up a WoL parse and see insane Holy Radiance and Light of Dawn healing but nothing but Light of Dawn contributing to Beacon healing, and 60% Judgements of the Pure uptime cause they just outgear the boss at this point… yes you can admire that player for the high numbers, their class knowledge to do things in a sneaky way, their raid for tolerating the paddy behaviour…
    Bad numbers? Bad. Good numbers? Good. Good numbers with all things in check in terms of mechanics, spell composition, buff uptimes and heal targets? Best. And if someone outheals your HPS when you’re in that third category, eh.


  12. I find myself struggling to be competitive these days. I’m in a 25 man group, 8/8H and have been since shortly after 5% I would have had 8/8H pre-5% in a 10man if it weren’t for connection issues with both of our tanks.

    I switched to 25 man as I see it being more fun to play a restoration shaman, and I enjoy the community of a larger guild. That said, my raid has consisted of 1 disc priest, 1 holy priest, 2 holy paladins, 2 restoration druids, and myself, a restoration shaman. And as the damage nerfs have come and gone, with each one my numbers get weaker and weaker. I almost always have 100% up-time on everything, and I feel terrible because I’ve been consistently ranked on the bottom or middle of the pack post 15% and the introduction of our newly recruited bad-ass discipline priest. Ultraxion? I as 4th out of 4 healers, the holy priest and myself were tied neck and neck for third. Our disc priest was 1st and our holy paladin was 2nd (the paladin did not have the red buff, the disc and myself did) I find I can’t compete when absorbs literally never fade from our paladins and disc priest.

    I’ve reforged completely out of spirit and went for haste on everything and leaving mastery untouched. I still can’t compete, I don’t know what to do. I guess we’re bringing too many healers to fights that are easily healed from 2-4 healers depending on how active your raid is on doing mechanics properly. I’d like to know your thoughts on the matter in a setup like ours. We constantly bring 5-6 healers per heroic encounter post 30% even unless one of the healers pretty much thinks what’s the point.

    - A frustrated Shaman.
    Navras´s last post ..Dear Blizzard,


  13. This is a brilliant post for someone looking to improve (not top meters). What to think about, when to “do stuff”, etc. I just need to read it 152 more times and I might be in a position to implement all of it.

    Thank you!



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