So lately my buddy Scrat has been somewhat absent from our raids due to real life commitments and unfortunate overtime at work and blah blah blah. Whatever, he’s not hardcore like Dueg. However, the problem with that is that Scrat is sort of our unofficial healing lead in the guild. During the occasional fights that require healing assignments, Scrat’s the man who lays them out and generally he’s pretty good at it. Without him around though, I volunteered to step into this role and do the job myself. Much hilarity has ensued.
I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself the healing lead since at the moment there really isn’t a healing lead in the guild. We’ll often have a couple of officers in the healing channel who’ll weigh in with thoughts and ideas and if it seems the healing isn’t working for whatever reason, they’ll let us know what they think can be done for improvement. However, other than myself right now, there’s not really anyone to say, “Healer X, you’re on Tank Y.” So after a few weeks I’m starting to come to the following conclusions: A) There’s more to being a healing lead than just healing assignments, B) I don’t know enough about other healing classes and C) Scrat’s a turd for not showing up to raids and making me do this.
In order to examine what’s necessary to be a healing lead you almost have to look at what’s necessary to be an officer in any given raiding guild. A firm grasp on the mechanics of not just healers, but tanks and even the occasional dps class is going to go a long way when trying to determine where heals should go for a particular fight. You also must familiarize yourself with the various encounters you’ll be running up against in order to know how many healers will be effective for it and how to optimize the healing assignments. You’re not going to be able to get the job done effectively by just making sure every tank has a dedicated healer and must be prepared to be flexible for certain fights.
Then there’s the healing classes themselves. During the first week that I was doing healing assignments, I completely fell apart when it came to Patchwerk. Normally we have 6 healers on any given raid, but for that night we only had five. Being halfway familiar with the fight, I know that in general you can get away with one person on the main tank and two on the tanks eating hatefuls, but which healer on the tank? Though the main tank doesn’t take as much damage as the off tanks, it’s not like Patchwerk is handing him pillows and a blanket, so I wasn’t sure if I should put a strong single target healer such as a paladin or maybe a lesser one such as myself. All I knew for sure is I didn’t want a shaman since their single target healing is not as effective. After a couple of minutes, we got it sorted out and was still able to one shot ol’ Patch, but I still felt almost as if I had screwed up.
This only served to highlight that as a healing lead, you definitely need to be familiar with other classes. It’s very simple to say that Paladins and Discipline Priests are single target healers and that Shamans and Holy Priests are raid healers, but something is lost in translation there. Blizzard’s trying to make it that any healer can fill any role in a pinch and therefore there may be subtle differences and certain spells that will optimize certain healers in certain situations regardless of class or spec. You’ll also need to know when it’s necessary to assign a specific healer to either melee or ranged dps and which ones are going to be optimal for that depending on the fight and the makeup of your dps core. As a healing lead, one should be familiar with these differences and know the subtly of all the various healing classes at their disposal. Unfortunately, this means one thing: Research.
However, it would seem that research of just the healing classes is really not enough. One who wants to be a good healing lead should be familiar with the survivability and abilities of the tank classes as well if they want to be able to effectively assign heals. A tank who’s going to be able to last longer while taking shots from the big baddie won’t need a hardcore healer and you can get away with one of your weaker single target healers on him. On the flip side, if you have a tank who’s taking spike damage out the yin yang whether from the boss or because the tanking class is weak for a particular encounter, then you may want to have two healers on him to keep the heals coming constantly. It’s almost like a subtle balancing act with phat lewtz at the end and a lake of sharks with lasers attached to their heads below.
Of course, there’s also the idea that you must be familiar with your healing team and prepared to adjust assignments accordingly based on variables such as gear and general ability. I’m not going to place only the paladin on the main tank if half his gear is still dungeon blues regardless of the fact that the class is superior at single target heals. I’m also not going to do it if the paladin has full epics but has a tendency to disconnect during boss fights (in which case he/she should be re-evaluated as a raider anyways). There’s also going to be people who prefer a certain type of role and may complain if you try to switch that up too much. Of course, any raider worth his salt should be able to adapt if not thrive in whatever role you assign them to, but you also want to make sure you keep them happy and let them work in their area of expertise.
With Ulduar right around the corner and the possibility looming that I may have to do the healing assignments on brand new fights I’m thinking the time has come to really buckle down and start doing the research. Naxx is so easy nowadays and we’ve done Maly and Sarth enough for people to pretty much understand their assignments inherently, so there’s a minimal amount of work for those raids as a healing lead. However, Ulduar will be a different story and we may need someone familiar with the fights and abilities of other players in order to keep from floundering the first few weeks. Unfortunately for <NEED A DISPENSER HERE>, I just might be that person, in which case I suggest a healthy dose of prayer to go with that research. Unless Scrat stops being an ass and starts raiding again… please?