Healing Lead

I’ve been healing lead of my guild for about 9 months. To be honest, it’s a job I have mixed feelings about. Up until some point in Cata, I didn’t even like healing assignments. I thought healing teams should be like well-oiled machines that didn’t need to be micromanaged.

Now I understand that some assignments are necessary. The extent of my ‘who heals who’ assignments are generally limited to who heals the tanks and who heals the raid – sometimes I split healers up between melee and ranged or, depending on the fight mechanics, assign healers to other specific targets. Doing this gives the benefit of accountability and makes troubleshooting easier when people die.

But then there are also assignments for when people use certain abilities. A number of heroic fights in Cata required a set order of cooldowns on the tank to prevent him from getting gibbed. Other fights required raid-wide throughput or damage mitigation cooldowns to be used in sequence.

As much as I like to be organized the amount of cooldowns there are to coordinate is getting a little ridiculous. I run 25s, typically with 6 healers per encounter. We have all healer classes and specs. So on any given fight the cooldowns available for me to assign are:

  • Output cooldowns – Tranq, Divine Hymn, Healing Tide Totem, Revival
  • Raid-wide damage mitigation – Spirit Link Totem, Power Word: Barrier, Devotion Aura, Zen Meditaton
  • Single target cooldowns – Ironbark, Pain Suppression, Guardian Spirit

And it’s not just the healers’ abilities I need to be concerned with. There are also:

  • Tank cooldowns – Survial Instincts, Might of Ursoc, Avert Harm, Fortifying Brew, Shield Wall, Ardent Defender, Icebound Fortitude, etc.
  • Ret and Prot Pallies also have Devotion Aura
  • Ele and Enhance Shaman may have Healing Tide Totem
  • Warriors have Rallying Cry
  • Death Knights have Anti-Magic Shell
  • Feral or Boomkin can Tranq
  • If I use my Symbiosis on a Shadow Priest, they can Tranq too.

…this is making my head hurt.

My biggest frustration in doing these assignments is that I’m always getting whispered or having comments made in healer chat saying “you didn’t assign my cooldown, when should I use it?” or “don’t forget, so-and-so has a cooldown too”. I’m appreciative that people are trying to help, but at the same time, it bothers me for two reasons. First, the idea of assigning exactly when to use 18 different abilities for every fight strikes me as absurd. Second, I generally have a pretty good idea of why we’re wiping or why people are dying and a lot of the time it has nothing to do with how many or few cooldowns were used.

Here’s an example – we did an exploratory raid a week ago and did Stone Guard. We wiped a number of times because we were getting destroyed by the Overload. Some people have the reaction “Aah! Damage! Assign more stuff!” I don’t have that reaction. My reaction is that the Petrifications and the Overloads aren’t lining up correctly. The raid should be taking ~25k each from Overloads, not ~125k – this is what needs to be fixed, it’s not a problem that’s solved by throwing healer cooldowns at it. The healers should be able to handle a bad Overload or two by popping a Tranq or a Hymn after it hits but, in my opinion, cooldowns shouldn’t be assigned around the expectation of poor execution.

Some organization is necessary. Certain abilities require cooldowns so we can get through them and you don’t want 6 healers blowing their loads at once and having nothing left when the next big damage ability comes around.

Then again, there’s something to be said for people thinking for themselves. Have a damage mitigation ability that would be helpful? Use it before raid-wide damage and use it often. Have a big heal? Use it when lots of people are low on health and healer mana is running low.

I’m looking for some other perspectives. If you are a healing lead or raid lead how do you handle these kinds of assignments? Do you assign ALL the cooldowns? Do you just assign a few of the big ones? Do you change your assignments to make up for mechanics being missed or players taking too much avoidable damage, or do you expect those things to be fixed rather than try to bandage them with cooldowns?

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14 Responses to Healing Lead

  1. I am in the same position as you and when pushing content (especially HM) it is important to line up CDs and I do utilize the CDs from nearly every raider. I will state first that I agree with you that proper execution is important and any good raid leader knows to ensure you are performing the strategy properly before throwing more heals at the problem. However, I find our raid having to squeeze every cooldown, especially when we are at a gear deficit in the content.

    Since you used Stone Guard I will also use that encounter as an example. In that fight I assign the healers based on the overload colors. There are 4 groups of CDs for colors, each having a Devotion Aura and 2 other class CDS. Typically one throughput and one preventative. 2 major throughput cooldowns are reserved for “as needed” basis. OS tranqs are also reserved for the pinch moments when I call them. 4 healers are specifically assigned to tanks. This is the skeleton setup and we adjust as needed. Each player is responsible for execution and if there is a death the first thing checked in logs is what they died to and were the proper CDs used. You may argue that this only applies to HM progression but I disagree, I would say it applies to all progression. The execution and exactness is just less important when you out gear the content or in normal mode. Use every advantage you are given and don’t stress on micromanaging each class. Give the assignment once and rely on those players to be skillful in their own execution. This way the list of things I call in a raid is reduced to under 10. Hope this brings you a little extra insight.

    • Thanks for sharing.

      I’m a little more lax on some fights. Like Stone Guard – I assigned cooldowns the first time we did it, then realised they weren’t really needed and on our second kill I didn’t assign any. I do assign 3 tank healers, but otherwise, I felt there wasn’t really any big damage that needed to be planned for.

  2. Varies from fight to fight for us. Stone Guard I don’t preassign cds. OS cds I will call for as needed. Mana cds are mine all mine to call as well.

    Feng, otoh, I have a cd order. The order we use them depends on how well the tanks are using their shield things. If the tank calls that the healers need to cover the next round of aoe, I have a predetermined order that cds get used in. I assign a throughput cd + a raidwide mitigation if I have one on hand.

    If the fight calls for it, I will squeeze every advantage I can get from healing cds, mitigation cds, and mana cds. The more predictable a fight is, the better I can hand out cds.

    • I’ve never called for mana CDs. People are pretty good at using them on their own, and one of our other healers will often call for them (if people have any left) when mana gets tight.

      I finally got a cooldown method that I like worked out for Feng. I tell people in advance the order of about 7 cooldowns (Tranqs, Hymns, Barrier, Devotion Auras, HTT, SLT) so people know what to expect, then I call for each as needed.

  3. While I’ve never really done much leading, I was wondering if you had any thoughts about addressing something I find to be micromanaging the wrong way.

    My current guild’s heal lead likes to assign specific healers to tanks (reasonable), refuses to ever change the people that do so (okay), and then assigns everyone else to specific parties-and-you-better-not-deviate. For every fight, no matter what (what?), not just something like purple on Yor’sahj where there’s a good reason to do so. She even regularly tries to sit one of the best healers I’ve ever run with because he told her one day that she’s the only one with a party-only heal. Fortunately she doesn’t care for meters/performance, so she won’t notice that raid healers never stick with party healing (but..nor that they often outheal tank healers on tank healing too).

    Interestingly enough, she doesn’t care about cooldowns. She’s against announcing cooldown usage and times though, which is unfortunate. I did it in 10m raids with some of the same healers and it worked to prevent wasted cooldowns and to cycle mana cooldowns more effectively. It happens quite often in my 25s, so I have an idea as to which healers are running with good memories or addons that keep track of cooldowns and which aren’t. If you go this route for all fights, you’re shifting the managing from yourself to your healers, and that depends on how much you trust them to gauge what’s going on. But some fights need some management (I’m thinking Feng right now) so it makes sense to have a predefined order of cooldowns just to make sure you have a cooldown when you need it every time.

    I’m pretty tempted to create an addon that keeps track of the various healing cooldowns though..it is a huge clusterfuck to consider and it’s always useful to know what’s available/up no matter what kind of management style you choose.

    • I really don’t like having certain people assigned to tank heal all the time. In Cata I did this with my healing team, but mostly because that’s the way it had been before I took over as healing lead. In Mists I’m now trying to rotate assignments so that everyone gets to do both tank healing and raid healing at times so no one burns out doing the same thing all the time.

      I don’t think assigning people to specific parties makes much sense. The heals that make up the majority of healing for most classes are smart or AoE heals that will heal whoever they want, so you really can’t just stick to a party. Sometimes I will assign healers to melee or ranged, or if the raid gets split up over a large distance, healers will be assigned to particular groups, but telling people to only heal their party seems counterproductive.

      I use ORA3 to keep track of healing cooldowns. You can choose the spells you want it to track for each class and see when they’ve been used and when they will be up again. It does have some problems – right now Monk spells aren’t recognized and it thinks Tranq has an 8-minute cooldown – but it’s helpful.

  4. My situation is a bit different than yours and when we did assignments it was based on the mechanics of the fight, not the cooldowns members were bringing to the table. Some fights require the absolute coordination of every single member’s major (and I use the word *major* advisedly) healing cooldowns, and knowing who was going to use what when is crucial. On the other hand, we rarely assigned anything beforehand, which may be part of playing in a smaller group where you can easily note what abilities have been used by other healers, and the ease of communication. I have never been in a group where *every* cool-down was outlined. I would find such micromanagement insulting.

    I am never surprised during progression of a fight to discover that resources are being mismanaged to cover screw-ups. It’s how the fight gets pushed along sometimes. However, raid members should be *aware* that this is happening.

    From my experience with bigger raid groups, I would always suggest a cooldown manager whether you’re a raid/team leader or not. It helps you plan your own cooldown usage better when you know what resources are available. As a raid/team leader, it is absolutely necessary. You don’t want to waste time asking for what resources you have at your disposal when the sh** hits the fan.
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    • The cooldowns in my raid are assigned based on mechanics of the fight. Ijust sometimes get overwhelmed by the amount of cooldowns that are available in a 25-man raid. Maybe I just need to adjust my mindset, but assigning warriors when to use their Rallying Cry just strikes me as odd. I’m the *healing* lead but if I took assignments to extremes I could be coordinating abilites for half the raid.

      I use ORA3 to track cooldowns which is very helpful. It’s great to see how long before cooldowns are available again.

  5. As the healing lead for my 25-man guild, I usually only give out assignments on fights that require healers to focus on specific groups via some type of healing mechanic or if someone is on Dispel duty. For our guild, strict healing assignments have only become a reality for a few Heroic modes where tanks can take massive damage and they really do need a dedicated tank healer to get through the encounter. Most times, I do stereo-typically assign a Paladin to tank heal over myself or our other Druid because I know he does a good job and he is better equipped for it.

    For tedious buffs/abilities, I feel I shouldn’t have to tell the Paladins who to Beacon every raid because I assume our Paladins have enough communication between them that they can sort out those types of personal assignments on their own. This also applies to Symbiosis (and the change to Symbiosis to tanks just gives the Druid more free rein to choose whoever they want). Micro-managing like that just isn’t my style. I wouldn’t want to be managed like that, so I don’t do it to my healing team.

    In regards to healing/mitigation cds: For the most part I am in charge of calling “healer name” and “cooldown” for encounters until we get them on farm. Our healers usually start to pickup the CD rotation as we get better and eventually don’t need things called out. My responsibility is overseeing the main 3-min CDs (Tranq, Barrier, DH, SLT, HTT, AM). For tank CDs, unless the fight specifically calls for a CD for the tank to survive (H Spine Impale, etc.) our healers are free to do with them as they choose. I trust they know when to use them.

    To monitor all the healing cooldowns, I use Hermes. It has been updated for MoP and it’s a great addon to use as a healing lead.

    • For some reason, no one seems to like tank healing in my raid, so I’ve been assigning myself to do it a lot of the time.

      I definitely agree on not assigning things like Beacon. If someone tried to tell me when to use ToL or Nature’s Vigil or something, I’d have some choice words for them, so I don’t tell people how to use those abilites.

      I’ll have to check out Hermes. I use Ora3 for cooldowns but it does have some problems, mainly that it thinks my Tranq has an 8 minute cooldown and hasn’t incorportated Monk abilities yet.

  6. As you may already know from past experience… ;) My preference is to figure out how many CDs I need and figure out which CDs are appropriate to the task. I enjoy pairing a mitigation and a throughput one at the same time if I can. I also try not to rely too much on the DPS to help out, although on H Beth’tilac, EVERYONE threw out everything they had. As such, I will rarely assign anything to the DPS unless I really need that specific ability at that specific time. In the absence of a holy paladin or disc priest, for example, I would almost certainly call on a prot or DPS paladin to use Devo Aura to mitigate damage as needed.

    By and large, though, what I’ve discovered is that MOST fights don’t need a lot of chained CDs if people are executing properly. Too much fire damage? Is it because people stood IN the fire or just because the fire is not easy to dodge? Once that’s determined, I’ll have a better idea of where to go in terms of CDs.

    While fights like H Beth’tilac, normal Majordomo, H Yor’sahj and H Spine all required very specific CDs, we probably could have done with a little more free-flowing, by the seat of your pants CDs on something like Blackhorn… but I’m kind of glad we didn’t.

    I enjoy the micromanaging a bit if only to ensure there’s accountability. I don’t mind if people deviate from their assignment, so long as they keep their assigned targets up and hit their cooldowns when requested.

    But you probably already knew all of that. ;) FWIW, I think you’ve done a great job in terms of assignments in H DS (and we threw you into the deep end with H Yor’sahj!), so while I know it can be a pain, I think you’re doing just fine. :)
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    • Thanks!

      One thing I’m trying to do more of in Mists is actually calling for cooldowns over Mumble rather than just assigning them in advance (though I do that too, so people know what to expect). I felt like there were a number of times in DS where people would have benefited from callouts, but on a lot of fights we had you, Maj, Tikari, and possibly a handful of others calling out stuff and I didn’t want to add another voice to the fray or talk over people. Now I’ve gotten over that, and I think callouts will help allow people to focus more on healing rather than remembering their spot in the rotation or trying to figure out if the person before them has used theirs or not.

  7. Nice topic:)

    I managed healers in our 25 (until we switched to 10) and was always a bit frustrated by the necessity of intensive micromanagement for certain people. When I don´t specifically say to you you should use that Tranq , you would rather let raid wipe? I did not assign it anywhere else nor forbid you the use – so why? Hmm, benched.
    I always tried to keep it at minimum and as many here say – for the sake of accountability. Basically I said who is “to blame” if tank 1 dies, who is to blame if tank2 dies (without proper HPS pre-death on him). With cooldowns – carefully chosen minimum as well. Pallys, rotate Aura mastery, Tranquility there, Divine hymn there and everything else is “fire at will”…

    Reason – support creative thinking. When I just assigned the 100% necessary, the few true orders were really obeyed + everyone searched for his own way to support raid more than just by the basic assign.
    When I tried to assign all, I got tons of whispers, many ppl were “afraid to hit different button”, slowly stopped thinking on their own and eventually decayed into puppets.

    • Thanks for adding your way of doing things.

      I really like it when I can tell people to use their cooldowns at will, because that’s how I like to use mine. However, I do appreciate that certain fights and mechanics require cooldown use, and you can’t have everyone using them at once and leaving none for the next thing.