The Emergency Room: Healing in the RWF

The Race to World First (RWF) is officially underway, as we enter the 4th day since Castle Nathria released on Mythic Difficulty in the Americas region. We are deep into the competition….at the time of writing, Complexity-Limit just managed to kill Sludgefist, and there are 4 other guilds sitting at 7/10 and progressing on this very difficult encounter! As we have been watching the teams of Complexity-Limit, Echo, and Pieces, all work through this unforgiving boss, we see the precision teamwork that is required from everyone, especially the healing team.

To give you an example of how difficult this boss is, and how tight the HPS requirements are (not to mention the DPS requirements!), in one of Complexity-Limit’s pulls yesterday, a key raider died from damage, with only 170 overkill. On a boss where one or two early deaths likely ends up in a called wipe, this is the kind of thing that makes your stomach sink as a healer. A single GCD can be the difference maker, and the pressure is mounting high on these healers to keep everyone alive through the massive amounts of damage.

Before the RWF started, we asked a handful of players in the competition for their thoughts and insights about the healing role in world-first raiding. We were able to get comments from Complexity-Limit healers Maevey and Driney, Viserio and Canexx from Pieces, Shampy and Belade from BDGG, and Fridays from up-and-coming guild Lazarus Imperative. Let’s see what they had to say, starting with the four players who have slogged (and are still slogging) it through Sludgefist progression:

Maevey: Progression healing is always the most fun because it’s the least predictable and gives healers a time to shine by being dynamic and working through tough fights that eventually get iterated on to become the kill. We always bring the number of healers we feel is necessary for a given encounter, although sometimes we cut a healer to play for a tighter enrage. It usually doesn’t feel much harder after working out readjustments to how you use cooldowns and resource distribution. The pressure of performance definitely goes up when you bring less healers due to less eyes on the raid frames, which allows for more room for mistakes. Also there’s healers on the bench waiting to get in so there is some added pressure in that aspect.

Driney: What’s it like healing world-first progression? After being a healer and raiding at cutting edge progression since the end of WoD, it has really prepared me for raiding at the highest level. With all the experience and knowledge of playing each healer, it gives me a great understanding at what each class can bring for a hard boss fight. With many years of practice and raiding at this level I rarely get nerves. We’ve been preparing and practicing each fight multiple times on Beta/PTR and we know what to expect when we get to each encounter….as long as we figure out the right timings for our CDs and the raid has memorized all the mechanics, it definitely makes the fight a lot less stressful and it just comes down to execution. With all of that being said, working your way to the top definitely doesn’t come after a single tier or expansion. It’s a guild and individual effort to have the right mindset, attitude, preparation, and dedication, to progress and achieve the ultimate goal: World First!

Viserio: As a trial with Pieces, I haven’t yet healed the RWF, but I’ll give some perspective anyways. When healing, you always want to balance on the edge of underhealing. First of all, to optimize the throughput of the raid...when you are unnecessarily overhealing, you are throwing numbers into something that doesn’t help kill the boss! The way to handle healing comes down to a collective of many things: First, and most obvious, play the mechanics properly, and avoid taking unnecessary damage. That one is obvious. The raid as a whole has a lot of tools that are rarely used optimally. Raid healing and damage mitigation cooldowns can be moved around and optimized to smooth out the damage curve and avoid death. Personal defensive cooldowns, health potions, healthstones….these often go unused, and can be planned ahead of time and used to avoid large amounts of damage throughout a fight.

The key factor is playing as a team. Even on fights where you can’t quite afford to cut a healer, you will instead have all of the healers try to do as much damage as they can during downtimes on the fight. If I know my boy Dovah is ramping up to cover the entire raid on the next mechanic, I know that he is strong enough to handle it mostly on his own, and I won’t waste a lot of mana trying to get my share of the healing. Instead, I’ll put some DPS into the boss and let him get full use of his cooldowns. That way he maximises his value, and I save mana for when it is my turn to shine. As a DPS it can feel like you are just there to do your own thing, but as a healer, you are working actively together as a team. Otherwise, you will just step on each other’s toes, trip, and fall flat on your face when you try to kill a tough boss!

Canexx: (author note: Canexx is not a healer, but was able to provide some excellent perspective from a DPS point of view on how healing is a team job at the RWF level!)

I think the difference when it comes to healing in low-end guilds and high-end guilds is not based around the healer’s abilities to output vastly more HPS than low-end guilds. Instead, it’s their ability to trust that they can greed for HPS in a much different way. In top guilds, each player is responsible for their own health bar, and healers are expected to do their max HPS while DPS enable them. The DPS players also know that their healers are not going to spot heal in all situations, and the reason for this is that every class is equipped to handle spot healing themselves via healthstones/personal defensives/hybrids, etc. This mutual trust is what gives the top guilds an edge and that extra bit of pump!

Shampy: There’s a lot to talk about healing wise in a progression scenario. It’s truly a different version of the game when you compare it to farm. The main reason for this is that you can really only “practice” a progression scenario as a healer for those couple of weeks every 6 months or so. Once you’re on farm with full BiS gear, content gets easily facerolled and healers no longer have to think to get through a fight. There’s no more coordination required, you can just throw cooldowns whenever and the boss will die. DPS can always play on a knife’s edge and eek out max throughput, but healing during farm gets truly boring if you’re not coming up with ways to spice it up. There’s no way to test your limits when one schism sequence from your disc priest tops the raid before you can get a word in. One way that we try to combat this is to massively underheal towards the end of farm so that our healers have the opportunity to sweat and stress a little bit.

Speaking for myself, I absolutely love being put through my paces healing-wise. I enjoy being challenged. Even though it’s cool to contribute as much DPS as possible to kill a boss, there’s no better feeling than seeing 20 health bars ping-ponging from 10% to 70% and back. It just feels that much better when you coordinate properly and get through to the other side of the boss. Encounters like N’zoth and G’huun are way more exciting than 3-heal fights like Uu’nat and Azshara where you spend 80% of the time doing damage to meet a DPS check and the healing requirement is excruciatingly low. The best of both worlds is a fight like Ra’den where there’s an extremely tight DPS check that requires a 3 heal and you still have to pump HPS the whole time. One thing that people don’t tend to consider when looking at healing, especially in a RWF scenario, is that healers have to learn how to play the fight also. I think DPS tend to get a little more leniency when it comes to to learning how to allocate cooldowns and optimizing to meet DPS checks, whereas healers are, in some ways, expected to be able to keep everybody at full health from pull #1. That’s honestly the most stressful part of healing progression, sometimes we’re going to brick pulls because of inexperience and people are going to rot out from lack of healing and understandably get frustrated. But that’s progression, we make mistakes and adjust quickly so we can get back to killing the bad guys.

Philosophically, I tend to think about healing as just another DPS role. We’re there to keep DPS alive so that they can keep doing damage. If there’s nothing to heal, then we maximize our DPS as well. After all, it’s damage that kills bosses, not the little green numbers.

Belade: The biggest challenge for RWF progression is how small our health pools are in the first couple of weeks, which should continue this tier since even less gear will drop from the Mythic raid. These small health pools leave very little room for mistakes and often require things like Aura Mastery or Barrier to even survive raid mechanics. At the same time, the DPS are undergeared which makes DPS checks to avoid things like enrages very difficult. On bosses with high DPS requirements, we tend to only bring enough healers to provide the cooldown coverage needed to survive key moments in the fight or to provide enough throughput on fights with long periods of raid-wide damage. When healing a boss, you have to be smart about assigning cooldowns and execute well. I always love healing a boss with only two or three healers, despite the added pressure, since it really pushes you to maximize your throughput while also coordinating well with the other healers. I think it’s one of the most fun parts about RWF progression.

Fridays: There’s something extremely satisfying about playing a healer for progression. When you and your co-healers are able to organize and work together, you can get away with a lot of things in an encounter, and a strong healing core can go a long way. When you’re healing for a top guild (though I think this should apply to any healer who wants to succeed), there’s a lot of preparation that happens behind the scenes. You want to understand the state of all healing classes, find builds that work in harmony with each other, and study fights and their damage patterns. Understanding what you’re about to get into and making a plan ahead of time alleviates a lot of the pressure. I find that a hard fight is the best and that’s where you get to thrive. When all those cooldowns come together and the boss is down, that’s the best feeling!

You can watch all of these amazing healers work their way through Castle Nathria and fight for World First with their guilds on the incredible stream events taking place around the world. To get all of that info, check out our RWF Event Guide here.

Are you keeping up with the RWF? Check out our global coverage to stay up to date with everything going on around the world, in real time!

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About the Author

Hulahoops has been playing WoW since Vanilla. If she’s not leading her Mythic Progression guild TBD through raids, she’s probably practicing for the MDI with her team Angry Toast. Hulahoops is a Holy Paladin in every sense of the term: she moderates the Hammer of Wrath Paladin Class Discord, and she was a practicing Lawyer for the last 7 years. Judgment isn’t just a spell! Hulahoops recently decided to put the law books away and follow her passion for esports by joining the team at RaiderIO as the Events and Community Coordinator. She is also passionate about making Azeroth an inclusive, welcoming space for all gamers and is a proud co-founder of the Defias Sisterhood community.