Sunday, May 30, 2010

Healing Tools: Grid

The duty of a DPS is rather simple all things considered. Granted, there are some not-so-obvious hallmarks of a good DPS but the level of complexity that I went into in the blog entry linked above shows where the truly great players can really shine. Beyond these intricacies, all a DPS really has to do is repeat a spell rotation or skill priority to maximize damage done.

Now compare that baseline role to that of a healer and a very different schema comes to light. The baseline job of a healer is to keep the raid alive. Granted, there are many instances where folks not standing in fire or ignoring fight mechanics can make that expectation impossible to meet, but assuming your raid group is performing well, there is somewhat of a hidden level to "keeping the raid alive".

The classic game of whack-a-mole has evolved within Blizzard's encounter design over the years from Molten Core where often healers would either be assigned to heal their group or a tank to nowadays where pretty much everybody has to contribute to raid and tank healing to ensure success.

The Hidden Layer

So what is it that separates the true healers from the..... combat medics? I mean aside from using the venom from a single alien creature to take care of pretty much every virus, infection and tick infestation the far side of the universe can offer....

Damage comes in, and heals go out, we all know this. The truly skilled healers know when damage is about to come in and react accordingly with shield, HoTs or priming* their heals.

Much unlike DPS, healing is not an all or none game. When you want DPS on a target you want as much as possible as fast as possible. When you want healing you want it fast... but you don't want too much. Extra heals not only mean wasted mana, but they could potentially cause a death in the raid if a healer is focusing on the wrong target to heal at the wrong time.

I Give You... Grid!

Grid is by no means a new mod. Personally, I've been using it since back during The Burning Crusade when it was the mod for raid healing. Nowadays folks have Healbot and Vuhdo that come loaded with tons of extra features all rolled into one. For this raider, however, a combination of Grid and Clique are all you need.

It comes with all the normal bells and whistles that healers need: fading out of range targets, pre-configured cleansing indicators, aggro indicators, class coloring... and with the addition of Clique healing spells can be bound to your mouse clicks for ease of casting in combat.

Why Grid?

What I like about grid over other raid frame windows is the custom indicator setup. Each part of the raid frame has an indicator that can be loaded up with all kinds of buff and debuff indicators, which can be prioritized in the event two indicators are active at the same time.

Pair this up with the ability to add a custom buff or debuff and all of a sudden a wide array of boss encounter information is being displayed right on your raid frame and you know, for instance, which 3 people in your grid window have been linked by Pact of the Darkfallen during the Blood Queen encounter.

In the example above I've set my Grid frame borders to display the three pact targets as a pink color. And whenever I see this during the encounter I know to start slinging chain heals on these three targets as they'll be running right up to each other, making my job much simpler.

Some other examples of excellent buffs/debuff monitoring in Icecrown Citadel are: "Frost Beacon" during Sindragosa, "Harvest Soul" during the Lich King and "Bone Spike" for heroic Lord Marrowgar (The Bone Spikes don't deal damage during the encounter on normal mode so it's not necessary to track them). In terms of buffs I've found it extremely helpful to add the buff "Essence of the Blood Queen" while I'm DPSing as it makes it much easier to identify raid members that can still be bitten during the fight.

Of course, there are other examples as these are just a few. When researching a new boss fight if you notice any debuffs that deal large amounts of damage to the target it may be a good idea to add an indicator to Grid to assist in healing the right target at the right time.


"But Oobie," you say. "How do I set this up? The Grid menu is so confusing!"

Don't worry! I've taken care of everything...

First, open the Grid configuration window by clicking the minimap/Fubar/LDB button depending on which setup you use. Or if you're like me and prefer to keep all that crap off the screen the following command will open the menu:

/grid config

Once that's open scroll down and click on the Auras heading. You'll see a couple boxes where you can input a custom buff or debuff name. For this example, we'll add the Pact of the Darkfallen buff to the border of the health frame as depicted in the image earlier in this entry.

Type "Pact of the Darkfallen" into the debuff text box and hit enter.

Once this is done, expand the Auras heading and you should be able to find the new entry labeled Debuffs: Pact of the Darkfallen. Here you'll be able to set the color for the debuff and it's priority. Don't be concerned if the color is white regardless of what you choose with the color picker. The proper color will be reflected in the raid window when the indicator becomes active.

Once you've selected a color look up near the top of the config menu and expand the Frame heading and select Border just beneath it. Then scroll through the list of buffs and debuffs and place a check mark next to our new Pact of the Darkfallen debuff. NOTE: All of the items under the Frame heading behave similarly. I've found the best results using borders and corner indicators for debuff monitoring.

That's it! The new indicator is now set up, and this will work for all custom auras. Just make sure you add new items properly as buffs or debuffs as Blizzard tends to use both in their encounter design.

*"Priming" a heal is the practice of casting a healing spell before damage has actually been done to a target. This is done typically when damage is known to be incoming on that target so that the heal lands just after the damage comes in. Often when this is done a player will monitor the healing spell cast time and cancel it if it will be wasted.