Are you a melee master, healing dilettante?

I’ve been told that there is some interest in my experiences picking up healing as an off-spec, and how it’s going, after all my time strictly playing an in-your-face bearcat.

Now, I try not to pretend that healing is a foreign concept to me. I had, once upon a time, played my Druid as a healer in 40 man situations, before there were such things as tree forms, and I didn’t really enjoy it all that much.

I’ll be honest; part of the reason for my distaste would be that I played Feral through ALL previous content, solo and in groups, even in Blackrock Spire raids, and loved it, even if all the real raiders sneered at my feral-ness. “Feral Druids suck”, they’d say, “If you want to raid with the big boys, you need to go heals.”

I bitched, pissed and moaned about it, and made it as clear as I could that my love was feral, but the gear itemization and Tier sets for Druids at the time seemed to side firmly with the raid leaders… go Resto or go home.

I really wanted to see the fabled 40 man content. It was my choice, I could have refused and been benched, but I decided to go ahead and go Resto for raiding with the guild so I could see what was up with all that funky stuff.

And so, 40 man content was how I learned. And it was kinda sucky. In pre-BC raiding, it seemed to me that, in our guild anyway, out of 40 players fielded on a given evening, 25 or so were real damn good, 10 or so were fairly decent, and 5 flat out sucked.

Learning to heal in Onyxia with 5 idiots in the mix was challenging, fun, stressful, and gave one a greater appreciation for the classics.

I don’t care what you want to say, the fact is that if you are a designated healer, you are responsible for the health and well-being of these people placed in your care. You are the angel of life and death… and when one of your charges dies, even from acting stupid, you STILL blame yourself for not saving them.

It’s stressful to watch, helplessly, as idiots die. Although it is pretty amusing after the fact, if you’ve got video.

Learning to heal in Ony and Molten Core also left me with a desire to SEE what was going on, rather than peeking occasionally past 40 health/mana bars on my screen.


As a Feral Druid, I know I’m experienced in how I do things, and it’s smooth and comfortable. The playstyle feels fluid. Maybe TOO fluid.

When picking up an alt, I learn the playstyle of the different class, and, maybe because it truly is a different character to me, I find it pretty easy to keep the button presses and keybinding combinations unique to each one in their own little worlds. I don’t try to Mangle while playing a Shadow Priest. 🙂

In changing the spec of a character I have only played one certain way for so very long that I’ve worn grooves in the keystrokes, it’s a different story.

I think, in some ways it would have been easier to start a new Druid and raise her as Balance/Resto than it has been to take Windshadow and add a dual spec.

It would have been easier, but not nearly as much fun. 🙂 

When I decided to try healing on Windshadow, the considerations were;

  1. Getting the best gear I could before expecting others to trust their lives to me.
  2. Getting a healing spec that wasn’t just something someone told me to do, but was a spec where I understood why I had chosen the Talents I did,  and what the implications would be for a playstyle.
  3. Learning how to play.

Thanks to wonderful Resto Druid bloggers such as Bellwether, and brilliant fellow guildies Lady Jess, Jardal and Algenon, the spec and gear choices were the easy parts of that to work out.

Obviously, it was very convenient to be able to main tank Heroics and Raids with one fully decked out gear set, and pick up those healing pieces that other players didn’t need. I could gather up the discards that would have been sharded and build a starter set that is the next best thing to a main set.

With judicious crafting, Emblem purchases, Heroic drops and even Naxx gear, my starter set was a mixed blessing. By being so powerful, my early forays into healing, while successful, did not encourage skill, because high Spellpower and Mana baselines let me use brute force and still succeed. This becomes apparent when you see the advice people have for me on healing Loatheb for the 3 seconds, since timing of Lifebloom blooms is a skill I have yet to develop, and it hadn’t occured to me to test Rejuve ahead of time to know that 1 heal tick per 3 seconds of Rejuvenation shows other things like Tranquility would have been much more effective.

Yes, gear and spec were the easy parts. Learning to play is the true challenge.

The in-depth aspects of learning to play will come as I research each ability more, determine the heal to mana efficiency, and plumb what ticks when, and for how much.

At the very beginning, though, there was a ‘learn2play’ aspect I had to decide on, that would affect the rest of my playing of the class.

To use a healing mod, or not?

In the old days of 40 man healing, Decursive existed and let you easily cast Remove Curse/etc when a player was affected. I know that many folks had far more fancy customizations of it, predictive healing and selective downranking so as to heal just right without a single dollop of overhealing and wasted mana, but I didn’t get into it that far before Blizzard crushed it’s functionality.

Hmmm, let me talk about that for a second. I know how things are now, but when healing in 40 man raids, things were tuned pretty tight on healing and mana. Many of you probably remember this vividly, but some of you might have taken up healing long after this stuff. Here’s a history lesson for how healing has changed.

Prior to Burning Crusade, it was not only common but very nearly required for a Resto Druid to have 4 or 5 ranks of Healing Touch on your bar, and to intimately know where their healing min and max values were when coupled with your +healing, and what their various cast times were, so that you could cast a Healing Touch that would do just the right amount of healing needed, for the minimum Mana cost, with the fastest cast time possible.

One of the signs of a master Resto Druid was nailing exactly the right Healing Touch to top off at the perfect moment without overhealing, because healing meters and overhealing meters were zealously watched for signs of wasted Mana.

Now, of course, with more utility from HoTs, and every HT rank costing the same amount of Mana, and with lesser ranks of spells gaining less bonus from +healing/+spellpower, downranking mastery has gone the way of the dodo. For the most part, so has Healing Touch, except for instant cast heals with Nature’s Swiftness.

Should you care? No, I just think it’s good to remember sometimes how things have changed in all aspects of the game… and how hard it was back in the day to envisage where the changes Blizzard was making would leave us in the end.

I think that, if you look at where we started with healing, and where we are now, and how things continue to change moving forward, a case could be made that we should never, ever expect any changes in a Patch to be the final change. Over time, things are always changed and adjusted, and once those changesd are absorbed into the system and we adjust, another small set of changes are made. Blizzard is, through skill or luck, driving change slowly and surely to an ever more interesting end. I think rather than demanding to know when we have finally reached the destination.. we should instead settle back and enjoy the ride.

Sorry. Bearwall. Moving back on topic…

To use a healing mod or not?

Basically, it comes down to a decision.

Do you want to heal by selecting a portrait and then casting heals on that chosen target, and use focus targets, and point and click on button bars or memorize spell numbers for click-selection and hot key pressing….

Or do you want to install an addon that will let you assign various spells directly to mouse+key combinations, letting you cast mouseovers for everything, but will require you to memorize what the hell all those combinations ARE?

Each one has a basic mode, and then ever-increasingly advanced variations and additions.

With the basic point and click heal, you mouseover a character portrait, click on it to select the person, then mouseover the appropriate spell to cast it, then mouse back up to select someone else, and then mouse back down to click a spell again… or spells…

The next advanced step is to have those spells in numbered slots, and then click to select a portrait with one hand while selecting spells to cast with the number pad/bar.

From there, well, the sky is the limit. Utilizing true keybinds for spells, keybinds for character/target selection, focus targets to have two people selectable simultaneously, hot keys, and macros out the wazoo. You can absolutely master healing without ever using an addon, and there are folks that take pride in doing so.

One argument I’ve heard in favor of this, is that when big patch changes come, fancy addons can be broken for days or weeks, and it’s a sad state of affairs when a player can’t raid because his addon is busted.

Choice two is to go with a healing addon to help you streamline target selection and casting.

Healing addons are pretty much designed to let you easily retain movement of your character by placing both target selection and spell casting in a one button, minimal mouse movement control scheme, all controlled with the mouse hand. The other hand can be using other keybinds and the movement keys, etc.

Addons can either be complex toolkits that will let you do the world… once you figure out how to get it set up, or can be pretty much set up for you like VuhDo. Either way, the biggest learning curve for them is learning an entirely new way to control your character, and memorizing which key/mousebutton sequence controls what, so that when the shit goes down you don’t get flustered and forget your controls. The more commonly used spells need to have the easiest key combinations, and if you’re learning as you go, then when you decide half way into your playing that Rejuvenation really should have been a mouseover left-click and Lifebloom really should have been mouseover right-click, and Remove Curse really should have been moved to Mousebutton 5 closest to the thumb, and Innervate could be Mousebutton 4 away from thumb… well, time to retrain your twitch reflexes, isn’t it?

And if you play multiple classes, each using the healing addon… hehehe.

It’s a big decision. You want to start something that you’ll learn with and get reflexes started quick. It should be EASY to actually cast the Lifebloom, the difficult part should be learning the intelligent time and situation to use it.

When I looked at the options… I chose to use an addon, because I never had before and I had heard great things about how they could help speed up the casting on multiple targets, which is where a Resto Druid shines.

When I went to choose an addon, I chose VuhDo because I studied configuration choices on Clique, and all the additional addons created to modify the base program, and I compared that to the ‘out of the box’ setup of VuhDo. VuhDo promised me that I could install it, and go straight to configuring my mouse button combinations in a graphical interface style even I, a healer come lately, could use. Healbot, I can’t speak on, because although Paraclesis uses it, I’ve never seen it modeled on a blog, so I didn’t try it. 🙂

See, I still play a Feral Druid as my main. What I wanted was something to quickly bring me within reach of doing healing, without making it the intense focus of my playing. And I wanted to cut down the point and click delay as much as possible. I wanted to be capable of casting a heal faster than the global cooldown would let me, so my slow reflexes were as minimized as possible.

VuhDo allowed me to do that, by letting me setup various mouse combinations and letting me cast all spells as mouseovers on a special health bar setup. I can actually SEE what is going on around me as I heal, and I can even move around and heal on the run after a very short time practicing, not because I’m that good, but because the addon IS a good crutch, and I accept the limitations.

If you are also a Feral Druid, or another melee type, and you’ve been thinking about healing as a dual spec… an addon like VuhDo or Clique or Healbot can certainly give you a jumpstart on doing it with quicker reaction time. You might be gaining that speed by relying too much on an addon, and losing a certain amount of flexibility and professionalism that designing your own network of keybindings and macros would give you… but if it is your off spec, that could be a choice you’re willing to make, just like I am.

Either way, it’s always good to know your options, and to plan what you’re going to do accordingly.

I’d be curious to find out what other healers use to heal, and what they think the strengths and weaknesses of their chosen method may be.

Hmm, since three out of four Sidhe Devils Gone Wild folks have healers, maybe that would be a fun topic for the podcast someday, too. Have people write in their preferences and discuss ’em.

Well, we’ll see.

Have a great weekend!

18 thoughts on “Are you a melee master, healing dilettante?

  1. Oh and

    Shift left Click – Remove curse
    Shift right Click – Abolish poison

    Like I said, just too many spells! 🙂


  2. There is a LOT you can do with Vuhdo – when I started healing as a tree, I was just completely confounded by the huge number of spells Druids have for healing. I’m starting to get pretty good at it now – recently healed a full clear of 10 man Nax. 🙂

    My Vuhdo key binds are:

    Left click – Nourish
    Right click – Rejuv
    Ctrl left click – Regrowth
    Ctrl right click – Lifebloom
    Ctrl Shift left click – Wild Growth
    Ctrl Shift right click – Swiftmend
    Alt Shift right click – Battlerez

    I’m thinking of putting Nature’s Swiftness + Healing Touch on Alt shift left click.

    I do Innervate and Tranquility (shift-7) from the keyboard as I don’t want to accidentally ever waste those. Lets me move and cast with ease and I’m loving playing resto. 🙂


  3. I took your advice and installed Vuhdo. I love it! I heal about as much as I tank, and this addon had everything I was hoping for, ty!


  4. I was a healer during TBC. I totally loved so when the big changes in 3.x.x came I’ve failed to adjust. With the Wolk expansion I decided to become a kitty. Mastering it was a bit of challenge at first. Nonetheless it proved to be great fun in the long run. I should say that I have been a sworn caster till that time. I have even leveled my druid as boomkin.( It was a big deal for me to learn it and be proud of it.) Just when I was happy in my new shiny fur the dual spec came out and presented me with opportunity. I was putting together a team for 10 man Ulduar and we were short on tanks. I decided to give a go. To my surprise I liked it. I think I might change my raiding spec to tank once it becomes an option :D.

    As far as mods go.. I used grid and clique to heal back in the day. After getting used to the minimalistic grid I was never quite able to use any other raid frames. I also find the grid plugin with raid debuffs quite invaluable when off tanking. For kitty/bear debuff/buff tracker I have Auracle, for cooldowns – OmniCC and MSBT. I added few custom tailored alert triggers to MSBT to help me keep my focus sharp ( like extra sound at start cast of Fists of Stone or Unbalancing Strike on tank, etc to make them stand out in the boss mod noise spam ).

    On the final note, druid is 3rd character I have ever played ( I have no alts, I have former mains ). I made her about 3.5 years ago and never wished to be anything else 🙂


  5. I’ve main healed with my 80 Priest and Off Healed with my levelling Druid and my 80 Elemental Shaman, all the time I have used add-ons to improve my healing, sure it might mean reactions are slightly slowre than someone who uses 100% keybinds but I’ve never really had many issues with using add-ons (I tend to combine clicking and keybinds anyway.
    .-= Bo´s last blog ..Watch this space! =-.


  6. I heal with healbot. I gave grid a chance but it just wasn’t showing the information I was used to in the way I wanted it and I simply couldn’t beat the functionality of healbot. It seemed to me like grid was designed to be more minimalist, whereas when I am healing (and raid leading) I prefer to have as much data available as I can. I have unit frames as well but I only use them when out of combat.

    Much respect to people who heal without addons – I doubt that I would be nearly as effective without them.

    You have given me a good idea for a blog post though, I think I can explain some healbot – thanks B3
    .-= Silk´s last blog ..Performance standards =-.


  7. nearly 2 years of following your blog BBB and still going strong.

    (Main)Tanking and DPSing in Ulduar 10 (and 25s somewhat) and chucking heals around in Naxx10/25, OS 10/25 etc.

    I think grid/clique has helped enormously for this feral to cross over to the fun side of healing.

    Grid (as much as it is a b#@#$ to set up). Works beautifully when done well. All the information that you require for chucking HoTs around are plainly visible on the raid frame, and more.

    Druids ftw 🙂



  8. Kayeri – I too have mouse scroll wheel issues with healbot, vudoh and every other addon i have used. I finally just bound abolish poison/cleanse to it, so if i miss it once, its not too bad.

    I have healed up through Naxx as a Resto Shaman and into Ulduar as a Holy Pally. I have always preferred healing with Healbot. I never liked all the configuration of Grid/Clique or using mouse over macros. I have also always been a keyboard turning, mouse clicking users.

    When I started my druid I said I 1. wasn’t going to heal and 2. was going to learn to use a keyboard. 77 levels of Druid later, I am a mouse turning, keyboard casting moonkin and #1 got thrown out the window. I started trying to heal my old way with Healbot and now it feels clunky and Druids just have way too many spells. I just started using Vudoh with some mouse binds and Mouse over Macros and love it. Love it. I am still working on what I want where, but being able to keep 7 or 8 HOTS rolling at a time and everything being on a nice pretty timer and color coded is awesome.

    If you want to use an addon and want something that lets you get going fast, but heal the way you want, try Vudoh.


  9. In my 2 1/2 years of druid healing, I am now playing with a healing add-on for the first time in hopes of improving my response time to damage in the later fights of Ulduar. And I do believe it has helped in that area. I tried Vuhdo, because I’d read several positive reviews of it, including the one here. I need to set it up fully now that I’ve played with it… set up keying for battle rezzes and such.

    I am having a problem though, with Regrowth keyed to the click on the mouse scroll button. It doesnt always go off when I click it, which is frustrating. That seems to be the only one I have issues with, though. Otherwise, I like it a lot.


  10. I’ve been shammy healing since the Kara days and have never used a healing addon or felt I needed to. However, I do get tired of times that I am staring at health bars and not seeing what’s going on all the time. I’m not sure how this addon helps with that but you’ve pricked my interest to give it a shot.


  11. When I was still playing I didn’t use any healing addons, but I did use X-Perl which showed me all the health/mana bars and buffs/debuffs of the entire raid. That along with mouse over macros and I had no real trouble, my macros went something like: Heal my mouse over, if they arn’t useful heal my target and if that’s no good heal my targets target, and I would just target the boss or the most important mob while using mouse over to heal anyone else. But before all that when I had first went tree after being bear (a few months after hitting 70) I was doing click target, click spell, click target, click spell, was a little slow really, then I start with click spell click target which did help speed me up a bit but I have to admit if I started playing again I would be lost with x-perl and my macros and I doubt I could use an addon, would confuse the crap out of me, even though I’ve not played in since march I’m still to used to my macros
    .-= Breen´s last blog ..New Projects Soon =-.


  12. Daniel, I would respectfully disagree with your statement that that everything can be anticipated and there is no need for trees to twitch. I’ve only recently speced into Resto but I firmly believe being able to respond faster makes me more valuable to the raid. Yes, you can anticipate and have hots rolling on everyone, but when someone messes up with a mutating injection on Grobbulus and drops a cloud causing everyone around them to take damage or when you have a light / gravity bomb on you, or are trying to cast wild growths, rejuv+swiftmend during Heigan’s safety dances, an addon like Vuhdo that lets you cast on mouseover while moving makes all the difference.

    I specced Resto shortly after BBB did (feral cat primarily here) and Vuhdo has been awesome for me – so much that I keep a scaled down window open even when I am in cat form to keep an eye on healer mana bars and raid health so I can innervate, battlerez or help with a tranquility as needed.


  13. When I heal, I just have all my heals macroed to cast on a friendly mouseover, or my friendly target, or my hostile targets target (handy if a mob tends to jump around, I just keep the mob targetted and it heals whoever is getting hit, or failing all that myself.

    It’s an easy single line macro per spell.

    Typically, I target the MT, the just mouseover raid frames of whoever I want to heal. All my heals spells are bound to ‘,1,2,3,4 etc, so there’s no funky combos to remember – keybinds are the same when I’m feral in caster form.


  14. I have never used an add on as I have never seen a need in all the years I’ve played Druid healing. I just simply have never seen the need. (But I have added feral as my dual spec which is why I now read your blog). I must admit that I’m puzzled by your approach to healing. I guess you are aiming to be a tank healer?

    To me, whenever I hear talk about reaction time or twitch reflexes with trees my instant reaction is: learn to play. More than anything else, trees are the perfect *anticipatory* healers. This changes a little bit with tank healing but it remains true none the less. If it’s a situation where twitching means life or death sorry that’s why pallys have lay on hands. This was even true back in the day when mana management and healing touch were more important. The critical issue was never whether you could react, the critical issue was whether you could anticipate. In fact, as someone new to feral I find this distinction the hardest to deal with. When I first learned to play cat (and I am still learning) I had to learn how to react. It really is new concept to me; perhaps for you learning to anticipate is a concept you will need to learn. But there is nothing with today’s fights that should cause a tree to twitch. Really. Truly. I’m not saying of course that you can’t play that way; if it works for you fine. But trees are not really designed to be twitchers; the whole concept of HoTs is anti-twitch.


  15. I was a die-hard Clique user once – then I got really irritated with having to remove the binding on my right-click key whenever I wanted to leave a party (right-click, ‘leave’, wasn’t aware of any other way!). So one day I decided to try mouseover macros. Decursive made/makes removing diseases and what-have-you really easy (and saves me two keybinds) and all the spells I absolutely omg need are on my bar. My memory also kinda sucks so it saves my party dealing with me going “aw crap wrong click damn you clique” when I switch from Druidheals to Priestheals and the other way ’round. That, and accidentally healing people I mean to target.

    I find that this method is a slight weakness because, unlike when I’m DPSing, I can’t use my mouse to move – or, well, I can, it’s just not as effective.
    *healhealheal* “augh ice breath” *move* “ohgawdohgawd” *penance* etc. That, or I’m twitchy enough that as long as I’m healing I’m always in a panic.

    I find that my tanking reflexes are a little better, at least on a warrior, and I don’t use any special tanky mods for him. It had been close to a year since I had been a warriortank and I was snatching up the taunts and stuff relatively quickly despite saying “GUYS BE CAREFUL I AM NOOB.”


  16. I’ve been a main spec tree for almost 9 months now and my preferred addon is Healbot. I haven’t used Vudhu but I’ve heard that they are quite similar. I once attempted to set up grid, but gave up after an hour of fiddling around with it and returned to healbot. I use wowmatrix to automatically update healbot for me so I haven’t had any hassle when updating for new patches. For me it’s been perfect for 5 and 10 man groups, but my one complaint is using it for 25 man raids. Although you can change the skin and adjust how many groups are in each column etc, with that many grid boxes you simply can’t see the countdown timers for the spells you have already cast on someone . . . at least you can’t on my monitor. It’s not really a big deal for Regrowth and Rejuvenation but it makes timing the lifebloom stacks a bit tricky. Other than that it’s a total godsend and since I”m usually on raid heals I rarely use lifebloom anyway, it makes me go oom to quickly.


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