Last time I wrote about this, I wound up talking mostly about how I created my guild and raid team. I’m not sure it seemed connected, but the thing is that you’ve got to have a safe space in which you can get good at a thing. This is especially true if you are trying to get good at tanking or healing, but I think it’s true for dps as well. (And of course, a whole lot of stuff in offline life.) So, I have a raid team and a guild that are casual and learner-friendly; now what? I have a sort of system for learning dps classes, but healing is very different. Healing inherently depends on other players, so how do I get good at that?
I don’t typically level in a healing spec, even if my primary interest is healing. It’s not as if I’ve never done it: I leveled Loevea as Mistweaver for quite a while, and it was perfectly sustainable and fairly fast. Of course, that was before 6.0.2, but I imagine that with Stance of the Spirited Crane, it would be still be a reasonable thing to do. I also leveled an “off-priest” (yes, a second priest) as Holy, and I was pretty surprised at how much damage I could do in Chastise chakra. Again, that was in Mists, so I don’t know how 6.0.2 has affected this.
That said, I’m usually practicing healing as a second spec or at a later level. So if I have a new character on whom I want to heal, here’s what I do:
First, I read Icy Veins. Actually, I do this repeatedly, but I first do this in my second monitor, with WoW open in my first monitor so that I can set up my buttons and my healing addon. (More about healing addons in a moment.) I set up keybindings or mouse clicks for my basic abilities. If there’s a lot going on and I think I might get overwhelmed, I set up a few at a time so I can practice with just those.
About healing addons: I use VuhDo. Others use Healbot or Grid + Clique. Some folks use the base UI, and while I’ve healed this way, I became a faster, more responsive healer by using the addons. Mouseover macros are another option that work with the base raid frames and/or players and their nameplates. All of these are perfectly cromulent options, and you should use what works for you. Most of my heals are bound to various mouse clicks, which I administer to players by clicking on the raid frames included with these addons.
Spells and keybindings for Disc Priesting.
Then I write down my keybinds. Occasionally this has been on a post-it, but more often I use a steno pad to note my abilities. This way when I am in the middle of a dungeon or raid, and I’m thinking, “OHMYGODHELP WHERE DID I PUT MY BIG FAST HEAL?”, a glance at the notepad beside my keyboard tells me.
I’ve also learned to be consistent. Since I have a lot of alts, and many of those alts have at least dabbled in the healing arts, I keep my keybinds as consistent as possible over all my characters. So if I have an interrupt, it is on my 7 key, because that key is extremely easy to hit on my gaming mouse. My big expensive basic heal is usually a right mouse click; the small cheap heal is a left-click on my mouse. Dispel or detox is CTRL-ALT-L (left click), and if I have a bubble or shield, it’s CTRL-L.
When I first make cheat sheets, I change them on the fly a lot, as better keybinds often make themselves obvious during play.
This way, even in the moments that I forget how this particular character works, I’m not completely surprised. After all, I’ve played a disc priest for a long time. Casting Power Word: Shield with CRTL-L is muscle memory at this point; if I hit that on my monk, I might be surprised that the bubble is bright green and I can only do one or two per fight, but the click still did essentially what I expected it to do.
If the character is max level, this is when I hop into LFR. No, I’m not kidding. LFR is a beautiful place to learn healing.
First, LFR presents an actual healing situation, which is the only way you can learn to heal. Second, there are five other healers there who have your back. Unless they are all learners, you’re going to be fine. You’re not going to wipe the raid. Third, LFR is often kind of a face roll, so the occasions on which someone will actually call you out for not knowing what you’re doing are few and far between. In general, people only do this if things are going very badly, or if there are overgeared healers interested in waving their e-peens around. Usually, you’ll get lots of practice picking spells, learning your keybinds, and figuring out what you need to change about your keybinds or priorities.
If I’m not max level, I’m unlikely to step into a random dungeon until I have some practice. But you do have to get that practice, so I recommend running dungeons with a few willing friends who understand you’re trying to learn. If you do venture into randoms, I strongly suggest telling the players in the group as soon as you zone in that you are new to healing. If they have a problem with taking it slow or being patient, it’s best to find that out right away and bail.
Any way you slice it though, you have to get practice. You have to find folks who will let you ply your fancy new healing trade on them. You have to see what works to pick someone up quickly, you have to learn what will suck your mana dry, you have to learn to what extent you can heal through damage. And you have to learn it in your muscle memory. Healing requires reflexes and quick decisions, and I find that most of that knowledge resides in my hands rather than my head.