Now, I know that a couple of my readers out there are rolling their eyes and declaring “We don’t need no stinkin’ healing assignments.”  Yes you do.  Seriously.  It baffles me how healing teams even function without healing assignments, even in 10’s.

Here’s why healing assignments are so important:

  • Nobody dies because “I thought YOU were going to heal him”
  • Less overhealing due to 2 people healing the same target at the same time
  • Cohesiveness of the heal team

Yes, cohesiveness of the heal team is totally important.  In fact, that leads me to point 1…

Healer Communication: Healing Channel?

Healers need to decide on how they are going to communicate before, during, and after the fight.

Before The Fight

You need to hand out assignments and discuss them if necessary.  We currently have a healer channel so that we can communicate without disrupting the other commands on vent or in raid chat.  However, some might find a separate healer channel superfluous in a 10 man environment.  Whatever method you use, make sure all the healers are on the same page.

Healer (post-wipe): oh, I thought we weren’t doing healing assignments.

Me: Of course we are.  I typed them into raid chat.

Healer: I was listening to vent and didn’t read raid chat.

Me: /facepalm

You get the idea.  Healing assignments don’t mean a crap if people aren’t paying attention to where they’re going to be. Once you know your team well, you won’t have to worry about that.  In the beginning, you might want to confirm heal assignments via tells or vent before you pull.

During the fight

You may need to get info to your fellow healers fast.  For example, the healers to know that I’m running away from slime or otherwise incapacitated, so that they can cover my healing target and the tank doesn’t croak while I’m busy.  Because they need this information in a hurry, voice chat is preferred. (Unless that’s not possible, in which case, make yourself some macros to announce your problem in raid chat or in the healer channel.)

Good: “Zel is running, cover (tank’s name)”.

This briefly lets the healers know what needs to be done.  Don’t depend on them to remember your assignment.


This is bad for a few reasons.

  • You don’t say your own name.  Nobody knows your voice.
  • You don’t tell people what they need to do to react to your predicament.
  • You are taking up way too much vent time.  Alas would break your fingers for not keeping vent clear.

After the Fight

Usually after a fight, the healers talk about what we can do better, did the assignments work for us, etc.  Basically tweaking what we just did if we wiped.  Also, we blow off steam about how much the rest of you sucked and totally caused the wipe.  Which leads to…

It’s Our Damn Channel

No DPS or Tanks are allowed in the healer channel. Not even the raid leader.  Seriously.  They joined and I kicked them out. The healer channel is sacred.

Having others in the healing channel is annoying.  Even if they do know what they’re talking about, it still wastes time having too many cooks in the kitchen discussing how best to slice the bacon (mmm bacon).  Plus, we can’t make FUN of you when you’re right there.

Recently, Windsoar’s guild shut down the healer channel, which blows my flippin mind.  Of course, non-healers were also allowed to invade.  Dirty dirty DPS and Tanks.

Who Should Heal Whom (The Actual Assignments)

Being a Leader is a Crappy Job

I’m assuming here that someone has to be the leader.  Even if there are only 3 healers, and even if you generally do things by consensus, someone has to get the ball rolling.

If nobody else is doing healing assigns, it’s ok to step up and just throw some out there.  If you’re totally wrong, someone will say “no that won’t work because…”. In which case you tweak something and now you have workable assignments.

You don’t have to be bossy or omniscient.  You just need to start the process.

Class Abilities

Oh right, you do have to know a bit about healing classes other than your own.  Sorry about that.

Of course, if you get it wrong, another healer will correct you that “my class is lousy at ___”.  Or the other healer won’t tell you, and you’ll wipe.  You’ll then know for next time.

You also could do some of this “research” junk on the “internet” using “Google F Search.”  I hear all the cool kids do that.  But at a minimum, you should discover:

  • What cooldowns, if any, do your healers have?
  • What are the capabilities of that class while moving?
  • Are any of the heals limited by range or positioning?
  • Does that class excel at aoe or single-target healing?

But, oh no, your knowledge doesn’t end at healing classes.  You also have to have some idea of what the tank’s abilities are.  (Again, sorry about that.)

  • Does the tank wear a shield?
  • Does the tank take predictable or spiky damage?
  • What kind of cooldowns does the tank have?
  • Does the tank smell funny? (Usually yes. Stand at range.)

Who Is Taking Damage and How Much

This varies from encounter to encounter.

  • Are there two tanks taking damage at one time or do the tanks “take turns”?
  • Is there heavy or light raid damage?
  • Is the raid damage on the entire raid equally or 1-2 members randomly?
  • Is the damage spiky or predictable?

There are some encounters when we have 2 healers tank-healing and one raid healing – and some where we do the exact opposite.

Often when doing a new encounter, the only way to really find out what your healing needs are is to try it once.  Then on the run back, the healing channel looks something like this.

Me: Holy crap guys, that guy hits like a train filled with trucks filled with bricks.  I’m gonna go discipline.

Rhee: Ok, and let’s swap tanks.  Morehnai is squishy like a girly doll and needs all the bubbles he can get (I’m making this part up).

Me: Agreed.  Are we cool on raid healing?

Kotak: Hey, no problem, I can heal anything.  I’m awesome.  Listen to my accent.  (I’m making this part up too)

Me: Can you say: “I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.”

Kotak.  No.

And we sort it all out based on our often short experience getting our faces melted by internet dragons.

Where Is Everyone Standing

AOE Heals

Previously, you overlooked the issue of range between heal targets unless you had a shaman and were worried about chain heal jumps.  Now, we should ALL be paying attention to positioning and doing healing assignments accordingly.  Someone who is an awesome aoe healer because of healing floor abilities may not be the right choice for raid healing if the encounter doesn’t allow people to bunch up on the healing floor.

Again, this is something you might need to troubleshoot after the first wipe or looking at the logs the next day.

PRO TIP: Healing floor isn’t that useful if raiders fail to stand in the good.  You can discuss in the healer channel how best to strong-arm compliance.


If everyone has to be on the move, make sure to assign a healer type that deals well with movement to heal the tank – even if it’s not your strongest single-target healer.  We can’t have the tank dying because the healer had to run.

If only some healers have to move, try to assign the healers with mostly cast-time spells to the stationary positions.  Again, tank healers should probably take priority.

Trial and Error

Sometimes an unconventional way will work when your best-laid plans fail.  If what you’re doing isn’t working, it might be worthwhile to at least TRY different assignments for a pull or two and see if it works.  I mean, if you’re already failing, what’s one more wipe?

Following Healing Assignments

My best advice is: Trust in your fellow healers but be aware of everyone’s health.  It will waste mana overhealing if you are nervously sniping their heals.  On the other hand, you need to step in and assist if it will prevent a death or a wipe.  Ideally you work these things out beforehand (such as: cover my assignment when I’m running from slime), but sometimes you have to make split-second decisions and hope you did the right thing.

If Your Assignment Doesn’t Work

You need to speak up – and not during the pull.

  • If you’re just not sure that the strategy will work, wait and see if you wipe before you suggest an alternative.
  • If the strategy will definitely not work because the healing lead is not in possession of all the information, pipe up early.  “I’m specced holy, not discipline” – for example.

Your healing lead wants to hear if it doesn’t work, and why it doesn’t work.  There’s no point in wiping if you can troubleshoot the problem.  However, let the healing lead make the final call and don’t badger.  Especially in a 25.  There’s nothing worse than “can we try it my way now?  How about now?  HOW ABOUT NOW?”  (This is why we don’t let DPS into the healer channel, right?)

Remember, if you don’t like how the healing lead is doing it, then YOU can do the job.  Do you really want to do that job?  (Hint: the answer is hell no.)

In Conclusion

Healing assignments are good.  You should use them.  And keep the dirty DPS and Tanks out of your healing channel and away from healing assignments.


Healing Assignments in the Cata World — 14 Comments

  1. Awesome post! I am also bewildered when people don’t use or discuss healing assignments!

    Personally, I prefer to have the tanks and the RL in the healing channel. They’re a critical part of a healing strat. A tank needs to know who hir healer is, to listen/look for things like a holy paladin incapacitated. They’re a crucial part of planning cooldowns – okay, we’ll PS the first MADDRAGONAGH ability, second one should be shield wall, then we’ll us PW:B, then last stand. A RL needs to know “oops we wiped due to healing, we’re on it boss”. When every Tom, Dick, and Hybrid decides to join the channel, it’s time to unleash the /kicks though. Maybe this is more important in 25s than 10s, though.

    Cooldown planning is another super important issue that needs to be discussed in healer chat, and kept up to date in vent or macros. It’s worse than overhealing to use two extraneous cooldowns when someone’s already got it.

    • Good point about cooldowns. We actually discuss cooldowns together in vent because it’s not just for healers and tanks. For example: a DPS druid would pop tranquility at a crucial moment, or I might have the shadow priest use divine hymn or hymn of hope at strategic times. Because we usually run with a priest (me), druid, and shaman, most of the cooldowns come from outside the heal team.

  2. I loved this post, Zel and I linked it on Twitter for more folks to hopefully check out. Very well done!

    One thing I would also suggest to improve healing chat is for your core to use mods or addons that announce when healers are using cooldowns and that announce who they are resurrecting. I was encouraged to try Raeli’s Spell Announcer and I love it. It’s lightweight, very easy to customize and doesn’t have too many bells and whistles. It really shines on fights where you’re trying to line up cooldowns, one after another or trying to prevent people from stepping on each other by using big life saving cooldowns at the same time.

    Thanks again for the post!

    • In addition to coordinating cooldowns in advance, I have harassed the healers and tanks to use RSA or macros for announcing cooldowns during the fight. A lot of times we also announce over vent.

      I also recommend modifying your healing frames so that you can see who has a cooldown active. I use a grid plugin for this purpose. If the tank already has a cooldown active, I will wait until it expires before applying Guardian Spirit or Pain Suppression.

  3. I take issue with the “no tanks in the healer channel” rule. It’s helpful for tanks to know exactly who is healing them, and to give feedback if they feel they are taking more damage than may be immediately noticeable. A dialog between tanks and healers must always remain open.

    Coordinating healer cooldowns with tank cooldowns is essential on a lot on heroic mode fights as well.

    Healers are cool but we aren’t that special 😛

    • We just do that stuff (coordination of tanks and healers) in raid chat or vent. First the healers work out the assignments amongst ourselves in the healer channel and then we tell the tanks what we’re doing. The tanks need to know who is healing them, I agree, but I don’t think they need to be in on the back-and-forthing we do before coming to that decision.

      Plus, we ARE special.

  4. “Does the tank smell funny? (Usually yes. Stand at range.)”

    I admit this made me ROFL for reals :)

    But on a serious note, really REALLY (did I say really?) great resource you wrote here, thanks from all the healers and healing leads out there <3

  5. That’s why we don’t like you making healers channels! You guys make fun of us in there :(

    We tanks, are tired of making others feel good about themselves by laughing at us.

    Vengeance will be sweet

  6. Under any circumstance where you have healers unfamiliar with each other I think heal assignments are freaking mandatory. On the other hand if you have been healing with the same crew for quite a while you often sort of fall in to a rhythm with them (even on new content to some extent though admittedly there is often discussion there and a lot of bitching about people in the bad stuff…) and it doesn’t really need to be said. That said that requires a more or less rigid heal structure, and let’s face it that’s not always possible. On the other hand coordinating healer CD’s and such is a must no point having all the healers pop their CD’s at once. I do agree that the healer channel should be bloody well sacred otherwise tanks and DPS will often interfere whether via whispers or more openly due to what they see in the channel.
    The badgering via whisper I may add can be a pretty major issue because lets face healing attracts a lot of softies (Kind hearted, lovely people. Sadly usually easily manipulated) so one knob head DPS or tank getting uppity and whispering one of them potentially can really mess with the actual directives they have been given by the heal lead and possibly cause a wipe. Also healers need a place to bitch and moan in relative peace :-)

  7. My guild uses healer assignments but doesn’t have a healer channel. I think I will recommend one for Sunday’s raid though, I can see the appeal and the benefit. In Cata there is much more pressure to be efficient, and while over healing isn’t a huge issue for us there is a clear difference on fights where we have assignments (progression and not fully on farm fights) and those we don’t (farm kills).

    What do you think about macronig abilities such as tank cool downs (guardian spirit and the like), mana tide and hyms, and even concentration potion usage to this channel. Would it create far too much spam or is this useful information other healers need to know.

    • I use Raeli’s spell announcer to announce stuff and I have it announce to Raid. This spell announcer is cool because you can have it announce to just about any channel you want (including as a raid warning that appears only on your own screen).

      The reason I announce to raid (and not just to the healers) is because many of the cooldowns/abilities apply to the entire group (i.e. I have placed lightwell, I have triggered Hymn of Hope for mana, etc) or at least to the tanks (tank cooldowns, mostly). There are very few things that only the healers would need to know about.

      I encourage the tanks to use an announcer as well to tell us when they pop a cooldown, and the DPS to use it to announce interrupts.

      Yes, it’s a lot of text… but during an encounter, pretty much nobody is typing in raid or in the healer channel anyway. My feeling is that an auto-announce in raid chat or the healer channel keeps vent clearer for instructions.

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