Your friend, the healing UI

While there are a lot of guides out there on how to use various healing addons to your maximum advantage, I noticed that among many players who are new or not that dedicated to healing, there still seems to be a lot of prejudice against healing addons in general. People consider them "cheating", think that they are such good players that they don't need them, or might be interested in getting one but find them too confusing to use efficiently.

Is Healbot "cheating"?

I think part of this prejudice goes back to a long time ago, before I was raiding myself. I remember being told about Healbot, Decursive and other addons being so "smart" that you basically only had to push one button and they would always cast the right spell on the right target for you. But Blizzard banned that functionality for a reason, and nowadays Healbot for example certainly doesn't make any decisions for you; it just allows you to get a better overview of what's going on and to react to changes more quickly. Healbot changing the colour of the raid frame of a person that has been hit by a debuff is no different from Deadly Boss Mods telling you about the same thing (and few people would want to forsake DBM or similar addons), and I believe the "click to heal" thing can be achieved with mouseover macros as well, but I suck at macros so installing an addon that does the same thing is simply easier for me.

In other words, I know that different people have different ideas of what's "cheating" and what isn't, regardless of Blizzard's official policy, but unless you're completely against addons altogether, there's no reason to frown upon dedicated healing UIs. They just give you bigger or at least more distinguished icons and health bars and replace the functionality of mouseover macros.

But I'm a good healer anyway, I don't need any addons!

I admit it, I used to think like that. And then I watched a friend of mine play the game one day, using Healbot in a raid, and she obviously saved so much reaction time! I was so amazed by this that I installed the addon myself and guess what, I became an even better healer.

The thing is, WoW's default UI is really not that healer-friendly. It's got a bit better over the years but still... I never had trouble raiding as dps with the default UI, because I could set it to only show my own debuffs on the boss, and if I had to switch targets quickly I just hit tab or used a targetting macro (hello there, Kael'thas in the Eye). As a healer on the other hand, something as simple as Kel'Thuzad's frost blast completely screws you over if you don't have an addon. I mean, you can set the default UI to only show debuffs that you can dispel to reduce clutter, alright, but you can't dispel frost blast so if you use that setting you can't see it. D'oh! Tab through all the people in your raid until you find the right one? You've got to be kidding me. So you frantically look for the right person, finally find them, select them, cast your heal... and they are probably dead, because you only have three seconds to react and cast your heal before the damage kills them.

This isn't even a question of being good or bad at healing, as in knowing which spells to use or how to manage your mana. It's simple reaction time. It's human nature that you can only react to things so fast, and when the game makes healing a matter of seconds, then shaving off even a half-second can make the difference between failure and success. Being able to see the debuffed person highlighted right away and healing them with just a click instead of clicking and then pressing the heal does save time. Even if the addon only enables you to cast your heals a half-second faster, just think of how much difference that's going to make in today's world of non-stop healing in raids! You could be going from casting 120 heals in a four-minute fight to casting 160, increasing your output by a third!

You certainly don't need an addon to heal five-mans, and maybe if you never ever heal anything but the tank in a raid you can get away without one too, but if you are actually raid-healing ten to twenty-five people, constantly having to switch targets, this kind of thing is really a must. I'm pretty sure Blizzard is so used to everyone using these addons that they actually design the fights with these minimised reaction times in mind these days. Who knows, things might change in Cataclysm if healing becomes slower and a bit more relaxed - plus they said that they want to make changes to the UI too, so maybe there'll finally be a built-in "healer mode". Until then, addons it is.

Okay, you've convinced me... but this stuff looks so complicated, it's giving me a headache!

The main big addons that people like to use for healing are Grid, Vuhdo and Healbot. Zelmaru writes a lot of Grid guides and Tam has one for how to set up Vuhdo. From what I hear they are very good addons if you love customisation, but being more of a "give me something simple that works" person, just looking at those guides makes my eyes glaze over (no offense). If you have similar feelings I can heartily recommend Healbot as something that is easy to handle right out of the box. I don't think anyone even needs a guide on how to use it, really. Just install it, go to the "options" panel, under "spells" type out which abilities you want to be bound to which mouse clicks or mouse/keyboard combos, under "cure" set it to show debuffs affected by your class's dispels (so as a priest, you'd select "abolish disease" and "dispel magic") and wham, bam, thank you ma'am, you should be good to go. You can make other adjustments too of course, like changing the size of the displayed health bars, but that's not that key and either way easy to figure out with a bit of trial and error. So no, it being too complicated definitely isn't an excuse either. Come on, give it a try!


  1. Thanks for the link! While back in the day, healbot and those mods were "one button wonders" that made decisions for you, blizzard has squished that. The only thing these mods help you do is see things quicker, and customize what you see (filtering things you don't care about, for example).

  2. I've been using Perfect Raid on my healer, which has worked well enough for me. It's a nice, lightweight addon that I can hide when I'm running solo, tanking, or playing as dps, which is nice. While the configuration UI is kind of clunky, the default configuration is very close to what I was looking for, so I didn't have to play around with it too much to get up and running as a disc priest.

    I've only done one raid with it as a healer, though. I was a tank healer in that run, so I didn't really exercise it's full capabilities - so it may not be ideal for a raid healer; I just don't know enough about that role to give it a thumbs up or thumbs down. I'd be interested to hear if anyone else has experience with it.

  3. I used to feel the way you did - I healed just fine without healbot! I didn't need a crutch! But my (then raiding) guild leader told me, "Seriously. Try it. Now." and even went out into Terokkar to get beat up while I got the feel of things. My reaction times were so much better and, just as you did, I became a better healer.

    I am still choosing which spell to cast, when and on which player, so nothing is being done "for me" - it's just easier to see the information to make a timely, informed decision.

    I used Healbot for a good long while, because it's so easy to use out of the box. Nowadays I'm using Injector, that I read about on Jaded Alt's blog. I really love it - I don't have to mess with anything out of the box either, it shows me the information I need based on my class (I've used it healing on my priest and my shaman) and it's a minimalist's dream healing mod. The only drawback is that if you DO want to change something, you need to edit the .lua code (which I have no idea how to do) but it's not a big deal at all, since the only thing I'd want displayed that isn't already is whether or not my party members got an Earthliving proc, but it's just a short baby HoT so it's not as big of a deal as, say, Renew (which is of course tracked on priests).

  4. Thanks for the link to my sadly out-dated Vuhdo guide. Blah.

    Hmmm...I feel like I have a challenge now - how to make Vudho work in under 5 minutes or something.

    It works pretty decently straight out of the box, to be honest, I think the only reason the guide is lengthy is because, err, I am lengthy.

  5. When I stepped out of 10 man raiding for the frst time (read Kara) and got into 25 mans grid was a must for me. That was if I wanted to see any of the screen at all if anyone managed to heal a 25 man with Blizz raid frames my hat goes off to them in a biiig way.
    I couldnt work without grid now as to be honest it shaves seconds of my reaction time in one easy package.


  6. When I created my first healing toon back in TBC days I knew about Healbot ahead of time. I have never healed anything without an addon of sorts (started with Healbot and moved on to VuhDo). I have never thought of it as "cheating". This could be because when I started using Healbot it must have been after the Blizz nerfs to it. I don't remember it "choosing" my spells for me.

    My question, though, is this: Have healing addons really helped us? Why do I ask? Well, the other day I was making some UI changes and fiddled around with color schemes. I had changed the default colors in VuhDo to match the colors of my new UI (various shades of gray). I then went into my heroic random for the day. As we started I was like, "Hmmm....nice, I got a geared out tank. He is taking no damage at all. This is gonna be a breeze". Then all of a sudden the rogue in the group is dead and my VuhDo proudly shows "ghost" next to his name. ?????

    But....what? His health bar never went down. How did he die? I use VuhDo for my party/raid frames and therefore had nothing else on screen to show me the rogue had been taking any damage. I was in an instant state of panic and had no idea how I was gonna pull off healing without being able to see anyone's health bars diminishing. I had apparently screwed something up when I changed the colors of VuhDo. It was at that point I realized I was too dependent on my healing addon and wished I knew how to "old world heal".

    I've also noticed that I have become more of a "clicker" type player on my dps toons. I've always been a little bit of a clicker (key presses for buttons 1-6 but click anything from 7-+). But I find myself clicking 1-6 on my action bars now. I'm curious if this is not because of all the "clicking" we healers do on our healing addons. As much as I love VuhDo, I wonder if it might not do me some good to remove it and learn how to heal without it.

    Have any of you had similar thoughts/things happen?

  7. I don't know, Thela, I don't see the incident you described as in any way related to addons, it's simply a mess-up. You can get things wrong with the default UI as well, hit the wrong keys or whatever. That's hardly the UI's fault though.