Wednesday, January 14, 2009

[Paladin] Lessons Learned While Healing Azjol-Nerub

I'm sure most holy paladins in Northrend have run this instance already. On heroic it's known as the bane of a holy paladin's existence due to the massive crunch to find a GCD to Cleanse a person, let alone the whole party, on the second boss fight. The only heroic more hated by pallies is possibly Halls of Lightning (but then a lot of people don't like that one). But on normal, well, it's not too bad.

AN is a short instance, and for me the defining moment of an AN run is always in the first boss fight. If the party can't survive the Watcher pulls leading up to the boss itself then the whole run is effectively over. I'd healed this one previously on my druid and knew to call out for help when cocooned, and also that as a healer I was likely to get swarmed by adds which may or may not get pulled off me. I also knew that by nature this fight was chaotic, but if there is any bright side to being a paladin healer in a regular 5-man, it's that you can take a few hits, or even be hit the entire fight, and still be able to heal through it without much complaint. Thank you plate armor and Concentration Aura.

So when we had our first casuality it wasn't entirely unexpected. Our tank gave a good effort considering he was 71 and a tad underlevel for the instance (generally not a good thing as the tank), but the rogue still managed to get himself killed somehow during the first Watcher pull and remained dead the entire boss fight. I would have tried to save him, but he died so fast that I was still casting the same heal from the time I saw his health drop to when he actually died. Given that kind of speed I can only imagine that he hit something he really shouldn't have. I felt a little bad, but not much.

If the healer dies, it's the tank's fault.
If the tank dies, it's the healer's fault.
If the dps dies, it's their own damn fault.

It's a very good mantra for 5-mans. It doesn't necessarily apply to raids, but for 5-mans, especially normal 5-mans, it's particularly apt. Except that the rest of the fight didn't go smoothly either. I even lost the tank to an unlucky interrupt, which by that mantra meant it was my fault, but we held out long enough that he was able to run back from the graveyard, back into the instance, and help us in the final moments of the boss.

It was after that fight that I realized I hadn't been using Beacon of Light when I should have been. While I can't say for certain it would have saved the tank's life, it would have made the fight easier as a whole. I already knew I was a pretty good mana battery. I couldn't imagine running dry for any reason, so I applied a new rule for myself: Always make sure Beacon is up during a fight. Even if it doesn't seem necessary, make sure it's up as a proactive measure rather than a reactive one. Goodness knows I'm busy enough during a hectic fight without having to remember to put Beacon up when I need it the most and I certainly could spare the mana.

And this was especially good to have in practice for the second boss. Hydranox is annoying first for the gauntlet run (it not uncommon for the tank to miss an add), and second for the party damage for when we're fighting the boss himself. The boss puts a poison dot on the entire party that hurts them and heals him, and in addition to that he spawns acid clouds that do heavy damage over time when people stand in them (and people will). In heroic the poison dot is generally the cause of any teeth grinding by the paladin, who is largely stuck with single target heals with cast times and at the same time has to find the global cooldowns to Cleanse the party. Fortunately for this normal run we had a shaman with a poison cleansing totem so I could focus sololy on healing.

It was also about this time in the run that I started the habit of mashing Divine Plea every cooldown, as practice for things to come. It's a 20% hit to healing done, but unless it's do-or-die time the amount lost is barely noticeable. I was never in danger of running out of mana, but this kept me topped up almost the entire run and allowed me a bigger comfort zone when I felt I needed to spam Holy Lights to keep the party up. No drinking is no downtime.

The last boss fight was not particularly remarkable from a healing standpoint other than as a healer I was bound to get beetle adds on me, but again, being in plate and with Concentration Aura in a normal instance they were just annoying more than anything dangerous. It helped that the tank designated a particular part of the room as where he would tank the adds, so if I knew where to run if I got any on me. Just as a side note though... those adds don't go away when the boss dies, so it's really nice if the tank or dps are observant enough pull them off the healer, because it's a little annoying watching everyone standing around looting when I'm still being attacked.

My take home observations for future instances:

1) Always keep up Beacon of Light.

2) Use Divine Plea every cooldown unless the hit to healing is going to be make or break.

3) Don't be afraid to spam Holy Lights if needed. Mana shouldn't be an issue.

I suppose these observations are mostly common sense items, some of which I've read elsewhere, but it helps to have actually come to these same conclusions myself and put them in practice.

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