PvE Healing 101 Guide by Lorhin

Written by Lorhin, Edited by Xam Xam.


Healers heal. Obviously. Everyone knows that. I could just end the guide here, but you didn’t come to read my guide just to see me tell you what the healer’s job is in a one word summary. You came here probably because you were interested in becoming a “good” healer instead of a “bad” or “meh” healer. Or maybe you were just bored and had nothing else to do. Either way, if you have any curiosity on what I have to say on this subject, keep reading.

So…who am I? I am Lorhin. I Scoundrel heal for the NiM/MM raid team, Resurrection, in the guild <Fortitude> on Star Forge. Started healing shortly after the game launched (was a beta player, but ran my Gunslinger for awhile before healing). As of 5.9, my team has cleared all operations on all difficulties. I have at least one of each healer class. My favorite is the Scoundrel. My backup healer is a Sage, which I enjoy as well. Commando is the heal class that I am least familiar with.

I’m going to try and keep this guide generalized, meaning I’m not going to go into the fine details of how to play each heal class. I will, however, try to teach you how to BE a good healer in PvE group content. Hopefully, you’ll find this guide helpful. Also, please forgive me if some of this stuff sounds like common sense. I just want to make sure I hit all the points I can think of to make this guide as complete as I can.


Contents – Healer’s Checklist

  1. Know Your Class
  2. Setting up Your UI
  3. Prioritizing: Know the Other Classes
  4. Know the Fights
  5. Raid Awareness
  6. Cleansing
  7. Preemptive Healing and Preventing Damage
  8. Parsing as a Healer
  9. Working Together with Your Co-healer

KNOW YOUR CLASS

You have no hope of becoming a good healer if you have no idea what your skills do. Maybe a little harsh, but it’s true. You may not have needed to know what all your skills did while levelling. You probably didn’t even need to use all your skills while levelling. You may not have even levelled up as a healer. But if you intend to do some group content at end game, you’re gonna need to get used to using everything in your arsenal. Be sure to read through all the skills and passives you receive in your discipline. That will help you learn what skills to use when, and on who. Check around on the internet for class guides. Reading multiple guides is a good idea, as one guide might cover something that another guide leaves out. Read through them even if you think you know what you are doing. The worst that could happen is that they confirm that you are doing everything right. This thread is a great place to start if you are looking for stat builds for any Discipline. Be sure to check that if you aren’t sure how to gear yourself.

But, for the sake of this being a guide, I’ll at least summarize what each class of healer plays like:

Scoundrel/Operative

  • Heals mostly with HOTs (heal over time skills)
  • Has neat stealth tricks (ie. stealth res, stealthing to reset your medpac)
  • Half their heals are instant cast abilities
  • Has a self cleanse along with their regular cleanse
  • Very good defensive utilities
  • Very mobile
  • Superior group heals
  • Burst heals are decent, but not “on demand” like the other classes

Sage/Sorcerer

  • Puts shielding bubbles on their teammates
  • Force Barrier (aka “OH SH*T Bubble”)
  • Most of their heals have a cast time/channel
  • Pretty mobile
  • Burst healing is very good
  • Does not have an instant resource refill skill like the other classes do
  • The best all around healing class

Commando/Mercenary

  • Hold The Line is OP
  • Can burst heal while on the go
  • If specced into it, has the shortest cleanse cooldown
  • Very good defensive cooldowns
  • Superior single target burst heals
  • Nice damage options, for a healer

This should give you an idea on what the healing classes are capable of and how you should be playing them. Again, to know all the finer details of your class, do read a class guide, or ask someone you know who is good with their healer.

Also, practice. Just because you pick a class that might be good at a certain way of healing doesn’t automatically make you great at doing it. Always practice and try to find ways to improve. That’s one of the things that sets a “good” healer apart from an “adequate” healer.


SETTING UP YOUR UI

You read a guide on how to play your class, right? Because the next step would be to set up your UI in a way that makes healing efficient for you. For example, here’s my UI setup:

As you can see, I’ve got my skill bars and mini map clustered and centered. The ones to the left of the map are all the skills I have keybound. The ones to the right side are ones that I click. Notice that the ops frame is close to the clicking side and also the middle of the screen. Keeping everything in close vicinity to each other like this means that my eyes and mouse don’t have to move all over the screen constantly. I’m more efficient at my job this way.

I’m not saying you have to have your set up exactly like mine, but if everything is spread all over your screen, you’re gimping yourself. If you don’t want to take too much time editing your own UI, try browsing SWTOR UI. That’s where I got the base of my current UI setup. I just modified it a little to work better for me. They’ve got lots of custom UIs already made. They even tell you how to install them.

One other thing. If you don’t do this already, I’d highly suggest keybinding your skills instead of clicking everything. I do click some of my skills, but the most important skills to my rotation or the skills that I use the most are all keybound to either keyboard keys or buttons on my mouse. If you’re not used to it, it will feel a little weird at first, but after a little practice, you’ll never want to go back. Your reaction times will be far faster which can mean the difference between life and death for your team. Not to mention, you’ll get a certain satisfaction when you are able to cleanse a party member faster than they can whine, “CLEANSE PLZ!”

And speaking of cleanses… one of the options in your ops frame is to “Show Only Removable Debuffs.” While this sounds like a great idea, what with all the class buff debuffs clogging up the raid frames, I highly suggest that you NEVER HAVE THIS TURNED ON. The reason being many important debuffs that you need to keep an eye out for cannot be cleansed. For example: Force Leach during the Dread Guard fight in HM/NiM TFB. If you have this feature activated, you will not be able to see when a tank has Force Leach on them. You will only see them lose health when you try to heal them, which will probably cause you to try and heal them more, ultimately causing the tank to die, and healing Kelsara instead. Being able to see all types of debuffs is crucial when it comes to doing your job well. Yes, the debuff bar can get cluttered at times, but after awhile, you’ll get used to it. Practice enough and you’ll be able to tune out the class buff icons all together. Almost.


PRIORITIZING: KNOW THE OTHER CLASSES

You are bored.

No one in the guild is online at the moment, so you decide to que up for a random MM FP on your sage healer (pretend you have one if you don’t). After a couple minutes of waiting, the queue pops, and you see your assembled team:

You have a Shadow tank, and Shadow and Scoundrel dps. While this information may seem a bit trivial, knowing how each class behaves can actually help your healing in the long run. Let us dissect this group and see what we can learn…

~ Besides you, the rest of your group is composed of melee classes. Salvation will be very good to use here.

~ Both dps are stealth classes, and they probably use their combat stealth in their rotation. Agro issues with them should practically be non-existent, so you can potentially focus most, if not all, of your heals on the tank.

~ The tank is a Shadow, currently the best tank class in the game. Their mitigation is ridiculous, so keeping them alive should be a breeze, assuming the player knows what they are doing.

These are just some of the things to keep in mind while healing for this particular group make up. Other things you would need to take into account would be what FP you were running and the skill level of the group. Some FPs are easier to heal than others. If your team is not so skilled, you’ll probably end up healing a lot more than if you were with a team that knows what they are doing. You shouldn’t need to know everything about every class, but the more you know, the easier it will be to determine how to heal them.


KNOW THE FIGHTS

Yes, most of your job is babysitting your group, making sure they don’t die. And, most of the time, healers don’t tend to have to deal with as many mechanics related to their role as tanks or dps do. That being said, if you don’t know what’s coming, you will get taken by surprise and someone might die. So, it’s best to walk into a fight with, at least, a general understanding of what the tanks and dps are supposed to be doing.

Things you need to consider for each fight:

  • Are there adds that spawn in this fight, or do we only battle the boss?
  • What skills does the boss/adds use, and can they be interrupted?
  • Will the boss move a lot?
  • Will the group need to move around a lot?
  • Will there be a lot of raid damage going out, or will the tanks be taking most of the damage?
  • Will there be a lot of “stupid” on the ground, and if so, does it spawn at random positions, on top of raid members, or in a set pattern?
  • What other special mechanics does this fight have?

For example, in the Master and Blaster boss fight in The Ravagers, not knowing that a DPS is supposed to eat the laser that Master spits out on the tank, and that you are supposed to focus your heals on them for the duration of the channel, will at the very least cause that dps to die.

If there’s going to be a lot of raid-wide damage throughout the fight, roll those Slow Release Medpacs/Force Armor/Trauma Probes and AOE heals on all members as much as possible. If the tanks are going to get their faces smashed in, keep your big heals on the ready. Don’t be that clueless healer who doesn’t do their job properly because you “didn’t know.” Always know what you are getting into, and always know how your class can handle it. That’s another thing that sets a “good” healer apart from a “so-so” healer.


RAID AWARENESS

  • LOCATION: Darvannis
  • TARGET: MM Titan 6
  • PHASE: Burn

The current pull has been rather sloppy. Your heal buddy has died twice due to the ranged DPS standing right on top of him during Lots of Missiles. The off tank has not been able to gather the adds for the life of him, and the DPS who get the grenade keep blowing up the rocks. But somehow, you all still made it to burn phase.

“HEALZ!!!” the tanks call out, so you heal them. Alas, your group wipes due to hitting the enrage. Too many DPS died during the burn phase because you were too busy tunnelling the tanks. You have failed.

That’s how it could have happened. But how about this?

“HEALZ!!!” the tanks call out, but you know that the DPS are supposed to be the heal priority for the burn phase, so you focus all your heals on them. Unfortunately, you forget to keep an eye on your own health levels, end up dying, and cause the group to wipe. You have failed.

But here’s what really happened.

“HEALZ!!!” the tanks call out, but you know that the DPS are supposed to be the heal priority for the burn phase. You focus your heals on them and yourself. After all, you can’t support when you’re dead. The tanks end up dying, but that’s ok. The DPS are alive. You are alive. Titan 6 is at five percent health. You’re going to make it! You’re going to-BOOM!!! Oh right. You had the giant grenade, but you didn’t move away from the group before it blew up. You have failed.

I’m not entirely sure what else to say here. I mean…raid awareness. It’s required for healers. (If we’re being honest, it’s really required for all roles.) If you don’t know what raid awareness is, it’s pretty much knowing and paying attention to EVERYTHING that’s going on around you during an encounter. And I do mean everything. You need to be able to multitask as a healer. If you are too busy paying attention to health bars and aren’t checking your feet every so often to make sure you aren’t standing in stupid, chances are, you’re going to end up dying. Stupid under the feet isn’t the only thing you should be looking out for either. You need to watch for other fight mechanics, watch where your group members are standing, and watch for adds when applicable. One thing that really helps is to fix your camera so that you can zoom out as far as possible. That way you’ll be able to see a larger portion of the field, which will help you spot the things you need to keep an eye out for. Yes, I know your toon is sexy, and you like to stay zoomed in so you can admire that outfit that took 50 hours to put together but trust me on this one.

Always remember: Blinders make bad healers.


CLEANSING

The only reason I decided to make this its own category was because I’ve seen more than a few new healers who don’t have a clue as to what a cleanse is. Which is bad. Your cleanse is one of your most important skills as a healer.

On Sages, your cleanse is called Restoration. For Scoundrels, it’s called Triage, and for Commandos, your cleanse is called Field Aid. Your cleanse skill will remove most DoTs (damage over time), slows and stuns from its target, as well as heal them a tiny bit. This is extremely useful as removing DoTs prevents damage (more on that later). Cleansing a root, slow or stun allows your team member to get back in the fray quicker, or escape from death easier. Always be in the habit of cleansing.

Keep in mind that there are two different kinds of cleanses: cleanses and purges. Cleanses, such as the ones listed above, can only remove up to two harmful effects. Purges (ie. a Scoundrel’s Dodge* ability and a Shadow’s Resilience ability) removes ALL harmful cleansable effects.

Most of the time, only a couple of people will need cleansing at a time. Though, in some fights, there are raid-wide DoTs that go out. In this case, you usually want to cleanse either yourself or the tanks first. Unless, of course, someone else is near death, or mechanics dictate otherwise. Don’t forget to communicate with the other healer in your group on who you plan to cleanse, so you both don’t accidentally use your cleanses on the same person.

*Gunslingers also have Dodge, but theirs is not a purge or a cleanse.


PREEMPTIVE HEALING AND PREVENTING DAMAGE

So, you’re a healer, right? When people take damage, you heal them. Did you know that’s only half of your job? Healers also need to do a lot of damage prevention (and this is especially true for Sages). Whatever damage you can’t prevent, you restore. Makes sense? Good. Now, quiz time:

1. One of the dps get a dot on them. What do you do?

2. One tank and one DPS get a dot on them at the same time. What do you do?

3. You have the boss as your focus target and see that he is casting a hard hitting attack on one of the tanks. What do you do?

4. You are anticipating a raid-wide attack that deals a substantial amount of damage to the entire group. What do you do?

~~~~~~~~~~

Alright, quiz over. How did you do? Let’s find out…

1. One of the DPS get a dot on them. What do you do?

Correct Answer A: Cleanse the dot.

Correct Answer B: If the afflicted DPS has a self cleanse and you are unable to cleanse them for some reason, ask them to cleanse themselves.

Correct Answer C: If no one is able to cleanse the dot for some reason, Force Armor/Trauma Probe/HoT up the afflicted dps, and heal through it.

Cleansing a dot prevents the dot from damaging the DPS. That means that’s less damage you’d end up needing to heal through. Force Armor absorbs and heals some of the damage the dot would do to the DPS, which helps with mitigation.

2. One tank and one DPS get a dot on them at the same time. What do you do?

Correct Answer A: Cleanse one (most likely the tank), and heal the other.

Correct Answer B: If the tank or dps have a self cleanse, ask one of them to use it if possible, and then cleanse the other.

Like I’ve stated before, there is a little bit of priority when cleansing. Most of the time, you’d want to cleanse the tank first, as most of the time, they’d be taking most of the damage. Yes, tanks can survive a lot more damage than DPS can. However, tanks are also the ones that control the fight, and if their health gets low, or they die, that will prevent them from doing their job properly. Of course, this is all subjective to the boss fight you are in (see section Know the Fights), as well as who is more in danger of imminent death.

3. You have the boss as your focus target and see that he is casting a hard hitting attack on one of the tanks. What do you do?

Correct Answer: Force Armor/Trauma Probe/HoT up the tank, and start casting a big heal early.

If you know there’s a big hit incoming, and you can time it so that you get your big heal off almost immediately after the blow lands, that takes a lot of pressure of you and your fellow heal buddy, as well as the tank who got hit. Not preemptively casting a heal and letting the tank get hit, might make it a little more difficult to catch up, if you already have your hands full. Again, see Know the Fights and Know Your Class.

4. You are anticipating a raid-wide attack that deals a substantial amount of damage to the entire group. What do you do?

Correct Answer A: Force Armor/Trauma Probe/HoT up the group, and get your AOE heals ready.

Correct Answer B: If possible, have the group cluster somewhere so that you can dispense AOE heals more efficiently.

Again, this all depends on the fight you are in. You may or may not be able to have your group cluster for AOE heals depending on the fight mechanics (see Know the Fights). The first and third phases of HM/MM Dread Council, for example, are next to impossible to get everyone grouped for AOE heals.

So you see, it all comes full circle. Knowing the fights and knowing your class can help you plan ahead. Planning ahead, knowing your options, and knowing what to do in certain situations will help you prevent and mitigate more damage. That means less stress on you and your team. It’s another thing that sets a “good” healer apart from a “passable” healer.


PARSING AS A HEALER

So you are healing in a raid group, and you want to see how well you do healing each boss fight. A good way to tell is by using a parsing program, like StarParse. Parsing heals is not as straightforward as parsing DPS, so I will show you a sample parse from a raid I was in and break it down for you.


Screenshot taken in 5.9.

I have drawn a box around the sections that pertain to healers most: Healing and Shielding. Under the Healing section, Total is the total amount of heals you put out for the duration of the fight. HPS stands for Heals Per Second and tells you…just that. How many points of heals you threw out per second. Now, the next two columns are a little more important: EHPS and your EHPS percentage. EHPS stands for Effective Heals Per Second. Effective heals are the heals that actually restore lost health. This does not include heals thrown on players who are already at full health, as those heals are pretty much ineffective. If your HPS is much higher than your EHPS, then either there isn’t a lot of damage going out, or you’re not healing enough of the damage that is going out. This means you are over-healing. Over-healing is usually frowned upon. You may as well throw out some attacks if you’re going to throw out ineffective heals.

So just to reiterate, on this parse log, my (Sztanja’s) total heals were 3.8 million, my EHPS were 6.8k and 86% of my total heals were effective.

Now, about the Shielding section… This is more used by Sages/Sorcs as their Force Armor/Static Barrier shields people. From the above example, my total damage absorbed is 697k. My APS, or Absorb Per Second, was 1.4k. When you are a Sage/Sorc, to get your true Total Heals and EHPS, you need to add your absorb numbers to your heals. StarParse does this automatically in its Raid Heals interface, but if you are looking at the window like the above screenshot, you have to add it up manually. So my true Total Heals was a little over 4.5 million, and my EHPS was actually 8.3k.

Keep in mind, your healing numbers will vary depending on the fight. HM Esne & Aivela has a lot of raid damage that goes out, so it requires a lot of heals. But in a fight against Sparky, there is a lot less damage going out, so your numbers will naturally be far lower. Working together with your heal buddy to keep your raid team alive is far more important than putting up big heal numbers. So long as there are minimal casualties (and you weren’t getting carried), your job was well done.

There’s one last section on the above example you need to watch. I didn’t include it in the box because this part tends to be out of your control: Damage Taken. DTPS is Damage Taken Per Second, and Total is how much damage a player took throughout the encounter. If more details are needed, the player can click on the Damage Taken tab, and it will show them what attacks they got hit with, what kind of damage, and how much damage they took from each attack. If the group is having trouble staying alive, this will tell you if the problem is a healer problem, or if people are taking more damage than they should be. So yes, contrary to popular belief, it is not always the healer’s fault if a group wipes! Yay!


WORKING TOGETHER WITH YOUR CO-HEALER

PSSST! Come here. Yes, you. Come closer. Okay… You wanna know the secret to being a successful operation healing duo with your heal partner? Yeah? You ready? Okay, listening? Here it is…




WORK TOGETHER!!!

Seriously though. There are two healers in an eight-man ops team. This means you should be working two-gether! You are not expected to be able to heal the entire group all by yourself. Yes, you absolutely need to be able to carry your own weight, but there will be times where you’ll need to heavily rely on your co-healer to get the job done. This does not make you a bad healer. This does, however, give you an opportunity to be a good teammate.

There is a reason why it’s desired to have two healers of different classes on an ops team. It’s so that they can play to each other’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, if your two healers are a Scoundrel and a Commando, the Scoundrel can spend most of their time HoTing up the group and throwing out AOE heals when needed, while the Commando can focus on burst healing through spike damage. That’s not to say that the Scoundrel can’t throw out Underworld Medicine on those who need big heals, or that the Commando shouldn’t be throwing their Kolto Grenade on clustered party members. But when things get hairy, you need to be able to trust your heal partner to do what they do best.

As with all roles, communication is extremely important when healing. There will be times when you have to plan out who cleanses who or what so that you both don’t cleanse the same person (ie. VM/MM Dread Council, VM Revan). There will also be times when someone is near death, and for whatever reason, you are not able to help them. What do you do? Call out to your heal partner. “I can’t reach Joe Bob!” “Got ‘em!” Talk to each other when you need to, especially when you are new partners and still getting used to each other. As you get accustomed to each other’s style of playing, you’ll find yourselves needing to talk less as you’ll be able to predict or assume, what the other might do in certain situations. You’ll become less stressed, which in turn helps the rest of your group be less stressed.


FINAL THOUGHTS

So yeah, I think that’s all I can think of to cover for this basic guide. Hopefully, it was of some use to you readers. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, criticisms, etc. feel free to DM me on the SWTOR forums (forum name “happysister”) or to contact me in-game (Scoundrel’s name is Sashel, Legacy name Kipplar). Suggestions and criticisms are also welcome. Thanks for reading, and may the force be with you!


You can also find Lorhin on Twitter (@LorhinGames) and on her Twitch Stream – https://www.twitch.tv/lorhin

About Xam Xam

Owner of MMO Bits, and formerly the owner of Xam Xam Says, Xam Xam is an Aussie who has been playing MMO's for over 5 years and can't get enough of them. She mainly plays Healing Classes but will also DPS and reluctantly Tank (if she has one). She prefers to PvP but doesn't mind doing all the other 'MMO bits' as well.

View all posts by Xam Xam →