This is the first article in what will be a series detailing how to build a healing user interface (UI). In my wanderings around the internet one of the themes that keeps repeating is that everyone, healers included, is always looking for a way to maximize their performance and many times UI improvements can go a long way toward that goal.
Begin at the beginning…
The core of any healer’s interface is the connection between the person behind the keyboard and the heath bars of our raid. Every decision that a healer makes need to be directed at how to make the bars stay happy. I would say the biggest one, but also the most forgiving, is deciding which unit frames to use. Gone are the days of the mythical HealBot that legitimately healed for you. Current choices include standard Blizzard unit frames, Grid, Grid2, VuhDo, Healbot … Any of these will work and there are people playing at very high levels with them all. The basic premise remains the same throughout, you have a little box that turns funny colors when people get hurt, or have a bad debuff, or a buff. You can show role, class, name, health in absolute numbers or percentages, your hots/buffs on players, their own hots/buffs, the other healers’ hots/buffs and the list goes on. The core of a functional set of raid frames is displaying the information that you feel is important in a way that is easily interpreted and can be quickly acted upon if necessary. It is immensely easy to clutter up your raid frames so that they’re too busy to be useful so a lot of what gets done is streamlining.
After you’ve grabbed the raid frames of your choice, you need to set up how you interact with your frames to heal the peoples. Some of the raid frames come with integrated spell tools that allow you to use right and left click with modifiers to cast healing spells as you mouseover the player unit frames, some rely on external input that can be mouseover macros set up through the Blizzard macro tool or through an external macro tool like Clique, or you can select a frame by clicking on it and casting a spell from a normal keybind (or clicking something on your action bar, but I promise you that’s a terrible way to do things).
Since this is all about how I do things, we’re going to look at VuhDo and have since I started my first healer back in Wrath. It’s not that I’m being stubborn and haven’t tried other options. I’ve dabbled with Grid and Grid2 (yes, these are completely different things) and was forced into Healbot during MoP beta since it was the only thing that worked in the early days but I’ve always come back to VuhDo.
For a really good, in depth guide to everything VuhDo, check this out: http://vuhdoguide.blogspot.com/2011/08/vuhdo-setup-walkthrough.html . It is every single option in the add on and why you would want to mess with it and how to do it. I’m hugely impressed; it’s an amazing piece of work. I am going to cover like maybe 1/100th of what’s in there but hopefully some of the more important bits. There is also a list of guides on PlusHeal for some good basic guides and some other specialty guides.
What I want to cover is some of the more usability aspects and how to set up a good, functional set of raid frames, arrange the icons on your health bars for maximum efficiency, set up a cluster finder, and add new debuffs. I’m going to assume that you’ve already followed a basic guide on how to get some of the easy stuff set up like what size the boxes are and where they’re positioned on your screen. I also won’t be discussing how to set up your spell arrays since there are already many excellent guides that cover that.
Ok, so now that you have a basic set up, it’s highly likely that you want to position your various indicators in some sort of meaningful way. The way you set this up is the pull up the VuhDo Options by /vuhdo opt and you go to Panels -> HoT Icons.
As you can see on the left under Own HoTs you can pick a layout. I use the second one and I like to have my stuff show up as icons with text instead of having a little graphic and stacks makes no sense for anything a paladin does but druids might use that for Lifebloom or something. The set up you see here will give you a raid frame that looks like this:
Having your Beacon show and where you have Eternal Flame rolling seems pretty normal, but what a lot of people don’t do, but should in my opinion, is track what people are doing to themselves and each other so that you can see where better to focus your attention. For that purpose I’m using two Bouquets that track each of those independently. In the picture you can see that I’m using a personal cd (Divine Protection) and that I have an external cd (Hand of Sacrifice).
I know it seems like that takes up a decent amount of space where real estate is precious, but here’s why it’s amazing: you can act very smartly when it comes to deciding who needs a heal. If you have a 3 pt EF queued up and ready to pop on someone, should you a) Use it on the mage who’s Ice Blocked; or b) Use it on the warlock with Dark Bargain ticking? If you know that both those conditions exist, you know that the warlock needs the heal more right now and you can deal with the mage in a couple seconds. Knowing the DK had his Purgatory proc, you can LoH him and save the day. You also don’t want to waste external cds on a tank who’s covered and can roll externals one after the other if that’s what’s needed. You can see that the warrior has Last Stand active and that the priest has Pain Suppression up so you can wait and Hand of Sacrifice as it drops. You’re excited to try it now, I can feel it!
Ok, so here’s what you do, go to General -> Bouquets and set up a new Bouquet, name it whatever you want. Start adding spells!
Of the two I use that are shown in the previous screenshot, Tank External extd is included with VuhDo so you already have that. The spells I have in mine are: Hand of Sacrifice, Pain Suppression, Ironbark, Guardian Spirit, Hand of Purity, and Life Cocoon (edit: I added Hand of Protection, Hand of Salvation and Hand of Freedom to this recently also).
The Personal CD bouquet I created and included the following spells: Fortifying Brew, Shield Wall, Survival Instincts, Frenzied Regeneration, Icebound Fortitude, Ice Block, Dark Bargain, Cauterize, Ardent Defender, Cloak of Shadows, Dampen Harm, Diffuse Magic, Divine Protection, Avert Harm, Last Stand, Divine Shield, Guardian of Ancient Kings, Enraged Regeneration, Purgatory, Deterrence, Feint, Barkskin, Shamanistic Rage, Astral Shift, Ice Barrier, Stagger Anti-Magic Shell and Dispersion. It’s a heck of a list but really you never have more than a couple up across your raid frames at a time. Call me sentimental but it gives me a warm fuzzy every time I see someone pop a personal to save him from excess damage. Now, the default display for each of these is “Glossy” which is pretty useless so I always make sure to set it to “None/Default” which displays the default icon. Also make sure that you’re showing Mine and Others for Spell Source.
Once you have the bouquet set up, you can go back the Panels -> HoT Icons page and assign the bouquet to a piece of raid frame real estate. You can also edit the bouquet directly from this page by hitting the ‘Edit” button next to the name on the right side but it has to exist first which is why we made it.
A quick note on what’s missing – I have not included any of the tanks active mitigation to anything with the exception of Stagger. The reason is that considering the uptime on most of them, it would be distracting and not really tell me the important information about when they’re using major cooldowns unless I was really tunnelling just the tank health bars. I did include Stagger from brewmasters because the stagger level they have is directly related to how much healing they need because of the way the mechanic works. This is also sort of key for us since Hand of Purity mitigates the dot from Stagger (or did last time I checked). I don’t have a fulltime BM tank in my raid so there may very well be reasons why knowing or not knowing Stagger levels is beneficial. If you do have a monk tank I encourage you to experiment with it and see what works for you.
The next bit is easy and easily overlooked but I think it makes a big difference in how effective my AoE spells are, specifically Holy Radiance and Daybreak. Theorycrafters have already informed us that HR is a net gain on more than two targets so if we have three or more people within 10 yards of each other then it’s an HPS gain to HR vs. single target. In 10m this is probably more likely to be a decision you have to make, in 25m there is pretty much never a situation where I can’t find at least three people standing around each other. What the cluster finder does is tell you when there are people in proximity to each other.
So this is really easy to set up if we just read some spell tooltips. Holy Radiance and Daybreak both have a 10 yard radius. Holy Radiance has a three person minimum to be an HPS gain over single target and a cap at 6 targets. Daybreak does not have a cap so we have no restriction there. Both spells radiate out from where they are cast instead of from the caster like Light of Dawn.
So, you can see that we go to General -> Clusters and just fill in the appropriate boxes with the information that we have. This will put a little star icon in where you assign your Cluster Finder from the HoT Icon page, for me it’s in the lower right.
The Cluster Finder is NOT AOE Advice. If you assign AOE Advice to a slot on your frames it will give you an icon that basically suggests what spell to cast on which target. I don’t disregard this tool entirely as it may be good for certain people or in certain situations but I’ve never found it to be anything other than annoying and I don’t ever assign to anything. You’re welcome to try it instead of the cluster finder and may like it better but I certainly wouldn’t do both.
What’s that debuff called again?
The last piece I want to cover is pretty easy but can be very helpful especially going into a new tier. It’s how you deal with all the buffs/debuffs that will come with a new raid instance. There will 100% be things that we need to know about that won’t automatically get updated as soon and Siege of Orgrimmar comes out (although the VuhDo devs are VERY good about getting timely patches out) and there may be too much information that we don’t want to display, screw you, Primoridius buffs.
If you go to the Debuffs -> Custom page you can add or delete any buff or debuff in the game. The page name is a little misleading since it doesn’t really distinguish between good and bad here at all. The Buffs page is about buffs that originate from players not those that come from the game environment.
One of the things that VuhDo doesn’t really do is specify how a given buff or debuff should display in terms of timers or stacks so it’s almost a guarantee that anything that puts a stacking debuff on players will need to be adjusted here by finding the debuff (or buff) in the dropdown list and ensuring that the Stacks button is checked. The first weeks of a new tier find me in here a lot making sure I have what I need and that I’m judiciously deleting anything that I don’t care about for some reason to make sure my frames stay as meaningful as possible.
To create a new buff/debuff just enter the name in the blue box and hit save. Yup, that’s it. To delete something pull it up from the list and hit delete. If you add a bunch of stuff before a major update you may end up with double icons in the lower left of your raid frames if those buffs and debuffs were added so might need to come back here and clean up a little. This doesn’t happen often but if you find that you’re getting two indicators that’s probably the reason.
Anyway, that’s all I have for you today! I hope this helped and happy raiding!