Thursday, June 24, 2010

The One Button Healer

Cooldown Management for the Holy Paladin

We're a faceroll class, right? At some point in her life, a paladin is informed that she is a one-trick pony: beacon does her job for her and all she has to do is spam one "I-WIN" spell till the boss is dead and she gets to collect her competition-free spellpower plate.

Certainly, much of the utility a holy paladin brings to a raid doesn't show up on Recount, so it's tempting to think this way. Cooldowns are the hallmark of the paladin class - the buttons we get to press, while situational, are powerful when they apply to the encounter. We have lots of different ways to pepper our casting with extra abilities.

I have five pieces of advice for managing cooldowns, while geared towards holy paladins, it can be applied to all classes that bring utility. In future posts I'll go into more detail on specific abilities.

1. Don't hesitate to use an emergency ability because 'it might be more needed later'. Odds are, it will be ready again before you know it. There are caveats to this suggestion, specific times the RL might ask you to pop a cooldown in a certain encounter, but in general waiting for the golden moment to save the raid will mean those abilities just never get used. Two minutes is a short time in the game, even five minutes is quick in the scope of a raiding night. That's lots and lots of opportunities to do more than just spam Holy Light, and adds depth to the class (for me) because I'm always on the lookout for opportunities to use my other abilities.

2. Know how to press the button. This sounds really juvenile, eh? Just hit the button, right?! When a cooldown is necessary, timing is everything. I had to teach myself and practice until my keybinds were muscle-memory. Clicking a portrait then clicking the button was just too slow for me. Conversely, my targetless cooldowns are not bound, since it's one-click to activate Aura Mastery, Divine Shield, and D-Sac. However you set up your UI, having emergency buttons easy to use is important to performance and fun-factor.

3. Have a plan and choose to use before you fight. With information on the internet, we can find out encounter-specific information before we set foot into the raid. Knowing the expected length of the fight (or the enrage timer) can give you an idea of how many times you'll be able to use a cooldown in a fight (and when). For progression, this can be important as the fights will be lasting the longest and you'll be stretched as you're learning. Progression fights are where our cooldowns are the most powerful. For a five-minute fight, I try to squeeze in two uses of two-minute cooldowns and one use of three and five minute buttons.

4. Paladins love sandwiches. A mistake I made in my learning phase was that I would blow cooldowns back to back to back and a tank would die because I had gone three to five seconds without actually casting a heal (this counts for judgments, Divine Plea, Beacon, and Sacred Shield as well!). I forced myself to learn the sandwich technique - cast Holy Light, use the cooldown/non-heal, cast Holy Light. Knowing your next three moves will help execute them with the least amount of gap in healing and keep your tank from a deadly spike.

5. Know which abilities trigger the global cooldown. Some do, and you have to wait until it resets (one second to one-and-a-half seconds depending on your level of haste). Others don't, and you can begin casting another spell as quickly as you can start casting. For instance, Divine Plea triggers the GCD while Divine Illumination doesn't.

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