Warning: Bad Targeting can Lead to Raid Deaths


"Great ability develops and reveals itself increasingly with every new assignment."

Baltasar Gracian, The Oracle

I bet this is something not many healers even think about. I’m not here to talk about your raid frames or your raid UIs. They all represent the same thing (health bars).

But a good healer knows better then to simply rely on clicking health bars to heal or to target their fellow raiders.

Targeting methods

There’s two different ways to target your allies.

  • Raid frames: This is the method that just about every healer is familiar with. Simply put, you click on the player’s frame, and you hit the heal button.
  • Heads up: This method involves you directly clicking on the target on your screen. As in selecting their character model. It can take some practice to do. The reason why it’s called heads up is that you have to keep your head “up” on to the screen instead of glued to the frames.

Why should I care about the heads up method?

A fair question to ask. I can easily heal players at will by clicking on their frames, you might say to yourself. But if you keep your head up on the action, you can make an estimated guess as to who the next person to get hit will be. Or give the impression of having really fast reflexes!

It’s like being psychic and being able to to tell the future!

And in the end, being able to predict where the damage is about to go to can only make you a better player. Don’t pigeon hole yourself into using one method or the other. Learn when to use each one.

Allow me to illustrate.

Kel'Thuzad's room, phase 2 with a player ice blocked

This is Kel’Thuzad’s room. Specifically, we’re witnessing yours truly in action during phase 2. See that Ice Block? That is not a friendly one. Any player trapped within loses 104% of their health in 4 seconds. Note that it’s a percent not an absolute.

You have 4 seconds to react. Or else they die.

What’s faster?

Looking for the raid warning, running towards the player, targeting them in raid frames and then healing them? Or targetting the big chunk of ice in the middle of the screen and dumping spell after spell in a desperate attempt to keep them alive?

Your brain takes time to function. Sure we all make split second decisions and react accordingly. But in a situation like this, you take more time waiting for the cue and finding the player in your raid frames as opposed to just clicking the big blue block.

Why is that?

Because the less tasks that are involved in a goal, the faster the goal is achieved. The brain is an interesting part of our physiology and it takes time to “shift” between tasks.

But that’s an extreme example!

Okay, that’s fair enough. I did talk about trying to predict who would take damage and Kel’Thuzad is a bad example of that since it’s nearly impossible to predict ice blocks.

Let’s take a look at Sartharion’s fire walls.

His basic attack is that he sweeps that area from right to left and vice versa with a giant wall of fire that has gaps where your raid can hide.

If you have an absent minded raider or just a really slow person, you can reduce the damage they take. A quick Shield and a Prayer of Mending helps to ensure they live through the worse parts of it. Raid frames can’t exactly tell you that your absent minded raider is about to get slammed with a fire wall. But at least they’ll live through one this time due to your diligence.

Practice, practice, practice!

For some players, targeting heads up can be difficult. Perhaps their mouse sensitivity isn’t high enough or its too low. Maybe their screen resolution doesn’t allow for enough room. Maybe you just don’t have enough real estate or open room to click on stuff.

But trust me when I say that it is an awesome skill to learn to be able to run and gun heal your party. Practice healing while moving. Practice it from different zoom settings. Try it with the zoom as far away as possible and click on the little dots that is your party. Learn to work the mouse to angle around large player models or objects. PvP battlegrounds is a great place to practice heads up healing since you can tell who’s about to engage players within your area.

Try to activate health bars by pressing Shift V. This allows you see the health of your party as the bar is located above their characters in game.

Be diverse as much as possible in your targeting methods and you will go a long way toward being the best you can be.

Image courtesy of theRIAA

19 thoughts on “Warning: Bad Targeting can Lead to Raid Deaths”

  1. Yup, targetting howling blasted players in the field is much faster than doing it on your raid frames. If you use mouseover macros you can be even faster.

    Example of a mouseover macro:
    #showtooltip Regrowth
    /cast [target=mouseover,help,nodead] Regrowth; Regrowth;

    Works best with ‘Auto self cast’ enabled in the interface options.

    Also, on some fights I find that zooming out helps a lot to maintain situational awareness of the raid, however even with camera distance maxed out wow doesn’t let you zoom out very far by default. If you make a macro like this:

    /script SetCVar(“cameraDistanceMax”, 25)
    /script SetCVar(“cameraDistanceMaxFactor”, 2)

    Put it on a bar and click it once, then remove it, and you’ll be able to zoom out much further. (this is perfectly legal by the way)

    Edit: I should add that you should put your raid frames somewhere where you can still see around you very well. I put mine bottom center. If you want to see them in action on Kel’Thuzad I’ve got a video of the fight here: http://files.filefront.com/GuildlessVsKelThuzad2wmv/;12874474;/fileinfo.html

  2. I assumed this was going to be about DKs that deathgrip malygos rather than a spark and turn him on a raid.

    NOW THATS some bad targetting that causes raid deaths!

    Any opinion on mouseovers versus clique? I use one mouseover macro for my COH and the rest all clique heals.

  3. The only issue I see with Heads-up targeting is the various layers and how they affect the ability to target. A good example for this issue is trying to target NPCs in Dalaran who give waypoints for various trainers and such. These NPCs stand under a “street light” in Dalaran which casts a cone of light on the ground around the NPCs. It was very difficult to target them until they were hot-fixed to reduce the diameter of the base of the cone. I’ve had similar issues in raids be it the shadow realm on sarth where players are behind the portal graphic or mob textures not allowing target of players behind them. Also, addons like Grid allow definition of custom de-buffs which give that extra second to start spamming heals. Having said that, I usually turn on the friendly nameplates display and spam away on more mellow fights. A clean UI goes a long way in allowing for faster heads-up healing too 😛

  4. Viewport clicking in anticipation of a Sartharion’s fire wall slam is a nice idea, though letting ’em eat a lava wave or two is a great way to speed up the slowpokes! (;

    For Kel’Thuzad and similar debuff healing I find adding the debuffs as a “center icon” to Grid is a lifesaver (er, no pun intended).

  5. Another good example is Mage-Lord Urom in The Oculus. When he does his teleport to the centre of the room and raid anounce big AoE thing, if you make it behind a pillar in time, you can usually see at least one person who is snared or otherwise won’t make it and shield them or similar.

    Frame targeting is definently the way to go, but being aware of whats going on is and where to expect damage is also important.

    BobTurkeys last blog post..Want to be heroic?

  6. I do agree with the principle of this post and your example of the Sartharion firewalls works good enough. However, a well configured Grid (or similar) setup that includes both an indicator for who is being targetted by a hostile and an indicator for who is currently being affected by a raid debuff (either get a plugin for this, or add them yourself, both work), will ultimately be much quicker in dealing with things such as Iceblocks on Kel than anything else. Especially if you use Clique and enable range indication on your grid, the whole process becomes extremely integrated and very fast because of what you explained about human nature (which I completely agree with).

    Not to mention that when you combine knowledge about a certain bossmob’s abilities with a simple TargetOfTarget frame, you can often deal with things like this very quickly as well, the only thing lacking in this case being a clear sense of wether you can actually reach that person or not.

    I realize that the frame setup I’m talking about might go beyond what an average player is willing to put up with in their interface though and I like your advice for the firewall situation and the occasions mentioned by other commentors, so I definitely think your post has merit, don’t get me wrong 🙂

  7. Awesome post.

    I believe that one of the hallmarks of the best healers is the ability to combine HUH (Heads-Up Healing) and a raid frame UI. My personal favorite is Grid as mentioned by many of those in comments above. I’ve found that the only drawback to Grid is the almost dizzying number of configuration options. RaidRx from WoW Insider had an awesome post on configuring Grid (I think it was also an Addon Spotlight, but I don’t remember for certain).

    My preference is to have Grid toward the center of my viewing space in order to have it close to hand (mouse). This gives the ability to quickly target using either method.

    Combining the two methods also helps prevent the “healing blinders” situation and keeps a healer more aware of the surrounding events! That will help you, as a healer, keep *yourself* out of the aforementioned wall of fire as well. You can’t squawk at the DPS to move and then get yourself fricasseed, now can ya?


  8. Thanks for the post!

    I’d like to point out a variation on the raid frames option, specific to your Kel’Thuzad example: in the vanilla UI, raid frames can show you debuffs on your raid members’ health/mana bars. The ice-block thing he casts looks like a little piece of ice next to your raid member’s frame. I see that just as if it were a poison or curse, target the user in the raid frame, and heal as usual. My mouse remains in a VERY small area and I press buttons to cast spells.

    I can’t wait for DBM or any other raid announces to tell me what’s up, and I don’t have to worry about trying to mouse all the way across my screen to find the player. As a bonus, the vanilla UI also can show you who’s in/out of range. I usually don’t have to move much because of this easy visual.

    Your points about being pro- rather than re-active are well said, though. Better to see what the boss is up to than wait until after it’s done. 🙂

    Nims last blog post..WotLK pre-raid gear check: healery types

  9. I just wanted to thank you for this post.

    My guild downed KT for the first time last night, and after the 3rd or 4th wipe, I thought of this post.

    Looking for the Frost Blast on screen works so much better (I was mad at myself for not doing this sooner).

    Unfortunately, wipe 5 was a direct result of using this method. I started focusing too much on it. Once the adds spawned at around fifty percent and our raid’s OT picked them up it was not possible to see his character because the Guardian of Icecrown model is too big. He got slammed with a Frost Blast and I had no idea.

    You were certainly right about this being situational, though in the right situation, it is VERY helpful.

  10. Honestly, I don’t think you can tell anyone that one particular way of healing is wrong or right. I think it is a matter of comfort that you have as a healer to get the job done. Sure, some people are really good at wack-a-mole on healbot or grid/clique. Others are good at clicking and hot keying heals using their raid frames. The bottom line is, that no matter what method you use, that you are aware of your surroundings and can anticipate what will happen to raid members in a given fight.

    I use a combination of healbot and mouseover macros. I’m not the best geared healer (priest) by far but I can keep pace with and often times outheal much better geared healers (including other healing classes in raid). Why? Because I can anticipate certain things. Who is going to pull aggro? Who is going to lag a bit and not move in time? Who isn’t standing in the right spot? If someone cloth or are they plate? Can I shield and renew or do I need to cycle up larger heals? It is a matter of knowing the people in your group, knowing the fight and knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the classes in your raids and responding to all these factors.

    I’ve had plenty of people try to tell me how to heal. Yet, in the end, I heal my way and do what is comfortable for me… getting the job done.

  11. I found a usefull addon for when I’m healing (duel-spec’d Druid, Feral / Resto) called Healerbuttons. It places a button by the units frame (party or raid) and you can even set how many buttons and what they do Like left click cast Regrowth and right click cast rejuv.

    I’ve found that with the right configuration, I can keep my eyes on what the group is doing and not miss one single heal.


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