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A healer is a character whose primary purpose or class role is to heal and protect their allies. Priests, druids, paladins, shamans and monks can all serve as healers. Healers are perhaps the most wanted for a dungeon or a raid.

While all party members must work together to succeed, healers have the direct responsibility of keeping every other member of the party alive. Healers must anticipate incoming damage, prioritise the healing of multiple targets, and make split-second decisions using an array of healing options.

Being a healer[]

Healing: Keeping your allies alive, sometimes seemingly against their intentions.[1]

Being a healer means keeping a close eye on the health of multiple targets. Often, losing focus for even a moment can lead to the death of a player. In PvE, the healer's attentions are mostly focused on the tank, who should be taking the majority of all incoming damage. However, careless DPS and numerous fight mechanics can cause the tables to quickly turn, requiring the healer to keep focused at all times, ready to switch targets at a moment's notice.

Unlike other roles, the prime challenge of a healer is usually not that of simple capability, but one of efficiency and longevity. Most well-geared healers are capable of healing targets through the heaviest of onslaughts, but doing so without rapidly depleting their limited mana reserves requires forethought, anticipation and a thorough knowledge of their skills and cooldowns. Healers who simply use their fastest and most powerful heals will quickly find themselves out of mana, powerless to aid themselves or their allies. Healers must therefore strike a fine balance between speed and efficiency, often risking the lives of their charges in order to ensure their mana will last the fight.

In the heat of battle, healers also have the unenviable responsibility of triage, making split-second decisions as to who will live, and who must die. It is often not possible to save every target, and there are times when even the best healer must allow one of their charges to perish, in order to save the others. In this sense, healers are those that stand between each player and their imminent death; and while they can bend the forces of fate a little to their favor, when there is nothing more that can be done, it is they who must decide who is to live, and who is to die.

For this reason and many others, the role of healer can be the most stressful, unpopular and unappreciated of all. If the healer is doing their job right, no-one will even notice they are doing it. This means that healers are rarely thanked for their efforts, with the only visible proof of their labours the fact that their allies are still standing. Because the healer serves as the last line of defence between players and their untimely deaths, healers can also be the subject of anger and abuse from players, even when those players are entirely to blame for their own demise. When everything goes wrong, the healer may be held responsible for not miraculously saving the group. However, experienced players know the difference between their own mistakes and those of the healer, and anyone who has served in the role knows the challenges of healing a tough encounter.

Healing is perhaps the most critical and responsible role of all. In the course of a tough fight, it is possible for several DPS to perish, and the party still to triumph; it is possible even for the tank to die, and for others to step up to take the brunt of the enemy's attacks. But without a healer to keep them alive, any group is likely to meet a swift and ignominious demise.

Being a healer takes guts, quick wits and nerves of steel. It means taking responsibility for the survival of the entire group, and knowing that if things go wrong, you may be blamed. Being a healer requires maintaining a constant awareness of multiple targets, numerous cooldowns and a plethora of debuffs. It means anticipating incoming damage and predicting the behaviour of your teammates, playing a constant game of chicken between urgency and efficiency, gambling the lives of your teammates against the speed of your reactions. It means living on the fine line between life and death, constantly weighing the value of speed over longevity, the value of one life over that of another.

Being a healer is quite possibly the most stressful and most under-appreciated role of all. Nonetheless, it offers a unique challenge, and the opportunity to earn the praise and respect of your teammates. A good healer is capable of turning around any encounter, creating an indomitable team of adventurers who can take on anything. As the person most directly responsible for their team's survival, a skilled healer can single-handedly save their party, their quick-thinking and mastery of their abilities sweeping their group from humiliating defeat to jubilant triumph. A good healer may stand in the shadows, but they alone are capable of raising their team into the glorious light of victory.

What Healers Should Know[]

  • Keep in mind that if there is no other healer in your group, then your death will most likely result in the death of the rest of the group that is relying on your healing. In this respect the healer may be the most important member of the group, especially as they are capable of resurrecting party members, so long as they themselves survive.
  • When forced to choose between targets, the general order of priorities when healing a group should be:
  • It is preferable to allow a DPS to die, in order to save the tank; and preferable to allow the tank to die rather than die yourself. Although party members may not be happy if you allow them to die, the most important thing is the overall survival of the group; sacrificing a single member (especially a DPS) in order to allow the group to survive the encounter is better than allowing the group to wipe trying to prevent a single target from dying. All healers have a resurrection ability (see below) which can be used to revive party members once combat has ended.
  • The main job of the healer is keeping the tank alive. The tank should usually be taking the majority of all damage, and so requires the most healing.
  • If you cannot keep the tank alive, immediately focus upon protecting the remaining party members. When the tank dies, the enemies will immediately attack the next highest priority target - which may be you. Watch who the mobs target and immediately protect them from attack - as DPS (or healers) rather than tanks, they will not be able to take as much damage without dying, and so will usually require more healing in order to keep them alive.
  • You should generally be at range from enemies. Standing back avoids many AoE effects and gives you a better view of the situation. It allows the tank to easily see when enemies peel off to attack you, and standing at range means enemies are less likely to decide to attack you. Some melee enemies will also spell interrupt casters that are standing near them even if they're otherwise not attacking them.
    • A major exception to this rule are Mistweaver Monks, who will need to spend at least some time in melee range to maximise their healing output.
  • While the tank is generally the main healing priority, when you come under attack it is vital to place your survival above that of anyone else. It is possible to make it through encounters without a tank, but it is rarely possible to do so without a healer. Use party chat, raid warnings (/rw The healer is under attack!) and slash commands (/helpme) to immediately request assistance. It is one of the main jobs of the tank to keep all mobs attacking him, and he should be quick to help. Good players will be aware that your survival is of the utmost importance and immediately come to your aid. However, always do your best not to generate excessive aggro.
  • When you need healing, abilities such as Spell holy blindingheal [Binding Heal] and AoE heals can be used to heal yourself at the same time as your allies.
  • When you are running low on mana, feel free to request that the group wait for you to drink in order to fill your mana before the next pull. Most group members will understand the importance of a healer’s mana and will wait.
  • In instances, your group will likely be pulling much faster then your regular mana regeneration can keep up with. You will want to keep enough drinks with you that you will not run out even if forced to drink between most pulls, and don’t forget that a mage in your group can provide you with more water. If you do run out of drinks, ask group members if they have any to spare (but bear in mind non-conjured items can't be traded between characters on different realms).
  • Remember line of sight and casting range can be limiting factors on heals, especially if teammates are constantly moving in chaotic battles. If you are fighting in an area with a corner or sharp bend, try to position yourself where you can see both sides of the corner in case you need to heal someone who runs around the corner. While not as often a problem, allies can also run out of the range of your heals in the middle of casting. It can be difficult, but if possible, attempt to keep an eye on where everyone is and be ready to reposition yourself the moment you have line-of-sight issues. If an ally is taking damage and you can't figure out where he is, remember the minimap will show nearby allies on it so looking for a dot of an ally not near the rest of the group can help you to find a wayward teammate in trouble.
  • Know the mana efficiency, rate of healing, and cast time of your heals. Healers have multiple heals available to them and at first it can be difficult to know which to use. While learning the role of all your heals, you may want to use mana efficiency relative to your other heals as a rule of thumb for deciding which heal to use. With the exception of Paladins that utilize Spell holy flashheal [Flash of Light], every healer has a single-target, very slow heal that provides good mana-to-healing efficiency and often serves as a primary or preferred heal. Due to the slower cast of this primary heal, other less-efficient heals will then be used when you simply do not have time to cast your slower heal. At higher levels, the amount of healing you can do in a given amount of time can also become an issue if your target is constantly taking large amounts of damage; but hopefully by this time you will have developed a good sense of your heals' strengths and weaknesses to help prioritize heals. Remember, the cheapest heal you have may not be your most mana-efficient, nor is the fastest-casting heal necessarily capable of doing the most healing per second. See the Healing Comparison to learn how your heals compare to each other.
  • Remember instant cast heals such as Spell holy renew [Renew] can be used while running. This can allow you to provide healing while fleeing opponents or following your group in an instance. It also is potentially powerful in PvP, being a great way to heal while fleeing enemy players or keeping a fast moving flag carrier alive in Warsong Gulch.
  • Do not forget your multi-target heals. Heals that heal multiple targets or the entire group can potentially be your most mana-efficient heals and can sometimes be the only viable way of healing all those taking damage before someone dies. However, many multi-target heals also generate large sums of hate which can result in all nearby enemies focusing their attacks on you if used at inappropriate times. Try to avoid group heals at the start of a fight, and be ready to utilize de-aggro abilities after your group heal if you do draw aggro.
  • You will get aggro in instances. Your heals anger all opponents at once which can easily mean that large pulls result in many uncontrolled mobs attacking you. Know your best means of surviving aggro.
    • Priests are the only healer to have a proper de-aggro ability that affects all enemies, called Spell magic lesserinvisibilty [Fade], which will be a Priest's primary means of dealing with undesired aggro. Keep in mind that once Fade ends, you will regain all of the threat you lost. Spell holy powerwordshield [Power Word: Shield] can also be used both to protect yourself from attack and as a means of controlling hate generation, as it only generates half the aggro of normal healing. Spell shadow psychicscream [Psychic Scream] will rarely be a viable means of handling unwanted attention in instances or raids, although it is key for doing so in PvP. Remember, when desperate, Spell holy blindingheal [Binding Heal] is an efficient heal that allows one to heal oneself and an ally at the same time, with the added bonus of having lower hate associated with it.
    • Druids do not possess any de-aggro ability; however, night elf druids have a similar ability in Ability ambush [Shadowmeld]. Shifting to Tree of Life Form will give several defensive improvements, such as increased armor and instat cast Entangling Roots. At lower levels shifting into bear form and using defensive abilities to increase your survivability can be viable, but do not attack your opponents or you will generate more aggro. Spell nature stoneclawtotem [Barkskin] can provide some temporary defense and remove spell interruption in order for the Druid to attempt to continue healing through damage taken.
    • Paladins will find Spell holy divineshield [Divine Shield] as their go to ability to protect themselves when attacked in PvE. This will cause mobs to ignore you and attack the next on their threat list, typically sending them back to the tank. Spell holy sealofsalvation [Hand of Salvation] can further decrease the chances of drawing unwanted attention while healing, although it needs some time to reach its full effect.
    • Shamans' primary means of handling unwanted aggro is through Spell nature cyclone [Wind Shear], although this will only work on one target at a time. If a shaman gains aggro they should Wind Shear that target immediately. At level 80, shaman can use Spell shaman hex [Hex] to temporarily control one target. At lower levels dropping Earthbind and Capacitor totems and kiting your attacker may work, but will reduce healing throughput. If the tank doesn't seem to be responding to your situation, from level 58 you can drop an Earth Elemental totem to tank the mob for you.
  • If you do attract unwanted attention from mobs, do not run away from your party in order to escape the mob. Once your have alerted party members that you are under attack, and used any threat mitigation abilities available (see above), move toward your tank, allowing him to attack the mob and regain aggro. Running away can prevent others from helping you, and rarely prevents melee mobs from damaging you. Also, do not attack the mob (unless it is low on health) as this will only increase its aggro toward you.
  • When you are with fairly new players, it may help to use slash commands. For instance, there's /oom (out of mana) and /helpme. Especially use /oom when there is an off-healer that may not be paying attention to your mana bar because he is busy with DPS.
  • Healers have improved debuff cleansing abilities, so will be expected to do most of the cleansing. Spotting debuffs, deciding which debuffs are worth cleansing and who to cleanse first is part of your role as a healer.
  • Try to learn the approximate health of your allies and keep watch for overhealing. If your primary heal is consistently overhealing a particular individual you will probably want to use a cheaper heal to avoid paying the mana cost for wasted healing potential. In these cases it might be better to use a smaller or more efficient heal.
  • Remember your teammate's pets. While pets are far less important then regular group members they do contribute to your group DPS. If you have both time and mana healing pets can be an effective way to help contribute to the teams DPS (via keeping pets alive that would otherwise die). This is especially true for tanking pets (Voidwalkers and tenacious style hunter pets such as bears). A good player can us a tanking pet to off tank an add, but only so long as you are willing to heal the pet. Some fights, such as boss fights with strong AoE's or attacks that must be avoided by moving away from them, are guaranteed to kill pets quickly due to the pet's not avoiding damage the way a human character will; during these type of fights it's best to allow the pet to die immediately as it will be too mana and time consuming to keep them alive.
  • As you become more experienced as a healer, you will find that, in cases where you are running out of mana or when multiple individuals are taking damage at once, triage is necessary to avoid complete group wipes. Although your primary goal should always be to keep everyone in your group alive, at some point in your healing career you will be in situations where you can not possibly save every individual in your group. In such a case, it is imperative to know which individuals are essential to the survival of the group. Remember the tank and yourself will usually take first priority for heals unless you have another individual who can readily take the place of healer or tank should one of you die. Classes providing CC capabilities are next most important with pure damage classes being of less use in most instances. Try to also take notice of the amount of available mana a class has since this can have a large effect on their usefulness in a fight. For instance, a mage with no mana will be doing very little damage, while his low armor and health make him difficult and mana intensive to heal should he be under attack; as such if you are nearly out of mana you may be forced to allow him to die in order to ensure you will have enough left to keep the tank alive. Keep in mind that decisions such as this are for the direst of situations and you should always strive to keep all party members alive if at all possible.

What Healers Want Others to Know[]

  • Healers need to take a mana break from time to time. Don't become impatient and run off to another collection of mobs while your healer's mana is low. Generally the tank is expected to keep an eye on the healer's mana and DPS are expected to let the tank set the pace.
  • Also, healers are often forced to prioritize party members to ensure overall survival. If a damage-dealer and a tank both require attention, chances are the tank will be seen to first. Please try not to take it personally.
  • Save me! If you are DPS and your healer is under attack and for some reason the tank can't or won't pick up the mob, it's almost always better to get the mob to attack you instead, even if you're a lightly armored spellcaster. A healer under attack will suffer from spell pushback and may be spell interrupted, depending on the mob, reducing their ability to help themselves. If you pick up the mob the healer's throughput will increase, increasing the likelihood of keeping everyone alive.
  • If you play a healing class with a magic DPS spec - shadow priests, elemental shamans, and balance druids - you make a viable secondary healer. If you are one of these specs be prepared to switch to a healing role if your main healer is killed, runs out of mana, or is otherwise occupied. You won't be as efficient, but you could save the group in a pinch. Physical DPS specs of healing classes - retribution paladins, enhancement shamans and feral druids - have small mana pools so will only be able to heal for a very short time. This is possibly most important to Druids, as they can theoretically resurrect a healer that died, off heal while the healer resurrects, and then Spell nature lightning [Innervate] the primary healer so that they may return to healing-easily saving the entire group from a wipe.
  • The healer isn't the only one who can cleanse debuffs, you can help by at least cleansing yourself of the ones you can. Also bear in mind that no class can cleanse all debuff types, and you may be able to cleanse a type your healer can't. If you see the healer has been silenced, polymorphed or something else unpleasant, see if you can cleanse it.

Healing in PvP[]

While much of the above applies to both PvE and PvP, there are many differences between the two types of play, and healing is no exception. Many PvE concepts do not apply in PvP, such as aggro, pulling and in most cases the role of the tank, while others are still present but in quite different forms. Additionally, the many different forms of PvP, such as arena, rated battlegrounds, non-rated battlegrounds and world PvP, each require a different approach from the healer. Players should remember to consider the many talent and glyph choices available, with some options that seem useless in PvE proving invaluable in PvP.

Both in PvE and PvP, the healer's job is the same: to keep their team alive. However, while in PvE there is usually a single target for the enemies' attacks - the tank - in PvP this is rarely the case.

Perhaps the biggest difference between PvE and PvP healing is that in PvP, the healer themselves is very often the prime target of the enemy's attacks. While a boss is easily taunted by a skilled tank, in PvP players will often seek to defeat the healer first, making it easier to then down the rest of their team. This can shift the healer from standing safely on the sidelines to suddenly finding themselves pulled into the thick of battle, expending every defensive cooldown at their disposal simply in order to stay alive. Alternatively, healers may find themselves being sidelined entirely, with a skilfully arranged sequence of interrupts, silences and crowd control abilities locking them out of combat, preventing them from healing their allies when they need it most.

In combat with any experienced opponents, it is rare that a healer will be left to freely assist their allies. In practiced combat, healers tend to either be singled out by every enemy on the field, or effectively shut down with crowd control, negating the value of their presence. PvP healing therefore tends to require a far greater degree of self-preservation and evasive manoeuvres, and a fine balance between helping one's allies and helping oneself. This alone makes healing in PvP a very different experience to healing in PvE, and can prove extremely frustrating and even distressing to healers accustomed to the relative safety of a dragon's lair.

The degree of assistance a healer can expect also depends on the type of PvP. In more organised forms, the healer can expect a fair amount of help from their teammates, who should be well aware of their vital importance to the team and should be more than willing to help the healer whenever their survival is at risk. In more casual PvP such as non-rated battlegrounds, healers will often be left to fend for themselves, which can make surviving the attentions of a group of opponents a daunting if not impossible task. While players should, for their own benefit, always take care of their healers regardless of the form of play, in practice healers will have to develop some survival skills of their own if they are to make it in casual PvP.

As well as attacks on the healer themselves, PvP presents a far more challenging and unpredictable challenge regarding the behaviour of opponents. Healers must still do their best to anticipate incoming damage, but are faced with a formidable array of possible behaviours, tactics and coordinated set-pieces from opponents who are often playing through pre-arranged manoeuvres and are capable of changing tactics on the fly to counteract the opposing team.

The targets of attacks are also far harder to predict in PvP. Attacks can come simultaneously on several different targets, and shift at a moment's notice to focus on a single target. Less organised forms of PvP usually present a more chaotic experience, with attacks being more evenly dispersed. In organised forms of PvP such as arena, a high level of coordination is often displayed, with coordinated attacks, synchronised use of powerful cooldowns, and chain crowd control effects to lock certain players out of combat entirely for extended periods of time.

Some types of PvP present a more PvE-like experience, such as the flag-carrying elements of battlegrounds such Warsong Gulch, Twin Peaks and Eye of the Storm. In these battlegrounds, healers should do their best to keep their flag carriers alive, in a similar fashion to PvE tank-healing. However, even in these situations, the opposing team will often seek to single out the healer for attack or incapacitation. Healers should try to keep within range of prime targets like flag-carriers while evading the attentions of the attacking team.

While arena presents relatively fixed variables - an equal number of players on each side, a relatively small area, the opportunity for a balanced team composition and some arranged tactics - other forms of PvP can be far more unpredictable. Healing in battlegrounds can frequently present varying numbers on each side, with additional members entering and leaving the fray. Healers can at times find themselves massively outnumbered, with little hope of escape, never mind victory; at others they may find themselves with little work to do, their enemies easily defeated. Random composition also means healers may sometimes be at a premium, making them a highly valuable member of the team, and at others only one of a number of healers, with little work to do. Healers should do their best to seek out allies in need of assistance, and to make their way to where they are needed most.

One advantage of most PvP is that death is a far less critical factor. With the exception of arena, PvP generally involves a large number of deaths on both sides, with players frequently resurrecting and rejoining the fray, and healers are not expected to keep everyone alive. However, part of the reason for this is the extremely challenging nature of healing in PvP.

Strength of classes[]

As a tank healer[]

A raid has, depending on the encounter, one, two or sometime three tanks, who will take damage almost constantly during a fight. Therefore, a raid will assign at least one dedicated tank healer. A primary tank healer will only focus on the tank(s), raids might also assign (a) secondary tank healer(s), who focusses on the tank(s) when they take a lot of damage. A tank healer will mainly use his core healing spells and his instant healing spell. However, the slow, mana-efficient spell (Spell holy greaterheal [Heal], etc.) will in most circumstances be too slow, and can only be used safely when the encounter is well-know and the healer can be sure that there will be only little damage coming; the fast healing spell (Spell holy flashheal [Flash Heal], etc.) on the other hand costs so much mana that some raid healers abstain from using it altogether, although they would have to admit that it is better to spent a lot of mana than to have the tank die. The usefulness of the fast healing spell depends on the healer class, too.

So ideally, a tank healer will alternate between his instant heal spell and his large heal spell (Spell holy greaterheal [Greater Heal], etc), when the first one is on cooldown. A paladin will in addition alternate between his two instant direct heals, Spell holy searinglight [Holy Shock] and Inv helmet 96 [Word of Glory]. (With the first one, a paladin acquires up to 3 charges of holy power, the second one uses them up.) The other healing classes have an effect that they will try to keep active on the tank(s) all the time; One the one hands, these are a priest's Spell holy prayerofmendingtga [Prayer of Mending] and a shaman's Spell nature skinofearth [Earth Shield]. On the other hand, these are the heal over time spells, a druid's Spell nature rejuvenation [Rejuvenation] and a holy priest's Spell holy renew [Renew]. Shamans will try to have the hot effect of Spell nature riptide [Riptide] active on the tanks. A discipline priest is somehow different; he can use Renew, too, but will, more importantly try, to recast Spell holy powerwordshield [Power Word: Shield] on the tanks again as soon possible.

Tank healing is something any healing class can do, although druids are probably the least suited for it. Their instant heal, Inv relics idolofrejuvenation [Swiftmend], has a rather high mana cost and requires a Spell nature resistnature [Regrowth] or Spell nature rejuvenation [Rejuvenation] effect on the target (a healing druid will however have the Inv glyph primedruid [Glyph of Swiftmend]), but a druid as tank healer will have Spell nature rejuvenation [Rejuvenation] active on the tank(s) anyway. On the other hand, druids have an additional heal-over-time spell, Inv misc herb felblossom [Lifebloom], which they can keep active on one tank.

As a group healer[]

As apparent from the comparison of healing spells, different classes have a different way of group healing. There are two 'styles' of group healing. Druids keep recasting Ability druid flourish [Wild Growth] (as soon as it is ready) and use their hot spells, while shamans keep recasting Spell nature healingwavegreater [Chain Heal] (which has no cooldown!).

A Holy priest's group healing is a combination of both styles: Spell holy circleofrenewal [Circle of Healing] is cast whenever it is ready, else Spell holy prayerofhealing02 [Prayer of Healing] and Spell holy renew [Renew] are used. Spell holy prayerofmendingtga [Prayer of Mending] is also cast when ready, since it jumps 5 times, so that it also works as a group heal spell. The reason it is usually cast the tank is, that it only works if the target takes damage, and the tank is usually guaranteed to take damage. Inv glyph majorpriest [Glyph of Prayer of Mending] increases the heal on the first target by 60%. A Discipline priest's Renew is often slightly weaker (without Chakra: Serenity to refresh its duration), and a Discipline priest doesn't have an instant group heal, so that his group healing appears to be more of the second style, relying on Spell holy prayerofhealing02 [Prayer of Healing] (which is substantially improved via Spell holy devineaegis [Divine Aegis]). However Spell holy powerwordbarrier [Power Word: Barrier] and a much improved Spell holy powerwordshield [Power Word: Shield] (with only a 1 second cooldown) are very useful, with the nature of Power Word: Shield's absorb effect allowing more time to attend to each target.

Paladins have the most difficult time as a group healer. They neither have a useful hot spell (like a druid's Spell nature rejuvenation [Rejuvenation]), nor a group heal ability that can be cast constantly (like a shaman's Spell nature healingwavegreater [Chain Heal]). A paladin's Spell paladin lightofdawn [Light of Dawn] and Ability paladin beaconoflight [Beacon of Light] can't compensate for this. For these reasons raids will generally avoid assigning a holy paladin as a group healer.

Classes, races and professions that have limited ability to heal others[]


These classes may heal in one way or another.

Rogues and warriors can also use Inv misc ticket tarot heroism 01 [Darkmoon Card: Heroism] for self healing and Battlemaster-enchanted weapons to heal their party.


  • All draenei have the racial ability Spell holy holyprotection [Gift of the Naaru] which can be used to heal themselves and others, giving non-healing draenei classes a healing spell, however the spell is on a three-minute cooldown and thus not very useful by itself as a primary healing spell.
  • All trolls have the Racial ability Spell nature regenerate [Regeneration] which increases their health regeneration bonus by 10% and allows 10% of normal health regen during combat.


  • The First Aid profession allows a character to make bandages which can be used on themselves and others, however there are cooldowns involved and damage in combat cancels the application of a bandage.
  • Characters who have Herbalism over skill level 75 receive the talent Spell nature wispsplodegreen [Lifeblood], which can used to provide a small self-heal.


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