The (Not-So) Great Debate About Healing Add-ons

I mentioned in the HealBot article that there is great debate among gamers about the use of healing add-ons. Unfortunately, most of said debate is born out of woeful ignorance, so if you thought today’s article would be some sort of ultimate showdown for the title of best healing add-on, I’m afraid you’re in for a bit of a let-down.

Round 1: HealBot vs. Grid vs. VuhDo

First up, I’d like to address the major myths associated with each of the big three (usually rumors spread on message boards by supporters of one of the rivals).

  • Myth 1: Healbot does the healing for you. This isn’t true and hasn’t been since Burning Crusade raids were bleeding edge content. Blizzard decided it was unacceptable for an add-on to select the appropriate heal for you and quickly banned that functionality from all add-ons. Neither Healbot nor any other add-on is capable of “healing for you” even if you wanted it to.
  • Myth 2: Grid is complex. This one is sort-of-true. Grid on its own is a very simple add-on. The complexity (and flexibility) of Grid is that it requires several other add-ons and quite a few minutes of set-up to work in a manner similar to the other 2 add-ons. The thing is, that set up is mostly one-time only. Afterwards, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the 3 major add-ons if they had identical graphical interfaces.
  • Myth 3: VuhDo is for Lazy healers. This came about because VuhDo allows you to automatically use your trinkets and CDs as if they were macroed into your spells. Guess what? So do the others. The only difference is that VuhDo has it enabled by default.

There are, of course other myths, lies, rumors, and errors of fact where these add-ons are concerned, but these are the major highlights. As you probably noticed from the myths, not all of the misinformation being spread by supporters of one camp or another is necessarily malicious. There is plenty of good old fashioned ignorance spreading around by people who never bothered to learn how a particular add-on works before bashing it.

To settle the debate (insofar as this page is concerned) I’ll offer my usual standby. Although I’m sure you’re sick to death of hearing me say this, there isn’t a huge difference between your three choices. I know I keep saying “just pick the one you like” but it remains true. If there’s ever a noticeable difference between one add-on and it’s rival(s) rest assured that I’ll let you know about (loudly and emphatically).

I chose HealBot for my healing needs because it does everything I need it to do right out of the box, it works well, and it has an easy and intuitive menu system. I disliked the idea of getting multiple add-ons from multiple authors to make Grid function the way I wanted it to. This is just my preference, however. The flipside of that is that somebody running Grid can make their add-on more streamlined by not installing features they won’t use (thereby wasting no HDD space or RAM storing and running them). As I said, this difference is a matter of preference. It isn’t intrinsically good or bad, it just depends upon your playstyle and how it works with you.

Now, you may have noticed that I didn’t factor VuhDo into that equation. That’s because it was a late-comer to the scene, and I was already used to HealBot at that time. I gave VuhDo a go, didn’t notice any major differences and went back to HealBot. That is to say VuhDo is, much like HealBot, a fully functional, easy to use, and customizable add-on that works just as well as any other healing add-on. Had I used VuhDo first I’d have stuck with VuhDo. I didn’t see a need to change because there simply wasn’t enough of a difference between them. That’s all there was to it.

Round Two: Healing Add-on vs. No Healing Add-ons

The second major point of contention regarding healing add-ons is the Add-on vs. No Add-on Debate. The argument goes that some people are just so naturally gifted at healing that they do not need an add-on. In short, that their skill can trump then need for any mechanical assistance.

This is sort of like saying that if you can run really fast you’ll never need a bicycle. The major advantages of a healing add-on are pretty plain to anybody who ever bothered to learn to use one. This debate is a non-debate. The simple fact of the matter is that anyone who becomes proficient in using a healing add-on will see a marked increase in efficiency compared to their abilities without an add-on. Period. There might be some back-stepping in performance while your muscle memory adjusts to a new set of actions for healing, just as you’re wobbly as you learn to ride a bike. However, once you become used to it and steady things out, you’ll leave your old abilities in the dust and open up new heights that you never knew you could achieve.

Using the default UI, you have two options for healing: mouseover macros or click-targeting. Click-targeting is where you click on the target you want and then click on (or press the hotkey for) the spell you want to cast. This is slow, clunky, and inefficient. The extra step of clicking on the target takes up valuable time. Any competent healer with an add-on will beat the very best click-targeter to ever play the game. It’s like having a sprinting contest with a cheetah: you’re not going to win. Ever. Click-targeting is garbage, plain and simple.

Mouseover macros may seem to make it a closer race at first glance, but this too is far less efficient than a healing add-on. Mouseover macros tell the game that the target of the spell is the player whose nameplate, raid frame, or character your mouse is currently hovering over. Hovering over a nameplate or character is difficult in the best situations and nigh-impossible in most raids. Which leaves you using the raid frame. The teeny tiny raid frame that can’t be customized the way that an add-on can. The raid frame that can’t give you the information a healing add-on gives you with nearly as much efficiency, if at all. Mouseover macros are a good first step (this is basically what the healing add-on does for you with its interface: it writes the macro for you).

The difference comes in with the details. The new and improved raid UI built into the game is a step in the right direction, but it still does not compare to a healing add-on in terms of customization (i.e. giving you the information in a way that’s easy for you to respond to). The default UI also does not give you a sound and/or color alert for debuffs, missing buffs, etc. The default UI does not show incoming heals from yourself or other healers. The default UI does not track bouncing heals (like Prayer of Mending) or HoTs (like Rejuvenation or Renew). Being unable to track what other healers are doing means that you are likely to overheal (or make others do so). Healing over each other wastes everybody’s time and mana. In the new, more difficult dungeon environment where mana management is king, that could mean wipes. Nobody likes wipes.

Long story short: it doesn’t matter which one you pick, as long as you have one.

Bonus Round: Healer vs. Non-healer

As you may have noticed from some of the features listed in the HealBot article, labeling these as simply “healing add-ons” is something of a misnomer. While no one would argue that healers get the most benefit from these add-ons, healing add-ons aren’t just for healers: there are useful features in it for all roles and classes.

Hybrids will find them especially useful, particularly in those situations in which an extra heal or shield could swing the tide, or if a healer goes down and the player needs to switch roles to try to save the attempt. Now, more than ever, back-up and supplemental healing duties are a key role for hybrid dps. If your healers are struggling then a little emergency heal or quick cleanse can save the day. DPS generally have a far less demanding mana curve, so if you can spare the mana to cleanse or shield now and then you’re literally giving your healer extra mana for heals. That’s a win-win situation made easier to direct and execute thanks to a healing add-on.

Pure-dps classes can also find them useful, because HealBot isn’t limited to healing spells. The assist feature, for example, can be used to automatically target the same target as the player whose bar you just clicked on. Since Healbot can handle cleanses and buffs, any class capable of cleansing or buffing can find them useful. The buff management may seem like a no-brainer, but a visual reminder that player x died or was out of range and didn’t receive a buff comes in handy more often than you’d expect. Healing add-ons tend to be very good for coordinating your utility functions. Mages, for example, could use it for decursing and for sheeping mind-controlled party members. Rogues and Hunters can use it for their respective threat misdirection talents. Warlocks can use it for soulstoning, etc. Basically, anytime you have an ability, command, or spell that interacts with other players, a healing add-on makes it easier.

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