Healers have gone so long without a simulation model, that “you can’t sim healers” often gets passed off as a fact.

It’s obviously more difficult to sim healers than DPS, but nowhere near impossible.

We started working on this in Legion and we’ve iterated on healing simulation models throughout that expansion. It proved to be pretty solid for the last tier, so now it’s ready for a featured debut in BfA.

I probably shouldn’t call this article series a ‘featured debut’ because that makes it sound like I have an action-packed, entertaining line up for you.  This is probably going to read more like a documentary… it won’t be as entertaining, but like any good documentary it should be educational, eye-opening, and dispel some myths. I just hope it doesn’t put you to sleep.

What factors need to be taken into account for a healing simulation?

One of the biggest challenges when creating a healing simulator has been, “Can we account for all of the necessary variables?”

To get a starting point, let’s look at DPS for a just a moment. Simulating DPS boils down to damaging a boss, switching to adds when necessary, and moving out of fire (among a few other small things).

Simulating healers requires reacting not only to boss mechanics, but the ever-changing health of each raid member. Things get a lot more complicated for healing sims.

So what’s needed to build an accurate healing simulation?

Damage taken by raid members: you have to know how much people get hit for so you know who to heal and how much healing they need.

  • Tank damage, including auto attacks from the boss, raid-wide damage, and spike damage
  • Player damage, including random-target boss mechanics and standing in fire
  • Raid damage, including raid-wide AoE damage

Boss fight mechanics and phases: this is important so the simulator can plan ahead just like you would in a real fight. For example, this allows the simulator to account for things like:

  • Phases: Pre-HoT team members before a big AoE spell
  • Phases: Save big healing cooldowns for a specific phase of the fight
  • Mechanics: tank swaps might make you change healing targets or heal differently if one of the tanks has a stacked debuff or a ticking DoT

Other sources of healing: 

  • Other healers on the team, including how many and how much they heal
  • The aggressiveness and/or skill of your other healers. This accounts for healers that might always outheal or underheal the rest of the team, which factors into overhealing
  • Overhealing: other healers are being simulated with their own logic, which lets us sim overhealing for all of your spells
  • Sharing big cooldowns: some parts of a fight benefit from coordinating the use of big heal cooldowns within the healing team

Your healing: The simulator needs to know  how you heal in a real fight so it can make decisions like a real player.

As a healer, you don’t really have a ‘rotation,’ you have a set of rules that respond to the environment and players’ health bars. You react to what’s going on around you. Here are some examples:

  • Heal the player with the lowest health first
  • If no one is missing a lot of health, use a small, mana-efficient heal on people who aren’t at 100%
  • Keep HoTs on the tank
  • If someone takes spike damage, use an instant, big heal to save them

Metrics: When you simulate a healer, you need some outputs to determine which talent or item has potential to do more healing.

  • HPS (Healing per Second) – A good measure of total throughput (on meters, it isn’t always a good measure of who your best healers are)
  • Ally Deaths – Another measure of how good a healer is – how many people died in the fight?
  • Mana – did you run out of mana? How much did that affect your total healing?

Simulating everything in these lists:

The simulator accounts for everything listed above (and more), which we’ll get into during this series of articles.  Meanwhile, if you think something is missing or have questions or ideas, head over to the forums to discuss these articles.

Healing simulations - modeling boss damage