Watching a World of Warcraft stream, the caster mentioned that the healers were "spot healing" the tank.

What does the term 'spot healing' mean?

  • Did you by any chance ask this question on Quora too? Or are they just mirroring question titles from SE now? (The same question, was asked there, with single quotes and lowercase "world of warcraft" was asked there a couple hours after this one) – Kroltan Sep 14 at 17:15
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    @Kroltan I did not! They may be pulling questions from here that get a certain response. – Childishforlife Sep 14 at 17:31
up vote 48 down vote accepted

"Spot healing" just means healing whoever needs healing at the time. Typically healers have a specific assignment such as tank healing or raid healing, in order to prevent overlap and to make sure that everyone who needs healing can get it. Spot healing can refer to a raid healer who puts some heals on the tank during an emergency, or who uses a single target spell to give a bit of extra healing when they would normally be using AoE heals on multiple targets. Basically, spot healing is anything that falls out of your normal expected healing rotation due to some extra unintended damage or some other reason. Someone might even be assigned to be a spot healer and their job would be to heal whoever needs healing the most at any given time. The reason you wouldn't want everyone healing this way is because if one target needed healing and every healer tried to heal them at the same time, that player is going to get way more heals than they need while everyone else gets no healing and the situation can become even worse.

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    I feel like this answer is more correct than that of Virusbomb. I wouldn't typically refer to tank healing as spot healing unless it wasn't someone's job to be putting heals on the tank (e.g. A dps with a heal they can throw around occasionally or a raid healer focusing the tank in an emergency). The main tank healer isn't spot healing when he's doing his job, only if he heals someone else who is dangerously low. – Doc Sep 13 at 22:27
  • An applicable term might also be one-off. – Ivo Coumans Sep 14 at 6:57
  • Why is it called "spot healing"? Is it for "on-the-spot healing", like the other answer states? – NotThatGuy Sep 14 at 13:20
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    Think of "spot cleaning." There's something particularly wrong about a small patch of something (i.e. the raid frames have too much black and not enough green and it's messing with the feng shui), so you fix it. – Alex H. Sep 14 at 15:01
  • @Doc: I don't know WoW, but in EQ, "full heal" was a really slow spell to cast. "Spot healing" would also be used for those occasions where there was a damage spike or the main healer would misjudge, and so a secondary healer would need to toss in a quicker heal spell to keep the tank up until the full heal finishes. – Hurkyl Sep 15 at 10:57

Concise description

"Spot healing" is the short form of "On-the-spot healing", it means healing a target for large amounts that unexpectedly / exceptionally needs a large burst of heal, requiring the healer to make an "on the spot" decision to heal this target with a strong heal, as opposed to just doing their normal spell rotation to keep the group/raid healthy. It can also mean that hybrid or damage-dealing classes with heal spells make this same "on the spot" decision to use them to save a fellow raid member.


Elaboration

Healers in WoW have a usual range of spells they use to keep everyone at good levels of health. They usually choose these spells to be as mana efficient as possible, since mana is again an important resource in WoW.

Sometimes though, one or a few players take more damage than can be healed with the "usual" rotation. As an example, Druids heal mostly with healing over time effects (hots) - Rejuvenation, Lifebloom & Wild Growth. Such effects are cheap to cast, but they only heal small amounts quickly and provide more value over longer time. If one player of the group suddenly drops to low health and is in need of a large burst of heal immediately, he is then "spot healed" with a large single-target heal that swiftly brings him back to reasonable health levels - in case of Druids, this would be Swiftmend or Regrowth.

Spot healing just refers to healing players that take excessive damage and are in need of a large burst of heal to bring them back to reasonable health levels. This damage can either occur due to mistakes (standing in an avoidable mechanic) or due to boss mechanics that target a single player - e.g. a strong "damage-over-time" (dot) effect that is randomly cast on one or few people and can't be dispelled (removed from the player).

Some classes are better at spot healing then others due to the available healing spells. The aforementioned druids are exceptionally bad at spot healing, it costs them a lot of mana compared to the heal it generates, while other classes are better suited to it.

Good healers in a raid will form an understanding who will spot heal more and who doesn't. It is desirable to avoid overlap in spot healing. Two healers spot healing the same target usually results in a large amount of overheal - wasting heal and mana, or at worst results in deaths (multiple players taking lots of damage, healers all healing one target instead of each healing one player).

Note that tanks are an exception to this rule. Tanks constantly take lots of damage and typically need to get spammed with strong single-target heal spells. This is not "spot healing", since its not an "on the spot" decision to heal the tank (its not unexpected), but rather part of the normal gameplay. Healing a tank is usually simply referred to as "tank healing". That doesn't mean that tanks never get spot healed, tho. There is certainly some overlap, and tank healing can at times be spot healing if required.

Note that "single target healing" is not the same as spot healing - there is a large amount of overlap, but they are not the same. Putting a hot on single player is single-target healing, but it is not considered spot healing. Spot healing is (usually) single target healing, but not the other way around.

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    Most of this answer is understandable to osmeone who knows little to nothing about WoW, but you use the term "hots" without explanation. – JollyJoker Sep 14 at 10:35
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    @JollyJoker Thanks, I didn't even notice ;) – Polygnome Sep 14 at 10:45
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    @JollyJoker I expanded the answer a bit to include s short remark what hots are. – Polygnome Sep 14 at 10:51
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    Just to be sure, maybe do the same for dot ;) – JAD Sep 14 at 11:14
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    You've got nice healers if they'll heal people "standing in an avoidable mechanic" – Lord Farquaad Sep 14 at 20:26

It means "single-target healing" as opposed to AOE healing. Typically used when one ally is much lower health and needs help more that the whole team. It's a term used in other games but mostly popular in MMO's like WoW, in FPS's I've heard it more often called a "pocket healer". Slightly more info here on the WoW forum.

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    Err, I'd actually dispute this, and I did a lot of healing in WoW. Healer class toolkits often differ enough where certain classes excel at single-target or AoE healing. This answer would then imply that certain classes are better at "spot healing", but spot healing has nothing to do with any of that because spot healing isn't about what sort of heals you use, but more about how often you heal something you otherwise wouldn't heal for an encounter. Fun fact: hybrid classes with heal buttons would also do spot healing to the raid depending on the encounter. – Ellesedil Sep 13 at 22:40
  • @Ellesedil Virusbomb's answer is not really wrong (except for saying a pocket healer is the same - it is not), maybe incomplete. Some classes are indeed better at spot healing than others. A hybrid class in dps spec can do spot healing too. I often did this is a feral druid, when I got clearcasting procs. – Belle-Sophie Sep 14 at 8:53

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