Healing is hard. Well, good healing is hard, at least, and it's hardest when things get hectic, with multiple sources of damage resolving on multiple split players. Point-and-click reaction healing might keep you afloat for a while, but eventually you'll run dry on mana or let someone slip through the cracks.
Let's take some inspiration from real medics, and divide our party into three groups:
- Dead, no matter what you do
- Impending death, unless you do something
- Safe and healthy—for now
This is called triage, and it's one of the easiest ways to mentally structure your healing demands.
Group 1 are dead men walking. They don't get healed; it wouldn't help. When someone fails a lethal mechanic, stands in a Landslide, or eats a cleave with ten vulnerability stacks, there is nothing you can do to help them except say a quiet prayer. There's no point in wasting time or cooldowns—grit your teeth and hit 'em with a quirky raise macro later.
Group 3 doesn't get healed either—why bother healing the healthy? Sure, if someone's a little scratched up it's tempting to top them off, but it's better to save your time and resources, helping with damage or saving players that are in actual danger. Not everything needs to be healed right away.
Group 2 is our real target, and the only place where your spells make a difference. This is damage that you have to Deal With; the injured player risks a costly death unless they're healed before something else happens. In an organized group, this is a yes-or-no decision, informed by your knowledge of upcoming mechanics and how much damage your teammates will take. In Duty Finder, you might have to take some educated guesses; a player with multiple Ultimate clears can probably be trusted not to stand in Ram's Voice, but a DRG in gathering gear named Kirito Blazblue might need an extra top-off, just in case.
By dividing your party like this, you easily eliminate a ton of wasted time and resources, making your healing quicker and less error-prone. We can even go one step further, dividing Group 2 into a few levels of severity:
- Dying right now: will be killed within 1 GCD, use an oGCD now!
- Dying soon: will be killed by the next mechanic or ability
- Dying eventually: will be killed by a mechanic or ability in the near future
All observations about mortality aside, this is the real core of clean healing: solving the situation in the fastest and most efficient way possible. If you have two injured party members, one at 1 HP and one at 90% HP, instinct says to slam that motherfucking Benediction on the first player. Sometimes this is the right answer; other times, the player at 90% HP has a mechanic about to resolve on their head, or a tankbuster about to flatten them into the dirt, and they need your attention first!
Likewise, if a burst of raidwide damage is going to kill your whole group in 15 seconds, your natural instinct is to top everyone off ASAP. Sometimes that's the right choice; other times, your Assize or Earthly Star or [LOOK UP SCHOLAR ABILITIES BEFORE PUBLISHING] will come up before the damage resolves. Using it instead of a GCD heal will save those precious 2.5 seconds for DPS filler, other healing, dodging AoEs, or performing mechanics.
These principles of triage govern when you heal, but also how you heal. If someone's going to die in 30 seconds, you can get away with applying a regen effect and waiting for it to tick, saving mana and time. If they're going to die in 5 seconds, you'll need to use something snappier, and if they're going to die in half a second, you slam your oGCD with the quickest animation and pray that the datacenter isn't on fire.
For most fights, you won't have to make these decisions on the fly. Boss encounters in FFXIV are heavily scripted, and almost every sequence of abilities is static; variations are predictable and self-contained, usually selected from a small pool of subroutines. As long as you and your group keep your actions consistent, you can make small optimizations every pull, testing the limits of what you can and can't get away with. In random groups, this is kind of a crapshoot—I don't trust N'aruto Tia to dodge AoEs, let alone Feint a tankbuster—so give yourself a little headroom to adjust for group mistakes.
Regardless, no matter what fight you're in or who's fighting with you, keeping triage in mind can reduce your mental stress, improve your healing efficiency, and prevent gingivitis. Just try to throw out a few Stones with the time you save, and you've already got a leg up on the rest.