I finally set up the secondary spec on Suldrun and went with Mistweaver, the monk healing spec. I then entered the Proving Grounds instance several times (and continue to visit just for the additional practice) and was able to earn the bronze achievement fairly quickly.
One thing interesting is the Proving Grounds offers scenarios for dps, tank, and heal, and this is key: in order to queue for tougher random dungeons you need to earn the respective achievement. My plan with switching to the healing spec is to queue for instances and get in some playtime, but as I was looking over the queueing tool, I saw the “heroic” was locked for me. I read the tooltip and it basically said “must earn healing silver achievement to unlock”.
Aha! So I went back in and worked on that, but kept falling short, so I took a break and looked over my gear. I realized that I was healing with my DPS one-handed weapons (one of which was disabled; apparently Mistweaver monks don’t dual wield) so I visited the auction hall to look for a cheap, decent healing staff (or healing pole-arm, if those exist). Basically a weapon with +intellect which would make my healing more effective.
To my pleasant surprise, I found a decent staff with +intellect, ilevel 590ish (lower than my other gear but it buffed my healing stat) for about 120 gold. So I bought it, and for good measure, drank an intellect potion that I made.
This time, I was able to complete the silver achievement, so I can now queue for heroic dungeons as a healer!
I like this mechanism, since it means you have to have some baseline of ability/gear in order to queue for more challenging setups.
I didn’t write down the exact numbers, but the staff plus the potion buffed my intellect by about 20%. That’s pretty significant, so I was needlessly gimping myself beforehand. Well it’s all good practice anyhow.
A day or two after I bought that staff, an iLevel 630 weapon appeared as a reward for a follower mission. I spent a day or two doing other follower missions to get more armor/weapon upgrades in order to have a better chance, but ultimately I could only manage a ~70% chance of success. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best… and when the mission completed, I was indeed fortunate and won that 630 staff: specifically a Turbulent Spire of the Deft.
After that I spent some time researching more optimizations using the awesome guides at Icy Veins. They recommended +multristrike for enchantments, so I bought 3 of them: 2 for my rings, and one for my cloak. The neck enchantment wasn’t available but I’ll check again. And unfortunately, the recommended enchantment for my weapon (Mark of Shadowmoon) was way too expensive, so I’ll wait a bit. However, my weapon did have a prismatic crystal slot so I bought a cheap multistrike taladite to slot.
Now I’m as ready as I’ll be so I’m going to try randomly queueing for normal and heroic dungeons. Time for some more group play!