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To heal or not to heal

May 11, 2010

Given the theme of recent posts, this is not about whether I’m still interested in playing my Paladin. This is a rather more knotty issue that I’ve encountered a lot over my time playing. I’d like to say the intention of this post isn’t to get at anyone, or criticise anyone’s methods. It’s just my opinion, take it how you will. I’ll also mention at the start this is an entirely PVE post – PVP healing is a different ballgame. So, introduction – For healers, the job is (rather obviously) to keep everyone alive so they can kill the boss. They need to have priorities in their mind. Most people’s priorities vary. Personally, I put it like this:

  • The Tank. Some people put themselves first, it depends on the settings. In a 25 man raid, the Tanks health is about 5x more valuable than your own, because there is one maintank, one offtank, and 5-7 healers. In a 10 man or 5 man, the health of the Tank and yourself (and other healers) is about equal. I heal my healthbox if I need it, and I bubble in emergencies. I can’t prioritise myself unless I’m in a 5 man.
  • After the Tanks comes the other healers. Obviously only applicable in raids. Healers often cover different roles, and losing one other person can be a catastrophe. Battle rezzes are there, but they take valuable seconds in which you might be solo healing the tank in a high damage phase, or keeping 25 people alive with only an inexperienced Disc Priest to help you. (Example I pulled out of the air, Disc priests aren’t bad at raid protection.) If you cover the other healers, they’ll hopefully cover you.
  • The DPS that come under fire in the particular encounter. It might be a fight like Lady Deathwhisper, where the ranged can merrily skip out of Death and Decay and carry on DPS, but the melee need to be near the mobs to damage them. Obviously in an ideal world the tank would move the pack out of DnD instantly, but tanks often have a lot to keep track of in that fight (especially on 25 man) and this can’t always happen.

I’ll return again to the point – we keep people alive. The sole job of the healer. Any DPS we do is incidental. Our toolbox is for keeping people topped up. That’s not always healing and bubbling – sometimes the key to survival can be a Debuff dispelled at the right time, or a Blessing of Freedom on a snared tank. We have to be responsible for knowing the encounter well enough to know if we need to pop our cooldowns to save the tanks/raid.

Mana is a main issue for every healer – they need to have it to heal. If they’re wasting mana on something non-vital, caused by a screw up or because someone didn’t learn the tactics, that’s not optimal raiding. I’m not a tactics Nazi, but people need to know that standing in front of Marrowgar will mean that no amount of Holy shocks will keep them from being one hit. There’s something for the DPS to be aware of in nearly every fight. Hell, even Patchwerk needed to have the tanks be the highest on threat – if the DPS didn’t know this and crossed over the Offtanks threat they’d get smacked into next week.

Focus – I don’t mean the new hunter mechanic, I mean healers are focusing on their role. This is very tied into the last point I made – if your main tank healer has to swap to you because you didn’t drop your flames on Lana’thel and are now standing in them, still merrily churning out your wall of spinning metal, then the tank might go down whilst the healers rush to save your sorry arse. This won’t be the healers fault, we can’t shout to each other ‘OK, ___ person is being a tard, you heal him and I’ll try and cover your bases till he’s at full health!’ In that time the tank and the DPS involved may have died. It’s generally a snap decision made by every healer there whether they throw a heal on you to save you or hope the other healers do it. The general health of the raid is not solely a healers problem. The DPS have a responsibility to the healers to stay within the 40 Yard healing range, and be aware of Line of Sight issues, debuffs on them, cleave radius, where the shit spawns, etc. The Tanks have a responsibility to the healers to pop their own mitigation cooldowns when needs be; that isn’t always on a high damage phase of the fight, but if a healer is low on mana for whatever reason or there’s some kind of issue which means they aren’t getting as much healing as they need. Basically, in a raiding situation, everyone needs to be aware of each other, and work as a team.

Most problems fall down to three things – Failure in communication, Lag, Ignorance/Disregard of tactics.

Communication. Take Ventrilo, a great tool I’m certain you all use (or at least one similar) to communicate with your fellow raiders. The amount of difference a Tank shouting out on vent at the right time ‘OT taunt now, OK, it’s his mob’ can make to the healers is massive. (I’m thinking tank transitions on Festergut, with no warning on taunts the offtank can get 3 hit before the healers have realised there’s been a swap.) If we carry on using Fester as an example, imagine how disastrous it would be if the Tank reached 9 stacks of Gastric Bloat, and the offtank wasn’t aware of this. If the tank, or indeed anyone, failed to call it out, there would be an instant wipe. Communication is the key to success. At least if you’ve shout at someone ‘Taunt please’ and they haven’t done it, they’ll need a damn fine reason why they didn’t.

Lag. The bane of the internet game culture. Nothing can be done about this. It’s just something you have to hope your raiders don’t have – along with disconnection problems and a slow computer.

Disclaimer: Not actual fire. No Zal's were hurt in the making of this image.

Ignorance and Disregard of the tactics is a completely separate problem. It’s an problem that can be addressed, like communication, and is all basically tied in with how strict your guild is. I raid in a guild that defines itself as a casual raiding guild. We tell people when they’ve made mistakes, and what to do to avoid them. Our raid leaders (myself amongst them) do our best to explain the tactics to the people that need them explaining, and call out over vent the major events in the fight. We don’t have any raiders that, on hearing the explanation, would then go ‘Well, that’s nice, but my dps is higher if I don’t move, so you can just heal me through Death and Decay mkay?’ That sort of person wouldn’t really fit in with us. The problems that arise in our raids are mostly down to Lag and mistakes, both of which are very much forgiveable. However, we encounter people that seem to either not care about tactics, not understand them or are not willing to listen to instructions in our 25 man raids, and it’s one of the reasons why we aren’t progressing as well in those as we are in our 10 mans.

Now, we reach the actual point of this post (it might be a long haul, sorry.) Do you deliberately NOT heal the folk that are actively ignoring the tactics for their own gain, or are in some other way inconveniencing the raid as a whole? The answer for me, as a Maintank and semi-raid healer (I use a lot of Holy Shock and FoL to splash onto my beaconed tank when the other tank doesn’t need my attention) is no. I can’t exclude people from my healing for two reasons, neither of them having anything to do with game mechanics.

  1. I don’t have the brain power to factor in who I think deserves my healing on a personal level, as well as who needs it on a priority level. As I mentioned earlier, I barely manage to make sure I stay alive sometimes when trying to cover a lot of players.
  2. I couldn’t be that vindictive. I’m not the sort of person to hold a grudge, and I don’t think making people suffer for their actions is a reasonable path to pursue. If someone is ignoring the tactics, they need to be taken to one side, when combat is over, and had a talk with. In my opinion (notice that, MINE ONLY) I think deliberately excluding a player from your healing and possibly jeopardising an encounter if they were to die is as petty as them causing more trouble for the healers to push 100 more DPS.

I know this opinion is not a widely shared one. I’m ok with that, it takes all sorts. I’m a very peaceable and laid-back personality, and that’s my view on it. If you’re reading this and you’re thinking ‘Well, they should get what they deserve, and that’ll teach them to put their Ego above the success of the encounter’ Can you guarantee that at any moment in a conflict you fully understand what is going on? Also, the person may have made a mistake. We are all allowed one mistake. I’d like to ask where you’d draw the line? I know plenty of people, more than I can believe, that refuse to heal warlocks who Lifetap in instances. At 80. For those who don’t play a lock, or with a lock, Lifetap is an ability that translates an amount of health into an amount of mana. This can take a hefty chunk out of their health sometimes. Bad warlocks tap until their on the last point of health, and wonder why they died to incidental AoE. Good warlocks will tap a couple of times after each pull, whatever it takes to get them to above 90% mana. This will take around 6-8k health off them, depending on gear. For most decent geared healers, that’s one heal. ‘But why should I be giving them what’s basically MY mana, so they can just do it again every pull! They can drink like everyone else!’ I hear you cry. I put this to you (using life tapping warlocks as an example.) Warlocks are designed in a certain way:

  • A warlock’s spells cost a massive amount of mana to cast per point of damage, compared to other mana-using DPS classes.
  • Warlocks have no mana regeneration at all.
  • The amount of healing required to cater for life tapping is roughly equivalent over the course of a 5 minute fight to the amount of damage a main tank will take in two seconds.

Warlocks aren’t designed the way they are to make healer’s life a misery. They’re designed to make the person playing it play intelligently. If you say you won’t heal through a class’s main way of regeneration, where are you going to draw the line? Your job is to heal. Do you also not heal the tank because he should have brought bandages and pots?

That turned out a little ranty, and I’m not out to offend anyone. It just amazes me how people don’t see sense with their job sometimes. It doesn’t always apply to healers – take a tanking example. The DPS mage gets bored and pulls the next pack of mobs before you expected it. It’s your job to tank them and keep them from hitting the group. Ignoring them and letting the mage die is a failure on your part in not upholding your role. Sure, it was inconsiderate and annoying, especially if you were taking a RL drink or in pulling the mobs are now out of charge range, etc. Going back to healing, it’s the equivalent of a Lifetapper going down to 5% in an AoE fight. It’s still your job to heal them. There will always be morons. Be better than them, and do your job.

I am leaving out abuse, of course. Being the better one in an exchange like that and doing your best to keep everyone alive whilst that lock on 5% just got killed by a whirlwind and is shouting ‘LOL NUB HEALR’ is enough to grate most peoples nerves. It might even cause you to promise yourself you’re never healing a DPS again. Don’t let it get the better of you. In those situations, vote kick and /ignore is just in a menu over there. If it’s in a raid, well, maybe you need to have a word with a nearby officer or the raid leader and see what can be done. Ill feeling is generally only generated when you play with the kind of person described earlier who you might feel vindictive against. Hopefully, there wont be too many of those in your guild, and if there are, maybe it’s time to look for a new one. My favourite kind of raiding has always been 10 man, and I run it twice a week with a group that swaps in and out of around 16 members, all of which I get on with very well indeed. I’ve never been more content with raiding.

Feel free to disagree with me, but there’s my (slightly long) opinion on the matter. This post was also not meant as an attack on any of the healers that I know, everyone’s entitled to their views. This was mostly triggered through writing yesterday’s post, I passed a screen-shot of one of the folks I used to heal with in TBC, a particularly vitriolic bastard who liked nothing better than to make the people who he didn’t like or just flat out disagreed with him suffer through neglecting to heal. I had to do a lot more work healing because of him. With that level of spitefulness and the precise slackness of his healing he didn’t deserve the spot he got four times a week.

Be better than the fools who needle you, whatever your role.

-Zal

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 11, 2010 12:22 pm

    THIS! This is exactly how I prioritize healing and how I feel about the ever controversial Warlock Life Tap.

    It’s funny, because I’ve always assumed that all healers feel the same way in this regard, until I met one of my guildies. Good to know there’s still some “peaceable and laid-back” healers left out there.

    Question: I know you’re a paladin, so I’m not sure it’s the same, but for me as a priest I tend to limit myself to just a bubble and renew on dps, particularly if they are being really stupid in a 5 man. In 5 man situations do you ever find yourself limiting how much you heal dps if they are being stupid (ie. taunting off the tank, standing in whirlwind after you’ve warned them not to, etc)?

    • Zal permalink*
      May 11, 2010 12:48 pm

      Everyone has their own way of doing things, I found in some cases healing can make people quite bitter or lazy (found this more in the folks I knew in TBC, despite Wrath’s less challenging content I see much less of the old attitudes. Maybe it’s cause I’m now Alliance too!)

      Answer: Because of how much my heals heal for, even my smallest heal is enough to top most dps up from stupidity damage, so I can’t really lessen it. I don’t blow any cooldowns to save DPS though, generally, because they’ve either died before I’ve found the button and pressed it or they have a death-wish and are taunting/pulling like crazy. If it’s the latter, I might mention something in chat, but I won’t stop healing them altogether. If a DPS is being so stupid that they’re taunting and standing in whirlwinds and not apologising for it, then I prefer a Vote-Kick.

  2. May 11, 2010 5:22 pm

    I heal on a Shaman which limits, to some degree, who I can choose to heal and who not to heal (through both Chain Heal and Ancestral Awakening). Even still, like you, I’m generally not willing to jeopardize the success of an entire raid or party because I personally think one individual doesn’t deserve healing for some reason. If I find I’m wasting too much time or mana on them, they may get bumped to lowest priority in tight situations, but if I have GCD’s to spare, they get my heals. Later on, I’ll call them out. First in whispers, then publicly if needed.

    Warlocks Life Tapping between pulls never bothered me. I just throw a Riptide on them and it’s usually off cooldown and the mana restored before we get to the next pull anyway. (That is, of course, referring to ‘locks that Life Tap responsibly…)

  3. May 11, 2010 6:30 pm

    My hero!

    Not for being willing to heal warlocks per se, but for an opinion which, divorced from the subject, seems largely to boil down to “be nice”. Not enough people are “nice”.

    Nice, in this context, isn’t plain, or dull, or sappy, or whatever. It’s taking the high road whenever possible. Being, as you rightly put it, “better”.

    Obviously, there are always going to be people who are irredeemable, but even with them you can do things the right way — and if a swift kick is necessary, then do so without an accompanying stream of invective, satisfying though that might be.

    Who knows, maybe the person driving you nuts didn’t know about [obviously annoying thing]. All you’ll find out, if you just call them an asshat in party/raid chat, is the extent of their cursing vocabulary.

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