Saturday, January 1, 2011

Healing Fallacies

You know it's true
This will be the first part of a brief series to address some of the bigger mistakes I'm seeing in dungeon groups these days. And rather than get raging on dps or tanks (oh, but you know that's coming) I first turn my eye on myself and my chosen WoW profession: healing.

I have written on some of the difficulties of healing in Cataclysm before, and whether that is insightful observation or else self-serving QQ, I leave up to you, gentle readers. This article is not intended to be a bunch of whining, merely a list of what I see as player shortcomings that could use some work.

The Healer's Priorities:
  1. Stay Alive
  2. Keep the Tank alive
  3. Keep the DPS alive
  4. Maintain your Mana
  5. Assist with Other Utility as Called For
  6. Top off the health of players
  7. Communicate issues or observations
  8. Hurt the mobs/boss

Let me present a very broad overview of what healers are facing right now in early heroic dungeon runs: Incoming damage to tanks is generally slow and reasonable. Health pools for all characters has jumped dramatically, as much as 400% greater than where they were towards the end of Wrath of the Lich King. Mana pools however, have only increased about 100% (give or take a bit). The cost of healing spells has also risen around 500% from what they were in Lich King.

The size of individual heals has not increased substantially, however. It's difficult to place hard numbers here since I haven't recorded meters for a viable comparison. But I would estimate that heals are about 100% bigger than where they were in late Lich King. Much AoE ability has been cut back though. Crit rating has been sliced across the board.

The end result is that Healers are far far far far less efficient life-giving machines than they used to be (Is that enough "fars"?). Our mana efficiency has been severely nerfed. The pools of health have increased much more than our throughput. We are going to improve as raid gear begins to trickle out, and we'll learn new tricks to stretch this stuff. But in the meantime, healers are fighting the good fight right now.

A purely hypothetical example:
In the middle of a boss fight, the big guy drops an AoE damage burst that hits everyone in the party for 50,000 damage. The tank will be slightly better off, but most everyone else in the party is going to fall just below 50% of their health when this happens. That's 250,000 damage. At my best, I can eke out 7,000-8000 hps right now. It would around 30-35 seconds to be able to heal that damage, which may as well be 100 years in game time. And more than likely, I would run out of mana before those 35 seconds were up trying to push the maximum throughput.

This is a big shift in paradigm here: In Lich King, it was standard for us to maintain a party's health bars as close to 100% as possible. But doing that in Cata will break us. The enormous health pools of all players and the delivery of pain from bosses and mobs make keeping everyone at 100% a mana-draining, and soul-draining, experience.

What to do?
1. Stop front loading your heals
Traditionally the tank pulls and I plant some totems and cast something small to sort of let the tank know I'm there for him. I then used numerous small heals routinely to keep him near 100%, taking other actions as necessary to spruce up the dps. But basically, it was an ABC tactic: Always Be Casting.

Can't do that. No no no. Very bad. Most of this early healing made me feel like I was doing something, and I would argue gave the rest of the group confidence that I had their backs. But I'm pretty sure a wide margin of it was overhealing that disappeared into the void.

What we have to do now... is wait. Just wait. See what the boss is going to do. Prep your longer bigger heal instead of the small bursts Bosses almost never pull a massive attack in the opening seconds. If it is trash beating the tank down fast, you might be able to heal out of the hole and save the pull, but the party has to be more proactive on their CC. And you should insist on this. It is not appropriate for the party to make the healer have heart spasms on every pull. I don't want anybody's life shortened because of WoW.

The observation I keep making when I'm scratching the bottom of my mana pool 80 seconds into a fight is that although I'm not ABCing, the party is usually not in immediate danger of wiping. Those are long seconds in which I wait for some mana to trickle back in and decide which maneuver I'm going to pull to save some lives, and I think "I should have done this at the beginning of the fight."

2. Learn the new mechanics and use them.
The developers did not sit around making up some random crap for us to do. I have been a vocal critic of some of these new shaman mechanics, (and I remain skeptical of Telluric Currents, if only because the devs actually said it was not supposed to be a mana-regen mechanic). But these new tricks were designed to help us. All we have to do is work out how to use them effectively. I'm finding that shocking for Focused Insight is easy to do, cheap, and I finally worked my buttons so I can hit that almost every other cast I make. Similary, I have become generally pleased with the effects of a Healing Rain cast on a bunch of melee. Except that every second tank sees my pretty blue circle of rain on the ground and apparently thinks it's a fire to get out of and runs away from it. /facepalm

3. Don't Coddle the DPS
There have been many instances, in times past, in which a hawt healer could salvage a fight despite the suicidal, standing-in-the-fire tendencies of many dps players. Those times are gone (for now). There's no excuse for blowing your mana trying to keep a warlock casting and then not have enough to take care of the tank. There are a lot of ways that a group can fail in a dungeon. Going back to that purely hypothetical example from above, if the boss is going to burst for that much AoE, the Blizzard gave us a mechanic to get out of it completely. We can't ignore those mechanics.

4. Don't Withhold Healing
Maybe, just maybe, people in your group will do stupid crap and make a big horrible mess of it. If they do that, then it's their mistake and it's on them. But if you, as a healer, sit back doing nothing, except perhaps make snippy comments about noobs, then the wipe is on you. Go down fighting if you're going to go down. Is it really worth the moral superiority of letting everybody waste their time with a wipe when you might have been able to save the day? This right here is the difference between a competent healer and great healer. And everybody will know that when you save the wipe.

5. Don't shirk party utility
All of us healers are hybrid classes of some sort, which means we can do more than heal. And there are important things we can do to help get a fight done. There is no reason we can't squeeze off a CC cast at the beginning of a pull. Similarly, a skillfully placed interrupt could simply negate the need for several thousand hps and mana that you won't have to cast because the boss never got his spell off.

This is not typical healer territory, but it needs to be. There are things like our lack of hit rating, and the mechanics of targeting that make these things maybe a bit more difficult. But generally speaking, whatever we can do is better than not having done anything at all. Even if your Hex breaks after 10 seconds, that was still 10 seconds the mob wasn't running around being a nuisance and that makes your healing job easier too. And (gasp!) it's actually fun to do something other than watch health bars non-stop.

6. Mind your buffs.
Spells, food and elixirs are all in the game for exactly the stages of raiding we are in now. Bring them. Use them. Rejoice.

No comments:

Post a Comment