Monday, February 7, 2011

Pets: To Heal or Not to Heal?

It's not pinin' for the Howling Fjords, it's passed on! This pet is no more! It has ceased to be!
It's expired and gone to meet its maker! This is a late pet! It's a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in
peace! If you hadn't sent it to try and tank those adds, it wouldn't be pushing up the daisies!
It's metabolic processes are of interest only to historians! it's hopped the twig! It's shuffled off
this mortal coil! It's run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible! This... is an EX-PET!

Yup, that is the question.

I was reading a column WoW Insider about what hunters would like other classes to know about what they do. And well... I got a big case of indignation worked up over it.

(Indignation is a lot like indigestion, only it's all in your head).

The author certainly has some good points to cover. His comments on CC management are right on and something I would like to address in a larger scale sometime soon. But, um... in my mind, much of this column tries to justify some of the skuzzier things bad hunters do in many dungeons. (For cripe's sake, just turn off Growl when you are in a dungeon).

But let's drop in and debate what is to be said under "Our Pets Are Important:"
And sometimes, our pet needs heals.

Yes, we have Mend Pet, which can heal our pet a little bit, pretty slowly, and we have some other tools to help protect them. And you know what? About 90% of the time, our pet is going to be just fine -- they're pretty self-sufficient, and we can fill most of the gaps. But sometimes when they get tons of spike damage, they need heals, and any time the pet is taking so much damage that it's in danger of death, our Mend Pet is not going to be enough to save them.
Let me stipulate that there are no absolutes. Any time somebody tells you that they "ALWAYS DO THIS ONE THING," then they better start listing exceptions. I acknowledge that there are exceptions, but I choose not to address them at this time.

I'll go on record as saying that I pretty much don't heal pets. My UI doesn't feature pets very well and I have enough to watch already without reconfiguring everything to watch Fluffy's health too. I rejigger these things from time to time, and I mean, I was reportedly the healer on the first documented pet-tanking of Halls of Reflection. ('Twas an honor, and was a piece of cake with a bunch of shadow priests running CC and DPS) But for the most part, no, pets do not deserve heals.

Hunter friends, healers don't hate your sweet lil' Fluffy.  I have written on this elsewhere in this blog but hunters need to understand that keeping any dps alive in a key fight has dropped way down the priority list, and your pets have always registered at the very bottom of that list. The bottom is even  deeper now than it used to be.

It's not a matter of GCDs, it's that we don't have casting time and mana to maintain the rest of the players in the manner to which they had become accustomed in those fat days of Wrath of the Lich King. I think hunters are adapting to this fact as well as most dps players are, but they need to appreciate how this applies to their beasts as well.

And let's just get to it: Pets really ought not need healing.

Pets of all varieties take 90% less damage from AoE than player characters do. Every single one of these minions, whether it is a cat, a zombie, or a demon has this little feat programmed into them. In a high AoE fight, a hunter can keep Mend Pet going (at no mana cost, or cast time) and handle AoE damage perfectly well.  This AoE damage reduction applies to puddles of fire and most other forms of damage that we usually yell at dps players to get out of, which should be even more bonus for keeping your pets alive.

Pets all have talents to further reduce various magic damages and the like. All the players are being  pushed into these "survivability" talents by the game design. Did you think your pets were somehow above all that? If your pets die more than you would like, consider a respecc.

Honestly, for every pet that is slowly dying of AoE, we can find a hunter who really needs to be reacquainted with how to use his Mend Pet skill. The argument that they are too busy making "moar dps" to hit Mend Pet is about as valid as the rogue who says he couldn't get out of the fire because his Slice and Dice was up and he didn't want to waste it.

And you have to appreciate how Mend Pet works as a HoT. It is slow and methodical, but it will take care of that 10% AoE damage most pets catch. However, it will not ever account for ...

"... tons of spike damage." - Hunters, do you know why your pets get tons of spike damage in a fight? It's because they pulled aggro on something. That's the only reason. Random boss attacks don't target pets. AoE is already reduced. Haven't you heard us healers laughing at dps who pull aggro and how we basically can't save them even if we want to?  That goes twice for your pets

I think the more common form of this problem comes when the hunters send their pets to go tank a mob who has evaded CC, or is casting from the edge of a fight and not paying attention to the tank. I appreciate that this maneuver is born of a desire to keep the party, and probably the healer in particular from getting picked on. But it is still about one of the least helpful ways to address the problem. If the CC application was just slow, it'll never go on with your pet chewing on that mob.  If the mob is supposed to go play with the tank and is busy casting away at something else, your Silencing Shot will help with this. Tanking him with your pet will not.

Suddenly, and unexpectedly giving the healer a second tank to heal is really kind of irritating. And most tanks are going to give you less regard if you try and usurp their job that way too. So stop doing that.

The maybe less common form of this problem that I still see all the freaking time is that the hunter sends his pet into a batch of mobs the tank is fighting with and there is no distinct kill order (or the hunter is just ignoring the kill order. Yeah, that never happens).  The pet gets set on one mob to chew his butt off, perhaps Growl has not been turned off--  since, hey, Growl is not a taunt. And the tank must split his attention between too many targets and the pet pulls aggro.  In these cases, I would once again refer hunters to the standard healer treatment of melee players who pull aggro and ask them to try better in the future.

I have a hunter alt and I prefer Beast Mastery just because I really enjoy playing with my pets named things like Digby and Humbert. (That is Humbert at the top of this article, who gamely committed suicide for the sake of this blog) Pets are fun and they are the main reason to play a hunter. I don't mean to be harsh, unsympathetic, cynical or reductive when I say this, but here goes:

What hunters really need to know is that your party does not see your pets as cute, anthropomorphic bundles of pixels. We see smart weapons-- fire-and-forget, hacking-slashing machines that will keep rending and tearing even when the rest of us are running around trying to avoid the fire. And hey, this is cool. It's pretty unique and their buffs are welcome and good too. (Except for Ancient Hysteria. Any hunter who pops that while my shaman is around is going to be an unhappy hunter the rest of the trip.)

(Oh hey... we can commiserate together sometime about how much our buffs are under appreciated. I sometimes play "Which pulls did I actually put out some totems for" and nobody ever knows. Tsk.)

But a pet is still just a weapon, and you guys are responsible for your own weapons. Say it with me: "This pet is my pet! There are many pets like it, but this pet is mine!"  You guys gotta field strip, clean and reassemble those beasties on your own.

A pet is not a bonus to a party in the strictest sense. "Our DPS is pretty weak on this boss fight, but now Hunter is here and he has a pet! Bonus!"  No, it doesn't work like that.

A hunter's pet is an extension of the hunters' dps, not entities unto themselves. A decent dps player is going to keep his talents and abilities working. And if a hunter fails to keep one of his key abilities working, then ... ahem... he is a fail hunter.  The healer is not responsible for other dps shortcomings, why should we accept hunter shortcomings as something different?

I feel kinda churlish dogpiling on hunters like this, but this is a debate I have heard raging for some time now and it needs to be taken back and put in perspective. Yes, hunter's pets are important, but only in the same way bringing reagents, and utilizing every aspect of your dps capability is important. They don't merit special consideration from the rest of the group.

And I'll pet Fluffy and comment if he's a cool looking pet, but, sorry, unless we have made prior arrangements for a fight, I'm not going to heal him.


  1. If the tank is up and the pet has pulled aggro? You're right, you shouldn't have to heal them then. However, there are a number of fights going on in Cataclysm right now where there are damaging moves that are not aoes that randomly target a party member. These can also target pets and they do full damage to them. For example, there are the Defias Pirates and Squallshapers in Deadmines that will target anyone. Just as I as a player can die if squall hits me and I don't get a heal before a pirate jumps on me, the same can happen to my pet.

    I also have a disc priest, resto shaman, and a tree, and you know, I am able to find spaces where there is time and mana to throw a shield or an insta cast heal on pets. Quite frankly, if you're regularly running OOM, you either don't have enough spirit or the group is not performing mechanics properly (probably the second, judging by the not one, not two, but three tanks I encountered today who let the earthshapers in Stonecore transform and start aoeing). You should reconsider your stance, because while pets don't need healing often, they do occasionally, and if your UI isn't even set up to heal them, you're eliminating the chance for pet tanking to save the group from a wipe. It's pretty easy to set something like Grid to not only show the pets but show who has aggro, so it's obvious when a pet's health is low due to them pulling when they're not supposed to as opposed to the randomly targeted damage abilities that go on now.

  2. Mer I think you meant Killing Spree when referring to "the rogue who can't get out of the fire because..."

  3. @Firebyrd "you're eliminating the chance for pet tanking to save the group from a wipe"
    In a 5man Heroic there is no reason you should ever encounter where a pet should be a 'back-stop' to save a groups arse. I'm the first to admit that from time to time i've popped Evasion a couple of times here and there when a Tank has gone down but it's never something that i'm 'waiting in the wings' to do.
    As for the "there are the Defias Pirates and Squallshapers in Deadmines that will target anyone" thats just not true
    Each of the abilities from those 2 mobs will effect more than 1 target yes, but how is your "Weapon" (part of your DPS) of more importance than an entire DPS when it comes to Healing "Who"?

  4. Knaiker, while tanks shouldn't go down in a heroic, sometimes crap happens, particularly when there are pugs involved. My guild doesn't always have enough people on at the same time with the gear to run heroics, and just one stupid pug can be enough to completely screw a situation up with breaking CC and other such things that might cause a tank to go down. I have successfully kept us from wiping in these situations because of pet tanking /with/ my healer's help.

    Nowhere did I suggest that a healer should drop everything and let a dps or a tank die instead of my pet. But a healer who refuses to ever heal my pets not only lets 40-46% of my dps disappear, but hurts the damage of the rest of the group as my buffs/debuffs disappear.

    Let me reiterate-I have healed heroics. If you can never, ever spare the single GCD and bit of mana to throw a Riptide/PWS/Rejuv/etc. to keep a pet from dying, there is something wrong with the way you are running heroics. If it's just that you can't be bothered when the hunter (or other pet class) is doing things right (attacking the correct target and casting mend pet and cower), then you're no better than someone who runs into a dungeon with their gear broken, because that's just what you're doing to the hunter-breaking one of their weapons.

  5. Firebyrd, thanks for an actual example of an ability that is randomly targeting pets. Back at the hunter forum, nobody could actually name one. The last one I could think of was Halls of Stone during the Tribunal of Ages. And that was solved by moving since no amount of heals would save anybody if they remained in those fire blasts more than 2 seconds or so.

    I gotta go back to my statement that there are always exceptions to everything. I just don't like listing them all the time in my blog posts. Pets do appear on my UI, and there are many times when I'll target a chain heal through a pet because it's convenient to a situation.

    But I mean, in a hard, cutting edge fight-- and I'm not generalizing to current heroics here-- I got no time for pets and I don't think most other healers do either. I spent the first month of heroics going utterly completely OOM before most fights were over. I didn't have enough spirit, players were walking in stuff they shouldn't have been, fire was raining from the sky and every critter down in the dungeons was surprising us all the time. If somebody's pet ate it, then there really wasn't anything to be done about it.

    And I stick by my premise that if hunter pets are alright 90% of the time, 90% of the time that they aren't alright, it's because the hunter isn't playing well.

    Heh, and Knaikar... I did mean Slice and Dice. The rogue in the midst of a Killing Spree has no control over where he is going. (Though, that guy could be more careful too) It's the guy who chooses not to move because he's milking his dps that I was trying to poke fun at.