Wednesday, January 16, 2008

WoW: Healers. Is there a more frustrating job?!

Healers. Is there a more frustrating job out there?! I know everybody thinks that their job is the hardest in the group and I’m not saying they don’t have valid points. But take a moment to think about it.

Every group must have a healer. It’s a given. Unless you are a level 70 running a group through Deadmines, YOU NEED A HEALER!!! Every group will of course need a tank, dps, cc, etc., but you can vary this effectively based on the instance, quest, pvp, raid, gear, etc.

But really is there any more frustrating job?! The reason is because of the nature of the job. In order to be an effective healer, you MUST be spec’d and geared for it! This is to help minimize the problems that I will discuss below. Now I can’t speak for druids and priests having never played a druid and only having a priest alt that’s currently at level 9, but for paladins this means sacrificing a lot of other attractive options in order to make this happen. [I’m currently looking around the internet for advice on how to re-spec my holy paladin to be more effective at healing as well as increase my dps.] But all-in-all every class has to make sacrifices to do whatever their job is effectively, so this is a weak argument at best.

One issue is you really need to be someone that likes healing. There’s a certain thrill in healing a group that’s being pounded on and coming through it alive, but more often than not we’d all rather not have to deal with close calls. In those cases it becomes rather boring. The effective healer stays out of range and watches his/her aggro to keep from getting killed. In most cases, you don’t even watch the battle. Unlike many spells in which you have to face your target, healing requires only that you be within range. I generally miss most battles because I’m so focused on watching the parties’ health bars on the left side of my screen. For those of you not familiar with this concept, it’s really exciting watching the green bars go left and right for the duration of the battle. I can only equate it to watching paint dry. So again, you really do need to enjoy being the healer, whether it’s the praise afterwards, the excitement of pulling through on a difficult run, or just a personality thing, it’s important to enjoy.

The real frustration lies in the way healers are treated. You are everybody’s hero, when you perform. I’ve been praised for great heals for some of the dumbest situations. One day a few of us in our guild got an itch to take out a Fel Reaver in Hellfire. It might have been a quest for some, but I can’t remember anymore. All I remember is that I had wanted to take one out ever since I first got to Outland. They were so impressive back then! The fight ended up being a joke because of our druid tank. I believe I had to heal her with Flash of Light less than ten times and once was critically hit so I had to use Holy Light a couple of times. For whatever reason she was taking almost no damage and the others were doing a good amount of dps on the thing. Mostly I stood there and watched the thing fall, which was fun in itself! I got thanked for the heals, and rightly so, but I didn’t do anything special. I did my job. Bottom line, I got thanked because we survived.

When you don’t perform, you are everybody’s “whipping-boy” or “-girl”. You not performing doesn’t necessarily mean “you” specifically. More often than not this means the group. I’ve been in groups where the tank was so poorly geared that I couldn’t use Flash of Light to heal him because of the amount of damage he was taking. Each heal had to be Holy Light depleting my mana quickly and leaving the rest of the group to their own devices. Guess who got blamed? The healer was unable to keep up. I was poorly geared, not having enough bonus heal, mana regen, or mana in general. I wasn’t healing the rest of the group. So on and so forth. Bottom line, I got blamed because we wiped. There’s nothing more discouraging.

If you’re in a good group, it will be obvious to all that although the healer may need better gear or talents, that often the rest of the group needs better gear and talents as well, or even a new party dynamic. I was once in a group with one warrior tank and three hunters. We kept wiping on the second boss and they were getting very frustrated. I was finally asked to leave because I was under-geared. I’ll admit at the time I definitely was, but having three hunters in the party did nothing to help the situation. Our group dynamic was such that we didn’t have a range of effective damage and control for this boss. Following up later with the warrior, who is a friend of mine, the party never did get past the second boss even after replacing me.

Now it’s time to talk about the role of a PvP healer. As I have no experience with Arenas, my focus will be on battlegrounds. I am not an avid PvP fan. I don’t particularly like it for a number of reasons. First, it always seems like the Horde win 90% of the time. This probably isn’t true, but it sure seems like it. This makes battlegrounds a test of grinding patience. When I first started last Thanksgiving, I found that I could do well in Alterac Valley. The Alliance was winning about 75% of the time. I raked in the honor points averaging 500 each battle. It was new, it was fun, and definitely worth it! However, the other battlegrounds were miserable tests of patience just trying to get through the thing as quickly as possible to get my single mark, 150 honor points, and move to the next loss. It’s frustrating because I do not believe in AFKing a battleground. In my opinion, it is just cheating and unfair to the others. Thankfully, Blizzard is now taking steps to really rectifying the situation. We’ll just have to see if the new announcement works. Also, I can’t just sit there. I get bored quick. The only reason I even started battleground PvP was to get geared for tougher instances. I wasn’t able to effectively get gear in the instances I wanted to get into and the ones I could do, I already had the best or better gear . I needed something for the in-between to help me get the better PvE gear.

But being a healer in battlegrounds is even more frustrating than being a healer in other areas. Why? Because I believe that the hardcore PvP fan is also a complete @$$hole. This is a generalization and perhaps an unfair statement, but these guys like PvP because they are overly-competitive in nature, like to trash talk those they beat, love bragging rights, etc. Unless you succeed, you’ll get no thanks and often not even then. On the Alliance side [in Reckoning], we often fail in the battlegrounds and these guys are very vocal about it because of how quickly they get frustrated. The two largest complaints I see are that nobody knows what they are doing hence no coordination and the healers don’t heal anybody.

For the latter complaint, I can only say that it appears they are right. I always compare my healing points at the end of a battle against everyone else. Usually I’m in the top 10 overall and in the top 3 with Alliance. Unfortunately this means that up to 7 Horde will beat me out on healing. That’s extremely bad!

I believe there are three reasons for this. The first reason is their first complaint. There’s absolutely no coordination in most cases. This means healers are all over and not always in the right place. It also means that when the healers are in the right place, they don’t have the protection they deserve. The Horde seems to do a better job of targeting healers than the Alliance does. And Alliance, you guys don’t protect healers! I’ve been yelled at for not healing, but I’ll have a Rogue stunning me, a Warlock cursing me, a Mage hitting me with every DPS spell he’s got, and a Warrior kicking the crap out of me and not one single Alliance member trying to get them off of me!!!

This is the second reason. You have to protect your healers!!! If the Horde are taking them down faster than you can spit, then of course you won’t have the heals you need! I can’t believe I have to explain that logic, but I’ve had to on several occasions in battlegrounds. A few arguments lead to the ever favorite “You’re not geared properly”. This is where a healer has to be the bigger person. It’s very easy to decide not to heal that one guy who complained about your healing capabilities, but remember this is a group effort and even though it possibly won’t matter, it could cost you.

The third reason is often the Alliance doesn’t have enough healers. I’ve been in battlegrounds where we will have 7 paladins, 7 priests, and 7 druids in Alterac Valley, but more often than not we have 2 paladins, 2 priests, and a number of druids, but usually not healing spec’d. This varies from the time of day to the time of week though and is unpredictable.

No one likes to be the reason something failed. From time to time, it will be the healer’s fault, but more often than not there are contributing factors that lead to that failure. Whether it is poorly geared party members, poor group dynamic, inexperience in the quest, instance, or group, or pure dumb luck, just remember that there’s enough blame to go around. Learn from it and do what you can to prevent it the next time. Just don’t take it out on your healer, because one day he/she will get better and you’re going to need him/her.

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