Healing is..

Tam’s recent post over at Righteous Orbs sort of made me think. Is healing easy / easier than dps ? Is it more fun, more stress, or just.. more ?

Ercles commented that for him, healing is more stressful, while dps (until you have mechanics of an encounter hard wired into your brain) is more challenging. And in a way, i am inclined to believe him. There is a certain “do not mess it up or it will all go to hell” quality about healing, and most boss fights are over once one or two healers are down, while they can still be won with one or two dps down. But perhaps that is seeing things too simple ?

Looking through the web, i came across quite a few posts which claimed this or that being easier or better. (one recent example can be found here) Finding a consensus on this seems not that easy, and as the last poster commented (oh, not this again) it seems to be a point which is difficult to agree on.

So, i actually want to stay away from trying to claim one to be harder than the other. In my eyes, it is a lot about how you like to play your game. So, for some people, it is easier to tank things, while for others it is easier to keep things alive, while the third group prefers to make things dead. Preference in the end.

Let us look back at what Tamarind wrote :

… DPS Get Bad Press. There’s too much talk about interchangeable DPS, or stupid DPS, or DPS just not being as important or necessary as tanks and healers. Bullshit. In that fight, I stood at the back in my sissy room and cast flash heal and prayer of mending (everybody was generally too spread out for AoE heals to be very effective) and that was it. A monkey could have done it, assuming you programmed my flash heal button to give him a banana, or an orgasm, every time he cast it. The DPS, by contrast, were changing targets, running around, controlling adds, co-ordinating attacks on the shield …

While he is probably very right in stating that raid healing in that encounter is like a very simplistic single target “whack-a-mole” game with a limited need for location awareness (“do not stand in the green stuff – ever”), i personally do not see this as a negative comment, and i definately do not read it as “Healing is Facerolling”, as DwRedux commented on it. Different encounters have different levels of complexity for different people, and this one specific one seems to be a dps challenge.

So, healing is not facerolling. But what is it ? It is an evil whack-a-mole. At least on that, most healers seem to agree. And for me, quite a bit of fun comes into it when you actually realize that sometimes you can predict the right mole to show up, and whack it just before the had is up, so to speak. That makes it

  • different from dps, as you actually can (and probably should) try to anticipate what will happen, and act against it
  • easier than dps, because in the end, your array of targets varies little, and there are just two main distractions. (staying in range of the moles, and not staying in whatever stuff you should move out of)
  • Fun.

So, for me (and yes, this is a purely personal preference, and should not be seen as any kind of global statement), healing is primarily a lot of fun. A bit more fun that dps (which i have tried, too)

But, going back to what i mentioned above, healing is also more stressful. Mostly, (and again Ercles mentioned that, but allow me to repeat it) because of the risks.  There usually are fewer healers than dps. So, losing one has a bigger impact on overall performance than losing a dps. Losing a tank is worse (undeniably), but different from the tanks and dps, it is the job of the healers NOT to lose anyone. So, in a simplistic world, people could say losing any raid member means the healers were not quite good enough.

Before everyone jumps on this – i know that anyone can actively ensure that their character will not make it to the end of the fight alive. And in some fights, it is impossible to keep all the moles whacked. But the truth still is – if a healer misses too many moles, the game is over before the bad guy (or lady, as in this case) has been taken down.

And that is the responsibility of all healers. Be it raid or tank healing, the main game is “do not miss too many moles or the game is over”. Raid healers have more moles, and might loose a few permanently in a fight. Tank healers usually have just one mole, and may never fully lose that, but might miss a few bonks if they recover well enough.

That is unique to healing. Dps and Tank mechanics change in their own way between encounters, but for healing, the major chain (aside of global effects) is the “mole dynamics”. Of course, there are more and less interesting encounters out there.

I peronally like Saurfang’s moles. Lazy start, very regular mole appearance, followed by a frantic finale. Also, i am looking forward to one of the yet not seen encounters, where there is actually a mole which needs to be hammered down before all the other small moles have been lost.

So.. where is my bottom line ?

Unsurprisingly, healing is

  • fun
    • sometimes stressful
      • mole-heavy
        • resource management
          • and of course



8 Responses to “Healing is..”

  1. January 12, 2010 at 19:11

    I have to say I agree with you, there are simply too many variables to label one or the other as “a faceroll”.

    Another thing that I forgot to mention is that what kind of DPS class you play has a huge impact. As an arcane mage my rotation is very simple, as boomkin a little less so, but it’s still rather straight forward. Then I gave kitty DPS a shot. Wow. It was far more complicated than any DPS class I had ever played, even more so than tanking, which I’m not good at, at all.

  2. January 19, 2010 at 12:55

    I think the big difference between DPS and Heals is:
    – DPS can choose to.. well not DPS.
    – Healers must heal

    Sure when I as a DPS go for a run around the room looking for the perfect place to get that screenshot of the massive crit, I am not doing the raid a favor.

    You could even maybe argue that I am causing the death of my comrades, or even a wipe by farting about for 10 seconds, but it doesn’t necessarily have a direct impact on the game.

    In fact, me messing about may just save my life allowing me to shine when 1/2 the DPS went down in one pool of bad.

    As a Healer, when I spill the coke, beer, coffee, I just have to ignore it. I remember one night spilling a beer into my keyboard. I was madly trying to grab the keyboard and turn it upside down to shake the beer out… but my fight hand, eyes and brain was fixated on Healbot and the encounter.. I couldn’t afford to miss one heal

    If I had spilt the beer while playing Gnomeaggedon… I would have had time to go find a straw, suck the beer out and get back to the fight.

    Proactive (if you choose to be) DPS, v.s.
    Reactive (now, now, now) Healing

    • January 19, 2010 at 15:15

      That is an interesting view. Although for me, the chance to actually be anticipating the coming healing, rather than chasing the health bar is part of the appeal for healing.

      With the rest, i do agree. Dps can choose to slack, and unless all of them do it, there is a significant chance that noone will notice. Slacking healers usually means people dropping dead.

      But it is fun none the less (or was it partly because of it ?)

    • January 29, 2010 at 14:13

      Gnome, as a tree healer I’m only semi-reactive. HoTs allow me to be a lot more proactive with my heals 🙂

  3. January 20, 2010 at 13:59

    I have healed for a loooong time and have recently started shadow DPS as a relaxing hobby. I have also levelled a kitty that I am gearing up in heroics. Never tanked apart from the odd emergency bear form if something happened to the tank.

    I agree they are all different ways of playing the game. I have seen people that can pick up any class/role and do really well, I have seen people that excel at one but cannot do another to save their life – and, sadly, I have seen people that are just average or below average skill in whatever they do. Doesn’t mean they are bad people – just means that maybe they are not cut out to be progression raiders in this particular game.

    Like you say different fights offer different challenges to different classes/roles. I can imagine melee DPS on Saurfang is monkey-style playing, you stay in place and kill the boss. Playing a class that has to build up to their DPS (like shadow priest for instance with DoTs and shadow weaving) a fight like Marrowgar is frustrating as hell – as you are constantly swapping targets to Bone Spikes and then have to run around like a headless chicken allowing most things to drop off.

    What it comes down is that you cannot really generalise in any way. Tanking, DPSing and healing are more challenging to some than others, some fights are harder on particular roles/classes than others, some people are great players and others are not. The only thing that annoys me is when people do generalise and state with certainty that X is easier than Y or A is harder than B – because the circumstances are never the same for two people.

    The only thing I think differs is the pressure on the different roles. Like you said, there are fewer healers than DPS and even fewer tanks, which means that losing one of them is likely be cause more problems than losing a DPS. And as a tank or healer you know this and it causes an extra level of pressure/stress since you know that missing that CD keeping yourself/the tank alive can wipe the attempt.

  4. January 29, 2010 at 14:38

    I agree totally – although my main doesn’t DPS in raids at all, I’ve grown to appreciate the role DPS plays in raids, and DPS is just as important in its own way as healing. Take Saurfang, for example. Standard 10-man setup is 2 tanks 3 heals and 5 dps. For Saurfang… you don’t need the heals as much, and they’ve tuned it so that you need the extra DPS – if you lose one before the first Mark of the Fallen Champion, you’re probably not going to beat the enrage timer. In general, however, it is much more devastating to lose a tank or a healer than to lose a DPS. Just look at the priority of who healers keep alive: Tanks -> heals -> DPS.

    Loved the post!

    … but I have one nitpick, and I apologize profusely for pointing it out, but I can’t stop myself because it’s a pet peeve of mine. Please forgive me!

    Loose = not tight. Lose = the opposite of win, or in this context, having a raid member die.

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