Are Healing Classes Losing Individual Identity?

In my recent Priest changes announcement post, Kivassha posed some excellent questions that I wanted to share.

Comment edited for length

Hi Matticus

In my mind disc priests are topping up absorbing the damage on Tanks, almost like druid heals are for raid, helping with spike damage until the big chain heals (shammy) and POH (holy priest) lands.

My concern?

I wonder if getting Disc priests to focus on MT will make it boring. I like how classes compliments each other and the unity that forms when everyone gets to know each other’s play stile and can on the fly make the right decision and heal where it is needed. It feels like the synergy will be lost between classes.

With the holy priest changes a priest will be able to heal a little bit more like a druid does with all the hot changes. Again how will the synergy between classes work? How would druids feels about this?

How boring will it be if everyone can do what every other healer class can do? Holy can main tank heal, can do big raid heals and will now be able to do really good HOT’s. Even Shammies will now have a HOT. So I wonder if Druids will get big long casting spells like POH, Chain heal?

To me it looks like they are giving each healer class similar capabilities to make them more like all round healers. Will this take away from each class the niche they have?
Yes the email sound negative, but I am curious and excited to work out how things will work in future.


I can’t say whether or not Discipline healing will be boring. Different healers I talk to just love healing. If you love what you do, you’re never going to find it boring. As for class synergy, there’s no reason for it to go away. Don’t forget that this is just a class preview of what they intend to do. There is still a long wait before Cataclysm is installed on our computers. If you look at the different things that healers can excel at, Discipline Priests are optimized best for tank healing. Does that mean it’s the only thing they can do? Nah, far from it. That’s what I’ve always liked about the game is that I can mix and match healers and not have to worry too much at all about it.

Druids should have nothing to worry about at all. We still heal in fairly different styles. While some of the mechanics might blend together, the numbers still need to be tuned and adjusted accordingly. I suspect that will help narrow the gap a bit between Priest and Druid healing.

Going back to healing styles again, I don’t think it’s going to be boring for healers. Each healing class can do something similar to each other. That’s good though. While you want to encourage a variety of healers in your raids, it doesn’t mean that you have to always have a Shaman or have to always have a Paladin. Each healing class has their own strengths and weaknesses. At the very minimum, each class can fire off some AoE heals. Each class has a large heal, a fast heal, and an efficient heal. It just so happens that their extra healing spells are done in a different way. Priests have group based healing in Prayer of Healing and Circle of Healing. Shamans have that new Healing Rain which hits everyone in a certain area. Paladins come out at the end of the week so we’re not sure what they get yet.

As far as the healing niche goes though, you are right that each class will have similar capabilities. How much would it suck if a Druid healer who loves to play a Druid has to re-roll to a Priest to heal a particularly difficult encounter because the Priest can heal a certain encounter way better than a Druid can? During Sunwell, I heard many top end guilds had to bench Paladins and some Druids for the Twins encounter. They ended up bringing in Shaman alts and Holy Priest alts for Circle of Healing and Chain Heal. The philosophy of Blizzard has always been to bring the player and not the class. A Druid should be able to heal an encounter just as well as a Priest, Shaman, or Paladin and I agree with that.

The identities of each healing class won’t be lost though. Just because each class can keep players up doesn’t mean they’ll lost their own unique style or method of doing it.

Let’s not forget what Ghostcrawler said:

We’d rather make healing fun for the players who like to heal rather than make healing easy for the players who hate to heal but do it anyway.

And I’m sure they’ll find ways to make it entertaining.

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About Matticus

Matticus is the founder of World of Matticus and Plus Heal. Read more of his columns at WoW Insider. League of Legends player. Caffeine enthusiast.


  1. Our discipline priest is our second tank healer (I’m the first, a holy paladin). She’s already good, darn good, or our raid leader would not have her in there week after week healing our second tank. For her it already is fun. Yes, she’s essentially a walking shield and her shields play a huge part in her game play. She’s looking forward to some of the changes and is not afraid healing will get boring in Cataclysm.
    .-= Jeanette´s last blog ..D.B.A.D. =-.

  2. I absolutely believe that these expansions of healing abilities to the different classes will NOT make healing boring. Being able to fulfill a role the same as every other class does not make the playstyle and methods the same as every other class.

    This is really a way to give healers more freedom to play what they do have fun with vs. what they re-rolled to have the necessary single target HPS to get in raids for example (citing people I know who went paladin when Priest healing was at a particularly low point)

    The need for triage will also increase the enjoyment of things, and every healer will have an option for how they want to cover things. Looking at holy and discipline alone, I’m excited to have dual spec so I can test out both methods and see which I like more. I’m completely torn on which preview notes I’m more excited about. Granular shields/Power Word: Barrier or the incredible potential fun-zone that is Chakra? I can’t pick!

    The very tricky part here is balance and that will take a lot of work and a lot of re-adjustment. We can hope that first release will have everything pinned down and perfect, but it’s a matter of necessity to prepare for some retuning of mechanics as they’re used in real raiding situations. The roller-coaster of fine tuning is what I’m most nervous about. For big picture ideas, I’m looking forward to what may come.
    .-= Ceralyn´s last blog ..On the Arrangement of Pixels: Mixing It Up =-.

  3. Our 25-man raid last week had a disc priest and three trees healing through Saurfang. I was the priest. I healed the raid every bit as much as I healed the tanks, on one of the trees did as much tank healing (and/or mitigation) as I did.

    Homogenized much? I submit that any healer should be able to heal any part of any encounter, effectively enough to help the raid succeed. Optimal? Not necessarily. But not a disaster, either.

    If any tank can tank any boss, if any DPS can do damage against any target, then any healer ought to be able to heal everything. And I can.

    However, I’m so bored with healing that I’ve decided I won’t do it anymore once Cataclysm is released. If that means I don’t raid, so be it.
    .-= Kestrel´s last blog ..Weekly Wrap-Up: April 9 =-.

  4. I don’t think healing classes are losing individual identity at all. Look at the Cataclysm previews out so far. Spiritwalker’s Grace and Spirit Link for shamans, Leap of Faith and Chakra for priests, and Lifebloom coming back for Druids. These are all VERY unique spells. Sure all the healing classes are getting rounded out a bit so that they have something to cast in 5-mans and raids, to heal tanks and DPS… but with the new abilities and talents announced I see healer classes being MORE individualized, each with MORE cool unique spells.
    .-= Wikwocket´s last blog ..Leap of Faith, aka Life Grip, aka Liquid Awesome =-.

  5. Back at the end of BC, when Blizzard started this “bring the player not the class.” thing, healers were all up in arms about losing their niche’s too. And for the first few raids of Wrath, we were all sorta a mixed bag of nutz. And all really similiar to each other.

    But as our gear got better through the various tiers. As encoutners got harder or easier. Depending on your point of view. Different classes started to break off into their niches again.

    Maybe it’s a security blanket. I’m not sure. Maybe it’s just for synergy. But no matter what they throw at us, in the end the healing team for your guild will help define the niche you fill. It wont solely be based on your class talents and trees however.

    It will be by the way your guild reacts to your strengths and weaknesses as a player. Your a team. If your a good healer. If it’s your passion. There will always be room for you at the table.

  6. People always ignore that fact that Riptide has a HoT on it. Shamans have a HoT people. In fact two of our main healing spells are Heals over time.

    Earth shield is a glamored up HoT with charges rather than ticks within a time frame.
    Riptide is a small heal with a huge HoT.

    When I heal on my shaman I use glyph of riptide and I still use the T8.5 2pc bonus (main spec is elemental so I haven’t gotten 4pc T10 yet). I can roll Riptides on 4 people while still managing to get a chain heal off on the end of each Riptide which lasts 21 seconds and heals for approx. 2000 per tick.

  7. I disagree. Personally I think Blizzard should still make healers of different classes work very differently and be useful for different reasons. I understand the concept of “Bring the player not the class” but I think Blizzard is going back asswards with this.

    Instead of homogenizing the healing classes, and essentially making it pointless being a Priest, Druid, Shaman or Pally healer, Blizzard should, instead of taking class uniqueness away design raid encounters such that every class is useful in some way. It seems to me that Blizzard is taking the easy route out and instead of building raid encounters in a balanced way that all classes can contribute equally while still being very unique, they are just making all healing classes so similar to each other that it doesn’t matter.

    What I would prefer to see is that its rather a case of “We need -every- class type for the raid because each class has a unique characteristic that we need to overcome this encounter” than “Oh just pick him cos he has the most throughput”.

    I picked a Priest healer for a reason, because I want Priestly goodness. Now Blizzard is saying that I could of picked any healing class because no class provides anything uniquely beneficial to the group instead of designing the content to require each of the class types for unique reasons.

  8. Disc Priests are NOT optimized best at tank healing. They excel at shielding the raid. Over longer time spans, their HPS is too low for tank healing. Fortunately Blizzard already knows this. From their priest Cataclysm preview:

    “While we want to keep the priest’s role as a well-rounded healer, we also want to make sure the class is a viable tank healer, which is something priests moved away from a little in Wrath of the Lich King. Greater Heal will probably be the tank-healing spell of choice, though we’ve also discussed giving Discipline a second shield so that they have a small shield to cast on lots of different targets, and a big, more expensive shield to cast on a tank or anyone else taking a ton of damage.”


    “We want to improve Discipline’s single-target healing capacity. One key is to make sure shielding isn’t always a more attractive option than healing.”

  9. With the cataclysm changes I dont think that the healer class individuality is changing, what does concern me is the “triage” aspect of healing being implemented. This I think will make healing boring, atm the chalenge of healing especially on new bosses is fun and challenging, if we have to continually pace ourselves and just watch the mana bars because the new content is all about managing mana this may put a lot of current healers off healing.
    As a shaman healer I already have to be mana aware, I cant say if this is the same for other classes.

  10. Rooiebas says:

    As far as I have understood the new changes for ‘cataclysm’ right, I’m not getting concerned about healers losing their individualism. True: each class will get a heal of each kind (sort of): A big heal, a HoT and an multi-target spell, but they will turn out different for each class. For example: Pally’s will get the radiance AoE, but have to stand right in the middle of the action for it. I hear you think: doesn’t Holy Nova work the same? Yes, but priest also have PoM, CoH and Prayer of Healing. All multi-target spells, wich you can cast standing right at your VIP box, outside the action. So I guess the playstyles of each class will still be different and hence attractive to pick.

    Another approach to the changes: while all classes wil get the same kinds of heals (sort of) you can heal decently on every class. But if you really want to kick ass with healing you have to make proper use of the class’ (and spec even) core mechanics, wich are all different. That’s why every single class will be attractive to different kinds of players. I just took discipline as a second spec, because I got a little bored healing PUG’s in holy spec. The first few runs I heald as a holy priest. You can guess that wasn’t effective and the long lost ‘Healer wtf?’ reapeared in the chat again. The next few runs I started to shield everyone, getting the healing benefits and even extra time to dps a little. Man, that was fun, but I had to change my style of healing, and that;s where the fun is in, isn’t it?
    I think it will be the same story in cataclysm: different class, different playstyle.

    When I read about the mana restrictions they want to apply in Cataclysm, I cheered. Nowadays, with all the crazy gear everyone has, spamming is the way to heal: just clicking your buttons till the boss drops. I leveled as a holy priest (getting mocked by my guild, because it wasn’t quick enough) and didn’t have crazy gear, so I had to heal efficiently. To do that I had to think and making split second choices all the time. That’s where the fun is for me. If they get that kind of healing back I will be very thankfull to Blizz, cause each run will be challenging and fun. Sure: a lot of players will stop healing, but the ones really.

    Well, that’s my opinion on the changes. I’m looking forward to them.

    PS: I can’t wait yelling ‘Gogogogo’ to my guild tank, and then life grabbing him back just before he reaches the mobs and gets aggro, for the first time ;).

  11. Dranok you have nailed it, Blizzard is Lazy!!!

    “Bring the player not the class” a joke when they first said it and still a joke.

    Healing, melee, ranged dps; priest, warrior, mage surprised they didn’t stop at 3 classes

    Undead hunters you kidding me!?!?
    Tauren paladins YUK!!!

    Can’t wait for what junk blizzard has in-store…after my 3 year time sync…

    just letting off steam, i still love this game but the sameness is wearing thin…

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