Be a Healer by Nature

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This is a guest post by Thespius, a raiding Priest

As I stated in my last post here, the first incarnation of Thespius was a Human Warlock. Raided SSC/TK and was usually top of the DPS meters. I did whatever I could to crank out the biggest numbers; I was a victim of constant competition. Usually, I couldn’t Soul Shatter fast enough to keep from pulling aggro. "But that’s what taunts are for, right?" (Since my days as a healer, I’ve learned to loathe that excuse.)

I liked DPSing, but I wanted a change. In the raiding guild I was in, we had what was called the "Holy Trinity" of our guild. Three priests. They knew their stuff, and they were GOOD. As Matticus has illustrated on this site before, they used what he calls Heads Up Healing to predict what was going to happen and when. I wanted to be able to play my character as well as them. I daydreamed of raid leaders calling my name, saying I was essential to any raid (still working on that part).

I took it upon myself to start a priest. I wanted to dive into the realm of healing. It seemed like since they were the ones directly responsible to a full health bar, they had to be the ones most in tune. Euripidus (now the second "Thespius") was born.
Once I actually started healing dungeons in Outlands, I realized how much fun being the healer was. Always easy to get a group (even if sometimes it was "Epic FAIL"), and it always seemed more of my style to help out the group in that capacity. I enabled the tank to keep taking the hits, and saved the DPS should something go wrong. That’s a cool responsibility.

Even though I was having a blast firing off Flash Heals, Shields and Prayer of Mendings, I appreciated when I wasn’t in a mad panic to keep everyone up the whole time. I do love the momentary bursts of crisis, however–finishing off a pull or fight with my hands shaking and my breath panting. I specifically remember my first time downing the Halls of Stone event and collapsing on my desk. Most of the group was at about 20% when we finished it. I was undergeared and still learning. Having an entire raid or dungeon that tense? No thanks. The less there is to heal, the better off everyone does.

While I was experiencing the perils of being a new healer, I realized something. I was playing my alts better. I was more aware, more responsive. I used more abilities and spells that I never used before. Since I had known the panic and frustrations of being a healer, I played each of my alts as though I was trying to make the group’s experience as painless as possible. Let me lay out a couple examples.

DPS

Problem: "Ganking Aggro" – What is the standard response to this? Especially in a PUG, I hear a lot of "Well, the tank should get more aggro faster." Or, "It’s not my fault you can’t keep up with my awesome DPS." /facepalm

Solution: Having the ability to throw up huge numbers is awesome. The difference between an amazing player and a horrible one is knowing when to use it. Congrats, you can push your buttons in the right order. Now, here’s your challenge: see if you can time it correctly, and on the correct target.

From the Healer’s eyes: In most circumstances, there are multiple mobs involved. If you pull one of them off, then I have to divert my attention from the tank to keep you alive. Therefore, the tank’s not getting heals. That’s the simple version. If the tank dies, we all die. And you just lost your spot in any of my future raids/groups.

Problem: DPS Meters – These are the bane of my existence. I once fell victim to them, and it wasn’t pretty. Yes, they’re awesome bragging rights. However, if you’re standing in a fire so you can get that one last cast in, or holding your ground in a whirlwind, then you’re just not being smart.

Solution: There’s a reason it’s called avoidable damage. If it’s a fire, a whirlwind, a blizzard, it’s your responsibility to move. It is not the healer’s responsibility to "heal you through it".

From the Healer’s eyes: Same reasoning as above. If we have to divert our attention to someone like that, the heals aren’t going where they’re needed the most.

Tanks

Problem: Tunnel vision – I’ve seen this not only caused by laziness, but also by tanks that try to up their own DPS on the boss as well. If you have high DPS as a by-product, then great. If you’re losing aggro on other adds, then it’s a problem.

Solution: Make sure you’re totally aware of what’s going on around you. The tanks primary job is to keep all the mobs’ attention on him/her.

From a Healer’s eyes: If an add gets loose due to healing aggro, I have to go into self-healing mode, which means heals are not on you.

Problem: The "wanna-be" Tank – This basically equates to any tank that doesn’t do everything they can to soften the blow.

Solution: Make sure your gear has the necessary caps needed. The necessary defense cap (if applicable); the right gear in general. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a healer to heal you in nearly all resilience gear. Make sure you’re using shouts/roars/etc to keep the mobs attack speed slow and their strength/AP low. If you have minor cooldowns (e.g., a warrior’s Shield Block), use it often. Save your big cooldowns for when needed, however.

From a Healer’s eyes: If you’ve ever healed a tank that’s not defense capped, or isn’t using the necessary skills available, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. You’re healing in constant panic mode, which isn’t fun. If you use your mitigation abilities when you can, it means I have mana to use my abilities when you need it most.

As a continuation of the "Team Sport" idea, keep in mind who else is involved when you’re raiding. Always be on the lookout for opportunities that can hugely benefit the raid based on your contribution. Have a DoT or debuff to throw on the boss that will make it easier for the rogues to kick a spell-cast? Maybe a debuff that will decrease the damage output from the boss. Even if you have to lower your personal dps an inch, in order to up the whole raid’s dps a mile, you just made everyone’s life a little bit easier. Remember, it’s a team sport.

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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.

Comments

  1. I must say, dps who think they’re only requirement is to put up huge numbers is a great annoyance to me. Especially once i started healing, and understood the issue a bit more. Tanks tend to know what they’re supposed to do, and healers obviously do. But so many dps are blind to anything but output.

    I could only wish that every wow player held your insights 🙂

  2. Where’s the DPS-tank on that list? You know, the player that was recruited to DPS but somehow thinks they can tank better than the tank and keeps yanking aggro *on purpose*. Blood DKs and Feral Druids, I’m looking at you…. and ret pallies… and fury warriors. Grr!

    Don’t do that, it’s bad for your healer… you can’t see it, but she’s having a stroke trying to heal you in your DPS gear/spec, and next time she just might not!
    .-= Rhii´s last blog ..A Matter of Trust =-.

  3. The comment about playing a healer making you better while playing other roles is something I see all the time.

    It actually works vice versa as well. I’ve found that having a tank actually makes me a better healer. Knowing the challenges that tanks face, what cooldowns they have available to pop, and how they go about holding aggro on multiple targets makes it easier for me to make it easier on them. Little things like standing where the tank can see you when he has a giant boss in his face so that if you get an add on you, he can see it clearly and all he has to do is tab/taunt. Or other little things like running TO the tank when you have an add and not away from them.

    These are all things you can certainly learn without playing as a tank, but it sure does make understanding easier when you walk a mile in their shoes.

  4. @Paul. I main a tank, you mentioned the two MOST important thing healers and dps can do to help their tanking allies out. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had a large sized boss and an add I couldn’t see. In BC and Vanilla, people did small things like visibility and proximity more often than they do now and makes me happy to see someone make mention of it.

    As for the article, solidly written and quality work.

  5. I’ve found the quickest way to stop the dps from pulling off the tank is to not heal them. Not that I don’t heal them, if I can, but the ones who consistently pull aggro go lower on my priority list when I’m healing. Fortunately, I don’t have to make my point that often, but sometimes it just needs to be done.

    Nice article, btw.

  6. /joins the choir

    I started my raiding career as a rogue in Vanillla, did some support healing and OT on my druid and now I heal full time as priest. Wish more could see the big picture.

  7. My main is a hunter and I absolutely love raiding with her. I wouldn’t change.

    But I have a healing druid too and I love that toon. With her, I discovered another “visage” of the game. I love healing, it’s so rewarding to go through a fight and everyone is alive at the end, and you’re there panting on your keyboard, your manabar empty just in time…

    I mainly run heroics with my healer, my raiding shedule is quite busy with my hunter, but sometimes, when I got a free night, I will help my druid’s guild to fill a 25-man.

    What I love about that are two things :

    – I’m useful to the guild with my healer, I help for daily heroics, or to fill up raids when available. I play with good friends and running dungeon is a great way to spend some time with them on TS, because I can relax on the healing, as they are all very good players. (In pugs with a not that good group, I need a lot of focus to keep everyone alive…)
    I love helping people with my healer. I’m someone different when playing my healer : I would help friends, or pugs. And I hate dps with my druid, “d’you need dps ? I got a hunter…” And when on my hunter and asked for help, it’s like : “err… d’you really need help ?… I will log my druid and heal if you want…”

    – I discover again those fights I know so well with my hunter. And it’s like running a different raid. I’m not focused on the same targets, I don’t have the same “rush” period. As a dpser, I don’t care about things doing damage as long as it’s not something I can avoid. What I’m focused on is my target and how fast I make its life going down. I completely trust healers to watch my life, as long as I’m not standing in fires. I just check the raid life an pop a health stone if they seem really busy…
    As a healer, I must be aware of the various spells dealing damage to people. I will need to focus on different things I’m not used to as a dpser, and sometimes, have some free time to regen while dpsers enter in a frantic all-cooldowns-and-trinkets-raging-pew-pew… That feels odd… It’s new. I like it !
    .-= Nefernet´s last blog ..Epic Pug =-.

  8. I didn’t have the opportunity to raid pre-BC, however, I did my share during that time, but had always played as a Shadow Priest, and while I did enjoy that time raiding, I felt like I was missing out.

    With the addition of dual specs, I decided to pick up a healing off spec, and I would have to say that I absolutely love healing, and would just like to emphasize the comment about healing making you better at DPS. However, even with being able to heal & DPS on my priest, I still felt I was missing out, so I set up my DK for tanking and melee DPS, and I would have to say that, though I don’t consider myself a good tank (I have even stopped tanking now on my DK) I did learn some valuable insights as a result of my time tanking.

    On the plus side, as well, I found that DPS as melee was quite a bit different than as a caster, and I feel like I have become a better all around player now.

    My suggestion to anyone that hasn’t tried it: try your hand at each form of playing (Tanking, Melee DPS, Caster DPS, & Healing) and you will most likely notice your all around improvement in your gaming.
    .-= Spazmoosifer´s last blog ..Calculating Pseudo Power =-.

  9. Nice article, well written !
    I enjoyed Paul’s comment too !
    All in all, I’d say that to be good in your role, you have to try them all. It’s only once you put yourself to the other’s shoes that you can get an overview of what’s going on.
    All the more, you will appreciate the down of the boss at a different scale, knowing it’s a teamwork more than your dps that made the difference.

  10. One of the best things I ever did for my tanking was to switch over to playing a healer – specifically a Paladin. It really helped my arenas as well. I have a better idea of what causes the healers pain, and what I can do as a tank to mitigate it. My only regret is that I didn’t roll a druid – because I don’t have the ranged DPS aspect available.
    .-= Adgamorix´s last blog ..OMG lrn2spl =-.

  11. This is why I encourage other guild members to try out different off specs; even if they feel they suck at said spec, they can get a feel for how it is to play a different part of the equation. I am much more comfortable as a dpser, for I’d rate my tanking and healing as average to slightly good, at best. That said, I’ve chipped in as a healer on my shaman when we do 2 x 10 man raids, and recently I’ve had to bring my paladin alt to fill a tank spot for one of the two groups (which in turn has geared him out for both ret and prot quite well).

    Besides, as the OP pointed out, you could find one of the other pieces of the trinity (tank/heal/dps) to be more to your liking. Never know until you try. 🙂
    .-= Kazgrel´s last blog ..Gear Score, WoW’s Catch 22: A Fail Concept =-.

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