Zone Healing

Ever play Ultimate (or Ultimate Frisbee)?

The rules are quite simple. You have two teams starting at opposite end zones who attempt to advance the disc to the other team’s end zone. Once the pull (like a kickoff in football) is initiated the teams can start jockeying for possession. A team that advances the disc to an end zone secures the point.

Kicker: The person with the disc can’t move. They can pivot on one foot but they can’t move. The opposing team gains possession whenever any pass is incomplete, intercepted, or received out of bounds .

Teams will employ different strategies to prevent the other team from scoring. One of the common defensive strategies is zone defense. Players are pre-assigned to sections of the field as they attempt to intercept and stop opposing players from advancing towards their end zone. It’s used to stop the offensive team from making really long passes. There’s usually one or two players that will close in on the disc handler. There’s different variations of it, but the key concept is that the defenders have their own sections to work with (not to mention that covering a small area instead of advancing up and down the field all the time is great at minimizing fatigue — I would know).

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Zone healing

Now the concept of zone healing works the same way and is used in situations where not every player is within range of the healer or where players are constantly shifting in and out of range. Sometimes there are raid mechanism place preventing you from moving or that keep you constantly away from each other. Zone healing is an approach that directs the healers to only heal the people that are within range of them. They must trust the other healers to cover the players near themselves in other areas. If you’re assigned to the blue beam of Durumu’s platform, then you can heal anyone that comes in range as the other beams are being moved around. Most raid frames have a function where the individual frames turn transparent if a player isn’t in range. As the healer, this makes your job easier. Any frames that are opaque (or solid) are the players that depend on you to live.

I understand, I have trust issues too. For the officers, zone healing is a great way to isolate which healers are true rock stars and which ones are struggling.

It’s a simple and effective healing strategy to use if the encounter demands everyone to be spread out. Let me give you some examples:

Ji-Kun

Ji-Kun has an ability called Caw. It’s a common raid mechanic where she’ll send sound waves at a player and damages anyone nearby within 8 yards. This calls for people to be spaced out around her main platform. Depending on which Ji-Kun strategy you use, you’ll have groups clearing out nests and may not have the same, consistent number of players on the main platform at all times. Be flexible.

Dark Animus

Healers will have to generate threat on the little anima golems at the start of the fight to hold them in place. If the golems are brought together, their attack speed greatly increases and will quickly snowball into a wipe. This requires everyone to stand in place. As the little golems are gradually killed near the Massive Anima, players will be freed up and can move around the room consistently. In addition, Matter Swap will switch players with their most distant ally forcing healers to react accordingly and dispel or heal any teleported players.

As a healer, you’re not going to be able to hit everybody. DPS and tanks will come and go through your area of the map. It won’t always be a set group of players all the time. Keep the players in your zone healthy!

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How about a training dummy/event for healers?

OK, so there is this awesome new set of training dummies in the Mists beta that gives someone facing, raid buffs, food buffs and flask buffs, can be killed and has about 50 million health. It’s a pretty damn cool new tool for players to try to more accurately judge their DPS in a raid environment without having to actually go in to a raid. It’s a wonderful idea, a great idea and a necessary idea.

But how about one for healers?

So, lets lay it out there, healing is a stressful job, accompanied by a certain sense of anxiety and dread that accompanies healing a group for the first time. I hear horror stories of people getting booted out of instance all the time when they first start healing because they are new and not perfect. It’s a huge fear. One of the things I always suggest to new healers is to pop into a battle ground. As folks on twitter have pointed out, and I’ve agreed with for years, it helps you sort your UI, and it helps you learn some of the aspects of healing like triage. But it doesn’t teach you everything. Healing a PvP group isn’t quite the same as an instance, especially when you have to manage cooldowns and mana usage for boss mechanics, tanks, DPS and yourself.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t heal in PvP, by all means you should as it’s a great way to test out your UI, spells and what they do as well as key binds, but I still find fighting against another group of people is much different than fighting against a raid or boss design. I just want to make it clear I’m not discrediting PvP healing as a learning tool, but there’s no elegant solution to it. I mean, even Rift has healing dummies to help you gauge yourself.

Now here’s a thought that’s been on my mind for a couple months now. In The Secret World there’s a test you have to take for your preferred role to access nightmare content, and it’s called the gatekeeper. What the gatekeeper does is it forces you to respond to mechanics and use your toolkit. When I stumbled upon this I was immediately reminded of a very old class quest in Vanilla World of Warcraft , and I’m sure some of you will already know where I’m going with this.

Remember when you went for your Benediction priests? Do you remember the difficulty of that class quest and how it made you use everything you had to smartly complete the quest? It was an awesome class quest that worked within the confines of the character class at the time.

So here’s my proposal, lets have something, an event,  that you can go into that gives you NPC party members to heal and a faux boss fight. Through this, players could individually test their mettle, get logs and see if they were having issues without having to risk embarrassment or ridicule. Yes I know it’s an MMO and yes I know there are social requirements to be had, but DPS can go to a dummy and test out their numbers, why shouldn’t other classes get something similar? Why not a faux encounter like the Gatekeeper in TSW that lets you test out our abilities in relative safety. Think of how something like this could benefit healers.

Lets take that a step further, how much would something like this benefit tanks as well, or DPS. It would be an amazing boon. It would relieve so much pressure by eliminating at least partially the notion that you have to be perfect on your first time out. You could test to some extent and get an idea before ever having to walk into an instance. I would wager that if something like this was implemented there would be a lot more willing healers, and a lot more willing tanks. I can’t count how many times people in my own guild have said that they would want to try healing or tanking, but don’t want to do so in a manner that would waste someone’s time while they were learning. It’s nice to have friends to call on to learn this stuff, but sometimes they just aren’t around to help at the times you need them.

Yes you could make the argument that you can learn this while you level up and learn your abilities, but at the end of the day I’d be willing to be the amount of people that level through instances isn’t nearly as great as those that level through questing. Even though questing as a healer or tank has gotten better, it’s more often than not more effective to level as a DPS spec anyways. I’ve had healers message me for advice, and then when they get ridiculed in a 5-man or an LFR, or a new raid they just stop because while they were learning, not everyone understood that and made it twice as difficult.

The Gatekeeper system is one of the best things I’ve seen implemented into an MMO in years, it is something I would love to see re-purposed in other MMOs, if only tooled a bit differently. In our case a repeatable event or quest that lets you test yourself, your new gem setup, your new talent choices, your new reforging or just learning how spells work without the opportunity cost of failing publicly before you’re ready. Lets just make it more of an event and less of a test, make it something healers and tanks could use to get a feel for their respective roles.

Is it  a perfect solution, I can’t really say, but healers and tanks need some love too. Having a new tool for DPS to check their numbers with full raid buffs is really nice, but don’t leave out the healers and tanks, the two most stressful jobs you can choose to undertake in just about any game. I just think adding something like this would be amazing, useful, and combined with everything else at our finger tips would just further strengthen our healers and tanks, and their confidence in their roles.

I’ll write more on this later I’m sure, something more in-depth and detailed, but for now I’m curious to see what you think. Would this be something you’d like to see implemented for healers and tanks?

Oh Chakra, How You’ve Changed

Keybinds.

So many keybinds.

Another expansion means more new spells and abilities and we’re gradually running out of keys to use. Chakra’s been split three ways now. As you know, the corresponding bonus you get from Chakra is decided base on what spell you use immediately after Chakra has activated.

Now you can just activate whichever Chakra you want by hitting a button.

So on the one hand, that’s nice because you don’t have to rely on spell selection anymore to get the Chakra you want.

Question: No more fat fingering the wrong spell and being in the wrong Chakra stance. Hands up! How many times did mistakenly  you hit Prayer of Mending after casting Chakra and being in Chakra: Sanctuary instead of being in Chakra: Serenity specifically for a phase?

On the other hand, now I have to find a way to free up more keys for the individual Chakra bonuses. I figure I can just stick to Chakra: Serenity and Chakra: Sanctuary. Not sure how often I’d use Chakra: Chastise unless I’m leveling.

The Killer Instinct of Healing

Aunaka wrote a nifty post wondering if great healers could be taught. Not quite sure if a truly great healer can be. How would you even start defining that? Someone who shows up all the time? A player capable of carrying the raid? A Druid who’s able to solo heal the last 10% of a raid boss? I’d classify a great healer as a player who is not only technically sound, but results-oriented. They’re the players who put aside everything and find ways to win.

Would you have thought to Life Grip the tank away from the boss to buy time for them to live?

What about using Pain Suppression on a DPS player so that it was one less player to worry about when healing your group?

You did the research. You read the forums. You followed along with the discussion. You gained the technical knowledge on the best times and best targets to use your spells on. What you’re not taught is that there’s multiple right answers to the same problems and different degrees of success.

This is where the killer instinct of healing comes into play.

There’s a marked difference in approach between an alt healer that has played for years versus a healer that’s done nothing but heal. It’s easy to teach a new healer the basics about their spells, resource management, and so on. However, I don’t believe it’s possible to instil that survival instinct of healing. That alt healer guy mains a Retribution Paladin, perhaps. All they’re interested in is unloading the DPS and only comes in to relief heal as a break from DPS or because there isn’t enough healers for that day.Having a killer instinct is an approach that needs to be embraced and can’t be taught. You start making your own decisions and throw “the book” out the window because “the book” didn’t cover the situation you were in.

Case study

Hard mode Yor’sahj calls for two Paladins to help heal during the purple phases. Guess what? You might not have two Paladins. Find a work around. Sometimes that means letting the tank die on one occasion and using the Battle Res. I struggled when I didn’t have two Paladins to work with. 1 Paladin healed the first tank and I took the second one. We ended up using 3 Rebirths because I struggled like crazy to keep my tank alive during the various purple oozes. Relied endlessly on Prayer of Mending so as to not detonate our tank and really strategic cooldowns.

Listen, as much I want to, I can’t teach you to be desperate.

I can’t teach you how to be hungry.

I can’t teach you to want a boss kill badly enough that you’ll consider using unorthodox specs, weird spells, and what-the-hell inducing plays.

One thing I learned when playing hockey is that you play hard every shift between the whistle. In WoW terms, you don’t stop what you’re doing until the raid leader says “Wipe it up”. If you’re busting your ass healing, you better expect everyone in your raid to be right there with you. This isn’t a casual philosophy in any aspect.

As my uncle Freudicus, a psychologist, once told me, “It’s all in the id, kid!”.

You’ll be a good healer by reading, asking, and watching other healers play. Being a great healer requires the attitude, the work ethic, and the burning desire. It can’t be taught but maybe it can be learned.

Atonement Priests in Mists

Edit: As of build 15640, Atonement is no longer a glyph or a talent. It appears to be a baseline ability built into Discipline and will not be accessible to Holy. Discipline Priests will learn it at level 60.

Plan on going Atonement? The process has changed.

For starters, Atonement isn’t something you talent into anymore. Instead, all the relevant abilities are located in your glyphs (See the above screenshot).

Atonement presently takes up a Major glyph slot. For it to continue being a strong style of healing for Priests, you’ll need to grab Glyph of Smite. You could grab Glyph of Holy Fire but it doesn’t seem to be as important. In order to be an Atonement priest, you must have the Atonement glyph and the Smite glyph. The Holy Fire glyph makes the spell instant but might not be a necessity depending on the encounters.

Not quite sure how I feel about moving Atonement from talents to glyphs. I understand what the move was made: So that Priests could really pick out their talents without feeling they had to force themselves down one route. At the same time though, limiting it to a glyph means that Atonement Priests don’t have as much flexibility either when it comes to glyph selection. I’d wager that you’d still have to grab Archangel in order to remain competitive.

The bright side is that you can go Atonement as Holy.  Chakra: Chastise increases the potency even further.

That third glyph slot?

You could go with the Glyph of Circle of Healing or Glyph of Penance as your two spec stapes.

There hasn’t been much change to the style of healing. If you’re comfortable playing Atonement right now, you should have no difficulties heading into the expansion. At least you can set up a specific glyph page just for Atonement.

Leveling as Smite spec? Still good to go (I’ve been doing it from 85 – 87).

Will you be giving Atonement a shot in Mists?