Death of the Niche Healer

Death of the Niche Healer

Recently a topic has sprung up among many healers. There are lots of blog posts popping up about it so I figured since I’ve been going on about it for a while now, I’ll add my two copper to the public domain here, but first a story.

In the days of vanilla World of Warcraft, each faction had access to 3 healing classes. Priests and druids on both sides and paladins for alliance balanced by shaman for the horde. The lines between the roles of the healing classes was not as defined as it could be, but raids stacked healers and slogged through 40 man content with two simple commandments;

“Heal thy group! Keep thine tanks alive!

Then along came Burning Crusade. The developers evened out the sides and gave everyone access to paladins and shamans despite faction. The developers then looked at the classes and said,

“LET THERE BE HEALER SPECIALTY NICHES!”

Thus healer niches were born. In Burning Crusade each healing class had something it excelled at. Shaman healers fought with priests for the title of group healer supreme, Paladins ruled the tank healer slot and druids were perfect healers to roll between targets. The roles however got a bit too specific. Restoration shaman spent the vast majority of BC casting nothing but Chain Heal, priests spammed Circle of Healing,  paladins Flash of Light and Holy Light spammed and druids just put a hot on everything they could. As healers our jobs could be boiled down to one button push in many cases. Players geared for it and played accordingly. Needless to say this got boring. As a person who cast nothing but Chain Heal through all of Black Temple I can vouch for this.

With Wrath of the Lich King on the horizon, the devs looked upon their world and saw that groups were picking healers based on class and not skill. So from on high they spoke out their voices echoing from the heavens

“LET THERE BE EQUALITY AMONGST HEALERS!”

Thus each healing class was gifted with new tools to help them fill various healing roles in the group. Shaman gained the ability to heal on the move and gained even stronger single target healing, druids joined the ranks of an accomplished swing healer. Priests rejoiced as discipline became an accepted way of life and paladins embraced their bacon. Raid leaders reveled in the choice of skill versus class and the land was truly flowing with milk and honey.

I hope you liked my little story there, I know I enjoyed it. It is however a true story. In the early days of the game no one really cared what the healers were doing as long as everything stayed alive long enough for the boss to drop. In BC everyone had a specific role or at least a lot more so than the one we had in vanilla. As a shaman I personally cast down-ranked chain heal more times in one night raiding than most people blink. Point was people began to take very specific healing classes for encounters as the healing strengths were specifically needed for that encounter. This is largely how BC ended with each healer falling into the category¬† of raid healing, tank healing and then the specifics of which flavor of each. To be honest it got a little out of hand. There were several points where shaman for example would claim they couldn’t heal Magisters Terrace, and unless they woefully out-geared the place, they were right. Some healers could walk into a 5 man heroic and not break a sweat while others had to work and work hard in even some of the simplest dungeons. It simply wasn’t balanced.

When Wrath came along all of that changed. The game devs actually went out of their way to make sure tools were put in place to allow each healer to fill each role. Whether it was a glyph, a new spell or tweaking talents and abilities, they went all out in trying to sure up healer equality. It has been a balancing act since that’s for sure, and if anyone remembers back in may when I got on my soap box about the State of Chain Heal, in some cases healers were tweaked too much to the point they were way too far homogenized. However even with the hard mode debacle, for the most part there was healer equality. Each of the classes could heal a tank, or heal a group and each could walk into a 5 man heroic and as long as the player was on their feet and paying attention they were capable of doing it. After the last set of tweaks from the devs this became even more the case. As it stands now each of the classes and in the case of priests, each healing spec, is capable of healing a tank or raid healing effectively. While some excel slightly better than others in those varying situations, the truth is they can still perform in the role and that is what evening out the healing lines is all about.

With all the options we have, I for one am very happy. Recently however there has been a new, for lack of a better term here, healer subculture emerging within the community. Players of each of the healing classes / specs are starting to demand their niches again. Whether it’s a shaman demanding to be the king of chain heal once more or a paladin begging to be only useful on tank heals, the proof is out there. People are actively trying to secure a niche in raid groups. This honestly strikes me as odd. Why would you want to go back to a way of doing things that honestly people complained bout incessantly. Why try to cling to a system that forces you to cast only one spell when you have an entire arsenal of heals available to you for any task you could be handed?

That’s the part I don’t get. I’m ok with wanted to be the best at something or even better than someone else but to actively shoe-horn yourself into a single role seems counter productive. As a healer I love being versatile, being able to sling chain heals until I’m blue in the face or swap out and lay some nukes on a tank, I like having the option. As a raid officer and healing lead I enjoy this versatility even more. I love being able to take a disc priest and tear them off of tank healing to make them raid heal. Same goes for shuffling priests and healers. I like being able to give my healers a little variety so they aren’t doing the same thing every day. I like to think they appreciate it as well. What I love most about it though is not having to rely on specific classes to be present to proceed through content like it was back in BC. So after many players struggling for so long to have this amount of versatility, why try to limit yourself. This subgroup centers around the idea that a healer should perform one function incredibly well, but not much else. A perfect example would be shaman who feel that they should only focus on casting and buffing chain heal, while ignoring all other spells.

So after clawing your way out of the niche market to be viable in all circumstances, why try to go back?

That’s it for today folks, until next time Happy Healing!~

What do you think? Do you think healers should focus on their specialty and nothing more? Do you think healer versatility is key?

About Lodur

Lodur is the right hand shaman to Matticus on World of Matticus, and a recruiting officer of Conquest and Co-Host of For the Lore podcast. Read more of his works at WoW Insider.

41 comments

Trackbacks

  1. [...] discusses the death of healer niches… and I think he’s saying something else, too. Seems fishy to [...]

  2. [...] discusses the death of healer niches… and I think he’s saying something else, too. Seems fishy to [...]

  3. [...] discusses the death of healer niches… and I think he’s saying something else, too. Seems fishy to [...]

  4. [...] discusses the death of healer niches… and I think he’s saying something else, too. Seems fishy to [...]

  5. [...] Home › Druids › Death of the Niche Healer [...]