Symbiotic Altoholism

This is a guest post by Saunder, a Holy Paladin from Non-squishy Heals.

Before I start I guess I should say a bit about myself. I have 2 level 80 Holy/Ret dual-specced Pallys (instance as holy, solo as ret), a 73 hunter and a 58 druid. Well I have lots more, but they are the important ones.

Most of you will be familiar with the idea of Symbiotic relationships. One definition of such relationships is that it occurs where both organisms benefit. I see alts as exactly this sort of relationship.

The hunter was my original toon. I leveled him in the blissful ignorance that comes from not reading about game mechanics, and running instances in the totally blithe knowledge that the tank will *always* have aggro, and the healer will *always* keep you alive. After all, a hunter is DPS so all that matters is how much damage he or she can do, yes?

I then rolled a Pally, and enjoyed it. I liked healing and now my Pallys are unquestionably my mains … Can you have multiple ‘main’s? Anyway … And I found out some rather nasty truths. The first one was that Hunters who don’t manage their own aggro, even at the expense of their DPS are very very unpleasant group mates to have for healers at times. I have come to realise that my play as the hunter has been immeasurably improved by playing a healer. You may ask why – well, now I know that DPS isn’t everything. You need to find ways to put out the best DPS *without* pulling more threat than the tank and, if that isn’t enough, sometimes there is no better thing for the group and the run as a whole than for the DPS to fall on their sword and protect the healer, even at the expense of their own life and repair bill. It’s not what you signed up for, but it *is* the hard reality. Not only have these observations led to much improved play as the hunter, I hope that the number of pug members swearing at me behind my back has decreased markedly. I firmly believe that to be a really effective DPS, you need to play a healer, most likely to a high enough level to run some reasonable instances with pugs and learn some of the mistakes that will keep you on your main, and your group mates, alive and happy longer.

The second truth I found was that of healing priorities. In an instance, your first and foremost role as a healer is to stay alive. That may be a very selfish view, but seriously, how much healing can you do dead? The best tank and group in the world will need heals at some point (ok, with a couple of Blood DK’s or a hybrid class that can step in that may not be an absolute, but you know what I mean) and that means you the healer need to be alive and kicking so that you can provide those heals. (It’s also a pain in the behind to have to keep running back from a graveyard if you are the only one who can res but that is secondary). The next priority is the tank. Obviously anyone who is going to keep the attention of the instance denizens away from you and the rest of the group is a good person to look after. And, in case you hadn’t noticed, healers tend to be high up there on the threat table. Second on a threat table is a bad place to be if the first on the table dies, usually leading to the situation above where you can’t heal the rest of the group as you are dead!

So there it is, Healing Priorities in a nutshell. Now, now, now, before I hear all you DPS baying at the moon for my blood (do feral Druids in kitty form still bay? *grin*), I don’t mean that I don’t heal the DPS, far from it. I will heal anyone in a party or raid, players, pets, mind controlled mobs or whoever but I will heal them after I heal myself and the tank. In a perfect world no-one will die in an instance run, but, with the exceptions of DPS-races where the boss enrage-wipes, the death of a DPS is merely an inconvenience. The death of a tank or healer is often disastrous. DPS need to understand that there are times, and that is particularly true if they do something crazy, that death is inevitable. Live with it, and know that we your healers try to keep it to a minimum.

Then there is the very uncomfortable truth that there are players out there who just don’t seem to ‘get’ it. You can tell them that unloading the full barrage of their uber talents and abilities before the tank has established threat is a bad idea until you are blue in the face and they will not change their ways. Surprising how fast they learn when you let them die as a result of their actions. Explain to them the pain they are causing, then if they don’t learn, just practice tough love. They will, and the group as a whole will thank you for it in the long term.

So on the one hand, playing a healer alt really is a good thing for the DPS classes out there, and as a side effect, obviously, some percentage of you will find that you like healing, thus helping with the perpetual healer shortage. Excellent. I can live with that! :D On the other hand, it is just as valuable for a healing class to play the DPS role. Why you ask? As a healer, you need to know as much as possible that will make your runs more successful. After all, rightly or wrongly, the finger of blame is often pointed at the healer when there are problems. That means knowing the mistakes the other classes are likely to make. It can be a general knowledge such as the hunter example above, or it could be something much more specific. When that particular glow comes from the mage’s hands, for example, a LOT of AOE damage is about to happen, and that, in turn, leads to a LOT of threat. So have the big heal part way throughcasting so that if the mage *does* get aggro you might save them from being one-shotted. For those classes where you have emergency buttons, bubbling a mage in those sort of circumstance is not a bad idea. How cool is it to hear the anguished sounds that the clothies make on vent when they get aggro only to find they are still alive! You get to sit back and bask in the adulation of your peers. Ok, they mostly just grunt at you and expect it, but that’s the life of a healer

Really look at the benefits of the different instance roles. Playing a different role is a big way to get fresh enjoyment and experiences. It will keep it interesting at the very least, and you never know, you might actually learn something and make life easier for everyone around you.

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11 thoughts on “Symbiotic Altoholism”

  1. I’ve always loved that playing other classes make it so that I’m more knowledgeable of the other classes. I’ve at least alted a few levels on all of them, and I’ve experienced friends’ higher-level characters on the rest. Being able to put yourself into someone else’s shoes helps a lot, and it really does prevent the “know-it-all” group-member syndrome from setting in.

    I can’t count the times I’ve had someone criticize my healing because they think my class can do something it can’t, like PWS them when I’m on my Druid.

    And we can’t forget the “Idiot Whispers: Can you port me to Shat?” when I’m on my Warlock.
    .-= Beej´s last blog ..Leveling through PvP Battlegrounds in World of Warcraft Patch 3.2 =-.

  2. Self Beacon FTW! I’ve found, being mostly a tank healer in raids, that I can throw beacon of light on myself, heal the tank AND throw a few heals to those pesky DPSers…

    great article!

  3. I will probably be linking to this in the future. You said much more eloquently and in greater detail what I have said many many times. 😀

    EXCELLENT post.

  4. Wow, you have actually had a dps protect the healer and not get angry when they start drawing more aggro than the tank and healer cant keep them and tank healed. You clearly have better group mates on WoW than I do. Course I am almost exclusively healing PuGs. Maybe I need better friends. 🙂

  5. Good article, I’ve played most of the classes the game has to offer (my first and only ‘main,’ of course, being my HPriest), and I’ve learned quite a lot about my PUG-/Guild-mates as a consequence. I’d invert the healing priorities, though, putting Tank first, me second (“the tank, then me, then thee” is the old adage). I’ve won a number of fights where I succumbed, healed in Angel Form as long as I could, loaded up the Tank with Pom and Renew at the bitter end, and had it juuuust be enough to carry the day. On the other hand, I’ve never won a fight where I’ve prioritised keeping myself up over the Tank (clothtank ftl).

    Off-topic, The title made me chuckle… I’ve taken ‘symbiotic altoholism’ to a bit of a silly degree… it all started when Wrath was approaching, and I knew I wanted a DK. I figured, though, that I’d be better off learning how to tank first with a lowbie than with an L55, so I rolled a Warrior. Then for sheer DOTty joy I rolled a Lock for good measure (confession: one of my WoW goals is to have a character for every class that the Forsaken can roll). Then I went a step further and- deciding I wanted my DK to be a BS/Scribe- had both pick up Herbing/Mining and set out across the world, stockpiling tons of the stuff into my bank-alt’s guild bank (three tabs full- woot!).

    Today the War and the Lock are L61. And because I had so much fun doing it the first time, I’m now grooming a L21 Mage and Shaman, chasing my L25 Rogue across Azeroth (each loving the Heritage shoulders that all three take turns using)… and yep, Herbers/Miners all. My L74 DK is a perfectly happy and well-supplied master Scribe (though it didn’t work out so well for Blacksmithing, alas, and I’ve had to supplement from the AH).

    The last pieces of the “grand symbiosis” fell into place when my ex and her brother quit playing, leaaving me with a L64 Pally (Herb/Alch) and L70 Shammy (lid-level Ench and Skin) on my acct. I dropped Skinning, picked up JC, and watched my bank account suffer maxxing that out to where I could do the Dal dailies.

    Soooo…. cloth drops go to my 80 HPriest (Tailor/Herb), crafted and sent to the 70 Shammy for disenchant. Ores go to my War/Lock for smelting, bars then sent to the DK for crafting, and the craftings off to the Shammy for breakup. Or ores to the Shammy for prospecting. Herbs go to the DK to turn into inks for glyphs for all toons. DK turns around and makes Vellums to go to the Shammy for Enchants for all toons (lowbies sporting Crusader = joy). If I want some potions or elixirs, I divert an herb shipment off to the Pally. Transmutes? Got that covered too. Meanwhile a steady flow of glyphs, enchants, gems and miscellany get carted off to the bank alt for the AH.

    Now *that* is symbiotic altoholism!

  6. So true, and well written 🙂 My main was initially a dps warrior. I switched to a holy priest for Burning Crusade, and then turned dps with her as well near the end of the xpac, as well as training up my warrior to be a tank. For Wrath I went back to the warrior exclusively, and am now 1 of 2 of my guild’s MTs.
    Playing all the roles has helped me substantially. I no longer call out for heals in raids, as I know for damned sure my healers are aware of the situation- instead I just pop a cooldown and make sure my healers know its gone, and that I still have some emergency buttons if they need them.
    Playing a DPS has increased my overall skills as a tank- generally, DPS in heroics want you to pull, and fast. They are not content to sit and wait for 5 sunders, so you are forced to learn how to generate a lot of snap threat very quickly.
    Likewise playing a tank has helped my DPSing a lot- I actually *do* wait for the tank to hit all the mobs at least once before charging in. I don’t Bladestorm the second we pull, nor do I expect to live when I do. If I don’t get heals as a dps, its not because the healer is bad, its because I’m a low priority and probably did something stupid to get hit in the first place.
    Thanks for the article! 😀

  7. @ Jonn: My favourite is when- and this only happens to me in PUG’s- someone on the DPS line starts grousing about healer agg when the only reason I’m getting healer agg is because I’m having to keep the DPS up, too. I recently ran hUK with what I thought would be a dream run- a T8-geared DK tank. Except the gaggle of DPS- in between fawning all over the tank- kept opening up full bore on the draw (meanwhile, each of them messaging me about how the other DPS’ers were ‘bringing down the run.’ I didn’t even know these blokes, and they’re whispering the healer?)

    We cleared hUK, but I politely declined the next leg of the tour.

  8. I completely agree with having to experience other classes in order to understand them better. Good class knowledge contributes to being a good player as you know what they are capable of and what to expect from them. It’s hard to make a judgement call in a raid or group if you don’t know what all of the options are.
    .-= We Fly Spitfires – MMORPG Blog´s last blog ..Quests – The Biggest Grind =-.

  9. I think I’ve taken this concepts to some extremes. By the end of BC my Druid had gear and I respeced almost daily between all 3 druid specs. The different roles lead me to roll one of every class. ATM I have 5 level 80’s encompossing all the different roles available. Of the 5 characters who aren’t 80 only one is under 70 which is my warlock.

    No matter what role I may be performing in the group I find the knowledge of all these different classes helps me organize and prioritize better. So when that hunter is pulling aggro… I can tell him why he is doing so and what he should do to avoid this.

  10. I do have to say that playing my ‘Secret Warlock’ has led me to a new appreciation for dps — I know it’s not as easy as it looks from a healer’s perspective.


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