Why It’s A Problem That Healers Don’t Communicate in PUGs

The end is nigh.

Healers don’t communicate properly in PUGs. It’s a can of worms waiting to explode in Cataclysm.

WotLK minted many new practices, including PUGing raids. While the level and quality of communication in PUGs has always been unpredictable, there’s been decline in healer communication since the LFD tool was introduced.

People don’t seem to want to engage in communication unless pushed. I rarely see anyone bring up the topic of healing assignments. I usually wait to see if anyone else will initiate communication to sort tank and raid assignments and then organise it myself. The favourite responses vary from “sure”, “just heal ffs” and the particularly fine “lol Apeorsa tht healing setup is so naxx”.

Considering how players might feel these days I’m not greatly surprised at this lack of communication. As the root of group play, random 5 mans are largely to blame. They tend towards brief and impersonal affairs at best and arenas for bullying at worst. Sure, nice runs do happen – but for some there’s little incentive to be nice with strangers they’ll see once. There are no seeds of trust and friendship, and that dearth puts cracks in the foundations we build bigger PUGs on.

I’m sure some healers think communication in PUGs is unnecessary. From their POV, they’re kinda right. Think of a tree – call him Furtree. He’s used to raiding with his guild. Perhaps PUGs just don’t feel the same – he doesn’t get the mutual comradeship and pride he does with his guild. Perhaps VoA25 isn’t the challenge he’s used to in his guild’s ICChardmode runs. He has no reason to show loyalty or effort; he’s only here for a handful of badges to put a minute edge on already spiffy gear.

As a seasoned raider he might have a lack of patience with less experienced healers, or anyone inclined to ‘overtalk’ the situation – he just wants to get through the fast content as fast as possible. Many of us – including me – have been guilty of these at times. We’re slightly bored by now. I’ve even seen healers hiring themselves out as one-man-band progression healers, effectively amputating dialogue and shared learning.

At the other end of the spectrum we have new, struggling, healers. Imagine Timmy the timid priest who’s hit 80 and has blues and 219s. He wants to PUG for kit and badges, but PUGs can be harsh. Timmy’s more likely to be laughed off than invited to PUGs. When he does get an invite to his first ToC25 and the raid wipes to Burning Inferno because the healers didn’t communicate on Incinerate Flesh, Timmy’s may well get the blame.

Healers not talking mean that new healers don’t learn their own versatility in encounters or specifics behind healer setup. Sure, Timmy can read and watch tactics, but there’s an equation for learning encounters you’ve never seen plus how to heal in the first place which doesn’t necessarily = 2, for new healers.


A lack of teaching and support from other healers could have several effects. Timmy might get bored because the other healers have it covered. Or Timmy may believe all wipes are his fault and he can’t heal. Or he’ll have been given the easiest job and will think he’s brilliant – then he joins a guild and his lack of knowledge sticks out like a sore thumb. All of these can turn a new healer off of healing. There aren’t many of us to start with!

It adds up to a vicious circle in which there’s no incentive to communicate in PUGs. As in random five mans you’re unlikely to see these people regularly. As in random five mans it’s easy to believe you needn’t be loyal to anything but your character’s gear, for various excuses from improving it for guildruns or because you have something to prove. As in random five mans the atmosphere can be of distrust, which increases the chances to wipe when no-one’s healing the tank, and then snipe at each other with Blame Bullets. Frankly, I’ve found that people are grateful and relaxed if you run groups saying there’ll be oodles of communication.

Communication is the foundation of relationships. By not engaging in it any more than necessary healers distance themselves from possible ‘relationships’ in game – be they new friendships or just networking for team members. We should never, ever forget how to socialise in a game we play with other people.

If that’s not incentive enough consider this. Cataclysm is going to challenge us in ways Wrath wasn’t meant to. Healers may face changes to mana and even role setup. We’re going to need to communicate. It may come as a shock; falling into apathetic and uncommunicative habits now is signing our characters’ – and WoW’s – death warrants.

Crucial tweaks to the LFD system – like cross-realm friends lists – would encourage us all to communicate better. Whether or not that happens we can all take responsibility now, in content we might be bored of. Take fresh interest in ‘healing’ the foundations – just by putting a bit more effort in. For The Cataclysm!

I’m not whining; there are positive cases and it’s not all bad. I’m genuinely concerned. Question is -what do you think? Have you noticed a difference in communication or has it not been too bad where you are? Do you think this could turn into a longterm problem or am I doomsaying? Do you think we’ll be flexible enough to adapt out of bad habits?

This is an article by Mimetir, an owl (and resto shaman) of a raid leader on The Venture Co. (EU) You can find my twitter feed here.

Article image2 originally by Tim Trueman @ Flickr

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  1. Well, I’m not sure about the correlation with LFD but healing team communication is dead in wrath that much is clear. I think that the culprit may be that communication just isn’t needed given the encounter and class designs in wrath. At this point in the expansions the class roles are firmly set. Holy Paladins (and disc priests) will handle the tanks. Druids, Shaman, and Holy Priests will handle the raid. Each raid healing class is capable of such an extraordinary amount of output that assignments just aren’t needed to down the first 6 or so ICC bosses. LFD has certainly trained players to quietly assassinate bosses, but if any communication was required for encounters I am sure it would come back.

  2. Lately all my PUGs have had a quiet chat. Everyone out to know what to do and no one wants to wait and explain it to the new player. I have even encountered people that don’t dare to say they haven’t done a sertain boss, ever or just as a healer before, because they are afraid of being kicked from the group. And sometimes, when they say they’re new – they get kicked. I also experience when the PUG actually do communicate the laguage is just horrible, namecalling and swearing, though this might just be on my server.

    I agree we need to talk to our fellow healers(and also our tanks and dps), to make sure they stick around in Catalysm!

  3. Too true I am afraid – and one of the main reasons I tend to be disinclined to PuG anything more complex than VoA – I like to have fun and enjoy my game – not play in silence – where has the banter gone?. Mind you given the fact that all players MUST have a certain GS (not just healers – everybody), and a full set of achs now to even GET a spot on a VoA25, never mind ICC or a hardmode ToC… well surely thats even more offputting for a new player – whats the point in levelling a healer to 80 only to find you can’t go anywhwere because you don’t have the ticks in boxes and noone is willing to take the chance that there might be some serious skills under those 219s.

    Its all so impersonal now – tis a shame – and I do hope it gets better in Cataclysm.

  4. “Communication is the foundation of relationships. By not engaging in it any more than necessary healers distance themselves from possible ‘relationships’ in game – be they new friendships or just networking for team members. We should never, ever forget how to socialise in a game we play with other people.”

    I’m appalled! I bumped into you in Borean Tundra the other day and you didn’t return my hello! (I’m not going to lie, the thought of ganking did occur to me. Can you ever gank someone in a friendly way?)

    Must say though, all my PuGs Horde side on TVC have been pretty positive except (perhaps ironically) the one’s led by your faction’s current best progressed guild. My little warrior has only been shouted at once hordeside too. In VOA again by someone from TS who was bitter that my heroic geared warrior would be able to roll on his loot.
    .-= Echo´s last blog ..A reminder of why I still raid =-.

  5. Paladins heal the tanks and sort the beacons themselves (like the Mage crit buff round robin normally), Druids hot everything in sight, Shamans and Priests fill in holes. Very rarely does healing vary from this in 10 mans (unless you lack paladin healers) and even on 25s it tends to be the same.

    There are no real party based heals (so grouping people together made sense), there are few multi-area fights where healers are forced to split up. My healing experience (4/12 icc paladin, 11/12 icc holy priest, some hcs on my new dudu) so far has basically been that I will take the role suited to me automatically and fill in (so I will ensure the tanks have the inspiration buff despite being a nominal raid healer). If a health bar I need to look at has a deficit then I make it have less of one, I miss the days of party based and trying not to step on toes.

  6. Agreed, my communication in raid pugs is mostly not healer specific. It’ll be “ok mage X please help me decurse, Priest Y if you need mana and I don’t tell me youd like my innervate, everyone know your role and shout if you need help”. I think Cataclysm will mix things up a bit, or at least that’s blizzard’s hope, but right now the roles are the roles and everyone knows them.
    .-= Analogue´s last blog ..Always ready to help out =-.

  7. I was the healing officer in a hardcore guild in BC. I took a break for most of WotLK but am now pugging 10/25 man ICC. Since it is a PuG there isn’t a specific healing chat channel but luckily most groups put us all in the same party. I swear our party chat feels like it goes like this every time.

    Me: Who’s on which tank?
    2 Pallys: We are.
    Me: Which tank are you on?
    2 Pallies: Both of them.
    Me: Shouldn’t you each pick one?
    2 Pallies: We can heal both with Beacon. It doesn’t matter.
    Me: Doesn’t Beacon have a delay?
    2 Pallies: …..
    Me: Just talk to each other and pick a main focus. It will make things easier if for some reason both tanks get hit hard at the same time.

    Me: So how do we want to want to split up raid healing?
    Shaman/Priest: Split raid?
    Me: Which party do you want to focus on?
    Shaman/Priest: We can’t do that. We heal raid.
    Me: What happens if the whole raid gets hit at the same time?
    Shaman/Priest: We heal it.
    Me: But you have to focus somewhere. What if we all focus on party 1 and party 5 all dies? I realize some of our heals can’t be targeted but some can. It helps us prioritize.
    Shaman/Priest: ….
    Me: Just do me a favor. Shaman take group 1. Priest group 3. I’ll take 5. We’ll all look after 2/4 if they get low then help each other if time allows.

    Meanwhile the raid leader is sending ready checks like crazy and asking why the healers are holding up the raid.

    It’s a different world that’s for sure.

  8. In all my research as I leveled my first potential healer to 80 (a Shaman) I would read a lot about the importance to discuss healing assignments, etc. It seems I was researching the “old shcool” method of raiding, because I can’t remember a single time where there were any other healers or raid leaders willing to communicate with me. It’s always been:

    “u shaman, u raid heal”

    In my own experience, Malfurion server (US), communication of any significance doesn’t exist in pug raids. Most of the time people are complaining or yelling or blaming or they are quiet and nobody says anything.

    I’m not sure that Cataclysm will make people communicate, however. I think the bad habits of wrath and the mentality of “specifically defined roles” just might be too much to overcome. But I sure do hope that the changes are so great that I will wrong, I would welcome being wrong about that.

  9. “Shaman heal group X”.

    Hang on a moment,.. I’ll just go ask my chain heal to only heal a single group for you.

  10. I’ve never had group assignments for raid healing and it worked fine. “Group X” doesn’t really work, but deciding that one healer focuses on melee and the other on ranged can be a good idea.
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..Blogging muses and chance encounters =-.

  11. @Hanna – yes, I’ve come across people who don’t like to admit they’ve not done bosses before, too. And it’s not just healers but DPS/tanks too – I thnk it’s generally assumed that everyone’s done all the traditionally PUGable content and know it by rote, including role specific tactics they might not have encountered on another character.

    @Echo – I seem to remember I moo’ed at you, which for a Herd member is like “Hi!” I was also at the time escorting my mother’s wee mage, so had half an eye on protecting her from the Big Bad Alliance 😉

    @2ndNin – aye, it does seem a bit interactively mechanical. Why do you think this is – mostly because of healing boiling down to “you won’t run out of mana but you can produce huge numbers, just don’t stand in the fire/goo”, or something else?

    Re: group healing assignments. I have to admit I mostly missed experiencing that as a healer back in TBC and kind of rue that it’s gone. The closest compromise resto shamans can get to “heal group X” is “i’ll focus on melee with some splash effect on tanks” (or “on ranged”) but aye – assignments might not be the same as TBC but they’re still around.

  12. I enjoyed your article and would like to add that as priests we mostly been pushed to the back of the line especially in icc. Raid leaders in 10 and 25 man ICC first choose a druid and pally or shammy team over a holy priest. Disc priests have an edge now but holy especially has been put on the back burner. I read that in new expansion Blizzard will make pvp better for holy priests- so that is something to look forward to. But right now, the holy priest, once the bella of Wow, now is mostly treated like an old dust rag.

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