Topic Triage Healing: Getting over "green bars"
Edited by Ashella on 12/11/10 8:52 PM (PST)
With Cataclysm comes a new style of healing. It's controversial, it's full of its fans and its haters, but, regardless of which sign you're on, it's likely to be here for awhile in some form or another. Adjusting is what good healers do, but it's been difficult for a lot of good healers in WotLK to adjust to this new style. Why? Because it's not simply about using spells in a different manner to achieve the same goal, it's about rethinking our goals and priorities as healers, which fundamentally changes everything we know: It makes us uncomfortable.
The Fundamental Flaw
While a number of issues are contributing to the misunderstanding, I believe that there's one fundamental flaw which permeates some of our deepest and most ingrained objections to the change in healing styles.
The "Old" Mindset
As healers, our job has long been to keep everyone alive, and this hasn't changed. What has changed is our definition of what constitutes alive. In the tightly tuned TBC encounters and the high-damage WotLK encounters, those who were at less than full health could quickly find themselves in a desperate situation fast. This led to a mentality among healers of keeping everyone topped off. This state of healing was taken to such an extreme that healers would often heal people who were already at full health, just to keep them top-offed as soon as they took damage.
This style of healing meant that healers were less focused on smart healing decisions and more focused on making sure they were properly rotating things like mana cooldowns so that they could always have the mana they needed to continue to spam heals. With proper gear and knowledge of how to play, healers really didn't have mana issues and really didn't have to consider which heals to use. More often than not they used a couple of heals, if that, frequently relying on "spam" or "filler" heals to keep people always at full. Fast reactions were valued, but only in how fast one could react with their biggest, baddest heal to top off the most minute of damage. Shields were amazing because damage could almost always be expected, and hots were too, since they could react to the slightest amounts of damage across targets quickly.
We've become too accustomed to making sure that health bars are always green, that they're always full, that everyone is nice and comfortable and fat and happy in the most dire of situations. This was our sub-goal, as a part of the greater goal of "keeping people alive" and while many healers are willing to adjust play styles, they're less willing to change their fundamental goals, but these goals MUST be changed in order to be viable going forward.
Health as a Resource
I played a game of Magic: The Gathering once against a man who had played it much longer and was vastly more knowledgeable about its theory than I. I had an aversion to cards which required me to use my life points as a cost for an ability, but he did not. When I questioned him on this during a game he explained it to me like this: At the beginning of each game you start with 20 life. You don't lose until your life is below 0, so you effectively have 19 life to spend. Of course, his explanation ignored the fact that your opponent is actively trying to reduce your life points as well, but those sort of critical applications of thought can be applied after we get through the basic understanding of his point: Health is a resource.
As in Magic, in World of Warcraft (and many other games for that matter) health allows us one important thing: The ability to stay alive and to keep "doing". All we need to accomplish this feat is 1 life, anything beyond 1 life is "extra" and less necessary, it gives us an effective buffer to protect that 1 life so that we can feel comfortable about staying alive. Like Maslow's hierarchy of needs, when we worry less about whether or not our character is going to stay alive we can focus more on other things, more "fun" things.
Edited by Ashella on 12/11/10 8:52 PM (PST)
The Red Zone
I'm going to steal a football term here, I apologize in advance. As I just mentioned, thinking about life in terms of "I only need 1 life, everything else is useless" is oversimplifying the point. In reality, in such games, there are opponents that want to kill us, and they kill us by taking away at that important resource of life.
Obviously a full bar is optimal. When our bar is full we have no fears or worries that our characters are about to die. We needn't worry about inexplicable events most of the time, so, we know that as long as our health is full we aren't dying any time soon. However, what "feels best" and what is "needed" are entirely different things.
What's needed? This is going to be a contentious issue, but I put forth the notion that the only health we need is enough so that we can survive the few seconds necessary for a healer to see our health getting low and give us a heal to bring us back to that "Safe" point. I'm going to call this area the "Red zone". The Red Zone is likely to fluctuate from fight to fight, some fights have more damage going out than others and you'll need more of a buffer from "alive" to "dead". However, on the whole, a good place to aim for is roughly 50% health. I think it's safe to assume that, at present, most of Blizzard's encounters have been designed so that, if everyone is doing what they're supposed to: A) Not standing in bad stuff, B) Performing their role, C) Healers are healing, that no one should die before they can get a heal if they're at 50%.
Full Health as a Luxury
With this model in mind, getting someone to full health is not necessarily a "bad" thing, just an "inefficient" thing. Healing someone to full is essentially a "luxury", if you can afford it, do it. However, if you're finding that you're running out of mana, or that other people are dying while you're trying to "top off" someone else, then you obviously can't afford this luxury, it's interfering with your primary job of keeping everyone alive. The following priority system is probably a decent starting model:
1) Is anyone below 50? Yes: Step 2, No: Step 5
2) Is one of them the Tank? Yes: Step 3, No: Step 4
3) Heal the Tank back to 50%, make sure they're stable before moving on to Step 4
4) Locate the party member with the lowest health, heal them, back to Step 1
5) No one is below 50%, good. Is your mana comfortable? (somewhat subjective, but I would say above 60%) Yes: Step 6, No: Step 10
6) Top the Tank off, then move on to Step 7
7) How's your mana looking now? Comfortable: Step 8, Uncomfortable: Step 10
8) Check Step 1 again, if Yes, follow the procedure. If No then continue with Step 9
9) Begin to top off other members. You can prioritize by various factors, including "most useful DPS", "highest DPS", "myself", this is less important and can differ from group to group. After you're done with this Check Step 1 again, if your answer is No then go to Step 10
10) Do you have any mana CDs available to pop or other methods to gain mana? Use them.
If you get to Step 10 and find you have no options to get mana back then you're probably healing too much, undergeared, or your group is taking too much damage.
If you're healing too much, that's easy enough to cut back on, it means that you cut out any "topping off" steps in your rotation until your mana is in a more comfortable place. If you're not "topping off" and still having mana issues, then it might be a gear problem. Make sure you have plenty of intellect and spirit for your content level.
Also remember that while Gear Score (average item level) is not an indicator of skill, Blizzard does tune content to have a certain level of stats which can only be found from certain levels of gear which means that it's possible to be undegeared for an encounter. If you're undergeared, there's previous encounters you can do to "gear" yourself for the newer content.
Perception of Non-Healers
Lastly, if all of the above is accounted for, look for your group to help you. Your group is not likely to be happy with you at the onset. They, like you, have grown accustomed to having "full health bars". The mark of a good healer, to most people, is someone who can keep them topped off and not worrying about their own survival. This isn't the goal of a healer though. Our goal isn't to pull out a couch and fluff the pillow so that the DPS and Tanks are comfortable, our goal is to keep them alive.
It will take time, but they will have to get used to the fact that much of their survival is in their hands. The more damage that they take that they could have avoided is going to be reflected more in their own worries over whether or not they're going to live. Survival needs to be their priority as much as it is yours. While DPS will not be happy, talk to them, let them know what they need to avoid and be helpful. Yelling at your DPS and Tanks to "not stand in bad stuff" is only going to alienate them further against the healer they perceive to be failing.
Instead of telling the DPS or Tanks to not be "bad", instead, show them that you know what you're talking about by telling them what they need to avoid. Use the resources available to you (wowhead, various guides) to know the names of various abilities and mobs which do particularly nasty things. Instruct the DPS or Tanks that x mob casts y spell and that standing in the purple void zone on the ground is avoidable. Tell them that z mob has a frontal cone which means that standing in front of them makes your job harder.
Yes, some DPS will be petulant and insist that you should heal through it anyways. These DPS are bad doobies. They're rotten apples, brown bananas. You're going to have to deal with poor players, that's an unfortunate part of the game. However, most reasonable people will come to understand that you're not in a desirable position yourself, and, together, we can work towards this new healing model and find ways to make it fun, interesting and challenging for all of us.
Change is scary. Even the most forward-thinking, progressive individual is frightened by change to some extent. It's okay for some things to change or for small things to change, but when changes make radical alterations to how we see and perceive things, it makes us uncomfortable.
It's okay to be uncomfortable, but we need to be less stubborn about it. Lets open up discussion, let's look at this and conquer the problem. I'm not saying that Blizzard is perfect or that they won't need to retune certain minor things in order to make their new system work. I'm suggesting that even if they make minor fixes, the new system is here to stay and with it comes a whole new conversation on the definition of our role and how to execute it.
If you like this post, please make sure you vote for it with the "Like" button.
First off epic...i enjoyed the read while i waited in my que. And yes with the total 180 turn of combined with the lack of gear makes it very difficult for people to get used to it. Atleast thats my opinion, but ya awesome thread.
1 Blood Elf Priest
Nice Post. But...it's all well and good to say keep people at 50% but in heroics thus far even a well geared tank and certainly the dps can often get hit for about the health in one shot, more if RNG comes into play.
The reason the new system sounded appealing was that this spike damage would no longer occur but it does
Then that's certainly a question of tuning that Blizzard needs to (and probably is) looking into. If they really want to push this model forward, then allowing people to die so easily when they're not at full health isn't acceptable.
That being said, it's important to remember that while full health isn't always required, part of making an encounter challenging is by throwing in a "twist" which forces you to rethink how you do things. One of these twists could be a predictable ability which might require one or more targets to be full or "topped off" for a time. Certainly, if you're finding that more often than not this seems to be the case, then that's a problem on Blizzard's part that they need to fix, but just remember that it's certainly a viable possibility.
What we're looking at here is not necessarily a "never heal people to full" but simply a new standard to look at. Some people mention ToC's Anub'arak phase 3 as an example of this new style of healing. If we take that as a benchmark and look at how it was fundamentally different from healing at the time, then it's not unreasonable to assume that the reverse might be true now.
Yes, OP, very nice post. Well written. It is however, wrong.
In theory, what you say is true. However, Blizz missed the boat there. They rebuilt healers on a theory, then forgot to rebuild dungeon encounters.
No matter what blizz said would happen, these are the same ole dungeons we ran before. Spaced out packs of multiple mobs requiring aoe taunting and aoe damage, with large RNG spike damage that requires healers to spam.
I ran non-heroic stonecore earlier and watched my tank take back to back RNG crits that took him from 100 to 70, which ate through my PW:S and PoM, so I started casting heal, (on a 2.5s cast) and in two seconds watched him go from 70% to dead.
These are the same dungeons. Blizz either needs to retune the content to match the healing, or match the healing to the content.
As it stands now, I'm tempted to shelve my priest and focus on an alt.
85 Goblin Priest
Except if he's at 50%, he won't be for more than a few seconds. Then it's back down to '2 hits and he's dead' range. Meanwhile the rest of the party is dangerously close to death and you can't do enough to heal them AND the tank properly.
This is a valid point of contention and I may be inclined to agree with it, but it will take time to see whether or not it's a matter of inexperience or of actual tuning. Remember that the "minimum" numbers are not optimal numbers. It's sort of like running WoW meeting the minimum requirements for the game in your system specs. WoW will certainly run, but it's not going to be pretty. Likewise, just because we're meeting the "baseline" requirements for gear does not mean we're "optimally" geared for the content. Keep in mind that I'm not talking about being "overgeared". I'm talking about being "optimally" geared with the right balance of stats that we need, etc... having what we need to perform our role at the set tuning with less stress on the overall system.
Only time will tell us if this is true. As far as inexperience, people still need time to see what damage is avoidable and what isn't. Once we find out what damage is avoidable, and once we Tanks begin to use cooldowns in more appropriate places we'll have a better idea of when something is overtuned.
It certainly feels like it, but remember that most of us are still in the WotLK mindset as well. Our expectations feed our perceptions. We're seeing things that aren't necessarily there. CC is certainly viable as opposed to AoE taunting and AoE damage. Spike damage can often be dealt with with cooldowns, interrupts and other abilities. The tools are there to deal with it in a way other than healing. The burden of survival has shifted to be more evenly distributed, but not all the players are playing that way yet.
I'm going to admit that I didn't heal in TBC. I didn't even get to raid much. it's something I regret, but it was mostly unavoidable, my life just wasn't suited to balancing it out at the time, so I'm forced to deal with anecdotal accounts of "how things were". I was told encounters were more tightly tuned, but did not get to see it myself.
It would not surprise me that damage was more of an issue in WotLK than TBC, however, to my knowledge, TBC was sort of the "beginning" of the ramp up to what WotLK was.
Edited by Ashella on 12/11/10 9:42 PM (PST)
This is a priority system that you internalize into your decision-making process, a starting model of sorts. Obviously you don't want to go through it point-by-point in every situation when you heal, because real-time happens much faster than that.
The basic premise is that your Tank has the main priority of your heals over DPS, assuming all things are going well. I wanted to emphasize, however, that unless you know that the particular pull or encounter has damage which could seriously compromise a Tank, even they don't necessarily need to be topped off, but if they're not at full, you need to watch their health above all others.
Still, if the Tank is at, say, 70% health and a DPS is at 30%, you should probably be healing that DPS.
Not everything is perfect, and sometimes that Tank that's at 50% suddenly drops to 20% in the blink of an eye. You need to be watching and ready to adjust what you're doing to drop heals on them. If you find this situation is happening way too often then there's some things to consider: Is your tank doing everything they can to mitigate and avoid the damage? Unless they're saving their CDs for a specific, anticipated ability, they should be using them to soften the blows that general damage has (remember that interrupts and stuns also help avoid damage, just as much as any "reduces damage by X amount" ability). Are you being overzealous in your healing? Just because they're brought low repeatedly doesn't mean you need to drain yourself to bring them back to full repeatedly. Unless you know there's a particular ability or sequence of abilities which could kill your Tank before you can respond appropriately, pretend that their actual health bar is half of what it is. As odd as it feels, even if they keep taking damage, continue to keep them at a certain set, safe amount, rather than being overzealous and healing them to full.
I'm a dude! I swear it, and no, I don't find it odd that I play a female character!
In response to Stellan: First, I marked your post as trolling, as it certainly felt that way. However, I'm going to respond to the general sentiment by stating that while others might feel Paladins are fine, I came to this conclusion because I was also running into problems healing myself. If Paladins were truly fine then I wouldn't have run into this issue and said "lol, we should do this instead". I came to this realization because what I was doing wasn't working for me. I looked at what other people were talking about and suggesting (Priests, Paladins, Druids, and Shaman, all the classes represented) and formulated a cohesive idea and theory to apply to the problem.
I won't pretend that the solution will necessarily work equally for everyone. Part of this is something Blizzard will have to adjust and tweak, and part of it will simply be represented in different playstyles which appeal to different people. How this sort of healing works for you and your class is going to be specific to you, and I'm obviously a bit biased by what I play. Part of the reason for this thread was for all of us to discuss, which means that others from other classes can discuss how this style and mindset apply to them.
One last point: One of the major points of this theory of healing is that less of an individual's dependency for survival is on our shoulders and more of it is on them. These sorts of issues emphasize a solution which is less class-focused and more individual-focused.
The post is rubbish because paladins don't have to apply anything that he wrote since they don't have mana issues.[/quote]
Nonsense. We might be able to deal with it a bit better than others in SOME situations, but I certainly find plenty of spots where I either don't have time to melee or I can't get close enough to melee and relying on solely judgement in these situations of heavy damage does not always result in me having "no mana issues".
Please let go of your bias and look to the discussion, I won't discuss your personal biases any further and I hope that others will ignore you as well if you persist to deviate from the point of the topic and try to make it personal.