I’m in a healing state of mind

20 October 2009 § Leave a comment

There’s two players in my raid – let’s call them Juggoo and Mahag (because clearly I don’t want people to recognise them, right?). They play, respectively, a Balance Druid and an Elemental Shaman. They are also fantastic players: not only topping dps metres, but playing their character to the full extent of their specs – even going so far as throwing the occasional offheal if one of our healers is down and the health level of the raid requires it. Here’s the puzzling bit: they suck at full-time healing. I don’t think they would mind me saying that, because I’ve often told them to their face. So this made me think – is there such a thing as a hybrid mentality? And is it different from a healing one (or a dps one)? And why would someone make an excellent offhealer and a pretty bad main healer?

(If that opening paragraph made you think of a Sex and the City episode, then we’re like-minded. If I start talking about my sex life, please stop me…)

World of Matticus recently featured a guest post about healer mentality, suggesting that the healer role requires some aptitude, a desire to avoid the spotlight, and a need to feel important. I’m not sure I fulfil these criteria: I tend to like the spotlight, and (as my blog name testifies) I’m actually not sure I am very good at healing – although I know that I’m much better at healing than I am at dps or tanking. I will however agree that healing does make you feel wanted, and no matter how little recognition we get from metres or forum posts, most healers I know like to smile benevolently on the top dps when they brag, knowing full well who stood in the fire and got healed through. However, if I were to test those three criteria against my two hybrid raidmates, I wouldn’t get very far.

Let’s leave aside the aptitude bit – that’s what we’re trying to explain, in some way: why two otherwise great players are not so good at healing. I will however say that one of the two actually does have a healing alt, and he’s pretty good on it too – so clearly (at least for one of them) there is some aptitude. Both of them like the spotlight – but I think that really applies to most everyone in my 10-man raid, and the format allows most people the chance to talk on vent, or be in the spotlight. They certainly should welcome the need to feel important and key to the raid survival and success – in fact, they probably claim more merit than they deserve for many of our achievements, if I were to be totally honest. So we’re left with a healer (myself) which satisfies one criterion, and two hybrids which satisfy one and two criteria respectively but actually perform worse. No disrespect meant to Professor Beej, then, but I think the matter is more complicated than that.

So what is going on? Allow me to throw some ideas around:

  1. Practice, practice, practice. Let’s face it, most of us are not natural born players, who can take up one spec at a given time and be the best at it the next minute. Oh sure, we all know someone who actually is like that, and I envy them – but I think it’s safe to say, they are not the rule, they are the exception. My hybrid targets hardly ever play their healing specs on their main characters, so of course they don’t have the automatic reflexes someone who plays a healer full time might have. Honestly, I know I heal a lot better on my priest than on my druid or paladin, even when considering the gear difference. The fact is, I played a priest for 4 years, and so I know many tricks, and I also set up my UI in a much better way than when I started out.
  2. Facerolling specs. Some healing specs are just inherently easier to master than others. I’m sure I will get some hate for this, but I firmly believe that resto shamans really need to work twice as hard as anyone else to get results – and paladins and (especially) druids are probably on the other side of the spectrum. Priests, imho, are somewhere in the middle: I think it’s a spec that allows you to keep a group up with minimal effort, but then requires some real skill to master. So, asking a shaman who has never done it to switch to healing is probably going to go worse than asking a druid.
  3. Can’t touch me. We all know about healer tunnel vision: players who get so focused on the green bars of their raid members, they fail to notice the big giant fire that spawned at their feet. Well, I think there’s a flip side to that. If you pay too much attention to what’s going on around you, you will have less attention to devote to the green bars. Sadly, DPS requires you to pay attention to your environment, your procs and your target health – and so I think some DPS may actually fail to look hard at the bars to see what needs to be done.
  4. And it gets worse. The previous points mean that a dps who switches to healing will probably not do so well the first time – and this may create a strong negative reinforcement. This is the one point of Professor Beej’s post where I can recognise my own path: I basically kept playing my priest because people kept telling me I was a good healer. If someone is good at DPS, and knows it, then tries out healing, and realises that he’s not as good, he may not be very encouraged to continue the experiment. This means she will get no more practice, and thus fail to improve – and you can see where this is going.

Well, so let’s say you’re in a raid, and suddenly you need to ask one of your dps to switch to healing. Let’s even say that they have been diligent little raiders, and have a healing spec and gear ready to go. How can you try to avoid disaster?

  1. Start them up on easy fights. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to have some spec switching for easy fights, so that people get used to a spec they may need to play in an emergency. This is something I always wanted to do in my raid group, but haven’t managed to yet
  2. Assign them to the easier task for the fight. Throwing someone into the fight with no healing assignment is only going to increase the number of things that can go wrong. If you can focus the hybrid’s dps attention on a few variables, and reassuring her that the other healing tasks will be covered by other people in the raid, will simplify her job, and improve the chances of success.
  3. After the raid, encourage people to check out detailed logs: even if you don’t normally record logs (because it’s content on farm, or because you just don’t), it’s worth recording these fights, precisely because you’re trying to get the most learning out of a smaller number of experiences (Jim March calls this intensive learning, an essential characteristic of learning from infrequent events).
  4. Make sure to debrief them after the raid – you’d be surprised at what they found hard, and sometimes you’ll be even able to pass a trick or two.

In the end, if everything else fail, do like me, and recruit three more people who are comfortable playing both healing and dps roles. I know – easy way out… but sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do, and this way everyone is happy 😀

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