Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
There will never be stress-free healing

Zelmaru of Murloc Parliament and Ionomonkey of Screaming Monkeys are having an interesting public argument about the number of healers in a 10-man World of Warcraft raid. Their guild apparently ran into a situation where the standard 3 healers in the raid had the healing task well under control, but the 5 damage dealers weren't able to kill the boss before the enrage timer struck. Thus the damage dealers want to remove 1 healer and take 1 dps character more, while the healers feel as if that would punish them for doing their job well, and that the damage dealers should just man up and Learn2Play.

It is easy to understand the point of both sides. But regardless which game we talk about, or which raid size, as long as there is the holy trinity of tank, healer, and damage dealer, the general raid strategy will always be to *minimize* the number of tanks and healers. It is an inherent flaw of the system that any excess of healing or aggro management is a waste, but any excess of damage serves to speed up the fight. If you had a raid team which was perfectly able to take down a boss and the game would allow you to take one more person on the raid, you would always chose a damage dealer. There is such a thing as "enough" tanking and healing, but there is never enough damage output.

Not only is additional damage more useful, your guild is also more likely to have excess damage dealers than having excess tanks or healers. The consequence is that whenever healing is going well enough to offer the healers a relatively stress-free raid night, the guild is likely to remove one of those healers to squeeze more damage dealers in. In the end even the easy "fun" raids end up being as much hard work for the healers as the progression raids. No wonder healers burn out so fast.
I think it's important that people be flexible. Boss fights do vary and raid leaders need to hold a different hand to play out a different fight.

An extreme example was a fight in old Naxx 40 that required 8 tanks.

People should be willing to adapt to beat fights if they're in a raid guild, it's not a big thing to ask that one of them nukes and the other two work a little harder.

Of course you need a raid culture where if you wipe from lack of healing people don't start pointing fingers. But I don't really get why people show up to raids expecting to never have to show any versatility. Maybe it's a feeling that they're not responsible for win/loss.
I wonder whether the threat mechanic could be salvaged to cap the number of DPSers; Instead of single-target threat, the boss could decide that the DPSers are collectively a bigger threat than the tank and go wild.
Very well put and so true. it's the tragedy of all healing teams in WoW that their number will dwindle the further the guild is progressed - you better be ready to dualspec.

To be fair, some encounters work fine with a little excess healing/healers, sometimes enough is enough depending on the guild's outlook. in terms of speed though or when the raid simply struggles to kill the boss due to DPS, you need to do what's best for the overall outcome.

funny enough, sometimes healing an encounter with 2 healers WILL get easier (instead of more stressful) than with 3; simply because the increased speed makes it more manageable with 2 healers than the endless drag you had with 3. Saurfang was a perfect example of this.
I think there is a difference between 2-manning healing because the raid is easymode and more DPS means the puny bosses will die faster and 2-manning healing because otherwise the raid fails because of not enough DPS. The former is regrettable but something thats hard to argue against beyond the points of fun and burnout. The latter is an alarm sign.

Bosses are usually balanced around 2 tanks, 3 healers and 5 DPS. If shifting from 2-3-5 to 2-2-6 allows you to kill a boss that you wouldn't kill otherwise you could do that.. the added loot could help if the problem is gear, not skill. However if the problem is skill then shifting raid composition would be the worst thing you could do. You would just cover up the issue, the problem would be "solved" and DPS would have no more reason to fix whatever problem they have.

Thats like having a sickness and not letting it heal fully, just take some pills to make the symptoms vanish so you can go on working. It will work.. but it will come back twice as hard when you are weak. I have seen raids apply bandage over bandage, covering up issue over issue and they were killing stuff.. until they met the boss who applied preassure to all the wrong areas, all bandages went off and the raid broke down, all weaknesses revealed. Thats the kind of thing then that most raids never recover from.

So be careful with covering up issues. Better fix them now when they are still easy to see.
it's the tragedy of all healing teams in WoW that their number will dwindle the further the guild is progressed - you better be ready to dualspec.

Raid leader to the third healer: Thank you for doing such a great job on healing to the point that now we don't need you any longer. You are fired!

Hehe, yep.
What I don't like about this is raidleaders who will simply assume they can always expect the healers to switch, just to gain 5 minutes here and there if nothing else. you can expect a healer to help out in a demanding situation, but if "as fast as possible" is your guild's basic credo, you need to make sure your recruits know.

We never forced any healer to dualspec, even less so on farmruns where there was no apparent reason. it's not like we didn't have enough raid time as it was and we'd rather have raiders who enjoy their roles and take 15mins longer, than the opposite.

it's all about your guild.
I thought one of the goals of cataclysm was to give healers better dps? Guess that failed.

The trinity is not to blame though. In the Battlefield games, at least, the "medic" is a guy with a potent gun, a rez, and a droppable HOT. You might not need him in any situation, but then again you don't always need the SMG/Bazooka guy, or the Assault Rifle/Air Strike guy, or the sniper. Doesn't really cause any drama though, since you can change classes when you die, and there's a big incentive to play whatever class is most needed -- you do more stuff and get more points!

So Blizzard (and other MMO developers) are to blame. I don't know if they like the conflict, or don't care, or somewhere in between. I wonder if Blizzard engineers the potential conflict the way they engineer everything else -- you must do X dailies to hit Exalted with The Whateverguard, so that way you value Whateverguard rep and feel rewarded when you succeed. You must overcome X conflicts over raid composition to get Who Cares Keep on farm, and feel more cohesive as a guild when you succeed.
There needs to be something that a healer can do well when they aren't healing. There are 2 examples currently in WoW that aren't usable in raids but could be made so with some minor tweaks.

Option 1 - True hybrids. Some healers have talents to do dps while healing. Boost these to closer to DPS levels and you'll remove the need to swap out a healer. The trouble with this is that is healers can dps too well, you'd take all hybrids to trivialise damage spikes and healer deaths. If they can't dps or heal well enough, they aren't hybrids.

Option 2 - Healers can boost DPS dealt. Either have resource constrained DPSers that researve additional resource (an can switch to a nuke/burn rotation when resources are more plentiful) or apply a damage short buff when they are healed.
If it is really just for one encounter and progression is the goal. I would just sit a healer and trying an extra DPS. However, if the guild runs one team through begining to end without switching people out based on encounter than the real choice is whether to start.

The next step would be to remove lower DPS proformers.

The nomrmal timeline is pretty much

Friends Guild>Casual Raiding, Schd raiding, minimun gear requiements,aiming to take down certain bosses instead of just farm, start switching players in a out, releaize guild has decent&horrible proformers, unfair to sit people/unfair for better proformers to carry worse, GUILD BLOWS UP.
I really envy you guys in guilds where dropping from 3 heals to 2 heals means that one of the healers switches to his dps offspec. :o

For my guild, that means one of the healers sits outside the instance (we try to rotate) and we bring in a dpser who was sitting. Not that our offspec dpsing is bad, but without the practice at dpsing that encounter, you won't be as good as a dps main spec who has experience dpsing that encounter.

I have to confess that when an encounter gets easy to 3 heal, we don't talk about it. It'll just mean that one of us has to sit more often.
Obviously the solution is to make damage-taken a major source of aggro for warriors, and work out ahead of time when they'll stand in fires, eat cleaves, and ping pong taunt the boss off the tank. They take more damage to keep the healer busy, and they have more rage/damage. I'm sure this can be adapted for other classes, such as by making lifetap borderline deadly and the only source of warlock regen.
Stabs - The Naxx40 days are well in the rear-view mirror now. WoW continues to evolve and usually that means that "old way" reference carry no water. This is one of those cases.

Blizz has designed the 10m game around 2-3-5. All current encounters should be beatable in that configuration and if you can't there is room for improvement.

This issue is 100% about raid spots and it burns me up every time DPS players bring it up. If you are the Heal Lead for your raid team how do you explain to Joe Shammy that despite all the hard work he put in to get you this far you need to sit because the noob Hunter or Lock can only put 75% of the necessary damage without standing in the fire.

When I was in that position my first response to the raid leader was which healer do you want me to ask to DPS. Not which one sits. All healers aren't that great at dps, but you know what; they will off heal in a pinch if asked. My thinking was if this guy can do 60% of the DPS of our best players and we still can't beat it we need to come up with a better strat.
It strikes me that having a fight that's easy on the healers is a GOOD thing and one that raid leaders should be thankful for... because having every fight run the healers ragged is only going to hasten the day that those players burn out and quit raiding. If it's just a matter of the extra DPS letting you down the boss in 7 minutes instead of 8, then for crying out loud take the extra minute and let the healers have a bit of a breather. If it's a case of needing the extra DPS at all, then let the healers choose whether one of them wants to pew-pew or sit out for a 'real' DPS. Pamper your healers. Good healers are a LOT harder to replace than over-entitled DPS with ADHD.
I have actually experienced the opposite of this.

Cata raids may be harder, but many of them have very generous enrage timers. I was in such a raid where the DPS was more than enough, but the healers simply could not keep up.

The solution? Nothing. I suggested going 4 healers, but that was immediately shot down. You do this fight with 3 healers, everyone knows that. They wouldn't even consider it to the point that the raid was called without even an attempt with an additional healer.
In my guild there was always at least one healer who was happy to switch to DPS for a change. Most often, in fact, they wanted to DPS more and instead they always had to heal!
The gear level, and experience of the participants, plus the nature of the encounters tend to dictate raid make up. When you are new to an raid, swapping members is much more common than when the raid is on farm.

In 10 mans there always tends to be that awful cusp point, where 2 healers is too few, but 3 healers is too many. Or where 5 dps is too few and 6 dps is too many.

Additionally, the more dps you put in, the more lax the dps will be. In the end, the decision comes down to your style of raid leadership. You either sub a healer or you push your dps harder. I usually went for the latter, and if that failed then I subbed a healer.
I can't stand raid healing. I got burnt out on that at level 70. It's incredibly boring just spamming 1 or 2 buttons for 4 hours straight. I've found PvP healing to be more fun, as you get to use ALL of your abilities.
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