Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Raid Healing: The Right Field of Raiding?

"Hey, you're riding the short bus with me!"

These words were uttered by a Resto Shaman in my guild to another guild member last spring when I handed out healing assignments in Naxx-25 and put both of them on 'Raid Healing'. It was the second negative comment I'd heard from him in as many weeks when given that assignment. I let it go right then and there but asked him later about it. He said he was only goofing around, though I did take his point and tried to vary his assignments (indeed, all of the healing assignments) in subsequent raids, variety being the spice of life and all.

His comment was brought to mind today when I was cruising around the O-Boards and hit this post in the Healing section. If you don’t wish to read it, I’ll summarize. The poster commented about a Raid Leader who wanted to switch a Holy Paladin from tank healing to raid healing on Northrend Beasts. Seems the Pally in question was having some difficulty keeping the tank alive, so the Raid Leader ordered the switch.

Rather than debate the merits of putting a Paladin on this sort of assignment, I wanted to comment instead on one of the things the Shaman said to the Raid Leader:

“I said that in a raid environment, holy paladins were tank healers, end of story, and it'd be … insulting … to assign them to raid.”*

These two comments, separated as they are in time and space, still make me wonder how people feel about getting the assignment ‘raid heals’. Is it taken as an insult? Should it be taken as an indication that the Raid Leader or Healing Leader doesn’t have confidence in you? Is ‘Raid Healing’ the Right Field of WoW, where we banish the virtual Timmy Lupus where he can do the least harm?

There’s no doubt that ‘heal the raid’ doesn’t have the same sort of glamor that tank healing has. After all, a tank healer is responsible for keeping alive the one person that stands between the raid and that snarling, angry boss that will happily eat you for lunch. Make one mistake as a tank healer and the entire raid is strewn about the room taking a dirt nap. On the other hand, make a mistake as a raid healer and it’s just a dps dead. It’s not even like in Burning Crusade where that person might have been responsible for maintaining crowd control or anything, what’s the big deal? Yet the more that I think about it, the more that I realize raid healing may actually be a tougher assignment than people give it credit for, and we may vastly underestimate the abilities of the people we put in that role.

As a tank healer, I have the luxury of being able to focus exclusively on one target. Heck, in a good group I don’t even have to worry about my health, save for moving out of whatever will kill me in two ticks. Heal myself? Nah, that’s what the raid healers are for. I can happily spam away on the tanks, making sure that I avoid the bad stuff and do what I need to do to have enough mana to make it through. While I do pay attention to what’s happening with the rest of the raid, I’ve learned that Wrath bosses hit hard and fast enough that there’s often no such thing as a ‘spare’ global cooldown to spend on a threatened dps. My assignments tend to survive much better when I maintain my focus on them.

Raid healers on the other hand have to worry about everyone. They do keep an eye on the tanks and are expected to ‘help out’ when/if needed. They are the ones who have to take care of the dps (or healers sometimes) when they stand in Flaming Cinder. They are the ones who have to mitigate and clean up the mess of Tympanic Tantrum, Plasma Blast, Staggering Stomp and the like. They are the ones who have to somehow coordinate with four other healers when they’re given vague assignments like ‘just heal the raid’, and they are the ones who have to maintain range and LoS when 24 other people are running around like Elder Harkek’s chickens. Furthermore, with the various hard and soft enrage timers that many of Wrath’s bosses have, keeping those dps up is perhaps more important than ever: A bad tank healer usually results in a rapid wipe due to a rampant boss. Bad Raid healers often mean an agonizingly slow wipe as the result of an enrage 10 minutes later. As Tom Petty sang “I can’t decide which is worse”.

So rather than looking at 'heal the raid' as being Right Field, where the slow, uncoordinated, has-no-talent-but-the-rules-say-he-has-to-play-anyway kids go, we would do well to think instead of it as Right Field, where Hall of Famers like Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente and Tony Gwynn played. And even if you do feel that it's the safest place for a less-skilled healer, remember that the ball gets hit to right field a lot, but even Timmy Lupus made a game-saving catch.

*full quote: "I said that in a raid environment, holy paladins were tank healers, end of story, and it'd be either insulting or incredibly ignorant to assign them to raid. "

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