I swear I'm not fishing...
The title is a reference to my famous inability to remember to swap my fishing hat with my healing cowl. I blame outfitter. Srsly.

I was having a debate the other day with my death knight/mage fiance about healing, prompted by some fairly heated comments I left on Ful's blog. I was explaining to him why certain things matter to healers that other people don't even seem to consider. Then the thought struck me - maybe I'm just not a very good healer.

I don't say that to fish for compliments, or even in a self-deprecatory manner. I really don't know. If the only real way to tell for sure if a healer is doing their job is to say "well, no one is dead", then I guess most of the time I'm doing a decent job. If you use a healing meter to evaluate my mad skillz, then I probably do okay there too. Until you look at overheals. I could just sit there and spam prayer of healing for the hell of it, or out of boredom, you know.

It's a common problem raid leaders and healing leads have: evaluating the performance of a healer. If a healer is doing a great job, then they may not even be noticed. Some healers throw out giant heals (mmmm Holy Light), and others are there to keep you from taking any damage in the first place (just ask Matticus or any other Disc priest). And there are plenty of times when even the best healers cannot prevent a total wipe.

How do you evaluate the skill of the healing player? Beyond the gear and the stats, there is communication. It is important for healers to communicate with one another, in addition to the healing targets. I know I'm constantly whispering back and forth with other healers during our raids, and with the tank. Granted, most of the time she and I are trying to come up with rules for a new Naxx drinking game, but sometimes we actually do discuss when she seems to be taking the most damage, how she can avoid it (if possible), and how I can react healing-wise or mitigate if possible. Is she not getting healed up enough before the tank-toss in the Thaddius fight? She can't prevent that - but I can. And if I personally can't, I can send a tell to a healer on the other platform and tell them to throw more HoTs before the toss.

Attitude and diplomacy is important as well, as far as I'm concerned. Calling someone out for standing in the pool of NoobDeath may be necessary, but you can find nice ways to do it. You can announce to the whole raid "be sure to watch out for NoobDeath!", but you don't need to point fingers, and name specifically who is doing it. It just upsets people and makes them defensive most of the time. If they still aren't getting it, you can send them a whisper - "Hey I know it can be hard to see the NoobDeath because of Death Knights' Death and Decay, but I won't be able to heal through that, so you'll have to keep a close eye out for it. :)"

Words of Wisdom: Always use a smiley face when telling people they suck.

Probably the most important skill is reaction time. The best healers have the best reflexes, and that can be a tricky skill to perfect. That frost blast on KT is a perfect example. I cannot predict who is going to get blasted. Waiting for someone to call out that they are blasted is waiting too long - vent has lag. The best indicator for me is when anyone takes a sudden drop in health. This is probably why I don't really know what the KT fight looks like. I'm too busy glaring at health bars. Even though I love Circle of Healing, and use it gratuitously, I take care with it during KT to make sure that I don't have to wait for the cooldown when someone gets hit with Frost Blast. Circle of Healing, talented Renew, and they are usually okay, as other heals from other healers are starting to hit.

I know I'm a decent healer. But seriously, what makes a healer truly great? Now that I've started to ask myself this question, I'm going to begin paying more attention. When you have a raid on farm, and it's mostly cake for everyone, that's not the time to be able to judge how good a healer is - that's when you can judge if a healer is really crappy.

At this point, all I really know? At least I'm not crappy! :) :)

(See what I did there? Yeah.)
4 Responses
  1. Fulguralis Says:

    Hmm. A few things. First, glad I could provide healthy debate. Second, SUBMIT. lol.

    Okay, more seriously now. As a RL, it is extremely hard to nail down what makes a "great" healer, but I know it when I see it. Our best in EGA? Kazgar. I think everyone can agree on that. I mean, the guy nearly solo healed us through KT-10 once when we had some unfortunate problems early on. If he's up, I have a hard time calling out a wipe in vent, even when it's OBVIOUS it's a wipe. I don't know how he does it, but the kid's a freak and we all know it.

    However, we can't all be a Kaz (I know I'm not the DPS version... that'd be like Rakam who just shows up and quietly kicks my ass on the charts most of the time, leaving me scratching my head), but there are a lot of other things that make a "great" player.

    For your part, communication, leadership, knowledge, and adaptability are a huge part of what you bring to a raid. Your reflexes may not be kazgarian (especially when we're playing said drinking game), but I think you bring a whole lot to the table that make a RL's life easier.

    In response to your question, I think that the qualities of a truly "great" healer are variable. You can have the crazy whiz kids who seem to be able to solo-heal crazy bosses. Or you can have the folks who get everyone working together and you can give them a strat and they'll adapt to it. In that way, you are "great" as well. Personally, I just like healers who "have a brain".

    Fuu and I used to run with a healer who never read patch notes, didn't know any of the new spells, and stubbornly refused to learn them. Switching strats? No way. One trick pony FTL. It's a gem to find healers that you can just give general direction to and know that they'll get the job done despite some of the oddities that inevitably happen in battle.

    I think the best way to define a "great" healer is how well they do their job in the face of adversity. When you lose two healers to ice block, your fingers are burning off the keys, and an ice bolt is inc on the MT... what do you do then? :-)

  2. Fuubaar Says:

    I think there are only a handful of people who truly appreciate a great healer & that is the other healers, the RLs, & the Tank.

    I cannot tell you how many times I've hit my Oh $#!@ button when I see myself getting smashed because I knew that old healer wouldn't know what to do. Heck, I used to even throw heals on myself during those big hits because I know she just couldn't handle it. I would have to blow cooldowns to save us from a wipe. Having a subpar healer is something that really put me on edge as a tank.

    Now, during our raids, I look less at my health and more at the fights (Which I should be doing anyways) but old habits die hard. I still cleanse myself of stuff but mainly I now realize that it's not my job. My job is to make sure no one get's smacked around and to adapt when the unexpected happens. "Oh he drops agro? LOL the lock just ate it :D"

    Tee hee

    You're a gem lady...

    Now for another idea for a drinking game.

    Let's play... Russian Rulette with the DPS and call it, "Who wants to pull aggro?"

  3. Jessabelle Says:

    @Ful - Recognizing a good healer and identifying how they are so successful at healing are two different things though. Kazgar is a great healer, but I don't know if it's more out of awesome reflex time and planning, or part of just knowing his class extremely well, or quite possibly a combination of the two. It would be interesting to see how he played as a priest, for example. Since I'm only just starting to raid heal as a pally, he and Thor are my go-to people regarding healing info for holy pallies. Yet you are still subject to the limitations of your class.

    The point being, knowing that someone is a great healer is all well and good, but it doesn't help someone who is trying to improve their healing abilities. How does one become a better healer, aside from gear? There isn't really a healing "rotation" per se.

    Also, you know damn well I don't really drink during raids! MAYBE half a beer, once in a blue moon. So I cannot use the excuse of drunkenness for healfail. :P And I shall never submit.

    @Fuu - I don't think that drinking game would work very well, because the answer would always be the same. Mage. The end!

    Also, everytime i'm in the process of throwing an emergency heal on your, and i see you use your lay on hands, a little part of me dies. ::weep:: I HAVE FAILED MY TANKMISTRESS

  4. Fulguralis Says:

    Dude, we've been running with no less than five tanks. It's still a valid game in that case ;-).

    And you're right about identifying the "why" thing. That's why I was saying its hard for me to "nail" it down. It's not just one thing, you just have to judge case by case when you can see how they do in a variety of situation. It's also one of the main reasons that I absolutely abhor pugging healers. It may very well be class dependent, but in my experience a skilled player can play any class well given the time to learn and get used to it. You can teach a skilled player. A dumb/stubborn player (not ignorant mind you, but dumb), you can't fix.

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