Universal Healing Lessons
Alright, Aion has temporary control over my soul. It’s not that I like it better than WoW (far from it), but simply that it’s something new to me, with lots of different aspects I can analyze.

The other day, I healed my first “instance”. It works strangely in Aion, and I’m still rather new to the whole thing, so I won’t try to explain it. The point here is that I was in charge of healing a group of six. I had been playing the game less than 5 days, so unsurprisingly I was more than a little nervous. One of the good things about starting a game that is only 3 months old in North America, is that everyone is at least a little new, so they are more understanding if you are still trying to learn the basics… most of them are still learning too.

Despite the complete lack of healing interface add-ons (no add-ons in Aion, zomg), and regardless of my noobishness, everyone in the party was very pleased with how well I healed. I learned a lot about my spells during that run… “Ooooo! Hey look! I have a dispel! I didn’t know that…”, but there were a lot of things I didn’t need to learn. There are some aspects of healing that seem to be somewhat universal across MMORPGs.

  • Watching health bars. In Aion and in WoW, if you are healing, you are keeping your eyes on everyone’s health bars. It’s a bit easier right now in Aion, because since there are no add-ons, and since I’m low level, the interface is very simple and clean. It’s easier to see when someone is at drastically low health. You have to split your focus between player status bars and your surroundings – and that is always tricky. It’s a skill you learn through lots of healing.
  • The value of HoT effects. I don’t have any shields yet in Aion, but I know from my healing experience in WoW to keep a HoT up on the tank at all times. I currently have two different HoTs in Aion, but it unfortunately appears as though these two HoTs don’t stack. So, I know from my experience healing next to druids that I usually put the longer time, less heal per tick HoT on the tank, and the shorter, burstier HoT on some of the melee, or other classes that take damage. I also keep a HoT ticking on myself all the time while soloing and running quests.
  • Threat, zomg threat. Call it aggro or enmity or threat, whatever you like. It’s a balancing effect for healers. It used to be a lot harder to manage in WoW, but in late BC they changed some of the threat mechanics, so at end game, it’s almost a non-issue. In Aion however, at least at this level, it is a big freaking deal. The tanks only have so many taunt abilities (maybe only one) and it has a serious cooldown. I was constantly pulling threat and getting beat on. However, the Cleric in Aion is more along the lines of a traditional D&D Cleric – I can wear all armor classes aside from plate. So, decked out in Chain Mail, it’s not as devastating as it would be were I playing my priest in WoW.
  • Triage. Anytime you have a certain class makeup with specific roles, prioritizing who gets healed first is a crucial component. Keep the person taking the beating up so that others who can’t handle the beating don’t die. Keep the people who keep others up. Keep the people who perform crucial duties alive. Keep people who can rez alive. In Aion, you can rez while in combat (something I didn’t realize until a bit later during our run… whoops), and if you buy certain implements, you don’t need to be a healer to rez others. With this knowledge in hand, I knew who had resurrection implements on them, and made sure to prioritize them along with the tank… at least if I go down, they can rez me. Anyone who can combat rez gets bonus triage points. There is a common philosophy that healers don’t need to know bosses or mob abilities… “just heal stuff”. This is not exactly true. Sometimes, there is someone else performing a crucial duty other than the tank. Anyone else remember the mage-tank fight in Gruul’s Lair? The mage taking on that task needed a special healer as well.
  • Pre-Casting and Stop-Casting Heals. This is another reason why it’s good to know mob abilities as a healer. This was also the main thing that made the others in my party realize that, noob though I may be, I am a good healer. If you wait until after someone in your party has taken damage, it may simply be too late. Anyone who has ever been assigned to tank healing knows the value of a big burst, long cast time heal. Greater Heal and Holy Light often work best when you start casting them right before the party member takes a big fat hit. When I was healing in my Aion party, I knew when we went into some of the fights that some of those mobs started out hitting big… so before they even got a hit in, I had started casting my biggest heal. The tank never even had a chance to panic. He would take the huge damage, and half a second later, be healed to full.
  • Know Your Duty. If I'm a healer, I need to be healing. I generally should not be worrying about contributing to damage. I know this isn't true in all games, and not always in PvP. But when in doubt? Just focus on healing, or you might get distracted and miss something important when someone needs heals.
  • Watching the Target's Target. I didn't figure out until a day or so ago how to turn on this feature in Aion, and it was killing me. When you are spending more time watching bars and interface aspects than the actual creatures around you, you need to know who a monster is pursuing. If you just always assume it's the tank (which, in many cases may even be a fairly safe assumption), it's quite possible that someone will slip under the radar and get dead. This is another reason why I hate having to target someone to heal them - I want to keep my focus on the boss so that I always know who he's going after and prepare myself to heal them. For instance, in the Lady Deathwhisper and Onyxia fights, I keep the bosses targeted so I know who they will be casting their next frostbolt / fire breath / whatever on, so that I can bubble them before hand. Here's hoping I can figure out how to do this more effectively in Aion!

There’s something reassuring in knowing that if you can master the art of healing in and of itself, that skill and knowledge is transferrable. You still won’t walk in necessarily knowing what each of your spells do, or how to battle specific mobs, how you will mesh with other players and classes, but you’ll be on a solid footing from the start.
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