Mitigation vs. Colander Heals
From a healer's perspective, there's a lot of fancy schmancy terminology in WoW. You've got people discussing throughput, mana management, mitigation, effective health, AoEability, clustering, stacking, proactive, reflexive, reactionary, etc etc etc. Sometimes when I want to feel good about myself, I just start throwing around these words like how I used Foucaultian terms in grad school. Makes people think you're smart or something.

Inevitably, these terms will get confused and misused. People will use one term when they mean another, or perhaps not understand the difference between two terms. And that's fine – after all, knowledge is relative. What one word means to you is not necessarily what it means to me. But I won't bore you with critical theory and philosophy today (I always get especially philosophical at 6 am, I have no idea why).

Let's look at a primary example of a word that is often misused or misunderstood conceptually. Fulguralis calls me a word nerd for a very good reason!



1. to lessen in force or intensity, as wrath, grief, harshness, or pain; moderate

2. to make less severe: to mitigate a punishment.

3. to make (a person, one's state of mind, disposition, etc) milder or more gentle; mollify; appease.

4. to become milder; lessen in severity.

Disc Priests are the king of damage mitigation amongst the healing classes, and I don't think there's any argument about that. However, I often hear of Druids being referred to as damage mitigators as well, and this grates on my word nerdiness, and does not accurately reflect the power of the HoT. If you say that Druids are damage mitigators, then it could be interpreted that a Disc Priest + Resto Druid is a poor healing combo for a ten man raid. This is absolutely untrue – Disc Priest & Resto Druid is a fantastic ten man healing combo.

I have been unable to find a term that adequately describes the purpose and power of the Druid HoT. The word for Disc Priest is, of course, mitigation, but I cannot conceive of a proper alternative for Druids. I understand, therefore, why people often refer to them as mitigative (lawl I will not be put off by that squiggly red line!).

The power of mitigation healing is that it reduces the impact of a big burst of damage, smoothing the incoming damage out a bit, taking off the peaks of pain. HoTs have this same power, but in a different way. Mitigation smooths out the incoming damage. HoTs smooth out the health pool. They result in similar effects, but go about it in different ways. Both Disc Priests and Resto Druids are "smoothers" if you will – but they are inherently different in their processes, and misunderstanding the difference can be fatal.

The fundamental difference between the two is best described in an example.

Let us say, for the sake of argument, that you have a tank with 35k health. This tank takes a hit of 37k damage, and consequently dies. A Disc Priest can actively prevent this by using one of their many mitigative abilities – be it Power Word: Shield, Pain Suppression, or perhaps a well timed Divine Aegis proc. These "mitigation" abilities are, in effect, temporary hit points that will be absorbed before any of the actual damage. If I pop a 5k shield on the tank, I have effectively increased their health to 40k, albeit temporarily. This is enough to allow them to survive that hit.

A resto druid cannot give that tank temporary hitpoints. However, if my Penance is on cooldown, a Resto Druid can do something that I cannot. What if, right after that tank takes that 37k hit, and is down to 3k health, he continues to take melee damage? With his health so low, and all my cooldowns blown, he could die before I get my Flash Heal cast off. But if he has HoTs on him, he will have health trickling in that may be enough to keep him alive between the time that he took his giant hit and the time that my Flash Heal or Greater Heal lands. THIS is the power of a Resto Druid.

Of course, in the effort to find the right word for teh HOTNESS that is a resto druid, the Twitterati came out and threw me a variety of potential words to meet my demands. None of them were perfect enough for me, but some of them were pretty epic.

Cadistra and Angelya suggested "lifestream".

Angelya again: Trickling?

Me: Trickle top-offing?

Sheqeri: Increased effective health?

Dristanel: Flailing? Foundation HoTs?

Matticus: Health gappiness?

Nibuca: Hottification? Pre-cognitive burst smoothing? Bursty effective armor displacement stamina throughput druid mob tree? (I get this strange sensation as if she were almost teasing me...)

Wonderful suggestions, eh? But I do believe that Deyndor takes the prize for the best suggestion of all time: Colander Heals. (I made sure I spelled it right this time! Ever notice that my spelling errors are mostly limited to double consonant words?) Do you have a difficult time conceptualizing Colander Heals? Well, LET ME DRAW YOU A PICTURE

24 Responses
  1. Soph Says:

    I've spent a fair long time discussing this with a variety of guild mates.
    My partner-in-healing-crime is a holy paladin, and he said one of the things he noticed when I wasn't there for a week was the fact me colander heals (awesome term) were missing - things were dying cos my HoTs weren't there when his big heals were mid cast.
    The way I split things up to describe them to friends are that we have predictive healers and reactive healers.

    It is certainly possible to play any healing class reactively or predictively but classes excel in doing it different ways.

    As a resto druid, I excel at healing predictively. My HoTs predict incoming damage and cover for that incoming damage. A disc priests shields PREDICT incoming damage and cover for that damage.

    Holy Priests and Holy Paladins REACT to big damage and remove the damage by refilling up the health bars.

    From what I can see, a resto shaman (I know jack all about shammies having never healed with any) can cover both roles - as predictive raid healers and reactive tank healers.

    That's the most efficient way I've found of describing the healing classes and how they work together anyway.
    Me and my pally healer have got so in sync now, due to us being the guilds ONLY two main spec healers, we've gelled really well. We make both a very cohesive team as people, friends and players but also our mix of classes gel well together too.

    Great post, Jess.

  2. Tiex Says:

    That... picture... was... EPIC!


    *Must stop laughing so loud before I get fired*

    Pfff, and some people say we have nice HOT's. Yes, PLURAL!

    They obviously never met a druid before XD

  3. @Soph

    I absolutely agree with this. I think that a big chunk of the similarity between Resto Druids and Disc Priests is that predictive healing - in order to be as effective as possible, druids and discs need to start their heals off before the damage takes place. It's why my druid partner and I spend a few seconds before Festergut shielding and Hotting people!

  4. Velk Says:

    Healing/health reservoir? or even just simply HOTs?

  5. Velk Says:

    <Disc priest, wife is resto druid (or at least we were - both quit last June after many years gaming! im sure we will return!)

    I do enjo the ability to mitigate the damage - though once the target starts taking damage on a boss fight there is a major oh shit moment if solo-healing the tank :p (ARRGH! HE WILL NOW DIE IF HE IS HIT!!) - But I couldnt see myself playing a druidy type healer - I just aint a fan of HOTS - I know they have some nice emergency nuke heals - but seeing anyone at less than full health makes me squirm :p (Discisquirm priest? :p)

  6. Tam Says:


    -27364 points for style.

    I'm teasing, it's very sensible.

    But I can't get past the whole, y'know, colander aspect.

    You're bleeding?! Let me get my egg whisk...

  7. Kaethir Says:

    I actually think one of the Tree's biggest weaknesses is that we CAN'T mitigate damage. AT ALL.

    Now we make great tank OR raid healers... and in both we're some fancy combination of both predictive and reactive - we can't keep everybody HoT'd all the time, and HoTs are only part of our tank-healing strategy - but I don't know where I was going with that thought.


  8. Bri Says:

    I've never healed a raid, but do a fair amount of 5-man healing, so maybe in raids it's not so much an issue. I also 5-man heal with a holy priest and a resto shaman, and I'm working on levelling a paladin to dual-spec holy/ret. I really enjoy the different healing styles.

    I think Soph hit the point, resto druids are about proactive healing. The other classes are more reactive healers, with a few single-spell exceptions like Riptide or Prayer of Mending. The big advantage in my 5-man tree druid world is that HoT's make a group far more CC-resistant. If I know a boss CC's, I can pretty much ensure that heals keep coming even if I'm CC'd.

    Finally, and I think most importantly, HoT's and their "fire-and-forget" method of healing lets me concentrate on healing the group as a whole group, not as this player then that player then the other player.

    Because of this last point, perhaps the word I would use for druid healing is "holistic".

  9. Klepsacovic Says:

    As an almost total non-healer myself, I'm glad I came across this. Now I have some clue what they're talking about and why we can't just say "okay three healers, good to go."

    But that's clearly not a colander, that's C'thun. Eye beam, roundish shape, green tentacles.

  10. crankyhealer Says:

    I would add that they are not just colander heals - they are *anticipatory* colander heals. It's amazing how many things I want my grid to tell me so that I can react BEFORE the damage happens. I want to know how many hots from other sources are on the target, every single debuff, even those I can't heal, whether the person has aggro though not hit yet... A pally buddy of mine doesn't show nearly all the stuff I do. He doesn't care. When the damage happens, he'll deal with it. He doesn't NEED to know anything before that happens.

  11. Windsoar Says:

    Druids heal pro-actively. Discs mitigate damage, and everyone else is a reactive healer.

    Druid is my absolute favorite class to be paired up with no matter who I'm playing with due to that stacked healing just waiting for a hit to activate.

  12. Fealen Says:

    You need to open a WoW related image blog with Cassandri. You both are amazing with the MS paint diagrams.

    As for the post, right on the money. I find my Holy Priest reacting more the anything else. With exception of Inspiration I totally play "Reverse Whack-a-Mole" (always trying to pull UP the health bar). The one shield I use isnt much but I guess guesstimating who is gonna take damage is still reactionary. I'll always be chasing a mundane game....grrrr whack-a-mole.

  13. Gronthe Says:

    As a Shaman most of my heals are reactionary. We do have an instant HOT and some HOT's that are procs off of crits. Then there is earth shield, but that's only for the very special people tanking the fight.

    Balanced healing teams are always fun. One for mitigating, another for reactive healing, and another for straining the pasta noodles so we can all have a good meal before, during and after a raid night.

  14. Eversor Says:

    Just for the sake of argument, I would say that mitigation is getting confused with prevention. To mitigate something only means to lessen (not avoid) it's severity and does not neccessarily have a time component involved. If a 37k damage blast is coming in and you bubble someone, you are preventing damage. If the damage hits and you have lessened the damage and therefore mitigated it. To not heal would be to not mitigate. I prefer using reactive vs maybe proactive healing. A disc priest bubble would certainly be proactive (or predictive).

  15. I cannot survive without our resto druid. While shuffling assignments a couple raids ago, we had her husband bring his resto shaman (who generally I have replaced with my own resto shaman, he doesn't raid with us anymore unless we need an extra) and our druid brought her mage alt. Trying to heal stinky with a slightly undergeared offtank, two resto shamans and a disc priest... we just couldn't do it. We were crippled without our warm, snuggly HoT blanket. That's what I call it, our blanket. We kept losing people because, as epic as the power of two chain heals at a time is, in the time it'd take us to cast them we'd lose people.

    Having a druid is... so amazing. I can't barely heal without her. And she's so... mobile. It blows my mind. Having her follow our kiting tank around on Rotface and heal her (instead of me trying to heal her and just praying she's in range so I don't have to eat slime spray) is one of the things that tipped us over the edge and made it possible for us to get him almost down. (We were so close! If the trash hadn't respawned we could have made one more attempt and downed him last night.)

  16. bobturkey Says:

    Druid HoTness = Passive healing?

    Gobble gobble.

  17. Kayllnn Says:

    We never get to have a druid healer in our ten mans. I guess we have learned to adjust. But I agree with Dothnot, a druid is a blanket healer. It is very helpful to have in ten mans, who doesn't love the HoTs to keep ticking while the healers are forced to run around. We two healed last night with two shammys, and it is def harder than our usual set up. Having two healers of the same class is kinda rough when you only run with two healers period. Druids blankets, I think, can complement any class really well.

  18. Angelya Says:

    Colander heals ftw :)

    We should really have these word-invention sessions on twitter more often don't you think?

    *runs around with a colander on her head*

  19. SlikRX Says:

    I was thinking more of a "leaky faucet" heal.

    The sink (health bar) is already full and the leak (the heal) keeps adding more water in.

    The overheal (pre damage) just drips off the side.

    But, once some damage is taken (someone pulls the plug, briefly) the leak works to slowly, predictably, refill the sink.

  20. Poneria Says:

    ...I was going to post how I thought of druid heals, but then I read SlikRX's and it makes so much more sense. /applaud @SlikRX

  21. Hinenuitepo Says:

    proactive healing is how I usually hear it as a few have mentioned.

    Another, perhaps more colorful word would be pre-emptive heals

    Mitigation, reactive heals, and pre-emptive heals are all lovely lovely parts of raid success!

  22. @Tam

    Many of us keep picturing a tank wearing a colander on his or her head - just for added pizazz.


    I think maybe the key is proactive. Both shields and hots are proactive, but shields mitigate whereas hots do not. Still trying to find the perfect word, holistic isn't quite what I'm thinking of!


    It is clearly Irish spaghetti.


    I know what you mean. When I was Holy, I didn't really care about all that added information - but as Disc, I want all that information on my xperl. I want to know who is weakened in any way - it will let me know who will need more protection.


    I love the Druid + Disc priest combo, mmm. Yes, Druids are definitely proactive. However, so are Disc priests, because you have to predict the damage in order to prevent it, and therefore have to be proactive in what spells you cast.


    Most of the time Holy Priests are reactionary, for sure. However, if you have a long cast time on soemthing, such as Prayer of Healing, there can be a lot of forethought in that too. You can choose to start casting it right before the damage hits... or, to a lesser degree, you can just be sure you've built up three stacks in order to react quickly. It's definitely a complicated concept.


    I already left a big ol' comment on your blog, but I'll go ahead and reiterate one of the things I stated here - healing in response to damage taken in no way reduces the amount of damage received and therefore does not lessen the damage at all.


    Mmmmm... warm, mobile, HoT blankets...


    Hmmm, I will have to consider this. I mean, obviously the initial cast isn't passive, and it's certainly not as passive as a Judgement of Light or Shadow Priest heals but... I can see a good argument for this description.

  23. Humm. I have to say, when I think about mitigation the first thing that comes to mind is "Druid" as well.

    After reading your post I can sort of accept that there might be a different concept at play here - but coming from a tank perspective my first thoughts when I hear mitigation is "armour and damage reduction effects".

    Mitigation, Effective Health and Avoidance are the three concepts I tend to juggle about - I wonder if something when you hear "Druids are the kings of mitigation" you're not talking to a tanky-type.

  24. Kulat/Kriyet Says:

    Oooh, just stumbled across your blog Medecina - I love this discussion!

    Seems a bit tough as a druid though to deal first with being a walking broccoli, and now throwing colanders on my guildmates.

    I think the proactive/reactive distinction works to describe the differences in the healing classes to a point. Where people are struggling to name our style as distinct say from priests, I'd offer that druids are also 'persistent' healers, where the other classes in general are 'burst' healers.

    Personally, I characterize myself as a Timex. "They take a lickin' but my HOTs keep tickin'."


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