Perfect Ten: Ten lessons I learned as an MMO healer

    
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Back in my World of Warcraft and RIFT days, I spent an awful lot of time in dungeon runs as a healer. I even still function as a flashpoint medic in Star Wars: The Old Republic when our healer isn’t pulling his or her weight. It wasn’t that I sought out healing roles to begin with, but that my class selection (Shaman, Druid, Cleric, Operative) just so happened to include heals, and I guess that curiosity and peer pressure gradually convinced me to give it a try.

I won’t say that I was the all-time best healer you’ve ever seen, but I generally kept my group alive and pulled us through some incredibly tricky fights. I even enjoyed it, once I got past my initial jitters and embraced the lifestyle. These days I don’t heal as much, although I actually do miss it.

So anyway, here are 10 lessons I learned as an MMO healer (semi-retired)!

1. The first pull of any dungeon is the scariest for a healer.

Man, I hate that first pull. This is where you learn a lot about your group and yourself, and you can usually figure out whether the team is going to make it. What worries me the most is that my stats won’t be good enough to compensate for whatever damage the tank and/or team will be taking. What worries me second-most is that I’ll find out that our group has a terrible (or undergeared) tank who will need a full triage unit to keep alive.

2. Healing is a great way to get into dungeon runs quickly.

We all know that queuing as DPS puts you with a vast majority of players in the system, so you’re always in for a long wait there. While tanking may be the quickest to pop (generally speaking), as a healer I never had to sit around for very long after signing up. That’s a nice perk indeed!

3. It’s OK to make mistakes as long as you own them.

Every healer has a learning period, especially when you’re new to a spec, a dungeon, or playing doctor at all. There are going to be slip-ups. There are going to be whoopsies. And there are going to be deaths, perhaps a lot of them spread out over time. My general attitude is to never take crap for events that are outside of my control, but when I do mess up, to quickly apologize to the group and assure them that I’ll do better next time. Almost without fail, such apologies are met with gracious responses that help to bond a team.

4. I can’t be held responsible for your stupidity.

Healing isn’t the toughest job in the world, but there are limitations. We aren’t omniscient beings, floating everywhere with an unlimited supply of heal juice to dole out. But some players act as though we are, which is the only explanation I can think of for why a team will suddenly start running in five different directions, pulling when the tank is going “too slow,” stubbornly standing in the fire, or playing hide-and-go-seek with me.

No, my heals do not have homing signals attached. If you break line-of-sight, you’re going to pay the price.

5. It’s important to know one’s full medical bag of tricks.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a so-called healer attempt to go through an instance relying on a single skill. Usually if you try to educate this person, the response is either silence or a pout. But c’mon! You have more than one heal! Let’s see you work up a rotation there, buster!

You don’t have to theorycraft healing or anything to be a halfway decent battlefield medic, but you do need to at least know what all of your heal skills do, what they cost, and in which situations they’re applicable. You also need to have them slotted (digging around in your abilities page during a fight is not ideal) along with any cleanses that the game provides.

6. Yes, sometimes I’ll let you die. On purpose.

There are two situations in which I will intentionally let someone who is in trouble on my team die. The first is when the tank needs my undivided attention or I have to triage between teammates who are all on the verge of death. I’ll prioritize the tank, then the heaviest hitters next.

The second is when a player has shown him or herself to be a doofus that continues to put the team in unnecessary peril, usually by running ahead and pulling instead of the tank. It may be petty, but sure, I’ll hang back and let that person eat pavement in the hopes that the player will taste a little humility and common sense while down there.

7. It’s 80% boring, 20% terror.

Most of the time, yes, healing is watching green bars instead of the high-polygon action that’s happening. I prefer to be proactive with shields and HoTs instead of reactive, but no matter what, it’s a marathon to keep the green bars on the up-and-up. Most fights after the first or second pulls are incredibly routine, save for the occasional boss fight or botched pull.

That’s when the meter switches from boring to flat-out fear factor. Sometimes everything’s going so much wrong at once that it’s almost paralyzing, but it can also be a lot of fun to switch into high gear and attempt to salvage the situation. Saving a group from a really nasty situation gives me such a buzz that it’ll often make an entire night for me.

8. Everyone has a healing style preference.

There’s only so many different ways to heal players, but MMO devs have shown themselves to be pretty inventive in this area. There are heal-over-times, big chunky heals, shields, chain heals, spells that you slap on to mobs to make them heal attackers, delayed heals, heal totems, and the like. And all the healers I’ve met have a preference as to which type of heal they prefer.

As I said, my style is always HoT. I love, love stacking HoTs on players and watching the bars tick back up almost as quickly as they’re knocked down. It’s less stressful on me in the long run and gives me something to do all the time.

9. Some players get upset when healers roll on DPS gear.

I don’t quite understand why players to this day still have the temerity to become incensed when a healer rolls on anything other than 100% healbot gear. It’s as if other players can’t quite comprehend that a healer does something other than patch up their wounds all of the time, but yeah, we need DPS gear too.

I used to feel embarassed to want to roll on such items, sometimes asking politely for permission to do so. Now? Screw it, life’s too short and I’ve been healing your under-armored butt for the better part of an hour. I’ve earned the right to roll just as much as anyone else, and I’m going to do it without apology.

10. It’s nice to be thanked.

I would never advocate that healers are somehow above the rest of the team, deserving veneration. But I will be honest and say that it’s always lovely to be thanked for doing what we do. The thanks is appreciated because it’s so easy to feel as if healing is never noticed, whereas tanks and DPSers are clearly, visually displaying their efforts.

And I’ll tell you one other thing: Thanking me is a quick way to get yourself bumped to the top of my triage list. Yeah, I guess I am a petty healer — and proud of it!

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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imayb1
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imayb1

Styopa In Aion, there’s a healer skill to switch your mana and health bar levels. Using that is a good way to see if the tank is paying attention. ;)

Leylin
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Leylin

Loved this list thank you for making it! I also LOVE letting idiots die when playing as tank/healer. They just won’t listen otherwise!

Loyheta
Guest
Loyheta

Hahaha yes yes yes. I was nodding so hard while reading this. Then I got to number six and I started laughing. So great to be able to let the idiots die.

Loyheta
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Loyheta

Guttsu Good to know I’m remembered. haha jk

Guttsu
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Guttsu

This article on the DPS equipment reminds me to give a special thanks to the random WHM in FFXIV.  Ran Haukke Hard Mode and he put in ever bit as hard as the rest of the DPS.  The guy was an unstoppable wrecking ball chalk full of heals and hatred.  At then end we thanked him for his help, and told him he was a God amongst Healers.  He simply responded with, “I know.”  Then he left the dungeon.  He will always hold a special place in my heart for how awesome Healers can be.

mosselyn
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mosselyn

Great points. Also, #6, all day long.
I love healing for that 20% you talked about, and also just because I like feeling like I’m helping someone else realize their own fun potential. I miss healing so very much after three years of GW2. The problem I have going back is that I don’t really care much for pug runs, and all my mates are in Tyria these days. I’m not a fan of group finders, as you might imagine.

Llokki
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Llokki

Narayan Oh god, I was in tears watching this >_<

ZenDadaist
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ZenDadaist

Ahahaha yes, 80% boring + 20% terror is 100% truth.

I don’t enjoy traditional healing at all. Being forced to Senti/Puri heal on my Cleric in Rift was the thing I enjoyed the least and would only do it if I absolutely had to. Of the holy trinity, healing is a very distant third place for me.

But some games have healing roles that play differently. I’m having a blast in Anarchy Online with a variety of Doctors, each one quite different. All of them competent healers but then with other things on top. It’s a healing class that allows you to do some fairly complex layering of DoT timing with conditional nukes, perk chains and so on whilst also spamming various heal buttons. I have one I play as a DPS that fires off heals in between various offense actions, and half the time I deliberately pull agg on everything to myself so I only have to keep one person (Me) healed instead of eleventy DPS all picking their own mobs :p AO Docs are sturdy, packing plenty of HP and a couple of self-heal perks, and recent patches have upped the DD a Doc can do. It’s way, way more fun for me than Rift cleric healing.

If I’m playing a game with more traditional gameplay with roles, I’d rather tank. AO is the one oddball which reverses that. Curiously, I’m not overly fond of AO tanking…

ToyFuzion
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ToyFuzion

Those are nice tips. :) I’ve been considering returning to the world of healing, because I miss it. Years ago when I was married and we were playing EQ2, my husband played a tank and I played a healer. I loved healing… up until the point we no longer played games together and I had to swim through a sea of abusive players that left me feeling very bad about playing a healer. It got so bad, that even to this day I cringe thinking about playing with strangers and will forego grouping with people I don’t know. 

But I want to try it again… maybe people have gotten a little nicer. Or I’ve grown a thicker skin… or I know how to turn off chat… xD

Llokki
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Llokki

Zo5o Haha, needy. That’s the pot calling the kettle black. Who soaks up the majority of the healing after all? ;-)