An Aversion to Druid Healers…wha?!?!   7 comments

A commenter on a post Spinks wrote on What Tanks Really Think of Healers made the following comment, which really got my branches in a twist:

As a tank, I have an aversion to druid healers. Maybe I’ve just had bad luck, but I’ve only had any success with one or two druids healing me. Every other time has been a failure. I’ve heard and read many times that druids are fantastic tank healers, even able to keep up multiple tanks at once. I haven’t seen it though.

Sadly, this is not the first time I have heard this kind of story with regard to druid healers.  So it got me to thinking.  In the reference above, the tank is clearly blaming the resto druid class for the failures he has experienced.  Well…what if it’s not the healer’s fault?  What if the real problem is the tank not understanding the strenths and weaknesses of his healer and then making adjustments to help play to his healer’s strengths?

Druids are very strong, and fantastic healers in just about any setting from 5 mans instances to 25 man raids.  However, just like all classes we do have our limitations!

A druid is unique because their strongest set of healing tools rely on spells that Heal over Time, or HoTs.  While we do have two direct healing spells, both of those spells have some limitations.

  • Healing Touch – Is our key “direct target” healing spell.  It will give you a nice, big, juicy heal.  However, it does have a severe limitation.  Its cast time.  This is important for a tank to know!  For me to get my beefiest spell off on you (sans cooldowns) it will take me (and most resto druids, who do not take the talents to reduce the cast of this spell) a full three seconds to heal you.  That is an eternity in heal time.  This is also the reason that most druid don’t use this spell unless Nature’s Swiftness is attached to it, making it instant cast.
  • Nourish – This is our “flash” healing spell and takes roughly 1 – 1.5 seconds to cast.  However, its effectiveness varies depending on how many HoTs we have on you.  If you have none, mine will heal you for ~4500.  (Note, I run ~2500 spell power in a 5 man setting.  Your average, recently 80 druid with a small smattering of epics is probably only at 1500 – 1700 spell power!).  As I add HoTs to you, this spell gets beefier, and if you are covered in all 3 of my HoTs, will heal you for ~10,000 life.
    • Keep in mind that HoTs take TIME to cast on you!  So if your life is plummiting, I probably won’t have time to fully HoT you if something has dropped and then cast noursih.  While I do try to keep my tank dressed in full HoTs in a 5 man setting, if my DPS are being less than thoughtful about the amount of damage they are taking, some of my HoTs may drop from the tank.  It happens.  So, if I were the tank, I wouldn’t expect to be getting a fat 10k+ heal every time your health plummets.

HoTs really are a druid’s “bread and butter”, but the thing about HoTs is that they take time to work.  Yes…your heals are coming, but it may take a second or two for you to see that!  We have four flavors of HoTs that we can use (please note I am assuming talents in Genesis):

  • Regrowth – This spell has a kicker up front that will offer some burst healing, and then tick over a period of 24 seconds.  The HoT ticks are lower than others because of the kicker offered at the start and the length of time the spell has to work.
  • Rejuvenation – This spell is a strong HoT that ticks every 3 seconds for 15 seconds, however does not start its work immediately (unless your healer has a 4 piece T8 set bonus).  These HoTs are fairly strong as a result.
  • Lifebloom – This is a very short HoT with some uniqueness to it.  This HoT will  only tick for 9 seconds, and then “bloom” giving a burst of direct healing, we can stack it up to three times (for a high mana cost), and the more stacks you have the more it will heal.  This HoT will tick every second for those 9 seconds and its strength will vary depending on how many stacks we have on you. 
  • Wild Growth – This is our “AE” heal spell.  It will hit 5 targets in range and will tick down a HoT on them over a period of 7 seconds, with each tick decreasing in potency as it goes down.  We have a 6 second cooldown on this spell.

Druids get two OH SHIT! buttons, and one semi-OH SHIT! button.

  • Nature’s Swiftness – This talent can be queued to make your next nature spell instant cast.  It is most frequently paired with Healing Touch, and saved for that moment when your health is dangerously low (usually sub 30 %).  This ability has a three minute cooldown.   Yes…we can only panic once every three minutes.
  • Swiftmend – This talent lets us consume a HoT on you, and instantly heal you for the full power of the HoT in one swoop.  It will choose the HoT that will provide the most healing at the time.  If it is glyphed, it will not remove the HoT from you.  This ability has a 15 second cooldown and can  only be used on targets with either a regrowth or rejuv on them.  The amount of the resulting heal will vary.  I have seen some at 7k and some at 17k!
  • Tranquility – This is a massive group heal that can be used when the entire group is dangerously low on life and can get everyone topped off in short order.  This is a channeled spell, that is to say that we cannot cast anything else while we are channeling the spell.  It has a 10 minute cooldown.

There are a few other things that tanks should keep in mind when they are tanking for a druid healer:

  • We are the only class that does not get a “mitigation” ability to help you out in a pinch.  Shaman have Earth Shield, Paladins have Sacred Shield, and Priests have Power Word: Shield (with disc priests adding a whole army of shields to their arsenal).  Our HoTs are our “mitigation”, but they don’t help you from getting hit in the face and having it not hurt so much!  So…if you are getting slammed and watching your life plummet, use a CD and help us out =)
    • As a side note, we also do not get  anything that boosts your armor like priests or shaman.
  • Druids do not have a reliable, strong, fastfat heal.  I’m referring to a heal like a Paladin’s Holy Light or a Priest’s Greater Heal.  Heck, even Shaman using Healing Wave are faster than we are sometimes.  Yes, we get swiftmend and noursih…but they both have limitations to them which may vary their effectiveness in a pinch!  So, if you are taking just an immense amout of damage, you get topped off quickly, and start to drop rapidly again, we’ve probably executed our OH SHIT! buttons, and we need you to help us stablize yourself to the extent that you can.
  • Just like for any healing class (simmer down paladins!  I know you feel this pain the most!) anytime that everyone in the group is taking damage, including the tank, for whatever reason (*cough AE happy idiot mage cough*) it puts extra stress on the healer.  Druids are actually REALLY good at this with all of our HoTs, but if you, the tank, are noticing that your group is lowering in life, and you aren’t getting the heals as fast as you need, help us out!  We will get to you, and I have often let that idiot mage die to save the tank, but sometimes we just need a little help!
  • We have no way to drop agro.  We can’t fade, we can’t bubble.  We can use barkskin to buy you a few secondsto get the mob off of us, but if it hits hard enough and you are too slow, we are probably a gonner.
  • If all the druid has to worry about is keeping you fully hotted, and then just using Nourish to keep you topped off, healing is a pinch, but this is rarely the case.  Where things start to go sideways a bit is if things in the group start to get really dicey and/or you start to take large chains of REALLY big burst damage or you are taking moderate to large damage, but everyone else in the group is also taking moderate damage.  Knowing this, I think can help you help us and make druids more successful healers for you!

I firmly believe that druids have all the tools they need to be just as successful as any other healer in a group setting.  It is certainly a more dynamic form of healing with a lot of moving pieces and knowledge that comes with time; so a novice druid may struggle with it a little bit more (read: you, the tank, may need to be a little more conservative with what you pull and a little more helpful with your own survival abilities) than someone like myself who has been healing on a druid for 4 years.  However, there are still certainly times still when I find myself sweating out an instance even with all my experience.

If a tank is finding that he is repeatedly having issues with a specific class healing him, I think that is probably more a sign of the tank being somewhat ignorant of that classes strengths and weaknesses than that class as a whole being inept at healing.  I also firmly believe that having some understanding about the different limitations each healing class may have will make you a stronger tank in the long run.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is that, Mr. Tank…maybe it’s you and not me. ;)

7 responses to “An Aversion to Druid Healers…wha?!?!

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  1. AE happy idiot mage???? That hurt. Lets see how you like Stonard this time of year, on your next portal :P LOL!

  2. Hmm, I have the dubious honor of spawning a blog post.

    First of all, I appologize profusely for offending you or any other of my leafy breatheren. I spend most of my time as a bear, to the point I don’t recognize myself in elf form.

    We have two druid healers in our guild, one of whom is a top notch ex-hardcore raider. He outperforms everyone in any healing task he’s given. The other prefers being a raid healer; he’s not comfortable healing a tank.

    Most of my experience with druid healers was while gearing up for naxx while the expansion was still fairly new. The only time I had problems was when a druid was healing. For some reason, we never finished a run with a tree healing. It got to the point where if I saw a druid healer, I made some excuse and left the group.

    Granted, we’d have a wipe here and there with priests, paladins and shaman, but it was just consistant with druids.

    Could it have been me? Sure, I may have pulled faster than they were able to throw up hots, but I’m usually a very considerate tank. I mark all the targets, make sure everyone’s mana is up, etc.

    Again, I appologize. I was not trying to say druids were bad healers. As I said, we have one in our guild that is outstanding. I was just giving my own personal experiences.

  3. @Theerivs – Stonard is lovely this time of the year ;)

    @ Copernicus – No need for apologies, I’m not offended at all! Just a little fired up. If nothing else, you gave me a good topic for today. =) Next time you are faced with a druid healer, instead of backing out, think “how can I make this work” and try to play to your healers strengths…it might turn out differently.

    Instances are always tougher when you are first starting them, before you have gear that out gears them and before you have run them 100 times. I always have a harder time when there is really bursty tank damage along with damage to the group that needs healed up.

    For what it’s worth…people die a lot more when I heal instances with my paladin than they do when I heal them with my druid ;)

  4. Ahem, well, obviously as a priest I can’t really comment, he comments…

    Seriously though.

    This might come across as a bit abstract and is probably Just Plain Wrong (as I have much less druid experience than priest) but, having tried my hand at both druid and priest healing, there’s a significant difference in the type of thinking that underlies it. Because of the reliance on HoTs, as you discuss above, I find druid healing requires an anticipatory rather than responsive style of play. And because of this I think it’s more flexible … and arguably more powerful in the intellectual rather literal sense.

    This is turning tl;dr on me but, in short, I think I heal better as a druid when I know what I’m doing, but priest healing is far more forgiving when I don’t.

    In essence, it’s probably easier to heal badly as a druid.

    • “in short, I think I heal better as a druid when I know what I’m doing, but priest healing is far more forgiving when I don’t.”

      I think you’re on the button here. It’s much rougher being healed by an inexperienced resto druid who doesn’t know the instance than by someone who does. And I guess for PUGs people prefer to go with the easier options. (Same reason a lot of people prefer paladins to warrior tanks.)

      But this was one of the things that drew me to the resto druid when I was trying to decide which class I wanted to heal on. It does have more of a learning curve, it is a bit different, and I do think it’s rewarding when you master it and can go prove that you’re every bit as reliable as any old priest. Also HoTs are fun.

  5. @ Tamarind and Spinks – You are both very spot on, it does take a bit of practice as a druid to get your roots under you and get a feel for what works and doesn’t work as a healer.

    Druid healing is quite anticipatory, and that does take some getting used to, for sure. We are quite unique from all of the other healing classes, and perhaps it is more challenging to master?

    I’m just happy that we got an out of combat rez…for all that, wip…er, learning ;)

  6. The mantra I always give to my new sprouts and also to the tanks not yet used to the healing ways of the grove…

    “Trust in the HoTs!”

    It’s a hard lesson to learn, but once learned it brings that adrenaline rush of ‘OMG!! I’M/MYTANKIS LOSINGHEALTH!’ back down into acceptable ranges. I always giggle a little inside when I’m tanking with a new tree who has a ful 3 LB stack, RJ, RG, AND WG on me when I’m only down 700hp.

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