Are Healers Becoming Less Important?   6 comments

Ever since the MMO scene exploded into a popular genre with EQ1, there has been the same sort of philosophy in popular game design, all of which focus around the great Triumvirate.  The Tank, The Healer and The DPS.   This design philosophy has certainly carried over into WoW; but that was hardly surprising with an old EQ player (Jeff Kaplan) bringing his MMO expertise to the creation of the game.  And, honestly, I personally don’t mind this design in WoW.

However, as of late, I feel a little bit like healers are becoming less and less important, at least as far as success in end game raiding is concerned.  I mean sure, you still need someone there to keep the tank standing and the raid alive, but when you only need 3-4 people to accomplish this task in a group of 25 for some encounters, how is it hard not to feel undervalued?  And I can’t help but wonder…when did our role start to shrink?

To fully understand my thoughts, let’s travel back in time:

The day’s of MC/BWL/AQ40/Naxx 40:

In these instances you generally brought 5 of each of the 8 classes available to your faction.  Which in turn meant that your 40 man raid had 15 healers…or roughly 1/3 of your raid were healers.  (Sorry, there were no “off-spec”, if you played a paladin, druid, shaman or priest you were a healer in the end game.  Period.)  You often had to master your class and use “healing rotations” for intensive healing fights (group “a” heal, group “b” regen).  Healers clearly had a very important role in end game raiding, and your 3 healing classes were equally represented.

You did not go into an encounter down half of your healing team.

TBC Healing:

The Burning Crusade cut raid sizes down to 25, however healers still composed roughly 30% of your raid.  Most fights were 7-8 healer encounters for the entirety of the expansion, and you could still fairly safely bring 2 of each healing class to an encounter and find success.  Not only that, but you actually needed  a certain number of healers to succeed.

I remember our fist few Illidan kills having 9 healers present to deal with everything going on.  It was very stressful to be short healing.  I remember a number of times having to have people respec to help heal on certain fights, because you just couldn’t say “damn, we only have 5 healers online, no bigge, we can do it with this”.  You needed your healers, they were an integral part of your raid successes.

There was no fight in TBC’s 25 man content that an average guild could have gone into with 3-4 healers and come out with a win.  Blizzard didn’t design encounters that way, and it was expected that you had a requisite number of healers in your raid to achieve success.

Wrath of the Lich King:

In today’s raids there are very few circumstances when you actually need  to have a full healing roster of 7-8 healers.  In fact, a good portion of the content requires you to carry fewer healers to achieve success.  There are nights when we have 4-5 healers online, and we just shrug and say “meh…think we can 5 heal mimiron?”…and the answer is yes.  Yes, we can.

We tried to resist the healing yo-yo that Blizzard threw at us, and kept at a steady 7-8 all the way through Naxx, OS and Malygos.  Until we started Sarth +3 and 6 minute Malygos.  It was at that point that we had to accept that the way Blizzard intended things to be “harder” was to bring more DPS and less healing (because it’s not as if you can cut your 2-3 tanks).  We dropped down to 5 healers for these encounters to find success, although we went back up to 6 after a few Sarth +3 kills were under our belt.

Ok…that’s not SO bad, I guess.  However, that brings us to the next level of raiding in Ulduar.  Up until Yogg, we consistantly ran 7 healers on all normal mode encounters, and had very consistent success.  We managed to kill a lot of the timed events with 7 healers before their enrage timers got nerfed.  But…we once again dropped to 5 healers for Yogg.  This really wasn’t such a big deal, as a few of us ran with dual specs, and could still be a part of our kill by dpsing.

Then came the hard modes.  Which quite frankly are all over the map on healing needs.  We had to drop down to 3 healers for Hodir to have enough DPS to meet the timer, we are back down to 5 for XT and would go with less if we thought we could.  We are seriously considering dropping down to 4 for Yogg, especially as we think that having an extra DPS as we start taking away keepers will be beneficial.  And then we read about encounters like Mimiron, Freya, and Thorim where your full army of 7 are required again.

  • The WotLK Yo-Yo
  • As I mentioned above, you have a good number of encounters that require you to staunch your healer numbers down to minimal amounts.  Then you have encounters that require you to bring your full arsenal.  I don’t know about you all…but I find this highly annoying.

    Frankly, it’s more than annoying, it’s a raid planning nightmare.  I really wish that Blizzard would pick a consistent number of healers, be it more or less, and stick with it for all  encounters.  I don’t want to have to shuffle my raid around constantly depending on what we are working on that particular night.  There is certainly nothing fun about having to say “ok…it’s time for Hodir, I need some of you to drop out so I can pick up more DPS”.

    While dual-specs help this somewhat, it’s a fact that not everyone that heals is good  at playing their DPS roles.  It is sometimes a disadvantage to have people switch to these roles because they just aren’t as geared or as experienced as some of your full time DPS, and it is likely that they won’t perform as well…at a time you are asking for your DPS to perform at their top level.

For a lot of the fights, I can’t help but wonder where the healer’s role went if you only need 3-5 healers to keep your raid alive?  Sure…those healers have to work harder, but the fact that it can be done with so few, to me, seems to somewhat trivialize our role in raids.  If so much of the encounter is based on how much damage your raid can put out, and how fast they can put it out, rather than how well each of your three roles can work together as a unit, the healers seem to be becoming almost trivial players. 

Healers do still have to keep people alive, but with the primary focus of so many fights being on how fast you can kill the mob, it seems to me that the Triumvirate has really started to become imbalanced, with the healers getting the short end of the stick.

I just don’t know.  What do you think?  Do you feel as if the importance of the healer is slowly diminishing?

Posted July 20, 2009 by Beruthiel in eh?, Hard Modes, Healing, Raid Leadership, Raiding

6 responses to “Are Healers Becoming Less Important?

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  1. I can’t help feeling the same. While it does push your individual healers harder, bringing less healers to accomplish something just seems sad. How come a “hardmode” is just a “DPS” mode?

  2. I’d actually tend to disagree. In my opinion, the largest “make or break” factor in the vast majority of the hard modes I’ve done is whether or not we have healer who can keep up with the damage. In fact, the only thing keeping us from killing Algalon is the fact that we haven’t been able to keep the tanks up. DPS, even good DPS, is a dime a dozen. Finding a quality healer? Now that’s something you don’t stumble upon every day.

    I also admit I haven’t been seeing much of a consistency issue for healing, either. You can generally run with ~5 or 6 and be fine for just about everything; in 10 mans, we occasionally have our Enhancement Shaman switch to Restoration for certain hard modes. Blizzard may have minimized the number of healers necessary per encounter, but they’ve definitely demanded higher quality (as you seem to have alluded to). Is this really so bad? The number of individuals who have the capability to heal yet have zero desire to heal seems perilously low, these days. Nine times out of 10, a lack of healer is what holds up any sort of on-the-fly run.

    So if fewer people really do want to heal, by lowering the number necessary per raid, Blizzard is only balancing the equation. But trivializing healers? Hell no. Having a fantastic one is just as important as ever.

  3. @Runy – I’m not saying that you don’t need healers at all, but I seeing a trend that leans towards requiring fewer healers needed for success in a raid. Where you needed 7-8 in TBC, you now need 5-6 for most normal mode encounters. And often even fewer in hard mode encounters.

    While I do agree that you can do all normal modes with 5-6, I will have to respectfully disagree with your statement regarding being able to do most hard modes with 5-6. My experience to date with hard modes has been all over the map with healer requirements. Maybe our DPS needs to improve, but when some of the top echelon guilds are also saying “use 3-4 healers for this encounter” and then “with 7 healers this encounter becomes easier” I can’t help but think that it isn’t entirely our DPS failing, as much as it is Blizzard’s design.

    If Blizzard would design encounters to where you could do 100% of them, with great success, in any raid make-up, at any difficulty, with 5-6 healers, then I would say “ok”. But as it is right now, I have to bench healers every week in favor of DPS as we work on hard modes.

    I also can’t help but feeling that even at the 5-6 needed for normal modes, that is still a waning in the importance of the healer in a raid setting. Sure, you still need a few to keep the raid alive, but instead of needing 1/3 of our raid as heals, you now need 1/5 of your raid to do the job. Is this good or bad? I don’t really know.

    Honestly, I don’t think that this is a “quality” of healer issue. When 3 healers can do the job of 6, sure, maybe those healers are stellar…but doesn’t that somewhat say “if we can do it with 3, why even bother with 6?”.

    With regards to the 10 man healing…I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The 10 man is just better tuned all around than the 25, in my opinion. All of the 10 man encounters can be 2-3 healed, you never have to deviate from that. Needing an off-spec healer for an encounter here or there is so vastly different than in the 25 mans when you have to go from 3-4 healers on one encounter to 7 healers on another.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s fair to compare the requirements between the two. I’m in no way trying to say that the 10 man is not challenging, it is. But with the requirements being so vastly different, it’s kind of like compairing apples and oranges.

    @Bell – I agree. Everyday I become a little more disillusioned with hard modes. Surely Blizzard has a little more creativity than saying “and now, for today’s challenge, we would like to to pull the rabbit from the hat…faster!”.

  4. I agree and as someone whose preferred raid role is healing it feels a little depressing at times. My guild tend to run with 5 healers as a maximum, going down to 3 on certain fights (Hodir hardmode being one). Even on the fights where we use 5 healers, sometimes it feels like we are fighting for scraps to heal up because there just isn’t enough damage going around.
    Our dpsers talk of awesome fights and “look at my sustained dps” in excited voices whilst the conversion in the healing channel goes something like “Ooh I did 2k dps with smite during that fight” and “This is so boring, X go and die so there is something to do please”.
    My guild are certainly good in the sense they don’t bench healers, people are just expected to respec but as you say, not everyone is happy dpsing on a certain class. For example I went from not having done anything as shadow ever in a group environment via the target dummies to General Vezax Heroic Hardmode. To say it was a interesting learning curve would be an understatement.

  5. I’m inclined to agree too. We have any number of good healers and a few great healers, and they’re not healers because they want to do dps. Just giving someone the option of taking a spare dps spec doesn’t mean they’re going to suddenly transform into a dps superstar simply because you need less healers for a certain fight. Some will and do, of course, but they’re rare.

    I’m reminded of end game raiding in late TBC, specifically Sunwell, when the best way to succeed was the leave all your mages and most of your holy paladins on the bench and stack your raid with resto shamans, shadow priests and warlocks. Swapping players out mid-raid because you needed x decursers on Kalecgos and then x priests on Felmyst was a crap state of affairs and led directly to Blizz’s new warcry of “Bring the player not the class”. I just feel that they’ve gone too far in the other direction by expecting every healer to have a valid dps offspec and be a superstar at playing it, that we’ve ended up right where we were at the end of TBC with mid raid rotations of players because not everyone is the multidisciplinary mastermind that “BTPNTC” at the extreme end of the spectrum requires them to be. So we boot the guys who are good healers but not great dps and bring in more dps for certain fights and end up right back in the mess that was Sunwell raiding.

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