There has been a bit of a stir up in the community lately regarding the concept of Heal Sniping and how it’s viewed by different healers. I’ve already offered my thoughts on it in several different comments as I worked my way through each post, and I’m not going to rehash them here. However, all of this discussion did get me thinking about a tangentially related topic. Competition.
Competition is not a four letter word.
Something that regularly confuses me a little bit is why people tend to classify healing competition as a bad thing. I mean, we ask all of our DPS to compete with each other regularly. We even go so far as to look at who is on the top and who is on the bottom – and to an extent insinuate that those on the bottom should strive to be on the top. Granted, there are encounters where DPS are given special assignments that will hinder their DPS for the good of the raid, but generally DPS is a rat race to see who can contribute the most for any given encounter.
We expect this of them and consider it good play.
As such, I am always baffled when healers who are competitive often have their play spoken of in a derogatory fashion. Called “snipers” or “meter whores”. Granted, healing isn’t the same as DPS. Sometimes certain sacrifices have to be made that will invariably have an effect on output. Someone pouring their heart into the tank isn’t likely going to match someone freely healing a raid taking heavy damage. But that shouldn’t stop someone else pouring heals into the tank from trying to go heal for heal with their team-mate, or someone else healing the raid from trying to keep up with those pesky tranquilities.
In fact, I’ll even go as far to say that competition amongst healers is equally as good as, if not better than, competition amongst DPS. I’ve never understood why someone wouldn’t go into a raid and try to perform to their maximum capacity. Why someone wouldn’t want to try to be the best on any given fight as both an individual and as a part of a team. I very firmly believe that healing is a team effort, but I also believe that each individual on that team has a responsibility to excel on a personal level every raid as well.
There is little glory winning a race run alone.
When I step into my raid each night, I have the mind set that I want to “win”. Not just that we are going to down bosses. Not just that we are going to achieve our goals. But that I am going to push myself as a healer and do what it takes to run a race with my team and cross the finish line first. That isn’t to say that I’m going to ignore my assignment. That isn’t to say that I’m going to play poorly with my only focus on if I’m on top or on bottom. But it does mean that I’m going to step into that raid and push my limits. I’m not going to be content with “did my target die? No? Then I did my job”. Because the truth is that when I’m healing I have twenty-five targets, the life of each is as valuable as the next. And if any one of those twenty-five die, I’m going to ask myself if there is something I could have done that would have made a difference.
Am I going to ignore the tank to blindly throw out rejuvs if he’s at 50% health? No, I’m going to toss some love to the tank. But you’re also damn skippy that I’m going to prepare the raid for set damage bursts. You can bet that I am going to figure out how to maximize my cooldowns to boost my output. And I’m going to say a small curse about how hard it is to keep up with all of that divine aegis being thrown out at the raid. All while watching 25 life bars and navigating where my heals are needed the most.
But do you know what I’m not going to do?
I’m not going to blame the priest whose casting his safety net around the raid, or the paladin that is just on top of everything and beating me to heal after heal, or that shaman with their damnable blue circles of goodness. I’m going to let them push me. I’m going to let them make my brain work to figure out how I can squeeze out the advantage in that last lap. I’m not going to keep looking behind me as I pass them to see how close they are (listening to them curse that damn tranquility as I gracefully run by), I’m going to keep pushing myself as hard as I can in an attempt to keep my positioning. I’m going to keep fighting as if I’m losing, reminding myself the fight isn’t over until the fat dragon sings, because I sure as hell know that they doing the same thing. Just as I know that the healer behind the priest is trying to take that inside lap that will put her ahead of both of us in the eleventh hour.
And this is good for our team. After all, where is fun and the drive if one person is dominating everyone else? Sure, it might be nifty for a bit. But being humbled is healthy, and knowing that you had to work for that win is far more fulfilling.
Build a box, not a staircase.
One of the things that we regularly tell our DPS is that when we look at our parses we want to see a solid block of damage. We don’t want to see a stepping stone to the guy at the top. Essentially, a parse that has a block of damage is one where everyone has relatively equal output on the encounter. It’s my opinion that healers should largely strive for the same thing.
Healers that compete against each other, race each other in a nightly run, will build boxes much easier. Sure, there will be fights where that is much harder to achieve (I’m never going to keep up with our paladin/disc combo on Baleroc given my task for the fight) – but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try (and you better believe that I do!). Your ultimate goal every fight should be to have your parse look much like the one I linked at the start of this post. Where the top healer and the bottom are so close, that any one or two changes from anyone on the team could have completely shaken up the order of things.
But how do you do that?
With healthy competition. With each healer exploring not only the limits of their class, but their limits as a player. With each member of your healing team knowing their weaknesses and exploiting their strengths. A healer that doesn’t know their weaknesses will never be able to effectively counter them with their strengths. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that a healer who doesn’t know their weaknesses will always struggle to be a competitive healer. Not only that, but a healer should also understand the strengths and weaknesses of their team, so that they can better support those weaknesses with their own strengths.
But Beru, you keep talking about healing on an individual level, but referring to it as a team. How can it be both?
Easily, a team player will always make sure that their priority is taken care of first – be it the tanks, the raid, whatever. A competitive team player will ask themselves the more individual questions of what more they can do while handling their given task. And a smart team player will figure out what their limitations are as a player and how far they can push them without hindering the team.
There is no reason that a strong healing team can’t also be just as competitive as their DPS team. Healers that are exploring their boundaries and testing the limits of those boundaries to the success of the raid are going to be healers that can grow and adapt to more situations and foster a stronger understanding of their class, themselves as a player and how they fit into their healing team. It is a good thing to have healers with drive as long as they still respect the concept of teamwork. The two do not have to be mutually exclusive concepts.
The Battle for Lower HPS
WHAT?!?! Something that is unique to healing is that the stronger your overall healing team becomes, the lower each individual’s HPS will become. While your raid HPS will stay relatively the same, your individual HPS will likely take a dip as your other healers claw their way to the top. That is because there is a more even split amongst the healing between the entire team. And that is a good thing.
As your team becomes stronger you can start to explore the possibility of reducing the number of healers that you bring to up the ante and add additional challenges for healers. This isn’t something that we generally do as a guild, because we don’t like to list healers just because we technically don’t need as many anymore, but as we have more healers building DPS sets, we may start exploring it while letting healers DPS in an effort to keep the encounters fresh and challenging for everyone. However, to get to this point you need to have the drive in each healer to not only run the race every night but to try and win the race as well. The race is healthy, challenging and essential to growth as a player.
Spark some conversation with your fellow class mates to figure out the best way to work with (combat!) that pesky divine aegis or tranquility. Or how to help supplement those divine lights and holy lights with some HoTs to stabilize the tank. Keep in mind that competition isn’t about linking the meters afterwards and saying “OWNED!”. It’s about striving to do better and win a race that you may have lost last week. It’s about pushing the boundries of your class. It’s about growing as a player. It’s about having fun while healing. It’s about the tells after a fight “damn that DA! I almost had you!” or “curse that tranquility! So OP!”, but knowing that it’s meant in a friendly way and acknowledging someone else’s achievement.
Compeition Builds Better Healers.
Striving to be the best is not a bad thing. Being a competitive player is not a bad thing. Being on a team that is as equally as competitive as you are is not a bad thing. Encourage your healing team to let everyone spread their wings and explore their boundaries. Use your team mates to bounce ideas from gearing to little tricks you learned in an effort to strengthen each other. Encourage a little healthy competition. Work every raid to build a box. I promise you, your raid will be stronger for it in the end!
And lastly a personal note to my heal team: you guys make me a better player every night I have the privilege to raid with you. You push me to excel and find my limits. I cherish you when you win and even more when I can fight to make a comeback the next week. I look forward to our nightly races and am grateful to have each of you to push me ever farther down the road to exceptional. Someday perhaps we will even get there :)