Healthy Competition Builds Stronger Healers   18 comments

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 :)

18 responses to “Healthy Competition Builds Stronger Healers

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  1. I absolutely loved this post Beru. I think the reason I improved so much as a healer when I first started raid healing, was because I wanted to be as good as Lam (mah heal god).. so I looked closely at what I was doing, and what he was doing, in order to be better. Of course he always stayed one step ahead of me (I blame his youth and twitchier fingers *nodnod*) but we ended up working perfectly as a team because we understood each other so well. Perhaps I’m just competitive, but if someone is doing better than me, it just pushes me to damn well figure out why and improve. I’ve read some of the heal sniping stuff, and well, to me, some of it just sounds like sour grapes.

    • I really do like to have someone outheal me. I mean I don’t like it, but it’s good for me. If that makes sense! I think it’s great when a heal team can build and grow from pushing each other. :)

  2. Very well-written post, and it harkens back to Jas’ response to my comment on her sniping post where she noted, that the happy positive type is okay with it and the negative grumpy type thinks its sniping. It all comes down to the attitudes of the healers in question. I stand by what I said, we are a team. We work together for the best end result, but your points are equally valid in that we each strive to do our personal best. Our disc priest often talks about not being able to match my HPS, but he is DISC, his shields don’t show up in that category, so his ‘healing’ is probably better than mine in the end. Shaman have the amazing ability to have lower hps combined with a higher percentage of effective healing than other classes which means they simply get more bang for the buck, and when we need the big heal gun, our paladin is right there.

    My point is that Recount shows so little of the overall picture yet people lean on it so much. All four of us healing classes have wonderful and unique abilities that set us apart from each other… yes you can argue the homogenization to some degree, yet we’re still all different from each other. Those differences are why we make great teams. Like you, Beru, I am SO grateful for my team, they just rock… :)

    • Sometimes I wonder if the attitudes of the other healers in a team will affect how they view competitive healing. If people are positive and willing/wanting to push and grow with each other then I think you see a healthy, competitive healing team. If people are snarky about their output, or discouraging towards others, then perhaps it can get a bit nasty. Which is unfortunate, because I really do believe that having other healers push you is part of what helps you to grow as a healer. But if you are angry about being pushed, it’s likely at least a little counterproductive.

  3. 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.

    This is what a lot of people don’t grasp. I insist on being a team player and I tell my players that what matters to me is that they keep their assignments up. This is absolutely true. But if they ARE doing that and then they can help out, or can help out simultaneously without losing focus on their assignment, that’s the healer that steps it up a notch and is not only helping the team, but is making the team stronger.

    I also love seeing a WoL healing parse where we’re all in the same range. Nothing makes me happier than that (assuming a kill, of course). :)

    Great post!

    • I definitely think that it’s important for a healer to feel comfortable enough with themselves as a player and with their team to know when they can branch out and spread their wings a bit. :)

  4. I play off against the other healers in my raid and we even get a little smack talk going occasionally when we are in our element and relaxed and things are going right, and when we are there you do see a solid block of healing. But once you are comfortable with your teams healers you start to know what they will do (who they will heal and why) and that lets you make better decisions on who to heal and utimately it conserves your mana and leaves more for the O’Crap we pulled an extra mob, or the tank steps on a crystal trap.

    One of the things that I find as a druid healer is fast reflexes and putting the right heal on the right target at the right time. Want to build your reflexes real fast?
    Have your friendly Rogue trix you randomly while in a 5man Heroic. The first time that happened I about poo’d in my roots as I had no idea it was going to happen, he was laughing so hard that he stopped dps because he was crying from laughing so hard, I somehow found my shadowmeld before dying but it really freaked out the pug tank we had. He now has a macro that targets me whispers me “You better heal yourself you are about to die!” and then trixes me.
    That really keeps you on your toes.

    • I think I’ll skip on the part where the rogues tricks me ^.^

      I have enough deaths from running into trash we didn’t pull while running back to a boss, that I’ll save myself the extra exercise :)

      I do think that you are right that a lot of healing is twitch reflexes, and actions per minute. Being able to make snap decisions is probably more important for a healer than any other role in the raid, after all our entire job is all about making the right deicison at the right time to keep someone alive. I also agree that there is a lot to be said for knowing your other healers and being comfortable with them. I think that’s why it’s a bit of a challenge for a healer new to a team to find their place.

  5. Maybe it’s more the terminology here that many healers don’t appreciate; if you say “competition”, some people (for good reason too) automatically associate a race with it, a race for “as high a number as possible, no matter what” and it’s easy to see why such a mindset is bad. it’s bad for every role really, but it’s especially bad in a team that relies on trusting each other with individual responsibilities to achieve the overall goal.

    The way you use the term, it’s about being inspired and pushed by your mates really, to improve and become as effective as you can be within your role. there’s nothing wrong with that. I would probably still not call it a competition/contest – my personal choice. I guess I’ve been lucky in Adrenaline, our healer team clicked naturally and our healers were always close together on the meters and took turns in being on top (depending on assignment and encounter). so we never had to single out individuals; if we did our job, bosses would die and everyone had his just share therein. there was also the downside though that we ‘grew’ in the same way and hence would have to reduce the healer numbers pretty soon. I think this factor IS a big difference still about healing teams – the moment everyone pushes the limits (as you say), you inevitably have to reduce healer numbers because healing available is “limited” in a way that damage is not. now, we always had capable healer hybrids, but depending on the guild, this can actually cause problems.

    • Perhaps I should clarify. We don’t set out in a raid and at the start say “ok everyone, tonight’s competition is xyz”. Rather we just all play our best and push to be at the top. No one is malicious about it, and there is often friendly banter after a kill where one healer did exceptionally well, or was extordinarily close. I think that difference between “competition” and “healthy competition” is that at the end of the day everyone recognizes what is truly important, and everyone shares in the successes.

  6. I love a good competition and like being pushed. However, I hate, hate, hate people who blow all cooldowns when a wipe has been called just to pad the meter a bit. If we’re meant to be dying, we’re meant to be dying fast not standing in a corner frantically healing everyone around us. I do think some people take being competitive a bit far.

    • As a team, we don’t allow for this, and when we look at logs, we don’t care about the wipes we care about the wins when looking at over all performance numbers (we’ll look at the wipes to isolate other problems, but when it comes down to it we want to see how someone performed when the most things went right. Someone who refuses to just die wastes everyone’s time and gets chastised by us as a raid team! But I can certainly see where it could be frustrating if you had someone doing this regularly. It’s just a waste of time :(

  7. Yes, competition can easily be pushed too far, that’s the problem. Two of my guildies once got into a “I can do more damage than you” pissing contest, I somehow got roped into healing this thing… Well, the one was doing great while staying under the tank’s threat… the other was blowing everything he had, pulling off the tank and generally driving me nuts with keeping him alive… So at the end, when the one declared victory, you bet I had them look at the ‘heals taken’ and ‘damage taken’ sections so they could see how he’d won his ‘victory’.

    • Well, that’s why the title of the post is “healthy” competition. It can go too far, but the challenge is to keep grounded while remaining competitive. However, I do also pretty firmly believe that it’s healthy to be humbled every now and again and that not “winning” in a competitive environment can be just as good for you as being on top :)

  8. Amazing amazing blog. You nailed my exact sentiment on this subject. In my guild’s healing meters (10m, 3 heals at the moment) it’s rare you see the percent healing done to differ by more than 5% between healers. We push eachother, watch each other’s targets for those unavoidable moments when we can’t heal, and I think it makes for one of the best – if not the best – healing teams on our (admittedly poorly progressed) server. Thank you for such an eloquent discussion. =D

  9. I’m really uncomfortable with the idea of an inter-healer ‘competition’ in our (largely casual) 10 man runs. We’re a team, and we’re all bringing different things to the encounter–different WoW experience, different amounts of weekly play-time, different classes, different heals targets, different ages and abilities and levels of commitment. And right now, as a druid and the best geared healer in the guild, I’m gonna win (apart from on Baleroc) on the meters unless I’m having a really off night. I win because I’m a druid assigned to raid healing and I’ve had the time to cap my VP each week. It’s got nothing to do with me or anybody else working to give their best. And so thinking or talking about it as a competition wouldn’t be fair.
    So I guess my ‘competition’ is with myself, to improve from the last run–on mana management, survivability, and uptime on LBs and Harmony. I support your idea about trying to understand the gameplay of the other members of your healy team and trying to do your best, but in our team, a ‘competition’ wouldn’t sit right.

  10. Very good comment on the healing, I have to say that I fully agree with what you said! While focusing on a single number is a bad thing, competitiveness on healing is in my opinion essential to having a smooth raid experience. Especially since it allows for mistakes to be made when it comes to damage taken, when progressing through new content.

    Though I have to admit that I grumble a bit when my fellow healers prevent me from ranking on world of logs :)

  11. “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.” – Beruthiel

    For my own part, I think this is perhaps more useful/important than your emphasize. When I look at what generally makes life easier on healers, i.e. more stability, less spike damage, less standing in bad stuff, etc all of those issues can often be assisted, eased, or mitigated through higher overall Raid DPS. For example, if the adds die faster, or you push through the tough healing phase as quickly and cleanly as possible, this is actually hugely beneficial to the healers in my opinion. As a healer, I genuinely encourage our DPS to push the (soon to be defunct) threat limit with the idea in mind that if we can push through a phase more quickly, that’s actually a net gain to the heal team.

    To come back to the point you made in your post, I particularly like dropping from 3 to 2 healers in 10-mans wherever feasible. I think it really pushes me to pay as “heads-up” as possible and really helps me avoid complacency as I heal, knowing that I’m going to have to push myself to the limit to manage the task in front of me/us. It also potentially adds 20K+ DPS to the overall RDPS and that can be hugely beneficial on a number of fights. I think about how much faster and cleaner Ryolith is for example with 2 healers as opposed to 3 in 10-man (ratio obviously adjusts for 25s), and I find it much more challenging (and therefore satisfying) for myself on a purely selfish perspective.

    The issue with beginning to sit healers is a real one, but particularly these days, most healers have a raid-viable DPS off-set (Think balance, Shadow, Ret, Elemental, etc), and I believe it’s valuable to learn a fight from multiple angles whenever I can. I always feel like I understand what’s happening on a tough fight better when I see it from more than one role’s perspective….. my own OS is Feral (Bear) so being able to touch and feel the Tanking mechanics (again my personal opinion) makes me a better healer because I learn that aspect of the fight much more intimately, i.e. where as a tank I would need CDs, movement requirements, threat challenges, etc. If I know those things as a healer, I genuinely believe it can better inform me on my own primary role which is why I advocate rotating people whenever reasonably viable.

    I’m very interested in your own perspective on actively rotating classes with a viable OS through those roles on a given encounter to encourage a more holistic, hands-on approach to learning challenging fights.

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