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.
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?