Consistency, Please.   60 comments

Today I’d like to address a problem that has been plaguing us since the conversion to 25 man raids from 40 man raids back at the start of The Burning Crusade.  Something that has been frustrating not only as a healer, but as a raid leader as well.  The problem: consistent healing requirements (or lack thereof) through content.

When I walked uphill both ways to Molten Core, setting up your healing roster was simple: 5 Priests, 5 Druids, 5 Shaman.  15 slots of your 40 were dedicated to your healing team.  Or, put mathematically, 37.5% of your raid roster was allocated to healers.  As guild’s made the transition from 40 people to 25, somewhere that percentage got jumbled.

When The Burning Crusade started, I think it was fairly common to run an 8 healer roster for most encounters.  Broken down, you just took two of each class – at least until you got to Sunwell, and half of your healers had to reroll Shaman.  Most encounters could be done plus or minus a healer, and most raids were run with 7-9 depending on the encounter.  In fact, I think the only encounter that really favored 9 was Illidan, and even then, only while learning the fight.  I have memories of our Feral druids having to respec Resto on nights when we were short healers.

However, I think the average was probably 7-8 healers for most raid teams.  Or, put mathematically, ~32% of your raid.  A slight decline, but nothing that was too out of whack.

The introduction of Wrath of the Lich King – and more specifically, the content patch that introduced Ulduar, is where I think things started to go amiss, especially with hard modes coming forth in earnest.  You were required to have a deep healing roster, because you had fights like Heroic Freya where you took eight healers to meet the damage requirements.  But then you had fights like Heroic Hodir, where we three healed our first kill.  The rest of the zone was somewhere in between – with no level of consistency.  5 healers for Yogg, 8 healers for Thorim, 6 for XT.  As you cleared through the zone, no two fights had the same requirement, and your healing team was constantly adjusting to the requirements of the encounter.

In simpler terms you ranged from needing between 12% and 32% of your raid being allocated to healers.

As we entered Cataclysm, I had hoped that this would be somewhat alleviated.  And for most of T11, I felt it was – at least a bit.  We ran most of our T11 content with 7 healers.  We dropped to 6 for Heroic Cho’gall, Nef and Sinestra.  And we ran 8 for pre-nerf Magmaw and Chimearon.  But we pretty stubbornly kept 7 of our raid slots allocated to healers throughout the content, at least as much as we could.

And then came Firelands.  We cleared Normal out in a week, using 7 healers for everything.  However, as we approached heroic content, we found that we were once again yo-yoing healers.  We 7 healed Heroic Shannox, because we could.  But we had to drop down to 6 for Alysrazor and Rhyolith.  Back up to 7 for Beth’tilac.  Down to 5 for Baleroc and Staghelm.  And we are now finding ourselves at 4 healers for Heroic Ragnaros.  We are again jockeying between 14% and 28% of our raid team for healers.

And it sucks.

The Problem with “Off Spec” DPS

I am sure that some of the people who read this post are going to say “well, that’s what Dual Specs are for”.   Only, it’s not really the elegant solution that certain people think that it is.  Let me see if I can explain why.  For starters, people who join a raid to heal, generally want to heal.  It’s where they feel they are strongest.  It’s their comfort zone.  And most importantly, it’s what they find fun.  Which is, consequently, why they are doing it.

Secondly, healing is a very different beast to DPSing.  Many of the base mechanics of what you do as a healer have little or nothing to do with what you do as a DPS.  People who aren’t comfortable at DPS, of find DPSing natural to them, are going to flail a bit when it comes to having to DPS.  They aren’t necessarily going to be the same caliber player in a spec and role that they aren’t comfortable performing.  It’s frustrating.  Being strong DPS takes dedication and practice.  Just because you are an amazing Bicyclist, doesn’t mean that you can hop on a Unicycle and not fall off.  It’s a completely different game, and not everyone will excel at it.  Which in turn means that if you are having to sit healers to bolster DPS, you are likely better bringing in a full member of your DPS team than asking a healer uncomfortable in their DPS spec to swap specs.

The worst part of this is that the only way to get better is by doing.  Which means that they have to do something that they don’t particularly enjoy just so that they aren’t a liability when asked to fill that role.  Which means that they have to spend even less time doing what they truly want to do (healing), just so they can get better at something they don’t really want to be doing (DPSing).  It’s a very nasty catch 22.

Thirdly, there is always going to be a gear discrepancy.  I always keep a full balance set.  But it’s always behind our full time DPS.  For starters, I don’t get my set bonuses until I have all of my resto gear, and I just got my four piece moonkin bonus last night.  And of those four pieces, only one is heroic quality.  The rest of my gear is a mish-mash of resto gear, and gear that I can throw together outside of raids through rep rewards of valor point purchases.  Occasionally I may get a DPS upgrade in a raid, but they are rare because healers aren’t going to be awarded DPS gear over a main spec DPS.  Which, in turn, means that my DPS gear isn’t always the best optimized, and it’s generally at least half a tier behind.  This means that even if I can do awesome DPS – I’m likely still not going to be able to pull the same numbers of an equally skilled person in their better, main spec gear.  Again, meaning that it would be more beneficial to the raid to bring in that player over me in a DPS spot.

Lastly, it can be a very demoralizing experience that can eventually break people.  People in competitive raid teams want to be competitive.  They want to do their best.  They want to be performers.  And if they are constantly at the bottom, in their off spec role, it will eventually get to them.  As can comments that are meant to be a joke, or even comments meant to be helpful, about their performance in their off spec.  The other night I bit the bullet and DPS’d for Heroic Staghelm.  It was my first time for that fight in that role.  I was mildly competitive with some of our lower DPS – but when push came to shove, at the end I beat the tank.  I’m one of our top performers as a healer – and what I got to say about my undergeared, and uncomfortable performance as DPS was “Hey!  I beat the tank…at least”.  Frankly, I was embarrassed.

We have a resto druid that’s been playing moonkin for 3/4ths of our raid time for the past month as we push heroic Rag, who I am positive has been in tears on the other side of her computer on more than one occasion in that time.  She is trying her ass off, I don’t have a doubt in my mind about that.  But when push comes to shove, she’s not comfortable with the spec, and as a guild we are asking her to do something she’s not comfortable with for the success of the raid for an extended period of time.  And she’s a champ and doing it – but I don’t doubt that she feels miserable many of our raid nights.  In fact, I know that she feels like she’s a detriment, because she’s told me she feels that way and has openly offered to sit out for someone who will do more DPS.

And you know what?  It makes me feel like shit to know that she’s uncomfortable and borderline miserable for 3 of our 4 raid nights.  And yet here I am asking her to keep her chin up and keep trucking along…because I can only bring four fucking healers into the fight and I value her too much as a player and asset to our raid team for her to miss the kill.

The inconsistency is unfair to players.

In the end, it’s the players that suffer when there are such huge swings of inconsistency in what a raid requires to succeed.  It’s the raid leaders who have to determine which healers to bench fight after fight.  It’s the healers who have to attempt to learn to be comfortable and viable as a DPS, something that very few raiders have asked of them.  It’s the raids that have to build a deeper DPS bench so that they can accommodate fights that need a fraction of the healers as others, and conversely have to be benched when a fight needs more healers to succeed.

In the end, it would be amazing if the development team could pick a set number of healers that they think should be viable for every encounter.  I don’t care if that number is 5, 6, 7 or 8.  I’d just like to stop having to constantly adjust to meet the demands of an encounter.  I’d like to be able to build a healing roster and know that I’m not going to have to bench half of them (or offspec them) for several of the encounters in a content tier.  I’d just like a little consistency.  And I don’t think that it’s too much to ask.

Posted October 11, 2011 by Beruthiel in /rant, Healing, Raiding

60 responses to “Consistency, Please.

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  1. All I can say to that is AMEN.

    As much as I love balance my comfort level with it is always going to be lower by some margin than restoration. While it may not impact me in my situation as much, that slight margin to a competative minded person or guild can be felt as significantly larger. For as much as I don’t like meters they are a metric as a DPS to how much you are contributing to a fight and seeing myself on the lower end of where I’d like to be does sting a bit its true.

    It’s funny how much it can feel like you’re out of your element performing a different role than you are used to on (albeit nerfed) somewhat difficult encounter.

    • I think there is a very big difference between being reasonably good at a spec, and mastering a spec. And, unfortunately, you can only do the latter if you are intimate with that spec day in and day out.

  2. I don’t really have anything I can add to this, Beru, except that it’s a relief to hear it from someone else! My latest blog entry is just me complaining about how much I hate retribution and I hate having to play it all the time. I want to be the flexible one to help my raid team but I realized it was making me miserable. We have the same problem, only on a smaller scale. I really feel for your moonkin, and I feel the same way about my DPS when I’m “off” spec. I am a great DPS as a mage or other ranged I am comfortable with, but melee and I just aren’t meant for each other.

    • One of the reasons that we just use the number of healers that we did learning it, and give the healers the option of DPSing if they want is so that no one feels “forced” to have to DPS. However, in learning Baleroc, Staghelm and now Heroic Rag, we are having to say our healers “if you want this, you have to DPS” – and I think is rather unfortunate.

  3. So true Beru. I just read Vid’s post about this and as a 10-man raider myself, it’s interesting to hear how it affects 25-man groups. (Basically the same, only with more people affected…obviously, haha.) Offspecs really aren’t the perfect solution everyone handwaves them to be. I’m exactly like you described – when I am on a healing character, I play that character TO HEAL. (To be fair it’s the same for DPS character – I play them to DPS, not tank/heal. This dilemma just comes up less often for them.)

    In Wrath, I was PASSABLE as a Boomkin, but hated it. In Cataclysm, I’m a little luckier in that I’m actually okay as Shadow Priest, but I still much prefer to heal – so much so that I’m now Disc/Holy for more healing options. Of course, these are more healing options, but if we decided to 2-heal a fight instead of 3-heal it? Well, suddenly I’m a detriment. It’s silly.

    I really feel for your poor Tree-turned-Boomkin. It’s always so uncomfortable and FRUSTRATING, for everyone, when someone is forced (by the game, not by the guild) to play a role they’re not entirely great at, where the only alternative is them sitting out for a real DPS. 😦 It’s a dilemma that should never happen, whether it be 10, 25, 40 man raids, whatever. It’s just stupid.

    • I think a lot of healers heal because that is what they enjoy and where they find challenge in the game. Even many healers are are formidable DPS still prefer to heal, and it’s a little frustrating when they don’t always get that option because of how an encounter is designed.

  4. I actually run in our raid as a healer/DPS hybrid in our 25’s. I mostly run as DPS and then I fill healing spots when needed (someone sick, need to heal to get a spot in a 10-man off-night, need more healing for a specific fight). My DPS really suffers when I go main-spec heals, so I switched to main-spec moonkin in our raid for Firelands. I can still heal competitively without set bonuses, but I rely on every ounce of DPS to keep up with the “big boys” on the DPS charts. So, it’s not as simple as just having a healer go DPS because most healers don’t make good DPS trying to do it in their healing sets.

  5. This is actually a large part of the reason that I’m no longer raiding with my Rift guild and it makes me very sad. Like you said, some people heal because they love to do it. That’s me. I have no desire to do anything else. I was fine learning how to heal in various specs, to be more flexible. But, being asked to go DPS just to stay in the raid and have something to do seemed like it was pushing it, for me. So, because I had nothing to do in raids and I was so bored on raid nights, I dropped out and told them that I thought they had one too many healers. They respectfully disagreed and are now seeking another healer to replace me.

    It’s strange. When I wrote a post similar to this last week, most of the feedback that I received was from people with the opposite problem. I was getting comments from DPS who were forced to heal, because they weren’t enough healers to go around. I’m not saying that what happens with healers is the less common of the two, but I was quite surprised at the shortage of healers and how many people wished they had skilled healers who loved to heal for a living. It kind of made me feel like I had little to feel bad about, compared to the rogue who has to hop on his pally to heal, because they have no other healers on their roster that can do the job.

    Great post and I’m glad to see this issue getting the attention it deserves.

    • I think some of it probably depends on the level of content that people are tackling, and some of it is probably that as you get more familiar with content less is needed of each player. But when push comes to shove, nobody likes having to do something that they don’t find fun.

  6. Excellent post, and definitely one I can relate to! The really significant shift from t11 to t12 healing-numbers wise was rough. We generally 7 healed most of the fights in t11, also w the exception of heroic chogall and sinestra (each of which we ran 5 on for our first kills). Then we hit Firelands….. 5 healed Shannox, up to 7 for bethtilac, 6 for rhyolith, 5 or 6 for alysra, then the three final big fights, Baleroc, Domo, and Rag, we 4 healed each. 4 healing heroic baleroc was incredibly disappointing, as it’s really the ‘healer fight’ of the tier, but was absolutely necessary pre-nerf – even 4 healing we killed him after the enrage. Domo was the same, a high DPS check, and pre-nerf the only means of killing him was the ridiculous cooldown rotations required, so your minimal healers absolutely had to be pallies and priests for AM, PW:B, and GS (not to mention sitting our main tanks to bring in protadin alts for lolardentdefender). Shaman especially get the short end of the stick on hm rag with all the movement and spreading throughout the fight, though our resto shammy has been a champion working hard not only on his ele spec but even brought in his druid as a boomkin ringer when needed.
    It’s definitely been a rough tier for healers, we lost one straight due to him having to dps HM rag (and usually at least 3 other fights in the tier too), not only that though but we adjusted to having a smaller healing roster… we’re getting some more depth now, but it’s also concerning not knowing yet what to expect healing-wise in 4.3. Will the fights be like t11 or t12? High DPS checks requiring minimal healers or will we need to run 7 or even 8? Makes prepping a bit hellish as whichever you prepare for you can still risk getting screwed, either being short healers (or having to ask dps to os heals) or having too many and having to again sit or os your healers. A consistent number that can be expected per tier would really be helpful.

    • I defintely think that the healers required for each fight should be similar. If you need 7 for the most healing intensive fight, then you should never need fewer than 5 for any other encounter. At least that is how I look at it. A variance of 1 or 2 healers is fine. A variance of 4 or 5 just isn’t.

  7. Pingback: The Hybrid’s Dilemma: Part II « Manalicious

  8. I would argue that low variance in required healer comp in BC was more due to the lax tuning of encounters on that front than because they did a good job at tuning the damage output vs. DPS requirement. It wasn’t until Sunwell came around that we started seeing fights that required a genuinely serious level of min/maxing from your DPS (as opposed to just “don’t be too awful/undergeared and you’ll kill it in time.”) Before Sunwell you thought of healer count as “okay, we need x healers, if we have more it’s kind of overkill but I guess the insurance is nice,” once Sunwell came around the mindset changed to “we will not make the DPS check if we bring more than x healers.”

    That said, while I don’t think we’re ever going to see 25-man content that requires the exact same number of tanks and healers for every boss, the degree of variance could be a little better than it is this tier. They shouldn’t design fights where it’s physically possible to get a first kill with less than five healers.

    • “They shouldn’t design fights where it’s physically possible to get a first kill with less than five healers”.

      I agree with this 100%!

      I also think that maybe you are right with regards to the healing/dps paradigm in pre-sunwell TBC. I just really miss being able to build a healing roster where I can feel like I can effectively make use of everyone on every fight and not have to ask them to DPS or swap out for a DPS because we only need half of our 8 man healing team.

  9. Interestingly enough, until I read Stubborn’s recent series about MBTI and WoW, I thought _everyone_ – like me – would be happy to role switch or even class switch as long as they got to raid and would _enjoy_ being flexible and consider it part of the fun 🙂
    This has been a real eye opener; I’d not realised how inconsistent things were, as I’ve never been in a 25 man raid with more than 6 healers – possibly because there is often a shortage of healers.
    But yes, I can see your point – especially as a guild and raid leader – that not knowing what to bring has been really tough.
    I know that our tanks often complain that they don’t get to tank as you often only need 1 for a fight (10 man) these days.
    It would be interesting to know if these things are deliberate, or just haven’t been thought about.
    Rant justified 🙂

    • I think some people can swap back and forth very fluidly, and not bat an eyelash.

      However, I think those people are few and far between, and I think it’s more common to have a healer that would prefer to heal. Just like I think that exceptional healers don’t always make exceptional DPS players. I’m not sure that it’s deliberate on Blizzard’s part, I think it’s just not very well thought out.

  10. Yep, this is right on target. Even beyond the whole, people play a role to play a role part which is all the validation this topic needs, when you’re dropping a tank or a healer for a DPS its nearly always because your DPS isn’t meeting a requirement so you expect this healer/tank to bring it as hard as a full time DPSer who’s already not up to the task for the encounter? Seems silly tuning to me if that’s really the intent of the encounter. If that’s not the intent of the encounter then yeah, it needs better tuning….

    • It’s not always that a DPS isn’t adequate, many times it’s that the encounter requires more than your average number of DPS players can provide. And that is where you find yourself in the position to have to drop healers and add DPS. And I agree, it may well be poor tuning causing the problem.

  11. Consistent composition requirements hobble design and make for dull encounters. Ideally, this is what hybrids (not dual specs, which are an abomination, but the ability of a hybrid to do more than one thing, suboptimally, without respeccing) should have been designed for: providing a group with the flexibility it needs to handle encounters with different composition requirements. Ideally, for example, you might have a hybrid that, when specced for DPS, is 80% as strong as a pure DPS class and 65% as strong as an on-spec healer. If an encounter requires an extra healer, you just have two DPS hybrids spend most of their time healing, thus shifting the composition of the group without changing the roster. Sadly, they went off in pretty much the opposite design direction, which makes for a much less interesting game and converts hybrids into a much more mundane “subclass” design.

    • The problem with this is that any reasonably competitive guild will simply drop/sit hybrids that do 80% of the output of a pure class.

    • I have to agree with Jurik here. There is a reason that the “hybrid tax” went away, and it is exactly for the reasons that Jurik stated along with the addition of buff homoginization. I don’t think bringing back the “hybrid tax” will solve any issues.

  12. Tanks also experience this, though excepting druids, they don’t even have shared gear to ease the role transition. It would be nice and comfortable if every raid encounter required 2 tanks, 7 healers, and 16 dps, but what do we have to trade for that stability? It’s one less way for encounters to vary. Encounters are already limited by mechanics that must work in both 10 and 25 man, they must have at least one tank and a handful of healers, they must provide a way for both ranged and melee to attack, but they can’t require a single class or ability. I worry that requiring a rigid raid configuration would quickly make encounters bland and strategies uninteresting.

    However, I don’t think variance is the problem here, only extreme variance. Having room for one tank to go dps, or one dps to go heals can be fun and interesting. I personally enjoy it, and I know I’m not alone in that regard. However, forcing four healers to go dps is not fun, and many hardmode encounters require extreme raid configurations such as this. Encounter designers need to stabilize their raid configurations, though I don’t believe they don’t need to make them static. Expecting 1-2 tanks and 6-7 healers (or maybe even 6-8) would be ideal.

    Honestly, I think this is a side effect of the 10 and 25 split. Often, unusual raid configurations arise because there is a difficulty discrepancy between the raid sizes. A 10 man encounter might be balanced, but the 25 man might require an absurd amount of dps (this is especially evident in fights like H Baleroc and H Ragnaros, especially before they were nerfed). If this is the case, then the issue can be blamed not on encounter design, but on encounter balancing. The raid designers have only just started balancing raid sizes, and I hope that is something that will improve in time.

    • I’m not saying that every encounter needs the exact same group dynamic. I’m just asking that they are a little more consistent in what is required. There is a huge difference between having a variance of 1 or 2 healers versus having one of 3 to 4 healers. Being in a 25 man raid setting, we don’t really see the difference in tanking that you may in a 10 man. The only encounter that we one tank is Staghelm.

      I also think it’s important to keep in mind (and respect) that just because [em]you[/em] might find feral kitty fun, doesn’t mean your neighborhood tree enjoys it.

  13. I agree with this, and also from a tank perspective as well. Back when we were doing T11 content, one of our raid leaders put together a group with 2 MTs with healing offspecs. And one refused to heal. So what did that mean? It meant that I had to pick up a DPS offspec or force one of our lovely healers to go DPS so that I could heal.

    Needless to say, I began working on a boomkin set (I had a halfway decent resto set). I hate boomkin. I really do. But I’m not a fan of kitty dps either, so I figured I’d try it out for those few fights where we needed just the one tank. I still can’t crack 10k dps because I don’t like the spec. It’s fiddly and relies too much on staying in eclipse states for the best DPS, which I am not fond of at all.

    For t12 content I didn’t make one of the new teams that had the other tank I was with in it. He now has a ret offspec, but he never uses it, and thankfully the other tank is another druid who doesn’t mind going kitty.

    We’re going back in to clear 6/7 (hopefully) FL tonight, and I will be bringing my boomkin gear again, likely for Rhyo, and maybe Baleroc. I think I’m getting to tank Domo again tho.

    • I think moonkin is one of those specs that you either hate or love. And it’s a hard spec to play really well, in my opinion. Brade, who ranks regularly as a feral druid on WoL, struggles with the mechanics. Even though he has been getting better at them as a result of all of the time he’s spent with the spec over the past month, he still doesnt’ feel he’s great at it and still feels that he struggles with mastering the rotation. And he’s a DPS at heart.

  14. As a full time tree, I suffered when my guild first started pushing H Rag progression. I was asked to go moonkin because they were godly (thats what people said) and we had none in our roster. More than once my husband saw me shedding tears over how much I hated it, and I felt a lot of pressure from people who play a DPS only class and never healed on their lives saying I should excel on my offspec. I honestly told my RL a number of times I rather sit, simply because I hate playing a dps. But that was only for the 1st week, and they soon realize that pushing H Rag with no resto druids is a bit tougher (I’m also the main/only resto druid). I

    I agree with you in every single way, I felt horrible when our resto shaman was told he couldn’t come for H Rag simply because shamans aren;t very strong for that fight. I hate that Blizzard makes some fights with a high healer requirement, and some with almost no healer requirement, or especific classes requirements (disc priest for H Baleroc, resto druids for H Rag etc). If the whole motto was to “bring the player, not the class”, this past tier is a poor example of it.

    • I’m glad that you are getting to heal 🙂

      Our shaman does fine with the fight, but we’ve also tried to cater his healing to the strengths of the shaman class. So we put him over with the melee, where HR and CH will be effective. I’m sure he’s got his own complaints and frustrations about the fight, but I think he does a good job with it!

  15. I take issue with the argument that Blizzard requires X healers on one fight and Y healers on another. Specifically, I take issue with the contention that Blizzard does this on purpose. You are looking at this from the perspective of the raiding community who has developed, generally, what it considers to be the best strat and determines the minimum number of healers needed to make that happen. I would be very surprised if Blizzard actually went into most fights saying “ok, this is going to be a 5 healer fight, this one will be 7, and this one will be 4.” That would indeed be a silly plan and unnecessarily stress both the healer and the DPS teams of many guilds. Personally, I think it is much more likely that they design most fights with the idea that a guild is bringing 5-6 healers for it. It is then pushed out, the community tackles, and decides that the best strat they can come up with has 4 healers. Then they complain to Blizzard, why did you create a fight that requires 4 healers? This misses the point and instead you should make the argument that healing isn’t tuned tightly enough to make the 5-6 healer core ideal, if anything.

    Which brings up the issue of healing requirement tuning. It’s always going to be way harder to balance than DPS requirements simply due to the fact that there are way more DPS in the raid. In some cases it will probably not even be worth tuning it that tightly because it will start highlighting class-specific issues that will disproportionately affect guilds with slight variations in healing cores (unless it’s big enough to support every permutation of healing possibilities – ew).

    TL;DR – I think some of this is confusing player-community derived solutions with Blizzard’s intent. Also it sounds like you are overhealing a lot of content.

    • I find this line of commentary interesting coming from you. It’s something that many guilds at all levels had complained about, not just me. Many raiders in guilds that surpass mine in terms of progression have expressed the same frustrations.

      If your last raid logs are accurate, you are running pretty much exactly the same number of healers that we are with the exception that we run 7 healers instead of 6 on Beth. So, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree that we are “overhealing a lot of content”, unless, of course, you are contending that you also do the same.

      • I do think we over heal a lot of content. Some of it has to do with having an intentionally light roster and not scaling down to fewer healers as we start out gearing a fight – but that’s farm content and doesn’t really matter I suppose. I also personally think that we aren’t very good at having healers have DPS offspecs and DPS having viable healing specs, which makes us less flexible and exacerbates problems like this one.

  16. It’s an interesting quandary.

    I think that some variance is required, albeit not to the extent that we’ve seen in Cataclysm. Four healers for heroic Ragnaros sounds absolutely ridiculous to me.

    The reason I think some variance is required is because every raid group has different strengths and different weaknesses. A group with some really kick-ass healers can 6-7 heal something that others would need 8 healers for. The DPS requirements for everyone obviously drop down a notch when another DPS is added into the mix.

    The other reason is related, but slightly different — healers, much as we don’t like to admit it, are almost superfluous once you know the encounter. Healers act as support for a raid group that is making mistakes (in many cases — but certain cases, this isn’t true, obviously). On Shannox, for example, in 25-man mode (either normal, heroic, pre-nerf heroic, whatever), there just isn’t a lot of damage going out unless the raid group screws up and stands in the fire or hits Immolation traps. By and large, most of your damage taken is by the tanks — with the exception of Face Rage on heroic. If your group can drop Jagged Tear stacks like professionals, if your group can break Face Rage instantly and kite him well, if your group can drop stacks on both dogs, while avoiding Immolation traps and the fire… then you don’t need 7 healers. You might need 5-6, particularly if your DPS is well-geared. More healers in a raid is really a buffer kind of a situation, as more healers are able to make up for the mistakes being made by the raid group. This obviously isn’t always the case, particularly in encounters where there’s not a lot of sustained raid damage, but it’s the case often enough.

    Gear also comes up in the equation. If you have a DPS requirement of, I don’t know, 400,000 DPS, if you have 17 DPS, each of those has to put out ~23.5k DPS in order to hit the requirement. (Minus tank DPS and healer “DPS” of course.) Adding just one DPS, bringing the total to 18, brings that down to 22.2k DPS each. So if, due to their gear (or ability), your DPS is able to pull off 22.2k DPS but not 23.5k DPS across the board, you’re going to want to bring the 18 DPS and drop (surprise, surprise) a healer.

    We’ve fluctuated between 5 healers and 7 healers in Firelands and usually stick with 6, whereas we usually had 7 in heroic modes in T11 and 6 on normal modes once we knew what we were doing.

    Ultimately, it’s an odd variable to be sure — and I don’t insist on offspecs and prefer to bring in a “real” DPS who’s on standby, for all the problems you identified in your post.

    All that said, a little more consistency would be nice. I’d like 6-7 healers to be the standard. 6 if your team is on top of things but 7 without too much harm/repercussion from the enrage timer.

    • Yea, I’m definitely not saying “you should design encounters that all require x number of healers”. I’m just asking that they are more consistent in what is required encounter to encounter.

  17. addendum: Any guild that is not defaulting to the minimum number of healers required for fights is likely to see a wide variety in healers used per fight when they are forced to cut down on healers for tougher DPS requirements. If all fights required 5 healers but some of them had light DPS checks that allowed you to bring 7 or even 8, complaining about a disparity in healers used across fights would make no sense.

  18. I agree with your post 100%

    Tanks have the same issue going on with some fights only requiring one tank for the encounter. I love healing and tanking, I don’t care for how competitive DPS gets sometimes (even though healing can get that way too.)

    I hope that T13 is more straightforward when it comes to numbers required for each slot, so that we don’t have to expect a lot of people to have viable off-specs.

    Again, awesome post and quite on point.

  19. It was definitely a quandary as a healing officer . . . I had to keep a certain number of healers on our roster, for some encounters and to cover incidental attendance issues, Internet issues, etc. But with that many healers, I either had to sit people on rotation or ask them to dps or, on fights which were on farm (especially on days where the dps elected not to show up), allow them all to sit in raid as extra healers and get bored twiddling their thumbs because there wasn’t a lot of healing to go around. (Some were very vocal that we had too many healers . . . I wanted to ask them whom they wanted me to kick–them? And did they really think the raid would be better off sitting a couple of them and 23-manning the boss?) Only a couple of our healers had viable dps off-specs, and, naturally, they’d rather heal. (I remember how delighted our pally was when I told him we were going to have him heal on Rag instead of speccing Ret . . .)

    If the encounters had all been tuned to about the same number of healers, we would have been able to trim down our roster a bit and keep the healers challenged.

    • Even if they aren’t tuned to have exactly the same number of healers, but to only have a difference of one or two, it would make a huge difference. It’s defintely hard, and causes you to not only have to add extra healers to your raid team, but extra DPS as well.

  20. I totally agree with this. It is unfortunate that as enrage timers get more tightly tuned or your raid starts getting better at fights it’s the healers who have to flip to dps or lose their spots. A tiny bit of variation is okay, but going from 7 healers on one fight to 4 on the next is ridiculous.

    I think it puts everyone in a tight spot. Even my own feelings on this are somewhat conflicted. I’d hate to be benched or asked to dps (or for one of the other healers to have to do this), but at the same time, healing encounters with more healers than are needed can be really boring. Being bored, being sat, or having to do a job you don’t enjoy/do well at is a very poor set of options.

    • I definitely hope that it’s looked, and agree that some variance as fine…as long as it is reasonable!

      As far as farmed content…I encourage you to challenge yourself, or make games with your healing team, like “who can overheal the least” or race each other to see who can get to those heals first. 🙂

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  22. I have to disagree with this for the most part. I have had a shadow offspec since early Ulduar – back then I had no idea how to shadow, but I went to EJ and did what they said. Very soon I was a highly competitive dps as well as healer, and I started to like doing both.

    Things that helped this mindset were that offspec gear in the guild I was in at the time went first to those that used their offspec in raids. This meant that my offspec gear was never too far behind my main spec gear.

    In ICC I was in a guild where offspecs were never used – if less healers were needed, a healer got sat out and a dps brought in. Likewise for tanks. In that situation it really sucked. More often than not, the heal lead would just keep 8 healers on all fights so that we could get loot, and we would loldps in our healing spec and gear. That I found frustrating and boring.

    The guild I’m in now encourages offspecs and makes good use of them. We have about 10 people with offspecs that are as high quality as their main spec. A tank that can also heal and dps, a number of dps that can also heal, and a number of healers that can also dps. All of these people are highly competitive in whatever role they take on for a given fight.

    To summarise, there ARE people that enjoy being able to fill two roles. However, noone is going to enjoy it being sprung on them when facing H Rag and they have little to no offspec gear. Give them time and opportunity to practice and collect gear throughout an expansion and they will enjoy it.

    The only thing that really does annoy me this expansion is that my heal spec requires mastery, while my dps spec requires haste – so it’s taking a long time to build a competitive offspec set this time. I also ponder frequently, why do we have to purchase two or three tier sets??? Why don’t we automatically get all tier gloves when we buy one? This would be a huge help for those that offspec frequently. I’m still sitting at only two pieces of tier for my offspec even now.

    • I think that you are the exception more than the rule. And I think it’s important to respect players who aren’t comfortable in their offspec. While you may find it challenging and fun, not everyone will share that view.

      My guild absolutely encourages offspecs. We give off spec gear out freely, and encourages people to work to perfect playing them. We have plenty of well geared “off spec” tanks that can fill in on a night where a tank has to be absent. We have well geared off-spec healers – and many of them can perform well in their offspec. But that doesn’t mean that they enjoy their time, or have fun, while doing so, and I think that is the crucial difference.

    • >> Give them time and opportunity to practice and collect gear throughout an expansion and they will enjoy it.

      Uh…no. I have time, opportunity, and practice. I collected the gear. I don’t enjoy it.

      What works for you does not work for everyone else.

  23. Good post Beru.

  24. Beru, I read your posts every week. This one hit so close to home it made me cry. We are a 10 man guild (6/7 hm) that have always run with 3 healers and atm we are all 3 solid main spec healers. I am the resto druid, the other is a priest that gets away with no dps spec as they can go holy/disc and the third is a holy pally (he is awesome and will never be sat or made to go dps). My boomy dps is mediocre, and I really do not enjoy playing it (exactly as you describe, frequent tears ensue on those evenings). I never had a boomy spec, like ever, until now and I do find the eclipse states hard to manage. Most of our progression and learning of fights (in normal) has been with 3 heals, (or 2 if one of the other healers was away) which means I had no chance to even practice the fights as a dps and figure out how to manage my rotation and ecplise states. Then hardmode comes along and the dps requirements are so high, suddenly we cannot afford 3 healers anymore. There are 2 fights we seem to need to 3 heal (Beth and Shannox), and the rest you cannot (although Domo is three healable if you want to). Our raid leader has decided to start rotating me and the priest, for the first time ever. I have no problem being sat for a MS dpser for progression fights. Above anything else I like to see our guild progress, as fast as they can. But we are now being rotated out for farm bosses, and this really hurts. My offspec might not be brilliant, but I can get the job done. We have a couple of extra dpser’s on our roster that have to rotate, and I know that it is a part of a functional raid, having extra players that must be sat at times. But if you swap a dps for an entire raid at least they have a chance to join the alt run, or pug if you have other friendly guilds missing a player for that week. If you bring in your 3 healers for 2 bosses only and then sit one for the rest of the content that week, these options are no longer available. What does it all mean? Perhaps I need to be replaced entirely from the team by someone that actually does like doing both roles? But actually, I think I could get to be ok at dps, but I would need some practice (like, the several nights wiping the ms dps had in the first place when that boss was the progression boss). But this late in the game, no one wants to wait for me to learn the fight anew as a dpser (and how you play really is totally different). With our current model, the only thing that will be achieved is that 2 healers will be gearing up half as fast as everyone else and when the next patch hits, we will be far behind. What will that mean? It means, because the healers are under geared, we will need 3 again for a little while why we learn the fights. And the cycle will start anew – once the basic mechanics of the fights are mastered, healer’s gear finally gets better, we go back to 2 healing again. And now I still didn’t get to learn the fights as a dps, and my dps consequently stills lags. I don’t really know what the right answer is, but it certainly makes me sad.

    • /treehugs

      If you ever need someone to talk to (commiserate with) let me know. I know a certain druid who will share a cup of tea with you and share your struggles and pain 🙂

      For what it’s worth, something that I did during WotLK to become better at moonkin was to run one PuG raid a week as a moonkin outside of our guild raids. It was a great confidence booster as I was often one of the top 5 DPS as I was learning and got to be where I was almost always the top DPS in those runs. It not only helped me to learn the class better, but it gave me the confidence to know that I [em]could[/em] be competitive.

      And the best part? I didn’t have to worry about dissapointing anyone in the guild, or being teased by anyone in the guild, becuase I was doing it on my own time with a group of strangers.

      Hang in there!

  25. Beru, I encountered the same issue during wrath. Main spec raiding resto since vanilla, leveled BC and wrath balance, but I find the eclipse mechanic very clunky and was never able to master it. When Cataclysm was released, I decided to return to my druidy roots, and leveled as a kitty. Around level 83, I tweaked my spec and began tanking instances for my guild. I had never tanked before, and had a blast! I’m still a main spec healer, but I’m my guild’s go to off tank, and tank/heal raid encounters about equally. The side benefit, our tanks universally enjoy dps (admittedly, they may be odd). So, when we are on an encounter where we need fewer heals, I tank, and one of our tanks goes dps. I realize this may not be a good solution for everyone, but it is working very well for us. Since dual spec became available, we have a “dps” spec available for solo content, and cat dps isn’t bad while specced and geared for tanking.

    You would have to build a completely new set of gear, but if your tanks are amenable, give it a try with your mini-me. You might like it!

    • I played feral back in TBC for a bit. I don’t dislike the spec, I’m just not the best melee player 🙂 I prefer healing and ranged DPS.

      That being said I do have a Prot Warrior and a Prot Paladin, and have been having a lot of fun on my little rogue (although I still loathe chasing shit down to have to attack). I intend to have my worgen be feral…if I ever get around to playing her 😉

  26. Interesting I have plenty of alts and my main is a rogue so most of the time Im asked to either tank or heal only when those roles are well covered is that I’m allowed to bring my rogue but yes even on my tanks or healers I don’t do all the grinds that I do on my dps ( hyjal, bh)

    • I think it’s more common in a PuG setting, or a guild that isn’t focused on huge progression pushes, to find you are short tanks and healers. From time to time we have a healer or a tank out and need to have someone offspec to fill in those roles, but it’s not common, at least for us 🙂

  27. “We have a resto druid that’s been playing moonkin for 3/4ths of our raid time for the past month as we push heroic Rag, who I am positive has been in tears on the other side of her computer on more than one occasion in that time. She is trying her ass off, I don’t have a doubt in my mind about that. But when push comes to shove, she’s not comfortable with the spec, and as a guild we are asking her to do something she’s not comfortable with for the success of the raid for an extended period of time. And she’s a champ and doing it – but I don’t doubt that she feels miserable many of our raid nights. In fact, I know that she feels like she’s a detriment, because she’s told me she feels that way and has openly offered to sit out for someone who will do more DPS.”

    This is exactly how I feel. I’m in a raid where I’m being forced to either DPS or not raid at all and I hate it. I feel like I’m doing the doggy paddle in a pool with Olympic swimmers. I’ve been a healer since I started this game and it pisses me off so much that there are HEROIC fights where you only need 4 healers. It makes no sense to me and it’s really killing any will I had to keep playing because I don’t like feeling like a detriment to my raid or feeling like I’m a bad player when I know that I’m not.

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  29. WARNING 1: I copy-pasted this from my comment on Vidyala’s blog, because what I said there is also relevant here.
    WARNING 2: wall of text of doom below.

    I’m in a casual, 10 people normal modes raiding guild (we do 2 days a week, total 6 hours).
    I had to be away from the guild for a few months while my fiancé and me were moving houses, and when I came back they had abviously more people into their ranks, including healers.
    There was a bit of a “too many healers” situation, which we decided to overcome by taking turns at healing (my suggestion). All of a sudden I had to learn to dps… I’ve always been a healer ever since I started playing 6 years ago: Druid for the first year, Holy Priest after that.
    I was forced to learn how to play Shadow during WotLK because it just wasn’t possible to do quests otherwise (no people to help a healer in the hope she’ll come with them in dungeons anymore :p). However, questing is very different from raiding…

    Not only do I rarely go over the 12k mark (average iLvl 372, mind you), I honestly don’t have the money nor the willingness to spend thousands and thousands on gold on aquiring optimal off-spec gear, gemming and enchanting it. I still did my very best (spending most of my savings) because I believe in team effort and I want to be an useful asset to my guild, but I still do way much less damage than I should be doing with that gear, spec etc., no matter how much I practice.
    The only reasonable explanation to me is that happens because I JUST. HATE. SHADOW. DPS. And no, I don’t have the time to gear an alt, and honestly I don’t want to. I love my space goat. I want to raid with her, not with my troll hunter (which ironically, does amazing dps at dps even though she goes BM :p).

    However, the rest of the guildies doesn’t seem to care, so everything should be good and dandy shuoldn’t it? Alas, no such luck.
    See, in the opinion of 2 of the 4 “council” leaders of the guild (and definitely the most hardcore among our roster), I should really try and switch to Disco because it’s s (supposedly) so much better in FL. T___T
    I tried Disco. I honest-to-the-Naaruu loathe it even more than I hate Shadow. I can’t stand playing in it.

    Now the question is: why should I?

    I play to have fun.
    I play to relax, to socialize with likeable, even loveable people and to work as a team to overcome a challenge. Working as a team, however, doesn’t mean to me I should do it at the expense of having fun at all. It’s not a job. I don’t get paid to do it.
    I’d rather be benched, or even never raiding anymore than to do something that makes me hate a game I love.

    It has not come to that of course.
    Luckily for me, the people in my guild really are both nice, respectful individuals and they don’t want to lose me as a player or as a guildie, not to mention another officer doesn’t care one way or the other and the last one is fiercely opposed to me switching if I don’t want to) so I get to play Holy on my “healing weeks”.
    I still get the occasional gentle “suggestion” from time to time, either from one of the officers of from new recruits that don’t know yet where I stand.
    I resist the pressure. I kindly explain to my point of view and move on.

    …But still deep down, I have to admit, I hold my breath in wait for patch 4.3, when Holy will be buffed and 3 healers should be “the norm” again.

  30. This is a large part of why I quit raiding a few weeks back. The yo-yo healing requirements…the persistent perception that my class and spec (Resto Shaman) just can’t cut it, regardless of how I push, and how much effort I give. It’s demoralizing. And I hate DPSing as Elemental, and I would get made fun of when they would tell me to go DPS. “LOL Reta DPSing.” And to make matters worse, we had a fabulous Resto Druid who was being forced to be Boomkin 99% of the time because she was good at it – but she HATED it. She hated it SO much. She would get SO upset when she had to go Boomkin, but her DPS was so much better than mine, that she ended up doing it a lot.

    I dunno, this tier of content has really eaten my desire to raid. I don’t know if I’m coming back, and I’ve been playing to raid since BC. :-\

  31. Great post and I think you’ve got it spot on. A couple of things about the off-spec healer DPS issue you raised, and if someone else has commented on this I apologise as I haven’t read all 57 comments.

    1) Off spec DPS gear is usually sub-optimal because we healers use much of our healing gear and therefore enchants, gemming and reforging will favour our primary role, I know my DPS gear has me at around 21% hit because of the way priests get spirit to hit conversion;

    2) On top of the lower DPS we also make more mistakes when DPSing because we have to try harder focusing on rotations and DPS cooldowns where when healing we do things instinctively;

    So while off-spec DPS is an option it is sub-optimal and it can work well in the low to mid tier raid groups and is great for farm content but on progression fights it sucks as it decrease your raids overall chances of success..

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