Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Locked Into Healing, Revisited

In my previous post about being "forced" into a healing position, I was left an intriguing comment by Leafshine.
I think people sometimes get pigeon-holed as healers. They just get used to you, the player, being a healer, and assume you won't mind taking that role.

I took this, and a lot of other commenters in mind, when I tried to join groups and look for PUGs the past few weeks since writing the article, to see what happened. I monitored others' reactions and requests, as well as my own, to gauge the situation. A lot happened over that time period to give me plenty to think about.

Certain situations spring to my mind rather quickly. I was whispered to join a ToC 10, and was asked "which of your healers do you want to bring?" It wasn't "which of your characters" it was healers. This person was aware I had a hunter, but that wasn't what they wanted. When I joined the group on Bellbell (because Bellwether needs nothing that doesn't drop off of a Hardmode ToC 25), it was empty of anyone but him, me, and another healer, so it wasn't just a case of needing a healer.

Another raid was an Onyxia 25 in which I had finally been invited as Retribution DPS. Some guild members were tanking and DPSing, but it was mostly PUG. And then it is revealed...we have only four healers. All PUGs.

I should have kept my mouth shut. I shouldn't have asked "just four healers?" I should have just kept going as DPS. But I didn't. I said "just four healers?" and immediately my guildmates frantically requested in guild chat, in the spirit of not wiping, for me to switch. Of course, I caved in with much grumbling and sourness of mood. And we downed her first try, I "won" healing meters by a wide margin, and I died inside a bit.

Following that we went to ToC 25, and I was invited along as a hunter. With no pressure on me, with no one requesting it, I ended up switching to Bellwether to heal the instance because we couldn't find other healers. We just couldn't keep more than four online, and I switched. And again, I did 10-15% more healing than any other healer there. The one following most closely was a guild member's alt who had just hit 80 with an ilevel 175 blue mace.

When I finally got into an Onyxia 25 on my Hunter, I was excited. Finally, I have my DPS in a PUG raid. And then, as the fight progressed, I felt...helpless. Unable to account for anyone else's fate but my own and my pet's, I felt like I couldn't save the raid. I couldn't keep the tank alive, I had no cooldowns, no panic buttons. Not for anyone but me. I felt...isolated. Even with me coming in the top 3 of both DPS and Damage Done, I felt like I was less of an important piece than if I had come on one of my healers. I looked at the dead and wondered "could I have saved them?"

I did note with pride that I was in the top three of Damage Done and DPS. Even though there was no Ret Paladin in group, so the raid received my Ferocious Inspiration buff, I felt singular and replaceable.

Then, in a VoA 25, we downed both Koralon and Archavon. Yet, we wiped twice on Emalon before I left. Switching was slow to the Overcharged, and with several people (Warlocks, even!) doing 1k DPS, they weren't killed fast enough. And though I hit every cooldown I could and topped both Damage Done and DPS charts, I couldn't cover for those slacking people. When someone has low HPS or Healing Done, I can cover for them. I can pick up the slack and throw out heals left and right. But I can't push someone else's DPS, even when I'm hitting 5k+ myself.

So, what is really locking me into the healing role?

Well, one could argue its my environment. People expect me to heal. They know I'm a good healer. They want me to heal because not having good healers can cripple a raid in a most obvious and drastic way. I feel pressured to be that healer, to make the run go smoothly. What happens if I don't switch, and there's a wipe from insufficient healing? Is that, indirectly, my fault?

But, there is definitely blame lying squarely on my shoulders. That ToC 25 I was in on my hunter? No one asked me to switch. They told me I didn't have to. But I did anyway, even though my Hunter is the one who really needs the badges and Trophies, so my boyfriend's Shadow Priest could come in the raid and so we didn't have to wait for healers through the disconnects and random leaving due to impatience.

I still heal because I enjoy it, certainly. It is fun and dynamic and involved. But I also heal because it's what's expected of me. I heal because it often gives me more control over the outcome of the raid. I heal because it takes less time than trying to PUG a healer. I heal because I don't trust PUG healers. I heal because it makes me feel useful. I heal because I want others' runs to go smoothly.

While it might be easy to blame others for pushing me into this position, it wouldn't be fair to deny the role I've played in locking myself into healing.


Kring said...

If you want something to be done right, you have to do it yourself.

What's interesting: My main is a DPS char. When I'm healing I feal helpless. Because all I can do is not let someone die. You have no influence on the fight. The boss has to die and if the DD suck you can't make up for it. We are no longer in MC where you could drag a fight as long as the healers have mana. Nearly every boss has some kind of soft or hard enrage. I hate it when we wipe in trial of the champion because the debuff stacks to 18... no, my fresh 80 healer cannot heal THAT. (Normally the boss is down with 5-6 stacks).

I think that good DD have way more impact on the success of a fight than healers. Probably we just happen to be spoiled for what we do.

I was in a 10 man Ony PUG with my melee char. We wiped several times, after a 6 minute flight phase. I wished I was on my warlock so I could end this nightmare...

lissanna said...

I end up getting myself locked into healing, since I've been doing it for so long and don't trust other people to heal me as much... especially PUG healers that I don't know.

Joar said...

Could be worse. You could be locked into tanking! Stand here, make this guy mad and let him hit you. We'll all be over there.

Lawgnut said...

'I felt like I was less of an important piece than if I had come on one of my healers. I looked at the dead and wondered "could I have saved them?"'

This is why doing highest DPS possible on the correct target while not standing in fire is the #1 priority for DPS. Because like a DPS that is dead who doesn't contribute to the raid, a dead mob does no damage to tanks and can't explode. (Like Emalon, Vezax, beating the timers on Northrend Beasts, Twin's shield, etc.)

'I can pick up the slack and throw out heals left and right.'

This is also why the gearscore addon has become so popular lately. Mostly it's used to score DPS (to a lesser extent tanks), not heals, because of this "compensation" factor.

Kayeri said...

Yes, healing is important. We keep people alive to do their jobs, including ourselves! Without us, the raid would die, period.

BUT... The other rolls are just as important as our own. Tanks? Yep, couldn't raid without them because they keep the mobs from whacking everyone else... they are a must-have!

DPS is often under-rated because they are the most plentiful in any group and yes, you can usually get more easily, but I know you've been down to the situation where most dps is dead and its you and the tank(s). Things go at a snail's pace and it gets OLD really fast. It recently happened to us while taking a half-rookie group into ToC the first time. The dps just could NOT stay out of Icehowl's charge and kept dying... it was a tank, a couple of healers, ONE dps still alive... it took so freaking long my battlerez came up and I got another dps back on his feet... We eventually wiped because of oom.

But DPS does the killing. Without them, we just have the WORST time getting it done, and it is SO slow your healers will oom! When you are a dps, your focus should be inflicting as much damage as you can without pulling aggro, not agonizing over the life bars... You shouldn't even be looking at the life bars! You should be aware of the fight and making sure your damage rotation is as efficient as possible to maximize your dps.

And yes, it means entrusting your life to other hands... that's a tough one, but tanks put their lives in our hands every run, so why cant we when we are outside our normal role?

Bell, I am a healer at heart, too, and it took time for me to stop fretting over heals when I was playing my rogue, and most recently, my warlock. But I've finally reached a point where I can focus on MY job, whatever it is depending on the character I'm on. If I'm on Rhiane or Miren, my job is to maximize the damage I inflict on the boss or mobs, Kayeri isnt even there. By doing that, I reduce the damage everyone else is taking, making life easier on both heals and tank.

Yeah, dps is plentiful, but they are just as important as heals and tank and we couldn't get the job done without them. So stand tall on Sugarcake and the HAPPY Bellbell and KNOW that your job is just as important as the others.

oh, and Kring? You stand tall as a healer, because no one would be tanking OR dpsing if the healers werent there to counter what the boss is doing. :) They couldn't do it without you, remember!

The big thing to remember is that all these roles make up a team. We are inter-connected and rely on each other to get the job done. None of us is more important than the other. Some of us are just more commonly available. :)

xor said...

Set a goal and achieve it. If you want to run your hunter then you have to be willing to put your hunter hat on and be a hunter.

I have a paladin tank, a resto druid, a warlock, a mage, a DK, a hunter, and a rogue all at 80 (and geared reasonably well). If I worried about which toon would make a raid smoother every time things went south I'd go insane.

Just try to enjoy the toon you're on, and offer helpful advice when you can. That's really all you can do to keep your sanity.


Stop said...

Maybe this, in reverse, is what I've been feeling lately. I've been... well, disenchanted with all my DPS characters. Yeah, I'm good at it, but lately I've been feeling an urge to level a healer. I didn't know why.

For a long time I pretty much consigned myself to a DPS role. My lone attempts at tanking have all come on my DK (my only leveled tanking class), and I absolutely hated it. It just didn't agree with me. Plus I never really felt the desire to tank - I was usually forced into it by total lack of tanks.

But this healing thing... hm. Maybe I need a new role. :)

jeffo said...

It's funny, it took me forever to finally 'declare' my dual-spec (Retribution) and start rolling on Ret gear. Still, my second spec is a second holy spec that I can't quite bring myself to ditch for Ret, and I honestly can't see myself actually dps'ing (unless it's 'melee for mana' or the odd Hammer of Wrath to try to finish things). I think my guildies would drop dead of a collective heart attack if I ever said 'I'm going Ret tonight.' They had a hard enough time believing it was me when I brought in my alt warlock to the guild.

'Locked into healing'? Maybe, but I can honestly say after 1 and a half years of healing in raids, I still have no desire to do anything but that on my Paladin. I'm kind of surprised that I haven't burned out on it yet, but it's still most enjoyable for me.

Neil said...

There is a simple solution to your problem: "Either I raid as DPS, or I don't raid at all."

Of course, remain healing for your guild's progression runs. But if you're going to an alt/pug raid on your own time for fun, why not HAVE FUN in the process?

If it feels like you're locked into healing, then from my own experience I can say you're running dangerously close to burning out completely on it.

Eventually, a point came where I put my foot down on an off-night and said "If I'm going to raid tonight, it'll be as Feral DPS or not at all." And everything still worked out.

I think that because you're so used to carrying a group - top DPS, top heals, raid leading, master-looting, etc. - you've become overly attached to the idea that without your active participation and sacrifice in making everything work, everything will fall apart.

I used to feel the same way. It's usually a delusion. Someday, on an off/alt/pug-night, just disappear into the woodwork. Do one job very well without switching specs/toons for the raid, organizing the raid, or doing anything that you don't want to do for the raid.

It's liberating like you wouldn't believe. First, because you're playing without that weight on your shoulders. And second, because you'll know that the weight doesn't need to be on your shoulders.

Best of luck :)

Verile said...

I never played a healer in any MMO before WoW, but for whatever reason I can't play anything else in this game without getting bored to death.

Like you mention, I think a lot of it is you definitely feel like you have a major hand in the success of the raid or group. It makes the game more exciting for me.

Dorgol said...

I've done similar things.

Naxx10 group, tank leaves after one wipe on the 3rd boss. I hate waiting. HATE. So after about 10 minutes I switched to my TOC geared tank and we cleared the place. I've done the same thing out of an alt-ToC25, only I switched to my healing spec.

I just can't stand sitting around doing nothing. ESPECIALLY in a raid, as I can't even kill time by doing daily quests.

It does get annoying. My Warlock is as geared as he can get in heroics, but has only raided OS because PUGs need heals and tanks more than DPS.

Lath said...

I know where your coming from. I recently changed by druids off spec to a resto one for specific fights and put off changing it back to balance. I've also just changed by shadow priest to a discipline build and have finally taken her into 10 man raids. Part of of it is that people want a healer and they know I can heal, but part of it is that I'm so comfortable healing that I've almost "locked" myself into that role.

Kring said...

@Kayeri: You wrote what I wanted to write. Very good summary. :)

kaozz said...

I actually was talking about this on my blog today! I agree with you, I often get stuck in the healing role but I actually enjoy it. I know exactly what you mean. I even took a break to decide how I really felt about things when I came back.

It was bothered me at times when I really wanted to DPS, but my Healer was really needed. I said my next 80 will not have a healing spec.. and here I am working on my Resto Druid alt.

collin said...

I feel you 'Belle. I play a Holy Paladin, and for a few days I played around as retribution. I saw how competitive the DPS role is, and while performance is still assessed for healers, players willing to perform the role do, so that everyone else who wishes to DPS, and is unwilling or unable to heal, does. It's a question of constraints, as you've hinted at for months.

One thing on our side is that groups tend to tolerate healing failure more often than DPS failure, due to these constraints.

Do you ever wonder what would have happened if you'd never rolled a healer?

Chris O. said...

I can definitely see where you are coming from. I don't usually play a healing class, but for about a month my rogue was out of time so I started playing a resto drood alt. After a week or so I started to get that dps urge, and I ended up offspecing a moonkin, and then a feral tank. I think we all just get that urge to "hit shit." This is fine, but I would advise you to measure the results. In my case, I failed miserably at tanking and I realized I should probably stick with good ol' tree form. It sounds like you fared a bit better ;).

Also, I think it is important to realize that you do not feel locked into being a "healer", you feel locked into being a good healer. The reason people want you to heal is because they can count on you. No bad players feel locked in to healing, they simply level death knights. I kid, I kid! When a pug fails because of a terribad player, most of us take note and do not ever group with that player again. You know how to heal, people know that, and so they ask you to heal. Nothing wrong with this or even particularly stressful. The stress comes from the fact that there are not a whole lot of good healers out there. Same with tanks. Why? It's simple: a bad player can put out decent or even great dps regardless of that player's skill. A dps can tunnel vision and pewpewpew all day without ever thinking of the raid as a whole. To make matters worse, this often goes unnoticed because good healers and good tanks often pick up the slack. But these players cannot heal nor can they tank. Awareness and creativity is an absolute must-have for a healer/tank. Especially a healer. These are not make-or-break for dps classes.

I do have to add that this is not how things should be. DPS classes should be aware, creative, and cooperative. Some of the comments here seemed to simplify the role of dps, though I don't think that was the intent of the posters. The role of damage-oriented classes/specs is NOT to maximize damage per second or damage done. The role of dps is the same as the role of tanks and healers: to maximize raid success. This involves damage, utility, flexibility, sacrifice, and fast reflexes alike. Should dps be looking at health bars? Damn right they should be. They should be looking at the well-being of others as well. This doesn't mean staring at grid during boss fights. I would actually advise dps to hide all but the most important unit frames (player, tanks, healers, focus, etc.). Instead, a dps should be watching the fight in real time. They should know who is being targeted by what, and who is in a particularly tricky situation. The number one rule is don't die, and I would add don't let others die. As a rogue, my goal is to utilize my abilities in a way that best ensures raid success. This means keeping my Cloak of Shadows on CD during raid-wide magic damage, kicking anything that can be interrupted, using tricks of the trade to control stray adds or simply to boost another dps. I need to be aware of my capabilities compared to that of others. If a tank goes down, I should pop evasion and pick up the boss until the other tank gains control. If a warlock takes a hefty hit during a period of spike damage on the tank, I should bandage him to take a load off of the healers. If this sounds hard to some people, it isn't. Hell, I oughta know my class well enough to know when to act. Rarely should these considerations keep me from putting out top dps.

If you want to focus another toon or spec, I would let your guild know. You should not be unhappy because of this. By all means, play your hunter. Just let your guildies know ahead of time so they can find another healer, or maybe have them raid with your hunter in return for healing them.

God, this is way too long. My apologies, this has just been on my mind as of late. I think I should do a blog of my own rather than jack your space...

Anonymous said...

I know exactly how you feel, except I suffer from a weird "cat on the wrong side of the catflap" syndrome, you know, like the way a cat inside will kick up ten tonnes of angst until it gets out and then yowl piteously on the lawn until you let it in again. By which I mean, sometimes when I'm healing I get an urge for the irresponsibility of DPS but whenever I'm DPSing I miss the control of healing.

I think the thing with healing is that there it's easy to occupy the role, since there are always fewer people wanting to heal than DPS, but ultimately I have to face up to the fact that the only thing locking me into it is ... me, and I'm okay with that :)

Forreststump said...

Your introspection has triggered my own self-examination, and I think it is a similar result. First reply here said it most succinctly:

"If you want something to be done right, you have to do it yourself."

TheReaper said...

As others have mentioned, I feel somewhat similar when playing my healer and, to a lesser extend, my tank.
I also think that the value of capable DPS players is often underestimated.
Not only do we "make the fight go faster", but we have a symbiotic relationship with the tanks and healers in the group.
Being a rogue, my ability to redirect threat onto a tank is often vital to raising the aggro ceiling far enough to beat the enrage.
When tanking on my paladin, staying on top of the threat list (especially while moving/setting up) is much easier with a rogue present.
When it comes to healing (or, more precisely, being healed), apart from not standing in the fire, rogues have a huge number of abilities to mitigate or avoid damage (CloS, Feint, Evasion, Disarm, Vanish).
Using these abilities I can greatly reduce damage taken by myself (by more than 50% on some fights) and even by others (esp. faction champions).
Everyone with half a brain can keep a dps rotation going, being aware of your surroundings and using your abilities to support other members of your raid is what truly makes a player great.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to ever feel trapped. The Healer label makes me feel trapped - if it ever gets out that I am a decent healer publically ( must stop healing in pugs ) I will be forced to let the tank die, so they do not want me healing. I would rather create a rep of being ok - if your desperate kinda healer then one they can rely on.

But you need to be a little forceful - maybe remind them, that it's a good idea to have other healers trained for when you need them - let them suffer through a fail shadow priest gone holy for a HTOC and forgetting to heal herself * ducks* just so theycan learn to be better without having you as a crutch.