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Healing With Confidence

March 10, 2011
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Healing in Cataclysm is hard.  It is much, much harder than it was in the Wrath expansion.  The healing mechanics have changed for every class.  Healing spells have become much more expensive and seem to heal for a paltry amount compared to health pools.  Incoming damage is so great that it’s generally impossible for a healer to deal with it unless other party members are helping to mitigate the damage in some way.  While some healers seem to be thrilled at having a new challenge to conquer, it seems to me that most healers, upon entering their first Cataclysm dungeon, go through a crisis of faith.

The very first Cataclysm dungeon is a shock to a healer.  OMG!  There’s so much damage!  Am I really out of mana already?  How am I supposed to handle this? Even if the first trash pull is successful – no player deaths, or at least, not a wipe – alarm bells are going off in the healer’s mind.  I have to sit and drink already!  If the trash is this bad, how will we survive a boss?  Can I make it through this? The spells that healers used to rely on, the ones that we have ingrained into our muscle memory, are not working as they used to.  We have to fight against reflex, think on the fly, try new strategies and sometimes desperately mash buttons while praying fervently to whatever WoW gods may be that we can keep the tank alive just a few seconds longer!

I spent the first week of the new expansion wondering if my days as a healer were over.  I poured over all the online resources and class guides that I could find, memorizing tips and hints and struggling to put them into practice.  I didn’t set foot in a dungeon unless I was in a guild group – no pugs for me! – and my heart ached as I continued to struggle.  It didn’t help to know that Druid healing had been nerfed and that Paladins were considered the new “OP” healers – that just made me afraid that I’d lose my raid spot!  My Druid is my first toon and still my first love, and healing raids is what I’ve always enjoyed most about this game.  To not be a Resto Druid?  I wasn’t sure I’d want to play the game anymore.

Of course, we are now more than three months into the new expansion, and things are much better.  I’ve been healing heroic 5-man pugs with ease and we’re progressing well in our raids.  I’m even at the top of the healing meters most of the time.  Things feel easier now, and I think there are several reasons for that, which I shall get into in a moment.  But I know that there are still new healers that are struggling.  One of the Holy Pallies in my guild recently healed his first heroic in a guild group with me and his confidence was horribly shaken.  Also, I just read a post on the blog Crits and Giggles about how that blogger has gone through the exact same crisis of faith:

Something I used to love so much has now become something that I never want to do again.  And I sat there thinking that Elgar’s endgame experience is going to be transmuting, fishing up Mr. Pinchy, farming up herbs, and digging up artifacts.  Hardly what I expected.I logged over to Rossini to DE a staff Elgar won.  I like Rossini, but he’s not Elgar.  No one is Elgar.  I logged out and looked at the loading screen.  I know Elgar still has some gear improvements, but this was a normal dungeon.  Normal.  And it was so horrible.  I looked at him.  How is it that my favorite character has now become a placeholder on the log-in screen.  I truly am broken.

I guess the one positive thing about the night is this:  I know what NOT to dual spec the shaman, paladin, and druid as…heals.

So yes, there are a lot of healers who dinged 85 early and have geared up, figured things out and are finding healing to be fairly easy again.  But there are still many healers who are just now hitting the wall, and there will be more and more of them hitting that wall every day.  I don’t want those healers to delete their toons, respec or walk away!

Cataclysm healing does get easier, and it will continue to get easier as time goes by.  Here’s why:

  1. Better gear.  It does make a difference.  You will have more mana, better mana regen, and your heals will hit harder.
  2. People will know the fights.  First of all, you will know the fights better, so you will know when there will be damage and how to deal with it.  Secondly, more of the people you encounter will have experience with the fights, so tanks will know how to pull, and everyone will know how to deal with mechanics and how to avoid much of the damage.
  3. You will have a better knowledge of your class.  Some of this knowledge may be gained by doing research on your class, but a lot of it will be trial and error.  You will know what spells are mana efficient and which will send you OOM if you aren’t careful.  You will know what your big heals are and when to use them.  It just takes practice.
  4. You will have become a better player.  Your “failures” will have made you strong.  Remember the error part of trial and error?  Yeah, that’s essential.  Someone died?  The group wiped?  Good!  You just learned what doesn’t work.  You can’t learn anything from easy mode.  Remember the face roll that was the end of Wrath?  Yeah, we got spoiled and lazy.  We learned bad habits.  Now that we can fail we can learn to play well, and you WILL learn to play well.  It may just take a few attempts.

So, what is a healer to do in order to make the learning process easier?  Here’s a list of tips that helped me:

  • Group up with friends and guildies while you’re learning the ropes.
  • Do as much research about your class as possible.  Read healing guides and tips, then try them out.
  • Gem, enchant and reforge your gear.  Every little bit helps, especially at low gear levels.  You don’t need to buy the expensive stuff, of course, but do something with your gear!
  • Don’t take it personally when random puggers (or even guildies!) say “u suk heals”.  It’s really hard not to take it personally, (I’m not very good at this myself), but try to remember that those people are just jerks.
  • Take good advice from other healers if they offer it to you.  In fact, ask good healers for advice and then try what they suggest.
  • Find a friend that you can talk to.  I’m lucky enough to have several friends in game that I can rant to and who will support me while I’m struggling.  Hopefully you do too.
  • Keep trying.  If you aren’t running dungeons you aren’t learning!  Also, the longer you avoid it, the scarier they will seem.  Try to run at least one per day if you can – think of the Justice or Valor Points you can earn!
  • Remember that things will get better and don’t lose heart!
18 Comments leave one →
  1. Minstrel permalink
    March 10, 2011 3:38 pm

    Good points. One turning point for me was remembering it’s a game. Even when it’s stressful, you’re just stretching your skills in a game, nothing in your real life is riding upon it. What’s the worst that can happen? Several wipes and a group that fails? In the end, that’s just a little bit of lost gold that you can earn back from a couple of quests. Essentially, you need to divorce emotion from it…a sense of “My worth is on the line here.” It’s not. All of you are playing a game and people who try to demean you from struggling are taking the game too seriously and probably don’t enjoy the game when things are hard…that’s a shame for them, not you. Run dungeons for fun and tune out jerks. Healing is fun, focus on that. Not on success or failure. If you do that, success will follow eventually.

    • March 10, 2011 4:01 pm

      Yes, that’s very true! It is just a game, and one’s self-worth should not hang on how well one performs in a game. However, it is very much a social game, and as humans we feel terrible when we think that other people might be judging our performance. We don’t like to look bad in front of others, it’s embarrassing.

      I always compare WoW to team sports. Everyone understands how bad it feels if you don’t make the high school football team, or if you accidentally score on your own team and allow the other team to win. Online multi-player games are basically the same, and come with real emotional investment. So while it’s important to remember that screwing up in game isn’t very important in the grand scheme of things, it’s also important to remember that it really does suck to screw up.

      So, bottom line I guess is don’t take things too seriously, do what’s fun for you, and remember that healing gets easier with time. 🙂

      • Minstrel permalink
        March 10, 2011 4:12 pm

        I agree that it’s a social game and very equivalent to team sports. The social pressure is there, no question. But I figure: I will try my best and leave the rest to God.* Even when I played team sports, I just tried my best to help the team win and beyond that had fun. When I didn’t have fun, I didn’t play. I think IF you are trying your best, then you don’t have to “care” about the outcome even if others do. Your obligation is not to be happy or sad about results, just to do your best. Of course, I am happy if I do well and the group succeeds, but I’ve stopped caring if things go badly. I’m in this to have fun, not to win. Winning is just a nice gravy. 😀

        *Figure of speech, atheist god otherwise known as fate

  2. March 10, 2011 4:28 pm

    Excellent post! I will definately add you to my reader 🙂

    I agree, we all learned bad habits from Wrath. I remember just Wild Growth and Rejuv spamming my way through everything. Now I have to time my spells around procs (Clearcasting FTW) and cooldowns.

    The hardest thing for me has been working in spells I never used in the past into my toolkit for now. I guess part of it is I’ve never really used the “correct” method of healing that druids are supposed to use. Oh well!

    Anyway, looking forward to more posts!

    • March 10, 2011 4:38 pm

      Thank you so much for the comment and for adding me to your reader! I’ll have to check out your blog as well. (Incidentally, I thought about naming my blog “HoTs and DoTs”, which would have been too funny!) 😀

      • March 10, 2011 4:51 pm

        It gets better. There was already a blog out there called HoTs and DoTs run by a shadow priest and resto druid. I found out AFTER I had picked my name.

        Here I was thinking I was being clever only to find out it had been done before >.>

      • March 10, 2011 4:59 pm

        Ha! Good thing I chose a different name then!

  3. March 10, 2011 4:57 pm

    This was an excellent post, great job and I look foward to reading more! I can actually read this one at work, but I can’t read Koala’s blog. 😦

    • March 10, 2011 5:03 pm

      Thank you! I’m glad you liked it. 😀

    • March 10, 2011 5:07 pm

      Aww sorry Trout! I think you can get the new posts sent to you via email.

      • March 10, 2011 5:21 pm

        I can’t check my personal email at work either! It’s crazy, some wordpress sites work, others are like: OMG BANNED GET BACK 2 WERK YOU R REPORTED!! So I am scared to click on yours at work, I feel like I am missing out.

      • March 10, 2011 5:23 pm

        If it makes you feel better I rarely post anymore. I am lazy like that ^_^b

      • March 15, 2011 4:21 am

        I hate to be sneaky, but I have a great suggestion for any sites for blog reading that your work might block or ban. Have you tried subscribing to the site as a feedburner into a google account like Reader? Most if not all companies use Google as a standard search engine and the reader feeds act as a back door to view just without the graphics, it is purely text. My current company normally lets blogger go through, but hates most all wordpress blogs. The Reader lets me catchup and read while behind the firewall, and if I like the article to read again, I can do so at home. Great feature for organizing the different blogs you might be reading. Just a thought.

        I do not want to represent myself and dishonest or lazy, because I am more motivated to get work done and out of the way so I can read, study, and write more. But at least it is better then reading all the random junk online and wasting time with solitare.

      • March 17, 2011 2:44 pm

        I do not know this google reader that you speak of, but if it is an anyway tied to an email those are all blocked. There is no personal internet email at work either. It’s a tough life. 😉

  4. March 15, 2011 4:36 am

    Really like the style and structure of this blog. This article is especially comforting and helpful to new healers or people overcoming the LK-syndrome as I like to call it. We all definately learned some bad habits last expansion, but thankfully this go around we are being forced to use smarter healing approaches and no more healbots. I know I was a little shocked when I was getting into Cata more with my druid, and when I was not sure I could pull off the heals I sometimes switched back to my beloved moonkin. This article will have to get a nice link in my guild getting started page.

    Now that gearing is coming along and I am getting ready to step into raids once again, my “healing with confidence” has definitely improved. Although I cannot wait for patch 4.1 to hit so I can respec my resto tree and get Efflorescence back into my rotation again. It was a nice tool before it got nerfed, but now it is coming back better then ever. The mana issues are still there somewhat, but through better mana management and utilizing my pool better that will not be such a problem. After all we are not supposed to treat our resources like a blue rage bar, right.

    Keep the good posts coming, will be adding you to the blogrolls I read for sure.

    • March 15, 2011 10:14 am

      Thank you so much for your comment! I’m glad you like my little blog. 😀

      I’ve gone back and forth with Efflorescence myself. Currently it’s in my build, and I’m hoping that it’ll be more useful in 4.1. I’m also looking forward to the snazzy new graphic, though I won’t be able to joke about standing in the slimy heals anymore.

  5. March 15, 2011 2:41 pm

    I’ll keep some of these in mind I have definnatly noticed it’s gotten lots easier with the more gear I have gained. Also I really like this post (as well as your others) and am looking forward to reading more from you! Hope you don’t mind me adding you to my blogroll.

    • March 15, 2011 2:51 pm

      I don’t mind at all – in fact, I’m thrilled! Thank you! 😀

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