Healer’s Corner: How to Make Your Healer Love You

As much as I’d love to assure you that my heals are almighty, my perception is so fast it’s practically precognition, and my knowledge is total . . . well, nobody’s actually that good. Even if I’m really on the ball, really know my own skills, and the battlefield and the unfolding fight have my undivided attention, I, your healer, could probably use a little help from the other people on my team. Today, we’re going to talk about being a good MMO team player, specifically focusing on what your healer could really use from you, hopefully in order.

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1. Hi! Anybody new?

My attention has got to be on the dungeon/raid/instance/mission as soon as it loads, because chances are, my tank has done this before and is going to take off like a shot, grabbing the first pull and running off to the races from there. Or, if I’m super unlucky, it’s going to be a DPS that does it. If everyone has done this dungeon before, it’s no problem to start fast and keep the pace brisk. Lots of times, though, somebody hasn’t. Or maybe somebody is under-geared and is going to be tougher to heal as a result, because they’ll take more damage. Maybe I’m the one under-geared, so my heals aren’t as powerful as they could be.

So in the first fight of an instance, the healer is not only healing you and keeping a close eye on the group’s play style and pace, but probably checking your gear/level/skills/character sheet, if they can, not necessarily to judge you, but to have some idea what they’re in for as far as healing you goes. We know right away whether this dungeon is going to be any fun for us. The first pull can be pretty stressful for healers.

I realize it is unreasonable– and un-fun– to stop at the beginning of every dungeon and get all this information before anyone starts hurting monsters. For all I know, you’re grinding this dungeon for gear, this is your tenth run today, you know the place like the back of your hand and you just want to get your loot already. I hear you. I’ve been there.

But do you really want to wipe twice and take longer in the dungeon anyway because somebody’s new and reeling from the brisk pace? Because someone’s under-geared and needs to take it slow until they win a few pieces of better armor? Because somebody has a life outside of this game and may need to step away from the computer for five minutes to put a kid to bed or let the dog out?

I’m not saying you need to have a team meeting every single time you start a dungeon. But it would help me a lot to either have time to ask or time to respond to a simple greeting. “Hi! Anybody new?” If yes, then you know to at least pause before the boss fights and give some tips. If no, blaze away.

2. DPS: Make an effort to manage your threat

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read my last Healer’s Corner article. Nobody’s perfect, and that’s what I’m there for, to heal you when your DPS attracts the attention of an angry mob. But if you notice you’re getting a lot of unfriendly attention, slow down a second. The healer and the tank will thank you.

3. DPS: You are not a tank

I think I talked about this in the last article too, so I’ll keep it short. It’s really hard for both the tank and me to get things back under control when you pull a group of enemies. Accidents happen, I get that. But if you’re just doing it because you think we’re going too slow or something, there are healers out there that will let you die. And nobody wants to play the blame game that comes after. Please just don’t do it. Let the tank pull. Take a slow breath, to give him/her a second to secure aggro. Then let the mobs have it.

4. Tank: I hate ranged mobs

Unless the tank is paying particular attention to the enemy archers/mages/etc.– and in my experience it doesn’t happen as often as I wish it would– no matter how careful I’m being, they’re going to decide they hate me. Tanks are almost always great at having a circle of melee jerks beating on them mercilessly, but it’s not as common that they remember to pick up and maintain the ranged mobs. The DPSes are probably wailing on the guys wailing on you. And then the ranged mobs, whom no one is hitting, start firing at the person producing the most threat in general . . . which is very likely me. Please pick them up and keep them. I understand if it’s not always possible, depending on everything else that’s going on, but it would really help me out if you kept this in mind.

5. Tank: If we’re having trouble with the trash (the mobs between boss fights), don’t pull multiple groups at once

Again, I get it if some people are grinding this dungeon. I get it if in the last group you pulled both of these groups and it went fine. But unless the pace is good and everyone seems to know the fights/have good gear, please don’t pull multiple groups of adds at once. If somebody’s under-geared, especially if it happens to be you– or heck, me– this is probably the most stressful part of dealing with the trash for me. I have to heal more, which means I pull aggro, which means everything goes out of whack and we perhaps wipe. Don’t do this unless we’re doing well.

6. Do the boss mechanics

Unless the group is just stupidly well geared across the board and the dungeon is a few patches old, meaning everyone’s done it a lot, please don’t even consider ignoring the boss mechanics! I groan aloud every time somebody says “let’s just burn the boss.” I’m not saying there’s never a reason to do this. In certain situations, it’s essential. But not when people just don’t feel like doing the fight as it’s intended.

Boss mechanics, for the uninitiated, are the particulars of how a specific boss fight is intended to be played. For example, let’s say you’ve come up to a boss who, every once in a while, has an attack where some kind of object spawns on the ground that players can interact with, as in, pick up and move. Let’s say there are three of them, and you’re in a four person group. The object, once the attack is completed, will disappear, leaving a puddle that does AoE damage to people who stand in it. The AoE puddles will go away after a while, but not quickly enough to be trivial. There will be multiple groups of puddles on the ground at once before the first set disappears.

There are two basic ways to do a fight like this. The first is the way the developers intended. When the objects spawn, the healer and the two DPSes are supposed to pick them up and carry them to the edge of the arena while the tank holds the boss on the other side, effectively dropping the AoE puddles as far from the fight as possible. They are supposed to stop what they are doing and attend to these objects every time they spawn, to make sure the puddles stay far away from the players, so they can fight in comparative safety. The players are intended to take the other damage the boss deals out in between these attacks, but not the damage from the AoE puddles. That damage is avoidable, if people do the fight according to the mechanics.

The other way to do it is ignore all that, stay where you are, and deal out as much damage as fast as you possibly can, hoping you can kill the boss before you die from the extra damage. DPSes, I’m not trying to throw you under the bus, but in my personal experience, DPSes love to suggest this. And healers HATE IT. The fight is not built to be done that way in this example. I would have to be super over-leveled, super over-geared, and perhaps lucky in the bargain to actually keep the group alive doing it that way.

And yet people do it! Is the high from doing that much DPS that fast that good? Are the bragging rights just unreal? I’m telling you, it is not fun for me, guys. If anything goes wrong– which eventually it will if we’re not doing damage fast enough, because I’ll run out of mana or whatever to heal you with– it’s assumed (again, in my experience) to be my fault because my heals weren’t good enough, never anyone else’s fault for not killing it fast enough or not soaking enough damage.

There are fights where burning the boss down is a good strategy. An intended one. They’re called “DPS checks” or “DPS races”, and they’re kind of a gateway mechanic. Sometimes there are periods in MMO boss fights where you only have a certain amount of time to do a certain amount of damage to the boss before something bad happens. Or maybe the boss is almost dead and it’s safe to go all out because he’ll be dead before his next attack. That’s when you burn him. But otherwise, healers don’t like this. It’s no fun for us, and stressful in the bargain.

7. If there are fight mechanics that require diverting my attention from healing, please try not to make me do them.

Lots of times in MMO boss fights especially there are levers to push, targets to hit, places to stand, or things to keep an eye on, depending on the boss. I understand that it’s not always possible, but if there are only two switches to hit, maybe the DPSes can do it? If I’m super comfortable and I know the fight well and am excellently geared, OK, I’ll do it if I’m needed. And certainly I will if there are three mechanics to do in a four person group, obviously. Tank’s gotta tank, typically.

But if at all possible, I really need to keep an eye on your health, and the battlefield. I am actually probably more useful calling out when something needs to be done to the DPSes, if they miss the cue, since I’m watching the battlefield anyway as part of my job (a good healer tries to be all-seeing), than I am taking time away from healing to do the mechanic myself. Again, I’m talking about hitting levers and stuff as opposed to the “don’t stand there or you’ll take damage or fall out of the arena” stuff. No one is exempt from that.

8. Be reasonable about the loot

I may write a more in-depth article on loot etiquette later, actually, because people are often not cool when it’s time to roll for loot. For now, I’ll just say be reasonable. I might need the healer stuff if it drops. If you’d like to roll for it, please just ask real quick. I might tell you I already have that piece and to go for it. I will extend you the same courtesy, I promise. But I can’t tell you how annoying it is when people roll Need on armor I really could have used for this, my main character, when they yoink it for an alt they don’t play as often or even worse, just for cosmetics.

9. If you have skills that might help me out, please remember and use them!

Tanks are pretty good at popping their emergency heals, if they have them, that’s not what I’m talking about. Lots of times, other classes have utility skills they forget about, just like healers do, that aren’t just damage and healing. They have temporary armor buffs, for themselves or someone else, the ability to take damage for someone else for a few seconds, the ability to give someone else some mana, skills to reduce someone’s else threat generation, or even redirect some of their threat to someone else, and more! These are all real DPS and tank skills! I can’t tell you how often I see these skills unused because people get tunnel vision doing damage or grabbing aggro.

Can you imagine how helpful it is to me if the team notices the battle’s going south and uses all of their resources to fix it? Imagine a scenario where I’m healing more to compensate for something going wrong, and mobs are making a beeline to me as a result. Normally, I see everyone run over and try to use their tried-and-true tank and DPS skills to just generate enough threat and do enough damage by brute force to make their numbers higher than mine to redirect the mobs’ attention to them.

Now imagine the tank popping a shield on me or just taking my damage for a few seconds so I can stop healing and generating threat, the caster DPS sending me some mana because I’m going through it fast, and then the other DPS using a skill to redirect some of the threat I’m generating to the tank, then using the normal methods. Wow! That would turn the tide of a battle fast, wouldn’t it?

No one is immune from class-based tunnel vision. Tanks hit the taunt button, DPS hit the kill button, healers hit the heal button. We all typically have some other awesome utility skills, though. If you try to remember, it would help me a lot. I’ll try to remember too.

10. Thanks for the credit, but I’m not all-knowing or all-powerful

I’ll admit, I pretty much exclusively play healers. Occasionally I dabble in DPS. I never play tanks. I know the basics of what the other classes should and shouldn’t do, and what their skills are, what they are capable of. If I notice a tank not grabbing aggro the way I think they should, or as well as I think they can, I don’t just assume they’re bad or they don’t know how to play their class.

Why should I assume that? I don’t play that class. What do I know? There may be some other reason the tank isn’t doing as well as I think he should. Maybe he’s under-geared. Maybe he’s new to this dungeon. Maybe he’s new to this game. Maybe he’s a brand new gamer! Maybe his kid is screaming in his ear. Maybe he’s having a bad day. The point is, I don’t play the class and I’m not that guy, so I don’t know.

So if I’m not all-knowing, consider that may apply in certain situations to you as well.  When you’re not getting all the heals you want, when and how you want them, please don’t just assume I don’t know what I’m doing. You don’t know how my class works, so you don’t understand why those heals aren’t coming the way you like. Just ask me, OK? I don’t know why people tend to assume healers are never-ending pools of succor, or when we don’t heal you it’s because we’ve chosen not to even though we could, or we’re just bad at the game, but in my experience they do.

Don’t tell me how to play my class, but I will happily take polite advice, especially if you have a healer for an alt. And don’t assume I’m not doing my job because I suck or I’m just a jerk. I typically have a reason that makes more sense than that if something goes wrong. Ask me, I won’t bite, promise.

Oh, and speaking of not being all-powerful or all-knowing, if you’re not getting heals, make sure you’re in my line of sight, please?  I do my best to keep everyone in range, but I can’t go chasing you down if you get away from everyone else.  My heals don’t go through walls or around corners.  Sometimes I’m mashing heal and it’s not hitting you for that reason.  Help a healer out and try not to stray too far.

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If you remember these things, I guarantee you will have your healer’s undying love, and probably a friend request before the dungeon is over. And it’s always a good idea to have some good healers on your friends list. If nothing else, if you’re grouped with me, you’re getting into a random/PUG group much faster.

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