Healer’s Corner: Know Your Skills, Read the Tooltips

I typically try to write the articles in this series to refer to MMOs as generally as I can, but this will be a Final Fantasy XIV story, the lessons of which can certainly be applied to your healer regardless of genre. Don’t worry, I’ll explain the references!

When my daughter was born, I would check in on the couple of MMOs I play once a day for just a couple of minutes, mostly to make sure the Guild house rent was paid for and do other little daily things, but for the most part, I stopped doing dungeons and other content for a while. I needed to play games that I could put down at a moment’s notice with an infant, and dungeons and raids were most certainly not that content. There’s only so many times a twenty four man raid will pause when even a healer goes, “Sorry, baby’s crying!”

So it’s only recently, when BabyGMR’s naps have become consistent, that I’ve poked my head into my MMO content again. Imagine my surprise when, having stopped playing Final Fantasy XIV near the end of Heavensward at item level 230ish, here I am now that Stormblood’s dropped, a hundred item levels behind!

To explain, Final Fantasy XIV, A Realm Reborn (released in 2013), is much more successful than the original game, released in 2010. It’s so much more successful that there are now two expansions, Heavensward (2015) and Stormblood (2017). I slowed down in the spring of 2016 with my character’s item level being quite near the max at the time. Item level is exactly that, how strong your armor is. Certain item levels are required to do certain content, so you’re playing with people of comparable strength. Dungeons and raids are among my favorite parts of the game, so that was one of the few things my character tended to be on the cutting edge of. A hundred item levels behind is a lot, to say the least. I panicked instantly. I surely didn’t have time to grind dungeons for the specific currency to trade for high item level armor to catch up.

It turned out to not be as bad as I thought. Getting to item level 260 won’t be hard at all, since everything was re-balanced when Stormblood came out, and then, since they raised the level cap from 60 to 70, item level will raise pretty naturally until I’m max level again, when I can do a normal amount of dungeoneering for the high level stuff. I could probably get to item level 260 in less than a week of only dungeoneering when BabyGMR naps, which puts me in a good place to start Stormblood’s content.

Which brings us to the start of our story. I queued for the Aetherochemical Research Facility dungeon, which only drops the currency I needed to up my armor, and a lot of it, making it the fastest way to catch up. If you don’t play the game, the dungeon is a magitech wonderland, a light-etched compound in the sky, recently rediscovered after being lost to the ages, where the ancients bioengineered all sorts of dangerous creatures. The aesthetic of this game is fantastic; as a life-long Final Fantasy fan, I just love it. Did you ever play Final Fantasy VI? This is what the Imperial capital of Vector wanted to be.

Anyway, I’d played the dungeon a couple of times, and felt comfortable, getting back into my rhythm of healing and fighting. They changed a few things about my skills (I hate the way they changed you, Cleric Stance! I miss you, Stoneskin!), but my fingers were finding the right keys in the right order after the long break, and I was familiar enough with the fights in the dungeon to instruct the party, if I had to.

In this particular run, the tank was new. Awesome, that meant we were going to get a bonus to the currency I was collecting. As always, I examined him as we got started. Uh oh. Barely eligible for the dungeon, very low item level. That meant he was going to take a lot of damage, which meant I would have to work harder. Not a problem . . . unless the guy decided he was going to pull multiple groups of mobs at a time and rush through the dungeon. That could be quite stressful, at least for me.

Not only was the tank honest and communicative, admitting he was new and inviting instruction, the two DPSes were warm and helpful as well. Nice! I relaxed. This run might be fun after all.

Most of the trash pulls in the dungeon are unremarkable, but there are two that are noteworthy, and I warned the tank about them as we approached. There was going to be a big globe, a node, in the center of the room. It was his job to grab any mobs that spawned and keep them a couple steps away from us. The DPSes and I would burn down that node as fast as we could. As long as the node was alive, adds would just keep coming until we were overrun.

Well, the first time we wiped. And it was on me. “My fault. I shouldn’t have focused quite as hard on DPS,” I admitted. “I’ll focus more on healing next time.”

“Don’t worry, sweets,” said one of the DPSes in chat. She’d spent the whole dungeon thus far calling everyone sweets and darling or somebody-chan. She seemed to be in character– or maybe just really nice– which surprised me. The possibly in-character part, I mean, I haven’t personally witnessed a lot of that in Final Fantasy XIV. “Why didn’t you cast Holy?”

I sat up straighter in my computer chair, surprised. “I thought I should be doing less damage, after that, not more. Don’t you think I need to heal the tank more?” I typed.

“Micah-chan,” she replied, cute-ing up my character’s name, “that stun could be really helpful.”

Stun? I racked my brain. Holy was a big AoE pulse of light that did quite good damage, that you could almost stack, diminishing your damage each cast. But it cost a lot of mana. If I did too much of that, I’d run out and not be able to heal. I almost never used Holy, because it was so expensive.

I hovered my mouse over the skill. “Additional Effect: Stun,” read the tooltip.

2015-07-01-whm-spell-06

Now, it may seem silly to you for someone to be at level 60+ in an MMO and not know something like that. But as I’ve warned you in previous Healer’s Corner articles, it’s easy to oversimplify, and just press the buttons you need to for your class: heal for healers, damage for DPSes, taunt for tanks.

But I wasn’t like that! I prided myself on being very good at sneaking in some damage when I wasn’t healing. I never wasted time overhealing. I always made sure to have at least one DoT on the enemy and threw direct damage spells out whenever I had a free moment. I wasn’t just a healbot.

I didn’t have to spam Holy, but if I could time it well– say, when each wave of adds came out, and then maybe again if we were getting overwhelmed– four seconds of all those enemies being unable to act would be really useful. I said I’d try it.

Now, I’m sure it wasn’t just the properly applied Holy spells that turned the tide. The tank had now seen the fight and knew what to expect, and everyone is always more focused after a wipe. But those Holies really did help. I’d only ever used Holy when leveling, gathering up a bunch of enemies and killing them all at once, having plenty of time to regen my mana while I waited for the enemies to respawn so I could do it again. In my mind, in my experience, you spammed Holy until you ran out of mana and the mobs were all dead. I had completely missed the fact that Holy also stunned.

For the rest of the dungeon– through which we had no more problems– I practiced getting Holy into my damage rotation, thanking the DPS for the tip.

So MMO healers– or healers in any type of gaming . . . heck, any players, not just healers– know your skills. There’s another Final Fantasy XIV White Mage skill, Lucid Dreaming, that I have often counseled my fellows about. It reduces emnity– or threat– by half, and any White Mage knows to press that button in a panic if adds turn and start wailing on them.

But, as I’ve said more than once, it has an additional effect: Refresh. Refresh is like a HoT for mana. It replenishes your mana over a period of time. For a White Mage, this is hugely important, making it only one of two skills you can use to replenish your MP in combat. The other is Assize, which is AoE damage again . . . but it also restores your HP and the HP of nearby party members and restores 10% of your MP. Most White Mages I’ve seen never use this skill at all, and certainly don’t know it’s also a heal. I knew about the additional effects of those two skills, but I guess I never read the tooltip for Holy very closely.

I know a lot of people say MMO gameplay is just button mashing, or pressing buttons in a repetitive sequence. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen. But a lot of skills have some secondary effect or use, or can be used in conjunction with another skill, that most players never even know about, because in their heads, skills have one word labels like heal, damage, or taunt. Know your skills, and read the tooltips. Get creative. Think outside the box. Ask for advice. You may discover your class has a whole lot more depth than you think.

Bonus Tip: Hey, White Mages. You know Fluid Aura? That direct damage attack with knockback you never ever use? Ever tried using that and then Repose to put the mob to sleep for thirty seconds? Knocking one tough mob away from the fight for thirty seconds while you deal with smaller ones– that you can now AoE because you literally knocked the big one out of the way– could actually be really helpful in some trash fights, especially if your tank is the “off to the races” variety that grabs more than one group at a time. Just warn your party before you do it so they don’t beat the thing awake again.

Featured Image: Micah casting Holy!

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