Healer’s Corner: Good Leaders Know Their Team

If you’ve been reading this series you know that when I play MMOs, one of my favorite things to do is play dungeons. As most of my Free Company in FFXIV is currently on hiatus, I’ve been doing this with a lot of pick up groups– or PuGs– lately. It’s the most fun, for me, to play with friends, help them conquer the dungeon and get the gear they need, but one learns a great deal from strangers, it turns out.

Sorry, tanks. Today is about you. Actually, it’s hopefully not you. I’m writing this so that you can learn to never be that guy.

Which guy? Story time!

I’m in a dungeon in FFXIV, trying to get all the healer gear because A, I like the look, and B, I need better armor. So I’ve done it a few times today. And every time, I check the tank’s armor (and the DPSes as well if I have time), to know what I’m in for. If you have skillful teammates, but they are ill-equipped, you’ll get through the fights but it’ll take a long time because you just don’t have the stats to kill them very quickly yet. If you have well-equipped teammates who lack skill, everyone will be throwing out high numbers– damage and healing and such– but the dungeon is likely to be a chore because people don’t know the fights, and worse, may not care to learn them or do the boss fight mechanics.

Guess which group I like more?

I can have all the patience in the world for the ill-equipped but skillful group, especially if they’re talking: sharing information, doing ready checks to make sure everyone’s prepared for the boss fight, giving tips, making suggestions. I hate groups that have great equipment and want to blaze through the dungeon.

By the way, I am not implying that all well-geared players lack skill. Obviously well-geared players can be very competent as well, and poorly equipped ones can have terrible dungeoneering skills. I try to never judge a player based on what gear they’re wearing, but instead on how they play.

Lots of people have low tolerance for slow dungeon runs. They want to get through it as quickly as possible. I can sympathize, especially if you’ve run it four times today trying to get that last piece of gear to drop. You know the fights, you’re thinking. Let’s just get on with it already.

To that I say, if you’re going to lead, you’d better know who you’re leading.

In FFXIV, for example, if there’s a player who has never done that dungeon before, the game informs you the group will get a bonus upon completion because there’s a new player. Doubtless this is to keep people from dropping group if they know they have a newbie. Yes, some people are so invested in getting through the instance quickly, they won’t deign to run with an inexperienced player. I think that’s awful. We were all new once, and we should remember to be kind and helpful to others, but there you have it.

Now in every MMO I have ever played, it’s typically the tank who sets the pace. This is because the tank is supposed to be doing all the pulls– grabbing all the enemies (mobs) and building threat on them to make sure they have aggro. Once aggro is established (this typically only takes a few seconds), DPSes can starting wailing on the mobs and healers can start healing. DPSes and healers are not built to take a ton of damage, so they should never be pulling mobs except in very special cases. Therefore, the rest of the group spends the dungeon following the tank around.

When this dungeon started, the tank was informed we had a new player. The game doesn’t tell you who it is, but it was likely one of the DPSes, as his character level was not synced (in FFXIV, if you are too high a level for the dungeon you’re in, the game adjusts your level down. Level-synced characters’ names are written in italics, character names of people who are at-level are written normally. One of the DPSes was at-level, and therefore probably new). This was confirmed at the end of the dungeon when the non level-synced player earned an achievement for uncovering the map of the dungeon for the first time, which we could all see in the chat box.

Also, in my opinion, the tank should have considered checking at least the item level on my armor. He was geared to high heaven, but I was still building my armor set, so he would have known that depending on the size of the pulls, I might have had trouble keeping his health up, especially if the DPSes were also not optimally geared and therefore unable to kill the mobs quickly.

So the tank knew he likely had someone with low DPS, and could have found out with a mouse click that he had a healer who was still building her armor set and therefore didn’t have the stats to heal through big pulls. Also, just from looking at the symbols by the characters’ names, he knew he had a melee DPS that was mostly single target with a few line AoE attacks (a Dragoon) and a ranged magic DPS/off-heal (a Red Mage), and that the Red Mage was likely new. This is a lot of helpful information to easily know or find out as soon as one enters a dungeon.

What to do with all this information? Tailor your approach. You can’t assume that anyone that happens to queue into the dungeon with you knows the fights. You can’t assume that everyone is geared/ has the stats to do this dungeon easily. If you know you’re running with an under-geared group with a newbie in it, you should probably slow down a little. Certainly you shouldn’t pull more than one group of mobs at a time.

If the people in your group are throwing down AoE heals/ enemy debuffs, you should stand in them so they can actually be useful (except when you have to dodge something, and then you can get back in) instead of blowing by them to grab the next group of mobs or just ignoring them.

Also, the tank knew we had a mostly single target Dragoon and a new and likely under-geared Red Mage. It’s not like both DPSes were primarily AoE fighters. So what was the point of grabbing two groups of mobs at a time anyway? If you have two Black Mages triple-casting Flare or Thunder IV, that’s an AoE-heavy team where it makes more sense to grab more than one group of mobs at a time, because those classes are suited to killing big groups faster.

Needless to say, we wiped at one point on trash– just normal enemies between boss fights. I mildly commented that maybe we shouldn’t take both groups at once next time, and the tank, to his or her credit, was nice about it, admitting that sometimes that pull could be hard for some groups. The tank took those groups one at a time the next time and we got through just fine.

That was our only wipe, the bosses were no problem, they just took awhile. But I didn’t enjoy the run. If you’ve read the other articles in this series, you know what that dungeon run looked like for me: mostly playing whack-a-mole with various degrees of Cure spells, frantically trying to get other shields and AoE heals out, and occasionally wasting my “oh crap” heal– the big one that heals a player to full instantly but has a long cool-down– on trash fights. Good thing we never needed it on one of the bosses.

I hate dungeon runs like that, they’re stressful for me and honestly, boring, because I’m so busy desperately trying to keep the tank alive that I don’t get to do anything else, no DPS, nothing strategic, I just get to yell at my computer because the tank is running off like a crazed lunatic with no regard to anyone else’s play experience. Thank goodness the DPSes were pretty skillful, if not throwing out big numbers, or that would have been miserable. I was so busy healing the tank that if one of the DPSes had accidentally pulled something or decided not to dodge, I’d have been in real trouble.

So please, dear tanks, don’t be that guy. I’m not asking for a lot. You don’t have to do constant ready checks or give full instructions before every boss or anything. Just know your team. Lead them, instead of just running off to the races. Take the information you have, or can easily get with a quick question to the group or by examining the other players’ stats/armor/etc (if your game allows that), and tailor your approach a little depending on who’s in your group and how they are geared. Not only is it likely to be faster overall, because we won’t waste time wiping on trash, but we’ll all enjoy the experience more. This is a game, and your healer– and everyone else– would like to have fun playing it.

Thank you, MMO tanks. I hope you have found my testimony helpful. ❤

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