I’ve written about healers for OutDPS before, but I think that with Cataclysm our relationship with them merits revisiting. Players are still learning the mechanics of even the 5mans, leading to lots of standing in fire in all settings. Healers go oom more often and have less capacity for emergency triage owing to Blizzard’s decision to make mana matter. Many players are still gearing up, leaving them with less health and, for tanks, less mitigation than might be expected as baseline for the same content later in the expansion. And the healers are themselves still gearing up. All of these issues compound one another, making each other worse and making the early stages of the expansion harder on healers than anyone else in my estimation. They also change the way we interact with healers. So what should we, as hunters, know about healing in early Cataclysm?
Health Pools Have Dramatically Increased in Size
Obvious, I know, but it matters quite a lot. The enormous increase in health relative to hps, dps and even to some extent damage taken alters the way healing works. People take longer to die and so healers can afford to be slower to heal. They can use mana-efficient spells. They can pay more attention to spell synergies (rather than just spamming the most time-efficient spell constantly). Of course, by “can” in those sentences I mean “have to,” but I’ll get into that later.
What does this mean for hunters?
- Don’t expect to be topped-off all the time. If you’re at 75% health but not in danger, a healer may decide to ignore you for the time being in order to let smart heals, aoe heals, procs and efficient heals take care of you over a long period of time. Being at max health all the time is not the requirement it once was.
- Don’t use Wrath as your baseline for damage taken. Losing 10% health every second was bad in Wrath, but manageable with the crazy triage that healers could pull back then. If you take 10% per second in Cata, that’s asking the healer to throw 10k+ hps just at you, which is absurd and usually just not going to happen for any long period of time.
- Slowed-down healing doesn’t mean more heals for your pet. Healers are still casting constantly at players in difficult fights, and since they want to maximize both time and mana effieciency they’re, if anything, less likely to heal a pet. Yes, pets now provide awesome buffs, but they’re still worth less to a raid than (1) a player or (2) saving mana so that there’s enough to finish the fight.
Healing Throughput Has Not Increased Proportionally With Health Pools
Phrased another way, healing 10% of a player’s health is harder now than it used to be. A fresh 85 healer’s hps is likely to still be under 10k. That means they may have seen, say, a 60% increase in hps capacity while leveling to 85. Player health, as already stated, has increased by something more like 300%. Therefore, healers are having to do more to achieve the same results (by health percentage) than they used to.
- Try even harder to avoid taking damage. Being knocked down to 20% due to standing under a falling rock is more difficult to patch up than it used to be.
- Incidentally, it seems to be easier to avoid taking damage for hunters now than in Wrath. There are many dungeon bosses, at least, where it is possible for a hunter to take literally no damage at all.
- Just because you may now be spending more time at reduced health it doesn’t mean that healers have become worse players. It just takes more time and often also effort to get your health up than it used to.
There is a Huge Difference Between Efficient Healing and Emergency Healing
Even as Blizzard loosened restrictions on heal timing (damage is now less spiky), it kept healing difficult by making mana matter. The spells that heal the fastest also cost enough mana to (usually) not be sustainable for long periods of time. Flash Heal, for example, may be fast and sizable as a heal, but using it for all purposes will force a priest to go oom long before the fight is over. Emergency healing really is only for emergencies now. The majority of a healer’s casts have to expend as little mana as possible in order for healing to be sustainable. Efficient, sustainable casting typically heals for small amounts and takes longer to perform (like Heal as compared to Flash Heal). In other words, efficient healing costs in time what it gains in mana. It is also synergystic. A druid may cast Rejuvenation on you before (rather than after) throwing you a direct heal so that the Nourish takes advantage of both its innate bonus when a hot is already present on the target and the further bonus gained from the druid’s Mastery.
- Don’t expect fast heals. If a healer can heal you slowly, you should be happy because it means the healer is more likely to have enough mana to finish the fight.
- Don’t expect blanket heals; the old tactic of Rejuvs and/or bubbles for everyone is not at all viable. Preemptive healing in general has to be cut down on because overhealing is a genuine concern.
- If you’re needing and getting fast heals on a repeated basis, you’re jeopardizing the healer’s ability to finish the fight and you’re likely doing something wrong.
- Healer mana is now a meaningful limit to fights. In most situations avoiding damage is more important than squeezing in an extra shot while in the fire. That said, higher dps ends the fight faster, so optimized dps given avoided damage is an excellent goal to have.
- Don’t always expect high hps from your healer. Considering the pressures for healing efficiency and mana conservation, hps cannot be viewed as an accurate catch-all measure of a healer’s worth. In fact, if the whole group/raid is good, the hps will be relatively low. Consider other measures of a healer’s worth:
- Does the healer go oom even when little or no emergency healing has been required?
- Are people dying without good reason? (Note that people who make mistakes can die without it being the healer’s fault.)
- Do efficient spells make up the bulk of his healing done?
- How high is the healer’s overhealing? Is she wasting mana?
- How high is the healer’s damage taken? Is he standing in fire?
If nothing else, I hope that this post has demonstrated that healers have a tough job. What can we do to help?
- Avoid avoidable damage. This is huge and worth repeating over and over again.
- Any damage you don’t take is not only mana directly saved, it is also time saved in terms of cast bars and globals, allowing the healer(s) to cast more-efficient spells on other people and compound mana savings. By not taking damage you are really helping the healer(s).
- Savvy healers and raid leaders do look at “Damage Taken” tallies at the ends of fights and so it’s not as if good work avoiding damage goes unnoticed. Conversely, standing in fire will also get you noticed and is more likely than in the end of Wrath to get you kicked.
- Keep adds off the healer by MDing, CCing and DSing. This has always been important, but it is more helpul now than before considering the increased amount of time that all healers have to stand still for long cast bars.
- Offer to use and even take charge of crowd control if a healer appears over-taxed on trash. CCing dramatically reduces incoming tank and party damage per second, and it makes healing much easier.
- If a healer asks you to CC or help with adds or just not stand in fire, don’t assume he or she is simply being a bossy ***hole. It’s more than likely that the healer needs you to do these things in order for the fight to be a success. On the plus side, healers can and do remember who is helpful, and so by aiding a healer you’re doing yourself a favor.
- Edit 1/8/11: Commenters have put forward another recommendation: heal yourself when you can. This may be an alien concept to a lot of hunters, but there are plenty of options for it: lightwells, soulstones, bandages, aoe heals, health potions, etc., all make things easier on the healer and take very little effort to make use of. Some affect dps less than others, though; lightwells, healing circles and soulstones are much less of a dps loss to use than health pots (which you have to use instead of dps pots) or bandages (which take significant time to use). Regardless, all are good to use in fights where healer mana is a pressing limit.