Sunday, September 28, 2008

A WAR Healer's Manifesto

A common theme in Warhammer at the moment is that the DPS classes want to pigeon hole the healers into a “heal only” role. Or in other words, anyone who can heal should only focus on healing and leave the damage dealing to the careers that deal damage. To which my response is: Learn to play your own class first before you start telling other people how to play.

This is Warhammer, not Warcraft
It’s a different game, folks. This might be a shocker but despite similarities it has different class mechanics. Tanks play different, DPS plays different and oh ya – healers play different. The traditional pure healing class that exists in WoW and other games doesn’t exist in WAR. The closest equivalent is perhaps the Rune Priest / Zealot, but even those two classes aren’t exactly traditional.

This is a game whose focus is PvP. Therefore, the game is balanced around PvP. Big damage and big heals are uncommon and have long casts. Everyone is killable and no “healer” has some instant or near instant cast spell that is going to save your ass that is not on at least a 60 second cooldown and has other requirements (i.e morale). If you run around willy nilly expecting heals to save you – you are going to die. This is particularly true if you are a lightly armored class who draws the attention of several players.

It’s a slower game
This is a bit of a half truth. The game is slower in the respect that it takes longer to kill or be killed, but not in the action that happens while the killing is taking place. In other words, lots of stuff is happening and flying around but you rarely get insta-gibbed.

The slower pace is larger due to the fact that damage (and healing) is mostly dealt in smaller increments relative to the total pool of health. All the big damage/heals take a good chunk of time to prepare or cast. The game also has a lot more DoTs and HoTs than other MMOs. DoTs / HoTs are powerful, but take time to develop.

The point here is that heals largely only come in small increments. If you are taking damage, you may not even notice that you are getting healed.

You keep yourself alive by not playing stupid
First and foremost, your survival in WAR depends not on the actions of others – but on your actions. As I mentioned above, in a lot of cases you may not even notice the heals you are getting because you are also taking damage. Therefore, your responsibility is to (gasp!) try to take less damage.

Before you start bitching about heals, ask yourself if you used any of your abilities that prevent damage. Every single non-tank class gets some form of a Detaunt that reduces damage (usually 50%). Every single non-tank class gets other spells that prevent or reduce damage. Many classes get a root or movement impairing ability. These things keep you alive and give the small incremental heals/HoTs time to work. In other words, the healer helps – but you are the one who saves your own ass.

Tanks are in a bit of a different category because their abilities are more about preventing the damage to others. So if you DO die, ask yourself if you were using these abilities. Perhaps you didn’t get any heals because someone was busy trying to save that Witch Hunter next to you.

Detaunts and Taunts are perhaps the single biggest mechanic difference between Warhammer and other MMOs like Warcraft. In Warcraft, this type of thing really doesn’t exist and the burden of preventing damage largely falls entirely on the healer to heal you through it. In fact, the only thing I can think of that comes close is perhaps Evasion and Shield Wall which are both on long cooldowns (which Detaunts are not). However, in WAR, the burden of keeping you alive is shared between you, the healer and the tanks.

There are no save your ass heals
The Warrior Priest / Disciple of Khaine only get the powerups they need to cast healing spells if they are dealing melee damage in RvR. They have some great instant heals, but the melee damage requirement takes them some time to build up the healing energy. They literally can only save your ass when they are in the thick of things mixing it up with the baddies. Needless to say – if they are in the thick of things, they are getting targeted pretty heavily and require heals. Fortunately for them, they can heal themselves. The result is that WP/DoK are pretty similar to a tank class. They occupy the enemy and soak up attention. If the enemy stops paying attention to them, they punish them by healing other players.

The Archmage/Shaman doesn’t have an instant cast heal that immediately heals (other than a morale ability). The immediate heals require 1 to 3 seconds to cast and can be push backed, silenced or disrupted. The one second spell is part direct heal and part HoT. The big heals take three seconds. However, each damage dealing spell reduces the casting time of your next healing spell by 20%. It stacks 5 times, so a fully charged cast turns the big heal into an instant cast spell. In other words, the Archmage is most effective when they deal a combination of damage and healing. I've been playing an Archmage for a while now and I'll give you an interesting tidbit to think about: Whenever we win a scenario, my damage/healing ratio is about 40-60. Whenever I lose a scenario, the ratio is more like 10-90 in favor of healing.

The Rune Priest/Zealot is the king of instant cast heals. They get some nice instant HoTs and a direct heal that instantly gives you a small amount of health. They can quite literally running around in circles and never stop healing. The only issue is that the really big heals require a cast (just like the Archmage). This is problematic because while they have an instant cast that heals a small amount immediately, it also incurs the 1.4 second global cooldown. Simply spamming that heal isn’t going to save you unless they get the chance to give you a big heal. If you are near death, they might not ever get that time.

Healers need to heal, but damage is OK
Clearly, without any heals at all – your team is much more likely to lose if the other team is healing. Healers do have a responsibility to heal and if they are not healing at all or only healing themselves, then that is flawed. My Archmage deals decent damage (better than a tank) but it’s still maybe 65% of what my Bright Wizard is capable of dealing. If you strictly deal damage as a healer, then you are doing everyone a disservice.

That being said, healers also need to deal damage. As pointed out above, the mechanics of some healers either outright require it or makes it significantly more effective. In other cases, healing is well under control and what is really needed is to make a DPS push to knock a few enemy players off. The Archmage in particular is well suited to this role because switching back to heals as needed makes them that much more effective.

Unlike other MMOs, dealing damage is part of what healers need to do to help the group. If you suddenly get focus-fired and nuked, don’t blame the healer. Given the small incremental nature of the heals, it’s highly unlikely they could have saved you anyway. No healer (even a stationary one) can heal through two Bright Wizards focusing a single target without your help.

The Healer's Vow
A manifesto is a declaration of principles. To this end I make the following vow:

If you do your best to keep yourself alive, I will do my best to keep you alive.

1 comment:

Scott said...

I still haven't quite figured out the whole "Gork/Mork" system on my Shaman. I could have sworn the tooltip said if I rank up my heals, then my next damage spell casts faster, rank 5 being pretty much instant cast. Where if I rank up the damage spell, my heals will heal more per tick. That seems to be the case, though I get the impression that every once in a blue moon my heal will also instant cast.

It's taking some getting used to, especially when I need to heal and only have HoT's available which don't show immediately. The first few times in a group I ended up spamming the crap out of my HoT's trying to keep the tank alive. Someone on ventrilo finally said back off before I get all the aggro, let my HoT's take effect.

It's just a very different way of playing, and I'm in favor of that. Just like playing a healer in Guild Wars is a very very different play style than a "normal" MMO, so is WAR and everyone coming from "normal" MMO's (that'd be all of us) need to adapt.