I do mid-range raid healing. Nothing mythic, and heroic is still a challenge.
With that in mind, I get complemented on my healing. My presence and tactics are regularly the difference between success and a wipe.
.. but people don't understand what healing is, what the numbers mean, and what "good" means.
While I'm pleased to get complements, especially from other healers, I don't think many people understand what's going on.. even other healers. Their complement is somewhat meaningless, and for another healer to complement me worries me that they think less of themselves.
What is success? ∞
Bare success is with the raid boss dead, and one player with one hit point.
(Actually, the first time I downed Deathwing was a raid wipe. Motherfucking dots For The Win. Go, shadow, go.)
Better success is with nobody dying, and the boss dying with everyone at one hit point.
All other numbers don't have the meaning people think.
What are those numbers? ∞
"Healing meters" are all manner of ridiculous. They suggest that it's possible for either:
- A healer to "do better" than another.
A healer to "improve".
Neither concept can be seen by those numbers. At best, the squad of healers will "feel" changes and improvements. There's nobody on the outside who has any hope of "feeling" anything.
What are the influences on healing? ∞
A vast number of things contribute to raid healing.
- A particular boss fight.
- A particular team tactic within that fight.
Individual team members:
- Their tactic within that fight.
- Gemming, enchants, stat prioritization.
- Flasks, potions and rune stones.
- Positioning and movement.
- Blinders, over-focus, brain-freeze, forgetfulness, overwhelmed, tired, sugar high, sick.
- Assholes socializing over voice chat.
Everything rests on preventing death ∞
- DPS can't do damage if they're dead.
Tanks can't hold a boss if they're dead.
DPS making the tiniest slip forces a healer to prop them back up again. A tank making a small slip is the same. Only healer cooldowns before damage, and preferably also healer absorbs can hope to keep a tank from being one-shotted if they make a larger error.
Let's make that clear. All player failings are dropped on the shoulders of healers.
Comparing healers ∞
Imagining you have a 20 player fight - 2/5/13. Five healers of whatever variety.
Imagine that in comparison to one another they look something like this:
- 1 - 100
- 2 - 80
- 3 - 60
- 4 - 60
5 - 40
One would say things like "healer one is doing really well, and healer five isn't pulling their weight". This is completely wrong. Those numbers are totally meaningless.
First, if these numbers are being looked at on attempts and not kills, then all sorts of things are interfering with good information.
- The length of the attempt.
Changing in raid and player tactics for each attempt.
This could be as simple as "trying harder".
If those numbers are examined for kills only, then all of the influences listed above are still in play. No fight is consistent between kills.
Second, we must remember the baseline for success. Everyone alive with one hit point. If healer one "does more healing", they're taking away from the pool of healing needed for that baseline.
A strongly "successful" healer is literally leeching from the numbers of all other healers.
Niche healing ∞
When a healer grows more confident in their own niche, they become more efficient and effective without "taking from" other healers. This is what raises the baseline for success from one hit point for each player up to more hit points allowing more player slip ups.
When that same healer becomes strong in their niche, and they allow the other healers to also be strong in their niches as well, then overall healing "feels" better. More, and larger, mistakes can be recovered from. Fights feel "safer".
Healers have overlapping niches. The classic are the concepts of tank and raid healing. Like so much else, this is wrong and there are subtleties that even healers are only subconsciously aware of.
Those niche overlaps allow healers to cover one another during heavy needs or distractions. There are only rarely niches that so closely overlap that they become inefficient. The classic has been considered discipline healing, but that's always been false.
It is, however, possible to have a composition of both classes and characters where there is poor enough niche overlap that significant inefficiency is inevitable. If nobody is good at healing a certain situation in a certain way, then healers have to step out of their "niche zone" and end up being inefficient somehow - often by burning mana.
The new perspective ∞
The "baseline" of everyone having one hit point at the end, and all healers being out of mana, is one which obviously doesn't exist. Players die both from their own and the fuckups of others. Healers panic and focus outside of their niche for various reasons. Those healer numbers aren't equal.
The numbers aren't equal because the healers aren't. Because the classes aren't. Because the situations aren't. Because the niches aren't.
Don't interpret the numbers. A best, healers will look at their own meters as a way of attempting to judge if a tactic of theirs is working. They barely understand the influences of their own changes, and others certainly can't.
If you want to know how your healers are doing, don't ask. Don't even try. You can't understand. Just walk away from the problem entirely.
Encourage discussion between healers. Have them say when they're trying new tactics. They don't need to discuss specifics. A healer asking "Healers, I tweaked some things, how did that attempt feel?" and getting thoughts from other healers is probably the best thing to encourage.
It's also good to have healers talk about rotating their cooldowns so that someone has one up when it's needed. Do keep a healer or two "floating" so they can use their best judgment on situations which aren't included in the rotation.
Some raids have "healing leaders", but this concept doesn't really work either. Decisions on niches to cover can be done by the raid leader when splitting the raid. Tossing a strong single/few-target healer with a hot healer helps them cooperate with their separate niches. Keeping well-geared and experienced players with new ones is a way to balance them out.
Again, don't try to compare healing numbers. Encourage communication between healers (and not between healers and non-healers). Encourage them finding their own niches for both comfort and efficacy. Encourage their trust for one another covering other niches.
Lastly, don't make your discipline priest obsess over tank healing unless you have specific needs that are primarily covered by them. I've switched to very specific tank healing, to the point of ignoring the raid. This is worrying as all hell, and my "numbers" look bad, but it's been what's saved tanks.. especially when their defensive cooldowns aren't up. Yes there are special situations requiring a shift in niche. That aside...
Take your hands off your healers and your eyes off their numbers.
Or I'll cut you.