Why play a healer?

— What in heaven’s name made you decide to play a healer?

— My health. I picked this class for its survivability.

— Survivability? What survivability? You’re always the first target.

— I was misinformed.

Playing a healer means always having a target over your head in PvP.  You are the first target of the assist train. The first thing any enemy learns as a basic tactic is “kill the healer first.” It’s not always the best tactic in every situation but it is the simplest that is generally sound. And even if you aren’t a primary kill target, many of the other team will have disabling you and making it impossible for you to do your “job” as their main goal. We joke about healers ‘tanking’ in PvP but it’s true – waving a flashy heal animation around is an instant AE taunt.

So if you end up in a situation where the other guys are more organised, it can be a wall-to-wall kill fest where you barely show your face or start contributing before you get capped. This is normal. Those games are not so fun. Assist trains are a brutally effective tactic.

In PvE this simply doesn’t happen (feel free to point me to games/encounters where it does!) because mobs are designed to be too stupid to target the healers first —  if they did, healers might quit. But in any case, if you are on your own you will (usually) level more slowly than other classes. There are some good heal/dps hybrids in games but generally as a healer you will be grinding solo more slowly than other classes. Basically there’s a built in penalty; I hate it myself. I don’t see why because I like healing in groups I can’t have a good grinding character. But it’s the way most games are designed.

You also get flak from lame elements on your own side. People whining for heals, complaining that they weren’t healed, telling you how to play your character and so forth. Usually we ignore these people because they are twats and should go roll healers themselves if they want to tell us how to do it. But if you aren’t  used to it, it can come as a shock. Especially if you picked a healer because you wanted to be loved by your own side.

Tobold has been finding his healer heavy going, and he picked out a good article by Serial Ganker (ironic name there since he’s playing an Archmage) about why healers need thick skin.

Still, all of us here have picked healers as our mains and love them. Although none of us especially enjoy being ganked, there are good points which outweigh that for us.

So what are the plus sides:

  • Healers are independent. Being able to heal yourself means no downtime, and it means never having to search for a healer. Although you need other classes to protect you, it’s easy to hop into a scenario or open PvP and contribute usefully, even at lower levels. If you play a dps in WAR you’ll see very quickly how dependent they are on heals to make the game more fun for them. I die a lot more on my White Lion than on my Archmage because there isn’t much of an option to stand at the back, you have to run in and hope you picked good targets or that everyone else is distracted.
  • You get to feel crucial. Every heal you get off is helping your team to win. You have a lot more control over the ebb and flow of a battle than most other classes. I love playing a healer because of the feeling of power. Even in a game like WAR where damage is largely more significant, well placed heals will turn a battle.
  • It’s because you are so important that you are a primary target. Someone has to be the first target of the assist train, if it wasn’t you it would be someone else. That’s the price of picking a class which has so much influence over the final outcome of a battle when you are playing against actual real players.
  • Other people in your team will be trying to protect you, if they are at all organised. You have to meet them halfway on this and do your best to protect yourself, but you aren’t alone out there. Players have learned from early on in WAR that if you see something hitting your healer, you go over and stop it. Other healers will be watching your back as best they can. We all love seeing the Destruction guys wailing uselessly on some healer while everyone else is throwing heals into him or her.
  • A lot of people won’t stick with it. Of course switch classes if you aren’t enjoying it, but I expect healers to be in more demand in later levels. If you like to be one of a small but important cadre in a game, it’s still the role for you.

It’s hard for us to assess right now if healer survivability is a problem, and if it really is driving too many players away from the healing role. I’m pretty sure that every healer has at some point contemplated rolling a more survivable class. I know we talk about rolling tanks after we’ve had a rough night in scenarios. All we can say for sure is that WAR is a team game and that means you’ll have to rely on your own team to protect you.

Also, gear for survivability in PvP. A dead healer contributes nothing. This means wounds, toughness, and resists before you start worrying about willpower. It does make a difference.

Looking ahead to tier 4, I see melee getting more and more powerful anti-healer abilities (such as fetch, terrible embrace, and a variety of more damage, silence, disable, and knockbacks). I’m not sure I see healers getting any more survivable. And the game does rely on people being able to kill enemy healers, otherwise battles would drag on for hours, so design is against us. We’ll talk more about that when we have had a chance to see it for ourselves.

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6 Responses

  1. I see your point, and I respect it. I also acknowledge that as a RDPS, I really don’t know what happens to healers. What I do know is that scenarios are not a good judge of healer survivability.

    When you are in an organized group, tanks and really annoying support RDPS (engineers ftw!) protect you so much that you become neigh unstoppable, until heal debuffs come.

    Unfortunately, the game depends so much on group balance that unbalanced groups can swing power vastly. Two players of equal skill and gear can report vastly different power levels based solely on the coordination of their groups.

  2. I like playing my Runepriest, but Mythic really need to make healing others easier. I rarely know whose in range other than by trying to heal and either succeeding or failing. It can be difficult to spot and click on people in the mad crush of scenario’s and trying to level my Zealot solo is painfully slow. Though Its fun in scenario’s to outheal several other players beating on you until hopefully your own team notices you going down under an army of blorcs and comes to the rescue!

    My main is a sorc and I basically never expect a heal in a scenario. I dodge out of LoS and use pots. Maybe I’m not so high on the points but I figure if I don’t need healing, then the healer can keep up those tanks in front and stop us being steamrollered.

  3. I was one on one against an equal level disciple of khaine, i threw the kitchen sink at him, i died with him still ticking on 98% health.
    I was fighting dok who was 8 levels lower than me and i was down below 50% health when it finally bit the dust. Healers have a heck of a lot of one on one survivability.
    No one has focus fired survivability.

    Fhel, White Lion, without heals survivability of a paper towel, with heals tinplated magus menace.

  4. @Fhel

    I think DoKs and WPs are an anomaly when it comes to survivability in melee compared to other healers, mostly because their biggest single heals come from actually hitting stuff. They are healing themselves and damaging you with the same swing of their weapon, and they have a bit more armour also. I remember in beta making easy work of a higher level Marauder with my WP.

    The downside is that they are pretty weak healing wise unless they are beating on something, which means they often have to put themselves into harm’s way. The other healers just hang around at the back hoping no Witch Elves or Marauders have spotted them!

    As far as Archmage survivability goes, I can keep myself alive against a single Witch Elf or Marauder for anything between 5-20 seconds depending on cooldowns and luck, etc. If help hasn’t arrived in that time, I’m toast. Also, I most certainly won’t be healing anyone else during that period, so it really is in a group’s best interest to deal with melee DPS to the exclusion of pretty much anything else, especially if the group is relying on only 1 healer. If two melee DPS team up on me I’m going down pretty damn fast unless the whole group is on the ball.

    Archmages get a nice ability later on called Dissipating Energies which deals decent damage to all enemies within 30ft of a target for 10 seconds. I’m wondering how much a self-cast of this will add to survivability? Probably not much, but it might make the difference every now and then. At the very least you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you did a fair whack of damage to the assist train that were zerging you before they managed to take you down!

  5. I rolled a healer because I felt more useful in RvR and I didn’t have to rely so much on other careers being present to be effective. I also appreciate the occasional comments people throw my way for healing them. You don’t get that much as a DPS or Tank 🙂

    I haven’t had an issue with survivability yet. I have been stacking willpower for RvR and only a couple of times have I found myself consistently targeted by an assist train. Most scenarios I don’t die or only die once so I haven’t really seen the need to swap out my willpower gear for wounds or toughness yet. Last night in tor Anroc I did get targeted by an assist train for one match, but I was the only destruction healer in the game and we had a guild 6 man in there so I see that as an anomaly at this point but expect to see more of it later once groups get a little more organised.

  6. Well as an archmage up to 29 now I do thank Dps and Tanks whenever they protect me from that darn witch elf, 1on1 I’m in trouble against anyone especially as I’m Asuryan spec and there isn’t a handy cliff/lake nearby and my knockback isn’t on cooldown.

    Assist trains whee, they sound like something that might just kill my enjoyment of the game but we’ll see.

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