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Thinking about healing April 26, 2011

Posted by Ben in General Whinging, Leveling.
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I’ve seriously healed on two different characters in my time in WoW. One was a druid that I leveled as Feral, and respecced/geared to Restoration after the introduction of the Dungeon Finder made it possible to find groups in my erratic and limited playtime. The second is the Restoration Shaman that I’ve been leveling mostly through dungeons in the past few months. The two characters have one major difference. I feel much more comfortable healing with the Shaman than the Druid. I love both, but I feel like I have a better command of the abilities I have as a Restoration Shaman, and I think I know why. As I leveled, I was slowly given new abilities, so that I could one-by-one work them in to my style, rather than suddenly having a whole fleet of abilities that I have to now work together to keep players alive.

Today’s Patch 4.1 is introducing the much discussed “Call to Arms” feature to the Dungeon Finder, and I wonder if Blizzard is incentivizing players to tank (and to a lesser degree, heal) at the wrong end of the game. Is level 85, when you’ve been playing your character a certain way for its entire existence the right time to suddenly change it up? Or should you start earlier when there are fewer abilities and more margin for error, and can get comfortable in the role?

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1. Zinn - April 26, 2011

If I get the idea to respec some alt to another role, I often decide to relevel that role instead. The reason is exactly what you describe – there is really no better way to get a full understanding of how and when to use your spells than by getting them one by one and having to try them out thoroughly before you get the next one. I notice that when I try out a new role at max (or high) level, I often forget about skills and/or don’t know what to do in certain situations. Leveling characters is a great way to learn about them. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who don’t know anything about their class eventhough they’ve played it for 85 levels 😛

Rush - April 26, 2011

Exactly. I am about to start leveling a healing priest (despite a Shadow priest being my main) just so that I can have a better grasp on what I’m doing.

Another lesson I learned: “Learning” to heal in a 25-man raid of content that your group significantly outgears is a recipe for confusion, and not the least bit helpful.

2. Stormy - April 26, 2011

“Another lesson I learned: “Learning” to heal in a 25-man raid of content that your group significantly outgears is a recipe for confusion, and not the least bit helpful.”

*snerk*

I “learned” to heal on a druid in baby instances as I leveled, and then my first experience with (what I thought was) real healing was in T9/T10 gear in heroics toward the end of Wrath. I loved it, and I was great at it…or so I thought. I told myself that through Cataclysm Sterrin was going to be my main, I was going to heal, and I was going to be awesome. When Cata dropped and I was undergeared/geared for the content and expected to actually heal like a pro, I failed miserably. I will never forget the four hour Deadmines run with old guildies from Sane Asylum where I finally decided to hang up my Rejuv/Regrowth keybinds for good and go play my shadow priest.

I’m not sure, however, that relearning everything on a baby toon is the way to go. I “learned” to heal in baby instances by using Rejuv, Wild Growth and an occasional Nourish, and I *never* had to worry about mana management (and as we all know, mana management is the key to success in Cata). I leveled my priest through a combination of questing and healing instances, and I never used half the abilities she has. The first time I ever used Hymn of Hope was when I was DPSing Magmaw, for crying out loud. My paladin is the same way…I’ve never used half the Hands/Blessings she has because I’ve never had to. The lower level instances at this point are tuned for inevitable success by even the most undergeared, slackjawed failpugs, and if you’re even halfway decent at playing your toon you’ll never have to worry about actually learning to play well and maximize your class’s abilities. Hell, I did Blackrock last night with a DK deathgripping every other mob, a warrior that Needed on agility gear because he swore up and down that agility “helps me attack faster” (we disabused him of this notion by explaining to him the concept of haste), and a hunter who pulled Corla as we were discussing strat because he was “tired of waiting.”

I guess that’s why I got interested in the WoW blogs. 90% of what Beru talks about at her blog and in her narrated raid strat videos is way over my head, but I occasionally pick up tips that I can apply to my own play. I’ll probably never understand the reasoning behind the cookie cutter spriest spec I lifted from Fox Van Allen, but by reading his column I have a better grasp of the abilities I have and how to use them.

I guess what I’m saying is that if we had a tank in our guild and one more DPS so that I was in the company of patient people who knew what was going on, I’d drag Rush and Suz into ZA and ZG with me and fail my way through healing until I figured it out, because that’s the only way I’ve found where I’m going to actually improve my skills.

Suzanne - April 26, 2011

Obviously the solution to your problem is 1) gear Rush and Suz so they can go to ZA/ZG, and 2) get one or both of us to level a tank*. Sure, that means you need two additional dps instead of one, but at least you’ll be guaranteed to have an understanding tank. 🙂

*What’s that you say? I have plate heirlooms in my bank? I should level a warrior you say? Oh, you’re not saying that? Well I’m going to anyway.

Stormy - April 26, 2011

Actually what I said was “You already have an 80 paladin who’s a blacksmith and I will do Cata normals with you until your eyes bleed, but if you’re serious about leveling a warrior I will delete my extra mage so I have a character slot and make Attempt #4 at a resto shaman with you.”

Rush - April 26, 2011

That may be the difference between the Heal Over Time Druid and the more Direct Heal Shaman. Even though mana is less of an issue while leveling (which is nice), I tried to force myself to use the heal appropriate to the situation. Knowing how much my Earth Shield would heal for, do I need to heal more than one target in melee range, is the player near death or do I have some time. With druid healing, I got used to overhealing. When mana was not important, I could load up the tank with every HoT I had, and who cares if most of that healing disappeared.

And I think tanking would be even more useful to learn while leveling. It may not be the actual situation you’ll be in at 85, but you learn how to respond to things. How to grab a hold of that caster in the corner, or that mob that thinks the DPS warrior is a more attractive target than yourself.

3. Rebecca - April 26, 2011

I’ve always believed in learning my character’s ‘role’ or spec as I level them up. So for me, choosing what a character is going to be is an important decision early on. I do think that it’s helped me play consistently well all the way through a character’s lifespan, from their very first baby steps into the worlds and then into dungeons and then on towards level cap.

However, I realised a while back that this style of play was making me reticent to pick up or try out new specs later in levels. If I’d not levelled learning them, surely it was going to take me ages to get to grips with it because I’d not learnt it in bitesize chunks and got used to it as abilities came along?

I got round this – I had to, my guild needed me in specs I’d never tried before – by thinking “erm, right. New spec, lots of abilities associated with it, no idea how to lay them out on my bars let alone what order to use them in. Time to read up!”

And I realised that with a bit of googling, research and double checking my sources, I could play X random spec as well as the one I’d ‘grown up’ with. So, this is all a long-winded way of me saying: while I’m more comfortable with the idea that growing up/into a spec makes you play it better, I think it’s also possible to pick a spec up cold so long as you go read about it until it’s coming out your ears. Or at least until you know what order the abilities go on your bars.

Now, my question is… are Joe Bloggs and his friends going to do that before they join LFD as a tank, having slapped on a shield after years of hitting things in the head with a spikey mace? Or are we going to see a large spectrum of players who don’t know their new role very well but have different learning curves from “he’s getting the hang of it, he’ll be ok” to “oh god, this guy is still going to be wiping his group on normals in two months”?

Rush - April 26, 2011

While there is no way to control for the people who are never going to be better than smashing their face on the keyboard, I do believe that there are quite a few players out there (myself having once been one) who would be willing to learn and even enjoy tanking or healing, but taking the dps spec is the “fastest” way to get to max level “where the real game begins.” So unless, you’re the kind of person who’s ready to fail repeatedly on your first attempts and not run fleeing into the night, getting into the two more desired group roles has a high bar to clear.

Stormy - April 26, 2011

I think you’re absolutely right, but what I tried to impart in my comment above is that Blizzard and the WoW community are shooting themselves in the foot by setting up the lower-level instances as total roflstomps with tank-and-spank bosses, endless mana pools and near-zero repair costs. There’s no built-in way for people to learn their class mechanics and no incentive to do better in an instance, and people become accustomed to instances being quick and easy roflstomps with no chance of failure. Wipe once and your group breaks up. This mentality sticks around through the Cataclysm instances and even into raids, where the so-called l33t folks don’t tolerate any chance of failure at all.

I’ve got a post in the can for tomorrow morning about my experience tanking Blackrock Caverns last night. Last night was the closest I’ve ever come to hanging up my plate gear and going back to my happy place as a DPS.

Rush - April 26, 2011

I totally see that too. I don’t know how many times I had a group that pushed forward with only a little trouble when one of the dps suddenly had connection problems or the tank dc’d and the fury warrior or ret pally tanked some trash pulls.

I look back on the days of Vanilla WoW when Scarlet Monastery and Ulduman were something that you ran multiple times at level to try and get the gear from, not just something to ran if it popped, did the quests and moved on.

But this takes me to my biggest complaint with Cataclysm, the leveling process isn’t hard/long/involved enough. And a post for another day.

4. Do Talent Specs Come Naturally To You? | MMO Melting Pot - April 26, 2011

[…] has started an interesting – and timely – debate over on the Asylum Wall. At least, it’s timely for WoW players with patch 4.1 about to bring […]

5. Fuzzy_Magicz - April 27, 2011

I think switching at the high end is fine if you’re aware of how to do it properly; specifically, where to look for information from others that will help you (rather than just browsing through the new spells in the spell book and making your own judgements). Of course, many players are either not inclined to do that or not comfortable with doing that. There’s even the purist lot that would consider that cheating.
Personally, if someone gave me a level 85 Resto Druid and told me to heal a heroic with it, giving me an hour or so to prepare, I feel I could do it. I would not want to do it and I would not be amazing, but we’d get through the heroic (assuming competent group members). However, a lot of the people I know would not be able to.


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