Friday, December 4, 2009

How to Heal a BG, Part 1

It occurred to me when I was thinking about the last several blogs that I've enjoyed reading:

cynwise on Wintergrasp
phaelia on Grid
cassandri on Alterac Valley
mortigan on Rules for Raiding

that there's a unifying theme here. Can you guess what it is? That's right, they're all helpful well-written guides. And, with the exception of grid, posts on something I already consider myself fairly well-informed in. So the key is this, apparently. Friends like to read about crazy things you're up to. Experienced players like getting alternative viewpoints, even on something they already know. And new players like to be told how to do things they don't know how to do. And yet, when I go hunting for guides on BG healing I see a collection of bad editing and/or forum flaming without a whole lot of help. Niche window? In one of Ihra's trademark phrases, POUNCE LIKE TIGER!

It is my humble opinion that success in a battleground is all about managing relationships. -- awkward silence, while you all say to yourselves, “But nobody uses /bg chat except to use Rule 69...” --. Bear with me, mmkay, while I walk through three different relationships in these posts: yourself, your friends, and your enemies. Up today, yourself!

Rule #1 : Managing your screen environment

All da lovey pvp stuff, in its own area

Addons. Know them, love them. I don't even care what you use, so long as it is not the original blizzard UI. Just as in PVE healing, you want people's health bars front and center, and – d'oh! -- blizzard puts them off to the side, instead prioritizing your action bars. I hope by the time you're hitting battlegrounds you know which keys do which things for you (or no keys at all, if you've got one of those more-buttons-than-Lolth-ever-intended-mice). Also, Blizzard's unit frames do not identify CLASSES, which means that besides rogues, warriors, and death knights, you have to guess at everything; or RANGE. A raid frame addon is one of the most important things you can do to help yourself out here. I adore pitbull; my wife (who, admittedly, raids and does litle pvp) likes xperl. I've heard some people razzle-dazzling about VuhDo but I've never used it. I would disqualify IceHUD, because it's primarily a soloing addon which is not very group-friendly, and Healbot. I'm a little sketchy on Grid as well but without a lot of experience with that latter, I'm not in a position to comment exclusively on it. I dislike healbot because of the click-casting approach; I find there are too many other things I need to be doing in a PvP-oriented fight for me to spare the mouse-move-click. YMMV, depending how you have things set up or are used to casting.

You do not need raid-centric addons like Omen. DeadlyBossMods, I am told can do some things for you in a BG relating to timers (on towers in AV, or win-timers in EotS/AB) so may be of limited use.

Rule #1b: Managing your spells

If you are just dipping your armor-clad toes into the Bgs, you should know one thing : you have spells you didn't know you had. Seriously, go look into your spellbook, I guarantee you'll find something you'd totally forgotten about. Blizzard has spells that are specifically PvP-oriented, and as a result you tend to mostly-ignore them while levelling, and near-completely-ignore them when healing a 5-man or a pve raid. As a tree, I'm going to pull out these examples : cyclone, and nature's grasp. Both of them are crowd control spells, which is not your role in an instance. I mean, it's not really anybody's role since blizzard gave up on TBC-era 7-pulls (sigh), but if it were anybody's role it wouldn't be the resto druid's. Both of those spells are critical to me in arena, and in BGs as well (though I tend to forget more in the latter), though I wouldn't dream of putting them on a cast bar in PvE. Since I've got an action bar addon (the incomparable bartender), I put all my PvP stuff on a separate little action bar...but if you've opted not to use a mod of that type, seriously consider changing what's on your bars before you go into a battleground. And not just those newly-discovered shinies either – you'll probably find yourself using the spells you already have with a different priority than in PvE. Take my mage, for example:

PvE : arcane blast x 4 (2.5s), missile barrage if it procced (0.5s), or else arcane barrage (instant).
PvP : arcane barrage (ins), slow (ins), arcane barrage (ins), frost nova (ins), arcane barrage (ins) get the idea.

Everything is faster in PvP...a LOT faster. Priority tends to go towards faster spells, or instant ones if you have them, even if they do less healing, or less efficient healing. This is because you're either getting beaten on, resulting in a longer time for you to reach the end of a cast, or because of the likelihood of being interrupted by a fearsome array of potential lockouts (listing just the rogue ones would take a page of itself). If you ever go OOM in a BG, celebrate. That means you just performed an incredible feat of endurance, or helped someone else do is very rare that you will run out before you are killed, and that's another reason not to worry about faster, less-efficient heals.

Rule #2: Protect Thyself First

If you die, the heals die. So long as you're alive, the heals keep coming, and everyone stays alive longer. Perhaps it's self-evident and I'm just a selflessly sacrificing nobody, but I have many times gone into situations and heroically tried to save someone at the expense of protecting or healing myself. I believe that is an error; invariably whoever I saved will die a few seconds afterwards, and how much did those extra seconds REALLY buy? Not much, I don't think.

More importantly, and again I mention this because it's something I tend to fall into and I think many other healers probably do too, remember your OFFENSIVE skills. Here I am referring primarily to methods of crowd control. It is a hard-won recognition from my 2s team, that it is almost always better to lock out a dps, then to try to control the damage they're pouring out. I have, let's say, ulduar-level gear; I can heal maybe 2500 hps if I'm straining myself. Let's even improve that gear level and say I could somehow pull 3k. DPS in comparable gear will put out 4k+. Four is greater than three. Now, that's an oversimplification, obviously. Usually, if you're fighting an Enemy DPS, you have a Friendly DPS helping you by, you know, *killing* said Enemy DPS. Or interrupting them, or silencing them, or whatever else DPS does. I'm just a healer. But I know they do something useful for me because the above logic would indicate that people I'm healing should have health bars steadily heading down to zero (though maybe slower than their opponent[s]), and many times that is manifestly not the case.

Look at this another way, then. Say you have a 4k dps. For me as a druid, the cost of cyclone is 1.5s, and it locks them for 6s (at first, subject to diminishing returns). I believe the math equivalent there is 16,0000 healing per second, in terms of damage prevented, which nobody could possibly manage in terms of healing DONE. Yes, idiot pally in my guild who insists he can do that, I'm looking at you when I say it's impossible.

Rule #3: You CAN be Autonomous!

I am here going to rebut Cassandri's argument that healers are not independent and are reduced to being pocket healers for people like pallies or dks, Lolth bless them (or curse them). I think this stems from a flawed perspective about healers being a primarily defensive role. Not that that means you must always remain on the defensive, obviously, because a good healer backing up a roving death squad in AB or EotS can really dominate a match, but we are the counterpoint to dps who kill things: we stop things from dying. What this boils down to, in my mind, is this: DPS takes nodes, healers hold them.

Cass makes the point that a DPS by themselves can run around and cap nodes, and healers, by and large, can't. The missing flip side to this coin is that a healer can sit on a node by themselves and protect it much better than a solo DPS can. Frequently in AB or EotS, when a dedicated attack comes in at a node, your team is not going to hold it with what you have on-site. It's a simple reason -- you don't have a mole on the opposing team so you have to defend everything, whereas they can concentrate their attack. Therefore, successful defence of a node consists not of beating off the attack, but in buying time for people to react from other (quiet) nodes you're defending and send reinforcements. And who can stall longer than a healer? I would argue, the answer is nobody. Cheating death is our entire point in life. So long as you can throw an insta-cast spell every now and then to interrupt attempts at capping, you can stall an assault long enough for a well-coordinated team to come to your defence. If you're on a badly-coordinated team, well, nothing was going to save you from a loss anyway. We're discussing theoreticals in this paragraph, and theoretically there may be some BG pug out there somewhere that knows how to communicate ;-).


Fin, part one. Next time, working with your friends!


Gerdofal said...

I agree with what you've said so far, but have a couple minor comments:

- I love Healbot (Officially Healbot Continued I think) for BGs. This is mostly because it's the only way to easily heal 12 or 15 people at a time. With the proper settings, only those people needing healing are easily visible.. and with proper modifiers you can cast 6 or 7 spells with your shift/control/alt and your left and right mouse buttons

- At level 80, a healer can't really hold a flag on their own. You have to have a DPS with you, for exactly the reason you suggest. I'm a tree, I can cyclone you, then do it again, but after that I start running out of ways to keep you from killing me. Since almost nobody attacks a node alone, I'm dead shortly after. I need the stuns that a good dps will add to the fight simply because I know I will be the target. Damage at lvl 80 is higher compared to healing, especially until you get to arena lvl of resilience.

Ihrayeep said...

Well it's a matter of opinion I think; I use Pitbull + Clique, clique gives me that same mouse button + modifiers that healbot did. I'm aware that I am contradicting my original complaint about click-casting...but I wasn't discounting healbot -- it's just not a personal favorite.

With respect to holding a node, my point was not that you can hold the node yourself; I think it's very difficult for *anyone* to hold a node by themselves. The point is, I think, that a healer is best equipped to *stall* an attack on the node until reinforcements can get there. You'll go down, sure, but slower than a dps by their lonesome selves would.