It came from the PUG: The Infinite Healer

One of the things I have noticed lately in high level PUGs is the effect of having a big variation in gearing between group members. It is very common these days to have three or more characters in a 5 man group with well over 5k gear score (that means they’re using a fair amount of raid gear).

Not a bad thing, you’d think. Better geared groups get through the instance faster.

But if I’m playing a lesser geared alt and I am thrown in with really well geared dps, there’s a chance that mobs will die before I’ve had to chance to use my full rotation. On my new Death Knight, if the overgeared chap is a ranged class and is especially keen, the mob might be pulled over to the other side of the room and almost dead before I even get a touch on it. So I am in two minds, I guess faster instances is good, but actually I want to play my new alt and get some practice. And having seriously overgeared dps in the group means that the mobs just die too fast for me to do that. I would probably have more fun in a group which had a much closer gear score variance.

Or the other side is when you have a really high geared healer thrown into the mix with lesser geared/ experienced tanks or dps. “Pull faster,” says the healer with infinite spellpower and mana regen on their gear, “You can pull as fast as you like with me here.” Well, no. Actually the main limiting factor on fast one can complete an instance is not usually the healing.

Sure, it’s possible that the infinite healer could keep a tank alive as she pulled the entire instance in a single land-speed record breaking rush … but someone still has to actually kill the mobs. Plus some pulls can’t be rushed anyway.

In fact, I have come to the conclusion that having an overgeared healer in your PUG is a waste of otherwise useful gear score. They get bored, and it doesn’t actually help anyone else make shorter work of the instance (if that was your goal). Even my resto druid, sporting a few emblem items and generally teetering just below ICC entry levels, can snooze through a 5 man with just a few sleepy HoTs and nourish spells to keep things going. I can’t imagine how bored a player would be with 1k more gear score than that. I guess that’s a bonus if you want an easy life as a reward for all the hard work in raids.

This is really a design issue with the holy trinity (tank/ heal/ dps) and that if there is limited damage being taken then the healer part of the trinity doesn’t have much to do. I personally think that if Cataclysm does encourage healers to throw some dps into the mix it will be a step forwards, although I know a lot of healers won’t share my opinions.

So my proposal this week is this: how about the notion of an average group gearscore? When you zone into a PUG, the game could tweak everyone’s gear appropriately to make sure that any differences were evened out. Maybe things would be more fun if the average gear level was even a function of the instance and not of the individuals. That way the challenge level would be more stable.

I know this will never happen. People like their individual rewards too much. But gear scaling in Wrath has made the 5 man game very strange indeed.

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28 thoughts on “It came from the PUG: The Infinite Healer

  1. Being one of those healers who outgears 5man content, if I’m telling a tank that they can pull faster it’s because they aren’t pulling because I don’t have full mana. Newer or less experienced tanks can be so worried about being labelled a bad tank because they aren’t watching their healer’s mana that they’ll wait for my mana to regen even though it’s not an issue.

    As for getting bored, if the group is all high level and isn’t taking tons of damage, I’ll change to moonkin spec and dps. If they’re not taking tons of damage but they’re taking more than I’m comfortable with healing in moonkin, I’ll dps as resto so that I can still toss out bigger/more effective heals should the group take a big hit.

    Sure it can be boring when you way outgear an instance, but most of the people with that level of gear now don’t need anything out of 5mans. We get all the badges we could ever need from raiding so if we choose to queue for a 5m it’s because we want something to do.

  2. “Tweaking everyone’s gear” is a bad solution. What you seem to condescendingly refer to as “people liking their individual rewards” is one of the core points of any MMO. You’re supposed to strive to upgrade your gear and it’s supposed to make a difference in your gameplay, otherwise you’re just playing Team Fortress 2 with a third person view and outdated graphics.

    The real problem is Blizzard has designed a model where both the fresh 80 in quest greens and the ICC 25 heroic raider both have reason to do the same content (random heroics). This is a pretty bad model because the scenario you described happens all the time. However I believe they’re changing it in Cataclysm. They’re capping the amount of ‘Points of Valor’ (or whatever the equivalent of Emblems of Frost will be in Cataclysm) one can earn in a week, and raiding will supposedly already put one at the cap. Raiders will have no reason to do 5 man content anymore and hopefully situations similar to the one you’ve described will no longer happen.

    • Character progression is one of the main tentpoles of MMOs but that can mean group or guild rewards as well as individual ones. It also doesn’t have to be quite so skewed towards crazy gear levels that make a mockery of content that was mildly challenging towards the start of the expansion (well, very mildly but you get the point.)

      In fact, if you look at the ICC buff as an example, that tends to outweigh minor gear differences around the raid group. I’m just imagining every instance could have an aura like that (you’d probably have to make it a buff aura and balance the instance appropriately because no one wants to feel that they got nerfed because of having a newbie in the group) and be designed to be interesting at that gear level.

      I am sympathetic to the argument that if you have to grind heroics, its more fun if they are easy and unfailable. But that’s a problem with grind, not why group content should be trivialised with gear.

  3. And how many times would you run a WotLK heroic if not for gear? Besides HoR I don’t know any WotLK heroic that is or was fun to play for me.

    TBC had heroics which were fun to play. Botanica, Blood Furnace, Mana-Tombs, Shattered Halls, Shadow Labs, Magisters’ Terrace. They never got old to me, they were fun to play. For every part of the trinity.

    • Kring, what is it about the TBC heroics that made them fun for you as compared to the Wrath heroics?

      Is it that they required more thought and strategy, and required people to use all kinds of abilities like CC or is it something else?

      • Definitely. Tanking was “hard” and when you tanked a heroic successfully it felt good. Healing required concentration and if you wiped the group if you didn’t pay attention. As healer you felt that you contributed to the run. DD had to use CC and attack the correct mob because AE threat was a lot weaker and there were a lot of mobs that pissed you off. Even Paladins had bad AE tanking capabilities compared to what all 4 classes have today (IMHO).

        Plus instances felt like instances and not like a tube meant to be walked along and every mob to be killed. Vanilla was even better in that department.

        Now, before you tell me that CC is coming back and all that bullshit Blizzard is telling at the moment, take a look at the facts (as of today) for Cataclysm.

        - Raiding, and raiding gear, will be even more accessible. They changed 10 mans to match 25 mans because they want everyone and their mother to raid at the same “level”. That probably means normal modes will get even a bit easier then today.

        - Heroics will only drop blue loot, no epics.
        - That means heroics will be balanced around the assumption that you wear blue gear.
        - Blue loot is worse then epics of the same item level.
        - That means you will outgear heroics even faster then today.
        - Overgeared heroics will be easy and a AE fest. It always was like that and it always will be like that.

        - Most people consider the LFD is a huge success.
        - If you use the LFD you have to live with what the LFD throws at you.
        - The group the LFD creates are not guaranteed to contain a class with viable CC (DK, Warrior, Druids*, Warlocks and Priests** still do not have CC.)

        *) The bad guys are always casters and root doesn’t work against casters.
        **) The bad guys have always been immune to mind control with a few exceptions.

        - The group the LFD creates is not guaranteed to contain people who are able to use there CC spells. Keeping a mob sheeped is much harder then casting Blizzard on every pull. And it’s very very very annoying to wipe because a random guy can’t sheep but happened a lot in TBC.

        - If tanking would really be harder, the LFD wait time would go up substantially.

        The LFD *DEMANDS* that heroics stay easy and boring.

        TBC heroics were not for everyone. Which is bad game design. And that’s why beautiful instances like Botanica will never come back again.

    • I definitely found some of the TBC heroics more fun (I loved the netherstorm ones), but some were a lot less fun for me as a tank — I never thought SH was fun as a prot warrior for example.

      But yeah, I’m not really thrilled with the idea of running heroics long after I am bored with them (which happens after about the 5th run I find). I actually prefer solo grind to that.

  4. I would love LFD matching. But then people would start wiping again in heroics, and that cuts into the time/reward ratio, so it’s never going to happen.

    I long for a slower game.

  5. My main is a pally tank. I have decent raid gear. Depending on the group make up, sometimes I have the healer go dps spec (a Spriest is perfect here, ret pally storm adds some heals, etc). As long as it isnt a fight with a lot of aoe damage, my seal of heals and super-man like avoidance keep me from taking much damage.

    Get your healer casting some dps spells can help speed up a run more than just healing stuff to death.

    Like I said though, depending on the group, depending on the fights….

  6. As a Holy Paladin geared to the teeth, I often find myself in the position of being way overgeared for the 5 mans. Generally it’s just toss Sacred Shield on the tank and Flash of Light him once every 12 seconds. However, I don’t ask other people to go faster. No, instead I bring out the sexy, overpowered 1.2k Holy Paladin DPS! It’s kinda fun to push myself to DPS and heal, and haven’t let a tank or party member die yet doing so.

    Moral of the story, if the healer is bored, they can take that infinite mana and put it to good use with their extra GCDs to down mobs faster themselves. It’s fun, it improves your skills, and it makes the dungeon run a little faster.

  7. What I do not like is when I run randoms and I get booted from the group because “your dps is crap, L2PLAY”. This is especially frustrating when you just hit 80 and you need emblems for gear, rather than the over geared who…just want shiny toys and leveling gear.

  8. That means you take some of my hard-earned and intelligently-used GS and give it to a random player.

    Over my wiped body.

  9. As a disc priest with fairly high-end gear, running heroics on a near-daily basis is one of the best parts of the day for me. Especially after getting my ass handed to me by HLK for three hours, getting to have an easier half-an-hour break lets me actually enjoy playing my class.

    As for boredom on the healing front, I don’t buy it. I let the tank go at his preferred pace – I know that I have the strength to keep him up through just about anything. If he isn’t going for speed records, though, so much the better for me. Shield him, PoM if I feel like it, then begin Holy Fire/Smite spamming. if there’s a lot of targets, Holy Nova is the only way to play. It kills things faster and heals the tank after his bubble breaks – what’s not to love?

    Priests have always enjoyed a very high damage component to their playstyle, relative to the other healing classes. Shaman are probably a close second, but they don’t have as many passive healing effects to rely on while they do said DPS. Druids have to lose their form to cast anything offensive, and Paladins focus on control rather than damage outside of healing. So I guess I have the right class to take advantage of my high gear level; Hopefully, Blizzard’s changes in Cata will even the playing field some, such that any over-gearing class can be involved in the content.

    Also, FWIW, Kara was pretty accessible back in TBC. Every heroic back then was quite difficult to get through, even with a fully-Kara geared group. I don’t see why Blizzard will have a hard time incorporating the same mechanics in Cata, such that Heroics are still difficult even after clearing the first tier of raid content. The nerfing of Tank AoE across the board is definitely the first step in this direction (30s CD on Consecrate anyone?), and weaker healers will make controlling incoming damage more important than present. Blizzard still has a lot of work to do on evening out control abilities for more classes, but they’re getting closer. Bottom line: If Blizzard wants to make heroics a legitimate challenge, they can do so – they’ve implemented the tools. Now it’s just a question of whether or not the public will accept tricky content after an entire expansion of faceroll.

  10. Pingback: Do Healers Have A Bad Attitude? (via Falling Leaves and Wings) « Just Plain Bossy

  11. I quite like being bored healing heroics. I’ve been thinking about switching to healing in my ret gear though :P Stupid paladin, needing vastly different gear to DPS in.

  12. A friend of mine is a radically over-geared healer. So he mostly DPSes while playing that healer. Damage prevention is better than healing, and dead enemies deal little damage.

  13. I dunno. Having spent an entire night (about 11pm to 4 am) wiping in UBRS back in Vanilla — for literally no reward — I really don’t long for the return of that sort of play; for all the rest of their flaws, E-Z Mode heroics are at least fun. :P

    OTOH, I have encountered what I guess is this problem in reverse on my resto shammy; the very first LFG dungeon I ran had an ICC-geared tank and it was a snooze to keep him alive. The second one had a tank geared closer to “level” for the dungeon (and me), and that run was… slow, to say the least. Which is sort of a catch-22, because I’ll never (re-)learn to heal with ICC-geared tanks… but honestly I know which sort of run I’d prefer from a “I’ve had a lousy day at work and just want to unwind” perspective. I’ve since stopped doing PUGs with that character.

    It’s a difficult balance. And in the meantime, I’ll just stick with burning through PUGs on my T9 DPS DK; much less to think about. ^^”

  14. I really do not like being told my presence in a heroic is unnecessarily. More to do as a healer would be awesome. However, I don’t want to be forced into being a fourth dps. Really I don’t.

    • I understand that, Rhii. It’s something that used to frustrate me when I was healing on my main in TBC also, the fact that my gear upgrades didn’t feel so interesting when it came to improving my 5 mans in general. (That was on a resto druid.)

      Just at this stage it’s hard to know what they could give healers to do that wasn’t dps, given that they’re moving away from important buffs and don’t seem keen to give more CC to healers.

  15. @Kring

    I completely agree wholeheartedly with your observations. A group could comprise entirely of DK, Warrior, Druid, Warlock and Priest inside an instance where CC is necessary. If this group is appropriately geared for heroics, which explicitly means leveling greens and blues in Wrath, either the group will need to get creative, intend on using fear and charm as their CC (risky and far from ideal, respectively) and result in using very high burst damage (not probable with this group makeup) to clear everything out.

    As for overgeared healers in heroics, it is actually the best position to be overgeared for. Being an undergeared healer will only slow the instance down as their mana pool is what truly dictates the pace of the instance. If the healer is overgeared, the tank can pull at his/her leasure regardless of any DPS mana needs (as the group can survive most any non-boss fight with one DPS down for water). An overgeared tank must have an overgeared healer in order to maintain their ability to tank (as in chain pulling) or remove gear to sustain their resource (Paladins in particular as warrior/druid have ways of generating rage in combat). Overgeared DPS just kill stuff faster, can potentially give lower geared tanks headaches and may actually give the healer something to do.

    If Blizzard wants to make heroics harder, they’ve already done so by eliminating the Paladin tank’s niche and reverting Druids to TBC multiple target tanking abilities (tab targeting with maul, lacerate, mangle).
    It’s not just the ability to AOE heroics that Blizzard is affecting. It’s affecting the ability for tanks to efficiently kill mobs in their tank spec for dailies, questing or general farming, as well as their ability to solo clear lower level instances – again, the only way it is efficient for tanks to clear instances is through rounding up lots of mobs and killing them all at once. It’s an effective and legitimate means for tanks to make gold.

    • I actually think that comp would perform really well against a lot of content. There’s a lot of control available to a lot of those classes, especially when you consider off-tank options. Druid Cyclones, Priest Shackles for undead or Warlock Banishes for Demons or Elementals (who’re making a resurgence in Cata), Druid hibernates for beasts or dragonkin, MC/fear/horrify for humanoids, Druid roots for nasty melee, and so forth provide enough control to lock down at least one or two targets on a pull.

      Many classes actually have a lot of control, they’re all just relegated to “That’s just for PvP” status in WotLK ’cause they aren’t necessary in Heroics.

      I have a hard time honestly coming up with a set of five classes that would be really hosed in an instance. A glut of priests in a demon-oriented instance might end poorly, but I also don’t ever expect LFD to give me three Spriests with a Prot Warrior and a Holy Pally. Then again, maybe the extra VE healing would help to compensate – I don’t know.

      Of course, even in TBC you didn’t need perfect control on every pull. Good control was usually sufficient, and locking down just one or two targets could make a big difference. I do think that a little bit of damage resistance on all CC (Blind, Poly, Shackle, Repentance, Hibernate, and so many more break on any damage taken) would help, especially for those impossible-to-reapply saps that just suck to have break from a stray AoE effect employed to pick up the other three mobs.

    • An overgeared tank really doesn’t need an overgeared healer in heroics. A decent healer who is paying attention, yes that would be nice, but not an overgeared one.

    • Sure, but the problem is that a LFD group cannot and will not get creative. Most of the people playing WoW don’t have our knowledge of their class. And that’s perfectly fine. Everyone is free to invest as much time in his hobby, I don’t have a problem with that. But that sets the limit on what kind of encounters Blizzard can use in 5 mans. And I don’t see CC to be part of that. They can, maybe, assume 1 CC-ed mob and every tank who slightly outgears the instance can easily handle this additional mob.

  16. I’m even having issues at lower levels. I rolled a couple of warriors and a priest I have been playing around on. One warrior is alliance side and has really good gear. The other warrior and the priest are horde, and are not nearly as well equipped. I’m trying out tanking and doing some healing.

    There is a huge difference between enchanted heirlooms and green quest rewards. Particularly when people are used to a fast paced heroics, and not really having to manage aggro. It has made some of my runs a real challenge, especially horde side where I don’t have all the fancy gear.

  17. Druid,shaman, priest just go dps. I have averaged over 2k as healer before. Heck I remember a run where me=tank>3 dps combined.

    Paladin I have a tanking spec. Healing was just too sad, nothing beyond sacred shield to keep them alive without me watching and while i can almost keep anything as long as I am free to cast I still have to pay attention even if I am healing at 10% of max.

  18. Haha, nice post. There is nothing worse than being a bored healer; and a waste of a nice gearscore. I play a healer as well (Holy Priest, 6.1k GS), but when I’m healing heroics, I heal as a Shadowpriest!

    I’ve had tanks ask before, ‘is the healer shadow?’ But their fears are alleviated after the first boss and some are stunned when I’m top of the damage meters :) I’ve had one tank that ragequit at the start (before any pulls), but that is very rare – 1 in like 100+ runs.

    The only “downside” is that people have now become so accustomed to this sort of thing that most people don’t even blink and what I’m doing has no impact on them…

    For any readers wanting to know how I did it, here are some tips:
    1) Use your healing gear (you don’t need any +hit) for heroics. Healing gear will have nice regen.
    2) Don’t be afraid to shift out of shadowform and heal.
    3) Shield and PoM the tank prior to pulls (you can do this on the run). Renew is useful to top up people whilst moving.
    4) Spirit tap should help regen a lot of mana.
    5) Shadowfiend (3 min cd due to talent), Dispersion (1.15 min due to glyph) means that a shadowpriest has 0 mana worries.

    4)

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