Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Healers and tanks need dummies too

No matter which class you happen to play as a main, I think we can all agree upon that for normals and heroics, playing a tank or healer is generally alot more stressful than playing a dpser. Although dpsers sometimes require to cc nowadays, I've encountered plenty of dpsers who shamelessly know nothing about ccing. Why this is, I mean why tanking and healing in particular is so stressful, is one of the quests I've set out to figure out when playing WoW. This is one of the reasons I've tried to play all classes, at least somewhat, to get a good picture of what makes each role in a group more or less troublesome. There are a million reasons of course, one could probably write an essay in the subject (hmm). And I think I've identified yet one of the reasons - there are no good ways to practice tanking and healing outside the "real deal".

It always bothered me, with tanking in particular, that I had no good way of practicing tank rotations. I wanted to test how a good pull would work, how I handle unforseen things, how to best grab hold of several mobs vs one mob and so on. But right now I can't even practice a standard tank rotation, because the dummies we have have two big flaws - they don't hit back and they don't have aggro tables. The first one isn't a problem actually for Death Knights and Paladins, but for druids and warriors who get alot of their rage from being hit, this becomes an issue. And without being hit a warrior can't use Revenge at all (earlier DKs needed to be hit to be able to use Rune Strike). But for all tank classes, fighting dummies is quite far from the "real deal". You don't have to struggle to keep aggro from anyone, you don't have to bother about the mobs running around, you don't have to think about how to deal with multiple casters or when to use your cooldowns and the list goes on. There are a hundred things that the dummies won't do and help you with.

The same goes for healers, maybe even more. There is nothing about the dummies that will aid a newborn (or veteran but uncertain) healer in her task to understand how to use her spells. I sometimes spam myself to see which spells are "spammable", but that's really an extremely poor substitute for the "real deal".

So what are our options? In my case I go into lowbie instances, places where I know that eventhough I don't know which spells to use yet, which cooldowns to use when, how to aoe heal or single target heal most efficiently (which is the case right now for my paladin and shaman), people hopefully won't die. And the same thing with my tanks (although I think healing in heroics is alot more stressful than tanking right now). Another option is to pvp, in a BG you're generally alot more anonymous than in a group so people won't notice as much when you fail. This is an overall good tip, but it has its flaws as well. For one you can as healer expect to be the target of attention, and that is (hopefully) not the case in most heroics. It does make a difference in healing. For tanking you can't expect to actually have "aggro" from anything, but you can on the other hand practice locking down and interrupting players, and movement between situations (prioritizing).

The very reason I often play up alts is actually to learn more about how to heal or tank at max level. Like I recently mentioned I started yet another lowbie shaman, playing her as resto, to get a better feel at how to use the various healing skills on my 85 shaman. When you get them one by one like you do on low levels you get to test each skill thouroughly in an easier environment, really getting the hang of its usage. It is one of the biggest reasons that I play alts at all - to get to understand the class better, from scratch. With each major overhaul I have to play up a few alts because of this (usually not further than level 60 though).

The dpsers on the other hand can happily go smack a dummy as soon as they feel like they want to practice some rotations. Admittedly there are some classes that have trouble with the dummies not being "real" as well, for example you can't use your various "target is below 20% hp" skills, like Hammer of Wrath, Kill Shot and Execute. That the dummy is stationary make the results rather off from a regular combat situation too, where mobs usually run around and you have to use other skills than just dps (cc, healing). But as a dpser there is alot you can practice on the dummies, and ironically it feels like dpsers need the practice the least.

Not only that, how much practice does a healer or tank get while questing? Close to none. I remember the old Benediction/Anathema quest actually required some healing skills, but that is about the closest I've come to a challenging healing quest. For tanking I can't think of any, and in any case they're not many enough. So we get to practice dpsing alot, all of us. But what we really need is to be able to practice tanking and healing in a non-stressful environment. In an environment where we don't have to worry about doing a good job and expect to get profanities flushed over us as soon as we fail.

Wouldn't it be awesome if healers and tanks could get some sort of "battle simulation" where you had to practice dealing with various battle situations. As a healer it could be trying to keep a bunch of npcs alive. As a tank it could be to try to tank a bunch of npcs behaving like madmen (quite like dpsers in a regular heroic). These could come in different stages, or levels so that you start out with the basics and it becomes more and more difficult. There are arenas, at least in Orgrimmar, that would be perfectly suited for this. It could be a sort of dungeon, in that you're phased out from everyone else unless grouped.

Whaddya think, would this be a good way to ease up some of your healing/tanking anxieties?


  1. I've had the same thoughts as you. As far as healing is concerned it shouldn't be difficult to make a set of target dummies that constantly lose various amounts of health to simulate both tank healing and keeping the dpsers up.

    I also play all classes and all roles to be able to have better understanding of what is expected from everyone else in the group. It's funny when you play an alt raid in an encounter you have done 25346 times before and no one has a clue what to do since they aren't playing their normal role. The pve is like three different games depending on your role and each role gives a unique experience of the game. What I absolutely love is when "heal blamers" play alt healers in raids.. payback!

  2. I agree that the tanks and healers only practice is the real thing. However their job is much more situationaly. every fight is different even on same encounters, also tanks and healers needs a lot of situation and surrounding awareness. I think that's hard to get in a dummy thing. A good rotation/priosystem alone doesn't make a good tank/healer.

    I have a different perception about tanking and healing instances. For me tanking is/has become much more stressfull than healing. While I can handle the new triage way of healing quite well making it a "relax" job, I can't get the new warrior tank concept right, leading to a constant struggle for aggro and constant stress.
    So I give in tanking (for now) although tanks are highly in demand now.

  3. I love that suggestion of a battle simulation!

    I think another reason healing/tanking is more stressful than dps is that you have a responsibility to do a good job at every single moment, from the very start of a fight until the end. If you are the tank/healer and you mess up on any single pull at any point, it will be evident. Whereas if you're dps there are usually only single moments where the responsibility rests on your shoulders or even less if no crowd control is needed.

    Yesterday I also noticed another problem. I am levelling my priest currently (at 84 now) and doing some high level normal dungeons to get gear (I know I'm there to try and get gear.. the loot gods haven't caught on yet it seems). A guildy joined to tank and it seems that he'd been intimidated to tank before (while levelling from 80-85). His gear wasn't bad, but his skill & situational awareness were very lacking. He really needed practice which he could easily have gotten by tanking some instances while levelling. But I think there is such a pressure on tanks to perform well (and not just that, they're also usually expected to lead, know the instance and yet still set a reasonably snappy pace!) that most of them just don't bother.

  4. @Anon
    Yes I love role swapping! It's funny because I can have done an instance or raid encounter 100 times (or so it feels) but when I get there in another role I have to learn stuff I never thought about before. I tanked Grim Batol the other day and there were loads of fires not to stand in and mobs to handle that I had never bothered to think about as healer ^^

    Yep, tanking is more stressful, at least until you've got the hang of it. If it's any consolation I feel like I have the most trouble (by far) with my warrior tanking as well. There are many things I feel the warrior lacks as compared to dk and paladin, and I will probably make a post on it once they all reach 85.

    You make a really good point there! Tanks are supposed to lead and know the instance, but when doing lowbie instances there always seems to be some dps who does all the pulling and "leading". You don't really get a good grip on tanking from that environment. I've been tanking since BC, more and more, and I still have so much to learn and do noob mistakes in every new instance. It is what I like about tanking (not doing noob mistakes, but learning ;) ), but it could just as easily scare people away. Which seems to be the case.

  5. Hey Zinn,

    What an amazing suggestion about the "practice dungeon" or "practice raid" thing.

    That you could enter a "you won't die for real and won't suffer any durability loss" form of a quick dungeon or raid instance, which could always be the same but the NPCs and opponents would always be the same level as you currently are, for which you could choose a role (DPS/Tank/Healer), and you would get let's say (thinking as I write):
    A couple melee heavy fight
    A couple casters or remote damage dealers fight (for a tank how to best try and keep aggro on those 2 casters who insist on standing 20 meters apart)
    Probably 2 boss fights, one "get out of the fire" kinda fight and one "crowd-control required", and probably one "you really gotta do something special about that giant AOE damage that's coming in about 2 seconds" fight, with some stats on how you performed during the whole instance, and probably be able to compare how you did to how the other same class/level players did, that would be AWESOME!!!! I've been tanking every heroic dungeon till 80, lord knows how many times I've been called names, or on the other hand how people told me I was the best tank ever.

    Please Blizzard, let us have our practice dungeon/raid!!!!!

  6. I think the problem is that a lot of people don't understand how important it is to have good dps in a group. If you have good dpsers who deal maximum amount of damage and do proper CCing/interrupting you will never run out of mana and you will never wipe (as long as you're playing your class right ofc).
    I've healed heroics on my alt druid so I've experienced this myself. Same dungeon, same tank, same gear, different dps... -> not even comparable.

    Like I said, I think the problem is just that the general population assumes it's the healer's fault when people die. I assume the opposite, if the healer is oom then I probably took too much damage, or that dude next to me did.


    Now, about the dummies... One thing you could do is engage in 1v1 combat with someone who you have agreed beforehand to dps you at a certain rate and try to outheal it, if you can keep up with a 10k dps output, try 15k, then 20k! :)


  7. It would be amazing if some sort of healer practice could be brought into the game. I don't know if it would be possible to incorporate, but I would prefer some sort of phased out, single boss arena like you mentioned. Except I would want a boss npc that moves around the room, causing the dps targets to move around the room in pursuit, while throwing out fire on the ground I have to avoid.

  8. First off, super cool to be linked on WoW-Insider!!! Congrats.

    Second, very interesting post. I've often wanted to get into tanking, but it really is daunting. It's difficult to just jump into the fray. Your idea is very intriguing because it might actually work. Going off Peaceblooms v. Ghouls, Blizzard does have the ability to create a phasing sort of system where many different people are all "instanced" off from each other, doing the same thing. It's certainly within their capacity and a great idea.

    Might I suggest you post this on the real WoW forums?!

  9. wow never thought about this, but its so true!
    the first time i switched from tanking into healing with my pally, i was completely overwhelmed. although i knew in theory what button to push when and how often, in practice it was just pure hectic and chaos lol

    good article!

  10. @Gav
    Oh yes! If you have good enough dps you don't even have to cc in heroics, things die fast enough for the tank and healer to handle it anyway.

    It'd be a little mini game within the game, but so are many other things ^^

    Yeah either that or more quests that help us practice!

    Wow, I hadn't even noticed! Yeah, being linked on wowinsider sure feels awesome :) I wouldn't dare to link my own posts on the forums, or actually make suggestions like this. People aren't nice and friendly like in the bloggosphere, on the wow forums there is constant flame wars. Well so it feels anyway. Feel free to use my suggestion for your own post however, or link to me :)

    That's exactly how I feel too ^^ And thanks!

  11. This post brings up a lot of good issues, but I would like to say that in addition to healers and tanks, Subtlety rogues can also not practice their real DPS on a dummy. This is because Honor Among Thieves will barely be in effect without a raid. And this is also kind of a problem as it is in the top 3, if not the hardest DPS spec.

  12. I love the idea, would be nice to have in LFD a chack box to queue for it as the arena skirmish system works(no penalties/no rewards). A whole group in a "real/current content" 5-man dungeaon (normal should be good enough as it would be intended as a learning -your class- mechanics on a dungeon enviroment), where only trash mobs exists,since the most scary part about healing and tanking is dealing with the group aggro/healing part of it, but also giving players the opportunity to learn/master their CC abilities.
    Also it would be a great guild tool to help other members be ready for dungeons.

  13. A friend and I use the gargoyles in naxx, I pull it and tank it and if I need to I can take a few steps back and reset it. They are unkillable if you cannot do xyz dps, so its essentially a dummy if you want it to be. Though its not level 85.

  14. I had the exact same thought this past weekend with a healer buddy of mine.. weird..

    I think alot of people would like to play their class as intended in situations other than instances.

  15. Grab a few friends and queue for a WarGame in PvP. You can beat on each other and practice as long as you have enough people to staff up both teams.