At first I was excited, you know? My pally’s had a Holy off-spec for ages and ages and ages (totally copied SaveTheFails’, right down to his glyphs…I’m cheap like that, and healing is a frightening prospect for me. I wanted the comforting security blanket of mimicking someone who knows better). I was like, hey! layteknight has a shiny new tank, I’ve got this never used “healer”. Let’s, you know, do stuff.
So I shelved the shaman for the night and pulled up my raiding tank and turned him into a heroics healer. Not bad, I told myself. 3300 gearscore, better than I expected. But I had been rolling off-spec in Naxx/ULD way back when, and the rep gear is actually decent to start from. Nothing’s really gemmed or enchanted, but whatever. Good enough for heroics.
Sign us up whenever you’re ready, says I, swaggering around Dalaran in my cute little healing set, flashing my spell power around like I understand what it means. I am ready to heal.
Can’t be that much different than tanking, right? It’s like the flip-side of the protection coin, that’s all. We’re both doing the same thing in the end – keeping everyone alive. Easy peasey, shampoo squeezy.
Boom. Loading Screen. Gundrak.
Sudden influx of fear. Wait, Gundrak? Isn’t that like…high level or something? Couldn’t we have started with UK? Wait, maybe we should have done a normal first. Wait, am I supposed to use Sacred Shield? I Beacon the Tank right? Spam Flash of Light? That’s it, right? Just click on the little green bars on Healbot?
No. I got this. I totally got this. I’m good.
I can totally do this.
Step 1 – Beacon of Light on me, because I figure – with all my healing prowess – that I’m never not going to be healing the tank, right? It’s heroics. People don’t take damage in heroics. So this way if I take damage I don’t need to worry about it.
Step 2 – There are some snakes.
Step 3 – There is a snake boss.
Step 4 – Everyone is taking damage all day all the time.
Step 5 – Waste precious time trying to heal a Phase-shfited Imp because I thought it was a person.
Step 6 – Hunter in nova, but healing him would mean letting the tank die because for some reason I thought it was a good idea to put Beacon on ME.
Step 7 – Hunter dies.
Step 8 – 60000000000 snakes on me, but I can’t remember whether I’m supposed to consecrate them or not. My brain wants to tank them. It wants to tank them so bad. They’re on the warlock! They’re on the warlock!
Step 9 – Warlock dies while I try to remember how to heal in the sudden inrush of tanking instincts and panic at being unable to find Righteous Defence which I’m totally not supposed to be touching anyway.
Step 10 – Overgeared Shaman kills the boss without anymore party member deaths.
Step 11 – Find the hunter’s body to rez just as he reenters the instance.
Step 12 – Find the warlock’s body to rez just as she reenters the instance.
Step 13 – Overgeared hunter pulls next group with misdirect before I’m anywhere nearby. Patrolling snakes join in the fun.
Step 14 – Realize that Beacon of Light apparently has a really short duration. Completely unable to locate it on Healbot. Don’t know what the icon looks like by sight (and all pally icons look the same anyway).
Step 15 – Hunter dies. Warlock dies. Overgeared shaman kills the pat.
Step 16 – Get asked, in a nice way, whether I’m new to 80. Friendly advice to put Beacon on the tank.
Step 17 – Text SaveTheFails to cry about how I suck at healing.
So…that’s what? Four pulls in, including the first boss, and I had four deaths. Now, to be clear, I have no intentions of taking full responsibility for them. The DPS were largely overgeared and not watching their threat. The hunter pulled FOR the tank (a curse upon him!) before she or I were ready. Yadda, yadda, yadda, typical bullshit.
But the fact of the matter is, I should have been able to keep them alive anyway, and I failed. Epically.
I think I sulked for a good hour afterward, even though people stopped dying and I eventually located Beacon of Light on Healbot (why the fuck did I put it there?).
Oh, did I mention I had fucking Fire Resistance Aura on and neglected to buff anyone until halfway through? That’s not even healer fail, that’s pally fail.
SaveTheFails very patiently texted me back, reminded me I’m not going to get it on the first try, let alone the first pull, told me to keep Beacon and Sacred Shield up on the tank at all times. Spam Flash of Light constantly, and throw out a Holy Shock if you’re having trouble keeping up with damage.
Part of my problem was that we were PuGging. Had it been a guild group I wouldn’t have cared so much. I’d’ve epic failed just as hard, but we could have laughed it off and moved on. I feel a strange sense of responsibility to not fail with strangers though. They didn’t sign up to have to bear with me as I try to find my spells or learn, on the spot, how to prioritize my healing targets. Which is a topic for another post, I think, because why is it okay for me to get my guildies killed over and over again, but not complete strangers who are generally behaving like idiots anyway? These people deserve whatever death my unskilled hands can give them.
Moorabi drops my Shaman’s fist weapon just to spite me.
So we finish Gundrak, I teleport out to Dalaran, and spend a few moments huddling in a corner of the bank coddling my wounded pride.
I let people die. I who has incorporated a short-form for Protection in my alias. I who has built a Warcraft career on not letting people die. I who judges a fight by how clean and efficient the kills, and how healthy and hale the murderers.
I let people die.
I am a bad player. I am a bad healer. I am once again Fail made manifest and given flesh to roam the world and wipe the innocent.
Healing is not like tanking. Healing is not like tanking at all. Healing isn’t the opposite side of the protection coin, it’s a different fucking coin, in a different fucking currency, from the opposite side of the world.
You want to know why most good tanks tend to be anal and uppity? Why they throw hissy fits if you pull for them and don’t follow the kill order? Because tanking is about control. In order to be a good tank, you have to control the fight. You control the timing, you control the mobs, you control positioning. You have to control the environment, and to some extent your party. You have to control what mobs they’re on, or you can’t tank. You have to control where everyone is standing or things get difficult. You have to maintain control of the situation, or it becomes incredibly hard to get things back on track.
I’m used to pulling. I’m used to charging. I’m used to setting the pace, going at my speed, and indicating what mobs are to be killed when. I’m used to enforcing the positioning rules with an iron fucking fist. People can ignore me, but they do so at their own peril. The rules are there for a reason, the kill order is established for a reason. Chaos means people die. Order means they live. It’s at least partly the tank’s job (almost entirely the tank’s job in Heroics) to impose Order on the run, otherwise it becomes impossible to do their job.
I’m used to having control.
Last night I didn’t control anything. Not a single piece of that fight was mine to affect. The tank handled most of it, the DPS took some of it away from her, and I could do nothing to affect the outcome except shriek and sob and thrash in panic as I tried my best to spam Flash of Light and keep Beacon and Shield up on the tank. I didn’t even have time to type anything in the chat. I couldn’t have yelled at them if I wanted to (and I did).
I could preempt nothing. I could change nothing. I could do nothing but react to the little squares on Healbot lighting up at inopportune times.
I spent the next instance mourning my loss of control, ability to impose order, and sanity (and fucking Lavanthor dropped my fucking Shaman’s boots just to spite me).
I was miserable. I was having fantasies about sending every healer I know a thank you card and begging them on bended knee to never, ever, ever, ever stop healing or force me to do it. I was, and remain, in awe of the required reaction times and instinct required for healing. I didn’t know, I swear to God. I knew it was harder than it looked, but I had no fucking idea. And those of you who can actually decurse, and buff, and all the rest of it between heals? What are you people, robots? Every time I tried to slap Hand of Salvation on an overgeared, undersmart rogue (oh rogues, how I love you) the warlock would dip dangerously close to dying.
It wasn’t until the last instance of the night that I actually stumbled on some kind of groove. One guy was sitting on a 5K gearscore, but everyone else was in the 3-4K range. Ironically, these “undergeared” people were a million times easier to heal – I assume because the threat of death is much more real to them. As SaveTheFails pointed out later, fear helps.
I had time on this run to engrave my keybindings into my head. Left Click Flash of Light. Shift+Right Click Beacon. Middle click Shield. Shift+Left click Holy Shock.
I had time to figure out how to cleanse between heals. I had time to find Hand of Protection on healbot (naturally, no one in THIS group needed it). It was still hard, but it wasn’t so frantic. Not so hectic. I had time to THINK, which, for me, is integral to actually LEARNING anything.
If not for that last group I would have probably been incredibly reluctant to ever heal again. Partly due to my own unrealistic expectations of myself, but partly due to the fact that it just wasn’t fun. It was worse than tanking.
But in a good group it changed, as most things usually do. Once I had time to understand what was happening and could actually think and decide how best to react to it, I started enjoying myself more. I began to understand the synergies between spells, what spells cause what buffs which means I now need to cast which spell. I had time to start building a flow chart in my head for the role.
I would be willing to heal again, I think.
As a parting note, in that last group, after we dropped Keristraza (who, in turn, dropped my fucking Shaman’s fucking trinket just to fucking spite me) one of the party members said: “thanks for the group, guys – great tanking and healing.”
You have no idea how much that one simple compliment meant to me. Maybe he was just being polite, but it made the whole escapade worth it. Up until that run I had been doing and feeling like shit, plain and simple. That little bit of positive reinforcement is one of the big reasons I have not given up on healing entirely after the stress-bath that was the first few runs.
It’s never going to replace tanking as my preferred role, but it’s something I could probably do from time to time for a bit of a change of perspective. The backline is a strange, foreign place to me. A lot more happens back there than I realized.
And to every fucker who ever told me healing was easy and healing heroics a cake walk – die in a fucking fire (couldn’t save you if I wanted to).