Why can’t I top the healing meters?

Stop saying that. Stop it right now.

Good healing is not about topping the healing meters. It’s just NOT.

I’m increasingly seeing healing meters used as *the* judgement of performance of a healer. And when I say ‘meters’, I mean the ‘Healing done/HPS’ numbers in Recount/WoL.

HPS is a measure of raw throughput. If that’s all you care about, then you might as well stop reading right now, because you won’t give two hoots about anything else I write beyond this point.  But if you’re actually interested in evaluating your own healing, or your raid’s healers… if you actually want to BE a good healer or HAVE good healers in your raid team, then lets run with this a bit longer. Because high HPS and high performance are NOT synonyms. (Have I ranted enough yet?)

So what is a good healer?

If a healer isn’t just about how much healing they can pump out, then what?

A good healer:

  • is situationally aware
  • knows how to prioritise
  • knows their ‘stuff’ (what their spells do, how the fight works, and how those two things interrelate to define their role in an encounter)
  • use their abilities reactively AND proactively (this includes knowing when to use cooldowns, when to buffer against incoming damage)

That’s the kind of healer you want in the raid.

And you know what? Those things are hard to put numbers on. So it’s a hell of a lot easier to ‘measure’ performance by looking at raw HPS. But if that’s all you’re doing, you’re selling your good healers short.

None of my ‘good healer’ properties exclude ‘topping the meters’ but it’s not what I’d use to judge them. A good healer will also know when throughput matters (eg heavy damage phases) and push out more healing to keep the tank/raid up. Good healers will often be high on the HPS charts because they are good at healing proactively and reactively according to the fight.

But it’s not a one-to-one correspondence. Good healers can be low on the HPS for a fight (because they know that in this particular encounter it’s the tank death that causes a wipe) while a bad healer can be spamming AOE heals when they aren’t needed (shadow oozes anyone?).

So are healing meters useless?

Of course not.

Healing meters measure throughput. Throughput matters, but it’s not the only thing that matters.

Glaringly low comparative throughput can be an indicator that something’s not right. It could also be an indicator that a healer could have been assigned a role that didn’t involve any AOE healing. But assuming everything else is equal, if you notice that one of your healers is consistently putting out low HPS, you might want to investigate further. Is it gearing issues? Is it connectivity? Are they not anticipating when damage is higher and they need to ramp up to higher HPS or AOE spells?

Two examples

These are both old examples, but they have clear parallels.

Back in vanilla, when Recap/Recount mods were just starting to emerge there was a certain priest in our 40 man raid. He and I were often on tank healing duty together, with me throwing HoTs on the melee as well as needed. One day during raid he whispered me and asked me to stop using Healing touch on the tank. I boggled a little. (For context, back then druids only had Healing touch, Rejuv and Regrowth, so he was basically asking me to stop using direct heals.) I thought about it a bit then asked, “Why?” He responded, “Because it’s making my healing done look bad. :-)

Wait, what?

It was my first encounter with someone who was watching the meters as they healed. My first encounter with someone who wanted to be judged by the meters. And heaven forbid… in my bid to keep the tank up, I was making him look bad. It turned out (after we discussed this at length) that he was deliberately letting the tank’s health dip low so that he could land big heals without overhealing. He was risking wipe after wipe, knowingly… just so he looked good on the meters. And me in my naivety kept topping the tank off, and he didn’t like it.

My second example is a little (only a little) more recent.

Back in Ulduar, when RJ blanketing the raid was supreme, we had two druids in our 25 man raid team. I was usually on tank duty or odd job duty with raid healing on the side. And there was another druid (lets call him MaleTaurenB) who was always on raid healing. He could cast Rejuv at speed all night. He was good at it. (He sometimes tunneled, but he could cast a mean Rejuv.)

We spent quite a while working on hardmode council (I choose you Steelbreaker) which has a whole lot of AOE damage going out, particularly late in the fight. My role was tank healing early, and then soaker healing in phase three. I can say without exaggeration, that was possibly the hardest healing role I’ve ever had. There might have been one or two fights since that were tougher (heroic Morchok ranks up there) but in terms of the levels of concentration and on-the-fly adaption required… knowing if I screwed up my decisions once the raid would wipe… (and we did many many times) Steelbreaker was the hardest.

Finally, after I-lost-count-how-many attempts, we won. I’m fainting from exhaustion and jumping with excitement simultaneously (yes that’s possible) and in the exact moment the boss falls, MaleTaurenB yells over vent “I did it!” Wait what? “I broke 11k!” What, what? Oh, HPS. Wait what? “Nice work MaleTaurenB! You’re the man!” the raid congratulated him.

Okay I admit that I was more excited about the boss kill than his HPS. I’m not bitter! ;-) And it was a nice job on his part… but in that moment that he was judged as better than me, because everyone was looking at the meters and seeing his orange bar was the longest. We’d both busted our guts, but I had a different (and more complex) job to fulfill in that fight, and the meters were used as the public benchmark of who was good.

Don’t do that to your healers. Just don’t.

Summary

Okay so the first example the priest was healing to the meters, to the detriment of the raid. The second example wasn’t so bad – MaleTaurenB was carrying out his assignment, and rejuv blanketing was pretty broken at the time. But both show the dangers of judging your healers on one simple HPS number.

Low HPS can be a flag to spot bad healers… but it’s just one flag, and gear/role/other things might also come into play.

If you want to find out who your good healers are, you’ll have to do more than just look at HPS. You might need to switch up roles occasionally, or look at logs and see what they are casting when (there are some great resources around for this Officerchat has a great series analysing healers: http://officerchat.org/tag/analyze/) This is also a great way to analyse your own healing if you’re a healer looking to improve.

I love analysing stats for healing… and I do get a kick out of ‘ranking’ on WoL for a fight. But don’t use HPS as the only meter to judge yourself or your healing team.

Just don’t.

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11 Responses to Why can’t I top the healing meters?

  1. tuethis says:

    I love WoL, I really do, and I love being able to look at my output compared to my colleagues. The problem is that throughput is so dependent on assignment, class balance and fight design that it is only meaningful if you have ALL of the information. Most good healers have all the information so throughput numbers can be meaningful.

    Meters are problematic because evaluating healers is not simple. Hps is a very crude tool, but it is all most players will ever bother to use because learning how to read parses for all 5 specs is a pretty tall order. “A bossed died and your HPS # was/wasn’t the biggest”, that is what non-healers know of healer evaluation.

    Imagine saying to a random warlock in your guild “sure I was 3rd on the meters but check out that sexy harmony up-time!” or “Remember that time I turned into a big tree at the most clutch moment in the fight?” of course s/he doesn’t even know what harmony is or why up-time is important. Of course s/he doesn’t know that you timing on ToL was an inspired bit of artwork carefully choreographed into the beautiful cool-down dance that the heal team just pulled off.

    “shit healers say” video arrival imminent.

    • Glow Glow says:

      Thanks tuethis,
      Great points, I didn’t even touch on the difficulties of comparing the different flavours of healers, and the subtleties of how each might shine in different encounters.
      And I LOVE the “…inspired bit of artwork carefully choreographed into the beautiful cool-down dance”. If that’s the kind of “shit healers say” then sign me up for the meme :-D

  2. Navimie says:

    This is so true Glow, I get tired of people using the meters of saying how good a person is. I had a classic example just the other week – we have a paladin who looks good on the meters, but when I heal with him, healing is so difficult. It is hard to explain to a non healer exactly what is wrong, but I have to heal harder, people die more, I don’t think he heals the right targets at the correct times… it’s just painful. And he doesn’t seem to realise, we have 2 raid groups, and when he went over to the other group one week, he said that he was the best healer from my group. I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t….

    • Glow Glow says:

      Ouch. I just wish that it wasn’t so easy to point at a meter and declare that ‘you’re the better healer’ like your paladin guildie is. Unfortunately we’re the victim of our own complexity, and complexity is never easy to measure. Complexity is also what makes healing fun (for me anyway!) so I wouldn’t sacrifice it for something more measurable.

  3. Melyanna says:

    Thank you for writing this Glow! I wish more and more healers gave as much attention to working with their healing buddies as they do looking at the meters. Meters are useful indicators of whether someone’s asleep at the wheel or something but really can’t measure much else in healing because there’s so much that contributes to “good healing”. I realise they’re useful but sometimes I’ve wondered if we’d all be better off without meters.

    • Glow Glow says:

      Thanks Melyanna,
      When our raid leader first decided our guild should use meters, back in Naxx40 days… I gquit over it. I had a pretty similar (but probably incoherent) argument with him at the time “Don’t you DARE judge our healing team based on meters or so help me…” he argued that meters were useful indicators and we fought back and forth for an hour… and I eventually slunk back into the guild. It was the only time I really blew up into guild ‘drama’ dragging my partner into the mess (we both quit over it) and getting extremely upset over the whole shebang. The GL and I eventually agreed that it was just one tool at our hands and he would not call someone out over meters without investigating the why’s and wherefores first. And he stuck to that.
      But that was a long time ago, and meters are so ubiquitous now that the “meters aren’t everything” argument is rarely aired. (I guess I should add that I know similar arguments hold for dps, sometimes a role in an encounter means a particular player’s dps is low – but that’s usually understood by the raid, whereas heal assignments usually stay in ‘heal chat’…)
      Anyway I agree: sometimes I wonder if we’re better off without meters. But mostly what I’d really like is for folk to know when they’re useful and when they aren’t.

  4. Tel says:

    I think the main problem is that people do not understand how healing works and/or how to analyse WoL. Healing Done in Recount shows OVERALL *effective* healing done across ALL phases, which is not that useful. What we should be aiming for is to maximise HPS during the heavy raid damage phase, while proactively/reactively healing people outside the heavy damage phase to ensure people stay alive. It does take a little bit of knowledge in WoL to extract information for a heavy raid damage phase only, and I have across only one guild where RLs look at that information. I’ve always thought about writing an article about it, but never got around to doing it XD

    The raid and RLs praising healers topping the metre does not help either – I used to get so frustrated in Heroic Magmaw because the second resto druid (had 3 different resto fill the spot over a period time) will always heal the raid rather than the assigned targets, which are the kiting tank and warlock/hunter standing at range – grrrrrr!! What can you do if both your raid leader and the healing lead go by the overall healing done figures?

    Oh, and holy paladins who spam HR and don’t heal the tank enough since 4.3 hit …. don’t even get me started on that … (-_-)

    It would be really nice to get a more sophisticated log analysis tools – if I had any programming skills I would create one myself but unfortunately I’m not that gifted. Added it to my wish list for Santa Claus – I just have to be a good girl this year to get it ;>

  5. Nazzty says:

    Just to help support your point. I play a Holy Pally and have been in groups with people who spam meters after every fight and it is annoying. We all know how much of a joke LFR is so I did a little experiment this week. I didn’t use beacon or tank heal at all the entire raid. I would sit on my hands through most of the encounters and wait until a phase of heavy raid damage to stand in a large group and spam Holy Radiance. I did this through the entire raid and when it was all over I was at the top of the healing charts for both total heals done and HPS (25k-ish HPS). This just goes to show that HPS is not an indicator of a good healer and I wish more people would understand this fact.

    I recently changed guilds because I found a raid leader who not only knew the mechanics of the fights but he has a detailed understanding of healing roles and cooldowns. This was the difference between my old raid team wiping on Madness over and over every week and my new team downing him on our second attempt.

  6. Dr Rawr says:

    Just stumbled on your blog and I must say it’s a great read. One of the few sites that aren’t blocked here at my work. With regards to this post the trend I have noticed is people absolutely obsessed with the healing meters. I play a lot of alts and they only way they experience end game content currently is via the raid finder feature. I’ve never seen so much poor behavior and general stupidity in my life as I have in a 25 man raid finder group. The big problem I see in raid finder is that in order to top the healing meters all you really need to do is spam aoe healing regardless of what the situation really needs. So you have a couple healers trying to do the “right thing” and everyone else just fighting over top HPS. Healing is an art not something that can be forced. There is nothing wrong with being competitive…. It seems like towards the end of an expansion people start to outgear the encounters and develope some VERY bad habbits and manners.

  7. Cin says:

    I had a back-and-forth with another druid on a 10 raid we were 2-healing because he was standing in the fire and healing himself to top the meters, while I was doing dispels solo. It was a partial guild run I pugged into and they were all using it as an opportunity to be trolls.

    On the second attempt, he was doing the same thing, but this time he managed to die halfway through the fight. I finished the fight solo, dispelled like a madman, and wouldn’t pick him up with a bres while they all yelled at me in chat. Boss down, he links the HPS and starts trolling again. I linked the dispels and deaths and added “+1 for boss kill” and laughed at him.

    A healer has 3 jobs: Heal, dispel, and stay alive. If you fail at any, you suck, no matter how well you do any single one.

  8. Shortyshaman says:

    I do agree with most of this blog, but it’s very hard to be recognized for good healing. While I would never intentionally try to wipe the raid to increase my HPS, I look instead on healing done. As a resto shammy, I never have good HPS but most of the time I’m #1 in healing done. I love healing and I’m competitive when it comes to healing, but I only use competition to make myself better and learn how to time my CDs better. If any other healer tried to link recount for HPS, it just shows that he/she is very insecure and will do anything to have a raid spot.