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?
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. :-)”
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.
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.