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Raid Rx: Striving for healing parity

Matt Low

Every week, Raid Rx will help you quarterback your healers to victory! Your host is Matt Low, the grand poobah of World of Matticus and a founder of No Stock UI, a WoW blog for all things UI-, macro- and addon-related.

Okay, so I completely blew the call last week on druids getting some extra healing spells. Whoops! Now that the paladin changes have been released this week, the healing community has had a chance to digest the new direction we're going in. Actually, come to think of it, it appears that all healing classes are approaching the same direction. A few players quipped if the four healing classes would eventually become clones of each other in the sixth expansion of WoW. The parity is there, no doubt about it. At the same time, I still think that there are enough differences to render each healing style unique. Obviously there is going to be some overlap, but that's mainly to help make life easy for players.

Wait until you listen to this story I have ...

Stop me if you've heard this one before. You might have experienced it or have known someone who has been on the receiving end.

The other day, I'm relaxing on my priest in Dalaran. I made a few changes to my spec and I wanted to try some things out in a raid setting. Coincidentally enough, someone in trade chat pipes up saying that they're looking for a raid healer in Trial of the Crusader (for 25). I message the guy and inform him that I'm a 6,000+ GearScore discipline priest looking to join a raid. Turns out it was partially cleared and that a healer dropped out after they took down faction champions. I show him my achievements and stuff. (And hey, I don't agree with all that GearScore stuff, but sometimes you just have to speak the language.)

Inconceivably, I get shot down. It was a fairly crushing blow to my ego. How often does a 6,000+ Gearscore, Val'anyr-wielding healer get denied from a pickup raid that is looking for healers? All because of the fact that I was a discipline healer and obviously could not raid heal at all. The irony here is that the Val'kyr Twins encounter heavily favors a discipline priest due to the constant damage that the raid takes.

What's the point?

That right there is my story. Did you see the point I was trying to make? I didn't get turned down because of lack of gear or lack of experience. I simply wasn't the "right healer" for the right job. The current conceptions about healers is that there are two kinds: tank healers and raid healers. Tank healers excel at keeping one or two tank targets alive no matter the cost. Raid healers tend to specialize in keeping as many people alive. With Cataclysm steadily creeping up on us, the healing landscape will change so that all healers will have the tools to effectively raid heal or tank heal. I won't deny that we're getting closer to each other in terms of similarity. I personally view it as a positive thing.

Healing parity?

I know a number of healers who have stated that once Cataclysm is live, they're either going to quit the game or quit healing. Why? Well, because the class that will be released then will not be the class they started playing. For example, I know there are druids who play druids simply because they could look like a tree due to the Tree of Life ability. We're supposed to be unique in our own ways! We have our own little healing niches that we fill! This is an attack on the identity of who we are. We're slowly losing the essence of our class. How long will it be before we become carbon copies of each other, right?

I was never one for the slippery slope argument, myself. I can see where the skeptics are coming from. I do think it is blown way too far out of proportion, though.

Could you conceivably have a raid with six holy paladins healing? Well, yes, you could. It would be far from optimal, of course. Gearing them all would be a horrendous undertaking as well. When it comes down to it, we need three things to be successful at healing. We need healing spells that can hit multiple players simultaneously. We need spells that are fast, efficient or really efficient. We need tools to keep players alive through certain situations. It doesn't matter how that is done so long as it is done. What separates us from each other should be the tools we use. For raid healing, discipline priests are gaining Power Word: Barrier. Shamans get Healing Rain. Paladins are also getting additional AoE healing treatment with Healing Hands. Notice that the spells conceptually differ from each other but all accomplish the same goal: protecting or healing multiple players.

We're reaching a point where each healing class should be reasonably equipped to cover some healing role. We shouldn't be reduced to being only good at one thing. Again, this sounds like an increased emphasis of the "bring the player, not the class" philosophy. It just means that each healer will have the theoretical abilities to tank heal or raid heal. Now it boils down to the player itself to see if they have the player skills to make use of their skills. In other words, if your pickup raid needs a raid healer, you won't have to turn down paladins or discipline priests. You have the freedom to pick and choose. Player class won't play that big of a role in your raid composition, since each class can adequately fulfill that role.

Hopefully I won't get shot down the next time I want to heal something because I'm the wrong class for the job. I should be shot down because I'm either:

  • badly geared
  • just plain bad
I have no problems with being denied raiding due to lack of player skill or lack of gear. That's the way it should be.

Still not convinced?

At least wait a bit longer. There is still a long time to go before the expansion. Some abilities might make the cut and others might not. We still have the beta process to go through. The various encounters will also play a role in how we play ours. Give Blizzard time to flesh out and execute their ideas before throwing in the towel.

Want some more advice for working with the healers in your guild? Raid Rx has you covered with all there is to know! Need raid or guild healing advice? Email me at and you could see a future post addressing your question. Looking for less healer-centric raiding advice? Take a look at our raiding column, Ready Check.

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