Tank healing, the hard job

Just before I wanted to log off yesterday, a ICC25 pug without insane requirements (5k5 GS minimum is normal these days, I only have 5k2, so that’s too bad for yours truly) passed by in trade. I couldn’t let that one pass, so I hopped along. I was expecting it to be a terrible fail pug btw, because there was absolutely nothing asked, not even my stats or if I knew the fights. Mind you, I’m all in for non-absurd requirements, but personally I would have at least taken a quick glimpse on the armory, or ask a question to get an idea if there’s not an idiot on the other end. I got an instant invite, so either my reputation *cough* had preceded me, or this guy just wanted to get a group together fast.

The group was in fact quite ok, it was an almost perfect mix of classes and specs. Just a few lower geared people (tier 8.5 ish), but I recognized a few good names too, so there was compensation. Usually with these kind fast last minutes raids you see 7 paladins (all ret), 9 DKs and the rest druids (chickens and resto druids that only know nourish), so you’re already pretty sure what’s going to happen. This, however, was a nice surprise.

Disclaimer: I’ve got nothing against those classes, but there are just many of them, so any raidleader that doesn’t care would simply invite them all.

My inevitable once-per-raid DC happened before the start, so that was a good sign too. Everyone got buffed, nobody skipped the fish (you wouldn’t believe how often I see pug raids where there’s fishfeast and some still don’t have a well-fed buff, even after telling them about it, they still don’t care /boiling anger).

The start was a bit rough, the trashpulls went horribly wrong, with 2 groups being pulled, 3 traps in a row being triggered, while we were still fighting the first bone giants. The fact that we survived those bad pulls were a good indication of the group. The other shaman healer and the holy paladin were a force to recon with, both geared in full t10 (/jealous) and knew how to play to boot. We didn’t fight over earth shields for example, from the first cast we stuck to our own tank. It was looking promising.

Most important, even though there were bad pulls, nobody was crying and calling everyone retard in chat. Nobody even left. Everyone was calm. There was a relaxed, almost tranquil atmosphere. I still wonder if I was dreaming this raid, because I don’t remember raids like this as in.. ever.. not even guildruns.

So, we stood before Marrowgar. Should be simple enough with a half competent group. And I think this was a more than half competent group. The raidleader actually explained stuff, had some nice detailed tactics, not just expecting everyone to mind-read. I’ve only had one raidleader like that before, that was from my former guild, before he, together with his wife (an awesome priest healer), mysteriously disappeared without a word.

Healers even got assignments. What do you know!

I was asked to tank heal (murphy: just an hour after I replaced my glyph of lesser healing wave for chain heal). I hadn’t done that in a 25 man since back in Ulduar on my disc priest. And I remember from back then that it was a bloody tough job. I liked it, but I remember being quite shocked with how hard and stressful that is, especially on fights like ignis, razorscale or freya, where the tank would be running around all over the place (I always got the offtank).

The panic moments are is when you want to heal your tank, who’s losing damage fast, but when you click to cast, you only hear that negative *whoof* sound, telling you it’s not going to happen and you don’t know why. Is he out of range? Out of LOS? Am I silenced?

Even looking up to the top of the screen to see the error message, thus reason why (Note to self: turn on speech again, annoying as it can be), is just scary. You look at the HP bar that got stuck at 10% for now, and meanwhile you scan the field to find the mark of your tank, while hoping he noticed and used a cooldown. Then a relief when you find him again, on the other side of the field, and are able to get in range and cast a spell before it’s too late.

Seriously warrior and druid tanks, you can charge, your healer can’t, please remember that!!

But that was on the priest. I never felt a priest had the right tools to be a good tank healer, not in either spec. Penance and shields are awesome, but those enormous cooldowns aren’t fun, 3 big hits in a row and /mourn tank.

The shaman however, is absolutely made to be a single-tank healer. The continuous healing I can instantly output on him borders to insane: 1.3 second greater heal casts (with tidal waves, which I always keep up), 1.1 second flash heal casts, and an instant cast heal+hot that boosts all my other spells. It’s not just the powerful heals, but also the speedy casts. On my paladin, I can’t throw Holy Lights as fast as I can on the shaman, and I need a ramp up to get get close also.

So, I figured, this would be the easy job now. With or without my glpyh of lesser healing wave. My tank had 52k HP, I assumed I would be raidhealing too out of boredom.

Hell no! This was insanely stressful again! A 1.3 second cast feels like a decade with the damage these guys get. 50k HP went down to 20% in under a second, And it took almost 4 seconds to pull it back up again. And when there’s also raid damage, you have to be very careful not to get distracted by it. I noticed that I was chainhealing the group in a moment when the tank didn’t get damage, and when I looked back at his bar (I’m talking fractions of seconds here), he was down to 40%, so any big hit could instantly kill him.

Tank healing is definitely not fun. Well it is, but it’s just damn stressful. When you’ve done many 10 mans, you don’t even think about it anymore. Usually you’re fighting with the other healer over 5% lost HP somewhere, and when the tank gets a big hit, it’s still hardly something to worry about, he could easily survived two or even three of those.

Here, I was definitely stressed again. I loved it though, but I felt I was too close a few too many times, and got saved by the help of someone else. One second of glancing on the other bar that droped, and when my eyes came back on my tank, he had lost a huge chunk of health again. I felt like I was useless to the rest of the raid, which as tank healer, you shouldn’t worry about, but I’m just so used to raidhealing it’s hard to ignore it completely.

These aren’t even the worst moments. It get’s really bad when you’re casting, and right at that moment you either get a debuff, or a fire under you. At Lady Deathwhisper this was constantly the case. My tank grabbed the mobs on the left, and they could bring him down to almost nothing in a fraction of a second. I was throwing all heals I had at him to keep him up. Then, when I was busy keeping that tank up, I noticed a DnD under me. Or another time I got the curse and aggro from something.

Now, my logical thinking is: I’m part of the raid, let the raid healers take care of me.

But when I see myself at 20%, I don’t feel I can count on a bunch of strangers to think the same way. The healers seemed ok, but there are some that have the simple rule of: I’m not healing other healers, they can heal themselves. Seriously, I’ve met quite a few of those.

Anyway, I hate those moments with a vengeance! It makes me miss my binding heal soo much (that spell is soooo golden!)

The thing with raidhealing is, that you’re usually not alone. The damage is nearly always very predictable, not so much as in when it happens, but how much damage it does, and for how long.

The damage tanks get is unpredictable. They can drop down to almost nothing in a fraction of a second, and then stay topped of for nearly 10 other seconds, but then suddenly drop down again at any time and keep receiving in a constant stream of heavy damage lasting 10 seconds also… and then get nothing anymore for almost 30 seconds.

I can say one thing: it’s the most tiring job of all jobs in the game. At least when you’re doing it with a group that’s correctly geared, slightly undergeared/inexperienced. As soon as the group crosses the point where it’s outgearing the fight, it ironically turns into the most boring job of them all. And mind you, boredom is stressful too.

When I tank fights like that. It’s mostly keeping aggro like any other fight. You’re quicker to blow a cooldown when you see a HP warning or expect high damage, but besides that, keeping the mobs glued on you remains the main job. Tanking is always more stressful than other jobs, especially when adds join the fight at unpredictable moments. Still, most classes can take care of themselves for a second or two, while you get it’s attention. I’d say that tanking, and particularly offtanking (with adds spawning all over the place) is probably the second hardest job.

Kiting is a good third, though it depends on the fight. I can only imagine how nasty it is to kite the oozes in the rotface fight. I only remember kiting as a frostmage on gluth, or back in the TBC days simple heroic trash (I love kiting btw, especially when we had a newbie tank who wanted to tank as little as possible and I got to sheep one mob and kite another! *sigh* good old days).

Raidhealing is not that stressful. There are moment when the whole raids is going down with constant damage. It’s only deadly when DPS are being stupid, or you’re just really slow.

Still, raidhealing is never really stressful because if someone dies, it’s not yet the end of the fight.

If your tank dies however, it is usually over.

So, continuing the raid, my hopes were to down one boss at least, but Marrowgar went down with such ease, I figured we had a shot at much more!

Oh, and lucky me! I won the Bulwark of Smouldering Steel πŸ™‚

The other shaman wanted to buy it from me, but hell no, I don’t even know what to do with my gold, and a good caster shield is so hard to get, I was much too happy with that drop.

Long story short (yeah, too late, I know), we got till Saurfang. A pretty normal place to get stuck with a pug group. This is the moment where the ranged players get their moment of stress and panic, and believe me they did. Thank god I’ve got the earthbind totem, otherwise I would’ve died a minute in fight.

Not that it mattered, we wiped. Some ranged showed lack of experience, so even the relaxed raid leader didn’t really know how to fix that. It was 1 AM too, so most people were too tired also. We decided to call it.

It was a very nice pug run nonetheless. A good raidleader really makes a difference.


2 Responses to “Tank healing, the hard job”

  1. 1 Ari March 18, 2010 at 10:17

    I completely agree. There is nothing more stressfull than tank healing. I’ve never done 25-mans, so I have yet to experience The Ultimate Stress, but I’m sure I’ll be spared. As a holy spec, they’ll probably ask me to do raid healing. (Although I do have disc as offspec… hmm…)

    Some DPS really underestimates how much you have to be able to jump to the moment to hit the tank with a heal. I’ve heard people say ‘Healing is easy, you just spam one button’. Can you believe it? πŸ˜›

    Anyways, nice article. I enjoyed reading it very much!
    (You’re going on my list now πŸ˜‰ )

    • 2 Daxlim March 18, 2010 at 15:47

      Thank you! Returning the favor πŸ™‚

      And oh yes, I can believe you. When I did my first lvl70 dungeon on my freshly leveled priest, the tank died in 10 seconds, while I was throwing every spell in my book at him. I said it was really hard to keep him alive, but the paladin in the group literally replied: “nonsense, you just push one button” (well, back then that was more or less the case for paladins, so can’t really blame him).

      Only much later I understood that this tank was an arms warrior in mostly greens and dps gear, which taught me a helpful lesson: doubt the others first, then yourself πŸ™‚

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