Friday, July 22, 2011

The Little Differences

I healed two ZA runs yesterday on my shaman.  Both got done with little incident and only one wipe between them.  It was the little differences however that made one run a real effort which tested everything I ever learned as a healer and the other run a standard heal as you go run.

First run, as we will call it, consisted of a tank that was geared and gemmed correctly.  That is important because a stamina stacking tank in a Zul is going to die a horrible death every move they make.  The three DPS where 17K, 13K and 8K.  There were two forms of easy CC to use.

Second run, because after naming one first run the other only makes sense to be called that, consisted of a tank geared and gemmed correctly as well.  The three DPS where 15K, 14K and 12K with two forms of CC that could be used as well.

As you will notice the two groups where basically the same based on appearance.  Both had tanks geared for it.  Both had roughly the same DPS.  Both groups had CC that could be used.  Both groups had me healing.  Lets just assume for a moment that I remained me for both runs meaning the healer had the same skills and abilities in each run.

The first run was exciting.  I needed to use my whole tool box.  Once in a while it is nice to test yourself as a healer and this surely tested me.  The second run was one of those average runs where there were few moments that got iffy.

Now lets look at the little differences and see what made one group hard and one easy even if they basically seemed like the same groups on paper.

The walk up to the eagle boss:

The first group, even with decent if not over powering DPS, somehow found a way to turn this into an adventure.  Everyone was taking damage from everywhere. Three times adds came up from behind.  I almost lost the tank once and the one melee DPS in the group another.  I didn't but there were moments of panic there for sure. 

I had to use all my mana cooldowns and natures swiftness which is a rarity for 98% of trash pulls because there is usually never a moment where the tank is going to go down and needs that huge heal now and not in 2.33 seconds.

The last pull with the big guy on the stairs came just as birds and adds came in before the two guys in front of him where down.  This left us with him, the two mobs, the two adds and all the birds and me at effectively 0 mana.  No cooldowns left for anything, mana pot used, I even crossed my fingers and prayed hoping that might help because I was sure as hell not going to do much.

At this moment, as any healer will tell you, it is a keep the tank up moment.  That is about all you can do.  If and when you regen enough you can throw out one of the least costly heals to which ever one of the DPS seems to taking the least damage.  The reason being is that it will most likely mean that it is going to end with just you, the tank and one DPS up and you would rather the one DPS that will be taking the least damage to make your life easier.

All said and done the run up the hill took all my mana and a lot of praying along with 7 minutes off the timer.  It tested everything I ever learned as a healer and even seemed to invent a few new ones.  As all miracles would have it, no one died but when we finished the other 2 DPS where so low if I sneezed on them they would be dead.

The second group, basically same DPS, had no issues.  We moved through there super fast.  Only one set of adds ever came from behind, only two sets of bird where ever released.  I was using what seemed like no mana what so ever and actually started to help DPS some.  Riptide, heal, shock, nova, riptide, heal, shock, nova, etc.  We got to the boss in no time at all, everything died cleanly, none of the DPS took any substantial damage and I had 90% mana still when we got to the top.

The little differences.  Second group might have had a more capable tank in rounding them up.  The second group had the DPS that knew to target the same target instead of all choosing different targets which in effect make everything take longer to go down.  The DPS played aggro magnet by only attacking ones the tank had little or no aggro built up on.  It was indeed a group failure.  The tank or the DPS could have stepped it up and did things better and it would have been easier.  The little things made the difference.

The eagle boss:

The first group did a reasonable job at this, even if it took longer then it should have.  The reason being is that they always took to long to switch to the add.  I have a habit of throwing a frost shock on the bird the second it comes down.  Helps out some.  The first few times I did that and it looked like I was the only damage on it.  The last few times, I was so busy catching up on healing I could not shock it.  We did it, no wipe, but it was really work.

The second group, again doing roughly the same damage over all, had one small blip.  The boomkin stole aggro from the tank the second the bird was being called meaning the tank got picked up.  One huge difference was, by the time I threw a frost shock on the bird it was almost dead.  This group switched instantly.  The tank landed, took aggro back, everything was fine.  This group always switched to the bird quickly, lightning quick even.  So much so, it was not even worth me changing targets to frost shock it, it was not needed.

The little differences here where that the DPS knew to switch to the add and did it in a timely manner.

The packs on the way to bear:

The first group played this as if they where great.  They were not.  They used no CC and tried to grab everything at once at the bottom of the stairs and on the platform.  I kept everyone alive but it was not pretty.  Death was knocking on everyone's door the whole time.  Of course, everyone was on different targets so it took forever for things to go down and they where all taking damage they shouldn't be.

I was out of mana on that pull, the next pull, the platform pull, even the boss which is a joke to heal normally and I still ran out of mana on it somehow.

The second group did it right.  They CCed on the fly, the targeted the same targets, they did not take unnecessary damage.  We moved from that pack to the bears to the platform mobs and to the boss one after the other in an effort of constant motion, I never fell below 70% mana even with the chain pulling.

The little differences here was the use of CC turning what might be slightly difficult pulls into mundane kill order kills.  Over all it made for a much faster run.

I wonder why some people think CC slows things down?  If anything the use of CC made this much faster because their was a more obvious kill order. Not to mention, I did not need to go hog wild on my spells trying to save everyone meaning no need for me to mana up after every pull like with group one.  CC makes things faster when you are not in a group with everyone focus firing and doing 18K+.

Long story short: (too late)

The first group continued their run the way they were.  No CC, ever.  I started to hex for my own sanity and it seemed as if it offended the tank when I did so.   He went after the hexed target even if it were in a safe place where it would have not bothered anyone until everything else was down.  It was as if CCing something was a way of me telling him, target that next.

The entire run I ended up using 20 mage cakes and 6 waters I had.  I burned more cooldowns then I could have imagined I would ever need in a 5 man.  I was even using everything I had on trash pulls.  I got to the point I was using mana tide totem on every cooldown even if I was at 90% mana because I knew I would be burning mana like there was no tomorrow and some trash pulls where taking so long it might be off cooldown for a second use.

The second group continued their way of CCing, focus firing, positioning, etc to make things a rather smooth run.  Oddly enough, this group was the one that had the one wipe.  Perhaps because they were doing everything by the book so when something went wrong it took them by surprise and wiped us.  I kept up with the hell the other group put me through but I could not keep this one up.  Oh well, it happens.  With this group I only needed to drink three times and all three of them where might as well fill up drinks and not because I was in desperate need of drinking.

The little differences where in the DPS for the most part in my opinion.  They did not target as a group.  Even if the tank does not mark the DPS have to be smart enough to target the one the tank is on or at least the one everyone else is on so it goes down faster. 

The problem with CC is a combined failure in my opinion.  The tank could have marked.  The DPS could have asked for which one they needed to CC.  The DPS could have CCed on the fly like I did.  Anyone could have noticed that I was OOM every pull or that I was CCing to try and help me keep them up.  I could have spoken up myself and refused to heal until they started using CC.  We where all at fault there.

I think the reason I did not say anything is because it was not unhealable.  It was a crap ton of work for sure.  It was stressful at moments.  It was not unhealable however.  If it where, I would have demanded CC.  I like the wake up call once in a while to show me that healing can actually be work.  The sad part is, if the people knew how to play, healing is never actually work.  It is bad play that makes healing hard, not healing in and of itself.

The little differences between these two groups could not be seen on paper.  On paper the two groups where nearly identical yet the runs where two completely different journeys.  While both where finished without any wipefests the first group was indeed an adventure in every sense of the word and the second was a walk in the park.

Little things, very little things, could have turned group one into group two.  One mage sheep here.  One skull marker there.  One target for everyone at the same time.  One second waiting before attacking.  That, and simple things like that, is all they needed.  A few little things and the first group becomes the second group.

Sometimes it is not a huge adjustment that is needed.  Sometimes it is just a collection of the little things that can change the entire flow of a dungeon.

Next time you are in a dungeon and it is going like group one did do not automatically chalk it up to them being a bad group.  Chalk it up to them not noticing that something as small as one sheep can turn hard into easy.  It was not because someone was doing only 8K that there was a problem.  It was because they did not do the little things that there was a problem. 

Many people seem to forget about the little things because they are so little.  They seem to forget that little things matter sometimes more then the big things.  One little adjustment can sometimes turn a wipe into an easy fight.  If only someone noticed it.

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