I have been playing MMOs for a few years now (+-4 years in SWTOR, plus another 3 or so in WoW before that, along with forays into other MMOs along the way), so I am of course quite familiar with the concept of the trinity of Tank/Heal/DPS, but recent events have got me thinking about the interrelation of the three roles more so than ever before.
When I started playing WoW and the trinity was explained to me (I already had some awareness of it before I started, but there’s theory and then there’s reality, which is kind of the point of this post, really), I immediately and unequivocally decided I needed to tank. My very first MMO character was a Paladin tank and I believe I was fairly competent. And, most importantly, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Healing, however, has remained a mystery to me until recently. I had a vague notion that healing was important (the whole keeping everyone alive thing was a dead giveaway, believe it or not!), but I didn’t spare too much thought for the specifics. My impressions were both that it would be too easy / boring to play and also that it was terrifyingly difficult. The pressure to keep everyone alive. And the repercussions should you fail… Moreover, there was the simple fact that, for a healer to be relevant, you ideally need someone to heal. And, my notorious Pug allergy, combined with a lack of friends online meant that healing was off the table for me.
Recent developments for me in-game (I have finally recruited some of my friends and family to the SWTOR way of life), meant that healing (and Tanking; but more on that in a later article, I think) was finally a real possibility. So, I created a Bodyguard Bounty Hunter (because all my new online gaming partners are playing Sith, and I couldn’t face levelling another Sorcerer) and we were off.
I had my first ever real healing experience with my sister and her husband, with Khem Val tanking on the Black Talon. And, boy was it fun! And challenging, in the best possible way. And, of course, totally different from the other two roles. It was this difference which sparked the thought processes which led to this very article which you are currently reading. I have since healed another flashpoint, Czerka Core Meltdown, which was even more challenging, which also ended up being a Pug, as my sister dropped out due to technical issues. Luckily, her replacement was an extremely competent tank who stopped to explain all the tactics and was very supportive and positive on our few wipes.
I have always thought of tanking as being a leadership role, especially as they control the pull and the boss. But healing has shown me that the healer has a huge role to play in this department. While the tank is the pointy end of the stick, the healer is the arm that directs it.
Tanking is a very focused role; a front-line general, zoomed in all the way, so to speak. The healer, on the other hand, needs to be aware of every detail and use all this data to perform advanced triage. Triage here refers to the traditional medical definition, verb: triage/triages/triaged/triaging: decide the order of treatment of (patients or casualties), rather than the definition I see used in various healing guides related to this game (which seem to define it as single target healing?).
While DPS (and, to a degree, tanks) are mostly reactive, a healer is extremely proactive in terms of observing the battlefield, the health bars of their group, and the actions of the boss and adds, as well as the environment as a whole. From this, the healer then needs to make split second decisions regarding which healing ability to use, or whether to support their damage dealers with DPS should allies not require any healing and there be no reason to suspect imminent incoming damage.
The whole experience has certainly increased my respect for healers, especially in light of certain comments made that “we didn’t need a healer after all, we were never in danger of dying!”. Admittedly, these comments may have been in jest, because when the group was not in danger of dying, it was because of the healing, not in spite of it. I am sure long-time healers have had to deal with far more serious commentary than this, though!
I definitely enjoy the experience of healing and intend to keep playing my Bodyguard (and a Jedi Sage I recently created).
Next up; re-learning to Tank in SWTOR. More on that in a future article.