In the world of competitive raiding, we oftentimes depend on key people—guild leaders, raid leaders, healing leads, main tanks, uber dps—to carry heavier loads than others, to hold the reigns and contribute a little more than average on our way to victory. And, as I have [sadly] discovered multiple times over the course of my WoW career, sometimes the glue holding everything together is just one person’s tenacity. When it comes to healing, we’ve all played on teams where there’s the player you need to have there on progression nights. Maybe it’s an amazing pally that the main tank trusts implicitly or an awesome druid who can rejuv blanket the entire raid while coordinating everyone else’s activities. But in an environment where being dependent on that one key guy can have such negative consequences, I wonder—is your best healer holding your team back?
When this article came through my feed reader a couple weeks back, I must say that I was a little bit blown away by the premise. In fact it was the article headline that caught my eye more than anything—“Figure out who’s indispensable, then get rid of them”. As I struggled to reconcile this concept in my overachivers’ brain, where being indispensable is regarded as the penultimate goal, I could see that the philosophy the author was proposing was applicable in other organizations striving for success, like say, a guild.
It’s called a Healing TEAM
In the above example, I talked about the linchpin healer, the special snowflake among us Group 5 residents. Although on some healing teams the distinction is more evident than others, the fact remains that there is someone on your healing team that has more responsibility than the rest. Whether it is the person coordinating healing assignments, the one who times their CDs just so, or the one that everyone feels more at ease around, there is someone you count on (and expect) to carry a larger load. While you may be delighted to have this person around, because they make things easier on leadership and/or the raid team, not many of us stop and consider what would happen if/when they decide to bow out.
The worst case scenario is not something many guilds plan for, for the simple fact that they don’t have the luxury of an endless stream of capable leadership-quality players from which to make a raid. So, invariably, some segmentation of duties and allocation of responsibility is inevitable—you work with what you have. But good leaders know that change is a constant, and the person you’re depending on today might not be available to you tomorrow. Thus, cross-training and mentoring become key in assuring that you have the assets to continue on. And when it comes to healing, this is so incredibly true.
Ultimately, the goal should be to develop a healing team that is competent in any combination, and has the capacity to function at high performance levels in the absence of that linchpin. This means that every healer should know healing assignments and everyone should be ready to step into a different role at any given point. Yes, I am suggesting that druids tank heal and pallies get switched to the raid occasionally, because the more we stick to the same routine, the more shocking a deviation becomes. You needn’t fire your best healer, like the article suggests, but you should make sure that you enable the rest of your team to function without them.
As we look towards Cataclysm, and look back on Wrath, the buzz word that every class and every spec seems to be throwing around quite liberally is “homogenization”—homogenization of classes, of talents, of spells, of gear, of buffs, etc. And generally speaking, most players hold it to have a negative connotation.
But in reality, I would maintain that some degree of homogenization is a good thing, for the exact reasons that the eminent Ghostcrawler points out below:
We might be okay with the tendency for groups to still assign paladins to tank healing because they are particularly good at it. What we want to avoid are those cases where a group feels like they can’t possibly keep tanks alive because they lack a paladin or they can’t possibly keep groups alive because they have too many paladins.
Not that I’m picking on holy pallies here, but as the reigning champs of tank healing for 2 xpacs, when it comes to specialization they are a prime example of the pros and cons. Their exceptional single-target (and later dual-target) healing performance, has earned them a definitive and limited role to play on healing teams everywhere. The result of this is that the large majority of them have never been tasked to raid heal; likewise, the large majority of the rest of us healers have never been asked to tank heal. In fact, the specialization of holy pallies is so strong that not only are other classes not asked to tank heal, we’re all perceived as much weaker single-target classes because the perception is so strong. And as someone who believes that skill > class, you can imagine how this chafes.
Now the Forbes article would seem to suggest that the best way to alleviate raids’ dependence on one class, for example, would be to eliminate them entirely from the game. And while this would force other classes into that role, the ultimate effect for most mix-maxing players is that the strata would quickly be re-established with another class as the de facto standard. All that eliminating the first class would do would be to shake things up a little, which is fun for a short while but not an enduring solution.
Instead, what I am suggesting is that Blizzard’s philosophy of homogenization is actually a good thing for raiders, players, and healers. By eliminating the clearly defined lines between classes, by taking away our “best at X” options, we as raiders don’t need to operate within the confines of a rigid system (namely the one that requires that certain people be on in order to raid). We can chose classes based on play preference and know that while we may maintain our own sets of strengths and weaknesses, that the divide between us and the next guy isn’t a gaping chasm.
So while I may bemoan the fact that mages are getting my prized Bloodlust ability, or that a DK’s Horn overlaps with Strength of Earth, the ultimate effect is that our raid team is more able to “bring the player and not the class”. And as someone who likes to be relied on for my skill and not my spec, that’s a wonderful thing.