Should healers have to deal damage in dungeons? #WorldofWarcraft

Recent experiences in dungeons in Battle for Azeroth prompted me to think again of a topic that crops up on occasion – how much should healers in trinity (tank, healer, damage dealer) group content be required to do damage as well?

Holy Fire!

Back when I played Final Fantasy 14 it was a norm among many players that healers should dps as much as possible. If you weren’t using “cleric stance” (I read this has changed…) to enhance your damage spells in-between bouts of healing then you were a lazy White Mage/Scholar! It’s not something I ever adjusted to and I swapped mid way to cap to mostly play Bard partially because of this. I’m not that great at multi-tasking to be honest so any gameplay that involves switching playstyles repeatedly is likely to tire/confuse me quickly.

Heal blue names, kill red names.

Fast forward to now and I find myself often casting some damage spells in our levelling quartet Horde-side because otherwise I’d be pretty redundant. Out in the public questing areas a full-time healer is not needed. With a tank and two DPS characters we cut through monsters like a hot knife through butter. However, when we swap to dungeons I do need to be focused on healing most of the time, we’re still doing normal-mode, circa level 117. All dungeons scale to some extent so there’s no outgearing the earlier dungeons anymore. Until we hit 120 and have majorly boosted our gear quality via world quests and mythic runs I do not expect this to change.

Given that I do not raid in WoW as a rule, and am not particularly interested in mythic plus, even mythic difficulty dungeons do eventually become trivialised by gear upgrades. That was the way for previous expansions including Legion. Past a certain point we can easily underman a dungeon or ‘carry’ the less-well geared character of a friend or family member with just a core trinity group, for example.

In that context suddenly the role of healer is a lot less distinct. If I’m not also doing damage then the dungeon run becomes rote and boring. This is one aspect of playing healing characters that can differentiate between classes in a perhaps unintended way. Starting with WoW as the example: resto Shamans can spam chain lightning for good enough effect and have a good ‘proc’ instant-cast for a punchy boost in damage. With their healing totems and targetted area heals it is particularly easy, with good gear, to mix roles up a bit.

By contrast my holy Priest has very poor and bland damage spells – she can spam holy nova for combined healing and close range damage – but a healer that close to almost any boss monster is likely to be dead in short order. Otherwise  holy fire is great but on a longish cooldown and ‘smite spam’ is the definition of boring. I use divine star for an extra ability while questing but in dungeons it’s hard-to-judge range often sets off additional fights or breaks crowd-control abilities.

Smite-spam *yawn*

Paladins are, or at least during Legion, were probably my favourite healer class for mixing in damage dealing. It requires a lot of short or melee range positioning, so you’d better be ready to bubble and run if things go bad, but offers a lot more active a damage rotation compared to the other two. I haven’t played my Paladin in BfA to compare, but during Legion the combination of ranged attacks like judgement & holy prism with close in attacks such as consecration and crusader strike made for a fun rotation.

It may well be that my confidence playing healing classes in World of Warcraft tempers my views on this: I never felt that comfortable playing White Mage or Scholar in FFXIV that I was happy damage dealing as well. Likewise in Rift I would either play my Cleric and do next to no damage during dungeons, or during a more recent stint in the game, Chloromancer which is all about doing damage to power heals so being a healer/damage dealer was second nature to the spec.

What are your thoughts on healers doing damage in group content?


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8 Responses to Should healers have to deal damage in dungeons? #WorldofWarcraft

  1. Alunaria says:

    Great topic. I have to say, for me, I dislike the idea of doing damage as a Healer. I want to heal, be able to prehot, and feel on top of things. But I guess, maybe it’s because I also find it hard to compromise. I rather heal perfectly and have plenty of HoTs everywhere, than not.

    Though if in a group with a recently dinged max level, who struggle to output, I do help out, when I am better geared myself.

    I have been in a few groups, where I have been accused of being lazy, for not DPSing. I didn’t really respond, but as an observation, I do not enjoy having to click every 0,00001 second, honestly. Not in a LFG PuG!

    I am not fond of multitasking either, exactly, as you mention too. I do best, if I have one role. That being said, I really loved the Mage Tower Challenge in Legion, strangely enough!

  2. Isey says:

    “have to” are strong words. Depending on gear level, class, group comp, skill of group, self skill and comfort is my short answer 🙂

    I find in scaled LFG 5 mans my shaman was bored most of the time so I do a lot, focus on interrupts, purges, etc. On my Druid at higher level content I find I do less as I’m constantly monitoring 4 hots on 5 people 🙂

    End of the day even if you are dps’ing hard it’s not speeding things up that much (at least that’s how it feels). It’s not as if the instance speed zooms by if I participate that way.

    However, in Mythics, it is pretty much expected and the group success can depend on it. So there is that too!

    • Shintar says:

      I’ve got to echo Isey’s first sentence. The only times I think a healer should “have to” deal damage is if the character is built around doing both or if you’re doing particularly challenging content where every little helps.

      People who complain about a pure healer not adding enough damage when it’s not required make me super annoyed though. It’s just another aspect of a particular kind of MMO culture that feels the need to min-max every single thing even if you’re just casually cruising through a levelling dungeon.

  3. Meznir says:

    As a Mistweaver main, I usually only throw the odd hit in here and there when things are quiet. I used to try to do more damage, but its damage output was pathetic so it really wasn’t worth the risk of missing a heal. In BfA, healers seem to do a chunk more damage, so I probably should try to Fistweave more. It seems a lot easier to do so in dungeons than in raids though.

    I’ve been enjoying Discipline Priest more too – like Chloromancer, healing by doing damage. It’s an interesting spec but the uptime is insane in a raid and lacks some good emergency heals. It might be worth you trying that out on your Priest, or Shadow for questing which is also quite fun.

  4. Bhagpuss says:

    It depends hugely on the game and on the calss/spec/build. When I was a main-healing cleric in EverQuest, doing challenging content with a great group (and sometimes a not-so-great PUG) I absolutely prided myself on doing no damage whatsoever. Everything was about mana management, agro management, crowd control, positioning and all the genuinely interesting, tactical elements of MMO gameplay. I had to choose spells very carefully from my book for those eight spell slots and I wasn’t going to waste any of them on a cleric’s very mediocre nuke. If we were in an undead-heavy area I might possibly have slotted an undead nuke or dot because clerics got stronger choices against undead, but even then I’d rather have an extra cure or stun.

    As a tank back then, which I also played often, it would bug me no end if I got a cleric who insisted on doing DPS. I felt that, as the tank, the healer should have their full attention on me and if they had any left over after that they could watch the rest of the group and keep an eye out for adds. If I had a Shaman healer I would be more tolerant of them dpsing. Most druid healers, although they had the best DPS of all healers, couldn’t spare the mana for it because they also had the weakest heals, but a good druid could do both.

    In Vanguard, though, where I played a Disciple, and inRift, wehre I played a Chronomancer, both of whom use DPS to fuel their heals, I found it very comfortable to do both things at once. I haven’t done any pure healing for a long time and I miss it a lot. I do, however, do a good deal of AE healing as an Elementalist in GW2 these days, since ANet moved more towards a soft trinity and boosted the healing role. As and Ele I am constantly switching between Water and Fire (heals and DPS) and often into Air (DPS and CC) and I find that’s a good combination of skills.

    And the usual repeat post…

  5. I’ve been pretty clear for a while that I’m not a fan of rigid roles. I prefer a more balanced experience. Being able to contribute a bit of damage makes healing a lot more interesting, IMO. It’s a tactical decision — in this encounter, is my party better served by more healing, or more damage?

    It does depend on the game a bit, though. WoW’s interface makes mixing healing and damage rather clunky, so I don’t always bother there. If you can set both offensive and defensive targets as in TSW or have no sticky targeting a la ESO, it’s a much more natural playstyle.

  6. Sylow says:

    I agree with Tyler. Even on the choice of MMOs he mentioned, though I’d like to add one more from old time: WAR.

    So in all of the three (WAR, good old TSW and ESO) I really enjoyed the healer role. I also ended up as healer in many other games, but those just hit the mark for me. My all time favorite is the Warrior Priest from WAR. It had a some healing spells with longer range and a group heal with long range. Those used up your healing resources. The fastest way to regain them, was to hit enemies in melee range. That’s before mentioning that several of your melee attacks actually were different kinds of heals (single target on your defensive target, channeled healing, AoE around you, etc. ) and buffs.

    So while other healer classes (and some warrior priest players) preferred to stand back and heal from a distance, the warrior priest really excelled when closing in, combining healing abilities with melee attacks.

    This kind of is true for ESO, too. Sure, when the team takes plenty of damage, I fall by to throwing around heals and consuming magicka potions like there’s no tomorrow. But in a competent group you don’t need that much healing. Which both allows me to do some heavy attacks for resource management, as well as switching to my lightning staff for some extra damage. After all, the faster a target dies, the less healing I have to do.

    TSW was somewhere in between that. It had the two-target system of WAR and the assault rifle made good use of that. Usually I ran a mix of fist and AR. When things got messy, I started to use the fist abilities to provide significant healing for the whole group, but as long as nobody messed up, the assault rifle provided more than enough healing for the tank, while still clocking in at about 60% to 70% of a damage dealers work. For once again, the faster a target dies, the less healing is to be done.

    In contrast to the other two examples, in TSW it was not a matter or resource management. There was no “mana/magicka/wrath” or anything like that. But just like in many other games, some bosses had enrage mechanics. Often the longer the fight was, the higher the bosses damage numbers got. So there was good incentive to try to reduce the length of a fight.

    So yes, i really appreciate games which offer this flexibility to me, both in what I can do with my character and what options I have in combat. 🙂

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