Nop and the Healer Mental State

WoWScrnShot_022616_171021Quick intro then we will get into the meat of this article. My name is Nop, I am a current Mythic Restoration Shaman and I have been playing the World of Warcraft for a long time. I have almost gotten to the point where I think back on when I first booted up the game and the realization of just how long ago that was comes back and punches me in the face with a strong does of reality. It’s freaky.

Over the years in which I have played this tremendous game, I have learned many things. First; debuffs are bad and you don’t want to stand on your buddy in a group. This is due to your buddy dying to your debuff (see example below) sometimes it’s funny. Second, going after the Time Lost Proto Drake is a myth, I refuse to believe that thing is real I have seen it fly around and I can’t even begin to talk about the number of times. TANGENT!

Bringing this ship back to its proper course, this article is focused on a healers mental state and prioritizing what to look at then reacting properly. This is of course in a very general sense; but the root of the advice is sound. Proper focus on certain mechanics allows for success.

Mental Priorities as a Healer: 

Where living through mechanics trumps topping the meters.

Raiding in The World of Warcraft is a wonderful experience; killing dragons and obtaining powerful items to stick into the hide of the next giant dragon (or in the case of Warlords of Draenor into the next Orc). Ever since the dawn of the game, the ever rose tinted goggles of “Vanilla” had tremendous amounts of quality raid content; and on one hand you have bosses like Ragnaros or Onyxia, on the other you have Baron Geddon.

You may be wondering why I bring these boss examples up, well these words that have been carefully and painstakingly typed out on this crisp internet paper are in the context of a healer. But the overarching idea remains the same. Anyone who attempted Baron Geddon in Molten Core proper can tell you that he really only has one mechanic that anyone had to worry about: Living Bomb. Oh Living Bomb, how I miss thee. The idea was, your buddy Baron would cast this ability on a random target at set time intervals. All the targeted player had to do was move out of the raid and blow up all by their lonesome off in the corner of the cave. More often than not (before boss mods became a staple item in a raiders toolkit) there were one of two outcomes:

  • A- Targeted player notices that Baron cast Living Bomb on them and runs out of the raid.
  • B- Targeted player does not notice and blows up the raid shortly after the cast goes off.

I use this example because it is the most prominent in the “get out of the raid or people die” type mechanic. However there are many examples of various debuffs or casts made by bosses toward players to force the target to do something in order to avoid damage or potential death. Another prominent and recent example is “Touch of Doom” during the Gorefiend encounter in HFC.

Improving your core mental skills

In order to improve one’s ability in a raid encounter you need a few simple skills, situational awareness, muscle memory, and common sense. Common sense is knowing when to do the right thing, which is always. Muscle memory is simply applied to knowing your healing rotation and what your proper keybinds are for your skills; getting to the level that you can use your abilities without having to actively think “Healing Surge is on F”.

Situational Awareness is the ability to identify and process critical information in the context of a goal or mission while working together as a team. Basically, knowing what is happening around you (or your character in the case of raiding) and reacting to it. It is very easy to fall into staring at your raid frames, making sure that you have hots on the right targets, making sure your tank is topped off before the big bad guy does his tank destroying attack, maybe life gripping little Jimmy out of the fire. Remembering to prioritize all of this mental running around as a healer; making life or death choices (like letting Jimmy die in the fire so you can save a global to keep the tank up) is very important. As a healer you should be thinking and making choices constantly. However, you need to be doing this type of thinking while also making sure you are not standing in the very same fire you just let Jimmy die in.

Don’t blame yourself or don’t blame your healers because Jimmy didn’t run out of the raid with Living Bomb and he killed 4 people. On progression teams this “blame game” does not happen. With proper guild leadership a wipe is a useful tool for analysis for the next pull. Being able to see what killed you and learn from it is a skill (along with situational awareness) that is invaluable to a raider. It’s so valuable because you can’t just spec into it, or regem your gear to min/max for it. It is a life skill that applies to the game we all love, and that is awesome.

The Infantry Scanning Method

When I was in the Infantry, we were taught while on patrol to scan our surroundings for potential shifts in the environment or behavior of locals. It was drilled into my brain the idea that situational awareness saves lives; and it does. There is a very simple yet very effective method of scanning an environment that you move through as an infantryman that I use in WoW because it allows me to track my screen in the same way that I tracked my eyes through a village in Afghanistan. It might sound extreme but the principles are the same.

The idea is to pick a point on your screen, I use my characters lower half (he is a Taruen so it’s pretty large), now move your eyes in a methodical and planned loop around your screen. You can go clockwise, in any weird pattern you choose, as long as it’s consistent and not exaggerated. Due to the predicted manner in which you are moving your eyes the brain will notice; scanning over your debuff window the first time and nothing is there. The second pass 10 seconds later suddenly there is a debuff! It will jump out of your screen as suddenly something changed in your environment.

The order I use goes as follows: Starting at the center of my screen I look for bad stuff on the ground in the immediate area around my character and move if I’m in it. Next I scan over my debuff section (which is a section of my UI that is under my map but centralized so I don’t have to swing my vision too far away from the center of my screen) to make sure I don’t have any passive damage or other bad things that need to be dealt with. Moving in a clockwise fashion I move back to my character’s feet and then my raid frames; which are just offset to the left of my character. So as to not have to look all the way over to the left corner of my screen to see the health of my raid team. Looping back around over my characters head back to his feet.

I do this loop repeatedly and constantly during an encounter as it allows me to keep an eye on all the important stuff without focusing too heavily on a single element. Scanning comes naturally to me; as having to do it for an extended period of my life allows this method to work for me. There are alternatives, for example removing excess UI and having your UI focus on boss abilities that are important to you. DBM is a culprit for having excess boss mechanics automatically enabled. Resulting in five boss bar timers ticking down every few seconds. It’s difficult to determine the important ability when you have five flashing bars at different time intervals.

Everybody sees and interprets things differently, finding how you do is incredibly important as any role in a raid. Healers need to be able to make on the fly decisions about players lives, sometimes on the move, while watching mechanics and keeping mana reserves in check. I am by no means saying one role is harder than another, as each role is vital to success, but I have my own love for saving lives of people in the raid so I’m a bit biased.

It is better to make a choice and be wrong; than not make a choice at all.

As a healer making hard choices happens on every progression encounter. Perhaps standing in fire for half a second is worth getting the lifesaving heal out. I can tell you it’s not. Straight up, if presented with a situation where I have to choose between standing in fire to save a life and moving out to risk the target of the heal dying, I’m going to move every time. Here is why; my role is presented with constant choice throughout an encounter. If you find yourself in the situation where your target could die if you move, then you have done something wrong as a healer. The mistake you made might have been just before you stood in the fire or it might have happened 30 seconds prior. Either way something happened that lead you to standing in the fire. Your job is to figure out how you ended up in that spot and not do it again. Healing is neither constant nor sporadic, it flows. Incoming damage is not a constant threat from the start to the end of a fight.

In the fire example it is most likely the boss’ fire ability that you end up standing in was something that could be avoided a few seconds prior. If you had, the priority would no longer be “I’m standing in fire and I need to heal this guy but I’m also in fire shitshitshitshit”. Being able to think in your head or even out-loud (just not with your vent key held as only you need to hear yourself talk), “in 5 seconds the fire will spawn so I need to be in X position to be able to heal”, comes with practice. Blaming the dps for standing in fire will get you nowhere; nor will blaming your other healers for letting the target die. The target dying is just as much your fault, in this example, as it is the dps’ fault.

Raiding at a high level requires players to be able to analyze a given situation and solve a problem. It can be argued that Normal mode does the same thing, and to a very basic extent, yes that’s true. However, when you are presented with Gorefiend on normal mode vs mythic the difference in required coordination/teamwork/personal responsibility is immense.

I want a reader to take away from this “short” article that teamwork is very important when it comes to progression, but just as important as teamwork is your own ability to accept “I fucked up.” and why. The “why” is something I still have to actively think about as being able to think four or five steps ahead is difficult when you already have so much to do. But the ability to do just that is immense when you finally are able to think: “Alright sac healer 1 just went in with both sac dps on Gorefiend on the pull. After I get out on the 3rd round of soul sucks before the first feast I need to come out of that phase with a clear debuff as I am sac healer 2. I’ll jump off this spot to make sure my ghost is in a good spot for the dps.” Anyone on mythic Gorefiend knows full well that you can’t micromanage your own actions and have every movement preplanned but the idea is there. The priority of a good healer/dps/tank/raider/transmog hero is making sure to be in the right spot at the right time. Being able to find things that you can improve on is what will allow you to become a fundamentally better player over time.

❤ Nop- Thanks for reading 🙂

Read this for further explanation and iteration:

Nop and the Healer Mental State

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