Sunday, September 23, 2007

Priests are the Hybrids of Healing

I had an amusing thought about healing Priests in WoW.

Traditionally, the problem with hybrids is that while they can do multiple things, they can't do them as well as a pure class. You can tank, heal, or DPS, but not as good as a pure tank, a pure healer, or a pure DPS. And when putting together a raid, rather than taking two hybrids, you get better performance by taking 2 different pure classes.

If you look at the healing classes, you can see the same pattern emerging. Paladins are the best single-target healers in the game. Druids are the masters of heal-over-time spells. With Chain Heal, Shamans are number one when it comes to healing splash damage.

Priests can do all these things. They can direct heal, they have a solid HoT, they have decent splash heal tools. But they aren't the best in any one category. They're second-best in all 3.

Priests are the hybrids of healing. And thus they suffer from the traditional problems of a hybrid class.

24 comments:

Shalkis said...

This is the first time I've seen the idea expressed like that, but the idea itself has been around for a long time. However, I'd also factor in shadow spec, which is a single-target DPS/group healing/utility hybrid.

Someone said...

That's an interesting concept and it may even be true at least for undergeared players, but maybe cloth items are better itemized to max out healing from priests?

(Scratch the above: did some wowhead quick check and there's Tier 6 healing gear with around +525 healing for all healer classes from cloth to plate!)

Robert said...

Its very true, have had the same conversations with alot of priests in the past.

We usually bring 3 pallies, 1 druid, 2 shammies, 1 priest for healing in BT/Hyjal..

napalm415 said...

Meh. something I've believed for a long time. I've been on both sides of the screen, played a priest for 2 years and now am playing a pally.

Disclaimer: The following opinions only regard PVE content in a raid format

However, there's a important distinction. There are two types (at least only two types of hybrids that I'm going to use in this discussion): role hybrids and methods hybrids.

Role hybrids are classes that can fit into multiple roles but not nearly as effectively as a "pure" class, i.e. druids, shamen, and pallies. Then there are method hybrids, whom have the same roles, but multiple ways of doing them, like healing.

Now, in terms of role hybrids, they have to be weaker in all of their roles, else there would be no reason to play a "pure" class. Why restrict yourself if you're only going to be substandard right? As such, when doing raid makeups, when you are concerned with min/maxing for progression, the obvious choice would be to fill with a bunch of pures, with fewer role hybrids because you're concerned with maxing your capabilities.

However, in terms of method hybrids, having more options is a good thing. Paladins have no options (which, having played a priest for a long time, IMHO, makes paladins one of the worst healers). You have 2 useful spells. Heal, and more bigger heal. Yes, there is holy shock, but for the most part, holy shock just doesn't heal enough or scale well enough to be worth the GC a lot of the time.

One up the chain you have shammies, who have the same options you do, plus a smart aoe heal (chain heal), and a single target smart hot (earthshield). On top of that, a big insta on a timer. And thus I feel resto shaman's are "better" healers.

Some of you will say, well... wtf. Shamans focused in pvp and they OOM faster and they don't have blessings. Well... survivability is a separate issue, and blessings aren't healing per se. Limit the discussion to heals. Mana longevity is a tricky subject, because different fights favor different healing styles and different healing needs. Better to just table the subject and assume that everyone is a hardcore player that will not oom in some trivial amount of time because they will blow consumables and such.

Druids are next up on the totem pole IMO, with many HOT options, a battle res (and ignoring the fact that they don't have a normal res... this discussion is limited to PVE raids), as well as a limited large aoe heal, and a fast heal option through swiftmend/renew. And also a big insta on a timer.

On the top, I consider the priests, because they have the most tools at their disposal. Large fast heals, efficient slow heals, effective Hots, Good AOE heal ability, and a great ~1.5k insta on a 4 second cool (pw:s). It's no NS, but having a quick ZOMG reliable 1.5k on your bench can save many lives.

Granted, there are a lot more than what spells are in your stable to good healers, and from experience as a pally tank, I know I'd rather have a good pally or shammy healer rather than a bad holy priest at my side, regardless of my thoughts on the class balance.

Personally, even though I may get flamed for my opinion, but pally healing IMO stinks. I guess when the only tool in your toolbox is hammer, all the problems of the world look like nails. Pallies get really hurt on battles where there are a lot of movement, because they have no hots to smooth the spikes, nor do they have a good way to mitigate damage from multiple sources. Heal... and more bigger heal. That's it. Oh there are things I wish for... like a better heal COEF on shock, or some kind of fire and forget or some way to mitigate aoe... but sadly, the only thing that is sort of working right now is Holy Pallies. I want ret and prot to get some love first.

Pallies get it both ways. We're both role hybrids and pure single target healers. We're certainly good and keeping that 1 guy up.

QuestionC said...

I can't help but think this perception is created by the implicit assumption of being in a raid, and completely removing spirit regen from the equation.

In 5-Mans, my experience has been that Healadins (good ones) hit their mana limit relatively fast. I've literally had wipes with a paladin healer in very controlled pulls with everything on the tank, just because DPS couldn't take the mobs down fast enough.

In practice though, the problem isn't generally wiping. It is having to progress through the instance more slowly.

Hamacus said...

Have to agree with Napalm on this one. Versatility is a GREAT thing! Have to admit I love Druid healing and think they rate up there wth Priest for the # 1 spot. Not serving any haterade just my obsevations as a level 70 Priest. Flame on!

Dazanna said...

Napalm forgot one crucial point for paladin healing.

You can an never will touch a holy paladin in terms of mana conservation. Ever. A priest has very low efficiency heals. Even PoM, they're gamebreaking spell, is a very inefficient heal there is raid damage for the jump. We may only have 2 healing spells, but our FoL costs almost a third of a Flash Heal and heals for more than half the amount (bring in BoL and FOL is the biggest heal in the game for the least mana outside of a 0% LoH). Not to mention pally gear has huge amounts of spell crit, which greatly increases both our throughput and our mana conservation.

Just because you have the most heals does not make you a good healer. One of the officers in my guild noticed (through a WWS) that most priests simply use PoM and FH over 65% of the time on any given boss fight, with a few Binding Heals and downranked GHs thrown in. PW:S is a waste of a very large amount mana, since in TBC 1500 damage is about a quarter of any boss attack. Renew is terribly inefficient if it doesn't get the full ticks.

In no way am I saying priests are bad healers. I actually agree with Coriel in this one, they do have everything offered by other healers in abundance. But in no way are they the best healers. In fact, I think that the two classes that you put on the bottom are the best healers in the game. Shaman Chain Healing is beyond amazing for high end raids, and is also very efficient. Paladin single target healing can't be beaten by any class. I personally don't like treeform druids, as most of the time their HoTs just get healed over by a chain heal or a pally with nothing to do (dreamstate healing is another matter, druids become very powerful healers through that spec). And priests fall somewhere in the middle. They can do all those jobs, but they can not raid heal as well as a shaman or single target heal as well as a pally.

Pallys are single target healers. We always have been and always will be. If you're trying to do something else you will not be as good at it as some other classes. That doesn't make you a bad healer, it just means you have to adapt your playstyle to fit that role.

And you left out one pally heal: Lay on Hands is one of the best abilities/heals in the game. When a priest is OOM they go sit in a corner for a bit. When a Pally is OOM they blow the single largest instant heal in the game.

And as a final sidenote, since you said we're limiting this discussion to heals, battle res does not count for druids. Sorry.

GSH said...

questionc, yes, this does really only apply to a raid setting. You need sufficient numbers in order to be able to separate the roles into their component parts.

Also, versatility is good, but it can be overrated. Just as the truely hardcore raiders underrate versatility (because they have the luxury of swapping people around), sometimes I think that we non-uber hardcore people overrate versatility in reaction.

Versatility is all well and good, but sometimes raw throughput is more important.

To be honest though, it's not that big of a deal. Raids are still small enough that taking one or two healing priests is a good idea, and the emergence of Shadow priests means that there's always a spot for a priest player.

If Shadow priests were not viable, I think it would be a much bigger problem.

Finally, I like Resto druids. Having Lifebloom stacks on the tanks makes healing so much easier. In some ways, druids don't heal so much as they dampen incoming damage at a consistent rate. I'm a big fan of the druid + pally combo.

Samownall said...

Well give me a 28/33 priest over a holy pally in arena every time please :)

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Hamacus said...

Agree with a lot of what is being said except I never ran out of Mana before our Pally...Ever! Second, if a Priest is just spamming PoM and FH over 65% of the time they don't have the skill set needed to understand the importance of mana efficiency. Learn your class! No mana... no heals...Dead group.

That being said I've always supported the team healing concept and I am big fan of the druid + pally combo as well. Very tired of the "BEST" healer debate though.

Guess that why I'm raiding Shadow now. As a former healer I understand the importance of good DPS. No one needs heals if the mob is dead. Burn em' Down!

napalm415 said...

@dazanna:
Yes. A good pally is better than a bad priest. Generally, good players > bad players, regardless of spec, gear, or class. Heck, I'd rather have a rogue who knew how to bandaid well than a priest who didn't know what they were doing.

me: I need a heal! *turns off auto attack*
Rogue: *kidney shot* *bandaid*
me: *hammer of justice*
Rogue #2: *Gouge*
Priest: *Smite, SW:D*
Rogue#1, Rogue #2, me: WTF

*Wipe*
Now obviously this is fiction, but lets just say, I've had similar experiences, and the situations similar to the one above. Let's just say it involves a priest, which was like the one above, 2 mages (one of them being me on an alt), a rogue, a warrior who died in like 10 seconds because the priest decided that SW:P, Smite, Smite, mind blast was a better idea than tossing more than a renew on the tank in first couple of seconds .

A memorable experience, to say the least. "Crap! Evasion's down, I've got 20 seconds to prep!" "Run for it! Pop sprint! I'll keep him chilled!" "Run toward me! I'll bandaid you!".

But I digress.


There are certainly times when each class is "better" than the rest of classes. Like in spank and tank fights, pallies are better at mana conservation. In random aoe fights that don't involve people being spread out, shaman chain heal is good.

Priests are consistently a good choice for healers, whereas, there are plenty of fights where pally healers struggle because of the lack of any non single target heals. There are plenty of fights where shamans struggle because of their lack of efficiency. Just like warriors are a consistent good choice for tank, though pallies and druids are better tanks for specific fights.

Flash of Light is good, no doubt. But it's no flash heal. When the going gets tough, we're forced into dropping into HL spam, which is hugely inefficent, because FoL doesn't put out enough HpS. It's great for when you have content on farm or when you have a couple of healers backing you up to smooth out the spikes. It's great for topping people off. You can cast it forever, but it isn't flash heal. When you actually have to heal, you pop into Holy lights and pray that you crit a bunch of times.

And I don't really consider a 1h long cooldown that heals for ~8-9k, and makes us next to useless when you use it a heal. It's more of a gimmick. Next to DI. DI != invincible power shield. DI == gimmick to save yourself a repair bill and possibly 5 mins.

I did leave one tool out of box, and that's a 5m BoL. It's nice... but usually you don't get to drop it in a raid because there aren't enough people who get benefit from it. But I sneak it on when shit hits the fan. It helps. If it's one of those spank and tank encounters that is. If not... sad face.

I personally think that pally healing = a bit anemic. I feel like the only thing that makes us really valuable are the blessings, not the heals; and in pvp, the survivability and the blessings, but not the heals. If pallies didn't have DS, I doubt you'd see any inside of an arena. If the blessings were any less good, I'd rather have any other healing class.

ezrael said...
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napalm415 said...
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GSH said...

This is not the WoW forums. If you wish to troll, back it up with a decent argument.

Dazanna said...

Because I thought you might like to see it all of you naysayers.

SSC and Gruul, 9/27/07

Paladins can heal. We can heal as well as any other class under most circumstances. Just gotta give us the chance.

And yes we did wipe on Maulgar once. It happens to the best of us sometimes. ^.^

baseball said...

As long as the point of this article doesn't degenerate into "wtf priest healers suck buff priests," like it was billed on wowinsider, I support what it's trying to say.

Priests are the best healers in the game because they can heal every possible scenerio that comes up, and no other class can. On paper, the theorycrafting behind priest HoTs / GH / aoe heal might put them slightly behind other classes, but the differences are so slim that it would make a negligible difference in any PvE scenerio outside of mauradon. Personal skill > tiny coefficient differences.

If your paladin is oom before your priest, praise the priest for his stunning performance -- or fire the paladin for not knowing how to heal -- or fire the priest for never actually healing anything. Even farm level PvE scenerios differ so greatly that you can't expect EJ level math to really make a profound difference on the outcome.

But don't use some EJ proofs to try to say holy priests are dead, long live the hybrids.

Maybe it just boils down to this ridiculous notion that a hybrid is worse at its job than a pure class. Blizzard has done a fantastic job of making EVERY class a hybrid: they're either heal/dps, heal/tank/dps (druids cheat), dps/tank, or dps/cc. Priests are hybrids, just like warriors.

Raz said...

Bad "stackability" has nothing to do with hybrids, dude.

Second priest brings nothing to the raid (except his raw healing) after what the first one brings, while more paladins equals more blessings, more shamans equals more chains and totem-buffed groups, more resto druid equals more groups under ToL effect aswell as HoT themselves stack nicely.

And well, a holy priests raw healing and mana efficiency is sorta crap when compared to those other classes.

Anonymous said...

Put a downgraded Holy Light on your hot bar, this'll keep Light's Grace procced when you need it. Pop DI and maybe an auto-crit and you can put some seriously big heals on a few targets in a short amount of time. Then just spam FoL and know your cooldowns.

Paladins build up +spell crit, +mp5 gear over small gains in +healing. Mana shouldn't be a problem.

That said, I wouldn't raid anything without my trusty priest buddy. Knowing that a healer is competent is the most important thing.

Dylan said...

Priests may have more ways to heal, but I'd rather run a Paladin or run with a Paladin for a straight healer.

- Paladins have vastly superior mana efficiency in general given comparable gear. Their heals cost less mana per point healed. They also have a variety of talents to decrease their mana spent as well as refund mana.

- Paladins aren't spending heals on themselves because they have actual armor and not the tissue paper Priests call armor.

- Paladin bubble is vastly superior to Power Word: Shield for self cast (and let's be honest, you hardly ever want to cast on someone else in high-end content because it's nothing more than a speed bump in end-game encounters).

In summation, Paladins keep their health bars filled because of armor and bubble and their mana bars filled by having more efficient heals and more ways of getting mana back. Priests. . . not so much.

Cellis said...

Having been a Priest since shortly after the game came out i must say that i would agree that priests are what you might call "hybrid" healers. Realizing that Hybrids are rarely better than the "real" thing i think people are missing out on how useful hybrids really are. Ok shammies are awsome raid healers and pallies are great at single target healing. And druids are well... they got allot of Hots that are great if they dont get healed over.

With that say you needed more than just 2 or 3 single target healers, or you needed more than 2 or 3 raid healers. If you had all shammies pallies and druids you would be gimping yourself for those fights you'd have healers doing what they are worst at. If you had a couple priests added into the mix they could be the ones switching around doing different healing jobs as needed while the others only do what they are best at.

As someone else said earlier, if your priest outlasts your paladin in mana, someone needs to be fired. paladins are designed to have the best mana regen in the game as far as healers go. Paladins dont ever worry about deciding between spirit or MP5 because none of their gear has spirit because they dont get any benefit from it, therefore mp5 naturally gets stacked.

One last thing. If your priest is only using FH and PoM then they dont know how to properly play their class. In 5 mans I often just use flash renew and shield simply because im lazy and I can afford (mana-wise) to. In a raid this should not be happening, depending on the situation a priest should be using a wide range of different heals to be most effective. As far as PW:S goes, ~1.5k? you have HORRIBLE gear if thats all your shield absorbs. Any decent raiding priest (kara geared or above) should have about a 2k shield. The shield does cost allot of mana and shouldnt be used every chance you get but it is still VERY useful and should not be overlooked.

guice666 said...

I play a Restro Druid, and I can tell ya I love druid healing. We're the only class that doesn't have to stand still for any period of time to heal. I love to melee as I heal. ^_^

Now, as far as Priest vs Pally thing; there are some point given on both sides. I think priests just lack in efficiency. They definitely have a variety of heals, but I would never call them a hybrid class. Variety is what makes a priest important. Plus, they are the only class with a true group heal. And while not having played a priest, I think some of them lack from not going completely in the Holy tree, opting to get +Spirit buff like it's some major requirement. I like spirit for my Innervate (and +Spirit increases my heals), but I wouldn't neglect healing talents (Empowerng Heal) for it.

In a 5 man, priests win hands down. They have all types of spells available to them and fights don't last that long.
In a raid, priest suffer from lack of efficiency. They are always the first out of mana and always the last on the +healed meters (at least for my raids they are).

Cala said...

As a priest, this is something that I noticed quite a bit. We've got a group heal (limited to our party only, unless you're 41 deep in holy, in which case you've got two - CoH and PoH), a HoT, and a single target heal.

We're not the best and brightest at any of them. It's something that I've railed against, bemoaned, etc, then just came to accept it.

Paladins are ALWAYS going to outlast in a single target heal fight. I absolutely hate the Tidewalker fight because I am always thrust into the 'Paladin Lite' role - single target healing a tank. I don't last as long as the Paladins do. The Shaman in that group throws Tranquil Air and a mana totem, then chain heals to their hearts content. Our tree can HoT everyone up after Earthquake and the Palatank grabs the aggro from him.

But I'm kind of out int he cold for that fight - I down mana pots like it's going out of style - because it's not what Priests, post-BC are meant to be doing.

We're meant to rotate roles. Toss a hot, toss a heal, bust a PoH, then STOP CASTING. We can't last any other way. Not in these 10 min+ long fights.

I'm not going to bemoan and whine and complain that holy priests have no place, even though I feel that way sometimes when I see healing meters. There are times when I'm #2 (a holy pally, unless you're on Void Reaver or Tidewalker, will always take top spot)... and other times I'm barely ahead of off-specs.

Just as any hybrid has to, priests now have to find our new roles in raids. It used to be that we healed MTs and sometimes others. Not any more.

And for everyone else: You guys haven't paid any attention to our set bonuses, have you?

2 piece T4: Prayer of Healing (notorious for being a mana hog) now grants a HoT.

4 piece T4: Each Flash Heal (also not known for low mana cost) grants you Flexibility, stacks 5 times, and reduces the cast time of your greater heal by (with 5 stacks) .5 seconds, giving you a 2 second gheal cast. *This is why you see so many healing priests in T4 using Flash now. It's either flash x5, then gheal, or let a Holy paladin with a 2 second cast time via Lights Grace heal them up to full and you just wasted your mana on a 2.5 sec gheal that was all overheal.

2 piece T5: If your greater heal brings a target to full health, you gain 100 mana.

4 piece T5: Your Renew lasts 3 seconds longer.

These are just my observations as my guild is working our way through end-game raids.

GSH said...

Sigh, a lot of people from WowInsider and other places are missing the point of this post.

I'm not saying that paladins are better than priests. Or that priests are bad healers.

I'm saying that, if offered a choice of:

6 paladins or 6 priests? I pick 6 priests.

6 druids or 6 priests? I pick 6 priests.

6 shamans or 6 priests? I pick 6 priests.

2 paladins + 2 druids + 2 shamans or 6 priests? I pick 2 paladins + 2 druids + 2 shamans.

That is what being a hybrid means. With sufficient numbers, specialization outweighs versatility.

guice666 said...

--- That is what being a hybrid means. With sufficient numbers, specialization outweighs versatility. ---

You're missing your own definition of hybrid. You're picking the specializing in mixes, not specialization in healing. You're picking the hybrids because it gives you a full diversity of exceptional heals.

You said yourself, if it was a one on one pick, you'd pick a priest. I would, too. But if you need diversity, you are best picking a diverse set of healers.

Straight healers are like straight tanks -- Once you have one, you're set. It does make it hard for a guild with 3 holy priests, and only 1 Kara group.

If you want a role for your priest, try group healing. Priests are the only class that can group heal efficiently and quickly. In group heal encounters, priests own all healers. However, too bad many priests aren't smart enough to go 41. Target group heal == nice.