2 Healers is Enough

January 27, 2010

Do you take 2 or 3 healers to your 10 person raids?

If you currently take 3, then chances are high that you don’t need to.  At this point in the game, 2 healers are all you need…

Why at this point, particularly?  Because of the quality of gear available as badge and heroic instance loot.  I’m going to make the assumption that as there’s no reason for healers to be undergeared, they won’t be.  I know this is not necessarily true, but if you’re trying ICC10 before running the ICC5s and heroics a few times you’re not the type to follow anyone’s advice, let alone mine.  The same holds true for a basic level of competence.

So given the assumption that you have two moderately competent healers geared to emblem and ICC5 level as a minimum, why would you need a third?

Probably because people keep dying.

Its the natural instinct of the WoW player, on seeing a character die, to think “OMG!! mor helz plx FFS!!!”

Whenever a dps runs in front of Lord Marrowgar and gets obliterated by his Sabre Lash, or goes mano-a-mano with a Deranged Acolyte, or misses getting innoculated by the spores…

Yeah, yeah, cheap and obvious examples, but do you think they don’t happen?  Most of the time, player deaths are self-inflicted.  Not bothering to move from the fire, holding aggro on an add, jet-packing off to infinity and beyond.  Sure, your raid might be wiping because people are dying, but what does that have to do with healers?

ICC10 has a moderate amount of unavoidable damage, but nothing that can’t be handled by two.  On the other hand, much of the avoidable damage can be quite punishing and it may seem preferable to try with three healers, no doubt thinking that this will help cushion some of the extremes.

In practice though, this approach is flawed.

The biggest drawback is you are, in effect, starting the fight with one dps already dead, their slot being taken by your spare healer.  With many of the fights having a required minimum damage needed to avoid enrage timers, or manage adds, life gets hard with 4 dps, and a real struggle with 3.  By starting with 6, you have more of a cushion, gaining more leeway for “accidents”.

The nature of the great majority of the avoidable damage is very “bursty”.  Not many dps can survive a Sabre Lash from Marrowgar, and no amount of healers can prevent a one-shot-kill.  It will also typically take more than one spare healer to keep someone alive if they are determined to stand in the fire (an effort to do so risks dragging other healers into this pointless endeavour, and away from their focus on the unavoidable damage, thereby increasing the risk to the raid rather than lessening it).  In circumstances where raid members draw some avoidable damage, healers should drop enough protection on them to cushion the blow and buy them time to do what they need to to get out of the fire, or drop aggro, and this is well within the capability of a two healer setup (especially given a disc priest with a quick PW:S).

For fights where adds can be a problem, like Deathwhisper or Saurfang, bringing an extra healer to heal through their potential damage is a poor strategy as it risks adds building up because they are not being taken down as quickly.  More dps killing adds faster is the key to these fights, not stacking enough healers to let you endure their attacks for longer.

Even supposed healer checks like Festergut can benefit from only taking two healers.  For Festergut, healers are having to spam on every single GCD, either to the raid (all those ranged taking damage, and all spread out) or to the tank who can take some meaty blows after 3 inhales.  A third healer can help smooth out the spikiness, which in itself is a roundabout way of saying massively increase the overhealing!  But the bigger issue is with healer mana pools lasting through the fight, the best answer for which is bringing an extra dps to make the fight shorter.

A last, and least quantifiable, point… it is easier to establish teamwork and a good bond between two healers than between three.  It is much easier for two people to gain an awareness of each other’s styles, adapt their own to suit their partner’s and gain a good understanding and anticipation of the other, than it is for three to achieve this.  Forming a solid three way bond is rare, as usually two will get on better and leave a third straggling along.  Best to just take the two with the better understanding and bring an extra dps.

I should probably thank Zuljiina the Shaman for teaching me this last point.  She’s tolerable company, for a troll, and quite good at healing too.
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