This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while, yet other stuff always got in the way. Casual Raid Leader Starman wrote a post a while ago on why wrath is burning out healers and why healing in wrath isn’t fun. His main reason: Fights are too hard for healers. Seriously.
Now, I just had a post on difficulty and I won’t go back into discussing whether boss encounters in Wrath of the Lich King are harder or easier to heal than they were before. Instead, let’s have a look on why healers really burn out and whether that happens more often in Wrath than before.
I had hoped for some opinions from other healers on this, but I didn’t get them. (Shout out to Merella though, who responded to my call for input with a more general answer.) That means the following will be based on my observations alone.
The main two reasons I’ve heard from healers switching to other types of gameplay were boredom and badly balanced classes. Boredom is exactly the opposite of what Starman is describing – healers aren’t challenged enough by raid encounters or if they are, the challenge is boring in itself. Simply throwing more damage on the tank doesn’t make tank healing exciting, it only forces you to have better gear and never stop spamming that Lesser Healing Wave (or what have you.) In general, one-button gameplay tends to be boring and that is exactly what healers are often reduced to. Ever heard “u fol kk?” as a healing assignment before? I have, in vanilla WoW. A paladin’s job was to spam Flash of Light on the main tank, period end. If you did something else you were a bad healer and needed to change your healing style.
Just about every holy paladin I knew in vanilla secretly wanted to be retribution and only raided as holy because they wouldn’t get a spot otherwise. TBC looked quite similar, with our guild losing quite a few holy paladins to the dumb side of the force. WotLK finally gave holy paladins some different tools to use. Granted, they are often still on main tank duty but at least they have a few more buttons to press now. It is also actually possible to have paladins on spot healing now with Bacon of Light on the main tank. Things did get more complicated through that, but I haven’t had a single request for rerolling ret in wrath.
Other classes show similar tendencies though sometimes for a different reason. I saw many holy priests respeccing to shadow in TBC since you didn’t really want more than one holy priest in the raid for quite a while. They felt useless and therefore stopped to play as healers. Nowadays all healing classes are useful (though there might still be some balance issues) and therefore things like these rarely happen anymore. I will admit that I saw some paladins and shamans looking elsewhere before patch 3.2, but even that seems to be ironed out now.
Starman claims that the encounters got so difficult to heal that healers just don’t want to do it anymore. Maybe that’s true at some casual (in both dimensions) level, but for me and the players I know an encounter becomes more fun if it’s challenging instead of mindlessly spamming your heals. Yes, Mimiron is a challenging fight for healers, but it allows you to actually utilize a broad range of abilities as well as making meaningful choices. I fail to see how this would cause burnout when it should actually wake people up.
Sure, if the challenge is too high for a player, they may choose to play an easier class, but that isn’t burnout.
Looking at the psychological term burnout (on Wikipedia, sue me), we can see that it is often caused by being overworked. People do get overworked in WoW, but that isn’t because individual encounters are hard but because they have to always be there and be their best. I have seen main tanks burned out because they were expected to be available and perform at 100% on every single raid. Raid leaders regularly suffer from burnout for pretty much the same reasons. They have to deal with too many issues far too often and have no one to drop some of that workload on.
The same can happen with healers but not because they have to actually work during raids, but because your healing squad is too small and some healers are more or less forced to be there for every raid.
Healer burnout can happen, but much more often it is actually just boredom. Healing is a very monotonous task and often requires you do focus on little green bars (or squares) instead of the 3D world. If you add to that classes that always do the same thing in every encounter (you fol kk?) and you have a recipe for boredom. Encounters like Mimiron or Hodir reduce the chance for this boredom to surface and increase the lifespan of your healers. If you do have issues with losing your healers, try giving them days off and let them DPS once in a while. Don’t come out calling for encounters that are easier (read: more boring) to heal. That will make your problem bigger, not smaller.