So lately I have noticed in game a healing shortage for m+ pug listings. Additionally, since I occasionally watch videos for WoW, I’ve noticed a couple of videos discussing the current “issues” with healing that may be driving such a shortage. Presumably this shortage is just in PvE. Or perhaps it is most noticeable in PvE. I do not engage with PvP at all, so I am not sure if healers are needed for any queues or if they are, if there might be a shortage there.
My view of this issue on why I think a shortage is developing is because the number and quality of incentives for healers in the game is less than that for other roles. Specifically, fewer positive incentives, and more negative ones, relative to either the tank role or dps role.
Specifically for a negative incentive the new Afflicted affix in m+ is perceived as an affix for the healer to deal with. Of course when >>> I <<< am in a m+ pug on my mage, I will help the healer by decursing one add when they spawn, but often when I go into groups as a healer, nobody helps.
But the main issue is how fast damage scales, leaving the healer feel powerless to stop deaths. You all (Blizz) increased the keystone scaling per key level this expansion to 10% from the 8% it had been. Although if people read through the Dragonflight Season 1 patch notes we’d all see the insane, truly ridiculous, number of times you nerfed every dungeon in Season 1, so I strongly question both the wisdom and the intelligence of such a scaling increase to begin with.
I did lvl 20 keys in Shadowlands on two separate characters, and damage from bosses on tyrannical, and trash on fortified, never felt as scary as they feel in Dragonflight keys at only level 18. As a dps, the incentive to interrupt and properly use defensives has never been higher. This may be fine in organized groups, but you’re missing something if you think the pug scene does not matter.
So another huge negative incentive for a healer, the threat of instantly losing a party member to some random unexpected damage has also never been higher. And so, and this is key, the associated anxiety and feeling of helplessness, has never been higher. Because a healer’s job is to heal, and keep everyone alive. If you fat finger your keys as a dps or tank, a lot of times nobody notices. But healers often get the side-eye when something goes wrong and there is no clear reason why. Especially true in pugs.
Healers want to heal, if they are given time to do it, time to react.
And this brings me to the main negative incentive on healers that has long been ignored, and cast aside as a non-issue ever since Blizz decreed it to be so. You see, long ago healer mana scaled with gear. As healer item level improved, so did the mana pool. This meant they are more able to heal stupid, which referring back to m+ pugs, sure its nice if your dps interrupt, but a lot of times they don’t, or won’t, and wouldn’t it be a perfect world if they did, but maybe you just have 40 mins and want to heal a key for the day and maybe being able to carry a subpar group is a nice feeling every so often, certainly better than being in a party where the key is bricked.
And I think this lack of ability to scale healing power with gear is unique to healers because a lot of people would be inclined to argue “oh yeah healers scale just like tanks and dps. equip higher item level, number go up! see? scaling.” But that does not address scaling on the core issue of the healer’s role, which is to heal damage. Uniquely for a healer, every encounter feels the same to heal, every boss in raid, every boss in dungeon, all expansion long. There is no scaling anymore since Pandaria. The numbers you put out healing get bigger sure, but that is not the true power of healing. Healers have been neutered ever since the scaling nerf, becoming a very static role.
The new (old) classic- or vanilla- style talent trees that rolled out, was an implicit admission by Blizzard that in a lot of ways the old ways were better, and that newer decisions on how to change the game were inferior in how they make the game feel to play, so it shows there was an accidental wisdom with a lot of the original choices made in the game.
Dps really do just need number go up. Tanks are often just more complicated dps, who do some amount less damage, but also need to manage personal damage mitigation abilities, creature pulling, creature positioning, routing through dungeon, dungeon pacing, etc. That’s a lot of responsibility that seems divorced from the question of scaling, so its questionable whether people enjoying that role, value the character growth as much as anyone else. They probably do, but the answer to that question is not clear to me.
Speaking as someone who has healed for a very long time though. Healers need to feel stronger in terms of stamina, with gear. To be able to heal not just for more, but for longer, to be able to have time to heal, and heal more stupid, if there is more stupid to heal, this is what makes healing feel best.
And for proof, just think back to the race to world first of Sepulcher of first Ones, and the wall that was Halondrus. I think most people remember the crab for the memes, and how difficult it was. But was anyone on the edge of their seat worried about the healers going OOM? Would that have been an exciting thing to worry about? I don’t think any reasonable person, looking at that fight, would say so, but if they did it could only be in a world with scaling mana, because going OOM in such a world as that would actually be surprising, since everyone would know, well equipped healers have such large mana pools. But now, and we all know this, nobody ever thinks about mana at all (unless its hybrids in pvp or m+ keys subsuming the healer’s role but this is only mentioned to placate the nitpickers). Blizz have effectively deleted mana from the game by making every single fight in the game exactly the same with regards to mana, so healers never think about it.
Unless there’s more stupid than usual. In which case…they can go oom or let people die, no matter how geared they are. Its been this way over 10 years. Its just another un-needed negative incentive in this game, specifically for healers. A pointless change for the worse.