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What do you mean, “heal me”?

February 24, 2010

I’m a philosopher at heart, so when I saw Miss Medicina’s post about the semantics of mitigation, I knew I’d have to chip in with my two cents.  Her point was that disc priest’s generally mitigate damage, while resto druids do something slightly different with their HoTs.  They provide a buffer of constant healing that smooths out health pools, while the disc priest smooths out incoming damage.  I’d argue that a disc priest’s uniqueness is actually more in prevention, with a large dose of mitigation and direct healing mixed in, if you want to get technical.  And I hope you do.

Consider what Eversor says in the comments to Miss Medicina’s post:

Just for the sake of argument, I would say that mitigation is getting confused with prevention. To mitigate something only means to lessen (not avoid) it’s severity and does not neccessarily have a time component involved. If a 37k damage blast is coming in and you bubble someone, you are preventing damage.

To me, this really gets at what a shield is doing, at least sometimes. A shield can prevent damage altogether.  Yet, sometimes a shield mitigates damage rather than outright preventing it.  Here are my proposed definitions for several healing terms that get thrown out there pretty often. 

Mitigation: reduces the amount of pain that results from the tank getting hit in the face.  The tank still gets hit, but the hit doesn’t reduce their health pool as much as it would have without mitigation.  Tanks spend a lot of time worrying about mitigation, to make themselves easier to heal.  Some healers also have mitigation abilities.  If an ability absorbs part, but not all, of the incoming damage of an ability, then it mitigated the damage.  The air bag in your car mitigates the damage that results from your face hitting something inside the car when you get rear ended.  It hits the airbag, and that hurts less than the steering wheel.

Prevention: keeps the tank or raider from getting hit in the face at all.  The tanking counterpart would be avoidance; the damage is avoided altogether.  If a shield absorbs the entire amount of incoming damage, then it was preventative.  A successful interrupt prevents damage.  A preventative shield keeps bad things from reducing a player’s health pool.  The seat belt in your car prevents you from flying out the windshield when you get rear-ended.  You could say that prevention is just mitigation at its finest, and that’s sort of true.  But, they are in fact doing slightly different things. 

Direct Healing: adds health back to your target’s health pool deficit.  Direct healing says to the tank or raider “yeah, you just got hit in the face, but here’s a cookie.  Don’t you feel better now?”  Through the power of the Light, the elements, or whatever that green swirling stuff that druids throw around is, direct healing makes a player’s health pool go up.  This is generally what we think of as “healing.”  Direct healing includes all healing that is not preventing or mitigating damage, and can be proactive, reactive, passive, and/or healing over time.  A doctor directly heals your messed up body if you forgot to wear your seatbelt and went flying through the windshield when you got rear-ended.  

Proactive Healing: is healing that must be set in motion by the healer before the damage occurs to the target.  Good proactive healing requires the healer to accurately predict incoming damage.  Mitigation and prevention are proactive almost by definition.  Direct healing can also be proactive, when it is passive (i.e., a HoT or an Earth Shield).  Your wife telling you that you should buckle your seatbelt as you leave your driveway is a good example of proactive healing (specifically, prevention).  When she reminds you to take some Aspirin as you start to get a headache, that’s proactive, passive, healing over time.  Get your wife on your healing team already!

Reactive Healing: is healing that makes your target or targets’ health pool go up as soon as the ability finishes casting. Reactive healing is a subset of direct healing.  All reactive healing is direct, but not all direct healing is reactive.  All reactive healing is by definition instant, as opposed to Heal over Time.  It occurs right when the ability finishes casting.  Note that reactive healing still requires foresight, because of cast times.  When the doctor sets your broken leg back into place, that’s equivalent to reactive healing.  There was a problem with your health, and he made it better with one quick motion.

Passive Healing: is healing that occurs while you are worrying about doing other things.  Passive healing is a subset of direct healing.  All passive healing is direct, but not all direct healing is passive.  The most common passive heal is a HoT, but there are many other forms of passive healing.   An Earth Shield, weapon proc, talent or trinket can provide passive direct healing, without being a HoT.  A cast on your broken leg passively heals you, by keeping you immobile so your bone can heal.

Healing over Time (HoT): is direct, passive healing that occurs in set intervals after an ability is activated or cast.  It does not mitigate or prevent damage.  Instead, it provides direct healing at a set interval over a set time period, usually more often than reactive healing can be applied. A HoT requires the healer to take some action to initiate the healing, but once that is done, the healing just sort of “passively” happens without any further intervention.  HoTs can be used either proactively or reactively, but are at their best in the hands of a proactive healer.  When a doctor sets up an IV drip of morphine to send you into a drug-induced stupor after your ill-advised car accident, that’s healing over time.  Ok, technically maybe there should be some medicine in there actually healing you and not just making you happy, but you get the idea.  

Examples Please

Let’s look at some common shaman spells and abilities to break down what categories of healing they provide.  Healing Wave is your classic direct, reactive healing.  Your target has less health than they used to, and you increase their health pool when Healing Wave is done casting.  Lesser Healing Wave fits the same categories.  Chain Heal does the same thing, but hits multiple targets.  As we can already see, for the most part shamans are direct, reactive healers.

Riptide has a small direct, reactive heal, but also includes a passive HoT effect.  Thus, you can use the spell both proactively and reactively.  With the 4 piece T10 bonus, your Chain Heal has a chance to provide a HoT component, which can also be used proactively and provides a nice passive healing buffer.

Earth Shield, unlike a priest shield or pally bubble, provides direct healing.  It does not mitigate or prevent damage.  However, it is passive, because you set it on the target and it provides healing while you do other things.  In some sense, it is proactive, because you cast it in anticipation of damage, and in another sense it is reactive, because it heals the target when the target takes damage. Earth Shield provides passive healing that is not a HoT.  It’s kind of a special snowflake.

Ancestral Healing is a talent that provides mitigation, but not outright prevention.  Keeping it on your target requires proactive healing.  Wind Shear is a not really a heal, but it can proactively prevent damage.  Ancestral Awakening is a passive, reactive direct heal, sort of like Earth Shield, but you can’t use it proactively.  While you are going about casting other heals, this talent will heal a raid member without you having to do anything else.  I love this kind of ability since it increases my healing without any extra mental effort on my part.

Healing Stream Totem is a direct, passive, heal over time.  It is technically proactive, since you need to plan ahead and drop the totem, but doesn’t require much more prediction than “someone in my group might take some damage during this fight,” so it’s not the prototypical proactive healing.  Earthliving is a weapon imbue that has a chance to provide direct, passive healing over time each time you land a direct healing spell.  A trinket like Althor’s Abacus provides direct, passive, reactive healing, while the proc on Trauma gives you passive, proactive healing over time.   

So, although shamans are generally direct, reactive healers, there are also times when we mitigate, heal proactively, or provide passive healing.  The same is true for the other healing classes, even if we all have our own niches.  Sure, disc priests provide great mitigation and sometimes prevention, but they also have proactive and reactive direct healing spells.  Druids specialize in passive HoTs, but also have reactive spells.  Even though Wild Growth is a HoT, my sense is that it is often used reactively.  Paladins provide huge reactive direct heals, but also have passive, heal over time, mitigation and prevention tools.  Holy priests can bring both proactive and reactive raid healing, while also using shields or abilities such as Prayer of Mending to provide mitigation or passive healing.

At this point, you’re probably thinking that we’re pretty much talking in circles, and although this sort of makes some strange kind of sense, it has very little application to “real world” raiding.  Well, yeah, welcome to philosophy.  You expected something useful?  Although, I do have one nice application for you.

Next time a DPS yells in vent that they need healing, you can ask “Ok, would you like a direct, passive heal over time?  I notice that you’re hurt right now, but you’ll probably continue to stand in the fire, so that could save me some trouble later.  Or, should I give you a reactive direct heal to fix the problem that you already caused?  That’s a good short-term solution, but requires a bit more work on my part, since I’ll have to watch and see if you stand in the fire again.  Would you like an Earth Shield, so I can provide direct reactive healing when you need it, that is also passive?  Too bad, you’re not a tank.  In any case, shouldn’t you have told me ahead of time that you were going to stand in the fire, so I could have used a preventative ability, or at least mitigated your damage a bit?  What’s that?  You just died while I was saying all that and you have no idea what I’m talking about?  Ok, next time just let me focus on Grid.”

4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 24, 2010 9:08 AM

    Mmm, healing philosophy. I contend that discussions of healing philosophy are still important to raid leaders and healing leads! So this was incredibly enjoyable.

    Now, to the point.

    Prevention vs. Mitigation – my only problem with trying to differentiate these two categories is that you cannot always predict what category Power Word: Shield will fall under when you cast it. An interrupt is significantly different from a shield – the interrupt prevents the damage from being cast, while the shield prevents it from landing. A single shield cast can prevent 3 melee hits and then only mitigate a portion of the 4th. Or perhaps it will only absorb one hit – it’s difficult to determine before hand.

    And here’s another thought for you – Where do Divine Aegis procs fall? Since it’s based on a crit, you cannot predict it either… would it fall under mitigation, or passive healing, since it is a proc from a different type of heal? Inspiration and ancestral healing are mitigation for sure, since they mitigate based on a percentage, but a Divine Aegis proc could potentially prevent an entire melee hit, or similar.

    *ponders philosophically*

    We should write a book about this stuff or something!

  2. February 24, 2010 11:10 AM

    I agree about Power Word: Shield. You can’t know if it will be mitigation or prevention when you cast it, but I’d argue that it doesn’t really matter. Both are doing good things, and this is why I sort of think of prevention as the ultimate mitigation. And yes, an interrupt stops an ability from casting, whereas a shield prevents it from hurting the target, but in both cases, I’d argue that the effect on the tank is the same, so I’m ok lumping them together, at least for PvE. In PvP there is probably a point where a fully preventative shield beats and interrupt, because you force the other player to cast the spell, use the mana, and get no benefit.

    I’d say Divine Aegis is a passive, proactive mitigation effect, which can also be preventative, like Power Word: Shield. If I thought anyone besides the two of us would read that book, I’d be on board!

  3. February 24, 2010 3:15 PM

    Okay, I started writing my response, but it’s like I was writing a thesis. I’ll ramble on endlessly on my blog rather than clog yours up! Anyway, simply put…I think reactive and proactive are better desciptors of a healing style rather than of spells. HoT and direct healing..all healing spells fall into one or both categories. Mitigation vs prevention. Only some spells prevent damage, but all spells (healing “type” spells) mitigate damage. I suspect we’re all thinking the same thing, but conceptualizing it and verbally explaining it are two different stories….but as Miss Medicina said, incredibly enjoyable!

  4. February 25, 2010 12:49 PM

    As long as I live in the end, I’ll call it a win 😉

    Now on with the show!


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