Sigh. In writing, this became a long self-indulgent story. Skip to the red Now to avoid the history bits.
My first ‘main’ in WoW was a priest. Back before shadow had a form, back before Devout had special graphics, back when I barely knew what end-game meant, except for raiding LBRS with so many pepople I felt lost.
My priest was my second character to reach lvl 60; I’d rerolled because I’d thought that levelling was ‘the game’, and I’d finished ‘the game’ on my warlock. I levelled my priest with my partner’s mage, and discovered the absolute joy of keeping a mage alive as they AOE farmed and tanked Elites as we levelled. We levelled fast, and keeping up a paper tank was fun.
Then I started joining groups. This was nerve-wracking at first, I was expected to keep everyone alive! … but I’d actually learned a huge amount about prioritising, spike damage, heal agro, fade-bouncing and managing mana as I levelled, and applying this in five man environment was just as fun.
Then I started getting lots of group invites without even trying – it turned out healers were sought after, something I hadn’t anticipated. Then came an invite I didn’t even understand – to join a raiding guild.
Some context: Molten Core had just been announced, and guilds were forming up ready to plunder its hallowed heart. I was on a US server, as that’s all there was, no oceanic servers until much later. After discussing this with my raiding friends I soon realised that timezones meant I could not raid except on weekends. Although weekend raids happened for me once or twice, on the whole I saw little 40 man raiding.
And so, I kept healing 5 mans, picking up all of my dungeon set, and spending the rest of my time on the cart outside IF bank, chatting with friends and guildies. This grew tiresome after a while. I still got endlessly invited to 5 mans that had nothing for me, and setting up a “/dnd No, I don’t want to run any instances at the moment, sorry” macro, which was a little antisocial.
So, sharing the same issues, my partner and I re-rolled again, this time to experience the storyline and setting of the horde. We decided a druid/rogue combo might be fun. I’d still get to heal, but we could stealth around together which had a ‘fun’ appeal.
We didn’t get very far into this levelling experience, when Oceanic servers were announced. We immediately re-rolled again on Khaz’Goroth – on alliance with the druid/rogue combination again, and levelled to 60 quickly. Raiding guilds formed up and we were lucky enough to join a server-first guild and experience hardcore raiding. I loved druid healing, and have kept a druid as my main ever since.
Now. During my time as a druid I’ve kept a priest alt as well. Mostly my priest has been a healer, though I played with shadow thoughout BC. It’s given me some time and experience to reflect on the effectiveness of each as a healer, in five man and ocassionally raid settings.
I’ve had plenty of times in the last five years where my druid has been told “sorry, the group would rather a proper healer like a priest”. This perception has lessened in the last two expansions, and I think each of the four healing classes are now all seen pretty much universally as real healers. Which is obviously good.
But the the first time I was told “we’d rather a priest, sorry” I was floored. At the time, my druid was in a top-end guild, in almost full 40-man-Naxx gear, and they were saying ‘no’ to having me in Stratholme. It gave me pause to think “given the same gearing level, would I rather heal with a priest or a druid?” and the answer was unequivocally “druid”, and still is.
Before I answer that, I need to tell another story.
On the weekend, I took my 85 priest (Astelle) into her first heroic. It was with a guildie alongside me, and I was nervous. I’d been healing normals for about a week. I’d researched and played with both holy and discipline builds, and was really enjoying the flexibility of Chakra for 5mans, so I had my holy suit on. My gearing isn’t fabulous, she’s 338ilvl, which I was hoping would be okay. But yes, nervous.
We zoned into Vortex Pinnacle, and the group looked okay. First pull, the tank pulls the lot. No marking. We survive (just) and I need to drop and drink. The tank marches onto the next pull. Same again except we lose a couple of people. Someone rages at the tank and leaves. I’m feeling pretty bad at this point, I’m not keeping up with mana each pull, and we’re going close to losing folk often.
The whole thing comes to a head when we wipe a couple of times on the dragon boss and the tank asks me to leave, telling me I’m holding the group back.
The response from the other group members was immediate: they voted to kick the tank.
I was shocked. Okay so the tank was driving me crazy, but I also knew I was doing pretty badly. Our new tank arrives and we wipe once more. I sigh, promote my guildie to party leader, and log over to Glowberry.
Of course, with Glow healing, we then clear the rest of the instance with no deaths.
Okay, this isn’t a fair comparison for lots of reasons, Glow has 352 average ilvl – and I KNOW all of the fights on Glow. I know what to cast and when. And I’m fast.
I enjoyed healing the group with Glow. I ocsillated between desparation and despair on Astelle. Is it because druids are easier to heal with, or better? Of course not. But it comes back to my original “Why?”.
Why do I prefer to heal on a druid rather than a priest?
There are lots of complicated answers to that seemingly simple question.
Firstly it has a lot to do with practice. I don’t have to stop and think what to do in emergencies -on Glow I know what spells I want to cast, and I know which key to press to cast them: instantly. This reason is circular. I enjoy playing my druid a lot, because I play my druid a lot.
Secondly, my druid does have better gear – since I first raided with my druid, my druid has always been better geared than my alt priest. This means my druid has always felt more ‘cruisy’ in five mans – Glow’s gear leaves a lot more tolerance for error (her own, or the party’s). Again, the character I play most has the best gear, so this doesn’t elegantly answer the “why” either.
Thirdly, is the ephemeral quality of ‘playstyle’.
I actually enjoy a heal style that involves layering and buffering – and druids provide that. Funny thing is – I first learned how valuable this was in my priest. And I think this is another thing that’s shifted in the last two expansions. Both spreading the buffering skills to other healers and also reducing the power of some of the druid’s HoTs mean that druids don’t reserve the damage-buffering role any longer.
I also like having a lot of tools in my healing toolbox; by which I mean a variety of different heals as well as a nice suite of utility spells. Both priests and druids have this, so I’m not seeing this as a key differetiation either.
Fourthly I also enjoy all of the stuff that druids bring to my game experience outside-of-raid-healing. I love tanking, stealthing, sprinting, soloing crazy things, shapeshifting and even all the Moonglade/lore/druid community that comes with Glow just *being* a druid.
If I’m being honest with myself, the first two of these reasons aren’t reasons at all. They do form the beginnings of a ‘skill v gear’ argument that I’m not going to touch on here. And they do have a large psychological weight; I feel comfortable healing as a druid.
But that just leaves the third and fourth… and I kind of talked myself out of the play-style argument, which leaves number four.
Am I really saying I prefer having a druid healer because of the things that have nothing to do with healing? That sounds crazy, but I think in a way I am. I think perhaps that the reason I do enjoy my druid so much is the fun I have with her outside of raiding. And this isn’t saying that I don’t enjoy healing on a druid, I do! But why on druid over some other healing class?
I think it’s just because of all the ‘druidy’ things that makes me stick with her even when I hear “we’d rather bring a priest”.
I do love fishing in Moonglade.