Oct 19

Understanding Healing Meters

mop_logo This post was originally written during Mists of Pandaria. Its content may be outdated due to changes that come with expansion packs. Please consider this while reading. 

Questions? Feel free to contact me – contact@sometimesatree.com.


For the first couple of weeks of MV, I have been trialling with a new guild. Something the raid leader said during a raid prompted me to make this post. I’ve realised that there’s a lot of people who lack understanding of healing meters. It might not be their fault, especially since numbers are so important elsewhere for DPS. (In the interests of full disclosure, I’ve decided not to pursue membership with this guild, and this isn’t the reason.)

He said “We need everyone over 50k HPS”.

HPS is not like DPS.

DPS, with the exception of certain boss mechanics like switches and immune phases, is continual. On a Patchwerk fight, you stand there and you DPS, and the only time you stop is when the boss dies. The basic goal of DPS is that every action you take results in the maximum amount of damage on the boss, whether directly (your best move) or indirectly (building stacks/combo points so your best move is even better).

HPS, on the other hand, is not continual. There are phases when everyone is topped off, at which point no healing should be done. And even if you do heal, it doesn’t reflect on the Healing Done meters, instead showing up in the dreaded Overhealing category. There are things like mana which put a limit on your being able to sustain maximum throughput for prolonged periods of time, in a way totally unlike any DPS class. DPS classes will cycle through cooldowns, gaining buffs, applying debuffs, etc, and they will usually cast their best spells with less than a 10-second interval. Healers can spam some of their best spells with the exception of major cooldowns over and over, until they run out of mana. Essentially, the entire role is about choices, and being frugal. It’s about cutting everything unnecessary out of your gameplay (unneeded heals, etc) and only casting what is needed.

All the healers are in the same situation, so if I have an amazing HPS I’m still an amazing healer right?

I’ve said it before, so it may be a familiar concept to anyone who has read my earlier posts – the amount of healing required is greatly influenced by the amount of avoidable damage being sustained by the raid. What this means is that worse groups have higher healing numbers, because the healers are forced into doing more work. This doesn’t mean that the healers in bad groups are better – often, most people within a group are pretty well on par.

For this reason, “HPS” as a lone number is relevant to the group and encounter you were in when you scored that number and nothing else. You cannot compare your HPS to someone in a top guild and say “well, I’m doing about the same HPS in the same gear, so I am pretty much as good as them”.

I’ve recently shared a log analysis on which I ranked fairly high on a boss encounter on WoL. I then picked 3 really elementary things I wasn’t doing right that everyone is capable of doing. Simple things like not letting Lifebloom expire 8 times in 6 minutes (that’s more than once a minute!). It was far from a solid performance from me. In terms of overall HPS, I beat a top guild’s druid on that same fight. If you look deeper, you’ll see that this top guild’s group, despite running one less healer than ours, had to do substantially less healing. This is because their group were able to avoid damage fairly well, while our group waited until we got the buff from the purple puddles before moving out of them (which sadly never happened).

So HPS is a totally meaningless number?

No. It just needs to be understood that healing meters don’t give you any relevant comparison with another group, or another encounter. It is not generalisable to anything outside of your raid. Its usefulness is isolated to your group and your fight. However, meters are a useful tool for determining your place in your group. They are useful for seeing how things are going within the space of a raid. If your disc priest assigned to raid heals is performing well below the other healers in your group, maybe that means there’s a better assignment for that player. It might be because it suits their class better, or it might be because it suits their individual playstyle better. Also, it is a good way to see progression over time. You might have a boss on farm, and you notice that HPS is changing. It might go down because people are getting better at avoiding stuff, or it might go up because people are getting lazy because they know they can lean on their now-better-geared healers. You then have stat changes (e.g. hitting a new haste breakpoint) that can greatly affect the speed that heals go out, therefore increasing HPS but leaving overall healing about the same. Whatever the case may be, it provides information. It doesn’t simply provide a report card for how “good” a healer is. The better you understand the limitations, though, the better you’ll be at looking at a healing meter and making on-the-fly adjustments.

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