Comparing high-end WoW healing to high-end FFXIV healing

Mar Reed 2021-12-29 02:53:19
  With Savage less than a week away and this being the first foray into difficult raid content for World of WarCraft refugees, I’ve compiled some key changes in the roles between games. For the sake of brevity, I attempted to not dive too deep into individual abilities and healer kits and focused more on overarching themes of the role in its entirety.  Let’s dive in! DPS/HPS Tools and GCD allocation in World of WarCraft, the healing component is a lot more active. in FFXIV, it’s a lot less active, though it wasn’t always this way. In WoW, it’s mostly accurate to say that the “spammable” bread and butter abilities are utilized proportionally opposite to their FFXIV counterpart. What I mean is that in FFXIV, as you find comfort in your job and the encounters, 80-90%~ of your GCDs are going to be your single target DPS nuke. In WoW, most of your GCD allocation will be whack-a-mole spot heals and typically an AoE heal that targets some, but not all of your raid on a short CD. Interestingly, while most of your CPM (Casts Per Minute) are emphasized on actual healing upkeep in WoW, WoW healers still have more DPS buttons, you just don’t use them as often (barring Discipline Priest and Holy Paladin). FFXIV healers generally have many more healing tools, but the most powerful ones are often relegated to an oGCD (off-global, weaved inbetween the GCD). By contrast, WoW healers have less tools, but they’re used more often. DPS (expanded) Even in the case of the newly released Sage which has the most robust DPS kit, I’m pressing Eukrasian Dosis, Dosis, Toxikon, Pneuma, and Phlegma on CD for single target boss damage. Three of these have the exact same potency, but have other use-cases. I’d use Toxikon for mobility, and Pneuma when I also want to throw an AoE heal on the party. On Discipline Priest, I’m pressing Schism, Smite, Penance, Mind Blast, Shadowfiend, Purge the Wicked, Power Word: Solace, and Shadow Word: Death. Every 3 minutes, I’m using my covenant ability, which then allows me to alternate Ascended Blast and Ascended Nova on a two-to-one ratio.  Each of these abilities do significantly different things, and most are optimally used inside the Schism window for bonus damage. The Discipline Priest DPS is more complicated, but offers less relative DPS contribution to the raid compared to FF healers. While the disparity between a healer's DPS and an actual damage dealer's DPS is much larger in WoW, this can also be attributed to there being 4-6 healers commonly in WoW while FF always has 2. Healing/Mitigation CDs Healing CD’s sort of existed prior to Endwalker in FF, but it was mostly in the form of enhancements to GCDs already within your toolkit. Otherwise, the standalone tools you work with are things such as Scholar’s Indomitability, Astrologian’s Earthly Star, or White Mage’s Assize. These are certainly very powerful tools, but are contextually incomparable to WoW CDs typically assigned by your Raid Leader like Resto Druid’s Tranquility,  Mistweaver Monk’s Revival, or a Venthyr Holy Paladin’s Ashen Hallow - all of which are typically 2-4 minute cooldowns, give or take. As of Endwalker, with the addition of things such as Lilybell, Macrocosmos, and Panhaima, that is finally changing...well, hypothetically. Historically, the raid’s damage received hasn’t ever been proportionally matched by the ever-increasing power of healer arsenals, but it’s worth mentioning should this change. The current extreme primals both have stacked raid AoEs that pulse, where these abilities are, honestly, too powerful, but not at all necessary to deal with the incoming damage. Otherwise, prior to this expansion, a “big healer CD" was simply spamming Helios/Cure III/Succor as much as you can, as they don’t have a cooldown and hit every player in the raid. In terms of mitigation, CDs in WoW are much more powerful, but on a much longer CD.  See Power Word: Barrier or Aura Mastery in comparison to Sacred Soil or Collective Unconscious. It's worth noting that abilities such as Power Word: Barrier hit the entire raid of 20 people, while most AoE heals hit a limited amount of players within the raid. This makes these cooldowns stand out, as it is atypical compared to FFXIV, where almost every tool in a healer's arsenal hits all 8 players. Between these are various long cooldowns, including raidwide mitigation abilities, healer throughput CDs, utility, and more. These range anywhere from 30 seconds to 4 minutes. Utility CDs Once upon a time, Astrologians had utility cards that restored resources, reduced GCD, and so on. That is no longer the case, as in Shadowbringers onward, all “utility” brought to the healer kits were strictly damage.  All Astrologian cards became damage, Scholar brought Chain Stratagem, White Mage brought…just big personal damage, pretty much. Now that has changed with Scholar having Expedient, which serves as increased movespeed for the whole party as well as some damage mitigation. This still remains the sole exception, however. This is significantly reduced from the utility CDs provided by healers in WoW, as well as the variety of them. The closest comparison to Expedient would be Druid’s Roar, which can be used in Restoration spec.  All healers have Rescue, which is a very unresponsive form of Priest’s grip and is far less versatile. Other than that WoW healer specs such as Restoration Shaman and Mistweaver Monk have ways to keep enemies back (which is relevant due to the significant amount of AoE involved in many WoW encounters compared to FFXIV). Shamans and Druids also can help regulate mana usage to their fellow healers through Mana Tide Totem and Innervate. Finally, all of the WoW healer specs have various lockdown or CC abilities. Intra healer variety It’s worth noting there’s a much greater disparity between WoW healers than there is for FFXIV healers, so it’s difficult to make a blanket statement. That said, Every single healer in FFXIV has one dot, and one nuke as their DPS upkeep with occasional other abilities sprinkled in. Dia into Glare, Biolysis into Broil, Combust into Malefic, Eukrasian Dosis into Dosis. Not only do WoW healers have many more DPS abilities (that you do use less frequently), their general gameplay loop is very different. FF healers also typically have one single target healing GCD, a stronger/enhanced single target healing GCD, and a shield/HoT single target GCD, and the same applies to AoE heals with little variation. There are some unique flairs, such as White Mage’s ability to Cure 3 the entire raid in a stack repeatedly as MP allows, or Scholar’s ability to command a pet to throw out heals independent of their own location and death status debuff (Weakness/Brink of Death, explained later). In WoW, the way you take care of your raid varies—not even just between classes, but between specs. For example, Priest has two healing specs. As Discipline Priest, you’ll blanket atonement by applying 5-7 Power Word: Shields and/or Shadow Mends across your raid, before using 1-2 Power Word: Radiance casts, and then go through your DPS rotation, of which is a lot more involved than modern FF healers.

Snapshot of a proper Disc Priest ramp via IcyVeins

In contrast, Holy Priest is a much more conventional MMO healer. You use Prayer of Mending (a heal that bounces) on cooldown, Circle of Mending on cooldown to heal at least 4+ raiders, Holy Word: Sanctify as a targetable AoE heal (similar to Cure III),  and Holy Word: Serenity on cooldown (similar to Tetragrammaton). This, of course, doesn’t even touch the surface of variety in WoW, as the other specs are very different from these starkly contrasted ones already presented, and then you add Talents, Soulbinds, and Legendaries on top of that, and you get quite the variety (arguably, at the cost of balance). The last thing to mention is itemization outside of legendaries. In WoW, healers have proc-based trinkets that have tons of different uses (listed below.) In FFXIV, every piece of gear is a stat-stick, and generally amounts to “heal/damage number go up or down”. Mechanical responsibility There’s a lot of ambiguous mechanics in WoW, and lately, fairly randomly assigned mechanics in FFXIV as well. Perhaps more a matter of culture than game design, a lot of additional responsibility will fall on healers if there’s a choice between healers and DPS for a mechanic, in the name of uptime, whereas in WoW, DPS are more willing to take care of these.  A good example is the bombs in De Other Side against Millhouse. If that same encounter existed in FF, there’s a very good chance in a coordinated environment the healers would be tasked to do it. Otherwise, responsibilities in FFXIV are fairly role-universal, with a lot of them being everyone getting the same mechanic to resolve, or commonly, are resolved via “light parties” (1 tank, 1 healer, 2 dps). Ranged DPS (and sometimes Melee) in comparison are expected to handle a lot more in Mythic WoW raids. Some recent examples of this that come to mind are Anima Containers from Lady Darkvein in Castle Nathria and puddle soaks from Tarragrue in Sanctum of Domination. Encounters/Throughput Here lies the largest fundamental difference in healing in both games. Not only are you likely used to a lot more “random” healing in WoW encounters, but there’s a lot more consistent rot damage as well. In FF, everything besides mistakes are scripted. Your healing pattern from pull to pull will be nearly identical. This isn’t to say this doesn’t happen in WoW to a lesser degree. You’re definitely planning out your bigger cooldowns and executing those consistently. But in FFXIV, you can develop raid plans down to each individual GCD that is “optimal” for each encounter. After progression, optimizing healing in FF is reducing the amount of GCDs you use on heals until it is down to zero, relying on our incredibly strong oGCD kits as well as defensive/healing utilities from other roles. This can be done for nearly every savage encounter with exceptions to the final fight of each savage tier (sometimes) and Ultimate difficulty fights. In WoW, healing throughput requirements  are so high that while you certainly contribute some DPS, you’re almost always going to be spending most of your casts on healing no matter what. As you get more gear and optimize, you typically drop healers to introduce more DPS to the raid (or switch to a DPS off-spec from a healer) so that the boss dies faster. Sometimes, it’s the opposite where you add healers for farm so that you can defeat the encounter without holding DPS to wait on big healing cooldowns to survive, assuming you’ll still have the DPS to surpass the encounter enrage. It's worth ending this section by mentioning you can cut down healers to 1 in FF, but it’s hardly optimal with how much healers contribute to damage relative to their WoW counterparts. It often involves adding too many GCD heals and strain on the rest of your party, and you’ll rarely increase your raid DPS this way unless there’s laughably low damage received in the encounter. Role Identity It is not uncommon in WoW to have healers assigned to tank healing/spot healing and raid healing. Everyone does a little bit of everything, but these are still crucial roles for certain encounters. Let’s take Mythic Painsmith for example - you definitely want healers focusing on keeping those up that acquire chains. While there’s shield and pure healers in FF, this kind of responsibility allotment doesn’t exist. Everyone “raid heals” and “spot heals” (though I’ll give a special shoutout to Astrologian here, probably the best “spot healer”.) Even in the case of shield and pure healers, “shield healers” have tools for throughput and HoTs and “pure healers” have damage mitigation tools and shield applications. As there’s only two healers, your “role” in FF healing comes down to frequent communication and building synergy with your co-healer, discussing which tools are available when to best decide what to use in any given scenario to have the highest damage uptime. Resource Management Managing mana in WoW is a lot more complex than it is in Final Fantasy, but it’s important not to confuse “complex” with “difficult”.  In WoW, you have several different kinds of consumables to start, including a channeled potion that restores more than a standard Spiritual MP potion. You have tools like Mana Tide Totem from Shamans and Innervate from Druids to alleviate mana issues towards your team of healers. In FF, all healers get Lucid Dreaming, something typically used around 70% MP that generally keeps your MP economy fairly healthy with 100% uptime. Aside from that, each healer has a tool that helps with their own economy (Aetherflow for Scholar, Addersgall for Sage, Thin Air/Assize for White Mage, and cards/Astrodyne for Astrologian.) If you aren’t forgetting one of the above, dying, or resurrecting a ton, you will never have an MP issue regardless of duration of encounter.  In WoW, your mana is very much on a timer of how fast the boss dies, outside of downtime. It’s very common for me to use the boss’s health bar in relation to my mana bar on my Discipline Priest, as an example, for how I plan to use my kit and tone down or pick up the pace on healing relative to my healing partners. Resurrection / Recovery The two games are vastly different in this category. The only healer that can resurrect in combat in WoW is Resto Druid, while all four healers have access to raises and often are expected to do so as the first line of defense assuming they won’t run dry on MP and/or the DPS check won’t be missed from a DPS doing it. When you are resurrected in World of Warcraft, you do not receive weakness, but you are limited to the amount of times you can rez in any given raid encounter. In FFXIV, resurrecting hurts your stats significantly and occasionally drains you of resources. For example, Scholar and Sage are heavily punished when they die as they lose aetherflow and addersgall stacks. If you die more than once in a certain window of time in Final Fantasy, you receive Brink of Death, which is a debuff that significantly cuts all your stats. This is typically a time where plenty of GCD heals will be used, as you no longer will be able to keep everyone topped with your oGCD toolkit. Dying and rezzing in FF prog is arguably more punishing earlier in the tier due to tight DPS checks, but you are able to rez infinitely so long as the resources are available, occasionally allowing you to “zombie” your way through encounters and learn a lot in what would otherwise be a dead pull. Level 3 Healer Limit Break is our ultimate recovery tool, topping everyone in the raid and resurrecting any fallen allies, while also not adding any Weakness or Brink of Death debuffs (unless a raid member had already received that debuff from a previous raised state.) As a personal anecdote, recovery is much more forgiving as a healer if you die in WoW, so long as the rest of your healers have the throughput to keep the raid alive. Not only do you have less MP to work with if you die in FF, your throughput is significantly reduced. Final Thoughts Healing is very different between the two games, with WoW healing leaning towards what you might be more familiar with in other MMOs, and FF healing being more of a puzzle where you figure out what to use where, become comfortable with the dance, and use “free” tools in exchange for DPS. You’ll be doing a lot more damage than actual healing, while you’ll almost be full-time healing in WoW. If there’s any other questions, I’m Drexxin Lyzael on Gilgamesh and love helping new players become acclimated. Best of luck in your Savage progression in our unfamiliar lands. Until next time!
Michale Lalor is the Editor-in-Chief of Esports Heaven, with World Progression experience in FFXIV and Cutting Edge experience in WoW. If you enjoyed this piece, follow him on Twitter at @ESHDrexxin. Cover image from Reddit user Bwadark Sage rotation image from The Balance Discord server/community

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