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Healers, DPS is Part of Your Job!

Michael O’Connell-Davidson Posted:
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“I pay my sub, so I’ll play how I want!”

I don’t know if this meme started on Final Fantasy XIV, but if it didn’t, we might as well take ownership of it. I’ve seen variations of it so many times in party chat and on social media. On Reddit, two variations of it were posted in a thread called “Piss off /r/ffxiv in one sentence”. 

For the most part, playing how you want is fine. But there’s one area where I cannot stress enough that conventional knowledge is incorrect: the idea that healers shouldn’t DPS is preposterous, and anybody who says otherwise is wrong, wrong wrong.

Let’s step back a little. FFXIV is a very DPS-focused MMO. It’s not like Guild Wars 2, where everybody is DPS because there are no roles, but it’s also unlike World of Warcraft, where healers are only expected to heal (NB: things might have changed since I played WoW, so go easy on me). That’s unavoidable: in any game with health bars, once you’ve figured out how to keep your party alive, the difficulty of an encounter mostly revolves around how much damage your group can put out. A shorter encounter is an easier encounter.

Unlike many other games, XIV gives people the tools to do DPS no matter what role they’re in. This is normally achieved through stance dancing, either ditching tank stance to hurt things or by entering Cleric Stance as a healer. But while tanks are happy to do DPS, many healers aren’t. Hell, some groups aren’t happy if their healers are doing damage, even if everyone’s healthy and the healer’s happy to kick ass between heals.

Indeed, I’ve been kicked from groups for doing damage. No deaths, no major crisis - just people complaining that I should have a singular focus. How boring is that!

For the uninitiated, all three healing classes have access to an ability called Cleric Stance (CS), which switches the values of the mind stat (which governs heal potency) the intelligence stat (which governs how much damage you do with spells), and adds a bonus 10% to magic damage. It casts instantly and comes with no penalty other than a five-second cooldown and a 20% penalty to heals — but given that your healing stat is moved elsewhere, you won’t be healing anyway.

I expect most people see this as a solo tool and that it should be left alone in groups, perhaps because they’ve had bad experiences where people have healed while in the wrong stance. And I get it: that sucks. You shouldn’t heal in CS, ever.

But you should be in CS as much as possible, because nobody needs healing constantly. Let’s run the numbers. Below is a DPS parse of incoming damage on a standard double-pull (when a tank grabs two groups of enemies at once) in Gubal Hard for an item level 240 Paladin. That’s not particularly high, but it’s worth pointing out so people don’t think I’m playing on an i270 monster.

Player names have been removed

The damage taken by the Paladin, marked above, is very low; 70,000 damage taken over 50 seconds is about 1,400 DPS. This will spike every now and again, of course, because DPS is only an average measure. The other players take a few thousand damage, but nothing that would kill them, so we can safely ignore those.

Now that vitality is the primary stat tanks trade in — gone are the days where people would stack strength to boost their DPS — most tanks doing this dungeon have between 25,000 and 35,000 HP. The Paladin set used above has just over 27,000, without melds or anything like that. Let’s be kind to sceptics and round up incoming DPS to 2,000 to prove a point and make the maths easier. (For reference, Strix, the dungeon’s last boss, does about 1,000 DPS.)

Assuming that your tank starts on full health, that gives a healer around 15 seconds to heal someone before they die. That’s a huge amount of time to fling a few spells and return to your healing stance and make sure everyone’s OK. Before factoring in spell speed, that’s five full casts of Holy or Gravity, or enough time to cast every single Scholar DoT followed by Bane to spread it around with moments to spare.

Don’t believe me? The log for that fight actually shows that our healer didn’t cast a healing spell until 20 seconds in. It also shows our healer out-damaging the ninja, who only has to worry about how good their Naruto impression is.

What about MP? Well, Astrologian has been buffed so hard that they’re practically force-fed mana, and Scholar’s never really had an MP problems anyway (When I mained the class during the era tanks stacked strength, it wasn’t an issue for me). The only class this is a remotely valid concern is White Mage, but the stun from Holy reduces incoming damage so much that it balances out. You really shouldn’t have any MP problems in a normal dungeon, and you’re more likely to have them in raids if fights are allowed to drag on.

There are few real arguments against DPSing, beyond people taking their hands off the wheel entirely and forgetting to heal their party — but that isn’t because someone’s DPSing, it’s because they’re bad at multitasking. There will of course be people who’re struggling to keep up because their tank is pulling too much or they’re undergeared, and in those situations, you should absolutely do what it takes to keep everyone alive.

In a normal run where you’re comfortable with mechanics, though, what’s the argument not to? It’s certainly not worth kicking people over, and those sweet, sweet 12-minute expert roulette runs are worth striving for.

I understand why people are defensive. But this isn’t trying to dilute healing as a role or take it for granted. If you’re scared, one of my friends (who is an excellent healer) offers some advice: cast damage spells outside of Cleric Stance, and, if you do it three times in a row, then remember that you could’ve done that in CS with no difference. She also says don’t forget the caster ABC: Always Be Casting.

There’s probably nothing harder than healing at the highest level, and a lot of that comes down to managing your teammates and dodging AoEs. Adding something on top of that is naturally unappealing. But neglecting your responsibility to supplement DPS means that you’re a bad healer, no matter how good you are at keeping people alive.

In other news, a brilliant idea comes from Reddit user LalafellRulez: a daily Alexander roulette. More elegant than a general raid roulette, this would award quick tomes and vanquish the nigh-unbearable queues for A1-8. Make it happen!

Thanks to Sawan Wap (Cerberus) who assisted with the research for this piece.


Michael O’Connell-Davidson

Michael O'Connell-Davidson is MMORPG.com's FFXIV columnist. Follow him on twitter @mikeocd.