[edit: I keep saying "yards" in here. Please translate to "feet". units of distance matter, but not a lot.]
Oddly, I keep coming back to the Rune Priest even though it’s the most “dedicated healer” of the bunch and I really would like to mix it up. The reason is survivability.
Oh, some of you nod sagaciously – but it’s for the wrong reason. Yes, the rune priest/zealot has so many heals it’s… Let’s put it this way. With the exception of the glass cannons, nobody can do significantly more DPS than an RPZ can HPS. (Aside – glass cannons are not just the Bright Wizard and Sorceress. There are a pair of melee GCs as well – the Witch Elf/Witch Hunter duality. Though they’ve some difference, they can put out an extraordinary amount of damage for a short period of time. Even more deadly they can reduce their target’s ability to be healed AND their target’s ability to Do Something while they’re attacking.) Everyone but the GCs have to outlast the healer – they have a slight (very narrow) advantage and just have to hope they win before the healer gets friends or an instant of rest or…
There are two clues in the preceding paragraph that explain how an RPZ can stay alive – I mean REALLY stay alive. Let’s pull it together, though, with what’s now a common saying in martial arts. The best way to stop a blow is not be there when it lands.
Let’s take a minute to study the WEWH pair. They’re extremely fragile. A couple of good hard hits and they die. Their success depends on their ability to remain unnoticed till they’re in striking distance. Their greatest success – ability to live for the next foe – is to attack while everyone else is busy, then fade out of notice till they strike again. (One dangerous option is to link up with the heavier dps player or even a tank and let THAT player start – and the WEWH finishes. nasty.) Anyway, that brings us to our first focus.
You have a healing range of 150 yards for most of your stuff. Why are you only 60 yards away from the line? Answer, of course, is that you’re hanging out with the ranged DPS. This might not be a bad idea, and in fact we’ll come back to it as a survival tactic. That said, for now I’m assuing it’s a PUG and you really aren’t getting much help as everyone’s in “top the chart” mode. So step one is use your range. Players get tunnel vision – really they do – and they’re going to fixate a lot more on the clump of clothies close to the line.
Item for consideration two is to use terrain intelligently. Look – bushes don’t tend to block LOS. Since we don’t get a lot of graphics telling people we’re healing, take advantage of it. Slip into a bush and let it hide you. By the same token, you really only need LOS to your targets, not the entire field. Rocks, buildings, even hills can be plenty to keep you out of sight of a lot of people who mean to do you ill. When your side advances, take some time to look for ways to advance without being noticed – a screened route for example.
Sometimes you can’t. You just can’t stay out of sight or out of range due to the situation – the players you’re protecting or the layout of the ground or whatever. Now what – assuming you don’t get a friendly tank or even an MDPS to be your bestest buddy? Now is when we look to join that group of casters or ranged DPS players. Heck, ONE is good, though several is better. What you do is start being a mutual defense society. Say you’re attacked – whee. Now with two exceptions you’re going to do a couple of things in close sequence. First you’re going to slap a fast heal – probably a HOT – on yourself, followed by more fast heals. Second you should run through the nearest group member. Preferably from the front but any direction will do. Why? Because collision detection isn’t just for tanks. Remember all you need is a short break to get the edge on the attacker – whether you’re then going to snare or hit yourself with a better heal or slap the attacker with some damage or even start healing the player you ran through. All are options and “best option” depends on the circumstances. As a ranged group all of you are mutual interrupters for the rest of your group. It’s difficult and annoying to change targets when you’re attacking – you hit the first with an opener, and then your next attack that was supposed to ready them for the finish hits someone else (or can’t hit anyone because your target is out of range and you’re blocked by yet another caster.) With practice you can even annoy multiple attackers this way – just think of it as a wild dance.
I said there were a couple of exceptions. One is obvious – if you’re snared or slowed or otherwise tangled in CC. The other is more insidious. Both of the GCDPS careers have a debuff that will hurt you if you move. For 15 seconds, if you move that second you take damage. (They also have one that affects you if you cast an ATTACK spell. As a healer that’s not quite as bad, but it’s still worth noting.) In these exceptions you should not or can not move. For this you’re simply going to have to rely on your fellow raanged group to notice and rescue. Of course if you were paying attention you might not be in this fix. And that takes us to what is probably the MOST important element of staying alive:
Pay attention. As healers we get focused on those little green bars and forget to look around – to the flanks and rear, and sometimes even to our front. We don’t notice that a couple of WEWHs have come around the flank and disappeared – out of sight, out of mind. (Even though we’re using that for our healing range advantage.) Heck, some of us don’t even put two and two together when that ranged caster ‘over there’ gets taken down by a GCDPS who then starts our way and drops out of sight. If you DO notice it, don’t just stand there – preempt them. Attack, or move.
Move. Another option and one you’ll have to use often. Do not turn into a healing statue – move to where you’re going to be needed. Yes, this seems to contradict the “hide in a bush” idea above. There is nothing – NOTHING – that says you can’t have two or three or ten hidey spots and move between them. Yes, you’re probably going to miss sending a few heals while that happens. On the other hand if you’re still alive and casting you’re doing a lot more than you would being dead and respawning and running back.
All the above said, I’ll add some extras that may override many of them. Make a buddy or three – people who will promise to keep you safe if you dedicate yourself to their good health. If you do this, don’t make it impossible to be rescued. 150 yards takes forever to run when a GCDPS is ripping you apart. It may make you a much more obvious target, but getting closer means rescue is at hand. If you do this, I’d consider being closer than a ranged DPS player would be – as close as 15 or 20 yards. Far enough that most of the ranged DPS can’t quite reach, but close enough that when MDPS comes around or through you’re not obviously in the rear. Remember tunnel vision, and that a lot of players will look for that mob of clothies “back there” before they notice one of the closer foe is also a clothie. Again, even if they do notice, your friends are just a few steps away.
Pay attention to the whole battlefield – avoid tunnel vision. Use your range and terrain to be unnoticed. If you must get closer, use allies as terrain at least, buddies if you can. If you do get buddies, stay close enough they can help. ON TOP OF THIS is the ‘use your snares and knockbacks and…’ advice that most will give you – the ‘how you fight off a WE/WH/M/WH/etc. stuff.
The best way to avoid dying is to not be the target. The second best is to make someone else be the target as quickly as possible. The third way is to kill them faster than they can kill you. Think about it…