Moving along the Mesmer skill bar today, with a look at Slot #6, the Heal Slot.
In Guild Wars One, this wasn’t something I generally worried about, partly because although every class did get a self-heal of some description, Mesmers got just that; exactly one healing skill; Ether Feast. It wasn’t something we really concerned ourselves with, being very much a crowd control and DPS based profession. Mostly though, it was something that we left to the ever-present entourage to take care of; either the traditional Healing Prayers Dunkoro or a more quirky Restoration hybrid Ritualist/Necromancer or three.
In these modern times, where soloing means literally that, just you on your tod instead of meaning you +7 AI henchmen/heroes, things are much different. In a conscious design decision aimed at mixing things up and aggressively dismantling what little trinity even existed in GW1, the Monk, Ritualist and Paragon, the three classes which stood any chance of significantly healing a party, all no longer exist. The new Guardian class does share a few similarities to Monk, but doesn’t seem anything like a traditional group healer class either.
This all means that it’s every man for themselves, healwise, and not only are you given special heal skills for the job, but you are required to take one of them. So what options does the Mesmer get in the heal slot?
Any discussion of healing skills must concern itself with efficiency and a few back of an envelope calculations of negative DPS. A good heal is one that offers a high rate of HP replacement during combat. Over longer periods, out of combat, natural HP regen is usually more than adequate. Also to bear in mind are any odd conditional circumstances that come with the heal of choice.
Ether Feast 2.0 is a good solid heal. Working out at about -265 dps, (Damage / (Activation + Cooldown)) if you hit it every time it lights up. It has a decent recharge, decent activation, no quirky mechanics necessary to get the heal, and will do extra if you have active illusion pips, which most Memsers will do in the heat of battle. At the full three pips, it goes up to -365 dps, so be sure to keep the Clones and Phantasms coming and try to work the timing of Shatters around this skill’s cooldown for best effect.
Mantra of Recovery is a bit more problematic. It is a Mantra skill so the first usage stores the heal indefinitely for when you need it. Then you hit the flip-skill, Power Return, two more times (three with traiting) for instant low-powered heals. These heals are quite a bit less powerful than Ether Feast but there are two charges of them, they’re uninterruptible and can be used when knockdown, etc. Total for the entire cycle is -368 dps, (-551 dps with the tripplecast Mantra trait), which seems respectable, but the problems come with the micromanagement of it all, and mashing the button only to discover you’ve had your two shots is always a fraught experience, as the initial charge up takes 4.25 long seconds during a hectic scrum. If you’re good at preparation, this might be a useful way to go, recharging it when breaks appear in the fighting.
Option three is Mirror, which does a paltry -240 dps, but also reflects incoming projectiles. It only does this for one second, so timing is critical here. I guess you’d have to weigh up whether the incoming projectile was going to cause you an additional 128 damage in that second to be effective. At any rate, it’s a lot of fiddly mucking about for a very substandard option. Remember, the moments you need healing the most are often the moments when there is a LOT else going on too, so a good heal should be a one-click fire-and-forget thing ideally.
And that’s it, if you’re a Charr, Norn or Asura. Hardly exhaustive, and not much of a choice either. I recommend Ether Feast as the most reliable and powerful of the three; as a Mesmer, Illusions are usually present in enough quantity to power it fully and it’s activation is quick and reliable, delivering decent healing even without pips.
If you are Human, as most right-thinking Guild Wars 2ists are, there is an extra option; Prayer to Dwayna. This is a straight heal with no funny business; push button, receive hit points. The down side is a very lengthy cooldown, lower its rating to -210 dps over the full cycle, and also making it very unlikely that it’s lit up when you need it most. Also, for some reason, Dwayna can’t hear you if you are underwater, further reducing its flexibility. Clearly a heal slot option for roleplayers only!
If you are Sylvari, you could also go with Healing Seed. I’m not, so have never used one, but it would appear to do something like -91 dps? It does so by minor healing and the Regeneration buff, lasting 30s on nearby allied, so the maths is a bit awkward. Unlike the other Mesmer heals, this one helps allies too making it a useful addition to everyone else’s regular heals, but probably not a replacement. Also, the enormously lengthy 45s cooldown also means it’s unlikely to be ready when you need it most. Healing Seeds like south-facing chalky soil with good drainage, so will not work underwater. As with all regeneration style healing, watch out for spike damage, which almost all of GW2′s damage tends to be.
To be honest, healing is useful, but being a stupidly over-specced DPS glass canon, I tend to get by with frantic kiting and dodging as often as I can! The heal slot skill I use the most though, is definitely Ether Feast. When you need hit points, you invariably need them fast!
On a more general note, the lack of options here is a bit disappointing. Guild Wars One had somewhere in the region of 100 healing skills, many of which worked for the entire party, taken from Ritualist Restoration, Paragon Motivation and of course Monk Healing Prayers, along with whatever self-heals the other classes got. So many options, and because of the dual classing, I could happily stack the skill bar with Resto Rit secondary skill and become a group healer without breaking my stride, even as a Mesmer. No alts required. And if everyone in your little gang hated being a healer, then it was eminently viable to just get an uncomplaining and constantly attentive Mhenlo or Dunkoro to do it. In GW2, pretty much everyone gets to chose from only three single-class skills, most of which are strictly self-heals. I get that the Trinity Is Old Fashioned, and that the easiest way for an MMO to declare itself Edgy and Modern is to abandon it in favour of everyone being their own godly Solo Tank-Mage, but the ferocity with which Arenanet seem to have rejected their own groundbreaking philosophies, is worrying and a shame.
Not giving up the ghost just yet though. More thoughts to come, with Mesmer Elite Skills!