Adversity Makes You A Better Player: Leveling Without Healing

If you had been sitting in my computer room around January of this year when I was leveling my Jedi Knight, you would have heard the swears flying, and it mostly sounded like this:

Why the fuck don’t we get a healer until Balmorra?  That’s like level 35! It’s not like knights even have the option of healing themselves, ever, no matter how we spec.  And those cheater sith warriors get theirs at like level 16.  How is THAT fair? Stupid Bounty Hunters get their healer before they even leave Hutta.  Fuck you, sith cheaters. (Devolving into incoherent grumbling).

I died.  A lot.

Looks so innocent... swears like a sailor.

Looks so innocent… swears like a sailor.

See, I’ve never leveled a non-healer in any serious fashion because heals are my security blanket.  Even when I was planning to DPS on a character, it had to be a heal-capable toon.  Not surprisingly, my highest level toons in WoW were a priest, druid, and shaman.

My first character in SWTOR was obviously a healer, so I wouldn’t have to worry about healing because I was the one doing it – and my companion could stand in front and I, as a control freak, would take care of the health aspect of it.  I created a scoundrel, a commando, and a sage – but of course I ended up falling in love with my throwaway melee dps alt, the future sentinel, before even leaving Tython.

So I convinced myself, “Self, you can branch out and not play a healer and still have your security blanket because the companion can heal….” not realizing that for the knight, that was a good ways off.  Remember, in the beginning, we barely knew when we got which companion.  Or maybe (probably) I was just an idiot and didn’t know where to look.

I became a better player through not having that security.  Being without a healer (or roflstomping with another player) I had to know very early on where my damn cooldowns were, and you’d better believe that I still use every single one of them. No “Lol, I always forget that I have that!” or “That isn’t even on my bars.”  Fuck, no.  I had to use all my defensive and offensive cooldowns in the mad race to pwn the thing in question before it pwned me.

I also had no room for derp.  By that, I mean I couldn’t eff up my rotation too badly or choose kill order poorly or survive accidentally pulling another group or patrol.  I had to interrupt every bad thing I could, because one missed interrupt could decide the encounter right there.  If I screwed up, I was dead.  Period.  It’s very unforgiving and there’s little wiggle room to recover from bad decisions or sloppy playing.

Now, when it became time to level a dirty imperial, however, and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to lean on my guild to help me if I got in over my head with storyline battles, I chose Bounty Hunter in part because we get Mako first.  I’ve pretty much ignored the option of running with any other companion.  And, honestly, I’m a mediocre mercenary, because if (when) I derp up a little, it may take longer to kill the thing, but we usually survive.  And when Mako occasionally falls behind in the healing, I do fumble for what to do.  I don’t have a practiced “finish off quickly even if you burn all your resources” DPS sequence in muscle memory (at least my defensive cooldowns roughly approximate the keys where they are bound on my knight, so I can usually hit those in time.)

Cool bounty hunters walk in slow motion away from explosions.

Cool bounty hunters walk in slow motion away from explosions.

Lately I’ve been playing my gunslinger, that I was hesitant to start specifically because I’d be leveling the whole way up without healing. The healer companion is Guss Tuno from… Hoth, which is way late in the game, but, regardless, I don’t plan to level with him even when I get him.  Based on the class itself and its long cast times and dependence on cover, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a gunslinger to be out front taking the hits while the healer cowers in the background.  Bowdaar dies a lot.  Fortunately, when that happens, I’m usually within a sliver of finishing off the mob.  Better Bowdaar dies and I rez him afterward than I die and we have to start the whole mess over (and indeed, when I’m leveling with a healer companion, I’m out front taking the hits and croak before my companion ever would.)

Hey, Bowdaar, can you try not to die this time?

Hey, buddy, can you try not to die this time?

With any luck, leveling to 50 without any healing will train me to play my gunslinger in a similar manner as I was trained to play my sentinel: interrupt all the things, use your cooldowns, no mistakes.  Throwing off your security blanket is a little daunting, but ultimately rewarding.

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    Adversity Makes You A Better Player: Leveling Without Healing — 18 Comments

    1. On my Sniper, my second companion only came at Alderaan, and first healing companion, on Taris (Ship Droid not included)

      so, it also got me a lot of practice without depending too much on heals… especially how Alderaan was actually challenging for the level… Now however, Doc runs around with me almost everywhere…
      I also seem to have trouble with my Marauder, which is still stuck at lvl 17

      On my Assassin however, being tank spec, I don’t have THAT much need for heals, so I roll with HK, and we make a VERY good pair!

    2. Zeddie – your Mara is so close to getting a healer. Quinn joins up after Balmorra. Why the SW gets a healer at 20 and the JK has to wait until 35 i don’t know, but it’s totally annoying.

      • My husband still uses Vette on his marauder because he finds Quinn to be “an annoying bootlicker.” I can’t argue with that.

        • Oh god yes, Quinn is beyond annoying. But he has healz and my marauder is very, very careless

        • I alternate between Vette and Quinn. If it’s anything short of multiple Elites or a Champion, it’s Vette. If it’s a Champion or other drawn out fight–say, soloing Black Hole’s [HEROIC 4] End of Torvix–it’s Quinn. But maybe I ought to gear out 2V-R8…’cause Quinn is pretty annoying, too. Not as bad as Talos or Tharan, but bad.

      • yeah… but being so squishy all the time… (dies a LOT!) I don’t feel like going over Balmorra even =(

    3. I’m trying to figure out which character to stick with next, and these kinds of considerations are looming. On paper, you’d think there would be trade-offs to all options (e.g. at least you have a tank if you don’t have heals), but it does seem like having a healer is a plus.

      (Another issue – my main is a trooper vanguard who leveled using the tank spec and took biochem to boot. So my baseline is dramatically screwed up.)

      • In general, the tank companions are pretty underpowered. They are pretty much almost always “about to die” and whine a lot about it. Not a huge deal if you can bubble or heal them, but if you can’t, it’s a pain. However, with the lack of mouseover macros and the generally crappy UI, switching targets to heal your companion is annoying. The DPS companions are pretty solid, but the gain in “kill things faster” time ends up lost in the time you must spend meditating between battles.

        • Since I almost exclusively go “double dps” when I level, I find that Biochem is a godsend. Every so often I’ll craft one of those puple-quality potions that heal both you and your companion and down time is almost non-existant. Levelling an operative now and at level 35-ish, the level-appropriate consumable will heal us both for about 30% of our health, which is much much more than a Kolto Jolt or a Probe.

          That plus a HoT while running to the next set of mobs is all it takes to have non-stop action.

          (Although lately I find myself just stealthing past a whole lot of things)

          • Hrm, my gunslinger is a biochem, I’m just lazy about it. I lack motivation to craft when no pretty things are involved.

            • Don’t craft, just grind. I’ve got all of the purple healing schematics on my Marauder and would be happy to make you whichever ones you need for your Gunslinger.

    4. Right, every character is given what they need to survive – and it’s always best to learn all your tools even if you don’t always need them. Reaching your potential requires being pushed, as well as failure.

    5. The very first character I got to 50 was a gunslinger, simply because I was so used to playing as ranged dps. Let’s just say that some fights were tricky without having access to a healer early on, but on the other hand it led to some interesting choices of tactics.

      i.e. I’d usually partner with Risha and go as double dps. Whenever I wanted to down an elite, this would happen pretty much all the time: I’d get her to pull, I’d get some distance, drop any dots and eventually pull off her. The elite would rush over to me which I’d tank for a while and then I’d dump any threat and the mob would rush back to Risha. It was like a game of ping-pong, but in our case the ball stung quite a bit.

      I’d still finish the fight with Risha dead and me down to 10% health. It was exciting but also exhausting at times. After Hoth I thing I used Guss almost exclusively though.

    6. I’ve found that the first Toon on a legacy to be the hardest, you’re missing all of the presence buffs, and your companions aren’t as helpful. But the first toon on both my legacies were classes with late healers, agent and knight. I guess my general knowledge and skill were at their lowest point then as well.

    7. Every class gets a healer as its second companion. As long as you bother to gear them, C2-N2 and 2V-R8 are actually quite good healers (plus, watching them try to punch your target is hilarious.) In fact, on my Consular, even though I now have Tharan, I still use HK-51 and C2-N2 exclusively (because seriously, every time Tharan opens his smarmy mouth–including when I send him out on crew skill tasks–I want to punch him in it.)

    8. Token on-topic/related comment: Yep, I get a similar feeling from this. DPSx2 and Tank+Healer take similar amounts of time to level because the lack of healing in DPSx2 requires healing in between. The main difference is that player healer + companion tank allows for being far far underleveled (as was the case when I was F2P; somehow even after doing every sidequest and the heroics at least four times each I was below recommendations by two levels), because as long as I wasn’t going up against an elite boss that could attack both of us simultaneously, I could just heal Qyzen through anything. This is in opposition to trying that with a Sentinel, where T7 would conk out and then I would follow in short notice unless I actually paid attention to everything (gear, using more than just the four abilities Strike, Slash, Zealous Strike, and Force Leap, attack order, and such)

      Now on to my ulterior motives for commenting: Your (“you” being Njessi) Sentinel new-main character is.. pretty. Now that I think about it, this might just be generally common to Republic-affiliated Zabrak characters, as I remember thinking on Tython both “Padawan Fia” and the energetic one standing outside the Temple directing Consulars to their trainers were pretty, but I didn’t associate that with their being Zabrak until I saw your Sentinel. Any chance I could have the numbers you used for creating her? :D (If it’s a trade secret and you don’t want clones of yours running around*, then okay, I’ll just be sad that my characters can’t share in your characters’ prettifulness.)

      *probably wouldn’t happen anyway, I mostly play human for some kinda unconscious role-playing story purpose I haven’t thought about too much, but I dunno

      • Well I don’t have exact numbers, but I know what I did.

        Body type 1
        4th Caucasian face. Not really sure where that is on the slider, but it’s the Kira Carsen face, only for body type 1.
        Last tattoo
        The complexion is the “plainest” (no freckles or discoloration or lip color) and is either the first one on the slider or the last one or close to the last one. It varies depending on whether I’m trying to make a rep-toon or an imp toon.
        You can figure out the hair :P
        The hair color is the first one on the slider, to the left of blonde. I decided that the dull non-golden brown actually goes really well with the face tats.
        Eye color is the last one, the blue/green.

        Hope this helps.