The circumstances surrounding why so many groups in The Elder Scrolls Online have a rather tepid relationship with the Healer as a role are quite complicated and nuanced. The various reasons and factors as to why a lot of groups don't really like bringing healers to 4 man content or even some 12 man content have been around for quite a while and has only been exacerbated over time as ESO continued to grow.
To start off, we need to define healing and what it means within the context of ESO particularly for those of you who have never played it or never played a MMO before.
Professor Stileanima from ESO University had this to say about healing in her written guide on Alcast's website which we highly recommend you guys read:
Healing is the act of using your abilities to restore the health of your party members, yourself included, to help them survive through taking a combination of avoidable and unavoidable damage.
However just like in our beginner's tanking guide, this definition by Stileanima is for the very rudimentary and basic definition of the role or act. Basically the bare minimum.
We would add to the definition of healing just like with tanking that it becomes about supporting the group in other ways not limited to just healing such as providing the necessary buffs and debuffs that the group may require to succeed.
Well, what kind of buffs and debuffs? And just as we say in quite a few videos, Damage is King. And so we have the primary root issue that we need to review when it comes to healing and that is the fact the Damage Is King in ESO. What do we mean by this?
It is undeniable that the more damage a group has, the easier it becomes for the group. Gone are the days when most decently organized groups even think about Lunar Phase of Rakkhat Hard Mode in Maw of Lorkhaj. Gone are the days when the old DLC dungeons were challenging because you don't get to see most of the mechanics anymore.
Even in the new DLC dungeons experienced players or a group that doesn't even have the greatest DPS in the world don't get to see a lot of mechanics. And even for endgame groups if you watch their videos, you will notice that even 12 man groups usually just has only one healer.
But how do healers fit into this? It's no secret that in recent years even casual groups have started to change the traditional group composition of 1 tank, 1 healer and 2 DPS into 1 tank and 3 DPS whether it's for Veteran dungeons, DLC dungeons, pledges or even the arenas. For random normals we also have fake tanks, fake healers and regardless of your view on those matters, we can safely say that 4 DPS running through a random normal is quite faster than the traditional set up of a dungeon group.
Obviously we have to be cautious here with the wording, because we don't mean every group in the world can do 3 DPS/1 tank for all content or 4 DPS for Dragonstar Arena or Blackrose Prison, we are well aware that these could be somewhat extreme outliers in the ESO community and even for these we sometimes recommend - depending on the group's goals like Unchained in Blackrose Prison - to bring a healer to make the attainment of the goal easier.
However judging from the posts on ESO's subreddit, the various Discord communities and of course the official Elder Scrolls Online forums along with a large number of viewers on both YouTube and Twitch asking us why groups want you to do more damage as a healer with even some of you going so far as to say that you simply don't heal anymore, this has nonetheless become a noticeable issue.
You may also be wondering to yourself, well wait, if a group can't do much DPS and experience more mechanics, wouldn't it make sense that you'd want more healing? Well no, not exactly.
IF a group can't do a certain amount of DPS, there's nothing stopping the person in the role of a healer to simply switch to a DPS or a more damage oriented setup and thus make it easier on the rest of the group so they don't experience those mechanics in the first place.
And here we now enter very complicated territory where we're not only looking at healing in a vacuum but we must also look at healing within the context of group-play, the nature of said game mechanics, the game's philosophy of play-however-you-want and of course the content itself.
In regards to group-play, let's compare a 3 DPS and 1 tank group to a 2 DPS, 1 Healer, 1 Tank group. Obviously with 3 DPS, you can get through content faster. Most players typically go this route for the sake of time.
This however puts a bit more stress on the tank but usually in groups like these the tanks are used to it and are typically experienced even slotting gear that is usually meant for healers to wear such as Spell Power Cure to provide Major Courage easily through things such as Blood Altar.
On the level of the game's philosophy of play-however-you-want, a tank could also slot the necessary buffs and debuffs or even heals that a healer could typically bring, let's not also forget that the DPS can also heal themselves negating further need for a healer.
As for the game mechanics well a sheer majority of the problems that face healers is that a lot of mechanics are not healable or the damage of the mechanics is laughable, in some content the developers seem to have sometimes erroneously mistaken that the more damage a mechanic does, the more need perhaps there could be for a healer but usually a lot of the incoming damage can either be mitigated or completely avoided with either more DPS, some awareness or roll dodging on part of either the DPS or the tank.
On the level of the content itself, well, a lot of the content is quite outdated relative to the massive power creep in ESO, not a lot of groups don't go "hey we should bring a healer to Selene's Web" nowadays. So as you guys can probably tell by now, there's no real easy solution to this from the developers' end because we've sort of reached this point where a lot of this can definitely stem from the content itself in conjunction with a growth in overall player skill and power creep.
Perhaps Stone Garden and Moongrave Fane are exemplar models to follow in one aspect, perhaps two of the very few dungeons where we would always take a healer myself due to the nature of the mechanics and their damage.
For example, the adds on Stone Garden Hard Mode can do serious debuffs on the tank, the Damage over time effect of the boss also ramps up the more health you have as a tank, little things like these definitely encourage groups to bring a healer for sure but we don't see this always working because again, let's think about this on the level of content, lately the developers want the DLCs to be more accessible - if we look at things like Kyne's Aegis, Icereach, Unhallowed Grave, the various nerfs to previous DLC dungeons and Trials such as Bloodroot Forge, White Gold Tower, Halls of Fabrication - which is good but again you don't have to be the best players to circumvent mechanics or difficulties of the fights with moderate DPS.
If you guys ever want to learn more about healing, definitely join our Discord and also check out the new Healer's Haven Discord which has thousands of other healers who can help teach players of all levels of experience if they wish to get into healing for all PvE content including Trials and Dungeons.