[POLL] Your Healing Raid Frames

The Matticast team received numerous emails and feedback regarding our most recent show on healing raid frames. I just want to emphasize that there isn’t a right or wrong answer here. You should ultimately use the addons that are most comfortable for you. We certainly understand and respect that your experiences may have differed from ours.

So just a quick poll here. I’m quite curious. Which healing raid frames do you use? If your option isn’t listed, go ahead and specify it on the comments. What convinced you to use that particular addon?

Which site hosting does your guild use?

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A story

Let me tell you where my personal disapproval of HealBot came from. I touched on it briefly on the show, but I’ll write about it here in more detail. I was in a pickup Naxxramas raid.  We were clearing to  Clifford Gluth and this Holy Paladin just spazzes out. Apparently his HealBot broke after he switched to Holy. Memory is a bit fuzzy here. We spent a good 15 minutes waiting for this guy to download and reinstall and reconfigure his HealBot but he wasn’t able to get it going right. A patch had come out recently and HealBot had not been updated yet to work with it. Ultimately, we had to call that raid. When we asked if the Paladin could just use a different addon, he stated that he didn’t know how. He would just use whatever spells HealBot suggested. He mentioned something about not knowing how to heal without the use of HealBot. Couldn’t even use the default, drag-out UI either.

I was amazed because this one guy’s dependency on a single addon crippled the efforts of 24 other players.

I hearthed out of that instance vowing to never participate in a pickup Naxx again.

I violated that rule in about 48 hours on my alt Shaman.

Anyway, to reiterate, use the addons that make you comfortable the most.

New Appreciation for Potion of Concentration

I’ve started using Potion of Concentration on some of the more difficult fights more out of necessity than anything else. That additional ~10000 compared to the standard issue mana potions offer a sizeable advantage. The catch is that you need to find a time during the encounter where you can spare the time. Although you can interrupt it anytime, don’t do it. Maximize the gain. There were times where I’ve cheated and took a tick or two of needless damage to squeeze out as much drops as I can out of these potions.

Heroic Magmaw? Any of the head phases.

Heroic Maloriakk? I use it during the first part of any Dark phase.

Nef? Once I’m on a pillar.

Cho’gall? Any part where there is no abomination  (Or whatever its called) up.

I’m not sure if I can find a spot for it consistently on other bosses. I’ve only recently started using it. It’s going to take a bit of trial and error until I find the perfect sweet spot on encounters like heroic Chimaeron, Atramedes, and Theraliona. 

Also, ding guild level 25! It took us about 4 months but we did it!

Patch 4.1 Dungeon Finder Call to Arms, Lodur’s thoughts

Patch 4.1 Dungeon Finder Call to Arms, Lodur’s thoughts

Unless you missed it, Blizzard has announced an idea that they wish to implement in an attempt to shorten queue times and address the tank and healer shortage that has been plaguing the LFD for a while now. Here’s the actual blue post for you,

Source

In patch 4.1 we’ll be introducing Dungeon Finder: Call to Arms, a new system intended to lower queue times. Call to Arms will automatically detect which class role is currently the least represented in the queue, and offer them additional rewards for entering the Dungeon Finder queue and completing a random level-85 Heroic dungeon.

Any time the Dungeon Finder queue is longer than a few minutes for level-85 Heroics, the Call to Arms system kicks in and determines which role is the least represented. In the case of tanking being the least represented role, the “Call to Arms: Tanks” icon will display in the Dungeon Finder UI menu where class roles are selected, and will also display on the UI when the queue pops and you are selected to enter a dungeon. Regardless of your role, you’ll always be able to see which role currently has been Called to Arms, if any.

Call to Arms is meant to lower wait times by offering additional rewards for queuing as the currently least represented role. To be eligible for the additional rewards you must solo queue for a random level-85 Heroic in the role that is currently being Called to Arms, and complete the dungeon by killing the final boss. Every time you hit these requirements (there is no daily limit) you’ll receive a goodie bag that will contain some gold, a chance at a rare gem, a chance at a flask/elixir (determined by spec), a good chance of receiving a non-combat pet (including cross faction pets), and a very rare chance at receiving a mount. The pets offered come from a wide variety of sources, and include companions like the Razzashi Hatchling, Cockatiel, and Tiny Sporebat, but the mounts are those specifically only available through dungeons (not raids), like the Reins of the Raven Lord from Sethekk Halls, Swift White Hawkstrider from Magister’s Terrace, and Deathcharger’s Reins from Stratholme.

This system is meant to address the unacceptable queue times currently being experienced by those that queue for the DPS role at max level. The long queue times are, of course, caused by a very simple lack of representation in the Dungeon Finder by tanks, and to some extent healers. We don’t feel the tanking and healing roles have any inherent issues that are causing the representation disparity, except that fulfilling them carries more responsibility. Understandably, players prefer to take on that responsibility in more organized situations than what the Dungeon Finder offers, but perhaps we can bribe them a little. While this system gives tanks and healers something extra, the incentive is being provided so that we can help players in the DPS role get into more dungeons, get better gear, and continue progressing.

While the gold, gems, flasks, and elixirs are OK incentives, we knew we needed something more substantial. We had briefly considered Valor Points and epics, but decided that wouldn’t be working toward the goal of helping DPS players progress, and ultimately wouldn’t keep tanks and healers in the Dungeon Finder system for very long. We settled on pets and dungeon-found mounts as they’re cosmetic/achievement items that players tend to try to get on their own, so why not change that up and offer them a chance to get some of those elusive pets and mounts in a way that also helps other players? Even if they don’t get a pet or mount, or get one they already have, the gold and other goodies still feel rewarding enough that it won’t feel like a waste of effort.

We think it’s a pretty solid incentive to get tanks and healers queuing, give max-level players another way to collect the pets and mounts they so desire, and above all, to improve wait times for DPS players sitting in queues. In the case of lower level dungeons, it’s actually not uncommon for DPS to be the least represented role, and so if this new system works out and we’re pleased with the results, we may consider applying this same mechanic to lower level dungeons as well.

Well there it is. Since it was first announced, people have been going crazy about it and from the general reaction you’d think the sky was falling. Well, it’s not. Lets look at the proposed rewards,

Vanity Pets: These look to be ones that can be obtained easily on your own if you decide to put the time into it. So DPS aren’t really losing anything there, it’s just a simple cookie to offer Tanks and Healers. If you’re really so worried about these pets, go ahead and get them yourself. I did, and I’m a healer.

Mounts: A lot of people are bitching about this, I can understand why, mounts are a pretty big status symbol at times, but you know what? The mounts they’ve discussed aren’t anything you can’t get by yourself, or anything DPS isn’t already soloing. Hell I’m a healer with a DPS offspec and I can solo all of the old heroics and have been in an attempt to get the mounts.

My main issue with the incentive is that it won’t really fix the problem so much as shift the issue in another direction. In the last week, I’ve queued for about 15 heroic dungeons solo. 10 of those times, I got a DPS that strapped on a shield and a sword and decided they were going to tank. Those were fantastic runs let me tell you. What I think will happen is that we’ll see more of that. People that will want the mount or pets and will try to cheat the system. So for a bit queue times may go down, but then there will be sub-par tanks and healers that people will complain about. And even then if there’s nothing you want from the random dungeon bonus, those same folks will stop queuing once they have the items they want, giving the incentive a finite amount of time. While I like the incentive idea and as a healer appreciate the thank you, it’s not a fix, it’s a bandaid. Tanking and Healing are thankless jobs lets face it. Healing and Tanking are pretty hard when you’re first starting out, and people like to criticize you often for any deficiencies you have at the role. Giving us what amounts to a Chotchkie doesn’t really help all that much as a lasting incentive.

The other problem is the additional changes to how the LFD works in terms of Valor Points. The first 7 random dungeons you do will award you the points, meaning that you will no longer need to queue once a day, but can knock them all out at once if you want to. Personally I think that change will encourage more people to get random guild groups together and just knock out the heroics all at once. This then removes a whole set of potential Tanks and Healers from the pool.

Is there a better fix for the queues? I don’t know, I’m not one of the guys in charge of things over at Blizzard and I’m not sure I can really come up with a better option. Do I think it’s worth calling out that the sky is falling over the change? I don’t think so. Personally I’m enjoying the fact that Blizzard recognizes there is a problem and is looking at ways to fix it. I hope they find a happy balance, and I hope that the fix doesn’t produce a series of under-geared Tanks and Healers flooding the queues. It’s a fine line to walk, but I’m confident that Blizzard will find the fix, that they will figure out a good enough cookie to offer under represented roles without completely unbalancing the system. In the meantime though, I do not think that it’s something we should be seeing the amount of QQ we are in the last few hours, lets give them some time to see how it actually works out. Besides, it doesn’t really hurt you, it’s not taking anything away from you, and it is a slight thank you to a set of roles that is normally criticized and never thanked. That’s my opinion on the matter at least.

How about you? What do you think of the idea? Do you think there’s a better way to improve queue times?

Is Atonement Healing Back In?

I haven’t been able to verify this on the PTR yet, but Atonement healing might be a go when 4.1 lands. For the past few months, I’ve observed that Atonement was simply too gimmicky. The relationship between that ability and Smite just kept going up and down, left and right, hot and cold, and all over the place. At the moment, it’s really awesome on Heroic Halfus due to mechanics of the fight.

So how exactly does Atonement healing get better?

  • Holy Fire damage is about 30% stronger than Smite.
  • Atonement triggers with Holy Fire.

I believe the initial Holy Fire hit and the subsequent DoT damage get the same increase. I think the DoTs from Holy Fire may even work with Atonement (But I’ll need to check). If Atonement healing is back in, you may want to brush up a bit on that style of play. Personally, I still believe its an awkward style of play. If only because the healer doesn’t get to dictate where exactly the heal from the damage ends up. I’ve had problems where Atonement heals would land on a blood worm or something.

Smite replaces your Heal. Holy Fire would function similar to a Flash Heal with a DoT. This would be a fun way to heal heroic dungeons in and such, but I’m a little afraid of allowing it in my raids simply because I don’t know enough about the strength and viability of it. The Holy Fire changes alone do warrant a closer look.

On a side note, this is great for soloing!

Healing Precision in 25-Man Raids

Healing a 25-man raid can be a daunting task. While there are more healers to compensate for the larger group, who those healers choose to heal is not static. We as healers have the tendency to heal the lowest-health person as quickly as possible to prevent death. However, in the world of Cataclysm, where damaging mechanics often leave a moment of reprieve and triage, this tendency often leads to multiple healers focusing on the same people, neglecting others until the very last moment, when it’s too late. Luckily, there are a few tricks that can be used to alleviate the lack of healing precision in 25-mans.

Limit the Number of Targets Healers Have in Range

By leaving healers to free-for-all heal the raid during an encounter, you increase the mental strain on those healers, forcing more split-second decisions to be made and leaving opportunities for unintended neglect to sneak in and cause raider death. Limiting the number of people a healer can heal using range limits can help improve focus and reduce mental stress when a raid takes a large damage hit.

Seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? Trust me, though, it works.

The method I used to fix issues my healers were having on Chimaeron was to limit the number of targets they each had in healing range. This forced them to concentrate on bringing only a few health bars above 10k health in the small windows of time between acid volleys and Massacres. While splitting and limiting the healers may seem detrimental to the raid, it in fact freed up the burden each healer had by a significant amount, allowing them to concentrate on only a handful of people at a time.

Note: This assumes your raid frames will fade or dim when someone is out of range, but even the default UI has this functionality now, so it shouldn’t be much of an issue.

Assign Specific Groups or Targets to Healers

While I’m sure this has been covered by many other raid management and healing articles, it is nevertheless still important. Similar to the above trick, giving someone an assigned group or target to heal gives them a goal. They can focus on keeping their assignment up, as well as their own health and mana, instead of worrying about all 25 raiders’ health bars.

A related trick regarding healers and assignments comes into play when looking at healer skill. If you’ve recently started up a raiding team or want to test a new healing recruit, assign them to a role where you will easily be able to gauge their performance. Examples of this include healing tanks or kiters.

Use Healing Zones Whenever Possible

With tools like Efflorescence, Healing Rain, and Power Word: Barrier, among others, grouping up to take advantage of these types of spells is one of the best things you can do to handle raid damage in 25-mans. While it may not be healing precision per se, it still allows healers to breathe for a moment and focus on more immediate threats, such as tank death or near-fatal strike mechanics.

Take note that you should only do this when it is feasible. Trying to group up when the boss has a tendency to cause explosions or demolish people standing near each other are good reasons to not worry about these spells.

Oh, also make sure to have your entire raid click the Lightwell!

Weighing in on the Purification buff and future cooldowns

Shaman healing has been a bit… rough for most people. Our numbers haven’t been much in the way of competition compared to holy priests, holy paladins and now disc priests along side druids. We’ve got a lot of tools, but were lacking some necessary power when compared to other classes. As I’ve proven you can post good numbers and be competitive in certain environments, but it’s a lot of hard work and takes a lot of coordination. The devs over at Blizzard have definitely noticed this and have issued a response.

Shaman

We are also applying a hot-fix for Purification for the Restoration shaman passive from 10% to 25%. We think that shaman healing per second is not as competitive with other healers and while we hoped to bring down Holy priest and Holy paladins (in particular) in 4.0.6, which we did, shaman still appear to be behind. In this case, it is simply easier to buff Restoration shaman rather than nerf everyone else or re-balance the encounters.

In Addition – Restoration Druids and Restoration Shaman

We agree with the sentiment among some players that Restoration druids and Restoration shaman are lacking in the healing cooldown department. The shaman buff and Power Word: Shield adjustment above should bring all healers reasonably close in terms of throughput. The decision on who to bring then might end up being dictated by the strong cooldowns offered by paladins or priests. This isn’t the kind of thing we can address via a hot-fix, but it is something we are looking at for the next major content patch.

As always, we appreciate your continued constructive feedback and will do our best to keep you informed of ongoing developments.

First off all, the buff to purification is more than I could have hoped for. Some napkin math shows that the 15% increase, pushing it to 25% will give us a large and much needed throughput boost. This boost, if my math is right, will make us competitive with those pesky priests and paladins. While shaman everywhere (including myself) are rejoicing at this change which will be implemented in a HOT FIX (that’s right folks we really don’t have to wait for a content update for this), this isn’t the best of the news.

So if you’ve been reading anything I’ve written for the last year, you know that I’ve had this sort of strange addiction to a spell that went away back in the days of early Wrath beta, Spirit Link. The devs talked about bringing it back for Cataclysm, but sadly it was was scrapped, and I shed a long and lonely tear for the death of my beloved. That however did not keep me from bringing up almost a year ago that we quite possibly needed a defensive cooldown. It would seem that this time around, Blizzard agrees. They’ve already stated that they are looking for this in the next major content patch. To me this seems to smack of the fact that it is likely we will actually get that cooldown. So, on the off chance that Blizzard reads this, I’d like to offer once again some ideas on how to make it work.

First of all, Riptide should likely be removed as a talent. Every, single, restoration shaman takes the talent. With it being that, well for lack of  a better word here, required shouldn’t it be made a base-line bonus for choosing restoration? At least two of the three other healing classes have similar spells as baseline spells, so why should ours require the use of a talent point? I suggest making the new top tier resto talent a cooldown. Here’s some ideas on that

Spirit Link

20% of base mana 40 yd range

3 min cooldown

The shaman calls upon the spirits of their ancestors to watch over their companions and help ease their burdens and suffering

30% of all damage taken by party members within 40 yards is redirected to the Shaman (up to a maximum of 50% of the Shaman’s health times the number of party members).  Damage which reduces the Shaman below 20% health will break the effect.  Lasts 15 sec.

I still really like this idea. It’s like a hand of sacrifice, and it plays to the whole idiom of shaman being about the group healing, and in this case group mitigation. Big cooldown, big cost.

Ancestral Guidance

8% of base mana 40 yard range

3 min cooldown

Calls upon the spirits of the targets ancestors  to watch over and guide the friendly target. The guardian increases the healing received by the target by 30%, and also prevents the target from dying by sacrificing itself. This sacrifice terminates the effect but heals the target of 50% of their maximum health. Lasts 10 sec.

Very similar to Guardian Spirit, but again right up the shaman’s alley. Think about it, shaman are the spiritual stewards of their communities. Often communing with the deceased for guidance, luck, a good harvest or safety. In the real world, in times of war there are accounts of shaman calling forth the spirits of their ancestors to inhabit their body for a short time, giving their actions and abilities that supernatural edge that only the departed could grant. They could also bestow this gift upon others. So this could fit as well.

Embrace of the Earth

10% of base mana 40 yd range

3 min cooldown

The shaman calls forth the spirits of the earth to imbue the target with a supernatural resilience, reducing all damage taken by 50% for 8 sec.

This one is a lot like Pain Supression, slightly elevated mana cost, slightly more damage reduction, without the threat reduction. It fits with our lore, calls forth the element of earth which is traditionally the element we call on for survival.

Aegis of the Tempest

15% of base mana 40 yd range

3 min cooldown

The shaman summons the spirits of the very air to protect a friendly target in the form of circling cyclones. Increases dodge rate by 80% and reduces incoming damage by 50% for 10 seconds.

Air is the one element that is wildly under represented in our arsenal. We get Wind Shear, and a few air totems but that’s really it. This cooldown could be a great way to work that into the game for us. A cooldown that allows us to use the air to protect the tank, seems pretty fitting. I’m thinking something like a deterrence for the tank we can pop on them would work pretty well, just can’t make it a 100%.

Now, these aren’t perfect. Not by any means really, but it’s a start. I actually have a notebook full of ideas. I mean, it’s no surprise I’m addicted to shaman in and out of game, so I’ve been jotting down ideas for well over 2 years now.

So while I’m excited at the idea of getting a cooldown and my mind is all aflutter with ideas, I’m curious as to what you would want for a cooldown. What type of cooldown would you like? damage reduction? instant save from death?

The Return of the Renew Priest?

Morning everyone, hope your Monday’s starting out well.

A few months ago, I wrote a post about an emerging style for Holy Priests who did little more than cast Renew on their raid.

Basically, they functioned like tree Druids (without the leafiness).

After speaking with Dawn and Kinasthesia about it on the Circle of Healing podcast at Learn to Raid, the consensus appeared to be that this style of play might be making a come back.

Why?

Partly due to the upcoming cost reduction of Renew by 24%.

Costs of Renew

  • On live right now: 4020 mana
  • On the PTR: 3150 mana

Note that both of those costs include talents in Mental Agility. When looked at from that perspective, that’s a fairly decent sized reduction. I never did like working with percentages. I prefer looking at the absolute values because you just never truly appreciate the magnitude of a number when it’s in a percentage form.

Now start looking at the other talents and glyphs that influence it.

All of these talents at the new, low mana cost warrant a second and closer look. I don’t think we’ll be blanket healing the whole raid with Renews during on the scale of tier 9 and 10 raids. At the same time, I think we’ll see a shift towards increased Renew usage as a whole on multi-target healing.

There’s better interaction with Chakra: Serenity. Using Holy Word: Serenity and Binding Heal will refresh the duration of Renew on top of the other direct healing spells.

So my question to you guys is, are you going to make a conscious effort to Renew more now that it doesn’t cost as much mana?

How to Discipline Heal

How to Discipline Heal

This post is intended for post 4.0.6 and is meant as a bunch of guidelines to help keep players alive as discipline.

Several notable changes are arriving with the patch which will slightly alter the play of Discipline Priests. The two biggest changes revolve around the boost to the strength of Power Word: Shield and the ability for Grace to affect multiple targets. In my playing Holy at 85 post, I mentioned about how to handle something I called “the hit”.

As a refresher, “the hit” is an ability or spell by a boss which deals enough damage which might kill players if they’re not healed up in the next few seconds. For example, Dragon Breaths are “the hit”. Any really massive explosion can be considered “the hit”. Fusion Punch is an example of a tank about to be the victim of “the hit”. It must be a severe enough blow to almost cause you to crap your pants.

Before you do anything else, I strongly advise downloading an addon called Ingela’s Rapture. It allows you to time your shields to get the best possible mana return from Rapture. In a game where mana management is important, this addon will help you.

*Sorry Ingela, meant to write about this sooner

For an alternative style of Disc healing revolving around Atonement, see this page instead.

On the tank

Stick to Power Word: Shield, Penance and the usual spells of Heal, Flash Heal or Greater Heal. Prayer of Mending is another spell you’ll want to keep activating on cooldown on the tank. Keep in mind that a Discipline Priest has two cooldowns for saving tanks: Power Word: Barrier and Pain Suppression. Unless the encounter has specific tank one-shotting mechanics that it needs to be saved for, you’ll be using those two spells on demand. With Power Word: Shield though, use Ingela’s Rapture to properly time it on the tank.

The basic play you want to make here at a raid level environment is to keep using Inner Focus on cooldown and continue dropping Greater Heals while using Power Word: Shield every time Rapture is available. Weave in Penance as necessary. The buffs to Power Word: Shield (208% effect increase) and Penance (20% increase to healing) has strengthened the position of Discipline.

2-3 players

Theoretically, the 2-3 players you’re healing would be a tanks. Since Grace can affect multiple targets, those would be the two players you want to maintain Grace stacks on. As an aside, if you were healing the 2-3 players that were in the raid itself, Grace wouldn’t mean much at all because you’d be hard pressed to heal them after the initial heal (usually the initial heal is all that’s need to keep them up). Don’t stress too much about Rapture procs here because you’re going to be balancing heals and shields on all of your tanks anyway (That does take a little more focus). Refresh the shields as necessary.

What works for me in a party environment is casting a shield on each target. Cycle through them with fast heals to keep them alive and out of imminent danger.

  1. Target A: Shielded –> Penance
  2. Target B: Shielded –> Flash Heal
  3. Target C: Shielded –> Flash Heal

Then follow it up with a quick blast of Prayer of Healing in the event another player in the group has taken damage.

4-5 players

You’ll wish to rely on Prayer of Healing for your group healing needs. Doesn’t get any easier than that and since Divine Aegis automatically activates when Prayer of Healing lands, there’s nothing else to add. You can try to get fancy and load up a few grace ticks on a few players in that group, but it might be unnecessary.

For 5+ players

I don’t foresee much of this happening, but in the event a raid healer or two goes down, you’ll need to stand on your head and try to hold it together. If health pools are dropping, get a Barrier up immediately. You know that Prayer of Healing heals a player and their group. Naturally there will be a few players left out. Let’s say there’s 3 players who are at 35% health in group 4 and all of group 5 is around the same range. Assuming everyone is in the same general location, drop 2-3 shields on players outside of group 5 and then hit a hasted Prayer of Healing on group 5 to try to account for everyone.

One last thing I want to add here is glyph selection. With Power Word Shield being buffed, the value of the glyph will rise. With shields absorbing amounts of about 35000, it might be a worthwhile glyph to consider if you’re not using it already.

Lodur’s Response to the “Paragon Shaman Scare”

Lodur’s Response to the “Paragon Shaman Scare”

Following the recent world first heroic Sinestra kill by Paragon, players have been pouring over their logs determining their raid composition and the numbers necessary to succeed in such an encounter. One thing of note is that the raid Paragon took was assembled without any shaman of any spec or flavor. This has caused a bit of a stir across the Internet as players begin to question the viability of the entire class as a whole. People are calling for buffs, for other players to be nerfed, or just randomly QQing about how under powered all of the classes are and jumping ship to roll paladins. Today I’d like to break down what the problems actually are, what fixes could be proposed and dispel some of the anger, fear and angst surrounding our class in the last couple weeks. I will preface this post by saying that this is not a shot at Paragon or any other top tier raiding guild. I appreciate all your hard work and your accomplishments. This post is for the rest of us out there, who aren’t quite at their level.

Throwing Lightning and Swinging Axes

The DPS of the shaman class has always been a wobbly wooden seat in a room full of steelchairs. Ever since the days of Vanilla WoW, our Viability as DPS has sort of teetered. I’m not going to pontificate on it too much,  as I’m really a healer, but I started my WoW career throwing lightning on my magnificent Tauren Shaman and still do it now for fun and a change of pace. In BC and much of Wrath I took it away from elemental and smacked things with sharp objects and big sticks for entertainment, so suffice to say I’ve spent at least some time DPSing (yes this includes raids and hard mode raids when it was necessary).

Right now the big argument is that scaling is the issue. I can see why, and maybe there is a valid concern here. Right now at “Blue level gear” a shaman is capable of toping charts and blowing away everything that stands in front of them. The logical assumption is that scaling is the issue, that we don’t’ scale well compared to other classes as higher gear becomes available.  Maybe part of that is true, but managing spellpower coefficients is a tricky science and one that Blizzard is already looking at. If you tweak it too high you can break the system, tweak it too low and the class becomes useless. When you see them say they are increasing a spell’s power by 10%, they really mean they are adjusting the coefficient. We’ll get into that a little more later on here in the post, but just keep that in the back of your mind for now. Personally I feel that scaling is the lesser of the issues for damage.

I contend that movement has always been the greater bane  of the shaman in all aspects of life. We’re turrets, we’ve always been turrets, and anything we get to help us do our job on the move is only a stop-gap to tide us over until we can sit still and go back to work. I’ve done fights where I’ve out DPSd an equal-gear equal-skill hunter because I was able to sit in one place and just cast Lightning Bolt after Lightning Bolt (metaphorically speaking, I did use other spells), but on a very movement heavy fight I was crushed by an under-geared affliction lock. Literally the only difference was movement. While I agree that some of the spells need a little tweaking to make them a little less RNG dependent and help with minor scaling issues, I would have loved to have seen something that elemental and enhancement shaman could have grabbed to either extend the period of use for Spiritwalker’s Grace or shorten its cooldown. I think that overall would be a better, more utilitarian fix. Either a talent stuck somewhere or attached to something else. I could easily see it being an additional effect of  Ancestral Swiftness. Now this is just an idea, and maybe it’s not the best one, but I think it goes a little further to solving the real problem. This goes for both elemental and enhancement. While our mobility has improved, at any point in time we have to move, it takes us the longest to recover and start back in to try and maintain our offense.

I throw magic water on it, BE HEALED!

Lets get into the topic that is a little bit hotter of a debate, and more in my area of expertise. Right now the debate is that shaman healing is way too low when compared to other healers. While our numbers are seemingly low when compared to priests and paladins, our numbers seem to line up pretty closely to restoration druids. I think this happens for a few reasons. Shaman are the healing model for Cataclysm, or so we’ve been told since day one of the healing change discussions. I still feel this to be very true. I’ve not encountered a fight I haven’t been able to heal through with hard work, determination and communication with my group. Sure some fights are harder on us than others, but that boils down to a few reasons.

First of all shaman have slightly different mechanics than, say, a discipline priest. We don’t really mitigate damage, we stabilize and then bring everything back to whole. Healing Rains, Healing Stream Totem, Riptide, Earthliving and even Earth Shield all lend themselves to helping us stabilize players so we can either edge their health up with Healing Wave, drop a nuke like Healing Surge and Greater Healing Wave or use Chain Heal to quickly bring a group from the brink. Our job isn’t to keep everyone topped off anymore, it’s to keep them stable and alive.

The difference in healing tactics  is something we should be used to by now. In Vanilla you basically spot healed when you needed to while making sure your totems were optimally placed. In Burning Crusade you down-ranked Chain Heal and just spammed it regardless of content size and things were good as we stacked haste and MP5. In Wrath things got a little more complicated. With down-ranking of spells rendered ineffective, and the addition of a new spell, Riptide, we basically had to relearn how to heal right. We did hit a patch of trouble at the Ulduar phase of the expansion where players discovered Riptide and Lesser Healing Wave did so much healing that our other spells could be all but forgotten. This was balanced out by Blizzard at the time, but it still meant that through the life of Wrath we constantly adjusted our healing style and strategies right up until ICC dropped. Before our job was always to restore everyone to full, or as someone aptly put it on twitter, to “HEAL ALL THE THINGS!”. A lot of shaman are having trouble making the adjustment, especially those that are rolling one for the first time after playing a paladin, priest or druid. So part of our problem is there is a rather steep learning curve right now.

Secondly, just like our DPS brethren, movement is always an issue. Anytime we are forced to move our HPS drops like a rock. While we have tools to help us out in that regard, we still lack things like a multiple person HoT that we can control where it goes and can cast at the rate of a GCD between them.  Once we get into position it can sometimes take us a few moments to play “catch up” with healing. The same fix for DPS could in theory be applied here. Give us something to extend SwG out or reduce the cooldown and that will go a long way to helping through put. Although at that point, since all three specs would benefit from it, it would basically be a redesign of the spell. Point is though, movement fights (which Cataclysm has many of) are doable, but we still suffer for it.

Lastly, some of our spellpower coefficients feel off. Not massively so, but just enough to notice it. Particularlly with Chain Heal, Greater Healing Wave and Earthliving. Right now on the PTR 4.0.6 build, Chain Heal is getting a 10% buff. While most would assume this means that it will heal for 10% more, this isn’t exactly the case. Remember what we talked about before with spellpower coefficients? Here’s how the buffing really works. Right now on live, Chain Heal has a spellpower coefficient of 0.32 or 32%. This means that 32% of your spellpower directly affects the amount you heal for when using that spell. On the PTR this has been increased to 0.35 or 35%. Now you may say that this is a 3% increase not a 10% increase, but look again. What got the 10% buff was the coefficient as 10% of 32 is roughly 3. This is a lot better than it seems really. As the game progresses, we will mass more and more int, and as a result our spellpower will grow. That 35% coefficient will go further to scale us better with gear as we get “older” in the content. Same goes for Greater Healing Wave which has an estimated spellpower coefficient of 80%. It is getting a 20% bump, but that means on the PTR it has a coefficient of almost 96% if my math is right.  Again, see where this is going?

Sadly, though, Earthliving is not getting any attention yet, and I think it really should. For something we can’t control where it goes and who it heals, it feels weak. When it does proc you don’t control who gets the healing effect, and a lot of healing can be wasted this way on targets that you bring to full health only to watch the HoT keep ticking away. It is something I think could stand to be tweaked just a little bit. Haste certainly gives it a little boost by allowing it an extra tick of healing, but it is still spread out over 12 seconds. I can’t help but feel raising it to a 25% sp-coefficient from 23% would go a long way to help alleviate some of concern with it, and make it count on those it lands on that need the healing. It’s not a perfect solution, but I could see it being beneficial.

But why the hell are paladins and priests pulling so far ahead?

Short answer, they’re a little bit broken right now. True priests are complaining about mana issues, but Prayer of Healing is really strong right now, currently stronger than Chain Heal by a sufficient margin. It is also spammable to a degree, while we are forced to move away from Chain Heal spam. Little things like this are what allow priests to pull ahead by such a large margin. Paladins are just, well, in a word ridiculous. The amount of free healing a paladin gets is honestly quite staggering. While I’m certainly not saying that paladin healers aren’t talented, it’s worth it to note that our big heal at a raid ready gear level will be somewhere between 23 – 32k on a crit. Paladins? Well for that same GCD that paladin with equal gear will hit the same amount. Then you get the free heal from beacon of light which will then heal for 50% of whatever the primary target was healed for. That’s a huge chunk of healing right there. Combine that with the free healing a paladin gets to do with Light of Dawn and you can start to see some of the disparity.

So right now things aren’t very balanced. That’s OK. We’re not paladins or priests. We’ll never be paladins or priests, and that’s OK too. The new patch being tested on the PTR right now will be the first step to balancing out healing. Our heals are getting stronger, and paladins and priests are getting fine tuned. This should bring all four classes back in line with one another, leaving shaman for the most part untouched except for some much needed tweaks in the positive direction.

But Paragon didn’t use ANY shaman! Method only used ONE!!! That means I won’t have a raid spot!

You realize not everyone is Paragon or Method right? These are top-tier guilds that push through content as fast as possible using every little advantage they can to get the kill and be number 1. Let’s take a trip in our time machine back to the release of Black Temple. Nihilum got the first Illidan kill, and do you know how they were geared? They didn’t farm BT for weeks gaining gear to increase power levels. No, they charged through the content and pushed right up to him as fast as possible to down him. Most of their raiders were in the previous tier’s gear or lower. They pushed through the hardest content with a lot less gear than a normal guild doing the fight would have had.

Fast forward to Cataclysm and the trend continues. If you want to be bleeding edge, right there at the forefront of the digital war for number 1, you don’t stop to farm gear. You grab what you get along the way, and keep pushing. Class imbalances play a huge roll in this. If you have four healing classes, and two of them are pushing 30% more healing than the other two, you’re going to stack them. Why? Because that extra advantage compensates for lack of gear, and helps you push through the content. The same goes for DPS and tanks. I can’t remember which guild or which fight it was, but recently a group stacked a ton of druid bears to push through the fight. Does that mean every guild should stack nothing but druids? No, not really.

Truth is that for the average guild (and I mean literally if you would take all the guilds in the world and plot where everyone falls in composition and progression), you won’t have to worry about this. As you defeat bosses and gather gear every week, you’ll do nothing but improve. Keep in mind too that this was a heroic raid boss that was completely untested before anyone actually engaged her. By the time you manage to get there, you’ll likely have geared up quite a bit, and chances are good there will be at least one or two hot fixes in that affect you or the other healers, maybe even the encounters. Any good raid leader worth their salt will know that guilds like Paragon are the exception, not the rule. If you’re in a guild that the raid leader is pushing to have the same composition, well, maybe it isn’t the best place for you.

Really, the moral of the story here is that you shouldn’t let what one guild does on one fight dictate how you play or how you compose your raids. Classes and abilities will sometimes be imbalanced, trust in the developers to notice and balance it out in the end, after-all that is what they get paid to do. Expect and prepare for change. Remember Ulduar? In wrath, shaman at the tier 8 content level were falling behind in AoE healing by a considerable margin. Players were forced to stand apart further than chain heal could jump, and we were forced to rely on alternate healing methods. This was brought to the developer’s attention, and chain heal was buffed to cover longer distances between players. During the time of this crisis, we heard much of the same concerns as we are hearing now about healing. Hang in there, don’t get discouraged, it really isn’t that bad. The things that are bad? Well those are being looked at right now.

More Quests Like This Will Help Healers

More Quests Like This Will Help Healers

*Warning: Some quest spoilers here for players working their way through Twilight Highlands*

There’s these two Alliance quests that I want to point out. I think every player should do them at least once. Well, maybe every player that’s new to the game or isn’t as knowledgeable about healing classes. For the longest time, healers have tried to educate and teach players about healing circles. Turns out there are a couple of quests in the game that help players familiarize themselves with select healing mechanics.

Look at the Wild, Wild, Wildhammer Wedding quest. In it, you’re busy fending off Twilight Hammer cultists as they try to crash this wedding. Russell Brower, that hip lute (I think) playing dwarf, sets up a wedding hymn! And there’s in game prompts telling you to stand in it so that you regenerate.

The graphic looks exactly like Holy Word: Sanctuary.

 WoWScrnShot_011211_011315

In an expansion where players have been conditioned to stand out of fires and void zones, they’re standing out of friendly stuff as well. I wish this quest would’ve been offered earlier on during the zone. More players would have been exposed to it. Hopefully, that exposure could then help recondition them to recognize the graphic and actually use it.

Actually, let’s take it a step further.

Why not have every healing circle as part of a quest? Standing in glowing circles should be reinforced at every level or zone. Maybe an Earthen Ring Shaman is dropping Healing Rain in Vashj’ir in some multi-NPC quest. Design another quest where a Druid representing the Guardians of Hyjal are using Efflorescence. Or set up another boss killing quest where that boss has an ability that nukes a blast radius. Have an NPC discipline priest who conjures up a barrier that a priest should stand under. I don’t know. I think it would help and reduce healer headaches in the dungeon finder.

Speaking of cool quests, there’s another one that’s priest related. Doing it Like a Dunwald involves players killing Darunga in a phased out part of the zone. You’re working with the Dunwald brothers and taking down an Ettin. One of the Dunwalds, I can’t remember which one, sets up a regenerative keg where players can click on it and they gain a HoT.

Now gee, what spell exists in the game where players can click on it to gain a HoT?

Yeah. That’s right. Lightwell. I wouldn’t mind seeing additional introductory quests in future content patches where players need to click something to gain a positive buff. Have that object look like a Lightwell.

My other idea to encourage players to click Lightwell is to create a glyph which turns a Lightwell into a Keg. Would players be more inclined to click Kegwell?

Side note: In case you were wondering, Russell Brower is a composer who composed music for World of Warcraft, Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2. More importantly, he did sounds for Animaniacs (Man I loved that show when I was kid. “United States, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Haiti, Jamaica, Peru…”. No other song helped me destroy my friends when we tried to name as many countries as possible [We were young. Starcraft didn’t exist then and we were tired of playing with pogs]).

P.S. Curious about the new UI I’m testing out? It’s called Real UI. You can check out my evaluation of this addon compilation on No Stock UI.