HST takes a hit

So, if you’ve looked at the Mists of Pandaria talent calculator anytime recently, you may have noticed that restoration shaman finally got an update. While I definitely like most of the changes, there’s a big change looming that I’m not quite sure what to make of it quite yet. Healing Stream Totem, our tried and true companion, is getting re-worked. It’s hard to tell whether it’s a nerf or not, but my gut instinct is that it’s going to be a nerf. So what’s changed?

Well for starters the totem is now raid wide, it is no longer restricted to group only. That’s a bonus, don’t get me wrong, and one that I think we were missing for quite sometime. So, that part I like. Currently the cost remains the same, clocking in at 3% of your base mana. The base healing number has gone up from 28 to 81, plus your spell power modifiers and talents of course. But here’s the kicker, it now only targets one person, and it will always be the lowest health person in range. That’s right folks, it’s a single target totem now. If that wasn’t enough of a kick in the teeth, the duration has also been adjusted. It is no longer 5 minutes, instead it is a 1 minute duration totem. While it still doesn’t have a cooldown, and you can cast it as often as you want, the 3% base mana cost combined with a 1 minute duration means that if you want to use it you’re going to be burning a whole lot more mana in order to keep it down.

It’s a significant change, and one that I’ve been feeling pretty keenly in the beta. Healing dungeons is a lot more active, as you can’t really rely on the passive healing anymore. It is still affected by mastery so you can now use it as a single target spike healing tool. It’s an adjustment. I’m not going to call it a nerf, but it is a noticeable change in healing behavior for us. It’s just no longer the “always keep it down totem”. My personal belief is that it is a result of us having some new tools in the water tree. Besides healing stream totem and Mana Tide Totem we have our brand new Healing Tide Totem, or rather our Tranquility. That’s an interesting tool, and I can see us using quite well. The hardest thing right now is just breaking the mentality that you HAVE to have your totems down. It just simply isn’t the case anymore.

There are a lot of other changes like the glyph’s we’ll have to work with. Some are awesome, some are meh, others are incredibly situational. I’m going to be evaluating them over the next few days, possibly in video form, so be sure to check often. If you have a specific shaman question, please feel free to ask and I’ll see if I can find out how it shakes down in Mists.

Shaman Healing Talents for MoP – Choose Wisely!

Shaman Healing Talents for MoP – Choose Wisely!

Welcome to part 3! Looks like Shamans are heading into the expansion in the best form since their Ulduar buffs! Let’s take a look at their offerings.

Shaman talents

Matt’s selections

mop-talent-shaman_thumb1

Level 15: Affects movement of enemies. Nothing healing her but would most likely take Earthgrab Totem.

Level 30: Stone Bulwark totem seems about right. But nothing that screams healing for me here.

Level 45: Tranquil Mind totem seems quite awesome for PvP. Windwalk is another option but the usage of both would be heavily dependant on boss encounters and so forth. I’ll pick Tranquil Mind for the ability to ignore spellcast interrupts.

Level 60: Yet another raid healing cooldown for Shaman since SLT might not be enough going into Mists. Healing Tide totem looks to be the Tranquility look-alike. Don’t discount Fortifying Waters either as 10% reduced magic damage will come in handy (I just don’t know when).

Level 75: Ugh, torn between Nature’s Swiftness and Echo of the Elements. Probably the echo. Would be nice having duplicate shaman spells shooting around.

Level 90: Totemic Projection. Being able to tactically place your defensive totems would be a big asset. Elemental Harmony would be a situational talent in case you need to overload an area with water totems.

It does seem that Shaman are going to go into this expansion with a massive boost to their capabilities. With the additional healing buffs and utility talents, they have become that much more competitive. There are 5 talents here that help with healing (or at least, can be considered defensive minded).

Skills

Some of the former Resto tree talents are now merged into the skills that players can receive as they work their way up in levels. Resurgence, Ancestral Awakening and Tidal Waves are the ones I can see. New 85+ skills have not been released yet. I’m not sure if any information on what it could be has been released yet. Hoping to see an Air Elemental totem though. Not sure what it would do. It could just stand there and look pretty while calling down bolts of healing from the sky healing nearby players and shocking nearby enemies. Probably too overpowered. I’m thinking the Shaman tree is just about as complete as you can get for any healing class.

What say the rest of you?

Circle of Healing: Lodur version 4.2

Matt beat me too it, but I too felt it was about time to do one of these again.  A while ago, the circle of healing was started as a way of members of the community to share information about themselves will everyone else in the blog-o-sphere. It has been so long, in fact, that many updates and an expansion have come along since I last filled this out! So, I guess it’s time for an update, as many things have in fact changed for me. For example, I’m no longer on Zul’jin, instead now I’m on Ner’Zhul.

Name, class and spec: [A] Lodur, Restoration Shaman (Ner’zhul)

What is your primary group healing environment? 25 man progression raiding

What is your favorite healing spell for your class and why?

If I had to pick one it would have to be Spirit Link Totem. If you’ve been reading me for any length of time, you’ll know that I’ve had a love affair with this spell since it was first conceptualized in the beta for Wrath of the Lich King. I’ve fawned over it, lamented it’s removal from the game, and celebrated (actually through a party IRL) the re-integration of this amazing spell back into our arsenal in Cataclsym. I’ve been finding new ways to use it and ways to combine it with other spells like Rallying Cry and Power Word: Barrier in various encounters for new and awesome results. I think though, that it really is my favorite not because of it’s versatility, but because I have been crusading for the spell to be brought back since it was removed. Funnily enough, putting it from a spell we cast into a totem to add a limitation to it was one of the very first things I ever fired off towards Blizzard years ago. I love me some totems.

What healing spell do you use least for your class and why?

If you asked me in the last tier of content I would have said Greater Healing Wave. Now though, I honestly don’t know. Every spell we have has a place in each encounter. It’s not like we have a huge toolkit (though it has been expanded over the years). If I had to just pick a spell that is classified under healing but I never use, it would probably be Totem of Tranquil Mind. It’s a water totem, water is the shaman element of healing, therefore I classify it as a healing spell. I just never use the damn thing. Compared to Mana Spring Totem or Healing Stream Totem, it’s just always outclassed. Honestly, give me back my damn Sentry Totem! At least I used that.

What do you feel is the biggest strength of your healing class and why?

Versatility. Shaman are capable of going from single target healing to group healing without really having to worry about switching gear or stats. While some stats are preferable for each role, we are capable of swapping on the fly and that lends us a certain strength. Combine that with a new defensive cooldown that cuts through healing reducing effects and well, we’re just one awesome healing class.

What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your healing class and why?

Unlike other classes our mastery is good/bad in a cycle. Beginning of a tier, or at the start of hardmodes, shaman mastery is a champ. After that however, it sort of becomes the redheaded stepchild in lieu of throughput stats like haste and crit. Other classes benefit from their masteries pretty much all the time, where ours only really gets the lime light if someone messes up and takes a ton of damage, or the raid as a whole is failing. It actually gets worse as players skill and gear improve. What’s up with that?

In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best healing assignment for you?

Raid healing. I’m a roll healer by desire, I love placing Healing Rains, rolling Riptide and Chain Heal and keeping up as many people as I can through some ridiculous damage. I do well at it and I enjoy it. I also think I excel at special assignment healing, such as healing the kiting team for heroic Magmaw, that was just a blast.

Which healing class do you enjoy healing with most and why?

Toss up between Druid and Priest. There’s a lot of synergy there between the way druids and shaman heal together, as well as both flavors of priest. Hymns, barrier, Tranquility and crazy HoTs, they all seem to compliment shaman healing quite well.

What healing class do you enjoy healing with least and why?

Paladins, for the pure petty reason that they stole my Healing Stream mechanic! no honestly its just because of the difference in healing styles. I have a hard time working around paladins most of the time because they just feel like a brute force healing class where as the others feel more delicate or graceful.  No offense to any paladins out there, I know they are exciting to play, I just can’t get the image of a paladin busting his holy book over someone’s head while screaming “BE HEALED BY THE LIGHT” out of my mind.

What is your worst habit as a healer?

My worst habit? That’s a tough one. If I had to pick one it would be stopping healing on a wipe. I just can’t do it. I reflexively continue to heal until it finally clicks in my brain “oh, wait, wipe. Stop healing now!”. Partially this stems from a raid I was in years ago where the Raid Leader called a wipe and I told healers to keep going. We healed through a metric ton of damage and actually beat the boss. It was something that kind of defines me. Till the very last, I’m on the front lines healing your dudes. Whether it’s called for or not >.>

What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while healing?

Matt said it, and I’m going to echo it. Getting blamed for healing problems when it’s not a healing problem. There seems to be this mindset, recently even more so than before, that any problem can be solved by obtaining better healers. Sure, sometimes the healers are messing up or need to tighten up, but rarely is it actually a bad healer.  Too often are healers judged purely on meters and raw numbers. Sure World of Logs analysis plays a part in evaluating a healers performance, but unlike DPS being the top of the charts in healing isn’t always a good thing. There are always different factors to consider such as the fight, healing assignment , class of the healer as well as the healing team in the raid. Everyone is quick to blame healers, when DPS standing in the wrong spot can cause a wipe just as much as low healing.

I’ve been healing a long time. I’ve been writing here, my own blog and at WoW Insider now for quite sometime. I got to these places as a healer trying to explain healing to other healers. That’s tough enough some days, but try explaining it to non healers sometime. That’s a brick wall that’s hard to crack most of the time.

Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other healers for PvE healing?

Yes. Shaman were used as the “model for healing” this expansion, so we’ve always been a viable class / spec. Even when our numbers weren’t perfect we were still doing well. Now with recent adjustments we’re right about where we need to be and I think we are pretty well balanced.

What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a healer

To evaluate my own performance I’ll go through World of Logs and check to make sure my spell usage is consistent with the encounter and my assignment in the encounter. If it is not, then that’s usually my cue to change what I’m doing.

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your healing class?

Honestly, I’m kind of tired of hearing the phrase “shaman can’t heal this”. I have yet to fail in any healing assignment. Just because I don’t top the meter doesn’t mean I can’t heal something. All the classes are capable of all the healing roles. True some may be better than others, but nothing quite gets under my skin like the statement that I CAN’T heal something because I’m a shaman.

What do you feel is the most difficult thing for new healers of your class to learn?

Getting rid of healer tunnel vision. New healers are rarely aware of their own health totals, and you can usually tell how long a healer has been healing by how quickly they react to incoming damage. Whether it’s healing themselves or blowing a cooldown to survive it tends to be a tell-tale sign. That habit is hard to kick, and it’s because of that I love any addon that lets you put your own health in an easily visible place, or ones like GTFO which audibly alerts you to incoming damage or spell effects.

If someone were to try to evaluate your performance as a healer via recount, what sort of patterns would they see?

That I tend to pace my healing for long fights. I’m a long sight healer. I try to make sure I’m using the most cost effective heal for the job. So my throughput might not be as high as some of the other healers in the group, but I make sure I have mana to continuously heal through a fight, unlike a certain dwarf priest. Also that I cast Lightning Bolt quite a bit!

Haste or Crit and why?

The new 4.2 crit giving 200% healing is nice, but I’ll still pick haste first every time. Haste is just so good when it comes to pumping out the healing, and getting to each haste plateau does nothing but improve my healing and help increase the effectiveness I bring to a raid. That’s right folks, I’m a haste junkie!

What addons or macros do you use to aid you in healing?

Aside from a focus macro for Earth Shield and ones to keep me from casting Heroism or Mana Tide when not in combat, the only really healer centric thing I use for myself is Grid. I have it completely configured to show me exactly what I need to know for every member of the raid.

Do you strive primarily for balance between your healing stats or do you stack some much higher than others and why?

I try to hit the haste caps (916 and now 2005) and then after that I maintain balance between my primary healing stats. Haste just gives me so much more throughput on pretty much everything that I can’t ignore it.  I then adjust the rest of my stats according to the tier of content or fight, but generally try to maintain a balance.

That’s it for me on this circle of healing patch 4.2 edition. Normally I would tag individuals, but instead I’m going to tag the entire restoration shaman community as well as anyone who follows me on twitter, or on google +. This also goes for any of the readers out there with blogs of their own! Consider yourselves tapped for this Circle of healing, and I completely expect posts from you guys!

I, Shaman: Speculation of the future of resto

I, Shaman: Speculation of the future of resto

With all the changes to healing between the expansion’s release and subsequent patches, restoration shaman have kind of gone in a bit of a circle almost. We started out the expansion with the inclusion of a few new spells that really set the tone. Healing Rain was an absolute power-house addition to our healing, and Spiritwalker’s Grace along with Unleash Elements gave us some additional healing versatility.

Not too long after Cataclysm’s release, shaman healing started falling behind some of the other healers not from lack of trying but for lack of throughput and cooldowns. We have a diverse toolkit to use, but there just wasn’t enough juice in the batteries. The developers at Blizzard ramped up our healing in an attempt to bring us up to par with other healers, and gave us a brand new cooldown to use. It just so happened to be a spell that we’ve been pining over for almost three years. As of patch 4.1 our healing has gone up exponentially and we can keep pace with the other healers pretty well, and we have enough tools an abilities to cover the main healing roles.

But now it’s time to look to the future. One of the big things about Cataclysm was that there would be a great homogenization where all healers could cover all of the roles in a raid or group. This is mostly true at this point. I can tank heal pretty damn well now, and have been for the last several weeks, and can switch between that and raid healing at the drop of a hat without losing pace. Paladins can pile on some massive raid healing and still nuke heal a single target. I think, though, that we’ve reached almost full circle and while we can cover all the roles necessary I think we all still have a specialty. Lets look at shaman and the toolkit we have.

Healing Rain is a massive AoE healing spell with an area of effect large enough to encompass two priest or druid healing circles. It is affected by mastery at each tick, so it can be used for lower health targets to great effect, and each healing tick has a chance to proc Earthliving. Chain Heal has had its coefficient buffed, and overall throughput increased. It was changed to include the additional target from the glyph as a base part of the spell, bringing our total targets up to 4. Riptide, with glyph, can be rolled across multiple targets when applied every cooldown, and Healing Stream Totem also got a bit of a boost and Spirit Link Totem is a clutch cooldown that can bring a raid from the brink of death to flat-out victory.  Shaman still thrive pretty hardily in the barren lands of AoE healing, it’s the point I think we excel the most at overall. This isn’t bad, it’s good to have a specialty, but we’ve done maybe a 310 turn. I won’t say 360 because we aren’t in that awful spot we were before, but we’re close enough to our old niche that we can still claim it, and we get the tools to be able to hang with the single target healers as well. I think though, that it was an intentional move to put us in the niche to give us that specialty and I think that it will become important in the next tier of raiding.

Tier 12 promises to ramp up the AoE damage. This is based purely on speculation of the content as well as some of the items that have been data-mined for set bonuses. As Vixsin pointed out in comments to my last post, is that every 4pc focuses on providing additional splash healing. This is a pretty good indicator as to what we’ll be dealing with, considering the set bonuses are usually tooled towards boosting your healing for the current content. So from set bonuses, and from the general fact we’ll be in the elmental plane of fire, we can expect a lot of raid wide damage and healing. This is something shaman normally can capitalize on by using all our tools. I think that T12 raiding content could be a shaman break out tier, where due to just the nature of our healing, you will see some ridiculous healing done. Basically I think we’ll make a strong showing in the next tier of content based on our cooldown, our healing spells and our ability to just be general healing bad-asses. After that, on the road to Deathwing, who knows what we’ll look like. But for right now I think we’re poised for greatness in the next tier.

Restoration Shaman T12 set bonuses

On the off-chance that you missed it, the tier 12 set bonuses for patch 4.2 have been data-mined. Or rather it is what we think they are currently. Everyone has begun speculating about whether they are real, finished or just place holders as well as the impact they’ll have on the gameplay. Well, I figured I’d chime in on what the uncovered shaman tier 12 set bonus is supposed to be for restoration.

  • Restoration 2 Pieces – Your periodic healing from Riptide has a 40% chance to restore 1% of your base mana each time it heals a target.
  • Restoration 4 Pieces – Your Chain Heal spell will jump to one additional target.

Well, that’s what we know so far. I really like the idea of the 2 piece bonus for a few reasons. First of all, every tick of your Riptide will have a 40% chance to restore 1% of your base mana when it heals. Considering you’re likely to be rolling at least 3 of them at a time due to the nature of the spell and the glyph, the potential return on investment is pretty high here. The other thing to consider is that at our first haste plateau of 916, all of our HoTs get an extra tick. With Tier 12 gear it looks like we’ll likely be able to hit the second haste plateau with buffs, which is around 3.4k haste. At 1,573 haste (if you glyphed Riptide and have the warlock buff) Riptide will gain yet another additional tick. It will still occupy the same time on the target, and heal for the same amount, it will just tick more frequently. The point is, 1,573 is an easy number to hit, and even if you don’t have a warlock to buff you the total of 2005 (1857 if you’re a goblin) won’t be that hard to hit come patch 4.2. This increases your chances of getting some mana back with that wonderful 2 piece and honestly makes it very attractive.

The four piece does not thrill me for a few reasons. First of all, adding an additional target to Chain Heal is something our old Glyph of Chain Heal used to do. I’m not really excited by the idea that our set bonus was something that was previously a glyph, and then was just added to the spell anyways as a base component. Secondly, every jump reduces the mount of healing done by chain heal exponentially. As it stands, that last jump would be a piddly amount of healing, and that is assuming a 5th target is in range, and even needs the heal. Thirdly, it is not raid team neutral. What I mean by this is 10 vs 25 man raiding. It’s often times hard enough to get CH to hit all 4 targets in a 25 man raid, it can be downright impossible in a 10 man. That means that the set bonus could go wasted. Lastly, it hardly compares with some of the other 4-piece set bonuses that have been data-mined. Compare one additional bounce of chain heal to the other set that give free healing to nearby targets, or place a free flame-like Lightwell. It just doesn’t have the same punch, and I don’t see it really contributing to our overall healing.

That said, I’m holding out hope that this is incomplete data, that maybe the set bonus will change. Maybe if it healed two targets at the maximum value of chain heal before starting it’s declining healing value, or gave it another augment. Maybe give a bonus to another spell like Healing Rain. Something that feels a little more in line with the other healing 4-piece bonuses would be nice. Since this isn’t even available on the Patch 4.2 PTR yet, I’m hoping it will evolve into something more robust, but only time will tell.

What about you? What do you think about the data mined set bonus? Love it, hate it? What would you like to see for a restoration 4-piece set bonus for T12?

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?

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.

The Stranger Side of Shaman

This is a guest post by Vrykerion of Oddcraft

This year I participated in the Blog Azeroth Secret Santa blog post exchange. You can view my submission at Jaedia’s Menagerie. ~lodur

Salutations and greetings! I am Vrykerion, writing this post as part of ‘Blog Azeroth’s Secret Santa Blog Post Exchange Thing of Happiness’.  If you’ve come here looking for the amazingly informative and extremely clever writing that you’ve come to expect from this site, I sincerely apologize but don’t worry, I’m just here for this one post.  And if you thinking I was kissing up a bit in that last sentence, you are probably correct. With this little introduction and/or disclaimer to save Lodur and I from being flayed alive out of the way, let’s begin shall we?

As you probably know, shaman are the masters of the four elements.  Master might be a bit strong of a word.  Shaman are shrewd negotiators of the four elements. Five elements technically, everyone kind of forgets about the element of the wilds.  I suppose you really can’t blame them, since that does start to step on the druid’s toes.  I mean, how would you shaman feel if someone like a mage were to be able to summon and control an elemental?  That would be just silly.  Besides, next to Fire, Earth or Water, you might as well just call the wilds ‘Heart’ for all it’s actually worth, but instead of a South American kid that no one likes, we get a green skinned former warchief who has gone all hippie on us as of late. All in all, I’d call it a wash.

In regards to restoration shaman in specific, I suppose you could say that their patron element is water. (Again, mages, you are thin ice with the Shaman Union.) From healing rains of the magic liquid, to splashing back a chunk of our mana, water is a consistent theme in the resto tool set.  Heck, it even possesses the power to remove curses and magical ailments!  Now granted it would make more sense that water would be able to remove more natural problems like diseases or poisons, but hey, since when did logic or verisimilitude ever enter into game design and class balance.

Shaman even get a magic stick that shoots out water and does all sorts of neat healing things too, but why can’t I sit there and drink it like a portable water fountain?  I mean, even outside of a game mechanic, I can’t imagine a shaman crossing Tanaris wouldn’t have thought to do that at least once, can you?  It seems like a fairly good way to prevent dehydration on those long journeys.  The point being is that when it comes to resuscitative magics, water is the shamans’ go to element – or is it?

There is a gap in the shaman spell book in terms of explanations that needs to be addressed.  The majority of the powers that a shaman wields make perfect sense in terms of their elemental origins.  Lightning bolts from the air, bursts of magma from fire, rumblings quakes from the earth, and the aforementioned watery heals, but what about the basic healing spells of the Shaman arsenal: the healing waves, chain heal and surge? Are they supposed to be some kind of yellow healing water?  Is it Gatorade? Maybe these are part of the mystical and rarely mentioned element of the wilds or something.

I mean, shaman use them all the time but we never really ask exactly what they are supposed to represent or what power source they draw on.  Maybe it’s some other element that the Earthen Ring would rather not make public.  Like uranium!  Resto shaman are using radiation to mutate your body into repairing its wounds!  No one noticed before because we were being cleansed of the radiation poisoning before it became a problem, but now that shaman can’t cleanse poisons in Cataclysm?  Well, why don’t you ask Marie Curie what the future holds? (On the other hand, this pretty much completely explains the existence goblin shaman.)

Okay, perhaps jumping to uranium is a bit of a leap in logic.  It could be aluminum or zinc or something.  Chlorine is the right color at least. There’s an entire periodic table for shaman to play around with.  But if it is the supposedly-more-powerful-than-the-other-four-elements-combined element of the wilds, isn’t using that gift to fill the little green meters of your friends a bit underwhelming?

The wilds is an element that rules over every living thing on the planet, and can even be convinced to get animals to walk up and let you kill them for food, and we are using it to get phat lewtz.  It’s that reasoning that makes me think that Healing Wave can’t be from the wilds, because if it is then pretty much every player character shaman in the history of WoW is a terrible person (in character that is) and somehow I don’t think that is working as intended.  Especially when shaman are one of the top classes in the matter of getting lore love, along with druids and paladins.

In the end we may never get a real answer as to what power source fuels shaman heals, other than ‘raw awesomeness.’  The truth is probably hidden along with all the other secrets of unanswered WoW lore.  Somewhere out in the nether between Chris Metzen’s brain and the place where all the missing left socks go, and someday we will find it – the Chain Heal connection.

Anyway, I’d like to thank you for sticking with the brief departure from Lodur’s usual posts to indulge or endure this little Secret Santa gift.  I’d like to wish you all a happy holidays and a glorious new year!

How I learned to live without Spirit Link, or a fond farwell.

Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that I’ve been a huge fan of the spell Spirit Link since it first made an appearance back in the Wrath of the Lich King beta. The spell allowed restoration shaman to link players together, distributing damage among them. The spell was eventually removed due to balancing issues, and I only got to play with it for a few, fleeting moments.

When Cataclysm was announced, the developers made a note that they were going to try to work Spirit Link back into the game. It was a spell a lot of players were excited about and wanted to have in their arsenal. It was a promise to give us something we didn’t have, a defensive cooldown. Shaman throughout the community came up with various ideas on how to balance it and let it come back to the game. I was included among that number. Alas, it was not meant to be, and Spirit Link has drifted off without much of a word about it from the developers.

After lamenting the loss of the spell, I came to a realization. I’ve been healing through the beta both in dungeons and raids and not once did I ever say to myself  “I wish I had Spirit Link right now!”. That exact phrase I muttered to myself at least a dozen times in Wrath. But looking at the way Cataclysm is designed, it is now impossible for Spirit Link to be incorporated into the game. Looking at the damage model for the new expansion it is quite easy to see this. Let me explain a bit here for clarification sake. When I say damage model, I quite literally mean damage model. Everyone is taking damage in Cata. There is rarely instances in a raid where someone is not taking some damage. This is very unlike Wrath, where there were a few fights that had massive amounts of raid damage. Let’s use the new Nefarian encounter as an example. The new fight has you engaging the reanimated corpse of both Onyxia and Nefarian. Onyxia has some fun new abilities including shadow flame (doing her dad proud) and a new electrical charge. Needless to say, she does a ton of raid wide damage. Combine this with Nefarian flying around and summoning adds, throwing his own shadow bolts and you have yourself a recipe for pain.

At no point in this fight would it have been safe to link multiple players together. Simply put, any additional damage on the non tanks would have killed them. Now, almost every fight in Cata is like this. Heroic dungeons feel like raid bosses (at least until we outgear them but still), and raids feel much more difficult. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just an evolution of the game. Players are more accountable for their own health totals than every before, and healers have a whole new set of concerns. With this new model, Spirit Link just doesn’t fit anymore. Players simply would die if linked together. Now you could argue that a defensive cooldown could be extremely useful here, but Blizzard has done us one better.

Instead of a defensive cooldown, we get an offensive healing cooldown. I’m not talking about Nature’s Swiftness here, but our new level 85 spell, Spiritwalker’s Grace. Traditionally the role of a healer is to indemnify. That’s my nickle word for the day. It means to secure against hurt, loss or damage. By this I mean we wait for people to get hurt, or hurt enough and react by healing them in an attempt to bring their health back to 100%. Most of the new healing abilities for the other healers are more preventative. They stop damage from happening. Shaman without the ability to keep damage from happening are forced to be more aggressive healers. This fits really well with the tools we are given.

So let’s take a look at our new cooldown. Spiritwalker’s grace lets us cast any heal while moving. Let me state that again for dramatic effect here, it lets us cast any heal while moving. This means in those fights (read: all of them) that require us to move, we can pop this cooldown and run-and-gun casting our big heals, like Chain Heal, without having to stop. Mull that over for a second. Pretty awesome right? This gives us not only some added versatility, but the ability to manage that versatility. We choose when to use it, which adds that level of healing skill everyone has been talking about wanting for a while now. Sure, we can’t power word: shield someone, but you bet your ass we can drop a nuke heal while on the move! While other healers can throw shields and HoTs while running, we can cast full blown spells. The cooldown lasts 10 seconds, and only has a 2 minute cooldown. It fits really well with our healing style as well. Shaman are not the healers that sit in the back and chant. We are the healers that charge into the thick of battle to drop our totems and throw fire at the enemy while making our own troops whole again.

Honestly I think this new ability hasn’t gotten nearly enough media attention, as players remain too focused on what could have been. It really is quite awesome, and with it I’m no longer pining for Spirint Link. While I  will always remember it with fondness in my heart, I’ve come to accept that its departure was for the best and to move on. So goodbye Spirit link, it seems to me you lived your life like a candle in the wind, never knowing who to cling to when wrath set in. And I would have liked to have known you
but I was just level 70, your candle burned out long before, but your legend never will.

I think other restoration shaman will start to feel the same as time spent with the new spells comes.

So what do you think? Still miss Spirit Link? Do you like Spiritwalker’s Grace?

Until next time, Happy Healing!

4.0.1 shaman glyphs and an Ode to Sentry Totem

4.0.1 shaman glyphs and an Ode to Sentry Totem

Sentry totem is gone. Too often those who love us and hold us dear go before their time =(. Seriously though I already miss sentry totem. I did use it for a few things, like disarming bombs in SoTA. My recent grief over the loss of my beloved companion sparked the idea of composing an epic poem to commemorate its passing. Special thanks to @ianbroadfo for the inspiration on this one, and William Blake for composing the original.

Totem! Totem! sitting tight;
in the flag-room, on the right.
What designer’s hand or eye;
dare remove you from my UI?

In what distant Aerie Peaks,
What found on weathered wing and beak?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize desire?

And what purpose misunderstood.
Could twist the grains of thy wood?
And when thy eye began to seek,
What dread loss, this feeling bleak?

What the stone work? what the gain?
In what forge was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread light?
Do steal this purposeful insight?

When the Titans threw down their blaze,
And blinded heaven with their gaze,
Did they smile, this lost to naught?
Did they who made the totem wrought?

Totem! Totem! sitting tight;
in the flag-room, on the right.
What designer’s hand or eye;
dare remove you from my UI?

So yes, I will miss sentry totem. That little bugger was actually pretty useful. With the new patch, not only did Sentry Totem go away, but we got a bunch of new glyphs and a new glyph system. Check out Matt’s post on the the new system and priest glyphs for the run down. So what do shaman glyphs look like after the patch? Let’s take a look!

Prime Glyphs

Prime glyphs are the ones that give you the most improvement to your specialization.

Those are the prime glyphs you’re likely to be interested in. The restoration ones are pretty self explanatory, but you’re likely asking; “But Joe, why is Shocking and Lightning bolt on the list” ? Easy answer, because of Focused Insight and Telluric Currents. Let’s face it, if you get to a point where you out-gear a fight, you’re likely  throwing around some DPS to help out. At this late in the current expansion, unless you are a fresh 80, you’re likely to have content that you out-gear. Whether it is a heroic or a raid, these may be choices for you depending on what you’re doing. The most common setup I’m seeing among resto shaman is Earth Shield, Riptide (which just makes the spell ridiculously efficient) and Earthliving Weapon. Plan to move one of them to Water Mastery when Cataclysm drops, but until then mana isn’t an issue.

Major Glyphs

They augment your abilities, but not a large degree as prime glyphs.

Some interesting options here. Grounding Totem is in the list simply because there are a surprising number of boss abilities in heroics and raid that can absorbed by grounding totem. The fun of the glyph is that it makes it into a spell reflect. Nothing says I love you like throwing a fireball back from where-which-it-came-from. Hex is on the list because, well, we have a CC and its awesome. If you find yourself using Hex a lot *cough*heroicladydeathwhisper*cough*, this may be a good choice for you. Frost Shock is on the list again because of FI. Most common setup I’m seeing throughout the resto community is Chain Heal, Healing Stream Totem and Healing Wave. When Cataclysm goes live, you may want to swap one out for Totemic Recall just for mana conservation purposes.

I have to be honest, out of all the glyphs we got, I like the Healing Stream Totem one the best. I mean, I’ve always been a fan of HST, even before it was the cool-kids thing to do. The fact that it can add a series of resists is just beastly. It heals, it provides resist auras, it’s like a pocket paladin but with less QQ (I kid, I kid!).  With about every fight now having some form of elemental damage, there’s no reason not to have this glyph.

Minor Glyphs

These have little impact on your chosen role.

Basic stuff really, removal of reagent needs, and a shortening of our character class hearth cooldown. The new kid on the block though is Arctic Wolf. This turns your Ghost Wolf into a ghostly version of the winter wolves found throughout Azeroth. This glyph was originally slated to be released in Wrath alongside another glyph that allowed you to transform into a black wolf. They were scrapped before release, but at least one has found its way back. This is important for two reasons. One, it marks the inclusion of fun flavor items to help personalize your character. Two, it just looks cool!

Glyphs are becoming more about personal choice rather than what is best, which quite honestly is how it should be.

How has your patch 4.0.1 experience been so far? What do you love? What do you hate? Do you miss Sentry Totem too?