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?

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!

Healing Roundups and We Got Our Drakes!

Healing Roundups and We Got Our Drakes!

Not quite sure where to go or what to read? Feeling overwhelmed? Yeah, I feel the same way too. Don’t worry though. I’ve got all the healing related stuff right here for you to brush up on. Next few weeks will be exciting with all the new systems.

Druids

Lissanna’s restoration healing guide (Restokin)

Keeva’s restoration 4.0 guide (Tree Bark Jacket)

Paladins

What Holy Paladins need to know for 4.0.1 (Kurn’s Corner)

Priests

WoW Insider: SG’s Reforging, gemming and GCD tactics for 4.0.1 priests (WoW Insider)

4.0 Survival Guide – Holy & Disc Specs, Glyphs and more (Tales of a Priest)

Discipline 4.0.1 guide (Malevica)

Shamans

Resto Shaman’s Guide to 4.0.1 (Life in Group 5)

Augments

Gem conversions for 4.0.1 (Revive & Rejuvenate)

Addons

No Stock UI has a nice compilation of addons that healers and raiders will find useful. Bonus: Updated for 4.0.1.

Beru’s Addon List

Don’t hesitate to suggest other resources that you think other healers might find informational.

And bloggers, you have my express permission to plug your own stuff.

Unrelated

25-drakesr

We scored our ICC 25 drakes last night!

And one of my hunters accidentally cast a buff which automatically knocked him off his mount. Extremely comical moment, actually. My timing was pretty good.

I originally planned on healing the entire encounter with three healers, but the current raid composition didn’t allow for it. Instead, we used our previous 4 healing setup. It consisted of a holy priest (me), discipline priest, holy paladin and shaman.

The first clutch moment of the night occurred during the defile phase. Valks were inbound. I was busy stacking the raid with Renews before I realized I lost all mobility.

“Matt’s picked up.”

I looked up at the second valk, and noticed it zeroing in on the other discipline priest.

“Ann’s picked up.”

At this point, I was thinking to myself it couldn’t possibly get any worse. Two healers out of four locked out?

“Rykga picked up.”

Crap. There goes our holy paladin. Wait, that’s three healers! I barked out for an immediate use of defensive cooldowns. Barkskin and other such skills were used while the DPS desperately muscled to get us free as quickly as possible (and to their credit, they did).

After something like 25+ attempts over the past few weeks, we were able to secure our drakes. Only took us something like 5 sets of Vile Spirits. Did it with 3 Boomkins. That helped immensely.

Still recruiting for Cataclysm. May not have any immediate openings now, but if you’re looking for a raiding guild, look me up.

Why Resto Shaman Need a Defensive Cooldown, or Another Spirit Link Post

Why Resto Shaman Need a Defensive Cooldown, or Another Spirit Link Post

In case you’ve missed it, I’ve grown quite partial to the idea behind Spirit Link. I’ve talked about it recently wondering where it is. Before that I lamented its absence as the one that got away. Today I’d like to take a different approach to this enigma.

Tuesday I reported about the Cataclysm beta and how things looked so far. In that post I quoted the devs with their answers to many questions, including the state of Spirit Link. Their answer was not one I was all to keen on. Back on the 13th of July I appeared on the podcast Raid Warning with their Shaman Roundtable. I had the opportunity to talk with some amazing members of the shaman community and share ideas. While we were talking a fantastic point was made. Shaman are in need of an external cooldown.

Sure it seems like we have it all. Fame, power, sweet shoveltusk-ghost-shoulders, but the truth is we still have some holes in our healing arsenal that need to be addressed. Let me specify that a defensive cooldown is not an “OH SHIT!” ability like Nature’s Swiftness. I’m talking about cooldowns that are used in anticipation of something bad happening instead of reactionary (with a couple exceptions).

Let us compare to other healers.

Priests

Pain Suppression – Lets face it, this spell has come in handy on more boss fights than you would normally consider. Every 3 minutes Discipline priests can reduce the incoming damage on a target by 40% for 8 seconds. That is a large number, and while 8 seconds might not seem like a lot of time, 8 seconds can wind up being just enough to mitigate a boss mob’s large nasty spell or ability. If you Glyph it, you can even cast it while your stunned!  This is a great raid leading ( or heal leading) shot gun, and honestly has saved our rears quite a few times.

Guardian Spirit – Holy priests are not left without a big cooldown. Like pain suppression, this spell is on a 3 minute cooldown and increases healing received on the target by 40%. If the person dies while guardian spirit is active, the spirit will instead be consumed and the person will be healed immediately for 50% of their maximum health. It lasts for 10 seconds on the target and with the Glyph, if it lasts the entire 10 seconds without being consumed your cooldown gets reset to 1 minute. As a healing lead I love abusing this talent. It is a net, a nice cushion-esque net. You can set it on a tank and if you got OOM or have to move and cant push healing, it buys you time. Minimizing risk and compensation for “oops” is part of every raid leaders job, and cooldowns like this can help a ton.

Druids

Tranquility – 8 minute cooldown for a massive area of effect heal. There have been plenty of fights where this has come in handy, and rotations have been set up between multiple druids. Tranquility is another “buys you time” spell. It heals everyone around the druid for a sizeable chunk of health every 2 seconds for 8 seconds, but those 4 pulses of healing can spell defeat or victory as it allows you to help mitigate massive AoE damage and buys healers time to shift gears and compensate. It is often used when you expect massive amounts of raid wide damage.

Rebirth – This spell carries a 10 minute cooldown and a material component in order to cast it, but in this case the effect is greater than the cost by leaps and bounds. Rebirth brings a player who has died back to life with about 6k health and almost 5k mana. Doesn’t sound like a whole lot right? Well if you didn’t know, it is the only resurrection spell that can be cast while in combat. This is huge! Sometimes, things go bad and there is nothing you can do to stop it. A DPS ganks aggro and splats before you can heal them, but you need them alive in order to make the enrage timer. If you have a druid handy this is not an issue, they can bring that person back up and help complete the task at hand. If the druid is using the Glyph, it returns the target of the res with FULL health. This is an amazing cooldown to be able to call on in those particularly awful fights. While this one is a reactionary ability, I think it still fits in with the “defensive” cooldown abilities so I’ve made an exception and included it in the list.

Paladins

Hand of Sacrifice – 2 minute cooldown and it transfers 30% of the damage taken on the target to the paladin for 12 seconds or until the paladin takes damage equal to their total health. The paladin can still use their bubble while using hand of sac in order to mitigate the damage they are receiving and it can be very strategically used to bleed off normally lethal damage on the tank. Divine Sacrifice is an area affect version of this spell that redirects 30% of all damage within 30 yards to the paladin for a maximum of 40% of the paladin’s health times the number of party members.

Hand of Protection – 5 minute cooldown but it makes the target completely from physical attacks for 10 seconds. This can be a great way to drop physical debuffs or just to protect someone from getting 1-shot. This was very useful in Trial of the Crusader.

Shaman

I’m having a hard time thinking of anything I can consider a preemptive defensive cooldown. Hero-Lust is an offensive ability as is both of our elementals. Everything else we have that has a cooldown is reactionary (Nature’s Swiftness). I can’t count Reincarnation in this either as while it is nice to be able to resurrect yourself, finding the timing to do so with all the environmental effects and boss abilities are going off, as well as not being able to rez yourself at, you still only rez with a maximum of 40% of your health. With no buffs it is very easy just to splat again. In a large raid where there is a group of healers to pull abilities from this isn’t such a big thing. But when you start talking about smaller raids it is at that point it starts to become an issue.

Now with Cataclysm on the horizon a few things are happening that make this an issue that needs to be addressed. First of all, raid sizes will be smaller. Now I don’t mean blizzard is taking away 25 man raiding, but they are evening out gear distribution and content to be consistent from 10 man to 25 man. The only difference will be how much of the loot drops from 10 man compared to 25 man. My prediction is that this will cause a lot more 10 man raiding groups to pop up. While the game has come a long way from 40 man raids, organizing 25 man raids can be just as stressful.  The ability to gain the same gear from 10 mans that you do from 25 mans removes some of the incentive to actually run 25 man raids. The facts is, organizing 10 people is easier than 25.

Healing is being tuned to be quite a bit harder both on the healer themselves in terms of mana management but also for groups in terms of damage output. Having had first hand experience in the new 5 mans in cataclysm I can tell you healing has become much more difficult. There were several times where I wish I had something I could toss up on a group member so I could keep healing the tank without having to choose which of the two would die (and there were several instances in which someone WILL die), or a few occasions where a tank was getting pummeled hard and could have used something to either help mitigate the damage or use as a life line.

It is in these smaller groups (5 and 10 man content) that our distinct lack of an external cool down to help those around us mitigate damage or act as prevention really is highlighted. This means in smaller group compositions another healer type may wind up being preferable. Keep in mind that in current content external cooldowns have been used to help tanks and raids quite a bit. Examples include but are not limited to; Vezaxx with pain Suppression and Guradrian Spirit were big deals and on hard mode you almost had to have them available. Ormokk the Impailer was cake with a paladin with Hand of Prot and bubbles, and Tranquility owns the air phase on Blood Queen. These are just a few examples

The Fix

The first thing that comes to mind is that we honestly need an external cooldown. The concept of Spirit Link could very easily fill that gap. Now there is a concern that players would use it to kill other players and exactly how the mechanic would work, but there are a couple ways this could be balanced.

You can certainly make it analogous to Divine Sacrifice. Traditionally and lore wise, shaman have always been the protectors of their people both in health and physical defense. Calling upon the powerful spirits and ancestors to guide them, making offerings to produce better hunts or harvests. The idea of a AoE Spirit Link on a long cooldown could be quite nice.

Spirit Link: Instant cast 3 minute 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 could see something like that couldn’t you? Could also be handy if say it could also be affected by Ancestral Resolve, we could get that much more out of it. It also stays true to the original thought and feeling behind the spell.

Maybe make it like a healing Misdiretion, where it will still be on a long cool down but maybe transfers a portion of the damage off of x number of swings or impose a time limit. maybe something like:

Spirit Link: Instant cast 3-5 minute cooldown

The current party or raid member targeted will receive 30% of the damage dealt to a secondary target for the next 10 seconds. Any effect that reduces the targets health below 50% will cancel the effect.

These aren’t perfect but it is an idea at least. It really is the only tool we are missing. A long defensive cooldown. The other classes all have their cookies and flavors for this, and with groups potentially thinning down, and with healing being changed as it is, it is personally something I think the class needs. Just… call it Spirit Link to humor me is all I ask! Once we have that I think our healing tool-set will be complete, and then we will truly be princes of the universe! (bet you were wondering why I linked a Queen song up at the top ;])

So what do you think? Do you think shaman need that defensive cooldown? What would you make it? would you change any of our spells to fill the gap?

That is it for this week folks. Happy Healing!

Less is More?

Less is More?

As some of you may or may not know, I am actually trained in the skills of an architect. It’s a fun fact about me on the off chance you care about that sort of thing. The reason I bring this up is because all throughout my college career, my teachers attempted to drive home the point that “Less is More”. This is not a new design concept by any means, in fact it is a rather old idea, a 19th century proverbial phrase. It is first found in print in Andrea del Sarto, 1855, a poem by Robert Browning:

Who strive – you don’t know how the others strive
To paint a little thing like that you smeared
Carelessly passing with your robes afloat,-
Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,
(I know his name, no matter) – so much less!
Well, less is more, Lucrezia.

Architect Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe is often associated with this phrase as a founder  of modern architecture and proponent of simplicity of style.

So I’m sure you’re asking why I’m dragging architecture into your dragon game right now yes? Well, quite simply the idea of less is more is a design concept that many game companies have embraced. To do more with less decreases production time, allows for a better shake down of bugs and glitches, and can free up a developer to create some very innovative game play.  One need not look much further than Braid or The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom to see what I mean here.

Blizzard it would seem has just begun to adapt to this way of thinking, at least it appears that way. You can see this in the latest build of the Cataclysm Beta. The new 31-point talent system has streamlined the talent trees by removing  bloat and overused space. What we are left with is a cleaner, albeit smaller, talent tree. A lot of the talents cut away were instead folded into the players choice in specialization, for example Earth Shield was removed as a talent and given as a core spell when a player chooses to specialize in Restoration. This design model is an attempt to do more with less. Less wasted talent space will lead to more interesting talents in the tree, as well more interesting game play for players… in theory anyways. I wrote up a more detailed breakdown of these changes on WoW.com so feel free to check it out. This is my more personal thoughts on these changes, and well… I just felt the need to keep talking about them some.

While it is still in an early beta phase, I can’t help but feel… disrupted a little bit. While I agree that some of the talents should have been moved, I’m not entirely feeling good about what was pulled out and what was put in. I agree that for restoration, Earth Shield should have been removed as a talent and made into a base spell. You will never hear me complain about that. Every resto shaman I know takes that talent, and in truth it is a very core, very iconic spell that is part of the identity of a resto shaman. If you are a restoration shaman without Earth Shield… well I just don’t even know. I am curious though as to why Mana Tide Totem was left in place though. Like ES it is a very core shaman talent and again something most if not all resto shaman take. Why not remove it as a talent and give it as a bonus for choosing the restoration specialization? That could further open up the tree and allow more space for more fun talents. From a design perspective it would make more sense to make it a base ability or a specialization bonus and open the slot for something else… maybe something like Spirit Link!

Another thing that confused me was some of the additions, Spark of Life to be exact. One of the things that Blizzard stated was that they wanted to move away from/remove talents that added passive % bonuses. Don’t get me wrong, I like the talent. Buffing the healing done to yourself has been near godly in the beta (*ahem* restoiz4tanking!) and it makes the passive heal from Healing Stream Totem nice for longevity, but I am still surprised to see it included. It does go well with Ancestral Resolve as far as that whole staying alive thing goes as well. I fully plan on using these for tanking as a healer!

Telluric Currents would be nice for leveling… if it was lower in the tree. I can’t see taking it as a dedicated healer in end game, as it is rare that I have to DPS at all and even then it is usually a flame shock followed by more healing and then a lava burst. It could be useful for soloing… maybe.

We lost a lot however. A lot of our supercharged healing is gone, and we are dreadfully low on passive crit. Some additions to the tree give us back some of the bonus healing, but no where near where it was. I understand that they want to make healing harder and more thoughtful and I am pro difficulty on that, but a shaman’s best procs all come from crit. Passively we can push 40% in a raid without trying, this helps with heals from Ancestral Awakening and helps trigger Blessing of the Eternals sure. It also is necessary for shaman mana regeneration. Improved Water Shield procs off of critical heals. The more crits you have the more likely you are to regen mana and be able to keep casting. I don’t know if you remember but there was a time not so long ago that shaman were having longevity issues. IWS was implemented to compensate for that, but by removing the passive crit, it hurts our regeneration rates. Meditation is supposed to allow for further regeneration, but the question remains if it will wind up being enough.

Along those same lines, Tidal Force is out. I really really miss this spell. It has become second nature in to pop this spell and its absence is keenly felt. When I’m healing on live I usually have a rhythm going. Like say for Valithria;

Riptide > Healing Wave > Healing Wave > Chain Heal > Tidal Force > Healing Wave > Healing Wave etc. Refreshing Riptide when off cooldown.

Now it has become

Riptide > Healing Wave > Healing Wave > Chain Heal > Look for Tidal Force *DAMNIT* Unleashed Weapon > Healing Wave > Healing Wave etc.

Throws me off quite a bit. Still getting used to it. I can see what they are doing by trimming the trees and I approve. While I may not be a staunch minimalist, I know when things have gotten bloated. The restoration tree on live definitely is bloated, and the one on the current beta could use some more pruning .

So Blizzard, keep in mind that less is more. Players have been doing creative things with very little for a while now. Just make what we have better defined and maybe move a few more things around. We don’t necessarily need a rolls-royce (although it would not be turned down!) we just need things that function well. We’ve been trotting along pretty much unchanged for a good bit, just make sure you don’t break us ok?

So what do you guys think of the changes so far? Anything you noticed you love? Hate? Anything you think they should add in?


State of Chain Heal 2:”Hail to The King, Baby!”

State of Chain Heal 2:”Hail to The King, Baby!”

ash2es_phixr

Alright you Primitive Screwheads, listen up! You see this? This… is my boomstick! The twelve-gauge double-barreled Remington. S-Mart’s top of the line. You can find this in the sporting goods department. That’s right, this sweet baby was made in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Retails for about a hundred and nine, ninety five. It’s got a walnut stock, cobalt blue steel, and a hair trigger. That’s right. Shop smart. Shop S-Mart. You got that?

I simply can’t resist making Army of Darkness references, especially with all the WoW movie talk  and everything circling Sam Rami. This also mirrors a conversation I had with a guildie the other night on the current state of Restoration Shamans and where we are after this most recent patch. For some reason it always makes me think of Army of Darkness and Bruce Campbell, each time I chain heal I feel the urge to yell “THIS. IS. MY. CHAIN HEAL!”

Patch 3.2 brought with it not only a new instance in the coliseum, but a slew of Restoration Shaman changes that helped bring our healing up a little bit. Back in May I responded to a very lengthy thread with my own thoughts on chain heal, and in truth shaman healing as a whole. A lot of people thought we were broken in a bad way and were QQing about how it was time to re-roll. I stood up for us and said, yes we need tweaking but we aren’t broken. Patch 3.2 brought us that tweaking. In 3.0 and in 3.1 Shaman were given a slew of other spells to round out our healing and move us further away from the Haste / MP5 Chain heal spamming model of the Sunwell days. Blizzard did an amazing job doing that… but swung a little too far and inadvertently took Chain Heal down a few pegs to the point that we were having a very difficult time keeping up with AE damage in hard modes. Many Shaman were getting passed over to bring in other healers, that was bad news and quite frankly made me a sad Shaman. Then the man himself Ghost Crawler chimed in and said that changes were coming but they had to ride the knifes edge to not over power Chain Heal and make it the only spell we cast. Congratulations sir I dare say you guys did a fine job!

Lets take a look at what made the cut, First let’s look at Chain Heal.

Chain Heal: First of all, the Range between target was increased. 12.5 yards between targets is pretty good. It’s better when you consider that this is a smart heal and directs itself to a healing priority list and makes sure those who need it get it. This gets even better when you add in the Glyph of Chain Heal which lets it hit another target for a grand total of Four at a time! Now add in the change that between jumps the amount healed only is reduced by 40% (down from 50%) and you have yourself one sexy heal again.

But wait, there’s more!

Chain Heal was made very attractive again, but there were some other changes that compliment this as well.

Improved Water Shield: Not only does this give mana back on crit heals from LHW, HW and Riptide, but now it includes Chain Heal! The other good thing about this, is when you gain the effect, it doesn’t burn an orb. This is great news because that means it’s one less GCD you have to burn, which means that much more healing. This helps fix a lot of shaman mana problems, and ensures we can hang with paladins and disc priests for that near infinite mana.

Tidal Force: Another change that included chain heal. This now gives, HW, LHW and Chain Heal 60% additional critical strike rating. This also goes well with the next change

Nature’s Swiftness: The major change here is the Cool down. It’s been reduced to 2 minutes down from 3. This is huge in fights where you’ll need a fast chain heal or a fast healing wave more often (Hodir comes to mind). Having this available 1-2 more times a fight is a big boon to us.

Tidal Waves: Again this was changed to give a different bonus to LHW. When you cast riptide or chain heal, this bad boy procs. Before it gave a haste rating to LHW, now it gives it an additional 25% crit chance. That again is pretty huge considering everything we have that procs off of critical healing.

Healing Way:  This change was bigger then a lot of people I believe have noticed. Prior to the patch it placed a buff on your target that increased healing from Healing Wave. No other target benefited from it except for the one with the buff. This made the spell primarily a nuking tank heal spell. Now however it adds a flat increase to the healing output of the spell. A 25% bonus is nothing to scoff at. This allows you to work it into your spell rotation and make sure everyone you hit with it gets the added bonus of the talent

Ancestral Healing: This used to add armor. Now it adds a 10% physical damage reduction on any person you critically heal. This procs off of every crit, including Earth Shield crit heals. Look at the other above changes. The increased crit rate, the talents that add crit and make your heals faster combined with this? You could be rolling that 10% reduction over almost the entire raid with some smartly placed chain heals and liberal use of your talents. This is huge because it helps take environmental damage and even it out for the rest of the healers. This means less mana consumed trying to catch up and top people off and overall greater raid survivability.

Putting it all together, you get a rather complex and complete toolkit with which to heal your raid. We solidify our position as one of the games best swing healers, we can put out some very very good AE healing, or can spot heal on the fly. We can take over tank healing duties, or simply roll between them all. The changes to the spells make sure we are competitive in hard mode raids, but aren’t limited to casting a single spell over and over again. Personally I think the devs did a great job with us this patch. I feel they did a great job balancing Chain Heal out while not letting it overshadow all the other spells we have at our disposal. The synergy our class has always enjoyed is still there. Personally I’ve seen somewhere between a 350-450 hps increase in throughput, which puts us on par with the other healers, I’ve been able to keep up better with area effect damage and have been able to nuke heal a tank as needed. Healing is still challenging and fun, but I don’t feel underwhelmed by the shaman’s ability to keep up.

How about you? How has your healing been since the patch? Do you think they did a good job with the changes? What would you change, add or remove that the devs didn’t? Do you feel confident to head into a hard mode encounter and give it your all?

That’s it for today, Until next time Happy Healing

Sig

Image courtesy of Universal Studios

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The Zen of Healing

The Zen of Healing

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Zen (noun): school of Mahayana Buddhism asserting that enlightenment can come through meditation and intuition rather than faith; China and Japan.

So, how does this pertain to healing in WoW you ask? At it’s base level, meditation is a tool that is used to make the mind and body whole, to realign a persons energy through focus and insight. It is also the realization of an inherent natural wisdom and virtue that fills us all. The most basic function of a healer in WoW is to mend the raid and make the raid unit whole again. Is this far out there? Probably but bear with me a bit. We heal our raid through focus and intuition. We predict incoming damage and set heals and preventative measures accordingly. We trust our intuition, and apply logic to make our healing target decisions rather then trust blindly that our heals will find their mark. We do so through intimate knowledge of our classes and the raiders around us. It’s like hitting the “zone” that athletes talk about. You become centered, super focused and just make amazing saves and pull out all the stops without even realizing you are doing it.

I’m sure you’ve done it before. You’ve been in a fight where afterward someone comments “I have no clue how you healed through that!” and you have to stop and think back on it, because you don’t remember doing anything special, you just did it.

I’ve always referred to healing in WoW as a very fluid thing, it is very natural and adaptive in nature.  It’s something that if you are a healer, it just flows from you without much thought. For me the true zen of healing comes out during my guild’s heroic raids. A couple nights ago we were doing General Vezax (working on our second kill on him at the time).  I had assigned three healers on the main tank, a Resto Druid, Holy Pally and Disc Priest. Vent was quiet as dps wait for the call to burn down a vapor and interrupters were waiting for the flame spheres to pop up around Vezax. Early into the fight our Paladin MT healer get’s hit with a shadow crash and then very shortly there after an interrupt is missed due to a lag spike and a Searing Flames goes out. The Paladin dies as a result. Without saying anything I see our second Holy Paladin shift his position and take over tank healing, while the rest of the healers move to fill the healing gap throughout the raid. Later on in the encounter our Vapors wound up in the back of the room, I watched as the healers rotated on their own, without any direction. Healers got their mana back and then relieved the tank healers so they could regen then the tank healers took back over. I watched my healers work as one unit, without any spoken or written words passing between them. That to me was a moment of zen similar to the story of the Flower Sermon. Everyone used logic and intuition to work as one cohesive body and win the fight without a word even having to be spoken.

I’ve had other people tell me about how they get into “the zone”. Some have pre-raid rituals, and yes I mean rituals. I have a friend who before a raid sits down on the floor takes some deep breathes and tries to release any stress he’s gathered during the day before the raid through meditation. I have another friend who drinks a can of coke, eats a bag of Andy Cap Hotfries or hot-wings and then sits down to raid, he compares this to say sacrificing a chicken to the raiding gods. Another of my associates listens to classical music while he’s healing, keeping it just low enough to replace the game music but still hear directions in vent. Me before a raid I listen to some music like  John Williams and the Indiana Jones theme to get myself in adventure hero mode.

So what about you? Have you experienced a moment like we did with Vezax? Do you have a pre-raid ritual to get you into your zone? Have you hit your Zen through healing yet?

That is it for today, until next time. Happy Healing!

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Restoration Shaman – Best in Slot 3.1

Restoration Shaman – Best in Slot 3.1

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Once again we find ourselves with new content and as a result new upgrades. Our tier sets await us as well as many more foes that must be conquered. That means it’s time for another best in slot post for my fellow raiding restoration shamans. Before we get started I would like to say just a couple things.

  • First, this is my opinion. Use this as a guide or not at all, but this is based on my value of the stats we use.
  • Second, please feel free to make your own list or suggestions, after all it is your character and you should equip it as you see fit.

Head: [Steamworker’s Goggles] – Flame Leviathan 25: Good MP5 and great stats

Neck: [Charm of Meticulous Timing] – XT-002 25 (hard mode) this is a tough one to get, and so you might not get a chance at it for a while. In the meantime a good alternative is [Frozen Tear of Elune] which will run you 19x Emblem of Conquest.

Shoulders: There are two options here, first is [Conqueror’s Worldbreaker Spaulders] – Yogg Sarron 25. Haste, good mp5 and a red socket. Second runner up is [Amice of the Stoic Watch] - Auriaya 25. Crit instead of haste, decent mp5 and a red socket.

Back: [Shroud of Alteration] – Ulduar Trash 25

Chest: [Conqueror’s Worldbreaker Tunic] Hodir 25 or 58 Emblems of Conquest

Wrist: Again two options here, First is [Binding of Winter Gale] Hodir 25 (hard) or if you aren’t quite there yet, [Armbraces of the Vibrant Flame] from Ignis 10. These are BoE so you might be able to find them on the auction house as well.

Hands: [Conqueror’s Worldbreaker Handguards] Mimron 25

Waist: I’m going to give this to [Windchill Binding] This will cost you 28 Emblems and it’s a great upgrade from the Naxx 25 loot. If you want more crit you can go with [Blue Belt of Chaos] but I’m finding the price rather inflated to have it crafted right now.

Legs: [Conqueror’s Worldbreaker Legguards] Freya 25

Boots: [Boots of the Forgotten Depths] General Vezax 25 Good MP5 and haste.

Rings: There are a lot of options here, I’m going to give my top 4 choices though to [Pyrelight Circle] – Ignis 25. [Sanity’s Bond] – Yogg 25. [Ring of the Faithful Servant] – Auriaya 25 and [Signet of Manifested Pain] – KT 25

Trinket: Again a lot of options my top picks are [Scale of Fates] – Thorim 25. [Living Ice Crystals] – Malygos 25. [Energy Siphon] – Flame Leviathan 10.  [Pandora’s Plea] – Mimron 25,    [Je’Tze’s Bell] – BoE World Drop. I’m normally not a fan of on use trinkets, I prefer ones that give passive buffs most times, but Energy Siphon and Living Ice Crystal’s passive mp5 make them worth picking up alone. The on use effect of each is icing on the cake.

Off Hand: Two solid choices here, First is [Ice Layered Barrier] – Hodir 25 (hard) or [Pulsing Spellshield] – XT-002 10. Both have good stat allocation (and it helps they look cool!)

Relic: [Steamcaller’s Totem] – Flame Leviathan 25 or [Totem of Forest Growth] – 15x badges of heroism.

Main Hand: I saved this for last. First weapon that should be on EVERY healer’s list of wants is [Val’anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings], Amazing mace with good stats. The proc as we’ve seen from the blue posts is crazy good. This will be at the top of everyone’s list. Second to this mace I vote [Guiding Star] – Razorscale 25, for best in slot runner up.

Looking at this I’m sure you will see it’s got a decent mix of MP5, haste and crit, while maintaining good intellect for replenishment and good spellpower. Some of the choices seem predictable, such as the tier 8.5 set pieces. The four pieces I selected I feel offer the most bang for the buck and allow you to gather the four piece bonus, which is worth it’s weight in gold.

If you’re looking to place value on items and stats, and figure out what weight works for you, you can use Shaman_hep, an addon from Stassart which allows you to calculate a miryiad of information from your combat logs to help lend a hand figuring out what’s best for you.

So now you’ve seen my list, What do you think are the best in slot items for Restoration Shaman?

Until next time, Happy healing

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Image courtesy of UToronto.ca

On Dual Specs and the Tournament

On Dual Specs and the Tournament

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Well, we’ve had a little bit less then a week to get settled into our new found patch. Many things have changed. New talents tree organization for many of the classes, talents and key abilities changed or tweeked and a beautiful new instance dropped at our doorstep. One of the most anticipated changes in the patch was Dual Spec. Dual spec allows for you to change your talents on the fly (as long as you aren’t in combat) at the cost of all your mana and a small GCD effect. So the question is, what should you do with your dual spec?

Here’s what I did with Lodur.

For those of you just tuning in, Lodur is restoration for good, I have no aspirations to take her in any other direction. Here’s my current restoration build

0/16/55

According to talent chic it’s the second most popular build ( I took Healing Way over pushback resistance) I’ll likely stay that way with maybe a minor shift in talents as tier 8 gear comes in. Now after dropping my 1k gold on the dual spec ability, I had to decide what it was I was going to do with Lodur. I could pick up a melting face elemental spec, or a second restoration spec geared towards PvP. Enhancement was not an attractive option for me since weapon itemization in the end game has been lacking somewhat (fast weapons ftl). Well, I went with elemental because currently Lodur is sans arena team. Here’s what I went with for talents.

57/14/0

Pretty cookie cutter spec, but it gets the dailies done. I found this useful on fights like loatheb where too many healers equal too much overheal, I was able to pop into elemental and just toss out some lightning bolts.

When I find myself a solid arena team (lfg arena pst) I’ll switch over to a pvp restoration spec, something like this

0/11/60

I’ll likely play with it after I get into a team and learn what holes need to be plugged, but that’s the plan.

This is an amazing tool blizzard has given us for raiding. It’s very nice to have a tank who can switch to dps when he does not have to tank anything, or have a hybrid class hop over into healing if things get too rough. It provides an amount of flexibility to the raid leader to fill in gaps or change strategies without having to wait for someone to go respec, summon back, re-glyph etc.

One of the other additions to the game was the Argent Tournament. Wowinsider has been doing a great job keeping up with the dailies Over on WI.com so feel free to check them out for more information.

The tournament feels to me very much like the Sunwell dailies. It’s placed at the far north of the map and has npc’s from all factions. It’s colorful and aesthetically pleasing and has a unique feel. It’s a tight cluster of dailies, that send you to a small selection of area in Northrend to accomplish the tasks set before you. You earn marks that you turn in to gain ranks in the knightly order, aspirant to valor all the way up to champion. It’s nice honestly. You joust, you gather items to build the tournament area, and you search for a lovely maiden’s favor. I’m very impressed with the quest line surrounding the Black Knight. It’s an interesting story so far and I can’t wait to see what else lies in store for it. I’ve just completed  The Black Knight’s Orders, but I’m still working on my next rank of knight. I enjoy this addition to the game quite a bit. Dailies that combine running things down with lances is always good in my book.

So how are you spending your dual spec? What do you think of the new tournament?

That’s it for today’s post,
Till Next time, happy healing

~Lodur

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Image courtesy of Paramount

Shamans and Paladins mana buff get hit! (With edit)

Shamans and Paladins mana buff get hit! (With edit)

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I just got off of lunch here at the office and happen to see this in my blue tracker.

Click here to see!

For those of you who can’t read it at work or school here it is copied for you

From Eyonix:

We are making a change to these spells so that their benefits are exclusive in patch 3.1.0. The buffs will be equivalent, but will no longer stack. Mana Spring will affect the entire raid instead of just the shaman’s party. We felt that both paladins and shamans brought too many unique buffs to a group. Additionally, we have been trying to tone down mana regeneration in large groups, and were concerned raids would feel the need to stack paladins or especially shaman to have enough Mana Spring totems. We have also been trying to get more benefits out of the party and into the raid, and Mana Spring previously was still a party only buff. With this change, if there is only one paladin, he or she can bring Blessing of Kings while the shaman offers Mana Spring. If there are two paladins and the second offers Blessing of Wisdom, then the shaman can offer healing or cleansing with their water totem instead.

What does this mean? It means you can’t have both. They are essentially removing another source of mana regeneration from raids.  As you can imagine there is a large outcry among both Shamans and Paladins. From the shaman stand point I’m a little upset to be honest, I’m also waiting for the other shoe to drop. The comment about Shamans bringing too many unique buffs to the raid made me scoff a bit. Strength of Earth totem which combines STR and AGI buffs gets overridden by a Death Knights horn of winter, often times leading to that being used for Stone Skin which is negligible benefit to the raid at best. Flame Tongue totem gets over ridden by Demonic Pact if you have a demo warlock in the group, and the other flame choices are Frost Resist or doing dps. Which if you’re healing, you arent in range for that most of the time anyways, and taking the time to stop healing run in and drop a magma totem is normally not a good idea. You guys see where I’m going with this.

Here were some suggestions of what we can do with the slot instead, and ultimately what our totems can add to a raid.

Healing Stream Totem. It’s group only, and still has to be in range. If you’re healing, more then likely you’re going to be with the casters in the back, not taking damage. While it does have places where it can be nice, it’s largely wasted in my opinion.

Cleansing Totem. Great for fights where you need to purge Diseases and Poison, but wasted and useless any other time. With curses being more prevalent then Disease and Poison that’s another totem we’ll see situational use out of.

Wrath of Air. Yes we still offer 5% spell haste. Yes that is good, but it is also redundant. Currently two other classes also offer haste. Retribution Paladins and Balance Druids.

Blizzard is trying to simplify raids, and I can appreciate what they are trying to do… to a point. A Lot of people think they are trying to make fights harder by nerfing mana regeneration, posts like this just add weight to that argument.  Homogenize every class, and then what do you have left? I posted in my last post that one of the best things about playing a Shaman was the uniqueness of our class, and totems were right up there in that list. Slowly it seems like it’s being whittled away. Streamline don’t make obsolete!

Redundancy is good in a raid, but at what cost?

I’ll update this as time permits today and as updates are brought to my attention.

What are your thoughts?

*EDIT*

Ok, so now that my initial shock has worn off and I’ve had my cup of coffee and a chance to sit and think about it in more depth, I’m not overly concerned any longer, in fact I’m quite ok with it now. This is just another in the series of small tweaks to get everything on a level playing field. The impact to the raid shouldn’t be that big, if anything more raids will see a boost from this then any sort of detrimental outcome.

I think my biggest reaction was just it seemed like a change out of left field, I don’t think anyone saw that coming. I am curious however as to what else will change in the coming weeks. Shamans have their Heroism / Bloodlust shifted slightly to keep it as a “Shotgun” buff and now the Mana Spring totem has been adjusted just a little bit. Lets see what else they tweak.