Being the Shaman Behind the Meat Shield

Being the Shaman Behind the Meat Shield

meat

Back on the 13th, Mera asked a question that I felt deserved a post to fully answer it.

“Can shamans make good MT or OT healers, as in to the same standard of other healing classes?”

I provided a short answer of yes on the 13th, but I’m going to try to flesh it out a bit more here.

Shaman have been given a lot of tools when Patch 3.0 was brought live. These tools allow us to be competitive with other healers in single target healing. Really we can break this down into a few sections – Spec (talents), Glyphs and Strategy.

Spec/Talents:

There are three very popular specs out there right now:

  • 0/16/55 This has been referred to as the cookie cutter spec.
  • 0/14/57 This spec. This spec moves points out of Elemental weapons to buff ancestral healing.
  • 0/14/57 A build which takes a few points out of Thundering Strikes in order to have a maxed Healing Way and Ancestral Healing while forsaking Improved Water Shield.

Each has different strengths they bring to the healing fight so to speak so lets take a quick peak at some of the choice talents.

Let’s take a look at the talents we pick up in enhancement first.

Thundering Strikes: This talent is five points of wonderful. It boosts your crit by a solid 5%. This is great because when you are on a Tank there can often times be spikes in damage. Having a higher crit ensures a better chance of being able to top off the tank with one healing wave instead of two or three.

Improved Shields:  This talent increases the bang for the buck you get out of your Earth Shield. That 15% counts for a lot in the long run, and your tank will thank you for picking it up.

Elemental Weapons: More spell power is always good.  This gives you an additional 45 spell power, no reason not to take it.

Now, those are very straight forward. One can argue the same about the next set but I’ll highlight the talents in the restoration tree that, in my opinion are great main tank healer abilities, or have been updated recently and can fill that role.

Healing Way: I’ll start with Healing Way, which is second only to Earth Shield in my book when one thinks of Shaman healing a tank.  This talent recently underwent a change that make it a very useful talent once again. The full affect of the talent is applied when you use the spell once. This means that you no longer have to spam the ability 3 times to get it rolling. Front loading the effect means that you can toss a Healing Wave on the tank, and then burn another 15 seconds worth of spells and Global Cool Downs until the ability expires. Tossing another healing wave on the tank will immediately receive an 18% boost and keeping this in mind it’s very very easy to net 20k crit heals and higher. I personally feel this is a must for shaman doing tank healing.

Earth Shield / Improved Earth Shield: These are pretty self explanatory. Earth Shield is a bread and butter talent. For as long as we’ve had it, we’ve been using it and rightly so. You toss this up on the main tank and it can help to create a very nice reactive buffer for health loss. This talent also underwent a fix recently. Previously the chance for the shield to crit heal was based on the person you put it on. Meaning a fire mage was more likely to get crit heals then a prot warrior. They’ve fixed it now so that it has a chance to crit based on your crit at the time of casting. Looking at your talents you have 14% built in before gear and INT are calculated. This just helps improve something that was already golden.

Ancestral Awakening: A lot of people don’t like this talent, but I personally love it. Taking a look at it, Ancestral Awakening really fits well with a main tank shaman healer. It procs off of Lesser Healing Wave, Healing Wave and Riptide. If you are on a tank, you’re going to be using a lot more Healing Wave then you usually do, and as a result this will proc more often. It heals for 30% of the amount healed. Lets say it procs off of a nice Healing Wave crit for 20,000 hp. The talent (like beacon of light) only spreads around the part that’s effective healing. Lets say 10,000hp of that heal is actually healing. That’s still a 3k heal that lands on someone who needs it.

Tidal Force: Again, pretty self explanatory. Having something that boosts your crit for Healing Wave is always a good thing

Tidal Waves: This talent is also very nice. It procs off Chain Heal and Riptide. We can assume that you’ll be using Riptide pretty liberally as it’s an instant cast hot with a flash heal at the front (so yes you should be using it if you’re not), and so this should be up all the time. It reduces the casting time of your Healing Wave spells by 30%. That extra little bit of haste helps to deliver your big heal faster.

Glyphs:

For Glyphs it might be a bit hard to choose for tank healing duty but we do have some good ones to choose from.

  • Glyph of Water Mastery: More mana! I hope I never hear anyone complain about more mana =D
  • Glyph of Mana Tide Totem: Again more mana, in this case taking full advantage of all the INT you have.
  • Glyph of Healing Wave: This takes advantage of your Healing Wave casts by returning 20% of the effective healing done, ignoring overheal amounts. Great glyph for AoE bosses and fights where you might not be able to heal yourself.
  • Glyph of Lesser Healing Wave: Less mana to cast, and faster then it’s big brother, this glyph lets LHW strike an Earth Shielded target for a respectable amount on par with non crit Healing Waves.
  • Glyph of Earthliving: This helps make sure you have a HoT up as much as possible. 5% more Earthliving procs can help cushion your healing a bit.
  • Glyph of Chain Heal: Even though you’re going to be casting more heals then Chain Heal, it still remains our most efficient heal. Casting it in between Healing Waves can help keep Tidal Waves up, and if you happen to catch any low melee in the process, so much the better.

Pick glyphs that help fill in gaps in what you need. If you need more mana, two glyphs will go along way to help that. If you find yourself taking damage and not being able to peel away from the tank, there is a glyph that help you keep standing long into the fight. Now these are just the Resto ones, I’ve heard people using ones to finagle more crit and such.  Take a look Here and find ones that work for you.

Strategy

Lets face it, loling around and chain healing a raid isn’t rocket science. Using our tools to their full potential while raid healing take much more finesse. Switching gears from Raid Healing to Tank Healing takes a different mindset. First thing to remember is Resto Shaman don’t really have any preventative measures to help mitigate incoming damage beyond Stoneskin Totem and Strength of Earth Totem to add armor or STR/AGI for mitigation. Our healing is all reactive aside from maybe our two HoTs, and even then we only have full control over one of them. Earth Shield requires the person you put it on to be hit before it goes off. As a result we spend a lot of time overhealing when we’re on a tank in an attempt to keep them topped off. With the amounts of mana regen we usually have, it’s not hard to keep the spells constantly streaming while keeping up on mana. You will also make full use of all your healing spells as a tank healer. Be adaptive to the situation and be ready to move with your tank. With raid healing it’s easy to sit put and plug away but a lot of times with the tank you’ll have to move with them to keep them in healing range or line of sight.

Conclusion

With all this in mind my answer to the question is Yes, I feel that shaman are more then capable Tank Healers, on par with other classes. We have all the tools necessary to fill both roles of the Raid Healer and Tank Healer effectively. There may be fights were a certain type of healer is better for the job (like a Discipline Priest healing the Sartharion Tank on Sarth 3D) but that doesn’t mean it’s the case every time. We can keep up with the Priests, Paladins and Druids in single target healing just fine.

Image courtesy of www.plan59.com

Resto Shaman: Best in Slot

Resto Shaman: Best in Slot

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Lodur here again, this time I’d like to talk a bit about the Restoration Shaman’s Best in Slot items. Syd’s post from the other day got me thinking that it would be good to toss this up for everyone to peruse. For those of you who don’t visit Plusheal often or at all there was a great thread and discussion over there in the shaman section based on the Best in Slot premise. I’d like to thank BeefyBuffalo for starting a great thread there, as well as all the theory crafters who contribute there regularly. This loot selection will most certainly change once Ulduar comes out but this is my best shot at putting it together for the available content. This list also in many places gives alternatives for preference gearing (crit or haste).

Head:

[Valorous Earthshatter Headpiece] (Kel’thuzad-25)

This offers a great set of of stats for us high INT and a good amount of MP5 and Spell Power. It also features Haste over crit as well as having two sockets for gemming.

[Helm of Pilgrimage] (Heigan -25)

This helm has slightly more MP5 then the Earthshatter as well as slightly higher Spell Power, but at the cost of both sockets. In place of haste it features a good chunk of Crit (almost 2%)

Comparable to the two is [Helm of Unleased Energy] (Gothik-25)

Neck:

[Life-Binder's Locket](Malygos key quest) or  [Chains of Adoration] (several boss in Naxx-25)

The Life Binder’s is a better overall piece but you’ll probably see chains before the locket.

Shoulders:

[Valorous Earthshatter Spaulders](Loatheb-25 or 60x Emblems of Valor) or [Council Chamber Epaulets] (Sartharion-25)

Again it’s a crit vs haste itemization here. I put Valorous higher on the list for two reasons. You can get it for badges which makes it easy to obtain and it puts you closer to the full set bonuses.

Back:

[Pennant Cloak](Sartharion-25), or [Cloak of the Dying](Kel’thudzad-10)

For this I personally prefer the Pennant cloak. Good stats and it has both crit and haste. I know it doesn’t have MP5 but it does have a socket which is very nice.

Chest:

[Tunic of the Artifact Guardian](Malygos-25) or [Valorous Earthshatter Tunic](Four Horsemen-25)

Again the Earthshatter tunic is nice if you’re still working towards your 2 piece or 4 piece bonuses but my honest suggestion would be go after the other slots (legs, gloves, shoulders and helm) and try to grab yourself the Artifact Guardian chest. It’s an awesome chest piece with a goodly amount of crit and a nice chunk of spell power. You lose a socket compared to Valorous but what you gain from this chest piece is just too good to pass up in my opinion.

Wrist:

[Bindings of the Decrepit](Heigan-25) or [Cuffs of the Shadow Ascendant](60 x Emblem of Valor) Identical

Pretty straightforward here, same item, two different ways to get it. Simply best bracers you can get.

Hands:

[Winter Spectacle Gloves](Malygos-25) or [Bountiful Gauntlets](Sartharion-25) or [Valorous Earthshatter Handguards] (Sartharion-25)

These are all good options each has great stats and looks pretty slick too. My personal suggestion again though is if you don’t have your set bonuses or are working towards the 4 piece, go for the Valorous

Waist:

[Sash of the Parlor](cloth from Anub’rekhan-25) or [Girdle of the Gambit](Patchwork-25)

While the cloth belt is viable, I personally prefer the Girdle of the Gambit. Toss a belt buckle on it and march that thing around!

Legs:

[Valorous Earthshatter Legguards] (Thaddius-25) or [Legguards of the Undisdurbed] (Noth-25)

Again both are good, but I personally prefer the Valorous leggings.

Feet:

[Sabatons of Firmament](Sartharion) or [Atonement Greaves](Faerlina -25)

Here I prefer the Atonement Greaves. Slightly better stats and a good dose of haste with a bit more MP5. Again though this selection boils down to preference of Crit or Haste.

Finger:

[Signet of Manifested Pain](Kel’thuzad-25) or [Seized Beauty](Faerlina-25) or [Ring of Decaying Beauty] (Sapphiron-25) or [Wyrmrest Band] (Sartharion-25)

This again is largely a matter of choice, these are just the best options available. Personally I prefer a combination of Decaying Beauty and Wyrmrest Band.

Main Hand:

[Torch of Holy Fire] (Kel’thudzad-25) or [Hammer of the Astral Plane](Kel’thudzad-10) or [Wraith Strike](Maexxna-25)

Yeap that’s right, a spell power fist weapon! It’s really a great 1 hander well worth picking up if you see it drop. Baring the fist weapon dropping, holding out for Kel’s Torch isn’t a bad idea. It gives us a ton of stats we love and well… it looks pretty cool too!.

Off-hand:

[Voice of Reason](Kel’thudzad-25) or [Shield of Assimilation] (Anub’rikhan-25)

My preference here is for the Shield of Assimilation. To me the MP5 on it makes it a bit more enticing for a Resto Sham.

Relic:

[Totem of Forest Growth](15 Emblem of Heroism) or [Totem of the Bay] (30 Venture Coins- Grizzly Hills)

Not a lot of choices at 80, but I think Forest Growth should be the first badge item you buy. It’s a cheap and effective item that will carry you well throughout current content.

Trinkets:

[Illustration of the Dragon Soul] (Sartharion-25) or [Je'Tze's Bell] (BoE World Drop) or [Soul of the Dead] (Sapphiron-25) or [Mercurial Alchemist Stone] (Crafted) or [Living Ice Crystals] (Malygos-25)

These represent the crème de le crème of trinkets for us in my opinion. Personally I favor The Bell combined with Crystals. The MP5 Combined with another instant heal makes it a beefed up [Vial of the Sunwell] !

Set Bonuses:

Your Tier 7 bonuses for both 2 piece and 4 piece are extremely nice. 2 Piece nets you Water Shield Boost: your Water Shield is 10% stronger. This means that your passive MP5 from water shield, as well as your mana returned per charge consumed is increased. Lets face it, more mana is never a bad thing right? 4 piece allows for Spirit Link Chain Heal which means the healing done by your Chain Heal and Healing Wave is increased by 5%. That’s most definitely a good thing. I mean, when was more healing ever bad? More mana + more healing output = great set bonus.


Final Thoughts:

Keep in mind that your T7 gear is the equivalent of T4 back in Burning Crusade, so if you don’t get everything on your list don’t panic. There will be upgrades coming in the next content patch besides tier loot, of that I am certain. Also remember these represent my opinions, feel free to create your own wish lists or checklist of items you are looking for.

If you have something on your wish list that you want to share, please feel free!

Till next time, Happy Healing.

~Lodur

Image courtesy of dallasvintageshop.com

Healing Assignments for Resto Druids

Healing Assignments for Resto Druids

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Perhaps more than any other healing class, Wrath of the Lich King has revolutionized the way druids heal. I’m going to take a bit of a look back to where we came from as a way to help understand any troubles druid healers might face at present when we try to figure out what our role in raids should be.

Back in the “Good” Old Days

I came of age as a healer during the BC raid content, and I think part of me will always missing rolling Lifebloom stacks on four different tanks during the Hyjal trash waves. Lifebloom spam may have been widely criticized, but at the time it was effective and felt very dynamic for the player. The timing was tight enough to require tank-specific macros, which I miss, because I could always change their icons to a pig whenever I got mad at them (sorry, Brio). However, when healers argue now that they don’t want to be locked into a rotation, they’re probably thinking of something like old-school LB rolling with horror. That was a rotation, all right–but it left me dizzy. I had to keybind Lifebloom twice–both to my mouse clickwheel and to F. The “F” was for when I needed to refresh while turning with the mouse. At the time, there was no way to increase the 7 sec Lifebloom rotation, and the penalty for letting the stack fall off was fairly severe. I never ran into mana problems, but sometimes the tank would take more damage than I liked if their stack slipped off, and I had few ways to play catch-up. If one tank’s stack went, then most likely all four would.

Even some boss fights made Lifebloom spam worthwhile. On Illidari Council, I used to assign Bonkers to roll LB on three tanks, giving him 1 GCD per cycle free to do “whatever he wanted.” Let me add that the healing buffer Bonkers provided to three of the tanks won the fight for us on more than one occasion. Why did I give the assignment to Bonkers and not myself? Because Bonkers is quicker than me. My assignment, keeping up the group on Malande, was a lot easier. The odd thing is, these kinds of assignments seemed great to Resto Druids at the time–1 GCD free? That’s amazing.

Now that I think about it, the Good Old Days don’t seem so great after all.

Broccoli, v. 3.0

Patch 3.0 brought new tools for the druid healer, offering flexibility where before we had none. However, it strikes me that many Broccoli Stalks might be a little bewildered by all our new toys. And if we’re confused, imagine what it’s like to do healing assignments for a resto druid these days. A few days ago I came across this topic on PlusHeal forums, posted by Siha of Banana Shoulders:

So, I’m the healing lead for my guild, and it usually falls to me to do healing assignments.

I’m having some trouble deciding how best to make use of resto druids. I know in TBC I always used to use them for a multi-tank assignment, keeping a bunch of people hotted up with Lifebloom, but I’m not really on top of all the resto druid changes in WotLK yet.

The talented Siha, as always, gets right to the point with her post. I replied in the topic, but I think that the question has enough merit to warrant a full-length post.

So, what do we do with the newly-versatile druid? After looking at my own performance and those of my Cruciferous Vegetable buddies in Conquest, I am convinced that Resto Druids can be assigned in two different ways for Wrath content. I’m going to showcase a couple of meters-topping druid performances to show just how versatile trees are these days

Raid Healing

This assignment is the most obvious for a resto druid. Wild Growth, due to its higher total healing and it’s status as a heal over time spell, suffered less from the recent nerf than Circle of Healing did. With Rejuvenation, Wild Growth, and perhaps a glyphed Healing Touch in the mix, druids have a powerful toolkit to deal with raid damage.

Let’s take a look at the meter breakdown from an expert druid healer on Gluth, which features heavy raid damage:
s13-meter

Now, the meter % alone might not mean much, but let’s factor in healing assignment. Both S13 and I were assigned to heal the kiters on Gluth, and we have similar gear. Why did he outperform me? Let’s take a look at the abilities breakdown.
s13-breakdown

Take a look at S13’s Healing Touch percentage and the amount it hits for on average. That tells me–even if I didn’t already know–that he’s using the Healing Touch glyph. The fact that he’s able to get so much healing out of a direct healing spell also tells me that S13 is fast. He’s really great at reacting to situations. Notice here that he’s also made a lot of use of Lifebloom–nerfed it maybe, but useless it is not. This WWS report is post-WG nerf, by the way. S13’s performance shows how little a healer has to rely on Wild Growth to be effective (and to post good numbers while doing so). If I were to take a look at S13’s targets, I would see a lot of healing on the 5 kiters, but also a decent amount on other members of the raid. S13 is a great raid healer because he’s able to pay attention to a lot of things at once and to accurately judge when he can go a bit beyond the boundaries of his assignment.

Tank Healing

Yes, I know druids have an AoE heal now. That doesn’t mean that we’re not still good at our old role, healing the main tank. I’ve just shown you the WWS from a druid who excels at raid healing. Now, I’m going to show you my own meter performance. I am a tank healer. That’s what I like, and that’s what I’m good at. I’ve been healing a warrior MT so long that I know how the damage hits and what I can do to fix it. I don’t pretend to be the best at anything, but if I’m in charge of healing assignments, I’m going to stick myself to a tank. It’s not usually very showy on the meters, but I’m going to give you a peep at the one fight in Naxx that does let tank healers show off–Patchwerk.
syd-meter

To understand this image properly, you should probably know that Silvia and I were assigned to heal the offtank, a druid, while S13 and Arktos were assigned to the main tank, a warrior. For the life of me, I can’t remember what Kaldora, our holy priest, was assigned to that day. The nature of the fight dictates that there is simply more healing to do on the off tank(s) than on the main tank, so an off-tank healer is going to post higher numbers. Be that as it may, this is nonetheless a good performance from me personally. Let’s look at the breakdown of what I did.
syd-breakdown

First of all, notice the presence of Regrowth. I use the Regrowth glyph, and a fight with heavy tank damage also shows it off. Meanwhile, I keep Lifebloom rolling on the primary off-tank. As for Rejuvenation, I keep it on both the primary off-tank and the backup. At higher gear levels, your raid is less likely to need two offtanks for Patchwerk. I used to post even more impressive numbers when two off-tanks took heavy hits. I would keep up my full hot rotation on the druid and use Rejuvenation, Swiftmend, and a Nature’s Swiftness/Healing Touch on the secondary off-tank. I always say that Resto Druids can heal two tanks as well as one, and it’s very nearly true. This is a lesson I learned in Zul’Aman, and it still serves me well on a multi-tank fight like Patchwerk. One thing an MT healer can never forget is the power of Swiftmend–it’s easy to ignore, but make yourself use it whenever you can. You’ll notice that Nourish is missing from my rotation, even though I have the 4pc T7 bonus. Regrowth is simply better if the damage is high. I will use Nourish on fights where Regrowth might be overheal, or on long fights that might stress my mana.

My message to healing leads is this: resto druids can tank heal. You might think that only a paladin or discipline priest will work, but don’t discount the resto druid, particularly one who’s used to this job. We may have a discipline priest solo-healing the MT on Sarth 3D, but that doesn’t mean a resto druid cannot be assigned to the task. In fact, some days I want to arm-wrestle Mallet for the job.

Glyphs and Talents

As you can see from our performances, S13 and I, despite having almost the same gear, are very different healers. There are slight differences in talents and glyphs that support each of our preferred roles. Here are my thoughts on how to set up a resto druid to excel at either raid healing or tank healing.

Raid Healing

In terms of talents, I suggest Tranquil Spirit to make Healing Touch and Nourish more efficient, a fully talented Gift of the Earth Mother, and perhaps Naturalist for the shortest Healing Touch cast time. As an alternative, you might put either 1 or 2 points into Improved Tranquility. I find this spell very useful when I can remember to use it. It shines on any fight where the raid is fairly close together and AoE damage as high–I’ve used Tranquility to good effect on Loatheb, Sapphiron, and OS3.

To heal S13-style, you will absolutely need to glyph Healing Touch. I am extremely impressed with the HPS of this spell, and it only gets better as your gear scales. In addition, we can all afford the mana at this point. S13 doesn’t run OOM any more than I do. The raid healer has some amount of choice in the other glyph slots. I suggest Swiftmend and Innervate, but if you find that you never use Swiftmend, Lifebloom will also work. The Regrowth glyph, while good in and of itself, won’t do much for you if you’re never assigned to tanks.

Tank Healing

In terms of tank healing talents, the most important one to have is Nature’s Splendor from the Balance tree to extend HoT duration. However, all raiding restos should have this talent. I also use Tranquil Spirit to support my Nourish (in case I ever use it), a fully maxed Improved Regrowth, and Gift of the Earthmother for easier HoT refreshes. I do not have Living Seed at the current moment. It accounted for less that 1% of my total healing when I had it. If I get enough haste to remove points from Gift of the Earthmother, I may try it again. I have a feeling that either 1) Living Seed will do more healing in Ulduar or 2) it will get some sort of buff in the future. As for Replenish, either build should skip it because it’s endlessly terrible, but the tank healer especially does not need it.

In terms of glyphs, I use Swiftmend, Regrowth, and Innervate for main tank healing. The only debateble choice here is Innervate. I prefer it over Lifebloom, but Keeva of Tree Bark Jacket, who also main tank heals often, writes very convincingly in favor of the LB glyph in this recent post. A main tank healer should not glyph Healing Touch. It’s more useful in the large version paired with Nature’s Swiftness.

Conclusions

We’ve come a long way from Lifebloom spam. Whether we’re set to healing tanks or the raid, druids have a variety of techniques now to support their chosen role. We can do it all–just not all at once. If you’re a healing lead, it’s important to get to know your healers. With the new diversity of the druid class, skill and preference start to weigh heavily on how you should assign your druids. So, why not ask them what they like, and what they are good at?

A Healing Druid’s Naxx-25 Shopping List

A Healing Druid’s Naxx-25 Shopping List

As many of you longtime readers are now aware, I have joined forces with Matticus and Conquest for Wrath of the Lich King. Matt is a hard taskmaster–even before we started raiding, he gave us homework! The nerve!

However, as a veteran of too many years in graduate school, I LOVE homework. Here is my Naxx-25 wishlist, dressed up pretty for the blog.

This list is as exhaustive as possible given the current information out there about Naxx. Given that it’s early, the loot table could be subject to change. The following list isn’t personal, per se–it’s a list of all the best stuff out there for restoration druids. I have divided it by bosses, using the typical order. There are many items that are shared across several bosses, particularly necklaces, rings, and cloaks. In that case, I’ve listed them only under the first boss who can drop them. This, dear reader, is your Naxx 25 Resto Kit–use it as a guide for all your holiday DKP purchases.

Anub’Rekan:

Swarm Bindings
Well folks, these are your bracers from Naxx-25. The selling point for this item is the spirit. Now, the crit is less optimal for us, and I wish I had a talent to turn crit into mp5. However, from here on out, you’ll be choosing between the lesser of two evils on your gear–heavy crit or heavy haste, neither of which the resto druid wants to stack to excess. For my Naxx-25 kit, I’m largely going to ignore these and work to get items that give me a solid amount of regen while casting. That means lots of spirit, but also some mp5, as the return on spirit is less than in post 2.4 Burning Crusade content.

Grand Widow Faerlina:

Chains of Adoration
This neck has a decent amount of mp5 and a healthy dose of stamina as well. It’s not perfect, but it will work for any healer. Most of your gear as a druid will have spirit, and in my mind it’s good to plump up your while-casting regen with just a little bit of mp5 as well. That said, this item is available from several bosses and I might let shamans and paladins take it first.

Seized Beauty
This item, like the Chains of Adoration, is available from multiple bosses, and it is likewise a multi-purpose item. I like it better than the neck, mostly because I’m used to having mp5 and not spirit in my ring slot. Once again, something you can feel safe passing on the first couple of times until the mp5 junkies in your healing team have one.

Tunic of Prejudice
This item is simply great. Where I can, I’ll take haste over crit. The druid healing spells that can crit are few: Healing Touch, Nourish, and Regrowth. However, if you can get enough haste, you might be able to take some points out of Gift of the Earthmother and put them elsewhere. I would personally rather have mp5, but in this expansion, mp5/spirit items seem to have gone the way of the dodo.

Maexxna:

Cowl of the Perished
The best feature of this item, aside from it’s cool name, is a whopping 72 spirit. It has crit in an equally stunning amount, so I might let a boomkin have it first.

Mantle of Shattered Kinship
With haste and spellpower, this is another decent buy for a resto druid. However, if you’re bidding, bid low, and if you can pass, you might want to do it. It shows up not long before the shoulder tokens, which will get you something better. However, if you’re not a set bonus junkie, take it and let others have the token.

Shawl of the Old Maid
This is another multi-boss, multi-purpose healing drop. The spirit will serve a druid well, but I might let holy priests have it first, as they will get more mileage out of the crit.

Matriarch’s Spawn
This one is an incredibly cool-looking spirit-haste combo that will have you wishing that offhand items showed all the time. A solid buy for your DKP, so feel good about splurging on this item. Whether you choose to gear for staves or main hand/off hand should probably depend only on what drop you happen to get first. Once you have a decent combo, let others in your raid take these things.

Wraith Strike
Even though this weapon looks really cool, it’s just not made for resto druid. It spends its budget on both crit and haste, making it attractive for both Elemental Shaman and Moonkin Druid. Take it if it would otherwise rot, and if you end up with it, keep it for your moonkin set but replace it when you can with a one-handed mace that has either spirit or mp5.

Noth the Plaguebringer:

Accursed Spine
This one is similar to Matriarch’s Spawn with crit instead of haste. Matriarch’s is better for a healer, but you can take it if it would otherwise rot.

Belt of Potent Chanting
It’s got the ubiquitous crit, but as set pieces aren’t an option for a belt, go ahead and pick it up, especially if your moonkin friends already have it.

Lost Jewel
Even though it has crit, of the rings, this one looks good to me because it’s also got spirit. Also a shared drop, this is one that’s good enough for Resto Druid that I might go ahead and take it early.

Heigan the Unclean:

Cloak of Averted Crisis
Here is another solid cloak that’s shared by several boss loot tables. It’s another decent option–you just have to choose whether you want mp5 or spirit on your back.

Gloves of the Dancing Bear
This is a really nice item with spirit, a red gem slot, and a spirit bonus for socket matching. Even though it’s not a tier piece, it’s really good. My only suggestion is that it should have been named “Gloves of the Dancing Tree.” It does have crit, but assuming that you use the best gem available to you, I think the socket gives the item an edge.

Shroud of Luminosity
This is one of the few non-spellhit items that you might argue is truly offspec for a druid healer. Sure, you can wear it, but it spends its item budget on both haste and crit, which makes it a poor buy for your DKP. Take it only if your casters and fellow healers don’t want it.

Loatheb:

Shoulders token, yielding the Valorous Dreamwalder Spaulders
Of course you will want all your tier pieces. However, I urge you to see them as one option among many. The bonuses–particularly the 4 piece, which plumps up a mostly-unused spell–are just window dressing. They are not obligatory. If you already have something good in a slot, pass to those who do not.

The Impossible Dream
Now, Don Quijote is actually my favorite book. However, I strongly dislike the musical Man of La Mancha, even though I know all the songs. Right now, that horrible ballad is right there, in my head, and in less than 30 seconds I’m going to start singing it and scare the crap out of my cat, who disapproves of off-key arias. Anyway, this is a great item for resto druids. Take it at your own risk–the WoW devs will not compensate you for lyrical madness.

Instructor Razuvious:

Nothing unique from this boss, but there are several items from the shared loot table.

Gothik the Harvester:

Idol of Awakening
While I’d rather have an idol for Wild Growth, Regrowth or Lifebloom, I always suggest that players pick up the available idols whenever they can. Even if you won’t use it now, you might later.

Shackled Cinch
For my money, this is the best resto druid belt in Naxx. Go ahead and pick it up with confidence.

Four Horsemen:

Chestpiece token, yielding Valorous Dreamwalker Robe
Once again, a great piece, but there is another chest option to keep in mind.

Damnation
Something tells me–the name perhaps–that casters will drool over this staff. It will work for healers too. Sure, it has crit, but it also has a really nice helping of stamina, spirit, and intellect.

Gloves of Peaceful Death
These could be nice if you’re stacking haste, but in my mind, the gem slot on the other gloves in Naxx makes them a better buy. These are inferior to the set piece gloves from Obsidian Sanctum as well.

Patchwerk

Boots of Septic Wounds
These are your Naxx-25 boots, unless you want to squabble with the clothies over one of their options for fine footwear. Put them high on your priority list and take them when you can–it’s really your only option in this tier.

Grobbulus:

Nothing unique

Gluth:

There may be inaccuracies about this boss, as wowwiki and wowhead don’t agree on his loot table. This guy seems to be able to drop chest tokens, leg tokens, shoulder tokens, and a whole host of miscellaneous stuff.
Charmed Cierge
If in fact this item drops from Gluth on Heroic, it’s a pretty decent staff.

Legs token, yielding Valorous Dreamwalker Leggings
If you can choose only one piece of Tier 7, let this be your target. There isn’t a good substitute for this item unless your raid can kill Sapphiron.

Thaddius:

Headpiece of Fungal Bloom.
This item is pretty unique, featuring massive stamina and mp5. This isn’t a bad piece if you’re otherwise low stamina and heavy on spirit.

Spire of Sunset
This is the weapon that I personally want the most. I like the haste and mp5–I’m used to weapons with no spirit, so I don’t miss it here.

Sapphiron:

Cosmic Lights
You could argue this one as offspec for a resto druid. With the crit/haste combo, it’s not a great buy, and I’d hold out for a necklace with either spirit or mp5 if I had a choice.

Legguards of the Boneyard
Now, I realize this isn’t the tier piece, but this is a really great item. I’d take it in a heartbeat.

Kel-Thuzad:

Helm Token, yielding Valorous Dreamwalker Headpiece
This is likewise a high-priority piece, as it has the holy grail of both spirit and mp5. If you can help it, don’t miss out.

Cape of the Unworthy Wizard
With it’s high item budget, this piece is a probably the best cloak in the zone. However, it’s also the best for many others. As no cloaks–or armor pieces in general–are perfect for resto druids, just get one of the many available ones at some point and be content with it.

Torch of Holy Fire
Predictably, this end-boss item is also a best in slot for 1-h maces. Take it if you can–but pass to another player with a blue weapon if you have one of the other available choices in Naxx. By the time you hit KT, you’ll be moving on soon to bigger and better things.

Appendix: Obsidian Sanctum

OS is quite an easy raid and most guilds will do it while they’re in Naxx. Here are the pieces you might want to acquire there.
Majestic Dragon Figurine
This is an interesting little trinket to theorycraft with. My instinct says that, with our high cast frequency, this will be excellent for resto druids, but someone with a better knowledge of mathematics will have to graph that out for me.

Illustration of the Dragon Soul
Here’s a dps version of the above. Healing druids could also benefit, but my feeling is that the frequently-casting affliction locks are going to want this one more than we will.

Staff of Restraint
This is a very good, very accessible, nicely balanced weapon. I certainly wouldn’t mind having one!

. . . and of course, the gloves token
Valorous Dreamwalker Handguards

Syd’s Gear Theory

Perhaps this deserves its own post, but I have changed my own personal gear strategy. I used to play in a guild where loot was scarce enough that no one got very much. We were never certain of killing farm bosses, and we had a huge raid roster. These two factors combined to give our guild, overall, a lower gear level than peer organizations and a higher dependence on badge loot. However, with the new expansion and innovations like shared loot, there seems to be absolutely no reason to hold out for the best pieces. My current theory? Think about my guildies as much as myself when loot comes down. With a smaller raid, and a Loot Council to distribute the goods, there’s less reason to make the “smart” buys. I’ll be passing frequently and cobbling a decent set together out of stuff that other people don’t want. Our Loot Council should ensure that everyone’s equipped to play at the proper level.

However, in making this list, I’ve tried to indicate how to intelligently navigate the loot system for people in situations where they have limited DKP or bidding power. These players will have to evaluate items more carefully than raiders in guilds who random roll or use Loot Council. As much as we don’t like to admit it, if you’re playing in a DKP guild, you can end the tier undergeared–despite putting in as much effort as everyone else–if you don’t spend your points wisely. I’m not talking about hoarding here, because hoarding hurts everyone, the player who hoards included. I’m talking about not spending your points on stuff you don’t really need, especially if other players need or want it more than you do. It’s particularly important for new guild members who don’t have a pile of DKP to spend from past raids to make good choices. Since the advent of spellpower, that has become a little harder to do–but this list should help you figure out when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em, so to speak.

N.B. I’ve tried to craft this post as a guide. If I missed something, post a comment and I will gladly update.

Will You Be Dual Spec-tacular?

Will You Be Dual Spec-tacular?

Duality by vladstudio

Duality by vladstudio

Less than two weeks out from the Wrath of the Lich King release, I find that one of the upcoming changes I am most excited about will hit not with the expansion itself, but with an upcoming content patch. At some future point, many of us–particularly hybrid classes–will have the flexibility we’ve always dreamed of. The promise is that each character will be able to maintain two stored specs and switch between them easily. You won’t be switching during combat (imagine the exploits) but in a complicated dungeon, for one fight you could be the healer, and the very next you could be the tank or even (gasp!) dps.


There is every chance that this change will revolutionize gameplay, particularly for healers. Most of us would jump at the chance to heal for a 25-person raid and then tear through our daily quests as a long-feathered, wide-hipped, booty-shaking, snuffle-hooting Owlbeast. I know I would. However, I’m even more interested in the long-term effects of dual spec capability on the raid environment.

Of course, even with Matticus’ fascinating insights into raiding Naxx on the Beta, we still don’t have quite enough information to make fully-fledged (get it, a feather joke) healing strategies. However, that doesn’t mean that my evil little tree-brain isn’t working. As the healing lead for my guild, the following is my diabolical plan to take the fullest possible advantage of dual specs.

1. All healers will maintain a raid-viable dps spec and a raid-viable healing spec.
2. All healers will take appropriate dps gear at the off-spec dkp price and appropriate healing gear at the on-spec price.
3. All healers will practice both play styles in a raid environment.

Why is this plan such a winner? Read on to find out how the dual spec system will save your raid–and the world!–from much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

1. I can adjust the number of healers for each fight.

Based on what I’ve read on Matticus and elsewhere, it seems that Wrath of the Lich King raid encounters require, on the whole, less healers than Black Temple or Sunwell. My guild–and probably many others–recruited its healing corps with the latter two instances in mind. At the moment, we have at least 12 healers who raid on a semi-regular basis. Our healer retention has been excellent, and many of these players have switched part or full-time to alts for raiding in order to keep their spots. However, even with this partial solution, we sometimes have 10 great healers sign up to raid. My solution for Wrath? I’m not about to force people to respec dps or to reroll warlocks and enhancement shammies. Instead, we’ll share the dps and healing roles, and everyone will get to play what they want at least some of the time. In addition, I don’t fully trust the developers not to put in some fights that require 5 healers and others that require 8 in the same instance. With dual specs in place, it will just be too tempting.

2. My healers will become better players.

Yes, this belongs to the category of what I like to refer to as “L2P Raiding Solutions.” It’s going to be hard to switch from doing what Ghostcrawler referred to as “playing the UI, not the game,” to actually targeting a boss or, even more incredibly, assisting off a designated player. I look forward to this process. I need to go through the learning as much or more than anybody. An expansion, as I see it, is a great opportunity to get better at the game, and I know there’s going to be a learning curve. By, let’s say, next February, I want to be that player that people trust to do whichever task, dps or healing, is most necessary. Those players already exist, but I’ve had too much tunnel-vision to be one myself.

3. No one will feel stuck.

Sometimes all of us need a little change, a little breath of fresh air. I think that dual specs are going to help ward off healer burnout, and to demonstrate that, I’m going to resort to a very mundane metaphor. Let’s compare two real life humans–Level 30 Scholars, let’s say, and for the sake of argument, we’ll call them Sydera and Briolante. Now, Syd owns about 10 pairs of shoes she can wear to work, and she never wears the same pair twice in a row. Brio wears the same pair of admittedly very nice dress shoes every day. At the end of six months, whose footwear is in better shape? Variety is the spice of many things, my friends. If I know that I can cast gigantic Starfires on one of the bosses on a given evening, all the while hooting to myself in owlish glee, I’m likely to heal for the rest of them with good grace. Many healers feel victimized and put upon–our job is rather stressful, and blame sticks to us like cat hair on cashmere. What a nice relief it will be to sometimes focus on the boss instead of the little boxes on my Grid!

Dual Specs are Wonderful! But Why Do We Have Them?

I’d like to spend a few moments speculating about the underlying reasoning behind the dual spec change. It goes against many of the trends laid in place during Classic WoW and BC. First, WoW has always made players pay for flexibility. As we all know, the Vanilla WoW design for hybrids could be summed up by the hackneyed refrain “jack of all trades and master of none.” Moreover, gold costs for respecs–used more by hybrids than other classes–used to climb to obscene levels in Classic.

In BC, the fate of hybrids improved somewhat. Aside from a few broken specs (notably Moonkin and Retribution Paladin), hybrids became raid viable, but also just as limited to one role as any “pure” class. Respecs were of course possible, and in BC they top out at 50 gold, which still cannot be considered a reasonable price for mid-raid respecs.

Maybe it’s my own selfish featherbrain, but I think that the changes we’re seeing to how respeccing works–which is basically the removal of the penalty for changing your mind–have a lot to do with the perceived fun of playing hybrids–bringing us closer to the jack of all trades model again. I think this change might even have more to do with healers than other classes. We know that, my own freakishly healer-heavy guild aside, healers are often in short supply. For Wrath, Ghostcrawler has laid out the possibility that raid healing might be overhauled entirely, just as was done with tanking. The idea, in general terms, is to make raiding “more fun.”

What is more fun, in the developers’ minds? Based on the druid class changes for 3.0, I can take a guess. Despite what some healers find entertaining, Blizzard doesn’t want us to be tied too closely to timers or set-in-stone rotations. Pre-3.0, I used to cast something–usually an instant, and many times Lifebloom–every time the GCD was up. This means that I can spare about half an eyeball for the raid environment, and I haven’t even seen many raid bosses. I spend too much time looking at Grid with one eye and the ground–for nasty AoE effects–with the other. To a certain extent, this is necessary for proper focus–I’m not sure that Briolante spends much time gazing longingly on, say, Archimonde’s face either, even though he’s up there tanking. Here’s a quote: “Demon crotches get old after a while.” The developers want play to be variable, engaging, movement heavy, and reactive rather than proactive. As a druid healer at the moment, I feel that I’m supposed to entirely change my playstyle, and old habits–like maintaining Lifebloom rotations–die hard.

At least dual specs are actually fun! Many times, the developers seem to design away from fun by putting arbitrary limitations on things–the recently removed movement speed reduction for trees comes to mind, as does the prohibition on flying in Northrend until level 77. It is my hope that, whatever they do to healing, the dual spec possibility keeps me from entirely losing my mind, or, should I say, my feathers.