Life in Group 5 – A Resto Shaman Blog
A resto shaman perspective on raiding


August 13, 2010

The LK Healing Model: Learning from Resto Shamans’ Experience

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Written by: Vixsin
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Vixsyn versus LK Hardmode

If you want to make waves in the Shaman community and you don’t want to mention the now-taboo Spirit Link, then you would be well advised to follow Ghostcrawler’s lead. His response to a fairly innocuous forum post on Monday raised many an eyebrow in the Resto and Healing communities and might have permanently affixed a winkled crease in my brow. But one thing’s for certain, no one could accuse the crab of giving too much away, beyond of course, that Shaman are performing “as intended”. So what does that mean for the future of healing?

In case you missed out, here’s the except from Bluetracker:

I think it’s fair to say that the shaman was probably the closest to the Cataclysm healing style even in Lich King. On the other hand, you are getting some new toys that should change your moment to moment decisions from level 80 upwards.

Was Shaman healing a big factor in how you wanted other people to heal because of how fluid Shaman healing is?

Yeah that was a big part of it. The other 3 classes (a little less so Holy priests) basically had their favorite spell and used it nearly all the time, with other spells just being filler. Shaman really did feel like they had a choice between HW and LHW and then Chain Heal more situationally. (Source)

The first time I saw GC’s brief response, I confess I actually mis-read it—thinking that he was referring *only* to the Lich King fight and not the whole of the shaman experience throughout Wrath. Upon realizing my mistake, my brow managed to furrow even more than it already had been as I wondered—um, which fights is he talking about? Surely not fights like General, where ES and stop-casting reigned supreme, or fights like Twin Valks, where I mashed CH with the fury of a pissed off pterodactyl, or fights like Valithria where I switched to a very strict Tidal-Waves-or-bust rotation. No, if we’re talking about fluidity, then it makes sense that LK would be the fight that epitomized the shaman healing model, because it is a fight where everything finally came together.

Based on everything I’ve compiled about Blizzard’s stance on the Cata healing model and everything I’ve experienced on the PTR, it’s an easy parallel to make. Consider what we’ve heard thus far from Blues on the intent/design for Cataclysm healing:

“… the healing game ultimately becomes more about using the right tool for the job” (Source)

“Mana efficiency is ideally part of this calculus.” (Source)

“…we’d like to see more coordination among the healers (again because the risk of going OOM exists).” (Source)

“You care more about your whole arsenal of heals instead of just the biggest, fastest [heal].” (Source)

“Occasional stress is more fun than non-stop stress.” (Source)

As I think we all agreed during the Resto segment of the Shaman Roundtable, for most Resto Shaman, the LK fight (especially the hard mode version) is all of these things. While for disc priests, LK is bubble x 9000, or for Holy Pallies it is HL x 9000, or for our leafy friends it is all about Rejuv and WG, or for spell-overloaded holy priests it becomes mostly about CoH+Renews, for Resto Shaman the fight asks us to use it all, arguably not an insanely difficult feat when our “all” is a whopping 4 active healing spells, and use it at just the right time. Yes, I’m biased in this perspective, but before anyone starts arguing that the fight is more than that to them (holy priests and druids have a good argument there), let me explain what I mean.


The Shaman Lich King Model

When we first started into Heroic Lich King attempts, all those months ago, before I ever had an inkling that there was a very precise order of things to the fight (link), I really disliked the Lich King encounter. To me, it felt disjointed, and the overlap between “hey, you need to heal now” and “hey, you need to move now” was enough to make me one cranky shaman. But as we started getting deeper into the fight, and we became more adept at designing and defining healing assignments, I started to have a new appreciation for the mechanics. The fight became my shaman heptathlon, with circuits for each healing tool I have (CH, RT, LHW, HW, ES) and the two healing practices that restos seem to struggle with (movement and timing).

When I went into the encounter on Wednesday night, and recorded my best performance to date, I tried to pay particular attention to the various “circuits” in each of the phases. As a matter of practice, I’m generally responsible for healing G2 and G3, our tank and melee groups, and providing direct spot healing on any targets still suffering from Infest. What this means, is that I generally do the following (bear with me through the technical stuff here, there is a point to it):

  • Phase 1: Base practice: RT + LHW Tanks + ES on OT. On Infest: CH on melee, start cast 1sec prior to Infest cast, followed by another CH on melee, with RT+LHW on first target, HW on second target (since they’ll be dipping pretty low by that point). Tank heal until next Infest.
  • Transition: RT on self or ranged as needed, ES on MT, CH through tanks into melee (pop Glowing Twilight Scale and watch hots fly)
  • Phase 2: Base practice: RT + LHW + ES on MT, with a switch to HW if either paladin is picked up. On Infest: CH on melee, start cast 1sec prior to Infest cast, followed by another CH on melee, with RT+LHW on first target, HW on second target. (If a holy pally has Defile, switch to CH through tank). Tank heal until next Infest.
  • Transition: RT on self or ranged as needed, ES on MT, CH through tanks into melee
  • Frostmourne Room: HST in mid for max coverage, ES left on MT, RT on CD, CH through raid (pop Glowing Twilight Scale and watch hots fly)
  • Phase 3: Base practice: RT + LHW Tanks + ES on MT/soaker. Soak: RT on soaker + CH on initial hit, CH on raid until soak is complete.
  • (Redux)

If you’re not a shaman and reading this, I hope I’ve blown your mind slightly, because this is the resto shaman toolbox at work. This is the antithesis of the mindless CH spam used by the stereotypical Resto. And although my WoL for the encounter would seem to indicate that I simply threw out a number of CH’s punctuated by some other spells, the point in fact is that I didn’t stand there spamming my highest HPS spell (CH) because I had the mana pool to do so (I don’t). Nor did I use my biggest fastest heal (RT+LHW) exclusively. Nor were healing assignments so loose as to allow me to just “heal raid” (g2 + g3 are my babies and no pansy Infest or badly dropped defile pool from a slightly drunk Elemental shaman is going to take my groups down).

I didn’t need a separate spec to heal tanks effectively (in fact I was slightly below our main Holy Pally in healing done to the main tank, 25 v 22%) and I didn’t require a different gearset to pump out a massive amount of healing on the raid (I did the most non-tank healing out of our raid healers as well). And I used everything I had to do it, including NS, Tidal Force, Beserking, Tide and 2 Innervates (Kaillee and Zb are my saviors). Fluid, is precisely the word I’d use to describe it.


What About Ruby Sanctum Heroic?

In fact, there’s another encounter which I would say better represents shaman healing, and therefore maybe Cataclysm healing, and that’s Halion hard mode on the “inside team”. Frankly speaking, the portal healing experience is a switch-hitter’s delight. With players taking ~4500 damage per 2 seconds while inside the dream realm, and your healing team not only having to deal with an intense amount of movement but also with the possibility that one of the 3-4 inside healers will be rendered almost useless for the 10-15 seconds that they’re handling Mark of Consumption, it is a veritable wonderland of healing challenges requiring very agile healers.

Similar to my role on Sindragosa, on Halion I’m responsible for backing up tank heals and switching to them full time if our tank healers are taken out of commission (on Sindy, by Unchained Magic, and on Halion, by Mark of Consumption). Whereas my spell distribution on LK HM generally has 40 -45% CH (because of the high raid damage on transitions and in the Frostmourne room), on any given night of Halion attempts, LHW+HW makes up 15-25% of my total healing, versus only 30-40% CH. The contribution from my other supplemental heals—ES, AA, ELW, Chained Heal, and RT—fill out the rest of my healing distribution.

While this may not reveal a good lot about healing versatility, let me give you a solid example from this week’s kill. When our inside holy pally fell victim to a bad Consumption tick slightly over halfway into the fight, leaving myself, a disc priest and a druid remaining, it didn’t take any adjustment for me to switch into a tank-healing role while still tossing out the occasional CH. Likewise, the disc priest and the druid threw on their tank-healing hats as well, and together our heals made up for the loss of long-bombs. I don’t know how smooth a transition it was for either of them, but for me it simply meant switching my RT to the tank (instead of Marked players) and substituting HW for the LHW I had been using to supplement the Pally’s HL. And aside from a few dips, and one Ardent Defender proc, we were able to keep things in line. Just the 3 of us, with no “true” tank healer in sight. When the inside druid was taken out by another nasty Mark of Consumption with ~30 seconds to go on the kill, things shifted into overdrive. Another slight adjustment was made and triage mode engaged, but again, the disc priest and I had the tools (and luck) to pull it off. And the kill was had.

It was one of the most thrilling fights I’ve had to date, but the point of the story is not to toot my own horn or that of my healing partner. The point is that the latter half of the fight, and certainly not those last 30 seconds, would not have been possible without the healing versatility that’s currently in place. While it’s true that the handful of Greater Heals that the disc priest threw out might have been the only time in the past several months that he’s even touched the darn spell, designing an encounter or a situation where it was ideal to use them was all it took to dust them off. While shaman may be able to switch between our options without missing much of a beat, it isn’t a far stretch for other healers to do the same.


What this means for Healers

For most of this xpac, I’ve been ranting on and on about shaman’s versatility being a boon, a beneficial move away from the CH-spam that was prevalent at the end of BC and a step towards a healing environment where we could fill in the gaps in a healing team’s composition. As much as I liked being the undisputed king of raid healing in Sunwell, there’s something to be said for having more depth to what I can offer. There’s something to be said for having the option to be what’s needed, instead of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. And to this end, I’m really looking forward to Cataclysm’s healing changes.

But … (there’s always a “but” isn’t there?) … it’s easy to take on this sunshiney, Kumbaya perspective, and forget that the Resto Shaman model as it exists in ICC/t10 works because of the interplay of spells and the very limited nature of our arsenal. Like pallies, we don’t have a whole host of options to choose from. But, I don’t feel that the same is true for priests or druids, who strike me as a tad bit overburdened as it is. (Maybe I’m wrong?) So, as our spellbooks in Cataclysm expand, and the variations of spells increase, it becomes a greater task to find the right one for the right job. And at some point, when given too many options, a player will stop trying to find the perfect fit and just strive to find an acceptable fit. It is an incredibly fine line, and so I don’t envy the balancing act that Blizzard has tasked themselves with.

Ultimately, I think it becomes a battle of quality versus quantity with a splash of specificity thrown in. In terms of a fluid and agile spellbook, Shaman, right now, are at one end of that spectrum, whereas I would speculate that Holy Priests are at the other. (Druids, I don’t know where you fit in because I don’t have the balls to take my feral druid resto.) So, to me, the 3-level spell change (eg: Lesser Healing Wave, Healing Wave, Greater Healing Wave) is a great step towards that middle area, establishing a quality base that can empower healers to keep a fight going, instead of saying “oh, so-and-so is dead, we might as well wipe”. Maintaining the diversity of the classes outside of those 3 supposedly “homogeneous” spells, then becomes the flavor to the class and the unique approach that they bring to the table. In the ideal fight, you may not need your base spells, but when the shyte hits the fan, you won’t be left without a way to soldier on.

Because in the end, healing shouldn’t be about being the 100-function Swiss army knife and it shouldn’t take a massively complicated If/Then tree to determine the right course of action, but it shouldn’t be about being a 1-trick pony either. Healers should be, need to be, equipped to be MacGuyvers: saying to their team, “Give me a rubber band, a green bean and a twilight scale and I’ll give you a healer who can handle whatever you throw at me.”

So if this is what Shaman have contributed to the Cataclysm healing model, then I say, bravo to you small crab … Now give me my bloody defensive CD and we’ll call it a day.


  1. Wow, clearly I’ve been doin it all wrong as a Disco then. Sure, lotsa shields for Infest in 1 & 2 – but IF + DH on the ledge, PS on tanks for Soul Reaper, PI on a lock so they’re power charged for the Valks, PoM every time it’s up . . . it all FEELS a lot more complicated than ‘bubble x 9000’, and the timing has to be spot on perfect. Walk a mile in my shoes, it’s not as simple as you think.
    (But thanks for the Shammy instructions, can’t wait to use them.)
    Xeppe´s last post ..One of those nights

  2. That last line made me chuckle.

    I think a lot of the drive to a varied useage of spells stems as well from the tier set bonuses that we have had during this expansion together with our talent trees which seemed to encourage a combination of spells.

    Also, do excuse me if I feel a tad smug. I’ve always known that we shamans were the superior healers! ^^

  3. […] The LK Healing Model – Life in Group 5 – Very interesting thoughts on how Resto Shaman healing works on LK, and what that could mean in light of the recent blue posts stating that Shaman healing is the closest to their intentions for Cataclysm healing. […]

  4. Kris

    I have a question about lk encounter regardles gear using cuz atm i have few options to chose from :
    1. Non t10 bonus with riptide ore CH totem
    2. Full t10 set with 2 above totems to chose from

    I have a question than which setup ( i think you were testing it ) is best for us in general or particulary for each phase – we’re ofc talking about normal mode

    btw my role is in general tank heal so which glypsh we should us on this encounter..

    Sry for those silly questions but i think that’s the best place to ask for it in order to improve the encounter.

  5. Kris

    sry mistake above my role is raid not tank heal

  6. @ Xeppe … Although “Bubble x 9000” is a definite oversimplification of the disc priest role in the LK fight, it is quite simply the best healing that you can do for the encounter and thus becomes a primary focus. LK is not an easy encounter for any healer no matter the simplicity or complexity of their spell choice–my intent was never to imply that–simply show that shaman do use their entire arsenal and switch between two very distinct “rotations” depending on the phase. This is in direct contrast to the top Disc Priest on WoL (Tiduz of Cuties Only), where 84% of his healing is from the combo of PW:S, Divine Aegis, and Glyph of PW:S.

    Believe you me, I have walked more than a mile in my disc priest’s shoes. It is by no means an easy class to play and good discs go way beyond simple bubble spam. (In case you’d like to check out my qualifications, here’s my Priest’s Armory – Psyrin of Black Dragonflight. Her guild is currently 11/12 HM 25’s and I disc’d our first LK 10 HM, although it was with the 30% buff.)

  7. Kelbahr

    I think Shaman healing is in a really good place atm, we’re probably the most versatile healer around, capable of pretty much any healing job. I’ve tankhealed 11/12 (25) HM’s with no holy pallies, but still give the druids a run for their money on BQL.

    I think the real acid test for healer versatility is actually 10 mans, on the plus side I would happily heal with any other class as a shaman. Pally? Raid heal. Druid? Tank heal. Another Shaman? Share it around. On the negative side, the lack of a defensive CD becomes glaringly obvious. But generally, if shaman is the blueprint for Cata healing, I’m pretty happy with that aim.

    One thing I do for infest healing is to keep riptide ticking for supercharged CH’s. Typically this is on our cleaving warrior (for P1) and a friendly kitty. It takes a bit of experimentation to get the timing right but you can keep them rolling on 2 targets fairly easily, 3 is possible but quite a bit tougher (not using riptide glyph). The kitty is specced into whatever the talent is to increase healing received, combined with riptide consumption makes for some massive CH’s.

    I still want a defensive CD please Mr Blizzard.

  8. Thanks for this post! It was very interesting to read your overview of LK. My resto shaman is my primary alt, and I took her to LK-10 this weekend. We’re a casual guild who just started to learn this fight, and we’re far away from downing him.

    Your description of P1 pretty much is exactly what I have done in the fight, and it works great, and the transition is no issue either, but as soon as we end up in P2, it all falls apart. Suddenly it seems impossible to keep people up through Infest. People spread out, and I am nowhere near organized enough to start pre-casting CH to be timed right with the Infest cast. Hopefully it will get a lot easier in future attempts.

    I love my shaman dearly, and I really want to kick some ass, especially the LKs.
    Kadomi´s last post ..The Formspring edition- Part I

  9. I think Blizzard, as well as many people who actively comment on the forums have a habit of oversimplifying things. As a resto druid, I do not just cast Rejuv x5, then Wild Growth over and over. Sure, you can pump out a lot of HPS that way, but that doesn’t make it the best choice on most fights. Regrowth, Nourish, Swiftmend all have their place in most encounters and I think any druid who doesn’t make use of them is doing themselves and their raid a disservice.

    Taking the Lich King fight as an example (normal – haven’t seen hard mode 25 yet), I make use of all my spells.
    -In phase 1 the tank damage is heavy, while the raid damage is mostly covered off by disc bubbles. I keep Rejuv, Regrowth and Lifebloom rolling on both tanks, filling in with Nourish and Swiftmend when required. Wild Growth or a quick Nourish can be used after Infest on anyone who didn’t have a bubble.
    -On transitions it does move to a more rejuv/WG heavy rotation, but direct heals are still used on tanks, especially when adds enrage.
    -Phase 2 again has most of the damage on the tank, with WG helping with Infest but Nourish used to top up those who get separated from the group because of a defile or a valk
    -Phase 3 all HoTs go back on the tank and soaker, as well as Rejuvs on as many people as I can get so I can hit them with a Swiftmend if they take a hit or two from a spirit.

    I think I overreact a little when people assume druids only use two spells. Personally I feel that I have a choice about which spells to use on most encounters. Sure, you can get away with only casting rejuv and WG and never casting any reactive spells, but I think knowing when to use your other spells separates a good druid from a bad one.

    GC’s comment on shaman healing being ideal actually made my eyebrow raise a little too. I haven’t healed seriously on my shaman since Ulduar (the chain heal buff and Tidal Waves change broke shaman for me), but from most of the WoL reports I’ve seen from ICC shaman healing consists of Chain Heal > ES > Riptide on most fights, which doesn’t really support shaman as the most fluid healers. Maybe I’m just not playing with enough decent shamans. Thanks for outlining your healing strategy for LK, it seems much different (and much smarter) than what I usually see.

    I can’t speak for pallies and priests but I think both shaman and druids can fall into the 2 spell trap and put out great HPS, but the stronger players have the ability to use their whole arsenal to heal smarter.
    Jasyla´s last post ..Healing ICC- Lady Deathwhisper

  10. @ Kris – I would definitely advocate using 4pc t10 with Totem of the Surging Sea. You should be RT-ing frequently enough to keep up the buff, and LK is one fight where I would say spellpower starts being more important. For glyphs, I generally stick with CH, LHW, and ES, since you should be using all those spells liberally.

    Regarding the whole spam healing question that you raised Jasyla, I’ve definitely been watching that Druid thread that GC has been responding to–there are some angry trees! I think the crux of the problem is that no one likes to be told they play a class which has its faceroll moments (I’m not speaking specifically about druids here, but about all healers in WotLK). But, the fact of the matter is that on some fights, using me as an example, my healing is pure CH spam because it is the best possible strategy. So, the difference between my healing and the bad shaman who doesn’t know any better, at least according to logs and spell distribution, is absolutely zero.

    I can dress it up all I like, saying that I choose different targets, have good ES uptime, and have RT+LHW at the ready should something go awry but the fact of the matter is on some fights … I spam. LK and Halion are examples where I don’t. On my disc, in 25s, my story is even more of the same. I bubble, a lot. 84% of my healing on our last LK25 kill came from bubbles. In 10s as a disc, it’s a different story and versatility is important. On my paladin, I Holy Light. Yes, I may weave in a shock, a judgment, some FoL when damage has dipped, but I build my gear and my stats around the premise that I want to be able to HL for as long as possible.

    So personally, I don’t have any problem with players or devs saying that Disc priests are all about bubble, or shaman are all about CH, because that is the nature of generalization (and at its core, it is correct). Similarly, having more or less keybinds doesn’t say anything about a person’s competency as a healer. Where I start to care is when I don’t have the tools to do the job as it needs to be done, and thus spam is my only option. That is the place that shaman aren’t when it comes to LK, and that’s the place I don’t think any healer should be.

  11. Kris

    thank you 😉

  12. Hello :)

    I am a resto shaman from Orc of the Covenant, a relatively new guild from Venture Co europe realm. Shaman is my main char from WotLK launch day, so is resto spec. Things I will describe are based on my experience and observation on our recent fights in ICC25 HC and normal (I must admin we are 4/12 HC and 12/12 normal)

    When I’ve read GCD post that “Shaman really did feel like they had a choice between HW and LHW and then Chain Heal more situationally. ” I couln’t belive my eyes – is that guy talking about 10 man’s instances? Because when comes to 25 its all shit. Let’s not talk about LK fight for a moment. My typicall WoL report is: Chain heal 50-70%, and then Chained heal/Earth shield/Earthliving (im using glyph) around 10-15% and Riptide, Fountain of Light at 3-5%. Correct me but in 25s enviroment chain heal has become so god damn powerful that in most situation it is the only one most effective spell! I really, really rarely use any LHW or HW in 25s (we run with 2 really good holadins) So what GC is talking about?

    Another thing is our comparison to druids – we are a casting-based type of healers – we have LSW, HW and GHL, we have chain heal, earth shield, our only hot is riptide and it is on cooldown, earthliving is random and Healing Rain is another AoE healing (jesus do we need another AoE spell?? chain heal does wonders!) Lets look at druids: cast-based spells: healing touch, nourish and regrowth (leaves nice hot) hots: rejuv, lifebloom, wildgrowth, aoe: wildgrowth, tranquility They are complete healers! They movement is very sexy comp. to ours, they have hots (big ones, small ones, hots producting big heal at end) they also have direct heals (3 types!) Why Blizz is adding another AoE ability instead of making us more versalite, like druids are, i.e. giving us one damn nice HoT spell without cd? Yes, I am rerolling druid in Cataclysm :) Thanks for my english, I await your replies :)

  13. Very, very good point Meijin and I can absolutely see where you’re coming from. I agree that there are a number of fights out there in ICC (and WotLK at large) where CH spam is the absolute norm. Which is why it made much more sense to me, as I mentioned above, that GC was talking about the LK encounter and not the whole of the expansion.

    However, now that I’m thinking about it, his comments become slightly more applicable when you look at Shaman healing in 10s. Although my percentages don’t complete shift in new and exciting ways when I heal 10s, CH spam definitely becomes more restricted in its applicability.

    In terms of shamans’ differences with druid healers, I’m not sure that it’s fair to us or them to make a comparison. While I appreciate their mobility (although sometimes I do want to staple their wiggly roots to the floor) and their array of spells, I think they’re been struggling equally in this xpac and (as Lissanna has so wonderful articulated) are currently looking at Cata with a wary eye towards raid healing. In the end, at least to me, the healing classes are simply different solutions to the same problem. Or to put it another way, “It’s not the [toolbox] that matters, it’s how you use it.”

  14. […] also been thinking a lot about Vixsyn’s post about Shaman healing tools and how that’s a great model for Cataclysm heals…and […]

  15. Yes Vixsin, ICC 10 is THAT different, I enjoy it even more than 25, not only because of the…intimity, being more social, more space, but also because of possibility to use those damn healing waves :) Now, I am not a blue poster tracker by any means but what I’ve read on mmo-champion is that:

    – bosses like bql, twins, festergut, sindragosa (huge damage/damage aura) are gone in Cata and so is spam heal type of healing?

    – less aoe damage, more single target spiky damage?

    – damage appearing less often so we have time to use that crappy damagedealing talents?

    Are these points correct?

  16. Sekul

    Great post, however, I feel like it may be dependent on healing makeup as I don’t have to heal nearly that much. Bear in mind that we’ve not attempted LK on heroic so it may be different for me there.

    The main differences are that in the non-raid damage periods I’m doing little or no healing at all. Usually letting my mana regen so I don’t need an innervate. I will hit the tank with a spot heal now and again usually keeping RT on the tanks, but for the most part, during transition for instance, I’m just standing there getting mana and throwing chain once or twice for infest. Our healing make up is usually 2 Shammies, 1 Pally, 1 Disc and 1 Drood.

    Typically my healing for LK consists of CH when needed and HW for Soulreaper and Harvest Soul (Obviously the occasional RT on ranged).

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