The term “healing rotation” is often bandied about by bloggers and theorycrafters, as they take the dps max output model and try, very clunkily, to apply it to a role which doesn’t adhere to the same rules. Unlike our pew-pew teammates, for whom strict adherence to a sim model can have positive consequences, good healing is dictated more by the skill of your teammates, your raid’s strategy, and your reaction time than it is by the encounter mechanics. And so, players are quick to note that the “rotation” of “healing rotation” is actually a misnomer, used to represent a concept and not a reality. But what if that reality came to pass?
Presently, Resto Shaman have two spells which will buff the maximum output of their other spells—Riptide and Chain Heal—both of which provide complementary benefits through the Tidal Waves talent. In terms of Chain Heal, a single cast will garner the Shaman two applications of Tidal Waves, which will then provide either additional haste to your Healing Wave (30%) or additional crit (25%) to your Lesser Healing Wave, and which will remain a buff on the shaman until 2 such spells are cast or the 15 second timer expires. If your focus is raid healing, and thus you are participating in the very rigorous practice of spam CHing, then the Tidal Waves buff that you gain for each CH cast will go largely unutilized. However in a tank healing or single-target healing environment, a CH + LHW/HW rotation can be greatly beneficial for ensuring optional output.
Riptide is similar to CH in that it is the only other way to activate the Tidal Waves buff, so it provides direct benefit to Shamans’ single-target spells. In addition, RT also provides some benefit to the raid healing side of Shamans’ arsenal by providing a 25% modifier to CH’s healing on any target with RT active. Unfortunately, while this buff has good application for the tank-healing shaman, providing a compensation for the long cast time of CH by increasing the effective healing amount on the RT’ed target (assumed to be the tank), its application when raid healing is severely limited in today’s raid environment. The problem is that in a raid healing rotation, you either have one of two scenarios: 1) specific and singular targets are taking heavy damage (think Razorscale), or 2) groups of players are taking moderate damage (think Blood Queen). In the case of the former, single-target heals will deliver heals faster and at a lesser cost. In the case of the latter, the benefit of casting an RT prior to the CH does not offset the 1 sec GCD cost you incur because of that initial cast. And, in terms of HPS, you would be better served to cast CH x2 (instead of RT+CH).
Although nothing is set in stone, with the talent trees in some state of design and Beta testing through level 83, I think it’s safe to at least start talking about some of the changes on the horizon. Included in our new toolset for Cataclysm are two very particular additions to our arsenal—a spell: Unleash Elements, and a talent: Focused Insight. And while neither are particularly mind blowing at present, what I find interesting about them is the message that they reinforce for restos everywhere—sequencing matters.
Just as a refresher, let’s look at how these spells and talents are playing out in the Cataclysm Beta (note that the healing numbers here are from BETA and are therefore *not* fined tuned, so no freaking out like I did when I first started healing in Alpha):
- Riptide – Tidal Waves (10% of base mana) – will provide a 30% healing bonus to Healing Wave and Greater Healing Wave and a (tentative) 25% crit effect to Lesser Healing Wave, as well as an initial heal of approximately 4100 – 6100, with 1300 per 3 seconds for 15 seconds thereafter.
- Chain Heal – Tidal Waves (17% of base mana) – will provide a 30% healing bonus to Healing Wave and Greater Healing Wave and a (tentative) 25% crit effect to Lesser Healing Wave.
- Unleash Elements (7% of base mana) – an instant-cast ability which changes based on your weapon embue, it provides a base 3100 – 5000 heal when used with Earthliving Weapon. This spell *does not* count as a shock so it will not proc Focused Insight although, at present, it does provide a 20% boost to the next healing spell (within a 7sec window).
- Focused Insight (17% of base mana, when procced by FS) – a talent in the Resto Shaman tree which, subsequent to a Shock cast (this includes: Earthshock, Flameshock, Frostshock), will reduce the mana cost of the shaman’s next spell by 50% of the cost of the shock and increase the heal’s effectiveness by 30%. The mana reduction and healing buff do not presently stack, so there’s no abusing this talent by casting a series of shocks.
In all, Shaman stand to have 3 insta-cast spells which will up the healing power of their next heal. CH will continue to be a viable way to maintain Tidal Waves, though its applicability in a raid healing environment remains to be seen. (Given its long cast time and relatively low heal value, I’m not hopeful.) What’s worth pointing out here is the comparative mana cost of the above spells (all assessed at level 83), and the bonus differential for each:
- RT (1200 mana, 6sec CD) – 25% sp to CH, 30% haste to HW and GHW, 25% crit to LHW
- UE (840 mana, 15 sec CD) – 20% sp to all
- FI (2040 mana, 6 sec CD) – 30% sp to all
So, looking at the latter two options, the cost of using Unleash Elements over a shock is an approximate 3-4k heal and 1200 mana on a strict one-to-one comparison. However, assuming that the shock in question is the lowest cost option—Flame Shock—it would have a net -1530 effect on the next cast, thus making up for the additional cost of the shock; so the only benefit tonot using FI would be the heal itself (because the 10% differential in output could not be made up by the subsequent cast, unless its base heal was 30-40k). With all 3 insta-casts applicable during relative downtimes in raid damage or during movement dictated by encounter mechanics (void zones, fire, cutters, etc.), provided the meager Unleash Elements heal isn’t absolutely needed, then Focused Insight will likely compete with RT (haste/crit versus pure throughput) for the more beneficial cast.
What’s interesting to consider here are a couple things:
- Though instant-cast, all of the above spells will cost you at least a 1-second GCD, meaning that your delivery time of heals will be delayed, and further indicating that heals will need to be cast very proactively.
- None of these predecessor spells and talents appear to affect Healing Rain (for its entire duration; current modifiers appear to affect only the first tick of the first target healed).
- The mana benefit of FI is completely trumped by the mana gain of Telluric Currents. (However, to make Telluric Currents workable, I would highly suspect that Resto will need to take an Elemental sub-spec instead of Enhance, so that they can have sufficient hit to reliably return good chunks of mana. I’ll have to put this on my beta-testing list!)
- We have no more T10 effects to bolster our RT usage.
The cynic is getting riled up
So, as it stands, Shaman will have four spells and three talents (Focused Insight, Tidal Waves and Nature’s Blessing), that buff other spells. Thus, the implication is that in Cataclysm, the order in which you cast will start to have a significant impact on your output. The counter to this is, however, that the buffs provided by all 3 insta-cast abilities are temporary at best, and can only be applied within the confines of the CDs on shamans’ shock spells and on the CDs of Unleash Elements and Riptide.
But do consider that a rotation like: RT – HW – Shock – CH – UE – LHW, would allow you to benefit from the increased healing of all of the spells and talents, all within a span of approximately 8 seconds, more than enough for all of the “filler” buff spells to come off of CD. Also consider that when you have spells that provide healing over time effects (like RT and ES) a predecessor argument becomes all the more valid, because each of these spells uses a calculation based on the caster’s stats at the time of the initial cast. So that “super-charging” practice we all loved back in BC, could make a rousing comeback.
When it comes to Healing Rain, shamans’ new massive AOE heal which costs a whopping 43% base mana, we have a case when the predecessor argument ceases to be a debate and becomes a “best practice” that trumps all others. A 30% buff to Healing Rain (which is ticking anywhere from 650 – 1000 for 10 seconds at level 83), is no small amount when applied to a majority of the raid, especially when the net reduction is estimated at around 2% per person. (It’s worth noting that it’s currently not performing this way on Beta; percent increase modifiers are only applying to the first tick on one person. It remains to be seen if this is a bug or not.)
At this point, (at least as I have to remind myself when I log onto the Beta,) numbers are inconsequential. They are easily adjusted and not set in stone. But the quality of life consideration, which is what Beta testing centers on, is huge. As Acoustic of Covenant so wonderfully described in his/her post on the Beta forums:
Deferring heals for more powerful heals a second later is a gameplay decision that could be interesting, and Riptide and Tidal Waves certainly are. But … frequent use of a Flame Shock Macro [shouldn’t] be a part of the best practices of Shaman healing. Source
I agree, it shouldn’t. Nor should a complicated conditional tree which penalizes you for not having enough foresight to select RT, or UE, or FI, in advance of the damage occurring. When we talk about Resto Shaman, we’re talking about a class with typically very long cast times, where being proactive is used, in part, to distinguish our good healers from the not-so-great. But with more layers of intricacy being introduced, I wonder if we aren’t maybe tripping over our own feet, making a functional and adaptable class into one which actually has an “optimal” healing rotation, just for the sake of a few more “fun” spells in our toolbox?