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


August 20, 2010

Is the Healing “Rotation” Becoming a Reality?

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Written by: Vixsin
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Lost's Magic Numbers

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?


Current State

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).


Future State

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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!)
  4. 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?


  1. Vnko

    As I browse through blue posts I notice often times when questioned about the usefulness of some of these spells blues continually indicate something along the lines of ‘all healers have downtime.’ To me it seems that at least their stated intent is some healer boredom syndrome that they may imagine much more prevalent than truly exists. While I may spend most of my time in my daily heroic not paying attention (ie: typing this response) I don’t think I want the class balanced around filling my attention while I overgear content.

    I think, while not addressing it specifically, the blues alluded to a mindset they were trying to avoid, which is these mandatory buffs, when referring to the new warlock soul shard mechanics. They feared that locks would feel the need to use the soul shards more or less on cooldown, which is not what they were hoping for. Instead they sought marginal situational utility for a beefed up spell.

    Along this same trend, we as resto shaman are given a few “fun” talents that may have a usefulness here and there. Perhaps some boss fights will contain mechanics in which the damage fluctuates from periods of high spikes to low intensity damage. During the low periods we have the opportunity to regain some mana with telluric currents and then set up a shock in preparation for the incoming major damage as the metaphorical damage pendulum swings back towards heavy.

    This is my hope for the direction they take these particular spells. I by no means want it to ever be mandatory that I am consistently interweaving any direct damaging spell into my healing toolbox, but I certainly wouldn’t mind situational usefulness here and there.

    • You nailed it, Vnko. There’s no better way to put me slightly on edge than to start talking about how “easy” healing is these days. And part of me worries that maybe the devs, especially those with significant input on healing, are starting to believe the chorus. Tuning for the times when you overgear an instance (and are being propped up by a 30% buff, which is the siz eof the nerf they put into place before WotLK launched), is a dangerous road indeed!

  2. Wow, 2 days since this post and still no comments? Everyone must be on their holidays I suspect.

    I’m actually glad you put this up Vixsin, since what with all the goodies coming out for priests with the whole chakra thing, paladins with holy power and resto druids with the Tree of Life benefits to heals, I kind of forgot that we as shamans got two nice additions ourselves, mainly Unleash Elements and Focused Insight.

    I’ve had a few days to think about this and while this is starting to look really nice (in fact the direction as a whole that the development team seems to take with spells being very dynamic in their usage and the way they will interact with each other looks awesome), I’m not sure that the Shaman restoration has this flexibility when compared to other classes and trees.

    When I compare our toolbox with the one that priests seem to posses in the current beta build, it seems that we are still very much gc-constrained when compared to the chakra-state that priests now have. “Pop chakra, use spell -> get put into chakrastate” and go nuts, while the state of mind talent still allows for a lot of flexibility with your spellusage and doesn’t constrict you to the one spell.

    When compared to our toolbox, I would say the big difference is that the current beta holy priest can play a lot more “lazily” ie. wait for the encounter to dish out what it has to dish out and react in a split second whereas we will have to think of what will happen 3/5/7 seconds from now and start setting up healbombs accordingly. This does seem to tie in well with your last paragraph.

    It just seems to put more stress on using your healing rain in a proactive way rather then the big O’SHIT! button I had in mind that it would/could be.



    • I’m going to prefer to think that players were either 1) stunned by an incredibly insightful and well-reasoned post, or 2) heavily restrained and thus unable to express the sentiment of #1. (heh)

      I think my greatest concern about this type of conditional healing that we’re seeing form with Resto’s lead-in spells, is that it will encourage players to simply adhere to the “rotation”, lest they be punished for not being able to predict damage 4-5 seconds out. And with spam once again going on the “thou shalt not” list, that would put us in a very tight corner.

  3. Firestyle

    Very nice read. A while back when I first read we were getting a third version of healing wave, I was kind of worried about where I would fit that in. It seems, it’s just going to take over where I’m currently using LHW, and thus I expect to be using LHW on an emergency basis.

    That being said, having two instant casts for emergencies in addition to LHW falling into this niche makes me feel like we have the tools to respond reactively, but I don’t really feel any tools are all that different. These are in addition to NS for a total of 3 ways to emergency heal – while at the same time, moving to a slower paced more strategic healing approach to encounters. Are we going to have too many tools to fill a niche that’s not going to exist?

    This makes me feel like when I was playing my level 15 mage – where I could scast fireball, frost bolt, or arcane missle. At that level, each fundamentally does the same thing with marginal differences.

    Not to be resistant to change, but I was very comfortable with the resto shaman healing toolset (save adding a defensive CD). As healing in beta stands now, at least until I am more comfortable with all these extra buttons to hit, I feel like I’ll macro bind my riptide and UL together so that when riptide is on CD and I need an instant cast heal, i’ll cast UL. I seem to want to RT more often than it is off CD. Next, I’ll replace my LHW with HW and try to find a useful place for LHW (maybe even a third option in the same macro if both RT and UL are on CD).

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