Another week, another Beta patch introduced—and another opportunity missed for just about everyone out there. No matter the class you’re favoring at this point, or the one you’re watching with avid interest as you settle on your new main, chances are your section of the blogosphere is filled with the lamentations of class lobbyists (otherwise known as bloggers and players) decrying the lack/presence of necessary/worthless changes in the most recent Beta patch. Yes, I dared to say it—we’re all lobbyists to some degree, because in truth, none of us can be truly objective about the classes that we have vested interests in. I am certainly no exception in this respect; but hopefully I can spare you from the QQ in the following and show you that the future of Resto Shaman has its fair share of sunshine.
So onto the Resto news … Patch 12942 hit Beta servers on Friday, and brought with it several changes to the Resto Shaman class, for better and for worse. Since I’m going to assume that if you’re alive and breathing you already skimmed the patch notes, I’ll spare you the copy/paste repost. Instead, let’s get into the good, the meh, and the missing effects of Blizzard’s most recent changes.
The Good Stuff
- Restorative Totems has been nixed – As GC mentioned, this talent was known to be on the chopping block. So, its removal from the resto tree has effectively freed up 2 points which would have otherwise been dumped into increasing the return of our water totems.
- Soothing Rains has been added – Definitely a positive addition for restos everywhere, especially given the concern that HR was performing similarly for all shaman specs.
- Improved Chain Heal has been nixed (although I wasn’t able to confirm if this means the Ele shamans will have the same power as Restos, which I don’t think it viable, or if the healing increase will be baked into Resto itself).
- Telluric Currents has been moved down a tier – good news for leveling shaman who might be trying to do the Resto grind.
- Nature’s Blessing moved to tier 3 – a great change that supports Resto Shaman getting ES as their base ability and wonderfully helpful for low-level Resto dungeon healing
- Ancestral Awakening moved to tier 5 – Movign this crit-based talent to a higher tier means that Restos won’t be asked to dump points into it until it actually starts to matter.
- (not in the patch notes but worth noting) Chain Heal is healing 4 targets as a baseline – Another great change which not only frees up a Glyph spot, but also establishes CH as a solid group healing spell.
- (not in the patch notes but worth noting) Glyph of Chain Heal is working out to be an increase in healing – But the important thing to note is that CH *must* make a 4th jump for the glyph to be an increase in output. At 3 targets, you will essentially break even, and with 2 or 1 hits, you’re looking at a net loss of healing.
The Meh Stuff
- Ancestral Healing is now a predecessor to Ancestral Awakening – I’m not sure I understand this connection being made since the talents have been exclusive up until this point. While I would hope most restos would want to pick up both of these talents regardless of their dependencies, I wonder what the impetus behind linking them was. Maybe “The resto tree looks like a giant blob of talents with no definition, so let’s put something in there …”?
- Improved Cleanse spirit is now a predecessor to Cleansing Waters – a small move in location, I don’t really see the impact other than allowing leveling shamans access to cleanse magic sooner than they would have before.
- (not in the patch notes but worth noting) Reincarnation has a new Icon – This can only mean that riptide will likely be getting one soon as well (hehe)
- (alluded to in the patch notes) Lesser Healing Wave has been renamed Healing Surge – I don’t think I understand the logic on this one, but seeing how there is no effective change to the spell or its qualities, the only impact is that I’ll have to get used to writing “HS” instead of “LHW”
- Blessing of the Eternals no longer modifies crit – I’m a little disappointed in this change, seeing as how Blizzard is continuing to prune shaman of passive crit talents, and especially considering that so many of our “bonus” effects (like WS procs, AA, and Ancestral Healing) are based on crit.
- (not in the patch notes but worth noting) We have two “free” talent points – while you might be inclined to think “this is great news!”, the talent points unfortunately present themselves in such a way where most restos will have 1 flex point to spend prior to entering Tier 5, (if you go with this build and another to spend before entering Tier 6. This situation proves awkward at best because it forces you to invest an additional point in any talent above Tier 3 that you want to maximize (like say, Telluric Currents or Cleansing Waters) which then removes a point you can spend reaching Ancestral Swiftness or maxxing out Acuity.
The Missing Stuff
Despite all the above reshuffling, as it stands, Shaman have had one of the least altered trees in the 31-point conversion, and although we’ll be adding some new spells to our arsenal, I think the general consensus is that we’re looking to have more of the same style and rotation come Cataclysm. (I’m certainly not objecting, because I personally enjoy the Wrath style of healing for shamans, especially considering where we were in BC.)
But, through all of the patches and builds, there remain some pervasive concerns about a class which has been largely unchanged in Beta:
- HPS control and moderation – with the removal of Tidal Force, Resto Shaman have effectively one very weak way to increase their own healing output in times of stress (either on single or multiple targets), and that’s through Nature’s Swiftness. While Spiritwalker’s Grace may address low-end HPS output (which occurs during movement), nothing at this point contributes to a sustained yet brief increase in Resto’s baseline throughput. With more control being put into the hands of healers, through varied spell selections and tuned arsenals, Shamans’ lack of tuning in this respect really stands out, much in the way it has through later Wrath. (I’ll point to Valithria as a fight that really highlights the differential in burst healing output that currently exists between classes).
- Defensive CD – This point goes hand-in-hand with the preceding one in that Resto currently lack a way to assist a tank with incoming damage or mitigate incoming damage on ourselves. Whether it is some offshoot of Spirit Link or another innovative solution (many of which have been suggested on the forums), the concern is that Restos will be less desirable on progression encounters due in large part to Point #1 above and their lack of “oh shyte” CD. Yes, this walks the dangerous line of “everyone else has one, so I should too” but in this argument I fall more on the side of necessary tools to perform our job, rather than wish list of things we’d like to have. (Imagine if there was a tanking class without a personal CD and I hope you’d understand this point.)
- Passive Healing Moderation – This might be a bit precipitous given that numbers in beta have not yet been tuned, but one significant worry raised by Restos concerns the tuning of Resto’s passive heals—Healing Rain and Healing Stream. Currently, HST hits for about 600-800 per tick, while HR hits for around 1-2k per tick. If the intention is that Healing Rain should provide a substantial HPS boost during high-damage periods, then the heal seems significantly mis-aligned with the intent. However, if the intention is to interweave HR with CH, then the mana cost seems excessive.
- Healing Modifiers – Currently, Focused Insight and Unleash Elements do not result in an increase in healing across all Healing Rain ticks (only the first one on the first target). There has been no confirmation if this is a bug or an intentional decision to preclude Shaman from using a FI/UE predecessor to AOE healing spells.
- Hots & Haste – The stated intent was that hots (and dots) in Cata would benefit from the caster’s haste and crit, however current Beta functionality has Riptide, Healing Rain, Earthliving, and Healing Stream’s hots operating independently of haste/crit mechanics. If they were to remain disconnected from haste, the concern is that it would create a tension between stats and effectively depreciate the value of haste because of its application to only one segment of Resto’s toolbox.
- Dependency on the triage model –It’s been stated elsewhere, Resto Shaman healing is not intended to be balanced around the benefit from our Deep Healing Mastery. However, with several of our talents (and mastery) tied directly to the triage model –that is, players being at varying levels of health throughout an encounter without imminent threat of a 1-shot—it’s a struggle to see how our healing can be in line with other classes (and their own constant mastery bonuses) and still strike a balance between overpowered in times of low raid health and functional when players have relatively little mastery on their gear.
Where to go from here?
As evidenced by a plethora of recent threads, blog posts, and forum topics, the “fun” game of Guess the Cata Release Date has unintentionally become blood in the water for players, healers especially. I think, as a group, healers have been on edge since it was announced that we would be seeing some significant changes in our base healing model. And as reports come out of the Beta about healers being very challenged by the new dungeon content (we definitely are), and about healers needed to pay more strict attention to our mana expenditures (we definitely need to), the intensity of the feeding frenzy increases.
But from what I’ve seen thus far, the sky isn’t falling. The world isn’t ending. But what it is doing is changing. And yes, there is the potential for that change to be something that I, you, and/or we don’t like. But the beauty of it all, and I think this is what players oftentimes forget, is that perceived class flaws will always be present. As much as I hype Resto Shaman, there are things about the class that make my eyelid twitch with frustration. But therein lies the fun.
In the end, I’m not here to play the perfect game where I feel like a god among men or the EZ mode class that can top meters with only exquisite bandaging skill and one skillfully applied hot. No, I’m here to be challenged, to work out solutions, to develop keener judgment, and to be successful through it all. I’ll argue like hell for the changes I’d like to see, but when it comes down to it, my skill is going to be defined (and refined) by what didn’t ever make it into the patch notes. So, despite all the doom and gloom, it’s not the end of days; it’s the beginning.
What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.
- Richard Bach