Life in Group 5 – A Resto Shaman Blog
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Shaman - General

September 14, 2010

Where Art Thou, Spirit Link?

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Written by: Vixsin
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Resto Shaman Talent Tree - Patch 12942

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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






15 Comments


  1. And despite all that upheaval and change we’ve recently gone through, we’re still far better off than the other healers right now. Well maybe not priests, they seem to be on par with us.
    Lodur´s last post ..Your beta and healing questions answered


  2. I’ve refrained from even speculating on shaman numbers for various reasons, mostly because I’m not in the beta, and secondly, because it’s still in beta. :p

    But from what I can read, I’m glad that Shamans are used as a model for the other healing classes, but I would like to see some more shinies to be honest. :p


  3. Yeah, I’m having to hold myself back a little on the numbers side of things lest I get too carried away in ratios and beta-vs-live comparisons. If I had to characterize shaman healing as anything at this point, I think I’d say it feels very … basic (and I don’t mean that in a bad way, actually). I’ve not had the chance to heal on my disc yet (he’s only 82), but it will be interesting to see how they compare.


  4. Resto druids suffer from the lack of defensive cd’s to help tanks as well…
    Kaethir´s last post ..Reclaiming Gnomeregan


    • Very true. It’s been a problem that’s been present all through Wrath which has really cramped Druid-Shaman healing teams (which also happened to be the combo I healed Sarth 3D and Firefighter with, and man it was brutal). The addition of Tree of Life, although not ideal in it’s current state from what I’m reading, does at least fill the gap of self-moderation that druids had in a number of encounters. I used to play with a tree who, during times of intense pressure, would yell “more hots, MOAR HOTS!” because in the absence of any CD, that was all he could do. All I can say is, I can relate. :-P


      • I’ve only healed on my paladin, so losing any cooldowns hurts considerably. Even losing the relatively short-lived Divine Guardian in 4.0 makes me sad. There are plenty of times when I do feel absolutely awesome. On the other hand, healing in a constant DoT/Aura environment scares the crap out of me. Maybe HoT/Shield spam and AoE heals don’t feel as ‘heroic’ as HoSac, DSac, HoP or Aura Mastery, but keeping 5+ people half alive when I’m surely losing 2 or 3 sounds pretty good to me. I understand a lot of that is due to healer specialization in Wrath, so there is one huge reason why I have to choose blind faith.

        I will continue to follow the Cataclysm discussion with interest, but I just can’t learn the new mechanics as they’re constantly changing while still maintaining a weekly raid schedule. In 4.0 I’ll learn, I’ll adapt, and I’ll continue to believe that it will never be as bad as healing Magister’s Terrace pre-Beacon with just adequate gear. At least, it’ll never be that bad after Blizzard is done hotfixing and patching.
        Joe Ego´s last post ..Welcome!


  5. […]  Having said that, as Bink’s post highlighted there’s still plenty to be done (where art thou, Spirit Link?) and plenty of feedback still to be given and received. On that subject, making class changes […]


  6. I guess what is a little bit frustrating for me is to see Resto Shaman and Holy Priests be in such a good spot right now, and truly be able to state “the sky is not falling”, where Resto Druids and Holy Paladins are so completely broken that those on beta are practically throwing up their hands in frustration.

    I want to embrace this new healing model, I really do. I’m all for change and challenges. But I don’t want to be miserable playing a toon that I’ve played for the past 6 years. And from what I’ve been hearing from the beta testers is that Druid healing is currently nothing short of miserable.

    I think what infuriates me most about it, is that the responses these beta testers are getting to their concerns is basically “it’s fine, you are just doing it wrong”. But I truly believe there are some core mechanics problems that don’t seem to be receiving the attention the need.

    Forgive be for being less optimistic, but from the way it looks from where I am standing, the sky may not be falling…but those clouds are damn close :(


    • I can definitely understand that frustration–it’s maddening to think that a character you’ve poured a mountain of time into could be up for some changes that might also change how you feel about the class.

      From my external perspective, I think this is where Blizzard really feels the double-edged sword of participating in forum feedback. On one hand, they encourage the community to really feel invested in the game and its nuances, and on the other hand, it simply can’t be a free-flowing dialog because they need to play their cards really close to the vest. So personally, when I read assurances/ announcements from any blue, I just imagine the mountain of work and discussions that went into backing up that single point. (I’ve some professional experience in this regard, working in an industry where I have to choose my words very, very carefully lest they come back to haunt me.)

      So, given the choice between flipping out about the fact that my CH on Beta, at 85, is hitting for *half* of what it hits for on live (excluding the ICC buff) and enjoying the inner calm that comes with believing it will work out for the best, it becomes one of the rare times I choose blind faith. :- /


  7. Grookshank

    While I agree we might have 2 free talent points, I don’t quite get your paragraph:

    “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 4, and another to spend before entering Tier 6.”

    Since we have 6 talent points in T3, we never have a flex point prior to T4, or do I read it wrong?

    Currently I think about specing:
    Tidal Focus 3/3 – Spark of Life 3/3 – Improved Water Shield 2/2 and then I am busted. I need to spend 2 more points to get to T3 and while I admit being conservative about healing, I can’t see the point in Focused Insight yet. Nature’s Guardian is unchanged and still a no for pve, Totemic Focus (just for the Mana Tide ticks?!) and Ancestral Resolve seem pretty lackluster. I’d prolly pick Ancestral Resolve 2/2.

    I pick all the rest, skipping Telluric Currents for my 31 points in Resto; Acuity 3/3 – Improved Shields 3/3, Elemental Weapons 2/2 and still have 2 points left for Ancestral Switfness.

    What makes me a bit sad, is having a hard time at the moment to justify even 31 points in the resto tree. Maybe I underestimate Focused Insight, since there are no raids to test on the beta, but in 5mans I can’t see the need to cast Lightning Bolts to replenish mana.

    Also the Chain Heal change can’t really be final. We now are left with 2 spells to actively aoe heal and both are pretty weak.


    • Definitely a case where I didn’t articulate what I was thinking … Provided that you pick up Totemic Focus or Ancestral Resolve instead of Focused Insight or Nature’s Guardian, and max out all other talents, you’ll end up with one point prior to entering Tier 5 (typo there), and one additional point before entering tier 6.

      As to what to spend points on in the second tier–Totemtic Focus, I would predict, will be almost mandatory. At a 2 point investment, it gives an additional 12% mana back to your entire group (36% return total), which blows all other forms of multi-party mana return out of the water. At this point, I’m not seeing much applicability for Focused Insight, since most instances I’ve healed leave little room for shocks.


  8. Dazdor

    I don’t know if you’ve seen suggestions like this but what I’d really love to see for all shaman is some more dynamic uses of totems. For example, Ancestral Earth: Calls upon the spirits of earth to shield the target from damage for a short period of time. Reducing their damage taken by 40% for 8 seconds. Your Earth Totem is consumed in the process and cannot be replaced for 30 seconds. (2 minute CD). I’m aware that this is basically a mirror of Priest’s Pain Suppression but its really just an example to get people thinking. Obviously their might be a something like that for each spec too. Because I still feel that totems are mostly ‘drop them and forget’.


    • Dazdor

      Pardon the poor English. My brain isn’t on straight atm.


    • My brain must not be on straight either because I (think) I understood that perfectly!

      I absolutely agree that it would be interesting to have more dynamic use of totems in PVE (drawing a page from the dropping and swapping we see in PVP). I’ve read a number of, what I think, are amazing suggestions utilizing totems and spells like ES, yours included, that I think would be viable ways to provide that defensive CD that restos are holding out for. But at this point, I think it’s safe to say that the barrier to implementation of a resto CD isn’t a lack of design ideas, but more Blizzard’s design philosophy for the class.

      It’s one of the downsides of being in Beta–it’s like having a particularly bad conversation on your cell phone where the other person can hear you perfectly, but you only catch a couple of words every minute from them. >.<


  9. Firestyle

    What I can say, from across all healing classes, is that tier 11 is going to be interesting. I fully suspect balance issues and I really don’t expect healers to be using all of these heals – likely, even as GC has indicated – we have overlap in the fast heal toolbox. As resto shaman, we have riptide, unleashed ELW, and healing surge/LHW. Not sure we need this may tools for this niche, especially given the expected slowed pace of healing.



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