As the clock slowly ticks down to Cataclysm, the blue posts are becoming few and far between and class tweaks are ever-diminishing. But the calm of the forum waters, I’m sure, hides the frantic levels of work being put in by Blizzard staff, their clocks having just marked 3 weeks to go before the big launch day. So, as the Sundering approaches and the skies darken, I thought it time for another update about just where Shaman stand for raiding come 85. In the sections that follow, I’ll be touching on a number (but not all) of Resto’s healing tools and where they stand at the end of the Beta.
Note: this is not the full, overburdened, uber-guide to Cataclysm end-game, just a preview of things to come once you hit level 85!
Arguably, resto shamans haven’t been on the receiving end of a number of buffs, or a number of nerfs, during Cataclysm testing. (Part and parcel of being at the performance level that Blizzard was looking to bring all other healers to, I would guess.) So, it came as a pretty big shock to me when I logged into the Beta on Tuesday night (before the announcement went live on MMO-Champ) and discovered the substantial boost we received to Healing Rain. Whereas previously HR ticks were coming in at just around 1.1k, they now clock in at around 2.2k per tick, with crits in the 4k range.
And while some in the healing community are seeing the buff as unnecessary or over-the-top, I (and a number of other major forum contributors) have long been arguing that a change was needed to make this spell a worthwhile addition to the shaman arsenal. Prior to this buff, at less than 5 targets, the HPM cost exceeded that of Healing Surge, our “high mana tax” heal. This high cost, combined with the spell’s situational nature and underwhelming throughput, meant that very few resto shaman in the Beta used HR in their rotations, such that it rarely accounted for more than 15% of a shaman’s total healing done. But with this change, Restos will see a noticeable reward for casting this AOE heal, and maybe not wince as much at the ~10% of total mana it takes to cast.
But, there are two more important things to note about HR’s beta state:
- It has an incredibly low chance to proc Earthliving. I’m definitely bummed about this one, since the EL procs that came from HR in its first beta iterations made it a boon to raid healing, and a way to quickly blanket the raid in hots. At present, the proc chance is hovering at a level where players are questioning if it is a bug, rather than working as intended. We’ll have to see about this one.
- Although not noted on MMO-Champion, Healing Rain is now affected by Mastery. Yes, you read that correctly. Even though the ticks are still affected by haste, they are now also affected by the shaman’s Mastery value. This is a definite step towards integrating HR into our arsenal, but it also furthers the tension that will exist between haste, crit and mastery as secondary stats.
There hasn’t been much of a change in the functionality and performance of Chain Heal for all of the Beta testing. The healing performance remains fairly underwhelming, though through a careful combination of an RT hot, UE buff, and ES-applied target, I have been able to clock some initial hits of CH at ~18k. (But don’t expect to see those regularly.) As it stands in beta, CH will remain our bread-and-butter spell, but there will be significant encouragement through encounter mechanics and otherwise to use a large number of our other healing tools.
There is, however, one point of clarification which I’d like to make in regards to chain heal:
Chain heal DOES benefit from Mastery. Every jump. Stop saying otherwise.
Where players go awry with their understanding of the application of Mastery to Chain Heal is that they think for Chain Heal to truly benefit from Mastery, the + healing needs to be reapplied on every jump. What they are failing to remember is that the successive jumps of CH are calculated from the value of the 1st hit, which already includes the Mastery bonus. So, the calculation for CH is as follows:
- 1st Hit = Base Value x Mastery Bonus x CH Glyph
- 2nd Hit = 1st Hit x Modifier x CH Glyph
- 3rd Hit = 2nd Hit x Modifier x CH Glyph
- 4th Hit = 3rd Hit x Modifier x CH Glyph
If we were to use a simple example of a CH with an initial hit of 1000, we would see the following:
So, as you can see, after establishing baseline values for each glyphed CH bounce (shown in Column D), and then calculating the values after applying a 20% Mastery bonus (shown in Column E), the difference (shown in Column F) demonstrates the numerical benefit of Mastery in each bounce. Column G shows the percent of effective contribution of Mastery for each jump. So, while the last bounce of a CH will only benefit from 52% of the healing bonus applied to the first hit of CH, it benefits from that Mastery nonetheless. (Bear in mind, this is a simplified example, and there will be a number of other factors which influence the value of your final heal).
So please, educate the Resto Shaman in your life and help put a stop to the posts about Mastery not affecting CH. They make me cranky.
Although I started out in beta thinking that Telluric Currents would be one of those optional “flavor” talents found in the new Resto tree (and indeed it is on live), after some pretty solid testing I’m changing my stance on this one. Unless it gets nerfed, Telluric Currents is well worth the investment of points for the mana return. After spending a while testing heroics and 10man raids with a mana bar that seemed to have sprung a leak, I switched my spec around to pick up TC instead of FI and haven’t looked back since.
At its present performance, the return for a Lightning Bolt cast by a semi-epic resto shaman is around 3200 mana. With Lightning Bolt costing 1405 mana at level 85, this results in a 1795 net mana gain per cast. As you get more and more epic gear, that return increases significantly (I was getting some 3600 returns in there with the fully-epic pre-made.) So, given that most fights incorporate some period of time where healing is not essential (or in the case of Chimaron in BWD, where healing is simply not allowed), restos can gain a substantial portion of regen from tossing out several LB’s.
If this cost-benefit ratio remains constant, come Cata, I will be strongly encouraging all raiding Restos to pick up TC in lieu of supplemental Elemental and Enhance talents.
For most of the beta, Resto Shamans’ Mastery has been a sort of black box—its functionality has been explored in great detail, but the actual quantitative effects remain embedded in unspecific combat log lines. Unfortunately, even with beta testing coming to a close, I fear we’re still not at a point where we can determine: “What is Mastery’s true value?”
So, this leads to a sort of qualitative analysis of our newest stat. At present, we know that Mastery affects the following:
- HS / HW / GHW
- RT initial hit
- Healing Rain
- AA (albeit at a 30% reduction)
By definition, we also know that Restos’ Mastery is not applied the following:
- Earth Shield
- RT hots
The crux of the problem then becomes a two-fold evaluation: 1. What average percent is Deep Healing being applied at, and 2. Is my spell distribution such that Mastery would provide a greater benefit than other supplemental stats? As anecdotal evidence, a number of raiding shaman in the beta have been successful steering away from Mastery, in favor of haste. At present, my own epic premade is reforged away from Mastery as much as possible, and gemmed entirely with Int, or Int/haste where applicable. It remains to be seen whether or not this is the “best” way to go, but at present it feels comfortable.
It is worth nothing here, however, that for 10-mans where shaman are serving as dedicated tank healers, Mastery’s value will likely be greater than it would otherwise be when a shaman is serving as a snipe and raid healer. Mastery’s effects on HS, HW, and GHW are much more concrete and direct than they are with HR, CH, and RT, because in a tank-healing environment, you are serving as a first-responder and thus (generally) not vulnerable to significant overlap with other healers.
As an aside to Shaman Mastery debate, Restos will be heartened to know there is one fight in Blackwing Descent—Chimaron—which absolutely caters to us and our Mastery (much like if Anub Phase 3 in ToGC had required that the raid be topped off after Leeching Swarm was applied). In this one encounter, Resto Shamans’ Mastery will be king, because players will need to be quickly and frequently healed from sub-10% HP levels. One fight, however, does not a viable Mastery make. But hey, at least it’s a positive argument in the discussion.
With the boost to the baseline healing of this spell, and the buffs it provides to both single and multi-target healing (more to the former than the latter, arguably), RT has a pretty solid place in most Resto rotations come Cataclysm. In 5-mans, Tidal Waves is vital to keeping groups up in situations where CH isn’t an option. In 10’s, where single-target (non-tank) healing is oftentimes necessary, it provides an excellent throughput buff. (Though I will miss the haste RT afforded me in my T10). In 25’s, like I mentioned previously, you can power up some pretty hard-hitting Chain Heals based on rolling RT hots.
In all, I actually find RT easier to use in Cataclysm because of the longer cast times of most Resto spells. It makes it decidedly easier to work into a rotation, such that I’m almost using it on CD in most of my beta raids, and the very low mana cost makes it easy on your mana bar.
There are only two things really worth noting about this spell’s applicability in Cataclysm—first, that you will use it far more in 5-mans than you will in any raid, and second, that Glyph of Healing Wave is absolutely poop. In regards to the former, Healing Wave was a staple in every run I did, keeping both tanks and raid members at reasonable levels of HP as we chugged through trash and bosses. As a default heal in an environment where damage isn’t intense, it’s sufficient. In raids, however, the disparity between incoming damage and HW’s output increases to the point where it becomes a fallback, something you use if you don’t have much else to offer. In most beta parses of 10- and 25-man encounters, HW is barely present, if at all.
And that’s why, as a Major glyph, Glyph of Healing Wave is pretty darn useless in any raid environment. Granted, it’s not being used at the expense of another super-glyph, but when you compare it to a talent like Protector of the Innocent, or hell, even the healing gained from Glyph of Riptide, there simply is no comparison. While it might have had its uses in WotLK, in a Cata world, it’s only being used because there’s nothing else to take its place.
Uptime Uptime Uptime
One of the consistent pieces of advice that I give to new and struggling shaman is pretty darn boring, but ever-so-important—make sure to keep Earth Shield and Water Shield up. If nothing else, playing extensively on beta underscored how vital that piece of advice is in a mana-starved environment. ES is, bar none, the best value we have in terms of HPM, and will contribute to a 15% boost in healing to all direct heals on ES’d targets (this includes CH!) And although WS values on beta right now are a bit wonky, the passive mana gain from mp5 and the active gain from WS procs will become your largest source of regen. So, get those PowerAuras ready now, because come Cata, bad shield uptime will be hitting you where it hurts.
Launching in 3 … 2 … 1 …
Our tweaks have been few, our omissions have been notable, but through it all resto shaman have stayed a class where synergy and anticipation are the name of the game. Our cast times remain some of the highest in the game for every type of healing spell, our mana costs remain higher still, and yet we endure as a very versatile healer. The strengths we had in WotLK will not be replaced come Cata. And while I still wholeheartedly believe that Shaman got the short end of the stick on a couple of issues, I’m not about to preach doom and gloom for those of you looking ahead to level 85.
I am, instead, going to encourage you to experience it for yourself. Even having played in Beta, I’m looking forward to going through the “real” experience on Vixsyn and working my way back up to the top once again. And, while the healing game has changed in many ways, I think you’ll find plenty of reasons to stick with your own Master of the Green Beam after December 7th. I know I will.