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


December 4, 2009

Healing Wave: Unbound and Unloved

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Written by: Vixsin
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A slow, clunky heal with not much base power, Healing Wave has long struggled to find its niche application within the Shaman’s limited healing arsenal. In BC, a Shaman who regularly cast HW was akin to a Priest who used Heal—a veritable healing pariah. The beginning of WotLK brought some changes to the spell, but not enough to completely alleviate the stigma. However, with Patch 3.2, Healing Wave was given an additional facelift, to make it more appealing to Shamans as a rotational spell instead of just a one-off that was macro’ed with Nature’s Swiftness. With Healing Way increasing the innate power of HW, and Tidal Waves augmented to be one of the most verbose descriptions of a buff ever, HW has become a viable “long bomb” tank healing spell.

So why is it still collecting cobwebs in my spellbook?

Technically speaking, I still have HW keybound and, of course, it is used in one of my NS macros, but the reality is that I’m one of Resto Shamans out there who doesn’t frequently use this powerhouse of a spell. Though I’m not entirely convinced of my own reasoning, in the following I’ll detail the factors that influenced my choice—efficiency/sustainability, and my healing team. To supplement my discussion, I’ll be referencing Daidalos’ amazing, incredible and [insert superfluous adjective here] spreadsheet, with some of my own data added in.


The Numbers

Right now, I regularly utilize two different gear sets—one that’s heavily hasted (Set 1) and one that focuses more on spellpower while maintaining enough haste to keep my LHW at 1.1 seconds (Set 2). To summarize:

  • Set 1: 3004 SP, 1259 Int, 1050 Haste, 28% crit, 303 mp5 (without Solace x2 procs)
  • Set 2: 3294 SP, 1298 int, 814 Haste, 37% crit, 177mp5 (without Solace x1 proc)

As you can see, by dropping a good portion of my haste, I can pick up additional spellpower (partially gained from the inclusion of Eye of the Broodmother) and around 9% crit. Supplemented by two Solace trinkets, Set 1 has amazing regen for CH-heavy environments. Set 2 alternately, has less regen but significantly more power, and recovers a greater percentage of its mana through WS procs.


Vixsin's Healing Data Excerpted from Daidalos' Resto Shaman Healing Calcs

The summary data generated for these two sets by Daidalos’ spreadsheet can be seen at right. Set 1 is provided as a point of comparison, showing how much of a difference there would be in my healing output were I to accidently leave my haste set on when taking on single-target assignments. (Yeah, um, no that’s never happened before … *shifty eyes*.) But let’s focus on Set 2.

Utilizing a 3.33sec rotation of RT + LHWx2 (highlighted in blue) you can see that I generate an approximate HPS of 10.8k (Column f) and get a value of 26.81 healing per mana point (Column e). Not bad. In comparison, using a 3.70sec rotation of RT + HWx2 (highlighted in green) nets me an approximate HPS of 13.9k and 24.08 healing per mana point. This means that all of those shamans out there using HW based on the premise that it generates the highest HPS value are, in fact, correct. It does. However, what you should also note is that the high HPS comes at a very high cost. You’re paying more for every point of healing that you dish out; 2.7 mana per point of healing to be precise. This cost becomes very apparent when you look at your sustainability—the time it takes you to go oom if you spam that rotation. The HW-based rotation can only be sustained for a mere minute when spamming, whereas the LHW-based rotation can last almost double the time. This highlights the first reason I elect to use LHW—efficiency/sustainability. I get more healing per point of mana for a longer duration.

So on to the second reason I stick with LHW—my healing teammates. On fights with heavy tank damage (think: Algalon, Anub, Thorim HM towards the last 30%) we generally have 3+ healers on the tank, one of whom is an amazing holy pally. He can be counted on to use Holy Light when the occasion dictates it, so I know that he’ll be bombing the tank with heals up to 20k every ~1.3sec. If I elected to use a HW rotation, I would essentially be serving as a second holy pally (only with significantly less endurance.) Unfortunately, this means that we’re healing at approximately the same interval and at the same level of power. And, let’s remember that I don’t make a good holy pally for very long. So my alternative is to switch to something with more endurance and less likelihood of aligning with the healing intervals of our other tank healers–hello LHW! By supplementing our pally’s healing peaks and lows with a faster rotation, I can provide an even buffer against incoming damage. Thus, LHW provides me with a way to contribute to a more sustained and even raid HPS to counter any spikes which could occur along the way.



In sum, HW provides a powerful way to compensate if your raid lacks a long-bomb healer, or when tank damage reaches an apex. However, in the long run, LHW wins out in terms of healing per mana and sustainability. Given my predilection for efficiency, I doubt I’ll be dusting those cobwebs off of HW just yet.


As with any hypothesis, it’s always good to outline the assumptions. First, as I see it, the debate over HW usage is applicable only in single-target healing environments, where your rotation is sustained on one player for the duration. Although you might toss out a few HWs on incredibly low-health targets while assigned to raid healing, that would be the exception and not the rule. (Also, I would imagine you’d take a significant hit in hps what with the target-switching.) Second, I’m assuming that the limiting factor in any tank-healing rotation is the Tidal Waves buff, because its impact on LHW and HW is very significant. Third, I’m assuming that CH isn’t in the single-target healing debate. Although the rule in BC was that it was always better to CH, my experience in fights like Algalon, where even a geared tank can get gibbed in 2 seconds, have taught me that the extra cast time (0.7seconds in my crit set) isn’t worth the additional bounce healing. Sure, you may toss one in from time to time, but to maintain dependable uptime of Tidal Waves and Ancestral Fortitude, you’ll want to use something with a higher likelihood of crit on the primary target.


  1. Rhom

    I think HW is a very situational spell, basically like you said. In my raids our healing lineup is always different – we don’t always have a holy pally for the MT so the other healers have to improvise.

    Lately I’ve been finding HW to be very useful for 3 situations (and *always* with Tidal Waves up):

    – Queue one up to land on the MT immediately following a Gormok impale, a.k.a. pretend I’m the pally we don’t have
    – Quickly fire 2 off on the target for Jaraxxus with the heal buffer (Incinerate Flesh?) for the extra HPS and switch back to LHW if needed
    – Fire a backup on a MT pretty much anytime it looks like it’s needed (NS+HW macro if it’s up)

    Thanks for doing the number crunching though, it’s great to see that what I’ve been doing is backed up with actual calculations :)

  2. Cell

    Your post made me feel a little less fail for not having HW as a regular part of my rotation. I think the point about considering the rest of the healing team and choosing non-aligning heals was a good one.

    To be fair, I don’t tank heal at all really–even in 10 mans I’m usually paired with a disc priest. I do use it in some situations, things like Incinerate Flesh like Rhom mentioned above and of course in conjunction with NS. In the course of raid healing though, I feel like if someone is so low on health that I’d think to use HW, then chances are they could die before it gets off, so I tend to fall back on RT if it’s up, otherwise LHW just for the speed.

    I’m sure there are shamans who love it and have worked it into their playstyle, but I think one of the really great things about our class is that it can be versatile and you can play it in different ways both to play to your own strengths and to your particular role and raid comp.

    Great post, I’m loving this blog so far. 😀

  3. I like the numbers. I did the same calculations with Daidalos spreadsheet for HW and LHW at the very beginning of WotLK, the conclusions were the same then as they are now: LHW is fast (not as fast as it used to be though), very likely to crit and very mana efficient. HW is higher HPS, slower and will burn through our mana like hell.

    I also love the argumentation that evolves around your healing team. Having a “bomber” and a “flasher” on one target is always better than having two of one kind. That really helps to smoothen out damage.

    Now with the conclusion you draw from those numbers I can’t fully agree. You compare HW and LHW in a single target healing environment. That’s not nice. To make a fair comparison shamans would have to go to a very mana regen heavy set, probably stacking INT like paladins. And even then, I’m sure we’d do a horrible job compared to paladins.

    So instead of focusing on the weakness of HW in a tank healing situation, the important thing is to do is identifying situations where HW is incredibly good and profits from it’s one single strength: HP -f*- S.

    Rhom gives us excellent examples. There are a lot more: Fusion Punch. Precasting on a target with aggro but without health deficit @ Faction Champions Heroic. Upping your HPS while your co-healer is incapacitated. Anub’Arak Heroic P3 (10 man, haven’t seen 25). Precasting HW whenever Icehowl regains consciousness after his charge.

    Even if the benefit from using HW might seem small, it’s important to use our healing tools depending on the given situation. And there just are situations where every single point of healing can make the difference. This is why I’m still an advocate of Healing Way. The benefit from Healing Way over an evening might seem small, but the additional healing you get when you actually need it, is great.

    To close my comment, there’s one last thing: there are some modifiers, which I guess aren’t included in Daidalos’ spreadsheet:
    -Relics: LHW has a great, easy to get Relic. The HW relic is only mediocre but helps conserving mana.
    -Glyphs: HW glyph can be a lot of fun, is of course clearly inferior to the LHW glyph.
    .-= drug´s last blog ..Healing Way vs. Healing Focus vs. Elemental Weapons =-.

  4. Vok

    I assume the LFW glyph was used? As Drug said, Relics can play a part too.

    HW also depends on Riptide being cast every cooldown, which means either you wont get the HoT effect or you need to find someone else to cast it on, which means a GCD your not healing you tank. That can be an issue imo
    .-= Vok´s last blog ..Growing Pains =-.

  5. […] other spells, the decision gets a little more dicey. Vixsin, from LifeInGroup5, recently made this post about HW which is more than just tangentially a post about haste (though, he also made a post […]

  6. Just to chime in, I rarely use it as well, but it depends on the role, which I think you mentioned. In my former guild, we at times had no holy paladins on for the night…I became the bomb healer, and I wound up shuffle casting, managing mana and calling for innervates. Overall, I agree with you.
    .-= jaede´s last blog ..Haste and cast time =-.

  7. Absolutely valid points from everyone. The small amount of Arena that I was involved in was solely for the purpose of obtaining the LHW relic (which was used in the above calculations and is considered in Daidalos’ spreadsheet) so that I could up the power of the spell a bit more. It was agonizing, but completely worth it. And I couldn’t agree more that HW can be amazingly effective if used proactively, in all of the situations that were mentioned and then some.

    My greater interest at this point however, is how the LHW versus HW debate will evolve come Icecrown (with the application of Chill of the Throne and the smaller, faster hits that Blizzard will be implementing.) If spike damage is being phased out in favor of a more consistent stream of incoming damage, I would posit that smaller, faster heals would become even more the solution of choice among healers. But we shall see!

  8. Praxus

    Great read Vix! In my resto set I rarely use HW as well. I find myself using it only when there is not a Holy Paladin to supplement our raid or there is completely predictable damage (Gormok Impales, Mistress’ Spinning Pain Spike, Anub Freezing Slash sort of thing). Personally, I think that IIC is going to cause HW to become even more useless. We have already seen fast small hits from Algalon, and how many HWs do you cast in that fight (I know I don’t cast many)? I think we will be continually called upon to heal the raid amazingly well and cover the interim between the paladin’s bomb heals as you have stated you currently do.

  9. Re: ICC, I think their intention was actually just more hits landing vis a vis less avoidance. I seem to recall a GC post saying something to that effect. Come Cataclysm, their intention is to have relative larger health pools but equal relative hits, so it would be more like healing back in the MC days (when a holy priest could renew + GH downrank and keep a tank up). If that’s the case, they’ll need to change the mana regen model…*again*…because we’ll all be way too efficient (or fights will have to go on for longer than they currently do, and NrB/Anub are 8+ minute fights for guilds initially).

    Re: The Relentless relic, I haven’t plugged it into the spreadsheet but does it beat the CH relic, assuming you can maintain 100% uptime on it? If you’re spamming nothing but LHW, it obviously makes sense, but for RT and occasional CH, I thought it would come close to evening out.
    .-= jaede´s last blog ..Haste and cast time =-.

  10. Praxus

    The relentless Totem is a static 404 spell power addition to your LHW. Depending on the fight, that totem will out perform the T9 badge one. The t10 totem will be very good, every time you cast riptide, you get 85 spellpower which stacks up to 3 times. That is 255 free spellpower, amazing; however, the relentless totem CAN still outperform it depending on the fight.

  11. I realize most of your posts are PvE based… however in PvP, Healing Wave is lovely with the Tidal Waves buff, especially if you’ve successfully lined-of-sight incoming damage.

  12. […] heal and a mana drain, but there is some dissention both in the comments and following here. Vixsin talks about its place in a 25 man raid, tending to agree with Rahana’s evaluation. I suspect […]

  13. […] please head over to Life in Group 5 and read the two amazing posts by Vixsin on the matters of Healing Wave and tank […]

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