A year ago at this time players were making their move into the depths of the Lich King’s citadel, their weapons primed, strategies in hand, and their stats in line. For resto shaman, the march into ICC was set to a chorus intoning “haste, haste, haste”, as we strove to reach and exceed the previously elusive “haste softcap”. It was an oftentimes misunderstood goal–that magic number of 1269 haste–but with every utterance of “stack more haste”, the resto community fell deeper in love with the stat that made long cast times a thing of the past. Our chain heals wizzed, our Healing Surges surged, and we fired off spells with reckless abandon. And then, the Cataclysm hit.
Amid the new sights and sounds of a shattered World of Warcraft is a new healing game, the rules of which we have not seen before. (No, not even in Vanilla—don’t you even try to claim otherwise). At least thus far, it is a world where healers have to do more with less, and where judgment (seemingly) matters more than twitch reflexes. In this new healing environment, Healing per Mana (HPM) is king. And although we came into this new world hand-in-hand with our partner of old, I’m sorry to say, that the time has come to move on. Resto Shaman, you need to break up with Haste.
What’s changed since WotLK?
To understand why haste has dropped away as the stat of choice, I think it’s important to be clear about why haste reigned supreme at the end of Wrath. As stated a number of times by Ghostcrawler and others, in WotLK, healing spam was the name of the game:
Think of playing a healer like a real time strategy game. In the Lich King environment, your strategy is basically to crank out infantry as fast as you can and never let up. No matter what your opponent does, your job is to counter him with infantry. It doesn’t matter what kinds of units he makes or whether he’s going for a fast or slow buildup. Just make infantry. If your race has upgrades that affect things other than infantry, obviously they are of no use to you and you should ignore them. Cost is largely irrelevant too, since you are making one solider over and over. (Source)
This strategy was largely in place for all healers: shaman had chain heal, disc priests had bubble spam, pallies had Holy Light bombing, druids rejuvved the world and holy priests … erm, I have no clue what they spammed, but I’m sure it was something. The point here is that selection didn’t matter nearly as much as a constant stream of heals to counter what, by the end of ICC, amounted to bosses almost 1-shotting tanks. (Curse you heroic Lich King, cuuuuuuurse you!)
In the LK healing environment even if you had a variety of effective healing spells, by the time you looked at someone’s bar, decided what heal would be most appropriate, and started to cast it, the dude could very well be dead. (Source)
So what do you choose to do if you have endless mana and need to deliver heals as fast as possible? Stack haste; and so we did. Restos everywhere stacked haste and spammed our hearts out. We called it “the ABC rule” (as in: Always Be Casting), but it was just a clever way of saying—don’t ever slow down that stream of spam. Yes, there was some skill involved, and certainly some manner of setting yourself up with enough of the right stats to sustain chain casting, and yet, it was all about speed.
But, despite two years of dutifully learning that twitch response was the key to being a Good Healer, it simply isn’t the case anymore. The ballooning health pools of Cataclysm made it possible for Blizzard to move away from the speed game and eliminate the “MUST HEAL OR SOMEONE DIES” stress that used to accompany healing in Wrath. (One of my first raiding memories on Mal’Ganis was being reamed by my new GL for not having a heal land in the 2 seconds before the tank’s death). While this isn’t to say that healing decisions aren’t time-sensitive any more, widening the difference between heal values and health created a time buffer that allowed healers to move away from the “mass infantry” model that GC detailed above. Now, healers have a window of time in which to react and exercise judgment.
But the “triage” environment alone isn’t what devalues haste. In fact, the biggest contributor to the devaluation of our favorite stat is the mana pool pinch. No longer do we have limitless mana bars to pull expensive heals from time and time again. Instead, the cost of healing has increased, our spell performance has decreased, and we healers need to do more with what we have. It’s this latter quality that is proving to matter the most; the more you can do with your limited mana, the better off your raid will be. Whereas before, HPS was largely a function of beating your healing teammates to the punch, nowadays, HPS is solely a function of HPM. Because quite frankly, the 0.2 seconds you shave off a cast isn’t worth the stats you invested if the necessity of timeliness doesn’t exist.
How much haste should I have?
So now, after I’ve destroyed your illusions about haste, told you how awful it is, told you that it cheated on you with Armor Pen and just look where that loser is now, I’m going to throw a curve ball at you—you will want some haste in your Cata gear set. But just how much?
From my perspective, you want enough to do two things:
- Add an additional tick to each of your hots.
- Respond in an appropriately timely manner to incoming damage.
So, let’s look at that first point, because it’s the easier of the two. Since 4.0.1 introduced hot scaling with haste, hots’ intervals are now governed by the caster’s haste value. With 0 haste, the hot will perform in a basic manner:
Total hot healing = (total duration / base tick interval) x healing per tick
When you add haste on gear, that haste will accelerate the ticks of the hot, such that:
- Tick interval = Base Interval /(% Haste + 1)
- So, for example, with 4.5% haste RT would have = 3 seconds / (0.045 + 1) = 2.87 sec intervals
- This would yield the same amount of healing overall, but would shorten the duration of RT to 14.35 seconds
However, when you have sufficient haste such that (Total Duration / Tick Interval) has a value with a remainder that is equal to or greater than 0.5, you will gain an extra tick of that hot. So, the goal then becomes to maintain a minimum amount of haste on gear such that you will gain an additional tick from each of your 3 affected hots (RT, EL, and HR). Plugging the above formulas into an excel spreadsheet, along with the current equation for haste, nets us the following:
As you can see, RT, RL and HR all have different break-points where they gain an additional tick—RT at 610 haste rating, EL at 916 haste rating and HR at 610 haste rating. Since we want the point at which each one of these gains a hot tick, we then take the maximum, associated with EL, as our “first haste threshold”. (Hence my mentions of ~1k haste as a threshold in the Resto Shaman Cata Guide). It’s important to remember that the above calculations include WoA, so in the absence WoA, an spriest, or a boomkin, you will need 5% more haste to reach the first threshold. Conversely, goblins will only need to reach ~6.08% total haste to benefit from an additional tick of all hots, since their racial contributes 1% haste to all casts.
Obviously, any haste beyond this threshold still maintains a benefit, not only because it decreases the interval between hot ticks but also because it allows us to fire off direct heals much faster than we could otherwise do so. But, in terms of a minimum value that you should hit before pursuing other stats—916 haste is it.
Is haste really all that bad?
In the end, I don’t think that Resto Shaman will ever be able to completely end our love affair with haste; it will always be a stat that enables us to mitigate the long cast times of our healing spells. But with the increase of the haste factor to almost quadruple what it was in Wrath (128.11 @ level 85, versus 32.79 @ level 80), we clearly won’t be approaching the stat levels we held at the end of the last expansion. This would seem to indicate that we had better get used to those long cast times, because they won’t be going away any time soon.
So, as much as I loved 1.6sec Chain Heals and 1sec Healing Surges, we Resto Shaman will need to get used to the cast times that Blizzard has imposed. And consequently, we’ll need to ever-develop those proactive skills we’ve been talking up for the last couple of years. Yes, this break-up with haste will be a rough one, full of clinginess and wistful gazes, but believe you me, it’s for your own good.