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


January 30, 2011

Shaman: The Last Vestiges of a Utility Class


If you were a shaman last week in WoW, then chances are you already know what this post is about. And if you weren’t a shaman, chances are … you still know. It was the raid comp heard ‘round the world—the uber-guild Paragon scored a #1 World kill of the hard-mode only boss, Sinestra, with a complete lack of shaman in their raid. More so than that, a member of the guild went on to state on the guild’s forums and on MMO-Champion that the reasoning behind their lack of shaman wasn’t a lack of resources and it wasn’t seniority—they simply didn’t need any. And nothing makes players happier than to hear that their main’s class isn’t worthy of a raid spot.

In contrast to the litany of posts that have sprung up on forums across the globe, I’m not here today to wag my finger at Blizzard say “I told you so”. That type of condescension has no place with me. Nor am I here to, like many others, bemoan the lack of a raid spots for our shaman-in-arms. (Although it’s worth noting that some top US guilds are taking the shaman performance issue to heart; thankfully FH is not one of them). Rather, my goal here is to walk through the evolution of the shaman class and potentially demonstrate how things might have gone awry; how a class which once was lauded as the Ultimate Utility Class turned out to be exactly that, in a world where utility is no longer a valuable commodity.


A Brief History

Originally created as the horde counterpart to Alliance paladins, Shaman have long been viewed as an adaptable utility class with the ability to synergize with whatever group they happen to join. Wowwiki offers us this definition of WoW’s shaman class:

The shaman is a hybrid class and depending on how players choose to customize their character’s talents, they can specialize in offensive spellcasting, melee damage dealing, or healing. As such, the class is considered one of the most adaptable and versatile in the game. Shamans can also provide support to a group in the form of stationary totems, of which when placed on the ground by the shaman, either provides various benefits to party members, or deal damage to enemies, of which the range is determined by the totem placed. (Source)

Indeed, when they were created, shaman were one of the most versatile classes in game, offering two types of dps, healing, and even tanking (to some extent; it was subsequently phased out as an Enhancement niche). Granted, most Vanilla shaman were healers, but in BC, class changes were made to attempt to make dps shaman a lot more viable. We were (and are) the only class with a built-in soulstone, in the form of Reincarnation. But our role versatility was far surpassed by our totems, the buffs from which were unmtached, and by the fact that we were the only class who could offer the biggest and best raid CD in game—Bloodlust. In Burning Crusade, Alliance were offered the shaman class through the addition of the Draenei, whereas horde gained access to Paladins through the Blood Elf race.

But what’s most important to remember about the Shaman class is that they were designed to be the ultimate buff class, a pocket knife of tools, tricks and buffs. The buffs that paladins brought to the table were originally intended to be aligned with those offered by the shaman—not exact matches but comparable in total raid effect. As described on WoW’s main site:

Shaman can choose to deploy a wide array of different totems, each providing allies with a unique effect, including improved restoration, greater damage, faster attacks, and more.

It was well acknowledged by many, both in Vanilla WoW and in BC, that the main motivating reason to bring a shaman to raid was because their totem buffs were unparalleled. Windfury, Wrath of Air, Grace of Air, Flametongue, Stoneskin, and Strength of Earth (and others) were unique, beneficial raid buffs that could be brought by no other class. And so, your diligent raid leaders made room for shaman on the roster, despite motivation to the contrary. (And do check out the comments section, some of the blast-from-the-past responses are hilarious!) Totems were the very definition of our utility, and a defining element of our class. (No one in game had to work as hard as we did, all for a few simple buffs).


The Hybrid Tax—Myth or Reality?

Although oftentimes regarded as urban legend by new players, the so-called hybrid tax was one of the cornerstones of class balancing, and constituted one of the disadvantages of stacking a raid with hybrid, utility classes like the shaman. Below is an excerpt from a WoW blue post explaining the in’s and out’s of WoW’s dps and class tax system (written by our favorite crab):

In our design, the pure dps classes (hunter, mage, warlock and rogue) should do slightly higher dps than hybrid damage-dealers all things being equal … The reason we want pures to do slightly higher damage is that pures can only fulfill one role. If your guild or raid has no more need for damage-dealers, there is no way for these classes to raid with you. By contrast, the six other classes always have the option to respec for another role either temporarily or for the long haul. (Source)

Now keep in mind that this post was written back on October 27th, 2009, when players were preparing themselves for ICC release—it wasn’t all that long ago and it clearly suggests that this rule might still be in full effect. GC goes on to give examples of where Blizzard’s design philosophy has shifted over the years, citing the preference for Warrior tanks that existed during BC (ahem, Illidan shears) and the stance that while all healing classes should be comparable, druids’, paladins’, priests’ and shamans’ dps should be lower by comparison. (Hand up to shadow priests, who felt the pain of utility all through BT.)

But, most important to our discussion is the following excerpt:

Likewise, druids, paladins, priests and shaman brought many unique and powerful buffs that were intended to compensate for their low dps. We spread these buffs out to a much greater degree in Lich King, and plan on refining that implementation for Cataclysm.


When I say Shaman, You say Sunwell …

I may be slightly biased, but if I had to say there was a class design moment that influenced all subsequent class design it would be the prevalence of Shamans in Sunwell. It was our time in the spotlight, and it was all due to one thing—Chain Heal—Resto Shamans’ iconic ability, and at that point, arguably the best raid heal in game. Chain Heal was the motivating factor for so many guilds to ditch their other healers in favor of bringing in as many resto shaman as possible. (They also ditched mages for warlocks, kept one holy paladin for tank healing, kicked rets in favor of rogues, and picked up a couple more shadow priests so that each group could have its very own mana battery).

Granted, Sunwell wasn’t an instance that was on the map for very long and wasn’t one that was visited by very many guilds outside of the top raiding elite, but it has since become a seminal moment in class history—a clear demonstration of the unintended side effect of leaving niches unshared and buffs restricted. As acknowledged by GC, the sunwell model was too strong a counterpoint to the “unique and special” design perspective that had dominated up until that point. And so, raid buffs were shared and as compensation to the shaman class:

… we brought up their damage a lot. It might still not be as high as rogues or warlocks, but it’s close, and if you have the right gear and really know how to play, you can even beat those classes on some bosses. No raid worth its salt would turn down an Enhancement, Elemental or Restoration shaman for fear of bringing down the raid.


Chipping Away at Utility

Thankfully, with Sunwell at the tail end of an expansion, Blizzard was able to incorporate a number of their lessons learned into the launch of the subsequent expansion—Wrath of the Lich King. As mentioned in a preceding GC quote, with Wrath the intention was to decentralize buffs while also doing away with the niche healing model that had been so demonstrated by CH-spamming Restos in Sunwell. (It bears mentioning that this philosophy of decentralized buffs and niche class application was applied to all class design, lest you think I’m trying to assert that shaman were the only ones to suffer the effects of homogenization).

In addition, WotLK also marked the formal introduction of the 10-man raiding structure, which in BC had only been present in a limited fashion (through Kara and ZA, arguably not offered up to be top tier progression challenges). In WotLK, 10-man content would mirror the content opened up to 25-man raiders, so that players could take advantage of the smaller, more intimate team environment.

But, this reduction in raiding size had an unanticipated effect on utility hybrids—instead of making them more appealing, it only served to distinguish the utility tax that was being enforced. Because the gain from raid buffs is much larger in 25’s, and even in 40’s, the performance tax that shaman paid to offer more raid buffs was worth the loss of personal dps (and was made up for by classes like hunters and rogues, who at the time, offered very few raid buffs but consistently high dps). But in a 10-man setting, the output differential became more noticeable, and the balance between buffs + lower dps versus no buffs + higher dps was put to the test. (EG: “Why do we need WF if we only have 2 tanks and 1 melee?”)

As Wrath wore on, the effects of these dps differentials and problems with healing parity could be seen in the class design tweaks and adjustments that went into every patch. But it would also be seen in class performance issues, which were addressed by GC in a mid-Ulduar Class Design Q&A:

… I know there is some concern about Restoration shamans losing their healing niche of area damage. We think that perception might exist in Ulduar just because recent talents, glyphs, and set bonuses have all propped up things like Lesser Healing Wave over Chain Heal.

… Elemental may suffer from so many fights in Ulduar requiring movement. Also, while we have given Elemental strong AoE in the form of the Magma Totem, some players feel like this comes at too high a cost to their buffs and mobility, so this is something we’ll look at.

… We’re pretty happy with Enhancement shamans in raids, though we want to continue to analyze whether their DPS is where it should be and if their buffs are comparable to other classes that can bring the same benefit.

But, despite the attention and consideration of the developers in Ulduar and beyond, World First kills still portrayed a picture much different than the one painted by developers. With mobility and AOE a consistent problem for shaman (and a consistent favorite for end-boss designers), the need for bloodlust or a specific buff (EG: windfurry for the “Brain crew” in 0 Keeper Yogg) was often cited as reason for the shaman being in raid.

Now, I’m not here to debate the value of meters in a raid setting, and yes, classes perform differently on different encounters. But, I’m fairly certain there’s sufficient visual illustration in the following to demonstrate that at least when it comes to “end-game” bosses, shamans’ class disadvantages place them at the bottom of meters time and time again.

World First Alone in the Darkness: 1 Enhan, 1 Elemental

World First HM Anub’Arak: 1 Enhan, 1 Elemental

World First Lich King: 1 Elemental, 1 Resto

World First Heroic Lich King: 1 Resto Shaman, 0 dps shaman

(Paragon declined to release meters for this kill, at least that I could find).

I’ve a strong hunch that if you asked these guilds why they brought those seemingly sub-optimal shaman the answer would be—buffs. Windfurry for the melee, an Elemental Shaman to buff the spellcasters, Resto for the mana tide, and at worst, a lone shaman to bring Bloodlust.

Cataclysm marks the latest step towards breaking down the walls of specialization. No longer are there “AOE” classes or “single-target only” dps. No longer are healers categorized by niche—tank healing versus raid healing. No longer are tanks divided between mana sponges and avoidance. As Blizzard has stated time and time again, the goal for this expansion was very simple—bring the player, not the class.


A New World Order

And so, we come to the point at which we now stand—with Paragon and their “optimized” Sinestra raid comp. It is a single fight in game, with no more merit than any others, save the fact that it is intended to be the pinnacle of Tier 11 raiding. So why does it matter that shaman were absent from the World First kill? The short answer is … it doesn’t. It didn’t matter, individually, on any of the previous World Firsts that I showed above either.

What it does demonstrate beyond the trend of low shaman performance, and what I think is missing as a point in the proliferation of QQ threads on the forums, is how incredibly far the game has come. Yes, that’s right—we’ve come such a long way from the days of Vanilla raiding. From raids where multiple shaman were used so that every conceivable buff was covered, to an expansion’s first end boss kill that had exactly zero totems, it took two expansions for WoW to progress from the Sunwell level of specificity and strict raid stacking, to a world with the diversification necessary to support a raid composition defined by qualities other than buffs.

And, ladies and gentlemen, that is my point. Having a raid formed without the constraints of buffs is a great thing. But, Shaman are a class defined by utility, defined by our buffs, told that our totems should matter, and described as having a “high degree of hybridization” by Blizzard’s most notable, and much to his credit, most vocal Designer. For a whole of the previous expansion, we were propped up by those totems and buffs which were ours and ours alone. We sat at the bottom of meters on the first kills of heroic mode encounters, brought along because of the buffs we offered to other classes. But our buffs have now been fully distributed, our massive deeps raid CD parsed out to pures, and the uniqueness of our totems stripped down (except for Resto Shamans’ Mana Tide). We have been left to stand on our class merits alone, and it is … a bittersweet victory indeed.

Ultimately, I’m left with the conclusion that if this is the direction that Blizzard wants to go–into a world where the player is more important than the class–then we also need to exist in a world where all things are equal. A place where my skill as a Resto, Enhance, or Elemental Shaman doesn’t suffer from a tax designed to encourage raid leaders to leave me on the bench. This is a time where utility should be rewarded, not punished, where raids need to have a variable healer roster for encounters, where LFD needs more people willing to tank. Games evolve, community needs evolve, and it’s time for Blizzard’s design philosophy to evolve as well.



  1. Verus

    Excellent post and so true!

    We have gone from being a great utility class to being nearly useless for raids. I believe the changes to MTT will make raids bring one resto but that is about it..

  2. Foxy

    Well said! I feel that our heals are pretty solid right now but something still feels weird to me. Granted its much better than a chain heal spam I wish that people would see us and go “Oh! a Resto sham!” and not “Sry we need a druid or priest”

  3. Vnko

    Well written and spot on. It’s not really an issue I’m facing (7/12 reg progression isn’t really pushing cutting edge raid optimization needs) but I can’t help but fear the day we recruit another hpally and I’m relegated to getting my rogue up to 85. Sadly, I don’t expect we’ll have this issue remedied until 4.1 at the earliest.

  4. Voltigeuse

    Thank you for this well thought out piece. I realise that this is our perennial moan but it feels so bad right now that I am considering stopping playing for the first time. More as a result of Blizzards poor balancing and lack of concern for the customer.

    I feel that they have come to see the player base as ‘whiners’ that can be ignored because of the daily ranting that goes on the fora. This trivialises a problem that has been around for a long time.

    I realise that this is only a game but it is one that many millions of people pay for and invest significant time on and as such is worth them taking it seriously. It really makes me wonder if Blizzard is up to the job?

    • If anything, I actually think the community doesn’t understand Blizzard, as opposed to the other way around. I give them an immense amount of credit for being able to soft through the immense amount of noise on the forums to find the good suggestions and commentary.

      It’s amazing that they have a customer base so invested in their product but sometimes I imagine they must think … they’re dammed if they do, and they’re dammed if they don’t.

  5. Malefícent

    Yes vix,

    I totally agree with you here, I am the GM of our guild, and also a Raid leader, which is prob why I get a raidspot. In 10’s I can not even come close to the other healers outputs, and in 25’s I can just about reach them if all is perfect and people all go stand in my puddle of love.

    The problem is that I consider myself a good player, I extensively read and research all the time about my class….but no matter what i do we are handicapped by the very thing you cite…….our heals heal for less, our “unique” Chain Heal is “currently” handicapped and just NOT good enough.

    Why does a Paladins Uber heal cost slightly more, but hit for WAY more than us. I wonder if its because of the +15% bonus we get from healing on ES targets?….do they factor this in when looking at us? Problem is that most of the time we dont hit through ES since the pallys can heal the tanks so much better.

    Why is our ES so poor output vs Beacon of Light……they are both one hit wonders, cast and forget, yet they get sooooo much more from it.

    Quite simply we need our CH to be buffed, and buffed a lot, we need to have some form of CD heal.

    Perhaps a simple relook over talents, maybe putting a Inc Crit talent in the resto tree to allow us greater oomp and manareg.

    Manaregen….another issue we have, on the metres after every fight I always seem to be the lowest manaregen of all the healers. I have WS up all the time…….maybe it needs to be buffed a little also.

    So many things that they could do….I really hope they read your thread Vix, its well written and highlights several important issues that really do need to be addressed!


  6. Carver

    I too have been reading through some of the Resto Shaman QQ posts on the forums, and I’ve found that hidden in posts with titles like “Why Do Shamans Suck?” or “Blizzard Hates Shamans”, there are some very good, well thought out and intelligent suggestions and observations. I truly hope these positive ideas don’t get lost in the sea of tears.

    I also would like to point out that maybe a lot of the sheer anger and frustration of shamans out there comes from the fact that many of us dearly love to play our shaman.

    Excellent post! I check in with Life in Group 5 almost every day. Thank you.

    • I couldn’t agree more. I get so amazingly frustrated to see forum threads with great ideas bogged down in class X versus class Y debates or in endless trolling.

  7. An insightful and incisive analysis, and a good read. I think you put into words what many shamans are thinking and feeling, as we love the game and our class more than ever but also have to acknowledge that there are caveats.

    Whichever class/spec is deemed most powerful or useful for a given encounter will always be stacked by the most dedicated minmax guilds – whether druids on pre-nerf heroic Nefarian or paladins on heroic Anub’arak or whatever – and a curious side effect of the game becoming more balanced in the sense of no longer forcing you to bring along, say, a shaman for Heroism is that you’re more free to exploit comparatively tiny imbalances in class-to-class performance through stacking or excluding. Which in itself puts a far greater challenge on inter-class balance and raid design. Fascinating.
    Charles´s last post ..From Magmaw to Tol Barad

  8. I WILL NOT GO QUIETLY INTO THE NETHER-VOID OF OBSOLETE! I will continue to love my shaman, even if she is no longer the hot little convertible and is now the timeless classic 1968 mustang.

  9. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tequila Claudia, Oestrus, Eric P., Jeanett, Pewter and others. Pewter said: Shaman: The Last Vestiges of a Utility Class | Life in Group 5 – A Resto Shaman Blog – #mustread […]

  10. ZUG

    Good Read. Thanks.

  11. Wow, Vixsin. Every shaman everywhere should read this post.

    It’s what I think when I walk into an instance and can’t find any totems to drop that someone else isn’t overlapping. Why exactly am I here instead of a paladin? Because my guild doesn’t have a paladin. >_<

    • We were actually doing attempts on HM Atramedes and were trying to figure out if the Sonar Pulses tracked totems, when someone requested that we not drop *any* totems. Of course, our shaman objected until we realized … we still had every buff covered. It was very sobering, and just a slight bit disheartening.

  12. Su

    Wonderful post. It certainly highlights what a lot of us are thinking. I have a priest and a druid. I LOVE MY SHAMAN. Period. It makes me very sad to know that I must pull every trick out that I have to try to even come close to the (quite awesome) pally. I don’t mind being second on the meters. I do mind the difference in the healing done being so disparate from #1(pally) to me. And once our other healers catch up in gear…. The disparity will only grow. I don’t want to switch my main to my druid or my priest. Sure, it would be fun and I would perform better…. But I play for love of the game. Love of the success of downing bosses, camaraderie shared, and for love of playing my shaman.

  13. Crashing

    As always, a great read.

  14. Sekul

    I knew this was coming the instant Mages got Timewarp. However, I’m of the opinion that it isn’t as bleak as it seems on the surface.

    Yes, there will be the handful of top end cutting edge raiding guilds that have the resources and are killing bosses at the earliest possible opportunity that will opt to leave our class out of a given fight. However, for most of us that are progressing at a slower pace and don’t have the pool of raiders to choose from that top end guilds have, the shaman won’t be specifically excluded from raids.

    I certainly don’t top the meters in our raids but I’m never at the bottom either. Certainly the raid can live without my buffs and MT, but, I’m also helping, not hindering our progression. It feels like some people want it to appear that having a shaman of any spec in your raid is a bad thing and that simply isn’t the case. Someone is going to be in the middle of the meters and right now its us. That doesn’t mean we’re terrible to have, it just means we’re not a must have class. I’m OK with that.

    Also, with the upcoming buff to CH and GHW we’ll see higher throughput and although it’s a nerf to the shaman dropping MT, we’re actually getting a buff to MT as far as the rest of the raid goes.

    All in all, I think Blizzard has done a fine job at leveling the field for healers and I’m enjoying shaman healing now more than ever.

    • I’m actually a fan of a number of the healing changes that have been made, especially the efforts to give all healers a basic set of tools to use (the single-target trinity). I think it was a huge step in the right direction and it’s certainly added a good amount of healing diversity for 10-man teams.

  15. Bear

    Interesting perspective on utility classes. I’m reading this in light of Blacksen’s post on Mastery v.s. Performance orientations at . Performers ought to be quite sensitive to this sort of imbalance while mastery -focused players might still find sufficient satisfaction. While I’m sure it’s not Blizzard’s design goal, with enough time, mastery-oriented players who see a challenge in getting the most out of a “bad” spec ought to become the majority of those subject to the enduring utility tax. It seems Blizzard is working to remove this tax, although unevenly. If it is substantially lifted for shamans, that looks like an interesting change in what constitutes the “fun” of the class.

  16. Tsy

    While I agree that shaman need some tweaking done to put them more in line with the other healing classes (or perhaps the other healing classes need tweaking), I don’t think the sky is falling, not yet at least.

    However, I don’t want to go off on a tangent here about how good or bad we are compared to other healing classes, healing output, or anything like that.

    My only question is this: Paragon beat the game with Zero shaman in their raid. Does that mean that if they took a shaman or three, that they couldn’t have beat it?

    • Could they have beat it? Sure. Tons of guilds will.

      Would they have beat it in the same amount of time, given the same level of effort and skill? No.

      • Alex

        Method beat the same encounter in less time than paragon with 2 shamans in setup . (according to paragon they spent 5 days on sinestra whereas method 3-4 days )

  17. Viscalde

    How about the hybrid tax of valor points? Since we aren’t top-notch dps, gear is needed to stay competitive more than just being good at your spec. And if Blizzard truely still believes that we can just magically change specs and not bring our raid down, then we shouldn’t have to spend the full effort to gear for every spec.

    Tier pieces that changed based on your spec would be nice.

  18. A really great post.

    I have been trying hard not to complain too much about how underpowered I feel in 10 player raids right now (not doing 25s any longer). However, I am starting to feel like I am pushing myself to perform even harder than I did in Wrath, but getting worse results.

    With Chain Heal being almost unusable in 10 mans (even on Chimaeron, Healing Rain + HS spam seemed to be the way to go), we are basically weaker versions of Holy Paladins. We have most of the same tools, yet our direct heals are so much weaker. Our Earth Shield cannot compare to Beacon of Light. My mana regen is iffy right now with a ridiculously OP Mana Tide, so I’m afraid what it will look like post-patch.

    I feel like my biggest asset to the raid right now is my ability to interrupt (which I can’t do reliably without hit rating), purge and slow with Earthbind. Of course, Holy Pallies will soon have Rebuke to more or less match our Wind Shear, the opportunities to purge are few and far between in raids and can be done by priests or hunters as well, and the hunters or Dks in my raid can slow mobs just as well, or better, than I can.

    So yes, I agree that for the most part, we are utility class that simply cannot provide enough utility to justify a raid spot in most groups if all players were of equal skill. Our Healing/Damage performance needs to be competitive in this environment, or many Shamans are going to start feeling like a liability to their groups.
    Wugan´s last post ..Answering Questions the Lazy Way

  19. Viscalde

    Shaman have been strong for our guild on HM Chimaeron kills and HM Maloriak attempts, mainly because there are good opportunities for HR/CH, so we should be staying up top there with the boost to CH in 4.0.6.

    • I would actually argue that Chimaeron parses are a very inaccurate gauge of class performance, for the same reason that topping Anub”arak meters didn’t mean much. You can overheal aplenty to pad meters, which is why when you look at Resto Shaman parses for the encounter, you’ll often see Earthliving leading the pack.

  20. Soulmojo

    I’m not sure what to say really. I am and my fellow shaman healer guild mate continue to perform well in raids. We are doing only the third heroic boss in 25man though, so it is subject to change, but I doubt it. Dispite what others say I am really happy that the buffs were spread out to other classes, because if I die during the fight, the raid won’t lose an important buff. But the totems doesn’t useless though because if someone is ressed, I give him/her a good amount of basic buffs. Secondly, the BL issue. I am really happy becouse as a resto, mana is precious, and I dont have to burn mana only to cast BL. Thirdly I hated, and continue to hate the current mana tide disign, because the healers in my guild completely rely on the mana gained from tide, and they refuse to use other healer trinkets mainly because of this. It is a little better for non JC-ers, but it is still a raid wipe if I die from something. But after the tide change, it will give nearly half the mana than it is giving now, but healers will finally use other trinkets than core of ripless and the JC trinket, and gain the same and more stable mana regen in the process. As for the world’s first guilds who don’t use shamans, well they doesn’t even tried. And in my point of view, their shamans used a flawed gear design, and stopped trying. I’m not saying that shaman would outperform a priest or a paladin, but the class can keep up if they are very well geared. And I’m also not saying that I’m smarter and better or something than the healers from the world first guilds, I’m far-far from that, I’m just saying, that being in one the top end guilds requires class performance, and at lower gear levels, paladins and priests do perform better, and if a class doesn’t bring results now, they are dismissed. I can bet on that these dismissed classes are abandoned by the top end players and does not gain quality gear later, where the class performance would increase exponentially.

  21. Shakti

    Great post, I jumped on reading this post after my Raid last night. And I totally agree with you and many of the posters. Keep up the great work…
    On another note, I may have to level a pally healer as fast as I can do to a lack of one in our 10man guild. It may be my only saving grace come Hardmodes.

  22. Punraz

    THANK YOU, Vixsin, for this post!

    It was a pleasure to read but left myself being confirmed, disappointed and sad about my beloved 10-man-raiding resto-shaman…

    Greetings from Berlin, Germany

    • I don’t see any reason that you shouldn’t continue to love and play your shaman. If there’s anything that’s been demonstrated over the past expansions, it’s that there will always be a “class of the moment”.

      Although I’d be more than happy to switch to another healing class if asked, as long as I have a choice, I’ll be sticking with my big blue amazon.

  23. […] writes about the history of the shaman class and the delicate balance between performance and […]

  24. Meoses

    This debate rages on, and I feel It needs a little bit of clarification.

    In 10mans, Resto shaman have no place for a few key reasons.

    1.) We don’t have enough grouped up players to make HR all that effective.
    2.) The lower number of players make CH bounces far more sporadic.
    3.) We lack the CD’s of either a priest or pally, the raid healing/battle rez of a druid.

    Without significant changes we will continue to be the odd man out in the 10 man raiding scene.

    However, in 25 man, we can still do fairly well. Of course, in a mathematically perfect world, we are outperformed by almost every healing class and spec. There are only a handful of guilds in the world that have the benefit of high enough player skill where the game is reduced to math. I’m in a fairly highly ranked U.S guild and I can assure you all that even in the Top 20 US, good players get raid spots. We have run as many as 2 resto shaman because we are 2 of the stronger healers in the guild.

    The buffs to CH we are getting should put us right back in the mix as far as raw HPS numbers. I am, of course, on the boat in terms of our lack of CD.

    Too all you resto shaman out there, doing 10mans, feeling like you are getting boned….find a good 25 man guild, I promise we need you

    • I’m in top 20 US; I’m not worried for my raid spot. But I work my ass off to stay competitive.

      I assure you that there will be raid spots for shaman. And if any of your raid leaders wants to bench you just for being a blue box, send them my way and I’ll argue some sense into them.

  25. Kylinh

    Thanks for the well thought out post as usual Vixsin :)

    It is pretty depressing to look at the healing meters and realize that no matter how hard I spam, I’ll always be competing with the other resto in the guild.

    We resto shaman just have to keep telling ourselves that soon, someday, we will have a raid cool down and it will matter who is behind the keyboard and not the class.

  26. Su

    I am not worried about my raid spot. My guild focuses on 25 man and I perform pretty well, so far. We care very much about the player and work with the classes they play. We have 3-4 raiding shaman – with me currently the only main apec resto. Resto shaman is definitely more of a struggle but I do see it as a challenge to keep peeps alive, knowing my spells just arent hitting quite as hard. I love the intricacies that are sort of working in the background like ancestral and earthliving.

    We also do 10s, kind of like study work for our 25s. There I see the struggle more. It is usually me, a holy pally, and the third healer varies between a druid/priest/pally. I usually am second if one were to watch meters. Both 25 and 10. I do peek at the meters to see variances in fight to fight, percentages of types of heals, etc. However, my main objective is a dead boss via live raiders. And there are just times when I want to scream because I am spamming heals like a raving madwoman and it just… is not enough. And if it was gear or me being stupid or some other controllable-ish variable – then I could accept that. But when it is the thought ‘if I was pally/whatever class instead that person would have likely lived’ that is what drives me bonkers.

    Hoping the buffs will help, but completely believe a further look at addressing what is going on with the state of resto shaman needs to occur. Until then, I shall keep chugging along and wagging mah draenai tail too. 😉

  27. Seda

    Thanks so much for this post, Vix. It’s reassuring to come here and read that there are others like me who still dearly love the class despite the problems. I’ve felt pretty bummed out lately after having lost a raid spot and moving on to another team that admits my class isn’t their ideal but appreciates my MTT nonetheless. I adore my shaman too much to seriously re-roll, though, so I’ll just keep on truckin’ and waiting for sunnier raid days.

  28. Koridanya

    I only play 10 man raid as a resto we also frequently have an Elem Shaman in our raid. I do struggle at times to stay in line with other healers but I would stress that we can play other roles beside our main function better than most classes (like being able to interrupt the nova on Halfus alone or Maloriak’s on a 6s CD) and dps-ing at the end of Chimaeron fight or Magmew chained phases.

    All in all, the versatility of our class enables us to keep our place in any raid in my opinion: the fact is that we have to think differently with the new system. The healer can and sometimes must dps (low dps but better than nothing), we offer the same kind of control for trash mobs than mage, our dps is better than what a holy priest or a holy pal can do in healer stuff.


  29. Zuuz

    Just coming down from a night of progression raiding and I’m feeling pretty bad about Resto Shaman throughput. From my conversations with the other Resto Shaman in my raids, last night, I believe he agrees.

    Either him or myself was in the top 3 for 66% of our kills (4 out of 6). The only fight where a shaman was above third in healing done was Conclave of Winds; and only three healers were even active for more than 80% of that fight. I imagine HPS rankings are really decided by assignment for Conclaive (or we can bring more DPS).

    That leaves us with 0% of the fights where a shaman topped meters and 16% of the fights where a shaman was above 3rd in healing done. In contrast to Shaman: Priest, Paladin, and Druids all topped at least one Healing Done meter last night.

    What it comes down to is that on a lot of the fights we did last night I was really healing my arse off, pulling out every trick in the book, placing Healing Rains as ideally as possible, popping Spiritwalkers Grace on CD for movement, and still was really unable to push more than 6.5k HPS on all but two fights (Chimaeron being one, Magmaw being the other – both pure AOE snoozefests).

    I can’t say that we’re horrible but I can say that our heals feel weak and that as the content we push becomes more difficult, subbing one or both of our raiding Resto Shamans for another Priest or Paladin would be beneficial to progression as a whole.

    I’m really considering rolling Pally or Priest, I don’t think Blizzard will leave us in such a sad state forever but it’s pretty obvious that we are the weakest healers currently in this expansion and the best thing we bring to a raid is Mana Tide totem and our brilliant personalities.

  30. Sok

    I don’t understand why more isn’t done to for Restoration Shaman.

    Consider the 4 tanking classes. They all have roughly the same tools to tank; taunts, AE threat generation, sheild walls ect… none are noticeably lagging behind with TPS (enter Vengence). With all the same general tools to tank, each class is still unique, and one is not neccesarily ‘better’ than another (yet).

    Now consider if one of the tank classes didn’t have a sheild wall, or had issues with TPS and so on. That class/spek would be abandonded and the QQ would be loud.

    Why should it be different with the 4 healing classes? Each class should be able to effectively heal dmg. Every encounter is dynamic, and moving / spreading is the Restoration Shaman’s bane. Enter 10man (esp Heroic) where there is even more distance between raiders.

    1. Buff Chain Heal jump range significantly (
    2. Give us viable tank CD(s) (Unleash Elements + Natures Swiftnes is a prepared big heal, not a CD)
    3. Bring our healing up a bit (I’d argue that making Mastery’s full effect kick in at 20% instead of 1% alone would do wonders)

  31. Aozora

    Great post, Vixsin! Thank you so very much! A very interesting perspective on utility classes.

    That being said, I’m not worried about my spot in raids no matter if I’m running as Enhancement or Resto.

    My cell phone has buzzed many, many times from my raid leader asking me to PLEASE log in and help heal or DPS a raid I wasn’t scheduled for. (Granted, I’ve been in this guild for 12 years and through several different games…) I’m very happy to say the trend continues.

    So I play one of the (perceived) weakest healing classes. I know this just means I have to do my homework in order to learn how to be a better healer, player, and shaman. I have been one of my guild’s top tank healers and by the gods of warfare, I will still be.

    I might not do the most DPS when I run as Enhancement. I make certain I never miss an interrupt and keep my CC assignment pinned down to the best of my ability. I stay attentive to my surroundings and make myself as low maintenance as possible. My raid leader recognizes this.

  32. Hibernating Shaman

    A very eloquent post indeed even if some of the comments were not even close to the mark. I am fully with you on the player not class situation so I am very frustrated that in 10 man content there is really no place for shaman.

    This is mainly a flaw in design and we are basically relegated to our current state because of arena / pvpers. Blizzard have openly said they can’t bring us in line with other classes in pve because supposedly we are a good pvp class…

    Though I am on a pvp server, I don’t play for pvp, I play for lore, the experience and the prestige of being able to do my job well. Right now – we can’t perform so why bother taking a shaman over 2 pinks and a white, or 2 whites and a pink.

    I am voting with my wallet though, I’ve gone into hibernation and cancelled both accounts until there’s a point to playing.

  33. Tamère

    This post reflects what I feel exactly. We’re still a hybrid class that only seems to offer utility while other classes offer that same utility + doing their intended job better. I’ve been bemoaning this “hybrid tax” inequality since Ulduar when all of a sudden I’d been ousted from my raid healing niche by trees and holy priests. I was told, “Well priests should be super healers because they have two healing specs and you’re just a hybrid so you should under-perform because you have other options as a hybrid.” “Well, then by that same logic explain the resto trees outperforming shamans? They’re hybrids–they even have 4 spec options.” I’d get no answer.

    And what makes a hybrid? Priests can heal in two specs, but they also have a dps spec! Paladins, the holy gods of the moment, have a healing, dps, and tank spec. Druids have two dps (even if one is a variation), a tanking, and a healing spec. If all healers have another spec option, then all healers should be equal. If our buffs are giving away and all healers are homogenized, then follow through with that completely. Give us equivalents of the other healer cooldowns–unless those are too “unique” to share in a way that our “unique” buffs weren’t.

    I’ve been waiting for Blizzard to stop punishing shamans for the sins of Sunwell, alleviate the difference between hybrids (read: “shamans”) and every other “pure” class, or address our core problems. I held out hope for this expansion with all the “bring the player, not the class” talk but it’s proving difficult talk to believe in our 10-man as we try to push hard mode content. It’s discouraging to feel you’re brought just for some buffs and maybe a Bloodlust. I’ve watched that erode over Wrath and now I feel completely disheartened just offering a Mana Tide that only I seem to need.

  34. Elatari

    Why does my wife, who consistently does low DPS on her shadow priest (simply because of low ilvl gear – hello greens), keep getting spots in our recent raids over people who do higher DPS? Because she understands the mechanics better, never fails to anything, can be thrown into a fight she’s never seen and “get it” the first time, and provides a much better attitude to our raids when she’s in.

    Case in point, after failing for multiple hours in BWD, somebody (who does 3k more DPS than my wife) dropped… we brought her in, and we one shot the next four bosses. Was it all her? No. Was the fact that she didn’t fail on mechanics at least part of the reason? Yes. Was her positive attitude infectious? Yes. Did our raid leader decide to anoint her our good luck charm? Yes.

    What’s the moral of the story? Yeah, shaman are hurting right now, but all you can do is try to outwork the other people. Be better prepared. Understand the fights better. Use all of the available tools at your disposal to cheat as much as humanly possible – I’ve been using food buffs recently for the first time since vanilla. Eventually, shaman will be brought in line with the other healers. And these rougher times will only make us that much better prepared to kick ass once our class is fixed.

    I say embrace it.

    • I couldn’t agree more with this philosophy.

      When I was told I was too short to play my game of choice in high school? I worked until I could jump higher. When I was told that the college I wanted to attend wasn’t going to offer me a scholarship? I went to another school for two years and proved to them that I was worth the investment. And when they told me I would never start in the PAC10? I went and became an All-American. (When I herniated my disc late in my senior season? I found another outlet for my competitive nature, lol)

      So the ultimate result of someone telling me that I shouldn’t have a raid spot? Me proving them wrong. I’m going to be frustrated that I have to work so hard to be there, and I’m sure as heck going to talk about it on this blog (cause hey, it’s the principle of the thing), but I’ll be damned if I let a little thing like class balance keep me from doing the best I can. ^_^

      Bravo to your wife for kicking ass.

  35. […] of Life in Group 5 recently put up a great post titled Shaman: The Last Vestiges of a Utility Class. It’s a long, but great read. If you’ve made it through my blog, you can handle long […]

  36. Quasigeddon

    Good read, I never got to play a shaman in vanilla but I’ve been sporting blue since it became available and I couldn’t agree more with your assessment of how the class has evolved.

    Some people seem to be taking this as a call to get our unique utility back, I just want to reinforce that the real problem is that Shaman healing has always been base-lined a little lower than the rest of the classes because of the utility. Now that we don’t have anything unique to bring Blizzard needs to take some time to reevaluate where they want us to be as far as the meters are concerned.

    My only real complaints with the class thus far are:
    1 – Blizzard gave us a fun new mastery that I really like the feel of… but they didn’t make it effect enough of our heals to be worthwhile.

    2 – Chain Heal still performs the way it did when it could top someone off in one or two casts. Now that it’s functioning more like a supplemental HOT it needs to be a little quicker to cast, especially with people moving in and out of range so quickly on fights these days.

  37. Nightsorrow

    It’s a rum deal to be a resto at the moment; but I think that Elatari’s comment encapsulates why we should continue to raid and Vix; your post is well argued and wonderfully articulate. I’m not in a “top” guild, nor even a hardcore one, but I’m being taken for a raid on Sunday (I’ve been away for a month) and I’m going to do my utmost to prove that my shammy is worth taking. So my totems may not be essential, that darned mage may have nicked my bloodlust; I’ve always been out performed by that pally anyway, so the extra 10% won’t matter, but I am going to stand there, in my all my tauren glory, heal my ass off and remember why I rolled a shammy in the first place.

    I strongly suspect, as everyone else would appear to, that the issues will be balanced out to some degree, but until then I will bring my raid awareness and attitude to the raid and use those two to compensate for a possibility of under-par healing.

  38. Carighan

    While i agree on the general subject, I don’t share much of the general “Doom”-fear that many of my classmates seem to share. Sure we are behind, but by rather small amounts, looking at the large picture. Weighted averages from put us behind by amounts which are not of worry outside of min-/maxing, and given the dominance of Resto in PvP (at least until 4.0.6), I can understand the hesitation to give any larger amount of power to us.

    That being said…
    I find that our unique utility is downplayed by some weird bugs or decisions. We have had Blue confirmation that selfrezz isn’t supposed to count towards the ressurection-cap, yet it does. This alone greatly devalues a Shaman for a group, as someone with a 1Up could be preferable in RNG-heavy encounters.
    Further, the fast interrupts we have are awesome, but Restoration lacks +hit to properly employ them.
    Grounding Totem is good, but works on very few effects – understandable, but still cuts of short.
    Similarily, Ghost Wolf’s anti-snare is powerful but it’s moments are rare.

    I feel that we got unique utility for the raid, it’s just not… evolved enough to be appreciated.

  39. Shamad

    I’m not quite on board with your views on where the class is going in some respects, but at least this much I can agree with you about, that we’re essentially an outdated class in need of a long hard look to bring us up to date, and that review has not happened so far.

    I, happily, came to the class only towards the tail end of TBC, where simple utility no longer informed the choice of bringing Shamans to a raid. However, in terms of healing design, I feel we’ve been going downhill since. Due to an overarching fear of CH being too strong, it’s been a mostly weak spell in WotLK and again now in Cata. More to the point, the new healing design intended for us, the “lifesaver” post-damage niché, does not exist in the current game, and we’ve utterly lost our way as a high-speed reactionary healer, which is what I originally loved about the class.

    As it is, quite frankly, the best decision I’ve made during cata so far was once again to roll away from playing a Shaman. In 10mans, there’s just no place for resto Shamans once you hit hard modes, not if you’ve got a choice. And to be quite frank, if you’re a good healer playing a resto Shaman in a 25man guild, you must know you could perform better if you played another class, meaning the only reason you’re still on that Shaman is because of a totem. I doubt very much that realization fills anyone with pride.

  40. […] in him. So no more play there. Basically I spent a couple of weeks with no desire to play. And then I came across this, yeah it is primarily a resto blog, but yeah… I had already sort of resigned myself to from […]

  41. wylhelmina

    I change my main for a resto shamy for cata. I was a tree in wotlk. I raid in a 25 man guild and the officer juste want to bring one shamy heal for most of the raid. behing two resto shamy on the roster we prety much get sat on night and got in the other one.

    my impression so far for resto shamy is that our almost only heal is HR. Imo HR is one of the more powerfull healing on the ground effect. behing in a low cd. procing ELW and AA i think that make it stronger then the pally or the druid or the priest one. but i feel like that the only thing we can use an top metter depending on the fight. befor cata launch they state that healer would have to use more then one spell to heal. i don’t have the feel of it now. even worst to make sure i can cast as meany HR i want i have to cast lighting bolt to get mana back. and a few riptid here and there combine with UE+chain heal. then refresh HR.

    in a area where all buff got distributed to other class and i’m fine with it. most of the time i have only one totem to drop on each fight in 25 man. healing stream. lol. and i agree that all healer class have to be equal in cd and all those thing. druid need a cd to use on tank such as us and we need hyme type spell or tranq as well as pally do.

    but it’s also true that what the player do of is carather importe far more in the boss kill then the output HPS or cd. if you able to avoid fire and all those thing you should be brought in raid but that for reg in HM those missing cd can play a big role in getting you bench compare to an other class that can bring a litllte more at equal play quality(fire standing)

    any way those change can’t hapen in a patch we gona have to wait for next expension to get a soul link i think or a water totem that can act as a traquility. so let juste bring our game face and rock as hard as we can! and let’s sing in the rain!

  42. […] Vixsin tackles the utility of the shaman class here. […]

  43. Awesome read – thanks for encapsulating the frustration and confusion many of us Resto4Lifers feel. Hopefully Blizzard will make some fundamental changes to us in future releases to balance us more equally against our peers in the “New/Shattered World”.

  44. Vian

    Besides agreeing with the points already discussed here, I just feel sad that all the buffs/utilities we had were distributed amonst other classes while we received not a single from others(no, I wont consider tranquil totem, hate that they used the same name froma totem that we used back on classic but with a different concept as a skill received :) ).

  45. Yopax

    Vixsin and others – any view on how much 4.06 will get shaman closer to the other healers – HPS/HPM wise ? Are we closing the gap so we are “only” 10 or 15% behind or is it getting wider ?

  46. Malefícent

    Well its going to remain to be seen jsut how these changes affect us……the buff to Mastery might be a good thing, but still suffers from only be useful on some spells, and also having zero regen ability nor AA procs. 10% CH might be useful in AOE situations, and +20% GHW also.

    Will have to see how it all comes together tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing other people’s thoughts on this very issue tomorrow.


  47. Malefícent

    Reports that Tsunami stacks with MTT… EU so will have to test on both tsunami and Jar in the morning, but so far looks like they do.

    Wonder how this affects the whole “trinket” debate about what to go with now.


    • wylhelmina

      make sure to look at other buff pepole in your group buff for mana tide and trinket stacking befor yell victory.

      I did the same thing looking at my mana regen in combat will poping jc trinket and core. the stack for me but don’t multiply on the buff. so i was giving a 7k spirit buff to raid and i got 10K for my self will mtt donw and my two tinket.

  48. Malefícent

    The important question, to which I can not seem to find an answer at present……”How good is Resto Mastery Now”….anyone have any thoughts on this?


  49. Malefícent

    Well I am not sure about your own experiences, but we raided 10m BWD last night and cleared up to Neffy, then over to Bastion and cleared to council.

    The key point is that for the first time ever in Cata I came away from the raid at the top of the table. I used to be well under the Priest and Pally (Pally especially) yet last night rocked the world.

    My stats are Haste up to Cap (goblin cap) then Mastery at 36% and Crit 19-20%. The only change is really the mastery stat wise.

    I decided to do a HR/CH rotation for raid, and then GHW on tanks and low people, while ofc keeping Riptide rolling. Was getting some very very large crits with GHW, which have never seen before.

    I changed my Core for an alchamist stone and pretty happy with that so far as it gives more int, and haste which means I can focus other gear from Haste, the +40% bonus to pots does help also.

    All in All I am happy with the current state of affairs, and if mastery proves to be even better there is plenty of scope to stack it further.

    How are other people’s experiences??


  50. Rill

    Incredible and thoughtful writing here; I loved reading this…I also really enjoyed reading the “Breaking up with haste is hard to do” post as well.

    I started playing my shaman (and this game) in late vanilla because both the jack-of-all trades and totem mechanics appealed to me. To this day I still raid on the very same toon, and in a us top 20 guild to boot (in Casual actually, one rank above you guys :P). It’s refreshing to see a post that I can deeply connect with because it sums up our class throughout the years nicely. I remember one of the best threads for us was the suggestions thread in wrath about our totem mechanics. There were so many thoughtful and creative ideas for our totems and totem mobility (along with other things…controllable elemental pets as totems etc), and it was sad to see blizzard couldn’t really do anything drastic regarding them.

    In regards to the “bring the player not the class mentality” I was sat for heroic V+T progression over a feral druid because of the battle rez…even though said druid did less damage than me. It’s clear that bringing certain classes certainly has an effect on kills and strategy, and shaman don’t really have a unique place in that now unless its “this effect can target grounding totem” which was recently nerfed anyways.

    I completely agree with you in that we currently have no niche…no really special ability that separates us from any other class (and believe me I was SO pumped for Spirit Link…you have no idea). I currently drop one totem in raids: HST (and occasionally tide) because it’s really the only unique totem we have. Blizzard has done a decent job with shaman (and I know many wouldn’t agree with that), but they need a place in raids atm…not just a mana tide on legs.

    Regardless, great read…and it’s nice to find a raiding shaman posting on my level who is also in love with the class. Cheers and keep posting!



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