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


February 28, 2011

Resto Shaman Mailbag #1

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Written by: Vixsin
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Much to my chagrin, I spent the last week digging myself out from a self-induced deluge of emails that had, due to my own technical ineptitude, piled up since the end of January. And as I set about answering questions about everything from 10s to reforging to PVP (dodging questions, in the case of the latter), I couldn’t help but think that there might be some use in offering up some of my answers to the larger Resto Shaman community, lest some of you out there are struggling with similar issues or spending long night alone pondering the mysteries of Deep Healing. (Don’t worry, names and details have been modified to protect those who asked me simple questions and got novel-length responses in return!) So below are some of my responses to a select couple of emails; hopefully they address some questions floating about that maybe you haven’t had the time to ask.

As always, if you don’t see your burning Resto Shaman answered here or anywhere on the site, do feel free to shoot me an email directly. (If the community sends in enough, I’d be happy to make the Mail Bag a regular staple of LiG5 content!)

To the Mailbag!

Question 1: What kind of reforging strategy would you recommend for a shaman just getting into normal mode raids? I looked at your armory and you seem to be moving away from from crit as much as possible while prioritizing haste, but I don’t think that would work as well for normal mode 10 man raids.

When it comes to reforging, I think the answer comes down to three things:

  1. The gear you have available to you
  2. The spells that make up the majority of your healing
  3. The encounters you’re working on

In regards to the first item, it’s pretty much a good rule of thumb that the primary stat upgrades (Int/Spirit) that you can from going up an ilvl pretty much trump any change in secondary stats. So whereas at the tail end of ICC, you would see players sticking with normal-mode loot over heroic -mode upgrades because the secondary stats were better, right now it’s better to take the upgrade and reforge into what you don’t have. So, that’s why you’ll look at my Armory and think “holy crap, that’s a lot of reforging to haste!” But if you look at my total haste (1165) you’ll note that I actually don’t have that much at all.

Which brings me to the second and third points–what spells I’m using and in what encounters. In regards to the latter, there’s a definite difference in the damage levels found in normal versus hard modes; it’s almost a 2:1 ratio given the same time frame. This means that if effects are taking someone to 70% HP in a normal mode, you can expect them to be at ~40% HP during a hard mode. This is a powerful argument for Mastery as a secondary stat and why you’ll see some players like Kalanii (Vodka) place a heavier priority on Mastery. But hard modes also have another important factor which affects healing stat priorities and that is the incorporation of raid-wide hard-hitting effects that require topping off shortly thereafter. Burst has always been something that Resto Shaman struggle with, so this is why you’ll see other players like Barab (Cuties Only) prioritize Haste over everything else. Tie these stats preferences into the fact that most 25-man raiding shaman do the majority of their healing with CH and HR, and you’ll understand why Crit ranks so low on everyone’s list.

When you step into Normal 10-mans, it’s a different story because you should see less of your healing from CH and HR, and more from single-target spells, which benefit significantly from increased crit levels. So I would imagine that your priority will be somewhat different. So instead, a better person to pattern yourself after would be someone like Miyukachi (Modest), who is a strict 10-man raider and who seemingly favors an equal pursuit of all stats.

In the end, reforging is going to allow you to make up for the places where your gear is lacking or where RNG hasn’t precisely been on your side. What’s important is that you understand why you’re going in a specific direction and what spells that secondary stat will and will not affect.

Question 2: I’m curious about one thing … do you think that keeping mail specialization is worth the 5% Int? Currently, I’m pre raid geared so I’m doing heroics and getting reputation, and I’m wondering if I shouldn’t equip those 346 non-mail items that are upgrades from my current pieces?

The 5% mail specialization is definitely worth sticking to, even if it means that you hang onto a couple ilvl333/318 pieces over 346 options. While in previous expansions Restos were free to poach items from cloth- and leather-wearers, nowadays I would strongly discourage you from taking anything that isn’t mail; the stat gain wouldn’t be worth it. And with a number of easy-to-reach questing and rep rewards within easy grasp, there’s really no reason to sacrifice ~200 Int just to go up one step in ilvl.

Question 3: In regards to major glyphs, it seems as if we really have three solid glyph choices: Chain Heal, Healing Wave and Stoneclaw. Whereas Chain Heal will help with a little bit extra throughput on AoE healing, Healing wave is something I don’t find myself using it that much. Stoneclaw, on the other hand, helps to mitigate damage so I can concentrate on my team members rather than myself. Which glyphs do you run with and why?

I’d absolutely agree that Stoneclaw is worth the investment–it’s been an incredible way to dish out a quick absorb on myself and save my two instants for players who need them more (which always seems to be the situation in hard mode encounters). But instead of taking CH and HW as my other two, I stick with CH and HST. HW is something I rarely use in 25s, unless I’m biding time until a wave of damage is about to hit, so its usefulness is really sub-par for me. In fact, it was consistently contributing to more overhealing when I did have it equipped. HST, on the other hand, is something I have down consistently. The raid resistance it offers allows our Holy Pallies to stick with auras which they can use along with Aura Mastery, so that they don’t need to aura-twist in the middle of the encounter.

Question 4: Even with the recent buff to GHW, I still find HS/CH/HR a better healing toolset then GHW/CH/HR . The mana usage is lower, and with riptide up it crits 9 times out of 10 for the same amount. Is there something that I am missing about the recent GHW buff?

While every little bit helps, I agree that the GHW buff didn’t really have a significant impact on my main *raid healing* toolset, which consists of RT/CH/HR. But where I do feel the effect of the buff is when I’m tank-focused, either because it’s a 3-tank fight (e.g. HM Maloriak or Halfus) or because I need to take over from a pally who’s met an untimely demise. Prior to the buff, there really wasn’t a compelling enough reason to use GHW when tank healing, because its output was so similar to the numbers you would see from HS, and with the latter you’d gain more in the way of AA and IWS procs.

So for example, when I was solo-healing Nature platform on HM Conclave, I would work primarily with RT/HS/UE w/ HW filler; if the tank really got hit, I’d queue up a GHW and pray that I got a crit. But the other night on Conclave was a completely different story–GHW throughput was substantially improved, and it actually wound up reducing the total mana I spent topping my tank because I could count on much more substantial non-crit heals. HS actually felt weak in comparison to GHW’s output, which is right where it should be. (Check out this comparison and be sure to tick “Average Hit” under “Columns to show”). Both my AA and IWS performance improved too, as counter-intuitive as that may be (likely due to better TW usage because I wasn’t frantically spamming tanks). At least for me, the sum picture is compelling enough to get me to rely on GHW in my tank-healing rotation.

Question 5: In light of patch 4.0.6, do you feel the math still points to Crit>haste>mastery? Or should we start picking up some gear that has more mastery, in lieu of crit or haste pieces?

Unfortunately, I think we’re a far ways away from a decisive resolution to the Mastery debate. (Holy hell, WTB lua designer so I can just get a mod made to resolve this all!) The best that answer that I can settle on when it comes to the value of Mastery is: it depends. It depends on the average level of HP in the raid, it depends on your own spell distribution, and it depends on the content you’re doing. Mastery is certainly better than it was pre-4.0.6, but that’s not really a valuable statement when made outside of the context of the raid, the raid team, your healing partners and their healing styles, etc.

At this point, when it comes to my own gear, I’ve been taking the approach of advancing my stats equally, but focusing a bit more on Mastery and Haste because of my guild’s HM progression. But, for players in normal modes, I would argue that the stat preference would be more akin to Haste > Crit > Mastery, because most of those players have already converted a number of pieces to epic and thus can be a little more loose with their healing than when I was running through content in all blues. If you’re ending fights with > 30% mana, then you probably want to stay a little bit farther away from Mastery and maybe a little closer to haste, because you essentially have mana to burn.

For those of us in hard modes, however, I think there’s a definitely argument for Mastery found in encounter effects that do massive raid AOE. At those times, and even more so when you’re tank healing and running on empty, Mastery is your saving grace and goes a long way to extending the value of your mana pool.

Question 6:   In your experience, is there a minimum HP number you’d recommend to tanks, above which the stats are wasted (as you were saying about haste for restos), or is balancing mitigation, absorption, and avoidance the way to go? What kind of conversations have you had with your guild tanks about health pools vs avoidance? I’d love to hear what makes you think “that guy was a breeze to heal” after a random heroic or guild raid.

In my personal opinion, the best tanks to heal, at least that I’ve found, aren’t necessarily ones with great gear. These days, between raids and heroics, I’ve found myself healing tanks who have anywhere from 130k to 200k HP and any combination of avoidance stats. But the ones that stand out seem to share a mindset (although not necessarily a gearing style), and can come from any of the tanking classes. In general, I’ve found that “great” tanks do the following:

  • Use CDs religiously: if I’m 3-4 pulls into a Heroic or an instance and I haven’t seen the tank pop a CD yet, that’s generally an indication that he’s not going to be giving me too much help. This is a major issue for me as a shaman, because I have no external CDs to employ to keep a tank alive while I catch up heals. I healed our pally MT through Heroic Deadmines right after we both hit 85—it was a breeze because the man just kept his CDs rolling (he still does when tanking in our main raids).
  • Use self-heals religiously: possibly the easiest way to help a healer, self-healing saves me a good bunch of mana and puts a tank almost instantly into my good graces. One of our MTs, a DK, has become very adept at timing his self-heals for moments when healers need to pull off him to address raid damage. I love being assigned to heal him because I know he’s going to do whatever he can to make my job easier.
  • Don’t gem straight stamina:  the days of EHP are long-dead. So a tank with pure stam gems and trinkets will generally mean I need to spend more mana to keep him alive. (Obviously, spending mana makes me cranky)
  • Know where I am at any given time: I don’t generally tend to be the type to move around frequently, but tanks who do practice careful positioning based on my location (or the healing team’s placement) make life much easier. Tanks who nail their feet to the floor and refuse to move for anything, while I run about avoiding fires/lava/explosions/tornadoes/etc. are not ones that I enjoy healing.

When it comes to our raid team, we’re blessed with tanks who practice all of the above. And thankfully, FH has been working with the same tanks since the middle of Ulduar, so our healing and tanking teams don’t really need to have too much discussion about the details of what will make life easier on both of the groups. I put the question to some of our tanks (we have MTs from each of the 4 tanking classes) as to what they think is the “best” tanking stat, and they all gave similar answers–whatever helps you take less damage, whether that’s mastery, mitigation or avoidance.

And Now for Something Completely Different …

I found this little resto shaman joke during the fuss surrounding Paragon’s World First Sinestra kill, and since then I hadn’t really found the best place to throw it into a post. So, seeing as how this post is already a hodgepodge of content, I figured it’s probably right at home and a great way to end with a chortle. Enjoy!

A priest walked in to a bar and saw a troll shaman sitting at a table surrounded by all of his totems. Thinking about how much trouble it must be to have to carry all of the totems around along with his weapons, armor, shield, and so on, the priest walked up to the table said “I don’t know how you do it man, seems like that’s a lot of dead weight to carry around with you”. As the troll continued stared sullenly into his drink, the Mana Tide totem turned to the priest and said “Tell me about it, but at least he’s not a Tauren”.


  1. Cameran

    I really appreciate the tank question – going to ship that along to our tanks just to get the stam rules mentality out of their heads a little more. Our MT likes to go for 210+, and I know that can’t be right :/

    Quick question – as a priest (the other provider of this buff) how do you guys handle the -10% physical among your heals? We generally only have 3 classes that can provide it (disc/holy/sham) and it seems to help quite a bit on the H-modes that I’ve done so far. We generally just let the buff go up when it does, but I feel like there has to be a better way to do it (i.e. stack crit, assign a healer to it?)

    Also, congrats on H-Al’akir – the realm first popped while I was in my alt run (:

    • Thanks for the congrats! It was a good amount of effort but well worth the kill. Would that I could have been there on my shaman, but at least my druid has a shiny new title! 😛

      As to your question, we typically don’t go out of our way to manage Inspiration/Ancestral Fort. Given that our raid team tends to do a significant amount of cross-healing, ~50% uptime on tanks is average, without using a dedicated priest/shaman. I imagine that we’d manage it a lot more strictly if our tanks were kicking the bucket due to incoming damage, but we’ve yet to encounter that problem on any fight other than HM Cho’gall.

      In the end, we regard it more as a bonus than a necessity. While 10% reduction does make a overall difference in healer mana, we tend to worry more about the strat and less about buff management.

  2. Mitila

    Hey based on question number 3, you might want to update the resto guide’s glyph section and put a note about the glyph of stoneclaw totem in there.

    Also, for a 10 man raider it would be better to switch out the glyph of chain heal instead of the healing wave glyph for the stoneclaw totem one right?

  3. Epic joke at the end there.

  4. I think you should forget to check your email more often if it results in useful stuff like this :)
    And yes – moar jokes 😀
    Issy´s last post ..A carrot and 3 sticks

    • Heh. Well, while I can appreciate the results, I’m definitely going to keep a stricter watch on my incoming mail from now on. I felt like such a jerk for encouraging people to e-mail me and then falling flat on the responses. Needless to say, more than a few e-mails received novel-length replies in some misguided attempt to make up for the delay. >.<

  5. Zargore

    It is always a pleasure to read your posts, and this one is no exception. Some good questions and good answers.

    One single note though, in the link to “Kalanii (Vodka)”, you have added your blog URL in front of the armory url.

  6. Eonïe

    Hi Vixsin !

    In question 5 you got my interest in developping something in LUA to gather more data about Mastery efficiency.
    What was your idea behind that (which method would you use to get results ?).
    Would it be some kind of statistics gatherer about what is the average health level of your target when your heals land, and therefore which part of the whole mastery score is really usefull ? :)

    As it’s my first time posting here, I just want to thank you for sharing your thaughts about shamans on this blog. I like the way you write things, and I find that the followers in the comments usually allow to go further into the discussion, in a very nice way.

    Big thanks for all of that :)

  7. I personally love the stoneclaw glyph and I have it macroed with engineer tinker shield, healthstone, and gift of the naruu. I have to keep spamming it for it to activate gift of the naruu but it’s nice when I need it.

    Do you find secondary stats compelling or just frustrating? I’d love someday a list of guidelines with bullet points… :) It’s tough to get my head around it all but at least it makes for good conversation.

    And for the joke, I gave credit to Strawberry on official forums for it. It was my favorite in that thread too.

    Here’s another shaman joke that someone wrote.
    Restoration shaman HAHAHA. (This was before buffs).
    Alacran´s last post ..Fet the guck off GTFO addon review

  8. Meoses


    I have a comp sci PhD in my guild that has written an number of fun and useful addons. At this time I can’t figure out what i would need him to do to test the effect of mastery, but if you have the idea for the addon all in your head, shoot me an email with specifics and I am sure he would be more than willing to make it and then I can send it your way.

  9. Builder

    Thanks for the interesting post. :-) First comment from a long time reader.

    “HST, on the other hand, is something I have down consistently. The raid resistance it offers allows our Holy Pallies to stick with auras which they can use along with Aura Mastery, so that they don’t need to aura-twist in the middle of the encounter.”

    I don’t quite understand what you’re saying here. In PvE, Aura Mastery is almost always applied with Resistance Aura to mitigate a boss’s massive fire/frost/shadow aoe ability. AM does not affect auras, totems, etc. that other players are running — only the hpally’s own aura at the time.

    While it certainly is nice to normally be able to run Concentration Aura (or whatever) because your friendly neighborhood shammies are using glyph of HST, hpallies still have to aura-twist back to resistance prior to popping AM.

    • Man, on second read, that really doesn’t make very much sense does it? (heh)

      If I had been in a more articulate mood, what I would have said … Glyphed HST, in smaller raid groups, allows Pallies the freedom to stick with the Auras that they need to and in the rare event that they want to Aura Mastery something other than resistance aura, it allows them the freedom to do so. (It’s also worth noting, although I didn’t mention it, that Nature damage is prevalent in a good number of tier 11 encounters, so HST covers that area where pally auras won’t help).

      Good point of clarification, though. Much obliged for pointing it out! ^_^

  10. Firestyle

    The only reason I was able to kill magmaw in 333 ilvl was stoneclaw totem. I don’t use it often since HW glyph is better in 10 mans, but man when you can use it, it’s solid.

  11. […] and my favorite shaman blog, by Vixsyn called Life in Group 5 2. Raiders’ Answer Bag (updated to the new mailbag) […]

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