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


March 13, 2011

On Iteration and Design: Spirit Link Totem

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Written by: Vixsin
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Before I spent my days wading through calculations, and before I spent my time being a problem-solver, I spent some time studying architecture (translation: I spent a good amount of time in a studio laboring over architectural details and making models). Thankfully, WoW wasn’t known to me just then so I was able to pour myself with complete abandon into a field where I thought I would find my eventual career. (Amazing how things turn out sometimes, eh?) Studying architecture, at least at the college that I attended, wasn’t so much about refining skills as developing your core philosophy and teaching you about the wonderful world of design objectivity. More so, it was about getting students to subscribe to one key philosophy—good design comes from not being afraid to iterate, but great design is about knowing when to stop iterating and simply move on.

(Don’t worry, I’ll tie this into WoW in a second!)

Spirit Link, Reborn

As much as I am loathe to look a gift horse in the mouth, I couldn’t help the feeling that settled into me as I looked at the patch notes released last week, specifically the preview of shamans’ “Spirit Link Totem”. To be quite frank, it was that kind of “well, I suppose we should have expected that” sinking feeling; our old buddy Spirit Link is back, risen from the ashes and here to make yet another go at becoming the cooldown of shamans’ dreams.

It’s most recent iteration cropped up on last Thursday:

Spirit Link Totem (Tier 5) Summons a Spirit Link Totem with 5 health at the feet of the caster. The totem reduces damage taken by all party and raid members within 10 yards by 10%. Every 1 sec, the health of all affected players is redistributed, such that each player ends up with the same percentage of their maximum health. Lasts 6 sec. 11% of base mana, 3 min cooldown, Instant

So clearly the idea has undergone some changes since its last design iteration; going from the tank CD it was in WotLK beta to a raid/tank CD proposed in 4.1. To refresh your memory, here’s the basic Spirit Link description from Wrath (my apologies, I couldn’t find the actual tooltip as it used to exist):

You link the friendly target with two nearby targets, causing 50% of the damage taken to be distributed to the linked targets. If any single blow is enough to deal 30% of a target’s total health or if the damage shared is going to take any one of those targets below 20% health then the Spirit Link is cancelled.

And to round out the quotes section of the post, let me remind you of why Spirit Link was pulled from the game in the first place. From the Cataclysm Shaman class preview:

Spirit Link will likely be worked back into deep Restoration in some form. The idea is that you will be able to link targets together so they share damage. When we had previously tried to implement Spirit Link, it was hard to balance and a little confusing. However, we really liked the concept — and so did players — so we are trying to bring it back.

Spirit Link in 4.1

Over the past week, I’ve had the opportunity to solidify my thoughts on this new variation of Spirit Link and review some of those concerns floating around the community. Suffice to say, there are a good number of thoughts out there, some of which I think are valid concerns which should be addressed (or likely are being addressed) as design proceeds and others which strike me as more fluff than substance.

  1. Losing One Buff to Sacrifice Another – Fluff. One of the arguments against Spirit Link Totem that I saw crop up more often than not is the idea that your raid will lose out on haste (melee or caster) when you decide to drop SLT. As arguments go, I don’t think this one holds much water—the overall impact on your group is marginal at best and the fact that SLT doesn’t have a channel component means it’s better off than raid CD’s like Divine Hymn and Tranq.
  2. Time to Target (travel distance to place) – Valid. Definitely an issue given the context of what a CD is often used for, this is one of my primary concerns for any proposed solution for resto shaman. And although I don’t buy into the hype that maintains that shaman have “no mobility”, what a totem CD will stress more than anything else is that the shaman will have to be proactive and position themselves appropriately before the CD needs to occur. In most boss encounters, I don’t see that big of a problem with this concept (because things like Maloriak’s Flame Breath are telegraphed and predictable), but in “oh shyte” instances, this constraint will significantly cramp shamans’ ability to pull out a save. No matter how fast your response time, no matter how low your latency, chances are that by the time you recognize the need for a CD, pop GW while running, stop, and drop the totem, your window of opportunity will have closed.
  3. Range of Application/Visibility – Valid. A potential problem that cropped up in last week’s mini-post covering the SLT announcement, some players pointed to the limited range of effect of the totem as cause for concern. Again, I don’t really see the 10-yard range as being too problematic given the prevalence of AOE healing effects in Cata (and the similarities between the effective range of SLT and PW:Barrier). However, what I think will be incredibly important for players is knowing that they are or are not within the affected area .Based on imagery from the beta, Blizzard has opted for yet another ground effect, which in my opinion, will just become another element to be lost among the multitude of projected textures already in place.

  4. Tank/Raid applicability –Fluff. Although I had first worried about the effects of SLT on a tank taking heavy incoming damage, I think I’m on board with the idea that it could be used as a potential tank CD, provided that there were sufficient players in range to accommodate the incoming spikes. As damage reduction talents/CDs go, SLT is pretty weak, so its real power would come from distributing damage enough to save the 1-2 deaths that would otherwise cripple a raid. (It’s also worth noting that the spread damage plus having the raid in a confined area works incredibly well with Shamans’ highest throughput spell—Healing Rain).
  5. It takes a little bit of a novel to explain – Valid. This quality of SLT didn’t really become evident to me until I sat down for dinner on Friday night with my SO and tried to explain the functionality of shamans’ new proposed CD. As someone who shares my love of “what ifs”, my SO proceeded to pepper me with questions about how the totem worked with immunities, personal CDs, distance, PW:Barrier, and incoming heals. To be expected, I didn’t have many answers. But what this indicated to me, aside from the fact that a good amount will be revealed in testing, is just HOW MUCH will need to be revealed in testing. A CD shouldn’t come with a manual and its effects shouldn’t need to be qualified by a series of IF/THEN statements.
  6. It’s a CD with a downside – Valid. This was a major sticking point as it was raised early in Wrath Beta, and I think it’s still applicable in SLT’s current iteration—if misused, this totem could play a part in someone’s imminent demise. Granted, it would be a rare occurrence if it ever happened, but again, CD’s are about saving lives, not about taking a gamble.
  7. Placement in the Resto Tree – Valid. In its current position in Tier 5 of the Resto tree, opting for Spirit Link plus all the typical Tier 5, 6 and 7 talents means that you’ll be pulling another point out of your Elemental/Enhancement secondaries. This means that Restos will need to choose between Acuity, Ancestral Swiftness, Blessing of the Eternals, Telluric Currents, and maybe Ancestral Awakening.

Ultimately, if there were any game-breakers in terms of functional implementation, I would think it would be #2 and #5 above. Both present significant hurdles which really affect the ever-important “quality of life” of being a raiding Resto Shaman. Being burned by yet another spell in a reactive environment (which sometimes you simply cannot avoid through your own efforts), and needing a manual to understand how to use one CD, does not bode well for the future of SLT. That you could also potentially negatively impact another player’s HP by way of a bad decision is just icing on the cake. That being said, there’s one last point that I’d like to make about SLT, and it centers on something I mentioned at the beginning of this post– great design is about knowing when to stop iterating and simply move on.

Time for that Personal Anecdote

Believe it or not, I actually remember the first time I learned the incredibly disconcerting lesson that design is not single act, but an iterative process. It was during one of my first upper-level design studio classes, in which we were tasked with designing a residence that represented the rough yet lush mountainous terrain of our building site. My first sketches showed a house that bloomed down the mountain-side, its walls and ceilings opening up towards the sun like petals. (Obviously, I was proud of it in an artsy-fartsy way).

It was so highly praised in our first critique that when the professor told us to explore another quality of the site, I just spent time refining my first idea. Suffice to say, my efforts were not as well received the second time around. But being the obstinate person I was (erm, *am), I argued the perfection of my original concept. And with each iteration that we were told to make, while classmates incorporated differing concepts and influences, I tinkered more with my original design, trying to make it fit with the new requirements despite the fact that they were often in conflict with my latest design revision.

At the end of the semester-long class, when it came time to present, we lined up our models, our drawings, our concept art, and our other design elements for the final critique. But whereas my peers’ designs showed a progression and evolution, mine was starkly static and unyeilding. Whereas other concepts were varied and nuanced in their approach to space, design, and interaction, my design was a 1-trick pony. What I hadn’t grasped through the entire class became incredibly evident to me in that moment—I had wanted so much for my original idea to work, that I had refused to evolve past it. I had stuck to iterating the same concept over and over again in the belief that forward was the only way to go. And at the end of the class I was left with the same thing I had at the beginning, just wrapped in a different color wrapper.

Sometimes, a good idea needs to be allowed its place

Maybe it’s the fact that we’ve been sold on this type of yarn twice before, but I can’t help but look at SLT with a slight amount of disappointment. Like the name of a youth sports team that didn’t quite come together as intended—we all like dinosaurs and we all like ninjas, so Super Ninja Pterodactyls it is!—I get the feeling that the Spirit Link idea had lingered on so long that the last ditch effort to make it viable was to tack it onto shamans’ “thing” (totems) and hope that it would finally stick.

Ultimately, I’m left thinking … As a CD, its balancing will be very fragile. As a mechanic, it’s not easy to understand. And as a concept, as much as I appreciate the sheer amount of design effort that’s gone into making Spirit Link something we finally see in game, maybe it’s time for a fresh perspective.

It’s been 8 years since Spirit Link was introduced as a concept in Warcraft III, and 3+ years since it was included as a potential Shaman ability in Wrath of the Lich King Beta. And it’s been just about a year since it was mentioned as making a potential resurgence in Cataclysm. For these reasons, I’ve no doubt that a significant amount of effort was put into trying to work out the bugs and balance that were requisite to including it in a final release of the game. And yet, after almost 4 years of effort and design time, Spirit Link has been shelved twice and has become a running joke among some shamans. “When pigs fly” has become “When Spirit Link goes live”.

Like I learned in my sophomore studio, as much as you love something, pour your heart and soul into it, and labor over it for hours, it still may be a case of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Iteration works best when you’re culling a pack, not when you start with a pool of 1. And when your response to pushback or problems with the design is simply to try harder to make it fit, then you’re fighting a losing battle. Sometimes, it’s hard to see this as you move forward in the process, convinced that it’s a better investment of time and resources to forge onward instead of scrapping the idea entirely. But sometimes, you need to step back from your beloved design idea and realize that if it isn’t a smooth and easy fit, then it’s time to move on.

I don’t think there’s much debate on the point any more—what shamans need is a tool, something to give us the equal healing footing that we’ve been searching for. But, quite frankly, I’d rather wait several more patches to see an innovative and fresh solution given to my brethren, than to see a dusted-off nostalgia-driven stop-gap go live. I only hope that Blizzard has the courage to do what I didn’t all those years ago—to let go of a beloved idea and understand that when it comes to design, the best solutions are the ones yet to come.

(Special Thanks to Binkari for the slider image!)


  1. Mimdu

    Good post, you particularly got me questioning why Spirit Link is so obsessively desired by both devs and players alike, particularly when, like you said, it may just not be the solution we need. I was honestly expecting a different sort of cooldown, so was definitely surprised when they appeared with yet another version of the WC classic. I also was very unhappy with the placement in the talent tree… particularly when you have to place one “filler” point in Ancestral Resolve/Cleansing Waters/FI/etc to open up that tier of the talent tree.

    SLT’s effect is a little off the ground, so I’m hoping that with all of the changes they’re making to other “ground effect heals”, it will at least be noticeable… but it is a nagging concern in the back of my mind that between HR, Sanct, Effo, PW:B, and Frost Traps, it will get lost. I haven’t yet tried it with all of these affects on the PTR to see if it stands out enough.

    Also, it’s been reported that SLT’s “damage equalizer” is mitigated by nature resistance, and the “healing equalizer” benefits from mastery. How do you feel about this? Do you see these staying? I assume they won’t change your general idea about the philosophy behind it, but it does mitigate some of the negatives, if it’s not a bug (unlikely, IMO).

    • I definitely think the Nature Resist component is a bug of sorts; I’d see no benefit to having the spell be partially resistible. As to the healing component benefiting from Mastery, that wasn’t something I had observed, but then my testing wasn’t extensive by any means.

  2. Gothikprofit

    hi vix, short time reader, first time poster, loving everyhting ive read on here so far =D
    i dont understand what you mean by concern number 6. if ,as the tooltip says “Every 1 sec, the health of all affected players is redistributed, such that each player ends up with the same percentage of their maximum health.”, how would that lead to someones death? even if a dps was low on health, wouldnt SLT balance hp levels out? or could it possibly drop a tank so low percentage-wise theyd be dead on the next attack, which you actually refute in concern number 4?
    anywho, thanks for all the help youve provided to all of us in the restosham community, keep up the good work, and good luck with the rest of cata!

    • My concern is that with SLT lowering everyone’s health levels, that a hard-hitting mechanic could be that much more deadly once SLT wore off. (Think about any “burst” single-target mechanic, especially those in hard modes, which hit for 50-80k). For tanks, my concern would be similar–if you were in an encounter with a tank getting trucked (like HM Cho’gall), having a tank step into SLT’s range could reduce his HP to the point where he would get 1-shot on the subsequent attack.

      Obviously, these are exceptions to the rule, and will likely not be the norm. But it worries me that this potential exists …

  3. Greenwillow

    If you drop it next to a boss with a tank and melee DPS on it (say Maloriak green/dark phase) the DPS will effectively start to suffer a sort of hateful strike mechanic bringing them low very fast, won’t have a dedicated healer assigned to them, and will die to the first tick of splash damage that finds them.

    Extreme example there that’d require some pretty stupid play, but there are lots of times when you could effectively get a melee DPS’ head ‘cleaved’ off then lose them to splash.

    • Ateve

      My biggest problem is its not even centered on the caster, its appearing as an air totem does, behind you and to the side. This is going to make it hard to drop in such a way that if you are in melee using it as a tank cd its going to be hard to be precise enough to hit the tank and the melee, 6sec isnt alot of time if its not quite in the right place and ppl need to adjust to get inside.

  4. Voltigeuse

    It just seems needlessly complicated and the idea of having a shot range CD that is centred on the caster is an odd mechanic for a tank saving cd.

    If it has to be tied to a totem make it a raid wide cd like the others have in the hymns and tranquility. If it is to be a tank saver make it something we can do at range.

    I do not require more originality than this as the flavour can be supplied by graphics.

  5. Richard

    I’m with Voltigeuse here. And he got me thinking… Our other “cd” totems, fire and earth elementals are quite good at getting the job done when released. I.e. Fire elemental will spawn and attack whatever we attacked last (in dgs, the only place I use it, i usually shock the boss immediately after setting the totem, just to make certain, but can see the elemental is always on its way to boss). And the earth elemental spawns and start aggro anything that’s attacking us really, which is what its supposed to do. What about having the totem as an elemental that runs to target and “sets” the link with its 10 yards, blar, blar, blar upon arriving. That at least will get rid of the mobility issue. We still struggle to make a “save” with it, but it will help. They can make it “charge” the target to get there faster, maybe it will help.

    • Morane

      Richard, this idea sounds bang on. Its consistent with our class / lore / healing style.
      I think I never heard such a good alternative to the dusty old Spirit Link. I’m also not very sure why a CD would come with a theoretical death sentence, which it does… It’s supposed to be a panic button and a life saver…

    • Blaanco

      I like the Spirit Link Elemental Totem idea as well.

      Having an Elemental that roams the 30 yards around around it’s totem leash, targeting the lowest health raid/party member at Range 10 and then channeling to equalize the health of all raid/party members within ITS 10 yard radius would work to resolve several issues. Graphically, who can miss an Elemental? Everyone knows when one is dropped on the field. It could have link beams connecting it to all effected, or even if it just raised its hands in the air to exude it’s aura, you’d know if you are getting the buff simply by being near the Ele. If the tank or anyone else thinks being near it is a bad idea (say a 1-shot mechanic is coming up), they can just outdistance it (though it being mobile does make it a bit more difficult). With the totem being in “smart mode”, if the tank is topped off and some range gets smacked, chances are slimmer that it will steal life from the tank to help save the range Our travel distance to drop the totem is lessened since the effective range is now 40.

      • Blaanco

        Plus, I really like Elementals. Shaman are the elemental healers, and those silly frost mages stole our water elemental. I still think they should give them an Ice Elemental and give US the Water Ele with healing abilities. But then that goes against Classic WC lore, I guess. Moo.

  6. Not related to the totem issue specifically, it’s great how you relate the post to your real life and make it interesting and well constructed!
    I just love your writing style.
    Coming back to the spirit link totem, it does seem a fun idea, maybe it will go live, maybe not, but it’s one of those analysis that is hard to make without a lot of situational data collected.

    • Awuh, thanks for the compliment.

      And definitely agreed; it will take a good amount of testing to flesh out all the nuances of the design. That unto itself put it in such stark contrast to abilities like Divine Hymn and Tranquility–how much testing do you need to do to understand “heals lowest X raid members”? Simple concept = easy use.

  7. elye

    Cracking idea Richard ,I’m all for this perhaps not adding a water elemental , due to mage thievery
    ” It could even be incorporated with our existing Earth elemental totem , I was seriously dismayed last night’s “insider article” after raid while reading the post on the state of our current elemental’s viability. I’d often wondered why my
    ” supposed tanking elemental” cool down didn’t help in p’2 Chimeron.

    Mind you it still comes down to the issue of control and for that we’d need some kind of pet bar …
    ( perhaps spirit link could be an actual ability of the earth elemental , such as mage’s water elemental)

    ” The shaman calls for the element of stone summoning an elemental , to guard the player and their companions , linking their health pools to itself ” The elemental has ” XXX ” health ( scale with spell power/ caster health ) and takes for itself “30%” (adjustable) of incoming damage.
    once it has absorbed this damage the elemental is destroyed”

    thoughts ?

  8. elye

    calls forth … dammit should have written that in word then pasted it in >.<

    Please excuse the terrible grammar its early and my first cup of coffee is just kicking in

  9. Firestyle

    This implementation has some drawbacks. Overall, I think it can be used functionally well at the right times. However, I think it’s best use is going to be a balance problem. IMO, SLT is goign to be best when paired with another cooldown – and almost any combination will be effective. Going over the roster of raid cooldowns, we have Barrier, Tranq/Hymn, Aura Mastery, and Divine Guardian of which only a few of these are on CDs longer than 2 or 3 minutes.

    By adding a cooldown to resto shaman, a 25 man raid wil be able to rotate cooldowns in pairs, rather than single cooldowns. Basically any diverse healer comp with a prot paladin will be able to rotate three pairs or cooldowns. At face value this is great – but in comparison, a 10 man raid won’t have the ability to pair cooldowns. Which makes a balance issue between raid formats and incoming raid damage.

    Thus, can we expect 25 man raid damage to be negligble based on cooldown pairing? Or can we expect 25 man raid damage to be brutally unforgiving relative to 10 – making cooldown pairing a requirement in 25s to balance against 10 man’s inability to pair cooldowns?

    Or, should a control mechanism be put in place, like a short form of forbearance or effectively a raidwide weakened soul debuff on cooldowns?

  10. elye

    25 vs 10 man is always going to be a major sticking point in balance and designing raid content lets not open that can of worms , I agree with you in many respects but I would argue that it is not limited to 25 man content as 10 man content gives you more than enough opportunities to chain cool downs .

    Our 10 man for example continue’s to be able to use cool downs effectively to mitigate both raid and personal damage .

    A hypothetical heroic halfus10 man raid contains , 1 disc priest , 2 Prot paladins 1 resto shaman , a moon-kin druid , 1 blood dk ( we use a 3 tank strat for Halfus) and a holy priest “this is actually our current raid set-up for 10’s” the rest of the set-up are pure dps with minimal survivability cool-down usage .

    two bubble-walls , one high spell-power tranquillity , personal cool-down’s for the tanks to mitigate damage , plenty of healing from the blood DK , this can even include bubble and re taunt to drop stacks of mortal strike , the list goes on including major favourites like Di , pain suppression, PWB and whatever we end up being given ,” probably based around spirit link ”

    I would argue that perhaps the issue is not that we as shamans do-not have a cool down of our own its that so many of the other classes do that we look a little less viable without one

    An interesting solution would be to have less cool downs overall ,or mitigate their use through some kind of sated de-buff , the main issue is that a person blowing a CD at a non optimal point in a fight can dramatically effect your abilities to survive a later one .

    • Firestyle

      Very good points. In all honesty, I expect to see further homogenization in the space of cooldowns over time. Giving all healers cooldowns seems a first step.

  11. AniMayhemZ

    Great real very well written piece but I tend to disagree with much you negativity. Generally I am a positive guy so naturally I don’t see what is wrong with SLT. It might not be perfect CD that we Resto need but something is better than nothing. I just hope it goes LIVE because one it does it will continue to get worked on. Number crunching aside the STL is a unique effect based off an iconic spell in WarCraft Universe and that is pretty cool. If we could only get Ethereal Form, Wind Walk, and Stasis Trap all my favorite Orc abilities from Warcraft III will be available to Shaman. Blizzard sees a need and is trying to address it give it time and I am hopeful that STL will get worked into a more effective spell.

    • I could understand how the preceding post might read as negative, but it’s actually not intended to be. I’m glad that the topic of Resto Shaman CDs is on the designer radar (after having been raised *extensively* throughout beta), and I’m glad that an idea is on the table.

      But what concerns me most is that Spirit Link is something that has been proven to have problems multiple times before, and after putting in some time on the PTR, I can at least say that those original design problems still exist. In the end, I’ll work with whatever I’m handed, be it Spirit Link or something else.

  12. Sekul

    I’m not sure I share the trepidation others are having with the current form of Spirit Link.

    Certainly, I have the same questions of how it will work in conjunction with other healer abilities but for the most part I’m excited by the mechanics of it and here’s why.

    I don’t see it as being an “oh shit” CD much like I don’t use Mana Tide as an “oh shit, I’m out of mana” tool. When I first read the current Spirit Link I immediately envisioned the fights that I can plan it’s usage. Magmaw (pretty much anytime), Maloriak Red Vial, Chimeron Fued, Atramedes ground phase, Nefarian Electrocute, etc. Notice that in all of these instances the tank will likely not be affected because of the short range and it will serve the purpose of it’s intent well. It’s intent, as I see it, is simply to prevent you from losing that one or two players because a heal didn’t get to them quickly enough during these AoE damage phases.

    With the damage reduction and the shared HP, I see it performing this function well in all of the above situations and given that all of this damage is predictable and the raid will be grouping anyway, I don’t see the movement loss being a factor at all.

    I understand that the Shaman community was looking for a CD that would serve us in an “oh shit” moment but I would put forth the idea that a CD that helps avoid the “oh shit” moment can be just as valuable if used with some thought and planning. Which, again, is the real intent of all the healing changes to every class, to make us think and plan instead of haphazardly spam right?

    Of course, all of this is conjecture until we see it in action but I’m excited about it and I can easily imagine many instances in which it would work very well.

  13. Suindara

    I would like to see something innovative too.

    Thinking about your last posts, resto shamans really need planing in advance and using every skill at the right moment, but also, sometimes is tiresome when you have to learn something new and there’s no place for mistakes.

    That reminds me of those top guilds not having shammies on their first kills. I can plan in my head when doing my moves when I study for a fight, I read about it, I watch guides…

    But those guys really learning fights for the first time, without much previous info or preparation… well, I felt like shammies are great for farm, not strong proggression.

    I like the idea to play a class that relies on precision, but even from my current slow proggression pov,
    I can imagine it could be really frustrating when a guild is trying for first kills and shamans have a hard time reacting the first time they see a new apocalyptic boss spell.

    Out of topic: I love the “SO” expression, there’s nothing like that in my mother tongue. It says so little and yet, it says it all. :)

    • I wouldn’t say that its shamans’ proactive nature that keeps them from being included in the World Firsts. Bear in mind that when a kill goes down, it’s not a matter of encounter knowledge as it is the good RNG needed to squeak by when you gear is from the previous tier and you’re skating on a razor’s edge of performance. By that point, they’re more than versed in what the boss does and when he does it. If anything, I would say it was lack of burst and lack of throughput–at the beginning of this expansion especially, we were so far behind when it came to pure output.

      As to “SO” (heh) I fear it’s the only term I’ve been able to settle on when describing my Significant Other that doesn’t have a youthful connotation (eg: boyfriend/girlfriend), or on the opposite end of the spectrum, have a sort of emotionless connotation (like “partner”). And since “soul mate” and “love of my life” are just way too mushy for a Resto Shaman blog, “SO” it remains! 😛

  14. elye

    So very true , partner , also has some slight connotations when an English male, use’s it to describe their SO , using mushy terms amongst guy friends is a licence to immediately have fun poked at .

    Back on topic slightly , does anyone feel that a few of the fights have had a sprinkle more RNG than the soup needs.

  15. I really wish it were in the 3rd tier of the tree. There is always that awkward point that we have to spend to move into the 5th tier.

    For PVE, I’d much rather give up that point in Cleansing Waters than anything else – especially given how much BotE is improving with the 4.1 mastery change.

    • Agreed, 100%. I hate my lone point in Ancestral Resolve, needed to break into Tier 5 of the Resto tree. I’d much rather see AA dropped down to T4 and have T5 claim a place in the upper tier. A top-heavy talent tree is just going to force us to drop more points into Resto and less into those “flavor” sub-specs.

  16. Linda

    I think the trepidation and negativity did not go far enough! :-)

    Another point is complexity and PvP. I.e., if they tune a benefit from 15 to 25%, they have some idea what it will do. But I don’t think Blizzard, especially the current B-team designers, can really predict where this will have an impact. Some clever players may find a way to trivialize some phase of an encounter. But its impact on arena seems most uncalculateable; and certainly most subject to OP QQ. ( It may be negligible ofc.) And I remember from my WotLK holy pally I got so very annoyed when my PvE abilities were nerfed because of PvP. So a bad design with unpredictable impact seems like asking for PvP to change my game again.

    A Spirit Link spell that enhanced your air totem to behave like this (i.e. no range issues; no GCD to replace it) with a raid wide range would be OK. I am not pushing for it but at least it does not have the downsides. My preference would still be for them to not release this.

    SO was the standard term I saw used in California; it is inclusive – you could refer to people’s spouse’s as SO for an invitation without getting a “thats not my girlfirend, thats my wife”. And it was gender and legality independent so worked regardless of whether the couple were same or opposite gender and whether they and the law agreed on whether they were married. SO just wraps it up in one convenient term.

    • As much as the effects of balancing may make me cranky, I’ll always have sympathy for designers and their harsh task of balancing PVP and PVE performance. (If I recall correctly, a Blizzard designer actually stated as much–that they had gotten themselves into one hell of a bind by introducing a game with incredibly divergent content to balance).

      That being said, I think the delicate nature of that balance lends itself to simple solutions. And SLT is anything but simple.

  17. elye

    i’m pretty sure its just a common misconception that blizzard has a B team

    ” There isn’t a singular Blizzard Entertainment art team. Each franchise has its own art department. We don’t just pull resources from one project to give more attention to another in the sense you’re suggesting. This is why we have multiple development teams (which include art teams for each) and can work on multiple franchises simultaneously ”

    Zahram . ( 2011/03/10) blue forum post on the subject , availble here []

    • Linda

      B-team refers to the idea that companies with product portfolios move the more competent employees to your most important projects. (Take Microsoft: they currently have a few developers dedicated to Vista support, more on W7 support and some developing The Next Big Thing. Where do you think the bright and ambitious employees want to work? Which projects do they want to get apply for/get transferred to? So even if the company does not have an explicit policy to remove the better people it just naturally happens. If I were a new Blizzard employee, I would try for the Titan team first. )

      Revenge of the Nerds had a quote from the original Steve Jobs (before he was reborn in the fires of Moria/Next to return and lead Apple to bigger market capitalization than Microsoft.) He addressed a employee meeting for a project he took over with something like “I look around the room and I don’t see any A-team players and few B-team players.”

      If the best and the brightest employees are currently working on Cataclysm – if this is the best they have – then Activision Blizzard inc is in real trouble.

      Game design may be hard and any huge game will have hundreds of subtle bugs. But some mistakes are not: A competent Beta would have found out about the balance issues in TB; having interacted with humans and an IQ above 80 would allow you to see 1800hk was going to cause win trading; any non-trivial SQA testing process would detect you don’t have holiday achievements that send people to no-longer-existant parks or turn stuff in to no-longer-existant kings.

      Tobold’s recent blog entry on the phasing an linear questing hurting replayability I think was spot on.

      I could be wrong but it sure seems like Cata was the wrong expansion to have out when Rift launched.

      • IMHO … To think that one of the major players in the gaming industry lacks talent is an idea contradicted merely by their status. Furthermore, pointing to a handful of balance issues (resto shaman included) and say “you should have known this before it became an issue”, to me, only proves that they’re not gifted with ESP. They haven’t grown as much as they have by being idiots or by being bad at their jobs–give them some credit, eh?

        All I know is that if I had millions of people following me around every day and pointing out all of my mistakes: a) they’d be pretty busy and b) I’d likely become a hermit.

  18. JJ

    Wow, I was going to post some suggestions to “fix” spirit link, but I keep seeing flaws even in my ideas, especially since I’m not 100% sure how the mechanics work.

    Let’s say these players are spirit linked and have the following health: 150/200K, 100/150K, 100/150K, and 100/150K. Then, AOE heal is cast that heals each for 5K per sec. Now, I’m not sure which will get calculated first, the heal or spirit link. But, assuming heal goes first, now they’re at 155/200K (77.5%), 105/150K (70%), 105/150K (70%), and 105/150K (70%).

    Next, (I’m assuming again of course) spirit link will average out the HP% before bringing everyone to same %. So, (77.5 + 70 + 70 + 70) / 4 = 71.875%. That means, players will now end up with 143.75/200K, 107.81/150K, 107.81/150K, and 107.81/150K. This means, not only did the player with the highest HP (probably tank) get negatively affected by SLT, but AOE heal healed for less (17.18K instead of 20K)! Not to mention, SLT caused the “tank” to end up with less HP than he started with.

    As you’ve mentioned, SLT is very complex and not necessarily beneficial. I’m not sure if this would be OP or not, but it seems like SLT should come with a caveat like “if SLT’s effect ever reduces the player’s HP, it will not affect that player.” Just seems way too complicated.

    • Linda

      In your example, the tank had the highest health so naturally if is going to go down in a linked mechanic.

      But I assumed it was based on health, not % like you did.

      I.e. in your example there is 470 health of 650 so everyone’s % will be adjusted to (47/65) or 72.3%.

      Take a tank with 10/200 and a mage with 50/50
      Your way is they end up as (5%+100%)/2 or 52.5% health
      My guess is they both end up at (10+50)/(200+50) or 24% health.

      My way the combined health is 48+12 or 60 – unchanged 38k moved from mage to tank
      Your way the combined health is 105 + 26.25 = 131.25 the mage loses nearly half of 50, the tank gains nearly half of 200 to nearly double the pool.

      • JJ

        Linda, I guess Blizzard would use your way since net health doesn’t change and everyone gets the same %. That makes a lot more sense.

        Still, I think healers are generally more likely to keep the tank topped off and tank should have the highest starting health. So, I think it’s logical to assume tank will have the highest health when SLT is used, unless tank just took a hard hit or something. Hence, tank is least likely to benefit.

        Thus, a shaman would have to either make sure tank is out of range of SLT, or use it only when tank’s health% is relatively low. Either way, it doesn’t sound like a great mechanic with all these ifs and buts.

  19. Vix, stellar post as usual!

    I’ve been toying with the concept of healing debuffs on a tank and the applicability of SPT. I’m currently progressing through normal 10-man content…so I think of a Halfus style healing debuff. As I see it, there’s a few ways this could go:
    1) Incoming damage is spread among the in-range raid members at the time of dmg…the tank still cannot be effectively healed, but the dmg re-distribution takes place and the raid can be healed. Net effect is a dmg reduction on the tank…faster you heal the raid, the more the amount sapped off of him in his debuffed state.
    2) As I’ve seen some brief combat logs on EJ, the totem functionality currently heals the uber-damaged and nature-damages the uber-healthy. If the healing debuff extends to the totem’s healing, then all you’re doing is adding net damage to the raid (assuming the tank is taking the most damage for the sake of argument) since the new nature damage (on the raid) would exceed the successful amount healed (on the tank) by the totem (unless they work that quirk into the code and only “issue” damage for the amount *successfully* healed…wherein you basically have a neutered use of the totem in that situation).
    3) If the totem’s healing effects ignore mortal strike effects, this turns into an exploit wherein you can essentially “heal” a debuffed tank via massive raid healing…heck you could just put one other person in range as a proxy tank and share the wealth by spamming single target heals on the proxy.

    How will it work?

    I know none of us know answers to these types of questions but I think it speaks to your main and final point…this type of idea is going to continue to necessitate either capability tweaks to its function or tweaks to encounters purely to allow for its existence. That doesn’t sound sustainable to me. My example would just be appendix F in the inevitable instruction manual that you speak about above. I just don’t see it happening.

    • To a lesser extent, we could point to Mana Tide as an example of a similar unsustainable design–it creates a condition which will resurface with every new release of content. With current MT design, every time there’s a +Spirit proc, we’ll need to determine/define whether or not MT includes it in the calculation.

      For lack of a better word, it’s a “clunky” solution to a simple problem.

  20. Oh mana tide how i love thee , and so do my raid , the other healers have started to call it ” realname tide”
    positioning this little totem of wonder continues to be a wee pain in the backside, on certain fights where we are very spread for example I’ve heard our Nef tank healer cry out in despair on our vent healer bind
    when she’s seen my macro but not the buff on her combat text .

    Despite my deep love for our little wooden stick buff’s , isn’t tying any buff to our signature totems with their static nature , 5 hp and dropped at the feet of the shaman casting them limitation.
    A teeny clunky by definition

  21. Hey Vixsin – I like the post.

    I’m one of the shamans who’s been vocal about having to sacrifice buffs for cooldowns, and I wanted to point out that I don’t talk about it because I think it breaks the cooldown. I’m not really even talking about the cooldown at all, I’m using it as an example of how shaman flavor mechanics are outdated and cumbersome. The idea of losing buffs for cooldowns would be a big surprise for any other class and I don’t think that we should have to do it either. It’s a holdover from previous class designs when more things were about trading off one benefit for another and so strategic use was the ideal (think about all the paladin abilities that used to trigger forbearance that don’t any more). But now, the class design philosophy seems to be about strategic timing, not necessarily buff management. I DO think it’s worthwhile to be vocal that shamans are stuck in that older model because our class “flavor” lends itself to that design.

    Spirit Link itself has pluses and minuses, which you’ve done a good job outlining. I think the biggest concern there is actually understanding all the synergies and situational nuances of spirit link so I can really master its use, but I’m withholding final judgment on it until I see how it works once it goes live. I don’t by any stretch think losing WoA to use it will cause wipes or invalidate the cooldown’s usefulness… I just don’t think there’s any reason why we shouldn’t be able to have both up at the same time.
    Rhii´s last post ..Yet More Search Terms

    • Valid points, to be sure. And I especially agree about strategic timing starting to eclipse pure buff management. The recent changes to Tremor Totem, I think, give a glimpse of this greater valuation of timing. I think my end feeling is that, yes, dropping and redropping eats up GCDs, but so do most “maintenance” healing tasks out there (eg: refreshing ES and WS, judging, tossing out another PoM, refreshing rolling LB’s, etc.) Combine that with the extensive buff overlap that you have in 25s and the issue simply falls off my radar.

      (Unfortunately, I was a bit behind in my Reader so I didn’t hit your “Essence of being a Shaman” post until this morning. I’m sure if I hadn’t been backed up in my reading, I might have written that 1st point a little bit differently. ^_^)

  22. Hehe, I suck at post titles, I know.

    Also, I do think that the buff/cooldown trade is a little more important in a ten man setting, which is probably why it’s higher on my radar than on yours.
    Rhii´s last post ..Yet More Search Terms

  23. Linda

    What do you have to give up to get spirit link? Does it require talent points? The one illegibly small screen shot I saw made it look like a new talent and I did not immediately see any other talents that had been trimmed down to enable it. Again, I could have just misread.

    After your post got me to go TC, is there any viable build to have TC & SLT (unfortunately with my lag AS is required)

    So if in fact this clunky mechanic requires you to move to the tank, sacrifice the two GCDs and a temporary WoA buff, but you also have to give up two talent points???? Can it really be this bad?

  24. Yes I believe we are going to have to spend a point at rank 6 or 7 of the Resto tree to take SLT
    Sad though giving up so much to gain something “I consider of limited or niche application” is,
    I do understand it as a necessary evil and want to have a go at justifying cost in terms of a talent point.

    Let me explain, my reasoning for this, when I look at my talents for a build I consider my choices based on the a perspective of improving what I do in my raid composition. In essence I look to improving my tool’s which let me fit my role in our raids.

    I understand the decision for positioning SLT in the talent tree because it does In theory follow blizzards more viable choices for builds ethos, rather than a one fits all or cookie cutter template if they had added SLT as a baseline ability it would not be as interesting a talent because half of the fun of talents is being given a choice.

    An example,” I am very rarely required to dispel / de curse due to an abundance of other classes who can do it “therefore based on my raiding experience it could be plausible for me to drop these talents which improve my ability to do so giving me points to improve or “ specialise “ in something else.
    So applied to spirit link totem, a situation could be that I raid with 2 protection paladins, a disc and holy priest, (10 man format) they provide a fair amount of raid mitigation, So the value of spirit link totem to me personally, is less in terms of what it brings to our raid.

    So it is would it be more viable for me to take improved totem duration, for more tide, or Tc ” “shudder”, or go really mad and drop cleanse entirely, and pop those points in focused insight, because I roll flame shock on bosses whenever possible, and even frost shock Add’s combined with earth bind for our Add tank on Nef phase 1/3 because it’s what I regularly find myself assigned to do
    A good healer is healing the damage and keeping people alive, but a great healer is helping mitigate the damage , so it’s never taken in the first place

    In my opinion having this complexity in our talent choice’s is a massive part of what makes playing WoW fun and I’m looking forward to seeing where TLC finally ends up in our build, to me variety is the spice of life after all .

    (Dear god I got carried away there)

  25. Razz

    If I remember right, Spirit Link was not bound to a totem in WC3, instead it worked similarly to chain heal. To me it would be better like this, as you could link a tank and an OT/melee. Making it a totem is just silly.

  26. Eein

    I have not read all of the comments, but I think its safe to say that some people understand this, and some people dont.

    It has a 6 second duration.

    During that duration, the spirit link ticks every second, redistributing health.

    If one target is healed dramatically, the rest will be too.

    In my head i’m thinking rolling riptides more for melee, dropping SLT and healing them up gradually, possibly with chain heal or another efficient heal.

    Its like… as if a heal would drag the rest of the people up, while you’re casting through it.

    As far as your note with PW:B, it should mitigate the damage, so you can effectively drag those players to a safer health level, in theory, by healing only one player.

    A good example is Nefarian phase 2. I’m on the pillar. riptided two people before the lava comes up. drop STT and spam the tank. That health should be redistributed to the other players on the pillar which have much less health by numerical value rather than percentage.

    If the tank is at full health and the other players are at 50% when you’re on the platform, using SLT will tick and eventually bring all of the players to about 75% if you dont take damage or refuse to heal through it (which is unlikely). In turn you gain quite an advantage by allowing yourself to slam the tank with heals and rolling riptides.

  27. […] For more reading check out my posts on Earth Shield, and Mastery Changes/Spirit Link Totem, as well as Vixsin’s stunning epic on Spirit Link Totem’s design iteration. […]

  28. Seiton

    So after 4.1 dropping and testing this totem out myself and as a raid leader letting our other shaman know exactly when to use it and how it would appear that overall this totem has a nice niche in our arsenal. Just listing the fights we’ve used it on so far:

    Magmaw, Omnotorn Defense System, Maloriak, Chimaeron, Halfus, and Cho’gall

    I do agree that the radius of its effect is small, however there are numerous times during these encounters in which the raid is collapsed and could use a cooldown.

    Just some information from our healers, the throughput of the totem does not appear to be affected by the Eye Stalks on the Cho’gall encounter, and our healers all stated that the cooldown helped a lot during the Flame Orders, Shadow Orders, and also Phase 3 of the encounter. Now we’re only working on normal mode content.

    Vixsin, if you would like to take a look at our logs by all means go for it. Our most recent log was posted for last nights raid.

    Knights of Arathor – Hellscream

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