After much ado and months of prep, it appears that the much-awaited Patch 4.1 will be going live as of today’s maintenance. Soon, we’ll all be enjoying a little bit of a class refresher, some nice Resto Shaman tweaks, and the sound of drums from the refreshed Zul’Aman and Zul’Gurub. In line with Blizzard’s new stated commitment to smaller, more frequent patches, 4.1 won’t be ushering in the sweeping changes we’re used to seeing, but it’s still a hefty enough patch that Resto Shaman should take notice. So what does it mean in terms of gearing, spell selection and the like? Let’s take a look.
Changes Relevant to Resto Shaman
Unlike the Mastery and healing fixes that went into place just over two months ago, the changes that we’ll see in 4.1 are more refinements of Resto Shamans’ arsenal than anything else.
- Cleansing Waters now has a 6-second internal cooldown.
A minor change for PVE shaman who contribute dispels during encounters (and perhaps a reason to not pick up Cleansing Waters in your raiding spec), this change will predominantly affect our PVP brethren.
- Deep Healing now benefits all heals, not just direct heals.
The change a number of us have been waiting for, this means that all of Resto Shamans’ healing will be affected by Mastery. So, previously unaffected heals like Riptide hots, Earthshield, Earthliving, and Healing Stream Totem will now all scale appropriately with your Mastery rating and player HP. While I do welcome this change, I think the impacts will largely be felt on hard mode progression encounters where hots are allowed to tick on lower HP players. For normal modes, I think the effect will be positive but small, as players typically sit at a higher level of health and thus benefit less from a Shaman’s Mastery.
- Earth Shield healing done by Restoration shaman has been reduced by 20%.
Although I’m slightly bummed to know that my beloved, uber-HPS, favorite healing spell will be hit with the nerf bat, with Mastery now applying to ES, I can understand the need to reduce the throughput of this powerhouse of a heal. At 19% base mana, 9 charges, and an output of around double that of GHW, adding in additional Mastery healing would make ES incredibly valuable in PVE and almost OP in PVP.
- Nature’s Blessing has been improved to 6/12/18% bonus direct healing on Earth Shielded targets, up from 5/10/15%.
A small boost to Resto’s direct single-target healing, this should result in slightly higher performance of Healing Wave, in addition to GHW and HS. Although this isn’t a change that I felt was necessary from a 25-player perspective, since AOE healing is a more integral part of my rotation there, I do think this will help Resto Shaman in 10s and in situations where we’re asked to be a main tank healer.
- Spirit Link Totem (new talent) reduces damage taken by all party and raid members within 10 yards by 10%. This lasts 6 seconds, and every second it is active the health of all affected players is redistributed among them, such that each player ends up with the same percentage of their maximum health. This counts as an Air totem and has a 3-minute cooldown.
Our newest shiny toy, the intention of SLT is to give Resto Shaman that special something to once again encourage players and raid leaders to think of shaman as viable hard mode healers. Despite the controversy and discussion, and cranky objections from yours truly, SLT saw no changes made to the PTR version, so it seems it will be going live with its original design. It remains to be seen if the totem can plug the hole in shamans’ arsenal or if the totem’s effects will require further tweaking to bring it in line with other healer CDs. (Personally, I look forward to wiping my raid at completely inopportune times).
- All non-damaging interrupts off the global cooldown will now always hit the target. This includes Pummel, Kick, Mind Freeze, Rebuke, Skull Bash, Counterspell, Wind Shear, Solar Beam, Silencing Shot, and related player pet abilities.
Whereas I think this change is a minor one for most players (since I would hope all dps classes are hit capped before stepping into a raid), this is actually a huge change for Resto Shaman as it puts a “utility” label firmly across our foreheads, especially in smaller raid teams. And while that doesn’t thrill me, because the last thing I’d want while 2-healing Maloriak would be to be on interrupt duty, it does mean that your team has the flexibility to go with a less-prescribed dps setup.
- A dead player can now be resurrected by targeting them using the Party or Raid Frame even if they have released. No more hunting for corpses.
Although not a Resto Shaman-only change, this addition to Patch 4.1 was so delightful to me that I just had to mention it. Anyone who’s ever been part of a find-a-corpse-under-pressure hunt will appreciate this minor quality of life change.
Other Notable Changes
Resto Shaman aren’t the only ones lined up for a few changes in 4.1—other members of Group 5 are feeling it at well, in various ways, shapes and forms. I’m not going to comment too much on these changes, since others do it far, far better and more in depth than I, but I do think it’s worth pointing out some of the impacts that patch 4.1 will have on your teammates. Below are an excerpt of changes that I find to be particularly relevant (it’s not intended to be a complete list):
Gift of Nature (passive) alsoMalfurion’s Gift reduces Tranquility’s cooldown by 2.5/5 minutes.
- Efflorescence has been redesigned. It creates a healing zone at the feet of a Swiftmend target, but this healing zone now restores health equal to 4/8/12% of the amount healed by Swiftmend to the three most injured targets within 8 yards, every 1 second for 7 seconds. This periodic effect now also benefits from spell haste, but the individual ticks cannot be critical effects. In addition, Living Seed is no longer a prerequisite talent for Efflorescence.
- Nature’s Swiftness now also increases the healing done by the affected nature spell by 50%.
- Illuminated Healing shield duration is now 15 seconds, up from 8 seconds. In addition, Illuminated Healing has been increased to provide 1.5% effect per mastery, up from 1.25%.
- Divine Aegis duration has been increased to 15 seconds, up from 12.
- Power Word: Shield duration has been reduced to 15 seconds, down from 30.
- Power Word: Barrier’s cooldown has been increased to 3 minutes, up from 2, and its effect has been reduced to 25%, down from 30%.
- Holy Word: Sanctuary healing done has been increased by 35%. In addition, it has a new spell effect.
- Raise Ally has been redesigned to be a battle resurrection, analogous to Rebirth. It is instant cast, but costs 50 Runic Power to use, and has a 10-minute cooldown. It shares the same global battle resurrection cap with Rebirth and Soulstone.
- Rallying Cry (new ability) is available from trainers at level 83. It temporarily grants the warrior and all party or raid members within 30 yards 20% of maximum health for 10 seconds. After the effect expires, the health is lost. It has no cost, no stance requirements, and is not on the global cooldown. It has a 3-minute cooldown, but also shares a cooldown with Last Stand.
So, when it comes down to it, I don’t foresee 4.1 as having a major impact on the quality of life that Resto Shamans have experienced in the weeks prior to this release. In all, I think Restos can expect to see:
- No significant change in stat priority for normal modes, with even more favoring of Mastery in progression encounters with heavy raid damage.
- A slight change in Resto Shaman specs, to the following:
- 3/7/31 – With no points in AA, this spec is likely one that I’ll try on fights where I do very little single-target healing. The choice of 3% crit over AA, therefore, would be largely motivated by AA’s poor performance as well as the idea that the contributions of critical heals on AOE spells would be greater than the marginal performance of AA.
- 3/7/31 – For those who choose not to utilize TC in their raiding spec, picking up the new SLT won’t be all that difficult, and will afford them 1 additional point in talent tiers 1-3 to place where they choose while still enabling them to max out Acuity and get Ancestral Swiftness.
- 1/7/33 – The kitchen sink spec that takes just about every point in the bloated Resto tree, this spec pulls points from Acuity to pick up TC, SLT, AA and BoE. Cleansing Waters is excluded because, although convenient, the healing gain is nominal compared to the 2-point investment.
- 8/0/33 – The elemental sub-spec for shaman who want to make the most out of their TC regen, I would only recommend this spec for shaman wanting to delve into a different style of play in order to inject some fun into farm content. While I do concede that this spec will free up a Resto Shaman from the confines of spirit, the loss of healing and movement benefits is too great a cost for me.
- Greater involvement with CD coordination, not only because of SLT but also because of the inclusion of a Warrior Raid CD and the increased CD on PW: Barrier.
- A good amount of discussion about how and when to use SLT. As always, PTR testing can only do so much, but the real verification of usability comes from actual raid usage. Expect to see a post from me in the next couple weeks about this very topic, since I’ll be right alongside all of you in trying to figure out how to use SLT to its fullest potential.
4/27/11 – additional note: As of last night’s raid, targeting circles for Healing Rain appeared to be slightly bugged and could increase or decrease in size if you happened to mouse over a solid object or wall. Healing Rain was also disappearing on uneven terrain and untargeting when it was placed over ground effects (like frost trap). So, be prepared for a bit of frustration. No ETA that I know of for a resolution.