Despite the fact that the dreaded “summer lull” approaches, it seems as if WoW news and previews have heated up lately; from the announcement of potential additional premium services and Firelands PTR testing (liquid hot mag-ma) to Tier 12 set bonuses and legendary previews, not to mention some very interesting blog-o-sphere discussions (Wugan on Raiding Contracts, Fulguralis on the Relative Definition of Success, and Rohan on Community Building, just to name a few that got me thinking). Throw Blizzcon tickets into that mix (yes, I can press F5 with the best of them), and there’s been a lot going on.
It’s been a busy past couple of weeks for me as well—not only did I get to spend time on the West Coast again (and enjoy the pleasures of hotel internet … oh the fun!) but I’m also a trial raider for the first time in over a year, with Pie Chart on Firetree, US. (So there’s one popular mailbag question already out of the way, heh). And in between all of this, there have been some very interesting topics of discussion sent my way by readers, a large majority covering a re-evaluation of stats and gearing strategies. So, today, I wanted to share with you some of my responses to recent emails, especially one that reminded me that as much as I like dialing into the details of progression raiding, sometimes it’s a good thing to go back to basics.
But first, I wanted to start off with a wonderful Resto Shaman story that was sent my way recently …
My WoW name is Panorak (EU server: The Shatar, guild: The Wyld Hunt). I am a regular reader of you nice blog, taking advantage of your rapid raid progression and deep knowledge of the shaman class. I thank you for that. The reason of this mail is to cheer the shaman community a bit. My small guild, in my small server, have managed to throw down Alakir heroic 10-man with *3* undergeared shaman healers.
Everybody was advising us to go with 4 healers for our first kill, have a pally and a priest, definitely a resto druid, and by all accounts (videos, forums etc) they were right. But our good players are resto shamans so we stuck to them (by “good” I am mostly referring to attitude, not skill).
-3 stacked Healing Rains.
-No mana problems with Mana Tides rolling.
-Trivialized the portion of the second phase with more than 14 stacks of Acidic Rain by having Spirit Link Totem for about 25 seconds.
-Glyphed Stoneclaw ROCKS! (your idea)
[… and one amazing kill!]
I honestly can’t think of a more heartening email to receive, and I definitely think Panorak and his team deserve some major kudos for their all-shaman accomplishment. Now, with that good news delivered, on to the mailbag!
- My raid leader(a resto shaman) and I(a resto shaman) have different views on the Earthliving proc. He sees it not so useful and doesn’t talent into it at all. However, it is always my number 3 or 4 healing done. Just how amazing/not amazing is it? Am I missing something?
Earthliving is one of those spells that got a bad rap in Wrath, so I think some of the negativity that players have for the spell comes from the idea that it does a incredible amount of overhealing (which, to be fair, it can do). But, with the recent change to Resto Shamans’ Mastery to affect all heals (including Earthliving), it is contributing more heavily to players’ healing distributions.
It’s important to remember, though, that the amount of healing it contributes is directly related to what kind of spells make up the majority of your healing. If your top 2 heals are always CH and HR, then you had more chances to proc Earthliving, and thus it will likely contribute more of your total healing. However, if your top two heals are always RT and GHW, then you don’t have as many chances to proc Earthliving, and thus it will contribute comparatively less. (Take a look at two of my recent parses: Valiona versus Ascendant Council. You’ll see on Council, my Earthliving was significantly less in terms of overall ticks simply because I used more single-target healing).
Now as to the question of whether to spec into Earthliving, I would assume that you’re talking about Blessing of the Eternals, in which case your raid leader might have a valid point. BotE is one of those talents that players take without considering–how often do players drop below 35% HP? If you’re doing normal modes, and some starting hard modes, your answer will likely be, “very rarely”. In which case, BotE isn’t doing you much good. But on later hard modes, and especially on HM Nef and Chimaeron, the talent is invaluable. As to Glyph of Earthliving Weapon, while I can again see the perspective that the healing gain isn’t that great, it’s thankfully one of those situations where there isn’t much else available. Glyph of WS is simply a bad investment and beyond that, there isn’t much else to take unless you want to pick up Glyph of LB for improved TC regen.
- I currently have enough gear to be able to get over the next haste plateau which is at 2005. Would it be more or less beneficial getting to the next haste plateau and then stacking mastery or is it simply not worth it?
While I do think the next haste threshold for Riptide will be an important marker during Tier 12, I’m leary of devoting that much stat allocation to a relatively small healing gain while still in 372 gear. From what I’ve seen, read, and tested thus far, I would expect that healers will once again find themselves in a mana-starved state when entering into those first Firelands raids, and thus will be back in the position of looking to maximize HPS by way of HPM (instead of simply just increasing speed). As always, haste needs to be carefully balanced with regen, so as we collect higher ilvl gear with greater amounts of Spirit and Int, I think that RT threshold will definitely be obtainable but, more importantly, sustainable as well.
I mentioned it briefly in my blog post last week, but I think it bears mentioning again in response to your question–because of the impacts of the proposed 100% crit healing bonus and the change to IWS, the math is pointing to Crit being much more valuable in the coming tier. So, I would fully expect that I’m going to be dropping some of my own Mastery-heavy gear for some of the Crit-Spirit pieces I picked up along the way, and then slowly inching my haste upwards as I upgrade my pieces.
- I recently got into a heated debate regarding my build, (your tank build suggestion) and reforging. The debate was regarding my apparent errors according to askmrrobot.com. I checked my toon on this site, which instructed me to change all manner of things, mainly enchants and reforges. I took on only its suggestions to reforge more mastery, and drop a bit of haste, which I could afford to do. Though haste was a big part of my game, as I prefer to heal by hotting the tank, with RT and ES, then blast away with HW and GHW when necessary. I was wondering if you could share your opinion about Askmrrobot and its suggestions.
Oh the joys of gear optimization! I’m actually a pretty big fan of askmrrobot.com, and had the pleasure of chatting a bit with Revulva (one of the admins) about the valuation of Resto Shamans’ stats and gearing options, so I have a good level of comfort with their approach. The thing to remember about tools like Askmrrobot, is that the output is only as good as the data you enter, which in this case, boils down to stat weights. So the suggestions that it makes will be entirely dependent on those values.
Looking at its opinion of my current gear, I’d say that it’s on point with its suggestions. For example, it’s suggested that I pick up the offset legs from HM Cho’gall and go with the tier chest, which was only made possible for me when I picked up those legs last week. Point being, the tool doesn’t work with what you have and doesn’t really plan out your gearing–it works on the assumption that you have access to every piece available. Another example–the fact that it wants me to unforge my ring and my neck away from Spirit–is based on my specified Spirit softcap and my subjective weighting of the stat. Now in some fights, yes, that much spirit might be overkill and leave me in an “unoptimized” state. But in other, longer fights, that spirit value might actually prove too low. So, I’d take that suggestion with a grain of salt as well.
Ultimately, I think the benefit of tools like askmrrobot.com is that they provide an outside critique on gearing, which has become increasingly more subjective in Cataclysm. And if I can stand up to the analysis and explain each choice, then that’s fine by me. No set is ever going to be ideal so rearranging everything for a 0.3% increase in performance (between my current stats and my “optimized” stats), is never going to be a priority. Yes, people like me will always be out there with the argument that “X is better than Y because blah blah blah”, but in the end, I think gearing is more about working with what you have and less about achieving that perfect final set.
- During the Chimaeron fight the last few times we were in the raid I was assigned to myself and as a tank healer. Recently there has been a move to have me healing a melee group. I don’t understand what the issue is but it seems that with cast times and GCD’s I cannot keep the other 4 enough. If all of us in the group get the debuff at once I can get half of them and the healing of them keeps me alive due to talents.
Chimaeron is a tricky encounter for a Resto Shaman to heal because it does require some creative use of RT, UE, HW, HS and CH, and a heavy amount of judgment. In 25s, I’m typically assigned to our melee groups (typically ~7 melee players in all), and I manage to keep them up through slimes and Massacres by using CH and RT/US/HW/HS combos. Now bear in mind that I do use a Mastery-heavy healing set, so generally my RT and UE hit for more than 10,000. For Caustic Slime targets, I’ll generally use RT on one person, then UE on a second, and HW on the third. If UE is on CD, then I’ll use RT on one, HW on the second, and then HW again on the third. HW can be swapped out with HS if your mana can support it or if someone needs to be topped quickly before Massacre. While Massacre is going out, I’ll pre-cast a CH so that it hits just after the damage has gone out, and then follow with CH and RT/UE/HW as needed, before the next series of slimes. Glyph of Healing Wave is something I toyed with using on the fight, but ultimately, I didn’t find it that useful.
If your guild primarily does 10s, then your rotation should be very similar, although it’s worth noting that the only way you’ll be able to bring up a group after Massacre, is if they are within 12 yards of each other. If your 10-man team likes to take up the entire room, it simply won’t be possible for you to top them all off before the next round of Caustic Slimes. The actual explosion radius is a lot smaller than most people think, so if your team positions correctly, you should be able to see a 4-target hit every time. (BigWigs has a built-in proximity radar to help with positioning).
It’s also worth noting that in 25s, our group assignments for Caustic Slime are considered flexible. So, if I’m assigned to melee and no one in melee gets slimed, then it’s my responsibility to help out another group where 2 or 3 players have the debuff. Likewise, if four melee targets get slimed, it’s my team’s responsibility to help me out and ensure that no one dies from a simple lack of heals.
- I’m in a guild that’s just starting to spend some serious time working on Sinestra. I’m wondering if you use one of your specific sets for this boss, or if you reforge/regem for a specific stat. Do you go heavy mastery because of the haste buff in P3? Do you guys group up or spread out in a line in P1? Also, when you were dispelling, did you pick up Cleansing Waters?
For Sinestra, I stuck with my typical Mastery set, largely because of the damage that goes out in phase 3 and the huge haste buff. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to really push the limits of the set on our attempts and first kill because I was largely responsible for Wrack management, meaning that when damage was at its worst, I was spending more time dispelling and less of it healing. >.<
In all, I’m sure you’ll find its a fairly simple fight. The largest threat to your well-being will be cutters, which come down to environmental awareness more than anything else. Instant-cast GW is a god-send for cutter kiting, and Glyphed Stoneclaw is, as usual, wonderful for taking the edge off of Flame Breath. If anything, I’d likely advocate dropping a little spirit from a typical longevity build because the ph3 buff and the short duration of the fight mean that you won’t need as much regen as you would in say, Nef HM.
In regards to the strat for FH’s first kill:
- In Phase 1, we positioned ourselves in two lines–the melee stood in a loose line in front of Sinestra, while the ranged and healers stood in a perpendicular line along the right side of the main platform. We actually found this was an easier way to handle cutters and enabled the add tank to simply stack on the healers and collect any loose whelps that might have glued themselves to a particular resto shaman or druid. (Here’s a quick diagram: Sinestra Positioning, Arrows are the direction that players run with the cutter.)
- Phase 2, I stood around and healed Calen occasionally. If your whelp kills are controlled and the dragonkin adds are interrupted properly, there shouldn’t be much to heal.
- Phase 3, when I wasn’t dispelling, I was pouring into AOE healing, since the raid damage from Twilight Pulses (which players should avoid, but are easy to get hit with in all the chaos), Breath and Wrack is insane. That being said, for the first Wrack target I would spam GHW just to help him hold Wrack for that much longer. (We generally held the first Wrack until around 22 seconds, through a combination of personal CD’s and Pain Sup. Subsequent Wracks were held for 15-18 seconds each, if possible, but tanks were dispelled at the 5-8 mark to eliminate heavy spike damage). After the first Wrack, I cast a LOT of CH and HR to try and stabilize things. Towards the end of the fight, I was more focused on managing Wracks correctly than healing, since the chaos really ramps up once Essence of the Red falls off.
As to Cleansing Waters, I haven’t had the talent since those first days of Cata. The heal is so small and my dispelling so infrequent that I really couldn’t justify the investment of points. While I suppose it would have added a little bit of additional healing on Sinestra, I don’t think it would have been enough to make a difference in anyone’s death.
A Return to Basics
For the last part of today’s mailbag, I’m including my response to a monster email that I received from a relatively fresh Resto Shaman. He had a number of questions, from spell selection to rotations, and did a wonderful job of reminding me that: a) it’s easy to take some “lessons learned” for granted, and b) sometimes there are important aspects of healing that I gloss on past in favor of spreadsheets and numbers.
- When I’m in a 10-man with another healer… sometimes I am not sure who to heal. I want to avoid overhealing/crossing with the other person. How can I go about that? (Our healers don’t really have specific assignments to group/certain people/tanks) How could I go about organizing this with a fellow healer not used to actually planning things like this?
With the reduction of tank damage in Cataclysm (and thus the elimination of pure “tank healers”), I think you’ll find a good amount of cross-healing done by today’s raid teams. So the fact that, say, your holy pally doesn’t come in as the #1 healer on tanks isn’t as much of an issue as it once was. As such, strict healing assignments aren’t as necessary as they once were, so you are seeing raid teams settle into FFA (free-for-all) healing for progression and farm encounters. But, for most guilds and their healing teams, I would recommend loose healing assignments for most encounters, because what it does is eliminate the guesswork and prediction that comes into play. Something as simple as “I’ll watch over group 1″ or “You watch over tanks during the breath/spew”, can mitigate that guesswork before it begins. But part of being a good healer is knowing when damage is going to occur and where to help out, because healing assignments only get you so far. Which leads into …
Who do I heal and when? The simple answer here is: heal who needs to be healed, with a priority of 1. yourself, 2. your healing assignment, 3. everyone else. In the event you don’t have a healing assignment, then I’d say the priority becomes 1. Yourself/tanks, 2. other healer(s), 3. everyone else. In the event a heal lands before yours, and brings your intended target close to full, it becomes your decision to either let the heal land or to /stopcasting and save your mana. But your job as a healer is to heal, so if anyone is ever sitting at less than 100%, and you have mana to burn, heal them.
- I find it problematic to change my ES target all the time, I heal all over the place, sometimes my ES-target (tank) is out of reach and I just raid-heal without the healing benefit of the ES etc.
You needn’t switch your ES target during an encounter unless there’s a major tank switch, so leave ES on one tank for the entire encounter. And, although it’s good to keep it in mind when you’re picking a healing target, it should never strictly govern who you heal.
- When should I put down my Manatide? Sometimes my fellow healers don’t really need it in the very beginning, but I know I should be putting it down 2-3 times in an encounter. How can I prevent wasted potential mana rege?
MT doesn’t restore a whopping amount of mana any more, so you can drop it when your entire team is around 85% mana without fear of it being wasted. After that point, use it on CD (provided that your team is sub-85% again).
- I find HW to top off people in my “leisure time” to be really weak in healing, I waste my tidal wave charges and suddenly someone takes a huge chunk and I am facing the need to dish out a slow GHW to get him/her up again or use HS. Should I top off people as good as I can with HW or leave that to another healer and just jump in for bigger hurts or CH when 2-3 health bars are a little down? Also, when should I really be making use of HS?
Figuring out the correct time to use HW, GHW, and HS isn’t really something that I can give you a hard-and-fast rule for, since their usage is all about the situation and your knowledge of the encounter. In general, HW is going to be your filler spell, something to use whenever damage is light. It is going to be weak, because it’s a cheap heal. HS, on the other hand, is expensive because it can deliver a chunk of healing very quickly. So you should use it when time matters. GHW is going to be useful whenever you need a really big heal to land but the timing isn’t critical. And because all of these will eat your Tidal Waves stacks, it thus becomes important that you use RT on CD. Now as to whether to top off players using HW, HS, RT or something else, you really want to ask yourself:
1. Is it necessary that the player be at 100% HP?
2. How soon will that player be taking damage again?
3. Do I have the mana to top them?
If it’s not necessary for them to be at 100%, they’re in no danger of taking a big hit soon, and your mana is running out, toss them an RT and let the hot take them back up to full. But if they need to be back at 100% because a huge hit is incoming (think: Nefarian crackles), then that would be a good time to toss out a couple Healing Surges.
- Generally, I can’t seem to deal with 2-3 or more people suddenly being hurt ~30-40%. I just can’t get them back up. I find CH to be so weak; the amount healed oftentimes appears to be so little that I can’t keep a group/raid alive even if I keep spamming it. So, I am then forced to GHW several of those hurt people back up, which eats my mana really fast. I try to make use of HR but a disorganized group for these matters makes it hardly worthwhile.
Because of shamans’ long cast times, I would say the #1 thing that you need to be able to do to handle AOE damage is know when it’s coming. In every encounter in this tier, the times where raid damage goes out are easily identified by boss emotes and by boss timers, so there’s really no excuse to be caught by surprise when the raid suddenly drops.
That being said, when they do drop, you need to switch your mind into triage mode and think about getting players back up into a safe zone. Your concern in AOE damage should NOT be to get everyone topped, it should be to get players back up to a safe level of HP in the appropriate priority. This is when your judgment as a healer comes into play, because again, I can’t give you a rule to use about healing priority or rotation in a triage situation. It’s up to you to evaluate a set of conditions:
1. Who’s taking damage?
2. How much damage are they taking?
3. Who’s in immediate danger, and conversely, who isn’t?
4. Do I need to deliver healing quickly or can I do it progressively?
5. How much healing will bring them back into a safe zone? (think: ~70-80% HP)
Once you can answer these questions, you should know what spells to use. AOE damage where the tank is taking heavy hits? HR + RT/HS/GHW into the tank. Moderate raid AOE damage with no one player in immediate danger? HR/CH + RT. Targeted burst damage on players? RT+HW/HS or CH. Unfortunately, the only testing ground to see what works and what doesn’t is in a raid environment. So, it’s up to you to learn from your mistakes and make the appropriate change. Was HR not enough to stabilize everyone? Switch to CH. Is CH not hitting enough targets? Switch to RT+HS. Did a tank die without getting any direct healing from you? Switch targets faster next time.
But ultimately, as much as I can offer advice about which spell combinations to use in an array of circumstances, what it oftentimes comes down to is practice. There are very few players that I’ve come across that can simply pick up a new class after a short while of playing (very, very few, even at those top levels of play); most great healers that I’ve met have logged a good number of hours restoring HP, oftentimes on more than 2 of the potential healing classes. So possibly the best advice I can give to new shaman, or new players for that matter, is to get out there and play. I assure you, the more hours you log in BGs, in Arenas, in dungeons, in Heroic dungeons, and in raids, the more comfortable you’ll be playing your healer of choice, resto shaman or otherwise.