With the Firelands PTR testing in full swing and 4.2 on the horizon, information regarding the upcoming patch seems to be flowing freely within the community these days. And amid growing anticipation for new quest hubs, new mounts and new titles, players have also been giving Tier 12, in all its fire-and-brimstone glory, a good hard look. When set bonus previews were released for Tier 12 at the start of the month, they were met with an onslaught of questions and concerns, from all classes and roles. So, Blizzard took another crack at it and last week released revamped versions of the 4piece bonuses, designed with community comments in mind. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to chime in then because of a busy travel schedule, but you can bet that I’m not about to let this news pass by without adding in my two cents. So let’s take a look at where the Resto Shaman 4-piece T12 stood originally, what state it’s in now, and why I think 10-man raiders might be getting the short end of the stick.
Tier 12 – Round 1
Released back at the beginning of May, the original Tier 12 bonuses for healers looked a little something like this:
[Druid] Restoration 4 Pieces – When your Lifebloom blooms, it instantly heals up to 2 nearby injured targets for the same amount
[Paladin] Holy 4 Pieces – Your Divine Light also heals a nearby injured target for 20% of the amount healed.
[Priest] Holy/Discipline 4 Pieces – You have a chance when you cast a helpful spell to summon a Cauterizing Flame. Friendly raid and party members can use the Cauterizing Flame to be instantly healed for 4625 to 5375. Lasts for 45 sec sec or 10 charges. After using the Cauterizing Flame, players cannot benefit from it again for 10 sec.
[Shaman] Restoration 4 Pieces – Your Chain Heal spell will jump to one additional target.
As a first pass at tier bonuses, I don’t think these were a particularly bad set of ideas, and if anything else, there was one thing that this first iteration of set bonuses told us—with every healer 4-piece increasing effective healing, we can expect raid damage to take a step up towards the end of Firelands normal modes and the beginning of hard modes (which is generally where you should be when you get your 4-piece). But, these first design iterations did have a number of issues—druids would have to spend countless GCDs reapplying LB stacks, Pallies wouldn’t be encouraged to cast anything other than Divine Light, Holy and Disc priests would be left screaming about another player-controlled healing tool, and Resto Shaman’s cries about CH distance would be ringing in everyone’s ears. And thus, Blizzard went back to the drawing board to see if they couldn’t improve on their first concept.
Tier 12 – Round 2
Last week we saw the second iteration of the proposed Tier 12 healer 4-piece bonuses, an iteration which attempted to address those issues identified in the first draft while still providing the additional healing necessary to meet fight constraints:
[Druid] Restoration 4-Piece Bonus: Your Swiftmend also heals an injured target within 8 yards for the same amount.
[Paladin] Holy 4-Piece Bonus: Your Divine Light, Flash of Light, and Holy Light spells also heal an injured target within 8 yards for 10% of the amount healed.
[Priest] Discipline/Holy 4-Piece Bonus: You have a chance when you cast a helpful spell to summon a Cauterizing Flame at the target’s location. Each second the Cauterizing Flame will heal an injured party member within 20 yards for 9250 to 10750. Lasts 5 seconds.
[Shaman] Restoration 4-Piece Bonus: Your Chain Heal spell no longer consumes your Riptide effect on the primary target.
Right off the bat we can see that the primary issues with the first iterations of the 4-piece bonuses are gone—Druids’ bonus is tied to Swiftmend (and thus Efflorescence), Pallies are free to use a larger spectrum of spells and still benefit from additional healing, and Priests’ Flame-wells are an automatic heal not requiring any sort of player activation. And on the face of it, Shamans’ bonus appears to be a pretty big healing game, since it means that you can boost your CH output by 25% by simply bouncing it off of a rolling RT target. More on that in a second …
But, by and large, I do think the changes made were positive because: a) they each offer AOE healing which is not tied to timing and is almost guaranteed to land, and b) they are designed such that the 4pc bonus will be activated through the normal course of AOE healing in both 10s and 25s. If Firelands is going to be an instance where raid damage is prevalent, then these two factors become vital to making sure that the healer in question receives a viable boost to their output. Unfortunately, and as you no doubt are expecting me to say, I think they missed the mark on these two issues when it comes to Resto Shaman.
Special Snowflakes, Really?
Now I am slightly biased here, but beyond my own personal preference there is one thing that makes shaman a slight bit different than other healers. It is something that affects our output very heavily, and it’s the reason why shamans have historically not performed as well in smaller raid teams—our AOE healing spells are heavily dependent on player density. In situations where players are clumped and stationary, the output from HR and CH can be incredible. However, when players spread out, shamans’ AOE spells are placed at a distinct disadvantage. (Believe you me, there’s nothing more embarrassing for a Resto Shaman than to have a CH shoot out to hit one loner in the corner—it’s like shouting into Vent, “I made a bad decision right there and spent way too much time and mana just to heal that jerk!” each and every time it happens.)
Consider other classes’ AOE healing abilities (non-CD):
- Priest (Holy/Disc) – Prayer of Healing: group only, 30 yards
- Priest (Holy) – Circle of Healing: 5 lowest targets, 30 yards
- Priest(Holy/Disc) – Holy Nova: 5 targets, 10 yards
- Priest(Holy) – Holy Word Sanctuary: no cap, 8 yards
- Paladin – Holy Radiance: no cap, 20 yards
- Paladin – Light of Dawn: 5 targets, frontal cone for 30 yards
- Druid – Efflorescence: 3 targets, 8 yards
- Druid – Wild Growth: 5 targets, 30 yards
- Shaman – Healing Rain: no cap, 10 yards
- Shaman – Chain Heal: 4 targets, 12.5 yard range
What’s important to note here is that AOE heals are generally divided into two categories—close-proximity and broad-proximity. And for Priests, Paladins and Druids, they have AOE heals in both categories—close-proximity being Sanc, LoD, and Efflorescence and broad-proximity being PoH/CoH, Holy Radiance, and WG. Shaman, on the other hand, have both of our AOE heals in one category. So, when other healing classes switch to a smaller raid team, which by its very nature has lower player density, those healers can switch to AOE heals with broad spatial constraints and still do comparable healing.
But, the switch to a lower-density environment is a little bit different for the Resto Shaman who, instead of swapping one type of AOE healing for another, will switch out of AOE healing spells almost entirely in favor of a very powerful combination of RT-Tidal Waves sniping. So, understanding not only that this switch takes place, but also why it takes place is key to understanding why, increasing Resto Shamans’ output is about addressing two entirely different methods of AOE healing.
Don’t believe me? Check out these comparisons showing the different healing distribution between the top-ranked 10-man HM shaman parse and the top-ranked 25-man HM shaman parse of the same encounter, and note just how much a 10-man shaman uses CH versus one who raids in 25s.
|Fight||10 HM Distribution||25 HM Distribution|
|Valiona & Theralion||25% GHW, 23% HR, 20% RT, 9% CH (Parse)||37% CH, 36% HR, 16% EL (Parse)|
|Ascendant Council||27% RT, 21% HS, 13% GHW, 11% HW (Parse)||37% HR, 23% CH, 13% EL (Parse)|
|Atramedes||34% HR, 16% RT, 16% GHW, 12% EL, 10% CH (Parse)||27% HR, 25% CH, 15% EL (Parse)|
|Nefarian||22% HR, 18% RT, 15% GHW (Parse)||26% HR, 23% CH, 19% EL, 13% RT (Parse)|
The Issues with Tier 12
First off, I think it’s worth saying that the change from the original T12 Resto Shaman 4pc bonus to the current one is a step in the right direction. While testing the Alysrazor encounter in 10s last Monday, my CH was struggling to hit 2 targets, nonetheless 5, leaving me to again default to RT+HW/HS sniping to pick up a group that, by the fight’s design, was required to spread out. The original Resto Shaman 4pc would have done me absolutely no good.
But, that doesn’t mean I’m particularly excited about the 4pc bonus that Blizzard is proposing to implement either. Although I think it will be a boon to me as a 25-man raider (because it means that if I manage my RT’s accordingly, I can get a 25% boost a large majority of the time), what furrows my brow is how this additional healing translates to the smaller raid team. Hopefully, the table in the preceding section at least illustrated that CH is not a large contributor to shamans’ healing in 10s. In fact, for each of the 10 HM fights shown, CH made up *less than 10%* of the shaman’s healing done, and these are the top-ranked WoL parses for each encounter!
Furthermore, I fear that the 4pc bonus greatly encourages CH spam (through RT targets) as the solution to any group damage in both 10s and 25s. With Grid enabled to show precisely who has one of my rolling RT’s, those players will become my priority targets for any CH bounces—why sacrifice the 25% boost to heal with anything else? In 10s, this encourages (in my opinion) some horrible decision-making, because it means shaman will be more likely to gamble with their CH, in the hopes of hitting more than 1-2 targets, so that they can benefit from the added boost in healing. And with that, you get ever farther away from the Cataclysm Healing Mantra of “Decisions Matter”.
Instead, I think the solution to shamans’ Tier 12 4-piece predicament is to decouple the bonus from CH (much as I love the spell) and offer something a little more unique, possibly by altering the effects of some of our lesser-used spells or offering us a benefit regardless of spell type:
- Your Unleash Life spell now buffs your next 2-3 casts, instead of 1 (which would allow shaman the *choice* of using single-target or multi-target healing), or … Using Unleash Elements grants you 10% haste for 8-10 seconds (providing us a mini-CD to use during AOE periods)
- Your Healing Stream Totem’s effects now apply to the lowest 6-8 people in your raid, regardless of group (which would provide a mini hot on low HP players and have a much higher effective healing number than HST has currently )
- Dropping Stoneclaw totem now places a shield on the 4 closest targets (which would allow shaman some mitigation and also reward more active totem-twisting).
- Your healing spells have a chance to proc Soothing Waters on a target, which will absorb [X] damage over 10 seconds (similar to Val’anyr’s procs)
- Your healing spells have the chance to summon a Guardian of Hyjal, who will boost your healing done by 15% for 20 seconds (although I could see the arguments against a random-proc healing boost)
- Your Earthshield can now be cast on up to 3 targets (incredibly uninteresting, but would provide a solid boost to healing throughput of both single- and mutli-target spells and some set-it-and-forget-it healing).
Remember the Sunwell
We shamans have heard it over and over again since the end of Sunwell—the days of CH spam are gone. The days of turning to CH, no matter the circumstance, are done with. This is a new era where Resto Shaman are more than 1-button victors. And while I didn’t quite believe that at the end of Wrath (where I would hit nothing else but CH for most of ICC), in Cataclysm I’m actually willing to admit that we’ve come a long way since those days on the Isle of Quel’Danas. In fact, one of the things that I enjoy most about playing my Resto Shaman is that our toolkit has been markedly improved since then, to the point where it offers two very viable, and useful, playstyles.
But with a 4-piece bonus tied to CH, my overarching concern is that in the quest to boost Shamans’ AOE healing, we’re taking a step backwards and placing an emphasis on the very spell that we’ve been trying to get away from. And whereas 25-man raiders will likely see a fairly big boost to our output (one that I’m definitely excited about), I can’t put aside the feeling that our 10s counterparts will be shafted (much like they were with Tier 10’s 4-piece) with a bonus that’s beneficial in a select few encounters but the rest of the time leaves much to be desired.
Credit for the Slider Image: Udon Entertainment via DeviantArt