It’s been a little over a month since Patch 4.1 hit, complete with new gear, rehashed troll instances, and the biggest, most awesome, most incredible, MOST SPARKLY PONY cooldown ever—Spirit Link Totem. Since then, raid teams have sat in awe as Resto Shamans everywhere have proudly, and somewhat blindly, contributed to increased luminosity and (hopefully) survivability, dropping our totem on trash, during encounters, and at random intervals for pure entertainment purposes. Even my own crankiness turned into gleeful chortling, whether due to the fantastic laser light show or the potential to kill my teammates, I can’t say for certain. And so the time has come at last where I can say that I’ve made peace with our newest addition and admit to you, dear readers, that Spirit Link Totem ain’t that bad after all.
Limitations and Liabilities
When the concept of Spirit Link Totem arose several months ago, I raised several concerns about its functionality (as I do so frequently about every resto shaman change). Pulling directly from that post, those concerns were:
- Long time to target
- Range of Application/Visibility
- Tank/Raid applicability is not equal
- It takes a little bit of a novel to explain
- It’s a CD with a downside
- Awkward placement in the Resto Tree
Obviously, some of these issues have become less of a concern over the past weeks, but I do still think that most remain applicable to SLT’s current design. It is a CD that requires some foresight to use, especially in movement-heavy encounters, in contrast to its viability as a tank CD, its 10% damage reduction is fairly weak, its effects are not easy to explain and predict, and it does contribute to the Resto tree being a bit top-heavy. But, it’s worth noting that none of these are significant barriers to its usage, especially when most Resto Shaman are simply happy to be involved in the CD discussion. (Or as PC’s GL recently put it, “Whenever something is happening, one of those darn totems goes down”)
In terms of the liability side of things—which is where I believe the concerns of Resto Shaman lay when SLT first went live—my raid would be happy to report that I’ve yet to cause a spectacular wipe due to my new CD. And although SLT contributed to my own death on Tron Council, in reality, it has saved a handful of lives, both tank and raid, across a variety of encounters in the past several weeks. So, whereas I had previously been concerned that SLT was a gamble to use, from all accounts it appears that the likelihood of it being the cause of a slaughter is almost non-existent.
I’m not going to get into the In’s and Out’s of functionality here, since Jadiera put together a great couple of posts detailing exactly that (here and here) but I do think there are several features of SLT that shaman might want to take note of:
- SLT ignores all Mortal Strike and Healing debuffs (for the moment)
- SLT’s healing is not affected by personal +healing talents or effects (a Divine Guardian’ed player under SLT’s will not received 30% more healing from SLT).
- PW:S will absorb the damage from SLT (Example), conceivably PW:B will as well despite the lack of combat log evidence
- SLT’s balance of healing and damage occurs within the same second, theoretically balancing out to 0 with each tick
- SLT can overheal! I would assume that it’s caused by a heal landing in between the point where a player is selected for a heal, which no doubt precedes the heal itself, and the point when SLT’s heal actually lands (Example)
The reason I point these out is twofold: first, they’re conditions that might not be common sense when you set out to use SLT. And second, in the case of the first point—that SLT ignores mortal strike and healing debuffs—it allows shaman to pack a very powerful punch and enable some “creative use of game mechanics”. (More about that when I get into the next section!)
Staging Your Own Laser Light Show
It slices, it dices and it distributes raid health with blinding efficiency. So let’s move on to the meat and potatoes of this post—those great times to use SLT in raiding content. I apologize that my perspective is only going to be from a hard mode raider, so some of the following suggestions won’t be applicable to those players still making their way through normal modes.
Bastion of Twilight
- Halfus – Use it when your tank has high Mortal Strike stacks or when you have three tanks dipping prior to a flame breath, SLT is a boon early on in the fight to help smooth out spike damage on the tanks. If you use it early enough, you can also use it again during the roar, to save a tank from the massive damage he incurs while being knocked down (especially if he happens to be tanking a drake).
- Twin Dragons – The great thing about the Twin Dragons encounter is that it provides ideal “group up” moments where SLT can easily cover the entire raid. The bad thing is that both of these mechanics (Blackout and Twilight Meteor) *already* split damage with those in range, so the sole benefit of dropping SLT for these effects is to benefit from the 10% damage reduction.
- Ascendant Council – I generally don’t find much use for SLT until phase 3 (and late phase 3 at that), but it’s worth noting that if you find yourself within short range of a player who was too slow shedding their Waterlogged debuff, SLT can keep them from meeting a quick death.
- Cho’gall – SLT is great for smoothing out the damage from Empowered Shadows and redistributing HP during Phase 3. But its real strength comes from its ability to heal players who are at 100% Corrupted Blood, to enable them to dps at full throttle for that much longer.
- Sinestra – SLT is an excellent way to extend your first Wrack for a good period of time and it’s also incredibly handy at reducing spike damage on the Whelps tank in Phase 3. But do be sure to follow it up with some targeted AOE healing, since those affected players are at a greater risk during Sinestra’s Flame Breath.
- Magmaw – With SLT’s short CD, you can typically get in two uses during this encounter—once in an early Lava Spew (to capitalize on the damage reduction) and once during Phase 2 when Nefarian starts tossing out bursts of shadow damage.
- Omnotron Council – Using SLT during Magmatron’s Incineration Measure is a given, but you can also use it to minimize the damage from Shadow Conductor or, in a pinch, drop it after being sucked into a poison clouds where oozes are still alive.
- Maloriak – Although your tank can’t receive any direct healing while afflicted with Engulfing Shadows, SLT’s effects slide in under the radar, allowing you to use the totem as a way to save a tank that might not have been topped fully before the Maloriak’s subsequent breath. SLT can also be used during Maloriak’s Flame Breath to lessen the blow on the raid, during the Acid affliction in Phase 3, or to save an oblivious group from an errant Frost Sphere’s deadly explosion.
- Atramedes – Although you can use SLT to forestall someone’s Devastation death, the more likely use of Spirit Link in this encounter is to even out Searing Flames damage.
- Chimaeron – Aside from the typical timing of using SLT during Feud group-ups, SLT can help distribute HP to players who might not have been as high as possible during a bad transition into phase 2. SLT can also, combined with several clumped high HP players, stave off a death while you raid tries to get the Full of Sound and Fury achievement!
- Nefarian – One fight where you can really push SLT to the limit—uses abound in every phase of the encounter. Drop it immediately prior to a crackle, right after you leap out of the lava (to stabilize the platform), when a healing partner gets Explosive Cinders, or to save a kiting tank who’s adds refuse to reset.
Throne of the Four Winds
- Conclave of Wind – Unfortunately, the platform where it seems natural to use SLT (Nezir), features an ultimate with damage that’s already split between the entire raid, so the benefit isn’t as great as it could be. But, I’ve found that if you drop the totem later rather than sooner, you can have the tail end of SLT overlap with Nezir’s oftentimes deadly post-ultimate frost patch and thus save a life or two. That being said, it’s worth noting that you can use SLT to lessen Anshal’s post-ultimate blows, but unfortunately, even the best SLT placement in the world still won’t save you from being blown off of Rohash’s platform by a misjudged Wind Blast.
- Al’Akir – Although I oftentimes forget I have this lovely CD while battling Squall Lines, Ice Patches, Wind Bursts and Lightning, using SLT in Phase 1 as an emergency oh-god-it’s-too-much button should leave more than enough time for it to come off of CD for use at the end of Phase 2 when healing really gets stressful.
What, no pessimism?
Although I was a very vocal opponent of SLT going live, I’ll be the first to admit that the implementation of this totemic cooldown did what it was supposed to do: get shamans past the CD velvet rope and back at the table as a viable end-game healer. And while there are still some fundamental problems that exist with the ability—I’d be more than happy to trade SLT for the 1million plus healing of Tranquility on any given encounter (*cough OP cough*)—the point is that the void in the shaman arsenal has been filled. In the end, I think it’s sometimes easy to forget, with all the critique and comments that come from the community (and me included), that WoW is really about making the most of what you have. And the best players out there know that no matter the spellpower coefficients that govern our heals, or the color of our square on grid, or the sparkly awesomeness of our CD, tools are only as good as the person wielding them. So, like the geometric-patterned sweatervest with terry-cloth arms I got from my Grandmother one holiday season (no joke), I’ll happily pack SLT away in my toolbelt and spend my time looking high and low for the appropriate time to show it off.