It was a little over a year and a half ago that I started blogging in this corner of the world, looking to participate in some of the healing discussion and maybe carve out a bit of the blog-o-sphere for Resto Shaman. I started with a couple standard posts and one very personal rant, talking about the impact of bad resto shaman publicity. And so it seems I find myself now, facing the same issues I faced back then, only on a much, much more significant scale. With the recent fuss surrounding Shamans being, once again, excluded from a world first kill, it now seems as good of a time as you could get to re-launch my response to the Circle of Healers. So today’s post is yet another to add to the healing circle, touching on a number of issues, from class strengths to the current Paragon kersnuffle. And hopefully, somewhere in there, is some good PR for us blue names in Group 5.
1. What is the name, class, and spec of your primary healer?
Vixsin, Resto Shaman (for life)
2. What is your primary group healing environment? (i.e. raids, pvp, 5 mans)
25-man raids (I also do 10-mans on my healing alts)
3. What is your favorite healing spell for your class and why?
2010 Response: Earth Shield
Although I have a somewhat tumultuous relationship with it, I would say that my favorite healing spell at the moment would be Healing Rain. Yes, it’s the highest HPS spell in Shamans’ arsenal, so I love the healing boost it gives me, but it’s also the one spell that I give the shaman developers a lot of credit for. Although I still loathe (LOATHE WITH THE FIRE OF ONE THOUSAND SUNS) the targeting reticule, especially give that it was broken for a couple of weeks and made my life a living hell, I think it was a creative solution to supplement shaman AOE healing, without making CH more powerful. And while the spell isn’t without its flaws, I like that it invokes shamans’ need to proactively anticipate damage and plan accordingly.
4. What healing spell do you use least for your class and why?
2010 Response: Healing Wave
It’s not a healing spell, but of all the tools in my arsenal, the one I use the least is Totem of Tranquil Mind. While I appreciate the fact that another class (aside from Pallies) has Concentration Aura, my biggest gripe is that I have to sacrifice mana or healing to get pushback resistance. While this isn’t such a big deal when I’m doing dungeons, in a 10- or 25-man raid group it can be especially frustrating to have to sacrifice 1.5M (yes, million) healing done, or Elemental Resistance, to drop this totem. I think it would be a much more elegant solution to make Tranquil mind either a glyph for your Water Totems or an aura associated with them. But as it stands, Tranquil doesn’t seem much usage from me.
5. What do you feel is the biggest strength of your healing class and why?
2010 Response: Versatility
I would definitely say that shaman are a powerful healing class, and that’s due in large part to our Mastery. On low-hp targets, a correctly-timed GHW can make an attacker scream in frustration, as their target regains maybe 75% of his HP, or save a tank about to bite the dust. Likewise, I know I’ve staved off more than one raid death with a quick 20k RT or UE on a target in peril. And when we can get the sun and the moon aligned, and our raid in one clump, the AOE healing potential of HR+CH is bananas. (The problem is, the sun and the moon rarely do align … but more on that in a second).
6. What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your healing class and why?
2010 Response: Lack of a CD
If you had asked me this question a week or so ago, before we killed Baleroc HM, I think I would have been hard-pressed for an answer. But after having spent tens of hours working my ass off to do only a fraction of the healing of my teammates, I’d say the biggest weakness of the shaman class is our slow, expensive heals coupled with our low passive mana regen. If anything, this is the cost we pay for the power I was talking about in #5 and the reason that so many shaman turn to Telluric Currents to fill some of the gaps in our regen. There’s something to be said when I can be the lowest in overhealing, even lower than the disc priest, and still be using TC as a crutch to keep me competitive with our healing team.
Secondarily, and this is something that one of Paragon’s members touched on, is that shaman are good at most things, but there’s nothing that distinguishes us; there’s nothing that we excel at. Paladins’ beacon is unique and amazing in fights with targeted burst damage, likewise disc’s shields and absorbs are completely distinct from any other healers’ tools, holy priests are the kings of targeted AOE healing, and druids’ raw output through hots is almost unparalleled. But shaman … we’re the backup to all of that.
I wrote about this topic at some length in a previous post, but to sum it up … Shamans totems used to be unique, so because we could adjust to fill the gaps in your healing team and fill the gaps in your raid buff list, our power as a class was scaled back. But with the homogenization of buffs (something I’m completely for, btw) and the fairly harsh nerfs to mana tide, we no longer have those same distinguishing characteristics nor do we have the oomph to compete with other classes. The developers, I know, are playing a touchy game with our class, toeing the line of making us too powerful in smaller groups, because if we can bring almost every buff and annihilate other classes’ output, why would you bring anything else? The unfortunate thing is, in their reluctance to inch the shaman class forward, they’re not addressing the PR storm that’s happened twice already in this expansion alone, one which has each of us blue boxes trying to justify our raid spots.
7. In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best healing assignment for you?
2010 Response: Supplemental Tank Healing plus melee
I don’t think you’ll meet a healer out there who would claim that the best assignment for them *wasn’t* free-floating raid/tank healer, because quite frankly, it’s the one with the least responsibility (and also generally posts the biggest numbers). Who wouldn’t want that sort of freedom?
That’s why I really appreciate the perspective of PC’s healing lead—unless the fight mechanics dictate that healers stick to a certain position or player (think: Conclave of Wind), we don’t use healing assignments. Each one of us is responsible for tank healing, just as much as we are responsible for healing soakers, kiters, add tanks, etc. And truth be told, that sort of pairing of freedom and responsibility has really enabled me to elevate my game to an entirely new level of play. If anything, I’ve come to recognize that assignments are more limiting than they are helpful—not only do they narrow your understanding of the fight, but they lure you into thinking that your job as a raider (and as a healer) can somehow be defined by how you handle a narrow segment of tasks.
So, I’d say the best assignment for me is the FFA approach we take in PC. Tell me that I’m responsible for the entire raid, because I’ll work way harder than I ever would if you told me my world was only one guy doing one thing.
8. What healing class do you enjoy healing with most and why?
2010 Response: I like ‘em all
I think I’m going to stick with last year’s answer and say that there isn’t a class out there that I don’t like healing with. Interestingly enough, what I find most fun is to step onto one of my healing alts and pair up with a shaman, because it becomes this incredible, surreal experience, seeing shaman healing from the other side of the glass. But it’s also very instructional, because it gives me an outside perspective on ways that I can improve my own healing on Vixsin.
9. What healing class do you enjoy healing with least and why?
2010 Response: Other shaman
I think there are challenges to any healing comp, so there will be encounters that are more suited to pairing with a disc priest as opposed to a paladin. 2-healing Atramedes HM (on 25-man) with a disc priest, for example, was very stressful because neither of us had the “best” tools for picking up the HP of a raid that wasn’t clumped and was taking spike damage. But, we made it work. Likewise, going into Chimearon HM 10-man with a Pally and lots of ranged wasn’t a cake-walk, but again, we made it work.
I think the key to healing with a class that doesn’t line up well with your own class’s strengths and weaknesses, is identifying what challenges you’re going to have, and proactively coming up with good solutions. Even if the solution is simply mashing your buttons harder or spending more time using inefficient heals, I really do believe that you can make any comp work.
10. What is your worst habit as a healer?
2010 Response: Clicking certain macros (as opposed to binding them)
Choosing to heal versus choosing to renew a shield—it’s something I’m very guilty of and which bites me in the ass if I choose to hold off on a refresh for a while. I resolved some of this problem (and 2010’s problem) by developing and binding a number of macros to make sure that refreshing a shield, or even swapping it to another player, is a quick and easy task. But arguably, my shield uptime could be much better than it is.
11. What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while healing?
2010 Response: Healers who blindly pad
Oh man, I have to choose just one? I’ve actually been working on a post as of late about “ways to piss Vixsin off” so I guess I’ll have to limit this to a preview …Possibly my biggest pet peeve in a group environment is when players feel inclined to explain why they died or failed at their responsibility. While context is sometimes important in identifying an issue to be resolved, I oftentimes think that players believe that saying “my bad” or “OMG I SUCK” somehow absolves them of any further blame. Likewise, “I lagged” or “the effect is bigger than the graphic” have become legendary in PC because of how absolutely shitty they are as excuses for poor play. If you screw up on something, I’m way more interested in how you’re going to not do it again versus the chain of bad choices that led up to your demise. (And no, RNG is not a reason for death—stop claiming that it is.)
12. Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other healers for PvE healing?
2010 Response: Absolutely
When Cataclysm first came out, my answer would have been a resounding “no”. But, I think Blizzard has made some great strides to bring us in line with other healers by buffing Purification and our Mastery and finally giving us some sort of CD. It was really frustrating that it took so long to get to this point, but I’m definitely happier with our performance now versus at the start of the expac.
I think what concerns me most about Resto Shamans’ state at the moment, is that (once again) there’s a lot of bad press out there about our viability in end game healing. When players in Paragon step up and say “we don’t bring shaman because they’re not worth it”, regardless of whether than sentiment is rooted in fact or simply circumstance, the idea lodges itself in players’ minds. One of my very first posts on LiG5 talked about the stir that Mek (of Ensidia) created in Ulduar when he claimed that shaman were simply not viable HM healers. Not only did it hurt to have such a prominent member of the community (virtually) throwing up his hands, but it impacted me personally in that my GL at the time actually believed him, and I spent the rest of the tier as Elemental. So bad press about shamans really does set me on edge.
Ultimately, I do think shaman are in a good place, because you know what, life isn’t ever going to offer you a perfectly balanced situation. So whether I’m 200 HPS ahead or 2000 HPS behind, I’m going to work my ass off to prove that I’m worth the raid spot. I would never tell a shaman that you can’t kick everyone’s ass, because I truly believe that outside of those World First kills, what matters is the player, not the class. I’m still going to argue for a level playing field—because I think we deserve it—but I’ll never cut any Resto Shaman the slack of saying it’s okay to not be the best.
13. What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a healer?
2010 Response: Meters
I’m a World of Logs nut, and I use its Expression Editor regularly. But I also heavily lean on CompareBot when I want to compare my own healing with another shaman (and because the creator is so receptive to feedback). Lastly, I whip up my own spreadsheets, based on Expression Editor queries, to aid me in picking apart the effects of stat and gearing changes.
14. What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your healing class?
2010 Response: CH is 1-button win.
*chuckle* I’m not going to beat a dead horse here, so let’s just skip this one.
15. What do you feel is the most difficult thing for new healers of your class to learn?
2010 Response: that CH isn’t the answer for everything and how to heal proactively
It’s interesting to look back on last year’s answer and realize how much Cataclysm has changed the healing game for shamans (for every healing class, really). I honestly don’t think players associated shaman with Chain Heal spam, like they once did. Nowadays, I think what new players struggle with more often than not, is settling into the flow of shaman healing. It’s slow and methodical, and can be quite punishing if you’re caught off-guard. Not only that, but to get the biggest impact (as I’ve said before), you really have to line up your heals 3-4 seconds out.
16. If someone were to try to evaluate your performance as a healer via recount, what sort of patterns would they see (i.e. lots of overhealing, low healing output, etc)?
2010 Response: High effective healing
(Brief story … it’s relevant, I swear!) When I first interviewed with PC, one of the things that the healing lead and I discussed was how I looked on meters. At that point, as he was right to point out, I was using HR and CH almost exclusively and with apparent abandon; topping meters because of it but not really healing as smartly or as efficiently as I could have been. So, one of his challenges to me was to change that style of play, and work on being a better all-around healer (because again, PC doesn’t assign “tank heals” for fights).
So if you look at my healing now, and especially when we were 4-healing fights while farming T11 hardmodes, you’ll see my style of healing has changed significantly. My single-target heals (GHW predominantly) generally make up a significant portion of my healing, and my overhealing has tapered way off. My shield uptime always needs work (UGH, SHIELDS!) but the one thing I’ve been much better about in this tier is my HST usage, which has been netting me a nice boost in healing for AOE-damage encounters. Lastly, although sometimes I don’t succeed, I always aim to take the least amount of damage possible. This means heavy usage of Stoneclaw Totem (yes, it’s actually saved a wipe because the shield kept me alive) and lots of raid awareness.
17. Haste or Crit and why?
2010 Response: Haste
Neither. Mastery, mastery, mastery. And Crit. And Haste. Resto shaman stat priorities are ever-changing, so if you ask me this when we’re farming T12, my answer might be significantly different.
18. What healing class do you feel you understand least?
2010 Response: Druids
Of my healing alts, my paladin remains the only one not at 85 yet. So these days, I do feel like that’s the class that I understand the least. I know the Holy Pally healing game has changed since I stopped running Tartlet (my holy pally) through ICC, and from the feedback I’ve heard, it’s for the better. I’m looking forward to getting her up to speed sometime during T12, so I can enjoy the awesome healing power that’s keeping pink at the top of meters on every single encounter. (Cause hey, if you can’t beat ‘em, join em!)
19. What add-ons or macros do you use, if any, to aid you in healing?
2010 Response: Grid, Clique, Decursive, PowerAuras
Some things just don’t change—my healing world wouldn’t quite be the same without Grid, Clique, and PowerAuras. In fact, in terms of tangible benefits, I would say PowerAuras has been the most beneficial for me, because once I figured out the real nuances of configuration, there isn’t anything that I can’t make display. If it’s something I need to know about, I’ve got a PowerAura for it.
20. Do you strive primarily for balance between your healing stats, or do you stack some much higher than others, and why?
2010 Response: I build different sets to address changing stat priorities (fight to fight)
I actually went away from the multiple-sets idea towards the end of Wrath, keeping just one set for all encounters since the large majority of my healing was CH. But, at the end of T11 and now just about wrapping up T12, I’ve gone back to the idea, not only because Resto Shaman stat priorities are in flux right along with raid health, but also because my healing distributions (which I’ve been posting about intermittently on Twitter) really do vary by fight. So, for example, I now have a Crit-heavy gearset, one that nets me about 1800 haste, another which favors regen, and a base set that’s Mastery-heavy.
Now, this works for me because I have access to every piece of loot out there and I can pick up, enchant, and gem different versions of the same piece to get them to suit my need. But for the majority of players, this isn’t really an option, which is why when I make gearlists, I try to identify a balance of stats that works to compliment all fights, not just the ones where you use 90% CH or alternately, the ones where you use 60% GHW.