Back when LiG5 was in its infancy, and this lone blogger was searching for topics to spark a discussion about healing, I wrote a very simple post accompanied by a quick and easy healing flowchart, in an attempt to illustrate my basic decision-making process. It was a flowchart borne of the idea that one of the most important things to discuss about healing isn’t the “hows” by rather the “whys” (okay, it was also borne from a little meeting boredom as well!) And I think that’s a sentiment that I’ve maintained over the last year and a half, as I’ve worked to explain not only the ways in which I heal, but also the way in which I think about healing. It’s also why I oftentimes struggle when players ask me for help with their gear and/or their parses, or even when someone asks me to explain how to heal as a Resto Shaman, because what I really want to talk with them about isn’t keystrokes or gearing, but the knowledge that informs them both.
So, today’s post actually has a pretty broad audience in mind, from Resto Shaman who are or will be charging into Firelands with Chain Heals blazing, to Resto Shaman who are working their way through the leveling process, and everyone in between. What follows are what I would consider a sort of Ready Check for Resto Shaman–the skills, the knowledge and the questions that each Resto Shaman out there should be able to answer. I’m still debating on whether or not I want to post my own answers to these questions, but in the meantime, the goal here is to encourage each one of you to question what you do (or do not know) about your Resto Shaman. (Or in the immortal words of Monty Python, “Answer me these questions three; ‘ere the other side you see!”)
Knowing Your Toolbox
It always amazes me, when I chat with players even at some of the highest levels of progression, how much misunderstanding exists about the basics of the Resto Shaman toolbox. Even right now, some of you may be thinking “Pffffft, Vix is so off base. I know everything there is to know about Resto Shaman’s healing arsenal”. But I guarantee you, if the last time you looked at your spell tooltips was when you were level 20, or the last time you thought about the right sequencing of UE and RT was when Cata launched, you friend, are dire in need of a refresher. And for everyone else, I’m quite sure you could do with a brush-up as well. So let’s get on with those questions …
- When and where is it appropriate to use HW, HS, and GHW?
- Why should you be using RT frequently?
- Why is keeping ES up on your primary target so important? When should you consider swapping your ES to a new target and when shouldn’t you?
- What makes the distinction between a time to use CH and a time to use HR? Which is cheaper within a 10-second time frame: 4 CH casts or 1 HR filled with HW?
- Why should you “waste” a GCD to use UE?
- What type of attacks don’t proc WS?
- When is the appropriate time to drop Tranquil Air instead of HST? (Hint: The answer isn’t simply “when you don’t have a Pally’s Concentration Aura”.)
- Can you explain why you took each point in your Resto spec? Why did you put your additional points in Enhance or Elemental?
- Is Ancestral Swiftness equal to the speed increase from the Lavawalker boot enchant?
- What talents allow you to make the most of Telluric Currents? Should you invest in them?
- Did you take Blessing of Eternals? If not, why not? If so, how often are members of your raid sub-30% HP? How much HP would the average caster have if he was around 30%?
- Why should a resto shaman spend points in Totemic Grace? (Hint: it has nothing to with making totems last for 7 minutes)
- Turning to glyphs, why would a Resto Shaman elect to take Glyph of Watershield?
- Why wouldn’t you choose to take Glyph of ELW or Glyph of Stoneclaw Totem?
Know your Stats
Thankfully, understanding how your stats impact your character isn’t something you need to learn with every patch (just every expansion, natch). But, becoming a better healer is about delving deeper into WoW’s basic stats and understanding that they don’t operate in a vacuum—most stats have ties to one or several other stats, which is what makes balancing so much like navigating a spider’s web. Understanding these ties is where things really start to get interesting:
- What is the single most important stat in an environment where mana is an issue?
- Why is it that someone with more Int and less Spirit might have more regen than someone with more Spirit and less Int?
- Why are haste “thresholds” important for healers?
- Resto Shaman always talk about Crit as a “regen stat”, why is that? Are Crit and Spirit interchangeable in their effects?
- Why do discussions about Mastery (generally) also talk about crit?
- Why did Resto Shaman stack Haste at the end of Wrath? Is that still a viable strategy?
- Which is most beneficial for TC builds—haste, mastery or crit?
- Why was the change from 150% critical heals to 200% critical heals important to resto shamans who had previously been stacking Mastery?
- How is it that a resto shaman can have higher HPS on the first boss kill (when he isn’t as geared) than on a farm boss kill (when he has much higher spellpower and other stats)?
- Why does haste a negative effect on mp5?
The mental checklist
Although Resto Shaman are blessed with being one of the few classes that doesn’t have to participate in a pre-pull buff-fest, there is a fair amount of personal management that we need to do in those moments before a tank charges into the fray (and sometimes, even in the middle of a fight). So whenever you have a moment to spare, whether it’s in the midst of combat or in those moments while you’re enjoying a tasty pre-encounter biscuit, you should be asking yourself:
- Is Water Shield up?
- Is Earth Shield up? Is it on the “right” person?
- Is Earthliving Weapon refreshed?
- Are my totems down AND positioned appropriately?
- How’s my mana? Is a potion, Hymn, Innervate, or Tide available and unused?
- Did I redrop a water totem after MT expired? (Pro-tip: making a PowerAuras alert to show when you don’t have HST or MST down is a great reminder and will ensure you don’t miss out on the regen or free healing. And it is a significant amount of free healing!)
- Am I standing in the right position?
- Do I have the right gear on for this encounter?
- What’s my one point of improvement for this week? (eg: better shield uptime, shorter time in between RT casts, better HST healing).
- Bonus round: Why is it that you should keep from spamming WS or ES at that start of the fight? (Hint: It’s especially important if you run with Power Torrent or random-proc trinkets).
The raid questions you should be able to answer
Whether it’s in a dungeon or a raid group, being a good healer is about fitting in to the larger team, because all the knowledge in the world won’t help you if you can’t work effectively with a group of your fellow players. So like the personal mental checklist, which you should be cycling through regularly, you should also have a separate raid mental checklist during any encounter. Now these questions aren’t the simple yes/no/why decisions from the preceding sections, but rather questions that should inform the decisions you make:
- What are each of the tanks tanking? Are there any specialized “tanking” assignments for dps?
- Is there a tank swap that should be occurring? HOLY CRAP, did it already happen and you missed it?
- Will there be spike damage? If no, are you sure? (Pro tip: Most fights these days will incorporate “spike damage” as an indicator of player error or as a select mechanic. It’s important to know the difference and distinguish between, say, Magmatron’s Flamethrower [unavoidable, targeted spike damage] and Lava Worm’s Spew [avoidable AOE spike damage]).
- What are my other healers doing *right now*? (Are they running, dodging, kiting, moving, standing over there, healing, regenning?)
- What should the dps be doing right now? Will they need to move elsewhere in the area, in particular that would cause them to be out of range or not in line of sight?
- What damage is going to hit in the next 3 seconds?
- What do I need to do to fulfill my assignment?
- Why do some guilds use Bloodlust/Heroism at the start of an encounter? Why do others prefer to wait until the boss is sub-30%?
What Info You Should Have at Your Fingertips
The last aspect of the “basics” healing that I wanted to touch on in this refresher post is something that I often worry gets pushed to the wayside: your UI. Now, I’ve made posts in the past explaining the qualities of my UI that I consider important, but in terms of the broader picture, whether you stick with the out-of-the-box WoW UI or explore the features of a new addon every week, the critical information that you have on your display should be the same:
- Who has rolling RT’s and how much time is left on each
- Who your ES is on
- Who is out of range, who has agro, who is dead (it’s especially important that you this information about your healing teammates)
- Who has a debuff that you can dispel
- How much mana you AND your healing teammates have
- How much time is left on your major CDs (MT and Spirit Link)
- And lastly, although not a UI element, you should be able to see your character, your character’s feet, and enough space to discern everything in your immediate surrounding area. You should know a mob is headed your way before it gets there, that a portal is about to open before it does, and that your feet have been off the edge of the platform for the last 10 seconds.
- Time on CDs (eg: SLT, MT, trinkets, Spiritwalker’s Grace, NS, Racials)
Working on the Right Things
The interesting thing about this post is that I didn’t draft it this week. Heck, I didn’t even draft it this month. In fact, this post has been sitting in my drafts folder since the beginning of Firelands, and it was originally written as a way to track the changes (or lack of changes) to the Shaman class. It was originally a checklist. Because, as I sat there on Ragnaros’ doorstep, looking forward to new stats, new bosses, a new guild, and the new challenges that awaited me in Firelands, I wasn’t thinking about stats or gear. I was thinking about the foundation for all of that, going “back to basics”. Because in reality, what has the greatest impact on your performance as a healer isn’t your stats, your gearing choices, or your healing comp—it’s your understanding of the class. That class knowledge, which so many players assume they have just by virtue of time invested (they don’t, believe you me), is what really turns something common into an opportunity. And it’s those “ah-ha!” moments that are key to becoming a better healer.