It seems like only yesterday I was sitting in the front rows of Blizzcon, all atwitter over the shaman talents on display on the big screen. And although I’m sure that a significant amount of work has gone into Mists of Pandaria development since that day over 4 months ago, not much has changed from an external standpoint. So, in light of the press tour taking place this week for MoP and the complete lift of the NDA on March 19th, I thought I’d take a quick look at what sort of resto shaman changes we’ve seen indication of thus far and hypothesize about what sort of information could be waiting for us once the NDA is lifted. (I admit, I built a spreadsheet to track what exactly went where with our talents and abilities).
With the complete removal of talent trees as we currently know them, there are a number of talents that will be falling to the wayside in MoP. Most are filler talents and stat buffs that made it through the major talent overhaul at the start of Cataclysm, but which don’t really contribute those fundamentally “fun” choices that the developers prize. As of the latest preview, talents and spells on the chopping block include:
- Ancestral Resolve
- Tidal Focus
- Spark of Life
- Totemic Focus
- Focused Insight
- Ancestral Healing / Ancestral Fortitude / Ancestral Vigor
- Nature’s Blessing
- Cleansing Waters
- Telluric Currents
- Elemental Weapons
- Improved Shields
- Purification’s 0.5sec reduction on GHW and HW cast times
Now, one of the concessions that Kaivax made in his February 15th post was that some of the spells, talents, and class abilities that didn’t make the cut in the above list, could be making it into MoP in the form of Glyphs. So, it’s very possible that talents like Focused Insight and Telluric Currents could be coming back as a situational glyph. In the case of Telluric Currents, I’d hope that the glyph would have % hit built into it (a la Glyph of Divine Accuracy) but I could also understand why Devs would want to limit the current TC+EP model that allowed shaman to lessen the mana constraints of each tier.
In line with the full scale renovation of talent trees, and the ideas that Tom Chilton and Gregg Street laid out in Blizzcon regarding specialization abilities, a number of spells and talents will be relocating to various places in the shaman arsenal (or sometimes, just the Resto arsenal). So, come MoP, expect to see some changes:
- Resurgence, is a Restoration passive ability and maintains a static return value.
- Nature’s Guardian (/grumble grumble grumble) is a Tier 15 talent, and still completely confused about whether it’s aimed at PVE or PVP
- Nature’s Swiftness, is a Tier 60 ability that now constitutes a mini-CD (1min CD) and provides 5% passive haste
- Soothing Rains, is a Restoration passive ability
- Improved Cleanse, has been rolled into Purify Spirit (which is a Resto-only magic/curse dispel)
- Ancestral Awakening, is a Restoration passive ability
- Mana Tide, is a Restoration spell
- Spirit Link, is a Restoration spell
- Tidal Waves, is a Restoration passive ability
- Blessing of the Eternals, is rolled into Earthliving Weapon
- Riptide, is a Restoration spell, trainable at level 10 and will no longer be consumed by the primary hit of CH
- Earth Shield, is a Restoration spell, but the important thing to note here is that it will be learned at level 26, versus its current availability at level 10.
I really want to draw attention to those last two points for two reasons. The first of which is something that Lodur talked about in his incredibly-appropriately titled piece for WoWInsider—While My Chain Heal Gently Weeps. Based on the language in the Riptide talent, Riptide’s hot component will no longer be consumed by CH’s primary bounce. This means that come MoP, Resto Shaman will find themselves in a state of having a constant version of the Tier 12 4pc bonus. Now, I wasn’t a huge fan of this bonus for two main reasons:
- Because of the effect that RNG has on your ability to utilize the bonus (for example, if you chose to have rolling RT’s on the melee and a ranged group took damage, you’d lose out on 25% more CH healing)
- The 25% bonus to chain heal was so strong that it rarely made sense to CH someone without a rolling RT.
But, I do appreciate the additional boost this gives CH and the additional distinction that it will make between good shaman and those who are using all the tools at their disposal.
The second reason that I want to highlight the changes to ES and RT is because although I think that they’re likely going to go unnoticed by the large majority of the shaman population, it is a huge change for players just getting into the world of Resto Shaman healing. There’s no debating that ES, like CH, is an iconic spell for Resto Shaman, but its implementation as the Level 10 “Welcome to Restoration Shaman” bonus was not the sort of welcoming committee new shaman need. Putting RT in that place gets new shaman used to using the spell early on, so that there isn’t as jarring a gameplay change as there is now, when you get RT at 69 and need to learn to integrate it into a healing rotation that had been working for up until that point.
Although there doesn’t appear to be any new heals on the horizon for Resto Shaman (aside from Healing Tide Totem), Blizzard is giving us a couple new things to try out:
Ascendance (Level 87 Pseudo-ToL CD) – Oh. My. Gawd. Hawtness. It’s a green Ultraxion crystal that I don’t have to share. Oh yes, and presumably I get to look like Feludius (from Ascendant Council). To say I was delighted to see this added in during the last talent tree iteration would be like saying that football players are merely happy to win the Superbowl. I’d have been pouring Gatorade all over the Devs if I could.
- Grace of Air (+5 Mastery) – a new buff to compliment the other secondary stat bonuses in game, this will likely be a shaman “aura” and not an actual totem.
- Healing Stream Totem reduced to 1 person – I’m not sure I understand the impetuous for this change; HST’s healing contribution was hardly meter-shattering.
- GW is instant-cast – With the inclusion of Ancestral Swiftness in Cataclysm, GW went from being a spell that I used to run back from wipes to one that I cast 4-5 times an encounter.
- Purify Spirit is Restoration-only – An interesting change that would seem to suggest that the Devs want to make dispelling the purview of healers only, which is yet another burden to put on our limited MoP mana pools.
- Healing Wave, Greater Healing Wave, and Chain Heal are also Resto-only – Without actually being in the beta I’m unable to confirm if this is intended, but as of the last talent tree iteration, these spells are indeed limited to Resto Shaman. If it is the case, then it would seem to be an attempt to limit the cross-functionality of dps shaman in a group environment (which is odd because I can’t remember the last time our Enh or Elem needed to backup heal).
Also, it’s worth noting that at least according to the talent tress, the mana cost of almost all resto shaman spells has increased.
- Greater Healing Wave: 33% –> 36%
- Chain Heal: 20% –> 22%
- Healing Surge: 27% –> 31%
- Healing Rain: 46% –> 53%, netting it the award for most expensive heal in game
In comparison, the costs for other heals dropped slightly from their current levels. It’s worth noting that Priest healing costs seem incredibly low, such that I would believe them to be placeholders for later adjustment. Examples of the relative costs of other AOE healing spells, in Cataclysm versus MoP: Holy Radiance – Cata: 40%, MoP: 35%, Wild Growth – Cata: 27%, MoP:25%, Prayer of Healing – Cata:26%, MoP:5%, Circle of Healing – Cata:21%, MoP:4%
Lastly, around mid-February, we saw a second major iteration in the class talent trees that were previewed at Blizzcon. And although Shaman talents obviously weren’t completely fleshed out (since we were missing Tier 90 entirely), I think there were some good moves made overall. And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being excited that some of my suggestions were right on track with the changes that were made.
Tier 15 – Survivability
The former Tier 30 talents, these Survivability options have seemingly avoided any heavy editing since we last looked at them. So, I have no new comments here except to say … I hate Nature’s Guardian even more with every passing iteration.
Tier 30 – Crowd Control
The former Tier 15 options, these talents moved up a rank and managed to lose Thunderstorm (AOE knockback) in the process. It was replaced with Windwalk totem, something which I would imagine would make those damn PVPing Resto Shaman all that harder to catch. But otherwise, no new comments on these talents either.
Tier 45 – Totems
First and foremost, I have to say that I like this placement a lot more than when the totem-centric talents were previewed as our Tier 90 options. And, the tier of talents that they replaced–ones which dealt with mobility and mechanics and which I questioned as even having applicability in a PVE environment–have been seemingly ditched. In terms of changes to the talents themselves, the multi-totem option is gone, replaced with a pseudo-Totemic Cold-Snap. But I have two main objections for this tier of talents:
- When compared to other options, it just doesn’t seem like Totemic Projection can compete with a talent like Call of the Elements.
- While I do think that Call of the Elements is a great addition, and adds in a valuable decision on when to use your totem CD reset, I’m not sure it aligns all that well with the level you get it at, because at that point, you have no valuable CD totems. Based on current level positioning, shamans get: Tremor Totem at 54, Mana Tide at 56, Earth Elemental at 58, Fire Elemental at 66, Spirit Lin at 70, and Healing Tide at 75 … so um, what are you going to use this talent on for those levels in between 45 and 58?
Tier 60 – Output Boosts
Another tier that was shifted around, we last saw these output talents at Blizzcon as Tier 75. I’m really excited about the burst potential of Elemental Mastery plus our new Ascendance CD, as I think it will offer the self-tuning that Restos have lacked. Ancestral Swiftness and the additional haste it brings are a nice option for fights where burst is less of an issue (because when would a Resto Shaman ever complain about free haste), and I can see Echo of the Elements being particularly useful in a healing environment where HPM > HPS. So all in all, I’m looking forward to these choices.
Tier 75 – Healing Utility
The former Tier 60 options, these talents remain fundamentally unchanged from their previous iteration. Ancestral Guidance’s CD was dropped from 3min to 2min, but otherwise remains unchanged in effect, serving as a CD-based Echo of the Elements, a redundancy that I find a bit awkward. Still, I’m excited about the potential for a Resto Shaman Divine Hymn in Healing Tide, for the simple reason that if our Mastery does affect its heals (and it should), then the totem will pack a powerful punch. Otherwise, I still don’t think that Fortifying Waters feels like a viable contender yet in this tier, as it feels too specific a bonus to be more beneficial than a raid-CD like Healing Tide.
Tier 90 – The As-Yet Unknown Tier of Awesome
Like most Shaman out there, I am definitely anxious to see what Blizzard has in store for us as Tier 90 talents. Given the tools that we’ve been handed thus far, and the class issues that have been addressed in other tiers, I’m hoping that we’ll see some Tier 90 talents focused on shamans’ Achilles Heel: mobility. For resto shamans especially, because of our long casts and set-up time, movement can significantly decrease our ability to respond to a raid in peril. Instant-GW obviously helps significantly in this regard, but I do think that we could benefit from some valuable decisions when it comes to movement during a fight. So, I’m hoping to see something like the following when the NDA gets lifted next week:
- Epicenter/Elemental Vortex: Allows the Shaman’s main AOE ability to be cast on a friendly target, enabling that target to become an epicenter of damage or healing. (Meaning: that target moves, your heal or dps spell moves with them).
For Resto Shaman, this would enable Healing Rain to be cast on a player instead of on a location (great when you have a fight the requires a lot of tank/raid movement, like Rag). For Elemental Shaman, Earthquake would become targetable based on a mob, eliminating the need for the redundant Fire Nova spell. For Enhance Shaman this would necessitate the addition of a true AOE spell/attack (Firestrom perhaps, which would pulse like Fire Nova but not be dependant on FS for application) while also enabling them to maintain dps in movement-heavy encounters.
- Path of the Spirits: Your Spiritwalker’s Grace has no CD, but when activated, will decrease the effect of your damage and healing spells by 50%.
You always run the risk when attempting to address chronic class issues of resolving them too well, so I think that any change that enables shaman to be less impacted by movement, should come with a downside. For Spiritwalker’s Grace, that downside is the 2min CD. Removing the CD but associating a penalty for use would turn the tables a bit, and make that decision of “to use or not to use” an interesting one that would have definite effects on shaman gameplay.
- Call of the Ancestors: Enables the shaman to call on the ancestors for assistance. When activated, the ancestors will collect the shaman’s healing or dps energy for the next 8 seconds. Once complete, the ancestors will distribute 60% of the energy collected, to all allies or enemies within 20 yards, over the same duration. (1min CD)
Although I can’t speak for the dps side of shaman, I can think of a number of times in encounters throughout Cataclysm where a talent like this would have come in handy—getting onto the platforms in Nef’s Phase 2, seed explosions on Rag, Lightning Phase on Hagara, etc. In addition, a CD which provides additional healing, but which puts the burden on the user, means that this could be another area where a good Resto Shaman can distinguish himself.
Like many players out there, I am waiting with baited breath to learn about all of the information being previewed at this week’s press event. It’s entirely possible that the large majority of things in this post will change as of next week, but I think if anything, Resto Shaman can be comfortable with the idea that a number of our concerns have definitely been heard. And if that isn’t rerassuring enough, take heart that behind the upcoming deluge of information, the MoP beta awaits, where anything and everything is possible.