In preparation for Mists of Pandaria’s launch on September 25th, patch 5.0.4 will be hitting live servers as of tomorrow’s reset, bringing with it new spells, new talents, and a host of other features that will be setting the stage for the expansion to come. To aid Resto Shaman in making the transition, I’ve put together some notes to explain the major design shifts, the changes to how you heal, and the other noteworthy modifications you can expect as you count down the days until MoP. (Do note, this is not intended to be a full guide to everything Resto Shaman in Mists, simply a highlight. A full guide will be coming in the next week or so, but birthday celebrations have set me back!)
Cataclysm Standard: Totems as buffs.
The change: Totems as utility (both raid and personal)
One of the major changes in Mists, that we’ll be getting a preview of in 5.0.4 is the redefinition of totems as temporary buffs. Whereas shaman up to this point have gotten used to dropping totems the moment a fight starts (from one-at-a-time to totem groups), that’s no longer going to be the norm. Instead, totems are taking a role much like Paladins’ Hands, so that the Shaman arsenal will again have a load of utility. So, we’ll have to get used to having some of our favorite constant buffs becoming “as-needed” drops.
- Healing Stream Totem - (30-sec CD, 15-sec duration). HST is now a single-target heal that functions much like Priests’ Prayer of Mending. It’s best to drop this totem on CD, since its smart heal functionality will assure you incredibly low overhealing.
- Healing Tide Totem (NEW TALENT) – (3-min CD, 11-sec duration). Also known as Tranquility Totem, Healing Tide now gives Shaman, and especially Resto Shaman, a way to potentially avert a raid wipe. Used in conjunction with SLT or separately, it will give shaman a powerful button to hit when the stuff hits the fan.
- Stone Bulwark Totem (NEW TALENT) – (1min CD, 30-sec duration) A personal shield that provides an instant absorb upon drop and weaker absorbs for the duration thereafter, Stone Bulwark is a solid replacement for Ancestral Resolve and Glyph of Stoneclaw Totem, especially since the latter did not scale with gear level. Although it does require the GCD to use, my beta tests usually had it recording 1-2% of my total “healing” through its absorbs.
- Mana Tide – no changes; will function exactly as it does now.
- Spirit Link Totem – no changes; will function exactly as it does now.
- Stormlash Totem (NEW) – (5-min CD, 10-sec duration) Something unique that shaman will be able to offer their teams, this totem affords your raid a little extra DPS during critical burn phases. You’ll mostly likely be dropping this during Bloodlust phases, and since the totem doesn’t stack, you’ll want to coordinate drop order with the other shaman in your raid.
- Capacitor Totem (NEW) – If you’ve ever been a shaman jealous of Tauren’s Warstomp, Capacitor Totem is your chance to contribute to your group’s/raid’s AOE stun rotation. 5 seconds after planting this totem, it will explode and stun all enemies within 8 yards.
- Windwalk Totem (NEW TALENT) – (1min CD, 6-sec duration) – A raid-wide Hand of Freedom, I haven’t seen much use to this talent in a raid environment, but PVP shaman will be excited for a way to get out of snares and roots.
- Grounding Totem - (25-sec CD, 15-sec duration) Although the functionality of this totem remains unchanged, it’s worth noting that shaman will need to contend with a shorter duration on this totem, meaning that your timing will have to be a slight bit more precise.
- Flametongue Totem – (REMOVED) This is now a raid-wide buff associated with shaman, called Burning Wrath, even Resto Shaman will offer their group/raid an additional 10% spellpower.
Cataclysm Standard: Talent specs can last you for months.
The change: Talents are somewhat flexible; expect to change points around often.
In an effort to ditch the “cookie cutter” builds that generally dominate discussions on class, the new talent system focuses instead on Tiered talents that, every 15 levels, give you the choice to define your specialization in greater detail. But, likely one of the biggest differences in the new talent structure is that you’ll find yourself wanting to switch talents around a little bit more. For example, you may want the significant damage reduction that comes with Astral Shift (in Tier 15) in order to survive some burst damage, but on another fight, you may simply want the constant damage reduction that Stone Bulwark Totem offers. (I’m not going to go into talent selection in this discussion–I’ll leave that for a later day). Suffice to say, now is a great time to start thinking about talents as being dictated by the requirements and constraints of the fight, instead of by an optimized build selection. (Except in the case of Healing Tide Totem, which is going to be valuable no matter the encounter).
Shifts in How you Heal
Cataclysm Standard: Constant Water Shield refreshing
The change: WS is a 60-min self buff.
This one’s fairly self-explanatory, but because it’s something that Resto Shaman have been wishing for since, well … forever … I thought I’d put it first so that you all can delight in the idea that is a 60-minute Water Shield. Say goodbye to spending half your GCDs refreshing WS.
Cataclysm Standard: CD-less dispels
The change: Successful dispels trigger an 8-sec CD
Another minor change that has major implications in raids, dispels are poised to be one of those core mechanics handled by your healing team. As of 5.04., a successful dispel (of a curse or a magic) will trigger an 8-sec cooldown. (If you dispel and there is nothing to dispel, because another healer got there first, your CD will not be triggered). So, although the blues have noted that the dispel change won’t be felt on fights in Cataclysm (like Sinestra or Spine of Deathwing), it bears mentioning that Beta encounters, especially hard modes, have involved a significant amount of dispelling. So, now is a good time to get practicing for the dispel challenges to come.
Cataclysm Standard: When the stuff hits the fan, heal harder.
The change: When the stuff hits the fan, turn to your new CDs.
Although we won’t be getting our full array of options until Pandaria launch and level 90, post 5.0.4 we’ll still have a couple of self-tuning options available:
- Elemental Mastery (Tier 60)
- Healing Tide Totem (Tier 75)
- Primal Elementalist (Tier 90, not available until Pandaria)
- Ascendance (Level 87 ability, not available until Pandaria)
The addition of these personal and raid cooldowns introduces a new aspect of Resto Shaman healing that hasn’t existed before (unless of course you count Tidal Force), so it’s a good time to get acclimated to the idea that cooldown timing will have a significant impact on your throughput.
Cataclysm Standard: Riptide has a 6-second CD
The change: CD-less Riptides for everyone!
When it was introduced on Beta, Glyph of Riptide was met with no small amount of opposition. And even though I still dislike the playstyle that it makes available to Resto Shaman (ie: Riptide blanketing), there’s no denying that this Glyph is well placed to become a staple of our arsenal. The HPS loss that you incur from a 90% reduction in the initial hit is made up for the flexibility to toss out multiple RT’s in the same timespan (and, in theory, maintain higher uptime on Tidal Waves, though I often found that wasn’t the case in practice). However, it’s important to note that while RT blanketing may seem a viable strategy in this month before Mists’ launch, as I illustrated in my recent post on Resurgence scaling, it is one of our highest consumption rotations.
Cataclysm Standard: Telluric Currents is a substantial active regen source.
The change: Telluric Currents is a glyph and will restore 2% of your max mana.
The natural result of an entire expansion of abusing damage mechanics in fights like Magmaw, Halfus, and Madness, it was inevitable that Blizzard would come down hard on our beloved active regen source—Telluric Currents—especially in their efforts to tighten the reins on healers’ mana. Starting in 5.0.4, TC will not be based on the damage your Lightning Bolt does, but rather, it will be based on your maximum mana pool. At level 85, this means that TC will restore a paltry 2k mana per cast, and at level 90, it will restore 6k mana, significantly reducing Resto Shamans’ ability to use TC as a primary supplement to passive regen. Though returns do result in a small mana gain, this glyph effectively returns TC to a position of being a way to contribute damage without major penalties, versus its position in Cata, as a way to actively regen mana. That tool has been shifted to Priests, in the form of Power Word: Solace, and shaman will be back to relying predominantly on passive regen and Resurgence to support our healing rotations.
Other Specific Changes
- Earthliving Weapon
While the proc chance of Earthliving used to be dependent on Resto Shaman putting 2 points into Blessing of the Eternals, proc chance has been rolled into the Resto specialization. As detailed in a recent blue post, the proc chance of Earthliving will now be:
- Prime Glyphs / Major Glyphs
This category of glyphs is being removed, in preparation for Mists. Instead, Resto Shaman will have the following Major Glyph options to utilize:
- Glyph of Healing Stream Totem - unchanged. It’s worth noting that the resistance now will only be applicable 50% of the time and to a single person, making this glyph a much weaker version of the one used by Restos in Cataclsym.
- Glyph of Healing Wave - unchanged.
- Glyph of Telluric Currents - discussed in the preceding section.
- Glyph of Water Shield – unfortunately, this glyph’s dependence on WS procs (from incoming attacks) make it a bit tricky to recommend for every encounter. But, the good news is that, based on WS’s current returns, you only need to have ~
1.72.6 attacks per minute trigger WS to see equal return between the glyphed and unglyphed versions. So, based on my last set of logs, it would make sense for me to use this on fights like Yor’sahj, Gunship and Spine, whereas on Hagara, Ultraxion, and Zon’ozz, I’d be better served leaving WS unglyphed. (Edit: Many thanks to Therya for pointing out that I forgot to update to the new WS return values! D’oh!)
- Glyph of Cleansing Waters – duplicate of the talent by the same name, sans mana cost reduction.
- Glyph of Chaining – The new offering to Resto Shaman healing a “spread raid”, this glyph makes CH slightly more usable in conditions which require your group to disperse. The significant downside of this glyph is that if the fight contains both spread and collapse raid situations, you’ll see a heavy penalty on the collapse where you’ll be forced to fill in CH’s CD with single-target healing.
- Glyph of Riptide - discussed in the preceding section.
- Fixed Mana Pools
In an effort to ensure that healers work in a triage environment for longer than the first tier of content, Mists will be bringing with it capped mana pools for all healers. So, as of 5.0.4, all healers will have 100k mana at level 85. Your mana pool will increase by 40k with each level you gain, netting you 300k mana at level 90.
- Ghost Wolf
It’s now an instant-cast ability for all Shaman. But do note that the run-speed bonus that was associated with Ancestral Swiftness is now removed, so Shaman still working on progression might want to go out and pick up Enchant Boots – Lavawalker.
As of the patch, Relics will be becoming part of Shamans’ history–the slot is being removed from the game and all your old Totems of Shattered Ice, Calming Tides, and Surging Seas will be turned into grey vendor trash.
- Haste Breakpoints
Because of the +haste benefits of Ancestral Swiftness (tier 60), we’ll be seeing some new haste breakpoints for this month of time in between 5.0.4 and Pandaria launch. (All credit goes to Binkenstein of Totemspot for these calcs—please show him some love).