Life in Group 5 – A Resto Shaman Blog
A resto shaman perspective on raiding


December 19, 2012

Why HM Tsulong should make you look at Ancestral Guidance again


*GIGANTIC DISCLAIMER OF DOOM* (1/17/2013) – HM Tsulong logs from this week’s reset have confirmed that the functionality I described in the below post is no longer fully applicable. Ancestral Guidance no longer procs off of Restorative Mists’ healing, though some other interplay between the two spells is still intact. So, while elements of the below post are still valid, don’t expect to see the same results as the 15-sec HM kill popularized on MMO-C. 

The “healer fight” of Tier 14, the Tsulong encounter in Terrace of the Endless Spring affords your Group 5 residents the chance, once again, to see the big numbers of their dreams. The 2-phased encounter, like predecessors Valithria Dreamwalker and Ultraxion, includes in it temporary buffs (1 in normal mode, 2 in hard mode) that boost healers’ output by incredible margins. So incredible, in fact, that last week I saw something I’ve never seen before—a spike in my HPS to the tune of 3.5 million (3,525,419.80 HPS, to be exact). But this post isn’t to toot my own horn, because I’m neither unique nor skilled in achieving that level of output, but rather to call attention to the way in which I did it. Because, I think it could change your outlook on a Talent Tier that, for Resto Shaman especially, has had a clear front-runner for most of the expansion.

(Yes, I’m talking about something dethroning Healing Tide).

After I printed out last week’s WoL Healing Done table with my big numbers, (naturally, so that I could affix it to my fridge for future self-congratulatory-efforts-while-snacking), curiosity got the better of me and I started digging into the parse to figure out why exactly it was that I had managed to strike gold on that particular kill. It’s somewhat of an annoyance to me to have that sort of disparity on the kill after the first kill, so my detective hat was firmly affixed to figure out where I had gone awry.


The Conditions of Performance

For those not familiar with HM Tsulong, the higher difficulty of the encounter is offset by an added buff in the day phase—The Light of Day—which is a clickable, very temporary buff that spawns throughout the room during the day phase of the encounter. Because the number of spawns are limited, the buff is typically given to the highest throughput healers first (monks and paladins, in this case) and then each other healer is afford 1 as well. This buff is provided in addition to the buff granted by Sun Breath (Bathed in Light) which grants additional mana and healing to anyone in the frontal cone.

So, Important Fact #1—there are two multiplicative healing bonuses that occur during the fight. They can be stacked, but because of the randomness of the Light of Day spawn location, it’s rarely located in the breath’s affected area. So oftentimes, you’re left to time the buffs consecutively, so that you can first have The Light of Day and then have Bathed in Light, all while your CDs are active.

Important Fact #2 is that each of the two healing buffs has a 6-second duration. Thus, the window of time in which you need to maximize your healing is very, very limited. With both buffs you can pre-cast to ensure maximum throughput (ensuring that your heal goes off as close as possible after the buff is applied), but even then you can only manage 3-4 spells before ping and buff duration call a halt to your super-sized healing. In between these small 6-second windows is the Night Phase, so you can be assured that your CDs will be up in time for the next Day.

The next Important Fact #3 is that because Tsulong’s health pool is so large, there is zero chance for overhealing on him until the fight is complete. This is important to note because this will not be the case with player health pools which have very definite limits, making maximizing momentary HPS is less important than maximizing HPS over the duration of the encounter.

This leads to Important Fact #4—multiplicative bonuses (in an unconstrained environment) will yield more healing than additive bonuses. So if you have two 1.5 bonuses and a 2.5 bonus, where H is the healing done:

1.5H x 2.5H x 1.5H = 5.625H > 1.5H + 2.5H + 1.5H = 5.5H

Obviously, the margin of difference isn’t as significant when you’re dealing with smaller multipliers, but when you consider that Light of Day offers 1500% (15x) healing done and Bathed in Light offers 500% (5x) healing done, you can expect the effect to be much more pronounced.


Ancestral Guidance in Action

Like most encounters, I started our attempts on HM Tsulong with my buddy Healing Tide firmly in place in Tier 75. But, after doing a handful of attempts where I spread out my Ascendance and Healing Tide (because they don’t stack, so there’s no need to use them concurrently), I simply wasn’t seeing numbers that were particularly thrilling, or that were helping us down the boss in the requisite 2 day phases. Healing Tide was getting in, at most, 3 ticks on Tsulong, and at ~320k apiece (and a large portion of overhealing on the rest of the raid) it was barely contributing to my overall healing done:

[22:34:44.602] Vixsn Healing Tide Tsulong +328210
[22:34:44.602] Vixsn Healing Tide Miickeey +248467 (O: 68558)
[22:34:44.602] Vixsn Healing Tide Star +*257994* (O: 399770)
[22:34:44.602] Vixsn Healing Tide Evilkami +249328 (O: 63728)
[22:34:44.602] Vixsn Healing Tide Vapour +*264991* (O: 402392)
[22:34:46.095] Vixsn Healing Tide Vixsn +*249816* (O: 403800)
[22:34:46.233] Vixsn Healing Tide Tsulong +*674186*
[22:34:46.233] Vixsn Healing Tide Prock +259772 (O: 67812)
[22:34:46.354] Vixsn Healing Tide Holytyg +238623 (O: 72907)
[22:34:46.354] Vixsn Healing Tide Amati +249727 (O: 135133)
[22:34:47.835] Vixsn Healing Tide Tsulong +324140
[22:34:47.835] Vixsn Healing Tide Star +262928 (O: 57611)
[22:34:47.835] Vixsn Healing Tide Drarcane +*241675* (O: 425480)
[22:34:47.912] Vixsn Healing Tide Evilkami +251778 (O: 66692)
[22:34:47.913] Vixsn Healing Tide Fox +248048 (O: 74852)

Total effective healing on Tsulong: ~1.3M (under the 500% buff). Restorative Mists wasn’t faring any better, clocking in barely over 5% of my effective healing on that first night in (which was comprised of 10 fights over 3 minutes long). That’s when I started looking at other options and considered just what I could do with the talent that Binkenstein had cautioned me against underestimating at the start of the expac. So, I swapped out my beloved HTT and shortly thereafter made a discovery that made me giddy:

  • Not only do Ancestral Guidance and Restorative Mists duplicate the Shaman’s active-cast heals, Ancestral Guidance will proc off of EVERY Restorative Mists heal as well.

So, when I started popping Ancestral Guidance and Restorative Mists at the same time, this started happening:

[23:31:02.859] Vixsn Restorative Mists Holytyg +129657 (O: 167860)
[23:31:02.859] Vixsn Restorative Mists Evilkami +0 (O: 297517)
[23:31:02.859] Vixsn Restorative Mists Beast +0 (O: 297517)
[23:31:03.140] Vixsn Ancestral Guidance Tsulong +119007
[23:31:03.187] Vixsn Ancestral Guidance Hitpoints +52069 (O: 66938)
[23:31:03.187] Vixsn Ancestral Guidance Destrian +0 (O: 119007)
[23:31:03.500] Vixsn Ancestral Awakening Tsulong +1775652
[23:31:03.500] Vixsn Ancestral Guidance Tsulong +119006
[23:31:03.500] Vixsn Ancestral Guidance Firesnake +130908
[23:31:03.500] Vixsn Ancestral Guidance Nartas +95349 (O: 35559)
[23:31:03.500] Vixsn Ancestral Guidance Tsulong +130907

Admittedly, I got a little giddy. But what looking through the combat log for those AG attempts didn’t tell me was how the interplay of direct heals (HS, GHW, RT, HR, etc.), Restorative Mists and Ancestral Guidance was actually working. Had I stumbled upon something worth exploring or just gotten lucky? To answer the question, I needed to take a look at the entire log for the segment of time that the CDs were active, and figure out exactly what was going on … which is exactly what I did. That spreadsheet can be found here.

What you’ll see in that spreadsheet are 3 tabs, with actual combat log events, with a ton of highlighting. What the highlighting shows is, for each heal, the trigger event (for Ascendance or Ancestral Guidance) and the resultant heal. Believe you me, it was no simple task figuring out the cause and effect of every heal. But, in going through the laborious process of trying to identify the heals that trigger AG and Restorative Mists, I inadvertently discovered three other interesting facts about the Tsulong encounter. The first of which arose when I was trying to correlate Restorative Mists’ healing with its triggers:

[23:31:01.859] Vixsn Earthliving Galapanda +0 (O: 4406)
[23:31:01.906] Vixsn Healing Surge Tsulong +*5918839*
[23:31:02.156] Vixsn Riptide Tsulong +*27093*
[23:31:02.531] Vixsn Restorative Mists Vixsn +0 (O: 297517)
[23:31:02.640] Vixsn Earthliving Tsulong +5425
[23:31:02.687] Vixsn Ancestral Guidance Solique +275033 (O: 2092503)
[23:31:02.687] Vixsn Ancestral Guidance Kynks +209139 (O: 2158397)
[23:31:02.687] Vixsn Ancestral Guidance Amati +169608 (O: 2671434)
[… Series of Restorative Mists heals …]
[23:31:03.140] Vixsn Ancestral Guidance Tsulong +119007
[23:31:03.187] Vixsn Ancestral Guidance Hitpoints +52069 (O: 66938)
[23:31:03.187] Vixsn Ancestral Guidance Destrian +0 (O: 119007)

In looking at the above excerpt, (which I edited to exclude 21 lines of Restorative Mists healing to make the review easier), you can see that my first heal to trigger Ancestral Guidance is the 5.9M Healing Surge critical strike. It occurs at 31:01 and the three resulting AG procs occur 1 second later at 31:02. But, the next heal to trigger Ancestral Guidance isn’t the Riptide tick that immediately follows the HS, but rather the Restorative Mists heal that occurs just shortly thereafter, meaning:

  • Ancestral Guidance will only proc from heals that are actively cast during its duration; existing hots like Riptide and Earthliving will not be duplicated. This includes Healing Rain.

This is notably different than the functionality of Restorative Mists, which will duplicate all healing done (except totems) during the buff duration, including hots which were applied before Ascendance was activated. This is one of the main reasons that you should always Unleash Life + Healing Rain *before* you pop Ascendance, so that you don’t waste time casting it while your buff is active. But, as I so discovered, AG will not duplicate healing from a Healing Rain that is already placed (here’s a parse showing exactly that).

My second discovery about Ancestral Guidance came from my attempts to reconcile the number of AG procs with the number of Restorative Mists’ heals. It’s important to note, at this point, that when the game calculates the distribution of Ascendance’s healing, whereby it sums total healing done for a ~0.5 second window and then distributes that value evenly across all players in range, pets are not counted as targets. For example, assume that in a specific time frame you do 100,000 healing and there are 10 players in range, Restorative Mists would heal each player for 10,000. If there were also 4 pets in range, the heal on each player would still be 10,000 but each pet would receive 10,000 healing as well, making the total healing done by Restorative Mists 140,000 healing. (I’d suspect that this is to prevent healing being “wasted” on pets, were they actually included in the calc).

Now, back to attempting to reconcile Restorative Mists’ healing and AG procs. You would expect, given AG’s description and the fact that it procs from Restorative Mists, that the number of AG procs would always be [# of Restorative Mists heals on players x 3], but the problem I was coming up against during my reconciliation was that AG’s occurrences always exceeded the number of Restorative Mists heals … until I started including Restorative Mists’ pet heals in that total. Which led to my second mind-blowing discovery:

  •  Ancestral Guidance will proc off of Restorative Mists’ healing on pets. So free Restorative Mists healing on pets becomes even more free healing on the raid via AG.

(Again, if you’re looking for proof of this in action, check out the spreadsheet breakdown of a log from one of our kills). This is particularly noteworthy because in the Tsulong encounter, Tsulong is counted as a pet. So provided that Tsulong is in range, healing done on Tsulong by Restorative Mists will be more free AG healing on the raid.

My third discovery about Ancestral Guidance, again regarding its interaction with Restorative Mists, really served as icing on the cake during my whole log-diving experience. Per my example above in which the 100,000 healing is distributed among 10 players, making the total healing per player 10,000, a reasonable person would expect to see those exact values in the combat logs. But, if you go into your combat log, you’ll see something a little bit off–Restorative Mists’ healing done on Warlocks, Feral Druids, and Hunters is always more than the amount applied to other targets. For Warlocks and Hunters, the heal is always 10% more, while for feral druids, the heal is always 20% more. So for example:

[23:31:02.812] Vixsn Restorative Mists Tsulong +297517
[23:31:02.812] Vixsn Restorative Mists Roxy +0 (O: 327269)
[23:31:02.812] Vixsn Restorative Mists Solique +0 (O: 297517)
[23:31:02.843] Vixsn Restorative Mists Odas +189671 (O: 167350)

Using the heal on Tsulong as a base, you would expect all other players to have the same 297,517 heal applied. But Roxy, who is a hunter, received 327,269 (= 297,517 x 1.1), and Odas, who is a feral druid, received 357,021 (=297,517 x 1.2). Solique, a Resto Druid, has no incoming healing buff and thus receives the same amount as Tsulong. This is noteworthy because when attempting to balance Restorative Mists’ healing with the trigger heals, the “buffed” healing that these classes received is not factored in to the total, making that additional healing “free” healing done.

Which is the basis for the third discovery about AG:

  •  Ancestral Guidance’s healing is based on the amount that Restorative Mists actually heals for, including class-specific healing bonuses. And AG’s heal will double-dip into that bonus, increasing the heal a second time when the AG heal lands.

So for example, take the following combat log events:

[23:31:03.500] Vixsn Ancestral Awakening Tsulong +1775652
[23:31:03.875] Vixsn Earthliving Kynks +0 (O: 4614)
[23:31:03.875] Vixsn Earthliving Fox +5736

This series of heals was summed by Ascendance and later resulted in a series of Restorative Mists heals over 20 targets. Since the total healing done from the above was 1,786,002 / 20 targets, you would expect that each Restorative Mists heal would be for ~89,300. But, in those Restorative Mists heals, most of which were for 89,300, was also the following heal:

[23:31:04.812] Vixsn Restorative Mists Amati +0 (O: 107161)

Demonstrating the effects of ferals’ +20% healing received. This Restorative Mists heal, later in the combat log, results in a corresponding heal from AG, which you would naturally expect to be (107,161 x 0.4 = 42,864). But here are those 3 lines:

[23:31:05.562] Vixsn Ancestral Guidance Tsulong +42864
[23:31:05.562] Vixsn Ancestral Guidance Palmz +0 (O: 47151)
[23:31:05.562] Vixsn Ancestral Guidance Cazodor +0 (O: 47151)

So again, you can see the AG heal again benefiting from the +10% to warlocks (Palmz) and hunters (Cazodor), effectively letting AG double-dip into plus healing on those select classes. (Pretty neat, right?!)

All of these things combined means that AG + Ascendance can pump out a ton of healing in a very short window, should the right conditions (like those I mentioned in the first section) be in place.


Healing Tide, Dethroned

The ultimate effect of this perfect storm, created by the functional nuances of Ancestral Guidance, Restorative Mists, and the Tsulong encounter, was that I was able to pump out a whopping 17 million healing from Ancestral Guidance on last week’s kill, which made it my second overall contributor to healing done. This is in comparison to the maybe 4 million I could have eked out with Healing Tide, given the same conditions. And although the side-by-side comparison of the two parses only shows a 10k HPS increase between the past two weeks, when you dial down to the details of Ancestral Guidance’s performance within a ~25 sec window and then compare the two parses, you can see the potential gains much more clearly:


In the end, I think that’s what excites me the most about all of the above discoveries and log diving. It’s not that I think Resto Shaman should, en masse, ditch Healing Tide and set about figuring out how to maximize Ancestral Guidance on every encounter, because I absolutely concede that the conditions present in HM Tsulong won’t be experienced again, together, any time soon. We may see traces of them crop up in later tiers in other healer-centric fights. But the point here is that AG has potential, and a lot of it under the right conditions. And to me, that’s a wonderful thing. I’m excited to see something shake up our perspective of a tier which seemed so set in stone and remind Resto Shaman that our class still has a few tricks up its sleeve.





  1. Everything about this post is Awesome 😀

  2. Mario

    Oh wow, very interesting. The tooltip says it heals injured party or raidmembers, I did not expect this!

  3. Rob

    I may have drawn the wrong conclusion, but the benefits you saw from Ancestral Guidance were all based on the fact that you popped it at the same time as Ascendance. This would appear to be overkill / overhealing on almost every single other fight?

    • I don’t think that’s a wrong conclusion at all. This sort of throughput (which you have to scale back because no other fight has the buffs that Tsulong has) is highly dependent on being able to time Ascendance with Ancestral Guidance.

      Practically-speaking, there are several issues with this sort of combination outside of Tsulong. First, (and I didn’t talk about this in the post), the reason that we can combine those two CDs without substantial HPS losses is that, for that particular encounter, CD timing is constrained by the Day phases, meaning that you’re not looking to pop CDs as soon as possible. This is what allows you to use AG (2min CD) and Ascendance (3min CD) together. In the typical fight, in which damage spikes occur more frequently, this alignment would only be possible every other Ascendance.

      Second, as you rightly pointed out, the level of output would be overkill on most encounters. (Of course, the values in this post are wildly overstated by the buffs in the Tsulong encounter, but even scaled back, the throughput combination would be similar to popping HTT and Ascendance concurrently). So it would be ideal for an encounter with incredibly high burst for a short period of time. HM Lei Shei’s Get Away! phase, with less than the standard number of healers, would be a good example of an application outside of HM Tsulong, or HM Empress (if you timed the Resonance Fields to trigger almost back-to-back and the raid was sufficiently grouped).

      So yeah, there are issues with application. But, I think the value of this kind of reveal is that it plants the seed about our raid-wide burst potential. Who knows, maybe an application will crop up again in a later tier, or maybe it will give Blizzard some ideas about how to “fix” Resto Shaman should we ever fall behind in burst healing (ie: simply drop Ascendance down to a 2min CD!)

      • Rob

        Yikes Shaman behind in burst healing? That doesn’t sound fun. I’m absolutely going to give this setup a shot for Tsulong. So far I have strongly disliked this fight as I’m just not good at it. Very impressive math and spreadsheet work.
        On a side note, I love this blog. I just started healing in Mists and I attribute a large part of my enjoyment of the resto shaman to your dedication and thoroughness in your posts. So thanks again.

  4. Psi

    Very nice post, was a great read.

    On the topic of healing heroic Tsulong, do you think it makes sense for shaman or paladins to reforge for crit on this fight rather than mastery? Having not yet done the fight myself I was hoping to get your thoughts on the subject.

    • I’m not up-to-date on the theorycraft for Paladins, but for Shaman, I’d definitely advocate Crit over Mastery based on the thresholds for single-target heals being so low in this expac. (If you were really feeling adventurous, you could also go for the Crit trinket from Shado Pan, but since it costs precious valor, it’s not worth getting it just for that fight).

  5. Fruitdick

    Hello, friend! Excellent post! Very informative!

    I am currently progressing on H tsulong 25, and i would like to ask you a quick question on rotation with the healing buff.
    Which rotation do you believe will yield highest output? With AG/Acsendance up and without?
    Currently i am doing the following rotation with and without AG/Acsendance up:

    Unleash Elements>Pre cast GHW>[Gain healing buff]>NS w/ GHW>Riptide>Healing Surge spam

    Is it worth it to cast Healing Rain with the healing buff, or after popping AG/AC? Will Unleash Fury outperform Primal Elementalist?
    Apologies if what i question has already been discussed in your post. It is a massive text wall.
    Thank you!

    • You want Healing Rain down before you pop Ascendance, so that, like I mentioned above Restorative Mists puts out an initial wave of healing the moment its activated. After that point, it is worth it to stick with HS spam, with one RT inserted on Tsulong (since the RT hot will remain buffed for its duration).

  6. Karoguhn

    Any though on giving a triple combo including Elemental Mastery?

    Since its a 2 min CD you can also pop it all 3 3 second prior to breath.

    The rotation was bascally:

    First – Healing Totem, Healing Rain
    Pop 3 CD, Riptide, Unleash Element, Healing Surge x 5 (they are 1 sec cast time so im able to get 5 out with the buff)

    Any though on rotation and elemental Mastery

    • Absolutely! EM+AG+Ascendance would be a very potent combination. The ideal rotation would likely look something like this:

      HR (to get Ascendance to tick immediately)
      RT (to get Tidal Waves active)
      UL @ Tsulong (to apply Unleashed Fury)
      EM+AG+Ascendance + Intellect Pot
      Pre-cast Healing Surge
      [pick up Light of Day]
      (Healing Surge lands)
      Healing Surge x1
      RT @ Tsulong (remember this hot will be buffed and have the benefit of EM’s haste)
      Healing Surge x3
      [Sun Breath]
      Healing Surge x 5

      Although my inclination is to insert another RT into the mix after Sun Breath, because you wouldn’t want to cast it on Tsulong (and overwrite the super-charged RT that’s already rolling), you’d have to cast it on a player, making it almost 0 HPS for the cast. So, it seems like it would be better to cast un-TW buffed Healing Surge than it would be to waste the GCD on RT.

      • Navras

        I’m kind of confused, wouldn’t you pot Ascendance before HR? I’m not sure about the EM+AG+Ascendance+Intellect line.

        • No, the goal is to assure that you have Ascendance+AG up for the full duration of The Light of Day and Sun Breath (a total of 12 seconds of buffs). With Ascendance’s 15sec duration, this leaves you only a 3 second timing window between the two buffs, which will likely be consumed by some movement (assuming the worst positioning possible for Light of Day). So if you pop Ascendance before the setup, then it’s going to expire long before you get Bathed in Light from Sun Breath.

          Re: putting HR down before Ascendance, the goal is to get heals rolling on the raid and Tsulong so the moment you pop Ascendance, you’ll trigger an instant series of heals based on the HR ticks+ RT+UL. (As I noted in the above post, Ascendance will copy and distribute the healing you did in the ~1sec prior to activation of Ascendance–that’s why you shouldn’t waste time casting HR when Ascendance is active). Depending on your timing, you could pop the Jade Serpent pot before all of this; I was being conservative and just including it in the big CD sequence.

          Hopefully, that helps clarify.

      • xor7486

        Why are we precasting HS rather than GHW?

  7. Karoguhn

    Also, i cant find any reliable source about it. Are we sure precasting a heal to make it land right after we get the buff will actually Buff this heal


    Do we need to start casting our heals after the breath buff has been receive?

    • The buff is applied at the time the heal lands, so pre-casting prior to the Breath or prior to picking up Light of Day will result in the applied heal being buffed. It’s also worth noting that hots applied to Tsulong when the buff is active will stay buffed for the entire hot duration, even after the buff on the player is gone.

    • Yeah, I’ve exchanged a couple of emails with Onty (the shaman who designed the strat detailed in that MMO-C post). He did an amazing thing in taking the discoveries above and pushing them to the extremes; the logs are very impressive.

  8. Remi

    I wonder, after he pops all his cds , who is he targeting for HS? tsulong or any of the pets with the bonus healing?

  9. Wubbwubb

    Don’t forget to put earth shield on Tsulong – 20 percent buff!

  10. Yopax

    Sorry, I am a bit confused after reading this (and just yesteday started working on Tsulong Heroic)

    Could you (post-fix) explain how you see AG and Ascendance working on Tsulong Heroic. I am a bit confused as to undestand what effect AG has, and how AG actually gets healing on Tsulong increased?

    As I read the talent, it copies the healing done to your main target (Tsulong) to other raid members, but how would that affect Tsulong healing done? Is it because AG causes major overheals on raid members, that Ascendance then “copies back” to Tsulong?

  11. Ganiccus

    I have found out also that flasking for intellect helps healing throughput a lot on tsulong. My best performance was yesterday when I healed Tsulong for 117m hp using only two beams (1 for each day phase) in total.
    Also, an holy priest casting guardian angel on tsulong right when you pop all your cooldowns will help both your healing under the beam effect and the rest of the healers when tsulong breathes the first time.
    Our WOL:

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