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


February 15, 2013

Resto Shaman Tier 15: New Design, Old Problems?

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Written by: Vixsin
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(With only a proposed 3 weeks until patch 5.2 hits and the Throne of the Thunder is unlocked, I’m not sure the topic of this post is going to be entirely relevant but … what the hell, I spent time writing it so I’m just going to get it out there just in case it isn’t too late to see some useful change).

Something I obsess over in the weeks preceding a new patch and then promptly forget about until progression is mostly done, set bonuses are the one-size-fits-all Snuggy of the raiding world. Designed as an answer to a question that hasn’t yet been asked (and might not ever be), the implication is always that more pieces equal more power. But, as any class would point out, set bonuses don’t always hit the mark. And naturally, that’s to be expected, because designing something that helps every player equally is a nigh impossible task.

That being said, I do think there’s still valuable information that can be found in the tier solutions of the past. Resto Shaman are not a particularly complex class–we were long known as 1-button wonders–but in recent years we’ve seen our class splinter a slight bit due to the impacts of raid sizing on our “niche” strengths. And it’s in that regard that I think the decisions of tiers past become important in figuring out just how to give us a helping hand going forward.


Learning from Tiers Past

Since the start of Wrath, when a distinct effort was made to pull us away from Chain Heal spam, Resto Shaman have had two very distinct toolboxes—one that favors single-target spells and one that favors AOE spells. This is not unique from the divisions that exist in other classes between their AOE and single-target toolsets. A druid healing a tank might use less Rejuv and more Regrowth, while a Priest healing a raid will use less Flash Heal and more Prayer of Healing. But what makes shaman unique is that it’s not only assignment that determines our healing style, but also the design of the fight and the raid size.

As a result, it’s not uncommon to see a fight where a shaman has a “raid” healing assignment but still defers to a majority of single-target spells. Likewise, it’s not uncommon to see a distinct difference between the healing distribution of a 10-man shaman versus a 25-man shaman, even on the same fight with the same general healing assignment. It’s the ability to easily flow between these two styles, without a significant loss of throughput, that I’ve long regarded as one of the strengths (and fun elements) of the class.

As you would expect, set bonuses have struggled with how to address two very divergent playstyles. In Wrath, although inroads were made to synergize the toolsets, we still didn’t see much overlap between the two healing styles. And so, set bonuses that we might look at today and consider to be beneficial to both styles, were in fact very specialized (with the exception of T7).

Looking at the above, do you notice how, with the exception of T7, every 2pc bonus buffs Riptide while every 4pc bonus buffs Chain Heal? I have no way of knowing if this is a result of a deliberate design decision to have the sets only address those spells, but I will say that it’s quite the coincidence that it also reflects the spells which served as the core of the of two different healing styles. I remember that from Naxx until ICC, I maintained two very distinct gearsets for raiding that I would swap based on what size raid I was participating in (since, like many progression raiders, I did multiple runs a week to maximize drops, up to 4 a week during ICC). Crit/haste was for 10’s, because there I used RT-LHW/HW, while regen/haste was for 25’s, because there I used CH almost exclusively. (Because we still couldn’t get away from our iconic ability).

But in Cata we saw more spells introduced into the shaman arsenal, and as a result, the lines between those two very distinct healing styles began to blur just a slight bit. HR, our new AOE heal, was useful in some 10-man encounters, while HW and RT saw their prevalence increase in 25-man raids due to both the presence of triage and the design of certain encounters. And, assumedly because of this shift, we saw set bonuses depart a slight bit from the Wrath structure of 2pc for 10s and 4pc for 25s. Cataclysm’s set bonuses, for the most part, were ones that bridged the gap:

Of these set bonuses, I think two are really important to consider. First, Tier 12 4pc is important because of how out of place it was in a series of set bonuses that transcended raid size. T11 2pc’s crit strike on HW? Good for both raid sizes, and especially at the start of a tier that emphasized triage. T11 4pc’s more spirit/regen after Riptide? Great for both 10 and 25s, and for underscoring the importance of Ritpide in any shaman rotation. But a CH-specific bonus? Not only was this bonus out of place in 10’s, where CH is situational and hardly a staple heal, but the bonus also managed to be situational in 25’s—CH’s core audience—because almost every fight in that tier had players spreading out across big environments in response to fight mechanics which had them soaking, fleeing, moving and dodging. (Shannox, Alysrazor, Baleroc, Domo, and half of Rag, 4.5 of the 7 fights of the tier, had me using an RT-GHW/HS rotation … in 25’s!).

In stark contrast to T12 4pc, was a set bonus that I would select as my favorite over all the tiers of raiding:  Tier 13’s 4pc, which gave me a personal Bloodlust every 2 minutes. Power aside, it was usable and applicable in both raid sizes, with any rotation, and during any kind of fight. It was broadly applicable, without coaxing me to use another playstyle or go through contortions to optimize its use.


Tier 14, an Inauspicious Start

Coming off the high of Tier 13 bonuses, I think it’s reasonable to concede that almost anything short of completely OP would have been a let-down for Pandaria’s starting tier. New expansions are always a tumultuous time for players’ sentiments, as they find themselves no longer in easy farm content mode where big numbers rule, but instead back at the beginning once more, questing, leveling, gearing, farming, and learning to play their class again. It’s arguably not a time for flashy or divisive tier bonuses, and that is precisely what we got:

But the interesting thing about these tier bonuses is that, while arguably beneficial, their applicability to Resto Shamans’ two healing styles was quite disparate. To give you an idea of the differences, I pulled two WoL parses from back in December, one from a run of 10-man HM MSV and one from a subsequent week’s run of 25-man HM MSV. Looking only at data from boss kills, I tallied the total healing done from each source and then grouped it by category—single-target healing, AOE, totem healing and other. Healing done by Earthliving was distributed into the single-target and AOE healing categories based on the ratio of healing done by the category / sum of healing for both categories; Restorative Mists was left in “other”. Ultimately, when the dust settled, I was left with the following totals:

Single-tar AOE Totems Other
MSV HM 10-man 20,326,230 15,074,778 9,848,373 3,886,924
41% 31% 20% 8%
MSV HM 25-man 26,574,220 36,247,635 17,143,708 11,314,674
29% 40% 19% 12%

Admittedly, I was a little shocked to see that the percentage of healing from each source was so perfectly aligned, with single-target and AOE healing being flip-flopped between the two raid sizes. And, I was a little more shocked to find that of the single-target healing above, GHW did a similar amount of healing in each data set (5.6M in 10-man and 5.2M in 25-man). But, what I wasn’t shocked to see and what I wanted to highlight here, is the ~10% spread between the two healing styles—a spread that is actually lessened by the fact that 25-msn MSV has two fights (Stone Guard and Gara’jal) where single-target is the rotation de jour.

“But, what about a pure AOE healing fight?” you might ask, because surely on a fight where players are more grouped up and taking raid-wide damage, the healing tools for Resto Shaman in the two raid sizes should be similar. Well, I don’t have quite the options in terms of data sets for that one, but I do have a 10-man HM Vizier kill from the end of December that I can use as a reference. Compared to a HM Vizier 25-man kill a mere 6 days prior, here is the distribution of healing (using the same constraints as above):

Single-tar AOE Totems Other
Vizier HM 10-man 9,338,826 7,398,792 5,724,815 2,765,280
37% 29% 23% 11%
Vizier HM 25-man 5,354,604 9,048,507 6,670,578 4,593,827
21% 35% 26% 18%

As you can see, the spread gets even bigger—8% separates single- and multi-target heals in 10-man, but in 25-man the spread is 14%, with an even more substantial contribution coming in the form of Restorative Mists, which is what is bumping up the “Other” category so substantially. And this is on what, I think, most would consider an AOE fight that favors Resto Shaman.

In the end, the take-away from all of this should be that, these days, if a set bonus is centered on specific type of Shaman healing, then the benefit that the bonus provides in going to be noticeably inconsistent between the two raid sizes.


Tier 15 Evaluation

So, the question of the hour becomes—how should this data and these past experiences inform the set bonuses for Resto Shaman in Tier 15? Well, in light of everything I’ve just blathered on about, let’s take a look at those bonuses again:

Obviously, for shaman who have been taking care to get the most out of HST over the past tier, the T15 2pc is going to be an easy way to increase its healing done by up to 25% (not accounting for overhealing). As bonuses go, it’s a solid one that won’t tip the scales and will lend a little additional assistance through its smart healing. But, since it was announced, it has been the 4pc that has given me the most cause for concern.

(Note: I apologize for not having logs to offer at this point. I ran some of the testing and an LFR with the T15 4pc, with the intent of having some WoL examples to draw from, but WoL is having difficulties parsing the T15 logs at the moment, so I don’t have sample data to offer outside of screenshots. /sadpanda)

Firstly, I’m concerned because the success and benefit of the 4pc bonus are tied to the use of single-target heals, which as we saw in the preceding section, have very different usage percentages depending on raid size. To give you an example, if I were using the T15 4pc on this week’s HM Elite Protectors kill, my only gain would have been from potential AA procs from the initial cast of Riptide and the 3, yes only 3, single-target heals that I cast. So let’s do a little math:

  1. First, let’s look at how much the T15 4pc gives you. Assuming 20% critical chance, this means that on any single-target spell I would have an 80% chance to score a non-critical heal, which would then have a 50% chance to proc AA, which would net me a 30% heal based on the original amount. So, 0.8 x 0.5 x 0.3 = 12% increase on non-critical heals.
  2. Next, let’s look at how much of my healing in this example could have procced that 4pc. Riptide did 3,482,933 healing. Assuming that 25% of that healing done was by the initial cast and that of that portion, 20% were critical strikes, this leaves us with 3,482,933 x 0.25 x 0.8 = 696,587. Add in the three single-target heals I cast, none of which were critical strikes, and you have 818,485 total healing which could have procced a non-crit AA.
  3. This leaves us with 818,485 x 0.5 x 0.3 = 122,773 potential non-critical AA healing, which would have been a ~0.3% increase in my healing done for this encounter. In other words, I could get that same amount of throughput through the use of a single healthstone charge.

Now arguably, in this particular occasion where I am wearing the T14 4pc, that set bonus did absolutely diddly-squat for me as well. But, that’s kinda my point. Inconsistent application is going to be a given when considering healing assignments and, more importantly, varying playstyles. But inconsistent application of a 4pc set bonuses shouldn’t have a potential zero value when you’re healing “the way you should be” for a given encounter. If a paladin doesn’t have Beacon on a target and loses out on his set bonus for an entire fight, that’s not an “alternate playstyle”, that’s just lack of understanding of the class. If you’re not using Thunder Focus tea as a Mistweaver, or Rejuv as a Druid, that’s not an “alternate playstyle”, that’s just poor utilization of the tools of the class. But using a universally accepted raid-healing Resto Shaman rotation and missing out an entire set bonus as a result? I have to raise an eyebrow at that.

But, my second cause for concern, and what seems to me to be the obvious rebuttal of the example above is … what if the reason that we’re seeing our set bonus tied to single-target healing is because we can expect to see a significant amount of single-target healing across both raid sizes? Honestly, that idea worries me a lot more than missing out on a bonus because I’m using a CH-HR-RT rotation. Because, if that’s the case, then it would mean that we’re looking at another instance where spread raids are the default condition and Resto Shamans’ gimped-as-all-fucking-hell spread raid healing (in other words: single-target healing) is left to handle the load.

And, although I’ve seen only 6 of the 12 of the fights in 10-man, what I’ve seen in the large majority of those encounters are mechanics that encourage and/or force you to spread out in order to mitigate incoming damage. In that regard, the 4pc was helpful (I have screenshots of my meter showing AA between 8-12% of total healing done), but truth be told, it wasn’t enough to keep me from trailing noticeably behind other healers when players were spread. It was incredibly frustrating to be casting a GHW after raid damage went out only to see an Uplift, PoH, Cascade, WG, or LoD go off, and know that it was the far more efficient solution than the one that shamans have been working with since those early days of Wrath.



Thankfully, I don’t think we’re going to have to wait all that long to get a more complete picture of the performance of T15 across Resto’s very distinct (and applicable, natch) healing styles and across both raid sizes. 10-man testing has been plentiful thus far, although the recent forays into 10-man HM has me wondering if devs are trying to set new records for The Amount of Things that Can 1-Shot You. And the heartening thing, for those 10-man raiders who have made it thus far in this post, is that I do think the 2pc and the 4pc will be noticeably helpful.

But it remains to be seen if: a) it’s going to be enough to bolster a chronic, nagging, and insufficiently addressed weakness, and b) if the weakness will also manifest in 25s, where more specialization is possible due to larger healing teams. With 25-man testing forthcoming in the weeks before 5.2 launch, we shall see. And I’m hoping that developers will either have sufficient data to substantiate changing the T15 4pc bonus to something a bit more well-rounded or sufficient data to wave in my face while saying “We told you so”. If it’s the former, then I’d hope for something that harkens back to T11 and T13, and draws on the overarching nature of those bonuses. But if it’s the latter, then I’d hope that someone, somewhere makes a small note in the margin or maybe underlines one that already exists, saying that Resto Shaman desperately need to be rid of the yoke of being the “niche clumped up healer”. Because if more AA splash is the answer to our “spread raid” healing problems, then that should be sufficient demonstration of the gap in our arsenal, one that I’ve been pointing and yelling about long before I wrote this post in the months leading up to MoP.

Either way, I’ll be looking forward to the time ahead and the amazing instance that will house the next progression push. Because come hell, high water, Garrosh, or single-target raid healing, I’ll be there when the doors open.


  1. Sellai

    Assuming 20% critical chance, this means that on any single-target spell I would have an 80% chance to score a non-critical heal, which would then have a 50% chance to proc AA, which would net me a 30% heal based on the original amount.

    From what I’ve seen, the AA procs from 4p don’t heal for 30% but 50% of the original heal ( It’s pretty weird.

    Thanks for this post anyway, very interesting as usual.

  2. Erogash

    On spot, as always. Especially that 4-piece bonus gives me the shivers. As it is, most of my 10-man HC progress healing has been RT > HW > HW. That’s been the mantra the entire tier. The occasional HR, but the core is RT+2HW. I hate it, I want variety. Chain Heal is useless in a 10-man setting. Not enough oomph, and not mana-efficient enough. Healing Rain is good, if we stack on a dime. I heal with a paladin and a monk, and the only thing I feel like I’m bringing is insane-wtf-cooldowns. Aside from those cooldowns I don’t feel like I’m beneficial to the raid. The boring healing “rotation” from fight to fight is really bringing me down.

  3. gus

    Ugh I play loy’s of alts so after finishing my dk it was time to see what to level next either my paladin or my shaman I was strongly considering the shaman but after your comments I think I’ll level my paladin instead since last I checked they were better for single target healing situations..

  4. shammypie

    I didn’t find spread out mechanics too hard to utilize our AE healing, however i have been an advocate for the Chaining glyph where your spread distance isn’t as much of an issue and lets you turn a fully single target rotation into a half and half style save extreme spread out distances, but then again i played mostly 25 man to boot.

    I think something like the bonus we see from the chaining glyph would be a better answer for a 4pc and the in extreme spread fights we can “double” up with the glyph so that chain heal will always hit 5 targets. This way since its on our tier gear it won’t be used for PVP. Shamans don’t provide any form of mitigration so it’s not like we will ever be true tank healers. Making chain heal help us bridge the spread out disparity gap will be us a lot closer to proper consistency without OP the class.

    Personally i wouldn’t be so angry at the fight mechanics style if our single target heals did a lot more than they do now. But then I would also never use CH and probably only rely on HR for my AE heals and thus be even more angry at spread out fights.

    • shammypie

      Also i forgot to add, but i think this might be a repeat of Firelands and a lot of us going Elemental to fill in the time. However considering Elemental is literally at the bottom of the totem poll right now and getting a set of enhance gear takes a lot of work, i see many people sitting out this tier.

  5. stunchy

    Hi Vixsin,

    Another great post. Please understand that I love my shaman and I think you are a WOW goddess. However, I will still gripe as follows:

    I’m generally fine with the tier 15 bonuses (I say this as a causual 10 man raider). First, I’ll take any boost to my healing mechanics that I can get. Second, I think 25 man raiders get more than enough of the shammy’s basic tookit that favors their raid size. So I can’t really bring myself to empathize with a 25 man raider complaining that a tier bonus benefits the other raid size more than theirs. That said, I do think your assessment is spot on and it is a shame that a bonus’ usefullness is not shared better amongst both raid sizes. I’d go so far as to say that a bonus like the tier 15 bonus should be baked into the basic shaman toolkit (to give 10 man raiders a little more strength) and the tier bonus should be somethign else entirely.

    My bigger concern than the tier bonus is your comment about another spread out raid incomming. I’ve been having fun in Pandaland so far. Cooldowns, cooldowns, cooldowns, and most fights have opportunity for us to be major contributors. But I really don’t think I could stomach another Firelands scenario. I haven’t really had time for alts this expansion, but I’ve just started gearing my priest. Reading your post, I think I may step up my efforts…

  6. Very nice post, helpful info. I love playing resto shaman, it will take a really bad situation to get me to switch to another class. Sometimes I wonder if it is the percieved challenge to do well while feeling neglected by blizz that is what keeps me interested, not that that is always the case. Doesn’t help that our off specs’ are consistantly underwhelming performance wise mostly. But then other hybrids struggle with that too.

    Cheers Emp.

  7. wylhelmina

    have you got a chance to go try our next Tier 15 4 piece in a 25 raid testing Vixsin? If so where you happy with the way it work number wise?

    • Admittedly, the 25s testing has me a bit worried about the 4pc (and about the tier in general). Most of the fights that I’ve been in on thus far have fairly heavy movement and have the raid spread out. So, for almost every encounter, my top heals have been: HTT, HR, and HST, with RT maybe coming in a close 4th.

      The problem that I’m seeing is that our single-target heals simply aren’t contributing a substantial portion of our HPS. In fact, in looking though all the tests I’ve done, my biggest concern is that our active-cast spells are being completely eclipsed by our cooldowns and by simply keeping HR down. When my single-target healing on a spread encounter is only 6-8% of my overall healing done, compared to the 24-28% done by my HTT, adjusting the bonus I get from AA is going to have a very small relative impact on my overall healing done. That, in turn, leaves me very concerned about our performance on some of the fights this coming tier.

  8. Airowird

    Speaking from a 10man raiding PoV, I found the following data:
    * CH needs to hit atleast 3 targets to be of any significance. At that point it equals GHW efficiency, but still does lesser HPS. 4-target CH will equal GHW output and have an extra 20-25% efficiency (5-10% with 2pT14)
    * Riptide is an AoE-healing increase if you cast Chain Heal on it, but considering the potential overheal from focusing healing on a single person (HoT + CH initial heal), this combination is only consistently worth it on tanks in 10mans (where Riptide is also useful for keeping Ancestral Vigor up)
    * The optimal AoE healing rotation with GoCH is CH – 2xGHW & UF-HR – CH – 2xGHW & RT. RT can be replaced by any cast such as HST or ES refresh.

    Let’s name the above rotation the Glyph rotation. We’ll compare this to the ‘Spam’ rotation of UF-HR-6xCH. With CH hitting 4 targets all the time AND without any overhealing or set bonus, we get:

    Base cycles:
    * With 4 HR targets, Glyph does ~15-20% more HPS, with a ~10% efficiency loss.
    * At 6+ targets, Glyph still does ~15% more HPS, with about the same loss in efficiency.
    * 2pT14 adds ~5% efficiency to the Glyph rotation. 4p adds <5% output.

    Replacing 2 CH in the Spam rotation for 2 RT, CH only on RT targets now:
    * 4HR: Glyph has 5-10% more output, but ~10% loss in efficiency.
    * 6HR: Barely manage 5% output, 10-15% loss in efficiency.
    * Again, 2pT14 adds ~5% efficiency.

    The issue here is that in the Spam rotation, you only have 2 targets you can bounce CH off, an issue that is less of a problem with the Glyph rotation, as you can opt to only heal a Riptide target with CH and GHW other people or on the other hand, focus more healing on tanks. With only half the CH hitting a Riptide target (more realistic), Glyph roughly has 10% more output for 10% efficiency. More Riptides in the Spam rotation really doesn't seem to give any meaningful benefit.

    + Glyph rotation uses a larger portion of your toolbox, making more use of set bonuses.
    + Glyph is adjustable to the situation, by replacing GHW by either HW or HS.
    + Glyph loses less HPS when nudging in totems, ES refresh etc.
    + Glyph allows people to spread out more on fights.
    – Glyph requires more CD & TW buff tracking.
    – Spam rotation is easier to … well, spam!

    Realisticly, it seems the GoCH will becomes somewhat mandatory, especially with the set bonus design as it currently is.

    Just my 2 cents, I have more data & spreadsheets for the detailed math if you need it.

  9. Kevhore

    I haven’t seen you mention this in your newer post, but I believe (and it definitely was live on the PTR at one point) that the AA proc from T15 4-piece is 50% of the non-crit heal, instead of 30% like AA normally is.

    I believe this is because 50% of a non-crit heal = 30% of the same heal if it was a crit. However, I’m math impaired so maybe not.

    Did you have evidence to prove/disprove this? It is what I’m assuming is going live at this point.

    • Hrm, as far as I’m aware, T15’s proposed bonus never modified the amount you received from AA, only the proc chance on non-critical heals. (EG: the original T15 4pc specified a proc chance of 20% on non-critical heals –

      As far as the potential heal, if the base amount of a heal is 10k, it will crit for 20k (technically 20,300 if you’re using the Revitalizing meta). If the proc amount was 50% for a non-crit and 30% for a crit, the math would be:

      – Non-crit heal: 10,000 x 0.5 = 5,000
      – Crit heal: 20,000 x 0.3 = 6,000

      I don’t have any logs at the moment showing the 4pc in action (I might have some from PTR testing that I can upload when I get home), but I don’t see any reason to assume that the 30% AA multiplier would change given the set bonus.

  10. Liirin

    So glad I was able to come across your website, as I have been looking for awhile for some good resto shaman input but always seemed to be hiding in obscure locations. More importantly now I don’t feel as bad after reading this post about why I felt like I was doing something wrong on our Council attempts last week. I am new to main speccing reso for Mists though have played a shaman for a long time now. After looking at numbers and trying to adjust my glyphs or which healing spells I was using last week now I can see why I was feeling slightly gimped.

    Now that you have gotten to see more on live are some of your concerns in this article still coming to light? Also if things have changed if you have been able to get 2pc at least yet? Thank you for such a great site and I hope to keep utilizing it in my search to keep healing better!

  11. JR

    As a 10 man raider pushing heroic progression on ToT, I find myself as just an added body. Our group decided to use a 3 healing comp with a Hpla+Disc+Me(Rsham). I don’t like 3 healing with this comp. Basically It makes me a back up healer who provides mana and cooldowns. I have to constantly call for raid stacks and immediate spreads which puts an unbelievable hindrance on dps who don’t know a fight inside and out.

    On fights where i can prepare for raid damage, with this healing comp, i like to glyph riptide as it reduces my overhealing (not leaving me with a random 60+k riptide into a complete CH overheal on my primary target because all the other healers like to show off their numbers.)

    I would like to point out that with the AS talent i hit 25% haste, and 25% crit, while unfortunately maintaining only about 45% mastery and 12.5k spirit raid buffed. this down from 16.4k spirit raid buffed, 25% crit, 48% mastery, and 12ish% haste.

    really hoping haste crit builds will be viable going into 6/12 hmode.

  12. Unmei

    As a resto shaman in 10 man with a holy paly and a disc priest, the difficulty of healing in 10 is very clear. I am hoping the 4 piece bonus helps that out since MOST of what I am foing in ToT is spread and very much a situation for when things go bad.
    Been healing since BC, and never before have I tried so much stuff with my gear, more haste, more crit, more mastery, trying to find what actually does it. Complicated even more by we HAVE an ele shaman in our 10 man, even in that case, I am the swicth from heals to DPS. My frustration with the 4 piece bonus, for those of us in 10 mans already realizing how much single target we’re doing who are using resurgence a lot, is this going to make us need to lower out crit? I dunno. Maybe this is why they made it so easy to use a reforge mount in tot 😛

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