I always enjoy the first weeks after the Christmas holiday, not only because my work slows down as clients take their holiday vacations, but also because all of the fuss of the preceding month(s) finally comes to an end. But this year, I had no respite from the anxious crowds—WoW’s Christmas season was (and is) still in full effect. Everywhere I turn, players are oogling new epics brought in with patch 3.3, newly-minted 80s are chattering about the must-haves of the season, and everyone is assembling their own shopping list of drops and badge purchases. Silent prayers are being muttered—“Please Saurfang, drop that shiny trinket that I want and make me the only person in raid who can use it,”—and players excited to see new items start frantically clicking bosses’ bodies before they even hit the ground. And as adamant as I am about not issuing a Best in Slot list, I must say that in the spirit of it all, it seems a little crotchety to not give a nod to some of the notable pieces from ICC.
But first, a disclaimer!
DISCLAIMER: I LOATHE BIS LISTS FOR HEALERS, BY VIRTUE OF THE FACT THAT THERE IS NO PENULTIMATE SET THAT WILL APPLY TO EVERY BLOODY FIGHT. THE STATS YOU NEED FOR A 1-MINUTE FIGHT WITH RABID BURST DAMAGE ARE NOT THE SAME AS THE ONES YOU SHOULD PRIORITIZE FOR A 10-MINUTE FIGHT WITH CONTINUOUS RAID DAMAGE. IF THE TERM “HEALING BIS” FELL OFF THE FACE OF THE PLANET I WOULD REJOICE AND HAVE CAKE TO CELEBRATE.
Okay, now that that’s out of my system, we can get down to business. At the onset of ICC, I posted about the need for resto shaman to start saving their frost badges, in anticipation of having a number of quality badge and tier pieces to purchase. And now that I picked up my 2-piece this week— helm and shoulders, to replace the elemental set pieces I’ve been using in my resto set—I’ve been paying slightly more attention to gear. Why start looking a month after instance release, you ask? My answer: because I think it’s wise to get a feel for the fights before I start planning about how to gear for them. How much my mana is tested, how much throughput I feel I need, and what my spell distribution is, will all play factors in which stats I prioritize. And with a full 10 weeks of normal modes, I should be able to set myself up nicely for the hard modes to follow.
Step 1: The base lists
My first stop in evaluating any new instance or zone full of gear is simply to get a handle on what’s available (including cloth or leather items). I actually did this pre-work when looking at my upgrade progression into t10, so I know right off the bat that I’m going to be undergoing some slight stat shifts from the tier alone. Then, after giving it all the once-over, I started polling some of the BiS lists out there. From two notable sources on the EJ forums, came the following (the Wowhead comparison of which be found here.)
Step 2: Evaluation
Normally, this would be the most fun step—I’d import Vixsin into chardev.org and be on my way to building multiple comparison sets. But, with CharDev’s author slightly absentee these days, this time around I resorted to putting everything I could into an excel spreadsheet and working from there. To provide a basis for comparison, I did’t look at enchants and I assumed (unless otherwise stated) the same gemming strategy throughout. So, base stats of the aforementioned two sets are shown in the chart below (with the complete comparison between all gearsets found here, shown in order of Set 1-4.)
As you would imagine, both sets prioritize haste over all other stats, and have an almost 2:1 ratio of haste to crit. Because of this, you might immediately jump on Set 1 as the best of the best because of its high haste value. However, looking in closer detail at Set 1, you should notice two things: first, it has 64 less crit and 53 less spell power, and second, it will put you over the haste cap on LHW. This is even more important when you consider that Shaman’s T10 set bonus is 20% spell haste after an RT, which when I tested it last night, brought my LHW down to 0.9 sec in my ~900 haste single-target healing set. If you use the LHW haste cap (1268 haste) as the max haste level, this means that even before enchants you are essentially wasting 70 haste by being over the cap. When the difference between the sets is only 139 points, this also means that you have a 50% loss on your haste investment.
To put this in terms of the investment differential between Set 1 and Set 2, let’s talk in HEP. If I were to utilize the HEP values generated from one of my last fights in ICC (which places Haste at 1.7, Crit at 0.9 and Sp at 1 HEP, for a snipe-healing encounter), the comparison would be 117 HEP versus 110 HEP in favor of Set 1. However, given that I was wearing the t10 2piece, which my Shaman HEP did not yet support, I would estimate that upon re-evaluation, the value of haste would drop to the point where the combined differential of Set 2 would overtake the haste benefit Set 1. (Recent conjecture on EJ’s Shaman forums seems to support this hypothesis, with some reporting significantly decreased haste HEP ratings.) So, if you’re a LHW fan like me and therefore limited by the LHW haste cap, Set 2 seems like it could be the better option.
However, if we look at the values of these sets with regards to CH and HW, the perspective shifts. Set 1’s additional 139 haste will fully benefit your CH, dropping it down to a ~1.6 sec cast time. Your HW will also drop down to a ~1.2sec cast time (with TW), and would easily reach the GCD with the t10 2-piece bonus. Combined with Healing Way, this would amount to a potential 20k+ healing bomb in under 1sec. Even a LHW enthusiast would have to admit, that’s not too shabby at all.
But … and this is one hell of a but … both of these sets absolutely shock me with how much regen they don’t have. At 259 and 241 mp5 respectively, Sets 1 and 2 come in at 164/182 under the 423mp5 I have in my CH-spam set (with unprocced double-solaces). In terms of single-target healing, they fare a little better against my 296 mp5 in my crit-heavy set. Now I will admit, I am definitely at the top end of the spectrum when it comes to mana consumption. But with Festergut25 (normal) testing the limits of my CH-spam longevity this week, I can only imagine what the hard mode encounter will do to me if I elect for reduced regen.
Step 3: Application
As I’m sure most would concede, the goal of a BiS list is to optimize your contribution to the raid on a specific set of encounters. And, as I noted in my disclaimer, not every fight has the same characteristics. For resto shaman, our stat preferences vary, to some degree, based on what type of rotation we’re using—CH will encourage more haste with less crit and spellpower, while single-target healing benefits more from the latter two stats and *comparatively* less from the former. However, given that some players may not have the luxury of time or free access to all available with loot, a more reasonable option might be to pursue a gearset that doesn’t excel significantly in one such stat category, assuring that your gear will be applicable to all situations. Gearsets 1 and 2 actually accomplish this happy medium, with Set 2 looking a little more “middle of the road” than the haste-heavy Set 1.
To give you an even broader view of your options, let’s take a look at my “pick list” for both my haste-based set and my crit one (my thanks to Zigi over at Twenty-Five boxes for penning such an appropriate phrase, so that I can phase out BiS from my vocabulary.) The comparison of my two sets and the aforementioned ones can be found here.
As you can see, Set 3 is designed around higher haste values and, accordingly, much higher mp5, and can drop regen for throughput items as the fight demands. Set 4, on the other hand, is built around maximizing sp and crit while staying close to the LHW haste cap. Gemming in this set deviates slightly from the established resto shaman norm of “haste everywhere”, and takes a page from EJ’s Guild Leader’s strategy of using Reckless Monarch Topazes (12sp/10haste) to provide more power to single-target healing.
As a player who doesn’t often find luck on my side, the above pick lists are very likely to change and adapt in the coming months as I try to work around the fact that, for example, Binding of the Ice Burrower hasn’t dropped for my guild since TOGC was released while Sabatons of Tremoring Earth drop every bloody week. And it absolutely is possible that I might end up in a set similar to those offered up by Gwaiihir and Stassart, because, make no mistake, they definitely do know what they’re talking about when it comes to gear. But hopefully, I’ve at least managed to illustrate that even though Taurens and Belfs wear the same size shoes, when it comes to healing, it definitely isn’t one gearset fits all.