About a month or so ago, during some down time at the end of my day, I wandered onto the MMO-Champion Shaman forums ready to answer some questions and, instead, walked away with one of my own. As I detailed in a previous post, it’s been my joy as a healer in WotLK to have maintained a fairly consistent spec since xpac release. I think most resto shaman are in this same boat—by and large we could spec resto in our sleep (and debate the value of Elemental Weapons while snoring away!) And so it was with some reticence that I allowed the forum post’s question to marinate in my draft topics folder, until the point when I could finally articulate an answer. The question at hand—what is the value of Tidal Force?
Sandwiched between Ancestral Healing and Healing Focus, Tidal Force hasn’t been a hot button of debate nor a talent that has undergone much revision since release of Wrath. It’s a staple of most shaman builds; a talent chosen by ~95% of our healing brethren according to Armory Data Mining. But to be quite frank, I can’t remember the last time I thought “Oh, thank goodness for Tidal Force!” If there’s anything I’m guilty of, it’s forgetting that I have this tool at my disposal.
So if you’re like me and need a refresher on this wallflower of a spell, here’s the basic gist:
When cast, TF places a buff on the player with 3 stacks of a crit modifier; each stack increases the critical effect chance of Lesser Healing Wave, Healing Wave, and Chain Heal by 20%. Every time one of these spells crit, the stack is reduced by one. This means that after one crit the effect is reduced to +40%, after two it is reduced to +20%, and after three crits the buff is removed. Remember, that each of these spells has a different crit percentage associated with it, so even at reduced stacks of TF, LHW will be close to, if not at, 100% crit.
In a 6-minute ICC fight, with its 2min CD, you’re likely going to have opportunity to use TF once or twice during the encounter. But then the questions becomes, what should you use those precious crit buffs with?
TF + LHW/HW
The Nature’s Swiftness + TF + HW macro is generally where resto shamans relegate their oft-overlooked 11-point talent. With that much incredible healing power all at once, HW and the two subsequent spells are almost guaranteed crits. Provided that you don’t use TF to spam overheal the tank, NS + TF + HW + RT + HWx2 can top off a double tank pair in around 4 seconds, giving you a wonderful way to swoop in with 25k+ bombs and save the day while your anxious raider of choice (every guild has one, believe you me) screams into vent “Heal the tank!”
As powerhouse combinations go, NS + TF is a life-saver, but the thing about tools like NS (and Lay on Hands) is that, more often than not, they sit on your bars or in your spellbook waiting for the ideal moment of use. So in a clean kill or run where a quick insta-heal isn’t needed, the net impact of TF is exactly 0 HEP.
TF + CH
Although TF is, as described above, commonly used in conjunction with single-target spells, it can be equally if not more powerful when used in conjunction with CH. But bear in mind that since CH has a separate chance to crit on each target, it will remove one charge from the buff for each target it crits on. If the spell crits on all three (or four) CH targets, it will immediately consume all three charges of the TF buff. A good example of this effect can be found in the combat logs from a recent hardmode Sindragosa kill:
[23:35:37.972] Vixsyn casts Tidal Force [23:35:37.972] Vixsyn gains Tidal Force from Vixsyn [23:35:37.972] Vixsyn gains Tidal Force (2) from Vixsyn [23:35:37.972] Vixsyn gains Tidal Force (3) from Vixsyn [23:35:37.972] Vixsyn gains Tidal Force from Vixsyn [23:35:37.972] Vixsyn begins to cast Chain Heal [23:35:39.275] Vixsyn Chain Heal Mov +*3031* [23:35:39.275] Vixsyn Chain Heal Lazzek +*5266* [23:35:39.275] Vixsyn Chain Heal Evinald +*8442* [23:35:39.275] Vixsyn Chain Heal Toccata +*13929* [23:35:39.656] Vixsyn's Tidal Force (2) fades [23:35:39.656] Vixsyn's Tidal Force (1) fades [23:35:39.656] Vixsyn's Tidal Force fades [23:35:39.969] Vixsyn's Tidal Force fades (And yeah, that is 0% overheal you’re seeing … hardmode is yeah, hard)
So, the use of Tidal Force with this cast of CH netted three sources of increased healing. First, the crit on the initial heal increased the base amount used to calculate subsequent CH jumps. Secondarily, the crits themselves netted me an additional increase in output. And lastly, 4 critical hits of CH, because of my 4pc t10, netted me an additional 7668 (758 + 1317 + 2111 + 3482) of healing. Now it’s important to note that this last jump in healing output is solely attributable to t10 4piece, and without it, the benefit to TF + CH would be restricted to only the first two gains.
As 11-point talents go, it’s not a bad one to have. Akin to Inner Focus or Desperate Prayer (or Divine Favor, an expensive 21-point version), it’s an added boost in a time of need, but not a game-breaker when the proverbial stuff hits the fan. To give you an idea how beneficial it actually is, in terms of HEP, I combed through the past month and a half of reports on EJ’s Shaman HEP thread to collect a sampling of HEP weights (on reports between 2 and 6 hours in length). The table below shows the results.
In reviewing this sampling, there are several points which stand out. At first glance, the range of HEP values is pretty wide; but looking a little deeper there does seem to be a correlation between usage (shown by “Use Rank”, with 1 being an indicator of the least frequent usage) and the HEP value (shown by ranking in “HEP Rank”, with 1 being an indicator of the lowest HEP value reported). So, although the sample set is relatively small, the data would seem to suggest that the more you use TF, the more value you get out of it. So all of us “but need to save it, just in case!” players are really cheating ourselves out of bigger healing numbers.
Secondarily, you can see that suffering from a case of “bad” TF timing is a possibility—Line C is a prime example. Although the player demonstrated an above average Use Rank, his HEP Ranking was only 3rd, over 400% less than the max recorded value and almost half the average recorded HEP value. So the second lesson would be—timing still matters.
The last point to take away is that for an 11-point talent, TF has a definite and demonstrated capacity to enhance your performance. With an average value of ~28 HEP, and upwards values tracking as high as 65 HEP, I think it’s safe to safe that you can get more than your money’s worth out of such a measly talent point. But again, it falls on the player to remember that TF isn’t just for use once in a blue moon and that it can be a viable CD to interweave into any encounter.
So, to the MMO-Champion forum poster who questioned if TF was worth the one point investment, I can now confidently reply … Tidal Force can be more valuable than your meta, but only if you put the effort into making it so. And for me, that means getting over my “but I might need it” tendencies and weaving TF in every place I can.