At around 12:30pm yesterday afternoon, a loud <THUNK> was heard from the Resto Shaman community as jaws hit the floor and tall blue trolls fainted dead away from excitement. Unless you are living under a rock, you know that yesterday Blizzard released its teaser on what Cataclysm has in store for the shaman class. So, instead of depressing you with cautionary tales and statistics on how many Blizzard “concepts” hit the floor during testing, let’s just take a look at what all the fuss is about. (Sorry enhancement and elemental friends, I’m just interested in healing here!)
New Shaman Spells
Primal Strike (available at level 3): Primal Strike is a new weapon-based attack that every shaman will learn very early in the game. Our goal with this ability is to make leveling as Enhancement rather than as Elemental more viable, since many key Enhancement talents become available at fairly high levels.
Don’t care! Get to the resto stuff!
Healing Wave (level 4): While the shaman already has an ability called Healing Wave, we’re adding another spell to the class’s direct-healing arsenal and giving it a familiar name. The current Healing Wave will be renamed Greater Healing Wave, and the intent is for the “new” Healing Wave to be the shaman’s go-to heal. Lesser Healing Wave and Greater Healing Wave will be used on a more situational basis.
This reminds me of the priest’s single-target healing arsenal, with Flash Heal, Heal and Greater Heal. And while I appreciate the varying single-target selections it affords us, I know that (as Blizzard expects) towards the end of Cata, HW will become incredibly unused middle-of-the-road spell. However, if CH remains largely unmodified (in terms of relative mana cost and distance of the jump) the reduced applicability of LHW might mean that shamans will once again turn to CH as their base cast, favoring the potential for greater healing over fast reaction time. Remember, Blizz has stated that damage won’t be as spikey or healing as binary, so I would question why we would choose a low HPS spell even if only one person is in need of healing.
Another thing to note is that the cast time difference between LHW and HW currently isn’t that disparate, so it would seem likely that we might see some base cast time modification to further differentiate our 3 single-target spells. In which case, tank healing then becomes a race to obtain enough regen to sustain high throughput for as long as possible. I wonder, will we return to the days of Int/Spirit stacking to compensate?
Unleash Weapon (level 81): Unleashes the power of your weapon enchants for additional effects (see below). A dual-wielding Enhancement shaman will activate the effects of both of their weapon enchants. Instant cast. 30-yard range. 15-second cooldown. Undispellable.
Earthliving Weapon – Heals the target slightly and buffs the shaman’s next healing spell by 20%.
I’m not so sure how I feel about this one, though I do note that shaman who have been maintaining relic (Totem of Shattered Ice) or Trinket (DFO) uptime through ICC will need less practice than the rest of us at interweaving buff spells with healing ones. A CD of 15 seconds seems very frequent, almost RT frequent, so I’m wondering if they’re planning on eliminating the instant-cast precursor spell we currently have in favor of this pseudo-judgement system. While I appreciate that they’re taking a page from the Resto T10 manual (using an instant cast to buff a subsequent spell), the problem that I see is that in intense healing environments it’s currently a significant drop in output to stop to cast RT, so I imagine it will come down to some HPS/mana theorycrafting on the usefulness and appropriate timing of the Unleash Weapon mechanic.
Healing Rain (level 83): An area-effect heal-over-time (HoT) spell that calls down rain in a selected area, healing all players within it. There is no limit to the number of players who can potentially be affected; however, there are diminishing returns when healing a large number of targets, much like the diminishing returns associated with AoE damage spells. This should give Restoration shaman another healing tool that improves their group-healing and heal-over-time capabilities. 2-second cast time. 30-yard range. 10-second duration. 10-second cooldown.
Not, not, NOT, psyched that this is AE. One of shamans’ major problems through this xpac has been our ability to deal with distributed raid damage over a very spread-out raid. Although I will note that with a 10-second duration and CD, this could equate to a rolling hot on the raid. So, it has good potential for frequency of use but I would imagine the there will be some limitations introduced to keep this from becoming the crux of a shaman healing “rotation” (Ghostcrawler has previously expressed concern over CoH/WG popularity and usage, so I would imagine that Blizzard isn’t about to introduce something that turns shamans in CoH priests, limiting us to using HR every 10 seconds).
In addition, I’m concerned over the additional emphasis this is going to place on raid positioning and grouping, but more than that I emphatically HATE manual target AE spells because they have issues on every unlevel surface out there, and as a healing spell, it would be horrendous to try to position an area target while operating in a dynamic environment (moving and positioning your camera for example). I genuinely hope they make this targetable off of a raid/party member or else work on projected and terrain textures. If you’ve ever tried to Blizzard in Vexaz’s room, or thunderclap on a set of stairs, or CH up a ramp, you know that terrain LoS can be a problem even in the most innocuous of circumstances. And while a slight annoyance is acceptable when trying to, for example mass dispel sparks off of melee, if I need to attempt to manually target areas during a boss encounter once every 10 seconds, I might need to sound proof my walls a bit more lest my neighbors start complaining about my nerdrage.
Spiritwalker’s Grace (level 85): When this self-targeted buff is active, your spells are no longer interrupted by movement and possibly even by your own attacks. This will give shaman of all three specs another way to heal or do damage when it’s necessary to move in both PvE and PvP. Instant cast. 10-second duration. 2-minute cooldown.
(NOTE: the ability is instant-cast, the subsequent spells are not.) This is definitely a step towards dealing with shaman mobility issues, which I applaud. And while this will likely make me even happier that I switched to Clique (strafing and hitting keybinds at the same time FTL), I’m concerned that Spiritwalker has limited applicability. As it currently exists, it provides absolutely zero benefit in tank-and-spank fights. And in movement fights, healing while traveling has become an ideal time for NS or for stutter stepping in ~2sec intervals. So while good in concept (especially for Elemental shaman) I’m not sure I see it making a huge difference in resto. And again, I’ll reiterate my previous concern that while this would work incredibly well with NR, targeting an AE while on the move and under pressure is not my idea of a good time.
Changes to Abilities and Mechanics
Restoration shaman and other healing classes will need to pay attention to mana more than they’ve had to during Wrath of the Lich King. Spirit will be the Restoration shaman’s primary mana-regeneration stat.
*sigh* I would love to know these limitless mana Shaman they’re talking about. Moreover the fact that Blizzard keeps making the shaman-will-use-spirit statement as if to drive it home, makes me concerned about how much of a shock it will be. I do think it will be interesting to see how Water Shield is adapted to the Spirit mechanic, since it is currently a primary source of regen based solely in the mana per 5sec model. Frankly, it would be amazing if our WS scaled with gear level, but it’s highly unlikely since regen is more plentiful at higher gear levels anyway.
We’re making changes to which classes and specs are able to dispel magic, diseases, curses, and poison, largely for PvP purposes. Shaman will have Cleanse Spirit as a baseline ability, but it will only remove curses. Restoration shaman will have a talent that will improve Cleanse Spirit so that it also removes magic. Shaman will no longer be able to remove poison.
As GC mentioned, the PVP ramifications of this are huge. From a PVE perspective, so long as all the major fight effects are magic, I’m not going to sweat it. I’ll patch Decursive and move on.
Cleansing Totem will be removed from the game, as we want dispels to be a decision for players, not something done mindlessly. To that end, all dispels will cost slightly more mana, and you will waste the spell if you cast it when there is nothing to remove. (Currently, the dispel is only cast when there is something to remove, which encourages spamming “just in case.”) We will balance PvE dispelling with this new model in mind.
Cleansing totem, you will be missed. You kept me from wasting GCDs that I’m now going to have to use.
Totem of Wrath now will replace Flametongue Totem for all shaman, and dropping this totem will buff the group’s spell power by 4%. Elemental shaman will have a talent that lets all Fire totems provide +10% spell power, allowing them to drop Searing, Magma, or Fire Elemental Totems without losing their spell-damage buff. The 4% and 10% buffs will be exclusive with each other and with the warlock’s Demonic Pact, so you can’t benefit from all of them at once. We’re also considering letting Elemental drop Searing Totem at range.
Elementals should be very excited about the dropping totems at range idea as it will keep them from losing dps due to travel time in and out of melee. For restos, and this is a slight tangent, I’m still not very psyched about the fire totems. I really would like to see a complimentary totem, maybe that was party-only and on CD like Mana Tide, that resto shaman could use to further buff their group and which would distinguish us from our Elemental kin.
New Talents and Talent Changes
Spirit Link will likely be worked back into deep Restoration in some form. The idea is that you will be able to link targets together so they share damage. When we had previously tried to implement Spirit Link, it was hard to balance and a little confusing. However, we really liked the concept — and so did players — so we are trying to bring it back.
Spirit Link!! Although at first I read this thinking that Blizzard might go back to the pre-wrath model, I’m hoping that isn’t the case. Were it to be implemented in a way similar to Beacon, Spirit Link would simply replicate the problem that raids run into on heavy hitting dual tank fights when they lack a paladin or two. And while I’d love the chance to further flex my skills as a tank healer, raid stacking is definitely a thing of the past. What is a more exciting idea to entertain is that Spirit Link could be reworked into the CD that shaman have been hoping for, similar to a Divine Sac for tanks but unique in the way that it doesn’t prevent damage but simply evens it out a bit more. So if your tank would typically pop a CD to deal with an insane amount of incoming damage (Soul Reaper or high stacks of Gaseous Bloat, for example) you could use Spirit Link to distribute that damage to the raid and save your tank or other raiders from [squish].
Elemental will have a deep talent that allows Spirit (which will appear on the gear they share with Restoration shaman) to boost their Hit rating.
I’m really psyched about this change because it will make building offsets that much easier (although I’m sure dps trinkets will still be in rare supply).
Ancestral Knowledge will boost mana pool size, not Intellect.
Booooooo. I guess we can take AK out of the calculation for spellpower and Int effects then.
With the Mastery system, we’re also considering removing a number of talents that grant passive bonuses, such as Mental Quickness, Improved Windfury Totem, Mental Dexterity, Call of Thunder, Tidal Mastery, Purification, Nature’s Blessing, and others, to allow players more freedom to choose more interesting talents.
With passive increases making up a good number of the Resto talent choices (and some in our typical enhancement subspec as well) it seems as if we could be in for some new and interesting talents.
Mastery Passive Talent Tree Bonuses
- Spell damage
- Spell Crit
- Elemental Overload
From just the mastery bonuses, it would seem that Restos will be shifting their sub-set into Elem and away from Enhancement. If that’s the case, then I hope they retool the Elem tree with this in mind so that the lower point talents have an appropriate benefit for healers and eles. Update: Mastery bonuses apply to one tree only, tied to the tree in which you invest the most points. Well shoot.
- Melee damage
- Melee Haste
- Nature Damage
- Deep Healing
- Deep Healing: Your direct heals will do more healing when the target’s health is lower. This will scale to damage (e.g. someone at 29% health would receive more healing than someone at 30%) rather than have arbitrary break points.
I’m really skeptical about the benefits of this one, because it’s been my past experience that bonuses based on diminished health rarely come into play at their “powerful” levels. (Wasn’t this one of the reasons they removed the health scaling effect from Berserking?) Aside from seeming counter-intuitive from a healing perspective– I shouldn’t want someone to be at lower health because it means better HPS— it also makes my HPS dependant on the capabilities of my healing team to raise a group to near full. Not only that, this sounds very challenging to reasonably balance with other mastery bonuses simply because the sliding scale effect will need to assume an average raid health level to determine a comparable mastery bonus. First, consider that the effect would have to be multiplicative in nature because an exponential increase in scaling would mean that you could quickly bring a low health player back to full with comparatively the same effort. So, with a multiplicative effect, the mastery multiplier would have to start and end fairly low, which means that scaling would be nominal indeed. Also, when compared with a dps who gets a scaling 5% increase consistently through their mastery, a conditional mastery bonus would only further skew our performance on aoe-heavy fights and hamper our output on encounters with snipe or limited damage mechanics. Lastly, from a theorycrafting perspective, this creates a huge divide between modeling and reality, since you will always have to have an assumption about general raid health levels to calculate output. I sincerely hope Blizzard ditches this in favor of something that’s more easily scalable and predictable. I really shouldn’t have to do a mini mental calculation based on the target’s health every time I make a selection of what heal to use.
In summary …
In all, I’m pleased with the information that Blizzard has provided us with on the upcoming Cataclysm Shaman changes. While I may not agree 100% with the direction they’re headed, I’m at least grateful that they’ve chosen to share some of their design ideas with us. And, I know these changes are only the tip of the iceberg. Some of the things that they didn’t touch on:
- Chain Heal. It was completely absent from the above discussion, whether because they were focusing on new mechanics or because they didn’t want to set off a firestorm. With HR at a 2sec cast time, one would think it would be the better choice when trying to address raid healing. It’s very worrisome … am I going to have to edit all of my WotLK posts which cite CH as our iconic ability?
- Riptide. As I mentioned previously, with the introduction of the Unleash Weapon talent, Blizzard seems to be setting up the spell to be our “use on CD” personal buff, which when considering that it’s also a healing effect too means that it overlaps quite significantly with our RT niche. I’m hoping this doesn’t mean that our 51pt Resto talent is on the chopping block.
- Synergy. I’ve always said that we have a very complimentary toolbox in that our limited grouping of spells all work really well together. I’m hoping that this design philosophy, where spell sequencing matters but isn’t a game-breaker, continues into the next xpac.
- Restorative Totems. Can we have Healing + Mana Spring Stream Flowing River of Stuffz yet please?!
- Mana Tide. I hope to gracious this is on the list of items to address. MT is incredibly underpowered when compared to other healer regen sources and as the only personal source of regen for restos, I’ve always chaffed at the idea of having to suffer through reduced value because I’m forced to share.
Ultimately, this preview leaves me wondering … is this the type of teaser trailer where they put all the good stuff in and then when I see the movie I realize that the only funny bits were in that 2min trailer? Or … is this a sign that I should pay to see the IMAX version of Cataclysm even though the ticket prices are insane and the glasses smell like cheese? Either way, I’ll still be standing in line for midnight release.