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Cataclysm Changes for Shamans

March 1, 2010

We’ve known for a while now that Cataclysm is going to revamp our stats, with the goal of removing some unnecessarily complicated stats.  Blizzard has just given a much more detailed overview of these changes, which you can check out at MMO Champion here.

First, the most stunning change for us resto shamans:

MP5 – This stat will be removed from the game completely. Holy paladins and Restoration shaman will be redesigned to benefit from Spirit.

I think I had heard this was happening, but seeing it in blue text kind of drives it home.  It’s going to take some time to get used to this one.  I liked Mp5.  It made sense to me, and seeing it on mail gear pretty much meant: this is resto shaman gear, you should roll on this!  We’ll probably see the same thing happen to mail gear with spirit now, but at the moment that just sounds kind of gross.  In the end, however, as long as they give us a talent that properly converts spirit into useful mana regen, I don’t think we’ll miss our Mp5.

Spell Power – Spell Power is another stat that you’ll no longer see present on most items. Instead, as mentioned above, Intellect will grant Spell Power. One exception is that caster weapons will still have Spell Power. This allows us to make weapons proportionately more powerful for casters in the same way they are for melee classes.

Intellect will now provide most of our Spell Power, so this doesn’t seem like too much of a change in practice.  Intellect will also grant less mana.  I’m not seeing anything that is going to provide more mana, while the post does mention that they are changing mana regen mechanics.  As a result, my guess is that managing our mana will become much more of a problem, but we’ll just have to wait and see.  

We are likely to get a pre-Cataclysm patch that overhauls our existing gear and talents to align with this new system.  Here’s what Blizzard says:

If you are a healer, expect to see: 

  • A lot more Stamina. 
  • All of your Spell Power converted to Intellect and Stamina. 
  • Spirit instead of MP5. You’ll probably be happy with Spirit, though, because mana regen is going to matter more than it does currently. Healing paladins and shaman will benefit more from Spirit than they do currently.

More stamina is good, but it may just mean we see more raid damage in Cataclysm encounters.  So, I wouldn’t necessarily expect more survivability.  The spell power to intellect conversion will hopefully be seamless.  I wouldn’t go changing all your gems over to Intellect or anything; I’d wait and see how this shakes out.

Finally, there’s an interesting change for Elemental shamans, which is now my offspec.  Apparently, Elemental shamans and Balance druids will also see spirit on their gear (while all other ranged DPS will not).  They will have a talent to convert spirit to hit.  This means that we will compete directly with them for our gear.  

My first reaction is that this will leave Elemental shamans out in the cold because raid leaders will want the “healing gear” to go to the healers.  However, it probably can’t get worse for Elemental shamans.  Right now us Restos get all the Mp5 gear we want, and then we also roll against them on the mail haste/crit gear, since it is often better for our throughput.  At least with this change, we’ll all be going after the same gear, and raid leaders will just have to adjust.  

I notice there’s no mention of shadow priests.  I assume the plan is to have one set of mail gear for casters, and one for DPS.  The caster gear will have intellect and spirit, which healers will turn into regen and DPS will turn into hit.  Same story with the leather gear.  Cloth will likely have two sets of caster gear: intellect only for DPS and intellect and spirit for healers.  This makes some sense, since mages and locks also need cloth gear, but leather and mail each have one DPS class and one healing class, so this is a way to consolidate gear.

Now that Blizzard has come out with these details, expect more info to follow, and more speculation all over the place.  It will take some time to adjust to these changes for sure.  For now, I’d say you should acquire gear as normal, and play the game that we have.  But, this is definitely getting me excited for Cataclysm!

Resto Shaman UI and Addon Advice

March 1, 2010

There’s no perfect way to set up your UI, so let’s set that up as a ground rule right away.  Some people really hate addons, and think using them is “cheating.”  Those people have likely never raided as a healer.  Healing with the default UI provided by blizzard is going to hold back your performance.  Yes, you can heal with it, and if you set up mouseover macros, you can even heal well by dragging the default raid frames on to your screen.  But, I don’t think you’ll ever heal as well as someone using Grid, Healbot or VuhDo, customized to their character, because you just can’t get the same amount of information on your screen in an easy to digest format.

Once you decide to leave the default UI, you’ll find that tweaking your UI is a never-ending process, and can be a fun part of the “meta game” by itself.  My goals for a great healing UI are to present all the information I need in a concise area around my character, without cluttering things up, so I can still see what’s happening around me.  I also try to avoid presenting information that I don’t need, and enjoy keeping things clean for both performance and aesthetic reasons.  I try to limit memory usage as much as possible, because I don’t want to impact my FPS or connection stability during a raid.  That said, I don’t think I’m on the cutting edge of UI setup.  I’m just taking stock addons and arranging them in a way that works for me, which is something anyone reading this can do.

Here’s a picture of my raid UI in “setup” mode, so you can see how everything looks, roughly, during a boss fight.  When I’m raiding, I always forget to take a screenshot for this post.  If I can remember I’ll update this with a live action shot later! :)

Setting up Grid is a project in itself, which I cover here.  As a healer, I enjoy having Grid in a prominent position right below my character.  It’s the foundation of my UI.

Clique is an addon that basically creates mouseover macros for you and allows you to heal by clicking on your Grid frames.  If mouseover macros are your thing, I say go for it.  I just find Clique a bit easier to manage and would recommend it for all new resto shamans.  Setting up Clique is for the most part self-explanatory.  In the future I’ll try to make a post going into some of the finer points of using this addon.

I like to keep my cast bar right below my character, since I pretty much always want to be casting.  I use Quartz, which is highly customizable and shows me a latency range at the end of my cast bar.  I know that I can start my next cast once my current spell hits this range, and it will start right after the current cast finishes.  Always having a spell casting is key to maximizing your throughput, and this setup helps me do that.  I have my target’s cast bar just off the right of mine.  It’s the grey bar in the screenshot above.  I’m sure other cast bars can handle the job, but Quartz has been working for me all throughout Wrath.

IceHUD is something I’ve recently incorporated, and includes a heads up display for my health, mana and the boss’s health keeps me focused on the big picture while keeping my eyes on my character.  I also use it to display my focus target (just to the right of my bars), my current target information (towards the top middle of the screen), and my character info, just to the left of Grid.  It’s not for everyone, but the heads up format works very well for me.

I keep my buffs up at the top right of the screen in their default position, near the minimap.  I’ve never seen a great reason to move either my buffs or the minimap around, as I’m not looking at them during combat very often.  Debuffs, however, are another story.  There are several fights in ICC where you really want to see your current debuffs (Sindragosa is the first one that pops to mind).  I use Bison to move my debuffs down closer to my character and make them a bit larger, so they are in easy view.  I don’t have any debuffs in the screenshot, but they would be right about where the reanimated crusader’s health bar is displaying (using Tidy Plates: Clean Plates, btw).

For my bossmod, I prefer Deus Vox Encounters, or DXE.  Why DXE and not DVE for the abbreviation?  Beats me.  This is a fairly new bossmod, but I appreciate how it’s set up out the box and the ease of adjusting everything to my preferences.  I have also used DBM and Bigwigs, but I prefer the look and feel of DXE.  I keep the DXE control panel off the left, above my chat box.  It will display health bars for each boss on multiple boss encounters, and I can easily adjust settings from here.  I keep the range finder just to the right of the control panel, and bit closer to my field of view during combat.

I like to keep upcoming DXE warnings off to the top left of my character, coming down the screen as they get closer, and then flying over to the right when they are about to occur.  This gives me a nice visual cue to glance at the next boss ability or phase transition, without cluttering up the middle of my screen.  I have urgent warnings come up just above my character’s head.  I still manage to miss these sometimes, but it’s not the fault of my UI setup. :)  DXE will also put up nice little arrows suggesting where to run to avoid things like malleable goo, which can be very helpful in the heat of battle, and I have these display above my character.

I manage my action bars with the Razr Naga bar addon, since that’s the mouse I use.  I believe it was based on Dominos, a popular bar replacement mod.  I have also used Bartender to good effect.  Basically, any addon that will allow you to move your bars around, so you can put Grid in a central location, while help you out.  I keep a set of bars with little used spells or items hidden unless I mouse over the bar, since they are things I don’t really need to see in combat.  This helps keep more space free to see what is happening.

Omen is basically a required addon at this point, and I have mine near the bottom right of my screen, to the right of my action bars.  As a healer, this is not quite as important to me as it would be for a tank or DPS, but I still like to have this information available, and see if any DPS is about to pull aggro, and therefore need big heals.

Skada damage meters are on the far bottom right.  I like Skada over Recount, because it is modular and seems to cause less lag for me.  I can choose exactly which things I want to track, and it will only load those functions, saving me some memory.  I pretty much only want to know damage, healing, and healing+absorbs.  Absorbs is another advantage to Recount, which does not handle this type of healing well, at least out of the box. Note how my alt paladin Edhelarn rocked the damage meters while tanking at level 36.  That’s what a lot of heirlooms will do for you. :)

TotemTimers lives just below Grid, where I can see which totems are out, how many players are in range of my totems, and can adjust my totems as needed.

Above my right action bar I display the ankh timer, shield and weapon buff information from TotemTimers.

To manage everything, I use ChocolateBar.  ChocolateBar is a LibDataBroker display.  This gets a bit complicated to understand if you’re not a programmer, but the actual addon works great.  Basically, if you’ve used TitanPanel or FuBar, ChocolateBar is trying to do the same thing.  It can take information from most of your existing addons and display them in a central location.  There are also lots of standalone “plugins” that consolidate very useful information.  You can see ChocolateBar along the bottom of my UI.

On the bottom left I have the small icons for most of the addons discussed above, where I can access their configuration menus and make adjustments.  On this side I also have a plugin to show my guild members (great for easily seeing who is online, inviting with one click, etc).  Towards the right I can see my bags using Baggins and manage my gold across all my characters.  There are many useful plugins for the LibDataBroker system, and I encourage you to head over to Curse.com and see what works for you.

Those are the basics of my UI and addon setup.  I may do a future post on some of the “optional” addons that I find most helpful, but they are not really things I use in a raid.  Hopefully this post, along with my post on Grid and upcoming post on Clique, will give you a nice start towards tweaking your own UI.

5 Mans and Basketball

February 27, 2010

It’s that time of year again.  It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m enjoying 3 different college basketball games on TV.  Once March arrives, college basketball will briefly take over many of our lives as we fill out our brackets and lose the NCCA pool to our Boss’s daughter’s best friend who “just really likes the color blue!”  So, what does this have to do with WoW?

I’ve always completely made up seen some parallels between a basketball team and a 5 man instance run in WoW.  For those of you who may not be basketball fans, let’s go over the basics of what makes up a team.  You can have five players on the court, and they tend to divide into a few different roles.  Not all teams will break out this way, but it’s a good general framework for understanding the game.

The point guard is primarily the person handling the basketball.  He specializes in making great passes that will allow his teammates to succeed.  He’s probably the shortest player on the team, but he wins the game by letting others do most of the scoring.  At the end of the game, he knows he did his job if he has a lot of assists (passes that led directly to points) without a lot of turnovers (handing the ball to the other team).  A good point guard sees the whole court while he plays, even while focusing on the basketball and his next move.

The center is usually the tallest player on the team.  He spends most of his time down near the basket, both on offense and defense.  In this position, he takes a fair amount of punishment, and dishes it out as well.  He uses his size to gain a good position where he can score or rebound missed shots.  A good center will command a lot of the other team’s defensive attention so that the rest of his team can score.

The “scorers” are traditionally your shooting guard, small forward and power forward.  Yes, I realize this is a gross over-generalization, but I need to make an analogy here!  A shooting guard generally plays on the perimeter of the court with the point guard, while the power forward is down by the basket with the center.  The small forward can do a bit of both, depending on his skills or how he matches up with his opponent.  While players at these positions need to play good defense and rebound, and some specialize in one of those areas, they generally make the big bucks when then can score a bunch of points. 

Hopefully you can see a potential overlap with your typical 5 man group here.  Your healer is the point guard.  A healer’s job is to make everyone else better, and keep them alive so they can do their thing.  They need to keep an eye on the entire group, while also making sure they don’t die to any area effects.  A good healer is one that you hardly even notice is there, because everyone is staying alive, and the run is going smoothly.  If the healer dies, however, you usually notice it right away.   In basketball, if a shooting guard tries to play point guard, it’s usually pretty obvious, and rarely successful.

Your tank is the center.  He’s down low in the trenches making the “defense,” or in our case all those angry mobs, focus on him so other people can score.  He still gets to do some damage himself, and the best tanks do more damage and cause more threat.  But, at the basic level, his job is to take up space, occupy the mobs, and play some great defense for the rest of us.  You aren’t going to be very successful without a real tank, and most basketball teams are not going to be effective without a real center.  When a tank has a strong connection with his point guard, you have the makings of a championship team.

The DPS round out the other three positions, which is not to say they are unimportant.  You can’t win a basketball game unless you score more points than the other team.  Ranged DPS are your classic shooting guards.  A mage bombing spells from range is like a good shooting guard bombing three-point shots from beyond the arc.  If the tank can keep the mobs focused on himself, your ranged DPS can do a lot of damage.  The same is true on the basketball court, where a good center will draw a double team, leaving his shooting guard open for a back-breaking three-pointer.  Mages, warlocks, shadow priests and hunters are your classic shooting guards.  

Melee DPS, especially the plate wearers, are more like a power forward.  They are right in the center of the action with the tank.  If things go bad, they can take over and draw the mobs’ attention for a little while.  Unlike the tank, however, they are primarily looking to score points.  Life can be a bit more hectic in the thick of things, but a good melee DPS does a ton of damage with their powerful hand to hand combat.  Similarly, a good power forward can take over the game with his devastating power and ability to score points from close to the basket.  Ret paladins, death knights, DPS warriors and rogues are the power forwards of WoW.

Hybrid classes are the prototypical small forward.  Whether you need more ranged DPS, melee dps, or healing, a hybrid can step up to the job.  Like a good small forward, they are often doing several of these things during one instance run (or “game”).  Shamans, Paladins and Druids are your classic small forwards (although of course many other classes can fill this role), with the flexibility to do several things at once for the benefit of the team.  They can all DPS, or score points in our strained basketball analogy, and most of them can also tank or heal as needed.  A good team usually has a solid small forward who can do all the little things necessary for victory.

What can we learn from this (hopefully not too far-fetched) analogy?  Basketball is my favorite sport to play, because it takes a high level of teamwork and a solid understanding of your role to succeed.  I don’t think its a total coincidence that I enjoy WoW.  Five talented players that are all fighting for the ball and have not played much together will almost always lose to five average players who know their position and know how to play as a team.  Watching a great basketball team is like watching a work of art in motion, as each player instinctively knows what to do, and how to cover for his teammates when they need help.

A great group in WoW is the same way.  Well, assuming we had challenging five man content anymore it would be.  Let’s say we had a five man equivalent of Firefighter, Mimiron’s hard mode.  If you just toss five random players with a high gearscore in there, all of them trying to top the meters and grab the fame, it’s going to be a train wreck.  In contrast, a nicely balanced team of a tank with good survivability and threat, a healer who can prioritize heals and stay alive, and 3 DPS who can do a lot of damage while not pulling aggro and dodging the fire, will have much greater success.   

Basketball is also often played in pick up games, just like we run five man instances now.  You show up at the court by yourself or with a few friends and wait for a game, and you often don’t know your teammates.  If you want to win, you’ll need to rely on your instincts, and naturally start to fill out the roles of point guard, center, and scorers.  When you play with more experienced players, you find that everyone seems to know where to go, even though you have never discussed how you are going to run plays or who should play which position.  The same can be true of a PUG in WoW, and it’s one of the strong points of this game for me.

Of course, you can also get the opposite.  You can end up with scorers who are always fighting for the ball and committing turnovers.  Your tallest players may seem allergic to rebounding or playing defense.  Your point guard might be unable to make a good pass to save his life.  Sound like DPS trying to top the meters, tanks who can’t hold aggro, and healers who would be better off in their DPS specs?  It sure does to me.  Anyone else ever notice this, or similar connections between WoW and other real life games?

Resto Shaman Talent Specs

February 25, 2010

Are you a new resto shaman and looking for a talent spec in patch 3.3?  Well, you’ve come to the right place.  Right now, our talent tree is frankly pretty boring.  We have a pretty clear “cookie cutter” build for most of our talents.  Resto shamans like to argue, I’ve noticed, so we get pretty worked up about where those last 3-6 talents should go.  But really, there’s only a couple viable options, and it’s not going to make a ton of difference which one you pick.  What WILL screw you up is if you miss some of the really important talents.

Here’s my current spec on the Wowhead talent calculator: Wugan’s Spec.  [EDIT: Linked fixed. I’m dumb, but not enough to take Totemic Focus].  Other people tend to call this a 0/16/55 spec.  I’ve always found that terminology a bit confusing, because it’s not like that tells you which enhance and resto talents I picked, but oh well.  You could have an 0/16/55 spec that takes different talents, but as you’ll see below, I don’t recommend it.

In my opinion, the only filler in my spec is Elemental Weapons.  Frankly, it’s not a very good talent, and only adds a small amount of spellpower that does not scale well at all.   Everything else in this spec needs to be taken if you want to be a complete shaman healer in my book.  I’ve seen resto shamans without Nature’s Swiftness (really, you don’t want another instant heal?), Ancestral Healing (you don’t want to reduce incoming damage?), and Thundering Strikes (who doesn’t want 5% more crit?).  I suppose if you always heal with a disc priest you could rationalize skipping Ancestral Healing, but there’s not a lot of other places to put your talents.

If you need pushback protection, you can put those three points in Healing Focus, and end up with this 0/13/58 spec: Wugan’s Old Spec.  I’m a bit paranoid about spell pushback.  I swear I noticed a little bit of it on Dreamwalker last night, so it does still happen in a raid environment.  When you do get spell pushback, it’s often coming at a time when you really can’t afford to take more time to get your casts off, and thus I don’t think Healing Focus is a bad choice at all.  What’s the point of stacking up to 1200 haste rating or more when spell pushback adds another second to your casts?  Again, Elemental Weapons adds very little spellpower.  I may switch back to this spec sometime soon.

Another valid option is to take two points out of either Elemental Weapons or Healing Focus and put them into Improved Reincarnation.  This will let you Ankh every 15 minutes, at higher health and mana.  This means you come back more often, and are more useful when you do, because you’ll actually have some mana.  On a progression night, you may very well be in for 18-20 wipes, or more, and this talent will give you an Ankh in pretty much every attempt.  Given the alternatives, that’s not a bad option if you do a lot of progression raiding, so here’s a Wipe Night Spec.  

Finally, some shamans still avoid the Healing Way talent, and come up with this 0/16/55 spec.  According to wowpopular.com, this is actually the most popular resto shaman spec right now.  Unfortunately, it’s not really the best spec at this point in the game.  In earlier patches, this build made sense, and people have apparently been slow to update their talents.

Healing Way improves your Healing Wave by 25%.  There was a time when we didn’t cast Healing Wave outside of our Nature’s Swiftness macro.  When that was true, this talent was not worth the points.  In 3.3, however, you should be using your Tidal Waves procs to reduce the cast time of your next two Healing Wave spells by 30%.  That’s a ton of bonus haste for your Healing Wave, and will help even if you are a fresh 80.  If you are fairly geared, the two piece T10 set bonus gives you 20% more spell haste after casting a Riptide.  

Using either or both of these speed boosts means you can throw out huge heals in very short amounts of time.  Think 20k+ Healing Wave hits on two different raid members in about 2 seconds.  That’s just a huge amount of burst healing that I wouldn’t want to lessen by passing up Healing Way for a weak talent like Elemental Weapons.  Think consistently large heals on the tanks during rough damage phases, when Lesser Healing Wave just isn’t topping them off.  Elemental Weapons sure isn’t adding 25% to your Healing Waves in this situation. 

Mana is rarely a problem these days in raids, whereas tanks getting killed in one or two shots can be a very real problem.  Don’t ignore Healing Wave, and thus don’t ignore Healing Way. Even as a fresh 80 in heroics, the ability to save the tank with a big heal is extremely important, and worth your three talent points, in my usually not very humble opinion.   Your mana pool won’t sustain repeated Healing Waves, but when you do cast them, you want them to count.

ToolScore. Someone get on this!

February 24, 2010

Ok, I just saw this post at wow.com indicating that Blizzard is doing more to track when people vote to kick a random group member, get kicked, initiate a vote kick, abandon a group, or successfully complete a run using the LFG tool.

If we can have GearScore, I want someone to start working on ToolScore right now.   I’ll leave the exact formula to you, but I’d add a fair amount of toolpoints for abandoning a group and excessive numbers of votes to kick, and would subtract points for sticking around for a complete run, especially in a run where someone has left or was kicked.

What do you mean, “heal me”?

February 24, 2010

I’m a philosopher at heart, so when I saw Miss Medicina’s post about the semantics of mitigation, I knew I’d have to chip in with my two cents.  Her point was that disc priest’s generally mitigate damage, while resto druids do something slightly different with their HoTs.  They provide a buffer of constant healing that smooths out health pools, while the disc priest smooths out incoming damage.  I’d argue that a disc priest’s uniqueness is actually more in prevention, with a large dose of mitigation and direct healing mixed in, if you want to get technical.  And I hope you do.

Consider what Eversor says in the comments to Miss Medicina’s post:

Just for the sake of argument, I would say that mitigation is getting confused with prevention. To mitigate something only means to lessen (not avoid) it’s severity and does not neccessarily have a time component involved. If a 37k damage blast is coming in and you bubble someone, you are preventing damage.

To me, this really gets at what a shield is doing, at least sometimes. A shield can prevent damage altogether.  Yet, sometimes a shield mitigates damage rather than outright preventing it.  Here are my proposed definitions for several healing terms that get thrown out there pretty often. 

Mitigation: reduces the amount of pain that results from the tank getting hit in the face.  The tank still gets hit, but the hit doesn’t reduce their health pool as much as it would have without mitigation.  Tanks spend a lot of time worrying about mitigation, to make themselves easier to heal.  Some healers also have mitigation abilities.  If an ability absorbs part, but not all, of the incoming damage of an ability, then it mitigated the damage.  The air bag in your car mitigates the damage that results from your face hitting something inside the car when you get rear ended.  It hits the airbag, and that hurts less than the steering wheel.

Prevention: keeps the tank or raider from getting hit in the face at all.  The tanking counterpart would be avoidance; the damage is avoided altogether.  If a shield absorbs the entire amount of incoming damage, then it was preventative.  A successful interrupt prevents damage.  A preventative shield keeps bad things from reducing a player’s health pool.  The seat belt in your car prevents you from flying out the windshield when you get rear-ended.  You could say that prevention is just mitigation at its finest, and that’s sort of true.  But, they are in fact doing slightly different things. 

Direct Healing: adds health back to your target’s health pool deficit.  Direct healing says to the tank or raider “yeah, you just got hit in the face, but here’s a cookie.  Don’t you feel better now?”  Through the power of the Light, the elements, or whatever that green swirling stuff that druids throw around is, direct healing makes a player’s health pool go up.  This is generally what we think of as “healing.”  Direct healing includes all healing that is not preventing or mitigating damage, and can be proactive, reactive, passive, and/or healing over time.  A doctor directly heals your messed up body if you forgot to wear your seatbelt and went flying through the windshield when you got rear-ended.  

Proactive Healing: is healing that must be set in motion by the healer before the damage occurs to the target.  Good proactive healing requires the healer to accurately predict incoming damage.  Mitigation and prevention are proactive almost by definition.  Direct healing can also be proactive, when it is passive (i.e., a HoT or an Earth Shield).  Your wife telling you that you should buckle your seatbelt as you leave your driveway is a good example of proactive healing (specifically, prevention).  When she reminds you to take some Aspirin as you start to get a headache, that’s proactive, passive, healing over time.  Get your wife on your healing team already!

Reactive Healing: is healing that makes your target or targets’ health pool go up as soon as the ability finishes casting. Reactive healing is a subset of direct healing.  All reactive healing is direct, but not all direct healing is reactive.  All reactive healing is by definition instant, as opposed to Heal over Time.  It occurs right when the ability finishes casting.  Note that reactive healing still requires foresight, because of cast times.  When the doctor sets your broken leg back into place, that’s equivalent to reactive healing.  There was a problem with your health, and he made it better with one quick motion.

Passive Healing: is healing that occurs while you are worrying about doing other things.  Passive healing is a subset of direct healing.  All passive healing is direct, but not all direct healing is passive.  The most common passive heal is a HoT, but there are many other forms of passive healing.   An Earth Shield, weapon proc, talent or trinket can provide passive direct healing, without being a HoT.  A cast on your broken leg passively heals you, by keeping you immobile so your bone can heal.

Healing over Time (HoT): is direct, passive healing that occurs in set intervals after an ability is activated or cast.  It does not mitigate or prevent damage.  Instead, it provides direct healing at a set interval over a set time period, usually more often than reactive healing can be applied. A HoT requires the healer to take some action to initiate the healing, but once that is done, the healing just sort of “passively” happens without any further intervention.  HoTs can be used either proactively or reactively, but are at their best in the hands of a proactive healer.  When a doctor sets up an IV drip of morphine to send you into a drug-induced stupor after your ill-advised car accident, that’s healing over time.  Ok, technically maybe there should be some medicine in there actually healing you and not just making you happy, but you get the idea.  

Examples Please

Let’s look at some common shaman spells and abilities to break down what categories of healing they provide.  Healing Wave is your classic direct, reactive healing.  Your target has less health than they used to, and you increase their health pool when Healing Wave is done casting.  Lesser Healing Wave fits the same categories.  Chain Heal does the same thing, but hits multiple targets.  As we can already see, for the most part shamans are direct, reactive healers.

Riptide has a small direct, reactive heal, but also includes a passive HoT effect.  Thus, you can use the spell both proactively and reactively.  With the 4 piece T10 bonus, your Chain Heal has a chance to provide a HoT component, which can also be used proactively and provides a nice passive healing buffer.

Earth Shield, unlike a priest shield or pally bubble, provides direct healing.  It does not mitigate or prevent damage.  However, it is passive, because you set it on the target and it provides healing while you do other things.  In some sense, it is proactive, because you cast it in anticipation of damage, and in another sense it is reactive, because it heals the target when the target takes damage. Earth Shield provides passive healing that is not a HoT.  It’s kind of a special snowflake.

Ancestral Healing is a talent that provides mitigation, but not outright prevention.  Keeping it on your target requires proactive healing.  Wind Shear is a not really a heal, but it can proactively prevent damage.  Ancestral Awakening is a passive, reactive direct heal, sort of like Earth Shield, but you can’t use it proactively.  While you are going about casting other heals, this talent will heal a raid member without you having to do anything else.  I love this kind of ability since it increases my healing without any extra mental effort on my part.

Healing Stream Totem is a direct, passive, heal over time.  It is technically proactive, since you need to plan ahead and drop the totem, but doesn’t require much more prediction than “someone in my group might take some damage during this fight,” so it’s not the prototypical proactive healing.  Earthliving is a weapon imbue that has a chance to provide direct, passive healing over time each time you land a direct healing spell.  A trinket like Althor’s Abacus provides direct, passive, reactive healing, while the proc on Trauma gives you passive, proactive healing over time.   

So, although shamans are generally direct, reactive healers, there are also times when we mitigate, heal proactively, or provide passive healing.  The same is true for the other healing classes, even if we all have our own niches.  Sure, disc priests provide great mitigation and sometimes prevention, but they also have proactive and reactive direct healing spells.  Druids specialize in passive HoTs, but also have reactive spells.  Even though Wild Growth is a HoT, my sense is that it is often used reactively.  Paladins provide huge reactive direct heals, but also have passive, heal over time, mitigation and prevention tools.  Holy priests can bring both proactive and reactive raid healing, while also using shields or abilities such as Prayer of Mending to provide mitigation or passive healing.

At this point, you’re probably thinking that we’re pretty much talking in circles, and although this sort of makes some strange kind of sense, it has very little application to “real world” raiding.  Well, yeah, welcome to philosophy.  You expected something useful?  Although, I do have one nice application for you.

Next time a DPS yells in vent that they need healing, you can ask “Ok, would you like a direct, passive heal over time?  I notice that you’re hurt right now, but you’ll probably continue to stand in the fire, so that could save me some trouble later.  Or, should I give you a reactive direct heal to fix the problem that you already caused?  That’s a good short-term solution, but requires a bit more work on my part, since I’ll have to watch and see if you stand in the fire again.  Would you like an Earth Shield, so I can provide direct reactive healing when you need it, that is also passive?  Too bad, you’re not a tank.  In any case, shouldn’t you have told me ahead of time that you were going to stand in the fire, so I could have used a preventative ability, or at least mitigated your damage a bit?  What’s that?  You just died while I was saying all that and you have no idea what I’m talking about?  Ok, next time just let me focus on Grid.”

Guide to Resto Totems

February 23, 2010

Totems are an iconic part of the shaman class.  They are one of the main reasons I rolled a shaman back in the day, because I just like the idea of dropping little hunks of wood that do cool things for me.  Which is why I laugh a little when I see shamans complaining about the totem system and arguing for its removal.  Yes, totems take a bit of work to master and can be a bit annoying, but you’re willing to put up with that bare minimum of inconvenience, right?  It could be worse.

Totem UI

The first thing you need is an effective interface to manage your totems.  You do NOT want to be that shaman who has 3 action bars filled with nothing but totems, just in case you might want to click on one of them some day.  It’s a waste of UI space, and you’ll never find the one you need in time.  

The default totem UI has recently been reworked, and is not all that bad “as is.”  I’ve gotten used to TotemTimers, however, and I like some of the added features, so that is what I’d recommend to a new resto shaman.  We can now have up to 3 sets of totems ready to drop, and there is certainly a valid argument for creating a standard set, a PvP set, a melee oriented set, etc.  However, I find that my totem lineup doesn’t fit very well into 3 pre-defined sets.  So, I tend to stick with one set, and then manually adjust using TotemTimers during the instance or the raid.

Practically, this means that I have one keybind set to drop totems, and one set to recall them (new shamans: don’t forget to visit your trainer to learn these spells!).   I use a Razr Naga (thanks Santa), so I bind these actions to N4 and N7, respectively.  Please make sure you at least keybind Totemic Recall.  When you hear the raid leader yell “Hey shamans, recall your totems!” the last thing you want to do is hunt for the icon on your bars.  Hit your keybind, watch them disappear, and even get a little mana back for your effort.  When you need to be mobile and re-drop your totems, hit recall first to save yourself some mana.

What I tend to do is have my baseline set of totems ready to drop with TotemTimers.  If I want to change the baseline, I right click on Cleansing Totem, for example, and now that will replace Healing Stream the next time I drop my totems.  For most heroics, or even raids, you’ll only need to change your totem lineup a few times.  For me, this is much easier than maintaining several different totem sets for each occasion.

What is that baseline?  For me it’s usually Flametongue (Fire), Stoneskin (Earth), Healing Stream (Water) and Wrath of Air (Air).  Let’s talk about each school separately so you know when and why you’ll want to mix this up.

  • Fire

In a 5 man, this is Flametongue and forget about it.  It’s a nice spellpower boost for you and the party, and if you want to do some DPS you can drop it up near the mobs and hit Fire Nova.

In raids your fire totem is often overwritten by more powerful buffs.  I tend to just drop Flametongue, even if I have an Elemental Shaman dropping Totem of Wrath or a Demo Lock with their awesome spellpower buff.  I figure maybe someone will get out of range of the elemental totem or something. 

This means you can usually use your other fire totems no great loss.  If the fight calls for frost resistance, go ahead and volunteer your totem.  If you can help out with AoE and spare the mana, drop Magma Totem.  If you want to add a little single target DPS at very little mana cost, you can drop Searing Totem.  I should probably be dropping this more often in raids, since have an elemental shaman in the group.

Don’t forget about your Fire Elemental.  They have been buffed and do very respectable damage.  With a ten minute cooldown, you can pretty much drop him on every boss fight.  Try to time your big ball of fire during a burst phase or when there are lots of little adds that need some AoE help.  Remember that he will stay up for 2 minutes, so don’t wait until the last 30 seconds of the fight for the “perfect” moment.

  • Earth

This will usually be Stoneskin Totem, which stacks with a Paladin’s Devotion Aura.  Extra armor is always nice for your tanks.  If you don’t have a death knight or enhancement shaman in your group, then you can drop Strength of Earth.  Strength of Earth is a great totem, but I think every random heroic is required to have a DK, so it just doesn’t see all that much use.

Earthbind is great when you need to slow something down, such as during Deathbringer Saurfang or Gluth back in Naxx.  Keep in mind that this totem only lasts for 45 seconds, so you will have to refresh it fairly often.  Tremor is great when you need to break fear, charm or sleep effects.  Learning (and then remembering) when to drop it is key.  Stoneclaw is great when … you’re doing PvP and don’t want to drop Earthbind or Tremor, I guess.  You could pretty much take it off your bars for PvE.

Your Earth Elemental will try to fill in for the tank, but he’s not going to live long without some direct healing.  Dropping him puts your Fire Elemental Totem on a 2 minute cooldown (and vice versa), so you can’t have both your buddies out at the same time.  I find that Earth Elemental is not used all that often, but when I do use it, it can be a lifesaver.  Did your tank just die on a stupid trash pull and you just need to deflect aggro for 5 seconds?  Perfect time for Earth Elemental.  Did your main tank bite the dust while the boss is at 1%?  Can’t hurt to throw out your Earth Elemental and see if he can take a shot or two that otherwise would have killed a DPS, allowing you to maybe down the boss and avoid an aggravating wipe.   While leveling, he’s a great help for difficult elite or group quests.

  • Water

Your water totem will almost always be useful, and you’ll need to decide which totem is going to work best for each heroic, raid group, or even raid encounter.  In a heroic, I’m usually using Healing Stream for a nice passive healing bonus.  I generally only switch this up when the instance has a lot of poison or disease debuffs, when I will drop Cleansing Totem to save the hassle of doing it manually.  Keep in mind that it will not remove curses, so you’ll have to do that with Cleanse Spirit.  

I don’t often use Mana Spring in heroics, because mana is just not an issue anymore.  This totem sometimes causes confusion in raids.  I’ve heard lazy pallies say “we don’t need to buff wisdom, we have a shaman.”  Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.  Mana Spring will provide the same Mp5 as a holy paladin’s Blessing of Wisdom, assuming they have it talented (which they may not have done).  You will already have your totem talented, because you took Restorative Totems to get Mana Tide.  

Here’s the rule: if you are a resto shaman and there are no paladins with improved Blessing of Wisdom, then you should probably drop Mana Spring.  If there is a paladin with the improved blessing, you should probably drop Healing Stream instead.  Especially if glyphed, your Healing Stream is doing some significant healing, and the paladin can provide the same Mp5 buff as you.  Of course, things can get more complicated depending on how many paladins you have in the group.  Paladins exist to make simple-seeming buffs complicated to apply.  So, don’t just drop Mana Spring because some pug raid leader said you should.  Make sure it’s the best use of your water totem slot.  

Mana Tide is a great, party only, mana restoration tool.  It will only last for 12 seconds and has a 5 minute cooldown, but will restore a nice chunk of mana while it’s out (fixed, thanks Reyneyn).  When mana is an issue, make sure to drop it early in the fight at around 75%-80 mana, and then again when the cooldown is up.  I like to use a simple macro to alert my party members that Mana Tide is up, so they can stay in range of the totem:

#showtooltip Mana Tide Totem
/p Wugan is Casting Mana Tide!
/s Wugan is Casting Mana Tide!
/cast Mana Tide Totem 

Fire Resistance Totem is nice to have if you can’t cover the buff somewhere else, but since we have many other good water options, I’d let someone else volunteer to cover this buff if possible.

  • Air

90% of the time, this will be Wrath of Air.  The haste buff is great for us and for the rest of your party or raid.  If you don’t have an enhancement shaman in your raid group, and another shaman can cover Wraith of Air, then you should drop Windfury Totem for the melee.  Make sure to get close enough to the boss when you drop your totems that the melee are actually getting the benefit.

Nature Resist Totem is situationally useful, and if you don’t have a hunter that can provide the buff through Aspect of the Wild, then you may need to draw straws with the other shamans and see who will cover this one.  Grounding Totem is a great PvP totem, and has some PvE uses, but I can’t remember that last time I’ve dropped it in a raid.  Please tell my why I suck in the comments.

And the best for last, Sentry Totem, summarized best by Matthew Rossi:

Level 34 brings the awesome, senses shattering might of Sentry Totem. Do not look directly at the Sentry Totem. It can see into your very soul. You may very well drop this totem in a Warsong Gulch sometime, it’s just that powerful. Seriously, half the reason raids take shamans at all is that they covet the titanic power of Sentry Totem. Don’t listen to their pleas: only drop this totem as a last resort, as it may well make warlocks and mages obsolete by the sheer fury and majesty of its planet splintering power. Quake, mortals, and feel the iron grasp of despair upon you, for Sentry Totem may be unleashed by a shaman at any time! I will be able to watch from some distance away as you one shot my totem!

Raid vs Party Only

Finally, a quick note on raid vs. party only totems.  This seemed to be a bit more confusing back in Naxx, and most raid leaders have figured this out by now.  But, just in case, here are the totems that ONLY benefit the shaman’s current raid group.

Tremor Totem
Mana Tide (the 5 minute cooldown resto talent, not Mana Spring) 
Healing Stream
Cleansing Totem 
Grounding Totem

Now that you’ve read all that, go check out Blueberry Totem’s nearly identical guide that I only discovered after I had written almost all of this post.  Oh well, great minds think alike.

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