The Plusses and Minuses of Theorycrafting
Once you have moved beyond the grinding heroics for T9 and emblem gear stage, you probably want to start raiding. If you are serious about maximizing your healing, you’ll need to consider the relative values of the various healing stats (For us that is spellpower, haste, crit, mp5, and intellect). Stat weightings provide a numerical value for each stat, helping you decide what gear, gems, or enchants will help you put out more healing. The top shamans calculate their state weightings using Shaman HEP or similar programs.
If you wander over to Elitist Jerks and copy what the top resto shamans in the world are doing, you will stack a lot of haste. A lot of haste. I suggest that you use Shaman HEP to come up with your own numbers, but realistically, not everyone will do so. If you do calculate your own stat ratings, then much of what follows will not apply to you. Most people want the bottom line advice, so they see that the top resto shamans stack haste and decide to do the same thing themselves.
Consider for a minute why haste is so valuable for these players. For the most part, the top resto shamans are in highly focused progression raiding guilds. These are the type of guilds that consider normal modes a warm-up for the heroic versions. They aren’t wiping on Saurfang or Festergut. They are running with highly geared and skilled tanks who are not taking unnecessary damage, and know how to time their cooldowns. They have some of the best DPS on their server putting out top DPS and avoiding the fire as much as possible.
In this controlled context, there is just not a ton of “extra” healing that needs to get done. I just made this concept up, but extra healing is the healing you need to do because people stand in the fire too long, don’t understanding the boss mechanics, don’t time their tank cooldowns or tank swaps well, have not geared for mitigation as a tank, fail to interrupt, and make the fight take longer with slower (or dead) DPS. There is also not a lot of need for longevity in top guilds, because these guilds do not bring 7 healers for normal modes and the DPS they bring is top-notch. Things die quickly and mana is less of an issue.
If the last two paragraphs describe your typical raid night or experience pugging raids, then you can probably just stack haste up to at least the soft cap (I believe that is 1269 haste rating) and be done with it. Haste works so well because it allows us to pump out more healing in less time. It also allows our some of our spells to land before they can be rendered overhealing by those pesky resto druids and their HoTs. In short, bumping up your haste can really up your healing throughput, which is the amount of healing that you do over the course of a boss fight. And yes, this will help your position on the healing meters.
But what if your resto shaman is an alt, or a main that doesn’t have the spare time to focus on progression raiding? You like to raid, so you mostly find yourself in whatever random pugs that take place when you have a few hours to spare. In this environment, you simply do not value the same stats as a progression raider. I speak from experience, because I recently transferred servers to find a guild with a better raiding schedule. Prior to that move, I could rarely make my guild’s raids. I ran a lot of pugs and many of them were pretty horrible. And I gemmed for a lot less haste because of it.
In a pug raid, the one thing you can count on is a wide variety of skills and experience. You may have some very skilled and geared players who missed their guild run that week, and you may have people who dinged 80 on Friday on their first character and thought a 25 ToC would be fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon. You’ll never be sure how good the group is until you get started, but it will almost certainly not be as smooth as a guild run. People will stand in the fire too long. The tanks won’t switch when they should have. They will also probably have stacked stamina instead of mitigation, because a higher health pool makes them look more geared, and helps get them into pugs. The DPS will take forever to down the boss, despite their impressive Gearscores. The other healers will seem like they are healing with low ranked spells (and maybe they are, check out RankWatch!).
In this environment, you want a balance of stats, and a lot more intellect and mp5 than you would in a progression raid. The fights will take longer, the tanks and the raid will take more damage, and you will find your mana bar dropping fairly quickly. Don’t forget to use Mana Tide and a Mana Potion, or course, but sometimes that isn’t enough. In short, intellect and mp5 are great insurance policies in a pug. Spellpower is still valuable, of course, because there is a lot of healing that needs to be done. Haste is great, because you’ll want to fire off fast heals to save slow-moving raid members. Crit rating is always nice, because it improves both our throughput and our mana regeneration.
Going for a balance of stats is what a lot of us instinctively guess we should be doing, for good reason. Most people probably fall somewhere between world-first chasing guild and random Saturday afternoon pug. You need do what works for you. Don’t be discouraged if you read that you should stack haste. Or maybe you heard to stack spellpower to the exclusion of everything else (not sure where you heard that, but you get my point). What works for them will not always work for you, and if you feel like you need a bigger and more stable mana pool, then you probably do. Mana left at the end of the fight is wasted mana, but dead raiders because you went OOM is a wasted boss kill.