Current Events: Shaman Cataclysm Preview

Son of Odin, Thunder God, Master of War. Asator

The lift of the NDA on in-development Cataclysm content and the opening of closed beta has unleashed an avalanche of information (or tidal wave, I suppose would be more appropriate for this expansion) onto the web. Most of it is a lot of stuff that doesn’t get a big rise out of me anymore. Seeing flyover shots of zones and new NPC models just isn’t very interesting to me. We’ll be looking at all of it for the next 2 years, probably, so it’s nice to leave at least some of it discovery.

I was in the Burning Crusade beta test, and I ate up every bit of released information. Every single screenshot, video, and new dungeon to test. I did it all. For Wrath of the Lich King it was the opposite. My experience with each expansion was largely the same.

Actually, I don’t really want to spend several hours of my day flipping through 20 high res pictures of the same animal in different colors.

The shaman talent tree, on the other hand, is something that is very intriguing. There are a couple changes from the preview that puts a different spin on some of the comments I had before.

Improved Earth Shield

Improved Earth Shield is no longer a member of the Restoration talent tree. Earth Shield is now a 1 talent point ability that will have 9 charges as a base amount. Not an expected change, but a welcome one since adding 2 more charges to Earth Shield by spending 2 talent points is one of the most uninteresting/boring-but-required decisions one makes when filling out a resto spec.

Empowered Healing

In place of Improved Earth Shield we have Empowered Healing, we have a new 3 point talent:

Your Greater Healing Wave spell gains an additional 7%/14%/20% of your bonus healing effects, and your Healing Wave and Lesser Healing Wave spells an additional 3%/7%/10%

Nature’s Blessing is prerequisite for this talent that exists in the bowels of the tree on tier 9. To me it’s a little bit ‘meh’. Basically, you’re going to take both of these talents to make sure your output is at a maximum, so there isn’t much to talk about here. As you’ll see a bit later in this post, you lose nothing by having to take this talent.

Telluric Currents

Another new talent since the first preview:

Your attunement to natural energies causes your Lightning Bolt spell to restore mana equal to 15%/30%/45% of damage dealt.

A tier 10 talent to improve Restoration DPS? Interesting. Well, it improves our DPS by making those weak-ass lightning bolts not hurt our mana pool all that much. Before I give my comments on it, let’s take a look at the beta build I would use if I had a level 85 shaman on the beta: 0/18/58

I haven’t made up my mind yet as to whether or not the current restoration talent tree is a blessing or a curse. Even with this second iteration, a PvE/Raiding Focused Shaman can take every talent that they need to improve their output. Perhaps I misunderstood Blizzard. They once said they would put enough talents into the tree that you wouldn’t be able to get everything you want.

However, that isn’t the case for me. Maybe my priorities of trying to maximize my output for raiding are different from players that might dabble in a little PvP, but it seems like going “all-in” to the resto tree still allows me to get some great utility talents like Enhancing Totems, Ancestral Swiftness, and Telluric Currents (and even Improved Reincarnation if you want to count that).

This isn’t a bad thing, in terms of making sure you’re getting the most out of your spent talent points, but some may say it doesn’t allow shamans to differentiate themselves within a raid (tank vs. raid healing). If you want to do something other than be a primary raid healer, then you need to change classes. Roll a Paladin, maybe test the waters of Discipline within the Priest realm, but don’t cry about (possibly) sub par single-target throughput when you have some of the best raid healing tools in the game on your side.

Fghtin’ Words

Back to Telluric Currents. These days in the land of milk, honey, and “hard mode” content, we healers find ourselves a little bored in some parts of a fight. There is no worse feeling than sitting in a fight as things are going on and not contributing at all. Every fight requires a minimum amount of healing, tanking, and DPS. Unlike healing and tanking, DPS has no maximum. The first thing a raid leader does after putting a fight on farm, or trying to shorten a phase or beat an enrage timer, is find a way to drop the total number of tanks and healers.

Even then, there will still be times as a healer where you’ll stand waiting for the next event so you can heal up. Maybe giving us the ability to provide some DPS will stem some of that boredom, but in the end if it isn’t a meaningful amount of damage (and it won’t be for various reasons) then healers will just zone out anyway. Another primarily-pvp addition which is probably needed.

I’ll take the talents because there isn’t any more to take (output-wise) in the tree. There are various talents like Nature’s Guardian, Focused Mind, Healing Grace, Totemic Focus, Healing Focus, and Focused Insight that other shamans will take instead.

This brings us to the Blue Post on DPSing as a healer:

Opportunity 1: Leveling or soloing. Not every healer wants to use their dual spec on say Elemental or Shadow.

So basically we’re looking at the mythical healer that needs a PvP and PvE healing spec while leveling. Those don’t exist, no matter how ambitious. If you are one of these healers then you get my usual response: just level up. There is no reason to use a healing spec when you’re leveling unless you are paired with a DPS class as a leveling partner (as I did for WotLK). If you are stubborn enough to have 2 healing specs while leveling solo, you get to suffer. With dual-talent specialization, you get the opportunity to do two things very easily. If you want to do 3 things then you have to do what everyone’s been doing since  release. No big deal.

Opportunity 2: PVP. Good healers, especially priests in today’s game, can contribute a lot of damage.

The talents that resto shamans currently get do not increase our damage unless you stripped out a few of the more PvE oriented talents and dipped into elemental. I’m stepping out of my element (pardon the pun) and into PvP so I’ll just move on.

Opportunity 3: Dungeons. This is particularly true when the content is easy and you want to get through it quickly. Healing more doesn’t make things go any faster. Dealing damage does.

DPSing in a healing spec with the talents we have now (beta+) is about as fun or interesting as playing with a paddle-ball blindfolded. If we’re talking about speeding up a 5 man when “content is easy,” then I might get to cast one lightning bolt (maybe two) per pack. How that contributes to speeding up content, I’m not real sure.

Opportunity 4: Raids. No matter how challenging the content, there are moments when nobody is taking damage and you can spare the mana. Your choices are do nothing, tab out to YouTube, or maybe do a little damage.

As a raid leader you can also add “cat herding” to that list (in place of do-nothing). If I wasn’t a raid leader then I’d pick do nothing or YouTube. DPSing as a healer, again, consists of throwing out a base spell and then saying on vent “woohoo a [1/4 DPS spec] damage lightning bolt!” The short version of all of this: if you find yourself really wanting to DPS, use your secondary spec for DPS, otherwise suck it up. That’s why it’s there.

The real way to make healers happy is keep them interested by healing in raids even towards the end of the content’s life-cycle. I’m not sure if that’s possible, so I’ll just consider it a reward for being the hardest working role at the beginning of the tier.

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