Make It Rain: Shaman Cataclysm Preview

7 April, 2010

We shall neither fail nor falter; we shall not weaken or tire…give us the tools and we will finish the job.–Winston Churchill

Shamans, for once, get to be the first to receive the Good News about their class changes coming in Cataclysm. Restoration Shamans have quite a bit to look forward to as we see our set of healing tools grow by a substantial amount. A quick rundown (courtesy Nethaera):

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.

The impact of this spell will be seen in it’s mana cost relative to it’s Lesser and Greater siblings. It’s not real clear how this fits, though, since cast time is also directly related to spell choice. LHW is our go to heal for anomalous single-target damage that requires a quick topping. With current haste levels, (Greater) Healing Wave currently is sparingly used outside of tank healing and single target healing where you have time before the next hit.

A spell between those seems to fall into the “too slow” or “not enough” category, unless it’s mana cost is a good bit less than Lesser, Greater, and Chain Heal.

Unleash Weapon (Level 81): Unleashes the power of your weapon enchants for additional effects (see below)…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%.

As my buddy Zao described it: Shammy Judgement.

Depending on the size of the heal, this will probably be a two piece tier 10 riptide-esque raid heal tool. Cast it on a nearby target that needs some healing and boost your next spell. In short, a candidate for a new Clique binding.

Using this on cooldown will mean you’ll be casting it once approximately once every 7 casts, and will need to burn a GCD before the 8th. The effects on your range are also noticeable. In all likelihood, if your target is 31 or more yards away, you will not be able to cast, creating a dead zone.

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.

Ah, a real hot, something to blanket the raid with. The cooldown/duration match-up will allow us to keep something up for all those super-fun raid wide aura fights (can we get this bumped up to 80 so we can try it before Cataclysm?). The cast time is reasonable, and the mana cost will be steep for sure.

The only real question: What’s the graphic? Do we get to whip out a super soaker and shower the melee with heals?

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.

This is a really really cool ability. One of the many heartaches when healing as a shaman (or paladin) is how limited you are when a fight requires a lot of movement while damage is going out all over the place. This is more prevalent in 10 man raiding than 25 (due to healing class diversity), but can be frustrating on certain encounters.

Ten seconds gives us time to get off 3 to 4 well placed heals while moving. Coupled with Nature’s Swiftness and Healing Rain, shaman will no longer be pinned to the ground as a chain heal turret. Sindragosa would be a great place to have a spell like this. The time spent moving to hide behind an ice block feels like an eternity. You’re trying to clear your buffets and the raid is taking a ton of damage, encouraging you to skip blocks or do some clever “GCD hopping” across the room.

Various Talent/Ability Changes:

-Restoration shaman and other healing classes will need to pay attention to mana more than they’ve had to during Weath of the Lich King. Spirit will be the Restoration shaman’s primary mana-regeneration stat.

-Shamans will get decurse as a base cleanse (Cleanse Spirit). Restoration shamans will be able to use talent points to add defensive magic dispel to their repertoire (two effects, one spell).

-No more cleansing totem. All cleanses will cost more mana and will be “wasted” if used on a target that is not affected by a debuff.

-Totem of Wrath replaces Flametongue totem and is changed to +4% spellpower for the group. Elementals/Demonology Locks will improve this to 10%.

-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…

-Ancestral Knowledge will boost mana pool size, not intellect.

Mastery, Deep Healing: Your direct heals will do more healing when the target’s health is lower. This will scale to damage rather than have arbitrary break points.

Decisions…decisions…decisions. That’s what we’re being asked to make, and I fully embrace this line of thought by Blizzard. The skill of a healer is measured in his/her ability to make a decision quickly and correctly. Spamming the same heal or having debuffs cleansed automatically are not intelligent play decisions. Proper use of a cooldown, spell selection, and mana management should be encouraged, not made impossible by a watered down skill set of outdated abilities (horrible shaman pun).

Encounter design will hopefully take these abilities under strong consideration and create some really tough to heal fights. I want to be challenged, I want my global cooldowns to really matter, and I want to be able to use the tools given to help expose a healer’s true skill.

Impact

This preview further entrenches shaman into a role as a raid healer that specializes in mitigating RSTS damage. One of the best things about playing a shaman is that we have very strong, concentrated heals. Riptide and Lesser healing wave currently fills those roles, but now with Healing Rain we will be able to fill in the gaps between chain heals if necessary.

The outlier here is the new Healing Wave. Three separate single target heals is intriguing, and I don’t think we’ll be able to nail down the exact use of them until the new “mana model” is revealed/tested. Also, Shaman still don’t have a day-saving external cooldown (a la Pain Suppression) that we know of. It’s the one missing piece that I think could bring it all together, but perhaps that’s getting a little too greedy. It’s liking wrapping Filet Mignon in bacon.

Spirit Walker’s Grace is something that I’ll be greatly looking forward to and it will be in the back of my mind every time I’m running to a Spore or avoiding a Bone Storm.

A beta key would be nice!

Edit:

  • Wugan is also really excited about the upcoming changes. [Flow]
  • What could shamans use spirit link for? Kro has some neat ideas, but only gives it a 30% chance to actually make it live on release day. [Known As Kro]
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Holding Out For A Hero

19 March, 2010

A hero is one who knows how to hang on one minute longer.–Novalis

Heroism/Bloodlust is an essential raid buff on nearly every encounter. On some it’s just a way to get it over with a little faster. Other fights require it to meet a benchmark or cover all of the healing required.

This is a simple post that simply lists in a simple fashion when I hit (or call for) Heroism:

  • Lord Marrowgar (Normal/Heroic): Start of the fight.*
  • Lady Deathwhisper (Normal): Start of the fight.*
  • Gunship Battle: By the time you’ve read this far into the guide, you already have won
  • Deathbringer Saurfang (Normal): When Saurfang frenzies at 30%
  • Deathbringer Saurfang (Heroic): When you think you can win in the next 40 seconds.
  • Rotface (Normal/Heroic): Start of the fight.*
  • Festergut (Normal/Heroic): As the first gas expunge is casting.
  • Professor Putricide (Normal): After one complete tank rotation (All tanks have 2 debuffs). This generally lines up with ~20% and will aid the raid healing quite a bit.
  • Blood Prince Council (Normal/Heroic): First time the Darkfallen Orb passes to Taldaram. The melee doesn’t have to move.
  • Blood Queen Lana’thel (Normal/Heroic): After all 16 vampires are active.
  • Valithria Dreamwalker (Normal/Heroic): After portal #3 or #4, depends on how fast you are moving. Make sure GS is ready to go up on her when you exit the Dream/Nightmare.
  • Sindragosa (Normal): Final ground phase (generally ~40%), this will allow you to push back the enrage and also not put your DPS in jeopardy if you use it later (Mystic Buffets!)
  • The Lich King (Normal): During the second Remorseless Winter when the first Raging Spirit spawns.

As a bonus, I’ll throw in To(G)C:

  • Northrend Beasts: After the first Jormungar burrow, when Acidmaw is mobile for the first time.
  • Lord Jaraxxus: Start of the fight*
  • Faction Champions: Start of the fight, when the melee are actually on their target (wait for them to run in).
  • Twin Val’kyr: After the second vortex, or when you see a good number of dps empowered. On Heroic Mode we tended to use this as late as possible regardless of empowered just to guarantee we had the healing to power through the last 20ish%
  • Anub’Arak: Start of Phase 3 (Leeching Swarm, phase). This is the best way to counter the massive amount of healing done as he transitions over.

*Make sure the boss is fully debuffed before activating Lust/Heroism (Sunders, Ebon Plaguebringer, etc.)

UPDATE: The above are from a 25 man point of view, but also all work for the 10 man versions of these encounters.

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You’re a bad healer because…(Part 2)

24 February, 2010

I bought a parrot, and the parrot talked, but it did not say I’m hungry, so it died – Mitch Hedberg

“You’re a bad healer…” is a multi-part series on the dynamics of raid healing in WoW.  Part 1 focused on what persona it takes to be an effective (and consistent) raid healer.  Part 2 will focus on how to make you more efficient as a healer through the use of mods/macros and overall best practice.  Part 3 (and possibly more) to come where we’ll take a look at a few specific fights that tend to give healers trouble.

Many will tell you that healing in an MMO is more of an art than a strict science, and they would be right to a degree.  There is no set rotation and the variety and distribution of your heals will change from fight to fight.  All of this is true, but there are a few fundamental metrics that you can analyze to improve your healing. This is what happens when someone takes damage in a raid:

  1. The healer recognizes the damage
  2. The healer chooses a spell to cast
  3. The healer begins to cast the spell
  4. The spell is cast, the player is healed
  5. Check for the next healing target

The time it takes to get from 1 to 5 is where all of your focus should be when healing. Some of these can be improved before you even step foot into a raid instance.  Which of these gives you the most problems? Depending on your experience level and the encounter, it could be any of the above.  Pinpointing where to improve is like a Chef improving a recipe they’ve been making for years.  It takes practice, experience, and a little creativity to get the job done.

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Theta Waves

23 February, 2010

Just a quick update:

Part two in the series of posts on raid healing will be up soon. The bad news is I’ve had to delay posting it because there are a few things I want to include from in-raid (and possibly video). I should have that update up by this evening.

The good news is this series of posts will likely be longer with a little more tutorial/question-answer/FAQ type posts down the line.

Thanks again for reading and best of luck in game,
Borsk