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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ICC10 Hard Modes: Round 47

29 March, 2010

When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.–Franklin D. Roosevelt

I label this Round 47 because it really feels like it’s been that long since I’ve been able write about our 10 man raid. Due to 10 mans occurring on our off-raid nights, you never know if something is going to perk up and pull one (or two, or three) raiders away at the last-minute.

Been waiting a long time for this could refer to The Lich King’s achievement, or what it’s like waiting to get your entire group back together and ready to tackle the rest of the hard mode encounters.

Standards

My goal starting this week was not to flip-flop hard mode and normal mode. There is some sort of psychological switch connected to the dudes in my 10 man that turns off their ability to play whenever hard mode is no longer active. Trying to flip it back on for the next boss has never worked.

So we turned on hard mode and started slow on Marrowgar (Some dumb shaman kept disconnecting), but got our game ramped up pretty quickly in time to Storm the Citadel heroic style. Our first target was the Crimson Halls, and our long-delayed date with the Blood Prince Council.

As I detailed in my last entry (sometime around the great depression), we had problems with the Council and they were many. To address these, we went in with some basic guidelines:

  1. Cover every inch of the floor. We placed a Shadow Priest on the stage to cover that area and then one ranged DPS west, and one east. If the Priest was targeted for an Empowered Flame Orb, he could disperse if it wasn’t drained enough. Two pet classes on the orbs made handling them easy once the areas of responsibility were covered.
  2. Disregard the Shadow Prison during Taldaram. As long as your stacks are low or gone when Taldaram is active, soaking/draning the Empowered Flames is easy.
  3. Keep the melee clean. Glittering Sparks = 40% Slow = Lots of problems with both kinds of Vortex. Mass dispel them if necessary.

Our composition was identical to our previous failed attempts(Holy Paladins are great for a 2 tank setup). The fight ended in a brisk 4:27 and gave us our Heroic: The Crimson halls(10 Man) achievement.

World of Logs

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Behind the Screenshot: The Logistics of Lady Vashj

8 March, 2010

A look to the past as we explore what built up to and resulted from some of the most interesting boss kills I’ve been apart of.

Eighty-percent of success is showing up.–Woody Allen

Lady Vashj

Click to view the original post. I'm the Arrakoa on the left.

Choosing the first boss kill to use for this series of posts was quite difficult. Every boss that is defeated results in a screenshot (exceptions for all those silly achievements), and every screenshot has some story behind it. I’ve talked before about the beauty (and ugliness) of near one percent wipes.  The best thing about a screenshot is everyone is alive.  A passerby can look at all those involved, all standing, all very proud of what they’ve accomplished.

For members who were there, it’s a frozen moment in time.  Many of the raiders you see in the above picture no longer raid with BRM (many remain closely connected to the guild, however), but we remember all of them.

I went with Lady Vashj from TBC because it marked the first real progression boss that I had the pleasure of raid leading. She presented us with a unique challenge that we really hadn’t faced yet during that expansion.

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Now With 5% More Fiber

3 March, 2010

No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country. — Gen. George S. Patton

The buzz this week, other than the Lil’ XT, is the activation of Strength of Wrynn/Hellscream’s Warsong.  As everyone knows by now, this is (initially) an extra 5% damage, healing, and health.  This buff by the end of the expansion will reach 30%.

It should be noted that talking to your faction leader and removing the buff will take it away for the entire reset. So be warned, there is no turning back (for a week at least) if you choose to go in without your King.

Blizzard’s continuation of using the “lore” of the Ashen Verdict to enhance and expand ICC is very solid.  Giving players a small boost is a better direction than their former model of cutting off whole limbs of bosses to allow raid groups entry into the later portions of raid zones with little more than a foam sword rack.

Five percent isn’t going to let trade chat PUGs kill The Lich King (or even Festergut, most likely).  What it will do is push guilds stuck at a particular point in the instance over the hump.  Very small execution mistakes aren’t nearly as magnified.  A little bit later in this post I’ll do a quick comparison between this week’s clear to last week’s Tuesday’s clear.

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Perfection. How Blizzard could have made Icecrown the best raid zone yet.

12 February, 2010

Despair, so delicious.

Icecrown Citadel is one of the most fun raid instances, if not the most fun raid instance Blizzard has designed.

It has everything.

Lore tie-ins, interesting trash that isn’t just 8 pack after 8 pack, and bosses that have truly great mechanics to deal with.  You can pick out some great moments in different encounters like dealing with ooze merging late in Rotface or the final Vampiric Bite and burn phase on Blood Queen.  Healing Dreamwalker to death and the Gunship Battle are also brand new, innovative mechanics.  Top to bottom, mechanically, a superb effort by Blizzard.

I often go back and forth with myself on this however.  Is it really great? Am I just happy to get some new content? Or is it really all that I think it is?  I can certainly say that tanks do not enjoy Icecrown as much as a healer or DPSer.  There are only a select few (maybe 4) that truly involve the tanks.  Too many give them nothing to do and could be tanked just fine if they DC’d (Blood Queen comes to mind).  Let’s take a look at the raiding features introduced in Icecrown and how they could be changed or maybe they’re good enough to stay as they are.

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