Sunday, April 10, 2011

Resto Shaman: A Level 85 Guide

I wanted to subhead this "Funny Little Heads and How to Heal Your Ass Off" but for some reason I don't think that would fit as a title. Oh well, they all can't be winners. Welcome to my shaman healing guide for level 85. I've played a resto shaman for a good portion of Wrath raiding and recently broken into entry level Cata raiding. Healing in general is something you must be passionate about in order to excel in. It also takes a fair amount of experience to be a great healer as well and I hope while you read this guide that you understand this. You can have all the knowledge and all the resources in the world but if you lack that passion and experience your healing potential cannot be reached. The first step any great healer has taken is learning the basics of their class and in the case of shaman healers, some synergistic tricks. Ready? Go.

Intro
When it comes to being the jacks of all trades, the shaman class certainly takes the cake. They have the ability to deal ranged or melee dps, as well as make terrific healers. Just like with other hybrid classes, specialization is required in order to excel in any of the roles and today we will be going over one of them. The restoration shaman is one of the most fun and rewarding healing classes to play today. We can provide great healing to single targets as well as to groups. Our totem system is an extremely flexible buff system that provides some very essential raid buffs. Just like other healing class our ability to cleanse certain debuffs / buff secures our place at the top of the healing hierarchy. Ask any resto shaman, we are the best.

Patches / Updates
None thus far.

Abilities
Healing Spells
Healing Wave - This is our bread and butter spam spell. In the last expansion this was called Lesser Healing Wave. It does a moderate amount of healing for a very low cost. This makes this spell good for non-critical heals. I would suggest only using this spell when under the effects of the tidal waves buff. This will lower the casting time of HW by 30%. It's almost never worth casting this without the buff, unless you are under the effects of some other haste buff (bloodlust/heroism, buff from Altaris, etc.)

Greater Healing Wave - This spell does a large amount of healing for a price. It shares a cast time with Healing Wave and is also effected by Tidal Waves so determining which to use is a large part of shaman healing. I would rank this spell as being usable in moderately critical situations. A few of these are great for replenishing a large portion of a tanks health pool and one can breath much life back into a dps. must be used with caution. It can quickly drain your mana pool.

Healing Surge - Healing Surge is a new spell for Cataslysm. This is a very high output / high cost spell used for emergency situations only. Don't get me wrong this spell does an impressive amount of healing with a super low cast time but the price is a huge mana cost. This means I would classify this spell as usable in critical situations only. HS is also effected by Tidal Waves, increasing it's critical strike change by 30%. This can help offset the monumental cost if only slightly. If you have time to Riptide before you heal, there is probably a better spell choice than Surge.

Chain Heal - Chain heal is chain heal. Not much has changed for this spell over the expansion. It's still fairly effective for healing groups however it's certainly not the only spell we spam. It still heals for a decent amount however it carries a moderate cost and a moderate cast time. It's cast time is really the only downside to this spell. It's currently the longest cast we have in terms of healing spells. The one unique thing about chain healing is it's flexibility. It's mileage depends on your application. In 5 mans or ranged-heavy 10 mans it may not be the most effect spell choice. However in LFR or balanced 10 mans it can still be the love laser of greatness.

Riptide - There has also not been much change in the actual mechanics to Riptide for Cataclysm. This spell will be a large portion of your healing. To be honest, what's not to love? Riptide cost very little, is instant cast, has a hot portion and grants all sorts of yummy buffs. This spell should be used on every available cooldown no exceptions save for HS spamming emergencies.

Unleash Elements - This is a new spell for Cataclysm and is honestly a fun addition. The basic idea is having an instant cast spell that changes depending on the weapon inbue we are using. It's a fun way to make weapon imbues a bit more interesting. For the sake of restoration, we'll be using the Earthliving Weapon. This drops a small instant heal on the target and (more importantly) increases your next heal by 20%. I find myself using this to boost my Riptide. They are both instant (thus can be cast while on the move) and the 20% increase also applies to the hot portion. This isn't to say you can't use it on more direct heals, a GHW buffed with Unleash Elements on hurt tank can heal for upwards of 60,000 HP.

Healing Rain - Also a new addition to the healing arsenal for Cataclysm, this is another AOE heal with a fun twist. The twist is that Healing Rain creates a blue void zone (very much like the thing you train raiders to avoid) and will heal anyone inside that void over time. This spell has a moderate cost and moderate cast time, but doesn't heal for a very large amount. HR is really good to help soften the blow of unavoidable (and sometimes avoidable) AE damage to large groups of people (at least 3-4) while you spot heal the most hurt members. It is also great when combined with other AOE healing circles from priest, druids or shamans. It's effectiveness per person is reduced past 6 people but it seems to crit fairly often. It will grant Ancestral Healing / Earthliving to the recipients, making it still worth casting in a large group to soften the incoming damage. I think of this spell as AOE bubble wrap.

Earth Shield - ES is still unchanged as always. This spell is the most cost effective HOT in the game. It can be considered a hot because it does take one cast and does heal over time - just reactively. If glyphed this also heals for 20% more. With the talent Nature's Blessing, your direct heals will be 15% strong on your ES target. Usually this is cast on a tank (given the amount they are hit and how often) but this can also be used on a caster. When used on a caster, this acts like Concentration Aura as well.

Totems
Shamans are the best class at buff hands down. With teh consolidation of buffs and some additions to other classes some shaman have begun to feel not as unique. I can assure you that is not the case. Not only do you provide the largest aray of buffs but you can also modify them on the fly and IN COMBAT! No other class has that kind of versatility.

Two totems that you might find yourself dropping that are shaman specific are Healing Stream and Mana Tide. Healing Stream is a small hot (as well as resistance if glyphed) and will stack with other shamans Healing Stream totems. Mana Tide totem is our active mana regen cooldown. It increases our spirit by 200% for the duration. Considering it's short cooldown, don't be afraid to use this ability before you are bone dry. I tend to use my first MTT at around 50% if things are going well, at about 70% if it's a long duration fight. Using it early on prevents you from have ZERO mana waiting to regen (and possibly letting someone die) and it also lets you use it more times during a fight. I try to use it 2-3 each fight.

Which totem to drop has much to do with what other classes (and in some cases specs) are in your group. Because of this I will list the totems and what other buff they are similar to. If you find yourself in a group and are not sure what to drop look at your buff window. If you see a comparable buff, select another totem. Of course this does not count for totems that stack or during fights where large areas of the room may be used. Using your judgment is what makes a good shaman great.

Flametongue - Mages [Arcane / Dalaran Brilliance]
Wrath of Air - Druid [Moonkin Aura], Shadow Priest [Mind Quickening]
Strength of Earth - DK [Horn of Winter], Warrior [Battle Shout], Hunter [Roar of Courage]
Stoneskin - Paladin [Devotion Aura]
Mana Tide - Resto shaman exclusive
Mana Spring - Paladin [Blessing of Might], Warlock [Fel Intelligence]
Healing Stream - Shaman exclusive
Glyphed Healing Stream - Paladrin [Resistance Aura]
Totem of Tranquil Mind - Paladin [Concentration Aura]
Windfury - DK [Improved Icy Talons], Hunter [Hunting Party]
Tremor - Shaman exclusive. Pulsing fear / charm / sleep ward cooldown.
Spirit Link Totem - Shaman exclusive, group damage cooldown. More info here.


Support Spells
Water Shield - This is a passive mana regen talent. I use the term passive lightly as you have to actively place the shield on yourself but the mana regen portion is passively activated. Water Shield gives you a constant increase in MP5. It also expends a charge to grant mana when taking direct damage. With the talent Resurgance you also gain an orbs-worth of mana when you critically heal with HW, GHW, and RT. This talent can also be glyphed to increase the passive MP5 and strengthened with Improved Shields.

Earthliving Weapon - This is our weapon imbue. Increase our healing done and grants the ability to proc a small hot on the target. This works hand in hand with Unleash Elements as well. This ability can be modified by glyphing (increases the healing amount) and by talenting (by increasing the spell power granted).

Purge - This allows us to dispel one magic effect from the enemy target.

Cleanse Spirit - This is our friendly target dispel. While we used to be the masters of dispel (with a pulsing totem and this abililty that removed 3 effects) this is still not a bad deal. It removes a curse and if talented correctly will also dispel magic from the target (cheers against paladins) AND heal the target (on a 6 second cooldown). This is one of the cheapest and most effective dispels in the game currently.

Hex - If you play Rift this is tranmograaaaafy? WTF? This is one of our CC's. It's basically a poly morph with a few modifications. This is on a cooldown, which does not allow us to chain cast like a mage poly. However when the target is hexxed, it can take a signification amount of damage before it breaks, making it less fragile than poly.

Bind Elemental - This is our other CC ability. This is basically a shackle for Elementals. I love this ability! It is fairly cheap and can be chain cast over and over. Considering that resto shamans have very low hit and that resistance tables are calculated per tick, you may find this breaking often. No worries - just chain cast this. I've even been know to use a Nature's Swiftness with this ability. My stance is if the CC gets off I hardly have to heal, might as well!

Nature’s Swiftness - Resto talent that allows a spell to be instant cast. This can be used for a healing spell or CC abillity (hex, bind) and has a fairly low cooldown. Make sure to use this some how.

Spiritwalker’s Grace - This is a new talent for Cataslysm. It allows us to cast spells while moving. Considering the amount of moving required today and how important staying current on healing is - this talent is a ton of fun. SWG can also fall by the wayside if you don't think about it, thus dividing the line between good and great shamans. Put this on your bar and make an effort to use it at least once a fight.

Ancestral Spirit - This is our resurrection spell. Use this on your buddy then go collect your loots.

Wind Shear - WS has gone through many changes over my years as a shaman. Today it basically acts as the games best ranged interrupt. It also silghtly lowers your threat to a target but mainly used for interrupts. While it is off the global it still requires you to not be casting so try to not be on "interrupt duty". This can gimp your ability to heal. Don't be afraid to throw it out if you can however.

Bloodlust \ Heroism - "Heroism bitches!" While we are not the only ones to provide this, we are the OG gangsta's. BL increases the raids haste by 30% for 40 seconds. This creates a significant amount of DPS increase and allows you to heal your little shaman heinie off. I recommend spamming Healing Wave during this time. It's cheap, fast and heals for a good amount.

Stats
Stat weighting for resto is currently a hotly debated topic.To make a long story short, there is play style debate surrounding haste, critical, and mastery. Haste is nothing more than a genuine throughput stat, much like spell power. As your haste increases your HPS also increases provided you have the resources. Basically the only throttle to hastes effectiveness is our mana pool and regen. Critical is a great stat for resto shamans to have in an all around fashion. Critical acts as mana regen (water shield procs), damage reduction (ancestral healing), and also an extra heal (ancestral awakening). Mastery is a bit of a black sheep currently, although the idea behind the mechanic has potential. Basically put, mastery increases our healing output on direct heal spells but a certain percentage, based on how much life the target needs. Simpler yet, the more hurt someone is the more we heal. There is talk that in the next major content patch our mastery will be changed to also include our hots. I don't really know if that will nudge mastery into being a superstar but who knows. When the dust settles we have a somewhat clear picture of stat weights.

Intellect <> Spirit <> Haste <> Mastery/Crit
  • This scale is subject to change. 
  • There is some personal bias in this weighting. For instance, everyone today is talking about how bad haste is. It's not that haste is bad, it's just not King Dick like it was in previous expansions. Haste is directly connected to your output, provided you understand spell selection and proper regen mechanics.
  • Intellect is hands down our primary stat. This provides mana, spell power, slight increases to our spirit regen AND provides regen through replenishment. 
  • Mastery is very situational. The reason is seemingly straight forward. Deep Healing increases our  healing upon the target, based on the current health of the target. The lower the target HP the more bonus healing is granted. While this makes the talent absolutely great for emergency healing, it leaves it's usefulness complete variable.
  • I would slightly hedge haste over critical for one reason; It takes less haste rating to obtain 1% spell haste (128.19) than it does to obtain 1% critical (179.13). In addition to that, I would rather have 1% spell haste than 1% critical any day.

Talents
There are a couple of ways to arrange your talent tree as a resto shaman. Some include healing only and some have some more unique offensive / defensive properties. I'll break them down here. In my usual fashion I'll talk about the talents I did not take - there are few of those than the opposite.

Level 85 Resto Shaman - Healing Only Spec
This is the "I'm a healer and healing is my only job" spec. To be honest, there is nothing wrong with this spec at all! In fact, this is what I currently use. The 4 basic omissions from the resto tree in this spec are pvp and offensive related. Ancestral Resolve and Nature's Guardian are solid pvp choices. I would say that Resolve may have some application in today's pve situations however it's better aligned as a pvp talent when given our other choices. The other two omissions are unique hybrid offensive / defensive talents that Blizzard tried out. Focused Insight lets a player shock a target and in the process reducing the cost of your next heal and increasing it's effectiveness. On paper it looks like a decent talent but I'll be honest, it's not. The only time the shock offensive becomes worth it would be if you could shock each and every time it was available then drop a GHW. I like the idea behind the talent, it was just executed poorly.

Level 85 Resto Shaman - Offensive / Defensive Spec
This spec takes many of the core elements of the above mentioned healing only spec with one minor difference. Telluric Currents is unique new talent that Blizzard decided to add for Cata. It replenishes mana equal to 40% of the damage done by our Lightning Bolt spell. At lower levels this would only allow us to basically cast free LB's but as your gear level increases you can actually net mana back from using this spell. The issue with this talent lies in our ability to find time to use it. Healing today is fairly intensive, especially in the aspect of healer downtime. Blizzard wanted us to move away from spam healing but only in terms of spell selection. We are still spamming heals the entire time, we just are smarter about which ones we spam. Adding LB's in might be situational at best and that is why I do not use this spec. In 5 mans you will find hardly any time to dps/regen but in raids you might find some time. All in all, it's a fun talent that is on the cusp of being great. With a little tuning it might be something more than entertaining.

Glyphs
Glyphs for the resto shaman are fairly straight forward. There exists in the Prime and Major areas a few choices depending on your play style. For the Prime selection ES and WS are recommended. The variation is between Earthliving and Riptide. I personally like the Earthliving over the Riptide because of how often I'm using Riptide. If you end up over writing that hot portion more often than not, try the Earthliving glyph. As for the Major glyphs, currently the glyph of Chain Heal is pretty weak. The only time where it would outshine an unglyphed CH would be when it can hit 4 targets every time. If you find yourself in a 25 man raid or melee heavy 10 mans, it may work better for you however it's still very situational.

Prime
    Major
    Minor

    Enhancements
    This section will cover your gems, enchants, and consumables. This is where attention to detail can make a good shaman great. As with any situation there are many variables and nothing is set in stone however this will serve as a great launching point. Also something to note, I was going to include Reforging in this area but honestly there isn't a reason to include it. If you can follow your stat weighting or use an optimizer like Ask Mr. Robot (more on him later) the daunting task of playing Reforging Jigsaw Puzzle becomes much simpler.

    Gems
    Gemming for resto shamans is as simple as asking yourself "what do I need?" There are many hybrid gems (green, orange, and purple) that can be selected based on need, be it spirit, intellect or haste. I never recommend gemming for mastery. Compared to haste, mastery is much lower on the priority scale and should be avoided for gems. Below are some good examples.

    Meta Gem: Ember Shadowspirit Diamond
    Red Slot: Brilliant Inferno Ruby
    Blue Slot: Sparkling Ocean Sapphire, Purified Demonseye
    Yellow Slot: Quick Amberjewel, Reckless Ember Topaz

    Enchants
    Head: Arcanum of Hyjal
    Shoulders: Greater Inscription of the Charged Loadstone
    Back: Greater Intellect
    Chest: Exceptional Spirit
    Wrist: Haste, Crit or Intellect
    Hands: Speed or Greater Mastery
    Waist: Ebonsteel Belt Buckle
    Legs: Powerful Ghostly Spellthread
    Feet: Haste, Mastery, Earthen Vitality or Lavawalker
    Main Hand:Heartsong, or Power Torrent
    Off Hand: Superior Intellect

    Consumables
    Food:
    Flasks:
    Elixirs:

    Gear Lists
    Pre-Raid Gear List - This list is a mix of gear that you can obtain in several ways. Included are reputation rewards, heroic dungeon drops, crafted items, and purchased items. A good rule of thumb when gearing up for raids is to utilize all the aforementioned methods to help offset any low iLvl items.

    Head:
    Helm of the Inward Eye - 2200 JP
    Cowl of the Unseen World - High Priestess Azil [The Stonecore]

    Neck:
    Yellow Smoke Pendant - Dragonmaw Exalted
    Lighting Flash Pendant - Wildhammer Clan Exalted
    Celadon Pendant - 1250 JP

    Shoulders:
    Seafoam Mantle - 1650 JP
    Fallen Snow Shoulderguards - Grand Vizier Ertan [Lost City of Tol'Vir]
    Burden of Lost Humanity - Lord Walden [Shadowfang Keep]

    Back:
    Cloak of Ancient Wisdom - Earthen Ring Revered
    Solar Wind Cloak - Rajh [Halls of Origination]
    Spingvale's Cloak - Commander Springvale [Shadowfang Keep]

    Chest:
    Vest of the Waking Dream - 2200 JP
    Chromis Chestpiece - Commander Ulthok [Throne of the Tides]

    Wrist:
    Manacles of Pain - Rom'ogg Bonecrusher [Blackrock Caverns]
    Shackles of the Betrayed - Vanessa Vancleef [Deadmines]

    Hands:
    Gleaning Cloves - 1650 JP
    Old Friend's Gloves - Helix Gearbreaker [The Deadmines]
    Ionic Gloves - General Husman [Lost City of Tol'Vir]

    Waist:
    Sash of Prophecy - Ramkahen Revered
    Belt of the Still Stream - 1650 JP
    Belt of Petrified Tears - Temple Guardian Anhuur [Halls of Origination]

    Legs:
    Winderness Legguards - Hyjal Revered
    Legs of Soothing Silence - 2200 JP
    Heat Wave Leggings - Karsh Steelbender [Blackrock Caverns]

    Feet:
    Earthmenders Boots - Earthen Ring Exalted
    Dark Iron Chain Boots - Forgemaster Throngus - Grim Batol

    Finger: 
    Diamant's Ring of Temperance - Therazane Revered
    Veneficial Band - Augh [Lost City of Tol'Vir]
    Ring of Frozen Rain - Asaad [Vortex Pinnacle]
    Kibble - Beauty [Blackrock Caverns]

    Main Hand:
    Scepter of Power - Setesh [Halls of Origination]
    Torturer's Mercy - Rom'ogg Bonecrusher [Blackrock Caverns]
    Elementium Hammer - Blacksmith Crafted

    Off Hand:
    Shield of the Mists - 950 JP
    Elementium Stormshield - Blacksmith Crafted

    Trinket: 
    Mandala of Stirring Patterns - Tol Barad Faction Reward Exalted
    Darkmoon Card: Tsunami - Crafted
    Tear of Blood - High Priestest Azil [Stonecore]
    Witching Hourglass - Acendant Lord Obsidius [Blackrock Caverns]
    Blood of Isiset - Isiset [Halls of Origination]

    Relic:
    Captured Lightning - Asaad [Vortex Pinnacle]
    Book of Dark Prophecies - High Priestest Azil [Stonecore]
    Tattooed Eyeball - Scribe Crafted

    Addons / Resources
    Addons:
    Healing UI - There are several choices for healing UI's today. With Blizzard revamping the in game raid ui, some people are simply utilizing Clique for healing. There are several packages that people use as well. Clique / Grid, VuhDo, and Healbot are just a few examples. They basically accomplish the same thing.

    Power Auras Classic - Set on screen indicators for procs and shields. This can also be used to set up situational warnings for yourself. For isntance, my POWA displays an onscreen warning when I reach 40% mana. This allows me to better manage my mana supply.

    OmniCC - This adds a numerical countdown on your actionbar for ability and item cooldowns. It can be just a nice polishing touch. This addon builds itself into any UI so effectively sometimes I even forget it is there. When I log on to a toon that doesn't use it, I'm mildly irritated until I remember to turn it on. lol

    Quartz - This is a cast bar replacement. I highly recommend this addon if you modify your UI in any way. Quarts allows you to move your cast bar to other locations and customize the look of it. You can also set, relocate and customize cast bars for focus target and enemies.

    Resources:
    Wowhead
    WowWiki
    Elitest Jerks
    MMO Champion
    Ask Mr. Robot

    Fin
    There you have it. This should get you off the ground healing fairly well. Like I said before about healing, you can have all the knowledge in the world but without tangible experience it means nothing. Healing (and being skilled in it) can be one of the more rewarding roles in this game, in some regard even more so than tanking. Regardless of the chatter that shamans are lacking in healing, we are in a good place. Once 4.1 hits and we gain Spirit Link we'll be in an even better position. Until then get out there and heal your ass off.

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