The Cataclysm beta has been offering us many things. From talent trees being changed to revealing new voices for bosses and audio for events, there really has been something new discovered almost every day. This is not too surprising considering the world is going through a massive series of changes as well as the game mechanics themselves.
One of the things that is being watched very carefully are the changes to healing and the mechanics not only of healing output but also mana regeneration. Sadly, though, there is still a lot missing from the client, making it hard to get an idea of exactly how it will all wind up being balanced. That said, there are still a lot of changes in place for healers in the way we quest and level. New talents and spells make it a different experience than before. On top of that, there are also a plethora of quests that seem to be tailored at least somewhat with a healer specifically in mind.
If you really do not want to know anything about Cataclysm until it is released, there will be some Cataclysm spoilers after the break. If you don't mind having a few things spoiled for you, please continue to read on.
Leveling as restoration: talents and abilities
Traditionally, leveling as a healer was a long, difficult process, something only someone who had a severe hate of themselves would do. Quite honestly, leveling as a healer was downright painful and almost impossible in the days of vanilla WoW and even into The Burning Crusade. When healers wanted to level, it was often times more efficient to just switch to a DPS spec for questing and only heal occasionally for the odd dungeon group.
In Cataclysm, that is changing. I am one of those people who wants to level as restoration. I personally love the survivability it offers, but sometimes questing can be quite a chore. Currently in the beta, I'm finding that it is not nearly as difficult to level as a healer as it has been in the past. This is mostly due to the new spells and talents we are receiving as well as the bonuses we get for picking a talent specialization.
Healing Focus was removed as a talent and instead given as a bonus for choosing restoration as a specialization at level 10. The specialization ability reduces the cast time of Healing Wave and Greater Healing Wave by 0.5 seconds and reduces pushback suffered from damaging attacks while casting any shaman healing spell by 70%. This is a really good thing while leveling, as when you find yourself in need of a heal, reduction in pushback can sometimes be the difference between living or dying. Making sure you can get that heal off is a good thing, and now it doesn't require you to invest any talent points in order to use it.
Nature's Blessing increases your healing on an Earth Shielded target by 15%. When you only have time to cast a Lesser Healing Wave on yourself, that 15% can come in very handy for survivability while leveling. This, combined with Healing Focus and Earth Shield, has allowed me to solo down elite mobs that would normally take a few people to take down.
Ancestral Resolve is a new talent for restoration shaman that we've been looking at for several weeks now. The spell reduces the damage you take by 10% when you are casting any spells. As most quests will tell you to kill x number of y mobs, you will constantly be casting spells both damaging and healing for yourself. That 10% reduction in damage will reduce your downtime by reducing the amount of healing you have to do, thus conserving mana and increasing your survivability by a surprisingly large margin.
Spark of Life goes hand in hand with many of the previously mentioned talents. It increases your healing done by 6%, but it also increases the healing you receive by 15%. This affects everything you have that causes healing right now: Earth Shield, Riptide, all the healing waves and Chain Heal, but maybe most importantly Healing Stream Totem. When you're questing, passive healing can save you a lot of time and help reduce downtime. Keeping Healing Stream Totem down while questing and taking this talent has saved me more times that I could have imagined while leveling.
Telluric Currents is necessary. You are going to be killing things; there is no way around that. Your main spell is going to be Lightning Bolt. Traditionally, healers who DPS run out of mana very quickly and are forced into a lot of downtime. Gaining 40% mana back based on the damage your Lightning Bolt does reduces that downtime quite a bit.
Ancestral Swiftness has quickly become one of my favorite talents. Not only does it make Ghost Wolf instant cast, it increases your movement when not shapeshifted by 15%. Being able to outrun something can be a very big deal, and it also helps make sure you can tag the next mob you need that much faster than anyone else.
Unleash Elements adds a new spell to every shaman's arsenal, and it is proving to be far more versatile and useful than I originally anticipated. It does not change its effect based on your spec; instead, it changes based on your weapon imbue. Flametongue Weapon in use with this gives you another damaging spell, and it increases your fire damage on the next fire spell by 20%. If you cast Flame Shock, then Unleash Elements followed by Lava Burst, you can get some serious damage as a resto shaman. Killing things faster means faster leveling. Last week, many readers asked if you could use this spell while silenced. After testing, I regret to inform you that you cannot in fact cast it while silenced. With everything this spell can do based just on what weapon imbue you have active, I am not terribly surprised.
These spells really make it a lot easier to level as a restoration shaman by cutting out a lot of your downtime and giving you the ability to deal just a little bit more damage and increase your survivability.
There seem to be a lot of quests tailored to players who have an ability to heal, as well. Escort and defense quests that allow you to heal NPCs and keep them alive are very nice, but so far there has been one thing that has stood out to me. At the end of the Hyjal zone quest chains, you face Ragnaros in a very epic, raid-style event. Accompanying you into battle are Cenarius, Arch Druid Hamuul Runetotem and Malfurion Stormrage. Together, it is your job to stop Ragnaros and force him back into his keep.
The event plays out very much like a raid encounter, with the re-appearance of the Sons of Flame when Ragnaros submerges and the inclusion of Flame Wall. Both Arch Druids cast a debuff on Ragnaros that increases the damage he takes, while Cenarius acts like a tank for you. You have to not only keep both druids free of mobs but manage heals between all three NPCs. Cenarius stands in the center facing Raggy directly, while Malfurion and Hamuul spread out to each side. You have to run between each side and the middle not only to heal but also to avoid flame walls.
The event can be done in a group or solo, and it is amazing fun. As a healer, I love quests like this that give us a chance to do what we do best: heal things. The only problem currently is Cenarius is bugged and only sometimes is able to be healed. So, since a picture is worth a thousand words, here is a little video of me and my group attempting to complete this event for the first time.
As you can see, we died on that attempt, so don't expect it to be easy! You can, however, solo it as a healer when it works correctly. You just have to make sure to keep Cenarius alive.
Leveling as a healer feels so much easier than it did before. It is a lot more fun, and we now have enough tools that we can keep up pretty well with the speed with which DPS levels. So for all those of you out there like me who love to level as a healer, you have a lot to look forward to in Cataclysm so far!
Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk. Whether it's Matt Sampson's elemental edition, Joe Perez's coverage of restoration or Rich Maloy's enhancement edition, we have you covered.