Last week we talked a little bit about the mastery stat and how it is being implemented and what it will affect, as well as talking a little bit about how the developers are are looking at totems -- the highlight, of course, being comments from Ghostcrawler (Blizzard's lead systems designer) himself.
This last week though there was a new beta build released. Cataclysm build 12694 has hit, and with it, there have been quite a few changes that will affect restoration shaman. Various talents and spells have been moved, trimmed or otherwise adjusted. I'm certain you are wondering what new and exciting things were waiting for us.
This week I would like to take a look a these changes and give you my own impressions of them, after having tested them quite a bit. I also thought that this week we would take a look at some of the common questions I've been receiving in regards to playing a restoration shaman in the Cataclysm beta.
Talents and spells
Hex now lasts 1 minute, up from 30 seconds. The change here is actually pretty good for us. The added time makes it more viable in 10-man groups as well as for heroics and dungeons. The spell is often currently overlooked by most as a viable CC option because of the short duration paired with a 45-second cooldown. Basically, when it wears off after 30 seconds, you could not just simply re-apply it. In this latest build, the spell retains its 45-second cooldown and can still take some damage before it breaks. This comes in very handy soloing, as well. There are a lot of quest areas where you can wind up with a multitude of mobs. If you're leveling as a restoration shaman, you will likely survive it, but being able to take one out of the fight while not worrying if Hex will accidentally break can help a ton. Hex can still be used on both humanoids and beasts.
Searing Totem now prefers to target enemies that are afflicted by your Flame Shock or Stormstrike effects. This is also handy for us when leveling and potentially while in raids. When you put the totem down, it would sometimes ignore a logical target and instead proceed to aggro another set of mobs. It would also like to randomly break crowd-controlled targets. This adds a little bit more control, and that little bit can come in quite handy. During soloing, I can use it more often, increasing the damage output I can do as a restoration shaman while not worrying too much about its grabbing things randomly.
Ancestral Knowledge is now replaced by Acuity, which increases your critical strike chance with all spells and attacks by 1/2/3 percent. A lot of our passive crit was removed from the restoration tree, and in the recent builds, Ancestral Knowledge was moved from enhancement over to elemental and was changed from adding int to instead increasing your maximum mana pool. This change allows us to pick up a little bit more crit, but at the same time it reduces the ability to pick up a little more mana. In Cataclysm, mana is most certainly at a premium for healers, but that extra crit helps a lot of our triggered abilities like Improved Water Shield, Ancestral Awakening and Ancestral Healing.
Totemic Reach is a new talent found in the enhancement tree. It increases the radius of your totems' effects by 15/30 percent. We used to have a talent that increased the range of totems before; seeing it come back is a bit confusing. I like the idea of being able to increase the range of my totems, especially things like Healing Stream Totem and Tremor Totem, but I have a hard time seeing it as necessary. Thirty percent of 30 yards is still only 9 yards. Is a 39-yard totem range really worth two talent points? I think this could be better served simply by increasing base totem range and putting something else in its place.
Totemic Focus is now a two-rank talent, down from three ranks. It now also increases the duration of your totems by 20/40 percent. For the average 5-minute totem, this will increase the duration to 7 minutes at maximum rank. For totems like Grounding Totem, it brings them up to just over a minute in duration. Probably the most important thing this talent does is increase the duration of Mana Tide Totem. The totem itself in the beta lasts 12 seconds, but with two ranks in Totemic Focus, this changes to 17 seconds. Since the totem pulses every 3 seconds, you get a full extra tick of regeneration out of it. That means an extra 6 percent of your total mana returned to you every 5 minutes for the investment of two talent points. This might not seem like a lot, but with mana being at a premium for healers, any additional mana regeneration you can give yourself can count for quite a bit. That alone makes this talent worth at least considering for a healing-minded shaman, but you have to keep in mind that the developers have also stated they want to make boss fights longer. Increasing totem duration might help curb some of the mana costs throughout an extended fight.
Cleansing Waters is another new talent for the restoration tree. When your Cleanse Spirit successfully removes a harmful effect, you also heal the target for [ 1093 to 1164 ]/[ 2187 to 2330 ]. I would like to start by saying that I really like this talent. Again, the developers have stated that they would like to make healing more thoughtful and to that end have made mana for healers more of an issue. Being able to remove curses and magical effects and having it apply a heal is a very nice bonus. Some feel this may be a more PvP-oriented talent, but with the amount of cleansing we do today in both Icecrown Citadel and The Ruby Sanctum, I wouldn't be too surprised to see this trend carry on. Even now in the beta there is plenty to cleanse in the 5-man dungeons and I have found this talent quite useful so far.
Common Cataclysm questions
This is a small selection of some of the most frequent questions I've received over the last few weeks.
Is mana really an issue when healing? As it stands with the current build, it seems to be less of an issue. Healing the starting Cataclysm dungeons has become easier even at 80 as the beta builds have been updated. Right now, using Chain Heal and Healing Wave, I have found little trouble keeping mana levels up. When I switch to Lesser Healing Wave, though, I have noticed mana consumption goes through the roof. This seems almost counterintuitive based on mana cost of these spells, but it is something I've observed. It most likely has to do with the return on investment to the amount of mana spent per heal and the healing output of each spell. This may change, but that is where we are right now.
Is the change to spirit as MP5 something we need to worry about, or will that work itself out normally? The change really doesn't scream at you. All of your gear that had MP5 will convert over quietly and neatly to spirit. On the character sheet, you will notice a fairly sizable drop, but the in-game effect at this point seems almost negligible. You should be seeing roughly the same mana return after the MP5-to-spirit conversion.
How quickly will I be replacing my gear with quest and dungeon drops? That depends a lot on what type of gear you are walking into Cataclysm with. Quest gear so far in the beta has been pretty good as far as stat itemization goes, and while the drops from dungeons may be far from complete, but if itemization continues as it is they will be on par for decent drops and upgrades. Gear that is ilvl251 can be replaced as early as level 81 while ilvl277 gear has been holding strong through level 83 items so far. Set bonuses play into this somewhat, but there will come a time when you want to start picking up pieces with mastery rating on them.
Is leveling as restoration really viable or is leveling as DPS still faster? I was surprised by this, but leveling as restoration is quite viable. I have now leveled three versions of Lodur on the beta, one as elemental, one as enhancement and one as restoration, just to compare the time required to level. From 80 to 83 is very, very close when leveling as any of the three specs. In this, I'm counting not just leveling through the dungeon finder but also through questing. So for those of you wanting to level as restoration, you will find you can keep pace with the DPS specs quite nicely.
Are dwarf shaman really as awesome as they seem? How is the dwarf shaman lore compared to that of the existing shaman races like orcs and trolls? Honestly, it shapes up quite nicely. There is a lot of lore behind this, especially with the Wildhammer Clan and the dwarven politics. I think it is very comparable to the lore behind troll and orc shaman, and the more I'm leveling my baby dwarf shaman, the more I want to find out. I haven't seen any yet, but I am hoping that we will see more quests that deal directly with this lore.
That is it for this week, folks. Please keep in mind that this information is based on the current build of the Cataclysm beta. As the game is developed and as updates are released, this information is subject to change. Be sure to check back often as we keep you up to date on all updates. If you have any specific questions you want answers to, feel free to email me or send me a direct message on Twitter, and I will do my best to find the answers you seek!
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