Last week, we talked about the upcoming changes for restoration shaman in patch 4.1. The update contains a couple of significant things for restoration shaman. First was the change that mastery will now have an impact on all of our healing spells. While last week I said that mastery did not affect Healing Rain, I'd like to thank everyone who commented and lended a hand. On live, mastery does affect Healing Rain, but my math was just off. On my first pass, it appeared as if the bonus to HR was due to crit, not mastery, and I am happily corrected there.
The second change and the one I'm most excited about is the re-introduction of the much sought-after Spirit Link. This mythical restoration shaman cooldown has been talked about for the better part of three years now; it has been promised to us many times over, only to be taken away. It has recently been added to the latest build of the PTR, and I'd like to talk a little bit about my experiences with it so far with the new Spirit Link Totem.
So what's the story?
A long time ago, in a magic land called Azeroth, there once lived a plucky little spell that bound the spirits of three fighters together in order to share and redistribute damage. The spell captured the hearts and imaginations of all those who laid eyes upon it. Sadly, though, it wasn't meant to be, and the spell fell to the Wrath of the Lich King. Then, as the world trembled and shook with the violent intensity of an angry dragon, heralding the coming Cataclysm, the long-dead spell resurfaced in the hushed whispers of the expectant. Now, after years of anticipation and heartache, it has been reborn! And the shaman rejoice.
Honestly, though, this is something that has been a long time in coming. The developers at Blizzard and the vast majority of restoration shaman really fell in love with the idea when it was introduced in the closed beta for Wrath. The problem was that the spell created some weird imbalances, was clunky to use and did not fit with the proposed healing model of the time. When Cataclysm was first announced, the gang at Blizzard made the statement that they wanted a chance to bring the spell back and were looking at ways to integrate it without causing too much of a disturbance. Then last month, we got the announcement that restoration shaman were in the sights of the developers in order to improve our performance and to provide us with a defensive cooldown. Speculation began, and the sense of anticipation was high as we anxiously awaited news on what this cooldown would be. Then came the news that this cooldown would indeed be none other than Spirit Link, reborn as a totem.
How does it work?
Right now, it has been put in as a brand new talent in the restoration tree. It is at the same tier as Telluric Currents, Mana Tide Totem and Ancestral Awakening. It costs a single talent point to obtain the spell, and as of the time of writing this article, no other talents were moved or reduced to make room for it. Well, since a picture is worth a thousand words, here's a comparison of the talent trees on the live server and patch 4.1 on the latest PTR build.
Is it worth it? Are we overpowered now?
Unfortunately, I haven't been able to test out Spirit Link Totem in a raid quite yet, as everyone on the PTR seems to want to run Icecrown Citadel or Ulduar and not any of the Cataclysm raids. (This is a phenomenon I don't quite understand. If anyone can shed any light on this, I would appreciate it, as I'm quite puzzled by this.) Anyway, while I haven't been able to test it out in Blackwing Descent or Bastion of Twilight yet, I have gotten the opportunity to test it out in the new Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub heroic dungeons. When I first tried Zul'Aman a few days ago, the group I was with got stonewalled at Akil'zon and his new mechanics. I won't spoil anything, but needless to say, the fight was not kind to shaman healers. After the patch, though, when faced with the same boss, I was able to push through the encounter with liberal use of the Spirit Link Totem. It allowed me to keep the group alive through some very difficult-to-heal damage. It didn't negate the difficulty of the encounter but rather gave me the tool I needed to handle the fight.
In each of the other heroics, I'm finding plenty of places where this cooldown is very useful, various fights where we can take full advantage of this mechanic, and I'm already beginning to plan on places that our new cooldown will very useful for us -- fights like Nefarian in phase 2, when you are on the pillars and there is a ton of damage to attempt to mitigate, or Al'Akir phase 2 and 3, when there are so many things that can cause one person a ton of damage. I don't think it will trivialize any of those fights, but I do think that it will make it much easier for us now that we are given a new and useful tool to work with.
My first impression
So after getting to play around with it, I think Spirit Link Totem is a fantastic new addition to our healing arsenal and something I think most shaman will embrace quite readily. Right out of the box, it feels pretty well balanced, and I don't think we're going to see too much tweaking of the ability before it makes it to live.
There are some limitations to the spell, such as the 3-minute cooldown, the fact that it only affects those within a 10-yard radius and that it is a totem that must be dropped at the caster's feet. These factors help balance out the fact that it redistributes group health. It isn't overpowered; it isn't underpowered, either. It is something we will have to get used to and learn when to use and when not to, but ultimately I think it was well worth the wait. I'm looking forward to spending even more time with the spell and getting to know the intricacies of using it even more. It has been amazing watching the health totals rebalance and someone who was close to death get a second wind long enough for my heals to land and bring them safely out of the danger zone.
So what do you think? Have you had a chance to test it out yet? What are your first impressions?
Totem Talk: Restoration will show you the basics of endgame resto shaman play as well as how to find the expansion's best reputation gear for resto shaman and tips for easier leveling. Happy healing, and may your mana be plentiful!