Hard to believe that another year has come and gone, isn't it? It seems like only yesterday we were waiting in line for the Cataclysm to drop. Now we're at the end of the expansion, complete with the last raid tier and a battle for the survival of Azeroth against the aspect of death himself. But the new year has come, and it's a perfect time to look back on a rather full year of activity while we eagerly await the release of Mists of Pandaria.
Tier 11: A slice of heaven
The release of Cataclysm was something that was eagerly anticipated by a rather large number of players -- new talent trees, new spells and abilities, and a ton of new content. After making our way through the various dungeons and heroics, we set foot into the first tier of raid content for the expansion only to find out that we were pretty awesome. Using our new tools and tricks, we were able to destroy and outclass a lot of fights. Heroic Chimaeron was a perfect example of a fight in which restoration shaman just destroyed the competition and were heroes of a higher healing caliber.
Tier 11 gave us a lot of opportunity to make use of our brand new mastery, Deep Healing, and not just use it but let it shine. Many of the boss fights had mechanics that would bring a large number of the raid members' health down to very low totals, allowing our Healing Rain and Earthliving Weapon proc to explode onto the scene. Magmaw, Chimaeron, and Halfus all had a ton of damage to heal through and really let us pour on the healing juice.
Patch 4.0.6 came along and with it brought a few adjustments. Mana Tide Totem no longer benefited from short-term, on-use spirit increases like Core of Ripeness. This was an effort to curb the abuse of our mana regeneration mechanics that not only put us ahead of the curve in terms of outlasting the encounters, but made it so that other healers didn't have to worry about their mana usage, either. It also was modified to only be based on the casting shaman's spirit instead of each individual healer's. This wasn't so much a nerf or buff as it was simply a point of balancing for the ability, and it remained a strong regen tool. Deep healing got a bit of a buff, and Greater Healing Wave's healing done and cost were adjusted so that it had a clear purpose in our tool kits. It was a patch of changes, but nothing that could bring us down.
Patch 4.1 brought with it even more restoration changes. Our mastery was changed so that it affected every single one of our healing spells instead of just our direct healing spells, giving us a little more bang for our buck on lower-health targets. It also brought with it something we had been anticipating for many years, the ever-wonderful spell Spirit Link Totem. After not making the cut in Wrath of the Lich King, it was thought that we wouldn't see this little beauty again. While it had definitely changed forms, being tethered to a totem in this incarnation, we finally got ourselves a real defensive cooldown. SLT was everything we could hope for, and when combined with other healer cooldowns, it could help bring a raid back from the brink of death to victory. It has found its way into the hearts of resto shaman everywhere and has solidified itself as a resto shaman staple.
We ended the tier on the fallen bodies of Nefarian and Sinestra as some of the best healers for the job.
Tier 12 saw the reintroduction of Ragnaros and his band of fiery miscreants. Unlike the tier before it, it wasn't as kind to restoration shaman as it was to other healers. Many of the fights required your raid team to be quite spread out for the various boss mechanics. Beth'tilac split your raid group between two different levels and spread out in the first phase, making it difficult to take advantage of our strengths during this phase. In phase 2, however, there was a ton of damage and a grouped-up raid to heal, which made up for phase 1 a little bit. Alysrazor had a built-in mechanic that eliminated the need for Spiritwalker's Grace, and Shannox forced the raid group to spread out beyond the leaps of Chain Heal.
Fights like Baleroc were better suited to strong, single-target heals, and our group healing spells were only really useful in very certain circumstances. We weren't lacking in ability in this tier, but the various boss mechanics in normal and heroic raiding didn't quite play well with our abilities. We had to work a little harder to keep up and make our mark, but it was still doable.
It was a time of doubt for many restoration shaman that rivaled the time of Ulduar. We persevered and before long were able to claim the fire lord's crown for ourselves, claiming victory for the second time in Azerothian history against the elemental plane of fire.
Return of the resto shaman
Dragon Soul marks the return of the restoration shaman as a dominant healing force. Not that we were ever that weak, mind you, but every aspect of this tier of raid speaks to our strengths. Each fight allows us to maximize our raid healing and use every tool at our disposal in some way. Morchock is a fight that rewards the raid group for stacking up throughout the first phase, allowing you to keep entire swaths of people alive throughout all the damage the boss does to the entire raid. Zon'ozz is the same in that regard, with phases where raiders stack on top of each other in order to heal through the massive incoming damage.
The mechanics and the massive amounts of raid-wide damage make this a very strong tier for restoration shaman. Our abilities are uniquely suited to handle them and make us the envy of other healers. Haste and mastery are both strong stats, and both have a place in shaman healing in this tier. Honestly, it's a great tier to be a restoration shaman, and it's a fantastic way to end an expansion -- awesome gear, great raid fights and being able to show those pesky healing priests that we got the healing mojo. Even if we do have gear made out of flesh and bones this time around.
It's been a roller coaster of an expansion, with each tier bringing with it highs and lows. We've been tweaked and balanced from the very beginning -- new abilities and spells, great raid content. With a full year of Cataclysm behind us, how do you feel about it? Are you eagerly awaiting the next expansion, or are you still having amazing amounts of fun in Dragon Soul? What were your highlights of 2011?
Totem Talk: Restoration lets you Ask a Shaman about the tricks of the trade. We'll introduce you to the very latest pre-raid gear and show you how to manage your cooldowns. Happy healing, and may your mana be plentiful!