Finishing out Tier 14 normal
Tier 14, even on normal mode, offers a lot for you in the way of loot and experience. We've talked about this a bit before, but for restoration shaman each fight is an opportunity to test out your abilities and talents, and to get some nice loot. That's part of the good thing about this tier, and it rapidly approaching the end, is you get an opportunity to test out some of our talents that may not have at first seemed terribly useful or that you may have had a hard time figuring out what to do with them.
A good example is Echo of the Elements, a talent that has gone largely untalked about until very recently. Whenever the tier 60 talents get talked about, the focus for resto tends to rest on Ancestral Swiftness. Don't get me wrong, I love Ancestral Swiftness with the 5% passive haste, and the on use instant healing is very strong. I underwent a little experiment this week to see how raiding without this talent would be. I replaced it with Echo of the Elements, which allows your spells that are direct healing to have a chance to gain Echo of the Elements, duplicating that spell's effect. The first tricky part is that the spell effect from the talent, since it copies the direct healing spell, doesn't show up in logs as a separate entry. Previously, proc rates were put at 6% for resto and elemental. The second tricky part is that since it is a proc, it is completely random, and normally anything that is left up to RNG is less than ideal. I took the talent for an entire raid of Terrace, and compared it to the week before in which I had Ancestral Swiftness. What were the end results?
For me, on Protectors of the Endless elite mode, there was little to no difference in the healing done. During this fight I was assigned to heal the tank that had Protector Kaolan off to the side. While my numbers were almost identical, I noticed a distinct difference in the amount of mana I consumed in the role. With Echo, it was considerably less, which means next time I can be a bit more aggressive with my positioning and healing. On Tsulong, there was virtually no difference in the amount of healing done, or the amount of mana I consumed on the fight. Lei Shi my overall healing was marginally higher than without it, but I dearly missed having that instant heal to help spike tanks up on the fly if there was an unfortunate splash. On Sha of Fear, my healing was considerably higher than without the talent. I considered the experiment a success, and will be taking the talent on two of those fights once again, but I was quite surprised.
If you're finishing up the tier on normal, I encourage you to take the opportunity to experiment with your talents a little bit. Echo of the Elements was a surprise for me, and I have heard of people using Ancestral Guidance to great effect, though I have yet to test that for myself yet. I'd be interested to hear if anyone has had anyone has had any interesting experiences with our talents while healing.
Shifting up to Heroic
A question I get often as of late is about the difficulty in shifting modes from healing normal mode raids to healing hard-mode encounters. How hard it is? How should I prepare? What things should I worry about the most? Well, hard-mode encounters are named so for the increased difficulty, damage output the bosses do, added mechanics you have to pay attention to and the increased health of the bosses themselves. That said, they aren't anything you can't overcome. The first step is to make sure you know the encounters ahead of time. There is a wonderful set of resources available here on WoW Insider with Raid RX, as well as throughout the community. Even the dungeon journal will give you an idea of the abilities and mechanics you will be facing. The first point is to do the research before the fight. Don't expect it to be just like normal, and while sometimes you have to see something to learn it, just try to be prepared with knowledge of the fight before you go into it.
The other thing that you will want to make sure is that you are playing to your best, and that means making sure you're following best practices. I don't often link off site, but Vixsin has a wonderful post about resto shaman best practices over on her blog and her opinion and thoughts are ones that I respect very highly. It's the type of things we've been talking about for a while now, like using your Healing Stream Totem on cooldown or using Ascendance or Healing Tide Totem with Spirit Link Totem. If you're serious about healing hard-modes, make sure you're following best practices.
The last thing is I would say is to communicate with your team. If you're in a group environment, you've likely been healing with the same group of people for a bit now and maybe you play off each other so well that you don't have to communicate every little thing. But when you get to hard-modes, sometimes things change. If you're having trouble, or if things aren't quite working out, talk with your team. My healing team has had to make several adjustments on the fly through many of the bosses we've encountered in hard mode so far, and the biggest factor for success has been talking to each other about the fight. It is probably our most important tool in the arsenal beyond Healing Rains, Riptides and the various flavors of Healing Wave. That is really the best advice I can offer you for shifting up from normal to hard.
Totem Talk: Restoration lends you advice on healing groups, DK tanks and heroics and mana concerns in today's endgame -- or take a break and look back at the rise of the resto shaman. Happy healing, and may your mana be plentiful!