Shaman healing always seems tenuous whenever the second tier of raiding hits in an expansion. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we suck by any stretch of the imagination, but any tier that has a lot of movement mechanics and a lot less stationary heals we generally have to work that much harder. Now, things have definitely gotten easier over the years for us, but they could always get better right?
So that was when Greg Street, otherwise known as your friendly neighborhood Ghostcrawler and lead systems designer for Blizzard Entertainment, made a tweet that had restoration shaman around the globe cheering, despite them being perhaps a bit confused as to where this came from. So what lead up to this buff? What impact has it had on our healing in the Throne of Thunder? Has it improved our quality of healing life since the hot fix went live?
Understand the problem
I have spent a long time telling you how awesome shaman healing is. That hasn't changed, and I still believe that it is both awesome and rewarding. That doesn't mean we aren't without our challenges, and Throne of Thunder has the one thing that has been the bane of shaman healing for the longest time. Even with Spiritwalker's Grace, movement tends to be our nemesis. The vast majority of the fights have mechanics in which we must move around on a relatively regular basis. What it resulted in was resto shaman healing came under the microscope once again. After reviewing numerous logs for normal mode Throne of Thunder, there was a disturbing trend of shaman coming in well behind other classes even on fights that cater well to us. This was for both 10 and 25 man raids. Differences ranging from 10k HPS at the lowest to somewhere in the neighbor hood of 26k HPS behind the leading healers in those fights. The problem is that on fights like Jin'rohk the Break and Ji-Kun and even to an extent Megaera where there is a lot of group up moments, fights that cater to our classes strength specifically, we were falling behind. When you consider that one of the design goals during Cataclysm and into Mists of Pandaria has been to bring the healing classes closer together in terms of throughput.
That's not to say that there weren't cases in which there were shaman healers doing amazing things and pushing fantastic numbers, but it wasn't common enough to be able to write it off as just composition, bad luck, lag or any other number of possible causes. While we are awesome and have a lot of utility we definitely needed a bit of a tune up. The goal was that ultimately there should be fights where we excel and fights where we have to work a little bit harder but aren't struggling beyond reasonable expectations. It's the same set of problems that we've been struggling with for a while now, lots of movement equating to weak healing.
So enter the fix, a 20% increase in the healing of Healing Rain, Chain Heal and Earthliving. The number itself seems fairly large at first glance, especially when you're used to smaller percent increases and decreases when balancing. It's a nice buff to our two core AoE healing spells, and a little boost to something usually considered among our passive healing. The idea is to make fights like Jin'rohk something where we do show our particular healing flavor with full gusto, instead of being left in the dust.
Life after the update
So, the sixty four thousand dollar question, did the update actually make any difference? You could take it to the numbers and judge it purely on that. I mean, that is a part of it right so it's good to at least see how your throughput looks after the buff. Personally, on Jin'rohk before the update I was middle of the pack. After the update, I gained another 30k HPS just from Healing Rain and Chain Heal and started giving our Holy paladin a real run for his money. It was an interesting difference from one week to the other, and seeing as my gear really didn't really change this was pretty much solely due to this buff. Other fights, my numbers also improved and brought me closer to the other healers in my raid team and made it a lot more competitive in terms of numbers between us. Beyond numbers you can also judge it based on how it feels to you as a player and raid group. Is your team having an easier time keeping everyone alive? Do you find yourself struggling less to maintain mana and still keep healing? For me the answer to both was yes. I noticed collectively our heal team was having a easier time keeping everyone alive when I was able to use my newly buffed spells and mana was less of an issue. I still had to work for the heals, don't get me wrong, but it just felt like it was stronger as a whole.
A few weeks after this patch, I don't feel like buff was huge and game breaking. I think it was a good tweak, at least for the current content. It doesn't drastically change the feeling of the way we heal, and it doesn't devalue the other healing classes by just blindly buffing us. It actually feels pretty balanced. Other healers on our healing team, the non shaman, also seem to really enjoy this. I am personally looking forward to going through some logs and seeing exactly how much the buff has done for other people and their raid groups.
We've talked about the buff, and a lot about numbers and HPS, but even after the buff I still have the same basic philosophy to healing;
- Work with your healing team, communication is important
- Know the fight mechanics and when to use your cooldowns
- Heal intelligently, don't just burn mana for no reason
- HPS and meters shouldn't be your only focus, but can be a useful tools for analysis
I am curious to hear what you think of the buff though. Do you think it was necessary? Do you think it was enough, too much or not enough? How has your healing been since the patch?
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!