Back in the glory days of restoration shaman, say around The Burning Crusade, Chain Heal was the best things since Roasted Kodo Meat. It was the premier group heal, it was incredibly efficient in terms of mana cost, and you could heal for the same value as two healers. It was truly the greatest of times for those healing minded of us.
Anyone who has been following me on Twitter has probably noted that over the last few weeks I've had a pretty love hate relationship with CH on various fights in Siege of Orgrimmar. It is a complicated matter, at least through my eyes, for a few reasons.
With all of the recent changes to our healing kit, chain heal now has a chance to shine again. The main push back towards CH revolves around the changes to Healing Rain. The amount healed by healing rain has been reduced 30%, the area-of-effect has been increased to 12 yards and it has been made a smart heal that heals the 6 most injured friendly targets within range. Oh, and it no longer counts minor guardians. So, if it's a smart heal that requires people to stand in it, we're going to gravitate away from it slightly. Enter Chain Heal to reclaim its throne, or at least split the limelight with Healing Rain. Now over the years it has been updated numerous times, but the most notable change, and arguably one of the best for the spell since it was introduced, is that it no longer reduces the healing it does between targets. So it will jump to a total of four friendlies, and heal them for the full standard amount of the spell. Looking at that, and the fact that it does have an impressive jump range to begin with as well as being a smart heal, and you're getting a lot of bang for you buck.
It gets even better when you add in the Glyph of Chaining. When the expansion first opened, Glyph of Chaining was a bit of an, well, wasted potential. It doubled the jump distance of your CH, which is a pretty big deal, but at the cost of applying a four second cooldown to it, making it unspammable. As a result, it didn't really get much play time. In the most recent patch, the glyph received a little bit of an update. It reduced the cooldown from four seconds down to two seconds. This may seem like an insignificant change, but it is in fact a huge step forward in terms of the glyph. Another key point to remember is that in the previous patch, patch 5.3, chain heal can pass through players at full health. Basically, it can use them effectively as bounce points and allow your healing to reach further, especially when you factor in the increased jump distance from chaining. The glyph doesn't really make the spell more powerful, in fact if you do the math any cooldown applied to the spell effectively reduces the healing throughput of the spell. But, I decided to give it another try.
The two second cooldown took a little bit of adjustment to get used to. There were plenty of times that I found myself hitting my CH button a second time right after casting it and wasting precious seconds. Once I got the hang of it, it actually wasn't that bad. I found that it wasn't that hard to fill the time between chain heal casts with other upkeep items. In the span of those two seconds, it is very easy to perform upkeep on your Riptide, or start the cast of another spell like a Healing Wave or Greater Healing Wave. Refreshing the Earth Shield on a tank or even just moving into a better position for the next cast. With the glyph I've found it particularly handy in a 10-man raid environment where there are naturally less bodies close together for bounces. Put simply, I'm finding it far more useful than I had originally thought. It's something I think is worth revisiting and giving another shot.
Now I've talked about the good, now it's time for me to talk about the things I really don't like about it. Well, you know how Healing Rain doesn't really notice or count lesser minions? Well, Chain Heal sure pays attention to the bigger minions. I noticed it first when my guild was making attempts at Galakras. In nearly every attempt, chain heal started prioritizing the NPCs that fight along side you during the encounter. I'm not talking about Lady Sylvannas or Lor'themar, I'm talking about the Sunreaver Sentry robots that are present. I watched as it started bouncing among the NPCs, at times never reaching the members of my raid group. I noticed this all too late, and there were many attempts in which I wound up healing NPCs more than my own raid group with Chain Heal. I'm guessing it has to do with percentages of health when determining where the smart healing is going to be applied, since the NPCs have such a considerable amount more health than players, but it was a very troubling discovery. Up until this point I had no idea that the spell could put NPCs at a higher priority, and it caused me to have to re-evaluate my healing for that fight.
I'm curious if there isn't a way to institute a PC versus NPC check for the spell. To allow it to search for player characters that are eligible for the heal over friendly NPCs. It's not that it makes it a bad spell, or anything of that nature. It just means that it's an additional thing to consider going into any encounter that has friendly NPCs now. It is simply one of those weird behaviors that has to be observed, unless Blizzard goes about correcting it. It makes me wonder about other spells and effects that are considered smart heals. Do they suffer from the same behavior? Do they also prioritize based purely on health percentages and count friendly NPCs among their viable targets? This is something I am going to look into, I think, in the weeks to come. More out of curiosity than anything else. What about you? Have you noticed any odd behavior from our spells as of late?
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!