Cataclysm Class Changes: Restoration Shaman Analysis

Joe Perez
J. Perez|04.07.10

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Cataclysm Class Changes: Restoration Shaman Analysis
Two days ago, we were treated to news of upcoming changes to how dispel works for the various classes in Warcraft. A day later, this was cleared up a bit for us and explained in a little more detail. Restoration shaman felt the sting of losing the ability to remove both poisons and diseases but gaining the ability to remove magic buffs and debuffs. No matter your stance on the change, it will have a profound effect on the class as a whole.

Hot on the heels of these changes, the Cataclysm class preview news has just been released and there is a lot of information here for any shaman player to sift through. For the full list of proposed changes, be sure to check out our earlier post. If you thought the dispel changes were big, looking at the preview shows they have so much more in store for us.

So with all the changes happening, I am certain you are as eager as I am to take a look at the potential changes to restoration shaman.

One of the first things we are greeted with is the addition of another healing spell to our direct healing arsenal. Healing Wave (level 4). Now I'm sure your saying, "Hey wait, we already have a spell named Healing Wave!" Well you are right -- we do, but what they are doing is taking our old familiar healing wave and changing it to Greater Healing Wave. This is making it more in line with say the priest class' direct healing, where they have heal and greater heal. Same principle applies here. The idea is to make Greater Healing Wave a situational heal, while Healing Wave will be a more "go-to" heal for us. This is very good for us, as it gives us a little more single target healing presence and gives us a little bit of a nudge towards a big nuke heal to use situationally. It seems at first like a minor change, but this is the first step in expanding the healing toolkit restoration shaman currently enjoy.

Following this is the addition of Unleashed Weapon, which opens up an interesting set of options for shaman. The idea is to basically make it work like a paladin's judgment, with varying effects based on what weapon imbue you use. Here are some of the proposed effects.
  • Windfury Weapon Hurls a spectral version of your weapon at a target, dealing 50% weapon damage and increasing the shaman's Haste for the next five swings.
  • Flametongue Weapon Deals instant Fire damage and buffs the shaman's next Fire attack by 20%.
  • Earthliving Weapon Heals the target slightly and buffs the shaman's next healing spell by 20%.
While these aren't finalized, you can see the added utility of this ability. Looking at the idea behind Earthliving Weapon unleashed, one can already begin to see how this could be used to augment our healing in various situations. I like this idea; while it is the shaman version of a paladin's judgments, I'll gladly take it.

Continuing the trend of new toys borrowed from other classes, another new spell was announced Healing Rains. It currently looks as though we will receive this at level 83. This is an area effect, heal over time (HoT) spell that allows a healing shaman to call down rain healing players in a chosen area. At first look this seems similar to a druid's Tranquility, but on closer inspection there is something about this spell that sets it aside from our tree-like brethren. There is no limit to the amount of targets the spell can affect in the chosen area; however, the spell is subject to diminishing returns. In short, the more people under the area effect, the less it heals for. This is very similar to the diminishing returns associated with AoE damage spells. This keeps the spell suited to situational use but gives us a little more flexibility and another solid tool to add to the toolkit. This represents a solid boost to both group healing, offering a nice companion to Chain Heal, and gives us a little bit more of a HoT ability. Current stats for the spell are two-second cast time, 30-yard range, 10-second duration. 10-second cooldown. Nethaera also clarified that this is not a channeled spell. I'm really looking forward to seeing this spell in action.

The next change represents something shaman have been asking for as long as the class has been around, something all specs of the class can benefit from. I'll just go ahead and link post it here for quick reference.

Spiritwalker's Grace (level 85): When this self-targeted buff is active, your spells are no longer interrupted by movement and possibly even by your own attacks. This will give shaman of all three specs another way to heal or do damage when it's necessary to move in both PvE and PvP. Instant cast. 10-second duration. 2-minute cooldown.

We see a lot of fights right now where we have to move, and move fast, or something bad happens. Sindragosa, Marrowgar and many others require us to get out of Dodge, sometimes in the middle of a heal. Let's be honest here: Restoration shaman tend to be turret healers. We do our best when we can sit in one place and dump out heals. Fights that require a lot of movement are not well suited to us currently. This spell, however, opens up a whole new set of possibilities to us as mobile healers, and it allows us more utility and healing throughput in movement heavy encounters. Combine this with Riptide and use of Nature's Swiftness with other heals, and you get a fairly impressive set of spells for mobile healing.

Along with these new spells, there was also some news as to some mechanic and talent changes to the shaman class. There is a lot going on here, so let us take a peek.

In addition to adding new spells, we're planning to make changes to some of the other abilities and mechanics you're familiar with. This list and the summary of talent changes below it are by no means comprehensive, but they should give you a good sense of what we intend for each spec.

  • Restoration shaman and other healing classes will need to pay attention to mana more than they've had to during Wrath of the Lich King. Spirit will be the Restoration shaman's primary mana-regeneration stat.
  • We're making changes to which classes and specs are able to dispel magic, diseases, curses, and poison, largely for PvP purposes. Shaman will have Cleanse Spirit as a baseline ability, but it will only remove curses. Restoration shaman will have a talent that will improve Cleanse Spirit so that it also removes magic. Shaman will no longer be able to remove poison.
  • Cleansing Totem will be removed from the game, as we want dispels to be a decision for players, not something done mindlessly. To that end, all dispels will cost slightly more mana, and you will waste the spell if you cast it when there is nothing to remove. (Currently, the dispel is only cast when there is something to remove, which encourages spamming 'just in case.") We will balance PvE dispelling with this new model in mind.

A lot of shuffling going on here. As you might have expected with yesterday's news about cleanse changes, Cleansing Totem is going the way of the titans, never to be seen again. Instead all shaman will get Cleanse Spirit as a trainable spell. Resto shaman will get a talent that will allow us to remove magic, but sadly we won't get a totem to do it for us. In addition to this, using the Cleanse Spirit spell even if there is nothing to remove will cost you mana. (Currently, if you attempt to cast the spell it will only trigger and cost mana if there is something to actually remove.) This changes it from something that's spammable without consequence to something you have to actively decide upon using with care. Swapping from MP5 to spirit is not new information, but this is yet another step to cement this change and should be noted.

As well as ability changes also come some key talent changes. Aside from removing Cleanse Spirit and placing it as a trainable spell, Ancestral Knowledge will now boost mana pool size instead of intellect. This goes hand in hand with the mana conservation changes they are implementing by reducing the effectiveness of replenishment. While we will likely see a large increase in int from gear, removing the percentage bonus is most definitely a balancing move based on this.

Another interesting point is that talks of Spirit Link are back! Those of you lucky enough to get into the early Wrath of the Lich King beta might have seen this talent. It was an interesting spell and one that I fully supported. The mechanics behind it were hard to balance and it was decided to remove it from the game. However the concept sparked interest not only through the shaman community but also among the devs. There are a lot of play possibilities with this talent and the idea that it can potentially lead to some interesting encounters. They are currently looking to try to balance it and see if they can bring it back. If you don't remember the talent, let me give you a refresher.
Spirit Link (Rank 1): You link the friendly target with two nearby targets, causing 50% of the damage taken to be distributed to the linked targets. After 2,200 damage, the link will sever.

With the abilities and talents also came news of our mastery bonuses. As with each tree, there are three levels of mastery. The more points you invest in a particular tree, the more you get from your mastery.The first tier will give you a bonus to whatever your roll is, while tier 2 and 3 of your mastery are more specialized to your class.
  • Healing
  • Meditation
  • Deep Healing
Meditation is a mana regen ability that affects your in combat mana regeneration. While not a lot of details are available currently, my guess is it will work something similar to a priest's Meditation. Deep Healing is interesting. The lower a target's health is, the more of a bonus to your direct healing you receive. In short, this means if someone is at 25% health, you will get a bigger bonus than, say, if they were at 40% health. I want to see this in action to truly gauge it, but at first look, this already has the potential to be incredibly useful in high-stress situations.

Blizzard has stated that they want healing to be more exciting, and part of that excitement is to have each spellcast matter. You can see that they are approaching this from multiple angles. One is making mana count. Right now, it is possible to get to a point where mana is not an issue or concern; you can simply sit back and chain cast, watching over-healing go through the roof. In Cataclysm, they want to move away from that model and make sure you are picking your healing targets carefully. The other way they are doing this is by expanding our set of healing tools. Even with the addition of Riptide, our healing spells have been limited. Giving us the expanded toolkit makes us have to decide whether we are picking the right tool for the job or not. This is all adding up to making healing more robust and more interactive compared to what it is now, and honestly, I'm excited for these changes. The new abilities, talents, mastery and consequences of healing all seem to be heading in the right direction.

So what do you think of the changes? We will keep you posted as more information becomes available, so be sure to check with us often.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will destroy Azeroth as we know it. Nothing will be the same. In's Guide to Cataclysm, you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion. From goblins and worgens to mastery and guild changes, it's all there for your cataclysmic enjoyment.
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