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Totem Talk: A weapon in every healing hand?

Joe Perez

Want to be a sultan of swing healing? A champion of Chain Heal? Totem Talk: Restoration will show you how, brought to you by Joe Perez, otherwise known as Lodur from World of Matticus and the For The Lore podcast

Were you excited about the talent tree preview Blizzard gave us? We got to talk about it a little bit some of the upcoming changes (or lack thereof) and see a little bit about what is in our futures. Since the release of the preview speculation and planning has been running wild. One of the more interesting topics that has come up quite often, Dual Wield restoration.

It was always one of the more interesting specs proposed, but in patch 3.1 Blizzard made all the good spell power weapons main hand only. This reduced the viability of the spec, and has since been looked upon with a fond adoration like the memory of a lost love. Now however, it just may be that this mythical spec may be viable again come Cataclysm.

What is dual wield resto?

The short version of the tale is that it was a hybrid spec popular in early Burning Crusade that allowed a shaman to wield two one handed weapons to potentially devastating effect in both PvP content as well as PvE.

The spec first appeared in early BC, when shaman would spec 0/31/30 and wield two spellpower weapons (available as green drops from mobs and as blue drops from quests and instances). This worked because many spellpower weapons were classified as "one-handed" and could be wielded in either hand. This build allowed a shaman to have much more spellpower than a traditional 1H/Shield build. Blizzard decided that this game play was not intended and turned all spellpower weapons into main-hand only weapons.

In early Wrath, the spec became somewhat viable again for two main reasons. First the haste/crit rating unification between casters and melee made physical DPS off-hands and one-hands a viable option for casters as what is essentially a stat-stick. Secondly the new Earthliving Weapon spell provided a strong spellpower boost that could be applied to these weapons, effectively making them caster style weapons. The resulting 0/31/40 spec had the benefit of a second +63 spellpower enchant and +150 healing ELW. The gains from this were pretty substantial. For comparison purposes take a look at Librarian's Paper Cutter. 26 crit rating, 46 haste and with ELW and enchants, 213 spellpower. Compare that to Bulwark of Smoldering Steel and you can see that the stats are not so far behind when comparing an item level 200 piece to an item level 277 piece. The build never really caught on like before. While itemization may exist for it, a shaman would currently be required to lose out on some key abilities deep in restoration such as Earth Shield, Riptide, Ancestral Awakening and Tidal Waves.

Now with Cataclysm on the horizon some things are changing that make this spec very attractive once again. First of all, Dual Wield has been moved to the 21 point talent range. This essentially gives back 10 talent points that would have normally been necessary to pick up the talent. Second with the level cap raising to 85, we receive 5 more talent points to utilize. This makes a spec like this very possible. All of the key restoration talents are still in place and it allows you to grab dual wield and even pick up ancestral swiftness while we are in the neighborhood.

Looking at this a shaman is at no great disadvantage by only going 55 points into the restoration talent tree, even when considering the mastery system. When looking at the talents in the enhancement tree necessary to get to dual wield, almost all of them are beneficial. A shaman gains extra mana, better shields, improved run speed and increased effectiveness of weapon imbues. Dual wield can potentially offer more benefits to a healing shaman when compared to wielding a shield in a few ways. Shaman can double stack ELW and spell power enchants that is not possible with a shield. By double stacking ELW, a shaman can raise the effectiveness of the weapon imbue by increasing the chance of its proc. This may not seem like a lot but as shaman stack haste and use chain heal, the healing output of earthliving weapon increases. As you cast Chain Heal more often, you increase the number of targets affected by your healing. This then increases the chance to trigger the HoT effect. Combine this with Glyph of Chain Heal and Glyph of Earthliving Weapon and you can have some potentially impressive up-time on our HoT. Depending on itemization it may also outweigh shields based on stats, and even availability. Higher stats like haste on a one handed weapon can outweigh the loss of stats on shields.

Is this intentional by Blizzard? Can it really be true?

This is a question a lot of people are asking. Moving dual wield lower into the enhancement tree really opened things up to make this spec viable. Itemization at this time however has not changed, and all spellpower weapons remain main-hand only. We also have to keep in mind that all this right now is based off of information that may be subject to change. Blizzard may still restructure talents in such a way that it will not be possible to choose this talent spec without seriously hurting our ability to heal. Itemization is not finalized at this time and there may not be sufficient gear to support this spec in Cataclysm. Shields may be more prevalent and have superior stats, and it is even possible that ELW could be nerfed to not work past one weapon imbue and thus removing one of the key strengths of this build.

It is an interesting idea for shaman in both PvP and PvE and is quite a unique way to play the class. It has a lot of benefits and now with the new talent pools few of the previous drawbacks. It can also help break the mold as far as cookie cutter specs, and Blizzard did say at BlizzCon '09 that they wanted to see a decrease in identical specs and add more emphasis on fun and creativity when choosing talents.

Some people absolutely love the idea of this spec, others don't like it at all, and both sides have been vocal about their opinions over the last week. At the end of the day though it is still a wait and see type of deal. Blizzard may leave it completely alone or they may decide that is not how they want the class to be played and alter it accordingly. We will know more once Cataclysm starts moving through its beta phases and gets closer to release. We will keep you posted here on any further talent changes and shaman news so be sure to check back often!

So what do you think about dual wield restoration? Love it or hate it? Do you think Blizzard will leave it as is or do you think they will get rid of it?

Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk. Whether it's Mike Sacco's elemental edition, Joe Perez's coverage of restoration or Rich Maloy's enhancement edition, we have you covered.

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