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Totem Talk: Healing with a clown suit

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

Cataclysm beta is still a hot topic around the internet. Everyone keeps refreshing their pages hoping that they will see the wonderful dragon artwork of Deathwing staring at them. Others who have made it in have been filtering information back to the outside world and trying to keep everyone up to date. The biggest news of course being the new beta build which implemented the new 31-point talent trees.

Players have not been the only source of information over the last few weeks. There was a Blizzard developer chat on Twitter last week. If you missed it, don't panic! We have the entire thing organized for you by category right here. There was some very useful information handed out ... and some rather silly ones, but overall it was a good dev chat.

This week I thought I would take some time to look over what we learned from the developer chat as well as talk about how things look now for a restoration shaman in the latest build of the Cataclysm beta.

Let's start right off with the developer chat that took place on the 16th. There was a lot of information about various topics, but I wanted to highlight some of the ones that pertain to us restoration shaman.


Q. Some of the new talent trees for healers seem to emphasize a style of "mana regeneration by dealing damage." Is this intentional? If so, why?

A. Yes. In almost any situation, there are periods where heals are not urgently needed 100% of the time. Today, you probably just cast heals anyway in case someone takes damage, since mana doesn't matter much. But if mana did matter, the "right" thing to do would be to do nothing. Talents such as Telluric Currents provide an active way to recharge mana while contributing damage.

Since the discovery of the new talents, this has been something that has come up quite a bit. The idea that as a healer there are times you will be doing other things is something we've grown used to over the years. The idea of keeping our mana regeneration up by dealing damage is a new concept for a lot of players and can be a bit difficult to wrap one's head around. The idea itself is nothing really new and has been used in many games. Some of you may remember other games that used this model such as EverQuest, and it is something that is not too foreign to World of Warcraft already.

In AQ 20 when doing the event that lead up to General Rajaxx, it was not uncommon to keep a single mob alive and make a paladin use Judgement of Wisdom so that everyone could regenerate mana. Healers were asked to wand or smack the mob with a weapon until they regained enough mana. I know it is not quite the same thing as actively dealing damage in an encounter, but you get the basic Idea. I can see this being useful in raids for us, especially since the devs have said they want to make the boss fights longer. Right now the average boss fight lasts about five minutes, usually under that mark. I'm not including fights like the Lich King here or ones that have mid-fight events, but that is about where we are with equal gearing. Devs have mentioned this a lot over the last year, starting with BlizzCon '09. So if they plan on making fights longer while simultaneously lowering mana regeneration and raising mana costs, I can see this being completely necessary in a raid.

After playing with it over the last few days I can tell you, though, in the 5-mans as they are, it can be hard to find time to DPS and regen mana. In the Throne of Tides, while attempting to heal Lady Naz'jar, there was so much damage being done that it was impossible to stop healing for fear of a tank death. We ended the fight and not once did I get a chance to cast a single Lightning Bolt to earn any mana back, making Telluric Currents useless on that fight. The talent has, however, been ridiculously useful while leveling and questing as restoration. It has helped basically eliminate downtime between questing and combat.

Ultimately, though, this is something that I think we will see be at least a little bit better when we reach the level cap and step foot into a multiple healer environment. It is hard to stop healing when you have no one to back you up while you regen, but with multiple healers, this can add a new complexity and raid coordination aspect to healers in end-game encounters.


Q. Will Spirit Link make a return after all? Ghostcrawler mentioned he'd like to bring it back, but no sighting of it yet

A. Anything's possible, but at this point it isn't looking good for our beloved talent.... If we changed it to be an absorb or a different sort of mechanic, then it wouldn't be the iconic Spirit Link that we all remember from Warcraft III. But that core damage-sharing mechanic poses major design and balance challenges (e.g. does a rogue really want to start taking damage suddenly because the shaman in his group decided to link him to the tank?).

I'll be honest, the above comment made me a bit sad. I've been waiting for the return of this spell since it was taken away early in the Wrath of the Lich King beta. I still hold out hope that we will see it put into the game, as there is still a long road ahead of us until release, but comments like that from Zarhym do not bode well.

During the shaman roundtable, while I was chatting away with the other guests, an interesting point came up about Spirit Link. Restoration shaman really do not have a big defensive cooldown to use when things get dicey. Priests get Pain Suppression or Guardian Spirit (depending on spec), druids gain access to Tranquility and Rebirth to bring someone back up in the heat of battle, and paladins have various bubbles for themselves to accompany Hand of Sacrifice. Shaman do not really have a defensive cooldown to use. Sure, we get our elementals and hero-lust, but those are more offensive cooldowns. Spirit Link could represent an awesome opportunity to give restoration shaman a defensive cooldown to use when no others are available. As far as not balancing the sharing of damage, maybe they could change it to be closer to how Hand of Sacrifice works.


Q. How does Deep Healing work? Will it heal severely less at high health that it is difficult to keep a target at a safe level of health?

A. No, view it as a perk that boosts your heals when that extra healing is most needed. It's a class-specific bonus, so healing overall won't be balanced around the expectation that Deep Healing applies.

It is good to hear that encounters won't be designed with things like this in mind. Healing is one of those things that I am certain will be tweaked even further, but knowing that encounters will not be balanced around this is good news.

So, some good things there. With the new build on the beta, I've been hard at work testing out the different talents and trying to heal my way through the dungeons. Some of it is hard to gauge right now, as some things are not yet working 100% (like the mastery stat). Last week, I reported about tanks being two-shot in a normal mode dungeon; for those asking, it appeared to be caused by two things. First, it was a boss ability followed very closely by a big swing from the boss, leaving little time to react and heal the tank. Second, some of the tank's mitigation abilities were not working properly, it would seem. This past week, I can tell you things are much improved. Healing is harder and it requires a more vigilant eye, but since the update, I can say I have not had a tank two-shot. Mana consumption is still a factor, and so healers must also be mindful of the resources they are using.

Unleashed Elements has also gotten a bit of a buff. Last week I reported that the heal was mediocre; this week, however, I can say the heal is crazy useful. With frost-badge-level gear, your Unleashed Elements will allow you a heal somewhere between 2.5k and 3.5k while still allowing for a 20% bonus on the next heal. It is an instant-cast heal so it can be cast on the move, and it only has a 15-second cooldown. I've successfully worked this into my healing rotation, and I can already see it becoming a favorite just like Riptide has over the course of this last expansion.

Right now, it is hard to get a full set of numbers simply because so much is still not working completely yet. The mastery stat and masteries are not yet fully implemented, and mana regeneration seems to be a bit different than what the character sheet indicates, so I suspect that things will be updated again soon.

As far as the title of today's post, there was a joke back in The Burning Crusade about having a clown set of gear with different colors and styles as you began to replace gear. In the Cataclysm beta so far, most of the rewards from quests are rapidly replacing i251 gear. The picture for today's post is Lodur2.0. I copied over a male Alliance shaman just to see how fast gear is replaced and I thought i251 was a good average, and copied characters started with the base tier 10 gear. As you can see, he is already wearing a plethora of funny-looking items, as I'm finding a ton of upgrades just from the opening quests in Hyjal.

I'm still working on videos for you, and hopefully within the next few weeks I will also have some more concrete numbers. Overall, though, this build of the expansion beta feels so much better than the one before it. My hopes are high for this one.

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

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