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Totem Talk: Mastery and totems and crabs, oh my!

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

Last week we talked a little bit about the leveling experience in Cataclysm so far as a restoration shaman from 80 on up. I was pleased to find out that it wasn't much slower than pure DPS and afforded a leveling, healing shaman quite a bit of survivability to get through the quests and to take on opponents much larger than we are. I was also pleased to see epic quests that seemed to have healers in mind, like the Ragnaros quest event. Before that, we talked about how fast gear is being replaced come Cataclysm and what type of upgrades have been spotted so far.

This past week has not been filled with as much excitement as others before it. There hasn't been too much in the way of earth-shattering news, but even so, some new information has been popping up regarding some more changes coming in Cataclysm, complete with an appearance by our main underwater dweller himself, Ghostcrawler (Blizzard's lead systems designer).

Take a look after the break to see what is new.

Totems, buffs and being unique

One of the biggest things that people have been talking about these past few weeks has been the homogenization of classes. With mages getting Time Warp, some shaman are feeling slighted. This, coupled with our losing some of our versatility through changes to dispel that take away our ability to remove poison and disease, plus the loss of Cleansing Totem, has sparked a series of questions regarding our utility and the buffs provided through our totems. Many have begun to draw the parallels between shaman totems that can easily be replaced by other class abilities. Some examples include:

  • Windfury Totem, though an amazing buff to melee haste, has the downside of positioning. Currently without talents, this only provides a 16 percent buff. It has been argued that death knights provide a better version. In Cataclysm, however, the buff is being increased to 20 percent and now affects ranged haste as well as melee haste. It still has the downside of positioning, though, as people must be in range of the totem for it to take effect.
  • Flametongue Totem will increase spellpower by a percentage in the next expansion. It has been argued, though, that demonology warlocks and fire mages will be able to provide a better version of the buff, one that does not have a positional requirement.

The list goes on from there as some players ask the question, "Why use totems in Cataclysm?" Ghostcrawler responded to some of these concerns, and I found his response pretty interesting.


Why does a DK not have to choose between horn of winter and desecration?

Because that is pretty much all the DK gets.

The shaman on the other hand gets to choose among Strength of Earth Totem, Windfury Totem, Wrath of Air Totem, Flametongue Totem, Tremor Totem, Healing Stream Totem, resistance Totems and Earthbind Totem, which doesn't even count Bloodlust / Heroism, and things like Unleashed Rage or Elemental Oath. If your buff was as competitive as theirs and you had so much versatility, we fear we'd see raids with many, many shaman in them. As it is, there's still a good chance for 3 shaman in a 25-player raid, while the DKs might get 2 slots if they're lucky.

You should get a slot because you are a good player, not because your buff rules.

Bring the player, not the class is something we hear a lot and have been hearing since Wrath of the Lich King was still in beta. In The Burning Crusade, raids would stack certain classes based on what buff they had to offer, such as a shaman for every group to maximize Hero-Lust. Ghostcrawler raises a good point, though: We have a versatility that is hard to match with any one class. We can do the job of many and switch gears on the fly regardless of spec. The cost of course is that you have to position the totems correctly in order to gain maximum benefit. This utility makes shaman -- and paladins -- highly desirable in raids. GC did have a few more responses later in the thread, but this next one pretty much says it all.


Little dissapointed in GC's blatant disregard of our well documented arguments. He asks for constructive feedback of which we gave him 28 pages then proceeds to ignore it utterly. Bad Crab.

I didn't ignore it. I just disagree with it. It may be 28 pages, but there is a lot of QQ mixed in there with the intelligent posts (like Strawberry's).

Throughout the history of WoW, the problem has typically been that shaman (and paladin to be fair) bring too much utility and are therefore considered too mandatory. They started out in vanilla as buff classes -- the guys you bring who don't really do much themselves but bring buffs and debuffs that make every other class perform better. You couldn't for example just stack your raid with rogues and mages because their performance would be low without the shaman and paladins -- and before LK you had to bring enough to stick one in every group.

Now, we decided to change that design because we didn't think it felt very satisfying to be the buff bot spec who got brought along as if the player were some kind of scroll or flask to improve the "real players" performance. On the other hand, we knew it would be really brutal to the shaman and paladin to just rip away all of their utility and give them the typical 2 or so raid buffs that most other classes or spec get.

But we've definitely eroded it a little, and I'm not going to apologize much for that because we want to give players flexibility -- and flexibility means you can do a raid, especially a 10-player one, without a shaman or paladin. Nobody should be mandatory, except for a tank and a few healers. Nobody should be left out either, but the specs who got left out in LK did so because of low dps -- Arms, Frost mage and Subtlety rogue. Shaman did fine.

Believe me, I have thought long and hard about scrapping the entire buff / debuff system because players focus on it too much. But I know that if we did that, players would then focus too much on damage per second and healing per second of the best players out there. We also think it would be unfortunate to lose that sense of being so much more powerful in a group than you are solo.

For now, in Cataclysm, we are just sharing even more of the buffs and debuffs across a wide gamut, especially very powerful ones like Bloodlust and Battle Rez, and chilling out the impact of some of the more potent ones, say Sunder and Curse of Elements, while also cutting back on the sheer number of buffs brought by say the Ret paladin and Balance druid.

I am much more interested in discussions about say shaman dps totems and healing totems than I am about buff totems, because we believe the latter have much less to do with either your getting to raid or your raid being succesful.

Certainly that is a lot to digest. For all the people concerned that we will be replaced in Cataclysm, it certainly doesn't seem like that is Blizzard's goal. We may lost some of our more unique buffs from totems, but I don't think we will suffer as much as some seem to think. For all the buffs being shared, we still have our versatility and as healers, we still bring our own flavor -- and it doesn't look like anyone else will be getting Chain Heal any time soon. I also find it interesting that Blizzard wants to look at healing totems, as that is something some shaman feel very strongly about. Healing Stream Totem, for example, is sometimes discounted simply because it is a passive heal, but what if it also augmented our healing done? I could see it getting tweaked, but only time will tell if that is even a possibility.

Mastery creeps back in

The mastery system is one of the more anticipated features of the new expansion. The new mastery stat that is seen on Cataclysm gear was originally going to allow for an increase in the potency of your talent choice specializations. The stat was disabled when the 31-point talent system was implemented. It was decided that you would get an ability at level 75 that you could train that would be affected by your mastery stat. In the last beta update, abilities for many of the classes were added. Healing shaman get the following;
Deep Healing Increases the potency of your direct healing spells by up to 20%, based on the current health level of your target (lower health targets are healed for more). Healing increased further by mastery rating.
We already know that the developers do not plan to code healing based around this ability, but I can tell you this mastery is a welcome addition. In lower content, I find myself having to heal other members of the group and taking my attention away from the tank long enough that he gets dangerously low on health. Having that little extra boost to go along with the boost to Unleash Elements and Greater Healing Wave is beneficial.

As far as how much mastery rating on gear equals a bonus, numbers are still in flux and I suspect they will change, but it looks like 93 rating per one mastery point. That mastery point is what will increase your mastery effect, but one mastery point may not translate exactly into a 1 percent bonus. The example cited for this was that a beast master hunter with +2 mastery would gain +4 percent pet damage. We also get Restoration Mail Specialization. Developers stated that players would be rewarded for wearing armor specific to their classes. So a restoration shaman wearing all mail gear gets a bonus of an additional 5 percent intellect. This encourages you to ignore those cloth drops and focus on mail gear. This helps to address the issue of gear competition so that generally speaking, you will only be going for one type of armor. That 5 percent bonus int is fairly large for us, as well, as int not only gives us a larger mana pool, it is also the stat that drives our spellpower. Any bonus to that total will only help us in the long run.

Not a very eventful week compared to others, true, but some good information nonetheless. Next week, I will be doing a shaman mail bag again. I have been receiving a number of Cataclysm-centric questions and feel it is time to find some answers for folks. So if you have any restoration shaman Cataclysm questions, feel free to email me or send me a direct message on Twitter and I will do my best to find answers to the questions you seek! Also you should take a look at the new shaman community that many members of the community have been hard at work at, Totemspot. TotemSpot is still currently in beta, so expect things to change, but it is live. There is a wiki, a forum and a blog and news section. You should swing by and check it out!

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,'s shaman experts have you covered.

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