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Totem Talk: Totems and heroics in Cataclysm

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 host of the BDTU: Lore edition podcast.

Last week, we talked about what to expect in the upcoming patch 4.0.1 and how healing felt in the new pre-Cataclysm patch. After that, we also got news of a very important update for us in the latest PTR build, patch 13033, with Mana Tide Totem's recent change to increase our spirit by 200 percent rather than just give a flat percentage of mana back when used. The cooldown of the ability was reduced to 3 minutes, down from 5 minutes. Last week, heroic dungeons were also made available in the Cataclysm beta for us to test out, including heroic Shadowfang Keep and heroic Deadmines.

This week, I would like to talk a little bit more about the changes to Mana Tide Totem and what to expect using it in the next expansion. I would also like to share with you my experiences healing through the new heroic dungeons as a restoration shaman in a new set of blue ilvl 333 gear.

Mana Tide Totem is full of spirit

With patch 4.0.1, in preparation for Cataclysm, MP5 will be disappearing from gear and instead will be replaced by spirit. This isn't anything new, and we knew this was going to happen for a quite some time -- but to see it in action is a whole other story. When we logged into the beta client for the first time, Mana Tide Totem was left unchanged and restored 6 percent of total mana every 3 seconds for everyone within 30 yards of the totem. The developers have been very up front about the fact that they want mana to be an issue for healers. They want it to be a concern and something that players think about before just throwing heals all over the place, and as it stood, our iconic totem just didn't fit any more.

Changing it to increase our spirit by 200 percent does a couple things. First of all, it makes this firmly a healer ability. Spirit is a healer stat now, and so this totem does not really benefit DPS mana users. Second, by having it add 200 percent of our spirit, the amount it returns will scale with our gear. As far as numbers go, since it adds 200 percent, it triples our spirit, and it essentially triples our mana regen every 3 minutes. Here are some screenshots to show how these numbers work with fresh dungeons blues.

Here in the picture to the left is my spirit total before using the totem. You can see my total spirit is 1,235. This is without any other buffs or any flasks. It makes my regeneration 1,110 per every 5 seconds when not casting anything. While casting with Meditation, that puts my regeneration at 555 per 5 seconds. That is quite a bit more than most endgame shaman see right now, but with mana at such a premium, it still isn't as much as it sounds like. Sure, this number will increase, but right now I can tell you from first-hand experience, it really isn't all that much right now.

In the shot on the right, you can see that after using Mana Tide Totem, my spirit has increased to 3,705 per every 5 seconds when not casting, meaning that while casting and with the totem active, my regen becomes 1,852 per every 5 seconds. Quite a big change there. Now, being able to do that every 3 minutes makes restoration shaman mana regeneration pretty much the best out of all the healers so far. I mean, who doesn't like being able to effectively give yourself a 300 percent total on your in combat mana regeneration every 3 minutes? Both of these changes really make it a great time to be a restoration shaman in the upcoming content changes.

Cataclysm heroics: Now with more Heroism!

This past week, I spent a lot of time in the beta running dungeons and trying to heal through heroics. The highlight of the dungeon runs, though, was Frostheim. We were in Vortex Pinnacle, and every time I cast Healing Rain, he booked out of the affected area as quick as he could! Honestly though, running through the heroic and normal dungeons was extremely fun and quite informative as to what we can expect.

First lesson of the week: It is not so much knowing what to heal as it is knowing when not to heal. Sounds silly, right? Hear me out, though. Knowing how far you can let players go before you absolutely have to drop a heal is critical. It goes against all of our instincts, but your goal is not to top everyone off; instead, it is to keep them alive, no matter how barely that alive is. Even if everyone in the group is doing everything perfect, if you attempt to keep everyone at full, you will run out of mana very quickly. This goes beyond choosing the right heal for the right job; this is simply a fact.

This becomes painfully obvious in places like Grim Batol. The first boss, General Umbriss, hits like a truck while summoning adds. Everyone takes a decent amount of damage, but if you try to keep everyone at full, you will run out of mana before his health bar gets to the halfway mark. After healing through him quite a few times, at no time after his death was any party member in any of my groups above 20 percent of their health. The best thing I can compare this to is purple-lining the tank back in the EverQuest days. You kept the tank almost dead, and in return, the tank went into a sort of berserk rage, dealing a ton of damage. The best healers back then were the ones who could keep the tank at this level and alive without topping him off. You will have to get used to this, at least for now. This may change when we get better gear and everyone gets better numbers, but this is exactly what the developers said they wanted healing to be.

The second lesson is triage. Knowing when not to heal is the groundwork for our endeavors, but knowing who to heal and when you should do so is just as important. Traditionally, healers place the most emphasis on keeping the tank up, but what I've found over the course of my heroics in the beta this week is that it's OK to let the tank take a few hits. Our tanks have much larger health totals than before, and they do have some tools to help further mitigate the damage coming in for a few moments. It's OK to not heal them in favor of healing a DPSer; you just need to learn when to do it.

Each boss fight is different. Take as an example, in the Halls of Origination, the boss Rajh. He has quite a few fire-based area of effect attacks that deal a sizable chunk of damage. The tanks that I've been with have been able to blow a cooldown and make it through pretty well, but other classes aren't as lucky. I set other classes that don't have defensive cooldowns to mitigate damage at a higher priority before paying attention to the tank.

It is also OK to know when to let someone die. It is going to happen at some point, but it isn't your fault. If you know someone is going to explode (say, that elemental shaman who just stole aggro) and you can either heal them or save another party member who isn't a certain death, you may have to choose to let that first person die. If you can't save someone and you try, you are only wasting mana. Being able to recognize this is huge.

Our third lesson is learning what tools to use and for what. The very first boss in Vortex Pinnacle forces everyone to group up during his first phase. Healing Rain and Healing Stream Totem were perfect candidates to help even out the healing load and gave me time to stop casting and regen mana.

Beyond learning which heal to use and when, I also found something to be incredibly useful that may have previously been overlooked. Matt Low talked about this in his last article about healing rotations and adapting to the DPS-to-heal abilities. Shaman have a bit of advantage in this department, as well. Focused Insight allows us to cast any shock while reducing the cost of our next heal by 75 percent of the cost of the shock. It also super-charges our next healing spell by augmenting it an additional 30 percent. Now, something I had not previously considered was working Earth Shock in with my healing spells. Not only does Earth Shock trigger Focused Insight, but it also reduces the attack speed of melee and ranged attacks by 20 percent for 8 seconds. This may not seem like a lot, but there are a ton of bosses that can actually be affected by the spell effect. Those extra fractions of a second can allow you the extra time you need for a big heal like Greater Healing Wave to land. It has been very helpful on many of the encounters so far, and it really drives home the point of using every tool at your disposal.

Heroics are much harder than they were when we could first access them in Wrath, but at the same time, they are a lot more fun to heal. They require a lot more attention and planning on the part of the party and thinking outside of the box on the part of the healers. They are really setting the stage to force us to relearn how to heal again, and they do a great job at balancing difficulty and fun factor while doing it. I'm looking forward to seeing how these heroic dungeons transfer into raids. Every time I now zone into the heroics, I'm quite excited. Finishing them is rewarding, and each boss fight is exciting.

Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk. Whether it's Sarah Nichol's elemental edition, Joe Perez's coverage of restoration or Rich Maloy's enhancement edition, WoW Insider's shaman experts have you covered.

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